Friday, November 2, 2007

Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist's Wife

Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist's Wife

by: Irene Spencer

This was a very interesting look into plural marriage and the true story of Irene Spencer.  She shares most every aspect of living in plural marriage, extreme poverty, secrecy, and strict religious beliefs. The communities they lived in were in Mexico and they moved often to build new communities for the believers of living The Principle.

I can't really think of what to say about this book other than how fascinated I was with the world Irene was born into and believed in for many years. I work with a former plural wife who confirms the experiences described in the book and how difficult the lifestyle is. She also confirms that there are many plural marriages existing currently all around us.

It's hard to understand and believe when I have been raised so very differently.  If you have an interest in comparative religions or visiting the lifestyle of the FLDS, read this book. It's very interesting and enlightening about a religious subculture that exists here in our own neighborhoods.

Friday, September 28, 2007

My Lobotomy

That's a title that should receive alot of attention!     Actually, it's a book title and now is time for another book review.  I have read so many that I haven't reviewed in a long while - 'bout time I start to catch up.  

My Lobotomy
by Howard Dully

"My Lobotomy" is the biography of Howard Dully who actually had a lobotomy at age 12. The subject of this book seemed quite intriguing to me but the book itself is rather tedious.  Mr. Duffy doesn't present himself as an accomplished writer and the writing of this book felt more like I was reading someone's highschool report. I was tempted to put the book down and call it quits, but the best was saved for last and I was happy that I stuck it out.

In mid-life Howard Dully finally decided to delve into the reasons he'd been lobotomized at such a young age. His operation was a transorbital lobotomy in which the doctor inserted an "ice-pick" into each eyesocket and "scrambled" his brains behind. The entire procedure took about 10 minutes once they subdued him through electroshock. Barbaric! Whether he thinks so or not, Howard was one of the lucky ones that survived the procedure pretty much intact. Many others  became functional zombies, non-functional zombies or lost their lives entirely. 

Much of the book tells of his life as a boy before and after the operation. Although he always felt different because of it, I believe the real issue was not so much the lobotomy but the lack of love and nurturing he received as a child. From his description of himself, he appeared to be a child that would have been diagnosed as ADHD today. Unfortunately, he had a stepmother full of anger that targeted him and him alone of the five boys in the family. She was full of hate and anger and Howard became her whipping post and the recipient of her abuse. She went shopping for a doctor who could "change" Howard. Most of the doctors she saw said she was the problem, not Howard, but she finally found a doctor she could manipulate with lies and eventually got her way. Howard was diagnosed as schizophrenic and removed from the family to be lobotomized. 

After the lobotomy, Howard never lived with his family again. He spent time in JV, half-way houses, and sanitoriums simply because his stepmother would not allow him back in her world and the "system" kept trying to find a place for him. His father never stood up to his stepmother, but in his defense, he was a regular visitor to Howard. It would take an incredible strong person to survive what Howard survived unscathed with or without the lobotomy, and I believe that is where the real issues are - not the lobotomy. I'd refer to the operation as an ill consequence of the issues, not the actual problem itself. In his adult years, Howard was in and out of trouble and had no self discipline or direction and blamed that on his past, saying he had no instruction in day to day living, grooming, working, or being responsible. I won't argue that point but he did eventually pull it together and became a respectable citizen. Some people manage to do that despite the odds and many never do. I give him kudos for that. 

Why am I glad I finished the book?  Because it's not until that last quarter of the book that it becomes clear that the book is the result of an NPR program that Howard became the subject of while seeking answers to his own lobotomy. If you are interested in this subject and this man's experience, I suggest you forgo the book and visit the NPR program. You can listen to the broadcast and read more about Howard in much less time in a much more interesting format. Check it out here:

NPR: Howard Dully talks about 'My Lobotomy'


by Shannon Hale

Austenland is chic-lit and a fast & fun read.  Jane, our heroine, is a 30-something single woman obsessed (like many) with Mr. Darcy of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice.  All her failed relationships never measure up to the incredible Mr. Darcy.

In her distant Aunt's will she is bequeathed a visit to "Austenland," an English resort catering to the bored and rich, offering a bit of fantasy direct from the pages of Jane Austen's books.

What follows is a reality check as Jane realizes that life in the day must have been pretty darn boring for sweet young things who sat and embroidered their days away just waiting for visitors to come by. However, Jane does manage to find some excitement and the game is on.

If you like chic-lit with satisfying endings, this is a book you must pick up. I'd lable it a beach read if it was April instead of nearly October.  But since it is getting colder out, it's a great curl-up-in-front-of-the-fireplace read. 

