Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Do You Love Top Ten Tuesday?

We've been nominated for Best Meme for Book Blogger Appreciation Week! If you have enjoyed Top Ten Tuesday by either participating in it or just think it is fantastical bookish meme, please consider voting for us! We've had such a good time tackling a multitude of bookish top tens for the past year and are so honored to be nominated!

You can vote here. You'll need either a Google or Twitter account to do so and we'd really appreciate it if you took the time to do so should you think that Top Ten Tuesday deserves it! To see the rest of the nominees, you can go here to the BBAW site. There are a lot of memes nominated so good luck to everyone. Y'all pretty much rock!

Also, while I have you here. I've had the list for future TTT on my computer since Julyyyy and haven't put the whole thing up but I will be doing so this week!

And, if you remember, try to put either YA, Adult, Classics or Eclectic after your name on Mr. Linky. We have SUCH a variety of blogs who participate that I know some people have asked if we could do this. If you don't remember, no biggie, but some have asked for it! :)

As always, if you have any TTT suggestions...please email us at brokeandbookish (at) gmail (dot) com

Natanya Reviews A Visit From the Goon Squad

Title/Author: A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Publisher/Date: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010
Where I got it: Library
Why I read it: I kept hearing about it everywhere, and then Goodreads started a summer challenge for this book, so I put it on my summer reading list.

From Amazon:
We begin in contemporaryish New York with kleptomaniac Sasha and her boss, rising music producer Bennie Salazar, before flashing back, with Bennie, to the glory days of Bay Area punk rock, and eventually forward, with Sasha, to a settled life. By then, Egan has accrued tertiary characters, like Scotty Hausmann, Bennie's one-time bandmate who all but dropped out of society, and Alex, who goes on a date with Sasha and later witnesses the future of the music industry. Egan's overarching concerns are about how rebellion ages, influence corrupts, habits turn to addictions, and lifelong friendships fluctuate and turn. Or as one character asks, “How did I go from being a rock star to being a fat fuck no one cares about?” Egan answers the question elegantly, though not straight on, as this powerful novel chronicles how and why we change, even as the song stays the same.

While the plot is certainly interesting (and I think the above synopsis sums it up well), what really makes A Visit From the Goon Squad stand out is its structure, which I loved, in part for its uniqueness. The novel is a series of linked vignettes, where each story tells about a period in the life of someone, generally a person who was a minor character in the previous story. While this structure has the potential to end up choppy, I think Egan did a great job at telling us just enough and then smoothly moving onto the next person, though I did sometimes get the people mixed up. She also often switched to a completely different time—one chapter may take place when these people (many of whom are about the same age) were teenagers, and the next may take place when they’re middle-aged—so the fact that the book read pretty smoothly was all the more surprising.

On top of that, within each chapter Egan often suddenly explains what will happen to a certain character later in life. It made me really see these people from a different perspective, knowing what they would do and feel like in the future. I thought this was a really interesting stylistic move, and I think it allowed Egan to say a lot more about each person than she could just say within the story she was telling. However, I did find it a little odd how bluntly she threw out these details of people’s futures. The story would be going along, and then suddenly she’d say something like, “and then 20 years later so and so got addicted to crack.” It’s a very “these are the facts and that’s just how it is” kind of description, which I both liked and disliked. It was interesting because, without any emotions connected to them, I could work through how they got to that point myself, which was kind of fun. But it was annoying because it made the narration fall flat a bit…it just seemed odd to have such an emotionless narration.

The final interesting structural element—and one which I think, at least according to a poll on Goodreads, a lot of people love the best, including myself—is the “slide diary,” which is a chapter consisting entirely of powerpoint slides with diagrams, making up a piece of the diary of a 12-year-old girl. I thought it was an awesome idea, and it actually got a lot of the emotions and themes of the book through better than the prose did at times. I also think Egan made a good decision in only making these slides a single chapter of the novel because I think a lot of their appeal is in their suddenness and uniqueness. The only problem is that the transition back from these slides into the final chapter of the book doesn’t work very well. Though really, in my opinion the final chapter of the book just didn’t work very well as a whole. This chapter tells us what happens to a lot of these people, but—except for the very, very end (which is good)—it doesn’t seem like an ending, just another story.

