Friday, April 30, 2010

New Releases: 4/24/10-4/30/10

A shorter post this week because I'm rushed for time--but I couldn't cut it down too far, because there are too many books worth talking about!

Hannah's List by Debbie Macomber
This is a novel I've heard a very little bit about, but I'm intrigued by the concept. The story revolves around a man getting over his wife's death from cancer by looking at a list of people his wife wanted him to consider marrying after her death. Sounds like it could make for a crazy love
triangle (pentagon?).


The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore
I first looked into this book because of the similarities between the stories with Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. But as I read more about this, I found that it was really quite different--a true story, for one, written by the person who found himself in the situation, and it focuses on that one man and the question of "What if that had been me?"


Hellhound on his Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Hampton Sides
I've studied Martin Luther King, Jr. in school more times than I can count. However, we've n
ever learned much about his death or the repercussions it had. It's really surprising, actually, that I've never even learned who killed him--and this book seems like a fascinating look into it.

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Goodreads

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
This book looks into the story of a Chinese girl who immigrates from Hong Kong to New York and starts working there. Interestingly, the author was put in the same situation as a girl which I'm sure will add to the authenticity.

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Goodreads

What are you excited for this week?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Book Review: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Literary Fiction
Length: 560 pages
Rating:

Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa. Orphaned by their mother’s death in childbirth and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution. Yet it will be love, not politics—their passion for the same woman—that will tear them apart and force Marion, fresh out of medical school, to flee his homeland. He makes his way to America, finding refuge in his work as an intern at an underfunded, overcrowded New York City hospital. When the past catches up to him—nearly destroying him—Marion must entrust his life to the two men he thought he trusted least in the world: the surgeon father who abandoned him and the brother who betrayed him. (Goodreads)

Review: I've heard so many amazing things about this book that I was nervous to pick it up--I didn't feel like it could hold up to my expectations. And at first, that's what it seemed like it would happen as I read the book, because the first 100 pages or so were just good, not great. But once I got out of the backstory and into the pages that began to develop the main character, I fell in love.

Everything in this book was woven together perfectly, and as one thing led to another I never knew what was coming but it always made perfect sense. And everything had a purpose in the grand scheme of the book, whether to show how the characters evolve or to further advance the plot to the perfect conclusion.

I really connected with Marion, the main character. Reading about events from his point of view felt like how I would have experienced them, and by the end all I wanted was for him to a happy ending (finally).

The medicine involved in the book also made me want to learn more about the topics being discussed--it's hard to unravel truth from fiction in a story involving fictional characters, but as I did I learned a lot about topics I never would have thought to research on my own.

You should read this book if you have ever enjoyed any novel, because you will enjoy this one too. Every part of it, from characters to plot to setting are fantastic and work to make this book the incredible story it is.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Book Review: Princess Ben by Catherine Murdock

Princess Ben by Catherine Murdock
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 344 pages
Rating:

Benevolence is not your typical princess- and Princess Ben is certainly not your typical fairy tale. With her parents lost to assassins, Princess Ben ends up under the thumb of the conniving Queen Sophia. Starved and miserable, locked in the castle's highest tower, Ben stumbles upon a mysterious enchanted room. So begins her secret education in the magical arts: mastering an obstinate flying broomstick, furtively emptying the castle pantries, setting her hair on fire.... But Ben's private adventures are soon overwhelmed by a mortal threat to her kingdom. Can Ben save the country and herself from foul tyranny?

Review: I was disappointed in this book. I love creative retellings of fairy tales (I adore Gail Carson Levine), so I was looking forward to reading this new version of Sleeping Beauty. And though I did enjoy the end of the book, there were a lot of issues with the first 3/4 or so.

The main issue I had was with the characters. For the first part of the book, she came across as whiny, spoiled, and unfriendly, which I think may have been done on purpose. However, it went a little too far and I found myself strongly disliking the character until she finally grew up at the end of the book. And once she did grow up, the book was much more enjoyable. I just wish that it had happened much earlier in the book. Her love interest, too, was unpleasant for almost the entire book until he finally admits his undying love for Ben. Wait, what?

