Friday, May 28, 2010

Books Read from January 2010 - May 2010

My goal is to read 100 books before New Years day of 2011. So far, I've only read 38, but it's certainly a start! Here's the tally up so far:
  1. The Best American Poetry 2009 (240 pages) Review is Here
  2. The Amazing Bone by William Steig (32 pages) Review is Here
  3. Nightlight- A Parody by Harvard Lampoon (160 pages) Review is Here
  4. Horace by Holly Keller (32 pages) Review is Here
  5. Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert (304 pages) Review is Here
  6. The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin, David Shannon (32 pages) Review is Here
  7. Betsy Was a Junior by Maud Hart Lovelace (293 pages) Review is Here
  8. Betsy and Joe by Maud Hart Lovelace (310 pages) Review is Here
  9. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (32 pages) Review is Here
  10. Becoming Jane Eyre: A Novel by Sheila Kohler (256 pages) Review is Here
  11. The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown (48 pages) Review is Here
  12. The Tale of the Body Thief by Anne Rice (448 pages) Review is Here
  13. Things to Love by Richard Scarry (24 pages) Review is Here
  14. Persistence of Memory by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes (224 pages) Review is Here
  15. The Complete Idiots Guide to Vegan Living by Beverly Lynn Bennett (360 pages)
  16. The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks (413 pages) Review is Here
  17. Tales of King Arthur: The Sword in the Stone by Hudson Talbott (48 pages) Review is Here
  18. You Are What You Eat by Dr. Gillian McKeith (224 pages)
  19. Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan (320 pages) Review is Here
  20. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (160 pages) Review is Here
  21. Token of Darkness by Amelia Atwater Rhodes (197 pages) Review is Here
  22. The Vampire Diaries- The Return: Shadow Souls by LJ Smith (599 pages) Review is Here
  23. Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll (160 pages) Review is Here
  24. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (270 pages) Review is Here
  25. Who Do You Think You Are? by Megan Smolenyak(224 pages) Review is Here
  26. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen (290 pages) Review is Here
  27. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte (576 pages) Review is Here
  28. The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen (294 pages) Review is Here
  29. Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart by Beth Pattillo (272 pages)Review is Here
  30. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly (470 pages) Review is Here
  31. Rude Awakenings for a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler (293 pages) Review is Here
  32. Letters to Jackie: Condolences from a Grieving Nation by Ellen Fitzpatrick(384 pages) Review is Here
  33. Lady Susan by Jane Austen (80 pages) Review is Here
  34. Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen (241 pages) Review is Here
  35. The Carrie Diaries by Candance Bushnell (400 pages) Review is Here
  36. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (237 pages) Review is Here
  37. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (180 pages) Review is Here
  38. Insatiable by Meg Cabot (451 pages) Review is Here

Total Books Read: 38
Total Pages Read: 9,568

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Insatiable

Due out June 8th, Meg Cabot (known for her many young adult novels- most of all The Princess Diaries) writes an adult oriented fictional book that teens can enjoy as well entitled Insatiable. But she doesn't stop there, Insatiable joins the ranks of other popular fiction by the subject manner being about vampires. I had an initial mixture of feelings about the subject manner. Another vampire story? Really? Let me guess, a mortal girl meets a brooding vampire boy. They fall in love and risk everything to be together. Mortal girl's entire life will be focused on vampire boy and she'll more or less drop her loved ones.

Well, Insatiable does revolve around a mortal girl who meets a male vampire. But Meena comes across as a strong woman who, once having figured out what it is she needs in her life and what is right, she goes for it. She's passionate and caring and she doesn't forget her loved ones. In fact, she fights for them all along. She has a life, separate from her love life, and that is always prominent. Work is stressful and she adores her dog- she seems like a real person.

Lucien, the featured vampire, isn't your typical brooding vampire either. In fact, he is professional (or as professional as one of his kind can be). He enjoys good wine and teaching at a university. His life is occasionally broken up by working out some problems in his world. He has incredible history to him, all of which is explained and understandable, and there is so much more depth to him then most other vampire characters in novels today.

