Thursday, April 30, 2009

Booking Through Thursday -- 4/30

Which is worse?
Finding a book you love and then hating everything else you try by that author, or
Reading a completely disappointing book by an author that you love?

Hmmmm... I would have to say finding a book you love and then hating everything else you try by that author. This has happened to me a few times. My greatest example of this is My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult. I loved My Sister's Keeper and was so excited to find that she had written a ton of books. So I started through them, each with the hope that they would be as good as My Sister's Keeper. Maybe my expectations were too high because I have not found another Picoult book that I truly liked. Did I hate them? No, but I did stop reading her books.

What about you? (Want to play along? Then go to Booking Through Thursday.)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My Interview on Ink and Paper!

I was interviewed by Jo from Ink and Paper!

If you haven't had a chance to check out Jo's blog, please stop by and check out all her fantastic fantasy book reviews.

To check out my interview with Jo, click on book blogger interview.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Review -- Eating Heaven

Eating Heaven
by Jennie Shortridge
Published by Penguin, 2005
269 pages

Summary: Eleanor Samuels has a dangerous relationship with food. When her Uncle Benny becomes sick, she rearranges her life to care for him. Over the course of his illness, Eleanor uncovers a family secret, finds her own personal strength, and works to love food again.

Review: I absolutely loved this novel. Jennie Shortridge writes a gem of a book filled with a perfectly paced plot that seamlessly slides between Eleanor's present difficulties and ties them to past memories. The plot continually deepens the reader's understanding of Eleanor's character and actions. At the heart of the novel is a woman's journey to understand a healthy relationship with food in a society where butter and sugar are evil and feelings of guilt are tied to every forkful of spice cake. A beautiful book that reminds us to live everyday as if it is our last. Rating:****1/2 out of 5.

Want a second opinion? Check out Mary's review at Bookfan-Mary.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Review -- Turning Tables

Turning Tables
by Heather & Rose MacDowell
Published by Bantam, 2009
324 pages
Summary: Erin Edwards scores a job the hip New York eatery Roulette. As she navigates the crazy world of waitressing, she has to deal with insane restaurant owners and an egomaniacal chef. Eventually, she falls for one of her customers and learns to love herself.
Review: Turning Tables in a fun infectious novel that makes me never want to be a waitress. The book is filled with many cringe-worthy and embarrassing situations that made me empathize with Erin and want her to succeed. My favorite character was Cato, Erin's waiting partner - in - crime, who acts as her mentor and the book's comedy relief. The plot is fast paced but sometimes left minor characters in its wake. Another worry was Erin's obsession with her status as a waitress in New York society. I felt this story line made Erin seem whiny at times and is never fully resolved in the end. Rating: *** out of 5.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Friday Finds -- 4/24

My Friday Find this week is Best Intentions by Emily Listfield. Here is the Barnes and Noble description:

What happens when you think you know the person you love — and you're dead wrong?
From the acclaimed author of Waiting to Surface comes the story of four college friends whose reunion reawakens old desires and grudges — with fatal results. After tossing and turning all night, thirty-nine-year-old Lisa Barkley wakes up well before her alarm sounds. With two daughters about to start another year at their elite Upper East Side private school and her own career hitting a wall, the effort of trying to stay afloat in that privileged world of six-story town houses and European jaunts has become increasingly difficult, especially as Manhattan descends into an economic freefall. As Lisa looks over at her sleeping husband, Sam, she can't help but feel that their fifteen-year marriage is in a funk that she isn't able to place. She tries to shake it off and tells herself that the strain must be due to their mounting financial pressures. But later that morning, as her family eats breakfast in the next room, Lisa finds herself checking Sam's voicemail and hears a whispered phone call from a woman he is to meet that night. Is he having an affair? When Lisa shares her suspicions with her best friend, Deirdre, at their weekly breakfast, Deirdre claims it can't be true. But how can Lisa fully trust her opinion when Deirdre is still single and mired in an obsessive affair with a glamorous photographer even as it hovers on the edge of danger? When Deirdre's former college flame, Jack, comes to town and the two couples meet to celebrate his fortieth birthday, the stage is set for an explosive series of discoveries with devastating consequences.
Filled with suspense and provocative questions about the relationships we value most, Best Intentions is a tightly woven drama of love, friendship and betrayal.

