- Fizzy Thoughts: July 2009

The Last Beach Bungalow

Friday, July 31, 2009

last beach bungalow
The Last Beach Bungalow
Jennie Nash
February 2008
288 pages

Synopsis (from barnesandnoble.com):

After five cancer-free years, April Newton should be celebrating, but instead she's restless. She feels her husband slipping away, and though the spectacular, stylish house he's building for her should be a fresh start, April finds herself wanting something more. As their move-in date approaches, she becomes obsessed with winning the right to buy the last bungalow in Redondo Beach, convinced that the quirky, lived-in little house represents comfort, completeness-everything she is missing in her life. And though her quest for the bungalow will take some surprising twists, it may put back together the pieces of her heart.

Like Care, I read this one after I read The Only True Genius in the Family, and while enjoyable, it didn’t quite impress me as much.  I think I need to take a break between books by the same author, otherwise I usually end up a little disappointed.

Also, like Care, I didn’t fall in love with April, probably because we have nothing in common and I thought she was just floating along, complaining about her unhappiness, but not really taking steps to confront or fix anything.  But the bungalow.  Oh, the bungalow.  I definitely fell in love with that, and it’s owner.  The bungalow scenes and stories were actually my favorite parts of the book. 

I think part of the reason why I wasn’t as excited with this one, compared to True Genius, is that the families are a bit similar.  There is a loving husband and a wife who is vaguely dissatisfied/unhappy.  In both stories the husbands are supportive, but remain in the background while the wife muddles through her emotions and unhappiness largely on her own.  And then she comes to a measure of understanding and resolution by the end.  Don’t get me wrong, both books are well written and enjoyable reads, but I think I did them a disservice by reading them back-to-back.

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Into the Beautiful North

Thursday, July 30, 2009

beautiful north
Into the Beautiful North
Luis Alberto Urrea
May 2009
352 pages

The Hummingbird’s Daughter is a book that I’ve never read, but that I’ve picked up countless times at the bookstore.  Something about the title, or maybe the cover, tempts me.  But I never went so far as to actually buy the book.  Then, when I was at the LA Times Festival of Books, I attended a panel featuring (among others) Luis Alberto Urrea.  And he started off by reading a passage from his latest book, Into the Beautiful North.  I was hooked.  And I loved the panel…along with Thrity Umrigar and Gina Nahai, Urrea spoke about sense of place.  They discussed language and culture and how to give readers a sense of the place they are writing about.  Without ever reading a word he’d written, I became a fan.  As soon as the panel was over, I rushed out to buy the book.

And okay, then the book sat in the TBR pile for awhile.  But not too long!  Only about a month, which is actually pretty good, considering how much competition it had.

This book surprised me.  I didn’t expect it to be so funny, or so casual in tone.  And even though Urrea spoke about how he uses language to convey culture, I somehow didn’t expect how much language he would use, or how much culture he really could convey.  In that sense, this book is like Oscar Wao, only better.  Because while I didn’t understand every word, I certainly understood the tone and the intent. And I know some people don’t like this, but I would argue that there is so much Spanglish and humor that it is fairly easy to understand a great deal of the Spanish.  And without it, this book wouldn’t be as good as it is.  Besides, if you get totally stumped, there’s always Google and urbandictionary. :-)

Into the Beautiful North is the story of Nayeli and her friends, and their journey from Mexico to the US in search of men.  Not men for themselves, but men for their village.  Nayeli has come to the realization that all of the men in her town have left for the US…and they never came home.  Inspired by the film The Magnificent Seven, Nayeli decides that it’s time to follow them north and find seven men who will return with her to help protect and revitalize the town.  Additionally, Nayeli is determined to find her own father, who left years ago and never returned.  As Nayeli journeys north, she finds help in the unlikeliest of places, and amongst the unlikeliest of characters.

Along with the language, the genius in this book is in its characters.  They are all quirky, unique and lovable.  While I occasionally found myself shaking my head at their actions, I was still rooting for them all the way.  Atomiko!

And someday, I’m going to read The Hummingbird’s Daughter.

Powell’s has a wonderful interview with Urrea, in which he talks about all sorts of things, including Into the Beautiful North.  He’s also on Twitter, with his lovely wife Cindy, and I have to say, they are the nicest couple.  Because you can actually chat with them…and it’s like talking to your neighbors (only better, because my neighbors spend all their time staring at our house and freaking me out).  I always appreciate people who are approachable and unpretentious, so at the risk of sounding too fan girly, I’ll just end by saying Urrea is the bomb.  Both in real life and in print. 

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The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

beautiful things
The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears
Dinaw Mengestu
2007
228 pages

Publisher Comments:

Seventeen years ago, Sepha Stephanos fled the Ethiopian Revolution after witnessing soldiers beat his father to the point of certain death, selling off his parents' jewelry to pay for passage to the United States. Now he finds himself running a grocery store in a poor African-American neighborhood in Washington, D.C. His only companions are two fellow African immigrants who share his feelings of frustration with and bitter nostalgia for their home continent. He realizes that his life has turned out completely different and far more isolated from the one he had imagined for himself years ago.

Soon Sepha's neighborhood begins to change. Hope comes in the form of new neighbors— Judith and Naomi, a white woman and her biracial daughter — who become his friends and remind him of what having a family is like for the first time in years. But when the neighborhood's newfound calm is disturbed by a series of racial incidents, Sepha may lose everything all over again.

Told in a haunting and powerful first-person narration that casts the streets of Washington, D.C., and Addis Ababa through Sepha's eyes, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears is a deeply affecting and unforgettable debut novel about what it means to lose a family and a country — and what it takes to create a new home.

If you read all of the critics’ comments, this sounds like a (haunting, lyrical or other adjective of your choice) novel.  Unfortunately, it fell a bit flat for me…both he writing and the story.  But then, I had just finished The Angel’s Game, and that’s a tough act to follow.

Also, I disagree with the publisher’s comment “But when the neighborhood's newfound calm is disturbed by a series of racial incidents, Sepha may lose everything all over again.”  Gentrification is changing the neighborhood and pushing out people who have lived in the poor neighborhood for years.  And yes, you could argue that it ends up being the whites pushing out the blacks, but the novel doesn’t present like that.  It’s more about the haves v. the have-nots.

The novel also jumps back and forth to tell the story of Judith’s arrival in the neighborhood, her growing relationship with Stephanos, and her departure.  While not too bad, it is a bit jarring at times to try and figure out where the narrator has taken us.  And the end certainly came as no surprise.

I guess I wasn’t in the mood for subtle.  I was expecting more of an immigrant tale, while I got a novel about the meaning of hope and community and home.

