Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Devil in Silver

For my second read in December I read, The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle.  The book tells the story of Pepper, a man living in New York City who is mistakenly committed to a mental institution.  While there he meets quite the cast of characters, including one they call "the devil".  Much of Pepper's efforts while in the hospital are spent on escape attempts and figuring out if the devil really exists.

I don't remember how I stumbled across this book.  Likely I was reading a best of 2012 list and got linked to it somehow.  Anyway, I'm glad I did since it was quite an enjoyable read.

At 400+ pages, it has some moments where it gets a little wordy and has some portions I didn't think were super important to the story but I'm letting that slide in this review since I really enjoyed LaValle's writing style.  He is telling you the story at hand, but also talks directly to the reader sometimes (in quotes) and incorporates elements I wasn't expecting.  Like he bring Van Gogh into things.  I'll let you read how, but I was impressed how LaValle pulled things together.  His characters are also very well written.  Complex surely, but relatable despite the fact that they are institutionalized.

Blurbs on the back book jacket talk about how this "literary horror" is "profoundly terrifying" and that LaValle "wants to scare the living &#^$% out of the reader".  I'd like to clarify that by this (I think) they mean with his portrayal of the truly awful conditions of the mental hospital in the book.  Despite the word "devil" in the title, it's the poor conditions of mental heath care system that scared me.  Not only because they are described in a way which is frightening but because I'm afraid that a lot of what happens in the book happens in the REAL mental health care system here in the U.S.. 

Overall, I would recommend reading this book.  I'm also proud to say that I achieved my goal of reading 24 books this year (26 actually!) and I'm very thankful to those who have been reading our blog.  Here's to reading a lot of books next year as well!  I hope you'll keep coming back to read some reviews, find out which books are worth checking out and share your reading adventures/recommendations with us too.  Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Why Have Kids?: A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness

For my first read in December I read, Why Have Kids?:  A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness by Jessica Valenti.  It is a non-fiction book that asks the question "Why have kids?" and gives us some insight to how looking at the truths about parenting could make one happier than going into it ill prepared and being disappointed.

I don't have any kids.  I would like some one day but currently I don't have any.  I have always wondered why people have kids though.  To make their family "complete"?  To bring joy to their lives?  To have more hands to help out around the house?  The media and people we interact with often talk about the happiness only parenting can bring but I don't have any illusions about the fact that being a parent will be hard.

Many people however, don't want to tell you this.  They say that being a parent will make you happy or that your family isn't complete without children.  What I enjoyed about this book is that Valenti addresses this issue (along with many others) and drops a truth bomb on you, parenting does not automatically equal happiness.  For some, parenting might be the the thing that makes them feel complete and purposeful, but that's not how it is for everyone and that is OK.

I recommend reading this book whether you are a parent or not, it's just an interesting read.  It covers all the "mommy war" topics (breastfeeding, stay-at-home vs working moms, maternal instinct, etc) and gives you a real look at what to expect from parenting.  Parenting is unpredictable and different for everyone, but it seems if you go into it knowing that it will be challenging and won't automatically make you feel whole, you'll be able to find a lot more happiness in your new role.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence

For my second read in November I read, The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence by Gavin De Becker.  This is a non-fiction book written by an expert on predicting violent behavior.  The Gift of Fear discusses many real life examples of violence in our culture and how being able to listen to your own intuition can help you recognize when you or someone you know are in real danger.

I'm not sure how I stumbled upon this book, but I did enjoy reading it.  Much like The Sociopath Next Door, it had thorough research, statistics and case studies (my favorite part!).  De Becker is apparently very well known and has worked with many high profile clients over the years, so his real life examples were really intriguing.

You might be thinking you aren't worried about learning "survival signals", however I bet you will find some of the information in this book to be very useful.  It discusses how to recognize people/situations that would pose a real threat to you, but what I really gained from it was how to understand my own intuition.  If you have "just had a feeling about someone" or had something frighten you but you "didn't know why", after reading this book you'll realize if you look back a little harder, the signs for why you felt that way were there. 

I would definitely recommend reading this book.  It is interesting, informative and I believe can help you better understand some of your own feelings of fear, worry and anxiety.  The only thing I didn't care for was the author is a little self promoting (since like I mentioned he is a well known expert and he currently has a firm who advises people on possible violent threats) but it can be overlooked since his book is well worth reading.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The House of the Scorpion

For my first read in November I read, The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer.  The story is about Matteo Alcatran, a boy who is the clone of a powerful drug lord called El Patron.  As Matt grows up, he learns about his origins and what his purpose is in life, both from El Patron's perspective and his own.

A facebook friend recommended this book and it was quite an interesting read.  The characters are well developed and the overall plot is interesting.  I have always found the topic of cloning to be an intriguing one and I enjoyed reading about it.  You really get to see how the different characters react to Matt and who/what he is, really getting a sense of how people's moral compasses can be so different.  At various points in the book you feel angry, frustrated and happy for Matt so clearly the author writes in a way that brings out emotions.

