Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday! (2)

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme create at The Broke and the Bookish.

Today's Top Ten Tuesday is:
 
Top Ten Books That Would Make Great Book Club Picks!
 
1.   The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma--What a great book to read while among other reading fiends.  =)  This is a great book that allows for the sharing of your own reading experiences, which is always fun to learn about your peers.
 
2.  Life of Pi by Yann Martel--Because who wouldn't want a nice philosophical discussion during book club?  ;-) 
 
3.  The History of Love by Nicole Krauss--A slightly confusing and multi-interpretted storyline, perfectly set up for book club discussion.
 
4.  Anything written by Jodi Picoult--because her books would spark many interesting discussions on the slightly taboo subjects she chooses to write about.
 
5.   The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger--A beautiful story about life, throwing in the aspect of time travel, which would spark discussion about the what ifs this novel raises.
 
6.  The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh--Love Love Love.  Everyone should love this novel.  That's reason enough. 
 
7.  Tuesday's With Morrie by Mitch Albom--Another memoir of sorts.  One of those novels with applicable life lessons that can trigger discussion beyond just what is written on the pages.
 
8.  Room by Emma Donoghue--There is just a lot of hefty conversation starters within this text.  It opens discussions on sociology, psychology, family, love, etc.
 
9.  The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd--Coming of age story amidst the Civil Rights movement.  Lovely story, a lot of discussion points. 
 
10.  The Awakening by Kate Chopin--I had to throw a classic in the mix, and this is a piece of American literature that anyone can read and take something amazing away from it, even if they end up hating the novella itself.
 
Those are my picks   Would you pick the same?  Have any other ideas?  Comment and let me know!
 
Love and fuzzy slippers,
Jennifer

A Happy Birthday to A Wrinkle in Time

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the timeless children's classic, A Wrinkle in Time, I wanted to spend a moment today sharing my love for this story.

I first read this novel in 5th grade.  I was in the advanced reading group and my teacher pulled this book off the shelf and handed it to each student in our circle and told us that this was the next book we were going to read.  The book looked like this:

A flying horse man, with a rainbow.  Sure I'll read it!!!  thinks my fifth grade self.  Little did I know that I would set out on a reading adventure that now, 12 years later I have not forgotten.  There is nothing greater than a novel that stretches the imagination and transports the reader into a land of mystery, intrigue, and suspense, and even some scary moments.  Though you wouldn't be able to tell from this cover.  But how about this one (which is the one I own today as part of my boxed set):


Definitely beautiful, but the man with yellow eyes is a scary presence that looms both on the cover and throughout the book, too.  But probably my favorite cover I have ever read out of is when I checked it out of the library a couple of years after I read it the first time.  That beautiful book looked like this:


With this cover, you get to see Mrs.Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which, who are magical women that allow the transportation of the story to take place, all the while the shadow of the man with yellow eyes dominates this cover very stealthily, and you almost don't even notice that he's there, too.

But as it is the 50th anniversary of this fantastic story, I thought I would advertise the newest version of this novel that hit shelves TODAY!

This copy includes many things never published in another edition, maps, family trees, along with a new forward and afterward.  I will be anxiously saving up some funds to purchase this baby, but if you have some cash stashed away, you can buy it from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

And now, for a Memorable Book quote from this fantastic book.  The explanation that is so key to this entire story.






I urge you that if you have never read this wonderful novel, go out and get yourself a copy and read it for yourself.  You will not be disappointed (unless you cannot stand elements of science fiction, which this novel has).  And if you have read it before, read it again, maybe with your children or a friend or a special person, or share the love of this story by encouraging someone you know to read it.  This month is all about sharing the love of this timeless story with others.  That is all.

Love and ants on strings,
Jennifer



Monday, January 30, 2012

Book Review: Someone Else's Life

Title/Author:  Someone Else's Life by Katie Dale

Genre:  Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic, Medical

Published:  February 14th, 2012 by Random House Children's Books, Delacorte Press

Advanced E-Book Copy, 464 pages

How I Got This Book:  Received as ARC through NetGalley


Why I Picked It Up?:  It was
compared to Jodi Picoult and Lurlene McDaniel, two authors who I have read A LOT of.  So it peaked my interest. 


Book Jacket Blurb:  "When 17-year-old Rosie's mother, Trudie, dies from Huntington's Disease, her pain is intensified by the knowledge that she has a fifty percent chance of inheriting the crippling disease herself. Only when Rosie tells her mother's best friend, "Aunt Sarah," that she is going to test for the disease does Sarah, a midwife, reveal that Trudie wasn't her real mother after all. Rosie was swapped at birth with a sickly baby who was destined to die.

Devastated, Rosie decides to trace her real mother, joining her ex-boyfriend on his gap year travels, to find her birth mother in California. But all does not go as planned. As Rosie discovers yet more of her family's deeply buried secrets and lies, she is left with an agonizing decision of her own, one which will be the most heart breaking and far-reaching of all."

My Review of this Work:

This novel is not what I expected in the least.  Though that is probably due to the fact that I hadn't read a blurb about it sense I received it for review from NetGalley.  Needless to say, this novel surprised me, though I must admit, it was a surprise for the worse.  The premise of this novel sounded good, but the more I read, the more I just....lost it.

The novel opens up in Rosie's emotional world, full of loss and anger and emptiness.  She has just lost her mother to Huntington's Disease, the no-cure illness that deteriorates the body and the mind.  At the age of 16, Rosie drops out of school to become the full-time caregiver for her mother, and now, a year and a half later, she is all alone.  She put her life on hold to take care of her mom, and now she doesn't know what to do.  Except get herself tested for this mutated gene, which actually leads to her finding out that she was not her mother's child--she was switched at birth by her "Aunt Sarah", next door neighbor and nurse at the hospital where she was born, because her not-real mother's baby was dying.  And so, determined to find her real parents, she sets out on a journey that leads her to the USA with her boyfriend, Andy. 

