Posts Tagged: Books

Thoughts on Robot Dreams by Sara Varon

September 19, 2014 Book Reviews, Books 8 ★★★★½

Thoughts on Robot Dreams by Sara VaronRobot Dreams
by Sara Varon
Published by First Second
on August 7, 2007
Genres: Fantasy, Graphic Novel
Pages: 208
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
Buy the Book
four-half-stars
Richly endearing and full of surprises, Robot Dreams follows an ill-fated friendship between a dog and robot. After a Labor Day jaunt to the beach leaves Robot rusty and immobilized in the sand, Dog, unsure what to do, abandons him. As the seasons pass, Dog tries to replace his friend, making and losing a series of new ones, from a melting snowman to epicurean anteaters. Meanwhile, Robot passes his time daydreaming, escaping to better places...Through interwoven journeys, the two characters long to recover from their day at the beach. 

Although its adorable characters and playful charm will win over young readers, Robot Dreams speaks universally to the fragile nature of friendship, loss, and redemption.

There is something magical about an effective story told with no words. Pixar, Shaun Tan, and now Sara Varon, have moved me beyond measure with their work that uses art instead of words. Looking at that cover…I don’t know about you, but my immediate thoughts are that this is a kids book. And yes, it is. My daughter enjoyed it. However, it is one of those books that is deceptive. It looks simple. It IS simple. But the story…it packs a punch.

The reason this story works for me is, even though it is fantastical (at least for me it is. Do you own a robot? A walking, human-like dog? If so, were do you get such things???), it is relatable. The dog. He is lonely. He wants a friend. So he buys a robot. He puts him together. He has a friend! So they go to the beach. And something bad happens. The pair are separated. Feelings are hurt. Actions are regretted. Through no fault of the dog, more like a lack of knowledge, the robot is hurt. Irreparably.

Kids can relate. I can relate. You can, probably, relate.

And it sounds sad. But no. No! It is beautiful!

Through this mistake, the dog and the robot learn. The dog learns from his mistakes. He comes to know himself better and changes based on the hurt he caused himself and his robot. In turn, the robot also learns. As he lays there, daydreaming is days away, he learns about himself and changes based on the hurt he received. They become better “people.” A lesson for everyone, not just children.

Again, I stand amazed at the power in this tiny book with no words. And Sara Varon has a diehard new fan. First Second is such a terrific publisher!

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We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

June 13, 2014 Book Reviews, Books 7 ★★★★½

We Were Liars by E. LockhartWe Were Liars
by E. Lockhart
(Website, Blog, Twitter, Goodreads)
Published by Delacorte Press
on May 13th 2014
Genres: Young Adult
Pages: 240
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
four-half-stars
A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
 
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 


Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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Wow. Just…wow.

Go into it blind. Get it right now. Before it’s spoiled for you. Just read it. Since I AM NOT going to be the one to spoil it, that’s all I’m going to say. Except to say, pick a time when you can read it straight through. You are NOT going to want to put down this study of wealth, priviledge, love, hate, prejudice, greed, and mystery.

About E. Lockhart

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E. Lockhart is the author of We Were Liars, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, The Boyfriend List and several other novels.

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Mini Reviews: I Shall Be Near to You, The Rosie Project, The House Girl

May 2, 2014 Books 4

by erin lindsay mccabe, graeme simsion, tara conklin
Published by Crown Publishing Group, Simon & Schuster, William Morrow
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I Shall Be Near to You
Erin Lindsay McCabe
Published by Crown, 304 pages
Library

Rosetta finds herself in a pretty common situation at the beginning of the Civil War. Newly married, with her man going off to fight in the war. Tomboy Rosetta finds herself quickly stifled by the task of being a housewife to a man no longer home and chaffing under the bit of her mother-in-law. Instead of tolerating it however, she up does what few women did during the Civil War. She up and cuts off her hair and joins in with her husband’s regiment.

