The Fault in Our Stars

From goodreads:

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.

Pages: 313 (hardback) 

Publisher: Published January 10th 2012 by Dutton Books (first published January 2012)

Rating: 10 out of 10

Source: Checked out of the library 

Date Completed: September 17, 2013

When The Fault in Our Stars by John Green was picked as the October selection for book club, I was worried that I would not be able to finish it on time as there was a long wait list at the library.  Once I got the book and started reading, I was hooked and could not read fast enough.   The book blew me away with the sadness, sweetness and humor that came from almost every chapter.   The premise of the story is incredibly sad and sets you up for an intense emotional ride, but seeing Hazel (the main character) deal with teenage things like idiolizing writers and dealing with the complications of having a crush makes you forget some of the sad stuff.  I felt gutted as I read some of the hard adult things she was dealing with like dying, death, and worrying about her loved ones. 

In addition to Hazel, I also loved her mom. There is one scene in particular which pretty much ripped my heart out which involves a discussion of what makes you a parent.  As I was reading this book, I kept wishing for a way to hide my tears better in public.  << If anyone has suggestions or ideas on that, I would love them.

I am reading this book for the following challenge: What's in a Name Five: for the category of something you would find in the sky.

Posted on Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 5:16PM by Registered Commenter[beastmomma] in | CommentsPost a Comment

Sea of Poppies

From goodreads

At the heart of this vibrant saga is a vast ship, the Ibis. Its destiny is a tumultuous voyage across the Indian Ocean; its purpose, to fight China’s vicious nineteenth-century Opium Wars. As for the crew, they are a motley array of sailors and stowaways, coolies and convicts.

In a time of colonial upheaval, fate has thrown together a diverse cast of Indians and Westerners, from a bankrupt raja to a widowed tribeswoman, from a mulatto American freedman to a freespirited French orphan. As their old family ties are washed away, they, like their historical counterparts, come to view themselves as jahaj-bhais, or ship-brothers. An unlikely dynasty is born, which will span continents, races, and generations.

Pages: 528 (hardback) 

Publisher:  Published October 14th 2008 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Rating: 10 out of 10

Source: Checked out of the library multiple times  

Date Completed: August 23, 2013

As part of my constant enthusiasm for reading challenges, I signed up again for the Chunkster Reading Challenge this year and was excited for the new addition of a book club.  One of the selections for this year was Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh. I am about four months late with my participation, but I wanted to answer the questions posed on the challenge website. My short responses are below.  Because of limited time and energy, I am not answering all of the questions. 

Overall, I really loved the book. Initially the characters were hard to keep track of, but once they were all on the ship, the story took off.  My favorite character was Deeti and I loved how so many scenes covered a variety of topics including social conventions, class, caste, colonialism, racism, and romance.  

  1. Have you read anything by this author before? If so what have you read and how does it compare to Sea of Poppies? I have not read anything by the author before. 
  2. How does class and the caste system impact the relationships between the characters? A lot of the interactions were dictated by social norms. The characters did not seem to have genuine connection until they were on the ship where many conventions disappeared. However, even on the ship, there was a class and caste system in place. 
  3. How are women's roles different from men's in Sea of Poppies? What common ground do Deeti, Paulette, and Munia share? This question requires a much longer response than I am able to provide now.  The gender functions play a huge part of women's decision making in the book. In thinking about their lives, all of the female characters struggle with how to go outside the norm while being a woman.  All three, Deeti, Paulette, and Munia are taking a scary journey for the chance to start over.  As the journey continues, they bond with each other and share stories of themselves that reflect a new reality. 
  4. Many of the lives Ghosh depicts are shaped by social and political forces beyond their control. What are some of these forces? Describe some of the individual acts of bravery, defiance, or deception that enable his characters to break free from what they see as their fate.  Another heavy question which I will only answer partially.  Some of the larger forces in play are colonialism and imperialism. 
  5. How does the opium trade industry compare to modern-day drug trafficking versus the pharmaceutical industry? I am going to skip. 
  6. There are two more novels in the trilogy. Do you have plans to read either of them? Both of them?  Yes, I hope to read both of them

I am counting the book for the following challenges; 

Posted on Saturday, October 26, 2013 at 11:26AM by Registered Commenter[beastmomma] in | CommentsPost a Comment

And the Mountains Echoed

From goodreads

In this tale revolving around not just parents and children but brothers and sisters, cousins and caretakers, Hosseini explores the many ways in which families nurture, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another; and how often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us, at the times that matter most. 

Following its characters and the ramifications of their lives and choices and loves around the globe—from Kabul to Paris to San Francisco to the Greek island of Tinos—the story expands gradually outward, becoming more emotionally complex and powerful with each turning page.

Pages: 416 (ebook)

Publisher:  Published May 21st 2013 by Riverhead

Rating: 10 out of 10

Source: Purchased for my Nook since book club date was coming close and my spot on the wait list was still low.  

Date Completed: August 13, 2013

I was very excited when both the book clubs that I am in selected And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini to read for the same month.  Every since I knew the book was coming, I put myself on the wait list at the library. Many people had the same idea as me and I realized that I was not going to get the book in time for the first meeting and decided to purchase my own copy.  With my limited reading time and energy, the fact that I finished the book in a week should stand alone as my recommendation. 

