I couldn't wait to get my hands on this book after finishing I am the Messenger. I knew it was a "holocaust novel" and I was well acquainted with howI couldn't wait to get my hands on this book after finishing I am the Messenger. I knew it was a "holocaust novel" and I was well acquainted with how painfully beautiful (or beautifully painful) Zusak's writing style can be. But it is well worth it and I wasn't in the least disappointed. What a wonderful story this is. I was attached to Liesel Meminger from the start and all the inhabitants of Molching claimed a piece of me. The writing invites you in, slowly seeping into your cracks until you are soaked through. Makes you not want to leave. At least that's what it did to me. Find out what it does to you....more
This bittersweet, funny slim little novel is first and foremost a love letter to Jane Austen, despite its well-deserved (and hilarious) dedication toThis bittersweet, funny slim little novel is first and foremost a love letter to Jane Austen, despite its well-deserved (and hilarious) dedication to Colin Firth. For those of us who, like the novel's heroine Jane Hayes, have happily reread all of Austen's novels over the years (except, as Hale points out, Northanger Abbey, which only got that one read), this story is a pleasant romp in Austenland....more
I have not laughed so much while reading a book since the hilarious Straight Man. I laughed myself silly reading this book. The kind of laughing whereI have not laughed so much while reading a book since the hilarious Straight Man. I laughed myself silly reading this book. The kind of laughing where it's so hard you're frantically wiping the tears away because you don't want to have to stop reading long enough to clear your sight. I passed it on to my brother-in-law who usually poops out a few pages into a work of fiction, and he not only finished it but loved it....more
I never would have discovered this hidden gem if it weren't for my booktwin Martha reviewing it so glowingly a few years back. Not only had I not hearI never would have discovered this hidden gem if it weren't for my booktwin Martha reviewing it so glowingly a few years back. Not only had I not heard of Garret Freymann-Weyr before, but I'm pretty sure neither of its covers would have induced me to pick it up. Seriously, what in the world were they going for with this one? I just...I have no idea. But I know they missed. And the pink one is sort of cute, but really not indicative at all of what's inside. So. The Printz Honor award, on the other hand, always draws my eye as I've been quite impressed with the majority of Printz picks over the last few years. I would have given this one the award itself--I love it that much. So when an upcoming trip to Morocco rested on the horizon, I went out and purchased a copy of MY HEARTBEAT to take with me. Despite the fact that it's a slim 160 pages, I could tell it should be in the stack as I was packing. I ended up pulling it out one night in our bed & breakfast in Essaouira and staying up much too late devouring it in one gulp. What a lovely memory that night remains. And yet I've talked to comparatively few people who've read this beautiful book. And so today I'm going to tell you exactly why I love it with such intensity.
Ellen and her old brother Link live with their crazy busy parents in a full but cozy apartment in Manhattan. They attend the same prestigious private school with Link's best friend James, who Ellen has been in love with for a couple of years now. Link is something of a math genius, a dedicated track star, and quite a talented pianist. James is also a gifted musician (though he has to have sheet music to play), a film buff, and an artist. Together they are her favorite people in the world and she considers life good when the three of them are hanging out together. One day at lunch, after bringing home one too many letters from school criticizing her social skills (or lack thereof), Ellen attempts to be a bit more outgoing and sits with some other girls. When the conversation turns to Link and James, one of the girls says to her, "They're like a couple, aren't they?" And that single sentence turns Ellen's world on end. She realizes this issue has simply never occurred to her before. Nor has the issue of why neither of her boys spends much time with girls. Besides her. Afraid to ask the question, but wanting desperately to understand them both better, Ellen goes first to her mother. And then to Link and James. Their respective responses to her question open up a can of worms Ellen was desperately hoping to avoid, brings down an invisible wall between Link and James, and provides the stepping off point for the beginning of Ellen's education on life, love, loyalty, and how many different versions there are of all of them.