She sees first hand the struggles soldiers went through during the war. Fighting for the Union isn’t all the men thought it would be. They all hope for glory and power; but mostly get sickness, loneliness, and sometimes death. She does things women at that time never dreamed of doing; camping on the ground, firing guns, and pretending to be a man when surrounded by rough and tumble men all around. And she learns that they aren’t only fighting for glory or power, but for the very freedom of a whole race, and perhaps herself.

“But don’t you see? We’re all tied up together in this. It is for the betterment of each of us if this war earns the slaves’ freedom, if the evil of slavery is wiped clean from this country. And then surely no one can say women ought to be property as well and we will have our freedom next.”

Jennie Chalmers said that making slaves free will help women, but I don’t know how she can be right when there’s still most men who can’t see the things a woman does, even when she’s doing them right under his nose.

The Rosie Project
Graeme Simsion
Published by Simon & Schuster, 295 pages
Bought

This one was all over the book blogs just a few months ago and I couldn’t resist. At the time I was needing something light hearted and fun. The protagonist has Asperger’s and doesn’t seem to have any idea and he decides it’s time to find himself a wife. So he creates a questionnaire for women to fill out to see if they meet with his stringent criteria. By mistake, Rosie walks in and she has none of the attributes he finds most desirable. So why does she keep popping up in his thoughts? The writing was sharp and witty, the characters charming…well, except one, but he couldn’t help it, he was just written that way, and the whole thing just plain fun.

Just plain fun, y’all.

Favorite bits:

I diagnosed brain overload and set up a spreadsheet to analyze the situation.

I had a great deal of valuable knowledge-about genetics, computers, aikido, karate, hardware, chess, wine, cocktails, dancing, sexual positions, social protocols, and the probability of a fifty-six-game hitting streak occurring in the history of baseball. I knew so much shit and I still couldn’t fix myself.

The House Girl
Tara Conklin
Published by William Morrow, 370 pages
Bought

I could just quote this one and I’m pretty sure I could get my feelings across. Seriously, I have pages of quotes that I noted down. I really enjoyed Conklin’s writing. She lost me a couple times; this another one of those books that change to several different viewpoints, but in the end, it mostly worked for me. I loved the character of Josephine and found her conflicting emotions over her owners to be believable and moving. The ending though, it sort of pretty much basically broke my heart.

Favorite bits (and I’ll try to contain myself):

Over the years she had learned to fold down rising emotion just as she would fold the clean bedsheets, the sheet growing smaller and tighter with each pass until all that remained of that wide wrinkled expanse of cotton was a hard closed-in square.

It was here that Missus had taught Josephine to read. Books brought up from the library, Cooper, Dumas, Dickens, Poe, the names written in gold, the covered cracked, pages spotted dark with mold but still Josephine touched them only with her hands clean, with reverence, savored eatery word written there, each one a small victory. Letters formed carefully, again and again, the paper burned in the grate afterward, but a few secret pages carried under Josephine’s skirts, up the stairs to her attic room. “Don’t breathe a word to your Mister,” Missus would whisper. “We’d both be in a world of trouble.”

Truth was multilayered, shifting; it was different for everyone, each personal history carved unique from the same weighty block of time and flesh.

If there is one lesson I wish to bestow upon you, one shred of wisdom I have gained from my living, dying days, it is this: let your heart lead you, do not be afraid, for there will be much to regret if reason and sense and fear are your only markers.

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Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

April 3, 2014 Book Reviews, Books 9 ★★★★★

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne JonesHowl's Moving Castle
by Diana Wynne Jones
Series: Howl's Moving Castle #1
Published by Greenwillow Books
on January 1st 1986
Genres: Classic, Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 340
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Goodreads
Buy the Book
five-stars
Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl's castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there's far more to Howl—and herself—than first meets the ey

“In the land of Ingary where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of the three. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes.”

I swore this month that I would make friends with Diana Wynne Jones if it killed me (gross over-exaggeration, but typical of me as you know). I’m happy, so happy, to report that after 3 years of trying, I have found a Diana Wynne Jones’s book I like, nay, love. I LOVE IT.

