Friday, April 30, 2010

Review: Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos

Belong to Me: A NovelTitle: Belong to Me

Author: Marisa de los Santos

Pages: 388

Source: Library

Rating: 6/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

First Sentence: "My fall from suburban grace, or, more accurately, my failure to achieve the merest molehill of suburban grace from which to fall, began with a dinner party and a perfectly innocent, modestly clever, and only fairly quirky remark about Armand Assante."

Summary (From book flap):

A devoted city dweller, Cornelia Brown surprised no one more than herself when she was gripped by the sudden, inescapable desire to leave urban life behind and head for an idyllic suburb. Though she knows she and her beloved husband, Teo, have made the right move, she approaches her new life with trepidation and struggles to forge friendships in her new home. Cornelia's mettle is quickly tested by judgmental neighbor Piper Truitt. Perfectly manicured, impeccably dressed, and possessing impossible standards, Piper is the embodiment of everything Cornelia feared she would find in suburbia. A saving grace soon appears in the form of Lake. Over a shared love of literature and old movies, Cornelia develops an instant bond with this warm yet elusive woman who has also recently arrived in town, ostensibly to send her perceptive and brilliant son, Dev, to a school for the gifted.

My Two Cents:

I go pretty back-and-forth as to whether or not I liked this book. Sometimes, I think I liked it well enough to give a fully positive review. Other times, I think there only were a few pieces of the whole I liked. This book came at a somewhat difficult time for me personally, so there was a lot in here, especially regarding Cornelia, that I just would have preferred not to have to read about.

De los Santos' writing is solid, but it's nothing particularly special. She's straightforward enough that you don't have to figure out what she's trying to say, but she does possess enough wit that you can laugh out loud occasionally.

My favorite character was, without a doubt, Dev. I wasn't quite as alienated from my peers as he was, but I still identified a lot with him. I wanted everything to turn out well for him, and, thankfully, it did in the end. My one issue is (And this goes for a lot of authors) that writing him as a precocious, smart kid is almost a cop-out to avoid having to write anything "teenagerish." Sure, Dev's got some teen angst (Although, unless related to Clare, it's not typical teen angst) that is dealt with well, but he reads much more like an adult than a teen. Not a big deal.

I was never quite sure how I felt about Cornelia. For the supposedly central character, I was ambivalent toward her at best. She just didn't have that much life or spark to her. She was kind of boring. I don't know if that was my own personal life creeping into my reading of the things she deals with or not, but I just wasn't fond of her.

I know a lot of people have really liked this book and de los Santos' other works, but this just didn't stand out for me as anything spectacular.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Review: The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

The Sugar Queen (Random House Reader's Circle)Title: The Sugar Queen

Author: Sarah Addison Allen

Pages: 276

Source: Personal library

Rating: 9/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

First Sentence: "When Josey woke up and saw the feathery frost on her windowpane, she smiled."

Summary (From back of book):

Josey Cirrini is sure of three things: winter is her favorite season, she's a sorry excuse for a Southern belle, and sweets are best eaten in the privacy of her closet. For while Josey has settled into an uneventful life in her mother's house, her one consolation is the stockpile of sugary treats and paperback romances she escapes to each night.... Until she finds her closet harboring Della Lee Baker, a local waitress who is one part nemesis -- and two parts fairy godmother. With Della Lee's tough love, Josey's narrow existence quickly expands. She even bonds with Chloe Finley, a young woman who is hounded by books that inexplicably appear when she needs them -- and who has a close connection with Josey's long-time crush. Soon Josey is living in a world where the color red has startling powers, and passion can make eggs fry in their cartons. And that's just for starters.

My Two Cents:

This was yet another home-run hit from Sarah Addison Allen. Her books are always sweet little stories (With some underlying darkness) that have some magic thrown in. I didn't like this one quite as well as I liked The Girl Who Chased the Moon, but it's pretty close up there as my favorite of her books.

Josey is a character with whom a lot of people can identify. She's somewhat overweight (Although we're never really sure if that's true or if it's just her perception of herself); she's unhappy in the life she leads, but she stays put out of a sense of obligation; she's got big dreams that she allows herself to think of only in the privacy of her own room. She's meek, especially when face-to-face with her mother, but she's got a little bit of sass that shows itself when necessary. I really liked her as a character.

Della Lee was also another great character. She's so out there that you can almost imagine her as one of those off-beat waitresses who works at greasy spoon diners. The darkest storyline in the book surrounds her, but it is so secondary to the rest of the story that the darkness doesn't intrude. I liked that Allen was able to put something a little more sinister into the book without it overpowering the rest of the story.

As always, Allen peoples her book with a host of other great, memorable characters. If I were to talk about each and every one of them, this review would be at least half as long as the book. Suffice it to say that you will not want for a likeable, fun character when reading this book.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Review: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

We Need to Talk About Kevin: A Novel (P.S.)Title: We Need to Talk About Kevin

Author: Lionel Shriver

Pages: 400

Source: Interlibrary loan

Rating: 8/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

First Sentence: "I'm unsure why one trifling incident this afternoon has moved me to write to you."

