Wednesday, June 30, 2010

June Recap

Books read this month:


Birthmarked
Birthmarked
Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America
Anatomy of an Epidemic

The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 1)
The Name of the Wind 

Brooklyn: A Novel
Brooklyn
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Vintage)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle: The Thing Beneath the Bed (The Adventure of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle)
The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle
Boneshaker (Sci Fi Essential Books)
Boneshaker
Wicked Game
Wicked Game
Purge
Purge

Monday, June 28, 2010

Wicked Game

Wicked Game
Wicked Game by Jeri Smith-Ready
Summary from Goodreads:
Late-night radio you can sink your teeth into....
Recovering con artist Ciara Griffin is trying to live the straight life, even if it means finding a (shudder!) real job. She takes an internship at a local radio station, whose late-night time-warp format features 1940s blues, 60s psychedelia, 80s Goth, and more, all with an uncannily authentic flair. Ciara soon discovers how the DJs maintain their cred: they're vampires, stuck forever in the eras in which they were turned.
Ciara's first instinct, as always, is to cut and run. But communications giant Skywave wants to buy WMMP and turn it into just another hit-playing clone. Without the station--and the link it provides to their original Life Times--the vampires would "fade," becoming little more than mindless ghosts of the past. Suddenly a routine corporate takeover becomes a matter of life and un-death.
To boost ratings and save the lives of her strange new friends, Ciara re-brands the station as "WVMP, the Lifeblood of Rock 'n' Roll." In the ultimate con, she hides the DJs' vampire nature in plain sight, disguising the bloody truth as a marketing gimmick. WVMP becomes the hottest thing around--next to Ciara's complicated affair with grunge vamp Shane McAllister. But the "gimmick" enrages a posse of ancient and powerful vampires who aren't so eager to be brought into the light. Soon the stakes are higher--and the perils graver--than any con game Ciara's ever played....

My take:
This book was so much fun to read! First of all, I have to express how much I love this series for the simple fact that the titles of the books (and chapters) are also the titles to awesome songs.  I really enjoyed Wicked Game because it was exactly what I was in the mood for. The main character is a con artist named Ciara who is trying to go straight - or she is trying to convince herself to go straight. She ends up with a job at a radio station run by vampires. These vamps are pretty different from what we have gotten used to lately. While they are beautiful and strong, they are also "stuck" in the time period in which they were made into vampires and feel helpless in a world that is changing around them. Some of them develop coping mechanisms which seem to be OCD in nature. One alphabetizes everything and  another has to count things (yes, there is a joke about Sesame Street's The Count). But the vampires that Ciara works with  share a love for the music of their time periods and so make wonderful djs and each plays the music they love from their time. There is a music playlist in the book and I will admit that I set up a playlist in my mp3 player and listened while reading. There is also a great con story - and who doesn't like to see the "bad guys" get conned? This was a super fun and fast read and I can't wait to get the next book in the series Bad to the Bone. I hate too many spoilers, but if you are in the mood for a fun, rockin' read, check out Wicked Game.
Rating: 4 of 5

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

Brooklyn: A NovelBrooklyn by Colm Toibin
Description from Goodreads:

Hauntingly beautiful and heartbreaking, Colm Tóibín's sixth novel, Brooklyn, is set in Brooklyn and Ireland in the early 1950s, when one young woman crosses the ocean to make a new life for herself.

Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the years following World War Two. Though skilled at bookkeeping, she cannot find a job in the miserable Irish economy. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn to sponsor Eilis in America — to live and work in a Brooklyn neighborhood "just like Ireland" — she decides she must go, leaving her fragile mother and her charismatic sister behind.

Eilis finds work in a department store on Fulton Street, and when she least expects it, finds love. Tony, a blond Italian from a big family, slowly wins her over with patient charm. He takes Eilis to Coney Island and Ebbets Field, and home to dinner in the two-room apartment he shares with his brothers and parents. He talks of having children who are Dodgers fans. But just as Eilis begins to fall in love with Tony, devastating news from Ireland threatens the promise of her future.