A few things about it:

  • Who is the main character? That would be Sophie, the eldest of three daughters and destined to fail. Why is she destined to fail? Because everyone knows the oldest will fail! She hides in her widowed step-mother’s hat shop, making hats all day, talking to them (as in the hats), and generally being a bit of a mouse. She has some magical abilities but doesn’t really seem to realize it.
  • Who is Howl? Howl is a wizard! And something of a dandy. Okay, more than something of a dandy, he is QUITE the dandy. And rumored to eat the hearts of all the girls who fall in love with him or something like that. There are a LOT of rumors about Howl.
  • What final gets Sophie out of the hat shop? The Witch of the Waste! Sophie somehow caught the ire of the Witch (that magical ability that Sophie doesn’t seem to know about no doubt) and she comes along and ages Sophie about 70 years completely out of spite.
  • How does Sophie deal with that? By running away and going to live with Howl in his magical walking castle of course! There she meets Calcifer; a fire demon who lives in Howl’s fireplace. They make a deal; if she will help Calcifer break the curse on him, he will help her break the curse on her. She hires herself as Howl’s cleaning lady and moves on in.
  • Also along for the ride? Michael, who is Howl’s apprentice; a scarecrow; Sophie’s two sisters; various spiders; a man-dog; and, of course, the house. Plus various other minor characters.

Oh, I love so many things about what Diana Wynne Jones did with this story. The sheer fun of it was a delight. It was just a joy to read. And I feel like I haven’t read enough books this year that were just plain old fun, joyful reads. I need more of these reads in my life.

I loved the main character of Sophie. She starts the book as such a mousy person, but becoming “old” set her free in so many ways. She started saying the things she thought, she started doing the things she wanted to do…she just became so much less inhibited. As I have aged, I have noticed that I too have started doing and saying things I want and think more often and can only assume that Wynne Jones was showing that getting old can do that to a person. I hope it continues for me! I love that she takes her destiny into her own hands, rather than staying on the path to failure as she believes because of her birth. And I loved how Sophie ended up, but of course, I can’t tell you exactly how she ends up. You’ll have to read the book for yourself.

I was surprised at how much I liked Howl. He is a different kind of immature than Sophie. Sophie’s immaturity is based on a sheltered homelife and a timid personality. Howl is a spoiled brat. When he doesn’t get his way, he throws temper-tantrums. His room is a disaster. He trolls from woman to woman, loving them until they love him back then he’s off on the next conquest. Yet, as Wynne Jones paints this picture of him, I couldn’t help but start to understand him and as I understood him, to like him.

And then, there’s Calcifer. You can’t have Howl without Calcifer. He’s described in the book as a fire demon and he lives in Howl’s fireplace. His magic and Howl’s are so intertwined, it is put forth that one cannot live without the other. The two have made a mysterious bargain. Calcifer is the one who decides to let Sophie in and in return for letting her stay, they will help each other break their respective curses. Calcifer is by far my favorite character in the whole book. He’s so grumpy and crabby and powerful and can be a bit mean. By the end of the book, Calcifer’s life is just as intertwined with Sophie’s as with Howl’s, in a sense making a family.

The main antagonist, The Witch of the Waste, is the most powerful magician around and she has her sights set on Howl, since he spited her. Howl therefore does everything he can to avoid her. I think a lot of her power comes from her broken heart and I appreciated how Wynne Jones shows how that power can be used for ill. By the end, despite all the things she has done, I was merely left feeling sorry for her.

As for Wynne Jones’s writing, it’s equal parts clever, hilarious, moving, and just plain ole fun. I love how she shows age doesn’t necessarily mean life is over, and that anyone can be family. I love that she took a dandy (Howl) and turned him into something more. And I loved how she took this timid mouse of a girl and turned her into something amazing. Gosh, I just loved this book so much. I hope it’s obvious. And I hope you’ll read it. I have left out so much! Howl’s Moving Castle is a book rich in story, characters, personality, and, like I said, fun.

Quotes:

“Yes, you are nosy. You’re a dreadfully nosy, horribly bossy, appallingly clean old woman. Control yourself. You’re victimizing us all.”