Miraculously, she stumbles upon the woman that she determines is her mother--a glamorous soap opera star.  But Rosie is immediately turned down by "Kitty", who claimed that she had no daughter.  So then, somehow, Andy stumbles upon a restaurant that just happens to be owned by Rosie's real dad, who has his own family, including an 18 year old girl, who was supposed to be dead, and who was supposed to be Rosie.

This meeting between Holly--from whom we get her story, even from the very beginning--and Rosie does not go over so well, thus causing all sorts of familial drama that one would assume would occur when a teenager from England claims to be Holly's father's real daughter.  And they must work through and deal with a lot of emotional turmoil that comes with such a life-altering revelation, including Holly worrying about a Huntington's diagnosis for her and her unborn child that no one knows about.

See, I am all about "realistic fiction"--I read and love Jodi Picoult and Kristin Hannah, and I loved Lurlene McDaniel when I was in middle school--so I can understand and appreciate a story with a premise like this novel has.  However, that being said, the emotional feelings just weren't there for me.  The adults in this novel, for the most part, were fine.  They displayed emotional competence (or lack there of, if appropriate) that was equivalent to the situations at hand.  A caring father, in spite of everything; a stepmother and wife who is afraid of being second-best; a grandmother who loves and keeps loving, even if situations change; a woman trapped in the world of publicity where appearances are everything.  That was all, for the most part, fine with me.

What was not fine with me were the main characters.  you have Rosie, who just lost her mom, who is trying to deal with that empty feeling, who just jumps on a plane a week later to go find her "real parents", as if the woman who raised her and loved her didn't matter all that much.  Andy kind of brought that complaint up in the book, but he was so angsty and a teenage boy that he, too, got annoying.  But I guess that was realistic in its own way.  But then you have Holly, who's whole world as she once knew it was destroyed, and she hated Rosie (which is understandable emotion) but then goes up and down with her relationship with her that you wonder where her head really is.  But then, she let's her be baby's Godmother?! 

The plot was both rushed and dragged out forever, which is really  not a great combination for readers.  I really wanted to like this book, but I just wasn't convinced of the "realities" a situation like this could bring about.  It had a great potential, but somewhere along the way it got lost admist the lack-of-real emotion. 

My Bookshelf Rating:



 Meeehhhhhhhhh.  This book just didn't convince me of much of anything other than a bunch of teenagers being superficial teenagers stricken by love and a father who loves his children, even if they aren't really his.  The plot was readable, but not really so likeable with me.  And many of the characters just annoyed me, especially when their actions were not realistic to to what was going on in the story at all.  Not really a fan, and this novel CANNOT and SHOULD NOT be compared to Jodi Picoult.





I was in no way compensated for this review.  This is my honest and unbiased opinion.

Love and real realistic ficiton (which this was not),
Jennifer

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday Stacks! (5)

Happy Sunday, Readers!


Every Sunday, Inspire Your Readers with a Picture of Some Beautiful, Dazzling, and Overall Fantastic Bookshelves.

Today's Stacks Look Like This!:

What a beautiful wall of bookish-ness!

Love and double-decker libraries,
Jennifer

In My Mailbox (4)



In My Mailbox is a Weekly Meme as hosted by The Story Siren to serve as a showcase of all of the books that have been added to my library over the last week, whether it be bought, borrowed, or received. 




In My Mailbox January 22nd-28th

Bought (for free from Kindle Store)



Fast Times in Palestine by Pamela J Olsen
Fateful by Cheri Schmidt
The River by Cheryl Kaye Tardif
Fresh Powder by Susanne O'Leary
A Previous Engagement by Stephanie Haddad
Clockwise by Elle Strauss
Tomorrow is Today by Julie Cross
Son of Eden by Brianna J Merrill

Bought (found in the Free Bin outside of my local used book store)


Series of Unfortunate events Books 2-4, in new condition.

Borrowed (from library)



Cinder by Melissa Meyer
Under The Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The Statistical Probability of Falling in Love by Jennifer E. Smith

Received (for review from author)



The Quill Pen by Michelle Isenhoff

Received (for review from NetGalley)



The Zona by Nathan L. Yocum



Did you get anything good this week?  Leave me a link to your mailbox!

Love and Sea Monsters,
Jennifer

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Book Review: A Long Long Sleep

Title/Author:  A Long Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan

Genre:  Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia

Published:  August 9th, 2011 by Candlewick Press

Hardcover, 342 pages

How I Got This Book:  Checked it out from my library

Why I Picked It Up?:  Honestly, because it came highly recommended by The Book Smugglers.  And it sounded really interesting.  So when I had the opportunity to grab it off the shelf, I did.


Book Jacket Blurb:  "Rosalinda Fitzroy has been asleep for sixty-two years when she is woken by a kiss.

Locked away in the chemically induced slumber of a stasis tube in a forgotten subbasement, sixteen-year-old Rose slept straight through the Dark Times that killed millions and utterly changed the world she knew. Now, her parents and her first love are long gone, and Rose— hailed upon her awakening as the long-lost heir to an interplanetary empire— is thrust alone into a future in which she is viewed as either a freak or a threat.

Desperate to put the past behind her and adapt to her new world, Rose finds herself drawn to the boy who kissed her awake, hoping that he can help her to start fresh. But when a deadly danger jeopardizes her fragile new existence, Rose must face the ghosts of her past with open eyes— or be left without any future at all."

My Review of the Work: 

What an intriguing and fairytale-like dystopia story.  Rose is awakend by a kiss--or mouth to mouth recessitation, rather--and is confused as to why this strange boy is in her house.  What Rose does not realize is that she is waking up 62 years after she "went to sleep" in the stass tube.  Everyone she knew is long gone--she is alone is this much different world.

There is a big mystery behind Rose's past, which entices readers to keep reading her story as she struggles to adjust to this new world, after The Dark Ages wiped out over half of the world's population and the universal community had to build up from practically nothing. Through counseling, therapy, and the help of her new friends, Bren (the boy who kissed her), and Otto (the genetically-modified, man-made human who cannot speak but has a unique gift of thought implantation), Rose is trying to understand herself through all of her loss and pain.