It was love at first sight with these three. I can't tell you how quickly I fell for them. Maybe it was when Ellen first revealed that telling Link she thought James was super cute was the only way her seventh-grade self could verbalize totally madly in love. Maybe it was when she kept picturing him as the heroes in the novels she was reading for English class. It could have been every day when Link and James sat on the fire escape during lunch, Link critiquing James' art, prowling the halls after in search of who knows what. Or maybe it was simply when Link and Ellen watched Casablanca together and stood up to sing the "Marseillaise" along with the actors just as their dad taught them to when they were nine and seven years old. MY HEARTBEAT is filled with a million little perfect moments, exquisite glimpses into the lives of others as they try and fail and try to know one another and learn that sometimes the ones you love the most are the ones you know the least. A favorite passage early on as Ellen goes in search of Link after he and James have had a disagreement:
I decide to go knock on Link's door and tell him I can't sleep. When I was little we used to sleep in each other's rooms the night before all special occasions: Christmas, trips to Europe, first days of school, and birthdays. We stopped when I was nine or ten. I don't remember which one of us decided we were too old or if anything was said. It just stopped. Special occasions now come and go without our marking it by sleeping in the same room. Link's not exactly Mr. Hospitality tonight, saying, in response to my knock, "I told you no." "It's Ellen," I say, knowing he hasn't told me no in a few days. "It's open for you," he says and I go in. "Who'd you tell no?" I ask, settling carefully into the broken armchair near his bed. "Your mother," he says. When he's mad at Mom or Dad, they become your mother or your father, as if I were responsible for their behavior. It's my policy never to ask why he's mad at them. Why borrow trouble? "James went out," I say. "Yeah, I know," Link says. "Your mother wanted to know where he went." "Do you know?" I ask. "Ellen, it's late." "I don't think he likes that guy at all," I say, wanting to reassure him. And probably myself. "Which guy?" Link asks, sitting up in bed. "What are you talking about?" "The tennis champion," I say. "Oh, that. He was just kidding, Ellen. You can't take James seriously." "So where is he?" I ask. "I don't know," Link says. "He wanted to go out and I didn't. End of story." "How come?" "How come what?" Link asks. I don't say anything. He's not asking me a question so much as telling me it's none of my business. He never says that to me in a flat-out way, of course. It's more Link's style to put all the important information into what he doesn't say. Sometimes I understand him and lots of times I don't. Tonight I do. "He should have asked you to go," Link says. "You would have gone with him." "I might," I say. Probably. Sure. No doubt about it. "You would," my brother says. "You would follow James to the moon." I don't say anything, and after a while Link asks if I want to sleep in his room. "Yes," I say. "Because it's my birthday tomorrow." "It's two in the morning," Link says. "Tomorrow is here." He gets out of bed, and while he's whispering (instead of singing) "Happy Birthday," he clears a space on the floor, where he makes up a sleeping area with a quilt and two of his pillows. "You take the bed," he says, the way he used to when I was nine. I lie awake for a long time. For hours after Link has drifted off to sleep. I listen for and I hear James returning to the house. It is true I would follow James to the moon. But if Link would let me, I would follow him anywhere he wanted.
I fell so in love with the relationships in this book. Every one of them. Ellen and Link. Ellen and James. Ellen and her mother. Ellen and her father. They seemed at once so far removed from me and so much the same. I loved the complexity of this most unusual and refreshing of love triangles. It is a mature story, an at times painful story, and it deals with mature and endlessly complicated issues including sexual identity, artistic philosophy, the rigidity of expectations and social mores, and the elasticity of the heart. It will not be for everyone. But it was so very much for me. What a sweet, sweet story and how much I wanted to sit in cafés with Ellen, James, and Link and just be intellectual and chummy with them. Finest kind.
This book was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2004. It's good. So very good. I felt I had been in Ruby's shoes. I felt disturbingly comfortaThis book was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2004. It's good. So very good. I felt I had been in Ruby's shoes. I felt disturbingly comfortable in them. I wished I'd read this book when I was a teenager. It's the kind of book you want to give your daughter and say, "Read this. Know you who are."...more
I'm a sucker for reading other people's favorite books of all time. When someone tells me a certain book is one of the books of their life, I get thisI'm a sucker for reading other people's favorite books of all time. When someone tells me a certain book is one of the books of their life, I get this pressing urge to run out and secure a copy. It generally doesn't matter what genre or style of book it is. I think this is mostly because I know what it means to care so much about a book you have to have it nearby at all times. Maybe you own more than one copy so that if you lend one out you've still got a spare...just in case. Maybe you can't remember a time when you hadn't read and loved that book, those characters. I know what that feels like. And because I have such tender feelings for certain books, I want to have read the books others feel the same way about. It's almost always a rewarding experience. One of the most memorable of these times happened several years ago when a good friend of mine on Readerville was talking about what a superb novel Barbara Kingsolver's ANIMAL DREAMS was. I had read one Kingsolver book at that point--The Bean Trees--and, while I appreciated parts of it, my overall reaction was pretty lackluster. So it wasn't with a lot of excitement that I approached Kingsolver's second novel.
Codi Noline thought she'd left Grace, Arizona once and for all when she and her little sister Hallie escaped and went away to college. It's been ten years since then and Codi and Hallie have traveled farther than she ever expected. Even after medical school and several stints as a world traveler, she's never found a place she could call home And yet, when the call comes in that her father has Alzheimer's and can't live alone anymore and Codi returns home to look after him, she finds to her chagrin that she hasn't moved that far beyond her childhood after all. Back in Grace, she stays in her old friend Emelina's guest house and takes a job teaching biology at the local high school. With her platinum blonde hair and her checkered history with this town, she stands out like a sore thumb and she's all but sure it was a colossal mistake coming home this way. But as she exchanges letters with Hallie, deals with her deteriorating father, and strikes up a tentative friendship with Loyd Peregrina--an Apache railroad brakeman she once knew--Codi's perspective is challenged on so many levels and the lines between memory and truth and past and present are blurred so far it's all she can do to hang on to the here and now.