“More about Howl? Sophie thought desperately. I have to blacken his name! Her mind was such a blank that for a second it actually seemed to her that Howl had no faults at all. How stupid! ‘Well, he’s fickle, careless, selfish, and hysterical,’ she said. ‘Half the time I think he doesn’t care what happens to anyone as long as he’s alright–but then I find out how awfully kind he’s been to someone. Then I think he’s kind just when it suits him–only then I find out he undercharges poor people. I don’t know, Your Majesty. He’s a mess.”

“Really, these wizards! You’d think no one had ever had a cold before! Well, what is it?” she asked, hobbling through the bedroom door onto the filthy carpet.

“I’m dying of boredom,” Howl said pathetically. “Or maybe just dying.”

“So you were going to rescue the Prince! Why did you pretend to run away? To deceive the Witch?”

“Not likely! I’m a coward. Only way I can do something this frightening is to tell myself I’m not doing it!”

Affiliates disclosure: if you buy a book through my affiliate link, I will get 4%.

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Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

February 13, 2014 Book Reviews 14 ★★★★★

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan CainQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
by Susan Cain
(Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)
Published by Crown Publishing Group
on January 1st 2011
Genres: Nonfiction
Pages: 336
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
Buy the Book
five-stars
From GoodReads:

At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams. Although they are often labeled "quiet," it is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society--from van Gogh’s sunflowers to the invention of the personal computer.

Passionately argued, impressively researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet shows how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so. Taking the reader on a journey from Dale Carnegie’s birthplace to Harvard Business School, from a Tony Robbins seminar to an evangelical megachurch, Susan Cain charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal in the twentieth century and explores its far-reaching effects. She talks to Asian-American students who feel alienated from the brash, backslapping atmosphere of American schools. She questions the dominant values of American business culture, where forced collaboration can stand in the way of innovation, and where the leadership potential of introverts is often overlooked. And she draws on cutting-edge research in psychology and neuroscience to reveal the surprising differences between extroverts and introverts.

Perhaps most inspiring, she introduces us to successful introverts--from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Finally, she offers invaluable advice on everything from how to better negotiate differences in introvert-extrovert relationships to how to empower an introverted child to when it makes sense to be a "pretend extrovert."

This extraordinary book has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how introverts see themselves.
Clicking the above affiliate link, will provide me with a small sum of money, which is used to fund my blog and my book habit.

Rather than gush and gush and gushy gush over this book, I’m going to try something different. I’m going to give you my top ten favorite quotes (trust me, there are more) from this book and let it gushy gush gush for itself. And yeah, I’ll probably talk about the quotes a bit. Don’t never know, now do ya?

“Introverts, in contrast, may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions.”

Can I just get this tattooed on my forehead? I always wish I were home in my pajamas. Social awkwardness for the win. But really, it’s just so much more…comfortable…for my brain and spirit to devote those “social energies” to those I am close to. Anyone else is just exhausting.

Also, I love that she calls small talk a ‘horror’.

“Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to.”

All I have to say about this is WORD.

“The highly sensitive [introverted] tend to be philosophical or spiritual in their orientation, rather than materialistic or hedonistic. They dislike small talk. They often describe themselves as creative or intuitive. They dream vividly, and can often recall their dreams the next day. They love music, nature, art, physical beauty. They feel exceptionally strong emotions–sometimes acute bouts of joy, but also sorrow, melancholy, and fear. Highly sensitive people also process information about their environments–both physical and emotional–unusually deeply. They tend to notice subtleties that others miss–another person’s shift in mood, say, or a lightbulb burning a touch too brightly.”

This is me to a T. (Also, what does that even mean, “describes me to a T?” Where did that come from?!)

“Or at school you might have been prodded to come “out of your shell”—that noxious expression which fails to appreciate that some animals naturally carry shelter everywhere they go, and that some humans are just the same.”

I still get told to come out of my shell.

“Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured.”

I just love everything about that sentence.

