Friday, December 31, 2010

Jessi Goes Back to High School with If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where's My Prince?

Title/Author: If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where's My Prince?
Publisher/Year: Hyperion, 2005
How I Got This: From my local library
Why I Read It: I liked the cover (I won't lie), and I was hoping to connect with Lucy
Rating: 3 Stars 

Quick Synopsis: 

When high school sophomore Lucy Norton's father remarries, Lucy's life is turned upside down. She and her father move from their West Coast home to a suburb on Long Island. With a small bedroom in the unfinished basement, unlimited chores, a blank social calendar, and a huge crush on the dashing prince of the varsity basketball team, Lucy's life has the makings of a Cinderella story--complete with two bratty stepsisters and a wicked stepmother. So isn't she supposed to get the prince? And go to the senior prom? 

Melissa Kantor delivers humor and romance as she explores the struggle of finding your real prince and, more important, yourself, in this royally funny and romantic novel.  

This was basically your average cute, fluffy YA read. Nothing really profound happens in this story, and if you don't like reading the antics of a typical high school girl (including prom dress shopping), then you might want to pass on this one. 

There were a few things that I particularly liked about it. First of all, I have this absolute fascination with stories of kids who are struggling with their stepparents/stepsiblings. I don't know where or how this fascination started, seeing as how my parents are happily married and I only have two brothers of my own. Maybe something about walking in someone else's shoes? I dunno. So that was part of what drew me in and kept me reading. I also really enjoy stories involving high school outcasts, just because I feel like most people can relate to that. Most teenagers at some point or another just want to fit in, so it was easy for me to sympathize with Lucy on that level. 

I liked Lucy a lot, and even though she seemed a bit whiny at times to me, I think people often forget just how whiny high school teenagers are. I liked that Melissa Kantor didn't try to glaze that over, but portrayed Lucy and her friends as how they most likely would have acted. Plus, Lucy is really funny, in a sarcastic kind of way. The story is told from her point of view, and the way that she described things sometimes had me laughing out loud, especially about her first experience with a thong. I thought it was a little strange that she had this big crush on this vapid basketball player, but he was the most popular guy in school which probably had a lot of appeal to Lucy, who considered herself a nobody. And let's face it, high school is a time of trying to fit in and figure out who you are in relation to those around you. In that sense, Kantor really nailed this book. But I still rooted for Sam the whole time :) But then again, I have a thing for the quiet, sensitive artsy/nerdy guys (lol). Oh, and Jessica and Madison were hilarious. They were so ditsy and the kind of the girls I have hoped never to be like, but they reminded me a lot of Brittany and Santana from Glee that it was hard for me not to like them. 

Anyway, I also enjoyed how Lucy came to terms with who she was and what she considered her own version of her fairy tale. It was also nice to see how the family issue was played out as part of the plot, so that it wasn't just a book about high school drama. 

Overall, like I previously stated, nothing too profound happened here, but I did enjoy this book and kept flipping pages to find out what happened next. 

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tis the Season for a Giveaway!

It's not often that we do a giveaway but I figured that hitting 500 followers was a good enough freaking AWESOME reason AND it just so happens that TB&TB is 6 months old this month! I can't believe it's only been six months since we started blogging!

So, what are we giving a way? Since we are on the cusp of 2010 and 2011, we are going to be giving away a 2010 release and a 2011 release. We are having a total of 4 giveaways--- 2 YA books and 2 adult books. You can enter for any of them.


Anna and the French Kiss

1 copy of Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Across the Universe 

 1 copy of Across the Universe by Beth Revis (to be released January 11, 2011) 


Queen Hereafter: A Novel of Margaret of Scotland

Queen Hereafter: A Novel of Margaret of Scotland by Susan Fraser King

The Lover's Dictionary: A Novel

The Lover's Dictionary: A Novel by David Levithan (to be released January 4, 2011)

The rules:

- This giveaway is international, folks. If the Book Depository ships to you, then please enter!
- You do not have to be a follower BUT we would love it if you would check out our blog. We like all sorts adult fiction, YA fiction and non-fiction. We also host Top Ten Tuesday, Bookish Jobs for Bookish People, and Student of the Month.
- This giveaway is open until January 6th at 11:59 pm.
- ONE entry per person but you can enter for any and all books on the form.

AND MOST IMPORTANTLY...leave a comment and tell us what other books you are anticipating for 2011!! 

Want to enter? Click HERE to be taken to the ultra easy form to fill out!

Tahleen reviews: "Let It Snow" by 3 awesome YA authors

I know it's a little late for this, but I DID finish the book on Christmas, which was my goal all along.

TitleLet It Snow
Authors: Maureen Johnson, John Green and Lauren Myracle
Publisher: Speak, 2008
Where I got it: The library!

