Thursday, April 17, 2014

Paper Towns by John Green

about book: (from Goodreads)

Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life—dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows.

After their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues—and they’re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees of the girl he thought he knew.

my thoughts:

I loved The Fault in Our Stars!  It was such a beautiful and insightful book, that I figured I should read more of John Green's works.  So, I kindled a copy of Paper Towns.  I was so excited to step back into a world created by Green, that I immediately started reading this book.  And, the more I read, well, the more disappointed I became.  Paper Towns was not the book I was expecting.  Instead of an engaging and amazing story, I got a book filled with ramblings about paper people and paper towns.  Oh, and a mystery thrown in for good measure - where in the world is Margo Roth Spiegelman?  Ack!  What a disappointment!  I was actually so unhappy with the book that I contemplated not finishing it, but I read on until the very end ( I had hoped that Green would have salvaged the story by the end - I was wrong). 

Paper Towns was a book that didn't really seem to go anywhere.  It was unrealistic and filled with stereotypical characters.  I found myself bored by it.  The idea that Q was chosen to find Margo via her clues was ridiculous considering that they had barely spoken in several years (except for their one night of revenge).  I honestly could care less what happened to Margo - she was a selfish young woman who didn't really seem to care who she hurt or left behind.  And Q's obsession with finding her was overly annoying.  I would definitely not recommend Paper Towns, but I would read more Green.  I'm convinced that this book was a one-off and that the next Green book I read will be terrific.  Fingers crossed!

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Few More Quickie Reviews

Here are a few quickie reviews of some of my latest reads:

about book:  Scotland Yard's Murder Squad returns, in the stunning new historical thriller from the author of the acclaimed national bestseller The Yard.

The British Midlands.  It's called the "Black Country" for a reason.  Bad things happen there.

When members of a prominent family disappear from a coal-mining village - and a human eyeball is discovered in a bird's nest - the local constable sends for help from Scotland Yard's new Murder Squad.  Fresh off the grisly 1889 murders of The Yard, Inspector Walter Day and Sergeant Nevil Hammersmith respond, but they have no idea what they're about to get into.  The villagers have intense, intertwined histories.  Everybody bears a secret.  Superstitions abound.  And the village itself is slowly sinking into the mines beneath it.

Not even the arrival of forensics pioneer Dr. Bernard Kingsley seems to help.  In fact, the more the three of them investigate, the more they realize they may never be allowed to leave...

my thoughts:  The Black Country was a miss for me - ugh!  This book had too many gory details, several underdeveloped characters, and a disjointed storyline that was chock full of murders, epidemics, and natural disasters.  There was just too much going on (and in so many different directions) that you couldn't help but feel as if the author had tried to jam in every idea he had into one story - it was ridiculous!!  I would definitely not recommend this novel,unless you are a fan of the overkill novel.

about book:  Winner of 2013 e-Lit Awards winner in the Juvenile/Young Adult Fiction category. 2012 Pinnacle Book Achievement Award in the category of Juvenile Fiction.
Pablo Perez is a 12-year-old poor kid without much going for him. His classmates have dubbed him “Duct Tape” because his tattered discount-store sneakers are held together with…you guessed it, duct tape. He can’t escape the bullying.

Pablo’s luck, however, changes after he finds a $20 gold coin while swimming in a river near his home.Pablo later buys a $1 treasure map at the county fair. The map shows the route to the “lost treasure” of Jesse James. Pablo can’t help but wonder: Is there a link between the map and the gold coin? He is determined to find out, and he, his 9-year-old sister and 13-year-old cousin hire an ill-natured cave guide, and begin a treacherous underground adventure in search of treasure.

my thoughts:  What a fun filled adventure novel!  This book had such wonderful characters - they were complicated, authentic, and easy to cheer for.  Three kids on a mission to find treasure - how fun does that sound?  A Boy Called Duct Tape is a heartwarming read about friendship, bravery, self-acceptance, and the belief that dreams can come true.  I would most definitely recommend this book to fans of children's fiction!

about book:  In a stunning collection that announces the arrival of an incredible talent, Kristiana Kahakauwila travels the islands of Hawai'i, making the fabled place her own.  Exploring the deep tensions between local and tourist, tradition and expectation, facade and authentic self, This Is Paradise provides an unforgettable portrait of life as it's truly being lived on Maui, Oahu, Kaua'i, and the Big Island.