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The Cellist of Sarajevo

Monday, July 27, 2009

cellist

The Cellist of Sarajevo
Steven Galloway
2008
231 pages

For such a small little book, this one sure packs a whammy.  It takes place during the early 1990’s, during the Siege of Sarajevo, and shows us the impact the siege has on the lives of four different individuals.

The Cellist:  The Cellist has vowed to play Albinoni’s Adagio every day for 22 days, in remembrance of 22 people killed by a mortar attack while waiting in line for bread.  (Note: this character is based on Vedran Smailovic, who is not at all happy about this book.)
Arrow: a sniper in the army, Arrow is tasked with taking out the sniper who will likely target the Cellist. Used to the unique freedom of picking her own targets, this assignment is difficult for Arrow, who may soon find herself losing this small bit of control she counts on. 
Dragan: an older man who was able to send his wife and son to safety before the city was locked down, Dragan struggles with his journey to work every day.  As he walks the streets and crosses the bridges, he is always aware that he may be shot down by the snipers in the hills.  The constant vigilance is beginning to affect him, however.  Dragan is almost to the point of being incapacitated by the sound of gunfire.

Kenan:  Every four days Kenan must traverse the city to fill up water bottles for his family.  Like Dragan, he is hyper-vigilant about snipers.  But for Kenan the focus is on the two additional, inconvenient water bottles that he carries to fill for his ungrateful elderly neighbor.  Kenan is constantly wondering if lugging those two extra bottles around is worth it.


The Cellist begins the story, and while everyone is aware of him, he is usually in the background.  The book really focuses on Arrow, Dragan and Kenan.  The stories take place over the course of a month, and alternate between the three characters.  By the end of the novel, each has come to an important resolution.  Despite the huge toll the siege has had on their lives, they each manage to wrestle back control...although not control in the sense of being in charge, more like they are determined not to let the siege turn them into people they are not.  They all manage to transcend the war and emerge victorious in their own way.

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The Angel’s Game

Sunday, July 26, 2009

angel's game
The Angel’s Game

Carlos Ruiz Zafon
2009
531 pages
translated by Lucia Graves

He’s back, and he’s done it again.  If you’ve read Shadow of the Wind (and if you haven’t, do so now), The Angel’s Game is just as gothically wonderful.  Set in Barcelona, the novel is so dark and creepy I’m convinced Barcelona is a city of smoke and fog and dark corners and eternal night.

The Angel’s Game is the story of David Martin, a young writer who gets caught up in a literary mystery that features himself.  Sound a bit confusing?  Well, it is.  And it’s plot is best discovered by unraveling it yourself, not reading about it beforehand.  Zafon is a master at creating complicated tales that weave together books, writing, tortured souls, doomed romances and dark secrets.  And while you may think you know where the story is headed, there’s always a mysterious twist to keep you on your toes.  And scratching your head.  And I know, tortured souls and doomed romances and dark secrets just sounds so trite.  But believe me, it’s not.  I’d compare his books to The 13th Tale, only more.  More gothic and more convoluted and even more bookish.

Zafon writes books for people who love books.  Okay, maybe not for us, but they definitely appeal to us.  Like Shadow of the Wind, The Angel’s Game features The Cemetery of Forgotten Books and Sempere and Sons Bookshop.  Yay!  I’m sure I’m not alone in saying I fell in love with The Cemetery in Shadow.  Who wouldn’t want to visit a place that is the repository of forgotten books?  Yes, it’s deliciously creepy…but think of all those lonely books needing a good home.  *sigh*

Anyways.  While this book does feature a few familiar places, and is technically a prequel to Shadow, you do not have to read Shadow first.  They are both very capable of standing alone.  And bonus, they have the same translator, who does such an amazing job it’s hard to believe it’s a translation.  Both books are beautifully written, and incredibly readable.

There are a few small quibbles I have about a few murky happenings and characters, but I’m willing to forgive.  Because this book was so much fun to read.  And yes, it got a bit slow for awhile, but all was forgiven when I got to page 441 and had a holy crap! moment.  Followed shortly thereafter by a few more holy crap moments!  And then the end!  OMG, the end!!! 

And now I’m pouting because it’s read and I have no more Zafon.

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I’ve got hiiiiiiiiigh hopes….

Saturday, July 25, 2009

As you read this I am on the road, headed north to Sunriver, Oregon, for a week spent with Hamburger’s family…his mom, his three aunts, and various siblings, cousins, spouses, significant others, kids and assorted friends.

Each of the 7 days we spend in Sunriver requires nothing more from us than to show up (and sometimes cook for) the obligatory 6pm dinner.  Other than that (and a river float, and maybe a ping pong game or two), I plan to spend my time lazily pedaling along bike paths and reading.  Like everyone else who reads, I seem to have over packed:

king of the books Winterton Blues
Mudbound
Small Town Odds
The Island of Eternal Love
The Mother Tongue
Four Seasons in Rome

a journal
The Game On! Diet, so I can finish the review
The Promised World, because I’m a tour stop in September
1776
A Voyage Long and Strange
The Professor and the Housekeeper
The World in Half

That handsome dude on top of the pile is Valentino Cthulhu, compliments of chartroose, who pretty much picks the best prizes ever.  Sexy Valentino is staying home to guard the house, so don’t get any ideas.

Not pictured is my current read, A Prayer for Owen Meany.  And A Disobedient Girl, another book I’m reading for an upcoming TLC tour stop.  And since I’ll be in Oregon, land of no sales tax, the odds are pretty good I’ll pick up a few more books along the way.  Especially since what I packed may not necessarily end up being what I’m in the mood for.  And yes, I have the same problem when it comes to packing clothes for a trip…I like to have options!

And since I haven’t had a giveaway in awhile, let’s turn this into a little contest.  One with bizarre odds, but hey, you never know.  The person (or maybe persons) who can come the closest to guessing which books I will finish by the time I roll back into town (sometime on 8/2) will win their choice of a book from the above pile (Game On! and the journal excepted).  Fair warning though, if the winner picks a book I haven’t read, they might have to wait for me to read it!

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All Hail the Queen

Friday, July 24, 2009

The lovely Sheri at A Novel Menagerie graciously awarded me this little gem:


Which means I have to come up with 7 awe-summm things about moi. Egads.

1. I'm a little goofy. Or maybe I'm just weird. Either way, I like me like that.

2. I've corrupted my friend Rochelle. With books. It's one of my proudest accomplishments. Now if I could just get her to blog on a regular basis.

3. I seem to have accumulated so many names that Care is now calling me Jill/Softdrink/FizzyBeverage/FizzyThoughts/Whatzername. Which may not seem something to brag about, but it cracks me up. If you were named after a nursery rhyme character, you'd think nicknames were awesome, too.

