Thursday, July 30, 2009

Summer Blowout, Claire Cook

This was an impulse buy from a few weeks ago. It's a very cute, very summery story about a tangled family of hairstylists & makeup artists. I loved how the main character gave us the full run down and complete brand name for each product she used. It wasn't annoying- it honestly made me want to go to Sephora. I give Claire Cook points for name dropping Nars & Tarte- two of my favorite makeup lines as well as the old standby Maybelline Great Lash mascara. So for someone who loves (and subconciously seems to absorb/memorize information from) fashion & beauty magazines this was the perfect relax in the bathtub book.

I also really liked that even though it was clear that the heroine wasn't super young the author never described her as full figured or as having laugh lines thereby making me feel grossed out by the romance/lust going on. I just don't want to read about sassy 40 something divorcees out looking to get their grooves back.

Shiver, Maggie Stiefvater

I just looked back at what I wrote for Maggie Stiefvater's book Lament earlier this year and realized I could save time and just say ditto to almost everything. Except this one has a happy ending.

Addictive, suspenseful, romantic, believable characters, clever... I loved this. And I was so thrilled with the ending. This book did have some shades of Twilight but I'm not going to complain because (as is abundantly clear) I like Twilight. And this story and characters were very different & original. There was just so much to love in this book. I will definitely be reading it again.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

New Moon, Stephenie Meyer

The Stephenie Meyer ReReadathon continues. I have to be honest and admit that watching the clips from ComicCon of Bella running through the fountain in Volterra towards Edward got me all excited about rereading this one. (I'm rereading even though I'm 80% cured from my mini depression that has been the last few weeks & don't need it for self medicating purposes as previously stated).

It's funny when I read Twilight this week it reminded me of how much I loved reading it before Twimania when it was just a book and how much fun it was to get caught up in the romance. Reading New Moon again I found myself with all these questions (ooh I'm getting so deep and Twilosophical here). Here's what I'm thinking:

1. How was is ok with the Cullens to be in the ballet studio busily dismembering James while Bella bled to almost death but not ok to be in the room when a few drops of blood hit the carpet from a papercut?

2. If Edward is so caring and protective why did he break up with her in the forest, leaving her to be potentially eaten or fossilized into the mossy rocks? Especially with his whole "I'm not the most dangerous thing in the forest" proclamation.

OK, so I guess I only had two questions but still none of that bothered me when I first read New Moon. Lucky for me the Twilight Moms are all over this stuff and have discussed all of this ad infinitum at their site so I saw other people were wondering the same things.

And the other weird thing about reading New Moon again is that I felt so sorry for Jacob as I read. He is just so much more normal and healthy than Edward. Shocking viewpoint to be developing but in a way I want to be Team Jacob (it hurts my heart to even type that) but he really is better than Edward in many ways. And I couldn't stop thinking about his creepy future with freaky Renesmee and his in-laws who just happened to be the missing sides to the love triangle that defined his life for several formative years. Cause that's not messed up at all. The absolute worst part of everything that is Twilight is Jacob imprinting on Renesmee & Edward calling Jacob his son. My brain wants to vomit whenever I think about it.

In other New Moon thoughts, I really like when Carlisle and Bella talk about religion. I think I'm getting morbid in my old age but I've had the phrase "time passing becomes time remaining" on a loop in my mind ever since I saw Avenue Montaigne a few weeks ago and I thought Carlisle's attitude had a similiar memento mori kind of ring to it:
"Like everything in life, I just had to decide what to do with what I was given." (p.35)

When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead

I've been waiting to read this ever since I read this review on Fuse 8's blog back in May.
I really was impressed with the story and the writing, especially with the writing. I think if I was a bigger Wrinkle In Time fan I would have liked this book even more. Not that I didn't enjoy it. I just think after reading such rave reviews that I was expecting to adore this book and in the end I didn't. I just kind of went, "huh, time travel, imagine that." And moved on. There were lots and lots of moments that made me stop and admire Rebecca Stead's writing though. I'll post some of them when I feel like typing.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tap and Gown, Diana Peterfreund

I am really sad that this is the end of Amy's story (and Poe's!). All 4 of the books in this series are equally entertaining and enjoyable. I spent a big chunk of this book being really concerned and worried about the Poe situation. I did restrain myself from skipping ahead to the last page to make sure things went the way they were supposed to in my mind. Which thankfully they do. Another fun thing is that Diana Peterfreund has posted short outtake type stories for the series on her website, several quite Poe-centric.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Rites of Spring (Break), Diana Peterfreund

So I just now realized that the girl on the cover is sporting a Rose & Grave tattoo. That is some impressive commitment to actually having something to do with what the book is about. Shocking!

