Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I'm Back! with two reviews :)

I was away at my husband's cousin's wedding this past weekend in Raleigh, NC. It was a lot of fun and very cool! Both the bride and groom went to West Point so there were a few men in uniform and they entered the reception under a traditional sword arch. It was awesome since I had never seen that before (in person at least).

So, to get to and from this wedding, we drove. a whole 13 or so hours each way. I'm a little disappointed in myself because I was only able to finish two books. But I'm glad I brought a couple extra because my mother-in-law ended up reading Sin in the Second City and liking it, even though she said that it was nothing that she would have picked up on her own.

The Master Butchers Singing Club has been on my bookshelf for YEARS. yes, literally years. I've picked it up several times, read the first 30 or so pages, then put it down and moved on to something else. Finally, (since it would earn a whopping 15 points for the Winter Book Challenge) I was determined to finish it. I'm SO glad that I did because I ended up really enjoying it! The first 60-ish pages are a little slow, but it begins picking up a bit after that and I really ended up getting wrapped up in the trials and tribulations of the main character, Delphine.

The novel first introduces the reader to Fidelis. A master butcher who has learned the trade from generations before him in Germany. After the first world war, Fidelis travels to the United States (Argus, North Dakota to be exact) and begins a butcher shop in order to bring his wife, Eva, and son over. Fidelis and his wife end up having 4 boys. When Delphine is introduced, she is in a travelling Vaudeville act with her partner Cyprian (who is gay). She decides to return to her hometown of Argus where she can care for her alcoholic and potential murderer of a father. She ends up getting a job at Fidelis' butcher shop and becomes close friends with Eva. Drama ensues, and Delphine's life turns upside down rather quickly as she struggles to find which path her life should take and what the secrets of her past are.

There were lots of moments during this novel where I definitely didn't expect what happened! The twists and turns were fantastic, and I felt completely involved with Delphine's life. I think that the difficulty I had when getting into this book was just realizing that it was really about Delphine and not Fidelis, so it was a struggle to stop wanting to know more about him and focusing on her.

9 out of 10 stars. If you are into historical fiction at all, I'd definitely recommend this one!

I pink-purple puffy heart the Harry Potter series. I have reread the first four probably 3-4 times each, but I wanted to go through them all again in preparation to read the fifth, sixth, and seventh (which I've only read once each) again before the sixth movie comes out in July. The fourth book is definitely one of my favorites of the series. It's action packed and so heart-wrenching at the end (OH CEDRIC!!! WHY!??!) and sets the tone for the rest of the series, which ends up getting very serious. I guess that I'm just going to leave it at that! If you've read Harry Potter, then you know what happens and if you haven't then you should! NOW! I mean it!

10 out of 10 stars for Harry numero 4. One of the best in the series, in my humble opinion.

And now for one last non-book related thing...We stopped in a little kind of Podunk town on Sunday while in the midst of driving because they had a B-dubs and we HAD to watch our Michigan State Spartans coached by the wonderful Tom Izzo kick Louisville's booty!

Final four, here we come!!!! Hubs is debating whether or not we will get tickets, since the final four is in Detroit. They are going for around $350 or so, so we're not so sure it's going to happen but East Lansing sure will be a fun place to be that night! Hopefully there won't be any rioting. I was in the dorms there during the 2003 disturbance (locked down!) Fun Times!!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

BTT: The Best of the Worst

Suggested by Janet:
The opposite of last week’s question: “What’s the best ‘worst’ book you’ve ever read — the one you like despite some negative reviews or features?”

This is a tough question! After thinking about it for a bit, I decided that the first book that I really liked, but not many people did (probably due to the Is-It-A-Memoir controversy) would be A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. I thought that it was great, raw and gritty and sometimes really tough to read because of the grotesque descriptions. But, in the end, I really enjoyed it. This could be because I read it like fiction and not like it was a true story. You have to think that even when something is a memoir, details could easily become glorified and stories exaggerated.