The actual re-imagining of Sleeping Beauty was what I was looking for, though. It was interesting and quirky and clever, which are all important qualities in something like this. The minor characters all got personalities that seemed realistic, too, and I liked reading about them, particularly Queen Sophia, who's Ben detests but I rather liked.

Overall, this book had very good ideas but poor execution. I wouldn't recommend this book, but I'm open to something else by the author with more likable characters.

Amazon
****Barnes and Noble****Goodreads

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Book Blogger Hop (4)


Time for the Book Blogger Hop! Head over to Crazy for Books to find more excellent book blogs or to join in, and feel free to comment here if that's where you're coming from.

Friday, April 23, 2010

New Releases: 4/17/10-4/23/10

Here's what to look for in bookstores this week.

The Light by D.J. MacHale
I really enjoyed the Pendragon series by this author, and I'm super excited to see his take on a new
and different cast of characters. This first installment in a new series draws inspiration from ghost stories.

Amazon
Barnes and Noble

Goodreads

The Double Comfort Safari Club by Alexander McCall Smith

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series is so much fun to read, and I'm sure this safari mystery story will be no different.

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Goodreads


Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey
This is a historical fiction novel set during 1800's America about a Frenchman fleeing his country and his friend/servant (it's a little unclear). The author has won two Booker Prizes, so I'm sure this will be exceptionally well-written.

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Goodreads

God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World and Why T
heir Differences Matter by Stephen R. Prothero
This book is all about the beliefs and questions of every major world religion, and the paths they take to solve the problems set forth by their faiths. I've always wanted to learn more about religion as a whole, and this seems perfect for that.


Amazon

Barnes and Noble
Goodreads

Bounce by Matthew Syed
This book is similar in concept to Outliers, about the people who are the very best in their fields--Mozart, Picasso, Federer, and the other people who have risen to the top. The whole topic is incredibly interesting, and I can't help feeling that if I know how they do it, I can be excellent too.

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Goodreads

Radiant Shadows by Melissa Marr
These urban fantasy novels about faeries in New York are really fun to read, and I'm excited to get more engrossed in the world Marr has built.

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Goodreads

What are you excited about this week?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Book Review: You're an Animal, Viskovitz! by Boffa Alessandro

You're an Animal, Viskovitz! by Boffa Alessandro
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Humorous Short Stories (that's totally a genre, okay?)
Length: 192 pages
Rating:

In this wickedly hilarious collection of fables, Alessandro Boffa introduces us to Viskovitz and his never-ending search for his true love, Ljuba. As he changes from a lovelorn lion to a jealous finch, from a confused dung beetle to an enlightened police dog, Viskovitz embraces his metamorphoses with wry humor and an oftentimes painful sense of self.

A short review for a short book:

Reading this book was delightfully fun. The humor in this book was without compare, and it was also very witty--I was surprised and pleased by the creativity that went with the animal theme. Even as a sea sponge, Viskovitz's voice was funny and clever, and there was a cool twist in every story. I enjoyed some of the stories more than the others, of course, but each one went by so quickly that even those didn't drag the story down. This is an excellent book for a lazy afternoon or simply when you're in the mood for something more lighthearted. Very enjoyable.

Amazon
***Barnes and Noble***Goodreads

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Book Review: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Steampunk (isn't that the most fantastic name)
Length: 440 pages
Rating:

Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.

Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She's a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.

With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.

Review: I really, really wanted to like this book. I think the concept is fantastic, and this book had the chance to be wonderful. But it ended up being just okay. I couldn't really get into the story or bring myself to care what happened next. The concept and plot, though, were good enough to keep me reading the book, and I think I'll pick up the next book in the series when it comes out to see if the characterization and flow improve.

First, I love the idea of World War I as a battle between "Darwinists," who biologically engineer boats and aircraft, and "Clunkers," who build with mechanical engines and parts. It's such a clever take on history and it's interesting to read about. I was constantly working out what had changed from real history and what had stayed the same, which was very entertaining to do.

The characters were a little shaky. They did have unique personalities, but I thought they were a little bit boring--I've seen them before. And one of the characters talks in a ridiculous accent that annoyed me every time I read it. I understand that it's important to capture the time period and the way someone talks is part of that, but it seemed over the top to me, and I've read a lot of characters with accents.

