Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Teaser Tuesday !!!

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!

This week's teaser comes from Shades of Gray by Jackie Kessler & Caitlin Kittredge     "Valerie stood to his left, her hand locked around the elbow of Jumper, a teleporting bank robber.   Jumper was currently wearing stun-cuffs and a crop of bruises, courtesy of Luster's girlfriend."    p. 147

Do you have your own teaser to add into the mix?  Head on over to Should be Reading and add yours --- and check out the other teasers, too!  

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Hypnotist by M.J. Rose

Summary: (from publisher): THE HYPNOTIST (Mira Books), is international bestselling author M.J. Rose’s most mesmerizing novel yet. An adventure, a love story, a clash of cultures, a spiritual quest—it is above all a thrilling capstone to her unique Reincarnationist novels, The Reincarnationist and The Memorist.

Haunted by the 20-year-old murder of his lover – a beautiful young painter – Lucian Glass keeps his dark memories at bay by focusing on his work as a special agent with the FBI’s Art Crime Team. Currently investigating a crazed art collector destroying priceless masterpieces, Glass is thrust into a bizarre hostage negotiation that takes him undercover at the Phoenix Foundation. 

Under hypnosis Glass travels from ancient Greece to nineteenth-century Persia, while the case takes him to New York, Paris and the movie capital of the world. These combined journeys will shatter his understanding of reality, force him to question his sanity and land him at the center of perhaps the most audacious art heist in history: the theft of a 1,500-year-old sculpture from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

And here's what I thought:  I hadn't read either of the two previous Reincartionist novels, so I hoped that wouldn't leave me wondering what was going on when I picked up this book.   I soon realized that I had nothing to worry about.  The story begins with a great first sentence (to me, always a sign that good things are to come): "Time played tricks on him whenever he stood in front of the easel."  Lucian Glass is being introduced here, and it's clear that the author is giving us some important information about him that will come to light later in the book.
This is something the author did continuously through the story: give a little bit of information about someone (or something), and then go back into the story, only to return with another little bit of information.   It was like the author dropped little hints along the way, little pieces of a puzzle for a reader to put together -- to see how cleverly each bit linked into each other to make a clear picture at the end.   I really enjoyed this, as it kept the pacing very taut, like a good thriller.   The dialogue was well-written and characters rounded out, sometimes bit by bit, so I kept turning the pages, just to see what was going to happen, and what would be revealed next.   

The elements of both the art theft and the reincarnation lent an interesting flavor to this story.  Rose has an extremely descriptive writing style, and I felt like I could really see the paintings, and the sculpture.   I also felt like I really could get a clear picture of the different characters in my head.   Let's give an example of that writing, shall we?  How about: "Her eyes were a fiery amber color, like honey made from electrified bees."  (p. 118).     The elements about reincarnation were also fascinating.  Rose adds details about different theories of reincarnation, as well as methods of hypnotism -- kind of like a little snip of nonfiction woven into the fiction here, which I enjoyed.   The past-life regression of some characters also gave the story a completely different twist, as you'd have your previous knowledge of the character, and their motivations, now braided into their past-life, and how that might be influencing who they were at the present.

This might sound a little complicated, but I didn't really find it that way at all.  I got caught up in this story straight away, and before I knew it, was plowing through this book because I just needed to know what was going to happen next.    The fact that there were real elements in this story, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and some of the other settings, really made the story even better for me.   I once visited that museum, and actually, over this last weekend, visited the Art Institute in Chicago, so the timing of reading this book was perfect.    If you enjoy books such as The Da Vinci Code, where there are real elements mixed into the fiction, and the pacing is quick, you'll most likely really enjoy this book, as well.    I plan on going to the library and finding the previous 2 books, just because I liked this one so much. 

Where I got this book:  I received this book from the publisher, in exchange for a review, which I was very happy to provide. 

Friday, June 25, 2010

Switch by Carol Snow

Summary (kind of) (taken from the back of the book): "Don't freak out: it probably wasn't you I woke up in on that stormy night last July.  Notice I said 'woke up in.' I didn't jump in or sneak in or steal in.  I am not a body snatcher or a ghoul.  I am a body switcher, which is totally different.  I don't take over other people's bodies on purpose.  And I always give them back."

And here's what I thought:  Isn't that the coolest paragraph?  I was totally intrigued.  I don't want to give away too much of the plot, but I'll tell a little bit more than what's in that quote above.   Claire lives in a small beach town, where nothing much seems to happen.   Claire herself doesn't seem too extraordinary at first, either; she's got a nice mom, has an average body, and is a really good swimmer (in the ocean and in the pool).  However, she's got a secret: ever since she became a teenager, when there's an electrical storm, Claire switches bodies.  Usually, it's just for a few hours (or until she falls asleep and wakes up in her own body again the next morning).  I said usually, right?  Well, this time, when she switches, Claire winds up in the body of a pretty girl who's just come to Claire's town... and Claire gets stuck.