The other book that came to mind is Twilight, well the whole series really. While these books are insanely popular in main-stream culture, they are not so well liked by the "literary" community. While I will definitely admit that Stephenie Meyer's writing is NOT good, the characters are really great and the story lines are exciting and action packed. And also cheesy, but I can use some good CHEESE every once in a while!

So are there any books out there they everyone and their mother said are HORRIBLE, but you liked???

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

So Excited!!!!

My kitchen is finished. Remodeled. Beautiful and more cooking-friendly than ever. And, on top of that, we now have a DISHWASHER! Oh, the marvels of the 21st century! I know that this is totally not book-related (I'll get to some book stuff later in the post) but follow me now, on a journey through the past THREE WEEKS in my kitchen. (Please keep in mind we didn't have a TON of money to spend therefore, the cabinets were not replaced).

Week one: The cabinets that needed altering were taken by our cabinet guy and room was made for a dishwasher! Beautiful!!

Or something like that...
The cabinet guy also took the cabinet that the hood above the stove was under in order to shorten it so we could install an over-the-stove top microwave.

Mmmmm...don't you just LOVE the sea-foam green/greasy mess that was under that hood?!

Week Two: We got the bottom cabinet back (altered to fit underneath a window) so we could get the counter tops installed.

It's back! woo hoo! and now....pretty counters!

Week The Third: Now the upper cabinets only remained. We had to move the stove top down 6 inches in order to accommodate for the dishwasher, so we needed a 6 inch filler cabinet up top so the microwave would be right above the stove top. Our original idea was that we could have a wine rack made for that spot. Awesome, right? But, then our wonderful cabinet guy said "Wait a minute! I can make you a pull out spice rack right there!" Be still my beating wanna-be chef heart! Yes please!! So, on Friday evening I was waiting on pins and needles for Mr. Cabinet Guy to come and finish!!! But....he showed up with....a wine rack. Oops. So, after another couple days (until last evening to be exact) we were still waiting to be DONE. But now, here it is! Completed! With spice rack!!! Behold the awesome that we did to our 1960 kitchen for under $2K (and that's with the new stove top and dishwasher!)

Awesome, right??? Definitely worth the wait. And now I have a TON of counter space! And I don't have to hand wash every dish!!! It's fantastic! On top of that...you see that beautiful flat stove top? yea, the one with the bridge feature that connects the front and back left side burners for easy use of a large griddle pan?? I got that on Craigslist. For $20. Yes, $20. It's brand new and never been installed before. And it works perfectly. Sometimes I even amaze myself. Oh, and we still have to paint of course (the color from the dining room will also be in the kitchen) but that's for another weekend.

Okay now something book related. Tomorrow night, we're leaving to head to North Carolina for a wedding, and we're DRIVING. yup 12 hours (or more) in a car, EACH WAY. Some may see this as a rare form of torture, but I see it as an opportunity to read! Thank goodness I don't get car sick! So I'm bringing along:

The Master Butchers Singing Club by Louise Erdrich.

I'm currently reading this and am about 70 pages in. I've started this book 3 or 4 times so I'm happy to finally commit to reading it and I'm liking it so far. (I skipped a Teaser Tuesday yesterday so maybe I'll do one later today for this book)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling

I've been trying to reread this series before the next movie comes out in July but got sidetracked by the Winter Book Challenge. Time to get back on track! Plus it's a light, easy read that would be good for the car.

Sin in the Second City by Karen Abbott

I've heard really great things about this book, especially from those who have also like The Devil in the White City (which I also enjoyed). So I'm looking forward to reading it, since I've had it sitting on my bookshelf since Christmas!

Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris
I haven't read a Sookie Stackhouse book in a while, and this is the sixth in the series. The ninth book comes out in May, so I'd like to be up to date around then. I thought this would be a good car read since these books are usually action packed and fast paced.
So that's all! I should be here for Booking Through Thursday tomorrow but after that, I'll be off for a few days! Hopefully I'll get in plenty of reading and come back with a few good reviews!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Book Review: a bestseller

The Shack
by William P. Young
248 pages

It's hard for a book that's been on the New York Times' bestseller list for weeks and weeks to really live up to its hype. Add in a bunch of talk about how controversial this novel is, and it gets REALLY tough to go into reading it with an open mind and not expecting too much. I think that may have been one of my problems with this novel...