Doesn't it sound fantastic? Click here to go to Emily Listfield's website.

Have a great weekend,

Booking Through Thursday -- 4/23

Question suggested by Barbara H:
My husband is not an avid reader, and he used to get very frustrated in college when teachers would insist discussing symbolism in a literary work when there didn’t seem to him to be any. He felt that writers often just wrote the story for the story’s sake and other people read symbolism into it.
It does seem like modern fiction just “tells the story” without much symbolism. Is symbolism an older literary device, like excessive description, that is not used much any more? Do you think there was as much symbolism as English teachers seemed to think? What are some examples of symbolism from your reading?

I do think symbolism is an older device. It seems that all the novels I read are either plot or character driven and symbolism is left behind. With that said, I asked author Anita Diamant at our last book club author chat what the symbolism of the dogs were in The Last Days of Dogtown. I really thought this was a great question, that there was some bigger message I was missing in the symbolism. Her answer was that she doesn't use symbolism in her writing. I am still a little embarrassed. So maybe symbolism is something that the reader finds even if it wasn't the intent of the author.
But there are also novels such as Shelter Me by Juliette Fay. I would think that the porch being built is a symbol of the main character trying to rebuild her life after her husband's death. Was that the author's intent or am I just seeing connections where there aren't any?
What do you think? (Want to play along? Go to Booking Through Thursday)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

DVD Review -- Twilight

Summary: Bella moves to Forks where she meets and falls in love with Edward (who just happens to be a vampire).

Review: I really enjoyed the novel Twilight, so I had very low expectations for this film. Very rarely do I like the movie if I enjoyed reading the book. Twilight, as a movie, was okay. I have some issues with the special effects, the white face makeup didn't look like porcelain, the shining of the skin was very different from what I imagined in my head, etc... The acting was pretty good. I liked Kristin Stewart as Bella and Robert Patterson was very moody and projected a lot of pain as Edward. Overall, it kept my interest for the 2 hours, but if I had more time I would rather just reread the book. Rating: **out of 5

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Review-- The Girl She Used to Be

The Girl She Used to Be
by David Cristofano
Grand Central Publishing, 2009
256 pages

Summary: Melody is a twenty six year old woman who lives an uncertain life in the Federal Witness Protection Program. Being transported to a new location, she unexpectly meets Jonathan Bovaro, the son of the mobster her parents were to testify against before their murder. They leave together trying to outrun federal agents and mob enforcers in order to get what Melody wants most: a normal life.

Review: I read The Girl She Used to Be in one afternoon. Fast paced with quick turns and twists, the novel was a great read. The characters of Melody and Jonathan are likable, brought together because they both want the freedom of a normal life. Cristofano's prose easily flows making the dialogue and action jump off the page. My only complaint was the ending, which worked for the novel, but not for my romantic side. Rating:**** out of 5

Monday, April 20, 2009

It's Monday! What are you reading? -- 4/20

Happy Monday!

I had a very productive weekend. I read two books by Lisa Kleypas (Devil in Winter and Suddenly You), they were fun reads that were perfect for this weekend. I also read The Girl She Use To Be by David Christofano and will post my review tomorrow.

The books I am currently reading:

God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens: I am about four chapters in and dragging my feet on this one. I usually do not read non-fiction and I am finding it very dense. I will continue to work on this.

Matrimony by Joshua Henkins: This is our book club selection for May. I am 20 pages in and so far it is great.

What are you reading?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Friday Finds -- 4/17

This week my Friday Finds are:

Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey

This was recommended to me through Library Thing. It is suppose to be the next Twilight and I have read some really good reviews concerning it.

Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas

This book was on the New York Times Bestseller List this week. It sounds like a light, fun romance. After the dense stuff I have been reading lately, I could use a little fun and romance.

Please check out my reviews of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and I'm Not Scared (my second selection for the 1% Well Read Challenge). Also, if you are digging my blog, please consider becoming a follower. Thanks!

Have a great weekend,

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Booking Through Thursday -- 4/16

Yesterday, April 15th, was Tax Day here in the U.S., which means lots of lucky people will get refunds of over-paid taxes.
Whether you’re one of them or not, what would you spend an unexpected windfall on? Say … $50? How about $500?

If it was a lot of money, I would probably split the windfall in half and spend the first half on paying off my student loans and then donate the second half to my local public or school library. If it was a smaller amount, I would most likely buy bookshelves for my apartment and work on filling them with books. (I very rarely spend money on books. Mostly, I get all my books from the library.)

What about you?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Review -- I'm Not Scared

I'm Not Scared
by Niccolo Ammaniti
Cannongate, 2001
200 pages
1% Well Read Challenge Selection #2

Summary: During a hot summer in a small town in Italy, nine year old Michele learns a secret that tears apart his childhood and the community he lives in.

Review: I'm Not Scared is part coming of age story and part morality tale. Niccolo Ammaniti writes in the head of nine year old Michele with ease and gives his characters wonderful depth. Although the plot was not as scary as I anticipated, the ending was a shock and left me wanting more. Michele is the moral center of the novel and makes the reader question what is truly right from wrong. How much courage would you have to do what is right if it meant standing up to your family and friends? A great novel that made me continue to question and think even after the last page was read, I'm Not Scared is a wonderful read. Rating: ****out of 5

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Review -- Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
Published by Quirk Books, 2009
317 pages

Disclaimer: I didn't realize until yesterday that there is some controversy surrounding this book in the blogger community (not sure what I am talking about? read this post by trish at hey lady). I am reviewing this book on my own. I did not receive a free copy from Quirk Books or the author.

Summary: Seth Grahame-Smith takes the characters and plot of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and adds a 55 year plague that turns people into zombies. The Bennet sisters are warriors who protect their home from the undead while their mother schemes to marry them off.

Review: If you can't get enough Jane Austen remakes or the retooling of her classic stories, then Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is for you. Seth Grahame-Smith carefully tweaks the Bennet sisters into skillful warriors, but keeps their characters intact. Jane is still exceedingly nice, Kitty is still silly, and Mrs. Bennett is still embarrassingly brash -- now they just have zombies to contend with. The plot is somewhat altered, some of the minor characters find themselves in different situations then the original, but the book is so much fun, the reader will not mind. Rating: ****out of 5

Monday, April 13, 2009

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Review -- Anybody Out There?

Anybody Out There?
by Marian Keyes
Published by HarperCollins, 2006
456 pages

Summary: Anna Walsh wakes up in her parents' house in London. At first, she doesn't remember how she became injured or why her husband is not returning her calls. Against the advice of her family, she returns to her life in New York to figure out what happened.

Review: I'd like to thank Book Club Girl for suggesting this book. Anybody Out There is an entertaining novel that examines what happens when a person's perfect life is changed in one tragic moment. Marian Keyes has a light, conversational writing style that makes it hard to put the novel down. Her main character, Anna, is extremely likable and is supported by a cast of diverse characters. I especially enjoyed Anna's relationship with her family, a clan of unique individuals who truly love and support each other. Through these characters, Keyes is able to infuse very funny scenes among the sad circumstances in the plot. The plot is fast moving and makes the novel a joy to read. Rating:**** out of 5

Booking Through Thursday -- 4/9

Here’s the question:
Some people read one book at a time. Some people have a number of them on the go at any given time, perhaps a reading in bed book, a breakfast table book, a bathroom book, and so on, which leads me to…
Are you currently reading more than one book?
If so, how many books are you currently reading?
Is this normal for you?
Where do you keep your current reads?

