October. Fall into a good read.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Sister Mary Joseph Praise, a young free-spirited nun, leaves south Indian in 1947 for a missionary post in Yemen. During the sea voyage, she saves the life of an English doctor, Thomas Stone, who she meets again at Missing Hospital in Addis Ababa. Seven years later, she dies giving birth to twin boys: Shiva and Marion. Cutting for Stone is the story of their lives, their adoptive parent’s lives and comes full circle when; well…you’ll just have to read the book! ♥♥♥

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Charlie is a wall-flower but ends up leading a full and interesting life once he makes friends with seniors: Patrick and Samantha. Patrick is gay, and Sam is pretty, and as unlikely as it seems, they make a charming trio. Interestingly the novel is formatted as a series of letters to an unnamed "friend," from Charlie. Drugs, sex and other teenage heartbreak and runs the gauntlet of emotion.

The Blood letter’s Daughter by Linda Lafferty
In 1606, the emperor’s bastard son, Don Julius is banished to a remote corner of Bohemia, and comes under the care of a blood letter -- who tries to cure him of his madness. The blood letter’s daughter Marketa, assists in the procedures, and finds herself in a royal bind.♥♥

The Five Tibetans by Christopher S. Kilham
I actually purchased this book before Dr. Mehmet Oz featured Kilham on his show. The book explains how regular practice of these five postures relieves muscle tension and nervous stress, improves digestion, strengthens the cardiovascular system, tunes and energizes the chakras, and leads to deep relaxation and well-being.
Originating in the Himalayas, the five yogic exercises known as the Five Tibetans take only a few minutes a day, but don’t for one nano-second think they are easy.

The Responsible Company: What We’ve Learned from Patagonia’s First 40 Years
 by Yvon Chouinard & Vincent Stanley
We all know that Patagonia is one of, if not THE coolest company on the planet, and we get an insider look at it. Chouinard and Stanley also give new meaning to helping the environment. They have studied their current impact of manufacturing and commerce on the planet’s natural systems and human communities and have committed to reducing the harm they cause, improve the quality of their business, and provide the kind of meaningful work everyone seeks. This information is shared with big and small companies world-wide.♥♥


September Books

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
Kimberly Chang and her mother emigrate from Hong Kong to Brooklyn, where both become sweatshop workers. Kimberly gets to attend school during the day and excels. Incredible story and amazing insight into the hope that immigrants have, while struggling to fit in, learn a new language and deal with poverty and injustice. ♥♥♥

Gold by Chris Cleave
Zoe and Kate are world-class athletes who have been friends and rivals since their first day of cycle training. Fast forward 10 years and it’s London 2012, but there’s only one spot on the Olympic team. Much-much more than a story about racing. ♥♥♥

Sutton by J.R. Moehringer
Willie Sutton’s life is an incredible story told by master story-teller, J.R. Moehringer. Sutton is poor and also trapped in the times-- bank panics, depressions and soaring unemployment. Needing money and wanting to win the girl of his dreams he becomes one of America's most successful bank robbers. Three decades of crime and numerous prison stints, and fearless break-outs, earn him the title of the most dangerous man in New York. Supposedly he never fired a shot, and the public loved him.♥♥♥

Wallace by Jim Gorant
Gorant is the author of The Lost Dogs– one of my favorite dog books. He’s back with another heartwarming story – this time about an unwanted Pit-bull named Wallace. Andrew “Roo” Yori and his wife save Wallace in the nick of time, start training him to pull heavy loads and play competitive Frisbee -- which everyone thinks is a terrible idea. Wallace ends up being a star so the good guys have the last laugh, er, bark. 