If you like the premise of this book, I would recommend you read it just for that. If you don't find the premise interesting, I wouldn't read it, because there isn't much else to make you enjoy the book.

Amazon
****Barnes and Noble****Official Website

Friday, April 16, 2010

New Releases: 4/10/10-4/16/10

Here's what to look for in bookstores this week.

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen
This is a family drama about a mother who's son is depressed and a "shocking act of violence." The author won a Pulitzer Prize, so I expect this will be good.

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Goodreads

Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel
I loved The Life of Pi so much--it completely changed the way I thought about literature as a whole. Honestly, I think it was one of the first books I read that was more than YA or fluff. So I cannot wait to read this new book, even though it has gotten mixed reviews.

Amazon
Barnes and Noble

Goodreads

Th
e Bride Collector by Ted Dekker
This is a thriller about a serial killer that leaves a wedding veil at the scene of every crime. I've been in the mood for something fast-paced and interesting, and this could fit the bill.

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Goodreads

The Eerie Silence by Paul Davies
A nonfiction book about the seabrch for alien life. That entire topic just seems fascinating to me, and I'd love to read about the ways scientists are going about searching for life on other planets.

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Goodreads

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future by Michael J. Fox
I love Michael J. Fox's movies. Who could possibly fail to enjoy Back to the Future? So when I saw this memoir, I got really excited. It's sounds fun and funny, and interesting to boot.

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Goodreads

What are you excited about this week?

Book Blogger Hop (3)


Time for the Book Blogger Hop! Head over to Crazy for Books to find more excellent book blogs or to join in, and feel free to comment here if that's where you're coming from.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Poetry Appreciation: The Second Coming

As April is National Poetry Appreciation month, I decided I would share some of my favorite poetry with you.

I don't read much poetry. I have a difficult time finding the poems that I really love, because so many of them don't interest me at all. However, there are some poems that I read and connect with instantly--with the rhythm, and the words, and how it rolls off the tongue. This is one of those poems.

"The Second Coming" by William Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?


I love this poem so much.

The words used are the first thing that I find so wonderful. In the first stanza alone we get "mere anarchy" and "blood-dimmed tide" and "ceremony of innocence." Every word does an excellent job of conjuring up the exact imagery necessary for that portion of the poem. And likewise, every word has a purpose in the poem.

The way everything rolls off your tongue is also so beautiful. This poem needs to be read aloud, because it sounds so good read aloud. All of the words fit with each other--it's so hard to explain, but something is there that makes this poem amazing when it's spoken.

Poems are meant to be spoken, I think, and the best ones are the poems that embrace that to its full extent.

Do you read poetry? If so, what are your favorite poems?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Book Review: SuperFreakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

SuperFreakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Nonfiction
Length: 270 pages
Rating:

The New York Times best-selling Freakonomics was a worldwide sensation, selling over four million copies in thirty-five languages and changing the way we look at the world. Now, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner return with SuperFreakonomics, and fans and newcomers alike will find that the freakquel is even bolder, funnier, and more surprising than the first.

Four years in the making, SuperFreakonomics asks not only the tough questions, but the unexpected ones: What's more dangerous, driving drunk or walking drunk? Why is chemotherapy prescribed so often if it's so ineffective? Can a sex change boost your salary?

SuperFreakonomics challenges the way we think all over again, exploring the hidden side of everything with such questions as:

  • How is a street prostitute like a department-store Santa?
  • Why are doctors so bad at washing their hands?
  • How much good do car seats do?
  • What's the best way to catch a terrorist?
  • Did TV cause a rise in crime?
  • What do hurricanes, heart attacks, and highway deaths have in common?
  • Are people hard-wired for altruism or selfishness?
  • Can eating kangaroo save the planet?
  • Which adds more value: a pimp or a Realtor?

Levitt and Dubner mix smart thinking and great storytelling like no one else, whether investigating a solution to global warming or explaining why the price of oral sex has fallen so drastically. By examining how people respond to incentives, they show the world for what it really is – good, bad, ugly, and, in the final analysis, super freaky.

Review: I loved the first book in this series, Freakonomics. The quirky, interesting questions and new ideas were clever and funny and call into question many things I thought I knew for sure in fascinating ways. I'm pleased to say that this book was good too--although not quite as good as the first book.