I am currently reading one book, I'm Not Scared by Niccolo Ammaniti. I am only reading one because I just finished two others and reviewed them for my blog. I am in a transitional period where I pick one or two more books to start. I usually read 2 or 3 books at a time. I read one challenge book, one book club book, and one book for fun. I keep my current reads all over the place -- the dining room table, my nightstand, the coffee table in my living room, etc...

How about you?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Review -- November 22, 1963

November 22, 1963
By Adam Braver
Published by Tin House Books, 2008
203 pages

Summary: November 22, 1963 is a historical fiction novel about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The story is partly told through First Lady Jackie Kennedy's experiences and partly through witnesses, White House staff, and medical personnel.

Review: Adam Braver's portrayal of Jackie Kennedy is elegant and engaging. His words make you grieve along with Jackie as she tries to make sense of what has happened to her husband and ultimately her life. I loved the parts of the story with Jackie, but was disappointed by some of the other individual stories in the book. At times, they seemed sporadically placed and I had trouble understanding the connection between some of the stories. Maybe I am looking too deep to find a connection, maybe the connection is love -- love for their country, love for their president. Or maybe it is grief, the collective way the country grieved for John F. Kennedy. During these breaks in the story, it felt more like a history lesson at times -- how they preformed the autopsy, how the coffin was paid for in Dallas, how the limo was cleaned and used again. Yet, both the fiction and the lessons together made for an interesting novel about a part of American history I knew very little about. Rating: *** out of 5

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Talking with Anita Diamant

At last night's book club meeting, we had the privilege of speaking with Anita Diamant, author of The Last Days of Dogtown. Anita Diamant is from Massachusetts where the novel takes place and actually owns a house on Cape Ann -- the setting of The Last Days of Dogtown. To research the novel, Ms. Diamant used resources found at the local historical society as well as the Newton Public Library to give the novel the historical accuracy needed. Ms. Diamant told the group that while Judy Rhimes was the 'emotional center' of the novel, she felt that the key to her novel was the relationships between the characters. We also learned about her writing process and the 3 years of research and writing it took to make The Last Days of Dogtown the novel it is today. Anita Diamant's next book, Day After Night, set in Palestine in 1945 will be in bookstores this September. Thanks once again to Anita Diamant for taking the time to discuss The Last Days of Dogtown with us. We look forward to reading her next book.

**Next month's book club selection is Matrimony by Joshua Henkin. We will also be speaking with Mr. Henkin at our monthly meeting so look for my review and post detailing our conversation.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Jason Statham Mini-Marathon

Since I watched both Death Race and The Transporter 3, I thought I would post them together.

Death Race Review: Jensen Ames (Jason Statham) is wrongly convicted of his wife's murder and is sent to prison. The year is 2012 and the prison is run by a corporation that makes its money running a death race, a three day pay per view event that puts prisoners in cars armed with machine guns. First prisoner to cross the finish line alive wins. The warden makes Jensen compete in the race as fan favorite Frankenstein. If he wins, she will release him from prison. This film is very violent, very bloody, and somewhat cheesy. With all that said, it was very entertaining. Rating: *** out of 5

Transporter 3 Review: Frank Martin (Jason Statham) is trying to live a quiet law abiding life. Until the driver he recommended for a dangerous job crashes through his house and dies with two duffel bags in the trunk and a girl in the back seat. Frank is given no choice, drive the package or be blown up by the explosive bracelet strapped to his wrist. This film was awful, the plot was incoherent, there was no chemistry at all between Statham and his leading lady. Rating:* out of 5.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Friday Finds -- 4/3

I have two Friday Finds this week. The first is God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens. Mr. Hitchens will be giving a lecture at the university I work at in a few weeks. I am planning on attending the lecture, thought I would read his book and then blog about his book and appearance. I found this quote (which I love) on the Barnes and Noble website:

The New York Times - Michael Kinsley
… Hitchens has outfoxed the Hitchens watchers by writing a serious and deeply felt book, totally consistent with his beliefs of a lifetime. And God should be flattered: unlike most of those clamoring for his attention, Hitchens treats him like an adult.