Rating: ★★★★

Let It Snow is made up of three novellas written by three different authors, all big names in the YA book world. And let me tell you, it's for a reason. Each holiday romance takes place mostly in Gracetown on Christmas Eve during one of the biggest snowstorms of the decade. Though all are focused on different characters, in the end they all come together, and along the way characters and events are intertwined in a way that always made me excited to recognize a name or realize how everything was fitting together.

The first was Maureen Johnson's "Jubilee Express," which tells the sweet story of a girl who, despite all signs pointing the other way, thinks she's in a perfect relationship with a perfect guy. But when her parents land in jail and she ends up stranded in a small town, will she be able to see she deserves better? Despite how well-written this is, I didn't find too much that made it stand out for me. It was funny and touching, but it was pretty predictable with no real twists. (Except for the beginning.)

The next story, John Green's "The Cheertastic Christmas Miracle," definitely reminded me that I totally need to read more John Green, and own more of his stuff. He creates the best, quirkiest, most likable characters I've encountered in a while. Here, he picks up the story of a secondary character in Johnson's story and continues to write a cute little romance between old friends (which is one of my favorite kinds) written in a completely believable teen male voice. The situations he creates for his characters are so wacky and unexpected that he completely won me over. I give his story 5 stars, for sure, and this was by far my favorite of the three.

The last story of the three is Lauren Myracle's "The Patron Saint of Pigs," which brings all three stories together. The mysterious Jeb, briefly mentioned in the other two stories, finally gets his own fleshed out. Told from the perspective of his slightly self-absorbed sort-of-ex-girlfriend Addie, we see how one person's obliviousness and selfishness can completely backfire for everyone involved, and how it can be fixed with some effort, and the arrival of a teeny tiny piggy. (You will want a teacup piggy after reading this, just fair warning.) All of the characters in Myracle's contribution have multiple sides and are people I can see existing in real life; they're all flawed and try to fix things that go wrong because of their personalities. Plus, this story tied them all together in the end, much like the Christmas pageant in Love Actually brought all those characters and their stories together in that lovely Christmas movie (which you should watch if you haven't yet).

All in all, John Green carried this one for me. I did enjoy the other two stories, but they completely pale in comparison to Green's story and writing. It was a nice Christmasy read, and I'm glad I found the time to finish it before December 25 ended.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Natanya's Ramblings on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Title/Author: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Publisher/Year: Vintage Books, 2008
Where I got it: Powell’s
Why I read it: My dad raved on and on and on about it

From Goodreads:
Mikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, watches his professional life rapidly crumble around him. Prospects appear bleak until an unexpected (and unsettling) offer to resurrect his name is extended by an old-school titan of Swedish industry. The catch--and there's always a catch--is that Blomkvist must first spend a year researching a mysterious disappearance that has remained unsolved for nearly four decades. With few other options, he accepts and enlists the help of investigator Lisbeth Salander, a misunderstood genius with a cache of authority issues. Little is as it seems in Larsson's novel, but there is at least one constant: you really don't want to mess with the girl with the dragon tattoo.

When my dad read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in August, every time I walked by him he looked up (or didn’t, because he was so insanely engrossed in the novel) and said, “Natanya, you HAVE TO READ THIS.” Although I knew that I would not be as blown away by it as he was (my dad spends most of his time reading emails, not novels, and he’s a computer geek), I knew I had to see whether the novel lived up to the hype. And now that I’ve read it, I can say that the majority of it did. The real meat of the story—the main mystery—is quite the thrill ride, and I found it pretty impossible to guess who the “culprit” was until the end. I loved Salander and her various methods of getting information or making things work to her advantage. Blomkvist was a little blah at times, but that didn’t really hinder the novel very much—he provided a pretty good contrast to Salander’s unpredictability.

However, the mystery is framed by this financial libel disaster that Blomkist got himself into, and, consequently, I found the beginning and end of the novel to be very boring. While I was largely able to ignore Larsson’s often excessive amount of detail for the bulk of the book (some of which became relevant later, others which were really not necessary), I had to force myself through the first 75 pages or so of detail and financial crap that was relevant to Blomkvist’s life, but entirely irrelevant to the rest of the book. I suppose it is better that Larsson fleshed out the context rather than just throwing it in as a wimpy reasoning for why Blomkvist could spend a year on this mystery, but, honestly, I have little interest in the financial world.

But, while this boring frame (and maybe it was just boring to me) made the novel a bit less enjoyable, the bulk of it is much more applicable to a college age girl (at times terrifyingly so), and is also far more graphic, shocking, gruesome, and totally gripping. As a warning, though, it does get pretty gross at times—I wanted to throw up after one of the descriptions, and I had a hard time falling asleep a couple nights. So you may not want to read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo right before going to sleep, but if you like mysteries or thrillers, or are just looking for a hold-onto-your-pants ride of a novel, do read it.