I'm going to continue saying that I love these books! I don't think I can expect myself to write much more in my sleep deprived state. I am so happy that Poe gets some love, finally! I need to go get the next book so I can be assured that there is some lasting happiness between these two. I will be seriously displeased if this gets messed up. I like my fictional romances to have some resolution.

Under the Rose, Diana Peterfreund

I am so glad that I had this book sitting right on my nightstand (actually on top of a giant pile of dirty laundry that has bonded together waiting to be done that forms a pretty substantial place to set books) so I could pick it up immediately after reading the last page of Secret Society Girl. I can't say it enough. I love this story. I love Amy. I love that even though she thinks her love life is pitiful she actually has quite the line up of smart, attractive guys interested in her. And I do love Poe.

Secret Society Girl, Diana Peterfreund

I have now been awake for over 24 hours in my (hopefully successful) attempt to get my circadian rhythms back into a respectable pattern. I read Secret Society Girl and the next 2 books in the series from midnight until about 7am. I was so into this story that I didn't even feel my eyes burning. I loved this book. It's funny, quick, and a complete page turner in a summery I should be reading this at the beach kind of way.

I love Amy and her feisty attitude especially her send off at the initial interview and her throw-down speech at the end. It's nice to pretend that someone is together enough to actually be that articulate in the heat of the moment. I so cringed for Amy when she found out that she was not a first choice to be tapped- there is nothing like snotty rich people to make other rich, smart, and successful people feel less than. Cringe-worthy but so realistic. All in all a great story with smart & believable characters.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Twilight, Stephenie Meyer

Apparently in times of serious unhappiness I turn to Stephenie Meyer. How classy and cultured of me, I know! I have been in the worst summertime slothfulness induced funk. I am actively ignoring all emails and voice mails and just want to stay inside my house pretending that I never have to go back to work. ever. ever. ever.

I hate that I do this to myself when I'm already upset. I make it worse by indulging my inner slug and staying up way too late, doing nothing but reading, and generally being lazy & wallowing. Always a good way to bring yourself out of a mini-depression.

Which brings me to Stephenie Meyer. I reread Breaking Dawn at the start of the year when I was in my winter-evaluate-my-life-and-where-is-it-going-depression-phase and now I realize I have self medicated with Twilight this time.

Here are my Twi-thoughts:

I still like Twilight the best of all the books. The mystery, the suspense, and the fact that it could have all ended with this book and I would have been satisfied. Sometimes I think I'd like it better if the book was a stand alone book.

I am still irked that the movie didn't give Jasper his moment with Bella. The whole "I can feel what you're feeling right now and you are worth it." (p.404) He could get a job with L'Oreal, it was that convincing.

It also bugs me that the movie left out Alice's backstory. I get that movies can't include every detail but it does give more insight into why James was so interested in the Cullens in the first place. And it adds to the creepiness factor to realize that James had been hunting Alice when she lived in the asylum. And I don't think it would have taken that long to let James say what he said to Bella in the book.

It really is comforting to reread familiar books in times of crankiness & malaise. Since I'm still cranky and still want to retreat from reality I think I'll be continuing the Stephenie Meyer re-readathon. Which also brings me to wondering how it was possible for SMeyer to write 5 books in about 3ish years but she doesn't have anything new out. I'd take more of The Host, or even (who am I kidding, especially) the elusive mermaid book she is supposedly writing.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Dust of 100 Dogs, A.S. King

I love the main storyline of this book. It's clever, suspenseful, and romantic. What I don't like is the seriously sicknast (to steal an awesome new word) pirate violence and rape(s). I realize that that is all a lot more realistic version of pirate life than visiting New Orleans Square at Disneyland but it was just a touch too icky for my taste.

The concept of a teenage pirate queen being cursed to endure 100 reincarnated dog lives before being born again into a trashy American family in the 1970's, with all her memories (both pirate and dog) fully intact was so much fun to read. As I was reading I totally shifted allegiances from Saffron to Emer. I only wanted to read her story and keep hoping that she would find Seanie, her one true Irish mute love again. I loved that element to the story. There really was a lot that I didn't love though (especially the creepy hallucinations & fantasies of the reincarnated Frenchman- seriously so gross). Fortunately I LOVE the ending with the hand signal out the plane window. Hooray for books that end with romantic resolution.

Touch, Francine Prose

I love Francine Prose's writing. This is the third book by her that I have read and they have all been fantastic. This book was such a quick read and I was so impressed with Francine Prose's ability to convey Maisie's confusion, her loneliness, and her anger. I was grateful for the resolution the ending brought. This was one of those stories that I could have seen having an ambiguous ending which would have driven me nuts. Now I really want to read some more of Francine Prose's books.