In the gut punch of "Wanle," a beautiful and tough young woman wants nothing more than to follow in her father's footsteps as a legendary cockfighter.  With striking versatility, the title story employs a chorus of voices - the women of Waikiki - to tell the tale of a young tourist drawn to the darker side of the city's nightlife.  "The Old Paniolo Way" limns the difficult nature of legacy and inheritance when a patriarch tries to settle the affairs of his ranch before his death.

Elegant, brutal, and profound, this magnificent debut captures the grit and glory of modern Hawai'i with breathtaking force and accuracy.  Kahakauwila's exquisitely written stories remind us of our powerful desire to belong, to put down roots, and to have a place to call home.

my thoughts:  Fantastic book of short stories set in Hawaii!  The writing was brilliant, the characters were complex and fully developed, and the issues of identity and family were deeply explored within these stories.  This book showcased the beauty and the ugly realities within Hawaii - the real and glaringly real.  There was a tinge of sadness to each story, which really helped to highlight the ups and many downs of living in a tourist destination.  I absolutely loved this book and would wholeheartedly recommend it to fans of short stories - you will LOVE it!!

about book:  Eliot Lamb has had countless nights like this before.  He's out with his mates, pint in hand, shots at the ready. They're at the King's Arms and will soon be making their familiar descent: pub, bar, club.  But this time it's different.  When the night ends and tomorrow begins, he'll graduate from Oxford and head reluctantly into adulthood.  As he stares into the foam of his first beer, he knows it won't be easy.  He'll have to confront his feelings for Ella, an Oxford classmate whose passion for literature matches his own, as well as Lucy, hist first love, whose ominous phone calls and text messages are threatening to unravel him.  And then there's the tragic secret he's been hiding all this time, which is about to find its way out and send his night into serious turmoil.

Ben Masters has written a thoroughly modern coming-of-age story full of style, heart, and humor.  Eliot Lamb - for all his mastery of literary theory, postmodern novels, and classic poetry - is about to be dragged into adult life, whether he likes it or not.

my thoughts:  What do you do after you graduate from college?  That is the premise of this dull story that goes absolutely nowhere.  UGH!  What a waste of my time!  There was no plot to really speak of and all of the literary references/quotes (it was an excessive amount) were used to show off just how smart the protagonist was - LAME!  I would characterize this book as typical lad lit fare.  Definitely not a book I would recommend!

about book:  Yael, Avishag, and Lea grow up together in a tiny, dusty Israeli village, attending high school made up of caravan classrooms, passing notes to each other to alleviate the universal boredom of teenage life.  When they are conscripted into the army, their lives change in unpredictable ways, influencing the women they become and the friendship that they struggle to sustain.  Yael trains marksmen and flirts with boys.  Avishag stands guard, watching refugees throw themselves at barbed-wire fences.  Lea, posted at a checkpoint, imagines the stories behind the familiar faces that pass by her day after day.  They gossip about boys and whisper of an ever more violent world just beyond view.  They drill, constantly, for a moment that may never come.  They live inside that single, intense second just before danger erupts.

In a relentlessly energetic and arresting voice marked by humor and fierce intelligence, Shani Boianjiu creates an unforgettably intense world, capturing that unique time in a young woman's life when a single moment can change everything.

my thoughts:  A thought-provoking read about growing up in Israel - from school to the military.  We find ourselves getting a peek into the lives of three best friends and the choices they make about life, love, and career.  The writing was terrific - it was dark, enlightening, and absolutely mesmerizing!  I would most definitely recommend this book to fans of fiction.

