Friday, May 28, 2010

Review: This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This Side of Paradise (Classic Reprint)Title: This Side of Paradise

Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald

Pages: 255

Source: Personal library

Rating: 10/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

First Sentence: "Amory Blaine inherited from his mother every trait, except the stray inexpressible few, that made him worth while."

Summary (From Goodreads):

In this remarkable achievement, F. Scott Fitzgerald displays his unparalleled wit and keen social insight in his portrayal of college life through the struggles and doubts of Amory Blaine, a self-proclaimed genius with a love of knowledge and a penchant for the romantic. As Amory journeys into adulthood and leaves the aristocratic egotism of his youth behind, he becomes painfully aware of his lost innocence and the new sense of responsibility and regret that has taken its place.


My Two Cents:

Oh, F. Scott Fitzgerald, you never disappoint me.

While this book is not as elegant or rich as my all-time-favorite The Great Gatsby (This was Fitzgerald's first book, after all, and it was written to impress Zelda), it still has a lot of the classic Fitzgerald trademarks which make his writing so fabulous. There's a lot of class and social criticism in here, especially when Amory is at Yale. Fitzgerald has a gift for making fun of those with whom he associated, and the jokes are still funny 90 years later.

I vacillated between liking and not liking Amory throughout the book, but I mostly thought he was a great character. He becomes much more likable as he begins to shed some of the pretensions of his youth and wealth. I couldn't wait to see what he did next, because he was always surprising me.

This book isn't for everyone, and it's not even for every fan of 1920s-era American literature. You have to be in the right mood to read this or else all the fun could be lost on you.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Review: This One Is Mine by Maria Semple

This One Is Mine: A NovelTitle: This One Is Mine

Author: Maria Semple

Pages: 289

Source: Publisher

Rating: 4/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

First Sentence: "David stood at the sink, a pine forest to his left, the Pacific Ocean to his right, and cursed the morning sun."

Summary (From back of book):

Violet Parry has a picture-perfect life: a beautiful house, a successful husband, a darling daughter. Violet can speak French, quote Sondheim, and whip up dinner from the vegetables in her garden. She has everything under control -- except her own happiness. All it takes is a chance encounter with Teddy Reyes, a roguish small-time bass player with a highly evolved sexuality, to open Violet's eyes to what she's missing and upend her life completely.

My Two Cents:

I tried to like this book. I really did. There was just so much standing in the way.

Semple's writing is good. It ought to be; she's worked for TV shows. She's funny and can really turn a phrase. She's got a sense for the narrative. And, she can write vivid characters. I could picture each of the people in this book really easily.

The problem was, there was not a single character in here that I either liked or empathized with. Wait. I did like Jeremy and I felt bad for Dot, the little girl, for being caught up in the mess that is her family. But as far as the others? I thought they were terrible people who did terrible things and got exactly what they deserved. And the characters in here did some absolutely awful things, not the least of which was adultery. I understand that this book is about finding happiness and that happiness people who seem to have everything can be incredibly unhappy, but did these characters really have to go to such extreme lengths to find their happiness? Maybe Semple was trying to portray a group of people and a lifestyle with which I don't identify, so maybe I missed a lot of the point, but I just could not take any interest in what happened to anyone in this book.

I've seen several reviews where people enjoyed this book but, for all of Semple's wit and writing talent, I just couldn't like it.

Monday, May 24, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?: May 24, 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:

Life, in Spite of Me: Extraordinary Hope after a Fatal Choice by Kristen Jane Anderson and Tricia Goyer

She's So Dead to Us by Kieran Scott

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

Play Dead by Ryan Brown

Life, in Spite of Me: Extraordinary Hope after a Fatal Choice by Kristen Jane Anderson and Tricia Goyer

A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr

Also on the blog this week:

I ask if anyone has interest in a Ulysses read-along

This week, I'm reading:

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

The Fiddler of the Reels and Other Stories by Thomas Hardy

The Wife's Tale by Lori Lansens

This week, I hope to begin reading:

Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

Spirit Bound (Vampire Academy Book 5) by Richelle Mead

Critical Care: A New Nurse Faces Death, Life and Everything in Between by Theresa Brown

What are you reading this week?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Review and blog tour: A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr

A Month in the Country (New York Review Books Classics)Title: A Month in the Country

Author: J.L. Carr

Pages: 135

Source: Personal library

Rating: 8/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

First Sentence: "When the train stopped I stumbled out, nudging and kicking the kitbag before me."

