Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Let's Play Catch Up

Wow! I have been MIA from my site... but I guarantee I have still been turning the pages! So in order to get back up to speed, we're going to do a mini review set on the last 5 books I've read. Take a deep breath, ready... go.

1. MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend  by Rachel Bersche. Ummm... Rachel Bertsche, I love you, and I will be your new best friend. For life. This book is a must read. Searching for a new friend after relocating, the author begins searching by taking weekly friend "dates", and researching the science behind lasting friendships. She approaches the subject with a great deal of humor and sensitivity... and for anyone who's found themselves missing their long time connections after a separation, this a truly inspiring read.

2. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling. My new best friend #2. This girl is hilarious. Even the introduction to the book will make you laugh. Pick it up. Now. Do it.

3. The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi Durrow. I read this for a book club that I joined (yes, I do that), and was genuinely surprised by how much I appreciated and enjoyed this book. It begins with a tragic incident, as the "girl who fell from the sky" must pick up & continue her life, as a biracial child, in a community where she is forever ostracized. The haunting sorrow of this book, somehow manages to leave you with a hopeful attitude for the future, while keeping you turning the pages to see what truly happened in the narrator's past.

4. The Perfect Hope by Nora Roberts. A great ending to her latest trilogy. What's not to love about the  brash contractor in love with the organized, bold innkeeper?

5. Wild by Cheryl Strayed. This book follows the author along her true-life journey on the Pacific Crest Trail, while dealing with her mother's death and poor life decisions. Along the way, she meets interesting people, faces her fears, and learns that even her mistakes led her to the healthy & happy place she is now. I'll admit, I thought it would be boring to read a book about one women's solitary trek in the wilderness for months, it was actually a very quick read, and an encouraging tale of the triumph of the human spirit.

Alright, catch your breath.... and look forward to my upcoming review of Unbroken, because, yes, I've finally started reading it!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Age of Miracles

by Karen Thompson Walker

I bought a beautiful hardback copy of this book, signed by the author, in a little New York bookshop on my recent trip back East. I know they say not to judge a book by its cover, but I believe that the outside of a BOOK often reflects the style and story telling ability of the author... and so I do judge by the cover and title. So I have to say that I was predisposed to like this book, based on my first impression. And I will say that Walker's debut novel did not disappoint me.

The story follows young Julia and her Southern Californian family as they face the everyday complications of life and love, all while dealing with the "slowing" of the earth. After years of destruction, the planet has finally slowed its rotation, meaning that the sun now stays out for days, and nights may last for weeks. Plants can no longer thrive, gravity has changed, and societal structures are fluctuating.

There are some conflicting reviews of this book, but I find that most of them are due to the fact that unaware readers were expecting some high paced, apocalyptic novel. Rather than the "2012" end of the world story, Walker delivers a coming of age story in a completely unique scenario. In fact, I find that the slow pace of Earth's destruction is more terrifying than any sudden end. For example, Julia's young love interest Seth, is fascinated by death due to his mother's lost battle with cancer. They frequently play the "Would you rather...?" game, and Seth always chooses the quickest way to go, believing that the waiting is the hardest part. And just as his mother fought for years, so too will every character in our story. They go on with their lives, day in and out, but with the knowledge that there might not be many days left.... that they will have to fight for each and every day that they get. And somehow, they become accustomed to this struggle. The story focuses not on the end of the world, but on family dynamics, and how individuals respond to situations that test their character. Julia simply relates the events of the initial slowing of our planet, with hints as to what the future may bring for humankind.... but in the end, many questions remain unanswered.Walker's storytelling manages to be both whimsical and somehow melancholy, and although I finished this book several days ago, I have been haunted by the grief for the world Julia once knew, and the life she may never have.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Mortal Instruments (#1-3)

by Cassandra Clare

I had been debating whether or not to pick these books up, after reading glowing reviews of them from YA fiction fans.... and seeing them featured in any and every store that sells books. Then a couple of weeks ago, one of my avid reader friends at work just happened to finish the last one in the original trilogy (books 4 & 5 were not originally planned) and recommended them. And so one day after work, I raced myself to the nearest Target and picked up a little light reading (three books worth).