The Shack is about a man named Mack whose daughter is abducted and murdered while him and some of his other children are camping. Mack gets lost in the grief of losing his daughter, enters into what he calls "The Great Sadness", and quits having a relationship with God. One day, Mack gets a letter in the mail with no post mark. It simply tells him that it's been too long and he should come to the shack (where his daughter's bloody dress was found). It is signed from "Papa" which is Mack's wife's name for God. She has a very personal relationship with God and therefore feels close enough to call him "Papa" rather than God or Father.

Mack figures it's either a cruel joke, the killer trying to get him, or may it really is God. So, his wife and kids head out of town (not knowing Mack's plans) and Mack heads up to the shack. God is up there to meet him and He appears to Mack as a black woman, while Jesus is a homely looking Jewish man, and the Holy Spirit, Sarayu, is a small Asian woman. Mack spend the weekend with God (all three parts) and learns a lot about the relationship you should have with God, what God wants from us, what His plan is, and how to live your life with God's intentions in mind. Once he gets home, few people believe him but, of course, he's a changed man.

Now, the first and probably biggest controversy surrounding this book is the whole "God is a black woman" thing. Well, really, God is just showing himself as a black woman. He even says in the book that he's neither man nor woman, black nor white, etc. Also in the Bible, it says that God may show himself to you whenever, and as whoever or whatever, he pleases. On top of that, this is a work of fiction, so it's not like there aren't crazier things out there written! So I could get past the weirdness of things like that. What I couldn't really get past was the cheesy dialogue. The writing just wasn't GOOD* or engaging really. And that's what I think really got me disliking this book. I understand that it could have a pretty good message within it, and that it could really help some people going through a tough time after losing someone, but I just like my books to be well written on top of having a good message.

Overall, 5.5 out of 10 stars. I wouldn't read it again and I wouldn't really recommend it to anyone personally, but some people may get some good out of it...just not really me.

*Yes, I know that Stephenie Meyer's writing isn't GOOD either, but I didn't really expect a teenage vampire romance book to have good writing on top of all the drama...but a book about someone meeting God and talking with Him all weekend?? I just expected more.

I got tagged! Kreativ Blogger Award

Thanks to Suey at It's All About Books! Now I'm suppose to list seven things that I love and then tag seven people with this award...

Seven things I LOVE:

1. My husband, especially when he does something thoughtful unexpectedly.

2. Reading on the couch on a rainy day (or any day really...).

3. Cuddling with my pup (he likes to lay under the blankets).

4. Being at the lake cottage in the summer and getting up early (before everyone else) and sitting on the back porch with a cup of coffee and my book.

5. A soy carmel macchiato from Starbucks.

6. Seeing my new baby nephew!

7. New shoes, especially Steve Maddens...

Since I'm not sure who to tag, I'm just going to tag YOU! Yes, you! whoever is reading this!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Musing Monday: Bookstore of choice

Musing Mondays is hosted by Rebecca. This week's question is:

How many bookstores do you frequent? Do you have a favourite? If so, which one and what makes it so?

Well, I think that I frequent Barnes and Noble the most. I can use my mom's B&N card discount, they are conveniently located, and they almost always have what I'm looking for. There are two B&N in my area, one is closer to my house and attached to the mall and it's smaller and then there's one near the campus of Michigan State University and it's huge, with two stories and plenty of display tables. I definitely prefer to go to the bigger one. There tend to be a lot more options for the buy 2 get 1 free books and more bargain priced books. Also, the tables and bookshelves have much more space between them so you can just plop down and look at the books. There really isn't room to do that in the smaller one!