I found myself snickering as I read this book over the different references to todays culture. Mentions of Sookie Stackhouse and hints of a certain movie that features some guy whose a vampire and women fawn over him- I wonder what that movie could be? Cabot manages to joke about all of the vampire books and movies that are so popular these days and yet, pulls the reader into the story itself.  It's something to appreciate.

What's even more exciting is the history Meg Cabot threw in about Transylvania and 'Dracula'. She created an entire story and history of this family which ties in nicely to Insatiable and in fact ties the entire plot of this story together.

What I loved most about this novel, what makes me say this stands apart from all of the other vampire novels that are out today, is Meena's ultimate life decision in the end. Will I say what it is? Of course not, you should find it out for yourself. But this characters decision made me adore her even more.

With summer approaching, this is a great beach read. On the hot days where you're lazy from the heat this novel will be perfect to pick up and read. It's enjoyable, at times romantic, and there is quick paced action to entertain. I truly enjoyed this book!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Great Gatsby

I read this somewhere between the ages of 14-16.  I recall, after nearly 10 years, that I hated the book and utterly despised that it was considered America's Greatest Novel. But after all of these years and all the books that are between me and my first reading of The Great Gatsby I still could recall the book. The light dresses, lounging in chairs, parties with big bands and the summer heat. It was all there in my mind but I couldn't quite remember what any of these memories had to do with the story itself. And why did I hate it so much?

THe heat of the summer which is written in this short novel comes through the pages and into your life. Fitzgeralds relatively poetic way of describing locations is exciting as well. However, I did realize why I had the fiery hatred of a teenager for this book. First, I was forced to read the book for school which is an immediate mark against it. Second, the movie version sucked, which made me dislike the book even more. Third, rich people are snobs- at least that's the message I got/get from the book. Fourth, men are jerks, again the novel makes them out to be. But slapping a woman (scene in the book) is horrible and the very written word makes it so much more of a blood boiler. Fifth, the female characters are just not lovable in any way.

Are five reasons enough for me to hate a book? I think so. But I can't honestly say that I hate this! I won't deny how much it bothered me when I was a teen. My hormones mixed with the stubborn dislike for forced reads surely didn't help. Now that I'm older... I appreciate the history of this book. I respect the details of a period of time that existed long ago. It was entertaining and nice to read in this early summer heat.

Would I call this a favorite book? Certainly not. Would I say I hate it? No... not anymore at least. Let's call my feelings for it... indifferent.

Monday, May 24, 2010

What is a book review?

I was having this discussion with someone a day or two ago. What makes a book review? What do you want to read when you're reading a book review? I enjoy reading all types of reviews. I like their critical honesty and sometimes praise and I'll keep their words in my head as I go shopping for books in the future. But here's the thing- I don't feel that I can write like that. I try, sometimes, to take an unbiased look at books and just release the fact but no matter what- they're all biased. And not just my book reviews- all book reviews are. You have got to be basing your opinion on SOMETHING.

Here's the deal- I like to base my reviews on how the book affects me. Self centered? Totally. But what else am I going to comfortably base my book review on? All that I can do is lay down the facts: This is how this book effected me, this is how it made me feel, this is what it reminded me of, this is how my BA in English is coming in handy because I'm thinking of how they could've totally written this better.

So basically, my book reviews are reviews of how they effect me. Not so much about the book itself. I can tell you 'hey, if you experienced something like *etc etc* in your life then this will probably make you feel *etc etc*'. Oh, and also I can say "Listen it sucked because they are totally not following the first rules of writing that you learn in a 205 level of creative writing!"

Take my opinion, or leave it. (This isn't directed to anyone specifically, in fact you have all been very supportive and lovely!) I just felt the need to get my opinion (again) out there. This blog is all about opinion, right? Well there it is. Again.

And as a final note, I haven't updated a lot. Well, I picked up hours at work and also began yoga again so my mornings are distracted and my nights consist of me sleeping. I've also started that darn 'reading multiple books at once' tendency again which always slows down my reading time. On that note, I'm going to go make breakfast.

PS: The "Glee" station on Pandora rocks my world.

You may now return to your regularly scheduled program.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bird by Bird

This is the third time that I've read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. The first time I ever read the book was when I was a freshman in college and taking a creative writing course during the winter break. The second time was the summer after my freshman year when I was nostalgic for writing and comforting words.