Spires of Stone, Annette Lyon

I read this on Brittany's recommendation and it is a very sweet story. I've read a few Annette Lyon titles before and found her stories to be better than the average LDS fiction titles. This one is a retelling of Much Ado About Nothing set around the construction of the Salt Lake Temple. I really liked it. It was an interesting and had entertaining characters. It also made me want to read Much Ado About Nothing again and/or watch the movie. It's one of my favorites.

Word Gets Around, Lisa Wingate

I've been reading a lot but not writing about any of the books until today. I honestly can't remember much about this one. It's a cute story but not as compelling as the Tracie Peterson stories I read earlier this summer. I do have another book by Lisa Wingate so maybe I'll give that a try.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Novel Idea, Aimee Friedman

I've mentioned the restorative powers of these Simon Romantic Comedies before but it truly bears repeating. These books somehow always make me feel better. They are so short and so silly with such large type and often ridiculous plot lines but an hour later my headache, grumpiness, stress induced panic, worry induced panic, or other concerns have been soothed. Way to go silly books with bright teenage girl cartoon covers!

This one was actually less silly than most. It's by the same author who wrote Sea Change, which I loved, and it touched on book clubs and regency romance novels. How could I not enjoy it?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Go With Me,Castle Freeman Jr.

"Chivalry isn't dead; it has just retreated to the backwoods of Vermont. Far beyond the range of leaf-peepers, quaint B&Bs and wealthy liberals lie millions of acres of dark forest, the kind of rich soil that chivalric romance has grown in for centuries. James Fenimore Cooper first saw the possibilities of moving the knights errant of medieval Europe to New England's woods, and now Castle Freeman Jr. performs an equally radical transplant with Go With Me, his oddly witty tale of a damsel in distress."
Ron Charles, The Washington Post Book World

"This gem of a novel by Vermont author Freeman may bring him the larger audience he so richly deserves....Freeman turns this fablelike story into a surprisingly suspenseful showdown. And the artful cutaways to the old-timers' priceless, extremely funny conversations add another level of richness to the tale." Booklist

"Loose and funny and, at a few key junctures, righteously bloody. The book takes just a few hours to read — about the running time of the swell indie movie someone should make from this offbeat charmer." Entertainment Weekly

I loved this book. The story goes right to the limit of my creepiness threshold with its subject matter. It is so suspenseful and even though it is modern it felt old in a classic way. You somehow feel like you're reading a book from a hundred years ago (I mean that in a complimentary way). You don't get to know a lot about the characters which had me completely intrigued and looking for meaning & back stories in every scrap of information that was given.

I loved the Greek chorus-like old men hanging out at the mill as the action with Lillian, Nate, and Lester kept moving closer and closer to the inevitable confrontation. My favorite old man proclamation is this one:

"Look, said Coop, "at least she had most of her clothes on. Girls you see today go around half naked."
"They do?" Whizzer asked.
"Sure," said Coop. "And, look: At least she don't have herself stuck all full of nuts and bolts like so many of them you see."
"Nuts and bolts?" Whizzer asked.
"Piercing," said D.B.
"What happened to the way these little girls dress themselves, you know? What about these kids you see today in school? Piercing? Bellies? Diamonds? I'm talking about girls twelve, thirteen years old. Not even high school. They dress the same way: You've got the little thing on top with the straps, you've got the bare belly, the tight jeans. That type of outfit, you used to have to pay money to see. You used to have to pay money and sit in the dark. Now you go into any middle school."
I love that whole passage. I would add to that the little tiny girls you see with things like "flirt", "sexy", or other skanky messages emblazoned across their t-shirts. Just so lovely.

This is one of those books that makes me frustrated with my own book reporting skills. I can't adequately convey how amazing this book is, how crisp the writing, and how powerful the story.

I think my absolute favorite part is the conversation between Lilian and Nate after they drop Lester off at his house. Nate, the man of few words is being bombarded with Lilian's line of questioning. She's getting her answers about Nate's dating life, why he helped her, and on and on, all through his taciturn one word answers. It culminates in this:
"What do you say? Will you go with me again? [Lillian]
"When?" [Nate]
"I don't mind."
"Whizzer didn't tell you to, you know."
"I know."
"Lester didn't tell you to."
"I know."
"I'm not them."
"No, you ain't."
Lillian opened the door to the truck and got out. She shut the door. She turned to Nate.
"I don't mind." (p.151-152)

I was so relieved that this conversation happened and that my pathological need for stories to end in romance (however so faint) could be satisfied with Lillian and Nate being together in some form.

Such an amazing book!

An interview with Castle Freeman Jr.

