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Archive for December, 2008

The Year in Review….My Way

December 30, 2008 By: J.C. Montgomery Category: Miscellaneous


I am not sure why I picked these particular categories other than they interested me the most and I felt it important to figure out my reading habits and preferences as in:

Am I reading more men than women? Or vice versa?
52% Male, 48% Female. Not bad really. I like that fact it was this close without me making any conscious decision to read one over another. Nice.

Am I too harsh or lenient when rating what I read?
Average rating given was 4 Stars, and this is how it broke down:
1 Star Rating = 4%
2 Star Rating = 4%
3 Star Rating = 24%
4 Star Rating = 24%
5 Star Rating = 44%

In looking at this, I’m either lucky in that I usually get very good books to read, or I’m more lenient than I should be. Something I will have to look at next year. However, I must give credit to all the wonderful book bloggers I follow as many of the stories I read were previously reviewed and recommended.

Am I well rounded in my reading, as in American authors versus those from other countries?
52% American
28% Irish/Scottish/British (Most of those were Irish)
12% Canadian
8 % Hispanic

Interesting. I had already planned to read more Latin American and Spanish authors in addition to reading more Canadian writing of course – especially after being introduced to writers such as Alice Munro and Carol Shields.

What genre do I tend to read most?
36% Historical Fiction
24% Short Stories
24% Contemporary Fiction
16% Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Young Adult
00% Non-Fiction

No surprises here. I already knew that Historical Fiction is my favorite. But one of the reasons I made it a point to do this, was to see where I may wish to venture next….to broaden my reading horizons as it were.

I do plan on reading one non-fiction book next year, but unless it gets a heck of a recommendation from someone, I don’t think I will be going out of my way to read more.

I have read some fantasy and found I do like the “darker” side. So I will be reading several books next year about vampires. We’ll see how that goes.

Yes, there are no romances. Not a one. However, there were plenty of love stories: The Time Traveler’s Wife, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, The Shadow of the Wind, Twilight among just a few.

But a true romance novel? Hmm. I have no idea. But I tend never to say never when it comes to reading. I will always be willing to give it a go – but again, only if I get a great recommendation from someone I trust.

Well that’s it. My year in review.

So how did you do? Did you spot a trend? Or was any of the above a consideration to you when chosing books to read?

Either way, I hope you had a great reading year, and may your next be even better!

Review: Hotel on the Coner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

December 27, 2008 By: J.C. Montgomery Category: Reviews

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Historical Fiction, 304 pages, Advanced Reader’s Edition
Ballantine Books an imprint of Random House Publishing
Available in book stores end of January 2009

I’ve just finished reading this book by Jamie Ford in one sitting. Okay, okay, I did need to make some coffee, grab a nibble, and take care of a couple other necessities. But otherwise my butt was firmly planted into the cushions of my comfy sofa and it never once complained about the hours of inaction or went numb from lack of shifting.

It is that good.

The only negative? Unless you get your hands on an Advanced Readers Edition, you have to wait until the end of January 2009 to read it.

Here is an excerpt you can read on the author’s web site, but I’m not sure if sharing it is beneficial or cruel and unusual punishment as it will leave you wanting more and not being able to get that fix satiated until the book hits the shelves.

It was a roller coaster read; my emotions the only thing that held me back from completing the book sooner. This period in American history holds a special meaning for me as my grandfather was in the war and taken prisoner by the Japanese. For many years he was listed as MIA until his camp was liberated and his name was listed as being among those that survived.

However I’ve never held one iota of ill will toward the Japanese people – ever. It was a different time, a different mindset than one I grew up with, my mother instilling in me a strong sense of acceptance of all peoples regardless of their ethnicity. People were to be judged individually, for themselves and their actions, not ever as a group; that the actions of one do not represent those of the whole.

Reading this novel brings home the fact that how I think now, is not how many others thought then. It was a challenge to stifle my indignation at the actions of our government; but I had to, knowing that Mr. Ford writes about people and events that happened in a time I cannot relate to – not completely.

