Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Kelly's Review of "Elixir" by Hilary Duff

Title: Elixir
Author: Hilary Duff
Published: Simon & Schuster, 2010
Rating: ★★★★

Okay, I'll admit it. When I initially heard that Hilary Duff was writing a YA book, I laughed in scorn. Why does every celebrity feel the need to put out a perfume, write a book, have their own reality TV show, or worse, a combination of all three? I dismissed the book from all consideration until earlier this summer when paroozing the library, I came across a pretty book with a nice purple flower on it and an interesting premise to boot. It wasn't until I turned the book over and saw Hilary's big old mug that I realized what I was doing and mentally gave myself a kick. The book went home with me anyways and was read in one day (at the beach!).

So here's what went down. Clea (I giggled at this name several times, I don't know why) is the privileged daughter of a politician and a surgeon. Even though she is only a teenager, Clea works as a photojournalist, and in the book, notably travels to Rio de Janeiro to photograph the Carnival (ummm, jealous much?). It isn't until her father mysteriously disappears that she begins to notice a strange man in the background of all of her photographs. Is he a ghost? An angel? Clea sets out to find this man.

Reincarnation is a heavy theme in this book, something that I absolutely LOVE to read about. The plot is very interesting and well woven together; I was very impressed with Hilary Duff's writing and ability to develop characters. Truthfully, I almost put the book down a few pages in, since all we get are descriptions of Clea's fabulous lifestyle while she parties in Paris. Pushing past the rich-girl stuff was definitely worth it. I'm not a big reader of either YA, paranormal, or romance books, but it seems to me that the plot could be somewhat predictable and recycled, but I still enjoyed it. Props to Lizzie McGuire!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Top Ten Books That Tackle Tough Issues

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.

Hey all! Jamie here. This week we are talking about top ten books that tackle tough issues!

1. Thirteen Reasons Why: I listed this book last week as a book that I think teens should read. Suicide is one of those really tough issues and this book really explores different sides of it and see the complexities for all in involved. I found myself experiencing a myriad of emotions while reading this.

2. Speak: Rape is never a comfortable thing to discuss nor read about but I think Laurie Halse Anderson really tackles the topic in a way that is still meaningful and helpful for teens but not overly in your face.

3. Where She Went: As I've talked about on my personal blog, I always have an emotional time reading books that deal with loss and grief but I really found this to be a great example of a YA book that handles that topic well. I loved If I Stay but I found Where She Went to be so much more complex and this easily became my favorite out of the two.

4. Crank: I went through a period of time where it seems like I was reading a lot of memoirs and books about drug addiction...I'm not even sure why. I actually haven't read too many teen books about addiction until I read this and wow...I couldn't put this down. Hopkins doesn't sugarcoat it at all and I found the fact that the novel was in verse to be quite effective.

5. Wasted: A Memoir: This memoir tackles the topic of anorexia and I felt ill reading it a lot of the time. I always seem to feel that way when I see pictures of anorexic celebs on the cover of tabloids or when I was doing a project about anorexia and saw websites and blogs devoted to helping each other be a better anorexic. I always just feel ill. This book was tough for me to read. It's been said that this book could be used by girls struggling with this as a "help" book because she goes into detail about how she used to hide it from people and other tricks along the way. Either way, this book was a tough read.

6. A Child Called It: I read this book in high school and it was such an emotional experience to read and has stuck with me since then. This book tackles the issue of child abuse and it was so so hard to read but it reminded me of how much we owe it to society to protect the voiceless among us. It's heartbreaking to know that it happens every day to an innocent child. I'm just thankful that people are actually doing something about it now...rather than keeping it hush hush like they did back in the day when nobody wanted to talk about it or get involved in another family's business.

I could only come up with 6 this week even though I KNOW I've read a lot more books that have dealt with tough issues. I was getting a little impatient with my computer because it keeps freezing a lot or else I'd scour my goodreads list for more books to add to this list! What are your picks?

Click here to check out upcoming Top Ten Tuesday topics.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Heather reviews Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris

Then We Came to the End: A NovelBook: Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris
Published: 2007, Little Brown & Company
How I Got This Book: received as a Secret Santa gift a couple years ago
Why I read it: it sounded like a really entertaining read
My rating: 3 stars

Brief Summary (from Goodreads): For anyone who has ever worked in an office, hating everything and everyone in it, yet fell apart when it was time to leave -- this book is for you. Heartbreaking, yet hysterically funny, Then We Came to the End is the definitive novel about the contemporary American workplace.