By far Tóibín's most instantly engaging and emotionally resonant novel, Brooklyn will make readers fall in love with his gorgeous writing and spellbinding characters.

My take:
Brooklyn by Colm Toibin is a beautifully written book about Eilis Lacey, the younger daughter of a poor Irish family in Enniscorthy. There are no chapters in the book - it is divided into four parts with periodic breaks that can make decent stopping points while reading. I feel divided in my opinion of this book.  I thought it was beautiful, haunting, and as with most Irish literature I have read, very sad.  There were points in the book where I really liked and admired Eilis and there were others when I just wanted to shake her.  A good portion of my frustration was with the way she just follows every one's orders and even their suggestions without much question. At times it seemed as though she had no thoughts or ideas of her own about where her life should go.  At other times, she handled herself very well and made pretty decent decisions. Of course, many of her attitudes had to do with the time period in which the story takes place and the relative powerlessness of women to shape their own lives.  Another part, I suspect, had to do with where she was from.  The contrast between her hometown of Enniscorthy, Ireland and her adopted town of Brooklyn, New York was made starkly clear when she returns home towards the end of the book.  She returns home a changed woman -- everyone thinks she is so sophisticated and modern because of her clothes and the way she carries herself. Overall, I like the book, but from a modern female perspective, I was annoyed by what prompted many of her decisions; she seemed to wait until someone forced her make a decision by their actions or threats or simply telling her what they thought she should do.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle




On Saturday, we went to a book festival in the town where we live. We were able to attend the first reading and book signing by Patrick Rothfuss of his brand new book, The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle. Despite the cover and the absolutely wonderful illustrations, this is NOT a book for (most) kids - certainly not young kids.  Everyone attending took solemn vows NOT to reveal any SPOILERS for the book. So, if you would like a copy of The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle, I would suggest going to Subterranean Press and ordering a copy now.  My husband and I have read the book several times since Saturday, and we love it.  I was also able to get my copy of The Name of the Wind signed by Mr. Rothfuss.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Brave New World

Brave New World Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
Summary from Goodreads:
"Community, Identity, Stability" is the motto of Aldous Huxley's utopian World State. Here everyone consumes daily grams of soma, to fight depression, babies are born in laboratories, and the most popular form of entertainment is a "Feelie," a movie that stimulates the senses of sight, hearing, and touch. Though there is no violence and everyone is provided for, Bernard Marx feels something is missing and senses his relationship with a young women has the potential to be much more than the confines of their existence allow. Huxley foreshadowed many of the practices and gadgets we take for granted today--let's hope the sterility and absence of individuality he predicted aren't yet to come.


My take:
As I previously stated, I wanted to read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley for a couple of reasons.  First, because my fifteen year old son has read it twice and I had never read it. And second, as someone with a degree in literature, I felt that this was one of those books that should have been required reading, but was not. I'm not sure why I hadn't read it for myself -- I really like dystopian fiction. I read Island by Adlous Huxley last year and it was kind of a slog for me. Perhaps that is a reason I kept delaying reading Brave New World.

The first third of Brave New World was a bit difficult to get through because it took some time to get familiar with this strange new world. I did enjoy the book as a whole and it has given me much to think about. This strange world that the inhabitants view as wonderful, peaceful, happy, seems horrific to me. But so many of the horrific things are not so different (except in degree) from our present, particularly the prevalence of media and pharmaceuticals in their lives.