Here are the opening lines from Codi's perspective:
I am the sister who didn't go to war. I can only tell you my side of the story. Hallie is the one who went south, with her pickup truck and her crop-disease books and her heart dead set on a new world.
Who knows why people do what they do? I stood on a battleground once too, but it was forty years after the fighting was all over: northern France, in 1982, in a field where the farmers' plow blades kept turning up the skeletons of cows. They were the first casualties of the German occupation. In the sudden quiet after the evacuation the cows had died by the thousands in those pastures, slowly, lowing with pain from unmilked udders. But now the farmers who grew sugar beets in those fields were blessed, they said, by the bones. The soil was rich in calcium.
I knew right away I liked Codi. I felt sorry for her and I wanted to know her better. By the end, I liked her even more, as though I understood her because I had followed her home. Kingsolver's storytelling is breathlessly evocative. I constantly found myself gasping at the way she wields the written word to move her readers and wrap them up in a vision of the world the way it is and the way it could be. Halfway through my first read, I couldn't take it any longer. I quietly returned my library copy and fled to the bookstore to buy one of my own. I had to own this book and I wasn't even finished yet! Truthfully, ANIMAL DREAMS took me completely by surprise. It had me by the throat with its motherless sisters who want to save the world, its handmade peacock pinatas, its dying town, and its gorgeous, gorgeous longing. The story of a girl searching to belong, of a town struggling to survive, and the intricate myths and culture surrounding them all completely engulfed me. To say nothing of the quiet, intense love story winding its way through the beautiful prose. There were so many other passages I wanted to quote for you but in the end I couldn't take away that opportunity of discovering them for yourself. It's just too special to intrude on in that way. When I think of those few perfect books, this one always comes to mind. I'm so glad Zanna sang its praises so emphatically. I'm so glad I listened. Because it's one of the books of my life now, too. I like having it nearby at all times. I have a lending copy...just in case. And I have trouble remembering a time I didn't know and love Codi, Loyd, and all of Grace. ...more
So this is a book I've spent a lot of time talking about. Chances are, if you've hung around these parts, you've heard me pusOriginally reviewed here.
So this is a book I've spent a lot of time talking about. Chances are, if you've hung around these parts, you've heard me push it. But I actually read it for the first time way back in the olden days before the blog was, well, what it is now. I read it shortly after it was first published, back in 2007, when I was writing monthly posts, mere collections of mini-reviews. So SONG OF THE SPARROW got shortchanged. The fun thing is lots of friends have read (and reviewed) it since, and so I was able to trip through their lovely thoughts and remember my own. When I heard about a retelling of Tennyson's "Lady of Shalott," I was so in. I mean, I'm nothing if not up for a good Camelot tale. I could bore you to tears with my obsession with the entire Arthurian legend, but who needs that on a Friday afternoon? The thing is, when I heard this retelling was, like Tennyson's version, told entirely in verse, I was no longer so sure. Truthfully, I tend to like my modern poetry short and to the point. So I did what I often do. I went to the bookstore and read the first page. Then I read the second page. And on through the tenth, at which point I accepted the delicious inevitable and bought the book.
Elaine of Ascolat is sixteen years old and alone. The lone woman among an endless encampment of men, she has grown up wild and independent and determined to keep her father and brothers and friends alive. Though she is not allowed to fight alongside them, she works tirelessly in any way she can to keep their spirits alive, to mend both their limbs and their souls between battle forays against the ever-encroaching Saxons. After her mother died, her father brought his two sons and one small daughter to live with the soldiers. And so Elaine's oldest friends are Arthur, Lancelot, Gawain, Tristan. But when Ambrosius Aurelius, dux bellorum, is killed, Elaine must watch the laughing eyes of her friends turn grim with strain and responsibility. She must watch as they rally around Arthur--their new leader. As they reform in their new roles and battle leaders and men. And she must watch as a someone new enters their lives and disrupts their old balance perhaps forever. Gwynivere. Haughty and proud, she ensnares Elaine's friends with seemingly no effort at all. But, though her boys seem entranced, Elaine can see clearly just how much craft Gwynivere puts into the web she casts. And when that web extends to Lancelot, the one she loves most, wild, independent, determined Elaine decides it is time to fight at last.