Overall, A Visit From the Goon Squad was a quick, worthwhile read. It’s kind of all over the place thematically, and as you can tell I found the cool structure more remarkable than the actual plot, but I enjoyed it. Some characters were more annoying than others, but they all were fascinating and unique, and Egan’s style of storytelling is quirky and fun. And if you’re interested in reading a somewhat non-standardly structured novel, I would definitely recommend this one.

4 stars

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Top Ten Books Daisy Has On Her TBR List This Fall

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.

This could also have been called: Books on Daisy's Birthday Wishlist, since the beginning of fall and my birthday kinda coincide :) (seriously, it's true, Wikipedia says so!)

Since I spend a pretty sizeable amount of time lusting after up and coming releases, this should be a breeze! Well actually, it would be, if there weren't too many of them... These will all be released between September 23rd and December 23rd 2011 :)

1. A Beautiful Dark by Jocelyn Davies: I've been pining for this book for ages and I have some serious cover love for this one. I'm a girl-in-gorgeous-dress-cover-slut, can't help it :)

2. Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder: I have read and loved every single one of the author's books and am dying to read this one, I'm sure I'll love it as well. It's the first in her new series. I love her series.

3. Inheritance by Christopher Paolini: a little bit before the release of Brisingr it was announced that there would be a fourth book in this series and the wait for this one has nearly killed me, cause I NEED to know how it ends! I've been waiting for 3 freaking years already! (checked it: Brisingr came out in 2008)

4. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi: another gorgeous cover! And a girl with a fatal touch! COUNT ME IN! I've heard nothing but good things from those who were lucky enough to get and ARC of this book, so I'm kinda excited about it being released soonish!

5. Eve by Anna Carey: this sounds like another wonderful dystopian and I'm kinda still in love with the genre.

6. Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins: I'm kinda expecting this to turn up on a LOT of the lists, but I'm gonna add it anyway. I haven't read Anna and the French Kiss yet and I'll probably be the last one to do it if I start now, but I'm still excited for this one to come out. I've heard such amazing this about these 2 books that I can't help but jump on the wagon and get excited as well. I really should start reading Anna...

7. The Mephisto Covenant by Trinity Faegen: another girl-in-a-dress on the cover and I'm loving it :) It sounds like it should be an amazing story and I hope it will be!

8. Don't Expect Magic by Kathy McCullough: a MALE fairy godmother! Fairy godmotherness being genetic! WOOHOO! Seriously, this sounds like it's right up my alley! And I LOVE the cover!

9. Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs: I'm a greek mythology geek, it's true. I'm loving this trend in YA and this one has three teenage descendants of MEDUSA! How cool is that? I NEED this book!

10. Crave by Melissa Darnell: a girl half vampire, half powerful magic use, could be EPIC WIN! Excited to read this one soonish :)

So, that's my list, it was harder than I thought, so many books, only 10 spots on the list...
What let me know what's on your lists! Any should add to my already too-huge TBR list? (seriously, any bigger and it will start demanding the right to vote in the next elections as well..)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Jen Talks Bookish Airport Observations

Earlier this month I had some traveling to do and the airport is my favorite place for people watching.  You encounter people from all over the world and everyone is headed to a different destination.  It doesn't matter the time of day or how big the airport is, observing people is best done at the airport.  I always root for the people who are running late, you know the ones you see them sprinting by with their carry-on bags that are practically bursting at the seams.

Other than in bookstores and libraries the airport is the one place I've seen an abundance of people reading.  This time around I noticed a lot more people using e-readers.  But for those travelers who were reading physical books there were two books in particular that kept popping up:  The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and The Help.  Overall, Larsson's book was by far the book I saw most people engrossed in.

My traveling book was The Help, purchased at the airport because I accidentally packed my book in my checked luggage instead of my carry-on.  The girl who was sitting next to me on one of my flights was also reading The Help.  We talked about the book and reading for a little bit before we each put our nose in our books.

