Thursday, February 28, 2013

Book Review - Isn't It Time for a Coffee Break? by Amelia Rhodes

Isn't It Time for a Coffee Break?: Doing Life Together in an All-About-Me Kind of WorldIsn't It Time for a Coffee Break?: Doing Life Together in an All-About-Me Kind of World by Amelia Rhodes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have mixed feelings about this book. I really liked the concept and the writing but I felt it was a little to heavy with the Scriptures and pushing of God.  Let me explain...

I do believe I am blessed to call my friends, my friends.  They are two women who I've known for a number of years and are my support and cheering section when I need them. I truely believe that God has given me these friends as support for the tough times in my life and celebrate my achivements.  I really took to heart the theme of this book, of taking time away from everything that consumes us to spend time with friends and reconnect and build on that bond.

I know God is a part of my life, but I question my faith.  I personally have a limit of when Christian books push too far in praising God and quoting scripture.  This is where my mixed feelings come in with the book, each chapter pushed the limit that I felt comfortable with reading.  I would be going along, taking in everything the author was saying and then BAM I'd hit my wall shorting into the sections of scripture.  It would throw off my reading pace becasue then I would start to skim and I probably missed some good stuff by doing that.

Personal feelings aside, I think it's a wonderful book.  I realized I need to take that break and spend more time remembering that my friends are gifts from God and I'm so very lucky to have them in my life.  I think I need a coffee break with them soon, my treat so I can tell them how much I appreciate them in my life.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

TBR Challenge Book #3 - Epic Fail

Epic FailEpic Fail by Claire LaZebnik
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Epic Fail is a modern, young adult adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.
I thought it was a cute and funny take on P&P.

Derek Edwards is our Darcy and Elise Benton is our Elizabeth and unlike the original characters thier pride and prejudices are the results of high school.  Derek is the son of Hollywood royalty and while everyone can agree his attitude is due to his parents, what they don't know is the real reason he keeps himself apart from those around him.  Elise is the daughter of the new princepal and awkward teacher at school, she may be embarassed by her parents and her overly hyper younger sister, but hey who wouldn't be during thier high school  years.

I really liked these two.  They were great modernzations of the orignal characters and I got sucked into thier story.  I think all the characters were wonderfully adapted.  I think Webster Grant (Wickam) and Chelsea (Caroline) were even more 'evil' than their Regency counterparts.  Chase and Julianna (Bingley and Jane) are your classic characters just in a teenage bodies.

The story was really cute and the novel was an easy read.  I just kind of feel the story was rushed a bit in parts.  I also didn't like how Elise is sometimes made out to be kind of awkward, it didn't fit with my take on the character.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

TBR Challenge Book #2 - The Smart One and The Pretty One

The Smart One and the Pretty OneThe Smart One and the Pretty One by Claire LaZebnik
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book made me think of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. Ava was the grounded daughter like Elinor and Lauren was the up in the sky one like Marianne. Russell is Edward, at least the was he was described as a child when the engagement agreement was written up.  Lauren even get involved with a man who clearly represents Willoughby. While the book as aspects of Jane Austen's novel, it doesn't read like an adaptation, which I really liked since S&S I my least favorite Austen novel.

At times I wanted to strangle Laura and even Russell. They both seemed a little too concerned aboutlooks and appearance. While I didn't want to strangle Ava I did want to hit her for being so closed mined about change.  Some of what I disliked about the interactions between Ava and Lauren might simply be that I don't have a sister and I don't understand their dynamics. I think they have a great relationship that shows through even though they do annoy each other at times.

The character growth was really well doneand believable.  While they changed they are still the same characters they were at the beginning of the novel.  Lauren grows but unlike Marianne she doesn't do a 180 and become a shell of her former self.  She grows just enough so we know she's learned something but she hasn't changed who she really is. Ava is still Ava but a bit more open minded. These changes show the influence of each sister on the other.

This was a nice read, I'm happy I finally read it and can now cross it off my TBR list.

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Book Review - Why We Write by Meredith Maran

Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They DoWhy We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do by Meredith Maran
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To any author, whether you are published or not, the answer to why do you write is simple and these authors are not any different.  We write because we have to.

This book takes that answer a step further.  They just don't answer 'Because we have to!' They answer "Because I have to..."

It's what comes after the ellipsis that makes this book a must read for aspiring authors.  We get an insight into some of the best literary minds.  We look up to these authors, we want their success and we want to know their secrets.

The book is nicely broken down so each author gets his or her own chapter.  There is a quote from one of thier works and brief background information including the authors vitals. The vitals include information on thier birth, family, schooling, honors and awards, and anything else that might be notable.  I liked that it also included a question about a day job.  This is followed by contact information and a list of published works.