The best part of this book is the content. The information shared is astonishing and fun. It definitely doesn't feel like you're learning economics, but that's what the book is all about. One chapter is all about monkeys who were taught to use money and ended up acting the same way as humans did in gambling games. In another chapter, it was revealed that children over three years old are just as safe in an adult lap belt as they are in a car seat. I was blown away by the consistently interesting facts and the funny commentary.

I'll be the first to admit that I've never really liked nonfiction, but I can whole-heartedly recommend this to anyone. Even people like me who spend almost all of their time on fiction. And though you don't have to read Freakonomics before you read this book, you'll want to once you have. The topics examined in that book are even more interesting.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Book Review: Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty

Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Length: 297 pages
Rating:

When her best friend, Hope Weaver, moves away from Pineville, New Jersey, hyperobservant sixteen-year-old Jessica Darling is devastated. A fish out of water at school and a stranger at home, Jessica feels more lost than ever now that the only person with whom she could really communicate has gone. How is she supposed to deal with the boy- and shopping-crazy girls at school, her dad’s obsession with her track meets, her mother salivating over big sister Bethany’s lavish wedding, and her nonexistent love life?

A fresh, funny, utterly compelling fiction debut by first-time novelist Megan McCafferty, Sloppy Firsts is an insightful, true-to-life look at Jessica’s predicament as she embarks on another year of teenage torment--from the dark days of Hope’s departure through her months as a type-A personality turned insomniac to her completely mixed-up feelings about Marcus Flutie, the intelligent and mysterious “Dreg” who works his way into her heart. Like a John Hughes for the twenty-first century, Megan McCafferty taps into the inherent humor and drama of the teen experience. This poignant, hilarious novel is sure to appeal to readers who are still going through it, as well as those who are grateful that they don’t have to go back and grow up all over again.

Review: I’ve never been a huge fan of chic-lit, and that’s what this seemed to be going into reading it. I saw it in the library, though, and decided to pick it up on a random impulse. I was pleasantly surprised.

The main character is one of the best I’ve ever read—I fell in love with her instantly. She has an awesome personality, she’s smart and funny and she runs track yay! She makes really interesting remarks about everyone around her, and I really want to be her friend. Too bad she actually doesn’t exist...

The romance was realistically developed and didn’t feel forced or cliché, and the way it turned out in the end of the book was perfect. It was an incredible cliffhanger that forced me to go out and get the next book immediately.

The one issue I had with the book was the high-school scene they wrote about. It was the classic image of cliques and jocks and geeks that I’ve gotten so tired of after a while. I understand that it’s difficult to get the proper dynamic in a high school without that, but I really wish someone could treat it a little differently.

All in all this was an excellent, very quick read, even if it's not perfect. Stay tuned for my review of the second book in the series, Second Helpings, which should come next week.

Amazon****Barnes and Noble****Official Website

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Book Blogger Hop (2)


Time for the Book Blogger Hop! Head over to Crazy for Books to find more excellent book blogs, and feel free to comment here if that's where you're coming from.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

New Releases: 4/3/10-4/9/10

Oh my god, it was so difficult to narrow down the huge number of books coming out this week to the few I talk about here--and I still ended up with a bunch! Here are some of the amazing sounding new books being released.


Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
I love all of John Green's books--An Abundance of Katherines is one of my favorites. So I was very excited when I discovered that he had a new book coming out, especially one that sounds as cool as this one. At it's core are two boys who share the same name (three guesses what it is), but it looks like it examines the teenage experience as well as John Green's other books do.

Amazon

Barnes and Noble
Goodreads

Anthill by Edward O. Wilson
This is a novel by a renowned naturalist about a boy working to save an anthill. As a person who very passionately believes in saving the environment, this looks excellent, as well as having a very good story.

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Goodreads

Daughters of Witching Hill by Mary Sharratt
This explores the witch trials in the 1600's through the eyes of several women who are accused of witchcraft. It is based on actual events in an actual town, which makes it all the more fascinating. Even though the witch trials make me so mad at the unfairness of it all, I love reading the stories of the people caught up in that period of time.

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Goodreads

The 39 Clues Book 8: The Emperor's Code by Gordan Korman
I haven't actually read any of the books in the 39 clues series, but the idea of them really interests me. The concept is that you find clues in every one of the books, in addition to on the website and in the trading cards. I love the idea of interactive reading, and I would like to pick up a book to see what it's like.