But then you have to through in the psychotic and unstoppable Plastine robot who is trying to "eliminate the target" of Rose.  No one knows who set this illegal machine on her, but it is a creepy presence that is out to get her.  So on top of having to adjust to being a one-hundred year old teenager, she has to keep a killer robot at bay, too.

What I absolutely loved/hated about this novel is the dynamics of relationships.  I say loved because you have people like Otto, who complete understands her and helps her understand herself, and people like Bren, who is loyal to her and willing to do anything to keep her safe (and there is the tension between him and Rose that keeps the story interesting).  But then you have the backstory of her parents, and how they absolutely abused their child, and it just makes you want to SCREAM!!!  But the depth of each and every relationship in this novel is so intricate and so developed that you really understand each and every character in this book.

For some reason, I just cannot form sentences to write this review, and I am sitting here and wondering why.  But I think it is because this is just one of those books that you really can't say much about to other people.  You just have to experience its goodness for yourself.

So I encourage you to read this novel, especially if you like fairy-tale retellings with dystopia and a little bit of sci-fi (though not that much, really--mostly its sci-fi because the world ahs expanded to other orbs in the solar system, but you don't travel there or anything).  It really is a fabulous read, one filled with intrigue and suspense and a love for the characters and the story.

My Bookshelf Rating:

A Fourth Shelf Book!

Another solid read!  I thoroughly enjoyed the relationship dynamics in this book, and really loved the character development with Rose.  A very different take on dystopia, but I really liked it.  Full of surprises to keep you on your toes.  I definitely recommend it!







Love and sleep,
Jennifer

Friday, January 27, 2012

Title Reveal of Daughter of Smoke and Bone sequel!

Hello readers!

I am really excited to share with you that Laini Taylor revealed the title of her second novel this morning on her blog!

So, without further ado, I'd like to introduce you to:

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a new way of living—one without massacres and torn throats and bonfires of the fallen, without revenants or bastard armies or children ripped from their mothers’ arms to take their turn in the killing and dying. 
Once, the lovers lay entwined in the moon’s secret temple and dreamed of a world that was a like a jewel-box without a jewel—a paradise waiting for them to find it and fill it with their happiness. 
This was not that world.

 


Interesting and Exciting!  This novel is slated to be published in Fall of 2012!

That's all, Happy Happy Friday!

Love and looking forward to the next part of the story!,
Jennifer

Follow Friday! (4)

A Weekly Blogger Meet Blogger Meme, hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee, where you answer the question and find new blogs to follow.

Question of the Week:  Which book genre do you avoid at all costs and why?

I will typically try anything at least once.  On experience, I really do not appreciate pure romance novels.  Too heavy of a romance, and when a romance is the center of the whole novel--that is just kind of a turn off.  And I really have a hard time reading nonfiction full of heavy facts.  Anything that is really dense with information tends to be a slower read for me, and thus I get bored, especially when I have so much that I want to read right now.

What about you?  What don't you like?

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Title/Author:  Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor
     (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #1)

Genre:  Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance

Published:  September 27th, 2011 by Little, Brown and Co.

Hardcover, 418 pages.

How I Got This Book:  Checked it out from my library.

Why I Picked It Up?:  It was on many bloggers Top Ten of 2011 lists, and the summary just sounded so intriguing, I just had to read it for myself!

Book Jacket Blurbs:  "Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

From master storyteller and National Book Award finalist Laini Taylor comes a sweeping and gorgeously written modern fantasy about a forbidden love, an ancient and epic battle, and hope for a world remade."


My Review of the Work:

The beginning pages of this novel open up a dark and mysterious world in which Karou lives.  Karou, with her straight blue hair, multiple tattoos, and 92 sketch books completely filled of her beautiful creations, is an high school student attending a prestigeous art school in Prague where she is perfecting her artistic talents.  Her sketch books contain hundreds of drawings of fantastical creatures, who all have names as well as a place in Karou's life--and even her friend's lives.  But her friends do not know the enigmas that Karou's life really holds--or how real her drawings really are.  So real, in fact, that they are the ones who raised her--the chimaera, the monsters, living in the store-front of "elsewhere", where wishes are magic and darkness abides.

"She had been innocent once, a little girl playing with feathers on the floor of a devil's lair.  She wasn't innocent now, but she didn't know what to do about it.  This was her life:  magic and shame and secrets and teeth and a deep, nagging hollow at the center of herself where something was most certainly missing."
--pg. 45.

A war is brewing--a war that is not of Karou's world, but of her family's world, with the chimaera.  Mysterious handprints appear on the portal doors leading to Brimstone's teethshop, and there have been spottings of "beautiful" creatures spotted all over the world.  And one of these creatures attacks Karou while she is on an errand in Morocco--the day that life as she knows it changes forever.  Her curiousity gets her thrown out of the Shop, and a week later all of the portal doors are burned down, leaving Karou permanently separated from those she calls family.  But that is not her only problem--now, someone is following her, the same someone who attacked her.  Akiva, the Seraphim, cannot seem to just walk away from Karou's presence.  Something is drawing him to her, despite the fact that she has the eyes of the devil tattooed on her palms.  They are sworn enemies, so why can he not stay away?

Wow.  I just cannot even begin to tell you how completely fantastic (literally and figuratively ;-)  ) this novel is.  First of all, this beautiful cover sets the tone for the mysterious and intriguing story that lies within its pages.  And the symbolism of the cover's blue mask--well, you'll have to read it to find out.  But it is very prominent and a very intricate part of the story.  Mystery, Discovery, Mythology, Unmasking.  Such a beautiful story and mythology, told through Taylor lyrical writing style, which just makes it that much better.

There is an original twist to this fantasy/paranormal romance novel that I have not encountered before:  the fact that our main character--Karou--is sided on the "bad side" of this war.  Traditionally, angels = good and devilish monsters = bad in the classic good vs. evil stories, yet here is our heroine, being raised by and calling these devilish monster chimaeras her family.  Yet Karou knows nothing about the intricacies of this world in which she was raised, as everything we learn about the chimaera world we learn as she learns about it, too, so is she really on the "bad side"? 