4. I love to travel and learn about new places. See? I can be serious, too.

5. My use (and abuse) of parentheses. I heart ( ). They will never need to fear extinction as long as I'm around.

6. Evidently, I've got mad parody skillz. Had I known this 20 years ago, I would've considered giving Weird Al a run for his money.

7. My readers. Which means you're awe-summm, too! Instead of passing this on to 7 people (like I'm supposed to), I challenge you (yes, you) to come up with 7 awesome facts about your own self. Don't be shy...tell me about your awesomeness in the comments.

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The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop

Thursday, July 23, 2009

yellow lighted bookshop
The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop
Lewis Buzbee
2008
225 pages

This book is all kinds of awesome…at least, if you’re a lover of books.  However, since I read it back in March (which for my memory is the equivalent of 10 years ago), I’m a little hazy on the details.  In short, Buzbee chronicles his life with books.  There are chapters on reading as a kid, finding work in bookstores, browsing in bookstores, working as a publisher’s rep, and all sorts of other marvelous stories about books and the joy of reading.

You should read it.

And I should obviously post my reviews in a more timely manner.

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The Only True Genius in the Family

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

true genius
The Only True Genius in the Family
Jennie Nash
February 2009
292 pages

Publisher Comments:

From the author of The Last Beach Bungalow: a portrait of a family in all its heartbreaking complexity.

Though she lives in the shadow of her legendary landscape photographer father, and is the mother of a painter whose career is about to take off, Claire has carved out a practical existence as a commercial photographer. Her pictures may not be the stuff of genius, but they have paid for a good life.

But when her father dies, Claire loses faith in the work she has devoted her life to, and worse, begins to feel jealous of her daughter’s success. Then, as she helps prepare a retrospective of her famous father’s photographs, Claire uncovers revelations about him that change everything she believes about herself as a mother, a daughter, and an artist.

I read this last month while I was on vacation in Portland.  And I enjoyed it so much I ran back to Powell’s (like I needed an excuse) hoping they had The Last Beach Bungalow.  Which they did. But that book will be the subject of another post.  Let’s talk TOTGITF.

Claire is human, and that makes her a really likeable and relatable character.  She has lived in her father’s shadow, always believing herself to be less than talented.  Now that her daughter is on the brink of being a successful painter, Claire is again feeling left behind and left out.  While dealing with her father’s death and estate, Claire has a crisis of faith, so to speak.  She loses faith in her abilities and is unable to finish her photography shoots.

However, what sets Claire apart from her famous father and her about-to-be famous daughter is her caring and loving nature.  Claire feels deeply, and is hurt by her father’s repeated rejections and his love for and mentoring of Bailey, who as a child shows artistic talent.  When Claire oversteps into boundaries and (with good intentions, I believe) interferes with Bailey’s art, Bailey’s cutting rejection is equally painful.

I would argue that Claire is the true genius in her family.  While she has a loving and supportive husband, he still seems a bit clueless as to depths of Claire’s hurt.  Her father and Bailey are both self-centered. Because she cares, it is Claire who seeks to understand both herself and those around her, and I think that makes her the true genius.

Other reviews:
wordlily
Care
Natasha
S. Krishna

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The Widow’s Season

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

widowsseason
The Widow’s Season
Laura Brodie
June 2009
320 pages

From the back cover:

Sarah McConnell’s husband had been dead for three months when she saw him in the grocery store.

What does a woman do when she’s thirty-nine, childless, and completely alone for the first time in her life? Does it mean she’s crazy to think she sees her late husband beside a display of pumpkins? Or is it just what people do, a natural response to grief that will fade in time? That’s what Sarah McConnell’s friends told her, that it was natural, would last a season, and then fade away.

But what if there was another answer? What if he was really there? They never found the body, after all. What if he is still here somehow, and about to walk back into her life?

Sometimes I just don’t understand myself.  I mean, I read the back cover.  What did I expect?? 

But by the time I got to the end of the book I was feeling a little pissy about the whole thing.  Joanne not-so-recently asked “this one sounds like something I would absolutely love, but I gotta know, does it stay in the whole emotional struggle of the main character territory or does it morph into romancey crap? And was the ending satisfying or saccharine?”

No, it didn’t morph into romancey crap, but there was a fair bit of “is he real or is he a ghost” crap, and “if he is a ghost, why is he there” crap.  Although it took a fair amount of time to reach that point.  The first half is mostly “is she going to pull herself together and move on with her life, or not.”  Then it’s “okay, she’s moving on, although not necessarily in the direction I would’ve gone.”  Followed by a few “whoas.”  And while the end isn’t saccharine, there was a definite “fuck me, why did I just read this” moment.

Which isn’t to say this isn’t a good book.  It is.  After all, I read the whole thing.  In a day.  I thought it was engaging and well-written, and Sarah’s confusion about her life was both understandable and believable.  I just don’t like “maybe it’s a ghost” stories.  At all.  Not because they’re scary, but because I don’t like the mind games.  And because I’m not going to believe in a ghost until one walks up to me and says, “Howdy, I’m Caspar.”

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Game On! update, week 3

Monday, July 20, 2009

GameonTile
I’m still plugging way with the Game On! Challenge.  Me and all the other snack cakes:

The Ding-Dongs:
Julie from Booking Mama
Jill from Rhapsody in Books (who I blatantly stole this list from, by the way)
Amy from My Friend Amy
Ti from Book Chatter and Other Stuff
(I am also a Ding Dong)

The Twinkies:
Candace from Beth Fish Reads
Jenners from Find Your Next Book Here
Jenn of Jenn’s Bookshelf
Denise from M. Denise C.
Dawn from She is Too Fond of Books

The HoHos:
Kathy from The Brain Lair
Vasilly from 1330V
(other HoHos are blogless)

And here we are at the end of week 3.  This week many of us hit the doldrums, so to speak.  The scales went up, they went down, they went up, they went down.  Problem is, by the end of the week they didn’t quite go down far enough for many of us to get that coveted weigh-in bonus, including me.  Oh well, we still feel good.  Right???  And none of us have quit!

The official scores for this week aren’t in yet, so I’m not happy dancing.  Can the Ding-Dongs hold onto their (substantial) lead?  Will the Twinkies slink into first place?  Are the Ho-Hos staging a comeback?  Oh, the drama in snack cake land.

As we enter into our final week, I have to say I’m already obsessing over NEXT week.  Not because I’m planning what I want to eat, but because I’ll be at a family reunion for 7 full days and I won’t have any control over what I can eat.  Yes, I can control portions, but not content.  Communal cooking is part of the tradition, and it’s pretty frowned upon if you buy your own food.  So I think I’m just going to have to suck it up and hope that when I get home I can slip right back into the healthy eating that I’ve actually (gasp!) become quite fond of.