4 stars

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday: Jen's Top Ten Books of 2010

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This meme was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

Each week we will post a new Top Ten list complete with one of our bloggers answers. Everyone is welcome to join. All we ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND post a comment on our post with a link to your Top Ten Tuesday post to share with us and all those who are participating. If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. If you can't come up with ten, don't worry about it---post as many as you can!

This week's topic:
Top Ten Books of 2010 

Yes, another end of year 'best of' list.  Are you sick of them yet?  But this one is a look back into your favorite reads of the year!

Top Ten Books Jen Read in 2010 

*the books are not in order of how much I enjoyed them...this is pretty much the order I thought of them*

  1. Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson - Don’t know how much more praise I can give this book...have I mentioned that I LOVED it?  Like I loved it infinity times 72582745 plus 16.
  2. Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler – I loved the relationship between Anna and Frankie, the wonderful imagery of the beach and the symbolism of the sea glass. 
  3. The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen – I loved the Wish Catering crew and how everything with them is chaotic, nothing is ever planned out in advance.
  4. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee – A classic.  I first read this book in 8th grade, I liked it then but that’s pretty much all I remembered except for a big courtroom scene.  So glad I reread this over the summer.
  5. Jumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde – Definitely a must read.  A great book about accepting others despite their differences.
  6. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot – One of the only nonfiction books I read this year and I learned so much it.  Henrietta Lacks contributed so much to the science community, yet no one knows who she is or they just know of her cells, called HeLa.
  7. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher – A haunting read but it was such a good book.  It really makes you stop and think about how you treat other people.  You don’t know how a comment or remark (mean or nice) actually affects somebody.   
  8. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins – I know many people were a little disappointed with Mockingjay.  Not gonna lie, I was a little disappointed as well BUT I still enjoyed it (I thought it was quite the emotional rollercoaster) and I still love the trilogy.
  9. Fourth Comings by Megan McCafferty – I was let down by Charmed Thirds so I was glad that I ended up loving the fourth book in the Jessica Darling series.  I’m excited to read Perfect Fifths but sad at the same time, I don’t want to let go of Jessica (or Marcus)!  It’s definitely bittersweet.
  10. Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan - This was such a cute book and a great book to read around the holidays.  I loved being a part of Dash and Lily's adventure though New York City at Christmas time.  

2010 started off on a bad note, regarding books anyway.  I didn’t read my first five-star book until the middle of March!  2010 was also a big year for young adult books (for me).  

Now it’s your turn!  Tell us your favorite books you’ve read this year!  

*Next week's topic is: Top Ten Books I Resolve to Read in know all those ones you keep saying you are going to get to but haven't yet. No more procrastination in 2011!


Monday, December 27, 2010

Playwrights in an Hour Giveaway Winner

This is just a short announcement to say that Jana was our lucky winner for the first Playwrights in an Hour giveaway.

Jana, if you'll email me your address, I'll send your information to the publisher who will send you a copy of the Aristophanes book.

We'll be having four more giveaways in the near future.  Check back soon for another chance!

Regarding Jana and "Sea Change"

Title and Author: Sea Change, by Aimee Friedman

Publishing info: Point, 2009

How I got this book: It was a birthday present.

Why I read this book: I’ve got a thing for mermaids these days, and thought this would be a fun one!

Stars: 4

Summary from Goodreads:
Sixteen-year-old Miranda Merchant is great at science, and not so great with boys. After major drama with her boyfriend and (now ex) best friend, she's happy to spend the summer on small, mysterious Selkie Island, helping her mother sort out her late grandmother's estate. There, Miranda finds new friends and an island with a mysterious, mystical history, presenting her with facts her logical, scientific mind can't make sense of. She also meets Leo, who challenges everything she thought she knew about boys, friendship… and reality. Is Leo hiding something? Or is he something that she never could have imagined?

I’ve been a fan of mermaid romance novels ever since I read Beneath a Sapphire Sea by Jessica Bryan. There’s so much an author can do when they are talking about a setting that is so mysterious and unknown to land dwellers like us! That’s why I decided to read Sea Change. It’s not necessarily a mermaid book, but it does deal with mythological themes centered around the ocean. While it was not what I was expecting, I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed the story.

Let me start by saying that the cover is beautiful! It’s even prettier in person than it is on screen because it shimmers! This mystical story of young love lacks a bit in plot, but makes up for it with charm and magic. Miranda is a very likable character because you can relate to her. She’s been hurt by people in her not-so-distant past, and is trying to heal during her summer on Selkie Island. She’s warned on the ferry of mystical water creatures and is told to avoid the native islanders because they are “different.” Right when she arrives, she knows this island is unique. She thinks nothing of it, but begins to understand as she explores her grandmother’s house and the island itself.

