Blog Posts by Pam I am

blogger photo
Pam I Am lives in Arlington Heights with her husband, two children, and golden retriever. On any given day she can be found juggling work, dirty laundry, reading literature, or devouring a People magazine.




stripe

by Mitch Albom

cover image
11/12/09
This is Mitch Albom's first nonfiction book since Tuesday's with MorrieHave a Little Faith opens with Albom facing  an unusual request: an eighty-two-year-old rabbi from his old hometown asks him to deliver his eulogy.  Albom begins meeting with this rabbi to understand his life better and begins to renew his relationship with the rabbi.  Over time, these meetings become a re-connecting  with his Jewish faith.  At the same time, Albom begins a relationship with a Christian pastor of a broken-down impoverished congregation in Detroit.  Through these two very different relationships, Albom explores how faith connects us all, despite our differences.  As one editorial review said,
 
"Have a Little Faith is a book about a life's purpose; about losing belief and finding it again; about the divine spark inside us all. It is one man's journey, but it is everyone's story."
 
As an added bonus, it is important to note that ten percent of the profits from this book will go to charity, including The Hole In The Roof Foundation, which helps refurbish places of worship that aid the homeless.
Tags:  
by Lisa See

cover image
10/23/09
In Shanghai Girls the reader follows two sisters, Pearl and May as they travel from Shanghai to the US as young women. Lisa See vividly describes life in pre-World War II Shanghai and takes readers on an unforgettable journey through the Japanese invasion of China and its aftermath. Even after leaving China, the sisters face many hardships in the United States. Pearl and May are detained on Angel's Island for months undergoing untold suffering.  They finally meet their "arranged spouses', but life for the sisters has many more trials in store, and a secret shared between them threatens their future.  The novel spans several decades and does end on a bit of a cliff hanger. . . On a personal note, I wasn't sure that I liked the characters although I most certainly empathized deeply with them. I greatly appreciated the author's writing and found myself learning about a time and place in history that I did not know much about. Also, I have not read Lisa See's prior novels so I don't have anything to compare, but I think this is a departure from her previous works.
Tags:  
by Jennifer Weiner

cover image
09/15/09
I have long known that Jennifer Weiner is a very popular author of "chick lit", but I have  never read any of her books.  Certain Girls is actually a sequel to the bestselling novel Good in Bed.   The reader does not have to read the prequel to understand and appreciate this fun and enjoyable read.   In Certain Girls, Cannie Shapiro, the main character, is happily married  and is a very proud mother of her daughter, Joy.  Cannie has settled into a routine of being a mom and wife, and writing science fiction novels for teenagers.  But, life gets interesting and a  little crazy as Joy hits adolescense and begins to explore her mother's past.  At the same time, Cannie and her husband our trying to decide if they should have a child through surrogacy.   The narrative switches from Cannie's point of view to Joy's and this is an interesting way for the readers to hear and experience both sides of the story.   This is not a deep reflective book, but one that you will enjoy as a humorous and fun look at mother-daughter dynamics.
Tags:  
by Kathryn Stockett

cover image
09/06/09
The Help is Kathryn Stockett's debut novel about black domestic servants working in white Southern households in the early 1960s.  The author gives us three remarkable woman who are changing the times:  Skeeter, Aibileen and Minnie.  Skeeter has just graduated from college and her mother would like her to marry, but she wants to be a journalist.  It is Skeeter's idea to work with the black "help" to document life of the hired help in the tumultuous civil rights time.  Skeeter works with Aibileen, a black maid who is  a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child.  We also hear personal stories and challenges  from Minnie, Aibileen’s best friend, a short, fat, and sassy maid.  These three women come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk.  These brave woman are challenging the stereotypes and segregation in this town.
Tags:  
by Kristin Hannah

cover image
08/12/09
Kristin Hannah gives us an epic look into a lifeflong friendship and the ups and downs of life through the years.  This books begins when the main characters, Kate and Tully are in junior high and follows them through 40 years of friendship-- high school and college on into adulthood, other relationships, careers, children, a husband, lovers, geographic moves. The friendship defines each of these women and it is central to who they are.  With that said, some of the issues they face feel more like a lifetime movie than real life.  But, the author does a great job of placing the reader in these women's lives and feeling the love and friendship that endures.
Tags:  
by Lori Lansens

