Friday, April 29, 2011

The Glass Castle

The Glass CastleThe Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read Half Broke Horses a few months ago and was looking forward to reading this one too. I was expecting something a little darker, a little dysfunctional... but this book blew those expectations out of the water. There were times when I found this book painful to read, all the hardships these kids survived through and just when I thought things were getting better for them, their parents would destroy it. I was completely amazed that the parents had no desire to take care of their children by doing even the simple things - feeding them, bathing them, protecting them - that they felt they were doing nothing wrong. It completely boggles my mind!

The writing in this book is just as amazing as Half Broke Horses. I really felt like I was sitting in my living room talking with a friend about her experiences growing up. An amazing story brilliantly told.

Synopsis: Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children's imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn't stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an "excitement addict." Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever.

Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town — and the family — Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents' betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home.

What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.

Recommended Reading:
Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls
Traveling With Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd
Fat Girl by Judith Moore
Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen [unabridged audiobook] [NOOKbook]
The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Neglecting The Bookshelves Self-Challenge Week One

Marshmallows for Breakfast by Dorothy Koomson
ISBN: 9780385341332
Paperback
Source: paperbackswap.com
Due date: Tuesday
Post review by: Thursday
When Kendra Tamale moves back to her native England after a stint in Australia, she rents an apartment and becomes enmeshed in the lives of her landlord, Kyle, and his six-year-old twins. His wife's recently left him, and his kids, not taking the separation too well, run rings around him. Despite the unconditional acceptance of her surrogate family, Kendra fears that her past hurts will be exposed, threatening her newfound security and catapulting her back into loneliness and misery.
 
Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell
ISBN: 9780316032223
Hardcover
Source: paperbackswap.com
Due date: Sunday
Post Review by: Monday
The Locanos, a mob family, take in 14-year-old Pietro Brwna (pronounced Browna) after a couple of thugs gun down the grandparents who raised him in their New Jersey home. Bent on revenge, Pietro pursues the killers and executes them a year later. Impressed by Pietros performance, David Locano recruits Pietro as a hit man. After more traumas, Pietro tries to make a break from his past by entering the witness protection program. Now known as Peter Brown, he eventually lands a position as a doctor at a decrepit Manhattan hospital, where by chance a former Mafia associate turns up as a patient and threatens to rat him out.

Picking out books for this week's self-challenge was not a small task. I was looking for a balance between the two books (so I wouldn't get stuck reading two romance novels in a week and get bored) and also looking to clean off the shelf of books that have been around awhile, but yet have two books that I'm excited about reading. I think I did a pretty good job. I fell in love with Koomson after reading My Best Friend's Girl so even though this one has been sitting on my shelf for over a year, I'm excited to see if this author is still worthy of my affections. Bazell is new(er) to my book shelf, so this one has that "new book charm" oozing out from between its pages.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Explosive Child

The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible ChildrenThe Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children by Ross W. Greene

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Spawn's counselor gave me this book to read almost a year ago. I'll be honest, I skimmed it a few times, using bits and pieces when it was convenient for me. Now that I've actually read the book in its entirety, I'm a huge fan. Because of the bits and pieces method I was using with my son before, I was skeptical if this book really had anything that could help me. Wrong! The first few chapters were a little rough to read, mostly due to the format and my personal skepticism, but once I got into the meat and potatoes of the book and saw where the author was going with it... well, I didn't even finish reading the book before I started doing some of the things with my son. One of the clearest and honest parenting books I've read. This book addressed every aspect of raising an explosive child and gave me all the tools I need to start making things better.

Synopsis: Almost everyone knows an explosive child, one whose temper and extreme noncompliance leaves his or her parents standing helpless in fear, frustration, and guilt. Now, in The Explosive Child, Dr. Ross Greene, the noted therapist who has worked with thousands of these children, offers parents good news: These kids aren't bad; rather, they suffer from a physiological deficiency in frustration tolerance and flexibility. This compassionate book helps parents grasp the underlying problems of explosive children, defuse explosive episodes, and reduce tension and hostility levels for the entire family by providing invaluable tools for coping with this behavioral disorder.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Neglecting The Bookshelves Self-Challenge

Problem #1: Between family, work and school I have been burning the candles at both ends. Reading has been a struggle. I've been slogging through a book The Spawn's counselor gave me. It's currently had a home on the back of the couch for a week now, waiting for it to read itself. I have failed for the second month in a row to finish the book club read. I'm heart broken. I was (and still am) excited to read this book. I'm embarassed because I was the moderator, no less. I haven't even been keeping up on book blogs.