Thus I cannot judge the characters, only try to understand them as best I can. With a gift of story-telling beyond what I’ve experienced in some time, the author gives us the opportunity to see that mindset, live those experiences, and judge for ourselves the good, the bad, and the ugliness of what occurred during “the war years”.

This is a work of fiction, but one that is infused with the reality of one of the darker moments in American History. One of the passages that affected me most was when after many members of the Japanese community were arrested and taken away, others began to destroy anything that appeared to tie them to Japan, trying desperately to show how American and loyal they were. Clothing, photos, precious mementoes thrown literally upon the fire. And all the time while reading this, I knew these were useless acts. They could no more erase their ethnicity than they could change the color of their skin or the shape of their eyes, because that was how they were perceived and defined.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is so many things: historical fiction, a love story, a coming of age story – all wrapped up in a beautifully told tale, one that is at times sentimental and sweet, but without ever becoming maudlin.

I especially like how the story is told in a “split-narrative” allowing us to see Henry, the main character as he witnesses, then looks back upon, his life and history, dealing with the fall out of those decisions he made, and didn’t make.

To go on (and on as I know I could right now) may mean giving too much away. I would love to quote passages to showcase the beauty of this story and the skill of the author, but cannot due to the fact that this is an advance edition. I would hate to share something that may not be in the final copy, although except for a typo or two and some formatting issues (as the case with ARC’s), I see absolutely nothing wrong with the writing or the story: technically or otherwise.

This is definitely getting a 5 Star Rating, and a place on my TBRR (To Be Re-Read) and SDI (Stranded on a Deserted Island) lists.

Review: Museum of Human Beings by Colin Sargent

December 25, 2008 By: J.C. Montgomery Category: Reviews

Museum of Human Beings by Colin Sargent (2008)
Historical Fiction, 352 pages
McBooks Press, Advance Reader’s Copy

Read for Early Reviewers Group

Synopsis of book as provided by the official web site:
At the turn of the nineteenth century, the young Indian woman Sacagawea leads Lewis and Clark to the Pacific. But what about that tiny infant in the commemorative engraving, perched on Sacagawea’s back? He is her son, Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau, the youngest member of the Expedition, a child caught between two worlds who grows into a man haunted by the mother he barely knew and the wilderness she betrayed.

Sacagawea is only sixteen when she leads the Expedition and catches the eye of William Clark who finds her exotically appealing. Afterwards, Clark takes in Sacagawea and her child, and raises Baptiste as a foster son. When the teenage Baptiste attracts the notice of the visiting Duke Paul, Prince of Wurttemberg, Clark approves of the duke’s “experiment” to educate the boy at court. A gleeful Duke Paul exhibits Baptiste throughout Europe as a “half gentleman-half animal.” Eventually Jean Baptiste turns his back on the Old World and returns to the New, determined to find his true place there. He travels deep into the heart of the American wilderness, and into the depths of his mother’s soul, on an epic quest for identity that brings sacrifice, loss, and the distant promise of redemption.

This is Colin Sargent’s first novel, but he is by no means new to writing. His experience with poetry and prose shines through in many of the passages of his book. However there are other passages that do not seem to maintain as smooth a transition and flow, hence I found myself reading in spurts, entranced by much of the story, but then needing a break to absorb what I read or to deal with this sense of “roughness”.

I sometimes hate putting these thoughts into a review, because it isn’t something I can always put my finger on. And that is why many times, as I do now, acknowledge that it is perhaps my own little foible or perception – especially when there are so many reviewers who feel this story to much more than I think it is.

In addition, and I am not sure why this has not been touched upon in any review that I’ve come across, are the unsavory incidents of the main characters life. They were uncomfortable to say the least, but considering what was going on, fiction or not, it was difficult at times to take. But this is as it should be when one reads about the subjugation of others, which takes dark and ugly forms, such as rape and blatant hateful bigotry. But that was the times, and even though this is a fictionalized account of a true person’s life, these things must be touched upon, and I must give Mr. Sargent credit for not shying away from them.