Summary (From book flap):

That neither nature nor nurture bears exclusive responsibility for a child's character is self-evident. But generalizations about genes are likely to provide cold comfort if it's your own child who just opened fire on his fellow algebra students and whose class photograph -- with its unseemly grin -- is shown on the evening news coast-to-coast.

If the question of who's to blame for teenage atrocity intrigues news-watching voyeurs, it tortures our narrator, Eva Khatchadourian. Two years before the opening of the novel, her son, Kevin, murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker, and the much-beloved teacher who had tried to befriend him. Because his sixteenth birthday arrived two days after the killings, he received a lenient sentence and is currently in a prison for young offenders in upstate New York.

In relating the story of Kevin's upbringing, Eva addresses her estranged husband, Frank, through a series of startlingly direct letters. Fearing that her own shortcomings may have shaped what her son became, she confesses to a deep, long-standing ambivalence about both motherhood in general -- and Kevin in particular. How much is her fault?

My Two Cents:

I really had to take some time away from this book (at least two weeks) to figure out my thoughts on it. As it is, I have a totally different opinion of roughly the first half of the book than I do about the last half.

In the first half, I nearly stopped reading several times. I could not stand Eva for anything. She hated being a mother and it showed in how she treated Kevin, and I just wanted to scream at her, "Then why did you have a child??" I absolutely hated her, and I really hated the book at that point. Shriver's writing also got to me in the first half, as it seemed as if Eva was just using all the clever turns of phrase on thousand-dollar words in the book just to show how intelligent she was.

The second half, though, I started to read quickly to find out what happened. I knew that Eva's story basically ended up with Kevin's massacre of his classmates, but I wanted to find out if there was any one reason or if it just was part of his make-up. I wouldn't say that I enjoyed the book, or that I liked Eva any more, it's just that the second half was more compelling. The "big revelation" at the end wasn't such a big revelation -- I saw that one coming from the very beginning.

I think a lot of the problem that I had with this book is that Eva is a very unreliable narrator. We know her views of Kevin were skewed pretty much from the day she found out she was pregnant, so we don't really know if he is as evil as she made him out to be all this time. Sure, he killed his classmates, but was he really that flat and unemotional from the time he was a child?

Aside from that, though, I thought this was a very interesting look at the school-shooter phenomenon that seemed to be all over the news in the late-1990s. Whenever a student opens fire at school, the first question everyone always asks is, "Why?" In Kevin's case, as probably in others, there seems to be no real answer.

Monday, April 26, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?: Apri 26, 2010

Hosted by Sheila at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books, It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly bookish meme whereby bloggers share their reading for the past week.


This week, I read:

Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos

The Wind Done Gone by Alice Randall

The Flesh Statue by U.L. Harper

My Ridiculous, Romantic Obsessions by Becca Wilhite

This week, I reviewed:

Angelology by Danielle Trussoni

The Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens

Fang (Maximum Ride #6) by James Patterson

The Wind Done Gone by Alice Randall

This week, I'm reading:

Sherlock Holmes: Selected Stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Elf of Luxembourg by Tom Weston

This week, I hope to begin reading:

This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This One Is Mine by Maria Semple

Burned (House of Night Boook 7) by P.C. and Kristin Cast

What are you reading this week?

Review: The Wind Done Gone by Alice Randall

The Wind Done Gone: A Novel (Hardcover)Title: The Wind Done Gone

Author: Alice Randall

Pages: 208

Source: Interlibrary loan

Rating: 4/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

First Sentence: "Today is the anniversary of my birth."

Summary (From book flap):

In a brilliant rejoinder and an inspired act of literary invention, Alice Randall explodes the world created in Margaret Mitchell's famous 1936 novel, the work that more than any other has defined our image of the antebellum South. Imagine simply that the black characters peopling that world were completely different, not egregious, one-dimensional stereotypes but fully alive, complex human beings. And then imagine, quite plausibly, that at the center of this world moves an illegitimate mulatto woman, and that this woman, Cynara, Cinnamon, or Cindy -- beautiful and brown -- gets to tell her story.

Cindy is born into a world in which she is unacknowledged by her plantation-owning father and passed over by her mother in favor of her white charges. Sold off like so much used furniture, she eventually makes her way back to Atlanta to take up with a prominent white businessman, only to leave him for an aspiring politician of her own color. Moving from the Deep South to the exhilarating freedom of Reconstruction Washington, with its thriving black citizenry of statesmen, professionals, and strivers of every persuasion, Cindy experiences firsthand the promise of the new era at its dizzying peak, just before it begins to slip away.

My Two Cents:

I understood what Randall was going for in this book, I really did, but I think it could have been accomplished another way. I know the characters in Gone With the Wind were incredibly flat and simplistic. I know we never actually saw the evil side of slavery. I know, in real life, there were many illegitimate children born to slave mothers and white fathers. But the point of Gone With the Wind was not to show these things; it was to explore Scarlett and the changes to the Old South.