And then enters Akiva, with his beautiful gracefulness, who is drawn to Karou in an "all of a sudden I'm in love and can't live without you" kind of way, and Karou recipricates those feelings (albeit on a little slower time table).  I am typically not really a fan of this kind of relationship/love forming in novels, but in this novel in particular it works really well.  Maybe it has something to do with the forbidden love aspect which makes it okay...I'm not sure.  But I liked it a lot. 

Each and every detail in this novel is extremely important to the story, and this is why, when I finished reading this book, I sat in utter amazement.  Literally, I gasped "wow" outloud because I was just completely overwhelmed by the goodness of the web that this novel spins.  It is brilliant and beautiful.  I really cannot say much more than that.  I am sitting here trying to think of what else to tell you about this novel, and I am just at a loss for words.  You will just have to go out, procure yourself a copy, and read it for yourself.  And hopefully you will be amazed, too.

Memorable Moments:

"Akiva watched her with hawklike fixedness.  Until a few days ago, humans had been little more than legend to him, and now here he was in their world.  it was like stepping into the pages of a book--a book alive with color and fragrance, filth and chaos--and the blue-haired girl moved through it all like a fairy through a story, the light treating her differently than it did others, the air seeming to gather around her like held breath.  As if this whole place were a story about here.
       Who was she?"  --pgs. 78-79

"Magic won't save us.  The power it would take to conjure on sucha  scale, the tith would destroy us.  The only hope...is hope."--pg 405

My Bookshelf Rating: 


A Top Shelf Book!

Two in one month?!?  Wow, it's not that often that I find a book worthy of my Top Shelf after one read, but this one I will round up and put there (4.5)  because....Wow.  This novel is very different from something I would typically read, yet I am very glad that I picked it up.  I was completely enamored by the story at hand, and I enjoyed learning about the mythology behind Karou's world.  What a fantastic read.  Go get it, NOW!   =)




Love and the unexpected,
Jennifer

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

An Element


"Love is a luxury."
"No.  Love is an element."
An element.  Like air to breathe, earth to stand on. 

Daugther of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Page 363

Review of Daughter of Smoke and Bone coming Tomorrow!  So stay tuned!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Book Review: There Are Things I Want You To Know About Stieg Larsson And Me

Title/Author:  "There Are Things I Want You To Know" About Stieg Larsson and Me by Eva Gabrielsson

Genre:  Biography, Memoirs

Published:  June 21st, 2011 by Seven Stories Press

Hardcover, 209 pages

How I Got This Book:  Checked it out from the library

Why I Picked It Up?:  I read through the Millennium trilogy and loved the story and the characters.  This biography hit the nonfiction New Books shelf right when I started working their, and I read the front flap and knew that I just had to read this.  I really wanted to find out about Stieg's life and how it played a roll in his novels.

Book Jacket Blurb:  "Here is the real inside story—not the one about the Stieg Larsson phenomenon, but rather the love story of a man and a woman whose lives came to be guided by politics and love, coffee and activism, writing and friendship. Only one person in the world knows that story well enough to tell it with authority. Her name is Eva Gabrielsson.

Eva Gabrielsson and Stieg Larsson shared everything, starting when they were both eighteen until his untimely death thirty-two years later at the age of fifty. In “There Are Things I Want You to Know” about Stieg Larsson and Me, Eva Gabrielsson accepts the daunting challenge of telling the story of their shared life steeped in love and sharpened in the struggle for justice and human rights. She chooses to tell it in short, spare, lyrical chapters, like snapshots, regaling Larsson’s readers with the inside account of how he wrote, why he wrote, who the sources were for Lisbeth and his other characters—graciously answering Stieg Larsson’s readers’ most pressing questions—and at the same time telling us the things we didn’t know we wanted to know—about love and loss, death, betrayal, and the mistreatment of women."


My Review of the Work:

"To understand Stieg's work, I said, one had to know who he really was."--pg. 185

I picked up this book yearning to learn more about the author who died before his novel legacy was even published.  That fact in itself intrigued me; I just really wanted to learn more about Stieg Larsson's life without having to deal with all of the legal mumbo jumbo that seems to be following him, even into his death.  With this relatively short biography, you get the straight facts--no beating around the bush, just the candid and honest facts--from the one constant presence in his life:  Eva Gabrielsson.

For thirty-two years, Eva Gabrielsson  was Stieg's life partner--no, they never married, though not for lack of trying.  Job circumstances, politics, and then Stieg's untimely death prevented them from ever making their relationship formal and legal.  Because they were not married, legally, Eva was left with nothing--she can only own half of her apartment, has no access to the bank accounts they shared, and could not legally take any part in or have control over the publication of Stieg's novels.  But most of all, she just misses Stieg, her "soul mate".

A general overview of Stieg's interesting life:  He was raised by his grandparents in a little cabin in Northern Sweden.  He got involved in political activism at a young age, and consequently met Eva at a support meeting of the Front National de Liberation in Vietnam.  Stieg had so many idea, and Eva encouraged him to start writing about them and sending in his pieces to local newspapers.  Thus, his journalism career exploded.  He was involved in many controversial political arguments through the articles he wrote for many different newspapers and magazines all across Europe.  Together with a few others, he and Eva founded the magazine Expo, which wrote unbiased articles about the different political dilemmas they saw, as well as their own ideas.  And because of his involvement in journalism and political activism, his life (and, consequently, Eva's too) was threatened on multiple occasions by multiple groups and gangs, compromising his physical safety.  And yet:

"Without Stieg's battles and crusades, The Millennium Trilogy would never have seen the light of day.  His struggle is the heart, brain, and brawn of that saga."--pg. 64

What I found absolutely fascinating is that almost every detail found in The Millennium Trilogy is autobiographical in some form or fashion, whether it be similar situations and problems Stieg dealt with in real life, or creating his settings based upon his favorite spots around town, or paying homage to important people in his life by literally naming a character after them.  In many ways, Mikael Blomkvist is very similar to Stieg Larsson, from the way he dresses to his passion for investigative journalism to his obsessive love of coffee.  And the addresses where all of the characters lived in his novels?  They came from the many walks that he and Eva took through the parts of town where her architectural projects were taking place, or from the plans sitting in her office, or from her most current work.  The Millennium Trilogy was born from the people and places in Stieg's life, and this book series (intended to be 10 novels) was the impetus in Stieg taking life slower and remembering how much he cherished Eva.

