Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte by Syrie James

The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte is a remarkable novel told from the viewpoint of the author of Jane Eyre, Villette and other tomes. I was wary of reading this as I was afraid that it would be cheesy or poorly written or just plain ridiculous. However, I was treated to a fantastically written and fascinating story. The novel is narrated by Charlotte and details not only her life at Haworth with her parson father, sisters Emily and Anne and brother Branwell, but her two years in Belgium. I had known a bit about the Brontes before I read this, but I discovered through this novel just how hard their lives were yet also how resilient the family was and what literary genius they possessed. Charlotte's story is not a truly happy one, though she did have moments of pleasure in her life. I found myself really admiring this amazingly talented woman and author and sobbing over her terrible losses. Jane Eyre is one of the best novels ever written, in my opinion, and Charlotte deserves accolades for this feat alone. If you are a Bronte fan or want to learn more about this extraordinary family, I highly recommend this brilliant novel . Syrie James has done a wonderful job of portraying life from Charlotte's viewpoint and I am looking forward to reading her first novel, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Shiver was one of the most talked about teen books this year. An intriguing story about a girl who is in love with a werewolf, this novel was a challenging read for me.
At 7, Grace was dragged into the woods by wolves and nearly killed. She's only alive because one of the wolves saved her. Since that day, she's watched the wolf every winter and he's watched her. She's always felt a connection with him. When circumstances in her town become perilous for the wolves she, in turn, saves her special wolf, but he's not a wolf anymore; he's a human. Sam has been shot and has changed into a man. Now a teen, Grace takes him in and they begin an intense and dangerous romance.
I liked nearly everything about this book except for the romance aspect! The author created an action-filled plot that takes some surprising twists and turns. Her explanation of werewolves and how they change and live is captivating and her character development is admirable. However, I sometimes felt that this was just another unrealistic and annoying teen romance a la Twilight. I fear for the teen girls who read these novels and hope that they realize that relationships are not really this intense or drama-filled. I know that real relationships do not make for good literature, but I really cringe reading about these obsessive connections. I almost gave up on this book about 2/3 of the way in, but I feel the author did a good job of pulling back from the "staring into each other's eyes" moments and amped up the action. The ending was good and I would like to see where the sequel takes us.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

My Favorite Books of 2009

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrow and Mary Ann Shaffer

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt

Coventry by Helen Humphreys

Delicate, Edible Birds by Lauren Groff

Columbine by Dave Cullen

The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte by Syrie James (Post coming soon)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

This Week's Purchases

These are all Christmas gifts to myself!

Persuasion by Jane Austen

The Sister by Poppy Adams

The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym
The Solitary Summer by Elizabeth von Armin

March by Geraldine Brooks.


Merry Christmas to me!


“Even when reading is impossible, the presence of books acquired produces such an ecstasy that the buying of more books than one can read is nothing less than the soul reaching towards infinity… we cherish books even if unread, their mere presence exudes comfort, their ready access, reassurance.”
- A.E. Newton

Friday, December 18, 2009

Yes, My Darling Daughter by Margaret Leroy

While perusing the new books shelf at work the other day I came across this interesting title and remembered that it had been on Oprah's summer book list. After rereading the synopsis I decided this would be the perfect book to wedge in between my current Bronte binge. A very suspenseful tale of reincarnation and murder, I devoured it in 2 days.
Grace is a single parent to Sylvie, a daughter she conceived with a much older, married man who is no longer around. Sylvie is 4 and is causing Grace no end of embarrassment and trouble. She screams without stop whenever she is near water, even if it is just splashed on her, she is strangely mean to her best playmate. and often throws fits at her nursery school. Her behavior alienates Grace's friends and dates and gets her expelled from school. More disturbing, she longs for her "real family", only draws pictures of a lonely looking cottage, and when she encounters a picture of a town in Ireland she sleeps with it under her pillow and begs Grace to take her there.
At wit's end, Grace reads an article in the local paper about a professor who researches reincarnation,especially in children. Adam Winters is an attractive man who agrees to study Sylvie. He urges Grace to take Sylvie to Coldharbour, the town she loves in Ireland, in order to free Sylvie from her nightmares and memories. They end up going together, with Sylvie, to Ireland and step into a murder mystery.
I really enjoyed the first half of the novel when the author details Sylvie's problems and Grace's frustration with her. The author does a nice job of developing Grace's anger, sadness and bewilderment. When they get to Ireland, however, the plot focuses more on the murder mystery and the character development gets lost. Adam is a very two-dimensional character and I think the author even loses sight of him at times. The mystery is neatly solved and there are great moments of suspense, but in the end I thought this book was just okay.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I Bought More Books

I went shopping with Niesa today and picked up four new books:

Charlotte Bronte by Elizabeth Gaskell
Shirley by Charlotte Bronte
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
Emma by Jane Austen

These were all bought at Half Price Books so I feel that it was okay because I spent less than $20 whereas at Barnes & Noble I would have shelled out closer to $50 for all four.
You can see that 3 of my four selections have Bronte associated with them - I will write about my current Bronte obsession in a future post.
The Emma I bought is a nice, clean copy with largish print. I already own a version of Emma, but the print is so tiny that it makes reading it a chore (I think it may be time to get my eyes checked) and I want to read this novel before it is shown on Masterpiece Classic in January.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Book Buying Binge

You would think that because I work in a library that I would never need to purchase books, right? WRONG. I have a serious problem at the moment. I have been going to Barnes & Noble every other day and just in the past week I have bought:

The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James
The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte by Syrie James
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Excellent Women by Barbara Pym

and a book each for Olivia and Bella.

