Monday, April 29, 2013

A Million Little Pieces

This was one of the books I purchased during a book buying spree some time ago. It sat on my bookshelf with its fancy cover and urged me to pick it up and yet I did not. It continued to sit there until this year when I really started making progress in reading all of my purchased, unread books that I've collected. So I grabbed it off my shelf one morning and took it with me to the bus. It was cold, that January cold that seems to suck out the air from your chest, and it was early. I'm not the best with early mornings; I want to be left alone and enjoy silence and it's certainly best to just let me do as much. Well, this morning that wasn't going to happen.

I got onto my bus, took a seat, flicked on the overhead light and opened this book. I began reading the quote at the start of the book when a man sat next to me and quite suddenly said to me, "You know, that book's fake." I looked up at him, wondering what the hell he was talking about and why was he talking to me so early in the morning. He continued to tell me that the author, James Frey, had lied and the book was written as a memoir when it was, in fact, a fake. 

I stared at the man, trying to comprehend what he was talking about and also trying to keep my early morning annoyance low, then muttered a reply before turning to the book. Still, the conversation stuck with me as I read the book. Do I take this as fact or fiction? What of it is real? What of it is fake? I wanted to research but I also didn't want to ruin anything for myself so, with that, if you have not read the book before it's your own decision if you'd like to read the article where the cat was let out of the bag. (There are some bits that are spoiler-ish). 

But how do you review a book that's promoted as a memoir but much of the truth is likely stretched? How do you review what could possibly be someones real lives? 

Let's start with my initial reaction: the book is sad. It's not a walk in the park because alcoholism and addiction is not a walk in the park and for that, I find truth in his writing. The book is blunt and overwhelming. It doesn't hold back the punches and it very much describes what I imagine this illness has to bear. You'll love some of the characters, hate others, and feel frustrated.

The book is typed without a single indent nor paragraph break. There isn't quotation marks and you are left to figure out who is saying what, which gets confusing when it's an ongoing conversation. However, after a number of pages in the book I felt I got the hang of when there was dialogue and when there wasn't but boy did it become confusing when I'd leave the book off for a bit and return to where I had left off.

The book took me longer to read than I thought it would and I wonder if it was due to the depressing subject matter. The only time I really had to read the book was on the bus to and from work, my lunch breaks, or before bed. That's precious time for me, time I don't really have a chance to have during the work week, and to spend it reading a pretty sad book... well, I wonder if it took me so long to read the book because I often times thought, "I'm not really up to reading that right now."

The author certainly has talent in description. Detail of the condition his face was in upon entering rehab left me feeling nauseated and weak. At points, I literally had to turn away and stop reading because it was making me so queasy. It's rare that I have physical reactions to something I've read but Frey managed to pull out of me a little bit of gagging and groaning.

In the end, I wasn't sure how to feel about this book or the people mentioned within. Some succeeded in life post-rehab, others failed, and I felt bad for those characters, to see that they had lost their battle. But that was where things became sticky. This book is a "memoir" and, according to Frey, loosely based on his actual life. Whether or not every character in the book actually existed is beyond my knowledge -- I didn't know. Some of the character's I really disliked, I found myself hating them, but then I thought "These could be real people."

How am I to review someones behavior and actions if they are real? But the thing is, I don't know if they are. The claims of fraud in this book are many and yet not very clear. You could feel bad for a character who lost their battle and they may be real, you may feel bad for a real person, or you may feel bad for a fictional being.

By the time I was finished with this book I had the similar sticky feeling I get whenever I read books about addiction and mental illness: I feel thankful that I have not experienced that nor have been close to anyone who has and I feel sorrow for those who have lives affected by this. But I was glad to put the book down and even still am unsure of how I feel about it. Not so much because of what the book pertains but more so because I do not know what is fact or fiction.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

52 Lists - Week 16

I have heard whispers of the 52 Lists project from various bloggers and my curiosity got the best of me. Off I went to discover the 52 Lists by Moorea Seal which is a really fun and fantastic concept. A list for each week of the year and for this list maker, I fell in love with the idea instantly. 