cover image
06/04/09
At a recent Readers Advisory Training, reknown book reviewer Nancy Pearl mentioned that she was currently reading The Girls by Lori Lansens and found it to be a well written interesting book written from the perspective of conjoined twin girls.  Based on her recommendation, I checked this book out of the library and was engrossed in this fictional account of conjoined twins from page one.  The Girls are Rose and Ruby Darlen, craniopagus  conjoined twins, connected inseparably, facing the world side by side. The book chronicles their life journey; a story of love between sisters.   The narrative switches between sisters; each chapter giving the reader a personal glimpse into the spirit of each girl.  The writing is rich in detail and provides you with an intimate look into the struggles and triumphs of the "girls".
Tags:  
by Kelly Corrigan

cover image
03/12/09
The Middle Place is a poignant memoir of what it is like to be in "the middle place" - the  place between childhood and adulthood.  Corrigan is a wife and mother to two young girls, but in many ways her life is still shaped around being a daughter.    This book centers around Corrigan finding a lump in her breast, being diagnosed with cancer and fighting it with humor, strength, determination and love.  At the same time, Corrigan's father faces a recurrence of cancer himself.   By alternating chapters between present and past, Corrigan moves the reader from her present  to her past with stories of her life as her parents' child.   One reviewer says, "Kelly Corrigan has a great sense of humor, an honest voice, and a brilliant way of telling it like it is -- but that's just for starters. It's her heart that really counts. The Middle Place is a love letter to family and home and life."
Tags:  
by John Boyne

cover image
11/12/08
The book jacket reads:
"The story of The Boy in Striped Pajamas is very difficult to describe. Usually we give some clues about the book on the jacket but in this case we think it is important you start to read without knowing what it's about."
 
If you do start to read this book, you will go on a journey with a nine-year-old boy called Bruno. (Though this isn't a book for nine-year-olds.) And sooner or later you will arrive with Bruno at a fence.
 
Fences like this exist all over the world. we hope you never have to encounter such a fence.
 
The blurb on the book jacket piqued my interest as well as the fact that this book has recently been made into a movie.  This book chronicles the Holocaust through the eyes of Bruno, the nine year old son of a Nazi Commander General. Bruno and his family move from their lavish home in Berlin to a house at Auschwitz where Bruno's father is a high officer at the concentration camp. From his bedroom window, Bruno sees a long fence with low lying buildings and hundreds and hundreds of people dressed in striped pajamas. One afternoon, Bruno goes exploring along the fence and meets a Jewish boy named Shmuel. Soon Shmuel and Bruno build a friendship with each other through the fence and discover their similarities despite their very different circumstances.
 
There were several times while reading this book that I thought Bruno seemed unbelievably naive and ignorant about the war and the atrocities around him. However, I think the author intentionally highlights Bruno's naivety in a way that allows readers to experience the horrors of Auschwitz through a child's eyes. I think Bruno's exaggerated innocence could detract from the story, but if the reader accepts that this is a fable, this does not take away from the powerfulness of this book.
Tags:  
by Betty Smith

cover image
10/16/08
A Tree Grows In Brooklyn was first published in 1943 and has firmly cemented itself as an American Classic novel that should be on everyone's list of books to read at least once in your lifetime.  It is the coming of age story of a young girl, Francie Nolan.
 
We follow Francie through her childhood in the tenements of Brooklyn through her teen years and eventually on the brink of womanhood.  It is through her keen observations and wonderful anecdotes that the reader is transported back to the early 20th century.  The author explores many themes in this book including poverty, perseverance, and education.  The Nolans are a poverty stricken, hard working family that endure many struggles with love, humor and strength.
 
As Betty Smith writes, "The one tree in Francie's yard was neither a pine or hemlock.  Some people called it the tree of heaven.   No matter where its seed fell, it made a tree which struggled to reach the sky.  It grew in boarded up lots and out of neglected rubbish heaps and it was the only tree that grew out of cement.  It grew lushly, but only in the tenement districts." 
Tags:  
by Garth Stein

cover image
09/11/08
Because I am a crazy dog lover, it is no surprise that the cover of this novel is what attracted me and enticed me to check out  this book (cute yellow lab on the cover).  I read this book in one sitting, which is something I haven't done in quite a while.  What captured me was the fact that the story is told from the point of view of Enzo, the family dog.  Enzo is approaching the end of his life and wants nothing more than to come back in his next life as a man.  As such, he is reflecting on his life with his owner, Denny and contemplating a life well lived.  Through Enzo's narrative, we follow his owner Denny as he falls in love, gets married and raises his family.  We also experience the death of Denny's wife, the ensuing fight for custody of his child and his ongoing efforts to become a professional race car driver.   As anyone who loves dogs knows, dogs are far more noble creatures than we are and it is with this innocence and humor that this story is told.  I hate use a cliche, but I truly laughed and I cried.  This is a heartwarming story that will stay with me for a long time.
Tags: