Sunday, October 31, 2010

Lori's Livres--One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Book Title/Author:  One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Publisher/Year Published: My edition was Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006, but the book was initially published in 1967.
How I got a hold of this book: I bought this from Borders one summer day.
Why I read this book: The overwhelming desire to yank this book from my shelves this summer came over me and I obliged.
Rating: 4 stars.  It was a pretty good book.  I'm glad I read it.  But there wasn't a magical connection between the two of us.

This was the second book by Marquez that I've read; the first was Love in the Time of CholeraOne Hundred Years of Solitude is known for its magical realism, which is a style that Marquez perfected and used throughout his body of work.  One Hundred Years of Solitude follows the Buenadia family through seven generations of fortune and misfortune, invading outside influences and internal strife.

My thoughts on this book are kind of complicated and intermingled.  I liked the concept of the story--following a family's rise and fall.  This book reminded me a lot of East of Eden, which is one of my favorite books, in that respect.  There is the honorable patriarch who descends into madness, at least according to everyone else, and his rotten children who mess up everything by trying to be innovative and slightly underhanded.  There were numerous ups and downs in this book, as there are in life.  Progress doesn't always lead to better things, especially in the long run.

While we're on the topic of characters...I felt that some of the characters in this book were mere caricatures who were really overdone.  All in all, I didn't like the characters of this book.  I couldn't relate to them.  And many were flat out despicable.  It was probably intentional that the characters were like this, but I have to feel invested in the characters when I read.  Also, the characters all had the same names from generation to generation, which made things very confusing.  Luckily, there was a family tree that I referred to many times.

What ultimately redeems this book for me is its style.  I really like Marquez's prose.  They are simple, direct, but also lyrical.  For whatever reason, good prose and writing style can make up for a lot in my reading experience, even less than desirable characters.  It's almost as though the prose are a separate entity, detached from character and plot.  It's his prose that have me give this book a 4.

A Broke and Bookish Secret Santa



Hello everyone! We are planning a Secret Santa exchange--broke and bookish style. We've done a Secret Santa as part of our College Students group on Goodreads so we thought it might be fun to extend it to our blog as well. We want this to be a low key and fun Secret Santa that doesn't put too much of a damper on your wallet.

Please only sign up if you are truly interested and are committed to sending off a package.

Some guidelines:

* Books can be new or used. Use your discretion as far as used books go. They should be in good condition. Please pick at least one other goody to put in the package.
*We would love to open this up internationally and will make an effort to pair up people from the same countries to keep costs down. However, if anyone would like to do an international exchange, you can fill out that box on the form.
*Sign-ups will be open until November 17th. You will be paired up and will receive your partner's info within that week.
* Myself and maybe another (very trusted!) member of The Broke and the Bookish will be the only ones with access to your info.
*Packages need to be sent out during the week of December 6th-10th. The earlier the better as the mail is always slow during the holiday season.
* If you can do delivery confirmation on your package, that would be greatly appreciated to make sure that the package was sent.
* Please email me at brokeandbookish (at) gmail (dot) com when you receive your package so I can keep track of which packages have been accounted for.
* Feel free to grab the button to put on your sidebar. 

Think you are interested?

Fill out this form!

EDIT:

I forgot an extremely important element to this Secret Santa. Everyone who participates is in the running to be randomly selected to get one of the books of their list. This drawing will take place sometime after Christmas. I'm not sure the exact date yet as the holidays are always busy and I never know where I'll be!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

R holds forth on The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark


Penguin, 2000
How I got this book: The library
Why I read this book: It's a school story and I like school stories.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is about the titular teacher, an unwelcome iconoclast in a stuffy Edinburgh primary school, more interested in giving her young students a humanities-based general education than in sticking to the prescribed syllabus. From among her students a few favourites emerge, soon to be known as the Brodie Set, whom she takes into her confidence and attempts to mould into "the creme de la creme".

But in this case, her influence over her students does not culminate in the happy resolution that many school stories tend to end with. Because this is Dead Poets Society's inspirational message gone wrong.

The various synopses I'd read before deciding to pick the book up had led me to believe that it was another uplifting school story, dealing largely with the students' evolution under the tutelage of their eccentric teacher. As such, in spite of the short length of this novella, I had been expecting swaths of character development and lots of delightful little classroom scenes about how wonderful it is to be taught by an unconventional lady "in her prime".

However, the characterizations only scratch the surface. Each member of the Set is tagged with a label early on - "known for sex" or "for being a nobody whom everybody could blame", and so on - and throughout the rest of the story they conform to these labels steadfastly.

Understandably, that may well be perceived as a narrative flaw, but I reckon that it doesn't necessarily have to be. In fact, I'd argue that most of the characters are pretty much just peripheral - even several members of the Brodie Set - despite the synopsis on the back cover that suggests that the novella is primarily about teacher-student interaction. As the title suggests, and as I stated in the opening sentence of this review, this book is about Miss Jean Brodie - the prime years of her life, and her subsequent decline. It is, to a small extent, about her students as characters in their own rights; and to an extent it is also about Brodie's relationship with one student in particular, whose perspective is returned to the most in the narrative.