Summary (From back of book):

In J.L. Carr's deeply charged poetic novel, Tom Birkin, a veteran of the Great War and a broken marriage, arrives in the remote Yorkshire village of Oxgodby to restore a recently discovered medieval mural in the local church. Living in the bell tower, surrounded by the resplendent countryside of high summer, and laboring each day to uncover an anonymous painter's extraordinary depiction of the apocalypse, Birkin finds that he himself has been restored to a new, and hopeful, attachment to life. But summer ends, and with the work done, Birkin must leave. Now, long after, as he reflects on the passage of time and the power of art, he finds in his memories some consolation for all that has been lost.

My Two Cents:

This was such a nice, simple little book that I just couldn't put it down. I think I finished it in just over an hour's time.

I had never heard of J.L. Carr prior to this round of the Spotlight Series tour on the New York Review Books classics, and was surprised to find that this novel was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. After reading it, I can see why it was given that distinction.

Carr's writing is straightforward and highly readable, but there's a sense of wistfulness that pervades the prose. His narrator, Tom Birkin, is telling the story from many years on (Carr says he wrote this novel in the tradition of Thomas Hardy's Under the Greenwood Tree), and there's definitely a sense that we may not be getting the full story because the narrator's fond memories are glossing things over. That Birkin is an unreliable narrator, however, doesn't take away from this book any. In fact, I think it enhances the reading.

While Carr was able to write some great characters, especially in Moon and Kathy Ellerbeck, but it's the town that really shines as the star of this book. As I was reading this, I could picture exactly the idyllic little town in the English countryside. Oxgodby could have been any one of dozens of little English towns (Places such as Castle Combe came to my mind as coming from my personal travels), and its inhabitants could have been any small-town Englishmen. I felt myself getting nostalgic for the things I had seen and the places I had visited, much like Tom Birkin was nostalgic for the Oxgodby he knew.

I also liked the inclusion of Birkin's uncovering of the medieval mural in the plot. The churchgoing townspeople had this gorgeous, albeit somewhat disturbing, example of the medieval depiction of the end of the world painted right above their heads the whole time, and no one knew it. They were so busy focusing on their own lives (here on Earth) that they didn't look up (toward Heaven) and see what was right in front of their faces. It was a nice metaphor, I thought.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes novels about the English countryside, art or who just wants a quick read.

Note: I purchased a copy of this book for the Spotlight Series tour of the NYRB Classics.

New York Review Books Classics publishes unique and interesting classics from many eras and parts of the world. Some you may have heard of, others you'll discover for the first time! Often they are translated from other languages and include such greats as such as Euripides, Dante, Balzac, and Chekhov. NYRB Classics include not just fiction titles but also non-fiction such as memoirs, cookbooks, travel and literary criticism.

Just a sample of their authors: Daphne DuMaurier, Arthur Conan Doyle, Christina Stead, Mavis Gallant, Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky.

Considered the wide range of eras, genres and nationalities you are sure to find something to suit your tastes.
 

Friday, May 21, 2010

Ulysses Read-along, anyone?

You know that monster of a book that everyone's always afraid to pick up? The one that gives you anxiety just thinking about it? The one that you know you should read, but just can't seem to find the time for?

Ulysses (Penguin Modern Classics)For me, that book is Ulysses. I read portions of it in college and loved it, and the full book has been sitting on my shelf for the past four years.

Well, I say, NO MORE!!

I'm going to do something about that book sitting on my shelf, taunting me. I'm going to break it down into smaller, more manageable sections. Anyone who wants to tackle this is more than welcome to join me!

Starting August 1, I will be hosting a read-along of Ulysses. I'll lay out a (manageable!) schedule sometime in July, hopefully around 100 pages per week or so, and we can discuss each section. I'll also have an annotation of the book (It's nearly as long as the book itself!) available, so feel free to ask questions!

Who's in?

Review and Blog Tour: Life, in Spite of Me by Kristen Jane Anderson with Tricia Goyer

Life, In Spite of Me: Extraordinary Hope After a Fatal ChoiceTitle: Life, in Spite of Me: Extraordinary Hope after a Fatal Choice

Author: Kristen Jane Anderson with Tricia Goyer

Pages: 204

Source: Publisher

Rating: 8/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge; Take Another Chance Challenge (Challenge #5: Title Word Count)

First Sentence: "Numb. The cold Illinois wind chilled my body."

Summary (From book flap):

Overwhelmed by wave after wave of emotional trauma, Kristen Anderson no longer wanted to live. One January night, determined to end her pain once and for all, the seventeen-year-old lay across train tracks not far from her home and waited to die.

Instead of peace, she found herself immersed in a whole new nightmare.

Before the engineer could bring the train to a stop, thirty-three freight cars passed over her at fifty-five miles per hour. After the train stopped and Kristen realized she was still alive, she looked around -- and saw her legs ten feet away.

Surviving her suicide attempt but losing her legs launched Kristen into an even deeper battle with depression and suicidal thoughts as well as unrelenting physical pain -- all from the seat of a wheelchair.

But in the midst of her darkest days, Kristen discovered the way to real life and a purpose for living.

Life, in Spite of Me recounts in riveting detail the trauma of her suicide attempt, the miracle of her survival, and the life-transforming power of hope in Christ.

For anyone struggling to find the strength to go on, the message of this heart-wrenching yet hope-building book is clear:
God loves you more than you can imagine.
He has good plans for your future.
Life is a gift.

An extraordinary reminder that even when we give up on life, God doesn't give up on us.

My Two Cents:

I've never read an inspirational memoir before, so this was a new experience for me.

I think this book could do people in a certain place in life a lot of good. Anyone, teens especially, struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts could easily relate to Kristen's story. She gives a glimpse of what her life was like following her suicide attempt, such as a party she attends shortly after leaving the hospital, but I would have liked to see more of her daily struggles from that standpoint. We see a lot of how she struggles with depressive thoughts and wishing she were dead, but not a lot about the day-to-day problems she faced after losing her legs.

Her message is one of hope. She had these problems and she tried to do something about them, but God saved her for a higher purpose. It's a great message, and one with which a lot of people can identify. But, I also think her faith may have come a little too easily. Perhaps it's because she already was raised Christian, but Kristen just didn't seem to have the same struggles and questions a lot of new Christians have. I wondered if she really did just accept God that easily (If so, awesome for her!) or if she just left those things out of the book.

Either way, this was a really quick read and I would recommend it to anyone struggling with similar issues or anyone who wants to read a story of God working in a person's life.




I received a free copy of this book courtesy of WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group,

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Review and Book Tour: Play Dead by Ryan Brown

Play DeadTitle: Play Dead

Author: Ryan Brown

Pages: 344

Source: Publisher

Rating: 8/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

First Sentence: "The drums outside beat hard enough to form ripples in the water."

Summary (From book flap):

For the first time in Killington High School history, the Jackrabbits football team is one win away from the district championship where it will face its most vicious rival, the Elmwood Heights Baders. On the way to the game, the Jackrabbits' bus plunges into a river, killing every player except for bad-boy quarterback Cole Logan who is certain the crash was no accident -- given that Cole himself was severely injured in a brutal attack by three ski-masked men earlier that day. Bent on payback, Cole turns to a mysterious fan skilled in black magic to resurrect his teammates. But unless the undead Jackrabbits defeat their murderous rival on the field, the team is destined for hell. In a desperate race against time, with only his coach's clever daughter, Savannah Hickman, to assist him, Cole must lead his zombie team to victory ... in a final showdown where the stakes aren't just life or death -- but damnation or salvation.

My Two Cents:

At first, I was skeptical about this book. Anyone who knows me knows that football and I are like cats and water: There's not a whole lot of love there. But, when I saw there were zombies, I had to read it. I so love zombies.

I was very pleasantly surprised by this book. Sure, there was way more football than I would have liked, but a football game in a football-crazed town was the perfect setting for a team of undead teenagers. I would've liked to see more zombie fun, but, well, I'm used to playing Left 4 Dead, so brain-eating is kind of second-nature to me.

Brown is a skilled writer who knows how to pace his story properly. Things don't move too slowly or too quickly. He also adds a generous amount of humor, which is the mark of any good off-the-wall zombie concept in my book. I'd be interested to see what he comes up with next.

For me, this book wasn't so much about characters as what happened. Sure, I liked Cole and Savannah and Coach Hickman well enough, and I loathed the opposing team the proper amount, but the story was much more what propelled me through this book. I think I finished the whole thing in a few hours' time.

If you like zombies, or if you (Heaven forbid!) like football, I'd recommend this book to you. It's well worth it!

Monday, May 17, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?; May 17, 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:
This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
This One Is Mine by Maria Semple
A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr
Play Dead by Ryan Brown


This week, I reviewed (Click on the title to read my review):
Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy: Curiouser and Curiouser by William Irwin and Richard Brian Davis, eds.
Sherlock Holmes: Selected Stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Burned (House of Night #7) by P.C. and Kristin Cast

This week, I'm reading:
Life, in Spite of Me by Kristen Jane Anderson
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

This week, I hope to begin reading:
The Fiddler of the Reels and Other Stories by Thomas Hardy
She's So Dead to Us by Kieran Scott
The Wife's Tale by Lori Lansens

What are you reading this week?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Review: Burned (House of Night #7) by P.C. and Kristin Cast

Burned (House of Night Novels)Title: Burned (House of Night #7)

Authors: P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

Pages: 384

Source: Library

Rating: 5/10

Challenge: Read 'n' Review Challenge

First Sentence: *I had to give this to a patron before writing the review, so no first sentence!*

Summary (From Amazon/book flap):

Things have turned black at the House of Night. Zoey Redbird’s soul has shattered. With everything she’s ever stood for falling apart, and a broken heart making her want to stay in the Otherworld forever, Zoey’s fading fast. It’s seeming more and more doubtful that she will be able pull herself back together in time to rejoin her friends and set the world to rights. As the only living person who can reach her, Stark must find a way to get to her.  But how?  He will have to die to do so, the Vampyre High Council stipulates.  And then Zoey will give up for sure. There are only 7 days left…

Enter BFF Stevie Rae.  She wants to help Z but she has massive problems of her own.  The rogue Red Fledglings are acting up, and this time not even Stevie Rae can protect them from the consequences.  Her kinda boyfriend, Dallas, is sweet but too nosy for his own good.  The truth is, Stevie Rae’s hiding a secret that might be the key to getting Zoey home but also threatens to explode her whole world.

In the middle of the whole mess is Aphrodite: ex-Fledgling, trust-fund baby, total hag from Hell (and proud of it).  She’s always been blessed (if you could call it that) with visions that can reveal the future, but now it seems Nyx has decided to speak through her with the goddess’s own voice, whether she wants it or not.  Aphrodite’s loyalty can swing a lot of different ways, but right now Zoey’s fate hangs in the balance.

Three girls… playing with fire… if they don’t watch out, everyone will get Burned.

My Two Cents:

Well. I really enjoyed the early portion of this series. I thought it was a great take on vampire lore and showed a lot of potential. That being said, I was way less than impressed with this installment.

First, the book just lacked any of the cohesiveness and charm of the earlier books. I think the problem has a lot to do with the fact that Zoey is pretty much not present for about 90 percent of the book. It was just really hard to read; it took me nearly four days to read a book that should have taken me maybe a day. I just wasn't feeling it.

