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.

Friday, January 20, 2012

What the Rat Told Me by Marie Sellier, et. al (2008)

Subtitle: A Legend of the Chinese Zodiac. Other authors: Catherine Louis, Wang Fei. Just a fun oversize kids book on the Chinese Zodiac. Liked the red and black illustrations, gave a bit of a characterization of each animal. I learned that I was actually born in the year of the horse - actually the last day of the year of the horse. I always thought that I was born a sheep. I would rather have: a "spirit of adventure, for better or worse" than to "reign in peace, love, and beauty."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Night Embrace by Sherrilyn Kenyon (2003)

Tried this paranormal romance from the Dark Hunter series and this will be the last one I read. I almost didn't complete it, but it never was the right time to stop at the audio store to switch it out, so I made it to the end. Talon was a Celtic warrior, who sold his soul for revenge when all of those he loved were destroyed, so he became a dark hunter who hunts demons. 1500 years later he is in New Orleans, where he meets Sunshine, a free spirited artist, who is the key to breaking his spell from the past. I liked the New Orleans setting, which got into favorite haunts of the city, but also took us out to the bayou.

But I am not fond of vampires, and though Talon and his ilk were not vampires, they were similar creatures of the night that I don't much care for. I did not like the whole dark hunter - demon world. I don't mind some magic, witches that may have more than the Wiccan connection to the earth, but this didn't make any sense to me. And then the old gods interfering. I guess the only interesting premise of this book is that if gods (Greek, Roman, Celtic, etc.) are immortal, then they should still be around today, even though no one really worships them anymore. If they were misbehaved way back when, then it is not surprising that they continue to misbehave and play games with humans.

I also have to say that I didn't care for the abundance and repetition of sex scenes. Maybe it just didn't work for me listening to this book in the car, but there were just too many times I said, "Oh, not again!" I didn't think they were written well either. Maybe it is just considered female erotica. Nora Roberts does it better - she paces it well and leaves a bit to your imagination.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Bliss, Remembered by Frank Deford (2011)

What a great way to start the new reading year! This was a Christmas gift from a colleague. She knows I like historical fiction, and this was a good one. this is the story of one American girl, who goes to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin as a swimmer and falls in love with a German boy. Sounds simple, but it is not. First, I liked the detailed description of the depression in the U.S. and this girl - Sydney - starts intensely swimming in the river off the Chesapeake Bay (on the Eastern Shore), when her father dies. She sorta stumbles into swimming, but turns out she is very good, and with some coaching becomes one of the best back stroke swimmers in the U.S. Sydney (our fictional character) is befriended by Eleanor Holm (a real historical swimming champ.)

Sydney ends up in Berlin with the U.S. swim team and we now get a close description of the Olympics in Berlin, including a meeting with Hitler and Goebbels. We also meet Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler's film director, who did all sorts of innovative things to film the Olympics. My interest in the Berlin Olympics is great, as my father attended those with the Latvian delegation. He wasn't one of the athletes, but Hitler had invited men who organized athletic activities in their home towns to come to Berlin a week before the Olympics for a conference of sorts on encouraging athletics. My father was active in his town of Valka. He ended up marching past Hitler in the opening ceremonies. I also am trying to understand what Germany was like before the war broke out, and how people viewed them. They put on a great show, a positive propoganda blitz, but as the author points out, the signs were there. I also was not aware that the 1940 Olympics were planned for Japan. How ironic.

This story is well told, so I don't want to spoil anything for other readers, but Sydney does return home, trains for the next Olympics, writes to her love in Germany, but the war gets in the way.

The format of the book is interesting, as Sydney tells her story to her son in the last months of her life. The son has come to help his mother out, as she is ill, and they watch the summer Olympics in Athens on TV, and she tells him her story. At times this subplot got in the way a bit, but at others it gave some relief from the intensity of the main story. I loved the spunk of the elder Sydney, as she shocked her not too young son with too much information at times, and as she used outdated phrases, and often commented on them. Swell, coffin nail (cigarette), unmentionables (underwear) and then trying out today's terms, like whack. To avoid having all of the story told in this mode, she had written up her story and gave it to her son midway, so we get the written form of much of the tale after Germany. This moved the story along more quickly, though it too was interspersed with the son's thoughts and comments. The last part of the story Sydney again narrates to her son. Surprising, heart-warming, intense.

In the acknowledgements the author states that he actually met Eleanor Holm and Leni Riefenstahl as old women, but he could see how amazing they were. He also explains that he has kept to historical fact as much as possible and just inserted his character Sydney in actual events. Definite winner.

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