I did feel the book was a little long, it starts from his birth and moves fairly quickly through time until he is about 14 but there were some portions that I didn't think really brought much to the story or things that were repeated but could have been left out.  I also think that Matt was written a bit more naively than a real boy would be in his teen years, but I still enjoyed the book.  Also should note it is a "youth fiction novel" and I wouldn't recommend it for readers under age 12.  Overall, I would recommend it to readers though.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Await Your Reply

For my second read in October I read, Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon.  The story is about three different characters: Ryan is a young college kid who gets some surprising news and changes his life in a drastic way.  Lucy is a recent high school graduate who takes off with her former teacher boyfriend.  Miles is a man who has spent the majority of his adult life searching for his twin brother.  The three of them are interconnected in unexpected ways and some of these connections have dire consequences.

It took me quite a while to work my way through this book.  (Thus me barely finishing it by the end of the month!).  It had multiple perspectives, which I normally love, but in this case not so much.  It goes back and forth between characters each chapter, but some of the characters are more interesting than others, which left me wishing for certain chapters to go by faster.  It also goes back and forth in time, but not in a smooth way.  It goes back and forth in time nearly every chapter, sometimes multiple times.  The bouncing back and forth got frustrating and made sections of reading feel choppy.  A lot of the trips back in time were for back story, but honestly I would have enjoyed less back story and more time spent with what the characters were up to now.

I don't think I would recommend this book.  It was a slow read for me and I just didn't really enjoy it.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Dark Places

For my first read in October I read, Dark Places by Gillian Flynn.  I really enjoyed reading Gone Girl a few months back, so I found one of Flynn's earlier books to check out.

Again, Flynn writes in a way that captures your attention and keeps it throughout.  The beginning is slower moving as it sets the stage, but I appreciated it's character development.

The book is about a family who are the victims of a horrific crime.  The story follows Libby Day, the lone survivor of a murder spree that killed her mother and two sisters.  Her brother, Ben, was convicted of the crime and put in jail thanks to Libby's testimony when she was just a child.

The story goes back and forth in time (present day and day of the murders) and also person to person (Libby, Ben and Patty, their mom).  I loved seeing the events of that day from various perspectives.  It was a very engaging read to try to deduce who the murderer was and to try to put the pieces together as each chapter uncovered new information.  I definitely recommend reading this book!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

For my second read in September I read, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender.  The story begins when nine year old Rose Edelstein discovers she has a secret gift (or curse?) of being able to taste people's feelings in the food they cook.  This secret allows her to learn much more about her family, friends and world than she really wants to know.

I'm giving this book a bit of a mixed review.  I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either.  It's a bit of fantasy mixed with realism, which made it hard for me to really enjoy.  Rose deals with real life issues, but the way in which she discovers them is strange.  Her family while seeming normal is quite flawed, which is never really addressed and I found frustrating.  Her brother is a main character whom we don't really get a sense of until the book is nearly finished.  Parts of the story felt undone to me and there was a lack of character development.

I'm also going to have to go all punctuation police and point out there are no quotation marks on any of the dialogue.  Sometimes whole conversations feel wrapped confusingly into a paragraph that you have to re-read to figure out what was said and what was thought.

I did like the character of Rose, she is interesting and despite her gift, often relatable.  We follow her character from age nine to twenty-two, so it's kind of neat to grow up with her and see what happens to her character over time.

Overall, I don't think I would have read this book had I known it's style before hand.  It just wasn't my cup of tea.  However, if you like fantasy mixed with realism and dash of bummer you might like it.

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World - Murakami

OK, I"m implementing a moratorium on murakami for the next year.  This one was good.  It wasn't great, and the genera wasn't quite me.  I like science fiction, but this was a little to much more me.  INKlings living under the city, muting all sound, encrypting information by running it through your subconscious... all a little extreme.

The story is fairly straight forward.  It seems to be two separate stories being told in alternating chapters, but it's really the mans conscious and subconscious self living simultaneously.  The main character is written well, but all supporting characters lack any depth at all.  His girlfriend, the scientists he works for, the daughter of the scientists (yes, yet ANOTHER underage object of desire... oh Murakami...), all have only one purpose to the story.  They fill that role well, but there is nothing more to them as people living in the same world.  

And, the ending was a bit disappointing.  You're told how the story will end maybe 100 pages from the end, and there are no more surprises.  It ends exactly how you expect it to.  This is why it took me two months to read just the end... yawn.

So yes, Murakami is a good writer, and I generally like his plot lines.  This one was just a bit off for me and a break is needed.     


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Language of Flowers

For my first read in September I read, The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.  An old college facebook friend recommended this book and I'm so glad she did.  The story is about a girl named Victoria Jones.  Victoria grows up in the foster care system and finds herself at eighteen "aging out".  She is alone except for the comfort she finds in flowers and their secret meanings.  She bumps into a person from her past and starts to question her life and what it is missing.

This book was a page turner from beginning to end.  Victoria is a character you love, despise, want to shake and want to hug.  Her personality is so difficult, yet you want the best for her and you want to see how her life turns out.  All of the main characters in this book have seen so much sadness but also so much joy, I became invested in each one.

The really fun thing about this book is what it's title refers to, the language of flowers.  You'll learn a lot about the meanings of flowers and the messages they can convey.  It left me wanting to find out what my favorite flowers meant and to get some bouquets of the ones whose meanings I particularly liked.