And there you have it, a few of my recent reads.  Some were hits, and some were misses.  In the end, I found some new writers to keep an eye out for.  Now I'm off to finish reading Jacqueline Winspear's, Elegy for Eddie.  Happy reading!!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Non-Bookish Thoughts...

Color me nostalgic.  The other day I was on FB reading a friend's post.  She had chosen a number and then written about where she had been at that age in her life, and had included where she was at now in her life.  It was interesting to see the similarities and the vast differences.  Definitely made me even more aware of how much growing up we have done these past several years.  I made a remark and was given my own number - 19.  I didn't want a number, because I rarely ever post anything personal on FB.  So, I messaged her with my response to the number instead.  It was a quick exchange, nothing atypical about it, except for how it made me feel.   Overly nostalgic.

At nineteen, I was a sophomore in college.  I was loving my life, my friends, and my family.  Being nineteen was exciting - I felt like anything was possible.  My music obsession was R.E.M., which loudly played on repeat, much to the chagrin of my roommates.  I was living with one of my closest friends.  I had just discovered the wonderful world of Kurt Vonnegut (Cat's Cradle, anyone?).  And I was happy.  Of course, there were broken friendships, broken hearts, and stressed out nights working on term papers to contend with during that year, thereby making nineteen slightly murky at times.  But nothing prepared me for the worst day of my life.

My best friend died.  It was a car accident.  She was nineteen and her life was over.  I had seen her early that morning before she left my apartment.  We were moving in together for our junior year and I was going to store her stuff during the summer.  Classes had just ended and she was heading to NYC to visit with family.  We had been moving boxes all day, so we were finally taking a break.  It was after midnight when she left.  She decided to push through her tiredness and drive to the airport.  I told her to stay and leave in the morning, but she was stubborn and didn't want to miss her flight early the next day.  We hugged goodbye and that was it.  That was the last time I talked with her and laughed with her.

Nineteen was a tough year to get through in the end.   Looking back on it is pretty hard.  Too many feelings rise to the surface.  All those "what ifs" start to take over.  But then I think of my dear friend and smile at all of the happy memories we shared.  Her crop top obsession, love of boy bands and 80s movies, addiction to chocolate, boy-crazy addled mind, and penchant for writing sexy romance stories all come rushing back to me.  She kept her stories a secret - her parents found them in her boxes (the ones I was storing in my apartment).  I sometimes wonder about her stories and if she'd still be writing them.  I wonder if they were on par with E. L. James' writing - I just know she would have devoured the Fifty Shades of Grey series.

Thinking about my friend actually reminded about an essay I had read awhile ago (The Opposite of Loneliness).  It was written by a young woman (Marina Keegan) who had recently graduated from college.  She died in a car accident five days later.  She was a writer, too.  Her essays and pieces of fiction have been compiled into a book: The Opposite of Loneliness.  I plan on reading her book.  I'm sure I'll think of my best friend and be reminded of what could have been.  Its sad to think about these two young women and how they had their whole lives ahead of them and then in an instant they were gone.  Cripes, I'm feeling melancholy now.   Anyhow, here's a look at the cover of Keegan's book:
Check it out if you get the chance and read the words of a talented young woman.  I'm off to kindle a copy of the book and think back fondly on the life and times of my beloved old friend.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

When The Cypress Whispers: A Novel by Yvette Manessis Corporon

(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

The daughter of Greek immigrants, Daphne aspires to the American dream yet feels as if she's been sleepwalking through life.  Caught between her family's old-world traditions and the demands of a modern career, she cannot seem to find her place.

Only her beloved grandmother on Erikousa, a magical island off the coast of Greece, knows her heart.  Daphne's fondest memories are of times spent in the kitchen with Yia-yia, cooking and learning about the ancient myths.  It was the thought of Yia-yia that consoled Daphne in the wake of her husband's unexpected death.