My thoughts: Then We Came To The End has been on my to read list pretty much since it's release but for some reason it took me almost 4 years to actually pull it off my shelf. As with any book that I wait that long to read, there was a huge amount of hype leading up to it. There was nothing that wowed me about this novel, but I found it to be an entertaining read that was very easy to relate to for anyone who has ever worked in the typical office environment. There were many points where I was laughing out loud because I could picture some of the events happening in my own office. There were a lot of things that were a little outrageous but still very funny to picture. It's easy to see that author Joshua Ferris' view of corporate America is a bitter one, but he's able to poke fun at that in his debut novel.

I enjoyed the use of first person plural and how we never find out who the narrator is. He/she speaks on behalf of the group and refers to all of the employees of the ad agency where this book takes place as the collective "we". The characters were all so entertaining, from the crazy ones, to the slackers to the workaholics. There have been a lot of comparisons to The Office and Office Space in other reviews, and it's definitely very much along those lines but I would say more like if the employees of Dunder Mifflin were all on crack.

While there were plenty of funny moments, there were also a lot of really depressing ones. The characters were waiting with bated breath to find out who would be the next to be laid off. They were all aware that their jobs as advertising creatives basically turned them into soul sucking demons. As someone who goes to work most days dreading what lays ahead, I know how terrible it feels to have a job you absolutely can't stand but you need it to survive. Ferris wrote Then We Came To The End shortly before the economy got really bad, so I imagine that if he had waited to write this just a year or two later, the stories and desperation of the characters would be so much worse. There's not much you can do other than to laugh though when you realize you're not the only one who hates their job or works with a bunch of crazies.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tahleen's Top Ten Books That Should Be Required Reading For Teens

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.

Hi all! Tahleen here, with my top ten books I think every teen should read. (Let's face it, only librarians and bookish people consider 12- to 19-year-olds to be young adults.) This is a hard list to compile, since every teen is different. I'm going to try my best to cover a wide range, so bear with me. Let's see how I do.

1. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. It's important to know that the gossiping you do and the little ways you affect others can have much more impact than you realize. And it's finally out in paperback. It's worth it, trust me.

2. Paper Towns by John Green. Not only does this awesomeness in book form have themes of identity and the way we look at others, it is just a good time all around. I love this book.

3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. A coming-of-age classic with the simple message of looking beyond the outside of a person.

4. Feed by M.T. Anderson. Teens today will see eerie similarities between Anderson's future and our present, especially with the way we see the world decay around narrator Titus. It's very sobering, at least it was for me.

5. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. A tough but all too common issue in our world is expertly handled here. A great conversation starter.

6. Any Shakespeare. There are too many references to the Bard in EVERYTHING we consume via the media, it would only help to read some of his stuff.

7. Grimm's Fairy Tales. Again, so many references in everyday life come from the fairy tales, especially those compiled by the Grimm brothers. And it's dark stuff too. Scholars have studied fairy tales for years, and for good reason: they tell us a lot about our selves.

8. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Probably one of the best books I've ever read in my entire life. A look at life in poverty on an Indian reservation, as well as an examination of identity. And despite its heartbreaking moments, it is chock-full of humor.

9. Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman. This gem of a novel shows how each individual in a neighborhood comes together to create a community where there wasn't one before, thanks to a garden. Oh, and it's super short.

10. Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden. One of the first (if not the first—please let me know in the comments if you know this) books focusing on a homosexual relationship where one of the two lovers doesn't die. I thought this book was a great way to see (and better understand) a homosexual relationship if you are used to a heterosexual point of view.

There you have it, my top ten. Let me make clear that this is not my top ten YA books that I love the most. Though I do love these. What are your top ten?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tahleen reviews: "Withering Tights" by Louise Rennison

TitleWithering Tights (Misadventures of Tallulah Casey)
Author: Louise Rennison
Publisher: HarperTeen, 2011

Rating: ★★★½

Tallulah Casey is off to the Yorkshire Dales for a summer college course at Dother Hall, a performing arts school. She goes for a laugh and to escape her brother's butterfly sandwiches, as she has never really had much experience performing and has very knobby knees that are too high on her legs. But she's surprised to find that she quite enjoys it there, and with her new friends and a number of boys around, thanks to nearby Woolfe Hall and the village of Heckmondshire, she hopes she can pass the summer course so she can return. She hopes the end-of-summer performance of Wuthering Heights, inspired by their location in the English moors, will be her ticket.