Other books I saw people reading:

I really wanted to ask the people with e-readers what they were reading but I'm kind of shy and didn't want to approach people by myself.

If you've traveled this summer what book (or books) did you bring with you on your travels?

I had my nook with me as well but prefer reading a physical book while flying.  Mainly because of that portion of time when you can't have any electronic devices on.

Also, in the U.S., some of the airport shops have a special promotion called Read and Return.  You purchase a book in their store, read it and if you return the book within six months (with the original receipt) you get half of your money back.  The program isn't in all airports but it is in a quite a few and of course I've misplaced the bookmark that had the airports listed.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tahleen reviews: "Anya's Ghost" by Vera Brosgol

TitleAnya's Ghost
Author: Vera Brosgol
Publisher: First Second, 2011

Rating: 5 stars

Anya, daughter of a Russian immigrant, insecure in her body, and just trying to fit in at her private school, ends up finding a friend in the most unlikely of places. After falling down a well, Anya discovers a skeleton... and its ghost that's been hanging out down there for about 90 years.

At first, Anya is obviously freaked. But she escapes from the well, with help from Emily (the ghost). Who ends up following her out. Emily turns out to be a great friend, helping her with school and boys, but Anya soon figures out that Emily is here to stay... whether she likes it or not.

This graphic novel is beyond awesome. The illustrations are outstanding, all in black, white, gray and muted purple. The pacing of the story is excellent too—we jump into the story right away with Anya's fall, discovery of the skeleton, and subsequent befriending of Emily Reilly, who died 90 years ago after she fell down the well herself.

This is also a mystery. Anya promises to search for Emily's murderer, who she says killed her parents and then chased her through the woods the night of her fall. But Emily seems strangely uninterested and not very eager for Anya to start her search. She's much more interested in finding Anya a way into the heart of her crush, basketball star Sean. Even when Anya isn't interested anymore. Slowly we begin to see Emily's true personality and psychosis, and Anya tries to uncover Emily's history.

I had to keep going back after finishing this to just look at the illustrations and relive parts of the story. There is true terror within the pages, but a more subtle terror than you might expect in a ghost story.

There's also a lot in here about acceptance of yourself and your culture, with Anya's denial of her background and attempts to keep her family out of the line of sight of her schoolmates. She avoids another Russian student at her school because he acts too "fobby," without giving him a chance at any sort of friendship because of his social status. Throughout the plot, she has to come to terms with all of this.

Whether you read graphic novels or not, this is one you should go out and read immediately. The story and illustrations are in perfect harmony to make for one scary and mysterious ride.

Disclosure: I got this from my local library.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Top Ten Books Natanya Loved But Never Wrote A Review For

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, it’s Natanya. This week it’s time to give a shout out to all those books you loved but never reviewed, either because you read them before you started blogging, or because you didn’t get a chance to or couldn’t review when you read it. Most of the books on my list are ones that I read before we began this blog. A couple of them I could have easily reviewed at the time, but for the most part I don't know if I could have managed to review these. This is actually almost a list of my all-time favorite books, give or take a couple.

1. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger: I read this at the end of my senior year of high school, and may have done poorly on my AP chemistry exam because of this book. I literally couldn't put it down. I walked through the halls to class reading it, and spent a decent amount of time in class reading it as well, instead of studying for my AP and IB exams.

2. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood: The book that started my Atwood obsession, which I read at the end of junior year of high school. It blew me away. I probably wouldn’t have been able to write a review of this even if I’d read it more recently…I couldn’t have put my feelings into words.

3. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss: Sigh. This book is beautiful. I read this freshman year of college and wrote a very short review of it on Goodreads in which I said that I couldn’t explain it. You just have to read it.

4. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes: I read this the summer after my sophomore year of high school. I read the whole book in one night and cried at the end. Another book I probably couldn’t have written a review for, and one which I’d love to reread.

5. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch: I read this in a few hours (it’s very short) a couple years ago, and my copy of it is now filled with little post-it tabs because there are so many amazing quotations in here. This is so inspirational.

6. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley: I first read this in 8th grade and barely understood it, but still loved it. I read it again in 10th grade and it became one of my favorite novels. I read it again in 11th grade, and still loved it, but it definitely had a different effect on me each time I read it.

7. Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee: I read this in my first college literature class, and it was amazing. The main character is pretty hateable, but that just makes the novel even better. It has a ton of commentary on South African apartheid, which I found pretty interesting.

8. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami: This was my first Murakami book, and it was fantastic. Many Murakami fans don't like it because it isn't very similar to his other novels and is a bit more “normal” than the others (so maybe it wasn’t the best one of his novels to read first), but I loved it and loved the other 2 novels of his I've read.

9. In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje: I read this in February and loved it, but I wasn't sure how to review it because it’s just so unique. I kept procrastinating on my review until eventually I gave up on ever writing it. (And…a fun tidbit: Ondaatje, like Atwood, is a Canadian author, and is the author of The English Patient!)

Hmm…I don’t have a 10th right now. Obviously there are many more books that I enjoyed but read long before blogging, but these are, I guess, the most significant ones.

Check here for future topics!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Book Tour: Becoming Marie Antoinette + giveaway

Title: Becoming Marie Antoinette
Author: Juliet Grey
Published: Ballantine Books, August 2011

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for a copy of the book and hosting the book tour!

I love historical fiction, I love France, and I love Marie Antoinette; combine all of this and I am absolutely drooling over Becoming Marie Antoinette, Juliet Grey's latest novel. 

There have been dozens and dozens of novels written about Marie Antoinette, so why should you pick this one up? Why does it stand out? It's beautifully written, Marie is an extremely likable character, and her and Louis's relationship is fun to read about. Yet I think that the title explains it all: it solely focuses on the young, teenaged Marie Antoinette, ending the book right before she and Louis become king and queen. This book is like taking a big gulp of air right before the plunge into the dangerous waters.

Marie's childhood was so interesting to read about! Her mother wanted Marie to be as appealing as possible to the future king Louis of France so she commissioned a complete makeover for her daughter. Marie to personality and mental changes as well as awkward physical alterations (a very early form of braces, for one). I just wanted Marie to be able to be a child! When I was fourteen, I was worried about wearing the right brand of shoes, not trying to conform to be able to be married off to a stranger.

It was heartbreaking to read the optimism and paintings of a bright future for young Marie, as we all know her eventual fate. I am anxiously awaiting for the rest of this series to come out. With the ease of Juliet Grey's writing and aptitude for characterization, it surely will be a standout in the historical fiction genre, as I've already seen from Becoming Marie Antoinette!


Once again, thanks to the lovely folks at TLC Books tours, one of you now has the chance to win a copy of Becoming Marie Antoinette! US/Canada residents only, please. Enter here, you have until August 29th!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Daisy's Review of Can You Keep A Secret? by Sophie Kinsella

Title/Author: Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella
Publisher/Date published: the House of Books B.V., first published in 2003
How I got this book: bought it cause I couldn't resist the nice shiny cover
Why I read this book: I reread it for a challenge

I've read this book for the second time and I loved it again. I first read it in 2006 or 2007, back when I read a load of chicklit on a regular basis. A lot of them haven't really stayed with me, but this one has. I must say that besides her Shopaholic series, I've loved every one of Sophie Kinsella's (or Madeleine Wickham's) books. They all have really likeable heroines, cute guys and great plots and are just relaxing reads. I always feel like I'm hanging out with one of my friends when I read one of her books and I think that's what chicklit is supposed to do. She and Jill Mansell are among my instant-buys when it comes to this genre. I'd totally recommend them, especially as beachreads.

But onto this one: Emma is a girl who keeps a little secrets like every other girl. There are those things you think about but never ever tell anyone else, except maybe your best girl friend and maybe not even her. Until she panicks on an airplane ride, thinking the plane will crash, and tells all to the man sitting next to her. Every emberassing little detail about her life. After she can't believe herself, but luckily he's a total stranger and she'll never have to look him in the eye again.
Except she's dead wrong about this and he turns out to be her new boss, who flew in from America to see to the English office. And he remembers. Everything.
How will she ever live this down?