I also give him kudos for not being overly graphic about it. There is enough for the reader to know what is going on, but not enough that a bad taste is left in the mouth or that the reader feels it was gratuitous.

I will not relate everything as it will lead to spoilers. I only mention it as I feel an obligation to share this so that you can make a more informed decision before reading this book.

For a first novel, this is good. But in all honesty, I can say that this is an effort I probably will not take the time to read again now that the final copy has hit the stores.

However, I still feel strongly enough to suggest it to those who like to read about American history and in particular how Native American’s were perceived and treated by others.

It seems with me, historical fiction is a hit and miss affair. Either it knocks my socks off or I sit here as I have for the last week or so trying to figure out a way to write a kind review about a book that left me somewhat lukewarm in my response to it.

For this reason, and since it was a book I did put down quite a bit, I am giving it a 3 Star Rating. I must say that in the beginning it was only a 2 Star, but it grew on me.

Sunday Salon: Best Laid Plans Redux

December 14, 2008 By: J.C. Montgomery Category: Miscellaneous

This is how my day has gone. I slept in this morning as it is Sunday, the day of rest, so that is what I did – rested.

When I finally wrested myself from the covers I vowed I would do just a few chores and then abscond to the couch, plant myself firmly within its comfy confines and prepare my 2009 challenge lists.

It is now 5:00pm my time and I am just now getting it all together.

Did some worm hole open up, suck me in, and then return me after wiping my memory clear of what the heck I’ve been doing for the last 6 hours???? Because I clearly remember getting up, doing some dishes, making lunch, and then logging onto my computer.

I checked e-mails which of course involved answering a few. Then I went through my list of what I currently have on my books shelves and then…wham…it’s 5pm and I am just now getting around to compiling and posting my next years projects.

This all took six hours? Really?

So yeah, best laid plans, they take time to make, manage, and corral into something coherent.

Basically I will be participating in the following:

Dewey’s Books Reading Challenge
The Year of Readers
(A year long charity event. Please check out my chosen charity shown in my sidebar)
9 for 2009
999 Challenge
Read Your Own Books Challenge
Notable Books (perpetual challenge)
Pulitzer Project (perpetual challenge)
1001 Books to Read Before You Die (perpetual challenge)

Like I said, lists to follow and be added to the tab shown at the top of this page. They will. Today, uh, tonight.

[looks around nervously waiting to see if that worm hole comes back...]

The Library

December 01, 2008 By: J.C. Montgomery Category: Lists

Upcoming Reviews

Author                                   Title                                                   Genre               
Baines, Elizabeth Balancing on the Edge of the World Anthology
Barnes, Margaret Campbell The Tudor Rose Historical Fiction
Casares, Oscar Amigoland Fiction
Eugenides, Jeffrey Middlesex Fiction
Fuqua, Jonathon Scott In the Wake of the Boatman Fiction
Green, George Dawes Ravens Crime/Thriller
Grisham & Donaldson Bedlam South Historical Fiction
James, Judith Highland Rebel Romance
Jones, David H. Two Brothers Historical Fiction
Leiknes, Elizabeth The Sinful Life of Lucy Burns Fiction
Patterson & DiLallo Alex Cross’s Trial Historical Fiction
Schrader, Helena P. An Obsolete Honor Historical Fiction
Vida, Nina The Texicans Historical Fiction

Books/Stories I’ve Read

Author                                   Title                                                          Rating       
Allende, Isabel The House of the Spirits 3/5
     
Barry, Rebecca Later, at the Bar 5/5
Bennett, Alan The Uncommon Reader 5/5
Bottoms, Greg Angelhead 3/5
Brooks, Geraldine March 4/5
Brooks, Geraldine Year of Wonders 5/5
Buergenthal, Thomas A Lucky Child 4/5
     
Capote, Truman In Cold Blood 5/5
Carroll, Lewis Alice In Wonderland 3/5
Carroll, Lewis Through the Looking Glass 3/5
Cox, Michael The Glass of Time 4/5
     