There are also a few others that I've contemplated purchasing, but they either weren't available or didn't speak to me when I actually held them in my hands.
I never used to buy books, but in the past year I've bought quite a few. I have a huge stack (ask Niesa) of unread books that won't fit in my book case.
I have also begun an expensive MAC makeup habit, but that's a whole different story...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

2010 Masterpiece Classic

I'm very excited about the new year's Masterpiece Classic series. The schedule was recently posted online. It is starting in December this year with a repeat of Cranford and goes directly into Return to Cranford. There are also repeats of Northanger Abbey (quite good) and Persuasion (hideous). There are some interesting selections this year, including The Diary of Anne Frank. I'm most looking forward to Return to Cranford and the new version of Emma (to the left), which will start at the end of January.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sacred Scars


I read the second installment in the Resurrection of Magic series while I was in Pueblo (thanks to their lovely library inventory). When I read reviews people complained about it being slow, and it's often the complaint with a middle book in a series, but I thought it was an excellent book. It left me even more anxious for the third book in the series. After trying to escape with the kidnapped street boys, Sadima wakes up in the slums of a city with hair that will only grown the length of eyelashes, an inability to cross the boundaries of the slums, and no memory of who she is or how she got there. And one other thing: she never gets any older. After many years of cycling between hiding and running a cheese shop, she becomes part of an anti-magic movement known as the Errideans (sp?). Hahp and Gerrard are still surviving the rigors of the wizard school with their tentative pact, but things are getting harder. Hahp soon realizes he will have to involve all the students if they are to succeed in destroying Somas and his wizard school. A dangerous thought because one of the students can't be trusted. As it was only the 2nd book, it left a lot of questions unanswered, but I found it enjoyable and can't wait for the 3rd book.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Face on Your Plate by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson


This book is a battle cry for veganism. A fast, easy read it is packed with a very persuasive argument against eating any animal based products. There are chapters discussing the gruesome and inhumane way animals are slaughtered for our eating pleasure, how factory farming is helping to destroy the environment and how eating a plant-based diet is healthier for us. The last chapter of the book describes the author's own personal diet and eating habits. I liked this personalization of the book. Statistics and examples of horrible animal deaths are spurring, but I want to know how someone really lives with the choice to become a vegan. I can't say I enjoyed this book because it is very disturbing and horrific, but I appreciate the author's efforts to persuade us to stop eating animals.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

War at Ellsmere by Faith Erin Hicks


This is another graphic novel I picked up recently at the library. It is set at a private girls' boarding school and centers on Juniper, called Jun, a scholarship student who stirs up trouble when she dares to challenge the queen bee of Ellsmere, Emily. Who doesn't enjoy a classic tale of dork triumphing over the popular set? I know I do and I did enjoy this GN. I really liked the subtle, yet grin-inducing jokes and the antics of Jun and her roommate Cassie. The black and white drawings are extremely expressive and detailed. Fabulous.

Friday, November 20, 2009

New Moon


I saw New Moon down in Yuma last night with Kyla and Niesa. Sybil, we wish you could have been there, though the movie was less than stellar. True to form, most of the characters were whiny, the dialogue was simplistic, Edward was ridiculous and there was no chemistry between the two main stars of the film. The only bright spot was Jacob and the other La Push werewolves. That storyline is ten times more intriguing than that of the Cullens. The filmmakers have inadvertently made Edward look like a weak, hideous freak by glorifying the beauty and charisma of the Jacob character. I think there are many more girls willing to play for Team Jacob these days than for Team Edward.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Good Neighbors V.1 by Holly Black and Ted Naifeh


This graphic novel was recommended to me by a friend at work. This is the first book in a series of GNs by the author of the Spiderwick Chronicles. Rue is a teen who's mom has disappeared and who's dad has lost all will to live. When the GN opens she is pretty carefree, despite her family problems. When she starts seeing things, like fairies, and her dad is arrested for the murder of one of his students, she discovers that she has ties to the fairy world and her entire life is changed - but is it in a good way? This was a great, quick read with very expressive black and white drawings. I enjoyed the storyline and its novelistic feel.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Reading Roundup

I've lost momentum with my reading lately. I'm still plodding away at Middlemarch, but I gave up on Her Fearful Symmetry. I should have known better - I hated The Time Traveler's Wife. I have also checked out a few YA books and should get to them soon. Honestly, I don't know what I've been doing with my spare time lately.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Victorian Painter Alfred Stevens


I recently discovered the paintings of Alfred Stevens, a Belgian artist who painted during the Victorian era. I really love his work; it is beautiful and detailed and I like how he brought Victorian women to life. His depiction of their clothing is amazing. Every little ruffle, fold, drape and pleat is highlighted. His paintings have helped me imagine what the characters in Middlemarch would have looked like.You can view many of his paintings here.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Thanksgiving Visitor by Truman Capote


Another great holiday-themed story from Capote. This tale was more humorous than his Christmas story, but just as bittersweet. Featuring the same characters from A Christmas Memory, Buddy and Miss Sook, this story depicts the Thanksgiving preparations in their unique household and the arrival of an unexpected guest. I truly enjoyed reading both the holiday stories by Capote and they have spurred me to seek out other Christmas tales.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

In Honor of Veterans' Day


Anthem for a Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
--Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
 Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons. 
No mockeries for them from prayers or bells,
 Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,-
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
 And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
 Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
 The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of silent minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote


This short, charming story is an autobiographical tale of a Christmas in Alabama in the 30's. The narrator, Buddy, and his distant, elderly cousin are best friends who plan and save every year in order to purchase and make fruit cakes for various friends, including Mrs. Roosevelt. They also spend lots of time on finding the right Christmas tree and in decorating it like "a Baptist window". I was struck by the thriftiness of the characters: almost everything they created was from scratch, they scrimped all year to even come up with $12 to buy their ingredients with, their gifts were homemade. How different life is now! I loved this story and its warmth and humor. I have a soft spot for Truman Capote and have enjoyed almost everything I've read by him. Next, I'm going to read his The Thanksgiving Visitor.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Goal Post

I am posting today to fufill my goal of posting at least every other day in November, but I don't have much to say. I'm still reading Middlemarch - that might be a long-term project. I really admire it, but after reading about 4 or 5 pages I have to turn to something else. I am also reading Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger and a couple of books about brain development. I still want to read the list of Victorian classics suggested by Sarah Waters so after Middlemarch I'll start Great Expectations.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Disappointed


I've loved Andre Agassi since I was 14 and became a tennis fan. I always rooted for him to beat Pete Sampras in their legendary matches. I loved his flair, his passion, his showmanship and, most of all, his heart. When he retired a few years ago and played his last match at the U.S. Open I bawled. So I was excited when I discovered that he was writing an autobiography - I was really looking forward to reading it. I'm not now, however, after the revelation was leaked last week that he was a meth user for a year DURING his tennis career, lied to tennis officials about it and has also stated that he hates tennis. Hmmm... I try not to be judgemental and I still think he is an amazing person, but the fog has lifted. I don't have any interest in reading about him now. Is there no one left in the world who deserves the praise of humanity???