I have read both of Hosseini's previous novels and this is my favorite by far.  The characters are diverse and connect to each other in some surprising ways.  I loved reading the different frames of parent-child, partner, and family relationships.  Each story and narrator was unique, but I loved how everyone was tied together with a desire to reconcile memory and longing for home with reality.   During both book club discussions, some people thought that there were too many characters and that the switching of narrators was hard to follow.  I certainly wanted to hear more from some characters and less from others, but I liked the different perspectives.  The following quote captures my experience of reading the book: 

“A story is like a moving train: no matter where you hop onboard, you are bound to reach your destination sooner or later.” 

One of my favorite characters is the only Pari whose adult life is marked by the feeling that something is missing. I was cheering for her so strongly and was glad with the resolution of her story line.  Another one of my favorite characters was Markos and his revelations about his mom.   I also appreciated the Alzheimer's story line and the complexity of the overlap between caretaker and parent/child relationship. 

In addition to book club, I am counting this book for the following challenge: 

What's in a Name Five: Many years later, I am still trying to finish this challenge. I am counting this for the category of land formation. 

Posted on Sunday, October 20, 2013 at 4:39PM by Registered Commenter[beastmomma] in | CommentsPost a Comment

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

From goodreads

January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

Pages: 290 (paperback) 

Publisher:  May 5th 2009 by Dial Press Trade Paperback (first published 2008)

Rating: 10 out of 10

Source: Won from a contest hosted by a book blogger that I can no longer remember  

Date Completed: June 27, 2013

I have had The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows on my to-read shelf for quite a while and was very excited that it was picked as the June selection for the Boston book club. From the first page, I completely loved the book!  The story is perfect for people who love books, appreciate the value of written correspondence, and want to cheer along as a love story unfolds. 

**Spoiler Alert**

The book is a collection of letters between Juliet and various other people which describes the formation of a book club on the Island of Guernsey during the German occupation. In the course of correspondence, there are glimpses into what life was like during the occupation.  I cried at several points during the book, particularly during a passage describing children leaving on a ship.  There was also a humanization of the soliders as described in the romance between Elizabeth and a German solider. You also get a taste for how much the members care for each other as they begin to care for Kit, Elizabeth's daughter when she is taken to a concentration camp. 

Many moments made me pause to either cry, laugh, or absorb.  One of my favorite parts of the story was the unfolding romance between Elizabeth and Dawsey.  In particular, I appreciated the description of marriage and what a partnership should be; I wanted to cheer loudly.  Most especially, I love this quote about what Juliet wants out of a relationship: 

“I don't want to be married just to be married. I can't think of anything lonelier than spending the rest of my life with someone I can't talk to, or worse, someone I can't be silent with.” 

I also liked this description of what marriage means and wish I had found it earlier so that I could have somehow incorporated it into my own marriage ceremony: 

“All my life I thought that the story was over when the hero and heroine were safely engaged -- after all, what's good enough for Jane Austen ought to be good enough for anyone. But it's a lie. The story is about to begin, and every day will be a new piece of the plot. ” 

Even though I finished the book a few months ago, I still keep thinking about it. I also want to correpond with someone via postal service. 

Posted on Monday, August 19, 2013 at 9:48PM by Registered Commenter[beastmomma] in | CommentsPost a Comment

The Comfort of Lies

From goodreads:

Five years ago, Tia fell into obsessive love with a man she could never have. Married, and the father of two boys, Nathan was unavailable in every way. When she became pregnant, he disappeared, and she gave up her baby for adoption.

Five years ago, Caroline, a dedicated pathologist, reluctantly adopted a baby to please her husband. She prayed her misgivings would disappear; instead, she's questioning whether she's cut out for the role of wife and mother.

Five years ago, Juliette considered her life ideal: she had a solid marriage, two beautiful young sons, and a thriving business. Then she discovered Nathan's affair. He promised he' never stray again, and she trusted him.

But when Juliette intercepts a letter to her husband from Tia that contains pictures of a child with a deep resemblance to her husband, her world crumbles once more. How could Nathan deny his daughter? And if he's kept this a secret from her, what else is he hiding? Desperate for the truth, Juliette goes in search of the little girl. And before long, the three women and Nathan are on a collision course with consequences that none of them could have predicted.

Pages: 323 (hardcover) 

Publisher:  Published February 12th 2013 by Atria Books

Rating: 5 out of 10

Source: Won from TLC book tours book club of the Month contest  

Date Completed: June 11, 2013

I was really excited when I found out that I had won the TLC book tours book club of the month contest. Since I am still on a book buying diet, most of my books come from the library.  When I purchase a book, I get the paperback version.  I love the library very much, but I do miss owning hard cover books. Anyway, when the box of books arrived, I was excited to see and hold my own copy of The Comfort of Lies by Randy Susan Meyers.  I was glad that the book was chosen as the June selection.

As I read I was struck with how much judgment there was between the women.  Juliette, in particular, seemed to constantly be sizing people up based on appearance and the type of paper they used to write notes.  Tia was also judge mental, but her criticism was mostly towards herself. After reading those characters for awhile, I started to wonder if all women secretly judge each other.  I do not think that is true based on my own experience, but I certainly did not enjoy being in the world created by this author.

The character I disliked the least was Caroline.  She worried a lot about what others thought of her and questioned her parenting abilities. I related to her uncertainty and anxiety about not doing right by her child and spouse.  Her passion for her work is also something I can relate to, but her fantasies about not being a parent or a partner were disturbing.

In spite of my lukewarm reaction to the book, I really enjoyed our meeting and the discussion.  Winning multiple copies of the book made our selection process pretty easy.

Posted on Friday, August 2, 2013 at 3:54PM by Registered Commenter[beastmomma] in | CommentsPost a Comment