Monday, May 24, 2010

Book Review: What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures by

What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell
Release Date: October 20, 2009
Age Group: Adult
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Length: 432 pages

What is the difference between choking and panicking? Why are there dozens of varieties of mustard-but only one variety of ketchup? What do football players teach us about how to hire teachers? What does hair dye tell us about the history of the 20th century?

Here is the bittersweet tale of the inventor of the birth control pill, and the dazzling inventions of the pasta sauce pioneer Howard Moscowitz. Gladwell sits with Ron Popeil, the king of the American kitchen, as he sells rotisserie ovens, and divines the secrets of Cesar Millan, the "dog whisperer" who can calm savage animals with the touch of his hand. He explores intelligence tests and ethnic profiling and "hindsight bias" and why it was that everyone in Silicon Valley once tripped over themselves to hire the same college graduate.
Malcolm Gladwell may be my favorite nonfiction author, though I admit I haven't read many of them. He takes a topic that I've never considered before, then weaves it into an incredible story which makes me feel like maybe it isn't useless trivia after all. Even when it actually is.

This book is a collection of Malcolm Gladwell's best articles with the New York Times Magazine reaching back into the 1990's It's organized into three categories, but the topics definitely jumped around with every new story, making sure I never got too tired of one kind of story.

Some of the articles were less interesting than others, of course. I found myself forcing through a few of the ones in the middle--but it was alright, because I could skip them without losing track of the flow of the book. Like reading a book of short stories, any articles that didn't grab me could be passed by.

The best part about this book is that it makes you really think about all kinds of information you'd never thought of before. For example, Gladwell's views on plagiarism were fascinating, and I'd never heard the argument presented in the way he did. It made me reevaluate some of my ideas, and I loved that about it.

Amazon~Barnes and Noble~Goodreads

Friday, May 21, 2010

Book Blogger Hop (7)

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.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Book Review: Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
Release Date: October 1, 2005
Age Group: Young Adult
Publisher: Luna
Length: 440 pages

Choose: A quick death and hell or slow poison and hell.

About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She'll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly's Dust and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.

As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can't control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren't so clear.
I loved this book. The pacing throughout the entire book is simply perfect--the relationships and character development is balanced with the plot of the story and I loved how it all fit together. Nothing felt forced, which I tend to find in most books similar to this.

The way the characters develop is completely realistic, even though I kind of saw it coming from the beginning. It wasn't a magical transition, it was a slow, gradual, and I was rooting for it to happen the entire time. Yelena was amazing and I was cheering for her the entire time. I just loved her.

I had a slight issue with the way backstory was stuck into the beginning of the book, with slight hints that were clearly engineered to make us interested in what had happened but not explain until the end of the book. It was kind of irritating, but the inserts were short and infrequent enough that I could pretty much ignore them.

Overall, this was an amazing story with an interesting plot and brilliant characters. I highly recommend it to every fan of young adult literature.

Amazon~Barnes and Noble~Goodreads

Sunday, May 16, 2010

In My Mailbox (1)

My town has a huge used book sale every year, and every year I manage to find a gazillion books I want to read. And they're so cheap, how could I not buy every single one? And....I end up broke. But with lots of books!

Shakespeare by Bill Bryson
When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Volume 2) by William Shakespeare
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Snow by Orhan Pamuk
The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
City of Light by Lauren Belfer

What did you end up with this week?

Friday, May 14, 2010

New Releases: 5/8/10-5/14/10

This week, I'm most excited about:

Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin
Release Date: May 11, 2010

(from Barnes and Noble) Tessa Russo is the mother of two young children and the wife of a renowned pediatric surgeon. Despite her own mother's warnings, Tessa has recently given up her career to focus on her family and the pursuit of domestic happiness. From the outside, she seems destined to live a charmed life.

Valerie Anderson is an attorney and single mother to six-year-old Charlie--a boy who has never known his father. After too many disappointments, she has given up on romance--and even to some degree, friendships--believing that it is always safer not to expect too much.

Although both women live in the same Boston suburb, the two have relatively little in common aside from a fierce love for their children. But one night, a tragic accident causes their lives to converge in ways no one could have imagined.

In alternating, pitch-perfect points of view, Emily Giffin creates a moving, luminous story of good people caught in untenable circumstances. Each being tested in ways they never thought possible. Each questioning everything they once believed. And each ultimately discovering what truly matters most.
Sounds interesting, no? I always love contemporary fiction that can really capture the relationships people have, so I'm excited to see what this book is like.

