Best of 2010

Thursday, December 30, 2010

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Click on the pictures to go to my reviews!
I saved my favorite of the year for last!

Best Young Adult

Honorable Mention: Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Best Non-Fiction (overall)

No review yet... sorry!

Honorable Mention: Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

Best Non-Fiction (of those published in 2010)

These two sort of go together... I can't really separate them.

Best Women's Fiction

Best Literary Fiction

Honorable Mention: This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper (not yet reviewed)

Best of 2010

I have two for this category... one published this year and one published prior to this year. And they're related. (I have two honorable mentions, and those are the two above this listed as best literary fiction)


Looking forward to another year of great reading!

Take Me Away's 2010 Superlative Awards

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It's that time of year now to reflect on our readings for the year. Please keep in mind that as one (very busy) person, I read less than 70 books this year so I very well may be leaving out books that could potentially be better fits in any of the categories. I'm sure you understand!

Today, I will be borrowing a page from Jaime at The Perpetual Page-Turner and doing her end of the year survey. The only thing I am omitting is her #1 question which is Best Book because tomorrow I'll be posting my actual "Best of 2010" list. Today is more a fun survey for the rest of the categories! I also added two questions (#7 and #9).

1. Worst Book
Ha! I wouldn't actually announce this mainly because I would feel bad if an author saw this and it was theirs. And I mean, we all have different taste in books. But I've seen some "poor sports" when it comes to authors. You can say the nicest things about them or point out all the things you DID like but if you say something bad, there are some that will cause a fuss. And quite possibly the book I would put here is by an author who DID cause a fuss when I posted my review of her book. So I won't say. However, not that this would apparently make that (or possibly any) author feel better, there were many books this year I did not finish, and the one I would place in this category, I DID, so hey, there's something. Anyway, sorry to totally fake you guys out on this one! (Although if you're super observant you may have figured out what book it is.....)

2. Most Disappointing Book
Okay, so this one's a little different. There are various reasons why I would have been disappointed by a book. And my being so doesn't make it a bad book or even one that others don't love. As in therapy... it's my issue, not the author's. The book(s) that most disappointed me this year were The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris and The Postmistress by Sarah Blake. Both were highly anticipated books that really did get tons of great reviews. But I found myself disappointed in both. =(

3. Most Surprising (in a good way!)
Okay, I've got two for this category too, though only one was actually published this year. The one I was most pleasantly surprised by this year was The Outside Boy by Jeanine Cummins. I mentioned it in the review, but I wasn't sure if based on the topic I would be into this one, but I ended up loving it! Every time I see this on a shelf somewhere I smile remembering how I enjoyed that one. I met the author at the book blogger convention too and she was so friendly! I had another pleasant surprise that was a 2009 book: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. Zombie Book?! Me?! Yup, apparently so.

4. Most Recommended
I tend to be very careful with recommending books if it is to people that don't read much. So I don't do it much. But other readers, here is what I recommended... Malena Watrous's If you Follow Me, the aforementioned The Outside Boy by Jeanine Cummins, and from 2009, the non-fiction book, Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

5. Best Series
The only series that I read more than one book from this year was The Forest of Hands and Teeth series. It was that one and The Dead-Tossed Waves, and I really enjoyed them both.

6. Favorite New Author
Hmmm... I have two, no three, that I would say are my favorite new authors this year. They would be Jennifer McMahan who wrote Dismantled that I read this year, Margaret Dilloway who wrote this year's How to Be an American Housewife (I love her blog too), and Lauren Oliver who wrote this year's Before I Fall. Looking forward to reading more by all of these authors!

7. Favorite Returning Author
I picked new authors but I wanted to highlight those who aren't new to me who also wrote some great books this year. For me they are Emma Donoghue who wrote Room, Carolyn Parkhurst who wrote The Nobodies Album, Katrina Kittle who wrote The Blessings of the Animals, and Kristy Kiernan who wrote Between Friends. (I also met her this year and she was incredibly friendly!!)

8. Most Hilarious Book
I believe this may actually be a book I just finished last night, so I don't yet have a review to link to... that would be This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper. It is heartbreaking yet hilarious. Dash and Lily's Book of Dares wasn't necessarily the most hilarious but was certainly fun! And I definitely found If You Follow Me pretty humorous! Honorable Mention: Married with Zombies by Jesse Petersen.