Sunday, July 8, 2007


by Brandon Mull
Fablehaven is a juvenile book that is found in the kids department, but don't be mislead, after all, Harry Potter and his six (almost seven) books are located in the children's department, too.
I started reading this book as a requirement for work but it became a labor of pleasure only a few pages in. The story is a fantasy involving fairies and golems and satyrs and many other mythical magical creatures. Of course there is the human element and it's presented in a way in which you don't have to leave this world to believe in their world, Fablehaven.
It's the story of a couple of young kids who are spending two weeks with a set of grandparents that they are not close to or very familiar with. The drive to their grandparent's place is long and they are not looking forward to spending this time there. It turns out their grandparent's estate is quite remote and very lovely. The older couple set the kids up in a very nice kid friendly attic room and give them just a few rules, which must not be broken, and a challenge.
I don't want to give too much away, but they discover, through the challenge, that Fablehaven is a refuge of sorts. It's not a wild animal refuge, but a refuge of magical mystical creatures, a safe haven for fairies and more. Thus the adventure begins!
In comparing this book to Harry Potter, I enjoyed it as much if not more. The reading level is a bit lower and the story not as dark. The characters and adventure is quite good and keeps the reader's interest.  I do recommend it for adults and kids alike, although most of the time I was reading it I kept wishing I had grandkids I could read it to chapter by chapter.
Check out the website: Fablehaven
Don't hesitate to pick this one up! 

Fablehaven Rise of the Evening Star

"Fablehaven Rise of the Evening Star"
By Brandon Mull
I liked Fablehaven so much I returned with Kendra and Seth for another visit. Kendra has changed in a very significant way since her first arrival at Fablehaven although no one is sure of just how much she has changed. Seth is still a little too courageous and daring, making the reader hold his or her breath more than once.
Book two is even better than book one as the story and characters develop. You'll find yourself carried away by characters you've never imagined to places that have never before existed.  By the end you'll certainly be ready to continue on in book three and have no idea of who to trust.
I suspect we will someday soon be enjoying Fablehaven at the theatres.  I so loved these two books.  Sorry, there will be no review of book three just yet as it has yet to be released.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Are You Afraid of the Dark

Are You Afraid of the Dark 
by Sidney Sheldon
Abridged on CD, read by Marsha Mason
Many many years ago Sidney Sheldon's novel, "The Other Side of Midnight" was very popular and made the rounds of my group of friends and touted as a great story. Based on this recollection I picked up this audio book expecting to be happily entertained.
I was disappointed. It was not to be.
I don't know if it was the fact that the story was abridged, and possibly lost some of it's appeal through deletions or omissions, or
Perhaps it was Marcia Mason's reading of the story, making the female characters always speak in breathy, too urgent voices, or
Just maybe it's the fact that Batman (or was it Jame Bond?) already took care of the mad scientist trying to control the world by controling the weather.
Whatever it is, I recommend you not waste your time on this one.  At least not the audio version.  Sorry Sidney, it's a bust...
(from my former MySpace blog)

Can't Wait to Get to Heaven

Can't Wait to Get to Heaven
Fannie Flagg
When I was a child watching day time game shows on TV that featured celebrity players I always wondered who the celebrity Fannie Flagg was.  When Fried Green Tomatos was released as a movie I got the idea that she was a writer. More recently Harriett insisted that I read this book by Fannie and it was a total delight! She is indeed a writer and talented story teller. 
Ms. Flagg introduces us to southern living through a cast of characters that we all know from our own families. 80 or 90-something year old Aunt Elner's death by wasp stings which cause her to fall from the fig tree starts the story. We follow Aunt Elner to heaven where she visits with the supreme being (who is actually two people who happened to be radio personalities at one time on earth). As Aunt Elner visits with them, word of her death spreads sadly through her small town. 
Fannie Flagg makes us feel part of the town and involved in the lives of the people feeling the impact of Aunt Elner's passing. Her story telling is fun and could easily be translated into an enjoyable play.  Don't be fooled by Aunt Elner's death, the story is full of humor!
Everyone could use an Aunt Elner in their lives.  
(from my former MySpace blog)

The Second Assistant

The Second Assistant 
by Clare Naylor and Mimi Hare

Audio book on CD

Truly a chick-lit book about an educated young woman choosing to go to work for a talent agency in Hollywood. 

In this story full of Hollywood stereo-types, the heroine, Lizzy, manages to avoid getting too close to most of them. Through the expected "hell" of a job, she manages to find a real man and actually fall in love with her job.  Pure fluff but good fun, the stuff that chick-lit is made of. 