The really strange and creepy thing that stands out about this world is how the population is divided up into strict castes - Alphas, Betas, Deltas, etc. Each caste is physically distinct from the others and also have intellectual grades to go along with their rank. I was particularly disturbed by the way these castes were created on purpose in the lab and then how they were programmed to behave and to think in certain ways. It was basically torture. And the Alphas just kept saying  that the lower castes liked what they did and didn't want anything more, etc. And, of course, that was all true -- after all the brainwashing and mental programming done to them. Any doubt or emotion that might cause a disruption in the system was dealt with by handing out more soma. I don't want to give too much away about what happens in the story, but the bottom line is that I think this is a very important and disturbing book that everyone should read.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Life As We Knew It

LIFE AS WE KNEW IT Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Summary from Goodreads:
It's almost the end of Miranda's sophomore year in high school, and her journal reflects the busy life of a typical teenager: conversations with friends, fights with mom, and fervent hopes for a driver's license. When Miranda first begins hearing the reports of a meteor on a collision course with the moon, it hardly seems worth a mention in her diary. But after the meteor hits, pushing the moon off its axis and causing worldwide earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes, all the things Miranda used to take for granted begin to disappear. Food and gas shortages, along with extreme weather changes, come to her small Pennsylvania town; and Miranda's voice is by turns petulant, angry, and finally resigned, as her family is forced to make tough choices while they consider their increasingly limited options. Yet even as suspicious neighbors stockpile food in anticipation of a looming winter without heat or electricity, Miranda knows that that her future is still hers to decide even if life as she knew it is over

My take on it:
I received this book through a contest by One Librarian's Book Reviews. I was quite excited to win because I love dystopian and even some apocalyptic books. In addition to my own inclination to like this type of book in general, I had also read several glowing reviews for this book. From the first page, this book held my attention. It is written as a diary and while some people may have an issue with that, it worked for me. I have read a few reviews that raised the issue that they felt the story wasn't exciting enough or fast-paced enough. But I think that very few people could write diary entries about their own life that would sound as exciting or fast-paced as a thriller even during a catastrophic event. It seemed just like she was documenting what happened to her. This story about family, love, survival and growing up demonstrated how lucky Miranda was  that her mother and brothers were so resourceful and clear thinking during this crisis.


I have to admit that while reading this book I kept looking up at the sky and wanting to start stockpiling food, clothing, blankets, matches and wood (and we don't even have a wood burning stove). Much of how this catastrophic event unfolds sounded plausible to me and I just couldn't put the book down. I am fascinated with stories of survival and I always try to figure out how I think I would have reacted in the same situation. This story was disturbing enough that I didn't really want to dwell on how I might act in a similar situation. As I was reading a certain episode of the book, I kept remembering stories my grandmother told about  when she was a child and her family all got scarlet fever and she had to take care of everyone and cook and clean and generally take care of things. The details in the particular episode in this book seemed to be in line with what my grandmother told me about her experiences nursing sick family members without modern conveniences and that really helped me believe some of the events in this story.

 I am planning to read the other two books in this series The Dead and the GoneThe Dead and the Gone (The Last Survivors, Book 2) and This World We Live In. This World We Live In (The Last Survivors, Book 3)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Bloggiesta Day 3

 
 
 
 Okay, day three of Bloggiesta is pretty much over for me. I did manage to complete all of my goals for this weekend and I'm happy with that.  I would have liked to have gotten more blog entries prepared for a rainy day, but I can continue working on that, so I won't beat myself up over it. I'm not exactly sure how many hours I worked on Bloggiesta because I kept forgetting to mark down what time I started and then later realize that I'd been working for hours, but just not sure exactly how many hours. I did work on my goals off and on everyday and  I did quite a lot of reading this weekend - so all things considered, not a bad way to spend a weekend. I do intend to continue to try to improve my blog and will most likely continue to  work on some of the great ideas in the mini-challenges.
So, a recap of what I accomplished:
  • Created a blog "cheat sheet" - mini-challenge
  • Wrote rainy day blog entries
  • Created my blog list
  • Visited 10 new-to-me blogs and commented - mini-challenge (I visited many many more than ten blogs but didn't leave comments on all of them)
  • Signed up for Google Analytics - mini-challenge
I'll admit it isn't a long list, but as I stated in my initial entry for Bloggiesta, I'm very new to book blogging and I didn't want to set myself up for failure.  It was loads of fun and I am still going through all the Bloggiesta entries and getting so many good ideas.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Bloggiesta Day 2