She’s a bit of an odd man out on the island, which is full of rich and snobby socialites. The first night she’s there, she’s invited to an heiress party (she’s an heiress since she inherited her grandmother’s estate). It’s stuffy, and the “friends” she makes care mostly about money, fashion, and getting in bed with a hot, young, rich, preppy boy.  Miranda’s not that kind of girl. She’s a brainy good girl from the big city and has to work to survive. That’s another reason I like her. She’s real. In her quest for getting away from the snobs, she goes to a marine center on the island. There, she meets the mysterious Leo. He’s extremely attractive, and someone Miranda feels she would never have a chance with. He latches on to her, though, and they form a very sweet bond that’s surrounded by mystery and intrigue. They have to sneak around since he’s a native, and the heirs and heiresses of the island shun natives. I really liked Leo. He’s down-to-earth, honest, caring, chivalrous, and sweet. It’s no secret either that he’s a very different kind of person.

While the story does not have a complex, fast-paced plot, it is quite intriguing. The reader is given different lessons on mythology and history. You are kept guessing, along with Miranda, until the very end. New facts pop out of the woodwork. Unfortunately, I was still guessing after the book was over. I doubt there will be a sequel, but there certainly is room for one. I would have enjoyed learning more about the mythology that resides on Selkie Island, but perhaps we’re meant to make that up in our own minds. The descriptions of the island and the houses were beautiful and very descriptive. I'd love to visit! 

My only real complaint was that the story took so long to build up, that the ending was quite rushed. Miranda and Leo’s story went from casual to intense rather quickly. There was plenty of room to slow it down and make it seem more realistic. All in all, though, this was a very sweet book with a lot of southern charm and pure, innocent love. While I read it the week before Thanksgiving, I think it’s the perfect beach read… or the perfect man-it’s-so-cold-outside-I-wish-it-were-summer read if you need to thaw out for a little while!

Have a very happy new year and happy reading!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Kelly's Review of "Memoirs of a Geisha" by Arthur Golden

Title: Memoirs of a Geisha
Author: Arthur Golden
Published: Random House, 1997
Where I Got It: A yard sale

One word: WOW. I devour anything and everything historical fiction related, but had somehow not managed to delve into anything Asian related (maybe excepting The Joy Luck Club). Not wanting to break my personal rule of ALWAYS reading the book before watching the movie, I gave this one a try.

Memoirs of a Geisha brings to life the exotic lives of geisha living in 1930s/40s Japan. Our geisha in particular was born as Chiyo, a poor girl in a small fishing village. She, along with her sister, is taken to the city of Kyoto at the age of nine, where she trains to become a glamorous geisha. Her new life of hard work, backstabbing and betrayal is a shock to her at first, yet she grows up to become very clever and successful.

What amazed me most about this book is the fact that Arthur Golden was able to write an American novel about Japanese culture from a female perspective so well and believable. I was doubtful at first whether or not he could voice a female effectively, but boy, did he ever. His imagery is unbelievably vivid.

However to me, the most fascinating part of this book was the culture. I learned so much about the customs, clothes, fashions, and practices of geisha (and also the fact that geishas is not a word, neither is kimonos. Who knew?). The time period it is set in was also interesting; early 1940s Japan was not a pleasant place to be. Another strong point is the wide range of characters. I found myself seething at Hatsumomo, sympathizing with Pumpkin, and rolling my eyes at Mother.

Towards the end, things got pretty so-so for me. I was much more interested in Chiyo's (later named Sayuri) struggles to become a geisha, not necessarily what happened after she became so successful. I will say that I'm glad a typical Hollywood perfect ending wasn't included. If everything had wrapped up just perfect, it wouldn't have had the same feel to it.

4.5 stars. Now off to watch the movie!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Regarding Jana and "The Perfect Christmas"

Title and author: The Perfect Christmas, by Debbie Macomber

Publishing info: Mira, 2009

How I got this book: Haha. Last November my mom had Swine Flu, so I became “Mom” to my family during the very end of the final semester of my senior year in college. I was so busy and stressed with turning in my senior project, writing papers, studying for finals, and working retail during the holiday season, that being a full-time mom as well almost pushed me over the edge.  My mom felt bad for me and bought me this book to cheer me up during the stressful time. Needless to say, I was too busy to get around to it!

Why I read this book: I really love a good sappy Christmas romance during the holidays. I always have to read at least one!