What I most disliked is that Randall imagined a completely different personality for Gerald O'Hara. Sure, imagining is an author's right and an author's job, but I guess I just didn't at all see the need to make him into one of those plantation owners who would have an affair with a slave and not recognize an illegitimate child. Why does he need to be seen as the worst kind of slave owner? In my mind, he doesn't. I just was not a fan of her imagining that history for Gerald.

Cynara is a fairly interesting character, but I didn't even like her. She's more well-educated than a lot of former slaves, so she's able to put pen to paper and form a solid story. She has an interesting history, and an interesting present. I just didn't like her. I can't exactly put a finger on why; I just didn't.

A lot of people really liked this book and say that the way it re-imagines the world Margaret Mitchell created is provocative, and I can see where people would like this book. It just was not a book I'd ever read again, and it was a struggle for me to finish.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Review: Fang (Maximum Ride #6) by James Patterson

Fang: A Maximum Ride NovelTitle: Fang (Maximum Ride #6)

Author: James Patterson

Pages: 309

Source: The library where I work

Rating: 7/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

First Sentence: "I'm a girl of extremes."

Summary (From book flap):

Fang will be the first to die.

Maximum Ride is used to living desperately on the run from evil forces sabotaging her quest to save the world -- but nothing has ever come as close to destroying her as this horrifying prophetic message. Fang is Max's best friend, her soul mate, her partner in the leadership of her flock of winged children. A life without Fang is a life unimaginable.

But there will be another...

When a newly created winged boy, the magnificent Dylan, is introduced into the flock, their world is upended yet again. Raised in a lab like the others, Dylan exists for only one reason: he was designed to be Max's perfect other half.

To replace Fang

Thus unfolds the battle of perfection versus passion that terrifies, twists, and turns ... and meanwhile, THE APOCALYPSE IS COMING.

My Two Cents:

I am not, as you know, a James Patterson fan, but I like his young adult series. I've been waiting for this book since reading the last in the Maximum Ride series last year.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about Fang, though. It's got all the snap and snark of the first five books, a quality that I loved, but there just doesn't seem to be that much going on here. There's all kinds of action and intrigue in the first five books, and that's just not really present here. Sure, things happen, but it just isn't enough, I guess.

I also liked that this section of the series shied away from the "global-warming-is-bad-let's-all-save-the-world" bent the last couple books of the series have been taking. That direction was getting a little old, so I'm glad that we didn't get beaten over the head by the Save the World Stick this time.

Overall, I liked the book, mostly because good points of the rest of the series were present, but it's definitely not my favorite.

Unless you've read the previous five books in the series (and they're really quick reads), I wouldn't recommend giving this one a go.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Short Review: The Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens

The Cricket on the Hearth: A Fairy Tale of HomeTitle: The Cricket on the Hearth

Author: Charles Dickens

Pages: 182

Source: Personal library

Rating: 8/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

First Sentence: "The kettle began it!"

Summary (From Amazon):

"The Cricket on the Hearth" is Charles Dickens 1845 novella, which marks the third of five Christmas books written by the author between 1843 and 1847. It is the story of John Peerybingle and his family who are visited by a guardian angel in the form of a cricket who is constantly chirping on their hearth.

My Two Cents:

There's really not too much to say about this one except it's a Charles Dickens, so the writing is superb as always.


I really liked John Peerybingle as a character. He's a hard worker who provides for his family. He loves his wife even though she seems to be lying to him. John is also very kind to others, even the curmudgeonly Tackleton.

If you're looking for a nice little fairy tale-type story, give this one a go.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Review: Angelology by Danielle Trussoni

Angelology: A NovelTitle: Angelology

Author: Danielle Trussoni

Pages: 809 (Large print edition)

Source: Library

Rating: 10/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

First Sentence: "The angelologists examined the body."

Summary (From back of book):

Sister Evangeline was just a girl when her father entrusted her to the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in upstate New York. Now, at twenty-three, her discovery of a 1943 letter from the famous philanthropist Abigail Rockefeller to the late mother superior of the Saint Rose Convent plunges Evangeline into a secret history that stretches back a thousand years: an ancient conflict between the Society of Angelologists and the monstrously beautiful descendants of angels and humans, the Nephilim.

My Two Cents:

I love books in which a whole new world is created, but that world makes sense when placed within our own. Trussoni's world of angels and angelologists is so rich and historied, and so rooted in our real history, that I easily could picture angels walking among us as the social elite.

Trussoni creates an incredible history, stretching all the way back to the fall of the angels from heaven and into present times, complete with scholars of angelology, legends, research journals and personal letters. I haven't done a lot of research as to how Trussoni wrote this book, but she either did a whole lot of theological research or she has one incredible imagination -- I'm guessing it's a combination of both. I was stunned by the depth of the world which Trussoni created, a world which made integral parts of artistic holdings of the Rockefeller family. It's really hard to explain without giving a lot away, but just suffice it to say that Trussoni's world will amaze you.