There's another bookstore in my area called Schuler's which I believe is locally owned, but I can get the same books that they have at B&N and be able to use my mom's discount. Schuler's gift section is much better though, with a huge selection of random stationary, magnets, candles, wall decor, and miscellaneous book related stuff. So I do like to go there to look at the gift section. I also just discovered a used bookstore that's located smack dab in between our house and my in-laws. I've yet to stop in though because they are only open until 7 on weeknights and Saturdays have been way too busy lately. Hopefully sometime this spring I will get out there and check it out though! I'd love to support a local bookstore, but it's just SO much easier (and cheaper usually) to go to the big chain store.

Oh, and for online shopping, I like B&N dot com also. Once again, I can use my mom's discount, the selection of bargain books is HUGE (I cleaned up on cheap books right after Christmas), and there's free shipping on orders over $25. Not a bad deal.

I almost forgot about the open-once-a-month Library used book store! Paperbacks are only a quarter, and hardcovers are a dollar. This past Friday it was open so I stopped in and picked up a mere 21 books (oops...) for only $6! My one big turn off though is that I saw a group of three people, each wielding a palm pilot type device with a scanner hooked to it. They were going around and grabbing the newest, nicest looking books and scanning them to see what they "go for" online. It kind of made me sad that they were taking books out of true book lover's hands only to go and sell them on half.com or something. I guess that they will still end up in some book lover's hands but STILL! Maybe I'm just upset because I peeked in there bag and saw THREE books that I had on my "look for" list in there! No fair! (PS I understand that it's a tough time economically, but I figure if they have enough money to get three palm pilots and scanners for this task then they couldn't be hurting TOO much).

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Review: The Devil Wears Prada

The Devil Wears Prada
By Lauren Weisberger
360 pages

I think that this book is best suited to read when you are lounging in the sun by the lake/pool/beach. But, I read it for the Winter Book Challenge topic "Read a book that you've already seen the movie of." I really loved the movie The Devil Wears Prada. I thought that it was funny and touching and Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway are great, so when I saw this at the library sale for a quarter, I picked it up!

The book starts out pretty similar to the movie. Andrea "Andy" Sachs is hired as a junior assistant for the editor of Runway magazine, Miranda Priestly. Miranda is an insanely powerful woman in the fashion industry and is not the easiest woman to work for, to put it lightly. Andy is hoping that her year of servitude to a demanding and bitchy Miranda will help her to be placed in a position as a writer for The New Yorker. As she gets her life more and more taken over by Miranda's "needs", Andy begins losing her friends, family, and self along the way. Finally, Andy has to make a decision between her career and her friends and moral values when something happens to her best friend while she is in Paris with Miranda. Does she stay and lose her friend? Or does she go and lose her job and future opportunity?

SPOILERS: The main difference between the book and the movie is that in the book, Miranda never has a real human moment. There's one short conversation with Andy where she tells her that she's not doing a terrible job and says that she may get a referral from her for The New Yorker, but that's it. She's really just a mean, nasty person. In the movie, Meryl Streep's Miranda is trying to be unseated from her editor position and is having marital problems so you begin to sympathize with her (as does Andy). Movie Andy quits her job solely because Miranda tells her that Andy is just like her when she was younger. Book Andy quits because not only did Miranda say that Andy was like her, but also her best friend was in a car accident (due to her downward spiral into alcoholism) and is in a coma back home and when Andy tells Miranda that she is going to stay in Paris despite her friend being in the hospital and Miranda approves, Andy gives her a hearty "F*$& you!" and storms off to return to her family and friends.

It seems like the movie just tries to make everything less controversial than the book. No alcoholic best friend, no mean but with a good heart boss, and no huge moral dilemma facing main character. It's tough to like a movie, then read the book and see how much more the movie could have been because I'm starting to feel that I didn't like the movie as much as I thought. I think that the movie people could have hit on some much tougher issues (like alcoholism and making the right choices) than it did now that I've read the book. But oh well, just another case of "book better than the movie" syndrome! Luckily I got to enjoy the movie first this time!

8 out of 10 stars for the book. Would be a great, light summer read.