Danticat, Edwidge "Lélé" 5/5
DeVita, Randy "Riding the Doghouse" 4/5
Dick, Philip K. "A Little Something for Us Tempunauts" 4/5
     
Eugenides, Jeffrey The Virgin Suicides 4/5
Enright, Anne The Gathering 5/5
Esquivel, Laura Like Water for Chocolate 5/5
     
Follett, Ken The Pillars of the Earth 4/5
Ford, Jamie Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet 5/5
Fowles, John The French Lieutenant’s Woman 2/5
Fuller, David Sweetsmoke 5/5
     
Galchen, Rivka Atmospheric Disturbances 2/5
García, Cristina Dreaming In Cuban 4/5
George, Margaret Mary Queen of Scotland 4/5
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins "The Yellow Wallpaper" 5/5
     
Hemley, Robin DO-OVER! 3/5
Hoobler, Dorothy & Thomas The Crimes of Paris 3/5
Hosseini, Khaled A Thousand Splendid Suns 4/5
     
Joyce, James The Dead 4/5
Julavits, Heidi "Judge Gladys Parks-Schultz" 3/5
     
Korelitz, Jean Hanff Admission 5/5
     
Lahiri, Jhumpa Interpreter of Maladies 5/5
Laurence, Margaret The Stone Angel 3/5
Lee, Harper To Kill A Mockingbird 5/5
Lee, Steve N. "What If….? 3/5
     
Melucci, Gina I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti 2/5
Meyer, Stephanie Twilight 5/5
Mitchell, David "Judith Castle" 4/5
Munro, Alice “Dimension” 3/5
     
Niffenegger, Audrey The Time Traveler’s Wife 5/5
     
O’Connor, Flannery "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" 4/5
O’Connor, Flannery "Good Country People" 5/5
     
Palahniuk, Chuck Fight Club 5/5
Plath, Sylvia The Bell Jar 4/5
     
Ronco, Dan Unholy Domain 3/5
Rebenfeld, Jed The Interpretation of Murder 1/5
Rusch, Kristine Kathryn "Victims" 5/5
Russo, Richard "Horseman" 5/5
     
Sargent, Colin Museum of Human Beings 3/5
Savage, J. Scott Farworld: Water Keep 3/5
Scott, Joanna Follow Me 4/5
See, Lisa Peony In Love 5/5
See, Lisa Shanghai Girls 4/5
See, Lisa Snow Flower and the Secret Fan 5/5
Shakespeare, William Hamlet 3/5
Shelley, Mary Frankenstein 3/5
Shields, Carol The Stone Diaries 3/5
Shreve, Anita Testimony 5/5
Smiley, Jane A Thousand Acres 3/5
Stoker, Bram Dracula 3/5
     
Thornton, Rosy Crossed Wires 4/5
     
Urrea, Luis Alberto Into The Beautiful North 5/5
     
Various Irish Girls About Town 5/5
     
Whitcomb, Laura A Certain Slant of Light 4/5
Winterson, Jeanette Sexing the Cherry 2/5
     
Zafón, Carlos Ruiz The Shadow of the Wind 5/5

Books In the Wings

Author                                   Title                                                   Genre               
Ackerman, Diane The Zookeeper’s Wife Non-Fiction
Allende, Isabel Daughter of Fortune Historical Fiction
Allende, Isabel Portrait In Sepia Historical Fiction
Ansay, A. Manette Blue Water Fiction
Atwood, Margaret Alias Grace Historical Fiction
Atwood, Margaret The Blind Assassin Fiction
Austen, Jane Pride and Prejudice Fiction
     
Barnes, Jonathan The Somnambulist Historical Fiction
Bellow, Saul Humboldt’s Gift Fiction
Bennett, Alan The Clothes They Stood Up In Short Story
Binchey, Maeve Quentins Fiction
Binchey, Maeve Tara Road Fiction
Bradford, Sarah Lucrezia Borgia Biography
Brooks, Max World War Z Fiction
Buck, Pearl S. Mandala Fiction
Buck, Pearl S. Pavilion of Women Fiction
Butler, Octavia Fledgling Fiction/Horror
     