Along the same lines, everything that I liked and everything that was fun about the characters earlier in the series was just gone. There was no spark, no interesting people propelling the story forward. It just kind of hung there.

One of the things that's always bugged me about this series is the way the characters talk. The Casts seem to be trying so hard to reproduce "authentic" teen dialogue that they jump immediately into stereotypes. That's true with this installment, too, but the profanity was ratcheted up about 10,000,000 notches. Now, I'm no prude, and swearing in books usually doesn't bother me, but I was getting annoyed with all the profanity about 10 pages in. Then, I started counting the swear words. A few pages later, I stopped counting at about 25. It was so distracting that, sometimes, I couldn't even pay attention to what was going on in the story because I was so busy cringing at yet another swear word. It was just too much, and I really think it has no business being that prevalent in a young adult book. People talk so much about how "awful" teens are and how bad their mouths are, and this book is just another encouragement of that stereotype. OK. Rant over.

I was really surprised with how little I actually liked this book. It seemed to be one big place-filler because not much really happened. Unless you like the earlier books in this series, I would suggest staying away from this one. 

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Review: Sherlock Holmes: Selected Stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock Holmes: Selected Stories (Oxford World's Classics)Title: Sherlock Holmes: Selected Stories

Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Pages: 435

Source: Personal library

Rating: 10/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

First Sentence: "'I am afraid, Watson, that I shall have to go,' said Holmes, as we sat together to our breakfast one morning."

Summary (From back of book):

No characters in English literature since those in the great Dickens gallery have taken so firm a hold upon the British and American imagination as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. They have indeed been elevated above the level of fiction and into the realm of mythology where the learned and the simple meet on an equal footing.

The present selection draws the best stories from the several Sherlock Holmes volumes, including one of the longer books, The Sign of Four, in its logical place among the other chosen tales: "Silver Blaze," "The Speckled Band," "A Scandal in Bohemia," "The Naval Treaty," "The Blue Carbuncle," "The Greek Interpreter," "The Red-Headed League," "The Empty House," "The Missing Three-Quarter," and "His Last Bow."

My Two Cents:

I absolutely love the Sherlock Holmes stories, and have for quite some time. I love how Holmes almost always knows the solution to a mystery from very early on, to the complete surprise of Watson and everyone else. I wish I had his skill for deductive reasoning.

My two favorite stories in this collection, both of which I've read before, are "The Speckled Band," in which Holmes and Watson try to solve the mysterious death of a young woman's sister, and "The Red-Headed League," in which a man joins a mysterious society only to have all trace of the other members disappear suddenly. Both these mysteries have an air of the completely mysterious and unsolvable, and in both Holmes maintains his characteristic calm as he basically tries to find evidence to match his theory.

Doyle's writing is, as always, superb. It's very indicative of the style of writing in 1890s British literature, and it only takes some minor getting used to if you've never read something of his before.

Holmes is, as with everyone else, my favorite character. I wish I knew a Holmes (Well, maybe minus the cocaine and opium use...). He's got a very subtle sense of humor, but it's there, and it shows when necessary. I just love how he's able to tell lots of little details about a person just by looking at articles of clothing or their possessions. In one of the stories, he is able to deduce that a man is down on his luck, uses lime cream in his hair and has a poor servant simply by looking at his hat. If only all detectives were like Holmes, there wouldn't be as many unsolved crimes!

If you like mysteries which start out strange, but make perfect sense once the solution is discovered, or you like reading about late-19th century England, you need to give Sherlock Holmes a try.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Review: Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy by William Irwin and Richard Brian Davis, eds.

Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy: Curiouser and Curiouser (The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series)Title: Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy: Curiouser and Curiouser

Author: William Irwin and Richard Brian Davis, eds.