The book goes back and forth in time (from Victoria in the present and Victoria at age ten) but it does so seamlessly and you may be be like me, longing for the next section in each respective time period.  I highly recommend this book, especially to all the lady readers out there.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

When It Happens To You

For my second read in August I read, When It Happens To You by Molly Ringwald.  This is a “novel in stories”, so it is a collection of interconnected stories about a couple, their family and friends.  The main plot is about a couple, Phillip and Greta, whom are married and have a daughter named Charlotte.  Something happens in their relationship which leads to some major changes in their family dynamic.  All of the stories somehow connect back to them. 

This was a new release I found randomly and thought might be a good read.  I’m always curious to see if celebrities are able to cross over from one niche to another.  I was pleasantly surprised to find I quite enjoyed this book.  It delves into the complexities of relationships and Ringwald weaves the characters stories together seamlessly. 

The book is short (only 256 pages) so it’s a quick and enjoyable read.  The characters are developed well and you genuinely care to see what will happen to them.  I also found myself looking forward to seeing whose perspective we would be reading next, as it goes to a different character each chapter.  Give this one a read, I think you’ll enjoy it.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Litigators

For my first read in August I read, The Litigators by John Grisham.  The story follows lawyer David Zinc, who is burnt out at his job at a big law firm and finds his way to the ambulance chaser law offices of Finley & Figg.  F&F are two partners who have a slew of their own issues and shortly after Zinc comes on board they decide to take on the biggest case of their careers in hopes to finally get rich.

Another recommendation from my Grisham fan husband, and I really enjoyed this book.  A lot of Grisham's work comes off as very technical and serious, however this book was fun.  The characters and overall feel felt more laid back.  I enjoyed each character and the cases they worked on were interesting and easy to follow.  I have always appreciated the knowledge that Grisham puts into his work, he really knows his law which makes the stories more engrossing and authentic.

I highly recommend reading this book.  It is very well written, enjoyable and another win for Grisham.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Last Policeman

For my second read in July I read, The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters.  The book follows Detective Hank Palace as he conducts a possible murder investigation when there is only six months left for humanity.  An asteroid named Maia is going to bring an end to civilization, but that doesn't stop Palace from continuing his search for justice.

This book is the first in a planned trilogy and I look forward to reading the next two in the series.  Winters writes in a concise and clean way.  He goes into detail when needed or most fitting and makes Detective Palace a guy you'd like to meet.  The book has enough surprises to keep you engaged and ends with some closure but also leaves you ready to see what happens in the trilogy's next installment.

I would recommend reading this book.  It's an enjoyable, easy read that keeps you engaged and interested.  Can't wait to see what is up next for Detective Palace!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Gone Girl

For my first read in July I read, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  The story is about a married couple, Nick and Amy Dunne who live in Missouri.  On their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy goes missing and Nick becomes the prime suspect of the police investigation. 

This book was awesome!  I have always enjoyed crime thrillers, but I haven't read one quite like this before.  It goes back and forth each chapter from Nick to Amy's perspective (a writing style I love) and so we learn a little bit more about them with each chapter, which makes for wonderful character development.  You go from loving to loathing characters.  You think one thing is going to happen and it goes in a totally different direction.  Nick and Amy have an interesting relationship from the get go and as the story progresses we get to see more and more of what got them into their...situation.

I would definitely recommend reading this book.  It's engaging, dark and kind of addictive. This book has several twists and turns and you probably won't be able to guess the ending.  Read it!

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Million Little Pieces

For my second read in June I read, A Million Little Pieces by James Frey.  If the title seems familiar, it's probably because shortly after it came out several years ago, there was a lot of controversy about the fact that it wasn't truly a memoir.  After being called out on it, Frey admitted that he had embellished some of the events in the story.  I knew this going into it and so read this as a work of fiction rather than a memoir.

I had been meaning to read this book for years and had high hopes for it.  The story is based on Frey's stint in rehab after many years of drug and alcohol abuse.  I LOVED Dry by Augusten Burroughs, which is also about an experience with rehab (and the time after) so I thought I'd give A Million Little Pieces a try.  I was disappointed.  For the first 75% of this book I was bored.  It was very repetitive, granted he's in a rehab facility so they have a set routine but it was hard to read because it was slow and couldn't really hold my interest.  The last 25% of the book it picks up a little, some interesting things happen and you want to see how it turns out.  Overall though, I don't think I would recommend this book.

The first thing that turned me off was the style in which it is written.  It lacks proper punctuation and format.  This is because he's writing in a stream of consciousness kind of way, but I didn't care for it.  Next, is he repeats himself, a lot.  Addiction takes over your thoughts.  Drugs and booze are all you want and can think about and he puts this into his writing.  Written down though it comes off as repetitive and almost braggy in a way.  He talked on and on about all the horrible things he had done, but he doesn't seem truely remorseful about it until the end of the book and that frustrated me.  There are a few darker scenes in the book that are quite graphic, be ready for that.  They aren't pleasant and I could have done without reading them, I hope they were one of his embellishments.

