Thursday, December 30, 2010
This is the second book of the Hunger Games Trilogy and a great sequel. Collins picks up right where she left off - after Katness and Peeta win the Hunger Games. Now, they must visit every district in a victory tour. Before the tour, President Snow visits Katniss. He explains how her and Peeta's suicide attempt at the end of the Hunger Games could be interpreted as an act of defiance, instead of one of love. President Snow threatens Katniss' loved ones unless she can convince him that she truly was motivated by her love for Peeta. The citizens of the twelve districts, however, want to believe that Katniss has other motivations, and Katniss isn't quite sure how to respond to the pressure from both sides.
This sequel to Ryan's first book, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, started off strongly but overall fell short of the first book. But let me begin with the reasons why I liked the book.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Coraline is a quick read but definitely worth it! Neil Gaiman writes about a young girl who moved with her parents into a new and mysterious home. In the home she finds a small door that opens to a brick wall. One night, however, curious about the door, Coraline opens it to find the brick wall gone and a long passageway in its place. She crawls through the passageway to find it leads to a copy of her house with copies of her mother and father. Everything in this other world seems better to Coraline at first, but she soon finds not everything is as it seems.
If you haven't heard of Neil Gaiman, perhaps you have heard of his other book, Coraline, which was made into a fantastic movie in 2009. The Graveyard Book was written after Coraline and is about a boy named Nobody Owens, or Bod. Bod's family is killed when he is a baby and he ends up living in a graveyard raised by adoptive parents, who happen to be ghosts.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Have you ever wondered why certain people are successful and others aren't? Is there a formula to success? Or are people simply in the right place at the right time?
Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell,is a book that looks at successful people and analyzes what has set them apart from the rest of us. Gladwell begins with a hockey example. Consider NHL hockey players. Does a person make the NHL because he is supernaturally talented at hockey or are there other factors at work? Gladwell demonstrates that a look at NHL birthdays may hold a clue to a budding hockey player's success, as many NHL players are born in the first three months of the year. A careful analysis of how young hockey players are groomed and how the hockey calendar operates gives credence to Gladwell's theory that it matters (in terms of being a hockey player) when a child is born. NHL players' birthdays, along with talent, he surmises, are a contributing factor in their entry into the NHL.
Similarly, Gladwell asks the question, why do Asians seem to excel in math? His answer delves into several factors including language differences between Asian languages and English and how this may affect a child's learning of math. He postulates that if a child can learn math more easily than another, he may enjoy it more in school, which may lead to him studying more and performing better. This is a sort of snowball effect which began with the language the child spoke.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
I wasn't more than two pages into this book before I knew I was going to love it. And it wasn't because of the plot line, not yet at least. There is just something about the way Carrie Ryan writes that suites me. Her book is introspective, but not too intellectual; smoothly written, but not rushed.
The Forest of Hands and Teeth is the first in a trilogy of zombie novels. At some point in time was the Event, in which people were infected with a virus that killed them, and then turned them into zombies. But Mary's village was created with a fence that separated the healthy from the sick. The zombies live on one side, in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, while the people live on the other side. The village is run by the Sisterhood, women who know secrets about the Event, the Zombies, and the creation of the village. But they run the village tight lipped about these things, and espouse a strange brand of religion that involves traditional beliefs in God but also new customs created by the Sisterhood.
Despite these extraordinary circumstances, Mary struggles with normal things like who she is going to marry, and what she is going to do with her life. And like the rest of her town, she also lives with the threat of a breach of the fence hanging over her head. One day, when the town alarm is raised, Mary realizes this is no drill. The zombies have entered the town and she and her friends must now run away, into the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Having learned her whole life that there is nothing beyond the fence, Mary travels with her companions to discover what lies beyond her village and beyond the Forest of Hands and Teeth.
For me, this book was a cross between Suzanne Collin's "The Hunger Games" and M. Night Shymalan's "The Village" with the romanticism of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" mixed in there. It can be a quick read; with a library deadline on the horizon, I read it in two days (and had vivid dreams both of those nights!). I wouldn't describe the book as scary, but Ryan's imagery can be dark and chilling. And she explores subjects like religion, evil, indoctination, and death in a fascinating way. She really makes you think about reality and how much of it is created by life events and what you've been taught. She makes you wonder, how much of my life is like Mary's? And even without the zombies in that equation, the answer to that can be what's truly scary about this book.