BTT: The Worst of the Best

This week's Booking Through Thursday question is:

“What’s the worst ‘best’ book you’ve ever read — the one everyone says is so great, but you can’t figure out why?”

Oh, this is a good question and kind of a tough one! The first thing that came to mind for me was Life Of Pi by Yann Martel. I heard nothing but raves from everyone (my mom, sister, the nest book club board, and it won the Man Booker Prize) so I was pretty excited to read it. BLAH. It wasn't AWFUL but I just don't get how it is SO great. I think that maybe I had my expectations set too high before I started it, and the book just let me down. I remember when I finished the book thinking, "really, that's it?"

The next book that came to mind was The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. Once again, lots of rave reviews for this one and it was given to me to read by my best friend. The beginning really caught my attention and the ending was exciting but oh man, those middle couple hundred pages were like pulling teeth to get through. I would literally fall asleep while reading that middle part. The middle definitely ruined it for me.

I read The Giver by Lois Lowry and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle in school when I was younger and I hated them. But, I think that if I read them now, I would like them. I'm reading A Wrinkle in Time in April for The Nest Book Club monthly discussion so we'll see! I'm definitely willing to give those ones another shot. But The Historian? Probably not.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays: The Devil Wears Prada

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB.

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!

My Teaser:

My head pounded to the tempo of her voice, and it seemed that not matter what I did or how I responded, I was sentenced to forever listening to her talk about bikini waxes. It may have been better to have her scream at me about interrupting Miranda's dinner.
From The Devil Wears Prada p. 115

This is a fun, easy read probably best fit for a couple of afternoons on the beach...but I'm reading it for the Winter Book Challenge as a book that I haven't read before but have seen the movie. It's actually very similar to the movie!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Post Secret book love.

Does any one else check postsecret every Monday? I sure do. I absolutely LOVE PostSecret. I mean, what a great idea! People can send in their deepest, darkest or most lovely and random secrets anonymously for the world to see. It's beautiful, people. One on there today definitely made me smile though!

How fantastic is that? What a great secret!

Musing Mondays: Stranger Danger?

As always, Musing Mondays is brought to us by Rebecca.

This week's question is:

We were all warned as children to 'never talk to strangers', but how do you feel about book-talk with random people? When you see people reading, do you ask what it is? Do you talk to people in the book store or the library? Why or why not? What do you do if people talk to you? (question courtesy of Dena)

I love book talking to random people! Whenever I see someone reading, I always try to take a peek to see what it is, although I don't always interrupt them, especially if they look rather into it. I think that I usually book-talk strangers at the bookstore. I like seeing what people have in their hands and seeing whether I've read it or haven't or would like to. I like when people see something that I'm carrying around and give a comment like "Oh I just read that and it's FANTASTIC!" because then I'm even more excited to take it home and read it, so I try to do that for others. Plus, since I read all the book blogs, I like to pass on info on books that I've heard good reviews about.

My most recent book-related convo with a stranger was about the Outlander Series at the library book sale. I got the ever-so-perfect "just you wait for the next book in the series! it's great!" comment. I think that the Twilight series has started the most conversations for me though. I've started conversations with people out at lunch, in the bookstore (when I was picking up my own copies of the books and when I saw others picking it up), and at the library. The Twilight convo at the library is probably why I don't really book-talk with the librarians there though. I was there picking up my on-hold copy of Breaking Dawn and it went like this:

Librarian: Oh, these books certainly are getting requested a lot!

Me: Yea, they are really popular right now and are kind of fun reads. You haven't read them yet?? (assuming when a book because really popular, as a librarian, you would want to read it...)

Librarian: Oh no! I mean, they are just SO LONG!

Me: **head-desk** oh, yea, they are kind of long...but they are Young Adult, so they read really fast...

So that kind of stopped me asking the librarians there for reccomendations or if they've read something because they obviously aren't picking up 2666 (which was fantastic), or Outlander (also amazing), or maybe even the last few Harry Potter books due to the length...which just makes me think YIKES. I mean, I could understand being intimidated by the length of something like Pillars of the Earth, but TWILIGHT??? I mean, come on! It's not exactly a literary masterpiece that takes intense focus to understand.