Monday, November 2, 2009

Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett


Published in 2004 this memoir has smacked against my windshield a few times, but it seemed that in every instance I felt an urgency to read it, it was checked out. It splattered once again this past week while I was on my quest for something special to read and this time, it was on the shelf.
Truth and Beauty entranced me from the first paragraph. Ann Patchett has a very clear, honest, shining voice and the story of her intense friendship with fellow writer Lucy Grealy is a fierce beacon to the reader's soul. Lucy Grealy was a poet who suffered from cancer as a child and lost the lower half of her jaw. She and Patchett meet in college and become roommates when they both attend grad school in Iowa. Lucy is an extraordinary person, larger than life and spontaneously vibrant. Her severe anxiety about her facial abnormality does not stop her from pursuing her goal of becoming a writer, yet she suffers from unbearable depression and loneliness throughout her life that debilitates her progress. I think anyone who has ever felt unattractive, lonely, and unloveable will understand Lucy's intense feelings of inadequacy, but most of us will also identify with Patchett, the long-suffering, loyal stalwart who can do nothing to heal her friend's ruptured self-worth. At the start of the book, I felt more in tune with Lucy but as it neared its end and Lucy tumbled into mental illness and drug abuse, I felt myself align with Ann. Patchett neatly times the reader's response to Lucy; I started to become exasperated with Lucy at exactly the point in the book when Ann nearly ends their friendship. I admired Ann's faithfulness throughout. I've never been called upon to serve a friend the way she served Lucy. She is an amazing example of true friendship. I enjoyed this beautifully tragic true tale.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

November Goal

I have a goal this month to post on our blog at least every other day. I find writing down my thoughts about reading and books helps me sharpen my insights and refine my scattered musings. I am reading a lot right now since I have chosen lately to be homebound and haven't felt particulary sociable. I'm sure this is due to the weather changing and it getting dark so soon. It is dark now when I get off of work and it makes me want to flee to the coziness and comfort of home. This time of the year also makes me reflective and more willing to ponder the "big questions" about life. So, I will be thinking and reading and will share my thoughts here throughout the month. Happy November!

Friday, October 30, 2009

World War Z

Anbo, I read this book a long time ago, but it was featured in one of your shared items. I REALLY liked this book. It was written as reports to the government from different people all over the world after the zombie outbreak has been, for the most part, contained. One thing I thought was really interesting: it told of the rebuilding of civilization and people like construction workers, electricians and plumbers were directing workers that might have included CEOs of major companies. Their skill sets were more valuable than corporate know-how when it came to starting over. I remember there was lots of swearing, but overall, my all time favorite zombie book. I'm looking forward to the movie they're making of it. Kind of. They always ruin books when they make a movie.

Quite Beautiful

These Penguin Classics designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith are so lovely. Ten of them recently became available in the U.S. and yesterday I acquired my first one. I now own the gorgeous looking  The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. As funds permit, I intend to buy all of them. I think books that are works of art on the outside, as well as the inside, are hard to resist.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt


I loved this book with all of my heart. And I love A.S. Byatt for creating such a fantastic, marvelous, riveting journey for her readers. I really have no words to describe the amazing experience I consider this book to be, but I will try to impart some of my thoughts on it.
The book opens in the 1890's and centers around a middle class family called the Wellwoods. Humphry is a banker and Olive is a famous writer of children's books. As the book begins, Olive is visiting Major Cain, an employee of the Victoria & Albert Museum and has brought her son Tom along. Tom and Cain's son Julian discover a boy, Philip, who has been living in the basement of the museum, drawing its contents and dreaming of becoming a potter. The Wellwoods take Philip home and set him up with a famous potter of their acquaintance and we are now introduced to all of the families who inhabit this novel. 
The subsequent plot is a luscious exploration of the myriad characters, how they develop over the years and how the changes in society affect them and how they live. It doesn't sound very engaging, and there are many readers who hated this novel for its meandering storyline, but I loved the minutiae and the discussion of societal and cultural influences in England at this time in history. One of my favorite aspects of this novel was its focus on fairy tales and German puppetry, but there were so many other things that stirred my senses, piqued my curiosity, and delighted my soul. 
Byatt's writing is not for everyone. You have to have patience and a love of detail to really enjoy her novels. As much as I loved this book, there were times when I was exhaused reading about the history of various socialist organizations operating in England and Germany at the time. However, the payoff is worth the effort it takes to read her. The Children's Book is one of the best books I've read this year and I am so glad I took the time to do it.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Still Victorianing

I'm still on my Victorian kick, reading Middlemarch and The Children's Book. I am currently stuck in the section of Middlemarch that describes Dr. Lydgate and his character and views on medicine. It is slow going. I'm finding The Children's Book to be fascinating and lovely, though it is definitely not a novel to be read haphazardly - it must be savored. So, I'm not sure when I will have a book to post about, but be assured that I AM reading. No reading funk is happening here!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

New List

While surfing the Internet today, I discovered this list of "Sarah Waters's Top 10 Victorian Novels", published in the Guardian back in 2002. Since you all know that Sarah Waters is one of my favorite authors does it surprise you that I feel I must read all of the novels she has suggested here? Of course, I've already read Jane Eyre,The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dracula, and The Woman in White, but it never hurts to read them again. The others will be new to me. I am currently reading Middlemarch, a Victorian novel not on her list, so once I finish that I will start with Jane Eyre, which I just happen to have sitting on my couch as we speak. I got a hankering for Jane the other evening and read the first chapter, which then led me to decide to finally read Middlemarch. I am definitely a Victorifan!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith


Dad got me this for my birthday and gave it to me early so they wouldn't have to wait for Thanksgiving before they could give it to me. It was very silly. A lot of the book is straight Pride and Prejudice, but some parts were altered to make it more zombie friendly. Charlotte Lucas was bitten by a zombie and slowly turned and had to have her head chopped off by Mr. Collins, who then hanged himself. Lady Catherine was foremost in the country for zombie slaying and when she comes to deny her consent to the marriage, she and Elizabeth have a duel. Mr. Darcy cripples Mr. Wickham and Lydia has to spend the rest of her life changing his soiled pants, etc. Overall, an interesting read. If you love Pride and Prejudice and have no care for zombies, don't read this. You will be very sad to see Jane's book mangled so. But if you can handle a little poking fun, even at Jane Austen, and the frequent mention of vomit, you might enjoy this book.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

She Didn't Win


The amazing Sarah Waters did not win the Man Booker Prize for The Little Stranger. The prize went to Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. I have the winning book on hold and am eager to read it, but how can it be better than The Little Stranger? I am also reading The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt, which was also nominated for the prize. Set during  the Victorian and Edwardian eras, my favorite periods to read about, it is dense and full of details that bring these eras vividly to life. I will write more about it when I finish.

Friday, October 2, 2009

I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan


From the Ultimate Teen Bookshelf list
It seems everyone is familiar with this story, either from reading the book or seeing the movie. Up to this point in my life I had done neither, though I knew the basic premise - four teens after a night partying in the mountains, strike and kill a young boy riding his bicycle on a dark country road. They make a pact with each other that night to never tell anyone what happened. A year later they all begin receiving notes and cards that leads them to believe that someone knows their secret. After one of the group is shot they realize that this person is serious about punishing them for what happened and the violence escalates until he is caught.
I thought this novel was okay. It was published in the early '70s and was definitely dated in its language usage, concepts of relationships and treatment of women. I don't think teens today would enjoy it fully since it is almost a historical novel. Knowing a movie was made from the book might draw some teens to it, but I can't see it being a huge hit, although the reviews on Barnes & Noble are pretty good. So, perhaps teens would still like it? Well, they can, but I didn't.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Losing It

Today, I had to pay for a book I lost. I know, embarrassing! But, contrary to what you might think, librarians do not have to sign a contract stating that we will never lose or damage items. We are human! This is the third item that I've lost in 5 years and I think that is a pretty good record considering that I usually have about 30 items checked out at a time. The sad thing this time is that I never even read the book. Oh, well. Have any of you ever had to pay for a lost or damaged library item?

Friday, September 18, 2009

It's Happening Again

I'm in another mini reading funk this week. I just haven't been able to read. I haven't really been interested in TV either so that leaves... daydreaming? I don't know what I've been doing with myself. I need to find something good to read for this weekend or I'll be sad.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

All the Colors of Darkness by Peter Robinson

Mr. Robinson's latest Inspector Alan Banks detective novel illustrates how wonderful a writer he has become. His first book was published in 1987 and I've tried to read his early Banks novels with little success. I find them lacking imagination and extremely routine. Yet his novels that have been published in the past 10 years or so are outstanding. He just keeps capitalizing on his experience and knowledge to create intricate, well-plotted, intriguing novels.
The lastest Alan Banks mystery finds Alan and DS Annie Cabot investigating the murder of a wealthy, ex-civil servant in Eastvale. The same day he is found murdered his boyfriend, a set designer for the local theater, is found in the woods hanging from a tree. They quickly deduce that it was a case of murder-suicide, but something doesn't sit right with Banks and, though he is forbidden to investigate further, he goes to London to track down several clues that could break the case open and send it in an entirely different direction. This novel was unique in that the mystery was solved within the first 50 pages, but the loose ends were the main focus of the book. I enjoyed Banks' investigations, but there were several sideplots that were distracting and unnecessary, including a terrosist attack on London that was kind of weirdly wedged in. There also wasn't enough of Annie, whose character I like and want to read more about. I also had issues with the ending, which seemed melodramatic and just didn't work. Overall, though, another excellent novel from Peter Robinson, who I will continue to read.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson

Another Ultimate Teen Bookshelf entry.
Do NOT read this, I repeat, DO NOT read this if you are PMSing! This is one of the saddest YA books I've ever read. Basic story: Ellie and Jeremiah are both new at their posh Manhattan school. When they meet in the hall one day it is love at first sight, but will their racial differences derail their relationship before it begins? A tragic, yet beautifully written love story from a very insightful writer. Teens who like the intensity of a Twilight-like love affair will devour If You Come Softly, however it doesn't end well and there are no vampires. Nevertheless, it is a gut-wrenching tale that many teen girls will identify with and take to heart.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Awards News

One of my favorite books so far this year, The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters, has been nominated for the Man Booker literature prize. If you haven't read it yet, save it for a time when you can stay up late reading because you won't want to put it down! A fantastic book!

The Killer's Cousin by Nancy Werlin

This is another selection from the Ultimate Teen Bookshelf.
David Yaffe is eighteen and heading to Boston to live with his aunt and uncle and attend a private school for his senior year. Given snippets of information about his former life in Baltimore, the reader surmises that David was acquitted of murdering his girlfriend, Emily, and has come to Boston to escape attention and publicity. He moves in with his Uncle Vic, Aunt Julia and 11-year-old cousin Lily. They have a 3 story house and have remodeled the attic floor into an apartment where David will live while he attends school. His mother and Aunt Julia have never liked each other and when David arrives, Aunt Julia won't speak to him. He quickly finds out that Aunt Julia is also not speaking to Uncle Vic and that Lily is the go-between for her parents. He also discovers that Lily is a very strange and scary child. When David tries to discuss her behavior with his aunt and uncle, their relationship goes downhill and we learn how dysfunctional this family really is. I liked The Killer's Cousin. It was suspenseful and creepy and despite us knowing that David has killed someone, I liked his character. I would suggest this to a teen who wants to read a thriller and who wouldn't get too freaked out by murder and all-around evil. There were parts of the book that could have been better developed - some plotlines and characters are definitely left hanging. All in all, though,this was enjoyable.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Internet Down

Just a quick message to let you know my Internet is down at home so I haven't been able to post about any books this week. It should be back up either tomorrow or Friday. I've read a few books in the past week and I can't wait to tell you all about them!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff

This YA novel is on the Ultimate Teen Bookshelf list that I am trying to read through. When I read the synopsis it sounded okay, but it is better than okay - it is fabulous!
LaVaughn is fourteen and lives with her single mom in a disadvantaged neighborhood. In order to earn money for college LaVaughn takes a job babysitting for Jolly, a seventeen-year-old mother, who has two kids, Jeremy and Jilly. Jolly's apartment is filth-encrusted and cockroach infested, but LaVaughn loves the kids and becomes Jolly's friend. When Jolly gets fired LaVaughn continues to babysit for free while Jolly tries to find a job, much to LaVaughn's mother's disapproval. After months of unemployment, Jolly is finally convinced by LaVaughn to return to school and earn her GED. LaVaughn witnesses the desperation and mistrust that fill Jolly, yet also the accountability and capability Jolly accepts when she "takes hold" (as LaVaughn's mother says) and becomes responsible for her life and her childrens' lives. After a dramatic event that nearly takes Jilly's life, Jolly and LaVaughn go their separate ways and LaVaughn is left to ponder the nature of their relationship and why it had to end, as is the reader.
Written in a free-verse style and told in first person by LaVaughn, this short novel powerfully tells the story of two teens who are from the same neighborhood, but who take dramatically different paths in life. The evolution of Jolly's character is extremely well-done and so is the rendering of a poor neighborhood and school. I was very happy to find out that there is a sequel that focuses on LaVaughn - I can't wait to read it.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Color Your Future