Pages: 218

Source: Publisher

Rating: 8/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

Summary (From back of book):

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland has fascinated children and adults alike for generations. Why does Lewis Carroll introduce us to such oddities as a blue caterpillar who smokes a hookah, a cat whose grin remains after its head has faded away, and a White Queen who lives backward and remembers forward? Is it all just nonsense? Was Carroll under the influence? This book probes the deeper underlying meaning in the Alice books and reveals a world rich with philosophical life lessons. Tapping into some of the greatest philosophical minds that ever lived -- Aristotle, Hume, Hobbes, and Nietzsche -- Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy explores life's ultimate questions through the eyes of perhaps the most endearing heroine in all of literature.

My Two Cents:

I'm a big fan of scholarly books that look at some of the most beloved stories and series in popular culture. I practically lived with another publisher's Lord of the Rings and Philosophy while working on a thesis my senior year in college. I love that there are other people in the world who think deeply about the books and movies and TV shows which others take as pure entertainment.

So, when I was asked to review this book, I jumped at the chance. I love Alice in Wonderland and have often thought about how Carroll, an Oxford don and logician, turned his own scholarly work into a children's story more complex than it often seems.

There are a lot of interesting points made in this book. My favorite chapter was "Nuclear Strategists in Wonderland" by Ron Hirschbein, in which the author explores how those who worked toward building the United States' arms cache during the Cold War used euphemism, jargon and faulty logic -- all of which are found in Wonderland -- to justify their actions.

One thing that kind of bothered me, though, was that it seemed as if there were chapters that just repeated one another. There were a couple of essays which used the same quotes from the Alice books and the same philosophers' theories to prove basically the same point. I think this would have been a stronger book overall if some of the essays were cut out and others extended.

I really did enjoy looking at the Alice stories in some new ways and think that anyone who is a fan of them and has ever wondered, "Are these just stories of nonsense?" would like this book, as well.

This series also has several other titles, many of which interested me, including South Park and Philosophy and Terminator and Philosophy.

Monday, May 10, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?: May 10, 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:

Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy:Curiouser and Curiouser by William Irwin and Richard Brian Davis, eds.

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

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

The Elf of Luxembourg by Tom Weston

The Flesh Statue by U.L. Harper

My Ridiculous, Romantic Obsessions by Becca Wilhite

This week, I'm reading:

This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This One is Mine by Maria Semple

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

This week, I hope to begin reading:

The Fiddler of the Reels and Other Stories by Thomas Hardy

She's So Dead to Us by Kieran Scott

What are you reading this week?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Review: My Ridiculous, Romantic Obsessions by Becca Wilhite

My Ridiculous, Romantic ObsessionsTitle: My Ridiculous, Romantic Obsessions

Author: Becca Wilhite

Pages: 181

Source: Publisher, via Goodreads

Rating: 9/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

First Sentence: "Mom pulls her new toy, a talking GPS directions-thingie up close to her eyes."

Summary (From back of book):

Yes, this is a girl-meets-boy story, but the boy is totally hot while the girl is, at best, average. (Except for my wild, Medusa-curls. Ugh.) And yes, there is a misunderstanding, and a villainous outlaw, and a timely confession of love ... well, okay, fine. It's totally a romance novel. But please note, there is no scantily-clad woman on the cover wilting into the arms of a muscular pirate; I'm not that kind of girl.

I'm a normal, everyday girl. And I can't understand why Ben -- who is hot as a Greek god -- wants to be my friend. Is it because we both play the guitar? Like the same flavors of ice cream? Laugh at the same jokes? Or does he want to hang around strictly so I'll help him with his homework? I hope not because I've been there, done that, and gotten burned. Not interested, thanks.

But I am interested in Ben. He's a real gentleman -- a true romance novel hero. (It's like Mr. Darcy signed up for my art history class.) Is it possible that this is the real thing? Or have my ridiculous, romantic obsessions gotten the best of me -- again?

My Two Cents:

I love it when young adult novels are funny and engaging without having all the profanity, sex and illicit behavior that seems to make them so "in" right now. Wilhite writes a great book with believable characters, but those characters don't have to act the way everyone thinks teenagers act -- with foul mouths and sex on the brain -- for them to capture your interest.

