Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Modigliani Scandal -- #7 finished

It seems like the only thing I am posting about this month is what I have been reading or just plain reading info.  I guess with it being cold and now snowy, not much else going on.  I have run a couple of times in the last week, but till I get on a more regular schedule that is not really exciting enough to type up.  Anyway, I have finished my 7th book this year--what a start.  I am still working on War & Peace--only 462 pages read so far though, too.

The 7th was The Modigliani Scandal by Ken Follett.  I just bought this book around 3 weeks ago at my used bookstore nearby for one whole dollar.  It had been a while since I had read anything by Follett--Paper Money in 2005 & Man From St Petersburg in 2003 were the last 2 I found on my Books Read lists.  I should probably re-read Eye of the Needle at some point since that was his first book I read and still remember really likeing it--kind of like a Day of the Jackal type book if I remember right.  I think I have another Follett book in my bookcase as well but not sure of the title.

The Modigliani Scandal was actually pretty good.  My expectations weren't that high though either.  He had written it under a pseudonym before he became a popular writer, same as with Paper Money.  Both are good but not outstanding books.  In M Scandal it is about paintings and the artists and forgery.  Some good info in general and interesting scams that went on.  A couple of criticisms I guess would be in a short book, it had a quite a few characters and it at times became hard to figure out who was who.  Also the whole idea where everything conveniently comes together in the end is something just a little too neat for me.  All in all though a good read.  Not sure if I am going to post on PBS though, it is an older copy in good shape still, but I doubt there are many people looking for this book.  I think there are already around 15 copies on the system and can't imagine that many get requested in a year so why bother at this point at least.

Finally, the other news in writing I guess this week was John Updike passing away.  I have read only a couple of his books, Bech: A Book and The Witches of Eastwick.  From what I remember about both is that they were okay.  I do have the complete edition of Bech, so might try to read that one of these times also.  Updike also wrote a sequel to Witches of Eastwick in 2007 or 2008--not sure if I will try to get a copy of this or not.  John Updike was certainly a prolific writer and won several awards during his time.  While his passing is unfortunate, it seems comforting to realize that because of his writing he will long be remembered and enjoyed by many generations of people.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Long Way Back -- #6 finished

This was a good quick pager turner.  I had just started it really this yesterday and today it is done.  I enjoyed it.  I liked the connection the sister Clare & her brother Francis had to each other.  The book talked a lot about being Catholic and the Catholic faith, but it was not completely pro-Catholic either--or at least pro-Catholic in the traditional church sense.  

The main themes that sort of ran throughout the book were dealing or coping with death and music.  It kind of all wrapped up in a nice way, in that Francis who suffered through the loss of his wife kind of ended up with a nice new life that he really didn't want at first.  He never really gets over the loss of his wife, and instead of returning to a normal life, he teaches himself to play the bass guitar and joins what becomes a very popular band.  

Overall, I guess kind of mixed in my feelings on the book.  Certainly you can understand how devastated Francis had to feel after his wife dies, but how he copes makes for good reading but just not really likely.  Clare is kind of the rock of the family, trying her best to help out where ever needed, but the toil weighs her down also.  She has the normal life in the suburbs but with everything going on around her it is hard to maintain.  Again at the end, it almost seems to convenient that she is able to quit her job because Francis can take care of her.  It kind of seemed like the writer just wanted to tie up any loose ends before the end of the novel got around.

Still I think it is a good book and I enjoyed reading it.  It is one of those books that is on Wish Lists on paperbackswap so I might be listing it in the next couple of days also.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Moon Over Tokyo -- #5 finished

I have already finished my 5th book of 2009 and it is only Jan 23rd--that is certainly a record for me.  Moon Over Tokyo is a good read.  A kind of fun romantic figuring oneself out kind of book.  There was really no mystery in the book, you know pretty much right off it will be a happy ending kind of book.  