Our story begins by following the heroine Clary Fray, as she discovers there is an invisible world interacting with her own - a world where demons, warlocks, vampires, werewolves & angels exist. In fact, it turns out (don't worry, no major spoiler here), that Clary is actually a Shadowhunter. They are the descendants of angels, created to battle the evil forces in the world. When her mom goes missing, Clary, her best friend Simon, and her new found gang of Shadowhunters begin a journey to fight the "big bad" AKA Valentine. In the midst of all this, Clary also finds an instant attraction to the arrogant and talented Jace Wayland.

One of the things that I admire in this series, is Clary's transformation. She does not come into this world as an instant demon killer who has clearly been meant to do this her entire life. At times in the beginning, she seems defenseless, thrown into an unfamiliar territory. But as the books progress, Clary begins to come into her own - with the help of special training, and her own exceptional gifts. All the characters show character progression, and are believable, although they exist in an unbelievable world. To be a successful YA fiction novel, there always has to a be a forbidden romance... and this series has plenty of that! In fact, it has several love triangles (including hetero and homosexual dynamics), secret relationships, betrayals, and true love.

These books are definitely entertaining, although I would recommend spacing them out a bit.... and not devouring all of them in the space of one week like I did. They can seem a little formulaic, and it led to me skipping over a few scenes that I found tedious. Also, I started having nightmares about demons. Maybe don't read them before bedtime. I'm just saying. On the whole, they make up a unique young adult fiction series that genre fans will enjoy... and as soon as book six finally comes out, I will read the second half of the trilogy.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Ugly Duchess

by Eloisa James

Well, let me start this post by reminding you all of how I swoon whenever I hear the term "pirate" in relation to a historical romance novel (  Ahem.

This is the fourth installment in Eloisa James "Fairy Tale" series, and is based off of its' namesake, "The Ugly Duckling". As always, I have to preface this synopsis with a SPOILER warning. SPOILER. Red alert. Our main characters are Theo (AKA Daisy), and James. After growing up together in the same household they are surprised to find passion together, only to be torn apart by the shocking realization that James only married the "ugliest" girl in town (our Daisy) due to the fact that his father had been embezzling from Daisy's fortune. Gasp! Daisy kicks James out of their home, and he takes to the high seas. He joins forces with another ton pirate, only attacking other pirates or slave ships. Swoon. Meanwhile, Daisy transforms the estate into a thriving enterprise.... and is taken completely by surprise when her husband (presumed dead) makes an appearance at his funeral seven years later. The remainder of their story consists of the characters determining what their future relationship will be, and regaining the trust and balance that was so quickly lost.

I think that readers will be swept away by James and Daisy's romance... while still being rooted to the ground with empathy for Daisy's insecurities. Widely known as the "Ugly Duchess", Daisy faces a world in which she is a social pariah. A world in which she must transform herself to be socially accepted, and is exhausted with the effort. No matter how successful she becomes, or how she is touted as a fashionista, there always seems to be something missing. It seems like a role that many women will relate to... Who can honestly say that they've never felt misunderstood or underappreciated? That they've never felt unattractive or lonely? It's only when she sees herself through the eyes of someone who truly knows her, that she seems to accept herself.

My only qualm with this story is the ease with which Daisy seems to forgive James for being MIA for SEVEN YEARS. C'est la vie.... true love!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Paris In Love

by Eloisa James

Have you ever wanted to read the inner thoughts of an author? To peek inside the normally private life of the person who writes stories that you read over and over again? Eloisa James is a phenomenal romance novelist who has written several of my favorites (e.g. When Beauty Tamed the Beast, This Duchess of Mine). I'm sure I always thought that her life was as romantic as the books she puts on the shelves. And in some ways it may be. After all, the premise of the book is snippets of her life taken from her year spent in Paris with her family while on sabbatical. But it also begins after her mother's death, and her own battle with cancer. In the calm after the storm, her family packs up and moves across the world. While this was her dream, the journey proves challenging to all the members of her family, especially her children. There are some funny anecdotes, some whimsical accounts of Paris & food (specifically chocolate), and some moments that truly touch you. The stories of her children's struggle with homework or her arguments with her husband are all too familiar for the average reader.... while her moments spent staring out her window onto the French boulevard transport the reader to a far off place. Each snippet, however, rings with the simple truth that the life of the ever glamorous Eloisa James, is really not all that different from yours or mine... Well, except for all the jet setting.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Seating Arrangements

by Maggie Shipstead

I have been M.I.A. Sorry. In fact, I've missed reviewing four different books... So in an effort to bring this blog back up to speed, I'm jumping backwards a little ways. See below.