This book. This book set a flock of butterflies free in my stomach on the first page. The writing is that heady blend of urgency, vision, and nostalgia. I loved Sandell's revisionist version of Elaine of Ascolat. I knew there was more to her than her magic web and her love for Lancelot. I just knew there was. Sometimes you meet a character, sometimes over and over through the years, and you know her. In bits and pieces, through various art forms and articulations, I have always felt a kinship with the lily maid. But it took until Lisa Ann Sandell decided to paint her version of her, for me to realize why. All that history you just know is there, the spell, the mirror, knotted web of threads, the loyalty to Lancelot, it all comes together in SONG OF THE SPARROW. Any lover of all things Arthurian will tell you, it can be a life of suffering. A rich life, but a rocky one. This retelling soothes the soul. And the beautiful thing is that, by all accounts, it seems to work for newbies (even those utterly uninterested in the myth) as well as us dedicated fans. And it's because the writing and characterization are strong and sure. I'm so glad this Elaine chose to fight instead of die. I loved beautiful Gwynivere, and the choice she makes. The women in this novel are ace. They inhabit the tale, fleshing it out with life and pain and wanting, and together they are my favorite part about this version. But right up there with the ladies is the way Sandell wove in Tristan and his horrible past. In a genius move, we get a glimpse of Tristan (of Tristan and Isolde fame), and I kind of am of the opinion it should always be this way. Forgive the long passage, but it is the moment Elaine first comes to the camp, and it is a favorite.
It was nighttime when we reached the camp. When my mind began making sense of what it saw and heard again. In the torchlight I could see Lavain's face was smeared with dirt, streaked with ash. His eyes were still wide with shock, so white so white against his dirty ash face. He looked like a scared, wild animal. I must have looked the same. Frightened animals. Arthur, younger then, stepped forward, caught my father in his arms in an embrace. Then Tirry. He pressed little Lavain's shoulder, then put his hands on my hair, petting, stroking. And I felt safe, a tiny bit, for the first time again. Poor children, he murmured. You are welcome here, in this camp, into this brotherhood. Lavain, someday, no doubt, you will be a fierce fighter. Aye, I can see it in your eyes. But for now, you must take care of your little sister. Lavain turned away sullenly,but I alone saw him blink back tears. Arthur looked to me, What a brave girl you are, indeed, I've never met a girl so courageous. There are not any others here to keep you company, but you have a whole army of brothers now. He gave me a sad smile and stepped back. Then raven-haired Lancelot came to us, kneeling to look in my eyes. And I felt I was standing in the sunlight, as though his bright gaze alone could warm my frozen insides. He had blankets for Lavain and me. And once more I felt protected. Finally, a young boy who could not have been more than a few years older than Lavain presented me with a doll unevenly sewn of corn husks and rags. He turned to Lavain and placed a wooden sword in his hand. He said his name was Tristan. His golden cat eyes shone in the dark, his mouth downturned, his brow creased as though-- as though he knew.
What a read. I was all prepared to for the sense of loss/utter despair I felt upon finishing the last Harry Potter book. But the thing is....it was soWhat a read. I was all prepared to for the sense of loss/utter despair I felt upon finishing the last Harry Potter book. But the thing is....it was so much better than I thought it would be. That makes it sound like I didn't trust J.K. Rowling to get the job done, and that simply isn't true. I trusted her implicitly. I gave her ten years of my life. I'll give her next series ten more. But to end it all to my satisfaction? Knowing how many deaths were imminent? Knowing how it was becoming harder and harder to see a way for Harry to defeat Voldemort without dying himself? I couldn't see how she'd do it. But she did. And it was unbelievable how much fun it was. I'll never forget sitting in the line at my local Barnes & Noble at a quarter to midnight as a strange green firework shoots across the sky above us and worms its way into the shape of the dark mark. The hushed, startled silence of the crowd and then the wild, exultant cheers we erupt into at the sheer magic of it all. I'll never forget sitting next to Aaron at 12:30am and turning to the dedication page to find out she'd dedicated the last one to us. "And to You, if you have stuck with Harry until the very end." To me, it was a profoundly touching moment between an author and her readers. And I will never forget Jed tiptoeing downstairs at the point of no return, whispering excitedly, "Where are you guys?" then climbing onto the bed with us, and the three of us reading it to the end together. It was the most amazingly satisfying reading experience I can imagine. More than I'd hoped for. And in the end, after seven years, just exactly what our boy deserved....more
Patricia Briggs was the best new find of the month. I'm still all tingly from the excitement of finding her. This is the first in an urban fantasy serPatricia Briggs was the best new find of the month. I'm still all tingly from the excitement of finding her. This is the first in an urban fantasy series about a girl named Mercy Thompson. Mercy is a VW mechanic and a walker, meaning she can shift into a coyote at will. Though not part of a pack, she was raised by one and lives across a field from the local Alpha. Werewolves, vampires, and other miscellaneous fae abound in Mercy's world and they all seem to want a piece of her, literally and figuratively. What makes these books the best urban fantasy I've read all year is the combination of Briggs' tight writing, humor, and palpable tension (all the best kinds) woven into the narrative without ever delving down into the crass or gratuitous. They remind me of Robin McKinley's Sunshine meets Sookie Stackhouse....more
The second Mercy Thompson book was even better than the first. I love how Briggs' stories refuse to be self-indulgent in the way that so many other urThe second Mercy Thompson book was even better than the first. I love how Briggs' stories refuse to be self-indulgent in the way that so many other urban fantasies do. It's not a mystery, a werewolf tale, a horror novel, a romance. It's it's own thing and I love it. I couldn't get Mercy and Adam, Stefan and Bran out of my head for weeks. Can't wait for Iron Kissed....more
I first read EVA UNDERGROUND back in January of 2007. It had been out about a year at that point and so it's certainly not an older book, but it is veI first read EVA UNDERGROUND back in January of 2007. It had been out about a year at that point and so it's certainly not an older book, but it is very underrepresented in my opinion. I can no longer remember exactly where I heard about it and I'm pretty sure I picked it up based on the strength of the cover alone. Take a look at that baby. Just gorgeous. And an actual scene from the book--one of my very favorite things. The fact that it was YA historical fiction set during the late 1970s in Communist-occupied Poland certainly intrigued me. You don't get many of those, you know? I had never heard of Dandi Daley Mackall before, but my library happily had a copy on the shelves so I went and checked it out immediately. And I'm still surprised at how little I see this book mentioned around the blogosphere because it's really rather lovely and a thoughtful, well-researched coming-of-age tale as opposed to an flimsy excuse to hook the main character up with a Polish hottie and gallivant across the countryside amorously. Not that I wouldn't read that book! Don't get me wrong. But, in the end, I infinitely prefer a realistic and resonant tale such as this one.