Allie and Eric went to the same high school and were on opposite ends politically.  They never really talked but Allie at least had formed some hard opinions of Eric back then.  Those hard opinions made it difficult for her to get close to Eric when they meet again in Tokyo.  One sort of problem I have with the Allie character is that I found parts to be a little unbelievable.  She is the Democrat, liberal of the two, but being in Japan has kind of forced her into a shell--this I had a hard time buying or understanding why I should be buying it.  Eric seemed too much like Mr. Perfect, any short comings were kind of left off.  I guess calling him a conservative Republican was supposed to be enough of a shortcoming.  

Siri Mitchell didn't take any big chances either between the two characters--no big arguments on political or social issues like abortion or gay marriage or death penalty.  She seemed to shy away from these, which is fine, but why the book is more of just a nice romance.  Don't get me wrong though, I did enjoy the book and it was a quick read.  I also will be posting it on paperbackswap--not really a book I need to keep around long either.  It does have 20 some people on the Wish List waiting for it so it should move quick too.

I have a couple ideas of my next book or books, but will probably just preview tonight and read War & Peace.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Reading & Books

Reading & books are taking up a lot more of my time lately.  PaperBackSwap has to be a big part of the reason.  I am really enjoying figuring out the website and trying to find books to post on there that people want.  I have been hitting the local libraries sales tables quite a bit lately--tonight I went before going grocery shopping & bought 8 books.  I posted 2 right away, on one my copy is the only one on the system and the other posted is the 2nd one on the system.  I expect both of these books to get picked up within a month.  Of the remaining 6 books, 4 are on Wish Lists, one has only 1 or 2 copies and one isn't on the system at all.  

I received my first book from the site today, Mari Sandoz' Crazy Horse.  It is in good condition and I am actually kind of excited about getting it.  I am not sure when I will be able to start reading it, probably after War & Peace is done.  I have mailed one book that hasn't arrived to the person yet--The Biography of Ancient Israel and another book will be getting mailed tomorrow--Plum Lucky.  I will have 3 credits then to be used and don't really have a book in mind for them yet.

PBS has even affected my reading habits I guess.  I am now reading Moon Over Toyko since it is on 20 some people's Wish Lists.  The sooner I read it the sooner I can post it & get credit for sending it.  I have around 8 books that are on Wish Lists so I have some reading to do--although a few might get sent off after I look at them a little closer & see if I have interest in reading them or not.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Spoiled Priest - #4 finished

I just finished my fourth book of the early year already.  Spoiled Priest by Gabriel Longo.  Some interesting parts of the book and some things that are going to make me think for the next few days at least.  Also quite a bit that just doesn't seem really real or likely thrown in also.  An okay read, but it is showing it's age--he left the priesthood in the '50s and the book was written in the mid 60's.  

It has been a long day so I think that is all I have for now.  I will try to re-address the book in the next few days after giving it a little more thought.  I have another book I am probably going to start, but don't have it here with me and don't want to screw up the title, will wait to mention it until later as well.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Yellow Sailor -- #3 finished

It was basically a painful struggle to finish this book.  Almost from page 1, it just wasn't very good.  The writing is in short choppy sentences with very little description of what is going on.  The reader is left to fill in huge gaps, if you even care too.  It was about a group of men who were on a boat called The Yellow Sailor in the North Sea--I think--just north of Hamburg during WWI.  The boat was sank & the book is then about what the sailors did.  

Because it was written in short choppy sentences and short choppy dialogue, it is a quick read.  The hard part was talking myself into continuing with the effort.  It has been a long time since I was this disappointed in a book, probably since the North Dallas After 40.  At least though the North Dallas After 40 was burdened with the expectations of following North Dallas 40, there were really no expectations going into The Yellow Sailor.  

The positive I got from this book is that if this can get published, well maybe there is hope that I have a book inside me that some publisher will take.  Of course other than this simple blog, I haven't done any writing--and this barely qualifies--so my odds are probably still around 1%.  Oh well, I have read it and it is over.  At least now that I am on PaperBackSwap maybe I can flip it somewhere else.  It is getting posted now.

I have a couple books I am looking at for my next book.  More on this probably on next posting if anyone is keeping score out there. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I am up and running on  It is a used book exchange basically.  Check it out, I am excited about moving some of my books as well as finding some new ones.  I also want to thank for introducing the site to me back in August.  Took till now to find 10+ books that I was ready to part with.

From the first 10 I listed, one has already been requested.  I am guessing it was sitting on a wish list and popped up as soon as I entered it.  I have also put a request in for my first book.  I won't go into more details until I see how it all comes out--why jinx it.  I have since added a few more books to my list.  I would like to think a few, 3-4, might get requests, but will have to wait & see.  My wife was checking it out to see if our oldest has some books to list--looks like there are people out there wanting some of hers.  

I am looking into starting a 3rd book, maybe The Afghan by Frederick Forsyth, but have a couple others considering as well.  I am hoping to finish off The Yellow Sailor this weekend & then it is going on my PaperBackSwap list.  I have not liked the book at all and am now within 50 pages of finishing.  I just hope someone requests it and gets it off my bookshelf.

Couple more books & PaperBackSwap Time

Yesterday was PSR night but no run again.  Just too cold & I am uninspired right now to get out there.  Instead I hit a couple of stores returning things that we had bought a few weeks earlier to decorate our bedroom.  After looking it over, was not what we wanted--sometimes we have a hard time figuring this out.  After the stores, I then hit a different library that was nearby to checkout the books they had for sale.  I found a couple.

--The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman.  I am not a fan of Friedman as far as most of his columns go, but he is supposed to be a respected economist so I figured I could give the book a try.

--Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult.  I really had no idea what this book was about, I just know that I had heard of Picoult before & figured that was enough to take a chance on it.  From reading wikipedia on it, it kind of gave me a shock.  Some of the characters in the book have the same last name as myself.  Also one of the characters is a child with Down Syndrome--like my son Thomas.  Not sure if the school shooting theme of the book is really something I want to get into but will have to see where it sits with the many other books in my stacks "to read" yet.

Also, finally I am going to get around to signing up on PaperBackSwap.  I am waiting for an answer from the blog where I first found out about this to make sure I give that person credit.  I have 10 or 11 books to list, but from doing a check I don't think any are ones being requested.  I will have to list more popular books I think in order to fully participate, but I will see how it goes.

I guess now finally, still working on my 2 books.  The Yellow Sailor--not very impressed but still working through it.  War & Peace--I am somewhere over 300 pages read but still have 1100 or so to go.  I just really enjoy this book--the thoughts and feelings of the characters are as relevant then as they are today.  I am thinking I will be adding a 3rd book but no idea right now what it will be.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Testament -- finished #2

Well, book #2 is well in the books now.  The Testament by John Grisham is a fun read like most of Grisham's books I have read.  It is a kind of soft reading page turner.  You get to know enough about the main characters so it is easy to like or dislike them in general without having to put much deep thought into it.

It is what it is, not great literature or anything but just a solid fun read.  Throw in plenty of lawyer work and a trip to Brazil and it was all good.  In this one everyone seems to win in the end, even Rachel by dying.  She was so committed to her faith that she stated earlier in the book she was not afraid to die, so of course it happened at the end.  Nate the washed up lawyer gets a cushy appointment to be executor of her now enormous estate.  The other brothers & sisters get a chunk of money to straighten out their screwed up lives and their lawyers the same.

Not sure if a 3rd book will be picked up right away or not yet.  I started reading The Yellow Sailor, don't have it in front of me so not sure of the author's name.  Still working on War & Peace also.

Monday, January 5, 2009

More Books

On Saturday, my wife & I went out and like many of our dates, we finished up at a bookstore--this time Borders.  Debbie picked up a box of yoga cards that she wants to have the kids try.  I found 3 books, The Song of the Lark--Cather, October Men--Kahn and Miracle at Philadelphia--Drinker Bowen.

