Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Mermaid

A mermaid found a swimming lad,
Picked him for her own,
Pressed her body to his body,
Laughed; and plunging down
Forgot in cruel happiness
That even lovers drown.

W.B. Yeats

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Unexpected Hiatus

So, I've been MIA on this blog for a bit. A lot has been happening and this blog was put on the back burner.

I plan on returning it to it's former glory, though. I'm goingo to post more regularly and get back to writing reviews.

I'm currently reading A Thousand Pardons, by Jonathan Dee. Looking forward to writing a review for you all!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Review| The Cranes Dance, by Meg Howry

Full Title: The Cranes Dance
Author: Meg Howrey
Genre: Fiction/Contemporary
Publisher: Vintage (Random House)
Publication Date: May 15, 2012
My Copy: Advance reader copy via Goodreads First Reads

The Cranes Dance, by Meg Howrey, follows the life of ballerina Kate Crane. She takes us through an especially rough patch in her family life that coincides with the career boost she may just need.

Kates sister, Gwen, is the superior dancer. Everyone knows this: Kate is a soloist, but Gwen is a principle dancer. But when Gwen’s neurosis get to be too much to handle, Kate calls up her dad to take her away. While Gwen is getting treatment, Kate injures herself but dances what has to be her best season yet. She snags lead roles, but her dependence on painkillers might be clouding her world.

Kate’s voice was instantly likeable for me. She is witty and funny. She addresses her audience directly, and is quite blunt and honest in her opinions. She is a very self aware and strong female lead. Her dancer lifestyle isn’t entirely relatable to me, but I felt I understood her regardless. Her emotions and thoughts are very well described.

Overall, this novel was interesting and engaging. I was never bored with it. I always wanted to read just a bit more before putting it down. Because of this, I finished it in one sitting. It’s a very quick read, but very good as well. I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone, dancer or not.

See (and like!) this review on: Amazon | Goodreads | Librarything | Shelfari

Friday, June 29, 2012

Life of Pi Footage!

Yann Martel's Life of Pi is being made into a movie, coming November 21, 2012. Here is a little sneak-peak footage. Looking forward to a full trailer. And, of course, the movie.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

How to Kill a Living Thing

Neglect it
Criticize it to its face
Say how it kills the light
Traps all the rubbish
Bores you with its green

Harden your heart
Cut it down close
To the root as possible

Forget it
For a week or a month
Return with an axe
Split it with one blow
Insert a stone

To keep the wound wide open.

—Eibhlín Nic Eochaidh

You Should Date An Illiterate Girl

By Charles Warnke

Date a girl who doesn’t read. Find her in the weary squalor of a Midwestern bar. Find her in the smoke, drunken sweat, and varicolored light of an upscale nightclub. Wherever you find her, find her smiling. Make sure that it lingers when the people that are talking to her look away. Engage her with unsentimental trivialities. Use pick-up lines and laugh inwardly. Take her outside when the night overstays its welcome. Ignore the palpable weight of fatigue. Kiss her in the rain under the weak glow of a streetlamp because you’ve seen it in a film. Remark at its lack of significance. Take her to your apartment. Dispatch with making love. Fuck her.

Let the anxious contract you’ve unwittingly written evolve slowly and uncomfortably into a relationship. Find shared interests and common ground like sushi and folk music. Build an impenetrable bastion upon that ground. Make it sacred. Retreat into it every time the air gets stale or the evenings too long. Talk about nothing of significance. Do little thinking. Let the months pass unnoticed. Ask her to move in. Let her decorate. Get into fights about inconsequential things like how the fucking shower curtain needs to be closed so that it doesn’t fucking collect mold. Let a year pass unnoticed. Begin to notice.

Figure that you should probably get married because you will have wasted a lot of time otherwise. Take her to dinner on the forty-fifth floor at a restaurant far beyond your means. Make sure there is a beautiful view of the city. Sheepishly ask a waiter to bring her a glass of champagne with a modest ring in it. When she notices, propose to her with all of the enthusiasm and sincerity you can muster. Do not be overly concerned if you feel your heart leap through a pane of sheet glass. For that matter, do not be overly concerned if you cannot feel it at all. If there is applause, let it stagnate. If she cries, smile as if you’ve never been happier. If she doesn’t, smile all the same.

Let the years pass unnoticed. Get a career, not a job. Buy a house. Have two striking children. Try to raise them well. Fail frequently. Lapse into a bored indifference. Lapse into an indifferent sadness. Have a mid-life crisis. Grow old. Wonder at your lack of achievement. Feel sometimes contented, but mostly vacant and ethereal. Feel, during walks, as if you might never return or as if you might blow away on the wind. Contract a terminal illness. Die, but only after you observe that the girl who didn’t read never made your heart oscillate with any significant passion, that no one will write the story of your lives, and that she will die, too, with only a mild and tempered regret that nothing ever came of her capacity to love.

Do those things, god damnit, because nothing sucks worse than a girl who reads. Do it, I say, because a life in purgatory is better than a life in hell. Do it, because a girl who reads possesses a vocabulary that can describe that amorphous discontent of a life unfulfilled—a vocabulary that parses the innate beauty of the world and makes it an accessible necessity instead of an alien wonder. A girl who reads lays claim to a vocabulary that distinguishes between the specious and soulless rhetoric of someone who cannot love her, and the inarticulate desperation of someone who loves her too much. A vocabulary, goddamnit, that makes my vacuous sophistry a cheap trick.

Do it, because a girl who reads understands syntax. Literature has taught her that moments of tenderness come in sporadic but knowable intervals. A girl who reads knows that life is not planar; she knows, and rightly demands, that the ebb comes along with the flow of disappointment. A girl who has read up on her syntax senses the irregular pauses—the hesitation of breath—endemic to a lie. A girl who reads perceives the difference between a parenthetical moment of anger and the entrenched habits of someone whose bitter cynicism will run on, run on well past any point of reason, or purpose, run on far after she has packed a suitcase and said a reluctant goodbye and she has decided that I am an ellipsis and not a period and run on and run on. Syntax that knows the rhythm and cadence of a life well lived.