Bird by Bird is a novel on life and the idea of writing. Lamott skillfully mentions many helpful hints of how to get your brain into a writers mode. Really, this is a wonderful read for anyone who has ever experienced or is experiencing writers block. But it's not just for writers. It's a beautiful way of stating how to write, yes, but through Lamott's poetic words you are also able to relate to your life. To take a look at how your life is and realize all of the details that you have previously missed.

That's what I enjoy about this book. It isn't a list of instructions you are expected to follow step by step. Instead, it's a way for childhood memories and little nuances to make their way back into your life and get you to write at the same time.

Whenever I read this book I'm left with a sense of nostalgia. Partially because I've read it three times and I always think of the last time I read it and how it made me feel. And partially it's because I'm left considering the construction of my school lunches as a child and how something so simple as what you brought into school to eat could aid you in your popularity. Sounds strange? Yes, but it's the truth.

This is always something refreshing to read and a wonderful way I find myself to be grounded. For anyone who is creative and of course, the writers who are out there, you should pick up this book and give it a try. It's short but it's to the point, but not in your face and overwhelming.

I have a list of creative books I could have read but my heart was with Bird by Bird and I had to capture it again. So much of what she says rings true, it's a necessary read.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Carrie Diaries


When I was in High School I recall the first time I watched Sex and the City. It was a secret, my watching the show, because my mother didn't appreciate the sex content of the show. But I recall how much I utterly loved it. I loved how strong the female cast was. I loved that Carrie was a writer. I'm a writer- I would mentally exclaim. Because in High School I was a writer. I wrote excessively with a love and passion that I miss. Seeing that Bushnell published a book about my favorite television characters teen years I jumped at the chance to read it. Understand, I have not read Sex and the City yet. It's always been on my 'to read' list but I haven't grabbed it just yet. I figured this was a good opportunity, to read about this girl Carrie before I read about the woman. But now, after reading this novel, I must read the book which inspired the famous tv show.


The book reflects my life so well that I had to laugh at times. Carrie, a senior in High School, is still a virgin (been there, done that). Carrie, the girl whose sick of small town life and just wants out (that was me as well). Carrie, the writer (Me! It's me!). It was a fresh look to a current young adult novel. Here, Carrie could've had sex but she didn't. She did some stereotypical teen things (smoke pot, drink) but when it came to her body she knew what she wanted and what she didn't want.

But really, what I felt I related to the most was her desire to leave her small town. Where I grew up in New York the typical graduate from my high school did one of two things: live in the area and get a job OR go to college in state. And I didn't want that. There were many times where it appeared I wouldn't even attend college but some how it happened and I made it out of that small town.

The high school drama and romances were believable. Despite that the time frame was in the 1980's you don't feel like you're being misplaced in time. The only time I realized that this was indeed taking place in the decade in which I was born was when certain bands were brought up (many of who are now very popular again due to shows like Glee) and the drinking and smoking which seemed so easy to get away with (which, to my understanding, was easier to do underage in the 80's). But otherwise, the time difference is unnoticeable.

Sometimes books find their way into your life right when you need them. When I was younger I had this sense of stubborn determination. If I wanted to achieve something- I achieved it. I wanted to get published and busted my butt until I got two pieces of my work published in a for real Library of Congress books. I wanted to join dance and be immediately placed in the advanced course with my friends despite that I had never had experience but I worked hard and despite that I was lacking the 10 years of prior dance experience everyone else had- my first dance class was in the advanced class. College? I made it. The first person to receive a degree in my fathers family. This determination was a burning drive that I had, something that I recognized in Carrie's character, and I lost it somewhere along the way (I think during my sophomore year of college). I need it back. This book reminded me of the determination that I had lost. But maybe it's not lost. Maybe I just need to stir it and awaken it, like this lovely book character does.

I adored this book. Many of the books I've recently I've enjoyed but I haven't hands down loved. Well, this changes that. I love this book and I can't wait to get my hands on Candace Bushnells other work.
 

Monday, May 17, 2010

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress

My expectations of this book were a little higher than my opinion after I had finished the biography. I expected this to be a tale of a woman who hit rock bottom and found her way to happiness once more. Rhoda Janzen was raised a Mennonite but abandoned her religious upbringing and married an abusive, mentally unstable atheist who leaves her for a man named Bob. In the pages I found the biography to be more of an account to Janzen's confusion and general disheartened feelings towards her ex-husband and Mennonite history.

