Monday, November 15, 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010

Good book?

Seen on

Good book?: "A woman commented-- that was a good book, but man! the paperback was so much better!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Review: The Silenced

I have just finished reading The Silenced by James DeVita. This Young Adult novel is based on the story of Sophie Scholl - an anti-Nazi activist during World War II. This book, however, is set in a quasi-futuristic, post-war world where the state controls everything, and the people that are unfortunate enough to remember life before the war must be re-educated. Those who resist, are either "neutralized" or forced to undergo a gruesome surgery that effectively takes away their ability to speak, read, write or talk - or to think for themselves.

I read this novel in preparation for a Teen/Parent Book Discussion that is going on tomorrow night at the Verona Public Library. I was quite honored to be recommended by one of the staff to the Children's Librarian to lead this discussion, and I'm really looking forward to discussing this with the patrons!

I think that DeVita's goal of mixing true history with the new scenario is a really great way of introducing the events to a new audience. If you knew Sophie Scholl's story going into the novel, you could easily recognize the events of her life showing up in the pages. On the other hand, if you didn't know it - you could read this novel as a chilling reminder of what could easily happen if leadership or government becomes corrupt and falls into nefarious hands.

I'm really looking forward to seeing what the other readers thought of this novel, I'll update this post after our book discussion tomorrow night!


Update after the Teen/Parent Book Discussion: I had a great time last night! The girls all really liked this book and there was a lot to talk about. One of the mom/kid pairs had gone last weekend to see DeVita in Spring Green and added a lot of extra information about his life and how he became a writer. 

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Review: House Rules

I have just finished House Rules by Jodi Picoult for the Autism Awareness Challenge from PageTurners. I am a long-time fan of Picoult's writing, and I have read all of her books. She has never disappointed me, and this book was no different. Her masterful way of blending current events with fantastic description and great attention to detail always end up teaching me something about the subject, while allowing me to connect to the many voices that tell her stories.

House Rules is the story of Jacob Hunt, an eighteen-year-old with Asperger's Syndrome which is a highly functioning form of Autism. Asperger's tends to manifest itself as painful social awkwardness including not being able to read queues "neurotypical" people may use to analyze a situation, inability to feel empathy, intense interest (bordering on obsession) with a limited number of subjects - for Jacob, it's Crime Scene Investigation - and other personality "quirks" such as speaking in a monotone voice, taking everything one hears literally, and having an unbreakable affinity towards order in life and following rules. Jacob exhibits all of these traits, and when he is implicated in the murder of his tutor - he must face an unforgiving justice system that is clearly not built to handles anything but "normal."

One quirk that Jacob has is his great interest in Crime Scene Investigation. Every day at four o'clock, he watches CrimeBusters on television. He keeps track in a composition notebook synopses of each of the episodes (even if he's already seen it), complete with evidence, and how long it takes him to figure out "who done it." I found myself playing this same game with the events in the novel as I read, trying to "figure it out" before the cops and lawyers in the story did!

As is typical of her style, Picoult jumps between the main characters voices as narrators for her story. Each chapter will represent a different character's view and inner feelings, so the reader gets a great sense of how each person is dealing with the situation as they see it. I think this style lends itself very well to her usually court-room centered action as it is similar to what one would see watching witnesses being questioned on the stand. For someone who purportedly writes about "family, relationships, and love" - she writes pretty darn good courtroom drama too! I would say it would appeal to people who LIKE courtroom drama, as well as those who don't - because of the straightforward way it is presented. You don't need to have passed the bar to to appreciate the lyrical way she presents her evidence!

I had the opportunity to go see Jodi Picoult do a reading a few weeks ago, just after House Rules was released. Many of the questions from the audience focused around how she does her research for her books and with this topic, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that she spoke with many, many teens that have Asperger's or fall on the Autism spectrum. Without that knowledge, it would have been impossible for her to truly write from the perspective of an Autistic character. It's good to know that  people who live this life everyday sign off on Picoult's representation of an Autistic character as realistic.