Stars: 3

I really do love this time of year, and I love taking in as much sweet stuff as possible, both by way of mouth (unfortunately) and by way of entertainment! I watch Christmas movies all month, make Christmas cookies and fudge, design Christmassy jewelry, and listen to the Carpenters wish their darlings a merry Christmas. Finally, I’m guilty of hunting down the cutest Christmas romances all year and saving them for after Thanksgiving. This kind of book follows the same formula that all other Christmas romances follow. The people are sweeter than candy canes, merrier than the elves, and jollier than Saint Nick himself. And of course… there’s the woman going through her quarter-life crisis, hoping for a boyfriend for Christmas, followed by a bun in the oven and a white-picket fence. I’m typically not a sappy person, but for some reason I enjoy this during the holidays! Here’s a synopsis for you that I snagged from Goodreads:

“What would make your Christmas perfect?

For Cassie Beaumont, it's meeting her perfect match. Cassie, at thirty-three, wants a husband and kids, and so far, nothing's worked. Not blind dates, not the Internet and certainly not leaving love to chance.
What's left? A professional matchmaker. He's Simon Dodson, and he's very choosy about the clients he takes on. Cassie finds Simon a difficult, acerbic know-it-all, and she's astonished when he accepts her as a client.

Claiming he has her perfect mate in mind, Simon assigns her three tasks to complete before she meets him. Three tasks that are all about Christmas: being a charity bell ringer, dressing up as Santa's elf at a children's party, and preparing a traditional turkey dinner for her neighbors (whom she happens to dislike). Despite a number of comical mishaps, Cassie does it all—and she's finally ready to meet her match.

But just like the perfect Christmas gift, he turns out to be a wonderful surprise!”

Haha. Doesn’t that synopsis just make you smile? I knew that, ultimately, the entire book would be pure, predictable, fluff. But it was extremely sweet, and I did really enjoy it! I got pretty tired of listening to Cassie complain for the first 30 or so pages, but it got so much better once she was done introducing us to her predicament and venting about it. I adored Simon’s character. He was the scrooge of the book, who did not believe in love even though his profession was to help others find it. He was hard, cold, and not very likable at first. I loved the banter he and Cassie shared back and forth. As Cassie goes through the process of completing her three tasks, she experiences some funny things and also some heartwarming things. You grow to like her, and her totally awesome brother (I’d date him!). It does have a very sweet ending, and everyone is overflowing with happiness and the spirit of Christmas. I could have used some more content, and a few twists, but I think that might be asking for too much.

It was a cute, fast, fluffy read but I love that at Christmastime! Now, it’s not a piece of  literary genius, nor does it have a very original plot. It’s very predictable, and I knew from the very beginning what was going to happen. If you’re looking for a challenge, or looking to be captivated, then this is probably not the book for you. If you’re looking for a quick dose of cute  (and clean) Christmas sappiness, then perhaps you’d take from this book the same thing I did!

Discussion: What makes your Christmas perfect? Do you have special traditions? If you celebrate a different holiday, what makes that one perfect?

As always, happy reading and happy holidays!

** P.S. – Thanks so much to my Secret Santa for the book, Confessions of a Shopaholic and the rainbow pens! I plan to begin that book shortly, and will be reviewing it on here! And those pens… I love them! Definitely the kind of pens I'll enjoy journaling with.  Thanks again, so very much! **

Friday, December 24, 2010

Jen Reviews 'The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane'

 Author:  Katherine Howe
 Published:  Hyperion Voice, 2009
 How I Got It: Purchased myself
 Rating: 3.5 stars


When we first meet our main character Connie she is a graduate student stress-case.  She is preparing for a super important test that she must pass in order to continue her education.  The exam covers all aspects of American colonial history.  If you miss a question or don't answer one fully then that's it, you're out of the program.  Oh, and it's not a written test either, your mentors ask you the questions and you have to come up with your answer on the spot (talk about pressure!).  Luckily, Connie  excels and passes to exam.  It's the beginning of the summer so Connie expects that she can relax a little now.  Unfortunately, Grace, her mother has other plans.  Grace needs Connie to clean and fix up her grandmother's house that has been neglected for years.  All of a sudden it needs to be sold.  Connie isn't thrilled about spending the summer this way but she can't say no to her mother.  During her first night at the house Connie finds a mysterious key.  It intrigues her and from that point on Connie is determined to figure out what it goes to.  This is the catalyst that begins the search for Deliverance Dance's physick book.

I love historical fiction books that go back and forth between the past and present.  I love seeing how the different stories and different time periods connect.  This book was no exception.  Howe takes us on a journey to Marblehead, MA in 1991 and then back in time to Salem, MA circa 1692.  Deliverance Dane was a woman found guilty of witchcraft and was executed.  Connie just happened to come across a piece of history while doing a good deed for her mother.   Like any good historian, Connie investigates and uncovers a woman forgotten by the history books and learns some things about her family’s past.

While I did enjoy this book I felt it ended too sudden.   We find a few things out and then it seems like the book just ends.  We learn what happens to Sam but don’t get to read about what happens to him (I hope that made sense, I’m having trouble wording it without listing spoilers).