There were several things I really enjoyed about this story.   First off, Claire is the kind of girl I think I could totally be friends with. She's smart and funny, and she sounds like a normal-looking person (I mean, she's not amazingly gorgeous like some characters I've encountered before).   Other than this whole body-switching thing, Claire just seems cool and down-to-earth.   Her personality and how she deals with switching bodies really made this story an interesting read, because she reflects on her experiences in other bodies, even if it's just for a small amount of time.  For example, Claire has a pretty healthy body self-image, but one of her friends doesn't seem to.  When Claire switches bodies with her friend, and sees how her friend's mom puts pressure on her to look different, Claire does something to make her friend feel a lot better about herself.  I know this might not make a lot of sense, but it will when you read the book.     Body image is something that is a small recurring theme in this story, and something I felt the author really dealt with well.  When Claire switches with the beautiful new girl, she has a lot of fun trying on the girl's clothes, and enjoying being so pretty.   This seemed real to me --- it's something we would all do, right?   And Claire enjoys wearing some of the girl's outfits simply because she knows that in her own body, she'd never be able to wear those things.   But Claire doesn't get down on herself and how she looks; she just gets a kick out of the experience of having a completely different body.   And, the pretty girl's body, although beautiful, isn't perfect.

Claire really discovers a lot about herself, and the people around her, when she gets stuck in the other body.  I really found reading this story interesting because of that; I felt like I was along on the journey.  This was a relatively light read, but it made me think, too!

Where I got this book:  Library!

Time to Hop!!!!!

I realized I last posted on Tuesday, so I'm making up for a little lost time.....   and it's Friday already!!!!   That means it's time for the Book Blogger Hop!!!!!

The Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Jennifer over at Crazy for Books (which you should definitely check out!) and is a great chance to discover blogs (and get your own blog discovered, too)!    I'm a little short on time today, so I plan on hopping either later this evening, or tomorrow morning --- but I plan on discovering some cool new blogs this weekend!!!

this week, I'm using a picture from one of my favorite sites, Disapproving Rabbits (you know, rabbits, hopping....... )

Winner of my Happy Summer giveaway!!!

Congratulations, Amanda!  (comment #4)      Please email me your address and I'll send the package on its way!   :)      My email is LiquidityofTime at Gmail dot com

Thanks, everyone, for commenting!   :)     I hope to have another giveaway in July !!!

* there were only 6 comments, but I did use a randomizer (this was an easy one -- I asked my husband to pick a number between 1 and 6)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Teaser Tuesday!!!

I love Tuesdays, don't you?    Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by Miz B over at Should Be Reading -- What you do is:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page   Somehow, I always seem to need 3 sentences for a complete teaser.....
  • 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!
This week's teaser comes from Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess --- ""I shake my head, too miserable to speak.  I know now that I'm the only one who really understands the threat and if I'm ever going to be free of him, really free, once and for all, then I will have to bite the bullet and spend time in his company.  Stake out the sacrificial lamb.  Uncoil the rope so he can hang himself."   p. 130

I love going around and seeing what everyone else is listing for their teasers --- check out Should be Reading to see the full list!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Wish You Were Dead by Todd Strasser

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):  "The day after anonymous blogger Str-S-d wishes the popular girl would die, Lucy vanishes. The students of Soundview High are scared and worried. Especially frightened and wracked with guilt is Madison Archer, Lucy’s friend and the last person to see her the night she disappeared.
As days pass with no sign of the missing girl, even the attention of Tyler, an attractive new student, is not enough to distract Madison from her growing sense of foreboding. When two more popular students disappear after their names are mentioned on Str-S-d’s blog, the residents of Soundview panic.
Meanwhile, Madison receives anonymous notes warning that she could be next. Desperate to solve the mystery before anyone else disappears, Madison turns to Tyler, but can she trust him when it becomes clear that he knows more than he’s sharing?
The clock is ticking. Madison must uncover the truth behind the mysterious disappearances . . . before her name appears in Str-S-d’s blog."

And here's what I thought:   Sounds creepy, huh?  Definitely.   This story starts out with blog entries from Str-S-d, so you're reading an anonymous person's thoughts, and getting reactions from other (anonymous) people.   And then, the story kicks in, starting with what happens to Lucy.    Madison then takes us through the rest of the story, which is interspersed with more blog entries from Str-S-d, as well as disturbing messages that Madison is getting.   It felt like Todd Strasser kept dropping hints throughout the story, but every time I thought I knew who was behind Lucy's disappearance, or the messages being sent to Madison, I would read something else and completely change my mind.  

However, it felt like the story started to spiral a little out of control at one point.  There are too many possibilities as to who might be a good person, or a bad person, and who Madison can really trust.  While Madison's character was well-written, the other characters at times seemed a little predictable.  In fact, I had moments where I was having flashbacks to the movie Heathers (Tyler reminded me a lot of Christian Slater's character).  And, frankly, I just didn't buy the ending.  But maybe that's just me.  I thought the pace was great, and I kept reading, just because I really wanted to know what was going to happen ---- but the ending left me a little flat.   

Where I got this book:  Library!

Happy Summer giveaway!!!

In honor of the first day of Summer --- and also because I now have 69 followers (which is a very nice number, I must say), I have a little something to give away!

I have an extra copy of Wings --- and I put together a little necklace and earrings this last week.    The necklace has iridescent green beads (kind of like dragonfly wing-color), with a pewter disc with a snail on it.  The earrings are a little delicate, and have green freshwater pearl w/a green bead.

If anyone's interested, please leave a comment --- I don't need tweets, extra blogging -- I'm just happy to have followers who read this blog.   :)       Giveaway ends on Friday, and I'll use a randomizer to choose the winner.     Happy Summer, everyone!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hoppin' along.......

