Friday, September 18, 2009
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Dead Until Dark is the first in the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris. I don't know why I'm just now reading these - what with my obsession with vampires and all. But I guess I was a little wary of another vampire series. I tried reading that series by Laurell K Hamilton and just wasn't able to get into them. And I enjoyed Twilight to an extent but had issues with Bella and Meyers kind of jumped the shark with the last book. So I held off on this series, but after looking for something quick, easy and fun to read, these were suggested to me (my friends know of my vampire penchant) and I've fallen in love.
But I digress. As I was saying, Dead Until Dark is the first of a series. We are introduced to Sookie Stackhouse from Bon Temps, Louisana and she has a special ability to hear people's thoughts, though she tries to block them out as much as possible. She's a waitress at a local bar and is extremely excited when they get their first vampire customer. See, vampires are "out of the closet" in this series - they are integrated with humans for the most part, but a vampire in Bon Temps is a pretty exciting deal considering how small the town is.
Sookie quickly realizes that this vampire, Bill Compton, is special - different - she can't hear his thoughts! And he realizes that she's not like most humans. So begins the love story. But it's not all sex and lame romantic stuff. No, there's murder and humour and mystery and a cameo by a supposed dead "King" (which made me laugh hysterically)...it's just a damn good story. Well, a damn good story for someone who hasn't read an actual book in almost 9 months at any rate. Plus? I actually like the heroine of this story. This is rarity with me but Sookie rocks. She has her flaws (as any good protagonist does) but she more than makes up for them.
READ THIS BOOK. Then, go watch the HBO series True Blood. The plot of season 1 basically follows this first book...loosely. And for the first time, I actually enjoyed both the book and the TV adaptation - even though the TV series has quite a bit of differences than the book I never once uttered "that didn't happen in the book!" And if you don't fall in love with Sookie and Bill (seriously, how could you not?) and all the others of Bon Temps then...well then I'm just sorry for you. But if you tire of Twilight's immaturity and Edwards creepiness and Bella's annoyance and want some good vampire stories - read this now.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Saturday, June 20, 2009
LA Candy by Lauren Conrad.
I found this to be quintessential read of the summer for anyone who aspires. Yep, just anyone who aspires. Maybe you are a frumpy English lass with a voice of gold (kinda like the movie "Little Voices" only actual people) or a snotty brat from Colorado who is tortured by NBC (and who isn't these days?) if you have ever dreamed a dream, or not, this book is for you.
Ok, I'm joking! I haven't read this book (yet). I just spent $200 on books and realize I never write about what I read, BUT I do read your reviews...
Thanks for keeping my book list growing!
Saturday, June 13, 2009
By Farahad Zama
Friday, June 12, 2009
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Important Artifacts... is quite possibly one of the most creatively done books I've ever read. Shown though an auction catalog, the book tells a story of two lovers (Doolan and Morris) through notes, gifts, books, clothes, and more all being auctioned off due to the fact that the relationship has ended. That's right - the story is told through pictures and explanations of each auctioned item.
Starting with the first time they met, each lot contains a memento from their four year relationship (2002-2006). From the invitation to a Halloween party where they mutually attended (dressed as Harry Houdini and Lizzie Borden) to dried flowers kept by both parties, the story of their love emerges. The items progress as the relationship does - from love notes hidden between pages of old paperbacks to angry e-mails sent from across the sea. The book shows what's left behind after a relationship ends.
Leanne Shapton, the art director for the New York Times Op-ed page, excellently puts together this story. In a fantastic interview with the New York Times, she states: “It’s sort of about how reliant we are on our things to define us,” Ms. Shapton said, acknowledging that there is a strain of what she described as somewhat “suffocating discernment” running through the protagonists’ lives. “But I wanted to balance that with a pretty genuine love of very private meaning,” she said, adding that most of the things put up for sale are “those kinds of things that mean everything to the person who owned them and nothing to anyone else.”
