Wednesday, February 23, 2011

You Do Not Have to Love Birds to Love This Book

I just finished A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson.  There is only one problem.  I just finished A Guide to the Birds of East Africa, and now I want more!!!

Set in Nairobi, Kenya, the story revolves around Mr. Malik, a highly honorable 60ish Indian gentleman and his unrequited love for Rose.  Rose is a Scottish lady that leads the Tuesday morning bird walks of the East African Ornithological Society.  All sorts of characters show up for the bird walks, including, to the dismay of Mr. Malik, an unwelcome classmate from his boarding school days, who also sets his sights on Rose.  The solution?  A bird identifying contest.  Whoever has the most sightings in a week wins the right to ask Rose to the Hunt Club Ball.  Cue corrupt politicians, Somalian baddies, car thieves and the mysterious Mr. Dadukwa, and a simple wager turns into quite an adventure.

Fresh, charming, gentle and cheeky, A Guide to the Birds of East Africa enthralled and entertained me.
I loved this book!  (And I DO love birds!)

PS:  Huzzah for Google!  I just read an interview with Nicholas Dryson.  He said he's working on a sequel!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I Love Airport Bookstores

Cold Sassy Tree was almost the last book in my reading pile.  I say "almost", because I did have a couple of books left, but we were flying up to Northern California for the weekend, and hardbacks don't travel well.  (Still don't have a Kindle!)  BUT, I know I can always find something at the trusty airport bookstore.

The cover of The Girl in the Green Raincoat by Laura Lippman jumped right out at me, and I'm sure glad it did!  Originally written as a serial for the New York Times, this book is perfect for a plane ride or a rainy day at home.  Each chapter contains its own little story, but the whole thing meshes into a satisfying little mystery.  She admittedly takes more than a little inspiration from Hitchcock's Rear Window, one of my favorites.  The characters are funny and quirky, and the story is just a bit twisted.  Just what I like.  I hope you do, too!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cold Sassy Tree

I ran out of new books to read, again.  I went to Barnes and Noble for Stones into Schools, the sequel to Three Cups of Tea, but they had to order it for me.  Drat!  What now...browsing, table?!  That's where I found Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns.

Cold Sassy is not a new book, and I'm sure many of you have heard of it before.  Published in 1984 when Olive Ann was 60, it was inspired by stories her father told her of growing up in a small Georgia town at the turn of the 20th century.  He was 14 in 1906, as is the novel's narrator, Will Tweedy, and if he was anything like Will, what a character he must have been!

This book has something for everyone.  Love, jealousy, scandal, motor cars, drama, and death all make an appearance, but most importantly, it is FUNNY! These Southernahs jus' don talk like us Yankees.  And the stories that Will Tweedy tells, ain't he jus' like anothah Mark Twain!  My favorite "Will" saying in the book:  "I heard he had him a pet snake one time that bit him and the next day the snake died." (Describing one mean dude.)

Cold Sassy Tree is also surprisingly touching.  The characters with all of their faults and strengths are never one dimensional, and the simple life of a small southern town is not so simple after all.  I hope you enjoy your visit there as much as I did.

Y'all come back now!

Mary Kay

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man's mind can get both provocation and privacy. ~Edward P. Morgan

Some people seem to be born without the fear gene.  They jump out of airplanes, dive with sharks, explore treacherous slot canyons and climb the world's highest peaks as readily as I drive to the local Starbucks for a latte with (gasp!) 2% milk.  Although I do love to ski, which my neighbor with his newly broken shoulder can attest is not guaranteed to be safe, and I DO drive in California, mostly I spend my time trying NOT to be in danger.  Greg Mortenson falls into the former category.

Three Cups of Tea, One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time, by Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, is an amazing story.  I know that AMAZING is a very overused word, but I promise it definitely applies here.  Greg's whole life has been out of the ordinary. Growing up in Tanzania with missionary parents, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro at age 11 and attempting to summit the second highest mountain on earth in 1993 are just of the few extraordinary experiences that shaped his life.  But it was that failed attempt on K2 that would send him on an even more perilous and impossible journey.