Date a girl who doesn’t read because the girl who reads knows the importance of plot. She can trace out the demarcations of a prologue and the sharp ridges of a climax. She feels them in her skin. The girl who reads will be patient with an intermission and expedite a denouement. But of all things, the girl who reads knows most the ineluctable significance of an end. She is comfortable with them. She has bid farewell to a thousand heroes with only a twinge of sadness.

Don’t date a girl who reads because girls who read are storytellers. You with the Joyce, you with the Nabokov, you with the Woolf. You there in the library, on the platform of the metro, you in the corner of the café, you in the window of your room. You, who make my life so goddamned difficult. The girl who reads has spun out the account of her life and it is bursting with meaning. She insists that her narratives are rich, her supporting cast colorful, and her typeface bold. You, the girl who reads, make me want to be everything that I am not. But I am weak and I will fail you, because you have dreamed, properly, of someone who is better than I am. You will not accept the life of which I spoke at the beginning of this piece. You will accept nothing less than passion, and perfection, and a life worthy of being told. So out with you, girl who reads. Take the next southbound train and take your Hemingway with you. Or, perhaps, stay and save my life.

[Original article on Thought Catalog]

Review| 12:21, by Dustin Thomason

Full Title: 12.21
Author: Dustin Thomas
Genre: Fiction/Thriller
Publisher: The Dial Press (Random House)
Publication Date: August 2012 (expected)
My Copy: Advance reader copy via Goodreads First Reads

Two weeks before December 21, 2012, a man speaking a strange language is brought into East L.A. Presbyterian Hospital with what appears to be a prion disease. Dr. Gabriel Stanton, a prion disease researcher for the CDC, is called in. When it is realised that the patient is speaking a Mayan language, Chel Manu, an expert in Mayan Studies, aides as a translator. She is rocked by what she learns from this patient, though. Chel has recently acquired an incredible artifact from a shady source: a previously undiscovered Mayan codex, dating back farther than any other. What could this man have to do with the artifact? How does his terrifying disease factor in?

If you haven’t already heard, December 21, 2012, marks the beginning of the end of the world. Well, at least to those who misinterpret the Mayan long count calendar, anyway. This 2012 doomsday phenomenon has completely taken over. It’s everywhere, and as December 21st approaches, I imagine things will reach a fever pitch. 12.21, then, is a very timely novel. But if you’re thinking this novel bends actual Mayan fact to fits its plot, think again. Instantly, Thomason shows that he has done his homework. A simple change of the calendar isn’t what’s bringing on the end in this one. In fact, the novel’s fictional terror feels entirely to possible. Prions are well explained, also. And so is the meatpacking industry. Made me glad to be a vegetarian (well... not counting that salmon I had for dinner... I’ll stop eating fish really soon, I swear!).

Stanton is your classic workaholic. He has an ex-wife to prove it. Chel is quite dedicated to her work as well. She is passionate about her Mayan heritage. Both are driven people and very easy to like. The two are really good together. Here is a relationship thats takes some time to grow. The trust is not instant. As they work toward a common goal, they learn to rely on one another’s expertise and judgement. The character development is great in this one.

Also instantly likeable is Paktul and his ancient codex. As Chel and her team translate his secret writings, the reader gets a glimpse into the world of the ancient Mayans. His telling of events is lively and engaging. I found myself looking forward to his story, wondering what happened to cause it all. You see, what Paktul describes holds both the clues to great past of the Mayans and the terrible fate that may await the modern world.

12.21 is filled with plot twists, and it’s interesting to see how things eventually connect and fall into place. The writing is writing is solid as well. This book is definitely a page turner. I’d recommend it to anyone, doomsdayer or otherwise.

See (and like!) this review on: Amazon* | Goodreads | Librarything | Shelfari

*Can't add a review until book is released. Link will be edited in.

Book Haul| June 18 - 24, 2012

Giveaway Wins
The Cranes Dance, by Meg Howrey
The Unfinished Garden, by Barbara Claypole White
Battleborn, by Claire Vaye Watkins
Buried on Avenue B, by Peter de Jonge
Long Time, No See, by Dermot Healy
In Your Face, by David Perrett

These all look so good!

Thrift & New Purchases:
Letting Go, by Philip Roth
Emma, by Jane Austen
A Breath of Fresh Air, By Erica James
Poison, by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer

The top two are thrift. For the bottom two: apparently, a store near me gets discounted books. Both of these, though new, were just a dollar each. Thought I'd give them a shot.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Quick Update

  • I made a Facebook page for this blog. It can be found by clicking here. There's not much there just yet but content will be added regularly.
  • I'm currently writing the review for 12.21.
  • I've started reading both A Hundred Flowers and Jasmine Nights. Not sure which I'll finish and review first.
  • I realize I haven't yet posted last week's haul. It should be up by nights end!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Books That Shaped America

The Library of Congress, as part of a "Celebration of the Book" exhibition, has released a list of books that are considered to have had great influence in the United States.

“This list is a starting point,” said James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress. “It is not a register of the ‘best’ American books – although many of them fit that description. Rather, the list is intended to spark a national conversation on books written by Americans that have influenced our lives, whether they appear on this initial list or not.”

More titles can be nominated to the list through the Library of Congress' National Book Festival website.

Chick here to see the full list.

Have you read any of the books on this list? How would you say they shaped/influenced you?