I really liked Evangeline as a character. She was contemplative and steadfast, so she made a lot of sense as a nun, but she also had enough modern characteristics to make her a little rebellious. (Side note: I grew up Catholic, so I know not all nuns are meek and mild. I'm just saying she was a good mix of what we think of as "nuns" and someone who would pursue this mystery.)

I'd love to say more about this book, but I'm afraid that anything else I say will ruin the experience for others who plan to read it. If you're even considering reading this book, go for it. This is a great book!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Teaser Tuesday: April 20, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
The Wind Done Gone: A Novel (Hardcover)The lift of a hat, the dip of his back -- those gestures would remain as they have been, but the bitter curve of his lip holding back a laugh that salutes all that is strange and lacking in harmony in me, in him, in us, would vanish. That curve in his lips, that spark in his eye of -- truth -- yes truth, there is so much in me strange and discordant. - The Wind Done Gone by Alice Randall, p. 163

Monday, April 19, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?: April 19, 2010

Hosted by Sheila at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books, It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly bookish meme whereby bloggers share their reading for the past week.

This week, I read:

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

This week, I reviewed (Click on the title to read my review):

No Hope for Gomez! by Graham Parke

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

This week, I am reading:

Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos

Sherlock Holmes: Selected Stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Flesh Statue by U.L. Harper

This week, I hope to begin reading:

The Wind Done Gone by Alice Randall

This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Elf of Luxembourg by Tom Weston

What are you reading this week?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Review: Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Gone with the WindTitle: Gone With the Wind

Author: Margaret Mitchell


Pages: 862

Source: Personal library

Rating: 8/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

First Sentence: "Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were."

Note: I'm not going to post a summary for this because I couldn't find one online to my liking, and any summary I would write would likely be as long as the book!

My Two Cents:

I spent so long reading this book, I've probably thought more about what I'll say about it than I have with any other review I've written.

I really enjoyed this book. A lot. I've always had a fondness for the Civil War era (I think it's all the really fancy clothes), and Mitchell did a really great job of putting the reader smack in the middle of the times, both the good and bad parts. She showed us how many Southern plantation families lived a life of luxury before the war and even well past the first battle, and how much life during all the hard times was a struggle for them. Everything was described in detail -- The land, the houses, the furniture, the clothing, the food -- and each item was an integral part in making the book as whole a picture of the South as it could be.

You can't review Gone With the Wind without talking about Scarlett O'Hara (Hamilton/Kennedy/Butler). I was so back-and-forth on whether or not I liked Scarlett. Sometimes, I loved her to death, such as when she sucked up her pain and suffering and farmed right along with the slaves because the family needed food. Other times, such as when she entered into both of her ill-advised marriages, I couldn't stand her. I guess that's the hallmark of a well-rounded, real character. We don't always like people all the time; things people do and say make us more or less fond of them depending on a lot of factors. So, while I wasn't too fond of Scarlett more than I liked her, overall I thought she was a fabulous protagonist and I really liked her character.

Now, on to Rhett Butler. If characters could pop right off the page (and if I weren't currently married -- Kidding!), I would be instantly drawn to Rhett. He's got just enough mystery surrounding him and the rumors of a salacious past to make him incredibly interesting. I knew, from the moment we first met him at the Wilkes' barbecue, that there was more to him than meets the eye. He showed little hints of his "goodness" here and there throughout the book, but it wasn't until much, much later that we see how good a heart he really has. I thought that Scarlett was horrible to treat him the way that she did (This was definitely one of those times when I didn't like her), and the ending of the book just absolutely ripped out my heart.

I also want to talk about two other characters, although there are dozens more about whom I could write. Ashley and Melanie Wilkes are about as opposite on ends of the spectrum as can be, in my mind. They're both genuinely very good people, but they are so, so different. Melanie is incredibly kind-hearted and cares a great deal about people. She loves Scarlett even though Scarlett is not generally nice to her. I adored Melanie's character and wanted to see more of her. Ashley, on the other hand, is the most boring person I could ever imagine. If people were activities, he'd be watching paint dry. Or watching professional golf. Boring to the max. I don't understand what Scarlett saw in him, but I guess it was the idea of Ashley Wilkes that she clung to, not the real man.

A lot of people talk about the negative portrayals of the African-Americans and the Northerners in the book. While I saw where a lot of the controversy comes from, I think that you can easily use the Huck Finn defense on this one: The attitudes Mitchell presents with regards to those two groups were the pervasive attitudes in the South at that time, and the views Southerners held of African-Americans and Northerners make perfect sense when viewed that way.

I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who likes epic stories, interesting characters and the Civil War era.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Look at my shameless self-promotion!

OK, so it's not really "shameless," but it is self-promotion!

Kristen over at Bookworming in the 21st Century, a fellow Illinois librarian (Go Illinois librarians, where your legislators cut your budgets like nowhere else in the country!), is hosting a great week of guest posts from blogger-librarians in honor of National Library Week. Today, I'm featured, talking about the budgetary struggles of my small library.

To check it out (And, if you leave a comment, you get entered into a contest! Bonus!), click here.

Review: Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

Every Last One: A NovelTitle: Every Last One

Author: Anna Quindlen

Pages: 295

Source: Publisher

Rating: 9/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

First Sentence: "This is my life: The alarm goes off at five-thirty with the murmuring of a public-radio announcer, telling me that there has been a coup in Chad, a tornado in Texas."

Summary (From back of book):

Mary Beth Latham is first and foremost a mother whose three teenage children come first, before her career as a landscape gardener or even her life as the wife of a doctor. Caring for her family and preserving their everyday life is paramount. And so when one of her sons, Max, becomes depressed, Mary Beth becomes focused on him, only to be blindsided by a shocking act of violence. What happens afterward is a testament to the power of a woman's love and determination and to the invisible line of hope and healing that connects one human being to another.

Ultimately, as rendered in Anna Quindlen's mesmerizing prose, Every Last One is a novel about facing every last one of the things we fear most, about finding ways to navigate a road we never intended to travel, about living a life we never dreamed we'd have to live but must be brave enough to try.

My Two Cents:

This was my first Anna Quindlen novel, but it certainly won't be my last. Once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down and managed to finish more than half the book in one morning.

Mary Beth is the kind of mother that every kid wants to have, but pretends not to like having. She cares deeply about her children and wants to make sure that their lives are on an even keel. She puts all her focus on them, making dinners, shuttling to practices and getting to know their friends, and sometimes she loses herself in her job as mother. I found that she was an incredibly believable character and my heart absolutely broke when the tragedy of the novel struck. Mary Beth, along with everyone else, was taken so by surprise by the event and had no idea how to carry on her life afterward, but she slowly manages to come back to life and put the broken pieces of herself back together.

Actually, there wasn't a character I didn't like or feel some sympathy for in this book, short of a few of the more peripheral characters. I loved all three of Mary Beth's kids, her husband Glen, the kids' friends, everyone. I don't usually find a novel that I liked so well in which I liked all of the characters. There's usually got to be some conflict between me and one of the characters (In other words, I have to not like someone) for me to be satisfied. But, with this book, I liked everyone.

Quindlen's narration style took a little adjusting to get used to at first, and I originally thought I wasn't going to like the book as a result. She presents Mary Beth's thoughts in a very straightforward, urgent manner. I usually like a little bit more flower in my prose, but it worked well for this book and the quick-fire pace of the narration seemed to slow down a little as the ball got rolling.

This is a great book for those who like women's fiction and strong female characters.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Review and Blog Tour: No Hope for Gomez!

No Hope for Gomez!Title: No Hope for Gomez!

Author: Graham Parke

Pages: 188

Source: Pump Up Your Book Promotion

Rating: 8/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

First Sentence: "Blog entry: Woke up fresh and early but still didn't make it to work in time."

Summary (From back of book):

It's the age-old tale:

Boy meets girl
Boy stalks girl
Girl already has stalker
Boy becomes her stalker-stalker

We've seen it all before, many times, but this time it's different. If only slightly.

When Gomez Porter becomes a test subject in an experimental drug trial, he is asked to keep track of any strange experiences through a Blog. What Gomez isn't ready for, is so many of his experiences suddenly seeming strange; the antiques dealer trying to buy his old tax papers, his neighbor boiling salamanders on his balcony at midnight, the super sexy lab assistant who falls for him but is unable to express herself in terms outside the realm of science.

But when one of the trial participants turns up dead and another goes missing, Gomez begins to fear for his life. No longer sure who he can trust and which of his experiences are real and which merely drug induced illusions, he decides it's time to go underground and work out a devious plan.

My Two Cents:

When I first opened the book, I wasn't so sure what to expect, as it's written entirely in blog posts from the narrator, Gomez.  The concept sounded interesting, but also potentially really, really odd, so I was a little skeptical.

What I found was one of the most humorous books I've read in a while.

Gomez is one of those modern characters who are really popular in corporate fiction -- The guys disenchanted with the way they need to make their money, so they try to do as little as possible during the day. He owns an antique shop that was passed down to him, but he knows and cares nothing for antiques, and customers seem to just annoy him. A new neighbor moves in downstairs, and the man pushes a manuscript for a book onto Gomez. Gomez does everything he can think of to tell the man he hates his book, from boiling salamanders on his balcony to running away from the neighbor, but he doesn't get the hint.

The only thing that bothered me at all about the book was, at one point, the narrative jumps forward a few weeks. Since we're reading this entire book through a series of blog posts, we mainly get a few entries in a single day, narrating a lot of minutiae. But, when it comes to showing the passage of a few weeks, we get, "Over the next couple of weeks our relationship strengthened." Not exactly the most elegant way to show a time passage, but not a huge deal, either.

It's really difficult to describe or evaluate this book because it is just off-the-wall enough, so suffice it to say you just need to read it to believe it. I really liked it!

About the Author:

Graham Parke is responsible for a number of technical publications and has recently patented a self-folding map. He has been described as both a humanitarian and a pathological liar. Convincing evidence to support either allegation has yet to be produced.