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Bound South

Sunday, July 19, 2009

bound south
Bound South
Susan Rebecca White
February 2009
345 pages

Publisher Comments:
By turns hilarious and poignant, the lives of three vibrant and unique Southern women — a proper Atlanta matron, her rebellious teenage daughter, and their housekeeper's young daughter — intersect in unexpected and extraordinary ways in this richly compelling debut novel of family, friendship, and folly.

Folly.  Yeah, I can get behind that description.  Quite a bit of this book was over the top for me, including the characters.  This was an entertaining read, but I found myself shaking my head at the direction it went.  Not that I had a particular direction in mind, it just seemed so determined to contradict the stereotypical white Southern matron character that it went it a bit far.

Louise is the stereotypical white Southern matron.  She’s settled into the role society and her parents expected of her.  She’s got the perfect house in the perfect neighborhood and two kids, although one is not-so-perfect.  Her daughter Caroline is a bit rebellious, and Louise isn’t quite sure what to do with her.  Also popping in and out of the story is Missy, the housekeeper’s daughter.  Nobody seems to know quite what to do with poor Missy.

As I mentioned, there were things in the story that just didn’t work for me.  I felt that Louise ran hot and cold with her daughter.  I also felt that time moved too fast for the story.  It seemed rushed as we went from Caroline’s rebellious teenage years, through her independence in San Francisco, then on to her marriage and divorce and discovery phase.  And keep in mind that she was only one of three main characters.  Also, since I’m on the topic of our three alleged main characters, I felt Missy got a bit of the short end of the stick when it came to character development.  Although Louise is the primary focus of the novel, I think either too much or too little focus was given two the other two women.  Whichever way you look at it, I think it detracts from the overall story.  Especially since Louise has a pretty ambitious back-story going on at the same time.

Overall, I think this novel attempted too much.  Too many characters with too many stories in too short of a novel.

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BBAW is coming, BBAW is coming!

Friday, July 17, 2009

bbaw-button2009

Thanks to the magnificent Amy, the 2nd annual Book Blogger Appreciation Week (BBAW) will be taking place in September.  What is BBAW, you ask?  Well, read on for all the details…

WHO Anyone who blogs about books is invited to participate.  In fact, we want everyone who blogs about books and reading to be a part of this week!
WHAT A week where we come together,  celebrate the contribution and hard work of book bloggers in promoting a culture of literacy, connecting readers to books and authors, and recognizing the best among us with the Second Annual BBAW Awards.  There will be special guest posts, daily blogging themes, and giveaways.
WHEN September 14-18, 2009
WHERE Over at the new Book Blogger Appreciation Week Blog!  (Please note that this year there are three separate blogs and feeds—one for the main event, one for giveaways, and one for awards.)
WHY Because books matter.  In a world full of options, the people talking about books pour hard work, time, energy, and money into creating a community around the written word.  Amy, the founder of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, loves this community of bloggers and wants to shower appreciation on you!

WANT TO PARTICIPATE?

Please help us spread the word about Book Blogger Appreciation Week by posting about it on your blog, twittering about it, and telling everyone you know that it’s time to have a party and celebrate book bloggers! Please register by filling out the registration form! Registering ensures your inclusion in the BBAW 09 Database of Book Bloggers and enters you into the drawing for the BBAW 09 Grand Prize! Come back often as there will be many updates!  And follow us on Twitter!

AWARDS
BBAW Award Nominations are now open on the BBAW Awards Blog.

Many, many, many thanks to Amy for all of her hard work and continuing this awesome tradition!!

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Girl Overboard

Thursday, July 16, 2009

girl overboard Girl Overboard
Justina Chen Headley
2008
339 pages

Publisher Comments:
The worst thing about having it all is having to deal with it all-the good, the bad, and the just plain weird. Like seeing more of my dad when he's on the cover of Business Week than I do in person. Like the surgeon whose schedule was too jammed with professional ballplayers to deal with my busted up knee...until he heard who my parents were and miraculously his calendar was wide open. Like the pseudo boyfriend who was more in love with my last name than with me.

Everybody thinks Syrah is the golden girl. After all, her father is Ethan Cheng, billionaire, and she has everything any kid could possibly desire, right down to a waterfront mansion, jet plane, and custom-designed snowboards. But most of what glitters in her life is fool's gold. Her half-siblings hate her, her best friend Adrian's girlfriend is ruining their friendship, and her own so-called boyfriend is after her for her father's name. When her broken heart results in a snowboarding accident that exiles her from the mountains--the one place where she feels free and accepted for who she is, not what she has--Syrah must rehab both her busted-up knee, and her broken heart, and learn that she's worth her weight in real gold.

I think the synopsis is a little misleading.  The entire book takes place after the snowboarding accident.  When I first read it, it seemed like the accident would occur in the course of the book.  Not that that really matters, it just is a little misleading.  Because after her accident, Syrah is forced to confront her life…her unhappiness with the relationship she has with her parents, her body, and her best friend. And that is what the book is all about.

This is by the same author as North of Beautiful.  And while it’s not a bad read, I prefer North of Beautiful.  Probably because I read it first, and as is the case when authors write books dealing with similar themes, the first one always seems more unique.

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Running with Scissors

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

scissors

Running with Scissors
Augusten Burroughs
2002
320 pages

I’m not entirely sure what to think about this book.  After James Frey, I’ll confess to being a little leery about memoirs, especially ones that are a bit…”My parents sucked!  OMG my guardians suck, too!  And their house is the most disgusting place in the world!  And I’m having sex at an inappropriate age and with inappropriate people!  And no one cares!”

Not that I’m doubting that he had a bad childhood, or that sucky things happened to him, but when you’re writing a memoir and everyone calls you Augusten in the memoir but then your reader discovers you didn’t change your name until later on, well, said reader loses a bit of faith.  And then when you describe how disgusting the house in which you lived in was, and how casual everyone was about it, and then you have one of those same people freak out when they see dried locust shells (or something like that), well, said reader loses even more faith.  And then, come to find out, it seems there was a lawsuit over the book, with allegations from the guardian’s family about defamation of character and other unpleasantness.  What the hell am I supposed to believe after that?!?

So, to summarize.  Augusten (aka the child formerly known as Christopher) lives with his mother and father.  Parents divorce.  Mom has issues, and ends up giving custody of Augusten/Christopher to her shrink.  Yes, her shrink. A/C goes to live with the shrink and his family in a house of dubious cleanliness.  A/C ends up in an unhealthy relationship with a pedophile (who was also the adopted son of aforementioned shrink).  Shrink gets weirder and weirder.  Mom has episodes of wellness and episodes of not so wellness.  A/C is undoubtedly scarred for life. 