This book is just hilarious. I had so much fun rereading it! I've been so caught up in romance books and YA and the occasional classic or Oprah-approved book that I forgot how much fun chicklit can be! Granted, there are lesser ones, but Kinsella is really good at what she does.

Emma is a really likeable character, she is so human with all her little secrets and the mortification she feels at facing the man who know every last one of them. I love that she takes her anger on one of her colleagues out on her plant, feeding him orange juice. And that she thinks her boyfriend looks like Ken, from Barbie.
And then she has the ones that are real, like the fact that she never told her parents she thinks they love her cousin, who lived with them since she was 13, more than her and that she feels intimidated by said cousin's success.

And she has the most amazing chemistry with Jack, her boss, who seems like a really good guy. He does make some major mistakes, but how can you help falling in love with a guy who pays the busdriver 500 dollars to drop you off in front of your house in a street where the bus doesn't ever normally go through? He's totally adorable and though their first couple of dates were less than great, I was rooting for them the whole time.

All in all, this book was just such a relaxing, funny read and I loved it. I bow down to Sophie Kinsella as one of the reigning queens of this genre.

My rating: 4,5 stars

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Julia Reviews "Mistress of Rome" by Kate Quinn

Title/Author: The Mistress of Rome
by Kate Quinn
Publisher/Year Published: 2010 by Berkley Trade
How I got this book: I purchased it at Borders when I was in Boston
Why I read this book: I think I put it on my To Read shelf after seeing it (or its sequel) in a Goodreads Giveaway.
Rating: 4 stars

Thea is a slave girl from Judaea, passionate, musical, and guarded. Purchased as a toy for the spiteful heiress Lepida Pollia, Thea will become her mistress's rival for the love of Arius the Barbarian, Rome's newest and most savage gladiator. His love brings Thea the first happiness of her life-that is quickly ended when a jealous Lepida tears them apart.

As Lepida goes on to wreak havoc in the life of a new husband and his family, Thea remakes herself as a polished singer for Rome's aristocrats. Unwittingly, she attracts another admirer in the charismatic Emperor of Rome. But Domitian's games have a darker side, and Thea finds herself fighting for both soul and sanity. Many have tried to destroy the Emperor: a vengeful gladiator, an upright senator, a tormented soldier, a Vestal Virgin. But in the end, the life of the brilliant and paranoid Domitian lies in the hands of one woman: the Emperor's mistress.

I have a deep love affair with ancient rome. Maybe it has something to do with my name, but ever since I had the chance to study Latin in high school, I have felt a connection to the long past civilization. So when I saw this book, I was intrigued. Mistress of Rome huh? And the cover? So appealing.

So I bought it. It sat in my TBR pile for awhile but I eventually picked it up. The didn't put it down for the next 48 hrs.

Thea is our main heroine. She is not a Jewish slave brought to cater to the whims of the patricians in Rome. We follow her story as she becomes involved with Arius, the reluctant but awesomely good gladiator.

And that is pretty much all I am going to tell you for a summary. Because I knew close to nothing about what was going to happen next and loved when I was hit over the head with a plot turn.

This book was really engaging. It took me back into a time where people watched people die for entertainment. Where there was barely a such thing as childhood, let alone "young adulthood". Quinn really weaves the details of everyday life together in such a way that it is easy to imagine. The characters are engaging and believable and she actually throws in some real historical figures into the mix.

While there are more to this Rome series, this book stands well on its own. In fact if I never picked up the next two (which I probably will eventually) I would be happy with the feeling that Mistress of Rome left with me.

So if you enjoy Rome and good historical fiction with a good balance of romance, adventure, drama and your healthy dose of crazy, give this book a try!

4.5 stars for me :)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday -- FREEBIE week!

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.

This Top Ten Tuesday it's a freebie -- use this week to write a top ten list about ANYTHING in literature. Maybe you have a more specific list you want to do (Top Ten Dystopians, Top Ten Creatures in Paranormal Lit, Top Ten Classics, etc) or something completely your own?

Check here for future topics!