Above all, at the heart of the story, I think, is Miss Brodie herself, the tragedy of a blinkered, artistic temperament, and the loneliness of not finding a place of one's own in society even in middle and old age.

This story will be staying with me for a little while. I give it 4 stars.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Jess' Review: The Crisis of Islam (Bernard Lewis)

Image from Amazon

Author: Bernard Lewis (Web site)
Publisher: Random House, 2004
Notes: I checked this book out of the library.


A brief summary: "After the terrorist attacks of September 11, many Americans yearned to understand why Muslim extremists felt such passionate animosity toward the Western world, particularly the United States." (Quote from Goodreads.) This book aims to explore the historical bases for this animosity.

My thoughts:I read Bernard Lewis' The Crisis of Islam as part of a seasonal challenge at the College Students group on Goodreads. I have never embraced Lewis' approach to the Middle East—or more specifically, the Arab World—or Islam, thinking that he often takes a reductionist point-of-view that serves to reify Westerners' beliefs about Arabs and Muslims. I would not recommend this book to anyone who does not already know some basics about Islam or the Middle East. Lewis confirms American suspicions of the region and the religion instead of breaking down barriers to understanding.

Lewis starts out by stating that former President Bush was involved in a fight against terror, but not Arabs or Muslims, yet Osama bin Laden was in a fight against the United States. While this is true to an extent, it ignores the historical and political realities. Bin Laden utilized religious rhetoric to create an "us" versus "them" dynamic, but ultimately he is concerned with geopolitical issues like invasion and occupation, which one could read in his writings, Messages to the World.

Moreover, Lewis spends a good portion of his book relating Christianity and Islam before stating that there are, despite these similarities, profound differences. I start first by saying that Christianity is a faith-based religion (not practice-oriented, with the exception of Orthodoxy and Catholicism, to some extent). Islam is both orthodox and orthoprax, meaning that there's emphasis on both "right faith" and "right practice." Judaism tends more toward orthopraxy. Given the elements that Lewis focuses on—religious authorities' perspectives on justice and morality, apostasy, etc.—it would probably have made more sense to compare and contrast Judaism and Islam.

Lewis also spends an enormous amount of time talking about jihadJihad is a word that loosely means "struggle," and for religious Arabic speakers, it usually refers to a personal struggle (sinfulness, indulgence—the same sorts of things that plague "us normal Christians"). However, Lewis discounts this, saying that progressive Muslims like to say that jihad means a personal struggle, but that throughout Muslim history it refers to holy war. But what, you might ask, does he think about the Crusades? He argues that while jihad is embedded in early Muslim history, the Crusades are a departure from good Christian society and behavior. I am flummoxed by this conclusion. Additionally, Lewis discusses apostasy; he cites that the penalty for apostasy in Islam is death, which is harsher than any other religion. I cannot be sure that this is in the Qur'an or not, but my guess is that some Muslim leader or scholar once said this. However, these pronouncements need more evidence to be compelling, at least for me. I think that the uneducated reader or one looking to reaffirm his beliefs in the evil of Islam will take this at face value, which is quite unfortunate.

To be fair, Lewis is well-read in the area of Middle East and world history, and employs this knowledge in his argument. He even recognizes the importance of jizyah (a tax installed for recognized non-Muslim communities in Muhammad's time and in the early years of Islam) for the dhimmi (recognized non-Muslim communities).

Rating: 1 star

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Kelly's Review of "Sense & Sensibility" by Jane Austen

Title: Sense & Sensibility
Author: Jane Austen
Published:  Oxford University Press, 2004 (originally 1811)
Where I Got It: The library
Why I Read It: I was reading all of Jane Austen's novels in order of publication

*This review contains marked spoilers*

I think that most of us can agree that, yes, Pride & Prejudice is a great novel. The characters and overall plot are memorable and inspiring, yet I feel it greatly overshadows some of Jane Austen's other wonderful books, such as this one.

In Sense & Sensibility, the two main characters are sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. They live a comfortable, well to do life with their parents. When their father dies, all his property reverts to his son from a previous marriage. The Dashwood women are essentially left homeless and must start a new life living in much more modest means. The story follows the girls in their new home as they meet new friends, encounter dramatic situations, and of course, meet men and fall in love.

The sisters both deal with love and heartbreak simultaneously, although in completely different ways. Elinor is more mature and gentle with her feelings, while Marianne weeps loudly and stomps around for weeks. As a person who identified with Elinor emotionally, I become slightly irritated with Marianne's dramatic ways, but her general youthfulness and fun spirit definitely made up for it in the end (she's barely 17 after all).

*SPOILERS*
The way their respective 'love stories' turned out in the end took me greatly by surprise. Did anyone else feel completely shocked that Marianne married Col. Brandon? I later realized that, duh, this is what the whole story is wrapped around and leads up to, but still. I'd been picturing him as a very old man in my head the whole time, that's probably why it was so odd. Yet the more I think about it, the more I like this couple. Brandon made Marianne finally grow up.
*END SPOILERS*

I felt that this book was much lighter than any of Jane Austen's other works. Many of her common themes show up (death, sickness, betrayal), but not in as much abundance and it is taken in a much less serious mood. The characters have their flaws, but they ultimately end up being endearing. 4 stars for a fun and lighthearted classic read.