This book contains sex, dubious medical practices and the eating of dog food.  Read at your own risk.

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Little Bee

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Yes, I’m still working on the backlog of reviews and I’m still working on those questions people asked way back when.  Today, I’m going to cross Little Bee off the list.
little bee 
Little Bee
Chris Cleave
February 2009
271 pages

Publisher Comments:
We don't want to tell you too much about this book!

It is a truly special story and we don't want to spoil it.

Nevertheless, you need to know something, so we will just say this:


It is extremely funny, but the African beach scene is horrific.

The story starts there, but the book doesn't.

And it's what happens afterward that is most important.

Once you have read it, you'll want to tell everyone about it. When you do, please don't tell them what happens either. The magic is in how it unfolds.


This is a powerful book, but they’re right…it would be a shame to give away the story.  I would add that it is set in both London and Nigeria.  And that Little Bee is the name of the main character and narrator.  And I will give you two brief passages from the book:

“Most days I wish I was a British pound coin instead of an African girl.” p. 1

”In your country, if you are not scared enough already, you can go to watch a horror film…Horror in your country is something that you take a dose of to remind yourself that you are not suffering from it.” p. 45

Heather J. asked me three questions: “Did you identify with Andrew or Sarah or neither? What did you think of Little Bee's decision to "think of scars as signs of life"? Did you feel that the book was ultimately depressing or hopeful?”  And Eva asked, “Do you think I’d like Little Bee?”

I didn’t really identify with either Andrew or Sarah…I thought they were both selfish.  I didn’t care for Sarah’s actions in England, before the trip to Nigeria, and I didn’t like Andrew’s responses to the situation in Nigeria.  Sarah does has some redeeming qualities at the end, though.  However, without all of their prior decisions, there wouldn’t have been much of a book, so I guess I can’t complain too much.

I did, however, love Little Bee’s resiliency, as evidenced by her statement that scars are signs of life.  Rather than focus on the bad, she moves on.  And as for Heather’s last question, I’m not sure.  I think the actions that the characters take at the end are hopeful, and by that I mean there willingness to take a stand.

Now for Eva and her whopper of a question.  I’m always hesitant to say that people will like a book, because there are so many different factors…the story, the writing, the setting, the characters, the tone, the ending.  But yes, I do think Eva would like this one, if only because it subtly deals with some big issues, and it alternates between London and Nigeria.  Plus, it’s relatively short, so if I’m wrong, it’s not like I just recommended a 500 plus page chunkster.  Not that that would stop Eva. :-)

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We are the Ding Dongs

Monday, July 13, 2009

GameonTile
Although it’s too early do be proclaiming any champions, I just had to take a few minutes to gloat revel in the Ding Dongs awesome team score of 838.8 points for week 2.  That’s out of a possible 850, in case you were wondering.  So I decided the occasion called for a little celebratory Queen, with the lyrics (of course) changed to fit the occasion:

We are the Ding Dongs

We ate our veggies 
Meal after meal
We got our exercise
And ate no F.L.A.B.B.y foods
No bad mistakes
We all held true
We’ve had our share of cheese sticks
And we've come through
We are the Ding Dongs - my friends
And we'll keep on fighting - till the end
We are the Ding Dongs
We are the Ding Dongs
No time for Twinkies
'Cause we are the Ding Dongs - of Game On!
We’ve lost some weight
Our clothes are loose
Game On! made us healthy and happy and everything that goes with that

We thank the Twinkies
And the Ho-Hos
Fellow snack cakes
We consider it a challenge before the whole human race
We ain't gonna lose
We are the Ding Dongs - my friends
And we'll keep on fighting - till the end
We are the Ding Dongs
We are the Ding Dongs
No time for snacking
'Cause we are the Ding Dongs - of Game On!

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Game On! Update

GameonTile
Here we are at the beginning of week 3 of our Game On! challenge and I was wondering what to blog about, since things are pretty much the same as last week.  Same good things, same bad things, except the hives that weren’t hives but an allergic reaction are gone.  Which is a Very. Good. Thing.  Oh, and I lost two more pounds. Also good.

Luckily, Jill (coolest name ever, by the way) at Rhapsody in Books awarded all of the Game On! ‘ers the Kreative Blogger Award. To accept this award, you are supposed to list seven of your favorite things and nominate seven blogs that deserve this award. Since Jill challenged herself to list 7 things that have nothing to do with food or health, I thought I would follow in her footsteps.  As we’ve all discovered in these last two weeks, food plays a huge role in our lives, whether it’s going out with friends for a meal, or going to birthday parties, or even just relaxing at night…with a bowl of ice cream.  Trying to explain to people why you suddenly aren’t up for a trip to Starbucks or a slice of birthday cake can be tough.  Even making a list of seven favorite things sans food is difficult! 

My food-less favorites:

1. Reading
2. Browsing through bookstores 
3. Travel and exploring new places
4. Hamburger (who is not a food) 
5. Mondays (since I am off work and have the house to myself)
6.  Mike Wazowski, my laptop
7. Supportive friends, both real life and via the internet, especially:

The rest of Team Ding-Dong:
Julie at Booking Mama
Jill at Rhapsody in Books
Amy at My Friend Amy
Ti at Book Chatter and Other Stuff

The Twinkies
Beth at Beth Fish Reads
Jenners at Find Your Next Book Here
Jenn at Jenn’s Bookshelf
Denise at M. Denise C.
Dawn at She is Too Fond of Books

The HoHos:
Kathy at The Brain Lair
Vasilly at 1330V
(and the rest of the blogless Ho-Hos who still send entertaining emails)

Thanks again to Jill for the inspiration for today’s post.  And good luck to everyone as we enter week 3!

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Short 'n ...

Friday, July 10, 2009

A long time ago (but not in a galaxy far, far away), I posted my thoughts on Mrs. Dalloway. I summed up my feelings about the book with this word:

"Huh?"

Then Joanne left this comment:

"You should start a new event where you post a popular or classic book and have people reply with the first word they think of in relation to it."

And I thought this was such an excellent idea that I kept the email as a reminder. And now I'm finally getting around to it. It only took four months.

We're going to start with this classic:


Chances are, most of us read this one in high school. So don't be shy, step up and leave a comment. What do you think of when you think of this book? Just remember...ONE word people, that's all you get. How would you sum up Animal Farm in ONE word?

And thanks to The Book Zombie for the inspiration!