Yet, inspite of all of those fascinating details, the center of this biography/memoir to me is the emotional journey that Eva is forced into (and still faces everyday) when Stieg suddenly passed away in November of 2004.  Her unconditional love and affection for her "soul mate" is so incredibly evident as she recalls his death, the preparations, the funeral, and the mythological cursing ceremony she holds for all of those individuals (work-related and political) that pushed Stieg into such a premature death.  Her grief is such a prominent part of this entire biography, and you can feel her love for Stieg from striaght off the page.  She includes snippets from her diary in 2005, where she kept ephiphanies as well as accounts of the mundane daily life, saying that "the diary was a way of proving to myself that I was alive" (pg. 159). 

A majority of what is published in this diary chapter deals with the legal aftermath of Stieg's death, and of his father and brother's hostile takeover of all of Stieg Larsson's estate, including The Millennium Trilogy.  This part of the biography also describes the deep emotional turmoil Eva was left in after Stieg's death and how she learns to survive and to keep on living.  All that she continually fights for is extremely inspiring to those who knew and loved Stieg, but also to those who got to know him through reading his works.  Eva's struggles have gone global, and many people have joined up in her fight not only to gain control of Stieg's intellectual estate (books, articles, etc), but also to change the law so that other couples in their situation do not have to suffer through what she had--and still has--to go through.

"The Millennium Trilogy is not just a good story made up by a good author of good crime novels.  These books talk about the need to fight to defend one's ideals, and the refusal to give up, to sell oneself, or to grovel before someone powerful."--pg. 195.

This is what Stieg Larsson did until the day of his death, and this is what Eva Gabrielsson continues to do to this day--to fight for what they believe in, and to refuse to give up.

My Bookshelf Rating:

A Fourth Shelf Read!

An easy-read if you are looking for/needing to read a biography.  But more importantly, like The Millennium Trilogy stresses over and over again, this biography gives you the truth about Stieg Larsson's life, about his death, and about what happened after his death, all told by the person that knew him best.  What a heart-wrenching and interesting read that answers a lot of questions surrounding both the novels and his purpose for writing them.  Fans of the novels shoudl definitely read it!  You will not be disappointed!





Love and true love,
Jennifer

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sunday Stacks! (3&4)

Hello Readers!  It's Sunday, so that means it's time for


Every Sunday, Inspire Your Readers with a Picture of Some Beautiful, Dazzling, and Overall Fantastic Bookshelves.


Today's Stacks look like this!:

Pretty rainbow.

And because I completely forgot and missed it last week, here's another!

I am really digging the usage of staircase space for books.
 
That's all for today!  Have a Happy Sunday!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

In My Mailbox (3)



In My Mailbox is a Weekly Meme as hosted by The Story Siren to serve as a showcase of all of the books that have been added to my library over the last week, whether it be bought, borrowed, or received. 






In My Mailbox (January 15th-21st):

Bought: 
All of my "buys" this week were freebies from Amazon for the Kindle on my PC
(If you are interested, go and check here for these titles or other freebie books for Kindle)



The Walk by Lee Goldberg
Opal Fire by Barbra Annino
The Glass Case:  A Short Story by Kristin Hannah
Delivered with Love by Sherry Kyle
Zomblog by TW Brown
Tempest at Dawn by James D. Best
A Time to Love by Barbara Cameron
Left Behind by Tim Lahaye and Jerry B. Jenkins


Borrowed (from library):



Tempest by Julie Cross
Everything You Need To Survive the Apocalypse by Lucas Klauss
And Books 2-4 of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series on Audio for my trip back home next weekend.

Received (for Review):

From NetGalley:



Letting Go of Perfect by Amy E. Spiegel 
The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls by Julie Schumacher
Someone Else's Life by Katie Dale
On the Day I Died by Candance Fleming
The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges
Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbord

From Author:



The New Death and Others by James Hutchins


Pretty good week for me.  =)  What about you? Did we get similar stuff?  Let me know!

Love and fantasy land,
Jennifer

Friday, January 20, 2012

Book Review: New Girl

Title/Author:  New Girl by Paige Harbison

Genre:  Young Adult, Mystery, Romance, Retellings

Published:  January 31st 2012 by Harlequin Teen

E-Book, 314 pages

How I Got This Book:  Received as an E-book from the Publisher via NetGalley for review

Why I Picked It Up?:  I read the synopsis on NetGalley and was intrigued enough to request to review.  And I got it.  So now I am going to read it.

Book Jacket Blurb:  (From Goodreads)

"They call me 'New Girl'...

Ever since I arrived at exclusive, prestigious Manderly Academy, that’s who I am. New girl. Unknown. But not unnoticed—because of her.

Becca Normandy—that’s the name on everyone’s lips. The girl whose picture I see everywhere. The girl I can’t compare to. I mean, her going missing is the only reason a spot opened up for me at the academy. And everyone stares at me like it’s my fault.

Except for Max Holloway—the boy whose name shouldn’t be spoken. At least, not by me. Everyone thinks of him as Becca’s boyfriend but she’s gone, and here I am, replacing her. I wish it were that easy. Sometimes, when I think of Max, I can imagine how Becca’s life was so much better than mine could ever be.

And maybe she’s still out there, waiting to take it back."