Problem #2: I'm not doing well on my book ban. I stalled out a little by picking up two library reads for my Nook and then had a few wishlist books come in from paperbackswap.com. And I may have added a Free Book Friday selection to my Nook as well... but I haven't BOUGHT anything new.

Today I turned in my final school assignment and took my final. I'm off until August. I'm hoping that this will fix both the problems mentioned above. My TBR list is currently at 48 books, my 2011 goal is to get it down below 25. So, maybe I'm a little crazy here but I'm going to try to read 24 books in 4 months. Really, that's only 6 books a month, or roughly 1.5 books a week. I imagine I'll have rough spots where reading is slow, but I'm feeling pretty confident.

This week's goals:
  • Finish reading The Explosive Child. Due date: Friday. Review due Saturday
  • Finish reading The Glass Castle. Due date: Monday. Review due Wednesday
  • Select Week One's two books. Due date: Monday.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

The Particular Sadness of Lemon CakeThe Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don't know what to think of this book, honestly. I started reading it with very low expectations and ended up torn between loving it and being completely confused by it. So, let's start with the basics. A lot of reviews I read prior to my reading commented on the difficulty following the story because there are no quotation marks around the dialogue. It was confusing at first, sorting through what was said, what was action and what was thought and the author's use of "he said, he said, he said" to distinguish dialogue is vaguely annoying (rules are there for a reason!), about 3/4 of the way through the book it started to soak into me, the layering of dialogue, thought and action - how all of these things make up life and our personal reality is constantly shifting and evolving because of these three things. It suddenly made sense and the book flowed that much better for me.

The story itself is a clunky back and forth beast. We go forward and back and learn and relearn in this story as secrets are revealed and characters grow and change. The plot was not what I expected, this was edgy and raw around the edges, definitely not the smooth buildup to climax and then release that I expected. The characters were drawn clear enough that I felt an interest, a small attachment to them, but now that I'm done reading I find them easily forgotten. What I remember more clearly in this book is the ideas, that life is more than what you're willing to see, that everyone has their own reality and that it's our choices that guide us through it.

Synopsis: On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein bites into her mother's homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the slice. To her horror, she finds that her cheerful mother tastes of despair. Soon, she’s privy to the secret knowledge that most families keep hidden: her father’s detachment, her mother’s transgression, her brother’s increasing retreat from the world. But there are some family secrets that even her cursed taste buds can’t discern.

Recommended Reading:
The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To by DC Pierson
The Reapers Are The Angels by Alden Bell
Full of Grace by Dorothea Frank
One Day by David Nicholls
A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Weird Sisters

The Weird SistersThe Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wasn't sure I would like this book, I read a few reviews that expressed a heavy dislike for the "voice" the story was told in. I fell in love with that voice in the first paragraph. I loved this book from beginning to end. As the oldest of five girls, I felt a lot of kinship with the sisters in this book. From the moment they said that they love each other but they don't always like each other to the very last page where they define themselves as sisters, I felt like I was one of the sisters in the story. Personalities so closely matched those in my own family, it was almost painful to read what each sister went through, I could see my sisters going through the same thing.
I thought the story itself sounded mundane, but then reading it in the collaborative voice of the sisters, it took on a life of it's own. It was interesting, poetic and engaging. I couldn't wait to see how it all turned out. An exceptionally well written book.

Synopsis: A major new talent tackles the complicated terrain of sisters, the power of books, and the places we decide to call home.

There is no problem that a library card can't solve.

The Andreas family is one of readers. Their father, a renowned Shakespeare professor who speaks almost entirely in verse, has named his three daughters after famous Shakespearean women. When the sisters return to their childhood home, ostensibly to care for their ailing mother, but really to lick their wounds and bury their secrets, they are horrified to find the others there. See, we love each other. We just don't happen to like each other very much. But the sisters soon discover that everything they've been running from-one another, their small hometown, and themselves-might offer more than they ever expected.

Recommended Reading:
The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman
Bitter in the Mouth by Monique Truong
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
You Know When the Men are Gone by Siobhan Fallon
The Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Saying Goodbye











Well, here they are (with my TBR shelf in the background). The books I'm saying goodbye to.

After some contemplation and studying, I threw in a few Flipsides into the donation box. Only the ones I had read, of course. I also discovered that I was missing a few in the series. I resisted the temptation to order them and merely put them on my Reminder List. Unfortunately, going through the box I discovered a number of books that weren't even posted on pbs...