This novel was - no spoilers, I promise! - a surprise all the way through. Picoult keeps both her characters and her readers in the dark until the perfect moment presents itself. I love novels that keep me guessing - I wouldn't want to read the end if I knew for sure what was going to happen! I, of course, had my theories - Jacob would be proud! - but nothing will ever prepare you for what Picoult has in store.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Teaser Tuesday! (Yes, I know it's Wednesday... :) )

Since I haven't been able to post my review of House Rules by Jodi Picoult yet, here's a teaser from the novel:

pg. 159, Emma speaking: "Rich Matson's business card, with his cell phone number scrawled on the back. Just in case, he had said. Just in case you happen to think that your son might be involved in a murder. Just in case you are confronted with the glaring evidence that you have failed as a mother. Just in case you are caught between what you want and what you should do."

There, that should be sufficient :) I am almost finished with this novel, even though technically the challenge I'm reading it for (Autism Awareness Challenge from PageTurners) isn't until April - I hope to post my review very soon! I haven't been able to put this one down, which is par for the course with a novel by Jodi Picoult!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Autism Awareness Challenge

Since I haven't yet read House Rules by Jodi Picoult, and I feel HORRIBLE about this, since I usually have it read her new books within a week of their release, I'll be reading it for the Autism Awareness Challenge from PageTurners. And of course, post my review here!

This is also the first challenge I will probably actually finish, as it's only one book and not REALLY about the book or the reading at all, but more importantly about Autism Awareness - since this is reality for many families and the occurrence of Autism is staggering... it is very important to spread the word any way possible. If this way works, then that's something!

Review: Heart's Blood

Another fantasy novel from one of my most looked-for authors: Juliet Marillier. I feel in love with her and her Sevenwater Trilogy, and her Young Adult novels have never disappointed me.

This new novel is a departure from her previous series, but still maintains all the Gaelic folklore and history we've come to expect from her. Set in the feudal lord ruled regions of a mythical Ireland, the supernatural influences are strongly felt. We hear the story of Caitrin, a scribe by trade, who stumbles upon the fortress of Whistling Tor. She is at once drawn to the people who reside within and turned away by the rumors of the village folk of an evil presence that controls the area. Working at the fortress as a scribe on a mysterious project for the fallen Chieftain Anluan she begins to realize there's more then speculation to the rumors she's heard, but how deep the evil runs is something she is yet to find out. War eventually threatens the holding and it's up to Caitrin to convince Anluan he's strong enough to fight for his people and his rightful place as Chieftain of the Tor.

The intricate weaving of traditional lore, supernatural myth and gracious storytelling makes this novel tough to put down. The ending could have been more fleshed out, in my opinion, but it surely did not leave any loose ends. There is a promise of forthcoming novels in this new series, and I can't wait to hear more from these intriguing characters.

Review: Mistress Shakespeare

Karen Harper's novel, Mistress Shakespeare, tells the story of Anne Whateley - the wife of William Shakespeare. Wait, you say, I thought Anne Hathaway was Shakespeare's wife! What is this? Historical records from the church in Stratford-Upon-Avon show that Anne Whateley was betrothed to William Shakespeare just days before he married Anne Hathaway, and that they may have had a hand-fast wedding (just like Romeo and Juliet, hmm... :) ) This piece of historical fiction, though, fills in the gaps history has left us. In so doing, Harper creates a lifetime-spanning love forbidden love affair and sheds light on a wonderful, strong-willed, intelligent woman of 17th-century London.

I LOVE Elizabethan history, and any little bit I can read about it - I do. Shakespeare has always been one of my favorite authors and I enjoy finding out more about his life through both historical and fictionalized records. This was an aspect I hadn't read much about prior to finding this novel and I was intrigued.

The character of Shakespeare created in this novel is also very believable and really sheds light on the writings he produced at various stages of his life. Harper shows us his writings as greatly influenced by his emotions, and that adds yet another dimension to their readability and interest. 

Fans of Shakespeare, love, Elizabethan London, theater - or just good reads :) should pick up this novel. In it you'll meet a conceivable version of Shakespeare who's goal is to remind us of the age-old trope: The course of love never did run smooth...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Review: Fallen

After reading the Twilight Saga, this Young Adult novel was recommended to me by a friend who said "Okay, I know you loved Twilight, but this better!" And, I have to agree. Much of what's being written for teens and young adults today follows similar lines - magic, supernatural, good versus evil, light versus dark, love - and that's okay - because it's working. Fallen, by Lauren Kate, really tries to push the boundaries of what's expected from YA lit though and it's a refreshing change.