Overall, I feel like book people are good people, so no worries of stranger-danger for me!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

BTT: Book into movie?

This week's Booking Through Thursday question is:

What book do you think should be made into a movie? And do you have any suggestions for the producers?

Or, What book do you think should NEVER be made into a movie?

The book that I really think should be made into a movie is Outlander. Throughout the whole thing I was sitting there going "Oh my gosh! This would be SUCH a good movie!" And, it turns out that they are making it into a movie!! I think that it's going to be great (hopefully). The Thirteenth Tale could make a good movie too, as long as it was done well. Although, all the people who had read the book would know the surprise ending. Middlesex might be good as a movie also. But, it'd be tough to do a smooth transition from the present time to the flashbacks of family history.

Of books I've read this year, The White Tiger should definitely NEVER be made into a movie. The letter format that it's written in is part of what makes the book so good, and that just couldn't be transferred to the big screen. Oh, and the book that was made into a movie that shouldn't have would be Love in the Time of Cholera. I thought that that was a really great book with a great message about love and fate, but all the internal dialog in the book was lost when it was made into a movie and it turned out just boring and awful.

I love watching movies that are based on books in general, even though the book is almost always better, if for nothing else than to just see how someone else imagined it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Book Review: The Chocolate War

The Chocolate War
by Robert Comier
253 pages

One of the 15 point tasks for the Winter Book Challenge was to read a frequently banned or challenged book. I really wanted to read something that I hadn't read yet, or hadn't even heard of before. Looking through the lists, I found The Chocolate War and decided to read it because I wanted to know why people got so worried about exposing our youth to this book. It turns up as #2 on the most challenged books of 2007 list. I like to think that challenging books is a thing from the past, like people today have GOT to have enough sense to know that first, removing a book from a school library isn't going to stop interested kids in reading it, and second that just because someone reads a book doesn't mean they are going to get "bad ideas" from it. But no, people still challenge and try to remove books from libraries today. I have this crazy idea that all previously challenged books should be on school curriculum because then, as the student is reading it, they can discuss what the controversial parts are and how they are feeling about the book. But maybe that's just me...

Anyways, on to the book. The Chocolate War is about a kid named Jerry Renault who is a freshman at Trinity Catholic High School. Every year, the school puts on a chocolate sale to raise money for the school (so tuition rates don't increase, etc.). This year, the students are "asked" to sell twice as many boxes as the year before (50 instead of 25) at double the price ($2 instead of $1). Brother Leon, who is filling in at the headmaster position while the actual headmaster is ill, is heading up the sale and asked the school's secret society, The Vigils, to back the sale. The Vigils aren't publicly talked about throughout the school. They are a small group of students who make "assignments" for other students that include ridiculous pranks, such as loosening every screw in a classroom so that every desk, chair, and even the chalk board falls apart when touched. The Vigils are basically untouchable. No teacher speaks their name, no student defies them, and no one gets caught.

One day, Jerry gets a message for an assignment from The Vigils. He's suppose to say "no" to selling the chocolates for 10 days. For some reason, which Jerry himself can't even put into words, he continues to say "no" to the chocolate sale. He is defying Brother Leon (who is kind of terrifying), The Vigils, and, by the end, the whole school. All the while, the poster in the back of Jerry's locker is asking "Do we dare disturb the universe?"

This novel was fantastic. It was tough, and real, and kind of gritty. Nothing was perfect for any of the characters so they were all very realistic. Was there violence, strong language, and sexual references? Well, yea, in some parts. But there were also some strong, important messages. Any teenager in high school now would have already been exposed to all that there is in this book, whether the parents choose to acknowledge it or not. I think that someone struggling to fit in at their high school could get a lot out of a novel about someone who defies the crowd.