Reviewed by Cathy
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Have you ever wondered why drug dealers live with their parents if they make so much money? Or if the name you give your child will affect his outcome in life? This book explores those topics and other ones like whether or not sumo wrestlers cheat and how the KKK runs its organization.
And to raise the ante, Levitt and Dubner aren't very politically correct about it. Don't get me wrong, they're not racist or vulgar but their ideas are provocative and require an open mind. They make it clear that if morals describe an ideal world, then economics describe a realistic world. So prepare yourself to delve into topics like abortion, race, and parenting. Maybe you'll learn a thing or two to keep that kid on the right path in his life (and out of your home once he's an adult!).
Reviewed by Cathy
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Surprisingly, the book starts off on a somewhat depressing tone, as Silverman talks about her tortured childhood. Teased, insecure, and depressed, Silverman as a child is more tragedy than comedy. But if you can get past the first 75 pages or so, the book picks up with Silverman talking about moving to New York and how she started doing open mics at comedy clubs. She works into her singular season at SNL in the early 90's and progresses to her move to LA where she works on her own show, The Sarah Silverman Program.
Is there inspiration in this book? Perhaps (I DID use the word "vagina" on my facebook page the day I finished reading it...) The fact that her life intersects with a lot of great comedians and writers before any of them really became successful is interesting. And her reflections on her childhood are relatable. But I'm not sure there are any real life lessons to be learned from this book, but it's a good read if you just want something easy and entertaining. And yeah, the crotch humor is a plus.
Reviewed by Cathy
Monday, July 26, 2010
Reviewed by Cathy
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins
Thursday, July 15, 2010
This is the second book in a series of three, following The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which Cathy so eloquently reviewed earlier. The Girl who Played with Fire picks up with Salander exploring the world with her ‘earned’ billions and researching complex mathematical equations as a hobby. Stieg jumps into the action, much quicker than in the first book, with Salander observing a man who is violent to his wife in the room next door. This beginning conflict is unrelated to anything else in the book; however, it serves to display that Salander is the ‘woman who hates men who hate women’, a throwback to the original title of the first book.
Shortly after her return to Sweden, Salander finds herself as the main suspect in a triple homicide. Blomkvist steps forward to prove her innocence and pay his debt to her saving his life the previous year. Several other unexpected allies join to clear her name as Salander faces her past to solve the murders.
While the first book seriously lagged for the first 100 pages of the story, ‘Fire’ jumps off with a bang but then crawls to a near stop about two-thirds of the way through. Every part of it is important to the storyline, but at times I found my mind wandering and was forced to read the page over again to stay on track. The last 100 pages picked back up and the ending was exciting, if not a little unrealistic. But I guess that’s why this is fiction.
What I enjoyed most about ‘Fire’ was Salander’s character development. We find out that in addition to having a photographic memory and talent with computers, that she is much more than an awkward, brooding goth girl with a mysterious upbringing. She heavily weighs every decision before carrying out actions. And her actions, although not conformed to public opinion, are strong and morally grounded. I enjoyed this book and gained a great deal of respect for Salander. Not to mention the relief it was to root for a heroine whose only conflict is isn't a choice of two men in her life*.
*My bitterness towards that type of heroine has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with my lack of men. Not one bit. I swear.
Posted by Kil...who is pushing 30, shares a one bedroom apartment with her dog, and divides her time between knitting, running, and being a slut with a heart of gold.
Friday, July 2, 2010
This book was recommended to me so I kept the title in the back of my head for awhile. Then a friend of mine mentioned she took it with her on a trip to New York and thought an afternoon reading in Central Park would be nice. She sat on a bench and noticed that there were girls to her left and right and they were both reading this book! I decided it was time to jump on the bandwagon and check it out at the library. Problem was, the wait list was so long, there were 345 people ahead of me in line. With a 3 week check out period, that's almost 20 years of waiting to get this book. So I borrowed it from my work library, of all places. Apparently, this book is everywhere.