If you enjoy movie adaptations of books, I highly recommend the 1995 movie Sense & Sensibility  starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet. It is extremely well done and true to the book, as well as being delightfully entertaining. Also, if you are a fan of the Harry Potter movies, you will find a slew of those actors in this movie as well. Professor Snape, Madame Pomfrey, Professor Slughorn, Professor Trelawney and Umbridge all show up! Hugh Laurie also has a small but memorable role. :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Julia Reviews "Kiss of the Rose" by Kate Pearce


Title/Author: Kiss of the Rose by Kate Pearce
Publisher/Year Published: 2010 by Signet
How I got this book: Library
Why I read this book: The cover drew me in as did the words "Tudor" and "vampire"
Rating: 3 stars

I have a problem. My name is Julia and I judge books by their covers. In this case, the remarkable similarity to the promotional materials from the Showtime show The Tudors in combination with the sexy look of the cover man (who looks eerily similar to Henry Cavill... see below) drew me.

"What's this? Sexy mostly shirtless man? Pretty dresses? Exposed leg? I am intrigued" Then I read the words "Tudor Vampire Chronicles" and I was sold. Two of my favorite things formed one potentially awesome entity, but sadly these two favorites come together just as well as two of my other favorite things: chocolate and onions. )

Let's look a bit at the story: we have two sides. The Druids are the Vampire slayers sworn to protect the Tudor crown. They send their girl slayer to court. The Vampires have their own cult protecting them as well. This cult, sworn Druid killers since Roman times, sends their sexiest son. Neither gets along, but now is forced to cooperate when a rogue vampire is threatening all of their livelihoods, as well as the king's.

There is good. The characters are well rounded and believable, the plot moves along at a good pace, and it's generally an interesting story. There is bad, too. None of the aforementioned good things every really clicked for that perfect harmony of awesome. Something just kept me from being engrossed.

There were quite a few times I felt the story could do with more vampires, less love triangle. Also, occasionally characters would act counter intuitive to their overall plan. Also, there were just some things that I just couldn't understand time period wise. Like no one really questioned a young woman wandering about at will, not really doing her duties are the queen's lady. Also, I am pretty sure at one point I said to my book "Aren't you suppose to be Slayers! Slay something!"

I think my problem with this was I know too much about the Tudors and vampire lore to disassociate what I already know. Some things just deviated too far into paranormal, and not close enough to Tudor England. It was not a bad read; I did finish it. It just didn't click with me.

There is a sequel and presumably a series (if the term Chronicles implies series). Will I be reading on? Probably not.

So I give it 3 stars, for a good go and for a highly effective marketing team.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tahleen's Top Ten Books for Halloween

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!



Hi everyone! This week I wanted to do a Top Ten Tuesday in honor of Halloween, so I've picked out my top ten 10 spooky/creepy/scary books for the season. And, okay, some of them might not have actually scared me, but they are appropriate for Halloween.


1. Dracula by Bram Stoker: Gotta pay homage to the guy who made vampires scary and brought them into pop culture. Plus this book is pretty creepy, what with the dead coming back for the blood of the innocent and all.


2. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: This is not so much scary as, again, a work that has influenced countless others. I would argue that this is the first real science fiction novel, though if you can think of an earlier one let me know!


3. In the Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan: I usually hate zombie anything, but this was so character-driven and the writing was so wonderful that I completely overlooked that. It was only afterward that I started to get the heebie jeebies, but it was totally worth it. Definitely a good Halloween-time book if you can handle the scary factor.


4. Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer: This is a different kind of scary: the end-of-the-world scary. No post-apocalyptic book has made me so grateful for the life I lead and that our moon is staying put. After putting this one down I had to remind myself that I didn't need to squirrel away incredible amounts of canned goods.


5. Sunshine by Robin McKinley: Not necessarily scary, but one of the best vampire books I've ever read, ever. And I've read a lot. But this is certainly for the more mature reader, and not little kids (language and sexual content and whatnot). But seriously, READ IT.


6. The Road by Cormac McCarthy: Again, the post-apocalyptic scariness. Add to this the cannibals roaming the land in search of any flesh, but mostly human. Terrifying to think about a world where there is no order except the strong turning against the weak... and eating them.


7. Coraline by Neil Gaiman: The button eyes! THE BUTTON EYES. It's creepy, but also, what an awesome character. Coraline rocks.


8. The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z by Max Brooks: I admit, I didn't read these because of my fear of anything zombie. I did own them, but I got too scared to read them and just ended up donating them to my local library's book sale.


9. The Bailey School Kids series by Debbie Dadey and Marcia T. Jones: So yes, not scary. But so clever and fun! I love this series, and always will. Especially Werewolves Don't Go to Summer Camp, probably because I believe it was the first one I read.


10. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and sequels by Alvin Schwartz: We listened to some of these one tape in the third grade, and the one about the head falling down the chimney scared me for YEARS. No lie. But it was more the pictures in these that really make them scary. The old ones that I grew up with are TERRIFYING. Just look at this:



Yeah. Good luck getting to sleep tonight.