Review| Amped, by Daniel H. Wilson

Full Title: Amped
Author: Daniel H. Wilson
Genre: Science fiction/ Thriller
Publisher: Doubleday (Random House)
Publication Date: June 5, 2012
My Copy: Published book via Goodreads First Reads

What would you do if you could choose to be something . . . more: have your vision and hearing enhanced, become smarter and stronger, be vital even in old age. Even fix medical ailments and control prosthetics with your mind. In Daniel H. Wilson’s Amped, people can now choose to have their brain implanted with a amplifier and their bodies enhanced. Thousands of Americans have chosen to become better versions of themselves. They are becoming “amps”. But as more and more people become amps, “pure” humans feel threatened. They can’t compete against amps. The amps go against the natural order, against God. As more and more legislation is passed, amps lose their rights and backlash is inevitable. Owen Gray has an amp. But his is medical, only intended to treat his seizures. Or so he believes. On the day that amps lose their Fourteenth Amendment rights, he learn that his amplifier might be something greater than he ever knew. Even greater than the standard implants, in fact. After heading out to seek the truth, he gets drawn into a plot that could rock this nation to its very core.

Owen is a middle-of-the-road kind of guy. I didn’t dislike him, but I didn’t immediately connect to him either. His backstory is minimal: we get the reason for his amp and not much else. The same is true for all characters, in fact. They aren’t given much of a description or story, leading to an overall lack of empathy on my part for them. Lucy, for instance, is a character it seems I should care about, but I can’t possibly bring myself to. I can’t even see why Owen should care for her. Their romance, if it can be called that, is as deep as a shower. Nick, on the other hand, I liked. He seems like a sweet kid just trying to grow up in a turbulent time.

The pace is breakneck, perhaps to a fault. Everything happens so fast and there is hardly ever a dull moment. It all very exciting for the duration of the novel, but then the ending seemed slapped together. More description in the latter pages would’ve helped tremendously. In the interest of not posting spoilers, I’ll just say some things were skimmed over and I’m still curious as to how certain points resolved themselves. Still, this is definitely a fast and fun read. Between the fight scenes and the chaos, the amp abilities and the lawlessness, it was hard to put this one down. I finished the book in one afternoon, and I can easily see this book being made into a movie.

Amped raises some very interesting questions: How do we define humanity? How far can science go? Where do we draw the line? But the most pressing question of of all: Could the sort of legal discrimination that occurs in Amped really happen in America? It has in the past, here and elsewhere. The parallels in Amped to the Holocaust are most apparent, the maintenance port a Star of David. And surely this nation has learned from the worldwide history of human suffering. . . right?

Amped isn’t a philosophical look at the human condition in the midsts of a societal crisis, though. It’s a fast paced, action packed novel with some serious entertainment value.

See (and like!) this review on: Amazon | Goodreads | Librarything | Shelfari

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Review| Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, by Matthew Dicks

Full Title: Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend
Author: Matthew Dicks (Published under the name Matthew Green in the UK)
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (Macmillan)
Publication Date: August 2012 (expected)
My Copy: Advance reader copy via Shelf Awareness

Just because we can’t see them does not mean that they don’t exist. Imaginary friends are, in fact, real. Their human friend thinks them up, but then they have their own thoughts and emotions and ideas. They need their friends to imagine them into existence and believe in them to stay alive, sure. But this is just a form of life support, not proof that they’re fake!

Budo, he’s one of the oldest imaginary friends around. Max imagined him into existence, and has believed in him for over five years. Max is a bit different, possibly autistic (it’s never explicitly stated), and has quite the imagination. He imagined Budo being both smart and very human-looking. That, coupled with his age, makes Budo the envy of other imaginary friends. But all is not well for Budo: he worries a lot. Max is bullied in school, and Budo worries for his safety. Max’s parents’ arguments are mostly about Max, too. Budo worries about his friends disappearing as their human imagineers stop believing in them. Mostly,though, Budo is preoccupied with thoughts of his own death. He want to exist for as long as possible, to never disappear. And then, another worry: Max falls into a new and terrible danger. Only Budo knows the truth, and he must save his friend.

This novel is simply wonderful. It’s like a kids adventure story, but made especially for adults. Budo sees the world in a unique way, and he shows us his world the best he can. He is wise but still very childlike, and is the perfect narrator for this tale. This very real imaginary friend takes the reader on a ride and manages to connect on an emotional level. He feels as we humans do, and not only does he learn as he goes along, he grows as well.

With its interesting premise and fast pace, Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend is a most unlikely coming of age story. For adults looking to indulge their inner child, this book is highly recommended.

See (and like!) this review on: Amazon* | Goodreads | Librarything | Shelfari

*Can't add a review until book is released. Link will be edited in.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Review| Flight From Berlin, by David John

Full Title: Flight From Berlin
Author: David John
Genre: Historical Fiction/Thriller
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: July 10, 2012 (expected)
My Copy: Advance reader copy via Goodreads First Reads

Berlin, 1936. The Olympics are underway and all eyes are on Hitler’s Germany. The Nazi propaganda machine has hidden its brutality from view, but there are those who still recognise the veiled terror. Eleanor Emerson, expelled from the US swim team, meets up with Richard Denham, a British journalist. Together, they learn that Berlin is center stage for more than just the Olympics. They find themselves in the middle of a very different kind of game, this one between the Gestapo and The British Secret Intelligence Service. There is a secret document that threatens to bring down the Third Reich, and Hitler's men want to get it before it is handed over to the SIS... by any means necessary.

Eleanor is a feisty young woman with a rebellious streak. Being quite the socialite, she gets herself kicked off the Olympic team en route to Berlin for partying a bit too hard. Her lines are fantastic and full of wit. She is a strong, likeable character. The same can be said for Denham, the cynical journalist determined to report the truth. He, too, is very well drawn. We get a great sense of how he values both his profession and his fellow man. All of the good guys stand out in their own way, in fact. For that bad guys, though, I was more likely to get them confused. They get a bit muddled, but I got them straightened out in the end.