Dog Days & Wolf Days of August

Seven Patients by Atul Kumar
This is one of my favorite books of the year, yet it seems to be unknown and under-appreciated. The writing is sharp, the characters alive, until, well they aren't....and the seven stories are tied together like a fine surgeon sutures a wound. Highly recommended. ♥♥♥♥

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
Hig survived the flu that killed almost everyone on earth. Now he’s holed up with a crazy gun-toting vigilante. His only solace is flying a 1956 Cessna (his beloved dog as copilot) around what was once Colorado. ♥♥

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia after some less than ideal tours of duty, and becomes the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock. The job and island suit him well enough but that would make a boring story so he marries Isabel. Years later, after it’s obvious Isabel can’t have children; a mysterious boat washes up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby. What to do, what to do…♥♥

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
Fourteen-year-old June Elbus is devastated when her godfather/uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss dies of AIDS. Finn painted a canvas for June and her sister to remember him by, which is worth about a million bucks, but the girls take turns de-facing it. However, it’s the coded message Finn leaves that helps her understand the mysterious illness and her uncle’s very full life – oh, and the strange man who was at the funeral. ♥♥

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian
Inspired by his grandparents, Bohjalian introduces us to "The Slaughter You Know Next to Nothing About," aka the Armenian genocide of 1915-16. The 20 second over-view: Elizabeth accompanies her father on his philanthropic mission to Syria, where she befriends Armenian engineer Armen. They are separated and write many letters. Years later, grand-daughter Laura hears about a photograph of a woman rumored to be her Armenian grandmother, taken by some brave photographers trying to bring the genocide to the attention of the world. ♥♥♥

July produces some hot reads

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
This was my book of choice as I lounged with Bobette in ZIH. I could not put it down – not to chat, not to walk on the beach, not to (heaven forbid) have a Mohito! What could she do but join me and get lost in the story as well? A great book about a marriage on the rocks that leads to murder. Or does it?? ♥♥♥

Let’s Pretend this Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
Lawson’s “mostly true memoir,” is hip, fun to read and full of her views on sex, drugs, and relationships. I came away from the experience realizing that the most mortifying moments of our lives—the ones we’d like to pretend never happened—are usually the ones that define us. ♥♥♥

A Secret Kept by Tatiana de Rosnay
Antoine Rey and his sister Mélanie revisit the beach where they spent many happy childhood summers. But the trip only reminds them of the last island summer when their Mother died, and awakens some not so savory family secrets.

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow
Rachel is the only survivor of a family tragedy so she is forced to move in with her strict African American grandmother. A great book about social justice and being biracial.♥♥


JUNE. Read a book why dontcha!

The Loom by Shella Gillus
Caroline Whitfield lives in the quiet hills of 1835 Montgomery County, Maryland. When seven-year-old Sadie and her father, arrive as new slaves her life gets complicated. The Loom is a tapestry of three families linked by a lie, woven into an OK book.

The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Phillips
The Washington Post says Arthur Phillips is “one of the best writers in America,” and I for one, don’t screw with The Washington Post. Young novelist, Arthur Phillips has a con artist father, imprisoned for decades reveals a secret he’s kept for half a century – he has the only copy of a previously unknown play by William Shakespeare. Arthur and his twin sister work to get the manuscript published and acknowledged as the Bard’s last great gift to humanity. Exceptionally good. Unless I’m conning you. ♥♥♥

Queen of the Conqueror: The Life of Matilda, Wife of William by Tracy Borman
Around the year 1049, William, Duke of Normandy was said to have dragged Matilda to the ground by her hair and beat her mercilessly because she had refused to marry him. However her father, the Count of Flanders was shocked when Matilda announced that she would marry none but William. While William’s exploits and triumphs have been widely chronicled, his Queen remains largely overlooked. Very decent historical fiction. ♥♥♥

What the Dog Saw by Malcom Gladwell
Malcom Gladwell is a staff writer for the New Yorker and has my vote for one of the sharpest pens, er, computer tap-tap-tapping fingers around. What the Dog Saw is a collections of some of the most heart breaking, informative and yes, funny stories of the decade. Where else can you meet the inventor of the birth control pill, and who knew Ron Popeil, the king of the American kitchen, would be such an inspiration? ♥♥♥

MAYbe a good book

Defending Jacob by William Landay
Andy Barber is a respected assistant DA in his community, happily married with a son, Jacob. Life is good until his fourteen-year-old son is charged with the murder of a fellow student.As Jacob’s parents protect him, the facts surface, and it’s a trial of loyalty but perhaps not justice. GREAT book.♥♥

Moonlight on Linoleum by Terry Helwig
Terry Helwig and her five sisters were raised (and I use that word causiously) by their very young, inexperienced and selfish mother, Carola. I may be a bit jaded about this type of memoir since so many have surfaced in the past few years. In fact so many have been published that you begin to wonder if dysfunction is the new normal.