The year is 1978. Eva Lott is feeling pretty good about life in general. Her senior year is shaping up to be pretty close to perfect and she's just made the varsity swim team. Then her English professor father has to go and ruin it all by announcing that the two of them are moving. To Poland. Effective immediately. It turns out he's decided to join the underground movement and Eva has no choice but to tag along. She spends the first portion of the story coming up with increasingly far-fetched ways she can sneak back to the States or convince her father she has no business being in Poland at all. Meanwhile, her father settles in to teach his young compatriots about journalism as they work to smuggle an illegal printing press into their home in order to spread their message opposing the rampant oppression of freedom of speech and the Polish people. When Eva finds herself rubbing shoulders with political activists no older than herself, things take on a slightly different slant. And when she gets to know Tomek--one of the rebels living in the crowded house her father takes her to, Eva's perspective begins to change on so many levels it is difficult for her to take it all in and her life in Chicago seems a very far away, very tame place indeed.
Until I read this book, I knew next to nothing about the modern-day Communist occupation of Poland. Following Eva as she leaves her home and friends in Chicago to follow her father to Poland, sharing a tiny room with him in a house full of rebels, I found myself quickly caught up. Though she initially sounds and acts like the stereotypical clueless, privileged spoiled teenager, she becomes curious and sensitive to the culture and history of her new home once the importance of what is going on around her begins to sink in. Everything about this novel unfolds slowly. So slowly that you don't at first realize how involved you've become. But it's certainly a journey worth taking. Their initial border crossing is vividly tense and chilling. You feel, along with the entire group of rebels, the suffocation and knife edge intensity of the occupation. Eva learns that sometimes life takes you by the throat and hurls you bodily into the middle of a war zone. She learns there are things in that war zone worth fighting for, that her life can be bigger than it was, that the seed of a plum can hold the spirit of a nation. And the ending is worth every page that it takes to get there. I finished it both satisfied and moved. EVA UNDERGROUND is a wonderful read about a harrowing and fascinating period in history....more
This is the 2nd in Harris' Harper Connelly mystery series. I surprised myself with how much I was looking forward to it. Harris' Sookie Stackhouse serThis is the 2nd in Harris' Harper Connelly mystery series. I surprised myself with how much I was looking forward to it. Harris' Sookie Stackhouse series is her most popular and they are delightful. But I am much more like Harper than I am Sookie and so it is perhaps not so surprising that I looked forward to the continuation of her story so much. And the lack of supernatural (aside from Harper's uncanny ability to find dead people) elements is almost refreshing after Sookie's wild world. One major (for Harper) revelation in this book has me on the edge of my seat for the next one....more
Aware of my current craving for good urban fantasy/paranormals, my husband recommended this one to me after listening to the audio version while he waAware of my current craving for good urban fantasy/paranormals, my husband recommended this one to me after listening to the audio version while he was out on the job. Vincent's first offering is at once hefty and highly accessible. Stray opens with Faythe, a werecat and the only daughter of an alpha, attempting to assert her independence and live a life of normalcy outside the Pride as a grad student at the University of North Texas. A series of attacks on other tabbies by a mysterious "stray," along with the unwanted protective stalking of her former intended Marc, drag her back to the family ranch and into the complicated politics of the Pride. I liked Faythe well enough. I liked Marc and Jace even better. The world is decidedly dark and these weres need each other more than they seem to know. Vincent has signed a contract for five future books in this series and I look forward to watching Faythe mature as a character....more
This was a sweet book. Sweet and calm and surprisingly welcome at the end of the month. I particularly liked that all of the characters, from Nattie'sThis was a sweet book. Sweet and calm and surprisingly welcome at the end of the month. I particularly liked that all of the characters, from Nattie's bitterly overprotective mother to her snotty and popular next door neighbor, are portrayed sympathetically. Reminding us that everyone is more than they seem, no matter how unsympathetic they can be at times. The fact is sometimes you find yourself in a bathroom with your arch nemesis, holding her hair back for her as she vomits her guts out. Goldblatt's writing feels well-grounded to me, her characters glitz-free and appealing....more
