Monthly Archives:: May 2012

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Just Read It: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

May 29, 2012 Books 12

I am in a predicament. It appears I am in a similar predicament to Margarie Ingall, who reviewed Code Name Verity for the New York Times.

I’m in a bit of a predicament. Oh, it’s not the predicament of a girl pilot who has crash-landed in occupied France during World War II, or of a girl spy who has been captured by the Gestapo, but it’s still problematic. I have to review a book in which even the hint of plot summary could ruin everything. – Code Name Verity review, New York Times

Yes, that is it exactly. How do you review such an intricately written and plotted novel without giving something away? The wrong word, the wrong sentence could GIVE SOMETHING AWAY. And that I could never forgive myself for. Code Name Verity is like a game of cat and mouse. Elizabeth Wein leads you through so many twists and turns… see, I feel like I’ve said too much already. Yet I feel like I have to say SOMETHING about what this book is about.

Okay. There are these two young women. I was never completely sure of their ages, but I’m pretty sure they were in their late teens. One is Jewish, British, raised by her grandparents, and incredibly mechanically gifted. The other is Scottish, privileged, extremely educated (she can speak, what? 4 languages?), and incredibly brazen and brave. The war effort and their part in the fight bring these two unlikely girls together and create fast, lifelong, best friends forever of the two. And their friendship, and journey, becomes nothing less than extraordinary.

It’s like being in love, discovering your best friend.

And as they say, they “make a sensational team.”

Rather than go anymore into the plot, I’m just going to tell you how this book made me feel and what I admire so much about it. Ganz gut? That means okay in German. And one of the things I love most about this book is the friendship between these girls. Normally I don’t read others reviews until I write my own, but I just had to know what others thought of this book, so I read a couple. And I see that they agree with me. We all love the depiction of such a loving, close-without-being-romantic, relationship between Maddie and Julie. It’s something I would love to see more of it literature. Too often, girls are depicted as being treacherous, back-stabbing, and just plain hateful to their own sex. It is so refreshing to see this relationship of friendship, sharing, caring, loving, and supporting of each other that these two share. I wish (hope?) to see more relationships like this in the future.

These two girls. You guys. These. Two. Girls. I have lived and breathed with them in the Gestapo headquarters. I was there, freezing, in the loft of an old French barn. I flew planes over the English channel. I learned who I was, what my strengths were, and used them in new, unexpected, and remarkable ways. I became BEST FRIENDS with these two and oh, my heart hurts to have left them. Seriously, I left a bit of my heart back there in WWII with these two. Elizabeth Wein has created two unique and completely unforgettable characters. I’m reminded of how I felt after reading the Diary of Anne Frank. Not that the stories have any similarities other than taking place during WWII, but they both left me with a feeling of experience. That in some small measure (very, very small), I experienced what life was like during WWII. The fear. The confusion. The fierce protection one feels for one’s country and one’s people. The feeling of wanting to do something, no matter how insignificant to make things better, to help one’s country, to help one’s people, to help the WORLD and being told that you’re a woman, you can’t do that. The frustration of it. The power of it, when you DO IT ANYWAY. I LOVE THESE GIRLS.

Okay, can I just go back to page one and start all over again?

Parts I loved:

The Northumbrian coast is the most beautiful length of the whole trip. The sun still sets quite late in the north of England in August, and Maddie on fabric wings flew low over the long sands of Holy Island and saw seals gathered there. She flew over the great castle crags on Lindisfarne and Bamburgh to the north and south, and over the ruins of the twelfth century priory, and over all the fields stretching yellow and green toward the low Cheviot Hills of Scotland. Maddie flew bak following the 70-mile 2,000-year-old dragon’s back of Hadrian’s Wall, to Carlisle and then south through the Lakeland fells, along Lake Windermere. The soaring mountains rose around her, and the poets’ waters glittered beneath her in the valley of memory-hosts of golden daffodils, Swallows and Amazons, Peter Rabbit. She came home by way of Blackstone Edge above the old Roman road to avoid the smoke haze over Manchester, and landed back at Oakway, sobbing with anguish and love; love, for her island home that she’d seen whole and fragile from the air in the space of an afternoon, from coast to coast, holding its breath in a glass lends of summer and sunlight. All about to be swallowed in nights of flame and blackout. Madded landed at Oakway before sunset and shut down the engine, then sat in the cockpit weeping.

SEE?

The glens were full of frost and fog. Fog lay in pillows in the folds of the hills; the distant mountaintops shone dazzling pink and white beneath rays of low sunshine that didn’t touch the Spitfire’s wings. The haar, the North Sea coastal fog, was closing in. It was so cold that the moist air crystallized inside the Plexiglas hood, so that it seemed to be lightly snowing in the cockpit.

I am purposefully giving the lovely bits that don’t give anything away. I haven’t highlighted a book so much since college. Unfortunately, I can’t share any more with you. I can only hope I have done enough to make you desperate to read this book. Go forth my love, and get this book. You can thank me later.

Also, watching the book trailer. This is one of my most favorite book trailers ever

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Monday Rambles

May 28, 2012 Books 7

- Happy Memorial Day everyone! Kiss (or hug) a solider and thank them for their service to our country today. Thank you to all the brave men and women who serve our country and make it safe for everyone. Your sacrifice means more to me than I can say.

- I finished my top book of the year this weekend. I know it’s a bit early to say that, but I know it’s the truth. Nothing will top this book, not this year, not for a long time. I’ll have my review up tomorrow. Yes, I am going to keep you guessing. Most of you know it anyway! Thanks for the comfort emails (Ana and Kelly!).

- So, now that I’ve finished the best book of the year, what do I read? I’m having trouble getting into something. I’ve tried, so far, Railsea by China Mieville, The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X. Stork, and Topics About Which I Know Nothing by Patrick Ness. Topics is actually a collection of short stories, and I was able to read one, but I like to do short stories one and a time. I want to read a classic, but I can’t decide which one. Coupled with the fact that I’m going on vacation soon and am in pre-packing mode, I’m at a loss. I need to read, but just can’t seem too. I guess it’s a magazine week for me. Then I’ll start the…uh…The Sta…nd… Friday. *shivers* *grabs a hand*

- Nymeth and Kailana joint reviewed one of my favorite books today, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I loved seeing the book from their unique perspectives and I realized that the family I grew up in had rather foreign attitudes toward food. This makes me happy! Check out their reviews here (part 1) and here (part 2). Their reviews make me want to reread it again and also find a similar book from a world-wide perspective. If such a thing even exists.

- Speaking of food; my garden is getting huge! The early start to summer really bumped things up. I just hope it doesn’t burn it all down before summer is over!

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Pin It and Do It Challenge – Shrimp

May 25, 2012 Weekend Cooking 10


So, I tried this pin Wednesday night. And stupid me FORGOT TO TAKE PICTURES.

It looked an awful lot like this:

Shrimp from Pinterest

It’s a very simple recipe too. And oh, so, yummy.

Melt a stick of butter in the pan. Slice one lemon and layer it on top of the butter. Put down fresh shrimp, then sprinkle one pack of dried Italian seasoning. Put in the oven and bake at 350 for 15 min.

That’s it!

SO SIMPLE. AND DELICIOUS. I actually changed it up a bit though. I did half of it this way. The other half, I used lime juice and chipotle seasoning. The lime/chipotle was actually much more tastier. I think next time I’m going to do it all that way. And I’m going to make more. I didn’t take into account just how much the girl loves shrimp! It was all gone! And we wanted MORE. This is a keeper. Yay!

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The Stand-along

May 24, 2012 Books 11

What am I thinking? WHAT am I thinking? I know what I’m thinking. I’m thinking I want to read a book with all my friends. And all my friends want to read The Stand. By Stephen King. An author who scares the stuffing out of me, despite the fact I’ve only read ONE of his scary books (Misery) and his book about writing (which I actually enjoyed!). Yes. My name is Heather and I am a Stephen-King-Wuss.

Trish’s Standalong Get to Know You

1. What makes you want to read The Stand?

All the cool kids (my very best blogging buddies) are doing it!

2. Describe your preconceived notions of The Stand.

My preconceived notion of The Stand is the same as my preconceived notion of Stephen King and that is, mainly, SCARY.

3. What was the last scary(ish) book you read or movie you saw?

I don’t normally go in for such things. Actually, I avoid them at all costs.

4. Which version of the book will you be reading from?

I got the uncut version. *gulp*

5. What are you previous experiences with Stephen King?

I read Misery when I was a teen, to see what King was actually about. Scared the pants off me. I’ve also read his book On Writing, which I actually enjoyed quite a lot.

6. Anything else you’d like to add (bonus points for being extra random).

HOLD MY HAND PEOPLE. HOLD. MY. HAND.

So, if you have the balls to join us, we’ll be reading The Stand this summer. Here are all the deets. Do join us. So you can hold my hand.

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Let's Pretend this Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (audiobook)

May 22, 2012 Audio Books, Book Reviews, Books 10


Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir)
Written by:
Jenny Lawson
Read by: Jenny Lawson
Release Date: April 17, 2012
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books
Source: Publisher (Thanks you guys!)

I don’t know where I have been the last few years, I guess under a rock, but I had never heard of The Bloggess, Jenny Lawson, before until her audiobook turned up on my front porch about a month ago. I read the description, thought it sounded interesting, and added it to my pile of To Be Listened to Eventually audiobooks. Then, reviews of the book and audiobook started turning up in my feed reader. And the audiobook inched its way up the pile. Then all of a sudden, it was at the top.

Holey Moley Stromboli; am I glad it made it to the top of that pile so quickly because Jenny Lawson may be the funniest thing since jeggings.

Uh huh. That’s right.

Jenny takes all the mortifying, curl up and die, ‘Let’s Pretend this NEVER HAPPENED’ moments of your childhood and mine and turns it up to 11. Because oh my goodness, this chick had a crazy insane childhood. And lucky for her, she has realized these moments are the moments that have defined Who She Is and hey, that crazy insane chick is pretty awesome! If slightly woo-hoo in the noggin and gosh, you just gotta love her for it.

And let me tell you right now. If you are considering “reading” this book, GET THE AUDIO. Because Jenny reads it and I just can’t imagine how it could even possibly be close to as good reading it in print. For example:

* SHE SINGS THE CHAPTER TITLES. (Examples of chapter titles: ” Stanley the Magical, Talking Squirrel”, “A Series of Angry Post-It Notes to My Husband”, “My Vagina Is Fine. Thanks for Asking”, and “And Then I Snuck a Dead Cuban Alligator on an Airplane”.)

* SHE GOES OFF SCRIPT. (There is a whole secret chapter at the end of Jenny just going off the cuff that is rollinthefloorlaughyourassoff.)

* IT IS HILAAAARIOUS. It’s like having an extended gossip session with your best friend.

Of course, I hear the book contains pictures, but a folk, Jenny DESCRIBES the pictures in the audio and, yeah, I gotta say it again. It’s hilarious. I’ve never had so much fun listening to an audiobook. I’m sure lots of my fellow commuters saw me laughing and thought I WAS the insane one, which I probably am because scarily enough, I found more in common with Jenny than not and wow, it really made me feel like everything was going to be just peachy, if we pretend it never happened.

If those chapter titles didn’t convince you, here are a few quotes to spice it up a bit:

“P.P.P.P.S. Also, if you try to make a shrimp boil, but the bag of spices bursts, and so you just toss it in along with whatever spices you can find in the pantry–you can make homemade pepper spray. Unintentionally.

And everyone at your dinner party will run outside for the next hour, coughing and tearing up as if they’ve been maced, because technically they kind of have been, because mace was one of the spices I found in the panty. I blame whoever makes spice out of mace, and I remind my gasping dinner guests that even if I did mace them, I did it in an old fashioned, homemade, Martha Stewart sort of way. With love.”

“I am the Wizard of Oz of housewives (in that I am both “Great and Terrible” and because I sometimes hide behind the curtains”

“No really. What exactly did you do today, Jenny? Quantify it for me.”
“It’s not quantifiable. There aren’t even metrics for the shit I do.”

“I can finally see that all the terrible parts of my life, the embarrassing parts, the incidents I wanted to pretend never happened, and the things that make me “weird” and “different,” were actually the most important parts of my life. They were the parts that made me ME.”

Oh my goodness, I could keep going, but I want you to read the book, nay, listen to the book, so I’m going to stop. Trust me. This book is teh awesome.

Also warning, Jenny has a bit of a potty mouth. And is now in my feed reader.

They also read it: Caribou’s Mom, S. Krishna’s Books, You’ve Gotta Read This!, Well-Read Wife, and more….

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Monday Rambles & Neverwhere

May 21, 2012 Books 25

- So, there is one thing I’m dying to discuss. Did anyone watch Sherlock last night? Because O.M.G. It was fantastic. I loved the way they took the Reichenbach Falls story and made it so. much. more. (Many apologies to Sir Arthur, but they made Moriarty an actual character? And stuff? Instead of a cardboard cutout villain? Yeah.) Benedict Cumberbatch and Andrew Scott acted the hell out of that final scene. And Martin Freeman. Dude made me cry. I am so glad season 3 has been commissioned. I just hate I have to wait so long to see it come back! And also, I really wish they did more than 3 episodes at a time!

Did you see it? What did you think?

Also, I really need to read the second half of my Sherlock collection.

- I’m reading Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein and it’s all Nymeth’s fault, and I’m sure she’s quite happy about. It is all kinds of excellent. I’m only about a fourth into it, but already I feel confident enough to say get your hands on it. You will not regret it.

- I’m listening to Peter & Max by Bill Willingham, his novel set in the Fables universe. This is my first time rereading it and, since it’s Wil Wheaton reading it and he’s my new favorite reader, it’s official now, I’m loving it even more than the first time I read it.

- Earlier this month I read Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman for a readalong with Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings, for the Once Upon a Time challenge. I kind of cheated because I already finished the book! I just couldn’t help myself, as is usually the case with really good books. I couldn’t put it down.

The discussion starts today and here are my answers to the first round of questions.

1. What do you think of our two villains thus far, Messrs. Croup and Vandemar?

They are deliciously creepy, aren’t they? I instantly identified them as an extremely evil incarnation of Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. They are positively nightmarish. I mean really nightmarish. I think I had a bad dream about them just the other night. I, um, got kind of wrapped up in the story….

2. Thus far we’ve had a small taste of London Below and of the people who inhabit it. What do you think of this world, this space that lies within or somewhat overlaps the space the “real world” occupies?

Gaiman managed to make it feel so… plausible…so completely believable, that there are people, and places and times that just slip from memory, disappear from sight, but are still so completely there. It felt real, to me.

3. What ideas or themes are you seeing in these first 5 chapters of Neverwhere? Are there any that you are particularly drawn to?

I messed myself up with this question, since I already finished the book. I can’t even remember what I was thinking in the first 5 chapters, except trying to identify characters and motifs from Alice in Wonderland.

I love Emily’s answer to this question, which was something I hadn’t really thought of before – how Gaiman turns the typical fairytale story a wee bit on it’s head.

4. We’ve met a number of secondary characters in the novel; who has grabbed your attention and why?Hunter. She is SO KICK ASS. I would love to know more of her story, the story before Neverwhere that is.

I also loved Old Bailey, with all his birds. I love how he is part of London Below, but lives above it all on the roof tops. He almost feels a little “God-like” in his perch and his help. He definitely feels like a friend you want to have in your pocket, despite his oddness. And the Marque de Carabas…what a delightful puzzle he is.

5. As you consider the Floating Market, what kind of things does your imagination conjure up? What would you hope to find, or what would you be looking for, at the Market?

I pictured a huge, magical, mysterious flea market type thing, where you can LITERALLY GET ANYTHING. I’d love to see the book section. I like Carl’s idea of being able to find lost worlds by authors I love.

6. If you haven’t already answered it in the questions above, what are your overall impressions of the book to this point?
I LOVED IT. One of my favorite Neil Gaiman books now and I’m kicking myself for taking so long to read it.

Definitely check out Carl’s answers to these questions. He loves Neverwhere and brings a LOT of insight to the novel. I love discussing novels like this; it really ups my enjoyment and appreciation of a great book. TTFN!

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Where She Went by Gayle Forman

May 17, 2012 Books 8


Where She Went
Gayle Forman

Published by: Penguin Group
Published: 4/17/2012
Pages: 208
ISBN: 9780525422945
Source: The Publisher

So, if you can remember a couple of days ago, I read, and looooved If I Stay by Gayle Forman. I read it so I could read Where She Went, the sequel. I wasn’t sure what to expect of Where She Went, except awesomeness, and probably a few tears.

There was awesomeness. And there were tears.

Where She Went picks up 3 years after the events of If I Stay. SPOILER ALERT!!!

*whispers* Mia lived.

SPOILER OVER!!!

If I Stay was told completely from Mia’s point of view. Where She Went is told from Adam’s. I thought this was a great way to change it up, which I will discuss in a little bit. As I said, it’s 3 years later and Adam is mega-super-star famous. He and his band have hit the BIG TIME thanks to the major angsty record the band put out after Mia’s accident and the repercussions of that. Now that Adam is Mr. Big Time with his Big Time Actress girlfriend, interviews, magazine covers, the pills, the booze, and a huge tour about to get underway in London. So you’d think he’d be on top of the world, happiest guy ever.

You would be wrong. Adam is miserable. Totally and completely miserable. He takes pills to help with the panic attacks. He can’t find the love of music that so consumed him any more. He doesn’t love his overbearing girlfriend, he doesn’t even want to spend time with her. His band, his best-friends who once had his back, want nothing to do with him. His life has been made wretched, by the fact that Mia went away and never came back. He reminds me of a caged cat, in the first few pages of a book. A pacing, raging tiger, looking for a way to break out of his cage and despairing that he will find it. Then, as he walks the streets of NYC, searching for that escape, he happens upon a concert. Being given by a young cello player. By the name of Mia Hall.

He decides to go in.

What happens next? I’m not going to tell you silly! You have to read the (both) book(s)! All I will say is that Forman again amazed me with her grasp of her characters, of their emotions, of how the things they go through feel so TRUE. And her writing is just as gorgeous as ever. How she can take all the passion, confusion, pain, and life from her characters and transfer it to the page. And Adam embodies it ALL. Witness:

I look at her there in the shadows of the shut-down city, her hair falling onto her face, and I can see her trying to figure out if I’ve lost it. And I have to fight the urge to take her by the shoulders and slam her against a shuttered building until we feel the vibrations ringing through both of us. Because I suddenly want to hear her bones rattle. I want to feel the softness of her flesh give, to hear her gasp as my hip bone jams into her. I want to yank her head back until her neck is exposed. I want to rip my hands through her hair until her breath is labored. I want to make her cry and then lick up the tears. And then I want to take my mouth to hers, to devour her alive, to transmit all the things she can’t understand.

And she can still wipe me out with the most simplest of sentences. This one will only make sense if you’ve read the first book:

And then Adam Wilde shows up at Carnegie Hall on the biggest night of my career, and it felt like more than a coincidence. It felt like a gift. From them. For my first recital ever, they gave me a cello. And for this one, they gave me you.

I wait with baited breathe for Gayle Forman’s next work.

This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own. Join us in discussing this fantastic book at our BlogHer Book Club.

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