“I worry that there are people who are put in positions of authority because they’re good talkers, but they don’t have good ideas. It’s so easy to confuse schmoozing ability with talent. Someone seems like a good presenter, easy to get along with, and those traits are rewarded. Well, why is that? They’re valuable traits, but we put too much of a premium on presenting and not enough on substance and critical thinking.”

How many people do you know like this? Cause I know tons. TONS, I tell you.

“The purpose of school should be to prepare kids for the rest of their lives, but too often what kids need to be prepared for is surviving the school day itself.”

Made of gold. That whole sentence is made of gold. I often felt like I was just trying to survive, especially in classes with teachers who expected class participation. I would break out in a cold sweat anytime a teacher called on me. Come to think of it, I still do this with my manager in meetings! I need to get him to read this book.

“I had always imagined Rosa Parks as a stately woman with a bold temperament, someone who could easily stand up to a busload of glowering passengers. But when she died in 2005 at the age of ninety-two, the flood of obituaries recalled her as soft-spoken, sweet, and small in stature. They said she was “timid and shy” but had “the courage of a lion.” They were full of phrases like “radical humility” and “quiet fortitude.”

Not long ago I listened to The History Chicks’ podcast on Rose Parks. It is fascinating. She was fascinating. The above was completely true. She was a shy, soft-spoken woman, with a lion’s share of courage, and truly inspiring lady who didn’t let her introversion keep her from fighting for what she believed it.

“We know from myths and fairy tales that there are many different kinds of powers in the world. One child is given a light saber, another a wizard’s education. The trick is not to amass all the different kinds of available power, but to use well the kind you’ve been granted. Introverts are offered keys to private gardens full of riches. To possess such a key is to tumble like Alice down her rabbit hole. She didn’t choose to go to Wonderland — but she made of it an adventure that was fresh and fantastic and very much her own.”

I love this analogy. One thing this book taught me is that introverts have their own special powers. We just have to learn how to use them, something that school, work, and often life itself fails to teach us. It’s almost like it’s something we have to teach ourselves.

“we have two ears and one mouth and we should use them proportionally”

My other tattoo.

Gosh, I could just keep going. So much wisdom from such a wonderfully written book. Whether you are an introvert, an extrovert, or are somewhere in between, there is a lot to learn from this book. I highly recommend it to, like, everyone in the whole freaking world.

About Susan Cain

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SUSAN CAIN is the author of the instant New York Times bestseller QUIET: The Power of Introverts in A World That Can’t Stop Talking, which has been translated into more than 20 languages. Her writing on introversion and shyness has appeared in the The New York Times; The Dallas Morning News; O, The Oprah Magazine; Time.com; and on PsychologyToday.com. Cain has also spoken at Microsoft, Google, the U.S. Treasury, and at TED 2012. Since her TED talk was posted online, it has been viewed almost two million times. She has appeared on national broadcast television and radio including CBS “This Morning,” NPR’s “All Things Considered,” NPR’s “Diane Rehm,” and her work has been featured on the cover of Time magazine, in The Atlantic, Wired, Fast Company, Real Simple, Fortune, Forbes, USA Today, The Washington Post, CNN, Slate.com, and many other publications. She is an honors graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School. She lives in the Hudson River Valley with her husband and two sons. Visit: www.thepowerofintroverts.com

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Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

December 20, 2013 Books 7 ★★★★

Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara AltebrandoRoomies
by Sara Zarr, Tara Altebrando
(Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)
Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers
on December 24, 2013
Genres: Young Adult
Pages: 224
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
Buy the Book
four-stars
It's time to meet your new roomie.

When East Coast native Elizabeth receives her freshman-year roommate assignment, she shoots off an e-mail to coordinate the basics: television, microwave, mini-fridge. That first note to San Franciscan Lauren sparks a series of e-mails that alters the landscape of each girl's summer -- and raises questions about how two girls who are so different will ever share a dorm room.

As the countdown to college begins, life at home becomes increasingly complex. With family relationships and childhood friendships strained by change, it suddenly seems that the only people Elizabeth and Lauren can rely on are the complicated new boys in their lives . . . and each other. Even though they've never met.