I'm taking this straight from the source:  Jennifer over at Crazy for Books hosts the Book Blogger Hop!  What is it?  "the Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and find new book-related blogs that we may be missing out on!  This weekly BOOK PARTY is an awesome opportunity for book bloggers to connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books!  It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs that they may not know existed!"  

My day today got so crazy that I'm finally hopping now!  Just couldn't let a Friday go by without putting on my hoppin' shoes.......     :)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bad Shoes & The Women Who Love Them by Leora Tanenbaum

I don't think I've ever posted twice in one day (with two book reviews, at least), but I had a long weekend, and whipped through a few books --- and this one was a short, fun read, so I didn't want to wait to share!

 Summary (taken from the back of the book): "Bad Shoes and the Women Who Love Them is a lighthearted but informative wake-up call to women to make smart decisions when buying and wearing fashionable shoes.  It explores the significance of shoes, the psychology behind the foot fetish, the history of foot binding, feminist critiques and celebrations of high heels, and the evolution of elevated shoes."

And here's what I thought:
This was a short book, but packed full of information --- and fun!  Leora Tanenbaum fills this book with facts about how bad shoes can literally wreck your feet (and your back), and why, despite pain, some women continue to buy shoes that are excruciating to wear.   However, it's not a dry book at all!  Even though it's informative, this book is a fun read.   The overall message is: just because a shoe is sexy, doesn't mean that it's good for you.  And sexy shoes can create ugly feet. 

I have to admit, I do have a love of shoes.  However, over the years, I have realized that it's just not worth it to wear shoes that, however beautiful, make walking absolutely excruciating.  However, I can still appreciate a beautiful pair (just like I might appreciate a painting that I will never be able to afford).   I did, however, have several moments during this book where I was thinking, "Yes!", or "Definitely!"  Tanenbaum points out that for some people, shoes become symbolic of a period in our lives, or a certain experience.  I definitely identified with this.  Ok -- get ready for some digression -- if you want to know more about the book, skip to the next paragraph---   I bought a pair of Frye boots (flat, almost engineer-style boots) when I was planning my first trip to Britain.  I wore these shoes throughout the trip, and when I got home, they became my weekend dancing boots (I used to go to an industrial dance club just about every weekend).   I literally wore the boots out, had them re-soled, and had them re-soled a second time.  However, each time they got re-soled, they got a little narrower.... and a tish bit uncomfortable.  Did that stop me from wearing them?  No!  I just wore thinner socks with them.  Eventually, they completely gave out.... but of course, I couldn't throw them away.  No, no, I had to keep them, sitting in the bottom of my closet, just because I had an emotional connection to them.   Finally, this year, I looked at them, and threw them out.  It had been about 12 years, and I got sick of looking at them (finally).    By that point, I didn't feel bad about tossing them.    However ---- this was not the reaction I had when I returned a pair of shoes to Zappos a few years ago.   I had found an absolutely gorgeous pair of green velvet shoes, with ribbons, and a platform heel.  Gorgeous.  So I treated myself to them for my birthday.   Unfortunately for me, when they arrived, I put them on.... and found that they were so painful, I couldn't walk at all in them.  I tell you, I almost cried when I put them back in the box and sent them back.   I resented my toes, which somehow developed arthritis, making it impossible for me to wear the shoes.  But, I didn't think I was going to find a way to wear these beautiful shoes, so I sent them back.   It's been a few years since then, and now that I take a bunch of glucosamine pills every day, the arthritis has gotten better.   And, of course, the shoes don't exist on Zappos any more.   I still miss them.   :)

But I have digressed enough.   I found this a really enjoying read, and while I learned some things I didn't know before I picked it up (including some super-scary stuff about foot surgery), what was nice about this book was that I felt a bit of a connection to the subject.  While I don't torture myself to wear a pair of heels, I could appreciate that sometimes, I do put up with a bit of discomfort (my trick is to wear some shoes only at work, and only for a few hours).   Tanenbaum covered the subject of shoes, and the history of footware, in prose that was funny, and insightful.  I could definitely see giving this book to a few women I know, and then getting together to talk about it (over a bottle of wine -- and some shoes!)    If you've ever had a love of shoes, or felt like you couldn't part with a favorite pair, this is a book for you!

Where I got this book:  LibraryThing Early Reviewers (thank you!!)

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads)On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein, a girl at the periphery of schoolyard games and her distracted parents’ attention, bites into her mother’s homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the cake. She discovers this gift to her horror, for her mother—her cheerful, good-with-crafts, can-do mother—tastes of despair and desperation. Suddenly, and for the rest of her life, food becomes a peril and a threat to Rose.

The curse her gift has bestowed is the secret knowledge all families keep hidden—her mother’s life outside the home, her father’s detachment, her brother’s clash with the world. Yet as Rose grows up she learns to harness her gift and becomes aware that there are secrets even her taste buds cannot discern. 

And here's what I thought:  I had been waiting for this book to arrive at the library, because after I read a few reviews, I was completely intrigued by the story.   And once I started reading, I couldn't put it down.  Lucky for me, I had a long weekend, so I was able to immerse myself in this book.    Aimee Bender has created a story where there's great characters, and a little bit of magic, and a lot of emotion.   As the summary mentions, Rose discovers that when she tastes food, she can taste the emotions of whoever prepared the food (her mother, staff at a bakery, etc).   And, this isn't a good thing --- because sometimes, the emotion is unpleasant, completely overwhelming Rose, and making it difficult to eat at all.  As she gets older, Rose is able to refine her unusual sense of taste, although she turns to junk food at times, just to eat something barely touched by human hands.    However, even though she can refine how she processes the emotions she tastes, she never stops having this experience when she eats.   This means that she is privy to her mother's emotional life as she grows up --- and her mother isn't happy.   On the surface, of course, things appear fine, but Rose knows better.   Imagine the burden this puts on a child, knowing the inner life of one of your parents.