Anywho, as you can tell I didn't really care for this book and it took me a long time to read it.  (Almost three weeks!)  I'm ready to step away from the memoirs for a while and find a book that can hold my interest.  Fingers crossed my next read fits the bill!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Unaccustomed Earth

Again, not one of my favorites.  I liked the writing better in this one that the last Lahiri I read... Or maybe it just didn't bother me so obviously.  There are two main stories, each with their own themes and separate characters.  Love, Jealousy, and again, cultural schisms are topics that Lahiri *really* likes and she drills them in again in this novel.

But again, I finished the book nearly in tears.  Do all love stories end in heart break?  Lahiri seems to think so.

I feel like I'm writing about the last two books I read all over again, so I'll stop.  No reason to make you read the same thing over and over and over... as I just did.. ;)


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Let's Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir)

For my first read in June I read, Let's Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson.  Jenny Lawson is a well known blogger (The Bloggess) whom I'd seen a few articles by while reading another blog TheStir.  While reading TheStir, I saw a book review for this memoir and it got rave reviews, so I ordered a copy.

When I first started reading this, I wasn't very impressed.  Lawson's father is a taxidermist and many of the first few chapters share some icky stories about his work.  I was afraid this would be the main focus of the book, luckily it's not (though there are many stories about animals, both dead and alive).  Lawson also shares stories about her childhood, parents, husband, daughter and variety of other things. 

I didn't love this book, but I didn't hate it either.  Honestly, I just thought it would be funnier.  The review I had read claimed I'd be "laughing out loud" but I think I managed one chuckle and a smile, but that wasn't until the last two chapters.  However, I did enjoy Lawson's almost conversational writing style.  There are "editors notes" and parenthesised extra comments throughout the book (which she warns readers about in the introduction) which makes it feel like you are listening to Lawson tell you the stories over a couple drinks.  Maybe the drinks would have made it funnier?  She also curses a lot.  Which is fine, but if you aren't into that, here's your heads up.  If you enjoy memoirs or are already a fan of hers, it's an okay read.

Fave Chapters:  The Dark and Disturbing Secrets HR Doesn't Want You To Know, If You See My Liver, You've Gone To Far & And Then I Snuck a Dead Cuban Alligator on an Airplane.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Namesake - Jhumpa Lahiri

The Namesake: A Novel

I very much liked the collection of short stories that I just read by Jhumpa Lahiri, so I was eager to get into The Namesake which is supposed to be her best novel.

I'll be short and sweet with this review.  It's about a Bengali man who moves to the US and soon brings a wife over to live with him.  They start a family and the story moves to the point of view of their first son and his life which seems stuck between the two cultures.

Most of the book made me feel sad.  The way he was torn between the life of his family and the life of his 'american' friends put so much stress on him and his relationships.  Toward the end he starts to appreciate his family's culture so he grows as a character which is interesting to see.

The writing was ok... Lahiri style is very simplistic and to the point which makes for quick easy reading, but sometimes felt unfinished or unprofessional.

Overall it was a good book.  I won't put it on my list of favorites, but I did enjoy the story and the characters.


This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More. For Young and Old Alike

For my second read in May, I read This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More. For Young and Old Alike. by Augusten Burroughs

I REALLY wanted to like this book.  I have been a fan of Augusten Burroughs since I read Running With Scissors and then proceeded to immediately read all of his other books.  I then waited impatiently each time for his next work to come out and devoured it as well.  This book was no different.  I was ecstatic when I read it was being released in May, back in January.  I pre-ordered it months ago.  However having just finished reading it, I'm wonder what on earth just happened?

This Is How is not a typical Burroughs book.  If you are a fan of Burroughs you'll already know that his other works are all memoirs, except one highly entertaining fiction novel.  This Is How is a "self-help" book.  He takes on a variety of topics and basically give you his opinion on how to deal with them.  That might have been okay, if it was written at all in Burroughs' usual style.  There was no humor.  There were very few personal stories to relate his opinions too.  There were sections and chapters where he kept repeating himself.  This is me, disappointed. 

It honestly pains me to write this, but I did not like this book.  There were a few chapters that were tolerable, but overall I just can't say I would recommend reading this.  I would give this book a 2/3 out of 10 rating based on my own reading preferences.  However, as a "self-help" book I would still only give it a 3/4.  If you want to read a fantastic book by Augusten Burroughs, go pick up his memoir Dry

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

For my first read in May, I read The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg.  It is a non-fiction book that explains how habits are created and also how they can be changed.

This book was quite interesting.  I consider myself to be a "creature of habit" and so I was intrigued to see how habits are formed and what can be done to change habits we don't like.  The book is broken up into three parts: Habits of Individuals, Habits of Successful Organizations and Habits of Societies.  Each part has a few chapters that give examples of real life people, companies, etc. and how they have managed to create and change habits.  Some of the habits are good and some were ones that needed to be changed.  I really enjoy these sort of "case studies" in non-fiction books, so I found the examples to be quite interesting.

My only complaint about this book is it got a little repetitive at times.  They kept going back and reminding you about things they had mentioned before such as patterns and case studies and it also bounced back and forth in time a bit.  I understand why the author did this, but I thought it made some parts longer than they needed to be.