Seating Arrangements is Shipstead's highly acclaimed first novel, which follows the Van Meter family through three days of a New England family wedding. The story shifts between different characters' point of view. There's the husband/father Winn who is the primary character, always striving to climb up the social ladder, lusting for youth and for his daughter's friend.... the wife who keeps up appearances.... the drunk sister in law...and the daughter who won't fit into any molds. Having just gone through a family wedding, I recognize the stress and emotions that the author relies upon to drive this novel. However, some of the characters seem too remote and unrelatable. Winn is a middle aged man who finds himself regretting some of the choices he's made in life, including the fact that he only had daughters... and no sons to carry on the family line. As the third daughter in my family, this did not sit well with me. He also spends about half the book considering adultery with the obviously sexy, but ultimately empty, Agatha. Ugh. Livia, sister of the bride, is over-the-top dramatic and searching for someone to accept her for who she is. The dark mistakes that all the characters have made in their lives are brought into the light during this wedding weekend. Well, isn't that how it seems to go in real life as well? The only character who we don't "hear" from in this tale is the bride herself, Daphne, who seems to, surprisingly in this family, be very well adjusted. Shipstead's writing is lyrical at times, and very thoughtful, but ultimately Seating Arrangements is not a  "can't put down" book. It will, however, make you reflect on family, the bonds that hold us together, and what we strive for in life.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


by Charlaine Harris

Oh, Sookie. Sookie, Sookie, Sookie. Your life seems to be a series of unfortunate mishaps. ...

Seriously. This girl has somehow gotten herself into one mess after another, mostly related to her telepathic abilities and her relationships with men in power in the supernatural world. Which makes for an entertaining read. With this series, you know you'll get some good mystery, action, & romance when you crack open the book. Each book in the series has consecutively become darker and more serious in nature. My only complaint is that the spunky, personable Sookie that readers fell in love with - who loves to soak up some sun and uses multisyllabic words from her "Word of the Day" calendar - seems to have fallen into a deep depression. As a result, the comedy aspect of the series has gone into remission. However, Harris still writes an engaging story, filled with murder & intrigue, which pulls the reader in. The cliffhanger ending has me waiting on the edge of my seat, to see what next adventure Sookie may find herself wrapped up in.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Stepford Wives

by Ira Levin

If you're a member of my generation you may have heard the term "Stepford wife". You may know of the satire written by Levin. You may know of the original creepy, thriller of a movie from 1975. Or, if you're anything like me, your only Stepford experience MIGHT just be the bizarre (completely unfaithful) modern adaptation where (**spoiler**) it turns out a woman is behind it all!

So with that in mind, I thought that I knew how this book would go... and I was wrong. Levin's satire is ten times more horrifying than any movie could be. What makes it so scary is the subtlety that Levin uses, and the fact that his characters are so seemingly innocent, yet truly deceptive. I have no idea how a man reading this book would react, but my all female book club had a two hour discussion on the topic. Despite the sci-fi twist in the novel, it makes sweeping statements regarding the dynamics between males and females (which would have been ahead of the times in 1975, with women creating new roles for themselves outside of the home). At the heart of it all, is the message that what men truly want (no matter what words they say to your face to contradict this) is to be the sun that their women revolve around. While I'm not typically a fan of "statement" works, Levin does it in an entertaining, page-turning read.

In The Stepford Wives, women with spunk, personality, talent & original beauty are replaced by generic versions of themselves that stay at home, cook dinner, and wax the floor while waiting on their husbands with perky little bodies. The primary couple of Joanna & Walter seems to have genuine love and respect for each other when the first move to Stepford. However, Joanna ultimately finds herself betrayed by her apparently caring husband, as he reveals that he is tired of being second in her life. And couldn't she just wear some lipstick every once in a while?  :-O  What's truly terrifying is that he continues his plan to replace her, even as she is honestly making efforts to continually improve their relationship and give Walter what he needs... emotionally AND physically. Ultimately, Levin's book states that while men have tacitly accepted women moving outside of the home and pursuing their own passions, they long to return to the past when women stayed barefoot in the kitchen. Thoughts?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Night Like This

by Julia Quinn

This book was scheduled to be released yesterday (5/29), so imagine my excitement when my sister came home with a copy for me last Saturday! Thank you, stores that pay no attention to release dates.