I felt that Aimee Bender wrote a wonderful, creative story.  Rose is a well-written character, interesting and sympathetic.     However, Rose isn't the only interesting character in this story.   While her father seems pretty normal (more or less), and her mother is hiding her unhappiness, it's Rose's brother who is hiding a secret as big as the one Rose is hiding about herself.   It's not quite clear at first what's going on with Rose's brother Joseph, but it's obvious that while he's a genius, that his social skills are a little.... rough.   And, once in a while, he just takes off, which gets a little creepy.   It's not always easy to see what's going to happen next in this story, and that just kept me reading, and reading.   Wonderful, creative storytelling here!  

    I did have a few moments reading this story where I felt a connection to another character in a different book: Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood.   There is absolutely nothing similar between Rose and the main character in the Atwood book, except for the fact that both are young girls who have very strong powers of observation (and genius-level, unusual brothers).  I also had a flashback to Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (where there is also an emotional connection with food).   

Where I got this book:  Library!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Teaser Tuesday!!!

Miz B over at Should Be Reading hosts this fun weekly meme where people can give a little "teaser" of what they're currently reading.   And, not only can you share, but you can see what everyone else is reading, too --- it's a great way to hear about new books, or get ideas of books to add to your TBR list.
The rules are ----
  • 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!
My teaser this week comes from The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender:  "But in the sandwich as a whole, I tasted a kind of yelling, almost.  Like the sandwich itself was yelling at me, yelling love me, love me, really loud."   p. 65

Monday, June 14, 2010

Love You Hate You Miss You by Elizabeth Scott

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):  It's been seventy five days. Amy's sick of her parents suddenly taking an interest in her, and she's really sick of people asking her about Julia. Julia's gone, and Amy doesn't want to talk about it. No one knew Julia like she did. No one gets what life is without her.
                  No one understands what it's like to know that it's all your fault.
Amy's shrink thinks she should keep a journal but instead, Amy starts writing letters to Julia. As she writes letter after letter, she begins to realize that the past holds its own secrets--and that the present deserves a chance.

And here's what I thought:  I actually really liked this book.  I thought it was an interesting story, and I liked Amy (even though she's got issues).  Elizabeth Scott really wrote Amy so well that I forgot a few times that I was reading a made-up person's story -- it just felt real.  Interspersing the story with Amy's journal entries really added to the read, as well.    The story seems pretty straightforward at first: Amy is finishing up a stint in a rehab facility due to her drinking, and something has happened to her best friend, Julia.   We're not sure right away what has happened to Julia, but Amy reveals little bits at a time, building the story into a complete picture throughout the book.  By the time the story is at an end, there's not only an understanding of what happened to Julia, but what the friendship between Amy and Julia was really like. 

As I said, I actually really liked Amy, even though she had some serious screw-up tendencies.   The way that she expressed her thoughts, I felt like I really knew her, and understood where she was coming from.  Her relationship with her parents isn't the best, but it's not like her parents are awful --- they just seem to ignore her.  Her contact with them seems to have her on the outside looking into her parents' relationship with each other, and it's easy to understand why she seeks more connections with people outside of her family.  Julia seems like the perfect friend for her .... or is she?  The more Amy examines her friendship, the more she learns about herself, and what Julia was really like.    Reading this story made me feel like I was tagging along on someone's journey of self-discovery.  And, as I said, sometimes I just got really caught up in this story --- which was a good thing.

And where did I get this book?  Library!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):  First, there were ten - a curious assortment of strangers summoned as weekend guests to a private island off the coast of Devon. Their host, an eccentric millionaire unknown to all of them, is nowhere to be found. All that the guests have in common is a wicked past they're unwilling to reveal - and a secret that will seal their fate. For each has been marked for murder, and one by one they begin to fall prey to an unseen hand. As the only people on the island, unable to leave and unable to call for help, they know that the only possible suspects are among their number. And only the dead are above suspicion.

And this is what I thought:  I went through an Agatha Christie phase when I was about 13, but I hadn't read any of her books for a long time --- and I had remembered really liking this one.  It was also one of the books we read in class when I was a freshman in high school, so I thought it might be fun to re-read it (and it met a requirement for one of my reading challenges, too).   The book was first published in 1939, and although the story remains pretty fresh, reading it now made it seem a little dated, in parts.   The premise of it is pretty simple:  10 different people are invited to Indian Island (all of them being invited by someone they think they know) and once they get there, they are accused of crimes....and then picked off, one by one.   This, of course, ramps up the suspense in the book, and it's hard to tell who's going to be killed next, and who might be the murderer.