What are your top ten scary books? Or just favorite ones to read near Halloween?


Next week the topic is: Top Ten Books That Made You Cry


Monday, October 25, 2010

Jen Reviews 'Amy and Roger's Epic Detour'

Title:  Amy and Roger's Epic Detour
Author:  Morgan Matson
Published: Simon & Schuster, 2010
How I Got It:  Purchased from Amazon
Why I Read It:  The premise sounded interesting
Rating: 5+ stars

Summary: Amy Curry thinks her life sucks. Her mom decides to move from California to Connecticut to start anew--just in time for Amy's senior year. Her dad recently died in a car accident. So Amy embarks on a road trip to escape from it all, driving cross-country from the home she's always known toward her new life. Joining Amy on the road trip is Roger, the son of Amy's mother's old friend. Amy hasn't seen him in years, and she is less than thrilled to be driving across the country with a guy she barely knows. So she's surprised to find that she is developing a crush on him. At the same time, she's coming to terms with her father's death and how to put her own life back together after the accident. Told in traditional narrative as well as scraps from the road--diner napkins, motel receipts, postcards--this is the story of one girl's journey to find herself (from Goodreads).

Review:

Have you ever loved a book so much that anything you write just doesn't do it justice?  I've been trying to write a review for this book for the past three weeks.  This review has been rewritten at least four times.

I absolutely loved this book.  It was epic.  It was amazing.  I was so sad when I was finished with it because it meant that I was done traveling with Amy and Roger.  Since I am unable to write coherent sentences and paragraphs in regards to this book, the review will be done in bullet points (I hope you don't mind).

Reasons Why This Book Is Amazing:
  • It's about a road-trip.  I love road-trips!  It's been way to long since the last time I went on one.  
  • At the beginning of each chapter there is a song lyric or quote.
  • Roger makes at least seven different music mixes for the cross-country journey.  Each play-list is in the book.  New music?  Yes please! 
  • Road-trip essentials according to Roger:  snacks and music (and gas)
  • All of the little "extras" in the book:  pictures, menus, receipts, notes, emails, and drawings.  They add so much to the story!
  • The detours Amy and Roger make:  Yosemite, The Loneliest Road in America, Colorado Springs, Kansas, Kentucky, Memphis, North Carolina
  • The adventures that happen because of the detours they made
  • Even the secondary characters in this book are amazing.  (Bronwyn was definitely my favorite).
  • It's a fun book that deals with some heavy issues - death, grief, guilt, overcoming a fear
There is so much more I want to say about this book BUT if you decide to read it I want you to be able to discover all of the awesomeness for yourself and to develop your own first impressions of the characters. 


Now I have an urge to read more books about road trips!  What's your favorite road trip book? Fondest road trip memory?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Stephany Read's Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

Safe HavenTitle: Safe Haven


Author: Nicholas Sparks


Publisher: Grand Central Publishing/2010


Where I got It: I actually won it in a contest. =) 


Why I read it: He's one of my favorite authors! 


Rating: 5 stars




Inside flap description: When a mysterious young woman named Katie appears in the small North Carolina town of Southport, her sudden arrival raises questions about her past. Beautiful yet self-effacing, Katie seems determined to avoid forming personal ties until a series of events draws her into two reluctant relationships: one with Alex, a widowed store owner with a kind heart and two young children; and another with her plainspoken single neighbor, Jo. Despite her reservations, Katie slowly begins to let down her guard, putting down roots in the close-knit community and becoming increasingly attached to Alex and his family. Be even as Katie begins to fall in love, she struggles with the dark secret that still haunts and terrifies her... a past that set her on a fearful, shattering journey across the country, to the sheltered oasis of Southport. With Jo's empathetic and stubborn support, Katie eventually realizes that she must choose between a life of transient safety and one of riskier rewards... and that in the darkest hour, love is the only true safe haven.

This was actually a really great book. At first I didn't think I liked it, and it took me a minute to get into, but I would definitely recommend it to everyone. I feel like Nicholas Sparks wrote this book a lot differently than he did his other books. While yes, this is still a romantic love story, it's not quite as "gushy" as his others have been. But, that doesn't take away from his story, or the way he wrote this particular book. The way the book is written is kind of like in parts. In the beginning you're told about her moving to Southport and not being very outgoing, then you've got the part where she briefly speaks about her past, then another happier part, and so on. We don't find out about what exactly the kind of past she had until well into the book, closer to the end. I'm not sure if i like this or not. It felt like it was backwards to me. The 'good' was first, then the 'bad' was second. Usually books have what happened bad happen in the beginning of the book, then the middle to end of the book is how they over come the struggle(s). But Sparks did it the total opposite, which made for an interesting book.

Apparently this book has already been sold to become a movie. I kept this in my mind as I was reading it and I basically kept picturing it has a mysterious, love story with a side of horror mixed in. That's pretty much how the book goes down.

It's heartwarming, and has a few funny parts, it'll make you smile, and you'll actually find yourself scared during parts of it too, wondering if the characters will escape the madness that they're going through. I do believe, however, that this is the first book that Sparks has written that hasn't made me cry. But! Don't get that confused with it being a bad book, because it's not at all. He still did a fantastic job writing it, even without the heartbreaking, sobbing and crying stuff that his other books have. But then again, maybe it's just me and I wasn't in the "crying mood". You be the judge if it's a tear jerker!