Withering Tights has no real coherent storyline or plot aside from Tallulah making it through the summer, but that doesn't really matter. That will only affect you if you do no like the funny, because Louise Rennison is hilarious. The wit in this book is sharp and delicious (I realize that also can describe cheddar but bear with me). I found myself laughing out loud a lot—Rennison's comedic timing is often perfect.

The setting was great, especially if you're an Anglophile. Rennison doesn't shy away from using English slang, and she adds a helpful (and also very funny) glossary at the back of the book. I love the words she uses; it adds so much to the book as a whole, and it probably wouldn't be as funny without the language.

Like I said, there's no real storyline, Tallulah just chronicles the summer. Of course, characters and little subplots are followed, like Ruby and the baby owls ("hooray!") and Tallulah's encounters with at least four boys (there is a lot of boy stuff, but it's more like Tallulah is just trying to figure out how to deal with them, since she's only 14). And speaking of characters, I don't think there is a dull one in the bunch. Every character is individualized, and some might be described as "normal," but in here that term is relative. The only one I really dislike is Cain, for reasons you will all realize if you read it, but I have a feeling he'll play a pretty big part in the following books in the series.

I'll definitely be picking up the next book in the Misadventures of Tallulah Casey series. I found that I'm more fond of Tallulah than I ever was of Georgia Nicholson, though I do like those books too. And side note: Georgia is Tallulah's cousin. Maybe we'll see a cameo later on!

Disclosure: I won an ARC of this title from Steph Su (thanks Steph!).

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Julia Ponders Rereads and How a Book Stays With You

I recently found myself in a position where a reread of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series made a lot of sense. I had not read it since high school, and I pretty much inhaled it the first time. It left such pleasant feelings. In fact, this series was the only one ever that I wrote fanfiction for, even with heavy forays into the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings online fandom. I had felt so much for this series that I was moved to tell more, to share with others how I thought the missing pieces should be filled.

But as I started to read The Subtle Knife the second time, I realized something. Though I have all of these memories, these feelings associated with these books, I cannot remember a damn thing about this series. Well, that's a lie. I remember the big stuff, the major plot points (mostly..). But even then, it’s the outcome that I am most familiar with.

And that got me thinking about how I read a book. I think devour is a good word for it, especially if I like it and grow attached. I read it; I am in the moment. I am with these characters, feeling their pain, pleasure, and all the in between. But then I set it down, savoring that "I just finished a book" feel, and start the next one. To use super geeky computer terms, the book stays in the RAM but never really uses the hard drive. (It made sense to me).

What I am saying is I read it, love it and really only remember how it made me feel. So I am pretty much a love it and leave it, cherish the time we had together and maybe pop back for seconds later, where at which time I will remember the feelings but most of the experience (especially how things tie together) is completely new for me. It's like reading it for the first time. The only exception to this rule is multiple rereads (especially close together) and when I can tie the story to a movie.

It always baffled me (see my baffled face) how much my sister retains from what she reads. But she savors, not devours. She was actually shocked at how little I remembered when I told her everything I could about the last two books in the series. It was kind of sad. But is it sad? Because every time I read a book, it is almost like new. But on the flip side, I go so fast, I sometimes I miss seeing the trees for the forest.

How do you read a book? Are rereads possible for you? What experiences do you get out of reading a book again for the first time? Are you like me or my sister? Would you change? I am genuinely curious.

I don’t know if I would change how I read. I don’t think I could. Even why I try to slow down, I end up racing forward.

Also, my elevator review of The Golden Compass. If you saw the movie, forget you did and go read the book. One of the best adventure stories that is gripping and thought provoking. I rarely give 5 stars but that would be its star rating :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Jen's Top Ten Authors She'd DIE To Meet

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.

To see a list of upcoming Top Ten Tuesday topics please click HERE!

