Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fictional BFFs: Jessi's Picks

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 sign Mister Linky at the bottom to share with us and all those who are participating. If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Don't worry if you can't come up with ten every time...just post what you can!

Next week's topic:

Coziest Places to Read/Favorite Places to Read

This week: Top Ten Character's I'd Like to Be Best Friends With

Jessi’s Picks: 

  1. Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series: Okay, so let’s be serious here—this girl kicks some butt! Out of all of the books I’ve ever read, I have to say that I’ve always related to Hermione the most—from the bushy hair to being bookish even when it isn’t “cool.” This girl definitely tops my list.
   2. Lizzie from Pride and Prejudice: Ever since I first read this book, I’ve loved how strong-willed and independent Lizzie is. Not only that I feel like we would have tons of fun talking about books and how adorable Mr. Darcy is. ::ahem::
   3.  Mattie from A Northern Light: Mattie is another character that I would love to read with and do bookish things with. Her home life is pretty stressful, so I could see myself as her shoulder to lean on when times got tough. Plus, if she doesn’t want Weaver for herself, I’d totally date him…!
    4. Lena from The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants: Out of the four girls in the Sisterhood, I’d have to say that I related to Lena the most. I can be pretty quiet, mostly just because I enjoy the quiet. We’re both pretty introspective, and enjoy the beauty in the world around us, so I think we’d make a pretty good BFF pair. 
    5. Jo from Little Women: Jo is another feisty female character that I could see myself being best friends with. Growing up, I loved her character because I was a tomboy myself, and I can remember my mom and my grandma always telling me that I needed to behave “like a lady.” We could run around together, and I would help her act out her plays—we’d have tons of fun!
    6. Roland from Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series: Sometimes, we all need that completely bad*** friend who has our back, no matter what. What between his uncannily quick reflexes and his somewhat Clint Eastwood-esque ability to make people shake in their boots, I think I’d like to have Roland around. 
   7. James from James and the Giant Peach: I used to be fascinated by his story. I think as a little kid, everyone liked the idea of being able to completely run away from home when things got rough. I think I’d enjoy hanging out with James in his peach, with his buggy friends.
   8. Samantha from American Girl: Samantha was one of my favorite American Girls. I love the Victorian period that she lived in. Plus, I always thought that the way she treated others, specifically those lower on the social ladder, was very telling of her character.
   9. Matilda from Matilda: This one should be pretty obvious. What little girl who loves books didn’t want to be best friends with Matilda? I always wished that I had her powers. My heart always broke for her during the scene that says she just wanted to have a friend. I’ve always wished I could be a friend for her!
   10. Anne from Anne of Green Gables: Oh, Anne. Anne is another little girl I would have enjoyed being friends with. I love to think about the adventures I would have gotten into with Anne!

I had so much fun imagining all of the characters I’d love to be BFFs with! Now it’s your turn—who are your fictional BFFs? I’m looking forward to seeing what you all come up with! 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Jen Attempts To 'Jumpstart the World'

Author:  Catherine Ryan Hyde
Published:  Knopf, October 2010
How I Got It:  Purchased for my nook
Rating: 5 stars


Jumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde is fantastic read.  The book isn’t even 200 pages long but it is filled with so much emotion.  You’ll feel happy, sad, grateful, encouraged, guilty, depressed but also inspired and ready the change the world.  Ultimately, I think this book is about acceptance and tolerance. 

Sixteen-year old Elle has just moved into her very first apartment, her only companion is the cat she just got from a shelter (she picked the least friendly cat out of the bunch).  Her mother’s new boyfriend doesn’t like teenagers so instead of kicking him to the curb Elle gets kicked out.  Her mother pays for the apartment (which is on the other side of town) and checks in every so often.

The only neighbors Elle gets to know are Frank and his girlfriend, Molly.  They live in the apartment next to Elle and even share a fire escape.  Elle takes an instant liking to Frank.  She develops a crush on him and is devastated when she unexpectedly finds out that Frank is transgender.  He’s currently in the process of going from a female to a male.  Needless to say it came as quite a shock to Elle.  The last half of the book is about Elle dealing with the aftermath of finding out about Frank.  She's not really sure what to think about it or how to react to it.

*One random fact about Elle:  Do not steal a cab from her, especially if she is upset about something.

Lately I've been trying to write down my favorite quotes from books.  These are my four favorite quotes from Jumpstart the World:

"Words are important...words are the tools we use for making peace with the world" - Chapter 3
“You’re supposed to make mistakes.  You’re just starting out.  Mistakes are a good thing.  They mean you were brave enough to try something hard” – Chapter 6
“Sometimes you have to jumpstart the world just to get it to be what even the world admits it should be” – Chapter 12

“I decided that not talking is like a litmus test for a real friend.  You can just sit there and be.  Not always be filling up the air with words” – Chapter 14

I loved this book.  I definitely think it is a must read for everyone.  It’s a great story about learning to accept others even if they're different.  Plus there are funny chapter titles like, “The Heartbreak of Too Many Guys Named Bob” and “Mascara, and Other Things That Run”. 

On Hyde's website she has a list of Five Ways To Jumpstart The World.  Please go take a look at them. She has some great ideas.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Stephany reads Kristin Riggle's The Life You've Imagined

The Life You've Imagined: A NovelTitle/Author: The Life You've Imagined by Kristina Riggle
Publisher/Year Published: 2010 Harper Collins 
How I got this book: Public Library
Why I read this book: I was browsing the new books section at the library and happened to fall across it.
Rating: 3 stars 


Is the life you're living all you imagined?
Have you ever asked yourself, "What if??" Here, four women face the decisions of their lifetimes in this stirring and unforgettable novel of love, loss, friendship, and family.
Anna Geneva, a Chicago attorney coping with the death of a cherished friend, returns to her "speck on the map" hometown of Haven to finally come to terms with her mother, the man she left behind, and the road she did not take.
Cami Drayton, Anna's dearest friend from high school, is coming home too, forced by circumstance to move in with her alcoholic father . . . and to confront a dark family secret.
Maeve, Anna's mother, never left Haven, firmly rooted there by her sadness over her abandonment by the husband she desperately loved and the hope that someday he will return to her.
And Amy Rickart—thin, beautiful, and striving for perfection—faces a future with the perfect man . . . but is haunted by the memory of what she used to be.
Kristina Riggle's The Life You've Imagined takes a provocative look at the choices we make—and the courage we must have to change. 

First, let me say that this book is set in the part of Michigan that I am currently living! So, with that said, this books gets a MAJOR kudos! It's set in "Haven", which is actually Grand Haven, Michigan. Kristina Riggle also makes lots of references to Grand Rapids, Michigan, which is where I am currently residing. Kristina is a free-lance author for The Grand Rapids Press, and she mentions Chicago, which is my dream city to live in ( and will be  very soon!) So, as you can tell, this book gets lots of kudos for me! However, I did not realize ANY of this until I started reading the book so it was pleasant surprise! 

Now, with all of that "petty" stuff aside, the book/story itself was okay. Yes, just okay. It wasn't great, but it wasn't bad either. I felt like 4 stars was too much, and I wasn't feeling the whole "half star" thing, so I went with 3 stars. It was a good story, it kept your attention, but I felt like there wasn't a big enough climax, or enough jaw-dropping surprises to make you go, "WHOA!" or what I usually saying, "Whatttt!?" Hahaha. The other thing that I didn't really like is that the characters aren't really all that connected. I mean, they are connected, but I felt like at the same time that each person (besides Anna and her mother Maeve) had their own stories in the book. It does tie together to a point where you understand what's going on, but I felt like there should have been more. Does that make sense? 

The sending is a sweet, happy ending. But it could have been more.. what's the word? Shocking? Or rather a, "I didn't see that coming!" Now, don't get me wrong, it's not really a predictable ending, it's just not a surprising one either. 

What I did enjoy about the book/story/plot (aside from what I first mentioned!) is that it does keep your attention, and makes you want to keep turning the pages to see what's going to happen to whom next. You do find yourself routing for the characters, hoping they each get what they're chasing in their lives, and hoping for the best. 

I do recommend the book for a quick, light read if you're trying to get out of a reading slump, or you just want something quick to read. This book is about 300 pages long, however, the chapters are quick so you find yourself literally flying through it. I don't think this book is a go out 5 minutes before the book store closes type book, but it's a book that you may want to look further into and maybe add to your list at a later date. 


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Kimberly reviews Claim to Fame

Book: Claim to Fame

Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix

Rating: 4.5 stars

Why I read it: I love the author and the plot sounded interesting.

Lindsay Scott used to TV’s most popular child star. Then she started to hear everything that was being said about her, all the time, and from every place on the globe. After her apparent nervous breakdown, Lindsay disappears from the public eye until, years later. A tabloid claims her father is holding her hostage. Although the truth is actually much stranger, the article triggers a series of events that forces 16-year-old Lindsay to finally confront who she really is.

This book was such an entertaining read! I had picked it up on a whim because I liked the author and the plot seemed interesting. And I liked the cover, usually I do not like covers with faces on them, but I liked this. I really got pulled into the story right from the start. There is just something about the way that the author writes that really draws me in. The characters are so likeable. The story was face paced and kept my attention. It kept me guessing too. Lindsay’s abilities are intriguing, and I wanted to know why she was like that and what was going to happen next. 

I like the amount of detail that she puts into her books. Lindsay used to be a child star and she describes her life on the TV show. The author did enough research that she knew what life was really like for a child star and was able to describe it in detail.

One of the things I liked so much about the book is how well paced and balanced it is. It’s never slow, but it doesn’t feel rushed. There are moments that are very serious, but it also has a lot of humor. I wasn’t constantly riding an emotional roller coaster. Even though it’s YA, there isn’t an overload of angst. 

So if you’re looking for an easy, quick read, I highly recommend this. I’ve read most of the books by the author and they’re all good too.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Jessi Stays Fat for "Sarah Byrnes"

Title/Author: Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher
Publisher/Year: Greenwillow Books, 1993
How I Got This: From my local library!
Why I Read It: I read this for my YA class and because my professor had been raving about it since the beginning of the semester!
Rating: 4 Stars

Quick Synopsis (from Goodreads): 

When Sarah Byrnes was three years old, her condition became synonymous with her surname. Her face and hands were badly burned in a mysterious accident, and her father refused to allow reconstructive surgery. She developed a suit of cold, stainless steel armor to defend herself against the taunts of a world insensitive to her pain. You enter into Sarah Byrnes's world on her terms, or you don't enter.

Enter Eric Calhoune--Moby to his friends. Eric passed through his early years on a steady diet of Oreos and Twinkies and root beer floats, and he sports the girth to prove it. Because of their "terminal uglies," he and Sarah Byrnes have become true masters in the art of underhanded revenge directed at anyone who dares to offend their sensibilities.

When Eric turns out for the high school swimming team, he begins to shed layers of extra poundage. Fearing the loss of the one friendship he treasures, he gorges to "stay fat for Sarah Byrnes," who discovers his motive and threatens to beat him more senseless than she thinks he already is. Then the truth of Sarah Byrnes's horrific past finally catches up with her.

This was such an excellent read! I'm honestly surprised that Chris Crutcher is not a more prominent name in YA literature because he's one of the better ones that I've ever read. He is really an amazing writer, and I'm glad that my professor had us read this book.

Crutcher knows how to craft a very good line, and he uses his words effectively. There were some really gut-wrenching lines in this book. He gets in the heart of his character and stays there, creating the distinctive voice of the witty smartass narrator, Eric Calhoune. While I couldn't really visualize the characters, I got such a clear picture of their voices and their personalities that I would know them anywhere. I love when authors do this with their characters because it shows me that they actually care about their characters.

Another big plus in this book is that Crutcher absolutely does not shy away from any of the raw topics of life, ranging from domestic abuse to abortion to religion, which is why he gets banned quite frequently. I love that he takes these untouchable topics and has his readers really think about them through the antics of his characters. I think it's important for people to read about stuff like this, if just for the simple fact of being aware that it happens. Crutcher's approach also works really well because he uses comic relief and laughter to lighten the mood. Just because he talks about serious subjects does not mean that this book is a Debbie Downer, by any means. Hell, I read the first page and I was cracking up already. Eric, otherwise known as Mobe, is such a witty and hilarious narrator. There aren't many books out there that get actual physical reactions out of me, but this was one of them. I laughed out loud, I cried, and I gasped. That takes some good writing.

So, if you're looking for an author that you may not have heard of who writes quality novels (11 in total), I highly suggest checking out Chris Crutcher.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Regarding Jana and "Dracula, My Love"

Publishing Info: Harper Collins, 2010

How I got this book: I bought it from Border's during the teacher appreciation sale.

Why I read this book: I've always been so interested in the story of Dracula, but never actually read the book by Bram Stoker. When I saw that this story was told by Dracula's lover, Mina Harker, I was extremely excited to read this "untold story of the vampire romance that started it all."

Stars: 5

I love it when I read a book that makes me want to read another book. That's what books should do, in my opinion. Reading this book has convinced me that I need to read Bram Stoker's Dracula. Now that I know Mina's point of view, I need to read what the rest of the world thought. I seriously loved this book. I was kind of scared to purchase it, because it's a little out of my usual comfort zone. Plus, it was expensive. I kept thinking about it, though, so when I finally found a good deal, all other books on my to-read list were pushed to the back. I'm SO glad I gave this book a chance, because it is a truly beautiful story of love, deception, obsession, survival, and sacrifice. I was riveted, and could not put it down! Here's the summary of the book, taken from Syrie James's website.

Syrie James approaches Bram Stoker's classic Dracula with a breathtaking new perspective--as, for the first time, Mina Harker records the shocking story of her scandalous seduction and sexual rebirth.

Who is this young, magnetic, handsome, fascinating man? And how could one woman fall so completely under his spell?

Mina Harker is torn between two men. Struggling to hang on to the deep, pure love she's found within her marriage to her husband, Jonathan, she is inexorably drawn into a secret, passionate affair with a charismatic but dangerous lover. This haunted and haunting creature has awakened feelings and desires within her that she has never before known, which remake her as a woman.

Although everyone she knows fears Count Dracula and is pledged to destroy him, Mina sees a side to him that the others cannot: a tender, romantic side; a man who's taken full advantage of his gift of immortality to expand his mind and talents; a man who is deeply in love, and who may not be evil after all. Soon, they are connected in a way she never thought humanly possible.

Yet to surrender is surely madness, for to be with him could end her life. It may cost Mina all she holds dear, but to make her choice she must learn everything she can about the remarkable origins and unique, sensuous powers of this man, this exquisite monster, this ... Dracula!

I'm on Mina's side. I saw that tender, romantic side of Dracula and found myself falling for him right along with her! She's got a difficult situation at hand. She went from being the plain, simple girl who never got any romantic attention (even from her husband), to being obsessed over and stalked by a mysterious and sexy bad boy. You'd think that would be terrifying, but she was so captivated by him that she dreamt of and longed for him when most women would flee in fear. She fell deeply and hopelessly in love with him, yet she felt so incredibly guilty because of it. She was married to another man, whom she also loved, but was sneaking away in the middle of the night to be with Dracula. This mortified her, but she could not help herself. When she tried to refrain from going to him, he came to her in the form of a mist that materialized by her bed in the middle of the night, unbeknownst to her husband. He would them sweep her away and have her back by dawn. So scandalous! I think that's part of the reason I loved this book so much. I think a little part of everyone is curious about the forbidden. It's only human nature.

The characters were so well developed. Each person had their own voice and their own opinions. Dracula was strong, sexy, deceptive, evil, manipulative, and extremely romantic! He called her, "My Love." Oooo la la!  Mina was very strong, rebellious, and thought for herself during a time when women were supposed to be meek and submissive. She grew up a lot over the course of the book and learned a lot about herself. Mina's husband was the typical male from the time period. He was controlling, demanding, protective, and was all about saving Mina from this evil man who so desired her. Of course, he had no idea that Mina was a willing participant in her rendezvous with Dracula. She was sure to keep that a secret, in the hopes of preserving Dracula's life as well as her own. 

While her husband and his accomplices (including Van Helsing, a former boyfriend, and the widower of her best friend) came up with an intricate plot to murder Dracula, she appeared to be helping them, but in reality was leading them on a wild goose chase formulated by Dracula himself. She kept swinging back and forth between the two, doing her best to keep everyone in the "loop". She hoped for both sides to win, because she cared so much about everyone involved. All of these elements tied together created a very spooky, suspenseful, and exciting romance. You get to jump into Mina's mind and hear her thoughts. You begin to understand her wants, fears, and desires. You number yourself lucky for not being in her shoes, but care too much to stop hoping that she figures everything out. You will be glued to every page and travel through every emotion with her.

The writing is done in old-fashioned English, which I found very refreshing. It really added to the story. I have a hard time when historical genres are written in contemporary language. This felt very authentic and seemed very real as a result. The mannerisms of each character were also believable. I loved the contrast between the chaste, ladylike behavior Mina displayed around her husband and friends and the, for lack of a better word, lustful thoughts and actions she exhibited with Dracula. It was like he had her under some spell that amplified her desires and emotions when she was with him. In all actuality, though, this book is not all about lust and carnal desires. Her time spent with him was always spent in long discussions about life and literature. They had so much in common. Her greatest desire was to be with him. The book is really very clean, except for one steamy "dream" she has about him.

I loved this book. It was entirely captivating, and I think I've discovered a new author to follow. Syrie James has written other books along the same lines, including The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte and The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen. Based on this book, I think they are both worth checking out. I'm also planning to read Dracula by Bram Stoker, and The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. I think Dracula might have cast a bit of a spell on me as well! 

Happy reading!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

R holds forth on The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien

The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien
Flamingo, 1993
How I got this book: The Library
Why I read this book: It was on the list of 1001 books to read before you die.

A man besotted with the work of the scholar de Selby becomes an accomplice in a murder, then is taken on a hellish trip through rural Ireland, a place where the policemen appear to be utterly obsessed with bicycles.

It is difficult to be too specific in any synopsis of the plot, for fear of giving the climax away - well, giving it away as much as it actually can be given away. Most of the events of the plot whirl past dizzyingly, almost incomprehensibly, in Alice-in-Wonderland style.

In fact, that's probably a good indicator of how far you'll get with this book. If you were charmed by the random parade of characters and set-pieces in the Alice books, there's a pretty good chance you'll be charmed by the same in The Third Policeman.

As it happens, I had no patience for Alice; no patience for wackiness for its own sake.

Likewise, in the case of this book - While I totally understand that there is a certain humour in having your characters on the floor hunting for an object much too small to be seen by the naked eye, understanding that it was intended to be amusing did not translate to me, the reader, finding it amusing in the slightest.

I may have slightly maligned The Third Policeman in comparing it to the Alice stories. In its favour, there is intended to be more depth to it than the mere representation of a child's flight of fantasy, a certain depth that has no doubt been integral to its association with the TV series Lost.

Actually, the section of the book I most enjoyed were really the little deviations that the unnamed narrator goes on, expounding upon the unhinged theories of de Selby - perhaps, terribly enough, because they gave the additional benefit of respite from all the "wackiness" of the main flow of the plot.

I'm afraid I'm going to have to give The Third Policeman only 2 stars, but with the caveat that some are definitely going to enjoy it more than I have.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Kimberly's Top Ten Holiday Books

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature 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  that one of our bloggers here at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. 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 add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It's a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers. Don't worry if you don't have ten or if you have more than ten! Post what you can!

Next week the topic is-- Top Ten Characters I'd Like to Be Best Friends With

This is one of my favorite times of the year. Just when winter is starting to settle in and you can just feel the holidays right around the corner! I have a few books that I read around this time every year, I love holiday books. Here is a list, in no particular order, of my favorite holiday books.

1.How the Grinch Stole Christmas- Love this book! I love both movie versions as well.

2. The Christmas Sweater by Glen Beck- Ok, now I know what your first thought is going to be when you see who the author is. There is nothing political about this book whatsoever. So even if you don’t like Glen Beck, you’d probably like this book. It’s a very sweet, heartwarming story.

3. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens- Probably my very favorite. I own a Christmas village that is based Charles Dickens’ works. I have some buildings that appear in A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist and a few other books. Every year when I put the village up, I have to take out Christmas Carol and read it again! And then watch the Alistair Sims version of the movie!

4. Harry Potter series- Yes, weird I know. For some reason I always have an urge to reread at least one of the books from the series this time of the year.

5. The Polar Express by Chris van Allsburg- This became a favorite after seeing the movie years ago.

6. God Bless Your Way by Emily Freeman- A rather beautiful story of Christ’s birth. It’s told from the point of view of a man who follows Mary and Joseph into Bethlehem. Beautiful artwork too.

7. The Christmas Thief/Deck the Halls by Mary Higgins Clark- I’m a fan of her anyway, but I really enjoy her Christmas books.

Ok, so I couldn’t think of any other holiday books! I thought I’d have more… but I couldn’t think of any others. So what are some of your favorites? All of mine are Christmas books, can you think of any that are about other holidays?


Monday, November 22, 2010

What is YA?

Go into any chat online about book genres, and you'll most likely find someone talking about YA (young adult) being their favorite, or how they don't care for YA fiction (some downright hate it). Being someone who primarily reads young adult fiction (and the occasional nonfiction selection), I am one of the former YA lovers. However, I wouldn't go so far as to say its my favorite genre. Why, you might ask? Because I don't believe YA is a genre at all.

Young adult and teen literature is a particular collection of books, yes. They are written differently than the adult fiction books, with younger readers and their interests in mind. And yet, I would never lump them all together in one broad group. That would be like lumping all nonfiction together, or mixing science fiction and fantasy with realistic fiction. They all have different fan bases, so why would you do that to teen books?

Made in the U.S.A.
There are a number of genres within young adult, and that includes all the favorites of adults: science fiction and fantasy, realistic fiction, mystery, historical fiction, horror, not to mention nonfiction books like history and biography. My guess is people tend to lump it all together because 1) there are less young adult books than adult, 2) people assume the writing is simpler (and sometimes it clearly is), and 3) the characters are almost always around the age of their readership. And yet, you can find so many books within "adult" literature with simpler writing (I'm looking at you Dan Brown) or with younger characters. A few of those that spring to mind are Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, Mari Strachan's The Earth Hums in B Flat, and Billie Letts' Made in the USA.

There is a lot of crossover between YA and adult fiction, too. How many of you read those titles and thought, Well, those are young adult titles, not adult. But go into a bookstore and you'll probably find those in the adult fiction section. In fact, there are a number of books that have "adult" and "young adult" versions (Harry Potter, anyone?). And how many teens read "adult" fiction and identify with it? I'd guess probably a lot. It quickly becomes a question of semantics—you'll begin to argue that THIS is the reason this book belongs here, and that book there, and then no one can agree.

To Kill a Mockingbird: 50th Anniversary EditionBut you know what? It doesn't matter. A good story is a good story, plain and simple, no matter how a book is categorized. The great American classics The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Catcher in the Rye are now often given a YA label, but that hasn't stopped adults from reading them in the past, or rereading them. Genre is a tricky thing in general—I don't think books need the age of their intended audience to complicate matters. The discussion is rich and complex enough.

The Book Thief
The only thing stopping adults from reading books intended for younger readers is the label "YA" or "teen"—adults might avoid it like the plague for fear of being looked down upon or because they're embarrassed. (Like a guy my friend saw on the T who was supposedly reading a Stephen King book, but upon closer inspection he was reading Twilight with a disguise.) I can't tell you how many people I've given The Book Thief to who were surprised it was shelved in the teen section, or people who asked for Twilight and immediately felt the need to assure me they didn't know it was a teen book and acted all embarrassed about it. I just want to tell them, It's okay. Read whatever the heck you want.

And so, after this long and winding road of rambling on my part, this is why I don't think YA should be counted as a genre. There is too much within young adult literature, and too much crossover between it and adult, to just slap it with that label and move on.

I've had my two cents. What are yours?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Jess' Review: Heart and Soul (Maeve Binchy)

(image from Goodreads)

Title: Heart and Soul 
Author: Maeve Binchy
 Publisher: Anchor, 2010 
Notes: I received this book for free from a Fodor's Travel Twitter giveaway.
A brief summary: With the insight, humor, and compassion we have come to expect from her, Maeve Binchy tells a story of family, friends, patients, and staff who are part of a heart clinic in a community caught between the old and the new Ireland. (from Goodreads)
My thoughts: For some reason, I've been wanting to write my reviews in relation to other popular media. If you liked Love Actually and enjoy watching the American TV show Private Practice, you'll undoubtedly like this book. However, if you don't like either, don't let that be a deterrent.

This book is written from different characters' perspectives, though I would say that Dr. Clara Casey is the primary character. She's the string that ties all the characters together, weaving their complicated lives into something of a community. I think you'll find the changing points-of-view interesting, though sometimes frustrating too. There were times when I wanted the book to continue from one character's perspective!

That being said, I think that the story is showed more than told. I feel a bit torn on how to approach this book; while I, at base, liked the plot and the characters, I felt at times that they lacked emotion or realistic responses; some, with the exception of Clara and Declan, felt a bit flat. This book started strong but seemed to wane a bit as it progressed.
Rating: 3 stars

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Kelly's Review of "The Crimson Petal & the White" by Michel Faber

Title: The Crimson Petal and the White
Author: Michel Faber
Published: Canongate Books Ltd, 2002
Where I Got It: Bought it online
Why I Read It: Simply put, I felt like it

"Watch your step. Keep your wits about you; you will need them."

There has never been truer first lines in any other book I've read. The Crimson Petal and the White takes us on a journey through 1870s London. This isn't a place in the likeness of an Austen or Bronte novel; this is a dirty, corrupted city full of perverse men, poor children, and most abundantly, prostitutes. Our protagonist is Sugar, a nineteen year old veteran prostitute. She is infamous around London for doing anything and everything you please. Sugar is intelligent beyond her profession; she spends her free time writing a rather sadistic novel. Because of her brains and inability to say 'no,' she manages to become the secret mistress of a wealthy man. This man showers her with everything she's ever wanted, making her free of prostitution. Sugar's sugar-daddy is hiding some other secrets at his own house (namely, an insane wife). When these two worlds of his collide, many lives are changed forever, all leading to a rather shocking, yet spectacular ending.

While reading this book, there were times I felt I needed to get up and go take a shower. After copious amounts of descriptions of certain bodily functions, sickness, smells of back alleys, and the too-often sex scene, I seriously felt dirty. While that may have bothered me, the author certainly achieved his goal. Michel Faber did not set out to write a romance novel full of innocent virgins, dashing men, and days graced with sunshine and butterflies. He brought to life a story of less than perfect characters in the underbelly of society.

If you are willing to sit through 900 pages of what I described above, I promise you it'll all be worth it in the end. The characters are at times vile, heartless and mean spirited, yet you will fall in love with them in some twisted way.  My emotions were truly a part of this reading experience.

The Crimson Petal has been labeled a neo-Victorian novel, yet I don't think it is. Victorian novels are usually neatly tied up in the end, practically with an "and they all lived happily ever after" to boot. This one does not, which makes it so perfect. 4.5 stars.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Julia on Harry Potter and the College Age Kid

PhotobucketI still remember where I was when I heard about the phenomena that is Harry Potter . I was in the living room and my sister was reading a book so of course I asked what it was. She told me it was a story about a boy wizard and I thought I would give it a shot. That one moment led to years of fan-fiction, speculation (I wrote my junior year research paper on the art of guessing what would happen next in Harry Potter book), endless rereads, release parties (complete with costumes) and midnight movies.