9. Best Book about Dysfunctional Families
Hehe, I thought this was a good category to add. I chose Commuters by Emily Gray Tedrowe which was a great debut and The Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst. But there is also a 2009 book that I just finished last night, This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper (review to come).

10. Most Thrilling, Unputdownable Book
Well, the book I have for this category actually doesn't come out until next year: Delirious by Daniel Palmer. And then I also have two that are 2009 books that I absolutely devoured, and those were Dismantled by Jennifer McMahan and The Wrong Mother by Sophie Hannah.

11. Most Anticipated Book
I really think the book I was most excited about was one I actually didn't find out about until the very first night of BEA when I went to the Editor's Buzz... I ended up getting a copy of the book that night, later had it signed by the author, Emma Donoghue, and started reading it before I left NYC, but I realllly think once I found out about it I was more excited than any other book this year. That book is Room! As for any I knew ahead of time, I think it might be The Blessings of the Animals by Katrina Kittle and Between Friends by Kristy Kiernan because I've really enjoyed their other books!

12. Favorite Cover (s)

13. Most Memorable Character
Christy from The Outside Boy and Kimberly from Jean Kwok's Girl in Translation. And clearly, it's not from this year, but Francie (and her brother, Neely) from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

14. Most Beautifully Written
So many books this year were superbly written, but my pick for this category goes to a book that I would read again just to take in and savor the beautiful writing. That is The Blind Contessa's New Machine by Carey Wallace. Even though it wasn't my favorite book, I can't bear to part with it because when I think of it, I think simply, "beautiful".

15. Book that had the Greatest Impact
This one's rough... I'm not really sure how much of an impact any of the books had on me.... I'm going to go with some non-fiction that I read. I'm going to say Laura and Lisa Ling's Somewhere Inside and Euna Lee's The World Is Bigger Now (you really should read them both), and from 2009, Half the Sky. If for no other reason, each of these reminded me to be passionate about the issues that are pertinent to me. Each of these author's/journalists are inspirational.

16. Can't Believe I Waited until 2010 to Read!
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. For sure! Oh! Also, To Kill a Mockingbird (which I have a review ready for but have not yet posted!)

That's that! Stay tuned tomorrow for The Best of 2010!!

Brooklyn Story (DNF + Giveaway)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Title: Brooklyn Story
Author: Suzanne Corso
Pages: 336 pages
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Gallery (Simon & Schuster)
Release Date: December 28, 2010

Isn't the cover gorgeous?? I think so!
Ok, so, the thing is, I feel a little bad because this book was one I was so very excited for, that I searched out the publicist and specifically requested this book for review.

I started reading this book on two different occasions, two months apart, and just couldn't really get into it either time. In fairness to the book, I never got very far, so it could have potentially gotten better for me later on. So let me explain why I finally decided I was done reading it and why I believe others will still enjoy this book (hence the giveaway).

Brooklyn Story is based on the real life of the author growing up in Brooklyn. With aspirations of being a writer, the main character, Samantha, dreams of one day "crossing the bridge" from Brooklyn into Manhattan. Brooklyn Story tells the story of her adolescence in Brooklyn. This is reportedly the first of a planned trilogy and is currently in development for a movie.

I read less than 75 pages so, again, I can't comment in the whole thing. However, in that first part of the book... I did feel that the writing flowed well enough but I felt it was written in sort of a simple, straightforward manner. Not that that's a bad thing for everyone. But that in combination with the content made me feel this book might be better marketed towards young adult readers. The storyline in this first part of the book focused largely on describing Samantha's desire to escape Brooklyn, as well as her chronicling the beginning of her relationship with the popular "bad boy", Tony. I suppose I felt the characters were slightly caricature-ish... and especially in Tony, I couldn't stand it. He's one of those supposed charmers who apparently looks so good people forget he's a jerk even in the beginning. There were two other things that specifically bothered me: the constant reference to "the mob". I guess I have an idea of what the mob is, but because the character kept referencing them as though they were part of her every day life, I started to get confused and wonder what they really are. Are they a gang of rebels who merely "rule" their neighborhoods? If so, how do they get there? It was explained in too much of a commonplace manner for me to understand. The other thing that bothered me was that in the first however many pages I read there was constant, repeated reference to Samantha's desire to cross the bridge into Manhattan. I felt like saying, "I get it!" after a while and felt the cliche was overused. A little subtlety can go a long way.