Sarah is a college freshman trying not only to adjust to living on her own, but also figuring out why the cute guy in her art history class, Ben, seems interested in her. Sarah is one of those friends I know I had in high school -- She's smart, and she's confident about some things, but her own perceptions of herself stop her from seeing herself for what she really is. She's your typical rather insecure teenager who has her shining moments of belief in herself, but she was far from stereotypical. I loved her as a narrator. The only problem I had with her was that she seemed to need to be reassured of her own worth a little too often, but that's also how a lot of teenagers think.

Wilhite's writing is to-the-point and clear. This was a super-easy read; I think I finished it in a couple of hours' time. She's also very funny. I found myself laughing out loud at a lot of points. On the same token, though, she has a knack for writing awkward teenage situations, and those moments had me cringing.

If you're looking for a good, clean, funny young adult read, this is the book for you.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Review: The Flesh Statue by U.L. Harper

The Flesh StatueTitle: The Flesh Statue

Author: U.L. Harper

Pages: 354

Source: Author for review

Rating: 6/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

First Sentence: "The trumpeter stood in front of the drummer who aggressively smashed his snare and toms and smiled while staring at the bassist."

Summary (From back of book):

Tired of watching his ailing grandfather wither away from Alzheimer's, 19-year-old Langley Jackson moves from his middle class home and subsequently struggles to survive in downtown Long Beach. Here he finds himself part of a social movement bent on destruction and retribution. Through all of this, Langley must decide on trying to subsist in a complicated and unlawful new world of graffiti and poetry or endure in a disheartening old one outlined by the death of his mother and his sick grandfather.

My Two Cents:

This book is an example of some great ideas, but an execution that needed an editor.

The main concept -- A youth who feels out-of-touch with his middle-class roots goes to live in a lower-class city and becomes part of a movement hoping to enact change -- is a great one. The first problem, though, is that we never actually learn why Langley doesn't like living with his grandparents in their neighborhood. Is it because of something that happened to him, or is he just an angry teen? We never really know why.

When he goes to live by himself (on his grandparents' money, mind you) in Long Beach, Langley gets in with a crowd of spoken-word poets who have their own issues. One is pursued by an abusive stepfather. Another can never seem to make financial ends meet. They have reasons for their anger and disillusionment, and it's pretty clear why they act the way they do. But it's never really totally clear with Langley, at least not that I was able to tell.

There are too many things going on in this book for them all to be developed fully. I think if a few of the side plots could have been cut out some, the book would have felt a little more cohesive. As it is, it often felt like a bunch of problems strung together.

The writing also could have used a little assistance. It wasn't terrible, but there were points where it was just laborious to read. Perhaps it was too much "telling" and not enough "showing." I'm not really sure, but it was just hard to read at times.

The really shining moments in this book, though, are the spoken-word poems. It's obvious the author has experience writing or hearing spoken-word poems, and the ones in here are, on the whole, really good. As I was reading them, I could almost hear how they would be presented. The poems definitely were my favorite part about this book.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Review and Blog Tour: The Elf of Luxembourg by Tom Weston

The Elf of LuxembourgTitle: The Elf of Luxembourg

Author: Tom Weston

Pages: 290

Source: Author for review

Rating: 6/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

First Sentence: "'Steady, Belle, steady,' cried Emile Fradin to one of the cows as it stumbled."

Summary (From back of book):

The thing about El Dorado is... No, forget that. The thing about younger sisters is...

What's an older sister to do? It's not all fun fairs and ice-cream. Well, it is -- but that's beside the point. When one is in Luxembourg, there is a certain standard to maintain, and vacationing with Elves and Vampires is just so old school. But can Alex convince her younger sister, Jackie, of that? No, of course not, so she may as well get used to it.

But deep beneath the ancient city of Luxembourg there lies a secret. The Vampires believe it is protected by the Elf. The Elf believes it is protected by the prophecy concerning Alex and Jackie. And the sisters? They believe shoes in Luxembourg are too expensive.