This was a surprisingly awesome book. I thought it was going to be a lot like The Color Code, separating out the colors and building from there but it was a book to all the colors on strengthening character. Very inspiring. My favorite quote from the book: "The less time and energy you spend on those you love, the less capable you are of loving them." This quote has haunted me since I read it. Hope it does the same for you :)

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I may be the last librarian in America to have read this book. Since being published last year, this YA novel has taken everyone by storm and the last time I checked there was still a waiting list for it at my library. I know that Kyla and Megan read it and both recommended it so I hope I can discuss it with one of them soon.
Katniss Everdeen lives in a fractured, post-apocalytic North America called Panem that is now divided into districts. Most of the districts are poor and people die of starvation, including in Katniss' District 12. This district is known for its coal mining and Katniss' father was killed in a mining accident when she was young. Katniss had to become the provider for her mother and little sister Prim and has therefore learned how to hunt, fish, trap and forage for food. Little does she know that these skills will be paramount to her survival in a brutish, bloody, fight to the death spectacle called the hunger games. The hunger games occur once a year and each district must send 2 teen participants to compete, one boy and one girl. This year, Katniss is chosen to compete along with Peeta Mellark, a boy who once saved her life. The suspense then begins as we follow Katniss into the arena as she tries to become the winner of the hunger games and return to her mother and Prim. 
This description doesn't do the book justice at all as there are so many undercurrents running through the novel and I can't describe them without giving the novel away. I can only say that you should read it to discover one of the most suspenseful, thrilling, touching YA books I've read in a while. It definitely lived up to the hype and I have a hold on the next book in the series, Catching Fire, which will be released on Tuesday.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Pet Peeve

A pet peeve I've had for a while now which doesn't make sense to me, but bugs me nonetheless is inappropriate names for female characters. What I mean specifically is generationally incorrect names. I find it so annoying when characters who are from my generation are named Edith, Joan, Carol, etc. I don't know anyone born in the 70's who has a name like this! Jennifer, Michelle, Stacy, yes. Linda, Susan, Cindy, NO! The same goes for characters who are born in the 80's. Jessica, Amanda, Ashley, yes! Judy, Shirley, Betty, NO! If I ever write a book, you can bet that my names will fit the generation the character was born in.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Watchers by Dean Koontz


I have read this book at least 10 times, and I still love it! I read it again because I was procrastinating finishing The Mill on the Floss and wanted a quick read. This is a great story about two escaped lab projects. One, a golden retriever with the intelligence of a human and one a hideous, intelligent monstrosity, called The Outsider, designed to be a killer. The dog ends up with Travis, a disillusioned and depressed veteran and brings him together with Nora, a beautiful, albeit timid, woman who was raised to be a spinster. The dog changes their lives and becomes part of their family, but The Outsider has a compulsive need to track and kill the dog who was the "favored son" of the Francis Project that produced them both. Then there's always the looney out of left field that seems a recurring element in Koontz's novels. A man named Vince who is a contract killer believes he absorbs the lives of those he kills. He also believes he will someday achieve immortality and that owning the dog is part of his destiny. So we have the NSA, The Outsider, and Crazy Vince after the dog, Einstein, and Travis and Nora trying to keep the dog safe and free. Exciting read, and only a little funny for having been written in the late '80s.

My Heartbeat by Garret Freymann-Weyr

This short, but powerful novel is listed on the Ultimate Teen Bookshelf list that was recently put out by the American Library Association. Since I've switched over to youth services I thought I'd try to read as many of these as I can in order to have a better background in YA literature.
My Heartbeat
describes the plight of Ellen, a freshman in high school, and her brother Link and his best friend James. Link and James are older and wiser and allow Ellen to hang out with them on occasion. Ellen has had a crush on James for a while (which he knows about) and admires her brother. When a fellow student asks if Link and James are "a couple" Ellen reevaluates her view of their relationship and decides to ask them. Her probing changes the dynamics of all of their relationships and Ellen and James eventually start dating, while Link has to deal with his confused sexual identity. The writing in My Heartbeat is beautiful and the material is thought provoking. Freymann-Weyr examines the issues of love and who you love in a, mostly, open-minded way. I definitely wouldn't recommend this to anyone who is offended by frank discussion of sexual identity or the opinion that it doesn't matter who you love, as long as you love.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Bella Tuscany by Frances Mayes

In the spirit of Under the Tuscan Sun, Bella Tuscany continues the story of Frances Mayes' restoration of her house in Cortona. Since the house is mostly complete in this book, we journey with Frances and her husband Ed as they explore other parts of Italy including Naples and Sicily. I very much enjoy Mayes's writing style and love her lush descriptions of everything she comes into contact with. This is a beautifully written as well as informative book.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Reading Makes Me Sick

Not really! I've just had a continuous massive, migraine-like headache this entire week and when I get home I can barely watch TV, let alone read. Pain-killers don't seem to help, so I haven't done much reading, except for a few picture books, lately. I've never gone this long without reading much and I hope it goes away soon. I think I've been too stressed out over switching jobs that I've lost all interest in everything that normally makes me happy. Maybe when I settle in to the new job I will be able to focus more.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot (who, by the way, was really a woman)


This is a "can't put it down but can't bear to go on" book. You want so badly for things to go well for Maggie, all the while thinking that things can't possibly end well. This is a story about a family who, through a series of misfortunes, lose everything and their struggle to restore their good name and standing. It is about human struggle and virtues and ignorance and pride and disappointment and it's no wonder George Eliot was really a woman, which I did not know until reading the bio at the beginning of the book. I devoured the first 7/8's of the book, but cannot bring myself to go on as I think of all the possible endings and none of them are good. If anyone has read the book, please give me a warning or some hope so I will not do what Mom does: read the last page to decide whether I want to go on or not.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Ennui Continues

I still can't read and it is driving me crazy! I spent tonight watching 1,000 episodes of Snapped on the Oxygen Channel because I just can't put forth the effort to do anything else right now. I did get the new Stieg Larsson novel last week, The Girl Who Played with Fire, but it is disappointing me. I really don't care for how amoral everyone in the novel is. I thought it was quirky in the first novel, but just irritating in the second. I know that the author intended for the main character, Lisbeth Salander, to be completely free and without scruples, but do I really want to read about someone like this? She is supposed to be the heroine in the series, but I don't find her to be someone to look up to. I don't know if I will finish the book. Aside from that, I am dabbling in Frances Mayes reading both Bella Tuscany and A Year in the World intermittently. Maybe I will finish one of them soon.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Divine Center

Yes, I'm finally posting!! Mostly because I am so inspired by this book, The Divine Center by Stephen Covey. It is opening my eyes to so many different perspectives. Thanks to Anbolyn for recommending.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Changes to My Reading?