*side note* Every time I saw the name ‘Chilton’ I thought of Gilmore Girls.

I’m so glad Howe included a postscript.  Deliverance Dane was a real person (while reading the book I thought she was just a fictional character).   There’s not a lot of information about her though.  She was accused of witchcraft and spent thirteen weeks in prison but luckily, her life was spared. 

The Salem witch trials are a part of history that has always interested me.  It baffles me that a group of teenage girls were able to convince an entire town that they were in the company of witches.  That their own next door neighbors could be putting curses on other people in the town.  It was a point in history when people were extremely fearful (especially with a war occurring less than 100 miles away) but still.  I wonder if those girls felt any remorse for contributing to the panic.  But they were only a part of the uprising.  People truly believed that witchcraft was real.

What are you thoughts about the Salem witch trials?  Ever visited Salem, MA?  I live within two hours of Salem and I’ve never been!  I’d love to go but the only time other people want to go is around Halloween.  I think it would be even more crowded during that time of year and too gimmicky.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Julia Reviews "Beastly" by Alex Flinn

Title/Author: Beastly by Alex Flinn
Publisher/Year Published: 2007 by Harper Teen
How I got this book: The Library
Why I read this book: Saw a trailer for the movie coming out, thought I would read the book.
Rating: 4 stars

I stumbled into a trailer for a new movie coming out in March called "Beastly." Upon doing a bit more research I discovered that it was a book first, as it usually is, and decided to read it. Two things sold me on this book from the relative get go: one, it's a retelling of one of my favorite Disney movies* "The Beauty and the Beast", and two, it's told from the Beast's perspective.

The book does a great job of modernizing the Beast's tale. One of my favorite highlights is the chat room group for mythically affected teens. But besides the obvious of updating the scenery to the 21st century perspective, the actual Beast transformation is really believable. The magic of the tale balances well with the modernity. There is a great story arc that isn't too sudden or unbelievable. He starts off quite unlikable actually, but the promise of his transformation is enough to spur you past his childish special snowflake syndrome.

One side comment that really has nothing to do with my review but I've read quite a few YA novels this year that have novels told from 1st person point of view. Why is that, I wonder? As a general rule, I dislike first person narrative because it limits what I can know about other characters. I learn a good deal about the main character but the secondary characters suffer. I concede that sometimes first person works well, I thought it was great in The Hunger Games, but it's just not my favorite. I'm curious to what opinions you guys have on POV. First person: love it, hate it, can't live without it?

Anyway, back to Beastly. While it does a good job with the modernization while keeping all the essential elements, it was missing something that would push me into 5 star territory. It just didn't have that extra kick. Is it a great read? Yes. Would I recommend it to anyone who likes the tragic romance of Beatuy and the Beast? Hell yes. Is it a book I would read again? Probably not. But it was definitely worth the read. And I'll probably go see the movie when it comes out in March. If only for Neil Patrick Harris.

*I know it's a fairy tale, but I am more familiar with the Disney version. I am still plowing my way through The Brothers Grimm ... then comes Hans Christian Anderson ... then I'll do the more famous ones I have not hit (like this French tale!)

Trivia! The second most familiar Beauty and the Beast version for me? The TV show from the late 80s. Oh, Vincent...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Lori's Livres--Williams in an Hour and a giveaway!

Williams in an Hour (Playwrights in An Hour)Book Title/Author:  Williams in an Hour by Michael Paller
Publisher/Year Published: In an Hour Books by Smith and Kraus, 2009.
How I got a hold of this book: I received this free copy in the mail from the publisher after being asked to review and coordinate a giveaway.
Why I read this book: I chose this particular playwright because I was curious to know more about Tennessee Williams and because a friend of mine, who is a Mizzou alum, said Williams was a Mizzou alum and I wanted to impress said friend (sad, I know).  But he also wrote a play that I love, A Streetcar Named Desire.
Rating: 4.5 stars.

I knew next to nothing about Tennessee Williams when I started this book.  I knew the titles of a couple of his plays.  And I knew that he went to Mizzou.  I was really excited about the prospect of learning more about this playwright.

This book definitely met my expectations.

The book begins with a timeline of major events in Williams's life, as well as world events that shaped him and his writing.  Next is a list of his works and a list of contemporaries.  The list of contemporaries includes other writers, as well as athletes, political figures, prominent businessmen, among other famous and important people.  This part of the book, I think, helped put Williams into a larger context.  It showed events and people that influenced him.  I mean, who could have lived through World War II and not be affected by it?