9 out of 10 stars.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Book Review: The Secret Life of Bees

The Secret Life of Bees
By Sue Monk Kidd
336 pages

I've been wanting to read this book for a long time, since before I even knew they were making it into a movie. I just never got around to it! I even had it held at one point at the library, but never got to it. Then I went to the library book sale and as I was checking out with my goods, I saw the woman collecting money sorting through a stack of books. This one was in that stack so I asked if it was going back into the "sale" piles and she said that it was one of the ones that she was taking. I just shrugged and said alright and went to pay for my books. Then she turned to me and goes "ya know what? I have a huge stack of books to read yet...are you going to be coming back next month?" Um, YES! I love rummaging through piles and piles of books. "Alright," she says, "I'll put my name on a post it in this one and you take it tonight and just bring it back to me next month." I was kind of in shock that she would let me take her book, when I've never met her before! Who says there aren't kind, trusting people still out there in the world!? So, it was by a stanger's act of kindness that this book ended up at the top of my nightstand pile, and boy, am I happy it did!

The Secret Life of Bees is a story of a 14 year old girl whose mother died when she was young and she is living with her jerk of a father, T. Ray, and a black "stand in mother" named Rosaleen. It's 1964 in South Carolina so you can cut the racial tension with a knife. When Rosaleen heads to town (with Lily) to register to vote, she gets in a load of trouble by insulting three white men. Lily, wanting to escape her life with T. Ray, help Rosaleen, and learn more about her mother, breaks Rosaleen out of jail and heads to Tiburon, SC. This particular town was written on the back of a picture of a black Mary that had belonged to her mother.

In Tiburon, Lily and Rosaleen are taken in by the Boatwright sisters, three African American women named August, May, and June. They are beekeepers and August teaches Lily the ropes. Through it all, Lily begins to trust and love August despite the racial stigmas in place in the time and learns about her mother and who her father used to be.

The story is touching and the writing is just beautiful. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and will be looking to pick up the other novel by Sue Monk Kidd, The Mermaid Chair. Oh, and I want to see the movie now. Dakota Fanning isn't what I pictured Lily looking like (since she's described as having dark hair) but I love her and I thought that Queen Latifah would play Rosaleen but really QL is playing August and Jennifer Hudson is playing Rosaleen...not what I was picturing but it looks good!

9 out of 10 stars.

Teaser Tuesday: The Chocolate War

Teaser Tuesdays are hosted by Miz B. They ask you to:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please, no spoilers!!

"Well, there's all kinds of rumors around the school. First of all, a lot of kids think that The Vigils are in on the deal, that Renault still isn't selling them because he's still carrying out the assignment."

p. 139 The Chocolate War by Robert Comier

This is a frequently banned book that I've decided to read for the Winter Book Challenge. I'm really enjoying it! What a great concept...a high school kid who goes against the whole school including the school's secret "gang." It's a shame that people try to block such great books from students.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Musing Mondays: Buying New Authors

Musing Mondays is sponsored by Rebecca.

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about new authors…
What is your policy when it comes to new authors? Do you feel comfortable purchasing a book or do you prefer to borrow new authors from the library? How often do you 'try out' a new author?

I definitely feel comfortable buying books from new authors. I'm not really one of those people who finds an author and reads EVERYTHING that they've written, so I'm constantly on the lookout for new authors. I usually only buy regular priced books if I've heard good things about them though, so that helps keep me from buying not-so-great books. For bargain priced or buy-one-get-one sale books, I'll get just about anything with good cover art and/or a good sounding blurb on the back. And, at the library book sale each month, I even just pick up books that look like they are in like-new condition. I figure it's only a quarter for a paperback and a dollar for hardcover so I can always just throw in on PaperBackSwap if I don't like it!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

BTT: The best books I've never read

I love today's topic!

We’ve all seen the lists, we’ve all thought, “I should really read that someday,” but for all of us, there are still books on “The List” that we haven’t actually gotten around to reading. Even though we know they’re fabulous. Even though we know that we’ll like them. Or that we’ll learn from them. Or just that they’re supposed to be worthy. We just … haven’t gotten around to them yet.
What’s the best book that YOU haven’t read yet?