Overall, I'd recommend this book.  If you have a habit you'd like to change, the appendix at the end of the book has a "readers guide" to using the information discussed in the book.  I thought it was a nice touch since it breaks down habit changing step by step for you in a short and easy to read format.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The History of Love

Fifty pages in, I hated this book.  By the last page I was in love with this book. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss is one of my new favorites.  It is about an old man, Leo Gursky who many years earlier wrote a book about a woman he loved, Alma.  The book he wrote was published without his knowledge and was able to touch the lives of a few people whom we meet along the way.

There is a parallel story about a sixteen year old girl who was named after Alma.  She takes it upon herself to find out who the first Alma is and ends up finding Leo.  Her relationship with her mother and her little brother are examined, and an uncle gives her some insight which helps her understand her mother and helps her open her eyes to the possibility of having a stronger relationship with her.  Her mom is living for her dead husband and Alma must learn to accept the parameters in which her mother is living her life.

Leo, also, is living his life for people who are no longer accessible to him, Alma, and their son who doesn't know he exists.  He's built his entire life around them.  He gets up in the morning, writes, eats, breathes for these people. When he learns that they are both dead he loses his motivation for living.  He has always been obsessed with death and believes that he will die 'maybe tomorrow or the next day', but now feels that it is even more real that he no longer belongs in the living world.  Amla, the younger one, finds him at this point.

Leo becomes overwhelmed by learning that someone was named after his love, and we can assume that Alma continues to tell him about how many lives he has touched.  Leo, who has spent his life obsessing about death and needing people to know he exists, has found that he has in fact touched lives and nurtured love between others.  His life's purpose is fulfilled.  

In this book, we are forced to look at how we are living our lives, and how we want to spend that time.  Love is what drove these two characters through their lives and death is unavoidable.  Maybe I am a romantic at heart, but this was amazing for me to read.  The way in which Krauss tells the story is beautiful; it reads like poetry.  Some of the passages made me cry.  The last two pages of the book alone made the entire thing worth it.    Leo was in love, and Leo started dying the day he was born.  Death is unavoidable, and love is why we live.  


Monday, April 23, 2012

You're Not Doing It Right: Tales of Marriage, Sex, Death, and Other Humiliations

For my third read in April, I read You're Not Doing It Right: Tales of Marriage, Sex, Death, and Other Humiliations by Michael Ian Black. I stumbled upon this book while scoping out some other memoirs I wanted to read. If you are thinking that the author's name sounds familiar, you might have seen him on VH1's "I Love The ..." series. He's done other tv work as well but that's what I know him from. Anywho, he seemed funny on the show and so I thought perhaps his book might be worth was!

I could be biased (okay I probably am) since I really enjoy humorous memoirs, but I really liked this book. It's funny, happy, sad, sarcastic and most importantly relatable. Black talks about growing up with his lesbian mom and her partner along with his two siblings, meeting his now wife, his two children, growing up, becoming who tried not to be and much more. Different parts of this book had me laughing out loud, angry and on the verge of tears. This is what I look for in a memoir, something that entertains me on many levels but also makes me think and reflect.

Even if you are unfamiliar with Black (which basically I was) you should check out his book. I think many people would enjoy it since it deals with such varying subject matter and emotions. He has another book out as well which I might read too one day.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

On The Island

For my second April read, I read On The Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves. This book is part action/adventure and part romance. As one who does not usually read "romance" novels, I was a bit surprised to find I actually really enjoyed this book.

The story is about a thirty year old teacher named Emma who is hired to tutor seventeen year old T.J. over the summer. Emma is looking forward to working on a beautiful island, while T.J. is bummed he won't be spending the summer with his friends, especially since his cancer just went into remission. T.J.'s family is on vacation in the Maldives and he and Emma fly to meet them there, only to have their plane crash before they reach their destination. The story is about how they survive on the island, how their relationship changes over time and how their bond will continue in the future.

Though the crash landing and survival aspect of the story isn't all that new, the characters and their relationship take the story in a new and interesting direction. Something I also thought was unique about this story was that the characters take turns telling the story from their perspective. Chapter one is from Anna's perspective, chapter two is from T.J.'s and so on for the entire book. The author does this but chooses not to have the characters describe the same situation twice, or if she does it's just a mention and not a rehash, which is nice. I also haven't read many books that show the perspective of a seventeen year old boy, so it was interesting to see things from his point of view.

Overall I would recommend this book to those who like action, adventure or romance novels. I think this is another author where I would look to see what they write in the future.

Interpreter of Maladies

I LOVE this book.  It's a collection of short stories about Indian people and their experiences with the US and with India.  Some are second generation US citizens who return to India, some are Indian citizens visiting or moving to the United States, and some are from other perspectives besides the two obvious ones.  They are all touching and relate-able.

The stories are simple and easy to process.  The diction is clear and concise.  It's an easy read and well worth the effort (or lack there of...) and is available for lending if you have a Nook or Nook App ;)


Thursday, April 5, 2012

1Q84 - Part Three

I'm finished!!!  And so happy about it.