No Hope for Gomez! is Graham’s fiction debut. You can visit his website at www.grahamparke.com.

Teaser Tuesday: April 13, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Here's my teaser:

We Need to Talk About Kevin: A Novel (P.S.)He didn't like to be seen needing it -- as if hunger were a sign of weakness. So I'd leave a sandwich where he was sure to find it, and walk away. - We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver, p. 163

Monday, April 12, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?: April 12, 2010

Hosted by Sheila at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books, It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly bookish meme whereby bloggers share their reading for the past week.

This week, I read:
Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

Angelology by Danielle Trussoni

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

This week, I reviewed (Click the title to read my review):

The Swimming Pool by Holly LeCraw

Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet by Stephanie Cowell

This week, I'm reading:

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Sherlock Holmes: Selected Stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Flesh Statue by U.L. Harper

This week, I hope to begin reading:

Belong to Me by Marisa de Los Santos

This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

My Ridiculous Romantic Obsessions by Becca Wilhite

What are you reading this week?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Dewey's 24-Hour Read-a-Thon: Wrap-Up Post (Under construction)

I promise I'll write a wrap-up post later today! I have a huge desire for a hamburger, so I'm making my husband take me out to lunch. I'll be back later, though!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Read-a-Thon Mini Challenge: Early Favorites

Hello, everyone! Welcome to hour 1,000,000 of the 24-Hour Read-a-Thon (Doesn't it seem like that long?)!

In this mini-challenge, I'm asking you to tell me about the first book you remember loving. I'm talking, soul-searing, blood-boiling, can't-get-enough-of-it love. This book doesn't have to be from your childhood but it can be.

Just write up a quick post telling me what the first book you absolutely loved was and why you loved it. If you want to include some stories about your history with this book, please do!

Riddle of BerlinWhen you're done, link back here and I'll choose one winner to receive a signed copy of The Riddle of Berlin by fellow book blogger Cym Lowell. Since I'm feeling all nice and generous, this contest is open to everyone, regardless of where you live (Although, I don't think I could afford shipping to the moon, so if you reside there, you're out of this one).







Here's the first book I loved:

The House That Had Enough: A Little Golden Book Interactive Story for Ages 3-7The House That Had Enough by P.E. King - This one came into my home when the Little Golden Books were incredibly popular. I had a ton of the LGBs -- The Poky Little Puppy, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, etc. -- and this was my absolute favorite.

I would make my parents and babysitters read this to me all the time. I just loved the story of a house that got so annoyed with the little girl who lived there treating it badly -- sticking thumbtacks into its walls, leaving her wet towels all over the floor -- that it just picked up and walked away. I know I still read this book from time to time when I was old enough to be reading chapter books.

So, tell me: What was the first book you loved??

Dewey's Read-a-Thon: Mid-Event Mini-Survey

I am getting so much less reading than I had hoped I would. I'm also getting much less mini-challenge participating and blog visiting done than I wanted to. Oh, well. I'll learn from this first Read-a-Thon experience and make some changes for next time!

Here's the mid-event survey:
 
1. What are you reading right now? The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
2. How many books have you read so far? Uh, one... Eek! And it was a book I was half finished with when the day started!
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? I'm looking forward to getting farther into Sugar Queen and getting some more done on Gone With the Wind.
4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day? I cleaned the house this week so I wouldn't have to today, but I've still not been getting as much reading done as I'd like.
5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? Some, but not a lot. In other words, I have no excuses not to read!
6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? How much other people are reading! Wow, I feel like a slacker!
7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? None at this moment!
8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? I would read more.
9. Are you getting tired yet? I was tired when I woke up this morning...
10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered? Uh, don't be like me?

Dewey's Read-a-Thon: Challenge 3

Hosted by Til We Read Again, this challenge asks you to nominate people in several categories. How fun!

Favorite Female Character in a book: Elizabeth Bennett (Is this too obvious? My brain's not yet working...)
Favorite Male Character in a book: Sam Gamgee in LotR
Favorite Side Kick in a book: Fang in the Maximum Ride series
Favorite Couple in a Book: Ron and Hermione
Favorite Book Series: Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia
Favorite Author: Shakespeare
Favorite Book Cover: Tough one, but I LOVE the cover of Fallen by Lauren Kate
Favorite Book of 2009: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

Dewey's Read-a-Thon: Challenge 1

Hosted by Miss Remmers' Review, here's Challenge 1:

In this challenge we would like you to write a post on your blogs about your kick off strategy.  What have you surrounded yourself with for these early hours of the challenge besides your books?  Is there a coffee thermos, lucky book mark, snacks, pillow....  We want to know how you have prepared so you do not have to leave your cozy reading space (by the way - we'd like to know what is too.... (are you still in bed, a chair, the couch.....)

At the moment, I've only got a bottle of water and a granola bar surrounding me. Oh, and I'm sitting in my office chair because I'm at work. Yes, you read that right. The cardinal sin of the Read-a-Thon has been committed, and it's only the beginning of hour three! I'm at work. Bah.