The historical backdrop is phenomenal! So many real people and events are wonderfully woven into the story. The Olympics is the obvious, but the Hindenburg is also written in. Even the Wallis Simpson scandal gets a mention. Berlin itself comes to life. It’s easy to imagine what things were like back then, with the city being cleaned up to show a “nice” face to the world.

My main criticism, and the thing that really knocked the rating down a star, is the ending. I saw it coming pretty early on and spent the rest of the book hoping I was wrong. It’s just pretty predictable It wraps the story up neatly and reconciles the book with actual events, but after such an exciting story I found myself wanting something radically different. Something that rewrote history entirely. Still, Flight From Berlin is a well written historical thriller. A must-read for anyone interested in this time in history, and great for fans of thrillers as well!

See (and like!) this review on: Amazon* | Goodreads | Librarything | Shelfari

*Can't add a review until book is released. Link will be edited in.

6:59 AM, by Shane Koyczan

From the book Visiting Hours.

Book Haul| June 11 - 17, 2012

Giveaway Wins
The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen (Now I just have to get book one and reat that first...)
Amped by Daniel H. Wilson (starting this next)

Thrift & New Purchases:

Another on-the-big-side haul. Must tone down my purchasing :/.

A quick update: I've finished Flight From Berlin and Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend. Reviews coming soon for both!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Review| The Names of Things, by John Colman Wood

Full Title: The Names of Things
Author: John Colman Wood
Genre: Fiction/literature
Publisher: Ashland Creek Press
Publication Date: April 1, 2012
My Copy: eBook via LibraryThing Early Reviewers

The Names of Things, by John Colman Wood, tells the story of an unnamed anthropologist studying the nomadic Dasse people of the Chalbi Desert. In his field work, he observes the customs and rituals, as well as the normal day-to-day interactions, of the camel-herding Dasse. He is entranced by them, falling easily into their life. He builds a friendship with one of the nomadic men.

“You seized a bit of life, and life damaged you.”

The anthropologist’s wife, an artist, goes with him. She does not adjust, merely endures. She complains to him, but these go unheeded. He thinks that she can paint anywhere and shouldn't really mind the upheaval of her life. As he becomes more involved in his work, his wife slips further away from him. Eventually, she is lost entirely. The anthropologist must then sift through his grief and the deceptive past to find answers. He returns to the desert, the scene of the crime, to make sense of things.

“Death is a strange betrayal. The dead leave the living more certainly than if they’d run off with a lover.”

Told in alternating first-person and third-persons narration, the reader gets a multifaceted look into the anthropologist’s life. The third-persons drives home the notion that this man is an observer, even of his own life. He is an anthropologist through and through. Still, the overall tone is intimate and personal. We feel very close to this man. The anthropologists’ sorrows and desires become our own. The desert wilderness comes to life as well. The people, animals, and scenery are wonderfully described. Dasse burial rituals are very detailed. The reader is fully drawn into this world.

“All I wanted was to sing and dance and share the delight and seriousness of that night, and my desire to do so, a desire which arose from the differences between us, my incapacity, my lack of understanding, was the very thing that held me back.”

This book is not a thrill ride, not an adventure. It is quiet and contemplative, lyrical and flowing. The story is deceptively simple: what seems like a meandering tale turns into a poignant and evocative look at love, loss, and grief.

See (and like!) this review on: Amazon | Goodreads | Librarything | Shelfari

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Trailer Thursday! The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Based on: The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien
Synopsis: Bilbo Baggins is swept into a quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by the wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of thirteen dwarves led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakenshield. Their journey will take them into the Wild; through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins and Orcs, deadly Wargs and Giant Spiders, Shapeshifters and Sorcerers. Although their goal lies to the East and the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain first they must escape the goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever ... Gollum. Here, alone with Gollum, on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo Baggins not only discovers depths of guile and courage that surprise even him, he also gains possession of Gollum's "precious" ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities. (From IMDB)
Writers: Guillermo del Toro, Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens
Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, Evangeline Lily, Andy Serkis, Richard Armitage
Release date: December 14, 2012 (USA)

So looking forward to this! I adore the cast. Martin Freeman stole into my heart with his portrayal of Watson in BBC's Sherlock.

I found a copy of the book in a thrift store. I definitely have to read it before the movie comes out.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Dose of Poetry

The above poem is Scheherazade, by Richard Siken.

I've only recently been getting into poetry and already I adore him. His book, Crush, is at the top of my wishlist.

I think I'll post poetry more often. Maybe weekly.

Let me know what you think!

Review| Why Do Women Crave More Sex in the Summer?, by Patricia Barnes-Svarney

Full Title: Why Why Do Women Crave More Sex in the Summer?: 112 Questions That Women Keep Asking- and That Keep Everyone Else Guessing
Author: Patricia Barnes-Svarney
Genre: Nonfiction/Women’s Health
Publisher: New American Library (Penguin Group)
Publication Date: June 5, 2012
My Copy: Advance uncorrected proof via Goodreads First Reads Giveaway

With such an intriguing title, there was no way I could pass up entering the Goodreads giveaway. And I’m so glad I won!

This is a women’s health book, loaded with information about the fairer sex. It’s in a Q&A format, with each question being answered in great detail. There are ten chapters total, nine are themed and the last one is of miscellaneous questions. Following this is the appendix, source citations, and resources for further reading. There are also "Them and Us" segments scattered throughout that more closely compare men and women.

Instantly, you can see that this book is incredibly well researched. The author backs up each answer with studies and the prevailing theories. But this doesn’t mean the book is boring. It certainly doesn’t read like a textbook. Barnes-Svarney make the information interesting and easy to understand. Also, she’s funny. There are jokes and funny remarks throughout that make the book more enjoyable.

As for the questions themselves, they are very interesting. Some are things people often wonder about. Others, people just assume they know the answer already. But what we think we know by way of wives tales are dismissed, replaced by facts. Even if you know the general answer to a question already, as was the case for me with some, there is still more to learn because of the depth of the answers. Plus, it nice to be able to give sources when someone says "prove it" to you.