Song of the Lark is another Willa Cather book that I have not read yet.  It is one of the Dover Thrift Editions so the cost was only $3.50.  I am kind of excited about it.  I am hoping to read it at some point this year.  I am also wanting to do a re-read of Death Comes to the Archbishop so Lark might get pushed back some if that happens.

October Men by Roger Kahn is about the 1978 Yankees and their big comeback that season against the Red Sox.  On sale for $3.99 so good price and I like Kahn so I expect it to be a good read.

Debbie found Miracle at Philadelphia by Catherine Drinker Bowen for me.  It is a book about the Constitutional Convention in 1787.  This is something that I realize I should really know more about so figured I should get it.  It was also $3.99 so again good price.

Well, tonight was PSR night.  It was cold and I wasn't feeling inspired to workout/run so I took my Grisham book along to hit the library with it.  Once there I had to check the "For Sale" table and of course I found some books.

First one I found was Nightmares & Dreamscapes by Stephen King.  It is a book of short stories by him from 1993.  23 stories and over 800 pages in total, it is quite a book.  No idea when I will get getting to this one.

Next, I found The Castle in the Forest by Norman Mailer.  I have not read anything by Mailer and had no idea what the book was about but I figured I should have a Mailer book in the house & hopefully get to reading it as well.  I just looked it up and it is about Hitler's life growing up.  Not a factual account but an account that Mailer has come up with himself & sounds very interesting.  

I then found The Afghan by Frederick Forsyth.  Back in high school I read Day of the Jackal and The Dogs of War and thought they were about the best books ever.  I think a few years later I read the Odessa File and liked it too.  Not to sure why I never read anything else by Forsyth.  I know I was also reading Irving Wallace and Ken Follett around then, I guess they had more books out and was easier to find them in my used bookstores.

Next was Into the Great Wide Open by Kevin Canty.  I had no idea what this book was about but the jacket on it mentioned it was his first novel.  Last year I picked up a couple first novels from the library as well and enjoyed them--God Clobbers Us All is the one that sticks in mind.  So I figured I would give it a chance.  From the Amazon book reviews sounds like a good book.  Who knows when I will get to it though.

I then found the next two books right next to each other, Atonement was the first by Ian McEwan.  Again no idea what it is about but the back cover certainly sounds like it is a winner.  Didn't want to read all of the wikipedia stuff on it, but should be a good book.  

Finally, the last book found was Unless by Carol Shields.  Not really sure what to make of it yet.  Sounds like a daughter kind of going off the deep end and how the parents react to this.  It is good to find and read different types of books and it sounds like this one qualifies.

I also found a Baby Einstein VHS movie for Thomas.  All of these library books and the movie for a total of $3.00.  What a bargain, it is almost too bad though, because I rarely go to my used bookstore anymore though because I have these stacks of books that I still have to make time for to read.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Plague Dogs -- finished #1

First book of 2009 is now finished, The Plague Dogs by Richard Adams.  Not a bad book I guess, but just a disappointment after reading Watership Down and still remembering Shardik in a good light.  It is probably these raised expectations that helped me now think of the book as just okay.  

I didn't get into the whole writing of the dialect by both the local people and the fox the dogs meet up with.  It is also a 1970s book, just a different mindset back then.  While some books it is not as noticeable, this one just seemed very noticeable at times.  The whole animal research angle was pretty much bashed on in the '80s & '90s to the point now where I am not sure if PETA is really even talking about it.  Of course, Adams had to write in his time, so this is certainly not his fault--just pointing out.  

The one thing that really seemed to stand out though in this book in a negative way was very long winded descriptions.  Now don't get me wrong, usually I enjoy this, but early on it just seemed too many of these were forced and it just continued through the whole novel.  Earlier I posted that it seemed that Adams was trying to be more prose like than just simply telling the story.  Then I kind of chalked it up to his just then recent success of Watership Down and having to try to live up to heightened expectations that had to be on him.  Kind of like what I felt before reading the book.  Now I am probably completely off on this, but it was what popped into my head very early on and stayed with me to the end.