My review for this book will be very simple and to the point, mainly because reading it directly after Fifty Shade of Gray has probably influenced my opinion: Thank goodness for Julia Quinn. Really. It was like a breath of fresh air. Her writing is so witty, emotional, adventurous.... everything I hope for from an excellent romance writer. I thoroughly enjoyed the second installment of the Smythe-Smith family (centered around Daniel & Miss Wynter), and am already anticipating the next one.

Fifty Shades of Gray

by E.L. James

Well, since this book has overtaken the radio, general conversation AND my workplace.... I thought it was time to read it for myself. I am not sure exactly what I expected from this work that started as Twilight fan-fiction, although I had heard many obsessive reviews. And that's what this book seems to be about... obsession. If you have seen my reading list, you know I am a romance reader. I didn't think this book would be anything shocking to me... despite the twisted moments of intimacy. However (and call me crazy), I like a little bit more plot and relationship development in my romances. In this 500 page story, the first 100 pages are set up, and the last 400 are pretty much all physical. By the end, I was honestly just skimming some of the pages looking for dialogue. Somehow though, as the reader, you still manage to become as obsessed by the story as the main character Ana is for bad boy Christian. This did make me feel like a horrible person at times, as their relationship consists of primarily unhealthy interactions; dominated by emotional fear (on both of their parts), and even physical harm to Ana. I have heard positive things regarding the sequels, in terms of character development and story line. So while I am fully aware of the negative aspects of this novel, I am still anxious (for some reason), to pick up the next book and see where James takes our characters.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Pillars of the Earth

by Ken Follett

After four and a half months (MONTHS), I can officially say that I have read all 970+ pages of the epic Pillars of the Earth. I don't believe this book needs much of an introduction, as it was one of Follett's most highly publicized and the inspiration for a TV mini series.... which I will admit my family and I watched every episode of.

It did take me a long time to get through this book. That is not a statement regarding the quality of the novel, but rather of its' structure. The book tells the story of several individuals (specifically that of Tom Builder and his associates), over the time of several generations. It is broken up into different sections, following different characters in each time period... which made it too easy to put down and not pick up until a week later. Luckily, I am a reading multi-tasker and did not find myself lost in between readings. Follett's writing is very engaging, and the characters are easy to relate to (despite the fact that the story takes place in medieval England). Ultimately, Follett's tale is about good, evil, and the gray areas between. He clearly writes heroes you love, villains you hate, and people who are more difficult to decipher. The next time I'm up to reading a really fat book an EPIC novel, I'll be picking up one of his newer releases... or the sequel, World Without End.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


by Veronica Roth

Summer book releases are HERE. Finally. I have been waiting for these books to come out for about a year now. I am that crazy girl who goes to the book store, and when I don't see a new release on the shelf yet (where it is SUPPOSED to be), demands that they comb through the boxes in the back so that I can get my fix. I might be a book addict... And a little extreme. But it's all for your benefit, dear reader!

The first of the four books released this past Tuesday that I want to bring to your attention is... Insurgent. This is the sequel to Divergent which I reviewed last year (Need a refresher? This follow up starts right where we left off, with Tris, Four & the others escaping on a train... without any recapping of the prior events. The lack of reminders was a little difficult since I read the last book a year ago now, but once you get into the rhythm of the story, the details come back to you. I can't give away any plot points here, without spoiling Divergent for those of you who haven't cracked it open yet. But Roth expertly sweeps us away into the world where society has divided everyone into factions based upon their personality and strengths. In Divergent, we see the cracks in that society form, and in Insurgent, what seems to be the beginning of complete destruction.

I appreciate the relationship building and character development that Roth accomplishes, especially between Tris and Four (Tobias). The author doesn't rely at all on the too common young adult (YA) fiction love triangle. Instead, she builds a strong relationship between the two lead characters, who have to overcome their own struggles with communication and trust, in a world that seems to be built on lies. The book also continues upon a believable path, with the main characters recovering from the fallout of the first book. Her characters do not simply sweep the events of the last book "under the rug", but struggle with the guilt and grief that is left behind. For Tris, the events of the previous installment become a part of who she is, seemingly making her more vulnerable to the audience, and more believable. Roth also manages to create a unique YA world, that does not completely follow the formula that so many YA books do. And she expertly leaves you with a revelation on the final page that leaves you wishing there was more. Now I find myself, again, waiting on the edge of my seat to find out what happens next.... only approximately 365 more days to go...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I've Got Your Number