Overall, this book is well written and makes learning about health fun. It is both informative and insightful. I’d recommend it to any woman interested in learning more about how her mind and body works. I’d even recommend it to men who want to understand the opposite sex better.

Buy it here!

See the review on:Goodreads | Shelfari

Monday, June 11, 2012

Book Haul| June 4 - 10, 2012

Giveaway Wins
Why Do Women Crave More Sex in the Summer?, by Patricia Barnes-Svarney (Review coming soon!)
Vicious Little Darlings, by Katherine Easer (Already Reviewed!)
The Neruda Case, by Roberto Ampuero

Purchased New
American Subversive, by David Goodwillie (Brand new and only a dollar! Couldn't pass it up.)

Thrift Purchases
One Day, by David Nichols (Didn't see the movie, so the book isn't spoiled for me. Yay!)
The Lady in the Tower, by Jean Plaidy
The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett (Saw the mini-series, but this should still be good.)

A more modest take compared to last week. Still, I'm running low on shelf space over here...

Review| Vicious Little Darlings, by Katherine Easer

After her grandmother caught her having sex, Sarah Weaver has two choices: go to the college of her choice but pay for it on her own, or go to her grandmother's alma mater on her grandmothers dime. She chooses the later and finds herself at Wetherly College, and all-female school. There she meets Madison, her new roommate, and Agnes, the bizarre best friend.

Maddy is your quintessential beauty. Everyone seems to just love her. Worship her, even. There is a darker side though. Her initial quirkiness starts to take on a sinister edge. Agnes is Maddy’s best friend and bank account. Agnes is intensely loyal to Maddy, and her undying affection keeps her blind to the truth.

Sarah comes from a broken home, and all she wants is a family to call her own. She finds one in Maddy and Agnes. So enamoured she is with the new home they’ve created that she overlooks or accepts all the weird and crazy things that happen. The lies and deceptions, she rarely questions. Some of the deceit she even takes a compliment! She is very immature and irrational in this way. And as things spiral out of control, she just goes along for the ride. It’s infuriating at times. I found myself wanting her to just grow up, to just take charge of her situation.

Sarah is promiscuous. She refuses to get into relationships, citing her parents’ failed marriage. She feel love inevitably fails, that she might not even be capable or worthy of it. She has sex with Maddy’s boyfriend Sebastian on their second meeting, and with Reed on their first. With Reed, however, things are different. She feels that she can love him. She does love him, in fact...after about two meetings. Their love is that instant, shallow variety that features entirely too often in young-adult novels. It’s revolting. Reed often drops that “do you even love me” bomb typical of a unhealthy relationship. And our immature little Sarah accepts this as well.

Another bizarre element to this novel is the supernatural. All three girls believe in it and cite it frequently. Psychic intuition and gypsy readings are all taken to be real by the girls. It’s hard to tell if the reader is supposed to believe that supernatural elements are a true part of the novel’s world or just something the girls believe in. For instance, a ritual is spoken of as completely crazy, and yet a spell is used as a legitimate explanation of certain actions. The novel seems confused in this regard, like the author couldn’t decide how far into the realm of magical realism she wanted to go.

I wasn’t going to mention this initially . . . but how could I possibly leave out the deer? It’s a phenomenally absurd situation, unlikely to ever happen in the real world. Wanting to nurse a deer back to health is reasonable. Hiding one in your dorm and then at the St. Regis hotel is completely crazy. The only explanation I can come up with is that the author threw it in to show how unhinged these girls are. Yes, that has to be it.

Katherine Easer’s Vicious Little Darlings, despite its flaws, is an engaging read. Once I started, I was hooked. I wanted to see just how far these girls would go, how low they would sink. I had to know how things would resolve themselves. If you’re into young adult novels and don’t mind some absurdity, you may want to check this one out. It’s definitely a fast, fun read.

See this review on: Amazon | Goodreads | Librarything | Shelfari

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Review| Abdication, by Juliet Nicolson

England, 1936: The king is having a love affair with an American woman, and the threat of Hitler’s Germany looms over the country. Poverty is rampant while those with position live in abundance. this is the backdrop for Abdication, by Juliet Nicolson. We follow three people living in England during this turbulent time.

May Thomas, traveling with her brother, leaves her Barbados home to make a new life for herself. Her passion for automobiles lands her a job as secretary and driver to Sir Philip Blunt. Here, she glimpses life in the upper echelon of British society. May is young, headstrong, and talented. Despite a secret he keeps from those close to her, she is willing to let love in.

Evangeline Nettlefold is an American from Baltimore gone to stay with her godmother, Lady Joan Blunt. She is friends with Wallis Simpson, the woman who stole the kings heart. Evangeline is a sad, jealous, bitter woman. She is a flawed individual, making her a times likeable and, at other times, detestable.

Julian Richardson is a well-off young man with an Oxford education. An idealist, the poverty surrounding his luxurious life troubles him. He takes an interest in May, who is frank and insightful when discussing the poorer people of the country. As his political opinions strengthen and his infatuation deepens, he can no longer ignore how he feels.

The historical aspect of the abdication of King Edward VIII is merely a backdrop to the story. Wallis Simpson is a part of the story as a supporting character, as Evangeline’s friend. The looming threat of war is featured in the same capacity. It is a backdrop to the human drama. This backdrop is, however, very well described. Juliet Nicolson is a very talented writer in this regard. London comes to life. Depth is lacking, however, when it comes to the main characters themselves. Julian in particular. We spend more time with May and Evangeline, and learn more about them but still a deep connection never really happened for me. Julian gets less screen-time, if you will, and so a connection with him is even more elusive. Another problem for me was pacing. Events seem to just chug along by mid-book. The story moved too slowly, and I found myself waiting for something to actually happen. Things pick up again towards the end, thankfully.