Why are the Vampires going toe-to-toe with an Elf for the pleasure of the sisters' company? Why does the Elf think Alex and Jackie can sing? And just who let Sir Walter Raleigh and the Conquistadors into this story?

To answer these questions will take all of the sisters' cunning, bravery and imagination, as well as some souvenir shopping.

My Two Cents:

This book had a great concept, a lot of research behind it and some really shining moments. It is, however, one of those books that could have used a little something more.

Weston has some great, interesting ideas here. He's got ancient guardian elves and spoiled-child vampires. He's got Conquistadors searching for El Dorado. He's got two sisters who just want to have fun on their trip, but who get caught up in a centuries-old battle because, inexplicably, their names are included in an old carving. And, he's got a lot of research and knowledge behind him about Luxembourg and the quest for El Dorado.

The problem for me was there were just too many ideas in here for them to be developed to my liking. I think this book could either have been split into two separate books or have been longer than its 290 pages and the ideas would have come together more fully. As it was, we only got what I would call the "primary" conflict -- between the Elf and the Vampires -- for about 30 pages.

Alex and Jackie were what I would consider pretty typical teenagers. Weston wrote them pretty true-to-life, which isn't an easy task for an adult male author. I wasn't exactly a fan of either of the sisters, but they were well-written.

There also are a lot of places where the grammar isn't quite solid or a homonym is exchanged for the word that's supposed to be there, and this is where this book could've used some extra editing. Those mistakes were pretty distracting to me, but I'm more overly sensitive to grammatical errors than a lot of people.

This wasn't an "ohmygosh this is a book I can't wait to finish" book, but it was pretty solid on the whole. If you like some history mixed in with your fiction (For example, Weston gives the reader the history of several of Luxembourg's summer street festivals), or if you like traditional mythological beings looked at in new ways, you might want to give this one a try.

About the author:

Originally from England, Tom now resides in Boston, Massachusetts. Before turning his hand to fiction, Tom had a successful career as the CEO of a consulting company, conference speaker and writer of industry articles and business books. His novel, First Night, set in Boston during the New Year’s Eve festival, introduced the unlikely heroines, Alex and Jackie, and the ghost of a 17th century Puritan named Sarah Pemberton. First Night won an Honorable Mention in the Middle-Grade/Young Adult category, in the Writers Digest 17th Annual International Self-Published Book Awards. The sequel to First Night, called The Elf of Luxembourg, was published in January, 2010. As with First Night, The Elf of Luxembourg is also a supernatural mystery, with a blend of humor and history that has become Tom’s trademark. Tom is currently working on Book 3 of the Alex and Jackie Adventures, and is researching the background material for the story, which will be set in Ireland. Tom has also written the screenplay, Fission, based on the true story of scientist, Lisa Meitner, and the race for the atomic bomb, and which was named a finalist at the London Independent Film Festival.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Teaser Tuesday: May 4, 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:

This Side of Paradise (Classic Reprint)"All you need to tell me of yourself is that you still are; for the rest I merely search back in a restive memory, a thermometer that records only fevers, and match you with what I was at your age. But men will chatter and you and I will still shout our futilities to each other across the stage until the last silly curtain falls plump! upon our bobbing heads." - This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald, p. 147

Monday, May 3, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?: May 3, 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:

The Elf of Luxembourg by Tom Weston

Sherlock Holmes: Selected Stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

This week, I reviewed (Click on the title to read my review):
We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos

This week, I'm reading:
This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy: Curiouser and Curiouser by William Irwin and Richard Brian Davis, eds.

This week, I hope to begin reading:
The Fiddler of the Reels and Other Stories by Thomas Hardy
This One Is Mine by Maria Semple
Burned (House of Night Book 7) by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

What are you reading this week?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Get to know me!

U.L. Harper, author of The Flesh Statue, is hosting a few weeks of blogger interviews over at his blog, and I'm one of them!

Go visit my post to learn more about me and tell him you've come over from my blog!
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