Moon-walking with Einstein by Joshua Foer
WOW is all I can say. Joshua Foer writes about his yearlong quest to improve his memory and make it to the United States Memory Championships. With help from some of the top "mental athletes" he trains his mind and in the process writes an incredible book! I was so intrigued that I’ve researched mind mapping and memory palaces. Gotta love a book that inspires you to Google.♥♥♥


April: Enough time to read one big ass book

Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
A new book by serial biographer Stacy Schiff, Cleopatra is a very solid read. I imagine it’s difficult to find reliable source material on the last Egyptian pharaoh– even though she was the most influential women of the age. Regardless, Schiff brings Cleo to life and it’s entirely believable, entertaining and informative. The life of Cleopatra VII (69-30 B.C.) intrigues us. Intrigues us like Marilyn Monroe -- just can’t enough of these two clever bad girls. Settle in, cause this book goes on and on -- Cleopatra's marriages to her brothers and her subsequent disposal of said brothers, her ten years with Antony as faithful lover and mother to three children by him in addition to her son, Caesarion, by Julius Caesar, the wars and the brilliant parties, the final showdown with Octavian; Cleopatra's building of her own Mausoleum, Antony's botched suicide and subsequent death in Cleopatra's arms – yes, yes, it’s all there!♥♥

March Books

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
Here’s an easy read -- part love story, part history
lesson. Alternating between London (and other European countries and cities impacted by the Nazis) and quiet little Franklin Massachusetts, this story follows Iris James the town postmistress and several unsuspecting townspeople who trust and rely on her to deliver the goods. Enter Frankie Bard, daring newswoman who broadcasts from overseas with Edward R. Murrow. Frankie maintains that Americans are not paying attention to the horrors of the war and sets out to enlighten them through taped broadcasts with Jewish refugees en route to camps or if they are lucky to Spain. Her interviews with the families are profound and my favorite part of the book.

Vera: Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov by Stacy Schiff
Stacy Schiff brings to life one of the greatest literary love stories of our time. Vladimir Nabokov—the author of Lolita; Pale Fire; and Speak, Memory once said, "Without my wife, I wouldn't have written a single novel." Set in prewar Europe and postwar America, the book spans much of the century, and fifty-two-year marriage of the Nabokov’s.


February is for Book Lovers

A Child al Confino:
The True Story of a Jewish Boy and His Mother in Mussolini’s Italy by Eric Lamet
Eric Lamet was born in Vienna in 1930. The son of Polish Jews, he fled to Italy with his family after the Germans invaded Austria. In his book, we experience his terror and confusion as he is forced to leave Vienna and he and his mother move in and out of several towns in Italy. After World War II ended, Lamet settled in Naples, where he finished high school and attended the University of Naples. He now lives in the United States. ♥♥♥

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
Henry Skrimshander is a high school baseball prodigy when he’s recruited by Mike Schwartz to play at Westish College. Henry's roommate turns out to be a pot-smoking, gay, African American Owen Dunne, who also joins the team. As Henry closes in on a school record, things start o fall apart for everyone including the College president Guert Affenlight and his long-lost daughter.
Extremely well written and soulful. ♥♥♥

The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson
Pak Jun Do, is the unluckiest person in the worst country in the world. His Mother is stolen away to Pyongyang, the capital of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. His father is the drunken warden of an orphanage that serves as a supply house for children to be used for hard labor and the Chinese army. When he grows up Jun Do is trained for missions in the tunnels that penetrate into South Korea and then recruited for kidnapping people to add to the governments collection of human trophies.