It was interesting to re-read this story.  For some reason, I had remembered the house on Indian Island as being old, but in the book, it's described as being very modern, with a lot of big windows looking out to the sea.  Once I had that firmly in my head, imagining the characters was easy again.  They are a disparate bunch: a retired judge, an ex-governess, a spinster, a doctor, etc.  None of them have anything in common, except that they are stranded on this island with each other.  Christie does a nice job of rounding out her characters, although reading it now, some of them seem a little quaint.   I think the best way to read this book is to think of it like watching an old black and white movie (and actually, it was made into a movie) --- it's a little dated, but a good story.  Christie is pretty inventive in the way the characters get murdered one by one, by inserting into the story the old nursery rhyme about Ten Little Indians, and then following that through ("Ten little Indian boys went out to dine;One choked his little self and then there were nine.", etc).   It's very clever, and keeps you guessing as to which character might be next.   And it's tricky to guess who the murderer is (which Christie did in a lot of her books).  There are a lot of twists and turns in this story, and if you've never read Agatha Christie, I think this is the best book to start with.  It was interesting to re-read this; I had remembered who the murderer was, and a few other details, but it was interesting to read it again and fill in some of the other details I had forgotten.

Please note: This book has also been published under the name Ten Little Indians, although the original title was Ten Little N__________ (this is a word I believe all of us find completely offensive, and I absolutely will not put it here).   It should be noted that although the original title was changed, that when the book was published, this would have been seen as acceptable to British publishers.  So, before you get offended, please keep in mind the context of the social mores in 1939.   Hard to believe, I know.   There's a good Wikipedia article about this book, if you're interested. 

This book fulfilled part of my Flashback Challenge, meeting the requirement of a book assigned in high school. 

Friday, June 11, 2010

Fiddling....... with blog designs......

I didn't have enough energy to attempt participating in the Bloggiesta.....   but I spent a bit of time this afternoon fiddling with different backgrounds.    The one I chose is a little dramatic, but there's something about it I just like.

If I could figure out how to get to the background color for the middle section, I'd be happy (there's some html hidden somewhere from a previous template that's mucking things up.....).       I might just try a different template in a few days.

Any thoughts?

Grab your dancing shoes --- it's......

time for the Book Blogger Hop!!!!!     Jennifer over at Crazy for Books has this great weekly event, where book bloggers meet and then hop around, discovering new blogs and new friends ---- it's a lot of fun!!!!       I try to do this every week, and every week, I discover a new blog that I've never seen before!   :)

So, hop on over to Crazy for Books and see what you can discover, too!!! 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

Summary (taken from inside book flap)"Mary Beth Latham has built her life around her family, around caring for her three teenage children and preserving the rituals of their daily life.  When one of her sons becomes depressed, Mary Beth focuses on him, only to be blindsided by a shocking act of violence.  What happens afterward is a testament to the power of a woman's love and determination, and to the invisible lines of hope and healing that connect one human being to another.  Ultimately, as rendered in Anna Quindlen's mesmerizing prose, Every Last One is a novel about facing every last one of the things we fear the most, about finding ways to navigate a road we never intended to travel, and about living a life we never dreamed we'd have to live, but find ourselves brave enough to try."

And here's what I thought: This book was completely amazing.  Anna Quindlen writes in such a way that I get completely lost in her stories, and get caught up in the lives of her characters.   I picked this book up over the weekend and just gulped it down, staying up way past my bedtime to keep reading, and then picking it up again first thing the next morning.    Quindlen's storytelling is so seamless, that even though I had read the book flap, and thought I was preparing myself for what was going to happen, when the "shocking act" finally appeared, I was completely caught off guard.   And no, I'm not telling you what happens.   Suffice to say, I didn't see it coming, and it was worse than anything I had come up with up to that point in the book.

I found myself completely warming to Mary Beth, and feeling like I was really getting to know her through the story.  I like that she's capable, and a good mother, and that her family's not perfect.  Quindlen writes this family as real-life, lumps and bumps and all.  I don't know if I feel like I really identified with Mary Beth and her family, though --- she's nothing like any mother I knew when I was growing up.  However, my parents were pretty strict (and hey, I'm an adult now --- things are different for kids now).    I found this family fascinating, though -- the dynamic between Mary Beth and her children, and for her kids with each other, seems to be written as completely realistic --- I got caught up in this family and what was happening to them.

This was a great read.  I've never been let down by Anna Quindlen, and this book was no exception. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Illyria by Elizabeth Hand

Summary (taken from the inside flap): "Madeline and Rogan are first cousins, best friends, twinned souls, each other's first love.  Even within their large, disorderly family -- all descendants of a famous actress - their intensity and passion for theater set them apart.  And make them a little dangerous.  When they are cast in their school's production of Twelfth Night, they are forced to face their separate talents and futures, and their future together."

And here's what I thought:  I'm familiar with some of this author's other books, most notably a book of short stories, Saffron and Brimstone.  Actually, the full title is: Saffron and Brimstone: strange stories.  And while I love a few of the stories in that book, strange is a very good word to describe the book.    This story, written for a young adult audience, is no exception.  Madeline and Rogan are not your usual teens.  The family overall is somewhat odd, living in a cluster of houses in the same area, so they are all together.   Aunt Kate is the only family member who seems different from the rest, and she's a strong influence on Madeline and Rogan, encouraging them to indulge their love of the theater (even though no one else in the family agrees).  Aunt Kate is beautiful and mysterious, making one wonder if she's some sort of good witch or fairy setting off a chain of events for the two young cousins.   There are other mysterious elements in this story, as well, such as the miniature theatre that Rogan and Madeline discover behind a wall in an attic.  The tiny theatre is both compelling and disturbing, like many elements in this story.