I also boxed up some of the kids's books that were not being read (The Spawn had out-grown The Magic Tree House series that took up half of his book shelf) and took every thing immediately out to the car. Tomorrow while The Spawn is at Chess Club, The Diva and I will drop them off.

I solemnly swear.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Shrinking The Monster In The Closet

This weekend I'm tackling my monster in the closet.

My library has an annual book sale of donated books. It's the perfect opportunity for me to empty a few boxes and totes. I've done this book sale once before - about three years ago - and it was perfect. I grabbed a couple boxes of books, dropped them off and forgot about it. I had the best intentions two years ago, I had six boxes (SIX!!) boxed up and ready to go... and then The Spawn and I came down with influenza B (or maybe it was A, I don't remember) and died for a week. Last year I was in China during the donation week.

This year though, I'm doing it. I've already gone through my posted books on paperbackswap.com and removed anything pre-2009. With the exception of my Harlequin Flipsides. These are quick little reads (125 pages) and very entertaining. I've read a few in the series and even though it's been three years since I contemplated picking up the rest of them, I just can't seem to bring myself to part with them. Maybe next year.

Anyways, I've brought down the monster from 73 books to 52. Just as soon as I get off my duffer and actually box the books up and put them in my car. This means that my book monster is dangerously close to being smaller than my TBR monster. Hopefully once I'm finished with this school semester I won't lose my motivation to read [homework avoidance] and can really kick some butt.

In the meantime, I'm trying to
  1. finish up the book that The Spawn's counselor gave me a year ago
  2. read the eBook I borrowed from the library
  3. read the book club selection for April
  4. work on my final project for the semester (class officially ends 4/29)
That's a lot of reading.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Bond With Me

Bond with Me (Fallen, #1)Bond with Me by Anne Marsh

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I tried to get through this book. There was something there, the plot was "just" strong enough to keep me halfway interested but in the end, poor writing killed it for me. This was a little more hardcore erotic than I usually read, so it was difficult to not be turned off [pardon the pun] by some of the graphic scenes. There was little shift between a grisly murder scene to erotic scene. The writing was a struggle - there was an inconsistency with dialogue, character positioning (quite literally), character identification (there were three names used to refer to the fallen angels) and even character POV.

Series: Fallen Book 1

Synopsis: Fallen angels… They rule Moscow’s seedy underworld, promising untold pleasure to the females who dare to mate them. That promise – and Brends Duranov’s own raw sexual power – has hopefuls mobbing the velvet rope outside his elite club G2’s.


But Mischka Baran has no intention of hooking up with one of the Fallen. Not even after Brends gives her an unforgettable taste of the sin and seduction he can deliver with those wicked lips. She’s after information, not a stint as some Goblin’s toy of the month. What she doesn’t know is that with a sadistic killer carving up his brethren, Brends is playing for keeps, hunting the one woman whose bloodline can end the mayhem, whose bond can restore his lost wings.

Recommended Reading:
Tastes of Love and Evil by Barbara Monajem
Never Trust a Matchmaking Witch by Mary Paine
Lost Angel by Louisa Trent
The Fallen by Morgan Sierra
A Kind of Magic by Susan Sizemore

The Art of Public Speaking

The Art of Public SpeakingThe Art of Public Speaking by Stephen E. Lucas

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

As far as text books go, this one isn't bad. There are numerous examples throughout the book. It had very relevant information.

Synopsis: Few texts have been favored with such success. Fifteen after its introduction,The Art of Public Speaking remains the leading text in its discipline. The Art of Public Speaking is successful because it works well for both students and instructors. Instructors have come to rely on its careful explanations,its reinforcing examples,and its attention to the basics that help their tentative students become competent speakers. Instructors have also come to rely on the most comprehensive package of support materials available with any public speaking text. Meticulously prepared by the author to support and reflect the text,the ancillary materials allow the least experienced teaching assistant and the busiest professor to teach with confidence.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Nerdy eBook Heaven!

My local library has finally gotten an online eBook loan system. [Love how I say "finally" as if I've had an eReader forever?] In fact, the new program at the library was why I chose the Nook over Kindle (Kindle doesn't play well with others). I'm all about getting books for free.

I went to the 30 minute "How To" class at the library to make sure I understood it. Man oh man! It's super easy! As in five minutes after I got home, I had my first book loaded up and ready to go. Yeah, it's awesome. They don't have a lot of my wishlist books (yet), but the library has set aside a fairly substantial budget to add books, so I'm hopeful that it will be remedied soon.