If you don't know, (like me!), K2 is located on the border of Pakistan and China with a summit of 28,251 feet.  It is not quite as high as Everest, but much more deadly, taking at least 77 lives with only 302 people reaching the top.  Exhausted and ill on his descent, Greg literally wandered off the beaten path and into a remote Pakistani village, forever changing his life and the lives of his new friends forever.  To pay back the kindness he received from the village of Korphe, and struck by the desperate need of their children, he promised to come back and build them a school.

This is where Three Cups of Tea really begins.  Against insurmountable odds Greg Mortenson keeps his promise and so much more.  And if I tell you more, it will just ruin the book!  Read it, and if you want to know more about Greg Mortenson and what he's up to now, go to  (Type it into your web address line.  I haven't set up the click-on-the-link thing yet.)  It's pretty AMAZING.  

"Thrilling...proof that one ordinary person,with the right combination of character and determination, really can change the world."  Tom Brokaw

Friday, February 4, 2011

Bond...James Bond

I love a good spy, especially in the form of Daniel Craig or Sean Connery.  Oh, wait, I am supposed to be talking about books.  I love a good spy STORY.  I hope I cleared that up for you.

I did not plan on reading Moscow Rules by Daniel Silva.  It ended up in my house after a steady stream of house guests had left, so I put it in my To-be-Read pile.  That pile quickley shrank, and Moscow Rules was all I had left.  So I read it.  And I liked it!

The story centers around Gabriel Allon, a mysterious Israeli operative and master art restorer.  Strange combination, but it seems to work.  The book is filled with suspense and intrigue, and the good guys win, mostly.  This is a perfect vacation/beach read, and if you like Gabriel, he stars in 9 other Daniel Silva novels.  Also, they come in standard paperback format, so it doesn't matter if you drop it in the sand.
Unless you have an e-reader.  DON'T drop that in the sand.

Mary Kay

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Little Bee

First of all, this is not a book about a bee.

Now that I've made THAT perfectly clear, I can tell what it IS about.  Little Bee is a young Nigerian girl who has a chance encounter with Sarah, a British magazine editor, who is vacationing on a beach in said Nigeria.  (I know, not the smartest travel decision on record.)  The events that happen on this beach (NO, I'm not going to tell you! You have to read it.) will forever bind Sarah and Little Bee together.

What made this book so interesting to me is the way in which the story unfolds.  Sarah and Little Bee take turns telling their story, a chapter at a time.  And small pieces at a time.  The two narrators weave together a seamless tale of tragedy and triumph despite the fact that they come from polar opposite life experiences.  The prose is beautiful and at times, haunting, as is the subject matter.

One more thing, Batman is out to get the baddies.  (Read the book and you'll understand!)

Chris Cleave has written a book that is:

jaw dropping

Read Little Bee.  Let me know what you think!

Mary Kay

A good book should leave you... slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it. ~William Styron, interview, Writers at Work, 1958

I just finished reading Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. Wow! I repeat, WOW.  Once I started reading it I really didn't want to put it down.  Who needs to sleep and eat when you have a good book?  Oh, yeah, I have a family, responsibilities, etcetera.  In between taking care of them I really did very little else but read this brilliant book, and since finishing, I haven't been able to stop thinking about.

I know I am not the first to hop on the Cutting for Stone/Abraham Verghese train, but for those who haven't yet read the book, it is the story of Marion and Shiva Stone, Indian/British twins growing up in Ethiopia.  Did I mention their mother was a nun?  And she died at their birth?  And their genius British surgeon father ran away in grief? Sound soap opera-ish? Not to worry. This story is woven like an exotic tapestry, each thread blending into the next and creating an incredible work of art.  

I think a good book is the best way to learn something new.  I really knew nothing about Ethiopia, but now I feel a little more informed, and not in a textbook way.  More in a from-the-heart kind of way.  As a reader I could tell how much Verghese loves the Ethiopian people and the place where he grew up.  He made me want to learn more.

Whatever you do, READ Cutting for Stone, NOW!  It is a perfect circle of a story.