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Goodreads
39 Clues Website

The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman
First, what a pretty cover! Second, an interesting look at the newspaper industry is something I haven't read before but that looks neat to read.

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Goodreads



What are you excited about this week?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Book Review: The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 983 pages
Rating:

In 12th-century England, the building of a mighty Gothic cathedral signals the dawn of a new age. This majestic creation will bond clergy and kings, knights and peasants together in a story of toil, faith, ambition and rivalry. A sweeping tale of the turbulent middle ages, The Pillars of the Earth is a masterpiece from one of the world's most popular authors.

Review: When I go on a long vacation, I typically bring a really, really big book to keep me occupied on the long car ride--in this case a total of thirty hours. I selected The Pillars of the Earth at the last minute, on a half-remembered recommendation from a few years ago, and it turned out to be the perfect book.

Everything about this book drew me in from the very beginning. There was a perfect balance between action and character development to keep me enthralled both by what was happening and what was going to happen. Even with the dozens of different characters, I didn't find it difficult to keep track of which was which because they all had their own personalities and ways of doing things that distinguished them from the others.

It was interesting seeing the characters grow and change, as well. This book spans many decades and changes from one main character to the next as they aged or died, and each time the book focused on a character I fell in love with them (or began to hate them passionately, which is often just as good).

One word of warning, though--at over 900 pages, this book should definitely be started when you have a lot of time to read it, because it will take a while to get through. And it requires a good bit of energy to read, too, because there are a lot of plots to keep track of. It's definitely not light reading, but it's fantastic in a situation like mine where I had a lot of time to devote to truly enjoying it.

Amazon****Barnes and Noble****Official Website

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Book Review: The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Sci-fi
Rating:

This book was simply beautiful. I was a bit skeptical when I picked it up first--it seemed like it go into the realm of sci-fi medical bizarreness, but it didn't at all. The main character, Jenna, was so realistic and easy to relate to, and I felt for her through the entire book. Every time she discovered something new about herself, I got a jolt in my stomach as well.

The other characters were also well written. The family dynamic was perfectly expressed through the little reactions they had around each other, without being over the top, and her friends each have their own, fully developed personalities, even though they weren't in many of the scenes.

One of the best things about the book, though, was how it made you think. Medical ethics are a hugely important topic moving into the future, and I never really knew much about the issues facing us. This book presented them, but didn't tell you what was right. Even the characters weren't sure what was right. It was wonderful that they were described, though, so I could look at them and learn from them.

Overall, a fantastic read that I would highly recommend.

Website

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Book Blogger Hop

Time for the Book Blogger Hop! Head over to Crazy for Books to find more excellent book blogs, and feel free to comment here if that's where you're coming from.

Friday, April 2, 2010

New Releases: 3/28/10-4/2/10

Not a huge week for new releases, but there are some that deserve to be noted.

Solar by Ian McEwan
I haven't actually read anything by Ian McEwan yet (and no, I do not live under a rock) but this book has been generating a lot of buzz--and it looks very interesting. The global warming backdrop to the book could really work and I'm fascinated by the idea of a main character that you despise.

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Goodreads
Official Website


Whiter Than Snow by Sandra Dallas
It was the title that first attracted me to this book, but I really love the concept. The book is about families after an avalanche in Colorado in 1920 and how their lives change and evolve.

Amazon

Barnes and Noble
Goodreads
Official Website




Pearl of China by Anchee Min
This book tells the partly true story of the friendship between a poor Chinese girl and the daughter of a Christian missionary through the Chinese Revolution. Hooray for historical fiction, and isn't the cover gorgeous?

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Goodreads
Official Website

31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan
This is a legal drama that takes place before the Civil War about a girl trying to prove her innocence in a murder. I love courtroom dramas, so this looks very good.

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Goodreads
Official Website


Hungry Girl 1-2-3: The Easiest, Most Delicious, Guilt-Free Recipes on the Planet by Lisa Lillien
This is a book of simple, quick recipes. Seeing as that's all I can handle, those are the recipes I need.

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Goodreads
Official Website


What are you excited about this week?