I decided that my (Jamie's) list is going to be:

Top Ten Books That Intensify The Travel Bug In Me

1. Amy & Roger's Epic Detour -- I honestly was starting to plan out my own epic roadtrip while reading this. I'm always the type who wants to go explore faraway lands but this book made me realize all the fun and awesome sites to be seen right in my own country!

2. anything Bill Bryson - if you like good travelogues...Bill Bryson is your man!

3. Eat, Pray, Love -  I know a lot of people hated this one but the descriptions made me salivate. Or maybe it was the food in the Italy section? Gross either way.

4.  French Milk -- This was SUCH an interesting read. It's a graphic novel about a girl and her mom's extended vacation in Paris. It seriously made me want to go back. Again with the food...lots of food descriptions. Food and travel just go hand and hand so well!

5.  Travels With Charley -- This one was another one that REALLY made me want to travel all over the US and see all the amazing places there are right here. Great travelogue!

6. Anna and the French Kiss - This book had me practically dying to get back to Paris. All of the places to be explored. This one made me think of how the city just romanced me to death as opposed to French Milk (above) which just made me want to eat a lot and live there.

7. 360 Degrees Longitude - This one was epic! A husband and wife traveling all around with their two children --- and biking a lot of the way! They went to sooo many places and I just honestly couldn't soak it all in. I learned so much and really felt like armchair traveling.

8. On The Road - Seriously I loved this book but I know lots of people hated it. I loved the meandering plot and just how it evoked that feeling of being on the road.

9. Memoirs of A Geisha -- This book has made me want to explore Japan (and China!) so bad in my life. I just really got a sense of the surroundings and wanted to go explore myself.

Well, only got 9 for today but those are some of the books I've read that really intensify that travel bug in me. It happens a lot to me in travelogues (obvi) and fiction that really has lush descriptions of amazing places.

Can't wait to see all your diverse lists today!!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Heather reviews Greyhound by Steffan Piper

GreyhoundBook/Author: Greyhound by Steffan Piper
Publisher/Year: AmazonEncore, 2010
Where I got this: bought from Amazon
Why I read it: I love road trip stories and I heard this was a good one.
Rating: 4 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Ushered out from his Stockton, California home by his emotionally detached mother and her latest boyfriend, twelve-year-old Sebastien Ranes must fend for himself and travel two thousand miles across the country. He is on his way to live with his grandmother and sister in Pennsylvania. Along the way, he will learn that sometimes caring, guidance and understanding can come from some unlikely people.
Marcus, a fellow bus passenger, is a man who has been neglected more by society than his family. As a young black ex-con, he is not the epitome of the person most would pick as a chaperone for their child's cross country trip. Yet rather than be held apart by their differences, Marcus and Sebastien are drawn together by the things that make us all alike.
Along the way, he acts as both guide and protector, as Virgil was to Dante and Jim to Huck Finn. Imparting his own style of wisdom, he shows Sebastien that, despite the darker parts of the human condition, people can and do care for one another. This is a modern day journey not just from one house to another. This is a journey taken by a young boy into manhood, and by the reader into his world. Like every trip, there are many stops along the way. But this journey differs in the way young Sebastien arrives at his destination. Greyhound is the story of this journey.

My thoughts: I love reading about cross country road trips so when I heard about Greyhound, I was definitely interested in giving it a try. Then when I saw the book design featured an old cassette tape, I just knew I was going to love this. Sebastien Ranes was such a loveable leading character which made it all the more enjoyable to read his story. A day before his 12th birthday, his mother puts him on a bus to travel from California to Pennsylvania all by himself. Throughout the four days of his trip, Sebastien encounters more excitement and drama than many people do in a lifetime and also manages to do a lot of growing up in such a short amount of time.

Along the way, he befriends the ex-con Marcus, who takes Sebastien under his wing for the remainder of the trip and actually saves his life at one point. The adventures these two men have kept me on the edge of my seat and had me laughing out loud quite a few times. They may have been an unlikely pair but I thought the friendship they developed was so cute. I admired the way Marcus looked after Sebastien and let him in on some of life's little secrets. It was touching and sad thinking that this was the most genuine friendship Sebastien had ever had. For someone who came from such terrible parents, he was amazingly level headed and curious. If Sebastien's story had continued, I could definitely see him doing some wonderful things with his life.