All that being said, despite this not being the book for me I do feel there are readers out there who will like this book. The part I read focused a lot on the daily life of the teenage Samantha, her best friend, her boyfriend, and there was also the start of some issues with domestic violence. I can't comment on how the violence situation plays out and whether there is a good lesson to be learned or not. And I don't know if it's necessary or not. But I think especially readers of the various young adult books that have a prominent love story and focus on the adolescent life will enjoy this book.

Soooo, I am giving away an ARC of my copy of Brooklyn Story to someone who thinks they might enjoy this book. To enter, just fill out the form below. Please keep in mind that entries in the comment section will not be counted. I will choose a winner on January 3, 2011.

Sunday Salon: Christmas Edition

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Good morning all!

It's always a little sad to see Christmas go but it's good to move forward into the new year! Does anyone have fun plans for New Year's? We have a couple ideas but haven't really decided.

Did anyone have a very "bookish" Christmas? I received four books I had asked for... Palo Alto by James Franco, The Good Psychologist by Noam Schpencer, The Heroine's Bookshelf by Erin Blakemore, and Zeitoun by Dave Eggers. I started Zeitoun yesterday and am about halfway through it. Oh, I also got a BN gift card to use for my nook! So yep, lots of reading material around here!

And just to insert something non-bookish real quick, our Orlando Magic won their Christmas Day game against the Boston Celtics... wooo hoooo!!!! That was a fun game to watch.. near the end anyway, haha.

Anyway, I'm finally starting to catch up on reading and have had some quality reading time. I also caught up on some reviews and now have FIVE reviews ready to go! I'm going to try to spread them out so maybe I'll always have some extra. Things should be good for me starting January. I'll still be in school until March, but I'll only have the ONE internship class and that's it. I'll still have internship and work, of course, but I think just not having the obligation of a whole 'nother class, PLUS, I'm going to the closer campus instead of driving out to the far campus for TWO classes so I should feel some kind of a difference. Hopefully my blog will feel it too!!

Hope everyone has a great week and a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

A-Z Mystery Challenge Post

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I am joining very few challenges this year.... but my good book-bloggy friend, Michelle, over at Red Headed Book child is hosting a challenge I thought looked good!

Here are her rules:
  • Challenge runs from January 1 - December 31, 2011. Sign up ends February 1, 2011.
  • Read A-I, J-P or Q-Z. You choose. The letter group you choose must be the last name of the author. (i.e= S for John Sandford). Read a book with an author name from every letter of that group.
  • Mystery genre can include Cozy, Suspense, Thriller, or Noir. All Adult novels please.
  • Leave a comment if you would like to sign up. I am getting rid of Mr. Linky.
  • Write a post about this challenge and which group/s you pick. You can list the authors you choose or do it as you go.
  • When you post your reviews, mention this challenge and link back to this sign up post.
Michelle's also offering a giveaway for an upcoming mystery/thriller if you go sign up!
Now, we are supposed to pick a letter group... since all the challenges I do are fairly informal anyway, I'm going to sort of go ahead and attempt all the letters, LOL. I tried to narrow it down, but the specific authors I really want to try encompass all three of those groups.

Some of the authors I would like to read are:
Tana French, Stiegg Larsen, Lisa Unger, Tess Gerritsen, Dennis Lehane, Richard Castle...

Do you see what my problem is? LOL..

Dash and Lily's Book of Dares

Monday, December 20, 2010

Title: Dash and Lily's Book of Dares
Authors: Rachel Cohn, David Levithan
Pages: 260
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult
Publisher: Borzoi Knopf
Release Date: October 26, 2010

In honor of the season and my return to the blog after a short hiatus, I've decided to feature a book that incorporates this wonderful time of the year!

Though probably slightly cheesy or too innocent for some, I thought Dash and Lily's Book of Dares was so adorable and fun. Keep in mind, of course, that it takes place at Christmas time in New York City -- two of my absolutely favorite things mixed into one fun young adult book about two slight misfits looking for love.

The first scene takes place at famous NYC bookstore, The Strand. While browsing the shelves, Dash comes across an ominous red notebook. In it is a list of clues and a dare for the person who finds the book to complete. The book turns out to be one that was left by Lily via another dare. She and Dash end up passing the book back and forth across various New York City locations as they share more clues and learn more about each other.