The book ends with the breakup, of course, but starts with hope. As a preface to the catalog, a recent postcard from Hal states that he and his current girlfriend broke up. That he'd like to see Lenore once again. It leaves the book open for another shot at love, or, another auction.
Important Artifacts... is a brilliantly done quick read that shows the transgression of a relationship. And how little artifacts can really tell a lot about a person or a time period.
Watch a clip with Shapton here and read an interview here.
The book's movie adaptation is currently in progress, staring Brad Pitt and Natalie Portman.
I have read, and loved, all of Wally Lamb's books, so I was anxiously awaiting the release of his newest novel, The Hour I First Believed. At first, I thought the book was going to disappoint, as it got off to a slow start, but after thinking back to his first novel, She's Come Undone, I remembered the feeling the same way, so I hung in there and continued reading. Lo and behold, the book took off and gripped me so that I could not put it down until I was finished. I'll admit the story line is somewhat depressing, describing in full detail the events of the Columbine shootings and the emotional aftermath of these events. The story is told through the eyes of a high school teacher who survives this ordeal and his wife, the school nurse, who struggles with post traumatic stress disorder following the event. As does his second novel, I Know This Much is True, the story includes a diary that provides a second subplot of historical fiction adding extra dimension to the tale. Overall, Lamb's writing is explosive, with a real feel for the broad ranges of human emotion. I wonder, sometimes, if he wasn't a psychologist or sociologist in a past lifetime. I highly recommend his work to anyone who enjoys digging deeper into the human psyche, and encourage readers to hang in there through the slow start. It's highly worth it!!
Sunday, May 31, 2009
At the time I received the book I had no clue that it had already been made into a movie, and starring one of my favorite actors (Robert Downey Jr.), but the buzz seemed interested so I shelved it until I finished the book I was already reading.
After reading the very first "One Book" selection a few years ago, a biographical account of growing up in South Boston called "All Souls", which totally sucked, I've been hesitant to read and of the selections since but I am certainly glad that I took the shot with this one.
The book chronicles a period of approximately two years in which Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez came to know a man named Nathaniel Anthony Ayers; a homeless man with a story and a gift - and an illness.
Ayers had been a student at the prestigious Julliard School in New York City thirty years prior and as a result of mental illness, Lopez finds him in spot on "skid row" playing a beat up violin. Whatever it was that sparked this chance meeting had sparked Lopez's interest to where he wanted to know more. At first, it was about writing a column but as time went on, a very special bond was formed and this book tells the story in long form.
There wasn't a moment of this story that didn't have my interest at its peak and there were a number of occasions where the emotional impact of the story was almost too much. This is a story that will stay with me for a very long time I am sure and I highly recommend this wonderful book.
Friday, May 29, 2009
Atlas of Unknowns was actually nothing like I thought it would be. And that's a good thing. Set in Kerala, India, this beautiful written and incredibly involved story introduces us to two sisters Linno and Anju, and their unknown past and future. When Linno was 7, and Anju just a baby, their mother Gracie died in the ocean. Being raised by their father Melvin, they faced another tragedy when Linno burns her hand badly with a firecracker. Trying to surpass their sad history, Anju, the brilliant one, applies for a scholarship that will take her to New York City, where she will study for 10 months. Lucky for her, she receives the scholarship, yet only by staging a lie - one that reveals itself a few months into her stay in the city.
The story continues to revolve around the girls and how they will one day be reunited again. As Anju tries to get a green card and works in a beauty salon, Linno earns money to get her Visa by creating handmade invitations. Juxtaposed by the story of their mother's past, everything comes together at the end when two separate tales are joined.