When I get home, however, I'll have plenty of water (I don't drink soda), whatever food I can scrounge from my fridge (I think I have some pasta salad and chicken tacos...), my couch, some pillows and my cat. You must have that reading companion who occasionally tries to pull off your glasses or eat your book. It's an essential accessory.

Wow, I'm a little loopy this morning! Anyway, that's what I've got around me right now. See you all later!

Dewey's 24-hour Read-a-Thon: Hours 1 & 2

Hello, everyone! I'm posting this a little late (Two hours late, to be exact) because I had to spend the first two hours of the Read-a-Thon getting ready for work and getting to work. But, since I'm here now, I can get going on the first two challenges! Yay!

Here's challenge 1, from the Dewey's blog:

Where are you reading from today?
3 facts about me …
How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?
Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?
If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, Any advice for people doing this for the first time?

1. I am reading from work (The library) and home in Illinois.

2. Three facts about me... 1) I like to sit outside and read whenever possible, and today looks as if it may cooperate! 2) I like to read more than I like to do pretty much anything else. 3) I haven't told my husband I'm participating in the Read-a-Thon (Don't know why!), but I will tell him if he wants me to help outside!

3. At the moment, I have 7 books in my TBR pile. I am in the midst of four of them and have the other three as backups.

4. I would really like to be able to spend at least half the Read-a-Thon reading. Since I've already wasted two hours, well, that may fly out the window. So, I'm hoping to finish at least three books. I'm easily distracted...

5. This is my first time! I'll take all the advice I can get!!


I'll be checking in every few hours (I hope) and commenting on other blogs. I'll probably be updating my Twitter feed more often than I will this blog, so check there (@michellesherman) for more!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Review: Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet by Stephanie Cowell

Claude & Camille: A Novel of MonetTitle: Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet

Author: Stephanie Cowell

Pages: 330

Source: Publisher

Rating: 7/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

First Sentence: "Dull late-afternoon light glittered on the hanging copper pots in the kitchen where the old painter sat with his wine, smoking a cigarette, a letter angrily crumpled on the table in front of him."

Summary (From the back of the book):

In his early twenties, Claude Monet arrives in Paris determined to make his fortune as an artist. Instead, he finds poverty and obscurity but also camaraderie in a group of similarly unknown painters -- Renoir, Pissarro, Degas, Bazille, Manet, and Cezanne -- who share his vision and passion. But the single-most influential person in his life is a charming and vivacious upper-class girl named Camille Doncieux, who rejects a life of privilege to be with him. He falls madly in love with Camille, and his first great success is a portrait of her in an exquisite green opera dress. The two manage to stay together through years of bitter opposition from their families, Claude's artistic failures, and wretched poverty, but adversity eventually takes its toll. Even as Monet begins to sell his work, his marriage to Camille descends into tragedy -- and Monet realizes that he has never completely known his true love and greatest muse.

My Two Cents:

I'm a big fan of not only books about real people (authors, artists, politicians, etc.), but also those which give a little (fictional) insight into the making of famous paintings. I love Susan Vreeland and Tracy Chevalier's work, so I decided to give this one a try.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book. I liked how Cowell showed the reader how much Monet struggled to become as well-known a painter as he was. I also liked that she showed the reader someone who, even according to the few accounts of her real life, had a huge impact on Monet's life and work. In her author's note, Cowell says there is not much written about Camille Doncieux, but she takes what little there is and runs with it.

For the most part, Cowell's writing is very readable, and I was able to see a lot of what she was describing. Her dialogue between the characters, however, was a little stilted at times. This isn't the biggest example of the dialogue (I really need to start putting Post-its on the pages or something), but this is a randomly chosen piece of dialogue that kind of made me raise my eyebrows:

"People died," she stammered. "I ran out when the city was burning. And it all seemed to burn. A boy died before me, shot down. I've not been very good in my life. The nuns raised me to be good, but I've not been. That bullet was perhaps meant for me, no him. I ran back here and waited for it. And it was all ashes from the burning, coming through the window, huge black things that settled everywhere." (p. 244-5 in the ARC edition - Finished copies may have different page numbers)

I also had a difficult time connecting to Monet as a character. I just didn't really feel one way or another about him, but that didn't really influence my reading of the novel, which is strange. I also didn't really connect with Camille that much, but I did feel as if she was more fleshed out and realistic than Monet was. I think I enjoyed all the more minor characters -- Bazille, Pissarro, Renoir -- that I was able to overlook the fact that I didn't really feel that much for the main characters.

If you enjoy fine art, or like reading fictionalized accounts of the lives of famous people, I think you would enjoy this book.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Review: The Swimming Pool by Holly LeCraw

The Swimming PoolTitle: The Swimming Pool

Author: Holly LeCraw

Pages: 307

Source: Publisher

Rating: 9/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

First Sentence: "Bodies, bodies."

Summary (From back of book):

Seven summers ago, Marcella Atkinson fell in love with Cecil McClatchey, a married father of two. But on the same night their romance abruptly ended, Cecil's wife was found murdered. The case was never solved, and Cecil died soon after, an uncharged suspect.