Marr's first novel is an absolute treat. A delicious dark urban fantasy--it felt like Holly Black meets Tamora Pierce. And yes, if the thought of thMarr's first novel is an absolute treat. A delicious dark urban fantasy--it felt like Holly Black meets Tamora Pierce. And yes, if the thought of that combination leaves you tingling with delight, go out and buy it Right Now. At the same time it kept reminding me of Laura Wiess' Such a Pretty Girl, which I read not long back. I think because the two central characters, Meredith and Aislinn, are such tough, haunted girls. Granted, their demons don't inhabit the same world (literally). But they are demonish in the same disturbing, gut-wrenching way. Marr's blend of gritty, wrong-side-of-the-tracks realism with the decadent fantasy of the Faery courts was pitch perfect and her descriptions of the clashing Faery kingdoms and the humans caught between left me shivering for more....more
I had heard a lot about this book before I picked it up. The Cybils picked it as their favorite YA novel of the year. I just loved the title. And theI had heard a lot about this book before I picked it up. The Cybils picked it as their favorite YA novel of the year. I just loved the title. And the concept. Cohn and Levithan took Norah and Nick (respectively) and wrote alternating chapters from "their" character's point of view. I loved it in Sorcery and Cecilia and I enjoyed it here. The book was exhilirating and alive and makes the reader feel as though she took a 24-hour shot of adrenaline....more
Looking for Alaska was as good as I was afraid it wouldn't be. Completely different from An Abundance of Katherines in tone, but with the same smoothLooking for Alaska was as good as I was afraid it wouldn't be. Completely different from An Abundance of Katherines in tone, but with the same smooth, incisive writing. The chapter titles were genius. Mostly what struck me was how therapeutic the story is for someone who has lost a close friend or family member tragically. At least it is for me. Pudge, the Colonel, Takumi, they are all forced to deal with crippling grief and the inescapable fear that she was gone because they let her go. Green seems to always come through with everything you can ask from a storyteller: real humor, real pain, and in the end real hope....more
All the other books I read this month were surprise finds, but this one I'd been waiting for. I was so excited to see it on the shelves in my local B&NAll the other books I read this month were surprise finds, but this one I'd been waiting for. I was so excited to see it on the shelves in my local B&N the night before it was to come out. I felt like someone was watching me as I surreptitiously snatched it off the shelf and scurried through the checkout line and out the door with it. I hope it was the benevolent bookseller who placed it out early, because I truly got my money's worth. What a fun read. I was very pleased with Kaye's storyline, quite moved by Corny's and Luis's, and extremely relieved that Roiben and Ravus were getting their dark-lord groove on....more
In preparation for the release of Ironside, I gave Tithe its first reread. It was superb. As is so often the case, I enjoyed it more the second timeIn preparation for the release of Ironside, I gave Tithe its first reread. It was superb. As is so often the case, I enjoyed it more the second time around. Far and away my favorite Tam Lin retelling, it really does a good job with the themes of sacrifice and love. Plus Roiben is perfect in that hopelessly doomed kind of way....more
I gave this book to my mom, who enjoyed Brooks' previous book Year of Wonders. I didn't pick it up myself until my book group chose it for March's seI gave this book to my mom, who enjoyed Brooks' previous book Year of Wonders. I didn't pick it up myself until my book group chose it for March's selection. I'm slightly torn on this one. I enjoyed the overall experience of reading it. I spent the majority of the novel wishing Marmee were narrating it and not the lackluster Mr. March. He had all the idealism of Emerson and Thoreau, but so little of the wit. He seemed to wilt his way through the novel. But just when I'm most exasperated, March lands himself in a hospital in Washington, D.C. and bang! There's Marmee, fierce and alive and suddenly narrating the story. I was in heaven. Finally the interesting characters take center stage. Marmee, Grace, even John Brooke. The final chapters revert to March's perspective but the whole thing closes on Marmee's spark. Recommended to anyone who loves Little Women....more