I grew up with Harry. The first time I read each book, I was never more than two years older than Harry was and really could relate to him and his emotions. When I reread them as a college student, I was astounded at the literary depth I had missed the first go around and how she could make so many references tie together almost seamlessly across seven books. I read them in a whole new light that made me appreciate them even more.

I've been following Mark Reads Harry Potter, a guy in his 20s reading the Harry Potter series for the first time relatively spoiler free and blogging his each chapter. Experiencing them again with him as he read them combined with the first part of the last Harry Potter movie coming out has put me in a nostalgic mood. So I got curious to other's experiences with Harry Potter and asked the group.

Daisy said:
When I first discovered the Harry Potter books, 1-3 were in print and I got them from my parents. I loved them so much that while waiting for the Goblet of Fire to come out, I reread them over and over again. For about 4-5 months. I must have read them over 8 times in that period, my parents thought I was crazy.
I also read loads of fanfiction while waiting for the next book to come out, most of them centered around Harry's parents' time at Hogwarts. It gave me my Sirius fix anytime, he's my favourite character. I have to admit I even wrote some myself, one of those is a story I never finished, a cross-over between Harry Potter and Charmed, which I was also obsessed with at the time.
I have so many great memories from that time and just reading the books, the anticipation when the next one was almost coming out.. It's what made me start reading books in English, it took way too long for them to get translated!
Lori said:
I was 10 years old when I first read them. My grandma ordered the first three for me from Amazon. (I'd never received anything from Amazon before, so I remember it well) I don't recall expressing a desire to read them; they just showed up one day. But I did read them because I loved reading. I fell in love with them. Then I spent the next ten years of my life waiting for the rest of the books to come out. I never went to any watch parties or anything, but we always reserved/preordered the books. I started joking with my mom that the series is really about what was supposed to happen to me because I have a scar on my forehead. A couple of days ago we were talking about how I got it and I swore I saw a bright green light and heard screaming. She wasn't amused. I was 12 when the 4th book came out. I snuck it to summer camp with me, against my mom's expressed wishes. I cried when the 7th book came out and I read the dedication because it was, in part, dedicated to me.
Each new book that came out, I read and read and read and finished in a couple of days. I don't think that people who start reading now really understand because they don't have to wait two years in between each book. They don't have to resort to speculation; they just pick up the next one. My eleven year old cousin is reading them and all I can do it shake my head at her because she just doesn't get it and takes them for granted in a way. Yeah, that totally sounds crazy, but Harry Potter has been over half of my life.
Jess said:
I received Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone when I turned 10, from my uncle's then-girlfriend (now wife). I distinctly remember it; she purchased it from the Village Toy Shop, which I knew because it had a small sticker covering the price. I devoured the book within a day, and hopped on my family's first computer to see if there were more books. I found two websites (very bare bones by today's standards), one of which was the beginnings of the Harry Potter Lexicon. I heard rumors of a sequel, but it wasn't for sure. In the time between reading the first book and the release of the second, I read and reread the first book constantly. Something about the characters and the world J.K. Rowling constructed captured my attention. To this day I continue to reread the entire Harry Potter series at least once a year, often taking one of the shorter books on vacation as comfort reads. I'm also incredibly proud that neither of my copies of the Sorcerer's Stone and the Chamber of Secrets say "Book #" on the spine. (I was an original reader before Pottermania, I like to think.)
Jessi said:
September 22, 1999. I turned ten that day. My aunt was in town and she’s been one of my best friends since I was a little girl. For my birthday, I got a cassette tape of Britney Spears “Hit Me Baby One More Time,” and my aunt gave me a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone. God help me, but I was more excited about Britney Spears than Harry Potter. In all honesty, I wasn’t too thrilled about Harry Potter. This was before all the hype, and I really didn’t know too much about who this Harry kid was. Plus, at that age, fantasy books weren’t really my thing.
Hah. What did I know then?
Well, about a week later, I sat down with the book. I ate it up. And then ate it up again. And again. I loved Harry! Were there more books? I had to know. I went to school and we always had those Scholastic book order things, and I was big on those. I was so excited the day I saw Chamber of Secrets for sale! It’s been a love affair ever since. I bought the second and third books from the book order. I pre-ordered the fourth book, the fifth, the sixth, and the seventh, and I’ll be sure to pre-order anything else J.K. Rowling ever puts out.
I also decided to find out why people had not read Harry Potter or if there were any stories about that.

Stephany said:
I too have never read them. In all honesty, I don't know why I haven't. My friend Andrea is forcing me to read them. So, maybe someday!
Jen said:
I think I was in middle school when the Harry Potter craze began.  At first I didn't want to read the books because wizards and stuff like that didn't really interest me.  Then I think a couple more books came out and I just didn't want to give into the masses and I resisted the craze once again.  Then I felt that the books were hyped up so much that I was afraid of a letdown.  Now I'm a little more curious about the series...but unfortunately I've heard many spoilers so I don't think I'd be as engaged in the story since I kind of know what happens.  Lastly, I'm afraid of reading the books and not liking them.  I feel like I should read them and love them...but what if I don't?  Who knows, maybe one day I'll finally pick up the first book!
Jamie said:

I just wasn't into wizards or fantasy when they first came out. I started to read the first one and really liked it but I don't remember why I put it down. I just never picked it back up despite so many people telling me should. I think I've just felt like it would be as great as an experience for me because I wasn't young anymore. If you see our list of future Top Ten Tuesday's, you'll see one called "Top Ten Books I Resolve to Read in 2011"..you can bet HP is on the list for me. I need to see what I'm missing.