I'll admit that I am not a fount of knowledge when it comes to Mennonites. We have the old school Mennonites who, up until four years ago, I thought were Amish. The Mennonites which Janzen calls family, to my understanding, is nothing like the Mennonites I am familiar with.

Janzen writes with a humorous tone which had me snickering at different points. But sometimes I felt somewhat lost from her humor and undecided on whether or not she was being in all truth cruel in her jokes about her family and upbringing. All family units are quirky and I enjoy that despite the stereotypical straight laced and stern Mennonites that come to mind, this family is cute and loving. despite that some of it's members left the religion it obviously does not change Rhoda's parents feelings for their children.

The fact that Janzen is an English professor (hello dream job!) and holds a PhD it annoys me slightly that she seems to make a few mistakes in her writing- such as introducing some people more then once. If I had to be introduced to 'my friend so-and-so' once more after already being introduced I might have thrown the book. Otherwise, the rambling writings grabbed my interest as did the otherworldly lifestyle of this family and their beliefs. Despite points where I felt she was a little harsh in her jokes of her family I did enjoy reading this. It reminded me of the off the wall antics of my own family and it caused me to appreciate my own story more.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Lady Susan

This novel is quite short in comparison to Jane Austen's other writings and different in that the stories plot is laid out through the writing of letters between it's characters. This makes the story a quick and easy read. Reading each letter, voiced in different characters, gives you pause between chapters so that the writers words can seep in before diving into the writings of another character.

Many of the women in Austen's books I have found to be catty. Gossip seems to be their form of entertainment and drama being what urges the most emotions. Then again, we in the present day are not much different. Our entertainment is the dramatics of television and celebrities. But despite the necessary gossip the information given between parties quickly displays the character of Lady Susan.

A widow with a sixteen year old daughter and apparently very beautiful. But she is a vile creature. She talks so poorly about her own daughter that at first I thought that maybe she was discussing another person entirely. Aside from that she seems busy grabbing the attention of many men- whether they are her age or not, single or not. What makes her even more vile is the act she puts on around her. When she gets into arguments she quickly recovers and pretends as if nothing had happened at all.

I have by no means read even half of Austen's books but the few I have read usually leave me appreciating the women characters but this book is different in that I didn't enjoy the character Susan at all. It was her daughter who I was interested in hearing more of. Too bad there wasn't a novel about her!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Letters to Jackie: Condolences from a Grieving Nation

Dear Mrs. Kennedy
I am sorry he is dead
Tony Davis
Age 7

When discovering this book existed I felt that I was getting a truthful glimpse into the past. History books report the facts and leave much to the imagination because they are completely vacant of emotion. I feel that one would have to see the emotion of an event from the past to truly grasp it's impact. This book is a collection of letters mailed to Mrs. Kennedy after John F. Kennedy was killed. The level of shock, heartbreak, anger, confusion, and fear is clearly evident in the letters from fellow Americans.

All of these emotions reminded me of the emotions felt during September 11th. An event that rocked the nation (and the world). I feel that much of the news reports from that horrible day will depict how horrible it all was (mind you, I was in NY during the attacks and had family in Washington, to this day many of the memories are still clear in my head and the tears of our NY news casters still fresh). I was not alive when Kennedy was killed but reading this book I can have a better understanding of it all. I could also ask my mother, but she was so young that her memory of the event is unclear.

The letters also display the level, and lack, of education from state to state. While some letters from adults have misspellings or barely structured sentences there are also letters which are intricately written by 10 year olds. They also speak of their won troubles and heartbreak within their lives. One little boy points out his daddy was also killed and that Santa Claus couldn't receive his letters so he requests that Mrs. Kennedy lets Santa know that he would like a bike for Christmas. The people also write of the political adjustments occurring in the world. The Second World War which had only happened 25 years prior and the movements of civil rights.

This book should be deemed as important as other historical books. Upon learning about the Kennedy assassination in school I feel that the students should also be given excerpts from this- letters written by people their age. It's emotion filled pages teach much and leave you moved. It's proof once more that the written word holds power and can have a great impact.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict

A year ago I read Laurie Viera Rigler's first book Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and now I have her second in my grips. You can read my review on her first book here.