In Greyhound, Piper did a great job of eliciting emotion from the reader. One minute I was so angry about the way Sebastien's mother treated him, the next I was disgusted by the creepy guy in the suit and then right after that I was oohing and ahhing at how adorable Sebastien was. I felt as though I was occupying the third seat in the back of that bus, right next to Sebastien and Marcus. I found myself very protective of him as well. Anytime there was a hint of danger, my senses were heightened, like I knew something bad was coming but I had the ability to keep him safe.

This was a nice change of pace from what I've been reading lately and I would highly recommend it to anyone who needs a quick fix for their wanderlust!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Jessi Reviews "Plain Kate"

Title/Author: Plain Kate by Erin Bow
Publisher/Year: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2010
How I Got This: I won it a while ago from Adriana at Loves to Read!
Why I Read It: This had been on my to-read list from the first I heard of it--it sounded so good (and it was)!
Rating: 5 Stars 

Synopsis (from Goodreads): Plain Kate lives in a world of superstitions and curses, where a song can heal a wound and a shadow can work deep magic. As the wood-carver's daughter, Kate held a carving knife before a spoon, and her wooden talismans are so fine that some even call her “witch-blade”: a dangerous nickname in a country where witches are hunted and burned in the square. 

For Kate and her village have fallen on hard times. Kate’s father has died, leaving her alone in the world. And a mysterious fog now covers the countryside, ruining crops and spreading fear of hunger and sickness. The townspeople are looking for someone to blame, and their eyes have fallen on Kate. 

Enter Linay, a stranger with a proposition: In exchange for her shadow, he’ll give Kate the means to escape the angry town, and what’s more, he’ll grant her heart’s wish. It’s a chance for her to start over, to find a home, a family, a place to belong. But Kate soon realizes she can't live shadowless forever -- and that Linay's designs are darker than she ever dreamed.


Okay, so I'm forewarning you all right now--this is totally going to be one of those reviews that rambles and babbles on because there are simply not enough words to convey the love I have for this book.

I remember seeing Plain Kate floating around the blogosphere last year and absolutely itching to read it. I didn't know too much about this book going into it, but looking back, I'm glad I didn't. I had no preconceived ideas about what to expect, except that this was a good book.

I'm going to come right out and say that this is definitely a book for those who love fairy tales and fairy tale retellings. While not a fairy tale or a retelling itself, it's got that dark edginess to it that all of the good fairy tales have. My heart wrenched for Kate throughout this one--from the very beginning to the very end. And yes, the ending made me cry. Oh, the tears! Kate just can't catch a break and she's such an awesome heroine. I was pulling for her the whole time, but it was like obstacle after obstacle kept getting in her way.

I loved basically everything about this book. Erin Bow's style is so fitting for this story. Her writing is simple to the point where, at first, I almost felt like I was reading a middle grade novel. But every so often, a description would just take my breath away--she is one of those authors with ways of describing something that you would have never thought to describe that way. The style fits so perfectly with the setting, too. She never really comes out and says where this is taking place (I mean, there are town names, but I'm assuming they're fictitious). It felt very eastern European to me. So the way Ms. Bow spun her tale made it sound like a fairy tale from the old country. It was awesome. Not to mention, as you read, it's fairly obvious that this was set in the past at some point when people still believed in the "evils of witchcraft" and burning witches at the stake. It made this story seem more believable. I loved the descriptions of the towns and the markets and the countryside and the forests. I loved the concept of the Roamers--this story's version of a band of gypsies. As I mentioned before, Kate was an a-w-e-s-o-m-e protagonist. She's a strong female character, first off. But she also is not without flaws. Yay for realistic characters! Taggle--oh how I love thee, let me count the ways. I've always had a thing for animal characters...especially those that can talk. I loved how snarky he was and how he was so obsessed with food. I felt like my own cat had come to life. Linay was a great antagonist. I still haven't fully decided if I thought he was evil or just guided down the wrong path for the right reasons, and those are my favorite kind of "villians"--the ones you can't help but sympathize with. Even the minor characters like Daj and Stivo and Drina--I had such clear pictures and impressions of them in my mind.