National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr and acclaimed author Tara Altebrando join forces for a novel about growing up, leaving home, and getting that one fateful e-mail that assigns your college roommate.

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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Reading this book made me realize something. I missed out in college.

My first two years of college were spent at the local community college, which is less that 5 miles from my childhood home. Then I transferred to the local University and commuted. So I never left home, I never had a roommate, and I never had that unique freedom of being by myself in a new city. Not that regret my path, not really, but I do find myself wondering what that would have been like.

Roomies gave me a picture of what it would have been like. Of course, the title is a misnomer really…the two girls in this book are not roomies, yet. They are just going to be roomies once the school year starts.

Anywho.

The dual narration was interesting. Having never read either author before, I’m not sure who wrote what and honestly, it felt pretty seamless to me. With both girls coming from very different parts of the country, different types of families, and different world views, the dual authorship made each girl feel very separate and complete in themselves. In other words, it worked. The girls have never met, but after finding out they will be roommates in their first year of college, they start emailing each other to start the process of getting to know each other a little early. Their differences immediately start coming out. One is an only child and happy to have a roommate. The other is the oldest of 5 and wanted a single room. In typical fashion, an email note meant in jest is taken the wrong way. Yet they begin sharing things with each other they haven’t shared with anyone. One has a gay father who abandoned her as a baby. One is striking up something interesting with a black friend and she worries about what others will think. They become close confidants. But then something happens, a trust is broken, and they go to wondering if they can even live together.

I really appreciated how both authors used their characters to illustrate real world problems and would think many a soon-to-be freshman could appreciate what these two girls go through. I know it is one I would like my own children to read someday for real guidance on what it’s like to be not only embarking on college life, but to be embarking on Real Life itself. This is the first book I’ve read by both Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando and look forward to exploring their works further.

About Sara Zarr

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Sara Zarr is the acclaimed author of four novels for young adults: Story of a Girl (National Book Award Finalist), Sweethearts (Cybil Award Finalist), Once Was Lost (a Kirkus Best Book of 2009) and How to Save a Life. Her short fiction and essays have also appeared in Image, Hunger Mountain, and several anthologies.

About Tara Altebrando

Altebrando-full-300x200

Tara is the author of THE BEST NIGHT OF YOUR (PATHETIC) LIFE, and three previous books for Young Adults, including DREAMLAND SOCIAL CLUB, which was a Kirkus Reviews Best Books for Teens of 2011, THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS and WHAT HAPPENS HERE.

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Thoughts on Rereading The Historian

October 25, 2013 Books 4

Andi and I hosted a read along of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova in conduction with Carl’s annual Readers Imbibing Peril or RIP challenge. I had already read it, a couple of times in fact, and looked forward to reading it again.

Oh, yes, and hello. Spoiler warnings. I’m going to discuss quite a bit of my feelings on this story and spoilers will pop up. Please continue if you have read the book.

I love rereading, for the most part. It is like revisiting old friends and catching up. I always discover something new in the story. And oftentimes, it’s comforting. However, the older I get, the more I’m finding that it isn’t always the best thing. Sometimes it’s better to leave a book back there, in the past, because things aren’t always as good as the first time. Sometimes, it’s a disappointment.

The first time I read the book, I read it in print. And even back then, I recognized that this book wasn’t for everyone.

I loved this book. I loved it, loved it, loved it!! THIS was the perfect time of year for me to read this book. It was cozy, it was suspenseful, it was wonderful. I loved every word, every page, every minute with it.

But I can see where others would hate it. It’s long. It has a tendency to wander. For the wrong person; it would annoy them. For the right person; it would delight. At another time, it might have bothered even me. This is one book where you absolutely have to be in the right place at the right time to read it and enjoy it. I am so glad it worked out for me.

The second time I read this book, I listened to the audio production. Justine Eyre and Paul Michael brought the characters and the story to life in such a delightful and suspenseful way. That “tendency to wander” still didn’t bother me. It was still “the right place at the right time” for me. I found the book just as time-consuming as I did the first time.