The story follows a year in the life of journalist Mikael Blomkvist. After losing a court battle and facing jail time, Blomkvist decides to take a leave from his magazine and accept a temporary work assignement from Henrik Vanger. Vanger wants him to ostensibly write a family chronicle but his real assignment is to investigate a 36 year old family mystery of the disappearance of his grand-niece. In the course of his investigation, Blomkvist meets Lisbeth Salander, a troubled young woman with a knack for investigation. Together they delve into the Vanger family history as well as some other mysteries involving Salander and Blomkvist's personal lives.
In a nutshell, I think the book is overrated. Most people I've talked to agree that the book is slow to start and picks up after about a hundred pages or so. As you read on, the book continually picks up steam until I found myself not wanting to put it down for the last hundred pages or so. At 590 pages though, that's a lot to get through before I can't put a book down.
Honestly, I think reading about the author himself is more interesting. Steig Larsson was a journalist, as well as a political activist. He was considered an expert in Swedish extreme right and racist organizations. A quick online search will reveal a lot of interesting stories and rumors about his life - too many to go into here. When Larrson died of a heart attack in 2004, he left behind three unpublished manuscripts, of which The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first. It was published in 2005 in Sweden and translated several years later into English. The original title in Swedish is Men Who Hate Women. I wished I knew that before I started reading the book. It really is a better title. Maybe knowing that would have made the book better too?
My recommendation? Everyone's talking about it anyway, so you might as well read it. Hell, it's summer and this is one of those reads. Just don't buy it or borrow it from the library. Ask a friend for it, chances are, you know someone who has read it.
Reviewed by Cathy
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
I don’t care what you say about Portuguese communists, they write good books. Having heard of the passing of Nobel Prize winner Jose Saramago earlier this month I thought I would kick things off with a review of his book about…well, death. That, and because we’re all going to die. Unless I’m wrong, and we end up living forever…but historically speaking it doesn’t look good for us.
For those of you not familiar with Saramago’s work, he is famous for exploring dark themes and human responses to the unimaginable. In Death With Interruptions, death (that’s with a lowercase “d” to you – she’s picky) takes a holiday and no one dies for a year. How do you face the possibility of not being able to die long after you’ve lost the ability to live? Is death doing us a favor by letting us linger at her door? And if there was a way to die, what price would you pay to make it happen?
There are not just personal consequences. Life insurance companies and funeral homes fear the collapse of their businesses. Hospitals scramble to cope as people continue to age and become terminally ill. Religion is hit hard. How can faith strongly steeped in the idea of death and resurrection exist when death is taken away?
In the second half of the book, death returns with a new plan. She resumes her duties, first by eliminating her backlog of overdue deaths and then by implementing the one-week warning. If you are slated to die in the next week, she will send you a lovely notice in a purple envelope so you can get your affairs in order. Is this really helpful? Is death again trying to do us a favor by giving us a head’s up before we die?
And from death’s POV, what happens when the living refuse to die? What does it mean when the purple envelope is returned unopened? And what, ultimately can cause death to discontinue her work to begin with?
A note about style: It will become very obvious very quickly that Saramago did not grow up with Schoolhouse Rocks. The book is marred by lack of appropriate punctuation, run-on sentences, and missing capitalization. Saramago is part of the Pulitzer club that likes to test the boundaries of proper writing style, not to mention the patience of his readers.
To conclude, this is a book I’m not likely to forget soon. Given our fascination with dying, Death With Interruptions makes for an interesting, compelling read if you can get past the author’s writing style. You will not be the first to think “Great story, but would it kill this guy (pun intended) to write normally?”
Posted by: Anne-Marie
Sunday, June 27, 2010
The Hunger Games is a Young Adult book about a world called Panem, believed to be North America. Panem consists of The Capital, which governs twelves districts. At some point in the past, the districts rebelled against The Capital. The Capital squashed the rebellion and as a reminder of the failed act of defiance, they hold the Hunger Games. This is an event in which each of the twelve districts sends a boy and a girl, between the ages of 12 and 18, to compete in a battle to the death. Only one survivor remains and the winner's district receives enough food for the rest of the year.
Monday, June 21, 2010
Many, MANY people told me to read this book. For some reason I avoided it like the plague because it just seemed like it would be boring. But I will tell you now, I have never been so happy to be proven so wrong. Coming from me, that says a lot.