I really enjoyed Atlas of Unkowns. The book was incredibly engrossing - jumping from story to story, it was a nonstop page turner. As James's first novel, she weaves a beautiful, yet heartbreaking tale of two sisters and how much they'll risk to set things right. James' descriptions of rural India are so vivid that you could see the multi-colored saris and taste the spicy foods. What she portrays most interestingly, however, is Anju's time in the city. An outsider trying to fit in, Anju learns how to push her way into the subway, talk to people in department stores and make friends with classmates. I also loved the descriptions of Linno's innvitations. Seeing her create an object out of nothing was especially inspiring.
The story is deep, with many layers detailed different generations of the family. Each substory is important, each relates back to the present. Each section is told by a different main character, which is especially important. With that, you learn each side of a story, every part of a never forgotten tale. Additionally, every character is given an incredible amount of detail-enough that you feel as if you know them. Of those Bird is the most important, with her motherly protective ways towards Anju.
My main problem with the book is that it doesn't wrap up in the end. Yes, things are resolved, however so much more is left out. Characters are dropped and plot lines are avoided. Although none of them are as essential as the main story, I would have liked to see what happened afterward. I suppose this book isn't a story though - it's about a life. A life can't be wrapped up after 300 pages; it keeps going.
Regardless, Atlas of Unknowns truly is a beautiful book that I recommend to anyone who has an interest in Indian lifestyles, cultural studies or coming of age tales. I look forward to whatever else Tania James writes.
Boy, oh boy am I glad I did! Prep's main character is teenager Lee Fiora from South Bend, Indiana who decides to apply to the prestigious boarding school, Ault in Massachusetts after seeing a glossy brochure featuring old brick buildings, pristine lawns and preppy coeds. Lee is accepted into the school and offered a scholarship, so her parents allow her to go for the great opportunity. Lee quickly learns that the East Coast is definitely very different from the Midwest.
Lee is a quiet girl that doesn't draw attention to herself, she's not considered popular but she's not considered nerdy either. In my opinion she's the girl that is everyone's friend, but maintains an aura of mystery around her at all times. She is extremely observant of her classmates and even of students in the classes above her. She studies the yearbooks and knows everyone's names as well as their bios.
It's hard not to relate to Lee (even if you were the most popular girl in school - which, lets face it, most people weren't) she's unsure of herself and questions everything. All she wants is to be normal, but at Ault she anything but normal. Her classmates are made up of almost entirely East coast kids that come from wealthy families. Lee is from a lower middle class family in Indiana. Her classmates send out their laundry to be cleaned for a "small" fee of $3000 per year, Lee does her laundry herself. Her classmates don't think about tuition or how to pay for it, while Lee is there on a scholarship.
My favorite part of the book is during her junior (or sophomore year, not quite sure) she does a favor for the most popular girl in school. By chance the most popular boy in school (and coincidently Lee's crush) is there as well. During the little amount of time she spends with these two students, who are regarded as the same level as celebrities, Lee realizes that they are just as weird as she is. Essentially, realizing they are no different from one another.
The problems Lee faces during her four years at boarding school are not unlike any problems that a typical high school student faces. It's hard to be confident at this time in your life when you're not sure who you are.
I definitely suggest reading this book if you went to a public or private high school, everyone will find a reason to identify with Lee whether popular in high school or not.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
If you like thriller/murder-mystery type books and you would like to have something that you can bang out quickly (I started it on a Saturday afternoon and finished it on a Sunday afternoon), this is a good selection.
It would almost seem impossible, at least to the untrained author such as myself, to develop characters as deeply as he does because these stories just fly by but for me to invest such a short time and be so deeply involved in these fictional lives is very gratifying.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Released a decade or so after his death, this collection of poems, many of which were written near the end of his life, truly defines the author in the context of his own life. I became a fan in the late 80's after seeing Barfly with an ex-girlfriend and then reading a few compilations of his poetry.
Of all the poems that were great in this collections, and there were many, I chose to include one here that I thought might best exemplify my words thus far. The essence of this poem defines Bukowski for me and is the reason why I think he is so amazing at what he does.
feeling fairly good tonight
Thou shalt not fail as a writer
because the vultures are waiting in the wings ready
to swoop down and sign their
“I told you so’s.”