Part three is more repetitive than parts one and two.  The same story is being told from three different view points as before, however now that their lives are so entwined the same events are happening.  In one chapter character A makes a phone call.  In the next chapter character B receives a phone call.  It's interesting to see how each character reacts differently to the events and how they gain more knowledge around Sagikaki, however I wonder what the story would have been had Murakami chosen to write it from one perspective.  If Aomamae was the main character and Tengo was merely a side story, something small and mentioned in a paragraph here or there, would I have enjoyed the book just as much?  I would have appreciated cutting the length down, that's for sure, but would the story still hold?  Would lacking the character developments of Tengo and members of Sagikaki have hurt the impact of the book?  Maybe...

Though the book in itself was far too long, I feel like the ending lacked originality, was extremely predictable and happened very quickly.  The entire novel was leading up to an ending that took less than forty pages to play out.  I wanted it to end; maybe Murakami was tired of writing it too...


Monday, April 2, 2012

The Partner

For my first April read I read The Partner by John Grisham. Back in the day (about 13ish years ago) I had a Grisham phase and read many of his popular books at the time, such as A Time To Kill, The Client, The Pelican Brief and The Firm. I enjoy a good mystery or law novel so I thought, why not revisit a former favorite author? My husband is a big Grisham fan, so I asked him to recommend one he really enjoyed, thus my reading The Partner.

The story is about Patrick Lanigan, a former lawyer who supposedly died in a car accident four years earlier but is found living in Brazil under the name Danilo Silva. Shortly after his alleged death, the law firm where he had been a partner, was robbed of ninety million dollars. The story is about Patrick's capture, what he's been up to for the last four years and what he is going to do about those pesky criminal charges.

This was a really enjoyable read. Grisham writes swift moving and engaging stories and this one doesn't disappoint. The story is intriguing and you keep reading to see what is going to happen to Patrick.

My favorite thing about this book is how it goes back and forth between characters. It's written from the perspective of about six or so characters and skips back and forth between them in a very fluid way. If I had read this from the perspective of only one character I could have easily found myself bored, but the switching of speakers keeps this story fresh and entertaining. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good mystery or law novel, or just anyone looking for a fast paced and intriguing story.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

1Q84 - Part Two

I've made it through part two!!!  Sometimes when I read a book I do not want the story to end.  Other times I cannot wait to finish the chapter. Unfortunately this one is of the latter category.

I like the story, I like the characters, but this is difficult to say without sounding like a middle school kid; it's just too damn long.  The chapters are still alternating between Aomame and Tengo's point of view, but each chapter seems to have less action and more internal dialogue.  I understand why this is important; they're figuring out what it means to be in 1Q84 and learning that what they've expected to be all fiction is actually reality.  Both characters are growing (yay character development) immensely, I would just appreciate it if it happened in less pages.

Part two differed that part one in that it became more of a murder mystery type genre.  "Once a gun is brought in to the story, it must be fired."  So we spend the entirety of part two wondering when and if the gun will be fired, and who will be the victim of said gun.

However, many questions about the little people and the sagikake organization are answered which adds to the creative/sci-fi side of the story.  I still very much appreciate Murakami's imagination and have lost no respect for the author.  His imagination and the time and energy he puts in to creating his characters is impeccable.  In this case, though, I wish he had managed to create this world in fewer words.  I know, a difficult task to complete, I'm sure.

And I'm off to part three!!


Sunday, March 18, 2012


For my third read in March (Yes, you read that right! I've read more books this month than I did last YEAR!), I read Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. After reading Catching Fire, I simply had to read Mockingjay right away and finish off the final book in The Hunger Games trilogy.

Mockingjay picked up about a month after Catching Fire left off, with Katniss rescued by District 13 and Peeta captured by the capitol. This book is all about the full on war being raged between the Capitol and the rebels and we finally get the resolution as to what happens to Panem, Katniss, Peeta and Gale.

I have to say I didn't love this book as much as the first two. It had a ton of action, the characters we love and was very well written but since it was all about war it had the feeling of despair looming on every page. In the first two books the characters are placed in horrible situations but there is always the hope of a positive outcome. In this book, I didn't feel like there would be a happy ending so to speak. The ending *kind of* gives you what you wanted throughout the series but to me it still felt sad and unsatisfying.

However, I think that perhaps Collins intended the reader to feel unsatisfied at the end of the series. The series does say a lot about what our society is capable of, how desensitization to violence and death could lead us on a path to a society like the one in Panem. How only standing up to the powers that be could save us from such a society. If that was her intention, then she succeeded.

I really enjoyed this series and would recommend it to most but I must admit the final book left me wishing it had ended with less bloodshed and more hope. I will miss the characters I grew so fond of in the nearly 1200 pages we spent together. Thank you to Collins for writing a series that was hard to put down. While Catching Fire was my favorite book in the series, all three had me looking forward to the pages to come. I might look out for more of her books in the future!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Catching Fire

My second read in March was Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. This is the second book in The Hunger Games Trilogy. It picks up a few months after where The Hunger Games left off and we find Katniss back home in District 12 with her and Peeta hardly speaking and things with Gale confused. It is almost time for the Victory Tour, when Katniss learns how her rebellion against the Capitol at the end of the Hunger Games has President Snow out to get her. After the tour comes the Quarter Quell, the seventy-fifth Hunger Games, and Katniss finds herself right in the middle of things. However, this time she is not a bewildered teen but a symbol for something the Capitol is trying to quell.