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North of Beautiful

Thursday, July 09, 2009

north-of-beautiful
North of Beautiful
Justina Chen Headley
February 2009
384 pages

from Publishers Weekly
Laced with metaphors about maps and treasure, Headley's (Girl Overboard) finely crafted novel traces a teen's uncharted quest to find beauty. Two things block Terra's happiness: a port-wine stain on her face and her verbally abusive father, a failed cartographer who views her as ugly and belittles the collages she creates. A car accident brings her together with Jacob, an Asian-born adoptee with unconventional ideas. Besides introducing her to new pursuits like geocaching, a treasure-hunting game using GPS, Jacob ends up traveling with her when they have an opportunity to visit China together with their mothers. The trip, far-reaching on many different levels, gives Terra a chance to rethink the past and re-map her goals. Taking readers to America's Northwest, then to China and back again, the author confidently addresses very large, slippery questions about the meaning of art, travel, love and of course beauty. All of her characters hold secrets; finding them out will be as rewarding as Terra's discoveries of caches.

When I was a teenager my bedroom walls weren’t plastered with posters of teen idols.  Instead, I had maps everywhere.  My parents subscribed to National Geographic and I loved the issues that came with maps.  You’re probably wondering why I mentioned that, since it makes me look like a dork.  But Terra, the main character in North of Beautiful, also has a bedroom wallpapered with maps.  Okay, so it’s the room she inherited (maps included) from her older brother.  But still.  Maps.  *swoon*

Enough with the maps. 

North of Beautiful has a lot going on, despite the fact that it’s an engrossing and quick read.  It addresses inner vs. outer beauty, the confidence to be yourself, the meaning of true friendship, verbal abuse, the question of what art is, and all sorts of other things.  Yet, while all of these issues are present in the book, the author doesn’t bash you over the head with them (well, except maybe the stand up and be yourself bit).  This book is the story of Terra’s journey towards self-acceptance, and it’s fun to go along for the ride.

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The Hunger Games

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

hungergames
The Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins
September 2008
384 pages

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (and don’t worry, I live there sometimes, too), then you know what this one is about.  So I’m not going to recap it for you.  If you want the recap, just go hang out on Google.  You’ll find lots of places to visit.

Instead, I’m going back to the questions.  Remember them?  You probably thought I was all done.  But I’m a slacker, so I still have lots of questions left to answer.  For this book, Joanne asked “Overhyped or not? Was it as good as you'd expected? Or did you feel that the book didn't quite live up to it's reputation?”  And then Lilly asked “What do you think about the ending? Did you like that it didn't give any closure as to the characters' lives and instead left readers needing to get part two to find out?” Next, Michelle asked "Do you find that having read that particular book you are more or less inclined to continue reading in that genre (YA)?”  And finally, Jennie asked “too violent? Or not violent enough to be believable?”

Whew.  Lotsa questions on this one.  Let’s see if I can answer them all.  Coherently.

I really enjoyed the book.  Yes, it’s received lots of hype, but it’s still an intriguing concept and contains (I think) a well-developed dystopian society.  Yes, it’s slightly reminiscent of The Lottery, but that’s okay.  And it also went in a direction I totally wasn’t expecting, so major points for that.  It did bog down a bit with the preparations for the game (all the pageantry was a little weird), and with the game itself, but that’s okay, too.  So while it wasn’t the best book ever, I’m still glad I read it.  I can see reactions to this one being all over the place, so I think it’s worth recommending, if only to hear someone’s thoughts on why or why they didn’t like it.

Because I like series (within reason…I never did read the last Harry Potter), I had no problem with the ending.  Frustrating though it might be, I think that was a good place to end.  And yes, I can’t wait for Catching Fire

I’m really loving all of the fresh ideas and edgy stories that YA is coming out with lately.  Or that I seem to have become aware of lately.  So yes, I do plan to keep reading books in the YA genre, but since I don’t like that “didn’t I just read something similar” feeling, I may not be hunting down dystopian novels any time soon.

Finally, in regards to the violence, can I say “just right?”  While I don’t have a problem reading about violence (in context), I honestly wasn’t looking forward to the actual Hunger Game.  Because I knew characters that I had gotten attached to were going to die.  And yet, there had to be some violence to be believable.  There were some weird things within the game that struck me as odd (the dog creatures?), but overall I was okay with how it played out.

So yeah, I got sucked into a new series.  But as I said above, I think Collins has created an interesting society…I’m looking forward to seeing where she goes with it.

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The Walking People

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

walking people
The Walking People
Mary Beth Keane
May 2009
416 pages

I first read about this book at Tara’s Books and Cooks blog. Tara wrote a lovely review that had me looking for the book in my library’s online catalogue.  Imagine my surprise when they actually had it!  Also, imagine my surprise when they charged me 50 cents for the hold request.  Not that I begrudge the library 50 cents, but they could have told me!



Anyways.

The book was worth the 50 cents, although I’m still feeling a bit jarred by the ending.  Talk about avoiding confrontation!

Oh.  You probably want to know what it’s about before I go off on the ending, huh?  Fair enough.

The story starts in Ireland in 1956.  (Okay, there’s a prologue set in 2007, but I’m not starting there.)  The Cahill family lives in west, west, west Ireland.  In other words, they live in the teensy remote village of Ballyroan, a village that has pretty much died.  Big Tom and his wife Lily are struggling to support their three grown sons and two younger daughters.  It is on the two daughters, Johanna and Greta, that the story centers.  Greta appears to be a bit off, although it’s nothing anyone can put their finger on.  She is the baby of the family and happy to stay close to home.  Intrepid Johanna, on the other hand, is always wondering and wandering, and her inquisitive nature leads her into the tinker’s camp.  The tinkerers are gypsies, or the Walking People from which the novel takes its name.

Stuff happens.

Next thing you know, it’s the 1960s and Ballyroan is even deader than it was in the 1950s, if that’s possible.  Johanna is still dreaming of escape.  When one of the tinkers returns to the village, Johanna targets the young man (Michael) and plots her future.  Quicker than you can say brown bread, Michael finds himself in New York with Johanna and Greta.

More stuff happens.  And this time we get to read about most of it through the letters that pass back and forth between Ireland and New York.  Good stuff.

Then it’s the 1970s and Michael and Greta have settled down into family life. 

Then it’s the 1980s and there’s some weird family estrangement that eldest daughter Julia is a bit curious about.

Then it’s 2007 (hey, just like in the prologue, imagine that) and Michael is retiring from over 30 years as a sandhog.  There are a few surprises in store.  Some happen, some are about to happen.

The end.

Seriously.  Just before the big resolution (or whatever), the book ends.  This is worse than Edgar Sawtelle in terms of whammo endings, in my opinion.  Because we’re talking about people here, not dogs!  Oh sure, it doesn’t have the drama of Edgar Sawtelle.  This is a quiet novel about family and relationships.  There is no underlying Hamlet-ness happening.  But I still want the final scene!!!!