I picked this one up on the recommendation of....now I've forgotten who (she says sheepishly). In any event, this is de los Santos' first novel. She iI picked this one up on the recommendation of....now I've forgotten who (she says sheepishly). In any event, this is de los Santos' first novel. She is an accomplished poet and her way with words is evident throughout this charming debut. When I read the dedication, I knew this book and I would get on together. The book is dedicated to her significant other, with the lines, "You're the Nile, You're the Tower of Pisa." Ah, Cole Porter. What follows is essentially an homage to the films and film stars of the 1930s and 40s, particularly The Philadelphia Story. Not far in Cornelia, our protagonist, notes, "Jimmy Stewart is always and indisputably the best man in the world, unless Cary Grant should happen to show up." I nod my head, Yes, this is true. I liked Cornelia and the way she viewed her life as a film, waiting for Cary Grant to walk through her door. I liked Teo and his wonderful, warm Jimmy Stewart. I even liked Martin's flawed Cary Grant and the choice Cornelia makes between the two. In this book, refreshingly, the adults manage to take control of things at the right point, so that 10-year-old Clare is not forced to make it all come together herself. Cornelia's tiny hands held onto them all so tightly, how could they not come to love each other? I did....more
Clocking in at over 700 pages, this doorstopper has no right to be anywhere near as entertaining as it is. But it is so entertaining. Kostova knows hoClocking in at over 700 pages, this doorstopper has no right to be anywhere near as entertaining as it is. But it is so entertaining. Kostova knows how to pace a tale so that her faithful reader never tires or wavers in her interest to see what happens next. I thought for sure I'd bog down somewhere in the middle and have to press on through but I never did. There were points where I stopped to marvel in bewilderment, "How many layers deep is the narrative running now? 4? 5? And yet I can't put it down!" This followed by a smile of intense satisfaction and more fevered page-turning. The story follows an unnamed narrator who recounts for her reader the decidedly unfortunate and increasingly bone-chilling events surrounding the finding of a medieval book, empty but for a rough image of a dragon and the single word "DRAKULYA." And, just like that, the hunt is ON. Kostova's characters are easy to empathize with and she handles scenes of great tension and layered emotion with a deft hand. Highly recommended....more
Our book group selection this month and a good one it was. We had lots of fun discussing corn sex, mushroom fanatics, Italian pig hunters, and the dilOur book group selection this month and a good one it was. We had lots of fun discussing corn sex, mushroom fanatics, Italian pig hunters, and the dilemma of what to eat. We enjoyed some delicious pumpkin black bean soup while we were at it. I particularly liked that Pollan did not, in the end, offer the solution to the problem. Instead he spent his time outlining the many facets of this serious issue and then left it up to each reader to determine (if possible) what she can eat and still be able to live with herself. I feel more informed on the process of how mainstream food gets from the farm to me as well as the organic and locally grown alternatives. My views didn't change drastically through reading the book, but I certainly feel as though from here on out I will take my eating choices more seriously, that my final decisions will be more informed. Always a good end result....more
I ran across CARPE DIEM around four years ago in the Feiwel & Friends catalog. They had the excellent good sense to reprint the wonderful PresidenI ran across CARPE DIEM around four years ago in the Feiwel & Friends catalog. They had the excellent good sense to reprint the wonderful President's Daughter series by Ellen Emerson White, and I wondered what other YA titles they had on the docket at the time. My eye was drawn to this cover right off the bat, and I still think it's just perfect for the book. I love the slightly faded parchment look of it. With the silhouette and the hair and the style it could be anything really. In this case, it's a contemporary novel about a girl who goes on the trip of a lifetime and who's priorities are rearranged a bit as a result. I never hear very much about the book around the blogosphere and I wonder if it just sort of flitted and floated its way by or if others picked it up for its pretty outsides and enjoyed the insides as much as I did. I haven't seen anything else from Autumn Cornwell after this debut, but I would certainly be interested in more from her.
Vassar Spore's parents just went ahead and named their only daughter after one of the most prestigious women's colleges in the country. Unsurprisingly, she grows up a goal-oriented perfectionist intent on winning a Pulitzer Prize and marrying an MIT grad. Yawn. In steps Vassar's bohemian grandma who demands she spend the summer with her backpacking across Southeast Asia. Blackmailed to within an inch of their lives, Vassar's parents give in and off she goes to a region of the world she never thought she'd see. And it's all bugs and dirt and complications from there on out. She encounters a myriad of people and pests from different walks of life and vastly different outlooks from her own. And the girl who thought she was so open-minded and so adaptable discovers she has just a few more things to learn about life before she heads off to college to save the world.