So, I reviewed The Hunger Games last month and while it was a really good book this one is far better in my opinion. I find myself still annoyed with the "love triangle" which I feel is being too forced by the author in order to keep a certain demographic of readers interested but doesn't really belong in the story. (I felt it was pretty clear in The Hunger Games how Katniss feels about Peeta and found it annoying/distracting that the author made her so lacking in self-awareness). Anyways, this book begins with a bit of that but moves past it and throws us into so much excitement, it really keeps the pages turning!

Katniss' character begins to peel back the layers and we see more sides to her. We also get a whole new slew of characters (as well as reunite with some old ones) and Collins starts taking the series where I wanted it to go, with rebellion against the Capitol. The Hunger Games eludes to it but in this book we finally get the satisfaction of action being taken. This book ends in a place that leaves SO much to look forward to in the final installment of the series, Mockingjay.

I once again found myself daydreaming about where this book was going to go and what was going to happen to Katniss and Peeta. I am absolutely loving this series and can't wait to see what happens to Katniss, Peeta and some new favorite characters in Mockingjay!

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Giver

For my first read in March, I read The Giver by Lois Lowry. The story is about a twelve year old boy named Jonas who lives in a "perfect" world. There is no pain, worry or war. Choices are made for the people of his community and precision of language is key. However, Jonas is chosen to be trained as the new Reciever by The Giver. Jonas will learn the truth about the past and the present and his view of the world will change forever.

Somehow I missed this book when in came out, as most people read it in middle school. My sister-in-law told me it was one of her favorite books, so I tucked it away on my "to read" list for several years. I am SO happy she suggested this book. It is truly one of my new faves of all time!

The writing style is perfect (clear, conscise and has "precision of language"). I love a writer who paints a picture for you or relays feelings clearly without getting too wordy and Lowry does that very well. Jonas is a wonderfully written character and I felt protective of him on his journey. There are several passages in this book that will stick with me for a long time.

This book is a very quick read. It's only 180 pages and honestly you could easily get through it in just a few hours. I found myself not wanting to put it down and I'm a little sad that it's over. I'd love to spend some more time with Jonas and The Giver. I would recommend this book to any adult and to any kids around age 12 and up.

Monday, February 27, 2012

1Q84 - Part 1

Yes, I know.  I haven't finished the book.  However it was sold as a trilogy in Japan, so I'm going to review it as a trilogy... in the US.

This is the second Murakami I've read and I'm finding some interesting similarities.  Both are the same style of story; they ask the reader to question reality and push the rules on what is or is not possible.  Both rely on sexual side stories that don't necessarily add to or take away from the story.  And both have young female characters that an adult man lusts for but cannot have.

There are so many layers to Murakami's works that I find it difficult to review.  The translation isn't great.  There are syntax errors and incomplete sentences that break the flow of reading which takes away from the story.  It's hard to fully engulf ones self in a story when it takes time to analyze what the author is trying to say.

The overall concept of the story is phenomenal.  Other reviews were comparing it to Orwell's 1984, which I didn't get at first, but now I see that the characters themselves are comparing their lives to 1984.  And the science fiction side is subtle enough that the reader is pressed for an opinion on if the character is crazy or if these things are really happening.  Is it possible for there to actually be two moons in the sky tonight, or is Aomame going crazy?  

There are a few plot holes - most notably a friendship between Aumame and Ayumi.  I feel like their friendship was forged by the imagination of a 15 year old high school boy who thinks that girls actually have pillow fights in their underwear and practice kissing at slumber parties.  Their entire bond is based on their similarly promiscuous sex lives.  For Aomame, who doesn't have friends or trust people, to bond with another woman so quickly over something so personal is simply unbelievable.

The novel is structured in chapters that pass back and forth between the points of view of two main characters.  The two characters had a class together in elementary school, but have since not seen or spoken to one another.  Their stories are unique and completely separate except that both are being drawn to investigate a secluded religious group for accusations of mistreating young girls and to further understand the meaning of the "Little People".  Do they actually exist in physical form or are they a figure of speech (think "big brother")?

Part one ended in such a way that no questions are answered.  There is no end or conclusion to any of the mysteries presented so far.  It was absolutely meant to be read along with part 2 (and presumably part 3) to the extent that I'm not sure why it was ever published as a trilogy.

I feel like this review is very broken and not at all conclusive, but I think it's a good indicator of how I feel about the book.  There are things I like about it, things I don't like about it, and still many many questions to be answered.  The plot has holes that will never be plugged, and questions that may or may not be answered, and the story seems to be moving in a new direction that I wasn't anticipating.  So what is to come?  We'll find out!


Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Sociopath Next Door

For my second read in February, I read The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout.

This book was a very different read for me. It was a mix of textbook, case study and a psychologists observations. It takes the term "sociopath" which usually brings to mind cold, calculated and heartless killers and makes you think about the fact that you have likely encountered a sociopath in your everyday life. They aren't just criminals or killers, the majority of them it seems are not, but sociopaths do all have one thing in common: they lack a conscious.

I enjoyed the "case studies" Stout describes in a few of the chapters. She says they are compilations of former patients, people she's read about, etc. They describe the different types of sociopaths that are out there and really get you thinking about people you have known/know. I suspect a few people I have encountered in the past could have been sociopaths after reading this book and I'm going to guess if you read it, you'll be thinking about people you used to know as well.