My Review of the Work:

First thoughts:  A very interesting introduction.  This novel starts out with introducing the "me" of the story--the first person narrator who is transferring to a boarding school in New Hampshire from her sunny Florida home.  She arrives and tries to get settled in but she cannot--the mysterious presence of "Becca" seems to prevent her from fully moving in to her own room.  She is known only to readers as "New Girl"--you literally don't find out her name until the last 2 pages.  In the next chapter, the story switches focus onto Rebecca Normandy a year before, who is just moving in to the same school.  Her story (told from 3rd person) tells us how Becca moves in and seemingly transforms the school in a very short time from prim and proper to "Let's have some fun!"  The intrigue and the mystery surrounding this story make it very Lois Duncan-like--an eerie story filled with a mysterious spookiness that you can't quite pin down until the end.

In the details?:  Why would seniors be taking algebra II at a boarding school, which is supposed to be advanced?  Even on-level math track at my high school took algebra II their junior year.  Nit-picky, I know, but it is the details of a novel that win me over--I want to see that an author has really thought through every facet of their story.

Becca is a strong personality--she's the girl who gets what she wants, and uses anything and everything to get it all.  Including her looks.  She manipulates the boys and the girls around her in order to make herself known around school as this huge presence.  I really do not like her--she is the stereotypical high school skank. 

An interesting facet of this novel is that the Becca story is revealing secrets to the reader that the rest of the characters in the present story with New Girl don't know yet, so it is extremely compelling to continue reading, to see how these secrets of Becca's life come out in the open.

There are definite aspects of this novel that I really like:  the intrigue, the mystery, the parallel stories, and some dynamics of the relationships between New Girl and Max, New Girl and Johnny, and Dana and Becca.  But there are also things that I find really annoying, like the sudden mood changes and the little unrealistic details that just make this story not so convincing, like certain conversations between New Girl and Max.  And the fact that she just completely opens up to her professor.  No teenager would do that, not to an adult they have talked to twice, and yet here she is, pouring her little heart out.  Just not that realistic to me.  And, what kind of school would allow its students to go unchaparoned to a hotel for a weekend birthday party?!

The plotline is compelling enough to keep the reader reading, whether it be due to the intrigue or the mystery or the romance or the drama.  This novel has something that can appeal to everyone.  While some parts are seemingly ridiculous, other parts are interesting and keep the reader wanting to know what happens.

My Bookshelf Rating:

A Middle Shelf Book.

This novel is definitely likeable--it has a compelling story that is eeriely intriguing.  Yet the romance side is definitely there, so if you are a big fan of romance (which I apparently am not) then you will probably love this book.  =)  But overall, this book gets a 3 rating for being a good and easy read.






This is my honest review and I was in no way compensated for it.

A Giveaway @ Sparkling Reviews!

Well, I have stumbled upon a giveaway that I just need all of the entries I can get.  And when you see it, you'll see why.

Sparkling Reviews is giving away a new MacBook Air!!! And Apple TV



Holy Cow great giveaway!!!!!!!


And as both me and my husband need new computers, I am going to do everything I can to get as many entries as I can (Please oh please, may the odds ever be in MY favor!!!)

So, follow the link above and enter yourself (but not too many times, because I want to win ;-)  )

Love and new laptops!
Jennifer

Follow Friday! (3)

A Weekly Blogger Meet Blogger Meme, hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee, where you answer the question and find new blogs to follow.
 
Question of the Week:  What's the craziest thing you've ever done to get your hands on any particular book?
 
Hmmm.  I guess the "craziest" thing I have ever done would have been venturing out to the slightly sketchy Walmart and walking around the store for an hour and a half until midnight struck, and then fought the crowds to get my hands on a copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows AND a free awesome poster (which is so still hanging up on in my room at my parents' house).  =]
 
I mean, otherwise, I kind of stalk the used book store by my house, on account of they have free book bins outside the store for the books that people don't want to take back home after trying to sell them.  So I try and swing by there at least twice a week to take a peek.
 
Can you beat my story?
 
Love and cherry chapstick,
Jennifer

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Book Review: Room

Title/Author:  Room by Emma Donoghue

Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Family and Relationships

Published:  September 13th, 2010 by Little, Brown and Company

Hardcover, 321 pages

How I Got This Book:  Checked it out from my library system

Why I Picked It Up?:  It has been on my TBR list for a while, but as it was a monthly read for January, I was excited to finally have an excuse to read it!


Book Jacket Blurb:  "To five-year-old Jack, Room is the world.  It's where he was born, it's where he and his Ma eat and sleep and play and learn.  There are endless wonders that let loose Jack's imagination--the snake under Bed that he constructs out of eggshells, the imaginary world projected through the TV, the coziness of Wardrobe below Ma's clothes, where she tucks him safely at night in case Old Nick comes.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma it's the prison where she has been held since she was nineteen--for seven years.  Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in that eleven-by-eleven-foot space.  But Jack's curiousity is building alongside her own desperation--and she knows that Room cannot contain either much longer.

Told in the pignant and funny voice of Jack, Room is a story of unconquerable love in harrowing circumstances, and of the diamond-hard bond between a mother and her child.  It is a shocking, exhilarating, and reveting novel--but always deeply human and always moving.  Room is a place you will never forget."

My Review of the Work:

Disclaimer:  Due to the nature of this review, there will be spoilers.  So if you are planning on reading this novel and don't want to know anything about it, then I advise you not to read this review.  In this case, know that I would recommend this novel to anyone who has a social science background or who likes to read realistic fiction. 

As I read this as part of a book group discussion, I have read many people's opinions of this novel, and I feel like so many people approach this novel thinking it will be an exciting escape novel (which it is).  But it is so much more than just the escape, which is why the escape happens halfway through the book.  This novel delves into the psychology, sociology, and family studies social sciences behind captivity and confinement and explores the effects of such a confined life through the eyes of a five year old, who knows no different. 