So what is your Harry Potter story? Have you ever read the books? Do you just watch the movies? Have you even heard of Harry Potter? (ha). I want to hear your stories, any and all (though I would like to keep the comments spoiler free, thanks)! As of this writing I am heading out to the midnight showing in a few hours and I am starting again to feel that anticipation that I've come to love... a new Harry Potter experience

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tahleen review: "Fractured" by Joanna Karaplis

TitleFractured: Happily Never After? 3 Tales
Author: Joanna Karaplis
Publisher: McKeller & Martin, 2010
How I got it: It was sent to me from the author for review.

Rating: ★★★★

Fairy tales have been told and written down for centuries. Throughout the years, they've not only been told, but retold, and many have been completely revisioned. Fractured gives us incarnations of Snow White, Cinderella and The Little Mermaid, all old favorites, but with a very different twist. They're modernized: Snow White is Yuki (meaning "snow" in Japanese) White, budding graphic designer and friends of the seven dorks who hang out in the computer room. Cinderella is Cindy, fangirl extraordinaire and texter to the extreme—who manages to snag tickets to see her reality-TV crush at a Halloween party. And the little mermaid is Adrianna, a girl with a beautiful voice but the perceived impairment of a gigantic schnoz—thank goodness YouTube can get her an audience without her having to show her face.

All three tales are completely rewritten and re-imagined in ways I have never seen before, but they all retain the structure and basic story of the original fairy tales collected by the Grimm Brothers and written by Hans Christian Anderson. Karaplis manages to make everything work incredibly well—Snow White's apple, Cinderella's fairy godmother and the ball, and the little mermaid's impairment keeping her from her love (in this case, it's not a prince at all, but fame as a singer).

So let's break it down by story.

"Snow White and the Seven Dorks" is about, as I said, Yuki White, new girl in school, slightly badass, and awesome artist. She eventually falls in the geek crowd, not necessarily as one of them, but as their hang-out buddy, someone who also happens to use the computer room. Yuki is seriously awesome—she's got a sassy, sarcastic air to her that is just great (funny and charming) and it makes her incredibly likable. I wanted to be her friend. I also really liked how the story alternates between the present at the dance she's at with her crush and how she got to that point. There's a lot of development within the 30 pages of the story, not only in Yuki's character, but in her relationship with Kevin, head dork and all-around nice guy. This was by far my favorite, if only because I loved Yuki so much.

"Cyberella" is, of course, the Cinderella story. But this story is told completely in texts and blog posts (which are done by Trevor, fan blogger for the reality show True 2 Life). Some might find the texting to be a bit annoying, but I quite liked looking at the story through them. It's a new sort of epistolary telling, along the lines of ttyl by Lauren Myracle. Karaplis completely captures the language tweens and teens use in texting, accidental misspellings included. It makes it real. At times they seemed more like IMs than texts, but then again I'm sure there are people who text that frequently. My one problem was that the "prince" of the story, the True 2 Life star, says his Mystery Girl left something behind at the party, but then we never find out what it is. But all in all it's a cute story and I enjoyed it.

"Swan Song" is the story of the Little Mermaid, Adrianna (nicknamed Adi), who has a beautiful and professional voice, but a nose that she is incredibly self-conscious about. Her friend Fiona convinces her to create YouTube videos after a particularly awful encounter with a bully who targets her nose, and Adi agrees, as long as she doesn't face the camera. But looks aren't everything, and she makes a decision that will change the course of her life forever. It's a story about self-acceptance, even if Adi might not accept herself as she is—we can learn from her, as the story's title page indicates. And the ending gave me goosebumps, by the way. It's a great retelling, even if I didn't quite identify with Adi or agree with the decisions she makes. I kept telling her NO DON'T DO IT. But she did anyway. And if she didn't, we wouldn't get a Little Mermaid story.

One quick note about Jenn Brisson's illustrations. Each story began with a title page that included a tag line and an illustration. I loved them all. They look like pencil drawings, and they're set in a white oval on a black background. They all have this surreal quality, which goes very well with the fairy tale theme, and are all slightly creepy. Again, I especially love the Snow White one, a girl holding a circle with an apple on it and looking slightly anxious, with a crow in a top hat swooping under and around. Very nice.

If you like fairy tales, especially fractured ones as I do, I would definitely check out this one. Completely original tellings in a modern context—fabulous!

This is day four on the Fractured blog tour—see what other bloggers had to say about Fractured and some interviews of Jo at the other blog stops:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

R holds forth on Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor

Wise Blood: A NovelThis is the first contact, as it were, that I've had with the works of Flannery O'Connor. I believe the Southern Gothic genre, of which this is a quintessential example, is one that is uniquely linked to the culture and geography of its country of origin... which may serve to explain why I (a non-American) had never heard of this title until I came across it on Goodreads. (I suspect that, internationally, lists of "classic" English language novels tend to be biased against American literature in favour of British writers... but I digress.)

Anyway, I've heard Wise Blood described as a comic novel - but if you approach it anticipating a barrel of laughs, you'll probably be sorely disappointed. That's not necessarily a bad thing, mind; it hasn't necessarily failed as a humourous work. The thing is, the humour here is in the uneasy semi-reality of the scenes, with the characters doing outrageous things that you could almost imagine someone doing in real life, although the very thought of it remains deeply unnerving. Wise Blood is chockfull of genuinely weird stuff that strays to the farthest end of dark comedy. If it causes any laughter at all I can only imagine that it manifests very occasionally, and primarily in nervous, slightly horrified little giggles.

Beyond that, if I'm honest, I scarcely know what to think about it. In that case, you may wonder, why bother to attempt to review it at all? Well, there aren't many books that leave me as bewildered as Wise Blood did. Generally speaking, the books I've read can be broadly categorized into two distinct categories - Books I Liked or Books I Didn't Like. My bewilderment at this book belongs to a unique category of its own; I rarely read a book that I think I like, though I find the memory of it vaguely unsettling.