I hope you enjoy and if you're interested, visit Moorea Seal's 52 Lists page so you can partake in this as well!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Children's Bedtime Books

On a trip to Barnes and Noble I flipped through a number of children's books and managed to read through a selection of some interesting children's books of the same theme: bedtime. So, considering my blog has been lacking children's books for the past year I wanted to reintroduce them to Soon Remembered Tales. It also helps that I have a goal of reading 50 children's books this year! Might as well get started.

A Book of Sleep
This book is a visual pleasure for me. Different patterns are used to create images of different animals as they sleep in soft hues that can bring both comfort and calm. My favorite bit about this book? We're introduced to an owl straight away which happens to be one of my favorite little dudes of the animal kingdom (or bird kingdom?) and he is hidden away on each page as we travel through the night world. This book will probably be appropriate for children of the 1-5 age but I suspect children can still appreciate the artwork as they get older, I mean, I appreciated the artwork and I'm a long way past five!

The Insomniacs
This is a quirky little book that I would give to my friends whom are night owls and like night-time/darker things but it's also great for a family who may be taking on a big move. The Insomniacs move to a timezone that has a 12 hour difference from what they are used to and they find they struggle staying up during the day but are awake all night. They try to live like everyone else -- doing things during the day and sleeping at night -- but still struggle. After adventuring into the woods to see if they can find out how different animals can get themselves to sleep they realize that there are plenty of creatures who enjoy staying up at night and sleeping during they day! If it's good enough for those animals, it's good enough for the Insomniacs and they give night living a try. 

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site
What a perfect book for the little one who loves trucks and it's also educational! With each page you are introduced to a different piece of construction site equipment (names included -- I never really took the time to consider the names of some of these vehicles, such as a Crane truck, so I learned a thing or two as well) and what their part is in the whole scheme of construction. Then the sun sets and the vehicles get tired so what else will they do but go to sleep? The artwork is cute, giving personality to all the vehicles, and their nighttime pictures are adorable with elements of the bedtime little kids are used to (the Crane truck had a teddy bear! another truck was snuggled up against a dirt pillow!)

All the Awake Animals Are Almost Asleep
This may be one of my least favorite books because I found it a little cumbersome for a bedtime book but that may also be because it was the last of the books I looked through. It's still a beautifully done book, the colors are lovely and the animals are intricate and well done, and there is certainly a learning element within the story that is told. The book goes through the alphabet, discussing an animal on each page by each letter, and their little blurb is entirely in the letter that they are on (Example: the title being A is 'all the awake animals are almost asleep'). It's a cute learning mechanism but, as I said, a bit long. Not being a parent myself (and I'm sure all kids are different) I don't know how long or short a children's book should be when trying to get a child comfy and sleeping. If it takes your kid awhile, then this is likely the book for you!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

52 Lists - Weeks 14 and 15

I have heard whispers of the 52 Lists project from various bloggers and my curiosity got the best of me. Off I went to discover the 52 Lists by Moorea Seal which is a really fun and fantastic concept. A list for each week of the year and for this list maker, I fell in love with the idea instantly. 

I hope you enjoy and if you're interested, visit Moorea Seal's 52 Lists page so you can partake in this as well!

Last week I was suffering from severe allergies. Severe enough that I missed a day and a half of work. I barely ate and read let alone thought to update my blog. So, things are a little behind right now and I'm playing catch up. Enjoy!

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

The second book in the Fairyland series (following the first book: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making) was available at Barnes and Noble one frigid January day when I happened to stop in. See, I had asked numerous times for Valente books at this store (and other stores in the DC area) and always they had none in stock. I didn't understand because I love Valente and find her to be a fabulous writer. Think of the stories and beautifully written words people were missing out on! Sure I could always go and order the books to be delivered at my house but that involved waiting.

When you love an author and you want to read their next book it becomes a creature of desire and demanding and you expect to get that book then and there. That's how I am with Valente's books at least.

I was, by this point, not expecting the bookseller to tell me that he had any of her books in stock so I was completely surprised when he took me right to the book I had been looking for. Not wanting to pass this lovely opportunity, I bought it, and then I dove in as quickly as I could.