 Jen's List:

  1. Sarah Dessen:  I love love love her books.  She's actually going to be at a bookstore that's semi-near me next week.  I'm seriously considering going but who knows how much beach and tourist traffic I'll get stuck in.  But it's also the day before my birthday so it might be a good present to myself!
  2. Jane Austen:  I have a confession...I've never actually read any of her books.  I want to know if she ever imagined her books becoming classics and all of the different adapations of her books.  From Pride and Prejudice Zombies to the movies Clueless, an updated version of Emma.  I'd love to know what she thinks of her books being portrayed in these different ways.
  3. Megan McCafferty:  The creator of Jessica 'Notso' Darling and the mastermind behind Marcus Flutie and his mysterious ways.  Two of my favorite book characters!
  4. Dr. Seuss: I think it would have been unbelievable to meet Dr. Seuss.  I imagine him always talking in rhymes.
  5. Ernest Hemingway: I want to meet him so I can bombard him with questions about what it was like living in Paris in the 1920's.   
  6. Laura Ingalls Wilder: In a way I already feel like I grew up with her.  I devoured the Little House books when I was younger and I think it would have been amazing to actually meet her!
  7. Stephanie Perkins:  She wrote Anna and the French Kiss (loved it) and has blue hair.
  8. Morgan Matson: I'd love to take a road trip with her!  I feel like it would be the best road trip ever. Definitely one of epic proportions! 
I could only get to eight this time.  This topic was a lot harder than I originally thought.  Now it's your turn!  Who are the top ten authors that you'd DIE to meet?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Kimberly's Review of the Book Thief

Book: The Book Thief

Author: Markus Zusak
How I got it: Bought it at B&N

Why I read it: I read just about anything I can get my hands on about WWII
Rating: 5+

*sigh* I don’t think I have ever struggled more to write a review for a book. Ok… Where can I start? I picked up the book because 1. I liked the cover 2. I’d heard good things about it and 3. The book was narrated by Death, I was intrigued immediately.
Whoever thought that a book would come along with Death as a narrator, and not only that, you’d feel sympathy and a connection to Death? To top it all off, Death has a heart and a snarky sense of humor. “I like this human idea of the grim reaper. I like the scythe – it amuses me”. Even though the narration was told at a distance I felt a deeper connection to the characters than I would have if it had been simple third person narration, or first person from one of the main characters.
And oh the characters. They are wonderful. The relationships that Liesel has with the people in her life… They are beautiful. From her foster parents, to her best friend, to the man she helped, to a shattered woman who had passed her days wandering around her home like a ghost. Each of the relationships were wonderful. I came to care for each and every one of the characters as deeply as Liesel.
As for the writing… it’s… (I can’t seem to put this into words! Ironic, no?) The writing is quite beautiful. Normally I’m a fast reader, I can read a 300 page book in a good day usually. The Book Thief is 550 pages. It took me over a week to read it. I kept finding myself slowing down so that I could enjoy the way sentences flowed and the descriptions and the imagery that Death conjured up. One might think that with the book being narrated by something as strange as Death, that the descriptions might be odd or difficult to understand. It was the opposite. I had many moments when I would read something and then think “that’s so true! It does look like that!”
After I finished the book I slapped it into the hands of every person I could. I had to spread it around. I was so moved by it that I wanted others to experience it too. My copy of the book is quite worn now. The cover has a bend in the corner, the pages are scuffed, but for once I really don’t mind. (I’m usually extremely picky about the condition of my books.) My copy alone has been read by at least 10 people. Makes me happy to know that it went so far.
I can’t really think of much else that I can say about the book. Only one thing, and it’s a bit of a spoiler, but not really. The closing lines of the book gives me chills every time I think about it…
“I am haunted by humans.”
So what about you? For those who have read it, what did you think?
What were some of your favorite parts? A favorite passage or paragraph?
A favorite character perhaps?
Tell me your thoughts on this book! Obviously it impacted me strongly enough that I can’t even sufficiently put it into words.
So…. What did you think?

(Oh and I just stumbled across this cover
when I was getting read to post this. Isn't it
beautiful? I like it even better than the one I have...)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Natanya Reviews Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

Title/Author: Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami
Publisher/Year: Kodansha International Ltd., 1991
Where I got it: Libraryyy
Why I read it: I loved Murakami’s Norwegian Wood and Kafka on the Shore, so I wanted to read more Murakami books!

From Goodreads:
This is a narrative particle accelerator that zooms between Wild Turkey Whiskey and Bob Dylan, unicorn skulls and voracious librarians, John Coltrane and Lord Jim. Science fiction, detective story and postmodern manifesto all rolled into one rip-roaring novel, "Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World" is the tour de force that expanded Haruki Murakami's international following, tracking one man's descent into the kafkaesque underworld farce, compassion and detachment, slang and philosophy. The result is a wildly inventive fantasy and a meditation on the many uses of the mind.