The relationship between Madeline and Rogan is also a little strange.  They are "kissing cousins," the youngest children of identical twin brothers.  Growing up together, they are close friends, but now, at fifteen, their relationship has deepened into love (and some intimacy).  Both Madeline and Rogan seem pretty mature for their age, and the relationship starts getting a little intense, which triggers concern on the part of some other family members.   Please note: Rogan and Madeline's relationship is a sensual one -- they are pretty intimate.  Personally, I was a bit put off by this, as I don't consider cousins as being date material.  However, I didn't find it to be a deterrent to reading this book (just something I kept in the back of my head).

This book kept me reading, but I was constantly questioning what was going on.  Hand seems to imply that Rogan has a bit of magic about himself; he has a mesmerizing singing voice, and he is charismatic, and seems to have an air of mystery about him, as well.  When both he and Madeline become involved in the production of the Shakespeare play, their own intensity seems to rub off on other players.    Elizabeth Hand has a beautiful writing style, and uses language in a way that weaves the story together, even if the reader is wondering where things are going.  She keeps the reader guessing as to the true nature of the characters, and what might happen in the story.   She certainly doesn't shy away from a bit of discomfort on the part of the reader (something which I don't mind at all).   I believe the best description of Hand's writing is to say that it feels like she crafts her stories, layering beautiful language with creative description, into a work, rather than just a story.      I found this to be a completely unusual story, although it reminded me of what I liked best about some of the stories in Saffron and Brimstone.   Although it's written for a YA audience, I believe older teens will warm to this story a little more (and I know some adults who will love this book).  For those of you who want a warning --- there is some mature language in this book.  However, as I said, this is a beautifully written book --- a hint of mature language shouldn't deter you from reading this story.  :)

If you are interested in reading Saffron and Brimstone, please note that this is not a book of stories for a YA audience, and some of the material is a little mature.   I found some of the stories completely resonated with me, while others, well, not so much.  I did have an "Aha!" moment in Illyria -- Madeline mentions later in the story a series of audiobooks about a brave ant -- I believe this refers back to a story in Saffron and Brimstone.  

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Teaser Tuesday!!

Miz B over at Should be Reading hosts this very fun weekly meme --- The rules say:
  • 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!
My teaser this week comes from Illyria by Elizabeth Hand:  "But the toy theater itself never changed.  The proscenium with its paired masks and delicate frieze of languid Muses; the gauzy red curtains, bound in place with gilt thread - day to day, week to week, all remaind unaltered.  The invisible audience rustled and sighed, the invisible actors moved, if they moved at all, in steps unknown to my cousin and me."   p. 59

** that was 3 sentences, I know.....

Monday, June 7, 2010

Scratch my Back -----

I don't usually blog about music, but I've been listening to this CD at work while I've been working on statistics and other stuff --- and I just wanted to say a little something.  I picked up this CD at my library, loved it, returned it, and then picked it up again and really listened to it.  I own several other CDs by Peter Gabriel, and have to say, he is one of my favorite artists.  I have always thought he was a talented musician, and a real artist (not an "artist" like anyone who puts out a CD these days is referred to as --- that's an entry for another day).     This particular CD is actually Peter performing beautifully rendered covers of songs by other artists.  In the liner notes, he explains that this CD was meant to be a project where artists "swapped a song for a song," and that another companion CD is on the way. 

  On this album, Peter covers a wide selection of songs from artists, including David Bowie (Heroes), Paul Simon (The Boy in the Bubble), and Arcade Fire (My Body is a Cage).  I was familiar with about half the songs as performed by the original artists, but listening to Gabriel cover these songs makes them completely new and unique.   The first song on the CD, Heroes, is so beautifully done --- it's like encountering a winter scene of trees that you've only known in summer.  Does that make sense?   Let's try again.   Peter Gabriel takes the bare essence of this song and exposes it, delicately outlining it and showing all of the beauty that is there.   And he does this with the other songs, as well.   Some songs weren't recognizable to me right away --- I had to listen to them again, and really pay attention.   That's art. 

Even if you don't usually think you like Peter Gabriel, and especially if all you know of his music is "Shock the Monkey," or "In Your Eyes," pick up this album.  Listen to it with headphones on.  Better yet, listen to it with headphones on, in a dark room.   Magical.

Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads): The year is 2041, and sixteen-year-old Molly McClure has lived a relatively quiet life on an isolated farming island in Canada, but when her family fears the worst may have happened to her grandparents in the US, Molly must brave the dangerous, chaotic world left after global economic collapse—one of massive oil shortages, rampant crime, and abandoned cities.

Molly is relieved to find her grandparents alive in their Portland suburb, but they’re financially ruined and practically starving. What should’ve been a quick trip turns into a full-fledged rescue mission. And when Molly witnesses something the local crime bosses wishes she hadn’t, Molly’s only way home may be to beat them at their own game. Luckily, there’s a handsome stranger who’s willing to help.

And here's what I thought:  Wow.  Joelle Anthony has really created a great story here, and a heroine I cheered for.  Molly is smart and tough, and she really uses her brain (not her looks, not her sexy voice, etc).  She's not perfect, but she a quick-thinker, and seems to always find something positive in difficult situations.  And, she's a musician (extra bonus points) --- her fiddle, Jewels, is a good friend -- comfort in times of stress, and a source of constant joy (and sometimes, even danger).  I loved how Joelle Anthony wove the music through the story -- it gave a little something special to not only the storyline, but also to Molly, as well.