My second Friday Find is Skeletons of the Feast by Christopher Bohjalian. For book club I read both Before You Know Kindness and The Double Bind (which is one of my all time favorite books). We also had a chance to speak with Mr. Bohjalian when we discussed The Double Bind and were very impressed with the insight he gave in regards to his work. This sounds like a fantastic romance and I am very much looking forward to reading it.

Just some programming notes: Next week, I will have reviews on November 22, 1963 by Adam Braver (I was hoping to have it done this week, but time got away from me) and Anyone Out There by Marian Keyes. I am also making progress on selection 2 of the 1% Well Read Challenge, I'm Not Scared by Niccolo Ammaniti . If you have a chance, check out my recent reviews of The Last Days of Dogtown by Anita Diamant, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, and my DVD reviews of Henry Poole is Here and The Duchess.

Have a great weekend,


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Review -- The Last Days of Dogtown

The Last Days of Dogtown
by Anita Diamant
Published by Scribner, 2005
261 pages
April 2009 Book Club Selection

Summary: Anita Diamant's novel follows the lives of a group of settlers living in Dogtown as they endure the hardships of life and death.

Review: This book was very unique in its structure. In the first chapter, we meet all the inhabitants of Dogtown as they come together to look over the dead body of Abraham Wharf. Meeting so many characters at once was a little overwhelming, I worried that I would not remember everyone. However, each subsequent chapter tells a story about one of the characters that we meet in the beginning. Through each of these stories, we learn more and more about the individuals who make Dogtown their home. Around half way through the novel, I realized that I cared what happened to some of these characters, I didn't want Oliver to get into trouble and ruin his future and I wanted Judy to find love. Overall, a beautifully written book about a difficult time in early American history, ripe with interesting and entertaining characters. Rating: **** out of 5

**Don't forget to check out my book club posting on April 6th to get the details of our discussion with the author, Anita Diamant.

Booking Through Thursday -- 4/2

Suggested by Barbara:
I saw that National Library week is coming up in April, and that led to some questions. How often do you use your public library and how do you use it? Has the coffeehouse/bookstore replaced the library? Did you go to the library as a child? Do you have any particular memories of the library? Do you like sleek, modern, active libraries or the older, darker, quiet, cozy libraries?

I actually work in a library (but I am not a librarian). I started out as an elementary school teacher, but after budget cuts I was let go. I was out of work for 7 months, trying to never spend any money because I didn't know when I would start receiving a paycheck again. The public library in town was my solace. It was free and I could find hours of entertainment to keep my mind off my worries for a few hours a day. I was always a reader as a kid and like going to the library, but the time I spent there during the 7 months made me realize what I really wanted to do -- work in a library. A few months later, I actually got a part-time job at my town library and eventually found my current full-time job in a university library. To this day, my favorite part of the library is to stand in the stacks, shelves bursting with books, not a soul around, and explore all the books around me.
What about you?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

DVD Review -- Henry Poole is Here

Summary: When Henry Poole (Luke Wilson) is stricken with a mysterious disease, he decides to buy a house in the neighborhood where he grew up and waits to die. His nosy neighbors have other ideas, especially when next door neighbor Esperanza believes that she sees the face of Christ on the side of Henry's house.

Review: A movie about having hope in the most difficult situations, Henry Poole is Here is a lovely, sullen film filled with great characters. Through the characters of Henry and Esperanza we see two very different sides of life, one of faith and one of despair. Luke Wilson (mostly known from comedies such as Old School) gives a wonderful performance as an angry and sad man who is afraid to believe in God or hope for something more. Beautifully shot with wonderful quiet moments filled with great music, Henry Poole is Here is not to be missed. Rating:**** out of 5