I have been pretty busy this weekend, but I finished a book and have finished at least a part of all the challenges I set for myself.
  • Work on cheat sheet -- I am still working on this - I keep thinking of things to add to it.
  • Visit 10 new-to-me blogs and comment -I have discovered some really wonderful blogs. I haven't left comments at all the blogs I have visited, but I have really enjoyed this whole process.
  • Organize list of blogs I love - this one is still an on-going project

Friday, June 11, 2010

Bloggiesta!



This is my first time to participate in Bloggiesta! I am pretty excited  about it, but also just a little bit intimidated too. I have been reviewing all the great information over at Maw Books Blog and looking over the present and past mini-challenges. Since I am so very new to this whole book blogging thing, I am going to try to be conservative in what I can manage.  So, here are my goals for this weekend (but I may do more, if I have time and find even more great ideas and challenges):
  • Work on my blog cheat sheet - a  previous great mini-challenge hosted by There's A Book
  • Work on blog entries to have ready to go
  • Organize a list of bloggers I really enjoy and post to my blog
  • Visit 10 new-to-me blogs and comment - a mini-challenge hosted by Bonjour, Cass
  • Sign up for Google Analytics - mini-challenge hosted by There's A Book completed 6/11/10 ( I did this even though I have virtually no traffic to my blog because it just sounds so cool)
  • and any other mini-challenges that catch my fancy
So, that's it for now, let's see how it all goes.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Divine Misfortune

Divine Misfortune
Divine Misfortune by A. Lee Martinez
Synopsis (from Goodreads): DIVINE MISFORTUNE is a story of gods and mortals---in worship, in love, and at parties.

Teri and Phil had never needed their own personal god. But when Phil is passed up for a promotion - again-it's time to take matters into their own hands. And look online.

Choosing a god isn't as simple as you would think. There are too many choices; and they often have very hefty prices for their eternal devotion: blood, money, sacrifices, and vows of chastity. But then they found Luka, raccoon god of prosperity. All he wants is a small cut of their good fortune.

Oh -- and can he crash on their couch for a few days?

Throw in a heartbroken love goddess and an ancient deity bent on revenge and not even the gods can save Teri and Phil.

My take on it: I found this book to be a fun, light-hearted summer read. I have seen a couple of reviews comparing it to Neil Gaiman's American Gods , but the only thing these books have in common is the idea that the gods are real. In Divine Misfortune, there are made-up or unknown gods like "Luka, god of prosperity and good fortune" -- a raccoon-headed god who likes to be called Lucky. There just isn't the same depth of story that I found in American Gods. That being said, I did enjoy Divine Misfortune. When my husband found it in the bookstore and brought it to me to consider, it looked like a nice, fun, summer read, and that is exactly what it turned out to be. Some of the issues tackled (lightly) are why do humans need to worship a god at all, is everything that happens to humans caused by their god, be careful which god you choose to worship and most importantly, stay out of god politics and relationships - they tend to be jealous and hold grudges. It also seems that you can tell quite a bit about a person just by what kind of god they choose to worship. For example what does it say about a person who chooses a laid back raccoon god who wants to hang out as opposed to a crazy, ancient, chaotic god of death?

Monday, June 7, 2010

What I read last week

This is a short recap of the books I read last week. Reviews will possibly be posted in the next week or so.
Own:
Divine Misfortune by A. Lee Martinez
Divine Misfortune
From the library:
Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien
Birthmarked
Anatomy of an Epidemic by Robert Whitaker
Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America

This week I am hoping to finish at least two books.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.
The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 1)
and
Becoming Enlightened by Dalai Lama
Becoming Enlightened