This third time, in the interest of time, I listened to the audio production again. Justine Eyre and Paul Michael are just as delightful in their performance, but that tendency to wander reared ITS UGLY HEAD. I found myself finding reasons to listen to something else, anything else. I turned the speed up to 1.25, then 1.5. I avoided the book like the plague, listening to music and podcasts instead.. Finally, in a last ditch effort to finish the book, while doing chores, I turned it on and just let it go, letting my mind wander as I worked. I finished, finally, eager to move on to something new.

The third time was not the charm. It was the killer.

Still, there are things I respected this time. The young girl, the daughter with no name (this also bugs me, names are important and this feels like a lack of respect to me) stood out more to me this time. In the first readings, and even in this one, she seemed too innocent and protected. She IS innocent and protected, but I admire how despite this sheltered existence, she didn’t hesitate to strike out on her on in search of her father. She is brave and clever (even if she failed to recognize the Helen of her father’s story as being the Helen she knew was her mother. I had a big WTF moment there). I also loved that the vampires are not romanticized. They are as cruel, cunning, and horrifying as they should be. No sparkles here!

Well, all the visible – in the story – vampires, that is. I didn’t appreciate how Dracula was held at arm’s length throughout the book. He’s hinted at in so many ways, he haunts the edges of the story, but it takes most of the book for him to finally make an appearance. In my mind, it really hindered his creepiness. It’s hard to be scared of something that isn’t there.  And honestly, what was the point of the “little book(s)” so many people so conveniently got and so conveniently met up to discuss? I also didn’t understand the way Kostova chose to tell Paul’s viewpoint. The “letters” did not read like letters but like novels. The seemingly endless detail weighed the book down. I know Kostova is a historian, so I know she probably felt all this detail was important, but I think the book would have moved much faster and would have been much more engaging if it had been trimmed a good 1/3 of its prose.

All in all, it’s still a good book, it just needed a heavy handed editor. I doubt I’ll be reading this again, at least not anytime soon. I’ll need a good bit of time to let this one seep back out of my brain, that’s for sure.

Have you read The Historian? What did you think? Did you love it? Hate it? Fall somewhere in the middle?

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Reboot by Amy Tintera

July 19, 2013 Books 4

13517455Y’all. I did something the other day I haven’t done in…oh…ages. If ever. I bought, and read, a book…in one day. In one day people. Can you believe that? I surely can’t. And it was this book, Reboot, by Amy Tintera.

Reboot is a zombie book. The word “zombie” is never used in the book, but it is a zombie book, just not in the traditional sense. The zombies in this book are exactly the way they were in life; except better. Stronger, faster, smarter, they don’t get sick, they don’t decay – they are like the ultimate soldier. And, like most YA dystopian books, it is a fast read. Obviously, since I read it in one day! The description from the book summary sums it up neatly; “…this fast-paced dystopian thrill ride…” Yet, I feel that Reboot is more than your typical YA dystopian thrill ride.

Wren Connolly died five years ago. She was dead, from three gunshot wounds to the chest. After 178 minutes, she woke up. Since Wren was dead so long before she came back, she is stronger, less emotional, and heals almost instantly, in a word, she is one of the deadliest Reboots HARC (Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation) has ever had. Her job? Capturing the sick, the Rebooted, and the criminal from the slums of the Republic of Texas.

Callum, dead 22 minutes, is just the opposite. Having been dead for such a short time left him with more humanity than the desirable, violent, and controllabe, reboots. And all his attention seems to be on Wren. Wren, confused by all this unwanted attention, is caught off guard. In a strange turn of events (for her) she takes him on as his trainer. And what starts as a challenge for both of them, becomes more than either ever dreamed. And I’m not just talking romance here, people.