by Sophie Kinsella

Kinsella is a master at writing novels that make you feel like you should be reading them on a beach somewhere, without a care in the world. Her most recent work, I've Got Your Number, is no exception. Her main character Poppy is lighthearted and the "footnotes" she adds in throughout the book often brought out a giggle. Although the plot line is totally and completely  a little implausible (two people sharing a cell phone & their e-mails), it makes for interesting relationship development. When you're not sitting face to face, is it possible for one to be more open & brave, while getting to know a total stranger? That is the concept that Kinsella explores, with plenty of humor and winning characters in Poppy & Sam. The one negative is that I have a difficult time reading when I feel like characters make ridiculous decisions (e.g. sending a company e-mail under someone else's name, in an effort to "help" them at work). All in all, an enjoyable, and light, read.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves

by Karen Russell

I was gifted this book by an absolutely fabulous friend of mine, when I went to visit her last October. Technically, I have been reading this book since she handed it to me... but since it's a collection of short stories, that doesn't make me feel bad. Russell was widely recognized for this work, and has since written a full length novel based on one of the ten short stories featured within these pages. Most of the stories take place in an island community, but she introduces bizarre, and sometimes creepy, characters (ghosts, minotaurs, wolf girls... you know, the usual). While I was expecting something unusual in Russell's writing, I was surprised by the haunting endings of almost every single story. Almost every story in this collection left me feeling unsettled (and slightly awkward) at the end. My favorite stories include "Haunting Olivia" (where 2 brothers search the ocean for the ghost of their little sister who washed out to sea in a clamshell), and "Out to Sea" (about a retired man living in a houseboat community & his young kleptomaniac "buddy"). St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves is not a collection the reader can simply rush through, but should be read slowly, so as to appreciate the full impact of each individual story (and not all of them simply strung together).

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy

by Donald B. Kraybill, Steven M. Nolt, David Weaver-Zercher

Have you noticed how many books I'm given by my sisters? Well, I have another one for you! Amish Grace is a non-fiction work that illustrates the incredible grace & forgiveness practiced by the Amish people. The authors begin with a concrete demonstration of Amish forgiveness in the school shooting that occurred in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. A man burst into a one-room Amish schoolhouse, and shot many of the small girls there before killing himself as well. What truly amazed the nation, however, was the uncommon forgiveness offered by the victims and general Amish population to the family of the offender.

Kraybill, Nolt & Weaver-Zercher go further in depth to demonstrate that this was not a one time incident of forgiveness, but rather the expression of a culture built on a foundation of forgiveness. Where many Christian faiths practice that humans should forgive because we have been forgiven by God first, the Amish teach that God's forgiveness is dependent on our first forgiving others. While it may appear that forgiveness comes easily to them, these people struggle with anger & pain in the process of forgiveness. Research demonstrates that the Amish believe forgiveness to be beneficial to both the offender and the victim, and necessary for the victim to heal. The authors also make the important distinction between forgiveness & reconciliation, which is often overlooked. For example, in the Amish tradition of "shunning" members of the community may be forgiven; but continue to be excluded in certain matters until they express regret for their actions and can be reconciled to the church. While they may have their shortcomings, these communities approach forgiveness with a practical mindset and open hearts. The Amish have customs that may seem bizarre to many in our modern world (forsaking many of the comforts & conveniences we so love... e.g. my blog), but I think we could all learn something from the demonstration of their "Amish grace".

Friday, March 30, 2012


by Ally Condie

As you know, I'm a fan of young adult fiction... The authors build entire fantasy worlds with boundless imagination that is often lacking in adult writing. Matched begins in a future world, where everything is controlled by the Society in order to build a better society - your job, your activities, your choice of mate... Our story opens when Cassia learns that her match is her lifelong friend (and all around good guy), Xander. But she is shown another possible match when the face of Ky appears on the screen. Although she's told it is simply a mistake, this event calls into question everything that she accepts about the Society and her life. As she gets to know Ky more, this questioning turns into rebellion.