Okay. So I think we can all agree that this plot line could have easily slipped into the predictable too-serious-girl finds there's more to life than book learning . . . but somehow it just . . . doesn't. I kept waiting to succumb to that familiar jaded feeling and it never came. And even though I did predict one key surprise correctly, Cornwell absolutely won me over with her genuine love for her character and the region of the world she was exploring. You could tell the author had traveled herself (and loved it) as there's just that certain kind of wanderlust and experience with being immersed in something wholly other that's difficult to manufacture. It was here in spades and I was suffused with memories of living abroad growing up and studying abroad later in college. Precious memories, every one. This wonderful sense of adventure lent the story a freshness I wholly enjoyed. Vassar's voice is a strong one, one that changes and grows over time, which I always appreciate. Lastly, if none of this has induced you to read the book, all I have to say is you might want to meet the handsome young man Vassar encounters on her sojourn. Because Hanks the Malaysian Cowboy Bodyguard alone is enough reason to read the book. "Hanks plural, not singular." Man, I love that cowboy....more
So we've all been waiting for this book for a year. Not an uncommon occurrence for me, but New Moon ended with such uncertainty, that I was particularSo we've all been waiting for this book for a year. Not an uncommon occurrence for me, but New Moon ended with such uncertainty, that I was particularly anxious to get on with things. I try to imagine Stephenie Meyer sitting down to write the next installment, knowing the extraordinary amount of anticipation and expectation on the part of her readers, and I just cringe. An unenviable position to be in, I would think. I for one loved Eclipse. It was so fun to have all the Cullens back and there the whole time, to hear their stories as well as those of the pack. I'm convinced those tales, along with Bella's increasingly disturbing dreams, will play an important role in the last book. Eclipse was as good as it was because Bella finally gave her chosen future the consideration it deserves, because Edward was, well, perfect in this one, and because Jacob...*sob*...fought as hard as he could. Don't stay away forever, Jake....more
I was really looking forward to this sequel and was happily anxious to hear it picked up right where Beguilement left off. Unfortunately, it didn't qI was really looking forward to this sequel and was happily anxious to hear it picked up right where Beguilement left off. Unfortunately, it didn't quite live up to my expectations. The problem was simple--nothing ever happened. They traveled here. They were ostracized there. Dag went to fight malices over here. Fawn sat around trying to blend in over there. There was none of that exquisite tension that propelled the first book forward. The two main characters seemed so tired and, well, apathetic about the whole thing that I couldn't help but feel the same. The thing is, the writing is so good. And the characters are as well. They just weren't present this time around and I missed them. It felt like the Spark and Dag I loved were being impersonated by slightly lackluster simulacra. But. The ending did leave me with the distinct feeling that the real deal would be back in the next installment (currently titled Passage) and I will snatch it up as soon as it's out....more
13 Stephanie Plum books! It boggles the mind. And it's beginning to be the sign that summer is here. My old friend CK from [http://www.readerville.com13 Stephanie Plum books! It boggles the mind. And it's beginning to be the sign that summer is here. My old friend CK from [http://www.readerville.com] turned me onto the Plum saga when she asked me if I was a babe or a cupcake. I did not know the answer to this question so I started One for the Money. The two men in Stephanie's life, Super Bounty Hunter "May Actually Be Batman" Ranger and Trenton Cop Joe "Reformed Bad Boy" Morelli, refer to her by these nicknames respectively. Roundabout book six I knew I was definitely a babe, being all about the Ranger. Seven books later, Aaron and I read each new installment aloud together, just waiting for another classic Plum moment when all hell breaks loose and Lula stun guns Joyce. Or a stuffed beaver explodes in her living room. I'm still all about the Ranger, but I have to admit (because he's proven it time and again) Morelli's one of the good ones and I'd really miss him if he were gone. ...more
There's nothing like a new Sookie to cheer you up. And this one (#7) is the best one since #5. Harris skillfully weaves in threads from each of the prThere's nothing like a new Sookie to cheer you up. And this one (#7) is the best one since #5. Harris skillfully weaves in threads from each of the previous books in complex ways. It becomes very clear that the events of the past six books have changed Sookie. Her life is not what it was when she met her first vampire (who shall remain nameless here) in a bar in Bon Temps. This theme dovetailed particularly well with the focus on how Louisiana itself was altered by Hurricane Katrina. I like the direction Harris is taking with Sookie and Eric's relationship. I like that she's given her a friend in Amelia. I like where this series is going....more
Hale has proved herself adept at finding obscure fairy tales and reworking them in mouth-watering new ways. Her latest offering is based on the littleHale has proved herself adept at finding obscure fairy tales and reworking them in mouth-watering new ways. Her latest offering is based on the little-known "Maid Maleen" by the Brothers Grimm. A lady and her loyal maid are locked in a tower for seven years as punishment for the lady's refusal to marry the man her father wants her to. The story details their imprisonment in the tower and the adventure that follows. Hale's version is told in diary format from the point of view of the maid--Dashti. I finished this one with mixed feelings. The conclusion I came to is that I wanted more. There was so much potential yet I felt I wasn't allowed to scratch past the surface of things. I liked Dashti, but she didn't have to struggle that hard to get what she got. Or at least her struggle wasn't given the gravity it deserved. Lady Saren, who had quite clearly been driven mad by some atrocious event, was so wonderfully vacant and creepy. I wanted to get to the root of her madness. When I finally found out, it was appropriately weird but it wasn't given enough time or depth. I wanted more. More psychological exploration, more emotion, more pages in general. Her previous books are chock full of it and so this one came off a bit...flat. These comments aside, I always recommend Shannon Hale highly and I eagerly await the fourth Bayern book....more