I really cannot recommend this book.  Watership Down and Shardik should certainly be read first and only then if wanting to read all 3 of Adams novels, then have at it.  But for my taste there are better things to be reading.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Books Read 2008--Complete List

Here is my books read list for 2008.  Last year I posted my books read lists back to 1997 & figure I will just keep updating it here once a year as well.  I have my paper records but if they should become lost or destroyed, etc, my blog will hopefully be around to review.

Books Read 2008

1. Cell--Stephen King, 350
2. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich--Alexander Solzhenitsyn, 203
3. Wuthering Heights--Emily Bronte, 406
4. The Rule of Four--Ian Caldwell & Dustin Thomason
5. God Clobbers Us All--Poe Ballantine, 191
6. The Phantom of the Opera--Gaston Leroux, 270
7. The Hobbit--JRR Tolkien, 287
8. The Planet Wizard--John Jakes, 246
9. The Drifters--James Michener, 768
10. All Moms Go To Heaven--Dean Hughes, 95
11. The Partner--John Grisham, 468
12. Ten Thousand Lovers--Edeet Ravel, 284
13. The Lord of the Rings--JRR Tolkien, 1008
14. The Witches of Eastwick--John Updike, 343
15. My 15 Minutes--Sara Faith Alterman, 261
16. The True Story of Fatima--John DeMarchi, IMC, 376
17. Bowerman and the Men of Oregon--Kenny Moore, 417
18. The Death of Ivan Ilyich--Leo Tolstoy, 134
19. See You Later Alligator--William F Buckley Jr, 351
20. The Teeth of the Tiger--Tom Clancy, 480
21. Uncle Tom's Cabin--Harriet Beecher Stowe, 629
22. Desert Light--Chilton Williamson Jr, 230
23. Bicycling Beyond the Divide, Daryl Farmer, 311
24. Faith of My Fathers--John McCain with Mark Salter, 349
25. Alexander's Bridge--Willa Cather, 80
26. White River Massacre--Karl Lassiter, 351
27. Survival in Auschwitz--Primo Levi, 157
28. Surviving the Toughest Race on Earth, Martin Dugard, 202
29. The Rail--Howard Owens, 239
30. The Queen of Spades and Other Stories--Alexander Puskin 85.

The 30 books read shattered my previous high in number read for a year(at least for the years I have been tracking)which was 18 in 1999 and 2001.  Again credit has to go to switching from only read one book at a time to now reading at least 2 and maybe 3 or 4 books all at once.  Setting a book aside for a few days no longer means not reading anything but instead staying with reading but just taking a break from a particular book.  This seems really logical and makes me wonder why it took till I was almost 38 before I started doing this(this was started in Spring of 2007).

Currently still working on War and Peace--long way to go.  The Plague Dogs which I am now under 100 pages to go.  I also added a 3rd book, The Testament by John Grisham.  Grisham books really seem to work as a good extra book, they don't take too much thought and are a quick and easy read as well as generally being kind of fun.

Happy New Year

2009 is here.  2008 really had some rough moments didn't it with the high gas prices, mortage crisis followed by the stock market crash or whatever it is being called.  The whole election season wasn't much fun, especially if generally vote Republican like myself.  Even Dems though had their issues with primary problems in Florida & Michigan and the party divided during the primary.  Then after Obama's win, Blogovich...problems in IL and replacing Obama in the Senate.

All of this leads to what should be an interesting first year for Obama as well as for everyone else.  The nation and/or media have been feeding the hype of having Bush out and Obama coming in to make the "changes" that everyone has been wanting.  I am not sure if I want those changes and I certainly don't think anyone really has a true idea of what changes these will actually be.  

I can't remember that quote, that was something like, may you live in interesting times, I think 2009 should qualify for that.