This book is slightly like The Notebook in the sense that it switches between past and present and is told through the eyes of 90 year old (or 92…or 93…he's not sure) Jacob Jankowski. When he was 21 Jacob's parents were killed in an auto accident the week of his final exams for Veterinary School. Like it would with anyone, this tragic event changed the course of Jacob's life. After the accident, he ran away and joined the Depression Era Circus (The year is 1931). I am a total sucker for historically accurate details, and it is clear that Sara Gruen has spent her time researching the way animals were kept, treated, and the general atmosphere of working in a circus during this time period. At times you will smile, but at many other times it will break your heart. You listen to Jacob's journey and the characters he meets along the way. While reading this, I got such a vivid picture from Gruen's details that you will start to get strong feelings (whether good or bad) about each person. I completely fell in love with Jacob as a character. He fights for the good of the animals and the performers in the show, especially an elephant named Rosie that the circus acquires along the way and her eventual human sidekick performer, Marlena.
I get a lot of people who ask me for book suggestions, and this is always at the top of my list. Whenever someone reads this they always come back to me to say they love it, and what a great suggestion it was. Believe me when I tell you that like me, you will not be disappointed by this book.
Posted by Amy
The biggest difference between this book and the others, is that it's written from Bree's point of view. In a way that was a breath of fresh air. As much as I love Bella (believe me I do) it was nice to not hear a character constantly putting themselves down. Bree is independent and had a lot more spunk. Because Bree was such a small character in Eclipse I was surprised that Stephenie Meyer devoted an entire Novella to her, but she was really the perfect character to learn how the newborns work. Stephenie Meyer created such a different type of vampire compared to the typical vampire folklore (burns in the sun, can be staked in the heart), you want to learn about how these vampires work. You will learn the back story of how she and Riley met, how she became a vampire, and how Riley trained the newborn army for the eventual showdown in Eclipse. While you learn about a few more vampires along the way, there aren't many characters you care to remember besides Bree, Riley, and Victoria (possibly one other depending on your preference, but I won't give the other characters away).
I think the only thing that bothered me is that I wanted to know more! I thought it would go more into the Battle scene and interaction with the Cullens and Volturi. You spend all of the Twilight books seeing through Bella's eyes, and when you finally get to see it from a different perspective the details come up short. Overall, it was a fun quick read that will prepare you for the movie Eclipse. But real Twilight fans will be waiting for the holy grail of the Twilight Saga to be released….Midnight Sun.
Posted by Amy
This is my all-time favorite book. I've read it four times. I know that's probably pathetic to a lot of people, especially Stephen King who said he doesn't reread many books because life's too short. Yet he'd reread The Story of Edgar Sawtelle which I haven't been able to get into after 179 pages (about 79 pages longer than I give most books). Of course, this is the man who goes on chapter long digressions in his own books, whereas I only digress for a sentence or two...
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Monday, June 14, 2010
Jeannette Walls had an eccentric life. Some would say her childhood was one of neglect, others might say what she endured was child abuse. And still others might see how a family tried to make the best of a bad situation, in which they might say the book is about a strange brand of hope. I think the book is about perspective, and how it can change depending on your attitude, your age, what you're told, or a million other things.
I am glad to say, I can relate little to Jeannette's upbringing. My family didn't constantly move in the middle of the night, my parents didn't let me cook when I was three, we never adopted a wild buzzard, I never ate the same food for weeks at a time (heavily spicing it when it started going bad), and I never had to worry about sleeping in a cardboard box or using a tarp as a cover because the roof leaked so badly. But what I like about the book is that because I cannot relate to much in it, I'm educated through Jeannette's narrative of a world I knew little about. I feel like my perspective on poverty, homelessness, and mental illness is a little bit different now.
This is one of the best books I've read lately. Jeannette Walls' upbringing is amazing, tragic, and funny at the same time. And it brings up a lot of interesting questions whose answers would be controversial at best; Do some people choose to be homeless? Is it better for a child to live on the brink of starvation in poverty with loving parents or to be in foster care? Can parents who treat their children the way they treated Jeannette and her siblings really love them?
You know you've read a great book when you want to learn more about it and find yourself searching the internet for more info. There's a lot online but here's one interview I found interesting: Jeannette Walls interview on gothamist.com
Reviewed by Cathy