I highly recommend this book. I don't really have anything bad to say about it. It's a quick, sort of light, heartwarming, family loving, learning about your past and moving on book. I think you should go read it today!!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Jessi Spooked By "The Shining"

The ShiningTitle/Author: The Shining by Stephen King
Publisher/Year: Signet, 1978
How I Got This: One of my own!
Why I Read It: Stephen King is my favorite author, and this is one of his classics!
Rating: 5 Stars!

For those who don't know, here is a quick little summary of the story:

What of the penetrating cold terror of an old hotel, a haunted place of seductive evil with a malevolent will of its own--and a five-year-old boy of innocent beauty whose mind mirrors the nighmarish secrets of its past? 

Behind every door of the Overlook's 110 empty rooms there is a chamber of horror. Little Danny knows of these things because he has the terrible power--the shining. 


My review: 



Oh man was I creeped out reading this book! It got so bad that I had to put the book down from time to time, and I had to pick up another book to lighten the mood. I felt like Joey from Friends. Once again, Stephen King is a genius. My favorite part about this book is that the scare factor doesn't come from any monsters or anything that goes bump in the night (well...kinda), but rather the emotional horror that the characters are put through.

I'm not usually one for scary movies. Anymore, I think they're cheesy and overdone. The Shining is one of very few movies that officially scares the hell out of me. That being said, I think the book scared me worse. In the movie, you can't really delve into the psyches of the characters, whereas in the book, especially with Jack, we get to see how torn he is and then eventually his demise. Speaking of Jack, he is officially one of the creepiest mf-ing characters out there. But that's what was so great about the book. You really get a chance to view his inner demons that ultimately tear him apart.

Comparing the book to the movie even further, I enjoyed Wendy's character much more in the book. Her motherly instincts are right-on. I thought she was just whiny in the movie. And Danny probably ranks as one of my all-time favorite characters.

As I've said before and will probably say many times again, I think the reason why Stephen King rocks at what he does is his characters. Besides probably Harry Potter, I have never read better hashed out characters in my life.

So if you're looking for superb character development along with a good (HUGE) scare, I highly recommend this.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Regarding Jana and "Black Swan Rising"



Title and Author: Black Swan Rising by Lee Carroll

Publishing Info:
Tor Books, August 3, 2010

How I got this book:
I signed up to win it on Goodreads, and I won!

Why I read this book:
The premise of the book sounded really interesting and intriguing. I think I was more excited to win this book than any of the other first reads I've won!


This book caught my eye in the long list of Goodreads book giveaways because of the title and the intriguing cover. Once I read the description, I eagerly signed up to win. I'm so glad I did! This book was rich with beautiful literary writing, dynamic characters, and a complex plot. “Lee Carroll” is a collaboration between award-winning mystery novelist Carol Goodman and her poet and hedge fund manager husband, Lee Slominsky. I loved the integration of mystery, intrigue, poetic writing, and exquisite descriptions. These two make an awesome team, and I hope they continue to write novels together in the future.

I really pity the person who was put in charge of writing the blurb on the back cover of this book! This plot was so complicated, that during the entire book I was wondering how on earth I'd be able to summarize it for my review! Just this once, I guess I'll take a shortcut and copy the book's blurb. Kudos to the blurb-writer! I don't think they get nearly enough credit. Anyway, here goes!
When New York City jewelry designer Garet James stumbles into a strange antiques shop in her neighborhood, her life is about to be turned upside down. John Dee, the enigmatic shopkeeper, commissions her to open a vintage silver box for a generous sum of money. Oddly, the symbol of a swan on the box exactly matches the ring given to her by her deceased mother. Garet can’t believe her luck and this eerie coincidence until she opens the box and otherworldly things start happening.
That evening, the precious silver box is stolen. When Garet begins to investigate, she learns that she has been pulled into a prophecy that is hundreds of years old, and opening the box has unleashed an evil force onto the streets of Manhattan and the world at large. Gradually, Garet pieces together her true identity—one that her deceased mother desperately tried to protect her from. Generations of women in Garet’s family, including her beloved mother, suffered and died at the hands of this prevailing evil. Does Garet possess the power to reclaim the box and defeat this devastating force? On her journey, she will meet the fey folk who walk unnoticed among humans and a sexy vampire who also happens to be a hedge fund manager that she can’t stop thinking about. But the fairies reveal a desire to overpower mere humans and the seductive vampire has the power to steal the life from her body. Whom can Garet trust to guide her? Using her newfound powers and sharp wit, Garet will muster everything she’s got to shut down the evil taking over her friends, family, New York City, and the world.

This was right up my alley! I started reading it as soon as I could, and I was pulled in by the time the first page was read. As I said, and will probably say again, the writing is lovely! There were a few typos that the editor missed… some misspelled words, and some words that were most likely supposed to be different words. I knew what they meant, though, so I can look past that. Luckily, there was just a handful.