Wow oh wow. I'm pretty sure that my list of books that I should read but haven't yet is HUGE. I usually go off of the 1001 books to read before you die list to find books that I haven't read that I should. Also, I check out the bestseller list. From those lists, I find that these books are the highest up on my list of best books I've never read:
  • Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
  • The Shack by William P. Young (I just love a good controversy)
  • The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings/etc. by JRR Tolkein
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Well, I'm sure I'll get to them someday! It just doesn't help when you get new books ALL the time...the piles just grow and grow!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Book Review: The Bluest Eye

The Bluest Eye
by Toni Morrison
206 pages

I kind of had to drag myself to the computer to write this review. It's not that I didn't like this book...I just didn't LOVE it. I totally get why it won awards, how Toni Morrison is brilliant, and why I should love it but, I guess it just wasn't my cup of tea.

The Bluest Eye has a very serious topics within it. The title comes from the way that the black girls in the novel are shown that the standards of "beauty" are white characteristics like blond hair and blue eyes. This is addressed by one of the young girls in the book when she receives a baby doll with blue eyes and blond hair and ends up tearing it up out of anger and frustration. The main character in the book, a young girl named Pecola, is raped by her father, becomes pregnant, and the baby dies. I found it interesting that Pecola is the main character, yet none of the chapters focus on her, while they do focus on the lives of the children around her, and her mother and father's childhoods.

Overall, I see that the novel is beautifully written but I just couldn't enjoy the characters like I want to when reading. Although, I don't think that I was really suppose to in this one.

I have to say 6 out of 10 stars. I have one more of her novels sitting on my nightstand that I'll get to eventually. Maybe I'll like that one more.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Teaser Tuesday: The Secret Life of Bees

Teaser Tuesdays are hosted by MizB. As always, they ask you to:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!

My teaser:

She laughed again. "You know, some things don't matter that much, Lily. Like the color of a house. How big is that in the overall scheme of life? But lifting a person's heart-now, that matters. The whole problem with people is-"

p. 147 The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Monday, March 2, 2009

Review: Middlesex

by Jeffrey Eugenides
529 pages

The first line of this book really catches your attention.

“I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.”

The story is told by a 41-year-old Cal Stephanides, who was born Calliope Stephanides. He tells of his grandparent's journey to America from Turkey, what they experienced once in America, how his parents met, and how he came to be born with 5-alpha-reductase deficiency. 5-alpha-reductase is the enzyme responsible for converting testosterone to dihydrotestosterone, which is necessary for the development of male external reproductive organs in utero. Since Cal lacked this enzyme, his outer genitalia never full developed which caused him to be raised as a girl until the age of 14, when his condition was discovered and he decided to live as a boy.

I got much more from this novel than I expected. I really thought that it was going to be a story of a girl who really felt like she was a boy growing up, only to find out that she really is a boy. But, it was more about Cal's family and life growing up as a teenage girl, who had normal teenage girl worries (when am I going to get boobs???) and then found out about his true sexuality and made a conscious decision to live as a male. It's not quite the "I was born a girl, but really FELT that I was a boy my whole life" story, which makes it very unique. The other thing that surprised me about this novel was that the focus wasn't about Cal the whole time. It really focused on each member of his family at one point so I felt that I knew each one of them and their story.

I can definitely see why this book is on the 1001 books to read before you die list. It's a very interesting read.

8.5 out of 10 stars

Musing Mondays 3/2/09

Musing Mondays is hosted by Rebecca!

When reading do you read every word? Do you ever skip chapters or skim over parts? (question curtesy of Wendy)

I pretty much read every word if I'm reading something for pleasure. I NEVER skip chapters because I tend to miss out on things and then the book really doesn't make any sense. And, the only time that I skim is when something gets REALLY boring (like the whole middle part of The Historian for me) or if I'm reading an article and just trying to get the jist of it. For me, a big part of really enjoying what I read is seeing how the author uses language and specific terminology to convey their themes and characters. If I skimmed through things, I wouldn't be able to catch most of that. I read because I LIKE to read, so why wouldn't I read every word?