Then we get the authors words on why they write.  We learn interesting tidbits like Isabel Allende has a certain date when she starts writing a book.  Jennifer Egan gives insights into winning the Pulitzer. James Frey talks about getting lost (this was personally one of my favorite sections to read).  Ann Patchett tells us why she still writes in WordPerfect (I know!) and Jodi Picult talks about movie deals.
These are just a few quick examples of what these authors have to share.  Each other also ends thier chapter with some wisdom for writers.

I think Terry McMillan sums it up best "I didn't choose to write. It was something that just happened to me." If you can relate, this book is worth picking up and reading.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time IndianThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Here is an edited down version of the review I had to submit to my publishing class.

Have you ever felt alone, left out, or as if you haven’t belonged?  You are not alone.  Arnold Spirit, Jr. (Junior) is at that point in his life and The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian is the story of his journey to find out who he is and where he belongs.  Sherman Alexie’s new novel is a coming of age story about a 14-year-old boy living on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington.  This semi-autobiographical novel, Alexie’s first foray into Young Adult literature, evokes the same themes as his award winning poetry and short story fiction; poverty, alcoholism, and despair.
Junior, like Alexie, was born with a condition called hydrocephalus.  They both had surgery when they were six months old and spent their childhoods being teased by other kids and in the cause of Junior even adults.  This left them with plenty of alone time to pursue their hobbies. While Alexie was an aspiring writer, Junior is an artist and his work is sprinkled throughout the novel.  The drawings, provided by artist Ellen Forney, add to Junior’s story; the first drawing is a representation of how Junior sees himself.  While most of the drawings are more doodle than artistic sketches there are a few examples of Junior’s real skill.  These are glimpses of his potential; they are his keys to leaving the reservation.
The reader is exposed to many examples of poverty.  Junior opens his textbook and finds his mother’s name as a previous owner, making the textbook at least 30 years old.  His parents don’t always have enough money to pay for gas so he has to walk to school. Once he starts school at Reardon High School Junior provides the reader with a split image to compare himself to his fellow students.  This doodle shows the obvious differences in financial means of the students.
Poverty is only one point on the continuous cycle Alexie shows that is life on the reservation.  Without coming right out and telling the reader, he shows that poverty is caused by alcoholism, which is caused by despair which is caused by poverty.  It’s not a cycle that is easily broken. Junior has to face even more despair to reach the hope that he has of leaving the reservation and becoming an artist.  It speaks a message to the target age group that sometimes things need to get harder before they get better.
            There is a poetic feel to some of the writing.  There are times when it doesn’t seem as if these words are coming from a teenage boy, but they are beautiful. At times the flow seems scattered, a reflection of the age of the narrator. The dialogue is simple and straight forward, Alexie doesn’t try to force his characters to fill roles that would realistically seem out of place.
            While this book has drawn controversy over the use of language and sex, it is a realistic depiction of Native Americans, one that is hardly ever revealed.  It is a story that can be appreciated by anyone who has had expectations of them lowered and who strives to be better than those lowered expectations.  Knowing that it is semi-autobiographical, it gives hope that a person can overcome barriers and achieve their dreams. Sherman Alexie did, Junior is on his way, and who knows how many more people have and will excel.

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Thursday, February 7, 2013

TBR Challenge Book #1 - Jack's Widow

TBR Challenge - Book #1
Jack's WidowJack's Widow by Eve Pollard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's not really what I was expecting. It read more like a brief biography of her life after Jack's death with some story elements thrown in, instead of a story with some reality in the mix.

The story starts off with Jackie's life right after Jack's death and her quick transition from First Lady to widowed mother of two.  This is interspersed with reflections on their trip to the White House and the connections Jackie made that would later set up the life she will end up living.

The middle of the book lost my interest.  I felt that the way it was written was backwards.  There was a lot of political discussion and talk between minor characters and Jackie was just a passing mention.  Yes this is also a lot of set up, but it got to the point where I had to force myself to pick the book back up.  I would have liked a few scenes of these dinner parties she threw at her NYC apartment instead of just a mention that she threw them.

From the start of her relationship with Ari to the end, I was hooked again. There was no forcing myself to read, I wanted to know what happened and how it all worked out.  Here were the description of events that I had wanted in the middle section of the book.  Things Jackie did and thought weren't brushed over in between descriptions of what other characters were doing, she was the focus again.

This book is the kind of 'what-if' history books I like, there is enough fact to make it believable and enough fiction to enjoy the story.

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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Blind Date with a Book - Year 3

Here's my post from last year with the displays from my first two years of Blind Date with a Book.

Since I noticed a number of patrons checking their checkout slips for book titles and then returning the books unopened I changed things up this year to try to cut out that habit. I picked 10 books all about the same size, wrapped them and numbered them. When they get checked out it will be by number only until they get it home and unwrap the book.

This year's books are:
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Persuasion by Jane Austen
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare
  • The Blind Side by Michael Lewis
  • Blockade Billy by Stephen King
  • One for the Money by Janet Evanovich
  • The Glass Castle by Jaennette Walls
  • Abraham Lincoln by James McPherson
  • A Slice of Murder by Chris Cavender