The story takes place in present-day NYC with elements of history, the arts, and Shakespeare. Again, right up my alley. I really liked the main character, Garet, which stands for Margaret (named after her mother Marguerite—which is an important detail). She’s courageous, spunky, and has a good head on her shoulders. She has to go through a lot in this book, seeing as how evil is slowly escaping and seeping into everyday life. At the very beginning of the book, her father gets shot and some valuable artwork is stolen from their business. An investigator comes and believes her father staged the whole robbery and shot himself. This storyline is an underlying part of the entire rest of the story, and has Garet deeply troubled. The evil influences, which come in the form of fog and feelings, weigh heavily on her friends and her father… even the world around her. The evil actually coaxes someone into trying to commit suicide. Garet is the only one who knows why all of this is happening, but she doesn’t sit and complain about it like some heroines do. Instead, she follows in the footsteps of the women she descended from, in order to try and defeat this evil. Through it all, she has this wonderful sense of humor! It helps that she has sidekicks along the way, particularly a small fairy and a sexy vampire. Boy, does this book make him sound amazing! He swoops in and protects her when she needs him (even though he’s forbidden), which makes you want a vampire of your very own.

Now, don’t worry! When I say vampire, I’m not talking Edward Cullen. If you hate Twilight, don’t worry. You can read this book and still hate Twilight. The authors put a totally different spin on vampires, and it’s really a tiny, tiny part of the story. Even though this vampire is a romantic interest, the romance is almost non-existent. If you don’t like romance, don’t be scared away by this book. It’s extremely minimal. The main focus is on Garet’s discovery of this new world, and what she plans to do about it. Along with the fey and the vampire, she encounters an alchemist, a dragon, a water goddess, and some other interesting people that are not who they appear to be. She experiences so many different things, goes through every emotion, and flip-flops between who to trust and who to steer clear of. It’s a crazy web of events and feelings, but it was written in a way that was not at all confusing. I’m just having a hard time doing it justice, but I actually see that as a good thing!

What I loved about this story was that it was so unpredictable. I didn’t know what was going on until Garet did. I found myself questioning every character right along with her. Is this guy on my side? Should I be worried about this? What’s going to happen next? I had no idea how the ending would work out. I was shocked every time she was. I trusted the same people she did. It’s like I was doing the thinking for her. That was refreshing, as many mysteries can be easily solved before the book is over.

The only complaint I had was that Garet’s father and close friends slowly slipped into the background. I guess when you’re one woman fighting off the evils of the world, while being sought out by Mr. Evil himself, and befriending a romantic vampire you don’t have much time for family! However… the characters were likeable, so I wish I got to learn more about them.

BEWARE: Cliff-hanger ending! This better be a trilogy, or it should at LEAST have a sequel, because the ending was just too shocking and frustrating to deal with. If readers are not rewarded with a second book, I’m not sure life will be ok. Just sayin’.

Overall, I’m giving this book a good solid 5-star rating. I’m not one to re-read books, but I really want to re-visit this one soon. It’s been almost two weeks since I finished it, and I’m still thinking about it. That’s a REALLY good sign, especially since I’ve read two books since I finished this one. If you love a good urban fantasy, a strong heroine, a little mystery, evil lurking around every corner, amazing and beautiful writing (see, I told you I’d mention it again), detailed descriptions, a smidge of romance, a dash of action, and a hint of Shakespeare, then I think you’ll love this book! Oh, and if a book #2 rolls around, I’ll be sure and let you know… because I’m determined to be one of the first to find out!
Happy reading!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Kimberly Reflects on the Looking Glass Wars

Kimberly Reflects on the Looking Glass Wars


Book/Author: The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
Publisher and Year: Penguin Group 2006
How I got it: I bought it
Why I read it: It came highly recommended by one of my friends, plus I love alternate tellings of famous stories.


We all know Lewis Carroll’s famous story. Alice Liddel stepped through the looking glass into Wonderland and had many adventures.
Only… it’s all a lie. Wonderland is real. Alyss Heart is the heir to the throne, until her murderous aunt Redd steals the crown and kills Alyss’s parent’s. To escape Alyss and her bodyguard, Hatter Madigan must flee to our world through the Pool of Tears. Unfortunately in the pool Alyss and her bodyguard are separated. Lost and alone in Victorian London, Alyss is befriended by an aspiring author, to whom she tells the violent, heartbreaking story of her young life. Yet he gets the story all wrong. Hatter Madigan knows the truth only too well, and he is searching every corner of our world to find the lost princess and return her to Wonderland so that she may battle red for her rightful place as the Queen of Hearts.
This book was so enjoyable! There was just something that kept drawing me back into the story. The world that the author has created is so full of magic and wonderful things. I love the way that the author took things from Lewis Carroll’s famous story and just tweaked it a bit. The Mad Hatter is Hatter Madigan, the brave and mysterious bodyguard. The Cat is an assassin with nine lives. The Cards are the soldiers . I was on a cruise with my family when I read this for the first time, I spent many a happy hour out on the balcony of our room with this book in hand. When I finished it I felt almost depressed. Happy because I had just finished a really good book, but so sad that it was over. I had enjoyed it that much. Of course I was overjoyed to realized that it was the first in a trilogy.
I give it 5 Stars. It was imaginative, well thought out, the characters were real and endearing, with humor, action, magic and a touch of romance. Overall, a great read.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Margaret Atwood: A Snapshot


[For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Margaret Atwood, she is a Canadian author, perhaps most famous for her 1985 novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, for which she won the Arthur C. Clarke Award. She has written many other novels, including The Edible Woman, Alias Grace, and The Blind Assassin (for which she received the 2000 Booker Prize), short story collections (one of which, Wilderness Tips, I just read and will be reviewing in a couple weeks), and poetry collections. She is also an environmental activist and is involved in Canadian politics.]