The only thing about this book that bothered me was it has moments where it is a bit repetitive. I think Stout really wanted to get some stats and information to stick in your mind, which it does, but it gets a bit redundant in places while reading. (You will know what 1 in 25 or 4% and the definition of conscious are for sure when you finish reading. Actually no, you'll know it a quarter of the way through and she'll keep reminding you).

Other than moments of repetitiveness and a few sections that really read like a textbook, the book is interesting overall. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in psychology, who has possibly known a sociopath in the past or wants to know how to spot one in the future or for those who just enjoy reading an informative book on a new topic. I especially enjoyed Chapter 3: When Normal Conscious Sleeps and Chapter 8: The Sociopath Next Door.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Hunger Games

For my first February read, I read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. The story centers around Katniss Everdeen, who is a sixteen year old girl from District 12 in Panem. After a war in the future, what was once North America is now the nation of Panem, which has been broken up into 12 districts and run by the Capitol. Each year the 12 districts have to send one boy and one girl to the Hunger Games where they will fight to the death on live television.

Katniss is a strong character and this story was enjoyable to read from her perspective. The book is easy to read and quite engrossing so it moves quickly. I found myself really rooting for Katniss and the author does an excellent job of describing the games. You get swallowed up into the story and feel like you are there with her, perhaps even wishing you were able to send her a sponsor gift.

As someone who got kind of hypnotized by Twilight (it did something to my brain and I could NOT put it down until I read all four books) I was afraid to start a trilogy in the teen genre. I found this one to be better written and while not sucking me in like Twilight did (thank goodness) I am looking forward to reading the next book to see what happens to Katniss, Peeta and Prim. I find myself imagining what will happen to them next, which tells me this book is a definite winner.

I think you would especially enjoy this book if you enjoy survivalist stories, strong female characters or imagining what our country could be like in a distant future. While the idea of a world where teenagers fight to the death seems like a long shot, when you think about our world's reality TV obsession and the lust for gore in films it actually seems pretty plausible.

I really recommend reading this book. I'm excited to start book two (Catching Fire), perhaps for one of next months reads.


Friday, January 27, 2012

The Tiger’s Wife

I picked up The Tigers Wife without even reading the synopsis.  I saw it on B&, clicked ‘buy’ and it appeared on my Nook.  Yes, I have NOOK!  Not a Kindle!

Take a few moments to think about what you would expect from a book called The Tigers Wife.  Where does it take place?  Who are the main characters?  What’s the basic premise of the story?

Have your ideas?  Good.  Now forget them. 

The Tigers Wife does not take place in Asia or India.  It is not about a married woman.  And ‘the tiger’ is not a person with a nickname or a ‘tigers’ personality. 

The Tiger’s Wife is about a woman just out of med school who retells the tales her grandfather told her while she was growing up under his care.  Sound boring?  It’s not.  It’s full of mystery and questions and blurs the lines between fantasy and reality (why do I feel like an over dramatic movie critic?).  I finished the book in shock.  I googled for answers to questions which have no answers.  I chatted boyfriend’s ear off about this book.  I almost reread the entire thing.  I was that engaged. 

This is not a normal response for me.  I typically finish a book because I’m motivated to start the next one, however I didn’t want this one to end.  I wasn’t ready to put it down. 

Here’s the link.  Go read it now.  


Thursday, January 26, 2012

January Reads

Kicking off my goal of reading two books a month for a total of 24 books this year, I read Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling and After The Quake by Haruki Murakami.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) is an easy and fun read. Mindy Kaling makes you feel like you are hanging out with a girlfriend for lunch. She's funny, relateable and real. I liked the mix of topics in her book: childhood experiences, college life, when she first moved to LA, working at The Office and her random opinions on various topics/lists.

I've read many humorous memoirs (as they happen to be my favorite genre as of late) and this is one I would rate highly. "Irish Exits", "Revenge Fantasies While Jogging" and "All About The Office" are some chapters I enjoyed in particular. Definitely pick this book up if you like humor, The Office or random girly musings.

After The Quake was a step out of my comfort zone. In recent years I have been pretty selective (obviously since I only read two books last year!) about the kinds of books I read. I've mostly stuck to memoirs (other than the Twilight books back in 09' when they were all the rage). After the Quake was the first fiction book I'd read in a while and it might have been a little too far out of my comfort zone. The book is actually rather short (only 147 pages) and is a compilation of six short stories. Other than the fact they all occur during the same time period, (shortly after the Kobe, Japan earthquake in 1995) the stories aren't related.

The stories are very mystical and layered with meanings and really delve into how people in Japan were feeling such despair and loss during that time period. A few of the stories were enjoyable, I liked "Thailand" and "Honey Pie". However, I probably would not recommend this book to a friend unless it was the sort of book they enjoyed reading.

You will probably soon realize that I can be a picky reader. I don't enjoy a lot of overly descriptive writing or when the dialogue feels redundant. This book was guilty on both counts so not a favorite of mine. While it felt good to try a new genre, I found myself struggling to finish this short book since it never really pulled me in and made me want to read more.

Check back soon for next month's reads! :)