Caldwell & Thomason The Rule of Four Fiction
Cather, Willa My Antonia Fiction
Cather, Willa One of Ours Fiction
Chabon, Michael The Amazing Adventures of… Fiction
Chabon, Michael The Yiddish Policeman’s Union Fiction
Chance, Megan An Inconvenient Wife Historical Fiction
Chopin, Kate The Awakening Fiction
Coehlo, Paulo The Alchemist Fiction/Fantasy
Coehlo, Paulo Veronika Decides To Die Fiction
Connolly, John The Book of Lost Things Fiction/Fantasy
Cox, Michael The Meaning of Night Historical Fiction
Cunningham Michael The Hours Fiction
     
Danticat, Edwidge The Dew Breaker Fiction
Díaz, Junot The Brief Wondrous Life…Oscar Wao Fiction
Didion, Joan The Year of Magical Thinking Memoir
Dillard, Annie The Maytrees Fiction
Dineson, Isak Last Tales Anthology
Donoghue, Emma Slammerkin Historical Fiction
Dreiser, Theodore Sister Carrie Fiction
Dunant, Sarah In the Company of the Courtesan Historical Fiction
Dunant, Sarah The Birth of Venus Historical Fiction
     
Eco, Umberto The Name of the Rose Historical Fiction
Erdrich, Louise The Plague of Doves Fiction
     
Faulkner, William The Sound and the Fury Fiction
Flagg, Fannie Fried Green Tomatoes Fiction
Ford, Richard Independence Day Fiction
Fowler, Karen Joy The Jane Austen Book Club Fiction
Frazier, Charles Cold Mountain Historical Fiction
Fuqua, Jonathon Scott Gone and Back Again YA Fiction
     
George, Margaret The Memoirs of Cleopatra Historical Fiction
Gibbons, Kaye A Virtuous Woman Fiction
Gibbons, Kaye Ellen Foster Fiction
Golden, Arthur Memoirs of a Geisha Historical Fiction
Gruen, Sara Water For Elephants Historical Fiction
Guterson, David East of the Mountains Fiction
Guterson, David Our Lady of the Forest Fiction
Guterson, David Snow Falling on Cedars Historical Fiction
     
Hale, Shannon Goose Girl YA Fiction
Hamilton, Jane A Map of the World Fiction
Hegi, Ursula Floating In My Mother’s Palm Fiction
Hegi, Ursula Intrusions Fiction
Hegi, Ursula Stones From the River Fiction
Hemingway, Ernest The Old Man and the Sea Fiction
Hemingway, Ernest The Sun Also Rises Fiction
Hill, Joe Heart-Shaped Box Fiction/Thriller
Hoffman, Alice Here On Earth Fiction
Hoffman, Alice Practical Magic Fiction
Hoffman, Alice Probable Future Fiction
Hoffman, Alice The Ice Queen Fiction
Hosseini, Khaled A Thousand Splendid Suns Fiction
Hurston, Zora Neale Their Eyes Were Watching God Fiction
Hwang, Frances Transparency Fiction
     
Jones, Edward P. The Known World Historical Fiction
     
Kesey, Ken One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Fiction
Kidd, Sue Monk The Mermaid Chair Fiction
Kincaid, Jamaica Annie John Fiction
Kingsolver, Barbara Animal Dreams Fiction
Kingsolver, Barbara Pigs In Heaven Fiction
Kingsolver, Barbara Prodigal Summer Fiction
Kingsolver, Barbara The Poisonwood Bible Fiction
Koontz, Dean Brother Odd Fiction
Koontz, Dean Forever Odd Fiction
     
Lahiri, Jhumpa The Namesake Fiction
Lamb, Wally I Know This Much is True Fiction
Lamb, Wally She’s Come Undone Fiction
Lee, Jennifer 8. The Fortune Cookie Chronicles Documentary
Lee, Min Jin Free Food For Millionaires Fiction
Lehane, Dennis Mystic River Mystery
Lessing, Doris The Golden Notebook Fiction
Llewellyn, Richard How Green Was My Valley Historical Fiction
Lurie, Alison Foreign Affairs Fiction
     