While Abdication has its problems, it is overall a well written novel. As it is well researched, it is insightful in a historical context. We get a good sense of this period in time.On the character level, though, it just isn’t very deep.

[I received this book through Goodreads' First Reads giveaway.]

See this review on: Amazon | Goodreads | Librarything | Shelfari

Monday, June 4, 2012

Movie Trailer: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower is now a movie staring Emma Watson and Logan Lerman. Even Nina Dobrev is in it. Love her! I quite enjoyed this book, and I am so looking forward to the movie.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Book Haul| May 28 to June 3, 2012

Giveaway Wins
Memoirs of an Inaginary Friend, by Matther Dicks
12.21, by Dustin Thomas
Jasmine Nights, by Julia Gregson
The Cost of Hope, by Amamda Bennet

Purchased New
The Successor, by Ismail Kadare
Daughter of Heaven, by Leslie Li
The Last song of Dusk, by Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi
The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches, by Gaétan Soucy
An Honorable German, by Charles McCain

Thrift Purchases
Fever 1793, by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Girls Guide to hunting and Fishing, by Melissa Bank
The Last Olympian, by Rick Riordan
Homer's The Odyssey, translated by Robert Fagles
The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit, by Lucette Lagnado

Books added to my shelves this past week. Really excited to get to reading them!

What books were added to your library?

Review| The Pleasures of Men, by Kate Williams

Kate Williams’ The Pleasures of Men is a strange little book telling the strange tale of a strange protagonist and her strange thoughts. Can you guess what I’d call this book in a word? Strange.

Catherine is a troubled young woman living with her uncle in London. She undergoes some trauma as a child, and is now largely isolated. Rarely leaving the house, her imagination is her main company. When a serial killer begins murdering young women, Catherine tries to get inside his mind. She believes she can understand him. Catherine goes to the places where he has killed, the dirty streets where he roams. She imagines his past in vivid detail. She discovers, however, that things are not as they seem—that truth is a lot closer to home.

This books is well written and clearly well researched. This descriptions of London are vivid, the poverty is palpable. Still, it took awhile for me to get into it. The story starts off quite slowly. With shifting narratives in the beginning, it's difficult to parse out who is actually speaking: is it another person, or Catherine's imagination? Things becomes more clear in time, but at the start it’s a bit off-putting. At some point, however, the novel managed to snag my interest. I wanted to find out what Catherine's childhood trauma was, as well as the identity and motivations of the Man of Crows.

Bits of the plot can feel a bit contrived, though, and the biggest flaw is that it feels lacking in an apparent coherence. Still, the book overall is very dark and beautifully imagined. Anyone interested in Victorian England may enjoy this gothic thriller.

[Disclosure: I recieverd this book through a Shelf Awareness giveaway.]

See this review on: Amazon | Goodreads | Librarything | Shelfari

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Movie Trailer: Great Gatsby

The Hollywood habit turning books into movies shows no sign of stopping. To that already long list, we have a new addition: The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

This trailer looks so good! I'm really excited for the movie. Might just be better that be book, I dare say...

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Review| The Glimpse, by Claire Merle

The Glimpse, by Claire Merle, is a dystopian young adult novel in which society is divided and controlled by its government. The method of their subjugation? Mental health as determined by a DNA test. If that sounds ridiculous, it’s because it is. And Merle knows that. She has created a post-collapse world where the people are struggling for order, willing to put their trust in anyone with an answer. Que the Pure test. It claims to detect mental illness, and weeding these “defective” people out seems to improve society... at least for a privileged few, the Pure. And so, people buy into the big lie. I found the use of mental illness effective, and not at all offensive. It’s acknowledged pretty early in the novel that the test is a sham, that the ability to test for mental illness in DNA isn’t possible. The segregation of the people, ruling them with fear, is the real reason for the tests.

Ana, the protagonist, has her Pure status revoked when a certain anomaly comes to light. Now her future is in the hands of Jasper. She needs to bind with him or she’ll be cast out among the Crazies. Having been raised in a Pure community, she believes what she has been taught of them: they are violent, aggressive, unpredictable. When Jasper goes missing, Ana is determined to find him, to solve the mystery of his abduction. Out in the real world, far from the safety of her community, Ana learns the truth of the Pures and the Crazies, of the tests and the treatments her government issues. Her world is thoroughly rocked, and she will never be the same. Ana is a strong character. She rises to the challenges thrown at her. She has doubts and fears, but she does her best and uses her head.

At times, though, the highly improbable happens. This is a work of fiction, sure, but suspension of disbelief can only go so far. She played a lawyer and won based only on some reading she did? Really? With just a haircut and a pair of contacts, she went completely unrecognised? Ugh. No. Another problem for me: the instant-love. Ana meets Cole. Sparks fly. They love one another. Forever. Um, bite me. That sounds like a crush, like lust. The word “love” is used, though... am I to believe thats what it is? If that is love, then it is of the shallow variety. That magical Disney love that takes no time at all to manifest itself. It’s a fairy tale wedged into a dystopian novel, and it drags down the quality of the story for me.

Last major bone of contention for me: the glimpse itself. From what I gather of this ill-explained phenomenon, the glimpse is a look into the future that only certain people get. This entire concept seems so completely random to me! Why throw this little paranormal tidbit into the book? Nothing else in this novels world-building hints at anything psychic or supernatural, so why is it included? It seems to me that the only purpose for it is to push Cole and Ana towards one another. An attempt to make that little fairy-tale-love seem more believable, more real. It falls completely flat, though.

Despite these flaws, I’d still say The Glimpse is well written and engaging. Merle is clearly talented. The actual flow of the story was smooth; Ana, well drawn. As a dystopian novel, though, this isn’t one of the strongest I’ve read. If you like YA sci-fi in general, especially those with a strong element of romance, then The Glimpse may be right up your alley.