I have done a little bit of research on Emma Donoghue and her thoughts about why and how she decided to write this book.  She based this novel on the case of the Fritzl Family.  Donoghue was really interested in Felix Fritzl, who was five years old at the time of his rescue out of the basement prison in which he was born in.  Donoghue based her character of Jack on the experiences that Felix must have gone through, from not knowing anything other than their prison to all of a sudden being exposed to the world outside of their "room."

And so we have Jack, a just-turned five-year-old boy who's whole world is an 11ft by 11ft room (as illustrated here).  Through his voice (his impressively written five-year-old voice, complete with over-applied grammar rules and young child stream of consciousness, which is done absolutely brilliantly), Jack tells us the story of his life in Room, about his Ma, and about Old Nick.  For a five-year-old who has only known Room, an explanation of the world outside is a huge concept to grasp, and Jack struggles with his understanding of the world his Ma once knew.  And once he sees this huge world for himself, he struggles to adjust to the "lack of specific schedule" and the freedom that comes from living outside of Room.

This novel really explores the psychological effects of long-term confinement, both the confinement itself and the adjustment after being released.  So if you are looking for a novel with an active plot, then this will not peak your interest, because a lot of this novel is not action-packed, but rather explores the everyday life kinds of things.  However, if you understand and appreciate the social sciences, then you will be intrigued by this novel and be able to fully appreciate everything this novel is about.  I say this again because I have an educational background in the social sciences of Family Studies, and many people who don't have this kind of background (like those in my reading group) really didn't quite grasp the importance of each and every "mundane" detail that was included in this novel.  This is a novel that is geared for an audience who likes to explore elements of the social sciences.

The first half of this novel deals with the life of confinement, and the more you read and find out, the more you understand the differences between Ma and Jack.  For Jack, Room is his safety net--it is all he knows, and all he wants to know, because he is comfortable living with Ma.  But for Ma, since she knows what she is missing on the outside world, she sees Room as the prison in which she is being held.  However, she also understands the delicate situation she is in with her son because she understands how Jack sees Room.  This is why she slowly but surely tries to explain to Jack about her life before Room, about the outside world, so that they can devise and execute a plan of escape. 

The second half of this novel deals with the psycological and sociological adjustments to life after escaping from their prison.  For Jack, the world is HUGE and way beyond the parameters his mind has formed about life.  He has to adjust physically to his surroundings, like being exposed to germs, or the sun's rays, and learning how to judge distance, and coordination.  Seemingly simple tasks, like walking down stairs, is a challenge for someone who has never seen stairs before.  For Ma, it is a dream come true, yet the world has changed so much.  Because of this, she too has a hard time re-adjusting, which in my opinion really captures the reality of a situation like this.  It would not be so easy for a woman who has spent 7 years in sexual captivity to just re-enter the world again, especially after finding out that your parents have divorced, that your mother has remarried, and that your brother has married and has a child of his own.  Then there are the relational issues that formed during confinement, like attachment issues and severe separation anxiety.  And the second half of this novel delves into all of these issues and changes and realistically deals with adjusting to each one.

This novel is really brilliant because 1.  it captures the POV from a 5 year old, complete with language usage and thought process and 2.  it portrays the realities of a situation like the one in this novel.  Though some do not like this novel, I personally really enjoyed all of the aspects that this novel offers.  It intrigued the family studies part of me, and I really enjoyed reading this novel.  But I do understand that it is not for everyone, and that is okay too.

My Bookshelf Rating:

A Fourth Shelf Book!

This book really captures the realities of confinement situations and the adjustments after being rescued.  And this novel portrays elements of family relationships with realistic expectations.  Above all, this novel is about the love a mother has for her child, and the love that child has for his mother, and the power of a mother-child bond like theirs.  This book is recommended for those who really like the social sciences.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

In My Mailbox (2)



In My Mailbox is a Weekly Meme as hosted by The Story Siren to serve as a showcase of all of the books that have been added to my library over the last week, whether it be bought, borrowed, or received.




In My Mailbox (January 8th-14th):

Bought:


The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh--I just loved this so much that I had to go out and buy a copy for myself.  And plus, in a few weeks, I will get it signed by Vanessa herself!  SO EXCITED!

One for the Money by Janet Evanovich--Because the movie is coming out at the end of the month, and I have always wanted to try her, and it was $0.50 at my local used book store. ;)

Borrowed From Library:

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
A Long Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan

**Both of these novels were just sitting on the display shelf, so I lunged and grabbed both of them before someone else could, as they are both high on my TBR list.  =)

Received for Review (From NetGalley):


Fiction Titles:

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
Surviving the Angel of Death:  The Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz by Eva Mozes Kor and Lisa Rojany Buccieri
Welcome Caller, This Is Chloe by Shelley Coriell
Addison Blakely:  Confessions of a PK by Betsy St. Amant
New Girl by Paige Harbison
The Girl Who Owned A City:  The Graphic Novel by O.T. Nelson, Dan Jolley, Joelle Jones, and Jenny Manley Lee
There You'll Find Me by Jenny B Jones



Nonfiction Titles:

The Fire of the Word:  Meeting God on Holy Ground by Chris Webb (Won as ARC from Goodreads giveaway)
Sex, Dating, And Relationships: A Fresh Approach by Gerald Hiestand and Jay S. Thomas (from NetGalley)



I had a lot in my mailbox this week.  What about you? 

Love and books delivered,
Jennifer

Friday, January 13, 2012

Reflections: The Reading Promise


Title/Author:  The Reading Promise:  My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma

Genre:  Memoirs, Reading and Books

Published:  May 3rd, 2011 by Grand Central Publishing

Hardcover, 279 pages

How I Got This Book:  Checked it out from the Library

Why I Picked It Up?:  I first saw a little blip about this book in a magazine, and I remember cutting out the review and sticking it on my dresser so that I would remember to add it to my list of books to read because it just sounded so magical.  =)

Book Jacket Blurb:  "When Alice was in fourth grade, she and her father--a beloved elementary school librarian--made a promise to read aloud together for 100 consecutive nights.  Upon reaching their goal, they celebrated over pancakes, but it was clear that neither wanted to let go of what had become their reading ritual.  They decided to continue what they came to call "The Streak" for as long as they possibly could.