The bulk of the book is a scholarly essay on Williams.  It includes biographical information, such as his parents' names, where he went to school (while he did go to Mizzou, he did not actually get his degree from there), that sort of thing.  But it also discusses, in a chronological order, his works and how they were affected by the world events.  Basically, it shows what made his work relevant to and appreciated by the masses.  This essay talks about authors who influenced Williams, themes in his work (such as the need to flee versus the urge to remain), and the way theatre changed during the course of his career.  I think that the essay gives a very good, very detailed introduction to Williams's entire body of work, as well as giving a detailed biographical sketch.

The next section is comprised of dramatic moments from some of his major plays.  I think that this section does a good job of supporting the claims made in the essay about his work and they give a feel for his writing style.  The excerpts also give a little bit of a feel for how Williams evolved as a writer during his career.  The last major section is a lengthy bibliography of scholarly and popular works on Williams.  It lists the sources used in the essay and books to reference a variety of topics for further reading, such as biographies on Williams and books about American theatre.

I really liked this book.  I think that it did an excellent job of teaching me a bit about Williams and his plays.  I feel like I could discuss him intelligibly.  However, I know that I need to read his plays to really be qualified to discuss him.  This book helps place Williams in a larger context of world events and in the context of American theatre. The copy had good organization.  It was written in a clear, concise manner.  And the book was clean and well-made.  (As a grad student, quality of print and construction has become a very important part of books; go figure)

I think it would be a good tool for students taking a course where they'll read Williams's plays or for people who are interested in the playwright.

As promised, we have a giveaway!

This Williams book is part of a series called Playwrights in an Hour.  The publisher is allowing me to give away one of their books to a lucky reader.  The series is broken into four time periods with the following playwrights:

Ancient Greek--Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Euripedes, Sophocles
Modern--Chekhov, Coward, Hansberry, Ibsen, Miller, Moliere, O'Neill, Schnitzler, Shaw, Strindberg, Wedekind, Wilde, Wilder, Williams
Contemporary--Albee, Ayckbourn, Beckett, Rebeck, Ruhl, Shepard, Stoppard, A. Wilson

Leave me a comment telling me which playwright you would want to receive.  At 9:00pm (cst) on Saturday, December 25, I will randomly select one reader to receive a free copy of the playwright of their choice.

There will be a total of five playwright giveaways over the next several weeks...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tahleen reviews "A Season of Gifts" by Richard Peck

A Season of GiftsTitle: A Season of Gifts
Author: Richard Peck
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2009
Where I got it: Found it at my library, hooray!

Rating: ★★★★½

Grandma Dowdel, who some readers will recognize from A Long Way from Chicago and A Year Down Yonder, makes a comeback in this recent novel from acclaimed novelist Richard Peck. The large, tough, but very big-hearted Mrs. Dowdel is the next door neighbor of the Barnhart family, newly moved from Terre Haute, Indiana to the tiny town in Piatt County. Mr. Barnhart, a Methodist preacher, was assigned the small, broken-down church in the tiny town, and all of them have a rough start adjusting to the change of scenery. And though Mrs. Dowdel is not a church woman or one to neighbor, things sure turn around for the Barnharts throughout the second half of 1958, seemingly by circumstance. The narrative starts in the dog days of August, going through the fall season and the major holidays, and finally ending with Christmas.

Richard Peck has such a lovely way of crafting his stories. It never seems rushed or hurried, even when something exciting is happening. Life meanders along, despite all of the crazy schemes and scenarios that seem to crop up when Mrs. Dowdel is around. There are a few marked differences from the two companion novels, besides being set in the late 1950s instead of the Depression—there is a somewhat disturbing scene near the beginning where Bob is bullied pretty badly, to the point of physical abuse. However, this is a pivotal scene, as it gives Mrs. Dowdel a reason to notice him and provides a background for the rest of the story.

The way Peck concocts schemes is genius. Things happen and the reader isn't sure where they're going, but when they fall into place it's nothing short of brilliant. Mrs. Dowdel manages to do all the right things without seeming like she's doing them on purpose, which takes some obvious skill. What she accomplishes for the Barnharts, and how they react to them, is just wonderful. And to see how some of them get involved is not only unexpected, it never failed to make me smile.

All of the characters are believable and their own people, though 6-year-old Ruth Ann adorably starts to talk and act like her elderly neighbor, using phrases like "hoo-boy" and pushing up imaginary spectacles. Phyllis is your typical angsty teen, and Bob is eager to grow up but knows his responsibilities and limits, for the most part. An interesting difference between this book and its companions is we get to see a parental element—the previous volumes just had children reacting to their grandmother, while here we see adult insight as well as that of a child.

This makes great reading for an older audience as well as for children. There are so many references and scenes where younger readers might not get the full picture right away, but adults will understand what is going on while it's happening or right after it happens. Most things are clearly explained by the end of the chapter for those who missed the clues along the way, though there are a few comments that will go unnoticed and unrecognized by younger readers that adults and older children will probably catch—and the story works just as well even if you don't catch them.