While Matched is an entertaining read for fans of the genre, it falls short of other popular, current dystopian novels (The Hunger Games, Divergent) for one reason: lack of character complexity. The characters in this first book of the series are underdeveloped, and while I have hope for stronger character building in the upcoming sequels - it is sadly missing here. For the majority of the book, Xander is portrayed as a bland, good, obedient guy that everyone likes. Ky is the rebel boy who learned too much at an early age. Xander is simply too likable for the reader to support the relationship that begins between Cassia & Ky. Instead, you just feel sorry for Xander, and Cassia appears cruel in her dismissal of him at times. The ending is intriguing, as Cassia begins her search for the truth of what is truly going on in the Society and leaves behind the City that she has known her entire life. The mysterious ending of this story and the excerpt from the sequel (Crossed - narrated by both Cassia & Ky) kept me interested enough that I will continue to read the series. Future reviews to come.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Ready Player One

by Ernest Cline

This book was voted one of the top books of 2011 on Goodreads, so I've been on the hunt for a copy for months now. I raided five different bookstores, without finding a single copy before giving in and finally ordering it off of Amazon. Miraculously, a mere two days later it appeared on my porch. 

I'm almost afraid to say that I like this book a lot... because it's a total "geek-fest". Almost. But I'm just geeky enough to say that I lost myself in this video game/80's throwback world created by Cline. In the future, the United States has fallen to pieces, and civilization has turned to the virtual reality world called the Oasis for their escape. Before his death, the creator of the Oasis left behind a 1980's based scavenger hunt for the entire world to participate in, with the winner taking his entire fortune & control of the Oasis. This is when we find our hero Wade (AKA Parzival) stumbling across the first key in the hunt and jump starting the competition.  Along the way, he faces many 80's based challenges (arcade games, movie quotes, etc.) and builds a strong network within the Oasis (which he lacks in the real world).

Cline's book was entertaining, and even though I was NOT able to place many of the references (Who has recently played any Atari games?? D&D? Obscure robots from Japanese comics?), there were enough pop culture references to keep me engaged (Monty Python! Ferris Bueller! PacMan!). Despite this incredible 3-D world he builds in the mind of the reader, Cline emphasizes that we also need to keep our feet grounded in reality. His characters learn that avoiding the problems of the decaying world around them by immersing themselves in the Oasis simply encourages the destruction of their real lives. Even though this story takes place over 30 years in the future, it is applicable to us today. As technology increases and we find ourselves with cell phone programs that talk back to us, 3-D computer games, simulators, and video game systems that track our movements - it may be easy for us to fall into the same trap of avoiding reality. Cline calls his readers to participate in the real world, while still letting us have fun in the imaginary one he has created.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


by Tina Fey

Who doesn't love Tina Fey? SNL.... Mean Girls... Date Night... I mean, 30 Rock! But seriously, Tina Fey is hilarious. And if possible, I love her even more after reading her book. Why? Because she seems like someone that I could be friends with. In other words, she is a normal person despite all the Hollywood hoopla. Sure, she has lots of strange little quirks; but isn't that what makes someone interesting? Through her writing you are introduced to the self-deprecating humor that she brings to every enterprise in her life. She gives some advice on working in the "industry", but the majority of Bossypants is about her life history, women in comedy, building her career and family, and some entertaining anecdotes. At times she's extreme and paranoid in her reactions to certain events (e.g. being called to her lifeboat on a cruise = Titanic), which makes for a great fun read (although her sense of humor would be understandable to even the most stable person on the planet). I often found myself laughing out loud, and I think you will too.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The American Plague

by Molly Caldwell Crosby

I am fascinated by the science of diseases, and have been for as long as I can remember. When I was still a little girl, I became convinced that I was destined to die of ebola thanks to a news report covering outbreaks (Thank you, NBC 7 for scarring a child for life). Now I work in the medical field, so my interest in diseases is believably justified. My sister, who also shares this interest, gave me The American Plague to read after our trip to New Orleans (which was ravaged by the "Yellow Jack"). This is a historical look at yellow fever: how it shaped the history of the United States, the study of the disease, and the development of a vaccine. The book begins by focusing on Memphis, Tennessee at a time when the city was in the middle of a yellow fever epidemic. What was once a burgeoning new city, being compared to Chicago in the North, became a destroyed and socially divided area thanks to "Yellow Jack". As someone who just recently visited Memphis, it was interesting to read more about the history of the city, and the martyrs who stayed behind to fight this illness. Caldwell then progresses into the study of how yellow fever was spread, Walter Reed's work with mosquitoes, and how a vaccine was finally developed. Yellow fever was a truly violent disease, that ended wars and destroyed entire cities. In modern times, where any single case of yellow fever must be reported to the CDC and WHO, it is easy to lose sight of the horror of this disease. We live in a country where we no longer get routinely vaccinated due to proper sanitation, which hinders the spread of mosquitoes in populated areas, and the significant reduction of the specific mosquitoes that carry the virus. However, we owe much to the scientists and volunteers who risked, and lost, their lives to get us to this point. Caldwell's work, although factual, is engaging and informs the reader about an important part of our history that is all too often overlooked.