I haven't finished any books lately, and surprisingly, have not really felt like reading. I've been watching a lot of TV instead. I don't know why this is, but I hope it passes soon.
I found out last week that I am now a youth librarian (well, as of August 17) and I am moving to another branch to supervise 4 people. This shocking news might be why I haven't felt like reading (and haven't been able to sleep). This is a huge change for me! I'm not sure if it will alter my reading habits by making me feel obligated to read childrens' and YA fiction. Probably not. I may read a few more kids' books than normal, but I see myself sticking to my usual. That is, once I feel like reading again!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Oh Happy Day!

I just found out that Masterpiece Classic will be showing Cranford 2 this coming winter! I loved and adored Cranford and can't wait to see what the sequel brings. There will also be a new adaptation of Emma, which I've never been fond of but will gladly watch anyway, just because it is Jane Austen.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Reading Spaz

I'm all over the place with my reading these days, so I'm not sure when I'll finish another book. Nothing is really grabbing my attention. These are the times when I just throw everything at the wall and hope something sticks.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is the first novel in a trilogy that was written by Stieg Larsson before he passed away in 2004 from a heart attack. It was published last year to lots of critic and reader praise. I thought it sounded good when it came out last year, but I was off mysteries at the time (and still mostly am) so I gave it a pass. I picked it up a few weeks ago, though, because it finally hit the right spot. This blockbuster Swedish crime novel features the mysterious and intriguing Lisbeth Salander, a tattooed, surly, asocial computer genius. When Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist who's recently been convicted of libel, is summoned to the home of Henrik Vanger he is wary. What would one of Sweden's most successful businessmen want with a disgraced magazine writer? Mikael soon finds out: Vanger wants him to solve the disappearance of his beloved niece Harriet in exchange for cold hard cash. With trepidation, Mikael agrees to the assignment and soon finds himself enmeshed in the troubled world of the Vanger family. When he makes a breakthrough in the case he hires Lisbeth to be his research assistant and together they embark on a dangerous quest to discover the truth. Though billed as a mystery, I enjoyed the more chaotic structure of this novel. With several plot lines running rampant, this did not have the feel of a traditional plodding procedural mystery. The characters are fascinating, especially Lisbeth, and the pacing is spot-on, spurring the reader to quickly turn the pages and possibly stay up much too late to find out the truth.This book might have triggered my return to reading mysteries, as it was so good that I realized I was craving the satisfaction you get from reading a well-plotted and intense thriller. I can't wait until the second one, The Girl Who Played With Fire, comes out later this month!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Raven's Gate

Alright, this isn't really about a book I've read, but it aroused my curiosity. I've Googled it and looked it up on Wikipedia and the only reference I can find for Raven's Gate is the book by Anthony Horowitz. I've seen it referenced in many horror movies and books and I'm wondering if it just sounds ominous, or if there is some mythical basis for the name. Does anyone know? I wanted to post on the author's message board, but there's no guarantee that he will see it or that those who do see it will know the answer. Plus, you have to promise your firstborn and read a 700-page policy before you can post. I'll continue researching. I MIGHT even go to the library and read some books.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Masterpiece Mystery

On Monday, I watched two new episodes of Poirot and one new episode of Miss Marple that have recently aired on PBS. (Oh, how I love my DVR!) I loved the Agatha Christie mysteries when I was a teen so I was happy to see these new versions air. I enjoy Hercule Poirot, but I've always had a soft spot for Miss Marple (maybe it's because we're both spinsters?) Julia McKenzie (who played Mrs. Forrester in Cranford) is the new Miss Marple and I think she does an excellent job. She seems like the kind of woman whom people would easily confide their secrets in. There are three more episodes scheduled in the coming weeks and I will be eagerly awaiting them.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Yes, I Changed It Again

This is what happens when you are home alone and looking for something to do! I hope no one minds.

A Pearl in the Storm by Tori Murden McClure

A Pearl in the Storm is on the summer list of Oprah's recommended books and sounded intriguing. Tori Murden McClure was the first woman to row across the Atlantic Ocean alone. She completed this amazing feat after a tragically failed attempt when she got caught in three hurricanes that nearly killed her. The first 2/3 of the book documents her travails in the first attempt she made to cross the Atlantic. There are fascinating stories of shark sightings, sperm whales nearly capsizing her boat, communing with dolphins, and all of the equipment breakdowns she had to deal with. I was amazed by her intelligence and ingenuity in dealing with adversity. The story of her survival on the boat is intermittently sprinkled with stories from her past that illuminate for the reader how Tori became the woman she is today. The flashbacks tie in neatly to what she is experiencing on the boat and she does not glorify herself in any way. When she returns from her attempt is when the book took a personal turn for me. She falls in love for the first time at the age of 35. I thought I was one of the only women alive who hasn't been in love at 35! Her experience gave me hope and was even scarier to me than her journey across the ocean. I really admired her willingness to expose her weaknesses and how she was able to turn them into strengths. This book is about much more than rowing across the ocean; it's about resilience, learning how to take down the walls that keep you from knowing others and yourself, and about reaching goals, though it may almost kill you to do so. Great book!