One nitpicky thing I disliked was the epilogue. It was a little too obvious for my taste, and didn't quite go with the rest of the tone of the book. My favorite aspect of Peck's writing is his subtlety, and this lacked it completely. Of course, it ended being a Christmas story and with it came some schmaltz, which I normally like, but I felt like this didn't need any. It's a lovely story all its own, and though it's nice to find out what happened to the Barnharts after they left Piatt County, Peck laid it on a bit thick in the last few sentences.

I really liked this book, and anything with Grandma (or Mrs.) Dowdel is sure to be a good time. She has a mind for scheming and a good heart, always looking to do the right thing and to get a little bit of justice for those who can't get it themselves. It's a nice, short book to read right before Christmas, or any time of the year really.

A Collaborative Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Hope Santa Brings

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This meme was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

Each week we will post a new Top Ten list complete with one of our bloggers’ answers. Everyone is welcome to join. All we ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND post a comment on our post with a link to your Top Ten Tuesday post to share with us and all those who are participating. If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. If you can't come up with ten, don't worry about it---post as many as you can!

NEXT WEEK THE TOPIC IS: Top Ten Books I've Read in 2010--a look back into your favorite reads of 2010! 

This is the first time we've ever done a collaborative Top Ten Tuesday post. Typically it will just be one reviewer doing the TTT for the week so the list is reflective of that one person's tastes rather than the diverse taste of the blog. So, since we are crossing our fingers and toes that we made it on the nice list this year, we figured we'd do a collaborative post to show what members of The Broke and the Bookish are hoping to get from our dear Santa Claus.

1. Vixen by Jillian Larkin -- Get under my tree, Vixen! Seriously. One thing you may not know about me is that I'm slightly obsessed with the 1920's. I go through phases of reading books set in the time as well as written in that time. And let's be honest. ONE WORD--FLAPPERS! I was a darling flapper one year for Halloween.  (Jamie's pick)

2. The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin -- I read the first book in the series (The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms) in May and loved it, I've been not so patiently waiting for the sequel ever since. And the cover is really pretty :) (Daisy's pick)

3. Room by Emma Donaghue -- I've read a ton of fantastic reviews of it, and it sounds so interesting, especially because it's from the perspective of a 5-year-old. I love books written from less typical points-of-view! (Natanya's pick)

4. Phraseology: Thousands of Bizarre Origins, Unexpected Connections, and Fascinating Facts about English's Best Expressions by Barbara Kipfer -- I normally do not like to own books unless I know I am going to read them over and over, but in this case if this book is what I think it is (a font of awesome knowledge of English) I would want it on my shelf. One of my more recent past times has been filling myself with Jeopardy like information. This book would not only add to that store, but give me more fun facts about a language that I've spoken my whole life. Because seriously, who the hell doesn't want to know where some of those bizarre phrases came from? I mean I just learned from reading the back that "best man" is an allusion to the best man to help capture you a wife. How interesting. (Julia's pick)

5. The Jessica Darling series by Megan McCafferty-- I've read the first 2 in the series and absolutely adored them. Jessica is a girl I can completely related to and I love her sarcastic voice and tales about her psycho friends. I've heard the rest in the series aren't as good, but I want to form that opinion for myself! ( Kelly's pick)

6. B&N Leatherbound edition of seven of Jane Austen's novels -- It's an absolutely stunning edition. Here's a link  where you can see several pictures of the book. I adore Jane Austen, and this beautiful book is too good to not have it on my shelf! (Jessi's pick)

7. Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly - It takes place in Paris during the winter so its perfect for this time of year.  I've always wanted to visit the City of Lights and a book is a great way to to that when you're on a budget!  Plus, I love historical fiction books that weave past and present together. (Jen's pick)

8. Endgame Volume 1: The Problem of Civilisation  by Derrick Jensen -- Derrick Jensen is a prolific environmentalist and activist who has written several excellent books on the environment. I've seen several videos of him on youtube and a recent interview with him on Democracy Now! and I'm in awe of his intelligence. This book basically discusses the damage that is being done to the environment and how it's affecting us. Several of my friends have read it and they all say it's the scariest thing they've ever read- the reality that Jensen describes is absolutely terrifying and the message is absolutely clear: unless we instantly stop destroying the environment we will completely obliterate ourselves and every other living thing on the planet in a few short years. My friends also says that the book made them incredibly angry and it really woke them up about what this beautiful planet we live on. Not exactly light-hearted reading but I really want it! (Anna's pick)

9. Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson -- I've been dying to read it ever since Jen reviewed it. I love road trips and everything else about the book sounds like something I'd love! ( Kimberly's pick)

10. I'm a Stranger Here Myself by Bill Bryson--I've listened to the abridged version on CD, but I want to read the rest of it too! (Tahleen's pick)

What's on YOUR list?

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