If You Give a Girl a Viscount

by Kieran Kramer

Kramer's fourth and final book in the Impossible Bachelors series restored my faith in men... and in her writing. Her last book left me with a sour taste in my mouth, as any story involving a romance developing while being unfaithful to a current marriage does. But If You Give a Girl a Viscount marks the return to the humorous, joyful romance writing that readers enjoyed in When Harry Met Molly. In this story, a twist on the classic Cinderella tale (complete with an evil stepmother, benevolent godmother, and "glass" slippers) we follow Viscount Lumley on his adventure to help his grandmother's goddaughter Daisy save her home. While life has always been incredibly easy for Lumley (since he typically throws money at every problem he encounters) he has sworn to his bachelor friends that he will not use ANY money while off on his quest. Daisy challenges him to become the man that he should be; requiring him to use his intelligence, perseverance and charm to help her save Castle Vandemere. This is a charming love story, where two people who have never been encouraged to trust others or be themselves find their soul mates in each other... all while playing host to a range of well developed secondary characters.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Lover's Dictionary

by David Levithan

I read about this book a while back, and was completely wrapped up in the idea of it. So when I was shopping at my favorite store in the world (Anthropologie!) and found it on sale, in hardback.... I took it as a sign. NOW is the time to read it. And read it I did... in two hours. Turns out it's a very quick read, which leaves you all no excuse to do the same.

This is Levithan's first departure from the young adult fiction that he is so well known for (e.g. Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist), and has gained a lot of positive attention. He takes a  unique look at love, using the dictionary format as a window into a relationship. Each vocabulary word is "defined" by a word, sentence, or page that is comprised of his thoughts and memories from one relationship. He uses these words to paint the joy, heartbreak, anger and depth of love. In this case, I will let some of his dictionary entries speak for themselves.

From The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan:

"ineffable, adj.: These words will ultimately end up being the barest of  reflections, devoid of the sensations words cannot convey. Trying to write about love is ultimately like trying to have a dictionary represent life. No matter how many words there are, there will never be enough." (p.120)

"abstraction, n.: Love is one kind of abstraction. And then there are those nights when I sleep alone, when I curl into a pillow that isn't you, when I hear the tiptoe sounds that aren't yours. It's not as if I can conjure you there completely. I must embrace the idea of you instead." (p. 5)

"deciduous, adj.: I couldn't believe one person could own so many shoes, and still buy new ones every year." (p. 69)

This book is one of a kind.

Friday, January 6, 2012

2012! (And One Day)

     Welcome to 2012! How's the view? My year's started off with a bang! But today I was suddenly sidelined by a head cold. But since I'm a glass half full kind of girl... this means plenty of time  for reading! So now I'm two books in the first six days of the year.
      My first book of the year was one I have been waiting to read since LAST year. In fact, I put myself on the waiting list at something like #134 at the library to get it. It never happened. So which book had me on hold for months... and months... and months? One Day by David Nicholls. My book-lover f(r)iend Steph recommended it to me even further back, but I put it on the back burner until I saw the preview for the movie. Since it was unavailable though, this is one of the few books that I have ever read AFTER seeing the movie, which was surprisingly faithful to the book. The book is based on the idea of taking a look at the lives of two people on the same day, every year over the course of their relationship. The book does such an amazing job at conveying the depth of the relationship and feelings between our two main characters, Emma & Dexter. An aspect of this was missing in the movie, as their thought processes are something that could never be conveyed on the screen. The movie version also portrays Emma as completely flawless, where this is clearly not the case in One Day. In fact, it is their flaws and imperfections that help them balance each other. This was a beautiful story of friendship, love, and heart ache. While my sister (who read it way back) thought the ending was disappointing (to say the least) , I thought it very fitting to the tone of the story. Two thumbs up. And now, the movie is #1 on my Netflix list, so I can refresh my memory, and re-live the story once again.