Riglers first novel presented the tale of Courtney Stone, 21st century woman who just went through a broken engagement, and how she wakes one morning to find herself in the body of Jane Mansfield- a gentleman's daughter from the year 1813. Now Riglers second novel follows Jane Mansfield when she finds herself in the 21st century.

It leaves one to wonder what a person from the past if suddenly thrown into a different time. The world is completely different from now to, say, the 1950's. Having a woman of the early 19th century being placed in the 21st is mind boggling and understandably amusing.

The biggest interest I found in this novel was the presence of feminine power. Jane is used to a time where she must have a chaperon- even though she is well into adulthood- a time where women have two job choices- to be a wife or to teach. Women had absolutely no power nor control over their own lives.

One could assume that Jane would experience complete liberation but she is quick to discover that the present does not necessarily mean women have complete control- especially when it comes to romantic relationships. Even friendships can appear to be somewhat controlling.

All in all I found that I enjoyed this novel much more than Rigler's first. Not to say her first isn't good! Really, the two books go hand in hand. You shouldn't read one without reading the other. But I enjoyed Jane's character better than Courtney's. I also enjoyed her love interest with Wes so much more. He was much more adorable and charming. So cute that I wish a man existed like that for myself! Maybe somewhere he does!

This was a fun and amusing little read which would be perfect for any one who is looking for a summer read.

And hey, there's a web series about to air telling the humorous tale of both women, check out the trailer:



I'm pretty excited for the little series and intend to watch it. Check it out yourselves!
   

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Book of Lost Things

This book is a strange combination of The Wizard of Oz (escaping from home), Labyrinth (I hate my baby brother), and The Chronicles of Narnia (going into another world with kings and monsters). You'd think it was more of a child oriented book seeing that the main character is a 12-year-old boy and he's so heavily into fairy tales however, you'd be wrong.

The setting is in World War England and much like the true war, it seems to creep it's way into everyones lives- including the other world. David is angry and hurt- his mother died and his father has moved on. He feels that his father doesn't love him anymore, that he's forgetting about his mother, and forgetting about David as well. When he has the opportunity to crawl into the cracks of a garden wall and appear to be crawling out of a tree to another world he stumbles his way into an adventure that he hadn't quite been expecting.

The world he comes upon is being twisted and turned into a strange place that even it's inhabitants don't recognize. David comes upon a cast of different characters who seem to be straight from a fairy tale except even the fairy tales have twisted and turned into something horrible. Snow White isn't fair and beautiful, Little Red Riding Hood has a sexual attraction to wolves, Sleeping Beauty is a terrible creature in itself.

David learns that there are people he can and cannot trust. Despite being in another land David also begins to grow. Really, this tale is about a child passing into adulthood and that childish might have a darker history to it. David enters this world as a frightened but angry child and he proceeds to learn what is important in life and what is not. That there are people out there who might, for instance, love the same sex but that does not make them any less human. It doesn't mean they're out to get him. He also learns to yearn for the family life he now has and finally stop grieving for his dead mother.

The story is gruesome at some points. A monster "She" is, in my opinion, really well described because the mental image I had was incredibly disgusting. While David is this character who more or less falls into the pages of your book John Connolly manages to do the same to you as you read the book and fall into it's own pages. Being in that land is easy to do as you read further and it's  not really a land I'd never want to be in. But the characters are engaging and all I wanted was to know where the tale left them.

I was somewhat sad at the end of the book. It's not a fluffy story with a sparkling ending but life, in general, is not that way and Connolly makes that clear to David and the reader. I felt settled, content, with the end of the book as I do believe David felt as well.

This is by far one of the most strange books I've ever read. But I enjoyed reading it and found it hard to pull myself away from it's pages. Connolly, as I mentioned, wrote the scenery, characters, and tales so clearly that it was easy to imagine. The story is capturing and I do believe everyone can relate to it in one way or another. Whether you found yourself escaping the world through books or maybe you wanted to run away from home because you felt your family was wronging you- or both. It's something every child has experienced at one time or another.

Out of a possible five stars- I give it four.

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