The world Anthony has created here is one that, unfortunately, I can completely see being a possible future.  It's 2041, and the big governments have seized the oil, turning the economy completely upside down.  Molly lives on a farming island in Canada, where her family is used to growing their own food, and providing their own energy.    When she's chosen by her family to locate her grandparents, Molly sets off into a completely different world than the one she's used to.  However, some people in this world are good, and help her out -- a good thing, considering she's not used to cities, or the way their economy works.  When she finally locates her grandparents, she needs to come up with a plan right away to help them out -- and first things first: food.   Lucky for Molly, the neighbor next door has a garden that needs some help, and she also has a new friend in the neighborhood: Spill.   Spill almost seems a little good to be true, and maybe he's hiding something from Molly....  and no, I'm not telling you what it is.   Suffice to say, he's an important person to Molly, and integral to what happens in the story.

This book was a great mix of adventure and a little bit of romance thrown in.  The pacing was fast, and I really enjoyed the story -- I whipped through this in a short time because I was having so much fun reading!

Where did I get this book?  Library, naturally!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Wonderful award!!!

One of my favorite bloggers, Amanda, sent an award my way!!!!   This is a wonderful way to end my week (especially now that my sinus infection has cleared up and I can breathe/sleep normally again).   And, it's a beautiful day outside ---- perfect!   :)

The rules of the award say to share seven things about yourself and to pass the award on to 15 more blogs I've recently discovered.   Amanda was sneaky and she didn't share anything (but she's been superbusy, so it's ok).  ;)~      So let's see.... seven things.....

1) I am the only one in my family who is a hockey fan.  I'm obviously an aberration in the genetic strain.
2) I do have a tendency to yell at the TV when I'm watching the Blackhawks, and have been known to punch my husband in the arm when I get excited.  He now sits on my left side (I'm right-handed).
3)  I have a little starfish beanie that travels with us and gets his picture taken everywhere.  Right now, the starfish is in Florida with a friend of mine, but in the past, he's been to Britain, Italy, Zimbabwe... and Wisconsin.
4) I have a hard time always respecting that my little grey bunny is a fierce creature --- he's so cute that I want to pick him up and snug him all the time.
5)  I like to fiddle around with beads and jewelry.  Natural stones are my favorite, but I also love glass.
6)  I don't really like to mow the lawn, and wish we had a bit less grass.
7) My favorite speed to go on the highway is 80.

Ok --- and now on to the fun part --- passing this award on to other bloggers!!!   I'm actually passing this along to 7 bloggers (I can think of 15, but a few seem to already have this award......)      And please stop by Amanda's blog --- it's very cool!  

In the Library of Lady Violet                         Lucy Was Robbed  
  Paper, Pens & Lipgloss                  Portrait of a Woman
She is Too Fond of Books                                                      The Crowded Leaf
Starmetal Oak

Friday, June 4, 2010

Lies (a Gone novel) by Michael Grant

Michael Grant has done it again.  He's continued this gripping story with the same interesting characters, adding in more elements of danger (and a few new characters) to keep the pace quick and the story compelling.  This book continues the story started in Gone, and Hunger, where all of a sudden, everyone over the age of fifteen vanishes from the area of Perdido Beach.  Left to fend for themselves, the kids who are left need to figure out what to do.  As if being left completely on their own wasn't scary enough, some of the kids have developed powers (some of them strange, and some just plain dangerous).  When this book begins, it has been seven months since all the adults disappeared... and things aren't getting any better.  Lines are starting to be drawn between "mutants" and the "Human Crew," food and water are becoming dangerously low, and desperation is setting in.

If you haven't read the other two books, this one probably won't make any sense.  However, if you have read the first two, rest assured that the characters you've gotten to know are still here, and the tension in the story is still high.  Michael Grant has done a great job of keeping this storyline completely taut -- there's seamless transition from one book to the next, and the quick pace never lets up.  Grant lets us get to know some of the characters in more depth here, including Sam and Astrid, but we also get to know a few other, as well (like Orsay, whose power seems to have increased since we first met her).  The situation is also kept pretty true: the effects of food deprivation are starting to show, and the realities of what might be coming next for these kids become clearer and clearer.  Imagine a world where there's no doctors, and only one Healer (who may or may not be enough to help).  Food's running low, there's no electricity, and fresh water's becoming scarce. And, oh yeah, you're maybe only fifteen (not necessarily a lot of life skills at this point in your life).  And what do you do if you're only 5 years old?

I enjoyed this book just as much as the first two.  The situation is horrific, but I'm completely fascinated -- I suppose it's like an accident you just can't help but watch unfold.  Grant also brings up some interesting things for the reader to think about, long after the book's finished.  My only complaint is that I now have to wait for the next book to come out.  I had read the first one a while back, re-read it and got the second one, and then got this third book right away when it came into the library.  Now, I just have to wait......  which I know is a sign of a great book.  :)

And where did I get this book?  Library!            **and sorry, no picture today -- computer I'm using isn't cooperating........

it's time to Hop!!!!

Have we reached Friday yet?  I don't know about all of you, but this week has been a long one.....    but now we've reached Friday, and it's time to Hop!!!!!     Crazy for Books hosts the weekly Book Blogger Hop, this cool, fun way to meet other bloggers.     I'm finally at the end of a horrendous sinus infection, so I didn't really hop around last Friday.  But, I'm almost completely back on my feet, so I plan to do some major hopping today, and this weekend!!!