Also, remember our conversation about titles?  Well, I have a bone to pick with this one.  The Walking People play a minor role.  Well, except for Michael.  He’s got a pretty big role.  And yes, you can argue for deeper meaning and recurring themes.  But Michael and Greta don’t walk.  They stay.  And since the book is mostly about them, that would be why I have issues.

But then, I always seem to have issues.  Still, it’s a good book.  You should read it.  If you like stories about Ireland and immigrations and family relationships.

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(Don’t) Eat It

Monday, July 06, 2009

GameonTile
Did you know that I attended the same college as Weird Al Yankovich?  Seriously, I did.  Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.  You know you’re jealous.  I’ve even seen the bathroom stall where he supposedly penned his first parody.  I know, now you’re even more jealous.  So in keeping with the Cal Poly tradition, I thought it appropriate to parody one of Weird Al’s parodies to inspire all of the participants in the Game On! Challenge.  Aided by MaDawnNa (even if she is a Twinkie), I had this ready to post last Monday to kick off the challenge.  However, a certain someone’s untimely death made us hold off for a bit.  We didn’t want to be totally insensitive, even if we did write this BEFORE he died.  But now that we’re heading into the 2nd week of our Game On! Challenge, I figure it’s time for a few reminders for all of the players.

(Don’t) Eat It

Are you ready to win so you can gloat? 
Say no to Diet Coke, say no to tummy bloat
Get ready to drink enough water to make your eyes float
Play Game On!, and don’t eat it

Three teams are vying for acclaim
Believe it or not, this really is a game
If you don’t earn your points, you'll just have yourself to blame
Don’t eat it, don’t eat it

Don't tell me you can’t do it
Don’t eat it, eat it, eat it, eat it
Get yourself some celery and eat it
But don’t have any sugar, don’t have any F.L.A.B.B.
Make sure that doughnut isn’t what you grab
Don’t eat it, eat it, don’t eat it, eat it
Don’t eat it, eat it, don’t eat it, eat it, ooh

One of the rules is that we can’t collude
Don’t make the other teams lose by sending them junk food
And yes you can still play even if you’re a dude
Don’t eat it

Better listen to Az, better do what you're told
You don’t wanna be the team that folds
You better exercise or work on a wrestling hold
Don’t eat it 

Ding Dings are gonna win ‘cause we
Won’t eat it, eat it, eat it, eat it
Kick your unhealthy habit, you can beat it
Do a sun salutation, floss your teeth
The winner gets to wear a laurel wreath
But don’t eat it, eat it, eat it, eat it

Don't you make me repeat it
Have some leafy greens, have a whole bunch
It doesn't matter what you had for lunch
Just eat it, eat it, eat it, eat it
Eat it, eat it, eat it, eat it
But don’t eat that, don’t eat that

Go for a walk, go get fit
Don’t eat a big dinner, eat 5 small meals
If you don't like it ask your teammate how she feels
Don’t eat it, eat it, eat it, eat it
Get yourself an egg (white) and beat it
Add in some spinach, and it’s okay
But don’t add the sausage, it’s not okay
Don’t eat it, eat it, eat it, eat it
Don't you make me repeat it (oh no)
Have a celery stalk, have a whole bunch
It doesn't matter what you had for lunch
You can eat it, eat it, eat it, eat it

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Game On! update

GameonTile


Here we are at the beginning of week 2 of the Game On! challenge, and I feel great! And no, I’m not just saying that to be polite.

To recap, this is what I’m supposed to be doing every day:
*eating 5 small healthy meals – each meal consisting of a carb, a lean protein and a healthy fat…also, veggies with at least two of these meals
*drinking 3 liters of water
*exercising 20 minutes
*getting at least 7 hours of sleep
*staying in contact with teammates and taunting the opposition
*give up an unhealthy habit (Starbucks…and to clarify, it wasn’t the caffeine I needed to give up, it was the latte habit)
*start a new healthy habit (wear sunscreen)

I’m proud to say I got a perfect score for my first week (hah! to the Ho Ho’s and double hah! to the Twinkies), plus I lost 4 pounds. Go me.

Here are some of the benefits to this challenge:
*having fun communicating with your teammates and poking fun at the opposition (there have been some brutal pictures of donuts and cake and chipwiches and beer floating around) (and check out last Monday’s post for info on the teams)
*energy – I don’t know about anyone else, but I have a more constant level of energy throughout the day. Since I usually get 8 hours of sleep, it’s not the sleep rule. I’m guessing this is all about eating better.
*when you stop eating sugar, fruit becomes the best thing ever
*happy skin – you try drinking 3 liters of water/day and not having happy skin.  Well, except for the hives, but I’ll get to that.
*happy me – I’m so cheerful it’s disgusting.

Now for a few of the more challenging aspects of the challenge:
*5 meals – if you don’t plan ahead, this is hard! Not so much for the breakfasty, snacky meals, but for dinner. By day 3 I was sick of chicken (we don’t eat fish). And veggies. I love veggies, but not really in the morning. So I felt like I was obligated to eat them by the end of the day. And it wasn’t like I had even been eating lots of chicken and veggies. It was just the thought.
*To fit the exercise in during the work week, I started to walk on my lunch break. And while the temperature wasn’t blistering, it was warm. I faithfully wore sunscreen, but my chest is covered in hives. At first I thought it was sunburn, but it’s definitely hives. My best guess is it’s a combination of the heat and the sunscreen. And while this isn’t a problem anyone else would have, it’s been a bit irritating. Not to mention itchy.
*The need to be in close proximity to a bathroom for most of the day. Because hello? 3 liters of water is a hecka lot of water!

So now it’s on to week 2!

***Another cheesy song to follow later today.  I know you all can’t wait.

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Brother, I’m Dying

Sunday, July 05, 2009

brother
Brother, I’m Dying
Edwidge Danticat
2007
7 hours and 51 minutes (audio book)
narrated by Robin Miles

I’ve never read any of Danticat’s books (and technically, I still haven’t), but this one surprised me.  Not really knowing what to expect, I ended up listening to a powerful family memoir, a tribute to both Danticat’s father and uncle, as well as a story of Haiti and its people.

When Danticat was a young girl, first her father then her mother left seeking a better life in the United States, leaving Edwidge and her younger brother in the care of their paternal uncle, Joseph.  It would be eight years before the siblings would be able to join their parents and two younger brothers in New York.