It's a showcase of the dark side of religion, an exhibition of individuals for which religion and penitence act as a conduit for madness. Basically it's just fantastically bleak and now, having given it 3.5 stars, I might go off and stare at a wall for a moment to clear my mind.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday – Paula gets evil with Villains/Criminals/ and other Nasties

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 sign Mister Linky at the bottom to share with us and all those who are participating. If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Don't worry if you can't come up with ten every time..just post what you can!

Next week Kimberly talks about the top ten best books to read during for the holidays..you know ..all those books that get you in the holiday spirit!  Kids books, adults books, all of them!

So I was pretty excited about putting this together. We may enjoy the good guys but it’s my thought that a great baddy is really what makes a story. There has to be something pretty evil to motivate the hero to defeat them, otherwise…what’s the point? What would Harry Potter be without good ol’ Voldykins? There would be no story, because without Voldemort, there would be no boy who lived, and there would be no issue. So, here’s my Top Ten List of super bad guys. Awesome!

10. Humbert Humbert from Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov – I love this novel. It gives me the creeps. It puts you in the mind of a bad guy who could really exist. It’s a difficult novel to read because the reader has to face a pretty intense internal struggle to keep reading it. Humbert Humbert doesn’t have magical powers or plans to destroy the world, but he is evil to the core. And the entire time you read the book, he is trying to convince you that it wasn’t his fault. Because his Lolita tempted him. Rating = Yucky.

9. President Snow from The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins – Leader of the Capital that is making everyone’s life a living hell. Constantly threatening Katniss, her friends and her family. He’s a baddy to the max. And I don’t think he ever really felt bad about anything he did, but he was right about the new President being just as bad.   Rating = A jerk.

8. Gideon Graves from The Scott Pilgram Series by Bryan Lee O’Malley – Oh Gideon. Jealous boyfriend to the max. He can’t get over Ramona so he puts together a league of evil exes in order to give her new boyfriend hell. That’s not very nice Gideon. Rating = He’s a pretty bad guy.

7.  Alex from A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess – Once again we have the main character of the story, Alex is living it up with his droogs and getting into ultra violence for fun. He thrives off of hurting other people, and that’s just not okay. Although once the government starts “treating” him with the Ludovico technique, you do feel kind of bad for him. They take his favorite thing, Classical Music, and make him feel pain whenever he hears it, which ultimately leads to his demise. That doesn’t change the fact that he still commits crimes. Rating = an ultra hooligan.

6. Big Brother/ World State/ Mechanical Hound  from 1984/Brave New World/Fahrenheit 451 (respectively) – So I grouped these all together because they kind of have the same theme. Government gone wrong. In all of these dystopian novels, the government has taken control of the citizen’s lives and placed them into a world of fear. Big Brother places anyone who questions their power in Room 101, a room where you are harmed by your worst fear. World State over pleases their citizens, so that if they question anything they are given too many pleasures (most often the drug soma) and they overdose themselves, and in Fahrenheit 451, your neighbors and friends are willing to sell you out to the fire fighters who will burn your home and set the terrifying Mechanical Hound on you that chases you until it has the chance to deliver a fatal syringe of drugs to you. Rating = I am SO glad I don’t live there!

5. Ben Cortman from I Am Legend by Richard Matheson – The leader of the vampires that are dying (hah) to kill the last remaining human. His one mission on the planet is to make life a living hell for Robert. Everyday when the sun goes down, he is outside Robert’s house trying to break in, or destroy Robert’s things as much as possible. Rating = pretty terrifying.

4. Mrs. Coulter from His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman – I think what is so scary about her is that she gets Lyra to trust her. When the books start, you think something is wrong with her, but she’s so sweet you just can’t quite figure out what is wrong. Like Lyra you begin to think she’s okay. Then she turns out to be crazy and evil. This is more about the first book, because her character does develop throughout the series, but no matter how much she did change, she always scares me. Rating = I TRUSTED YOU! You’re so evil though.

3. Hook from Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie – So I almost put Hook in the top position. He probably is my favorite, but he isn’t the MOST evil, so that kept him down here at 3. As much as Hook hates Pan and the Lost Boys, he isn’t really a threat to anyone else, and that makes him a little less intimidating. But he DOES have a HOOK for a HAND! Augh. Rating = He’s a pirate, that’s scary.

2. Voldemort from The Harry Potter Series by J.K Rowling – Don’t hate me for not giving him the top spot. Honestly, I think it’s a tie between these two. Man what isn’t evil about Voldemort. Killed thousands of people. Split his soul into 7 parts. Killed Harry’s parents. Killed a unicorn. Man, he just oozes evil. Rating = …um…he’s VOLDEMORT.

1. Saint Dane from the Pendragon Series by D.J. MacHale – Ok, um. I about to say something that a lot of you may hate. I like Pendragon more than I like Harry Potter. Augh. Don’t hurt me! I started reading Pendragon before I started Harry Potter and just finished the last one this year (I put it off because I didn’t want it to end). Anyway. Saint Dane… think Voldemort but he can shape shift and he is out to control the entire universe. Saint Dane goes onto territories (basically planets) right when they’re at a turning point in their history and tries to influences them (that’s where the shape shifting comes in) to end badly in order to control that world. He’s bad. He’s really bad. And the shape shifting really messes things up for Bobby Pendragon more than once. Rating = Shape shifting evil demon and the number one villain on my list.

Who do you think deserves top spot? Tell us your top ten villains!

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