"If I had to select one book from 2008 to give a stranger boarding a plane, it would be Castle Freeman Jr.'s "Go With Me."
That wry, slim, beautifully made novel has everything a passenger might need to erase the toothpaste-tube claustrophobia of modern air travel: a taut mystery set in backwoods Vermont, a funny chorus of good ol' boys, a terrifying villain and the satisfying hint of a nascent love story."
-Karen R. Long

A Dream to Call My Own, Tracie Peterson

The last book in this series has the best cover although it did make me wonder how Montana girls of the late 19th century managed to keep their brows so sculpted. This last sister has great brows but an unfortunate circa 1980's name- Lacy. So that right there raised my hackles towards her. She also likes to wear pants instead of dresses which is just hard for me to relate to as one of my frequently stated life goals is to never wear pants again. Not in a quaint anti-feminist statement way but just because they are honestly more comfortable and molto flattering. Off of my fashion tangent and on to the book:

This was a very satisfying end to the trilogy. We hear about Lacy's struggles and her road to romance but also see her sisters as wives and mothers at this point. The mystery of the Gallatin girls' father's death is also finally solved in this installment. There is an epilogue taking us 5 years into the future which is satisfying but I would welcome further stories about these 3 sisters. I'm a Tracie Peterson fan now and plan to find some more of her books to read.

I really liked that several characters made reference to this verse as a favorite:
"Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness."
Isaiah 41:10

I also liked this quote:
plus dolet quam necesse est qui ante dolet quam necesse est
He suffers more than is necessary who suffers before it is necessary

A Love to Last Forever, Tracie Peterson

Each of the books in this series focuses on a different sister and I was worried that the switch in main characters would irritate me. But here is where I became even more impressed with Tracie Peterson's writing. Each book might have a different sister as the main event but the other sisters and characters are fully formed in each book. The books flow together smoothly and you get to know all the characters and the nascent town they live in better with each one.

I think I enjoyed this second volume the most in the trilogy, probably because Bethany was my favorite of the three sisters. Maybe because I relate a little bit too much to her feelings in this prayer: "Please show me how to let go of my fairy-tale ideals and desires and to focus instead on the way you would have me live my life." (p.157)

"Over the weeks, Beth had gradually lost interest in her books [she had an unhealthy fixation on dime-store thrillers]. Real life seemed far too interesting... she had her own romance and God was more real than ever." (p.264)

Maybe that's my problem my real life can't even begin to be as interesting as the books I read. Until things get more interesting I'm sticking with books.

"People say that life is the thing but I prefer reading." - Logan Pearsall Smith

A Promise to Believe In, Tracie Peterson

This is the start to a trilogy about a family of sisters who operate a road house on the Montana frontier in the 1880's. It seems like every Christian fiction title is either about pioneers/westward ho!/cowboys or the Amish. At least according to what is on the shelf at Borders. It's a giant wall of Amish girls staring out at you with some covers like this one in the mix.

I really enjoyed this book. The writing is of a higher quality than other Christian titles I've ventured into. The story and the romance was engaging and the religious sentiment was woven naturally into the plot. I have to say I wish there was an LDS Tracie Peterson out there to raise the bar on what is in the Deseret Book catalog. The book summaries in there are unintentionally hilarious (and yet I still manage to read them; although I'm realizing that 2009 hasn't included any so far).

Monday, July 6, 2009

Work Hard. Be Nice., Jay Mathews

This was fascinating to read, especially after reading Rafe Esquith's book and seeing the documentary about his classroom & teaching methods. The two founders of the KIPP charter schools were inspired in large measure by Rafe's methods.

As a teacher, books like this walk the fine line of being inspiring or being depressing in a guilt inducing way. I admire the dedication and hard work of teachers like Mike Feingold and Dave Levin but it's hard for me to wrap my mind around how you teach like that and have any kind of a personal life (or remain healthy). What made me feel better is realizing that these methods are needed in the inner-city where the students have no family support (and a million other issues). My students need me but in such a different way. The school is just one aspect of their lives (they've got functional parents, extended families, nannies, coaches, music, art, scouts, travel, religious programs, etc.) It is a completely different world teaching in the setting I do. And that's ok! That was my Louise Hay-inspired affirmation for the day!

I am glad there are people out there like Rafe and Mike and Dave who are passionate and capable of helping these children succeed. This book was such an engaging read. It really reads like a novel and is so sad in parts (too many people having tragic deaths) and a little scary at times.

Sleepless, Terri Clark

This was fluffy yet creepy and very reminiscent of Fade & Wake with the whole lucid dreaming, entering other people's dreams thing going on. I could have done without the creepy crime element but an overall fluffy, relaxing book.

Full Moon, Rachel Hawthorne

This is the next book in Rachel Hawthorne's trilogy and it left me underwhelmed. I loved Moonlight and couldn't stop thinking about it for days. This one had a much more predictable plot and less believable characters. I never for one instant doubted who the heroine would pick in the love triangle which makes it a little tedious to read. Hopefully the last one will be back on par with the first story. The first story would be an awesome movie and is worth reading again. I can't say the same for Full Moon.

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