This book is a conversation starter, much like the first, as the interesting title and cover capture the attention of passerby's at my office. I can honestly say that both books had people pause and ask if they could look at my book. Many of the other books I've read do not receive the same level of interest.

Anyway, where have we left off with our dear September? In the previous book September returned from Fairyland a changed girl. She had grown in some ways, begun to develop a heart (because children are often heartless), and had lost her shadow. When we've returned to join September many months have passed and spring has sprung and sadly, September is still waiting to return back to Fairyland. She misses it dearly and the venture to the land has changed her, making her an outcast amongst classmates, so she has the friendship of her mother, books and memories of the creatures she had come in contact with in Fairyland to keep her entertained.

Then the fateful day comes where September has the chance to return to the Fairyland she loves and has -- apparently -- lost. The Fairyland she meets is different than the one from her memories. Everything is muddled, different, and strange and it's all September's fault.

Upon her first visit she gave up her shadow and it's her shadow that's caused the change in Fairyland. Her shadow, Halloween (the Hallow Queen), has taken over the underworld of Fairyland and begun stealing the shadows of all the Fairyland dwellers up above. Below is a constant party where the shadows are free to do what they please and up above in Fairyland everything slowly loses it's magic and becomes more and more like the human world. September sets off to set things right but along the way learns more about the world than she previously knew. She learned that friends can betray you, that you may have to forgive even if you hurt very deeply, and sometimes things don't go according to plan.

I was sad that for much of this book the characters I had fallen in love with during the first book were not quite themselves because they weren't themselves at all -- they were their shadows and shadows are undeniably your opposite. A few characters from the past book did return and we, as readers, (and September too) are introduced to new characters who you can love and adore just as much.

This book, for me, had more magic than the past. September has magic affect her a lot more than the previous book and all for the better in my opinion. There is also a threatening presence in the book (the Alleyman) who poses as something frightful but in the end even the Alleyman's mystery is solved (and sweetly at that).

It's interesting to see the little ways that September has grown from the last book and in that way the story has changed and matured. However, I feel that's appropriate for children's books as children grow and mature so quickly. This book still would be interesting for adults to read, so please, don't be deterred by the fact that it's meant for children!

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Gold Dust Letters

In my childhood I was filled with creativity and always playing make believe. Books were wonderful (they still are!) but especially books that helped me become even more creative and could sweep me off to magical realms.

During a book fair, I bought Janet Taylor Lisle's book Afternoon of the Elves. I don't quite recall the story as it has been so many years but I do remember how much I loved it and that it was, simply put, magical. When I was presented with The Gold Dust Letters I thought of the previous book I read by Lisle and wanted to see if another book by the author lived up to my memories.

It did.

The Gold Dust Letters was published ages ago but that's neither here nor there. It's a children's book, probably suitable for kids who are able to read short chapter books, and filled with the type of magic I was addicted to as a child.

Angela decides, as children often will decide in such a spur of the moment, to write a letter to a fairy and to her surprise she receives a reply. Much like finding presents on Christmas morning or money under your pillow with the tooth your lost having vanished, the letters from the fairy come while Angela is asleep and seemingly completely by magic.

Enlisting her friends Georgina (who is bossy and rather a realist and doubter of such childish things as magic) and Poco (a strange little girl who swears she speaks to animals) they set out to prove whether or not Pilaria (our fairy friend) exists.

Amongst the excitement of fairy magic there are real life situations that our dear friend Angela has to deal with. Her parents' marriage seems to be falling apart and Angela's father seems cold and distant. Not fully understanding what is going on, Angela distances herself from her father but it's obvious that the events in her family bother her. I recall as a child in elementary school a lot of children's parents going through divorces or having marital struggles. I don't know if it is common for that to happen when children or that age but as I was reading this book I wondered what my friends would have thought in third or fourth grade if they had this book to read.

There is certainly a destruction then rebuilding of the relationship between Angela and her father which is comforting and sweet and while things may not end perfectly at the end of this tale the girls still have magic in their hearts and their friendship is better than ever.