From L. Frank Baum to Dickens to J.K. Rowling to Shakespeare, Alice's father read to her every  night without fail until the day she entered college, a remarkable eight years later.  in this deeply affecting memoir, Alice tells the story of her relationship with the extraordinary man who raised her--from his steadying hand on the back of her wobbly bike to his one-man crusade to keep reading in schools--through a series of deftly wirtten, often hilarious vignettes about the words they shared and the spaces in between.  In her debut work, Alice poignantly celebrates the unbreakable parent-child bond, the books she and her father treasured, and the life lessons learned along the way."

Reflections:

"What greater gift to your descendents yet unborn than the love of books and reading?"
-Foward, Jim Brozina (Alice's Dad)

First of all, I just have to mention this cover, which is absolutely beautiful and completely represents the story that unfolds within the book's pages.  Stunning, captivating, and mouth-watering for a book-lover such as I.

As this is a memoir, I have chosen to "reflect" rather than "review" simply because this book has really hit home with me personally and given me oh so many ideas and thoughts and feelings.  Gah, I just love a book like this.  With that said, here we go!

I have to say, the idea of a continuous reading streak is one that is so incredibly appealing to me, because reading is such a powerful thing, especially between a parent and a child.  Even though children are not anywhere close to being in the picture for me yet, I am reading this memoir and thinking about all of the adventures my husband and I can take with our children during reading time at night.  I am already making lists in my mind of the books I want to share with my children.

Alice and her father James started with a 100-night streak.  When they hit that mark, they went out and celebrated at the local breakfast cafe, and tried to explain to the owner what a feat they had just accomplished.  And when they announced their new goal--1,000 nights in a row--the owner smiled and wished them luck, but he did not know or understand exactly what that goal meant.  1000 nights in a row of reading aloud.  1000?!  That's almost three straight years!  What a beautiful and magical goal they set for themselves.

"What we were doing was beautiful, of course, but it was difficult."--pg. 10

How do you explain to someone who does not share the same love of reading you have how incredibly powerful and mind-numbing that goal is?  At least 10 minutes a day (mostly at night, but sometimes they did have to read in the morning if they knew their nighttime would be busy) of reading outloud, together.  Think of your own busy lives--could you really see yourself being able to do this?  I honestly don't know.  But I would love to try.

James Brozina is an elementary school librarian who shares his love of reading with all of his students.  Reading this memoir has once again pushed me to think about becoming an elementary school librarian.  I have witnessed children (especially boys) lose their love of reading somewhere around the age of 10 because reading becomes "uncool."  Whoever started this rumor is slowly ruining the world, I think, because that is the furthest thing from the truth I have ever heard.  It is disheartening to me to hear elementary/middle school age boys tell me that they hide their love of reading so that the other boys at school won't make fun of him....SERIOUSLY KIDS?

This is why I want to be a librarian--not only because I just love walking in to a big room full of books, because I totally do love that--but also because I want to help instill a love of reading in people.  I want to share my passion for the written word with everyone I meet.  And I think that instilling has to happen young--with children.  Which is why I love and respect librarians, and why I want to be one myself--because their sole job is to help people find things to read!

Alice tells us the moments form her childhood that she remembers learning distinct lessons about family, about love, about life, and about reading.  Living in a home with fighting/divorcing parents, a much-older sister who leaves for college and to travel the world when she is still a child, and a father who is trying to make ends meet on a school librarian's salary, Alice learns and shares with us a lot about life.  Yet she also shares with us how powerful The Reading Streak was--and still is--in her life. 

Some stories will make you laugh.  Others will make you cry.  But these stories will melt your heart, and they will make you feellike you know them--like Alice and "Jim" are your best friends, your family even.  To see their relationship appeals to my Family Studies background, too.  To see how they relate to each other, how much they depend on each other, father and daughter, for all practical purposes a two-person family.  To see their lives meld into one theme--reading, and a love of the written word.

The memoirs in this book take you past when the streak ends (which was her college move-in day after 3,218 consecutive nights).  Because, in actuality, the streak itself is not the real purpose of writing this book (although it is a huge and wonderful feat in itself).  The last couple of chapters deal with a subject that is so serious and so appalling to a future librarian and a lover of books--THE ELIMINATION OF READING IN A SCHOOL LIBRARY.

Her father fought with the principles at his school, but to no avail, they prohibited him from reading to his classes in the library, forcing him instead to educate his students on the importance of the internet.  Eventually, they got rid of the majority of the books, and finally, after he [was forced to] retire, got rid of all of the books.  No books in the library?!  So now he is fighting for reading in schools while finding other ways to share his passion for reading, by reading to nursing homes and preschools. 

That is what the reading promise is all about.  A promise to keep reading, no matter what.  A promise to share your love of reading with others, no matter what.  A promise to read to your children, and with your children, no matter what.  A promise to support the love of reading in your community, no matter what.

My Bookshelf Rating:

A Fourth Shelf Book!

The rating itself would be more of a 4.5.  This book is beautiful, and quirky, and enjoyable.  It is for those who love books and love reading.  It teaches and inspires readers to take a part in the Reading Promise and spread a love of reading with those people who surround them.  Go and read it, now.  You won't regret it.  =)






Love and super long reading lists,
Jennifer


Follow Friday! (2)

A Weekly Blogger Meet Blogger Meme, hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee, where you answer the question and find new blogs to follow.

Question of the Week:  Tell others about your favorite bands/singers that they should listen to in 2012!


Hands down, my  most favorite artist of all time is Joshua Radin, whose older stuff is dubbed "whisper rock" and whose newer stuff is more pop-ish.  But I love him.  If you haven't heard of him, you probably have heard him if you watched Scrubs or a lot of recent t.v. seasons that play mellow music lol.




I also love Iron and Wine.



And any song/artist that is on the Wicker Park Soundtrack


Do you listen to any of these artists?  Do you have any similar recommendations?  New Follower?  Comment and let me know!