While, like with most book lovers, it is impossible for me to pinpoint my favorite author, Margaret Atwood definitely hovers around that #1 spot. My first introduction to Atwood was my junior year of high school, when I read The Handmaid’s Tale. That book basically blew my mind, and I knew I wanted to read more of her work. Though I unfortunately have not actually gotten to read very many more of her books, I follow her on Twitter, where she is very active, and read her blog posts. One of my favorite things about Atwood is that she is an activist at heart; she stands up for what she believes in, both through her writing and her actions. As an example, a few weeks ago she signed a petition against Fox News expanding into Canada, a signature that was met with a scathing attack from a Canadian newspaper. Instead of hiding from the public or retracting her signature, she upheld her signature and kept her fans updated on everything that was happening and her opinions on it. Despite being very busy flying around the world as part of her book tour for her most recent book, The Year of the Flood (a companion novel to her 2003 Oryx and Crake), she still constantly fights for social justice and the environment, and interacts with those who admire her.

Recently, in fact, Atwood participated in a Goodreads Q&A group, in which fans asked her all sorts of questions about her books (particularly Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, and The Handmaid’s Tale), her writing habits, and writing and literature in general. While much of the discussion would provide many spoilers to someone who hasn’t read the novels, I’ve selected some (spoiler-free) questions and answers that I found pinteresting.

Regarding a question about the abundance of food in her writing:
There are two answers –
1) Literary: As a young person, I was disturbed when the characters in books never got anything to eat, or when they were actually starving or going hungry, as in Oliver Twist and Les Miserables. Also I read a lot of animal stories and food is very important in them. So I try to give my characters something to eat when possible.
2) Real life: I was young during the war when there was rationing; people thought a lot about food, what was scarce, etc. And I spent much of my childhood in the northern bush — we had a garden (no shops nearby) and caught fish, etc. So I have always known where food comes from. I have known about wild foods all my life and have prepared and eaten many. (I raised the money to start PEN Canada by writing a book called “The CanLit Food Book,” which juxtaposes fiction bits and poems about food with recipes by authors - some of whom can’t really cook... There’s a recipe for “toast,” for instance.) In the 70s we lived on a farm and had chickens and other animals and a huge vegetable garden, & did a lot of canning, drying, preserving etc.
On reading fiction out loud:
Some things lend themselves better to oral renditions, and some authors are better than others at reading their own work. But it’s unfair to expect everyone to have all ideal qualities. (I don’t for instance at all like the way Yeats read his own poetry, and kind of wish I’d never heard the recording..) I don’t much like my own reading voice when it’s recorded. I think it’s a curiosity, but that the real “reading” takes place when book meets reader...
On her future books:
I am indeed working on a third book [to go along with Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood] -- it is tentatively called MaddAddam and will follow the fortunes of that group of people, including Zeb. But at the same time I am working on the Ellman Lectures, Emory in October, which will then be a book: In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination. It will include some of my other writings on SF (Sci Fi, Spec Fic, S & S/Fantasy, Slipstream Fiction...)
And, finally, one fan asked if she had “any good suggestions where to ride out the impending global pandemic,” as that which occurs in Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, a question to which she provided a serious, and helpful, answer:
I think Toby’s [character in YOF] choice of a spa in a park would be good... But any place where you can seal yourself off from actual contact, with an adequate food supply etc. ... As this one sweeps through very quickly, you wouldn’t have to be cut off for years, just some months...
If you’d like to see Atwood’s other responses, including some interesting answers to specific questions about her novels, you can check out the group here.

You can also visit her blog: http://marg09.wordpress.com/

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fictional Crushes: Jen's Top Ten Tuesday List!



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!



This week's topic:

Top Ten Fictional Crushes


Jen's Picks:

  1. Oskar from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close:  If I was eight years old I would be in LOVE with Oskar.  We'd definitely get married on the playground during recess.
  2. Wes from The Truth About Forever:  Sa-woon!  He's the artistic one, I want him to make me my own sculpture out of stuff he finds at the junkyard.
  3. Gale from the Hunger Games Trilogy:  He's strong, dependable, he cares for his family, and not afraid to stand up for what he believes in.
  4. Marcus from Sloppy Firsts (the Jessica Darling series):  I haven't finished the series yet but I have a soft spot for Marcus.  I loved his day of the week t-shirts and cryptic messages to Jessica.
  5. Roger from Amy & Roger's Epic Detour:  Who wouldn't want a cute boy to take a cross-country road trip with?  If you cry in front of Roger he's not going to freak out on you, he'll give you his sunglasses to wear so people can't tell you've been crying.  Plus, he makes amazing mix CDs.
  6. Dexter from This Lullaby:  Be careful, when you first meet Dexter he might accidentally knock you off your feet (literally).  But he's passionate about music, funny (his band has a song about potatoes),  he loves his dog, and he never gives up.
  7. Shay from Nightshade:  Okay, so I haven't even read this book yet (it comes out today!) but I loved the marketing campaign for Nightshade.  I loved how you could interact with Shay online and read his blog and watch videos he posted.  He seems like a good guy (plus, he's kind of cute!).  Shay's Facebook.
  8. Ethan from Something Blue: I read this book last year so I don't remember much about why I liked Ethan but he is incredibly patient (somehow he managed to put up with Darcy), and he currently lives in England.
  9. Sam from Shiver (Wolves of Mercy Falls):  I haven't read Linger yet so my opinion could change but so far I love Sam.  He loves reading (even worked in a bookstore one summer) and comes up with little songs about Grace.
  10. Edward from The Twilight Saga:  Don't hate!  I know most people over the age of 16 hate him.  But when I read Twilight I liked how how he acted chivalrous and like a gentleman.
I had a lot of fun making this list!  Now spill, who are your fictional crushes?  I can't wait to read everyone's list!


Next week's topic: In the spirit of Halloween, Tahleen will be sharing her top ten scariest books! 


Monday, October 18, 2010

Tahleen reviews: "Feed" by M.T. Anderson

FeedTitleFeed
Author: M.T. Anderson
Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2002
Where I got it: I listened to the audio version and got it from the library.

Rating: ★★★★

Titus lives in a future where everything is connected with and through the feed. The feed is how people chat, buy, browse, research, and select—it is a computer built into the brain, an implant that not only allows you to have what we would cal the Internet in your head, but also TV shows and commercials, suggestions as to what you might like based on past purchases or inquiries, and anything else along those lines. Titus is just another teenager who has grown up with the feed as something normal, and he lives to bask in the corporate-controlled world. But this all changes when he meets Violet, an unconventional girl who has some weird ideas and perspectives on the feed and the world they live in.

You know you've found a great dystopian/science fiction book when it makes you grateful for the life you have. You also know it's even better if it makes you look at our world and get a little panicky. Titus sounds like many teens in today's world, dependent on the feed for everything he is capable of doing. He also recognizes the dangers of leaving the world's fate on the whims of the corporations that control practically everything, yet sees it more as an inevitability than as something to fight against. That hits really close to home; so many people in our world, sometimes myself included, see what goes on as impossible to change or have an effect on.

Anderson creates such a believable world, and such a terrifying one. The people are completely at the mercy of the corporations—even School™ is a corporation, and not government-run (Titus is appalled at the idea of a government-run school, saying it's "completely, like, Nazi"(109)). They all embrace the instant gratification the feed provides; the instant chatting, the instant purchasing, the instant information—and all this is reminiscent of how we're all plugged in to the Internet at all times. Yet Anderson doesn't come off as being anti-progress or anti-Internet; it's just the way it is, and that's what makes it so scary.

There are also an infinite number of environmental problems that lead the reader to the conclusion that the world will soon end. People start to get lesions, which are of course turned into a fashion statement to deflect the attention from what is causing them, and there are no more trees or natural anythings. Forests are completely gone, as is wildlife. Violet says that the earth is dead; there is nothing that mankind hasn't created or planted, nothing straight from the earth. Everything has been destroyed.

The characters were all really well-formed and rounded, even the stock characters. Titus is not a hero by any means—he thinks more than the average teen in his world, but he wants to belong and be normal and so doesn't talk about his thoughts to his friends as he does to us, the readers. He is often a major jerk to Violet, but shows brief glimpses of a deeper character. I was surprised to see his friends showing sides that I wouldn't have expected from them, especially the completely superficial and unoriginal Quendy when she is talking to Titus about Violet—she shows real compassion and insight, kind of giving Titus a swift kick in the butt. All the teens show some bits of intelligence and occasionally a rare bit of individuality, though it gets harder and harder for them to do so as the feed steers them toward the latest trends and hot topics.

Though this comes before the dystopian trend that has been so prevalent in young adult literature as of late, it is an important contribution to the genre. Science fiction at its core, this is also a statement about our world and where we might be headed. It's protagonist is not extraordinary, though he meets an extraordinary girl. His thoughts are mostly wired into the feed and what it wants him to think, with just a little room for independent thought.

Also, just a warning: the language was pretty strong in this, so it might be better-suited to older readers.

Note on the audio version: This was narrated by David Aaron Baker, and he did a great job. His voice for Titus was perfect, and he was able to make most of the characters' voices unique. Unfortunately I didn't really like his voice for Violet, which was softer—I thought of her as having a more sassy kind of voice. But other than that, his acting was superb. I would also recommend this for its ensemble cast in the feed commercials—with added music, they sounded like ads we see and hear every day. This actually made me panic a little, especially when I saw three commercials in a row that sounded straight from Titus's world. I give the audio 4 out of 5 stars.
Related Posts with Thumbnails
 
Site Design By Designer Blogs Content © 2012 The Broke and the Bookish. All Rights Reserved