Now divorced and estranged from her only daughter, Marcella lives alone, mired in grief and guilt. Meanwhile, Cecil's grown son, Jed, returns to the Cape with his sister for the first time in years. When he finds a woman's bathing suit buried in a closet -- a relic, unbeknownst to him, of his father's affair -- he decides to confront Marcella on a hunch.

When, to their deep surprise, they fall into an affair of their own, passion temporarily masks their shared pain. But as we are left to believe on the last stunning pages, the betrayals of the past cannot be ignored and will have a ripple effect on these two families for years to come.

My Two Cents:

I agree with My Friend Amy when she says she wishes she hadn't read a synopsis of this book. I went into this book thinking it was going to be one thing, but was pretty surprised when it turned out to be a different book entirely. The synopsis almost reads like a mystery or thriller, even a romance, but it's much more than that. It is, I think, essentially a novel of relationships (Mostly parent-child relationships) and how misunderstandings can resonate for many years.

LeCraw's writing is superb. I was really surprised to learn that this is her first book. She's got an ear for language and she really can paint a picture, especially when describing the beach or a garden. Her ability to make you feel a character's mental state is excellent, too. I just couldn't stop reading the sections with Callie. They were like watching a train wreck -- Horrible to behold, but you want to know what happens.

Even though I really liked this book, I can't honestly say I liked any of the characters. I felt somewhat sorry for many of the characters, but I didn't really like them in that "Oh, I hope this one thing doesn't happen to this person because that'd really upset me" kind of way. I felt sorry for what was happening and what had happened to Callie, but I couldn't connect with her. There pretty much was nothing at all I liked about Toni or Anthony. Jed had some good qualities about him, such as his devotion to his family (Well, the living family members, at least), but his actions kind of creeped me out. The only character I could say I liked in any way, and even then her actions were none too honorable, was Marcella. I felt sorry for what she'd been through in life, and she seemed to want to have a decent relationship with Toni, but otherwise I just wasn't too fond of her.

I liked that this book dealt with some more sensitive subjects -- Pregnancy loss, postpartum depression -- without beating you over the head with them. If you're at all squeamish about sex or extramarital affairs, I wouldn't suggest reading this book.

Monday, April 5, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?: April 5, 2010





This week, I read:

Claude and Camille: A Novel of Monet by Stephanie Cowell


No Hope for Gomez! by Graham Parke

Fang (Maximum Ride #6) by James Patterson

This week, I reviewed (Click on the title to read my review):

Sea Glass by Anita Shreve 

Fallen by Lauren Kate 

This week, I'm reading:

Angelology by Danielle Trussoni

Sherlock Holmes: Selected Stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Vampyre Blood: Eight Pints of Trouble by George Earl Parker

This week, I hope to begin reading:

Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos

This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

What are you reading this week?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Review: Fallen by Lauren Kate

FallenTitle: Fallen

Author: Lauren Kate

Pages: 452

Source: The library where I work

Rating: 9/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

First Sentence: "Around midnight, her eyes at last took shape."

Summary (From book flap):

There's something achingly familiar about Daniel Grigori.

Mysterious and aloof, he captures Luce Price's attention from the moment she sees him on her first day at Sword & Cross boarding school in Savannah. He's the one bright spot in a place where cell phones are forbidden, the other students are screwups, and security cameras watch every move.

Except Daniel wants nothing to do with Luce -- he goes out of his way to make that very clear. But she can't let it go. Drawn to him like a moth to a flame, Luce has to find out what Daniel is so desperate to keep secret ... even if it kills her.

My Two Cents:

This book took me awhile to get into. Over the course of two weeks, I only read about 200 pages. I'd read a little, not really getting captured by the book, and then put it down for something else. But, I persevered because it was everywhere getting so much positive praise. I had to see if I would like it, too, or if this would be another case of The Postmistress syndrome.


Once I hit the 200-page mark, though, I couldn't put this book down.

I really liked Luce as a character. She was one of those girls that I could easily have seen myself being friends with in high school. She's smart, somewhat shy, and very confused about what's going on with her life. She knows something went wrong enough to land her in a reform school, but she doesn't know what and she's pretty sure she didn't cause it. I liked that she was a typical teenager with a somewhat rebellious streak (There's some teen drinking that goes on here), but she's very respectful and loving toward her parents. You don't see that sometimes in young adult fiction, and it's refreshing to see that. She's also a loyal friend, not only to her friend back home, but also to her new friends at Sword & Cross.

Kate's writing is really smooth and flows nicely. She's great at giving you a lot of the clues, but not revealing her hand too early. I knew what the big "secret" was going to be, mostly because I'd read some reviews and synopses, but it was still surprising to see how it all played out.

The concept behind this book is what I liked the best. It was paranormal without being too unbelievable. Sure, I'm not looking for any of the otherworldly creatures presented here to be knocking on my door anytime soon, but I could see it happening in some alternate reality. Make any sense?

Besides the slow start (And 200 pages is a really slow start), I overall enjoyed this book and can't wait to read the sequel.
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