I approve of any book that handles multiple situations that can capture the attention of a child, especially something as confusing as seeing your parents slowly separate or work through issues. Adding magic to it, and that the magic never fully goes away, is something to help balance that.

While this book didn't sweep me off as Afternoon of the Elves did when I was a child, I imagine it would have if I was still that young.

Note: I received this as from NetGalley, courtesy of Open Road. I received no monetary gain from reviewing this book.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

52 Lists - Weeks 12 and 13

I have heard whispers of the 52 Lists project from various bloggers and my curiosity got the best of me. Off I went to discover the 52 Lists by Moorea Seal which is a really fun and fantastic concept. A list for each week of the year and for this list maker, I fell in love with the idea instantly. 

I hope you enjoy and if you're interested, visit Moorea Seal's 52 Lists page so you can partake in this as well!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Teaser Tuesday - April 2nd

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should be Reading and it asks us to...
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title; author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
"We lift the lemons and swing them to our faces. We plunge our fangs, piercing the skin, and emit a long, united hiss: 'Aaah!'"
Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell 

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Thirteenth Tale

Another book that I have had sitting on my shelf for what seemed to be an eternity, The Thirteenth Tale, if I remember correctly, was purchased during an after-work shopping spree when I was a book seller. I don't quite remember what attracted me to the book. Was it the premises? Was it the book cover that was colorful with detailed artwork of bound books? I'm not sure but it traveled with me as I moved south and it took its place on my bookshelf, waiting to be read, until I picked it up at the beginning of February.

It was a quick decision, I had finished a book just before bed and I needed something to take with me to work. A hasty decision, fingers touching the corner of the first book my eyes set on, and off it went into my purse for the day's commute.

It was the perfect book to choose and I flew through its pages. I think, if I were to say just one thing about this book, it would be that it is a book for book lovers. For people who are taken away by the story and have a distinct relationship with books, the objects and the stories, that non-readers do not understand. I loved that aspect of the book, I adored that someone just got it.

A lot of people are claiming this is Gothic literature and that I am unsure. It has its dark and spooky elements but I don't know if I would pair it with the well known pieces of Gothic literature that are already out there. But this is entirely personal opinion. I'm sure, in some ways, it is Gothic literature but I just don't see it. The book is quirky and weird in a way that I feel it is meant to be quirky and weird. It has its dark moments, many, in fact, but by the end you are left with a sense of warmth and maybe a shiver of a fleeing ghost.

Margaret is, for the main part, our narrator. She's a biographer who has a less than conventional life and is offered the opportunity to write the biography of a very popular author. Vida Winter is a recluse of sorts but has a great fan base as her books have been sold all over the world and devoured quickly by greedy book loving people. Margaret travels to Ms. Winter's home and settles in to hear the account of the woman's life.

Sick and dying, this is Winter's final chance to tell the truth. She has been known to give varying accounts of her life story and at first Margaret is understandably unsure about the woman. Is she wasting her time? But quickly Margaret is brought into Winter's world and she simply  has to know what comes next.

What comes next isn't easily achieved when story and real life come together. Secrets are kept almost to the very last pages of this book and Winter's tale. You're led through the twists and turns of the haunted house and confusing garden on the property grounds and when you are brought to the end I felt I wasn't quite sure how I got there.

I was fascinated by the relationship the twins have in this story. Twins and their connection to one another has always been an interest of mine. I haven't any siblings at all and have always found myself yearning to know what it's like to have such a close bond and, in my mind, twins are equivalent to the "ultimate" bond one could have with a sibling. When the book was over, I felt somewhat lost. It ended rather abruptly, but understandably, and the loose ends that are tied up during the final pages seemed forced and not very enjoyable to read. I felt that there should have been more substance to those final pages and rather as if the author was tired, as was the reader, and was left to tie it up neatly.

This author does have a gift and I would be interested in trying out more of her books. The book itself, I feel, is entirely a book lovers read. Long after I had finished reading this book many of the quotes and descriptions of how books can make one feel still flitted through my head. If you enjoy books, pick this up, read it, highlight the quotes, and enjoy what it means to be a book lover.