[Note: I’m trying not to say too much about what actually happens in this novel because it’s really better to go into it not having any idea what’s going on, so sorry for the choppiness of this review. Also, Murakami puts my mind all over the place…he just has this amazing way of doing that. So that also contributes to the messiness of this review.]

So I’ve only read two of Murakami’s books (plus part of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle), but I do think it is safe to say that Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is Murakami through and through. It is structured with two different plotlines in alternating chapters, one taking place in modern-day Japan, and the other in “the Town,” which is a strange, utopic town in an unknown location. I loved having these two plotlines because they each maintain a certain degree of mystery, but it was clear that the reader would eventually understand how they are linked. I actually had a lot of fun making little connections between the two storylines, and the line between the two worlds gets blurrier and blurrier, even once you learn what the second world is. Both worlds have fantastical elements, but I love that Murakami’s fantasy is more like a quirky magical realism, where it exists but it doesn’t turn the novel into a hardcore fantasy novel. Murakami’s magic is so small but so powerful; it’s barely present, but he gives us glimpses into the possibility of a whole magical world. It kind of reminded me of a light (in terms of the amount of fantasy, not in terms of the book as a whole) version of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere (which I reviewed last summer and didn’t like as much as I liked Murakami’s novel).

While this novel has aspects of both sci fi and fantasy, I really hesitate to categorize Murakami’s novels because they have so many different things going on. I’d put them in their own category, really, and because of that I think that they appeal to a broad audience. Of course, you do have to be prepared to be confused at times, and Murakami definitely does not tie up everything totally neatly at the end. By the end, there were a number of things that still didn’t make sense, and that bugged me. I’m assuming it was purposeful, but it would have been nice to have gotten just a little bit more explanation. I also wasn’t crazy about the ending. I’m not sure if it’s that it wasn’t what I wasn’t expecting because I really don’t even know what I was expecting. I knew things wouldn’t end up perfect, but I felt somewhat unsatisfied by the ending. But again, I really don’t know how else I could have expected it to end.

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is the kind of book that gets you thinking-- thinking about thinking, and about the mind, which is a major focus of the novel. I was exhausted by the time I finished reading it (exhausted in a good way, though), and though it wasn’t absolutely amazing, it was certainly a great book. Depressing, but great. So basically, as I said at the beginning of this review, it was very Murakami.

4 stars

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Rebels in Literature

Hope everyone had a great holiday! I came home last night, after a relaxing weekend on the beach, to start working on Top Ten Tuesday for today and my computer was acting all wonky..thus I could not get on it to get this ready for today.

So there will be no list from us today but I'm dropping by on my lunch break to put up the Mr. Linky real quick so you all can enjoy each other's lists!

To see upcoming Top Ten Tuesday's, please click HERE!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Kelly's Review of "Bright Young Things" by Anna Godbersen

Title/Author: Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen
Published: Harper Collins, 2010
Where I Got It: The library
Rating: 4.5 stars

This may just be my opinion, but there is simply a major shortage of good historical fiction set in the 1920s. I've searched far and wide but have only found a measly number of books set in this fascinating time period. Bright Young Things is a star amongst these and in Anna Godbersen's usual fashion, the cover is simply fantastic!

Letty and Cordelia are small town girls who escape from rural Ohio for New York City. They want to start new lives: Letty aspires to be famous and Cordelia desperately wants to find the man she thinks may be her father. They become separated not long after their arrival in New York and each take very different paths over the next few months.

Cordelia is accepted back by her father who, as a very rich man, introduces her to a life of privilege and class she never could have imagined. Astrid, Cordelia's new brother's girlfriend who is hiding some secrets, also comes into play. Letty, on the other hand, is struggling to make it as a cigarette girl, a take-off point for her wishes of being famous. Death, love, betrayal, and fabulous historical imagery follow, all beautifully written.

I'll admit that Letty and Cordelia's initial fight that led them to becoming split up for the majority of the book was hard to believe. They've been best friends for years, how could a little argument, especially when they've just arrived in an unfamiliar city, cause them to leave each other so quickly? Also, Cordelia's father immediately accepting her into the family made me a bit suspicious if he was up to something.

Even if you aren't into historical fiction, I guarantee this story will draw you in. The characters are all so memorable and fun to follow, you'll be yearning more for the plot than the time period. I can't wait to read the next in the series!

Also, if you have any recommendations for books taking place in the 1920s, please share them with us in a comment!
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