So, hop on over to Crazy for Books and see who else is joining in the fun this week!!!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Separate Peace by John Knowles

I re-read this book because it met the requirements of one of my challenges, and also because I was curious to see if I'd remember most of the story.   This is Knowles' first published novel, and was released in 1959 and is a coming-of-age story told from the viewpoint of Gene, who is revisiting his old prep school fifteen years after graduation.  Gene's story reflects upon his time spent at the school, from the summer of 1942 to the summer of 1943, and basiclaly focuses on his relationship with his best friend and roommate, Phineas (a/k/a Finny).  The two boys are really polar opposites, but Finny is a powerful personality, and his friendship with Gene has a strong influence on decisions that Gene makes during this time period.

So how did this re-read go?  I actually did remember certain parts of the storty quite clearly, even though I had read this as a freshman in high school.  Parts of it came back as I read, although there was enough that I didn't remember to make this feel like I was reading it for the first time.  I can see why this book was assigned reading at the time: coming-of-age, friendship, personal struggles.  However, I have never quite identified with Gene.  Maybe it's because I'm female.  Maybe it's because I can't really identify with growing up in the 1940s.  Or maybe, just maybe, I don't really like him that much.  At times, Gene isn't really that bad -- he's very studious, has some athletic ability, and seems like an all-around okay guy.  However, he has some weakness of character that I find distasteful.  Perhaps I see Gene as being unappealing simply because Finny seems like a much more interesting character.  Don't get me wrong; Finny's not perfect.  At times, he comes across as a bit annoying, a little too enthusiastic, a little too much.  However, he's very comfortable with himself, and I find that attractive.  Gene, on the other hand, as much as he's good friends with Finny, sometimes lets his envy of Finny become a real impediment to being a good friend.

I don't know if I would tell every reader to pick up this book.  I do think it's a good story, and is well-written, with a good pace, and good narration.  In fact, I wonder if it might be better listened to, as an audiobook.  As far as coming-of-age stories go, from around this time period (not as much when they were written, but when they were popular books to be assigned reading), it's not bad, and I much prefer it to The Lord of the Flies, or A Catcher in the Rye (the first book I find tolerable, but the second I detest wholly).

Where did I get this book?  Gave away my copy long ago, so borrowed from the library.

Challenges:  Flashback Challenge  and Bart's Bookshelf 2010 Reading Challenge

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Days of Grace by Catherine Hall

Summary (taken from the back of the book):  "At the beginning of World War II, twelve-year-old Nora Lynch is one of thousands of London children sent away to the safety of the English countryside.  Her surrogate family, Reverend and Mrs. Rivers and their daughter Grace, are like no one she has ever met, offering shelter, affection, and the sister she never had.  But Nora is too young and too naive to understand the cracks beneath the surface of her idyllic new life at the rectory or the disappointments of the Rivers' marriage.  And as her friendship with Grace grows more intense, she aches to become even closer.  What happens next is a secret she keeps for more than fifty years, a secret that she can begin to reveal only when, elderly and alone, she knows that she is close to the end." 

And here's what I thought:  the back of of the book mentions, "Fans of Atonement and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society will find this atmospheric, tautly plotted novel irresistible."   Well, I have not read Atonement, but I did read Guernsey, and I'm not sure if I would totally agree with the statement that I should also love this book.  It's true at all of them are war stories, set in England, with prominent female characters.   This story does have a taut plot, and great pacing.   And, while I didn't always love the main character, I did want to keep reading to find out more of her story.

The story is told directly from the viewpoint of Nora Lynch, at times in the present, where she is an old woman battling an illness, and at times, in the past, where she is reflecting upon her younger self.   She's written in a very realistic way, flaws and all ;at times, I was exasperated by her.  However, Hall brings to this story a character I found difficult not to care about.    When Nora is twelve (an age that can be tricky for any of us --- just on the cusp of many changes), her mother sends her away to a safer place, not knowing anything about the people who are going to take her in.   Nora and her mother are obviously poor, but this isn't the only change that Nora faces when she meets the Rivers family.   Nora's also Catholic, an element which is woven throughout this story, as Nora finds she turns to her Catholic upbringing to explain things that are happening in her life (for better or for worse).

One of the main themes in this story is friendship, and relationships in general.   Grace, the daughter of Reverend and Mrs. Rivers, is like the sister Nora never had.   Her relationship with Nora is something that drives this story, and the reader experiences, through Nora's telling, the changes that occur as the two girls grow up, amidst the tense backdrop of the war.   Grace isn't always nice, so be forewarned: this isn't always a rosy, beautiful story of flawless friendship.   In fact, Nora's relationship with Grace even affects how she relates to other people as a much older adult.  

The alternating chapters moved effortlessly from time period to time period, always allowing some understanding into how Nora's present reflected her past.  Both the characters and the setting were written very realistically; I had no times when I put the book down, thinking, "It was a war.  That wouldn't have happened." Even when I would grow frustrated with Nora's character, I never once felt she wasn't written in a true way.    I found this book very difficult to put down, and basically read it over two days (lucky for me -- I had plenty of reading time recently, as a lovely summer cold has been keeping me awake at night with an annoying cough).  This is a book I actually would recommend to readers who enjoyed Guernsey (no, I'm not typing the entire long title here --- I referred to it at the beginning of my post), and Atonement.   I found it to be well-written, and an enjoyable read.   

This book was very nicely sent my way courtesy of the Publisher, and I thank them for it!
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