Martin, Steve Shopgirl Fiction
Márquez, Gabriel García Love In the Time of Cholera Fiction
Márquez, Gabriel García Of Love and Other Demons Fiction
Márquez, Gabriel García One Hundred Years of Solitude Magical Realism
Mayes, Frances Under The Tuscan Sun Memoir
McCammon, Robert The Queen of Bedlam Historical Fiction
McCarthy, Cormac The Road Fiction
McCourt, Frank Angeles Ashes Autobiography
McEwan, Ian Atonement Historical Fiction
McMurtry, Larry Lonesome Dove Western
McMurtry, Larry Terms of Endearment Fiction
Messud, Claire Emperor’s Children Fiction
Millar, Martin Lonely Werewolf Girl YA Fiction
Miller, Sue Inventing the Abbotts Fiction
Miller, Sue The Good Mother Fiction
Miller, Sue While I Was Gone Fiction
Morrison, Toni Beloved Historical Fiction
Mullen, Thomas The Last Town On Earth Historical Fiction
Munro, Alice Hateship, Frienship…Marriage Anthology
Myles, Eileen Cool For You Fiction
     
Oates, Joyce Carol The Falls Fiction
Oates, Joyce Carol The Gravedigger’s Daughter Fiction
Oates, Joyce Carol We Were the Mulvaneys Fiction
Ondaatje, Michael The English Patient Historical Fiction
     
Patchett, Ann Bel Canto Fiction
Paton, Alan Cry, The Beloved Country Fiction
Penney, Stef The Tenderness of Wolves Historical Fiction
Perrotta, Tom The Abstinence Teacher Fiction
Proulx, E. Annie The Shipping News Fiction
     
Quindlen, Anna One True Thing Fiction
     
Read, Cornelia A Field of Darkness Mystery
Roth, Matthue Candy In Action Fiction
Roth, Philip American Pastoral Fiction
Roth, Philip Exit Ghost Fiction
Roy, Arundhati The God of Small Things Fiction
Russo, Richard Bridge of Sighs Fiction
Russo, Richard Empire Falls Fiction
     
Sedaris, David Naked Memoir
Shaffer and Barrows The Guernsey Literary and…Society Historical Fiction
Shields, Jody The Fig Eater Historical Fiction
Shreve, Anita The Weight of Water Fiction
Smith, Zadie On Beauty Fiction
Smith, Zadie White Teeth Fiction
Sobel, Dava Galileo’s Daughter Biography
Stockett, Kathryn The Help Historical Fiction
Sunée, Kim Trail of Crumbs Memoir
     
Tan, Amy Saving Fish From Drowning Fiction
Tan, Amy The Joy Luck Club Fiction
Taylor, D.J. Kept: A Victorian Mystery Mystery
Tsukiyama, Gail The Samurai’s Garden Historical Fiction
Tsukiyama, Gail Women of the Silk Historical Fiction
Tuck, Lily The News From Paraguay Fiction
     
Updike, John Rabbit At Rest Fiction
Updike, John Rabbit, Run Fiction
     
Various Women of the Night Anthology
Vinton, Victoria Jungle Law Historical Fiction
     
Walker, Alice The Color Purple Fiction
Wall, Paula Rock Orchard Fiction
Waugh, Evelyn Brideshead Revisited Fiction
Wells, Rebecca Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood Fiction
Wells, Rebecca Little Altars Everywhere Fiction
Wharton, Edith The Age of Innocence Fiction
Wiggins, Marianne Evidence of Things Unseen Historical Fiction
Wiggins, Marianne The Shadow Catcher Fiction
Wroblewski, David The Story of Edgar Sawtelle Fiction
     
Xingjian, Gao Soul Mountain Fiction
     
Zusak, Markus The Book Thief Historical Fiction
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