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

This book has garnered a lot of buzz in the past month and so, though I normally don't care to read novels about American historical topics, I decided to try this. And I'm glad I did! I really liked this novel. It centers around Connie who is a Ph.D candidate in American studies at Harvard. She is trying to decide on a thesis topic when she is asked to clear out her deceased grandmother's home so it can be sold. While doing this she discovers the name of a possibly forgotten woman who was executed in the Salem Witch Trials. The bulk of the novel then details her search for the physick book or spell book of this woman, Deliverance Dane, her budding relationship with a fellow historian and her uncovering of a family history she never knew about. Connie's story is interspersed with chapters that tell the story of Deliverance and her daughter Mercy so the reader feels a personal connection with this interesting woman. There are supernatural elements in the novel which are very believable and even exciting. I would call this an adventure novel, but it is slower paced and more character driven and intelligent than your average adventure tome. And the historical details were fascinating and made the Colonial period come alive for me. I would suggest this to readers who like thoughtful adventures or to readers who have an interest in the Salem Witch Trials.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Another Intriguing List

Newsweek has published a list of "50 Books for Our Times" that looks interesting. I always make myself familiar with the books on these lists because we inevitably have patrons come in looking for the titles. Midnight's Children is on the list! I think this book is going to haunt me.

Also, they have a list of the Top 100 Books that they compiled based on 10 other lists - their meta-list. Hmmm.... maybe I should try to read the books on this list instead? I like that it includes non-fiction and poetry. So, keeping to my guidelines for the Telegraph list I decided to read from (no series, no books over 1,000 pages, only books the library owns) I will start with #99, The Color Purple. And, yes, Midnight's Children is on this list too!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Anthony Horowitz

Right now I'm reading The Gatekeepers series by Anthony Horowitz. I'm never reading a series again. I think that it's safe. That if there are four books it has to be done, right? No! The fourth book is not the last in the series and the fifth has not been written yet! It's a pretty good series, though. It's reminiscent of The Dark is Rising series written in the 70's except I like it a little better. The concept is that centuries ago the Old Ones, evil beings whose only purpose is to destroy everything on earth, ruled the world. They were banished by five children (well, 15 year olds) who constructed a gate to keep them out. Flash forward to present day. The Old Ones have faithful followers who are working to release them into the world, hoping for power and glory. The Old Ones are aided by an evil corporate giant (because what corporation isn't evil?) called Nightrise. The Five have been reborn and are being brought together by unexplainable forces to once again banish the Old Ones. They are aided by various native tribes throughout the Americas and a secret group called the Nexxus who are the only ones that know about the legend of The Five. Anyway, it's a pretty good series, like I said. Just don't read it if you don't want to wait for the fifth book!

Random

I don't really have anything to write about, but I didn't want to let a week go by without a post. I'm reading a ton of awesome books right now so I should have a lot of reviews soon. I have almost too much to read! Not that I'm complaining...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

True to the Game by Teri Woods

Oh my goodness, I think I might be going to hell for reading this book. This novel is part of the "street lit" genre of fiction that is incredibly popular with some African-American readers. We are discussing these books for our genre study at work and I chose this particular title because it was one of the first contemporary books of its kind to be published, and self-published at that. The plot centers on Gena, an 18-year-old hustler who survives by acquiring drug dealer boyfriends who pay her way in life. One night at a club in Harlem she meets, Quadir, the biggest drug dealer in South Philly. They immediately get together and the rest of the plot revolves around all of the money she spends, the sex they have, the raunchy, depressing lives of their friends, and Quadir's battle with the Junior Mafia, a rival drug dealing operation. The amount of cursing, nasty sex and disrespectful attitudes toward women in this book nearly made me sick every time I read it. But I have to say, Teri Woods knows how to keep the story going. Her writing is sloppy and the transitions between scenes are terrible, but her plotting is good. I did want to find out how the story ended and what would happen to Qua and Gena. However, I feel that my mind has been dirtied by reading this. It was just...yuck. Not recommended!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Oprah's Summer Reading

I normally detest most things associated with Oprah, but I might have to read a few books on her "25 Books You Can't Put Down List" just because I know the library patrons will be asking for and about them. In fact, I've already had people asking for #3.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Progress

So I started reading Midnight's Children and it has been excruciating so far. Rushdie's writing style is confusing and I don't really know what is going on, but I am going to struggle through. Discipline!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Bruno, Chief of Police by Martin Walker

I've posted a review of Bruno, Chief of Police on the More Than Books... blog that I write for work. Check it out.



Monday, June 8, 2009

Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

Under the Tuscan Sun is the now classic travel book that launched an obsession with Italy and lyrical travel writing. The author, Frances Mayes, lovingly recounts her purchase and restoration, with her poet husband Ed, of a crumbling, yet beautiful house in Cortona, Italy. I read this book when it was first published back in the '90's, but I love Mayes' writing so much that I decided to read it again. There is no one like her when it comes to describing the mundane details of shopping in town, picking olives or hauling stones out of the garden. She makes everything sacred and has a true gift for finding beauty in everyday life. I can only take her way of living as an example for when I am feeling that my life has no beauty or mystery - she creates beauty and that is something I forget sometimes, that we can create our own miracles.
By the way, the film of the same name starring Diane Lane, although lovely, bears hardly any resemblance to the book.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Reading Project

I occasionally get the urge to have a more directed program of reading, one that will provide a goal for reading classic novels. This weekend I got one of these urges and found this list to work from. Out of the 100, I have read 24 of the novels. I decided to work backward from #100, and to skip series for now, and to read only books that we have at the library. Because of those parameters I will start with #94, Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie. I don't know if this goal will last, but I'm going to try to get through as many as I can. Do you have any reading goals?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Birthday?

I just went back and read the archives of this blog and realized that I published the first post on June 1, 2006. So we are 3!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

The latest novel by Lisa See continues her focus on Chinese culture, but this novel is relatively modern compared to her others. The story begins in 1937 in Shanghai and centers on two sisters, Pearl and May, best friends and "beautiful girls" who model for calendars and live the good life in Shanghai, earning their own money, frequenting dance clubs and spending large chunks of money on expensive Western dresses. All good things must come to an end though, so when their father loses the family money while gambling, the sisters are sold off in marriage to repay their father's debts. At the same time, the Japanese army invades China. The rest of the novel relates the tale of their escape from China and their struggle to connect with their new family while experiencing poverty and racism in the United States. See is an engaging storyteller who keeps the busy plot moving in a swift and concentrated manner. Her characterization is nearly flawless as she brings Pearl and May to life, rarely resorting to cliche. It was fascinating to read about the experience of Chinese immigration in the early twentieth century and how hard it was for the Chinese to be accepted in this country. If you enjoy multi-generational family sagas or reading about Chinese culture, this would be the book to put on your summer reading list.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant

This was my second try at this novel and it took this time. The first time I tried to read this I was put off by the prologue which describes the death of an elderly nun. For some reason it was distasteful to me, but this time it made sense. The Birth of Venus is set in 15th century Florence at a time of great upheaval. The main character is Alessandra Cecchi, a sixteen-year-old, headstrong, intelligent aspiring painter. When the story opens she is contracted in marriage to an older man. The marriage seems like it will be a perfect solution for both of them, as her husband Cristoforo needs an heir and Alessandra needs a husband who will allow her the freedom to paint, which Cristoforo does. However, all is not as it seems in their relationship and when a fiery monk, Savanarola, takes control of the city and institutes a suffocating crackdown on sin, their marriage and Florentine society begins to fall apart. Add to this mix Alessandra's love for a fellow painter and her husband's secret life and you get a very passionate and dramatic plot. I really loved reading about 15th century Florence and art and was mesmerized by the details of daily life during this time period. I was also pleased that the plot of this novel did not take the reader where you think it should go, but twisted to fit the reality of what would really happen to someone like Alessandra during this era. I plan to read the second novel in Dunant's Renaissance trilogy, In the Company of the Courtesan, within the coming weeks and hope it will be as satisfying.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

What I'm Listening To


I haven't had a lot of time to read lately, so I've been getting books on CD. I listen to them while I clean the kitchen, put on make-up, etc. I listened to a GREAT book recently called Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey. It's the first in a series called A Resurrection of Magic. It has a dual plot-taking place in two different times. The story switches back and forth every chapter between the story of a magically gifted girl in a time where true magic is outlawed and a young boy who attends a wizard school where the boys are forbidden from helping one another and they will starve to death if they cannot magically produce food. My kitchen has never been so clean as I would find any excuse to be in there while I still had CDs of this book left to "read." Skillful writing that was able to maintain both plots while keeping the reader interested (inability to do this is why it took me so long to finish The Historian) was impressive. Thoroughly enjoyable read. Bad news: the second book of the series is not out yet, meaning it will probably be a few years before I can satisfy my curiousity about Sadima and Hahp's fates.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

This is a ghost story. Or is it? The Little Stranger fits into my favorite gothic novel category and is an excellent example of a scary, horror story that is not bloody or gory. Set just after World War II in Warwickshire, England this novel is narrated by Dr. Faraday, a 40-year-old bachelor and country doctor. When he is called out to a case at Hundreds' Hall he meets the Ayres family; Mrs. Ayres, her daughter Caroline and her son Roderick. They are an old, aristocratic family who live in a beautiful, yet crumbling and falling apart mansion. Their financial situation is precarious and Roderick is under extreme stress trying to keep them solvent. Injured in the war, he walks with a limp and when Dr. Faraday proposes an electrical treatment for his muscles Rod reluctantly agrees. Dr. Faraday begins spending many hours with the family administering Rod's treatment and eventually becomes entangled in their strange affairs. Soon, mysterious and tragic events begin to befall this isolated family and Dr. Faraday details it all as it is told to him as he rarely witnesses the events himself. As the novel progresses the reader starts to feel that "something isn't right here" feeling, but it is hard to pinpoint why. Eventually, the family comes to believe that they are possessed by a supernatural force that is trying to destroy them. I loved the pacing of this novel. Waters uses the slow build-up method that makes the reader uneasy and creeped out. Though the pacing is deliberate, I couldn't stop reading and stayed up long into the night to discover the mystery of Hundreds Hall. If you like gothic reads such as The Historian or The Thirteenth Tale, this is a perfect read for you. It is also perfect if you just want a good old-fashioned ghost story. I loved it!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

I am a huge fan of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, but I hadn't read anything else by her so I decided to read this newest book of hers. Wintergirls centers around Lia, a senior in high school who is battling anorexia. We follow her through the death of her former best friend and through her struggles to maintain a healthy facade while, secretly, she is starving herself, experiencing hallucinations and cutting herself to relieve the severe hatred and loathing she feels for herself. (How many times can I say herself in a sentence?) It was interesting to see what the mindset of an anorexic girl might be and to see how her false beliefs fuel her illness. Anderson's unique writing style perfectly mimics the jagged and jumpy thoughts that Lia has and the mood she creates gives the reader an understanding of Lia's mental suffering. However, I didn't really like this book. I understand it on a creative level, but as a story it was nearly unbearable to read. I felt such despair reading it that I had to stop about half-way through and leave it for a while. I didn't want to finish it because entering Lia's world again was not enticing in the least. But I did want to see how Lia would come through. The ending was a bit forced and melodramatic, but I was just glad it was over. I wouldn't recommend Wintergirls. Read Speak instead; it's a more successful effort.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Teaser Tuesday - The Little Stranger


TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

Grab your current read.

Let the book fall open to a random page.

Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.

You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

Please avoid spoilers!

"What was I to do? It was clear to me - horribly clear - that over the past few weeks Rod had been the victim of some very powerful hallucinations."

From The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters


Friday, May 15, 2009

My Reading List

I thought I'd share a list of the books I am reading at the moment. I'm a terribly spastic reader and I always have tons of books going. Here's my current list:

Graceling
by Kristin Cashore -- 1/3 read

In a world where some people are born with extreme and often-feared skills called Graces, Katsa struggles for redemption from her own horrifying Grace, the Grace of killing, and teams up with another young fighter to save their land from a corrupt king.
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson -- 1/2 read
Eighteen-year-old Lia comes to terms with her best friend's death from anorexia as she struggles with the same disorder.

Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes -- 2/3 read

The Rose of Sebastopol
by Katharine McMahon -- just started

When her fiance falls ill while serving in the Crimean War, Mariella Lingwood travels to Italy to care for him only to discover that her cousin, a volunteer in Florence Nightingale's nursing corps, has gone missing.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley -- just started
Eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, is propelled into a mystery when a man is found murdered on the grounds of her family's decaying English mansion and Flavia's father becomes the main suspect.
Wondrous Strange by Leslie Livingston -- just started
Seventeen-year-old Kelley discovers her secret heritage after meeting Sonny, a guard of the gate that separates the fairy world from the mortal one, while a war band of fairies plan to force their way through the gate on Halloween night.
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks - almost finished
Sophomore Frankie starts dating senior Matthew Livingston, but when he refuses to talk about the all-male secret society that he and his friends belong to, Frankie infiltrates the society in order to enliven their mediocre pranks.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins -- just started
In a future North America, where the rulers of Panem maintain control through an annual televised survival competition pitting young people from each of the twelve districts against one another, sixteen-year-old Katniss's skills are put to the test when she voluntarily takes her younger sister's place.