See this review on: Goodreads | Librarything | Shelfari
These are the books I've won that arrived for the week of May 20 - 26.

I've been posting these weekly, but on various days. I'll stick to Sundays for consistency from here on out. Provided that I get books in the week, of course. Though thrift store books may be it's own feature. To be decided.

Anyway, I'm currently reading The Glimpse, by Claire Merle. Review for that to come soon.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review| Bride of New France, by Suzanne Desrochers

Bride of New France, by Suzanne Desrochers, is the story of a young orphan named Laure Beausejour as she is exiled to the new world. I received an advance reader copy through Goodreads’ giveaway.

Taken from her parents as a child, Laure was sent to Paris’ Salpêtrière, where women deemed unfit for society were placed. Laure got a brief glimpse of wealth and family while working as a servant, but when her madame passes, she must go back to the wretched conditions at the hospital. In addition the the plight of rats, the people there are severely underfed. Infants are fed a watery milk concoction and most don’t survive. One young woman, whom Laure initially despised, passes away from scurvy. Laure attempts to get a letter to the king asking for improved conditions, but the hospital’s Superior finds out. A spiteful woman, she sends Laure to Canada, still a wild country, as punishment. Once there, Laure must struggle through loss, marriage, and surviving in this new land.

Laure is neither very likeable nor relatable. She initially seems bitter and jealous. Mireille, another girl at the Salpêtrière, evokes her envy. When Mireille dies, she seems to change a bit, but is still very selfish. She encourages her best friend, Madeline, to accompany her to the new world knowing fully well how dangerous this might be. Once in Canada, she endangers Madeline once more, all so she won't have to be alone. To her credit, Laure seems a bit more headstrong than other women sent to Canada. Perhaps she has even grown by the end of the book.

This novel is written in the third-person–present-tense, and I don’t think it really works. It felt a bit impersonal and alienating. At times, it seemed more like a clinical look than an intimate portrait. This story relies so much on a central character that this non-connection leaves the novel feeling flat and lacking in emotion.

Still, this was certainly an interesting look at how the poor of Old France were treated. How the women exiled to the New France had to make do with what they had and simply try to survive. Those interested in this time in history, as well as women's struggles, may find this book enjoyable. It is certainly very illuminating, I just wish it felt more personal.

See this review on: Goodreads | Librarything | Shelfari

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Review| The Green Shore, by Natalie Bakopoulos

The Green Shore, by Natalie Bakopoulos, is the story of a family living through the Greek military junta of 1967-1974. While most of the country sleeps, Greece suddenly changes. A group of colonels stage a coup d’etat and seize control of government. Eleni and Mihalis, Anna and Sophie, now live in a very different world.

At the start of this novel, it seems to me that Mihalis, a poet and past revolutionary, struggles with how to react. A part of him wants to act out against the dictators, while the rest of him is tired and justs want to reconcile with his wife. He recognizes the need for action, but feels he has done his part in the past. His niece, Sophie, is radical and ready. She believes in the cause but wants dearly to impress her uncle and boyfriend. The resistance seems to be a stage for her, and a movement only second. Sophie’s sister Anna is a shy, withdrawn, and sullen child. As a third child, she feels herself lacking in identity and importance. Eleni, Sophie and Anna’s mother, has a family and despite her past with politics, must put them first. Widowed, she has lost control of her children and has to reconcile what they want with what she expects.

This is very much a character driven novel. There is a semblance of a plot, sure, but it’s certainly not the feature. The political turmoil is a mostly a backdrop in the family drama, only occasionally propelling them forward. Each person's mindset and emotions are explored. Their past, their fears, their desires. We learn so much about these four main characters that is impossible to not relate to them, to not identify with them in some way. They want what we all want: to be rid of oppression, to love freely, to be happy. We all want to leave behind the best world possible for future generations.

Each character also experiences tremendous growth. The dormant are pulled into action, the overzealous lulled into more subdued protest. Mihalis and Eleni move from what they seem to have accepted to what they know is right. Sophie grows from her days as a kid playing at politics. Anna is, perhaps, the most transformed. She sheds her childish cloak of insecurities and becomes an empowered young woman.

Greece, as a backdrop, is wonderfully described. From Athens, to the islands; the shared home in Halandri, to the secret places the characters keep to themselves. The reader can feel like they are moving alongside each character. We are lounging with Mihalis in Kifissia, traveling with Anna to Hydra. And, as we escape with Sophie, Paris springs to life.

Don’t go into this novel expecting a fast paced, action packed plot. This isn’t that kind of book. It is for those seeking a story to connect with, something to contemplate. It is beautifully written, riddled with standout passages. I’d quote from it, but I have an advance reader copy won through Goodreads.

See (and like) this review on: Amazon | Goodreads | Librarything | Shelfari

Monday, May 21, 2012

New Arrivals

These came in the week of May 14-20. Already finished The Language of Flowers and wrote something resembling a review on Goodreads. Not sure if I'll post it on here, though. I finished The Night Circus as well. Better than expected.

I'm currently reading The Green Shore, by Natalie Bakopoulos, an arrival from last week.

So, this happened...

I posted about this on my Tumblr, but forgot to post about it here!

In one of the stores I went to on Saturday, a man started telling me that people shouldn’t read all books. The reason? Some have demons, devils. The author has already lost to the enemy, Satan, for trying to sell these book to the people. The mind is like a computer that gets corrupted and the antivirus is the bible, he said.

I tried to tell him that I didn’t believe that sort of thing, but did he listen? Of course not. People like that would rather talk than listen, and that’s exactly what he did. Kept talking about antivirus and demons as though I didn’t say a thing.

The best part: his daughter wants to read Fifty Shades of Gray, but he has to see what it’s about before he gets it for her. That poor girl. I bet she’ll have to pray extra hard for letting that book title slip to daddy.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Book People Unite

I adore this!