I must start with this: this novel is NOT a vampire/werewolf/teen love triangle story, though there is enough similar between this novel and Twilight that if you'd liked one, you're likely to like the other. If anything, the triangles (yes, there are triangles) presented in this storyline are more complicated then those in Twilight. Fallen take teenage love and elevates it to a higher level, making readers questions larger questions of good vs. evil and reexamine their own belief systems entirely. What is good, what is evil? Who should be punished and who should be rewarded? And, how?

I would say the major difference is in the writing style and strength of characters. I would say that while Bella, the heroine in Twilight, has many positive atributes as a character, she's still sort of constantly swaying in the wind of other characters' intentions and wishes. Not saying she's a bit of a spineless jellyfish at times, but I'll let you draw your own conclusions! :) Our heroine in Fallen, Luce, is a much stronger female character, and is (most of the time) more active in her own destiny.

Another thing I really liked about Fallen and it's characters is that there are a lot of misfits and people who don't really seem to fit in in "normal" society. This is key in a YA novel, clearly, because it shows readers that there are all kinds of people out there in our world and each player in our lives have something to contribute and will affect us in some way.

All in all, this was a great read, and I am really looking forward to the next installment in the series due out September 2010!

Review: Salty Like Blood

I actually enjoyed this book. I say "actually" because at first I was a little put off when I read that the author, Harry Kraus, described himself as a "Christian writer" and was worried that it would play too big a role in his writing for my taste. However, this was just not the case. Christianity does play a minor role in the novel, but not in the way one expects. In fact, the main character, David Conners - an M.D. who's daughter goes missing - spends more time questioning his faith and the existence of a god who would allow this tragedy to befall his family then he does finding solace in that god's message.

Overall, this is a great detective story. Of course, our "detective" is also the catalyst for much of the conflict in the story - taking his daughter's kidnapping into his own hands, and eventually becoming judge and jury for the other players in the story.

An engaging read, and good for those who enjoy medical mysteries, family stories, and plenty of self-reflection and examination by the characters.

Review: Trans-Sister Radio

I just finished reading Trans-Sister Radio by Chris Bohjalian. I have to say that this novel was at the same time both different and the same as what I expected. I've read a lot of LGBTQ literature over the last few months, because I took an LGBTQ YA lit course this summer as part of my MLIS program at UW-Milwaukee. I've also read Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. I have to say that Trans-Sister Radio reminds me more of Luna by Julie Anne Peters then it reminds me of Middlesex, even though those were my two "adult" novels of this nature.

The transgendered characters in Luna and Trans-Sister Radio struck me as very similar. Both were M2F (Male to Female) and both read as very "young" voices. This is fine with Liam/Luna in the novel Luna as she is a teenager. Dana in Radio, however is almost 40. She struck me as somewhat sheltered and adolescent.

With this, the author makes a comment on the "re-birth" Dana experiences when he transitions from male to female. There is even a comparison made of becoming an adolescent again.

I thought the format of the novel was superb, creating the radio show as segues between the character's separate voices.

The ending surely surprised me, but at the same time - I saw it coming. No spoilers!

This novel is definitely worth the read, as are many of Bohjalian's works. He is a great wordsmith, and one of my favorites.

Welcome to the bookshelf!

This blog will be a collection of "physical" book reviews by yours truly!

I'm an aspiring librarian, and I love to read. I wanted to share what I read with the rest of the world, hence this blog! (One of many, I may add...)  I have another blog dedicated to ebook reviews, see the side bar for a link, if you're interested! Please note, I did move a few reviews from another blog of mine to this one just to get it started.

What's a "physical" book, you may ask...  I say "physical" book as opposed to an ebook, which is an electronic book read with the aide of an ebook reader such as the Barnes & Noble Nook, or the Amazon Kindle. I have a Nook myself and my boyfriend and grandfather both have Kindles. I like the Nook primarily because of it's "LendMe" feature on some titles bought from Barnes & Noble, and also the compatibility it has with Overdrive. Overdrive is a service offered by some libraries which provides ebooks to it's patrons free of charge. Support your local library!

Well, that's about it for the introduction. On to the reviews!