Maira's Books

In January of 2005 I started this blog as a record of books I’ve read as I was afraid I would forget what I have read. I have often referred back to my own blog to remember a book's contents or see what I have read by an author. I have enjoyed passing my books on to friends or recommending books to read. I know I have missed recording some, but in general I try to keep up with what I have read or listened to.

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Location: Kalamazoo, MI, United States

I am a librarian at Waldo Library at Western Michigan University.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)

This book was sent to me by friend Sufi "just because." And it is wonderful, but it is in three very distinct parts, so I am going to try to write this up after each part.

I still don't know who Elizabeth Gilbert is, but obviously she is a writer, and this is a biographical retelling of a year in her own life, where she searches for herself. I am totally envious of her opportunity to travel to different parts of the world on a spiritual quest. I have a friend leaving for Nepal in a few days for a month in a monastery, so it can be done, and I hope I have a chance for something like this too.

Needing to get away from a failed marriage and unhealthy relationship, Gilbert decides to take a year off and spend four months in Italy, four in India, and the last four in Bali - the last an opportunity that arose out of a work assignment.

Gilbert loves the sound of the Italian language and has started to learn it, and decides to continue her lessons in Italy. This first stage in Italy is the start of her healing process. She takes lessons in Italian, finds partners to talk to in Italian and finds pleasure in food - wonderful Italian food, always asking locals for the best restaurants - not the tourist places, but where real Italians eat. I found a lot of good self analysis. We may have different issues, but I liked her thought process.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (2007)

I know I just read this book this summer, but I had also bought the audio version and wanted to hear Jim Dale's performance. With a couple of trips to Indiana, I had the time to listen to the whole thing. Though I knew the basic storyline, there were so many details I had forgotten, so I paid more attention to Snape and the Deathly Hallows. Dale's performance was incredible, as always. I read somewhere that he had 50 or more voices for all the characters.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Run by Ann Patchett (2007)

I was so glad to see a new book out by Ann Patchett, and it was good. The book covered an intense 24 hour period, where we meet Bernard Doyle, a former major of Boston, and his two adopted black sons Tip and Teddy, at a speech by Jesse Jackson. After the speech Tip almost gets killed by a car, but a woman pushes him out of the way and gets the brunt of the impact. The way Patchett unveils the intertwined lives of these people, Doyle's other son Sullivan and the woman's daughter Kenya is fascinating. I listened to this on audio, and there was a short interview with the author at the end. It was interesting that Patchett thought the book was about politics, as she researched the Kennedy's for Doyle, but she said others thought the story was about family. I felt it was about the intense relationships between parents and children, the dreams we have for our kids, but how they have to find their own way. I am also amazed at how easily, but realistically she portrays interracial relationships. I hope we don't need to wait that long for the next Patchett book .

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler (2007)

I am not exactly a Jane Austen fan, so I didn't get all the Austen references, but I did enjoy this book. I really like books that put someone from today's world into a historical setting. This one was a modern time-travel novel, not science fiction. Courtney from LA, who has just broken up with her fiance, wakes up as Jane Mansfield in 19th century England. I loved her descriptions of all of the sensations she feels - the smells - of unwashed folks, but also the taste and smells of great food - which she can now eat in this new body. She has to learn to use a chamber pot, and has poor servants carry water up to her room for frequent baths. Then she has to learn to talk and follow all the crazy social rules and participate in balls and other social gatherings. Jane's mother is trying to set her up with Charles Edgeworth - a rich, good looking guy. This is where it got like a romance novel and she went through the same mental machinations she was having back home, and Jane Austen women have always had. I didn't understand why Courtney didn't think about what Jane would want and I have a hard time with all the thoughts about women not being worth anything without a man. But other than that, it was great fun.

Taft by Ann Patchett (1994)

At one point I bought all of Ann Patchett's books, lent some of the out, read most of them, but this I saved for later. Well later came this summer, and as always, I enjoyed Pathcett's take on life. It's been a while now since I read the book, but there was a black bartender, who misses his kid, and who befriends a lost young white girl he hires at his bar. She looks into people in interesting ways.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Collectors by David Baldacci (2006)

I picked this up in the grocery, because I recognized the Library of Congress main reading room on the cover - and sure enough, the first murder occurs in the library. I loved all the details about the Rare Book reading room, their vault, how they send books to be repaired, specific rare editions, the eccentric rare book dealer, etc. Plus I was looking for something entertaining to take my mind off my heavy workload at this time of year. I used to like spy thrillers and I got into this one. I like the use of all the new technology. I am wondering whether old spy thrillers would seem quaint, without the Internet, cell phones, and more. As often is the case in these thriller novels, we start out with a set of disparate characters, each in their own dramatic event - Roger Seagraves, the killer; Anabelle and her various con men, Caleb Shaw, the Library of Congress employee, who is friends with Oliver Stone the ex-spy (funny alias for a number of reasons, but I kept visualizing him as the movie director), Reuben and Milton. These four not so young gentlemen are the Camel Club, which I now understand figure in other Baldacci books. Unfortunately there are quite a few deaths along the way, but then we see it on TV too. I'll have try out a few more of Baldacci's books.