Thrift Store Scores

Just bought all of these this morning, second hand.

So, yea..I might have problem...

or maybe not. All of these come up to a mere $8!

Two of them (The God of Small Things, and The Lightning Thief) are beautiful, like-new hardcovers. Most of the paperbacks are like-new or lightly worn. A few have damage, but still a pretty good deal, I think.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Review| Only with the Heart: A Novel by Sherri Szeman

Only with the Heart is the story of a family being torn apart by Alzheimer’s disease. Claudia, who grew up a foster child, has finally found a family amongst that of her husband Sam. His mother, Eleanor, becomes her own mother, and everyone in the family loves and accepts her. After Sam and Claudia's marriage, however, things head downhill. Eleanor is falling deeper and deeper into her illness, and when her own husband dies, she goes to live with her son and daughter-in-law. Eleanor’s mind, and the quality of life of those who care for her, only degrades until she finally passes away. Claudia is accused of murder, and it seems that this family will never be allowed to rest, to heal.

The story is in three parts: The first is Claudia's perspective. Immediately, you notice the writing style is not at all conventional. Parts of it are a conversation between herself and her therapist. The rest is her relating her experiences. She shifts suddenly between stories, and from one point in time to the next. There is no smooth transition, it just happens.This works for the character, though. This style choice seems to give the impression that Claudia’s thoughts are fractured and jumbled, that she herself is still trying to sort it all out.

Next is Eleanor. The writing style reflects her mental state very well. She, too, shift from one point in time to another very abruptly. She is in the throes of her Alzheimer's, and then, at stark contrast, a her old self again. She, with a stunted vocabulary and a poor understanding of what is happening around her, puts us right in the head of an Alzheimer's sufferer. It’s quite incredible to see Alzheimer's depicted this way. It make Eleanors illness feel very real to the reader.

Last is Sam. He covers the trial, events Claudia spoke of, and his own thoughts. He jumps between stories as well, but it seems pointless for him, like theres no reason for it. That aside, his part really threw me for a loop. He makes you realize that just like in real life, there are three sides to every story, and only one is the truth. There is no omniscient narrator, however, and we must sort it out for ourselves. I hadn’t even considered the possibility of an unreliable narrator prior to him going over his own version of events. These conflicting stories strike me as more true to life, as everyone remembers the past differently. The novel is staggeringly real in this way.

This book is beautifully written and very touching. It depicts the harsh reality of Alzheimer’s, as well as the darker side of human nature. There is loss and tragedy, but at the end of it, hope. It’s an unconventional read to be sure, but I recommend to anyone looking for something more out of the ordinary in a book.

See this review on: Amazon | Goodreads | Librarything | Shelfari

Review| Sight, by Sol Smith

Sight, by Sol Smith, is billed as the story of a psychic struggling with her future. The psychic in question is Tydomin White, who has the rare gift of both seeing the future and feeling the past. Things go ary, however, when she decides to see if she can go against her visions.

The story is told in a non-linear fashion and in various character perspectives. I’ve not nothing against a non-linear narration but with this perspective-shifting, I never feel very close to any character. I never care about them. They’re just never there long enough for anything more than impressions: Tydomin lacking in personality, Derek the puppy, Martin a self righteous prick, Abigail the forgettable. Red, I feel, had the most promise. I wish more time was spent on him and his dealings and less on that Brian mess. (Really, what is that even included for? Abigail and Brain could have been cut out of the story entirely or, at the very least, had less limelight. The book would have been better for it.) Vic’s post-death input was interesting, though perhaps didn’t leave enough to reader interpretation as he spelled so much out for us.

So far it sounds like I’m being harsh, I know, but there are some aspects I liked. The whole concept of cause and effect explored in this book is quite interesting. Do the psychics do things because they really want to, or because they saw themselves doing it? Can they stop an accident, or will their intervention mean they never saw an accident in the first place? What then? Visions within visions within visions and telepaths rummaging through the mind. It’s pretty cool stuff.

Really, that’s who I’d recommend this book for: those interested in stories about psychics. If that’s your cup of tea, then Sight will be a good addition to your shelf. There are typos present, but not very many. The writing overall is solid, it’s just the story that didn’t do much for me.

[Full disclosure: I won this book from Goodreads’ First Reads.]

See this review on: Goodreads | Shelfari

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I know I shouldn't check books out of the library when I already have so much on my plate, but I just couldn't stop myself!

So much love for John Green these days. He rekindled my interest YA. As for The Night Circus, I've just heard so much about it, I figure I might as well give a shot and decide for myself whether it's any good.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Review| Japanese Art in Detail, by John Reeve

Japanese Art in Detail, by John Reeve, is a small but beautiful collection of Japanese artwork spanning the centuries. It covers everything from woodblock prints to ceramics, sculpture to theatrical Nō masks.

It starts with the question “There are many books on Japanese art, so why another one?” and goes on to explain that this book is an introduction of sorts, and no prior knowledge of Japanese art is necessary. I agree wholeheartedly with this answer. Anyone going in without previously studying Japanese art will have no trouble understanding and appreciating it. The book is divided into themes and in the beginning of each, we are given an explanation of the theme and how it relates to Japanese art. The reader is then given brief histories and descriptions all throughout the book. These passages, though short, are very informative and help in the comprehension of the work being shown.

As for the actual art...the selection is wonderful! The book is in full color and the images are very sharp and lively. The title of the book is very apt—the level of detail shown is just astounding. We get to see each work both in its entirety and as a close-up of a section. These close-ups truly add to the appreciation of each piece, as we can see the amount of work and expertise that went into it.

This book is great for anyone interested in Japanese art and culture, or just art in general. The collection is beautiful, informative, and covers a wide range of themes and periods. I definitely recommend it!

See this review on: Amazon | Goodreads | Librarything | Shelfari