(reposted from my former MySpace blog)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Lucky Man, a Memoir

Lucky Man, a Memoir
by Michael J. Fox

Audio: 5 CDs, read by Michael J. Fox

"If you were to rush into this room right now and announce that you had struck a deal - with God, Allah, Buddha, Christ, Krishna, Bill Gates, whomever - in which the ten years since my diagnosis could magically be taken away, traded in for ten more years as the person I was before, I would, without a moment's hesitation, tell you to take a hike." ~ Michael J. Fox  

From his youth, through his celebrity, his Parkinson's disease and revealing his illness to the world, Michael J. Fox is candid and honest about himself and his feelings.  As a young man he is arrogant enough to think he can conquer the world, and does precisely that as an unknown in a new sitcom. He works hard and parties hard. 

We follow his career through his movies and marriage and into fatherhood.  Michael takes us on his journey as he begins to experience the first signs of Parkinson's and his denial and mis-handling of managing the disease.  He shares his life with us including his fears, marital problems, alcoholism.  

The disease, although horrible, is what forces him to mature, realize his priorities and really appreciate his family.
Perhaps part of why I liked this book so much is that I grew up close to where Michael spent his teen years and I couldn't help but wonder if our paths may have ever crossed.  But aside from that and the disease, I enjoyed a look into his private life and coming to realize that his celebrity is really just a job to him. If you are a fan of Michael J. Fox don't miss this read!
(from my former MySpace blog)

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Traveler's Gift

The Traveler's Gift

by Andy Andrews

Hard cover: 206 pages

Help! I've fallen in the self improvement genre and I can't get up!!

I keep stumbling across these quick read/deep message books while working. Is someone trying to send me a message? I feel unable to resist them, even though I don't want to resist.

The "Traveler's Gift" is a story of a man who loses his job and sees his life sliding quickly into the pits. Like George in "It's a Wonderful Life" he begins to think his family would be better off with his life insurance if he were dead. At which point his car hits black ice, spins out of control and into a tree.

Unlike George, David doesn't have an angel trying to earn his wings to assist him. Instead, he becomes a time traveler (think "Quantum Leap" here) and visits several notable people throughout time. Each person he visits is experiencing something horrific in his or her life at that time. Each one gives David a 'decision,' which all together become the "seven decisions that determine personal success." (I got that off the cover-).

This book is an entertaining read, though may bog down just a bit in a couple of places. I enjoyed the history lessons that accompanied each visit and especially the visit to the archangel which produces the last decision. This visit took place in the hall of missed opportunities. I liked the concept and the way it was presented.

The following, copied without permission, is a list of the seven decisions:

1. The buck stops here. I am responsible for my past and my future.

2. I will seek wisdom. I will be a servant to others.

3. I am a person of action. I seize this moment. I choose now.

4. I have a decided heart. My destiny is assured.

5. Today I will choose to be happy. I am the possessor of a grateful spirit.

6. I will greet this day with a forgiving spirit. I will forgive myself.

7. I will persist without exception. I am a person of great faith.

Each of these is simplified from a longer description provided to David by each person he visited. I won't give any more away just in case you would like to read this one for yourself. I do plan on using the decisions the way David was instructed. You tell me if you see any change.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

The Book Lover in Me

The book lover in me.... HAS*GOT*TO*BE hereditary!!  
I took my 86 year old mom to Barnes and Noble yesterday for lunch and shopping. My brother sent her a $25 gift card for her birthday and she was anxious to spend it.
Lunch was a leisurely affair. We shared an artichoke/spinach stratta and a slice of caramel latte cheese cake. Yum!! We sat and sipped on our coffee drinks for a while and then, then started our shopping.
Now you should probably try to picture my mother.  She's about 5'3" and weighs not so much.  She uses a walker and moves very slow. She tires easily. I guess I would consider her 'fragile.' My shopping plan was to keep her toward the front of the store and have her choose her one or two books there. It would take no time at all to spend the $25 gift card, even with my discount.
I steered Mom toward the "Best Seller" bay and she immediately chose a book indicating she wanted me to put it on her walker. I then showed her another book by another author she enjoys and she nodded toward the walker, indicating I should put it there, too.  Then she moved to a "Favorite in Paperback" bay and pointed to two more books. A nearby table also held a book or two she decided she needed and then she wanted to go to the "Mystery" section. Although it's in the back of the store I decided to take her back there.
She detoured off my chosen path down a "Fiction and Literature" aisle before I could stop her. In the blink of an eye she found another author she likes and picked out some of his books and then decided another nearby author should be given a try, even though she'd never read him before.
It wasn't long before we headed to the check-out with a large pile of books on her walker, as well as a few in my arms. Being an employee and planning on using my discount meant waiting until the appropriate person could ring us up. Since the store was busy, that actually took longer than the shopping.
Soooo scan, ka-ching! scan, ka-ching! scan, ka-ching! Pam rang up Mom's books.  I then gave her my employee number for my discount and Ouala!  The grand total of Mom's shopping spree... $113.00+!!!!!!!
It's a dang good thing I thought to drop her debit card in my purse along with her gift card! 

(from my former MySpace blog)

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Anyone But You

"Anyone But You"  

Fiction, Paperback, 283 pages

I like this author, but my favorite book by her is still the first one I read, "Bet Me."

"Anyone But You" is fun light reading (chick lit) which I picked up and read on my anniversary get-a-way. A newly divorced 40 year old woman is settling quite happily into her new single life. By way of her new roommate, Fred, an "overweight, middle-aged, a bit smelly and obviously depressed" basset beagle mix, she meets her downstairs neighbor, Alex. Despite their 10 year age difference, she being the elder, they fight their instant attraction to each other and so the story goes….

As with most chic-lit the ending is obvious at the beginning. It offers the usual cast of quirky characters, adds the laughs and twists and allows a few hours break from the real world.

I recommend this for a good relaxing, bubble bath or hot tub read.

The Sledding Hill

"The Sledding Hill" 

Teen Fiction, Paperback, 230 pages

I am so overwhelmed by books I want to read at work. I can't exactly explain how this one popped up as 'next in line' because it wasn't on my "must read" list.

The author, Chris Crutcher is apparently better known for his work being banned from schools than the work itself. He deals with issues that are relevant to today's youth using language that much of our kids also use, whether within earshot or not. This book, however, deals more with the issue of banned books than social issues. The language is clean and controversial topics are barely touched on.

The story is presented by a character who is tragically killed in the first chapter. It is the story of his best friend, Eddie, who is dealing with the death of his father, three weeks earlier, as well as that of his friend. Eddie was the first to find each body.

Billy, the dead kid, decides to stay around for a while after his death to be sure his friend is okay, although he realizes his friend's life is a minute blip in time. With what Billy now understands and knows about the universe, this really isn't plausible, but without it, there would be no story. I find it kind of interesting how much of my reading lately, has to do with death and "life" after… Which makes me think about "The Laws of Attraction" which I will be reading soon, but I digress.

Only Billy and a few other people realize that Eddie is a very bright kid who apparently is ADHD. Through my own child development classes of the past I realize that people learn in different ways, some through sight, some through sound, some through writing, and some through motion. Eddie learns through motion. When he is moving is the only time his brain seems to be able to stay focused. When he is 'still' his mind bounces from one subject to another. It appears this bouncing is also what allows Billy the opportunity to present himself to Eddie, which of course makes Eddie believe he is crazy. 

When school starts in the fall Eddie's class is assigned a book by Chris Crutcher. A top student, athlete and head of the Youth for Christ club objects to the book and begins the process of getting it banned. The remainder of the book is the fight for and against banning the book and the final outcome, with the book being pulled from the school, along with many other authors' works written for youth. 

I started off really liking this book. The deaths and the afterlife and Billy's connection with his friend kept my attention and anticipation high. Where it lost me was at the point the book was introduced to the students.

Why? Because at this point the author made himself the center point of attention. As far as I can ascertain, the book itself ("Warren Peece") is fictional, but supposedly written by the author of the book I am reading. I cannot say exactly why that put me off, but it did. 

I finished the book, eventually getting beyond this annoyance. The ending was weak but overall the message of the book, censorship in our schools, was an important one. The author included three appendixes at the end of the book dealing with his experience of the issue. 

I have to believe that exposing our children to all the diversity and issues in the world, with our own parental loving guidance, will only strengthen them as adults. Sheltering them from the real world leaves them unprepared to deal with real issues. Like a vaccination, a little controlled bit of the disease makes us strong. I'd rather give my kids exposure to foul language, teen sex, drugs, diseases, etc. through books than through experience.

The Unusual Suspect

"The Unusual Suspect" 

Hardcover, 281 pages
 Pages read: 102
Yes, this book is by Steve Baldwin of the famous Baldwin brothers. It is his account of finding God, Christ and creation of his Christian ministry. The title is of course, a take off of the title of one of his more famous movies.
I hate to start books and not finish them. This sometimes causes me to quit reading for months, because if I don't finish what I am reading I can't start another book and therefore come to a reading stalemate. In the case of this book, since starting it I've read two other books and cannot seem to force myself to pick it back up again and finish it.
I've heard good reviews on this book and I do commend Mr. Baldwin for his enthusiasm and giving his life to God, but I found reading about it tedious. The book is too full of Stephen Baldwin who is too full of himself. He constantly reminds the reader that we should be so amazed that someone like "little Stevie B" has found God and a purpose in life. 

I'm happy for you Mr. Baldwin, but perhaps this book wasn't one of your better ventures.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Ultimate Gift

The Ultimate Gift 
Hard cover, 154 (easy) pages.
As with much of what I am reading now days, this book came to my attention when a customer called and asked me to set aside three copies for her.  I later picked up a copy myself and began reading it on my breaks.  Although it's a short, quick read, I became frustrated wanting to finish it faster than my breaks would allow and finally bought it and finished it that evening at home. I had put aside the other book I was reading in favor of this one.  
The Ultimate Gift is quite simply about our values, morals and ethics and the disservice we do our children when we protect them from the issues that allow them to learn and develop these things.  The book is written in story form and involves a spoiled rich kid.  I have to say it was never lost on me, however, that you don't have to be rich to be "protected" from life's lessons.  I saw so much of myself and my family in each chapter.  
In my bookstore this book is found in the Religious Fiction section which bothers me just a little.  Although a belief in God is established in the story, the story is far from Religious.  It applies to any and all religions or even none at all.  I categorize the story as inspirational.  
The story follows a young adult through the year following his Great Uncle's death as he prepares to 'earn' the ultimate gift his Great Uncle has left him in his will.  He experiences a new gift each month, never knowing what the final, ultimate gift will be.  At the beginning he is sullen and disappointed at not receiving an immediate inheritance as did the rest of the heirs. His growth over the year as a result of his monthly "gifts" from his uncle transforms him into the adult his uncle saw the potential of him becoming.  
I very much enjoyed the way the book was written and 'gifts' presented to the main character.  It would be hard to overlook, in my opinion, that these gifts are also being suggested to the reader. It could take less than the year involved in the story for the reader to obtain the ultimate gift, or it could take more.  Either way, I believe the reader will come away from the story inspired to reach the ultimate gift for him/herself. 
The Ultimate Gift is on my recommended reading list.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

The Giver

Lois Lowy

MM paper back. 180 pages.

This is a Newbery Award winning book that has been calling me since I began working in the book store. I picked it up with a few other books by Lois Lowry that caught my attention.

Written for young adults and juveniles I found the story and characters a little underdeveloped for adult readers, although probably just right for younger readers. I mention this because I have had people of all ages looking for it.

The story takes place in the future and follows a twelve year old child into the first year of training for his "assignment," the job he will perform for his community for the rest of his life. His assignment is to become the Receiver of all ancient memories. There is only ever one Receiver until he/she becomes old and near release, and then a new one is trained. The assignment is a very honored one, but causes isolation and pain to the Receiver. The title, The Giver, comes from the boy, now the new Receiver, questioning what he should call his mentor, the old Receiver. The old Receiver instructs him to call him the Giver.

In this futuristic world "sameness" is what is important. The Receiver has the memories of the past which support the value of "sameness." However, both the old and new Receiver can see that "sameness" means a myriad of things not experienced. Sameness equals safe, no conflict. Different equals choice which may not be a good thing.

The end of the story was very ambiguous to me. If I were a middle school reader I might have thought it was a happy ending. As an adult with the knowledge and experience of age, I am not sure if the ending was happy or sad. Although it came very close to wrapping it up, it stops just short of spelling out the truth of it.

I was left to ponder what purpose a world of sameness could have. But ultimately that took me full circle to wonder what purpose the world as it exists today has. Does anything we do have any real affect on anything? Can we say that our purpose/existence will matter in a thousand years? Perhaps, if sameness is all you know then it's purpose is as meaningful as any other existence. 

The Giver is an interesting look at a potential future. Possibly as scary in it's own way as George Orwell's 1984. 

If you clicked on The Giver link and went to the Lois Lowry website featuring this book you will see mention of the cover design.  This book is in several sections of our store, Kids, Teens, and I think it may be in the Adult Fiction or Science Fiction &Fantasy area as well.  I purposefully picked up a copy with a different cover because the old man pictured on the cover really creeped me out.  I thought it was interesting that others thought so highly of it.  Oh well.