Other recent releases (links go to Amazon page):

Adult Fiction

Fever Dream (Special Agent Pendergast Series #10) by Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston
My Name Is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliviera

Adult Nonfiction

WAR by Sebastian Junger

Young Adult Fiction

Jump by Elisa Carbone
For the Win by Cory Doctorow
The Golden Spiral by Lisa Mangum

What are you excited about this week?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Book Review: The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan

The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan
Release Date: 1981
Age Group: Adult
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Length: 144 pages

As their holiday unfolds, Colin and Maria are locked into their own intimacy. They groom themselves meticulously, as though someone is waiting for them who cares deeply about how they appear. When they meet a man with a disturbing story to tell, they become drawn into a fantasy of violence and obsession. (from goodreads)
I'd never read Ian McEwan before picking up this book. I never really felt the need to, despite the fact that I kept seeing him popping up in all kinds of discussions. And then he showed up on the list of 1,001 books to read before you die and I heard about this book in a podcast discussing the best short books, so I decided to go for it.

This book is creepy. And I knew that something terrifying was going to happen because of the summary, which almost made it worse. The entire book I found myself saying, "Okay, what's going to happen? What's that guy going to do? Oh my god, is this the creepy part?"

The suspense made this book impossible to put down, but it was only because I knew something bad was going to happen that I kept reading. The first half of the book dragged along, and it seemed like nothing was really happening for a good bit of the book. But I absolutely couldn't stop reading because I had to know the ending--the combination was strange and a little unsettling.

The very end was a little bit anticlimactic. That is to say, the build-up after the halfway point was amazing and I was so hyped up about what was going to happen that when the ending finally came, I almost missed it entirely. I had to read the last few pages a couple of times in order to fully understand what had happened, which was annoying.

Overall, this was a good psychologically thrilling book--for the second half. Fans of a slow build-up would probably enjoy it, but even with the slow beginning I found myself liking the book. If anyone's read it, I'd love to know what you thought, because I still have mixed feelings.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Book Review: The Lost City of Z by David Grann

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann
Release Date: February 24, 2009
Age Group: Adult
Publisher: Doubleday
Length: 352 pages

After stumbling upon a hidden trove of diaries, acclaimed New Yorker writer David Grann set out to solve "the greatest exploration mystery of the twentieth century": what happened to the British explorer Percy Fawcett and his quest for the Lost City of Z? In 1925, Fawcett ventured into the Amazon to find an ancient civilization, hoping to make one of the most important discoveries in history, but he and his expedition vanished. For decades, scientists and adventurers have searched for evidence of Fawcett’s party and the lost City of Z. David Grann’s quest for the truth and his stunning discoveries about Fawcett’s fate and “Z” form the heart of this complex, enthralling narrative. (from Barnes and Noble)
I'd never heard of Percy Fawcett before picking up this book, so I wasn't familiar with any of the material ahead of time. It was exciting to go in that way, knowing nothing about Victorian age exploration and so discovering things as the author showed them to me, and it was really well set up for people with minimal background knowledge on the topic. I never felt lost in the heaps of information required to truly understand the time period, a problem which could have easily occurred.

The book was a little long for the information in it. The biographical account of Percy Fawcett's life got a bit dry after a couple hundred pages, and then there was more to get through. And some of it could have been taken out, in my opinion, while still maintaining the flavor of Fawcett's life and personality.

I also expected something totally different when I went in to the book. The narrative was was an interesting and informative book about the life of Percy Fawcett, yes, but it didn't go beyond that into an adventure story in the Amazon. I went into the book expecting more of an story about how the author went looking for him, and that didn't happen until the very end of the book. Even then it wasn't at the forefront of the story, nor was it much of an adventure. However, I still did enjoy reading about the expeditions and about Fawcett himself. He had a very interesting personality and a very interesting life, and this book did an excellent job of exploring that.

Amazon***Barnes and Noble***Goodreads

Friday, May 7, 2010

Book Blogger Hop (6)

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.

Here are some of the amazing blogs I've discovered through the hop. You should definitely check them out if you're looking for insightful, spot-on reviews.

New Releases: 5/1/10-5/7/10

I'm most excited about:

The Red Pyramid (The Kane Chronicles, Book 1) by Rick Riordan
Release Date: May 4, 2010

(from Since their mother’s death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane. One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a "research experiment" at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives. Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them--Set--has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe--a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family, and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs.