After years of struggling to raise her child and pay the bills, Daphne now has a successful restaurant, a growing reputation as a chef, and a wealthy fiance - everything she's ever wanted.  But across the ocean, Yia-yia can see through the storybook perfect of Daphne's new life, and now she is calling her back to Erikousa.  She has secrets about the past to share with her granddaughter - stories from the war, of loyalty and bravery in the face of death.  She also has one last lesson to teach her: that security is not love, and that her life can be filled with meaning again.

my thoughts:

I've never been to Greece, but after reading this book I feel as I've been there now.  There are vivid descriptions of a country so beautiful, it makes me want to book a flight there TODAY!!  Luckily, I have a Greek friend who resides in Athens (we were flatmates in grad school) and she's invited me a number of times to come visit - after reading this book, I just may have to take her up on her offer.

When The Cypress Whispers is the story of a woman struggling to figure out what it is she truly wants from life.  On the surface, Daphne's life is picture perfect, but once you dig a little deeper you begin to realize that this woman's life is a lot messier than you would have thought.  So, when she gets lured to visit her grandmother and a country she loves, Daphne can't help but return to a life she left behind.  This time round she has a daughter to accompany her and to teach all of their family and cultural traditions to.

The story is fairly predictable, which makes it rather unexciting to read at times.  I found the characters to be a bit stereotypical in their actions and wasn't really rooting for any of them.  The only highlights of the book were the descriptions of the island and the food.  It was kind of interesting the way that Corporon attempted to insert myths and legends into the storyline, but in the end it really didn't seem to elevate it much.  Overall, this book did make me appreciate the obvious love for Greece that the author has, but that's pretty much it.

I would recommend When The Cypress Whispers to fans of women's fiction.  And, here's the schedule for the TLC Book Tour of: When The Cypress Whispers
Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Stuff Every College Student Should Know by Blair Thornburgh

(Thank you to Quirk Books for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

Because textbooks can teach you only so much.

This ultimate pocket-size reference is packed with essential information about every part of campus life, including:
  • How to Pull an All-Nighter
  • How to Get Along with Your Roommate
  • How to Eat for No Money
  • How to Do Laundry
  • How to Pick a Major
Plus advice and etiquette for e-mailing professors and getting recommendations, tips for taking care of yourself when you're sick, packing lists for Spring Break, study group guidelines, dorm-room recipes, and much, much more.

my thoughts:

My first Christmas home from college was filled with family, friends and, good eats.  It was also filled with unexpected invites - like the invitation from my old high school to come back and talk to graduating seniors about my college experience.  I wasn't exactly keen on attending, let alone talking with anyone about life at college, but I went.  My best friend was going and she was going to be on stage talking, so I figured it could be fun.  And it was.  We all shared stories about meeting new people, being in charge of our finances, doing laundry at 2am (because that was the only time the machines weren't being used), taking classes a few days a week (instead of everyday), football games, and so much more.  We answered questions and tried our best to convey how amazing and scary college could be when you first get there.  It was definitely a great talk.  I wished I had had some sort of guidance regarding college when I first went away.  I think it might have helped me from making a few mistakes that I later regretted.  So, being much older now, I definitely am excited for my cousin, Sam.  She'll be heading off to college next fall and is already looking at colleges.  She has so many questions and I love answering what I can for her.  Luckily, I have some help this time round.

Quirk Books has published this fantastic little brown book titled, Stuff Every College Student Should Know by Blair Thornburgh.  From tips on how to email your college professor, land a date, do your laundry to buying textbooks and refrain from gaining the Freshman Fifteen, this book has it all.  It is filled with great advice that will definitely come in handy during your college years.  I am excited to share this book with Sam, because I am positive she will benefit from it.  This book will make a great gift for graduating high school seniors.

Thanks to Quirk Books for providing me with a copy of this book!