Wren goes through quite a metamorphosis in this book and really presents Tintera’s skill. Before Callum, Wren is hard as nails, by the book, complete and Total Reboot. After Callum, well…Lenore (from her review at Presenting Lenore) called this the “second rebooting of Wren” which I think is the perfect description for what happens here. Wren learns, or relearns, things long forgotten about herself and, quite possibly, begins to redefine what being a Reboot is. Like most typical YA, there is a central romance, and yes, I was pulling for the couple, but I found Tintera’s play with her characters far more interesting, especially Wren; a delightfully conflicted character. Tintera’s commentary on humanity and what it means to be human, not to mention our treatment of each other, was fascinating. Plus, the romance isn’t all saccharine sweetness. Tintera did a good job of balancing the “hey, I just met you, and this is crazy, but gosh I think I love you” chemistry with all the lovely conflict, without making it too angsty.

In short, I really enjoyed this novel and look forward to the next in the series. Yes, you know it. It’s a series!

Reboot by Amy Tintera
ISBN-13: 9780062217073
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 5/7/2013
Pages: 365
Rating: 4/5

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Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten Books of 2013 (so far…)

June 25, 2013 Lists, Meme 9

 

toptentuesday

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. More HERE.

Oh goody! I love this list. This list will be fun. Although, first, I have to remember what I have read so far this year….

Oh. Right. Now I remember.

My Top Ten (So Far) of 2013 (in order read)

  • Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
  • Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (read by Emily Klein)
  • Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
  • Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
  • Strangers in Paradise by Terry Moore
  • Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley
  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  • Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  • Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman (read by Jenna Lamia)
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

What’s that you say? That’s 11 books? Umm…yeah…. So? What’s your point?

What books are in your top ten so far this year? Have you read any of mine? What did you think of them?

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The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

June 6, 2013 Book Reviews, Books, eBooks 10

13326831Remember how I said a few weeks ago that book comparisons make me nervous?

Well, I’m about to make one. And yes, this makes me nervous.

The Testing seems to be the latest dystopian YA “IT” novel, heir-apparent to The Hunger Games. Cia Vale lives with her family in the Five Lakes Colony, one of the few colonies left in what was America after the Seven Stages War. The Seven Stages War left the country is ruins, the land almost completely barren, and the water mostly undrinkable. The few who remain struggle to get the things they need from the ravaged land. Cia’s father and brothers are some of the citizens who work with the land, developing new crops that can flourish and sustain their colony.

Cia, who is graduating from high school, seems to be living her life to go to university, so that she can be like her father. To go to university, however, one must go through a process called Testing. It has been 15 years since anyone from Five Lakes Colony has been picked for testing. She’s hoping this year will be different.

At first, it appears it’s not.

But later, she finds out she has been picked. I’m not going into the politics of what happens with that, as it would be giving away tooooooo much. Let’s just say she gets picked. She goes to Testing.

All of this, before the shift to the Testing, was fascinating to me. I loved the world building, the way the colony worked, the interaction between Cia and her family. It was just too brief. Because this is YA dystopia, and YA dystopia doesn’t take long to GET TO THE POINT.

The point is to get to the Testing. Once there, the book begins to feel suspiciously familiar.

The Testing consists of 4 parts. The first three test basic skills. The fourth. Well. The fourth is where things begin to feel very, very familiar.

Spoiler alert:

It felt like a complete rip off of The Hunger Games. Except with a gun instead of arrows.

Spoiler over.

There is a lot of politics, and of course the environmental message (which actually didn’t bother me), and OF COURSE the romance between the two hometown friends. Which felt very forced and unnecessary to me. Actually, most of it felt forced to me. And derivative. The beginning was so good, I was so into it and all, and then it just went down hill. But, that is too me. I think I’ve read too much YA lately.  But, let me be blunt. If you are looking for another Hunger Games, as much as it makes me nervous to say it, this book is for you. If you’re tired of the formula, but think it sounds good, give it a try! You’ll probably like it (I did LIKE some of it, I’m just disappointed I didn’t LOVE it). If you are really tired of the formula, I’d keep on moving. To me, the book had a lot of potential it just didn’t live up to. I may read the next in the series (because of course, it’s a trilogy). I’m going to wait to read the description before I decide though.

The Testing
By Joelle Charbonneau
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children (June 4, 2013)
336 pages (hardcover)
Acquired from NetGalley
Rated 3/5

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