The World As We Know It by Joseph Monninger
Ed and Allard grow up sharing their "dream map,” of exploration and crafting a beautiful future. On one such exploration they find Sarah, stuck in the river ice. The three become true friends and eventually skilled wild-life filmmakers. And then the world as they know it crumbles.

Queen of America by Luis Alberto Urrea
After the bloody Tomochic rebellion, Teresita Urrea, beloved healer and "Saint of Cabora," flees with her father to Arizona. Sounds great, but I just simply could not get in to it, so let me know how it ended...


January: Russia in Boise

It seems fitting while Boise was receiving its allotment of snow for the entire winter that I would be reading books about Russia. For example: Catherine the Great, Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie mentions a plethora of historical figures including the Austrian Frederick the Great, who was flushed out more completely in The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal. Nicholas and Alexandra, the Classic Account of the Fall of the Romanov Dynasty also by Massie, gets us in touch with our inner Rasputin – the ultimate weird Russian.

My favorite book this month, and quite possibly the year is...

The Hare With Amber Eyes, written by world famous potter Edmund de Waal. When de Waal inherited a collection of 264 netsuke (tiny Japanese wood and ivory carvings) he wanted to know how the collection had managed to survive over five generations. He spent two years researching his family history that crisscrossed Russia, Austria and Germany. His ancestors, the Ephrussis were as rich and respected as the Rothchilds, but by the end of the World War II, when the netsuke were hidden from the Nazis in Vienna, this collection was all that remained of their vast empire. Stunningly written.

Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch
You’ve got to love a maritime psychodrama set in 19th-century London. Jaffy Brown's a street urchin who gains fame by taming a tiger and ends up working for Charles Jamrach, a purveyor of exotic animals. Soon Jaffy is sent on a long journey to the South Pacific, in search of a dragon.

Oogy the Dog Only a Family Could Love by Larry Levin
Who can resist a true dog story? In 2002, when the Levin’s take their terminally ill cat to be put to sleep, they meet the ugliest dog they had ever seen. Missing an ear and half his face -- due to being used as a bait puppy for fighting dogs -- Oogy charms the Levin’s and the rest is history. Or a book deal. The story is incredible but the writing drags when Levin goes on and on about the family. You know what they say – nobody wants to hear about your kids…

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman
Nearly 2,000 years ago, nine hundred Jews held out for months and months against armies of Romans – all the while living in a small town perched on the side of a mountain in the Judean desert. According to the ancient historian Josephus, two women and five children survived. This is a well researched historical fiction account of that story. Beautiful.

The Orchard by Teresa Weir
A city girl gets a chance at a new life on an apple farm after she falls in love with Adrian, the beloved son of a prominent family. Adrian try’s to save the proverbial farm even though the orchards seem to be cursed.

The Woman Who Heard Color by Kelly Jones
First of all this book was written by Boise resident Kelly Jones who is one heck of a writer. Her Seventh Unicorn is one of my all-time favorite books. So, ‘Kindle’ this book -- The Woman Who Heard Color is a great read!! New York City, art detective Lauren O'Farrell is on the track of some very valuable stolen artwork. She shows up at Isabella Fletcher’s apartment to talk about her mother’s involvement in Nazis Austria. She was thought to have worked closely with the Nazis during World War II as they systematically looted valuable artwork from the Jewish community. Even though the cover looks like some trashy romance book, don’t let that fool you –this is a great book.


My Top Ten Books of 2011

Narrowing last years books to ten was a bit difficult, and truth be known this list is really 12 considering I crammed The Hungar Games trilogy together as one entry. But it's my blog and I can do what I want...and so in no particular order...

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
The Tigers Wife
The Language of Flowers
The Descendants
The Hungar Games (trilogy)
Turn Right at Machu Picchu
Killer Stuff and Tons of Money
The Paris Wife
The Mistress of Nothing

and...drum roll....the best of the best...