Again, I apologize for the gushing, but I can't get over how much I loved this. I'm kinda bummed that this is a standalone novel only because I loved it so much. I'll be anxiously awaiting whatever Erin Bow writes next!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Paula Reviews The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald

The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald
Published: 2010 Random House
How I Got It: Received it via TLC Book Tour
My Rating: 3 Stars

The Irresistible Henry House was not actually all that irresistible. It wasn’t a bad book, but it wasn’t particularly great either. Thankfully I read it fairly quickly.

The premise of the book was very interesting and if it had been executed well it would have been fantastic. Henry House (known later as Henry Gaines) was an orphan who was used as a “practice baby” in a home economics class to help women in the 1940s learn how to become proper mothers. Henry was taken care by seven different women over the first two years of his life. He was later adopted by Martha the woman in charge of the practice house, who fell in love with him and did not want to give him back to the orphanage. This led to him growing up in the practice house around even more practice mothers, and left him with an inability to love anyone properly.

The thing that was not done well with this book was the characters. The only characters that were decent people were Mary Jane, Henry’s lifelong friend, and Charlie and Karen, two of Henry’s high school teachers. Frankly, Henry was a jerk. He was good looking and got every girl he could want and was often dating multiple girls at a time and the second any admitted to having feelings for him he dumped them. The point that was stressed throughout the book was that because he had so many mothers as a baby he was incapable of loving, so he never wanted to choose. Instead he became a class A ****. Additionally: Martha, his birth mother Betty, and his grandfather were all awful. Martha lied to him and was obsessively protective of him. Betty abandoned him as a baby then came back and wanted him back only to abandon him again and his grandfather wanted nothing to do with him. No one in this book is redeemable. Except poor Mary Jane who kept getting over-looked by Henry.

Also, the end of the book got preachy, which is weird considering no one in this book has any right to feel moral. I don’t want to get political, but the end felt like an anti-abortion message, which was not what I expected or desired.

This book could have been great, but it fell flat for me. Read this if you want a quick read where you can sense a good book trying to emerge.

Julia Reviews What Language Is + Giveaway

Title/Author: What Language Is (And What It Isn’t and What It Could Be by John McWhorter
Publisher/Year Published: Gotham (August 4, 2011)
How I got this book: This book was provided to me for review from the publisher through TLC Book Tours
Why I read this book: If you've been here awhile, I love language books.
Rating: 3.5 stars

If you are wondering what this book is about, all you really have to do is look at the title. This books is about What Language Is, What it isn't and .. well how it got that way. Or at least an interesting look at how it got that way.

McWhorter takes a look at language (not just English though that is the prime example) and exploits each language's idiosyncrasies. I really enjoyed how the book was structured to look at different aspects through the use of the word "idiom" So throughout the book you get to see how language is ingrown, dissheveled, intricate, oral and mixed.

He delves into to the detail of each, give nice visual examples (yay!) to help guide through the strange twisted path that languages take to get where they are now. Sometimes it can be a little rough to follow in a my cousin's sister-in-law's mother's aunt sort of way, but I cant really falt him too much for that. Because that is how langauges are.

I particularly enjoyed to comparisons to Mandarin (a laguage I studied as an adult and thus have read a good deal about) and the disshevled section. The examples were gripping for me.

The thing is, I am not a linguist. I just enjoy casually learning about language. If in any part of this book that joy of learning was overshaddowed (it happened a few, but not too many times) I just skipped ahead. It still worked and it was still an enjoyable book.

Will you like this book? Well, I have a question for you. Do you enjoy origins of laguages? Are you curious to read more about why its finger with a hard g and singer without? Then I would say you should give this book a go. It is interesting and I learned a lot without it being too textbooky.

I am also allowed to give away one copy of What Language Is (US and Canada Only). All you have to do is enter here and I will chose the winner in one week's time.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for giving me the chance to read this book.
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