Thou shalt not fail as a writer
because the very act of writing is the best protection
from the madness of the
Thou shalt not fail as a writer
because it 's the finest form of self-entertainment
but Thou shall be finished as a writer
upon the hour or day of your
only to have thick new books of yours
appear for years afterwards compiled
from the stockpile of poems you
left behind for your
let it be so:
these wisps of magic
wrested from the clutch
Monday, April 13, 2009
The premise of the book is to explode the idea that the success of outliers such as Bill Gates (whom he cites as an example - which makes perfect sense because everyone knows who he is) is not as simple as a measure of the individual but also the circumstances, often random circumstances, that happen to occur and exist around the individual.
Gladwell has a very unique writing style that not only is pleasing to read but much like a good suspense writer, it is both engaging and filled with the subtle yet effective use of literary devices that create a unique form of page turner.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
Originally released in 1998, "When the Wind Blows" is a departure from the commonly themed stories the Paterson churns out. Patterson's readers often become invested in his characters because they run through so many of his books, it's easy to stay invested in them. Here, he proves that his character development skills are in top form as are his storytelling skills.
Not only do we get drama, but throw in suspense, thriller, and even a touch of science fiction make this a page-turner that I couldn't put down. Written in the classic style of Patterson, you'll leave this book wanting more but loving what you got.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Monday, March 23, 2009
Oh Cecelia Ahern, we meet again. While in London, I picked up a paperback copy of Thanks for the Memories since it doesn't come out (in hardback!) until next month here in the states. The Irish writer has made quite a name for herself and I'm always excited to read her next novel. I suppose that's why I was slightly disappointed with this book.
Monday, March 2, 2009
It was an easy read- I read it in less then a day, but I'd surely recommend it to others.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
I found this book for $1.50 at a used book store. Having previously read Bank's other book, I was tempted to buy it, especially at that price. It was, quite bluntly, not a good choice, even at $1.50. Sophie Applebaum is our heroine, an everyday Jewish girl. The book illustrates small parts of her life from age 12 through 30-something. Each piece has a different impact on her life and is important in one way or another. The thing is, you never know why they're important. I suppose I expected everything to come around, for things to be explained, but they never were. Sophie kept going with her job she hated and love life that never went her way, but she never changed. Instead, she complained. She never grew or became someone better. And because of that, I really didn't like her. The ending left me confused and wondering what, exactly, the point of the book was. To give Bank credit, though, her writing is good. Her descriptions are fantastic and the book is engaging. It's just not worth it in the end.
Monday, February 2, 2009
Released within the same year as The History of Love, there was a minor controversy started when this book came out. Both have young and naive starring characters, both have influential older Jewish characters who've been through traumatic events relating to the Holocaust, both have the characters searching for something, someone. And, most importantly, they're written by husband and wife. Foer, who is previously famous, crafted with this novel one of the most interesting looks at 911. The story follows Oskar, who's father died in the World Trade Center. As the novel starts up, Oskar discovers a key in his father's closet. Thinking it will bring closure to his father's death, he is determined to find the lock. And thus starts the epic story that has him all over NYC, meeting people and finding his way. At the same time, Oskar's grandmother is writing letters about her life growing up and how she had to flee after the bombing of Dresden. How she falls in love. How she falls out of love. Much like The History of Love, Extremely Loud... takes you on a journey through different lives, all of which come together in the end brilliantly. Told with pictures and various typographies, the book is an adventure and highly addictive. It has one of those endings where everything hasn't changed, however it gives you an interesting feeling of hope. I really liked it.
Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl. The History of Love is far from what you expect it to be - it is not a simple love story about two people falling in love, breaking up, getting back together and living happily ever after. It's far from that , actually. The History of Love is a beautifully written intricate tale of the fate of two very different strangers and how their lives connect. It takes you from Nazi invaded Poland, to current day New York City. Story number #1 centers around Leo Gursky, an old, old, old Jewish immigrant just trying to live until tomorrow. He reflects often about a girl he loved back in Poland and wants to be remembered. Story #2 shows young Alma who is trying to make her mother happy and fall in love. Her mother, a book translator, lost her husband, Alma's father, many years ago and her only companion is an old book called "The History of Love." Knowing that, Alma tries to find information about the book. The story is heartbreaking and beautiful. You're involved in it up to the very last word. In a book where many stories take place, all separate, it's amazing how they all connect together lovingly in the end. I'm really excited to read every other book Krauss wrote and will write.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
When my sister scoured the want ads and listened to “Swap Shop” on the radio religiously to find a suitable dog for the farm, I wasn’t too interested. When “Katy” arrived on the scene, I was annoyed that I couldn’t run barefoot on the lawn, or lay outside without the slobbering Collie all over me. She was a dumb dog. She stood in the middle of the road and barked at traffic. She climbed up the stairs on to the school bus. She got hit by tractors, the slowest moving vehicles on the planet. I was not her biggest fan.
When a lovable Golden Retriever/Labrador cross took her place; however, I changed my tune. Nelly was (and still is, as far as I know) a beautiful dog. A hot blonde. Gentle, more intelligent, so adorable that everyone in the family began giving her treats for the hell of it. If I decided to lay in the grass, she’d sit beside me with her tail thump-thump-thumping away.
It’s because of Nelly that Marley and Me by John Grogan was such a wonderful reading experience. It was easy to relate to the demeanor of Labs, the way the Grogans fell in love with the little pup, the unconditional love when Marley devoured the house and failed out of dog training. While our experiences with our beloved family pets were quite different, I couldn’t help but love this tale.
Before I start to gush too much, I feel the need to inform everyone that I haven’t seen the movie. A co-worker loaned me the book with her own story about how tears sprung to her eyes at opportune moments, warning me that if I was a crier (which I totally am) I was doomed. I don’t know if it was the fact that I carried this book around everywhere with me on the off chance that I’d get to read a couple pages here and there that prevented me from tearing up at the end of the story or not, but I didn’t cry. However, the fact that I wasn’t moved to tears didn’t ruin my impression of the novel.
Marley and Me is a relatable story about the impact a family pet can have on your life. Certainly, for anyone who had a dog growing up, or has one now, it’s easily to nod your head as you read about the trials and tribulations the Grogans face with Marley. Though we all come from different backgrounds, different family situations, and experiences, Marley and Me is the type of story that brings people together. This is probably why when John Grogan wrote the obituary for his pet in the paper he worked at, he received more calls, e-mails and letters than he had for any other piece of his career.
I spoiled it, but c’mon, you had to know that was coming.
Do yourself a favour, pick up Marley and Me and remember your own favourite childhood pet as the story unfolds.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
I found this short, amazing novel by Tessa de Loo on the "featured reads" shelf at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh on a rainy, boring day when I was taking a break from studying last fall. Six months after finding this book, it's sticking with me like few books have.
A brief 128 pages in length, I gobbled up this book in one sitting in a dark, isolated corner of the library that day. And I've reread it many times since.
A cross between historical fiction and a family drama, A Bed in Heaven is the story of a Jewish Hungarian family deeply affected by World War II. Focused on Kata, the daughter of a man given shelter from the Nazis by a stranger at the height of the war, this novel broaches controversial topics about which novels are rarely written - incest, the power of female sexuality and a frank look at oft overlooked effects of war.
de Loo's writing style is sparse but descriptive at the same time. Certain sentences haunted me and made my heart ache. I would reread whole passages over and over again. If you feel like taking a break from the light-hearted, easy reads we're all wont to read during the holiday season, A Bed In Heaven is a great book to start with. Get your Kleenex ready and have a teddy bear or loved one on hand as you reach the last page. You're going to need a hug when you're done with this one.