Brother, I’m Dying begins with Danticat learning that her father is dying.  On that same day, she also learns she is pregnant.  As she tells of her struggles to come to terms with these changes, she also reflects back on her life, her father’s life, and her uncle’s life in Haiti.  As she tells their stories, what shines through is her deep love and respect for both men.  Danticat interweaves Haitian political history with the individual stories of various family members.  Her Uncle Joseph is clearly the hub of the family, a man who willingly cares for various extended family members as if they were his own.  Joseph eventually becomes the pastor of his own church in Bellaire, a man who is deeply concerned about his community and who is unwilling to leave despite political tension.

As Danticat chronicles Joseph’s life, she also weaves in the progression of her father’s illness.  As he becomes increasingly frail, Joseph’s life also takes a dramatic turn.  In 2004, after political trouble in Bellaire threatens his life, he finally flees Haiti.  Upon attempting to seek political asylum in the US, he is sent to Krome, a Miami detention center.  Shortly thereafter, he dies.  Then, not too long after the birth of Danticat’s daughter, her father also passes away.

I’m sure if I was reading it, I would have been bawling by the end, even knowing what was coming, and that both men had lived full lives.  But since I was listening to the audio version (while driving!), I fought off the tears.  But knowing how deeply Danticat loved and admired both men makes the ending difficult to accept.

The only part of the book that I struggled with was the initial part of Joseph’s final arrival in the US.  It’s apparent that Danticat did some heavy research to uncover her uncle’s last hours, and at times the dispassionate recitation of airport and immigration facts is a bit jarring.  However, juxtaposed against the final outcome, it becomes pretty powerful.

Robin Miles does an amazing job of narrating this story.  She slips in and out of Haitian Creole, French and accented English effortlessly, and the lilting accents of the various Danticats are particularly beautiful.

If you like memoirs and audio books, this is a winning combination.

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Let’s talk titles

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Remember when I asked y’all to ask me questions about my unreviewed books? I know, it’s been awhile, and I still have a pile of books and questions to tackle. Good thing it’s a long weekend…I’m hoping to put another dent in the list.

In the meantime, I want to talk about an interesting question that was left on that post by an author.

Jennie Nash is the author of The Last Beach Bungalow and The Only True Genius in the Family. She has written other books as well, but I mention these two because I read them both last month while I was on vacation, and I enjoyed them both. Unfortunately, they are still on the list of books to be reviewed.

So Jennie (and please, excuse the familiarity, but once you leave a comment I consider us to be on a first name basis ;-)) asked this question…

I'm the author of TWO books on your list, and I want to know how TITLE plays a role in helping you chose which one you'll read. I'm trying to title my novel in progress, so this is a burning question :)

Since it’s taken me awhile to get around to answering, this may not be a burning question anymore, but I’ll still take a stab at it.

How important is a title when I’m thinking about what to read? Not very, I’m afraid. I’m a cover gal, myself. I love cover art, and if I’m browsing in a bookstore, that’s what will draw me to a book. And then the blurb is what will ultimately sell it. Which isn’t to say I’ve never read a book because the title made me laugh. Years ago, I bought It’s My F---ing Birthday for that very reason (and please don’t judge me for it). Except that book turned out to be a big disappointment. So I’m not very trusting of titles. Or maybe I should say my taste in titles.

Also (and keep in mind that I still loved the book), I’m getting a little perturbed by the sudden preponderance of long-ass titles. Case in point…The Only True Genius in the Family. Other examples include That Potato Peel Book, T.S. Spivet and The Absolutely True Diary, blah, blah, blah. All of these are awesome books, but you’ll notice I didn’t even bother to type out the entire title. Because I’m lazy like that. Also, I tend to forget or mix up the words. In fact, after reading both of Jennie’s books, I have a hard time not referring to one of them as The Last True Genius in the Family.

So I guess what I’m saying is keep the title short. Don’t restrict yourself to one word, but please, don’t let the title be a novel all by itself.

But that’s just me. Let’s ask some other bloggers. What do you say, folks? Would you like to tell Jennie how influential you feel a title is when it comes to choosing a book?

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The Gangster We Are All Looking For

gangster 
The Gangster We Are All Looking For

le thi diem thuy
2003
176 pages

Synopsis:

This acclaimed novel reveals the life of a Vietnamese family in America through the knowing eyes of a child finding her place and voice in a new country.

In 1978 six refugees — a girl, her father, and four "uncles" — are pulled from the sea to begin a new life in San Diego. In the child's imagination, the world is transmuted into an unearthly realm: she sees everything intensely, hears the distress calls of inanimate objects, and waits for her mother to join her. But life loses none of its strangeness when the family is reunited. As the girl grows, her matter-of-fact innocence eddies increasingly around opaque and ghostly traumas: the cataclysm that engulfed her homeland, the memory of a brother who drowned and, most inescapable, her father's hopeless rage.

This is a very short novel that bears some similarities to the author’s life (a drowned sibling, immigration to the US).  There are parts of the novel that I liked (mostly the beginning when the young narrator and her father, Ba, and “uncles” struggle to find their way, and the time after her mother arrives).  However, the uncles soon disappear from the story and it starts skipping around in time.  Ba succumbs to mysterious rages that are difficult to understand.  Sure we get glimpses into his mysterious past and the death of his son, but I kept waiting for the shoe to drop and it never did.  Aagh!  Additionally, what was the meaning of Ba’s increasing anxiety?  What was its purpose??  In the end, for me, the language and emotions just weren’t enough to carry this book and it’s underdeveloped story.  I’m too literal for books like this.

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The Sookie Stackhouse Challenge

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

sookie challenge 
Beth Fish at Beth Fish Reads has come up with the perfect challenge.  Although I’ve never heard of Sookie and series, this sounds like too much fun to resist.  Besides, everyone is doing it.  Which makes me a
blacksheep.


And I have no problem admitting it.

Let’s discuss details…

The Rules:

1. Between July 1, 2009, and June 30, 2010, catch up on Charlaine Harris's Southern Vampire series. No matter if you're starting with book 1 or book 8, you have a year to read all about Sookie. Read Sookie in print, listen to the audio, read an eBook -- format is not an issue.
2. Sign up using Mr. Linky. Put your name in the top box. For the bottom box, please use the URL that links specifically to your blog post about this challenge, not to your blog's home page.
3. After July 4, I'll create a post with another Mr. Linky where you can link your reviews so everyone can read them track your progress.
4. If you don't have a blog and want to join in, sign up in the comments here. Later, let us know about your progress by leaving comments on the review link page.

The Books:

Dead Until Dark
Living Dead in Dallas
Club Dead
Dead to the World
Dead as a Doornail
Definitely Dead
All Together Dead
From Dead to Worse
Dead and Gone



If you’d like to join the madness, head on over to Beth’s blog!

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In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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