While I'm waiting, I think I'll just read this other book...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

How To Marry A Millionaire Vampire

How To Marry a Millionaire Vampire (Love at Stake, #1)How To Marry a Millionaire Vampire by Kerrelyn Sparks

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I needed some brain fluff to take a break from the heavy reading I've been doing this week. This book fit the bill nicely. I picked this book up in Barnes & Noble's Free Book Friday and based on the title I was expecting a Chick Lit romp - possibly a reality TV type book. Nope didn't happen. In fact, I'd like to send the author/publisher an epic.fail for the title of this book. Anything would have been better.

Okay, so aside from a crappy, mis-leading title, this book was good! At first I thought I was in for an erotic romance (I mean, the first scene of the book is three vamps playing with a human sex doll), then it strengthened up with a plot, and then I became a little bored because I thought there was going to be a plot inside a plot, but no the author pulled off a brilliant twist and it all came together in one big happy plot. [I'm pressing the Like Button here, kids] There was action, some cheesy romance and a little bit of erotica all wrapped up in a neat little package.

Series: Love At Stake Book 1

Synopsis: So what if he's a bit older and usually regards a human female as dinner, not a dinner date? Yes, Roman Draganesti is a vampire, but a vampire who lost one of his fangs sinking his teeth into something he shouldn't have. Now he has one night to find a dentist before his natural healing abilities close the wound, leaving him a lop–sided eater for all eternity.

Things aren't going well for Shanna Whelan either...After witnessing a gruesome murder by the Russian mafia, she's next on their hit list. And her career as a dentist appears to be on a downward spiral because she's afraid of blood. When Roman rescues her from an assassination attempt, she wonders if she's found the one man who can keep her alive. Though the attraction between them is immediate and hot, can Shanna conquer her fear of blood to fix Roman's fang? And if she does, what will prevent Roman from using his fangs on her...

Recommended Reading:
Vamps and the City (Book 2) by Kerrelyn Sparks
Be Still My Vampire Heart (Book 3) by Kerrelyn Sparks
A Quick Bite by Lynsay Sands
Sugarplums and Scandal by Lori Avocato
Bite Me If You Can by Lynsay Sands

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Town Like Alice (The Movie)


At the beginning of the year my book club read A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute. I was pretty taken with the book. I mean, I got some serious nerd on while reading the book. I was Googling places and events and the author to find out more. (Okay, so this happens more than you'll ever be able to get me to admit when I read a book.) In all of my Googling I discovered two things:
1) In 1956 the book was made into a movie.
and
b) In 1981 the book was made into a mini-series.

I haven't yet gotten my hands on the mini-series, but there was some serious girl squealing a few weeks ago when I discovered that NetFlix would have the movie available for instant streaming on March 31st.

I know you're thinking "It's April 2nd, I wonder if she's watched it yet?" The answer is yes. Twice. The final verdict: I enjoyed it.

It started in the middle of the book when Jean returns to Malaysia to build a well. While there she remembers the terrible death march and of course meeting Joe and his crucifiction. Typically I don't like stories that start in the middle, go back to the beginning and then go forward, but in Alice (the book) I didn't mind. It actually made sense as the narrator of the story was the solicitor and not Jean. Anyways, in the movie, the solicitor played a very small role (about 6 speaking lines) and Jean was the narrator so I struggled with that plot device of the movie. [it's a weird "me" thing, I understand if people don't get it]

There were of course things that were different, things that happened just slightly different in the book, but overall I think the movie was very faithful the experiences the women went through on the death march. At first I thought the portrayal was a little tame compared to the book, but then I also thought that the death march would take up much less of the movie than what it actually did. I was very impressed considering the time that the book was written and the movie filmed (and yes, it is black & white) and that the movie is only 117 minutes long.

So how did they get the whole book into 117 minutes? They didn't. The movie actually ends when Jean and Joe meet back in Australia, which is where the second half of the book starts. And that's probably why I enjoyed the movie so much. Ask my book club, I like the gloom and gore stuff. The death march was the best part of the book, the romance not so much (the second half of the book is where the romance really takes place). The movie did exaggerate the romance a little more than the book, but I didn't feel it was dishonest to the author's intentions.

Overall I was incredibly happy with this movie, it exceeded my expectations and yeah, I probably will be watching it again.