I've loved Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series ever since The Lightning Thief came out...four or five years ago. The modern-day myths are brilliant and they were really well-written, too. So I'm thrilled that he's writing a new series, about Egyptian mythology. I'm a little bit worried about repeated material, but I have faith that this book will be new and interesting.

Amazon~Barnes and Noble~Goodreads

Other recent releases: (links go to the Amazon page)

Adult Fiction

Release Date: May 4, 2010
The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer
Dead in the Family (Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire Series #10) by Charlaine Harris

Adult Nonfiction

Release Date: May 4, 2010
52 Loaves: One Man's Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning, and a Perfect Crust by William Alexander

Young Adult Fiction

Release Date: May 4, 2010
Lies: A Gone Novel
by Michael Grant
Spells by Aprilynne Pike
The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Something Like Fate by Susane Colasanti
Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready

What are you excited about this week?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Book Review: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Shiver (Wolves of Mercy Falls #1) by Maggie Stiefvater
Release Date: August 1, 2009
Age Group: Young Adult

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Length: 400 pages

For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf—her wolf—is a chilling presence she can't seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human ... until the cold makes him shift back again. Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It's her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human--or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever. (from goodreads)

I was a bit put off from this book originally, because I had this idea in my head that there would be some kind of strange bestiality relationship between the girl and the wolf that I didn't want to read about. But I heard so much about this book from my friends that I eventually had to pick it up. And I did enjoy reading it.

The story was definitely well put together. The action worked well and it all built on each other to the point where everything made sense at the end without my knowing what was coming. The new twist on werewolves was interesting and creative, which is a difficult feat, but it worked well here, pulling in new twists on other ideas and keeping it just different enough for me to be interested in these werewolves and their habits.

What kept me from loving this book, though, was the way the romance was set up. I understand that Grace had been watching Sam for years and was obsessed with him and such, but he was a wolf during those times. And yet, as soon as she met him as a human, she was totally and completely in love with him. Without having ever spoken to him. Did she know Sam? At all? And yet she proclaimed her undying love. It was frustrating because the romance was written beautifully, and I couldn't get over the unrealistic factor enough to truly enjoy it.

All in all, this was a good read. I recommend it to fans of paranormal romance in a heartbeat, and I think other lovers of YA will enjoy it as well. It's fresh and interesting and well-written, and I think it's worth a read.

Amazon***Barnes and Noble***Goodreads

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Book Review: Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty

Second Helpings (Jessica Darling series #2) by Megan McCafferty
Release Date: April 22, 2003
Age Group: Young Adult
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Length: 349 pages

Jessica Darling is up in arms again in this much-anticipated, hilarious sequel to Sloppy Firsts. This time, the hyperobservant, angst-ridden teenager is going through the social and emotional ordeal of her senior year at Pineville High. Not only does the mysterious and oh-so-compelling Marcus Flutie continue to distract Jessica, but her best friend, Hope, still lives in another state, and she can’t seem to escape the clutches of the Clueless Crew, her annoying so-called friends. To top it off, Jessica’s parents won’t get off her butt about choosing a college, and her sister Bethany’s pregnancy is causing a big stir in the Darling household.

With keen intelligence, sardonic wit, and ingenious comedic timing, Megan McCafferty again re-creates the tumultuous world of today’s fast-moving and sophisticated teens. Fans of Sloppy Firsts will be reunited with their favorite characters and also introduced to the fresh new faces that have entered Jess’s life. (from goodreads)

I was super excited going into reading this book because of how much I enjoyed reading the first book in the series, Sloppy Firsts. And I'm pleased to say that I wasn't at all disappointed. Jessica, the main character, has a wonderful voice and she's always clever and funny and awesome. Her reactions to everything are so realistic that even the qualities I find annoying about her seem like they have to be that way.

The story itself worked well, also. In fact, I think I liked the plot of Second Helpings better than that of Sloppy Firsts. It covered more ground in the same amount of time and the minor characters were fleshed out more than they were in the first book, breaking apart some of the high school stereotypes that bothered me in Sloppy Firsts. It was a little bit predictable--the end was pretty clear from the start of the book--but the way the ending was reached worked perfectly. The build-up of the romance was excellent, too, and totally realistic to the characters and their personalities.

I flew through this book and would recommend it to anyone looking for a fun read with great wit and characterization. After reading this, I can't wait to see Jessica in college in the next book, Charmed Thirds.

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

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Book Blogger Hop (5)

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.

Here are some of the amazing blogs I've discovered through the hop. You should definitely check them out if you're looking for insightful, spot-on reviews.

Une Parole
Time Out
Bewitched Bookworms