Much of what takes place isn't at all realistic, and how coincidental that Lily and Dash both have families that have decided to leave their teenager home alone for the holidays. Dash is your typical insightful grown-up-more-than-any-kid-I-know teen and Lily is a very naive but optimistic teen... I think as long as you're willing to accept that and you're willing to take yourself back to young love, you'll thoroughly enjoy this book!

I leave you with a couple pictures from my recent NYC Christmas!

Delirious (Review & Giveaway)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Title: Delirious
Author: Daniel Palmer
Pages: 384
Genre: Mystery/Psychological Thriller
Publisher: Kensington
Release date January 25, 2011

Delirious is the perfect name for this psychological thriller from author, Daniel Palmer... after all, I was in a state of delirium the entire time I read this book -- engrossed, thrilled, and in a frenzy to find out where the story was headed, I read it late into the night and then late into the next morning. (Hey, running late to work every now and then isn't such a bad thing, right?)

Charles Giles, the main character, works high in the ranks at a large electronics firm after selling his own start-up electronics company with his technologically advanced product, InVision. Charles is proudly successful after overcoming a difficult past that included his father physically abandoning him after a psychotic break and his mother emotionally abandoning him to devote her energy into Charles's brother, Joe. First suffering from a form of epilepsy related to their father's abandonment, Joe falls in their father's footsteps by later being diagnosed with Schizophrenia.

In psychologically terrifying fashion, things start to spiral out of control and lead Charles to realize he is going crazy... I don't want to give it all away here, but let's just say strange things happen that have accompanying proof Charles did it -- and then it becomes more serious -- Charles's life comes crashing further down as his co-workers start dying and he becomes the prime suspect. Everyone believes Charles is guilty, and while he doesn't recall much, he is also sadly aware that with Schizophrenia running in his family and his being intensely overworked, he may be succumbing to the symptoms of a similar psychotic break. As the evidence against him continues to pile higher, Charles sets out to determine whether he truly is going crazy - delirious - or if someone is out to get him.

The author did such a fantastic job putting this story together. I spent the entire reading experience completely enthralled by what was happening and determined to read more so I could figure out where it could possibly be headed. One of the things I really appreciated about this book was the mental health aspect. It fit so perfectly into the story and added such an interesting dimension to the regular thriller. I also learned a little about musicogenic epilepsy, when a song triggers a seizure, that was fascinating. Palmer maintained a level of suspense that was well done and didn't seem forced at all. This book has also been referred to as "techno-savvy". I would say that's a fairly accurate description. I think I feared that it would be drenched in technological terms that would distract from the reading, but it wasn't like that at all, and really gave me some things to think about!

According to Daniel Palmer's website, Delirious is the first of a three book contract with Kensington all of which have some type of techno-focus. After reading this, I'm really looking forward to his next book which will reportedly explore the effects of "sexting". As a companion to Delirious, the author has created an InVision blog that takes place prior to the start of this book. The book comes out in January and you can pre-order it at BUT, for those of you interested, you can also enter here for a chance to win a signed ARC of the book. I know it's sort of late, but my goal is to have the book to the winner by Christmas just in case the winner wants to gift it to the mystery/thriller lover in their life... so I'll take entries until about Sunday night (12/19) and will aim at mailing out on Monday. To enter, please fill out the form below. E-mail addresses left in the comments section will not be counted.

Be back soon...

Monday, November 22, 2010

I know. I've been sleeping on the blog lately!

I'm not even going to make excuses anymore. I'm just plain busy, busy, busy!

But I do plan on returning to normal scheduling sometime soon... hopefully sometime in December. Please "bear" with me.... LOL!!! Haha, okay I just cracked myself because I just thought of that pun as I was writing it, hehe. Oh and the one before that... Shows you how delirious I've been lately! I laugh, but really the craziness has put some real crazies in my brain too! =( The other day I left my house for work and completely forgot to put my crazy "if-not-crated-will-destroy-the-house" dog in her crate before I left... considering we've had the same routine for five years, that's almost akin to forgetting to put on my shoes before I get to work. Yeah... and I've had some other similar moments. So yeah, blogging has not been a priority lately.. but will be again soon!

Anywho, you may have noticed or not, but I utterly FAILED at my "new" New Yorker Stories feature after posting only one review (and reading only two short stories) LOL! and I don't really feel bad about that because it wasn't interesting me. Maybe I'll get back to it one day. In the meantime, I have another feature I'm thinking of doing but haven't really decided. It's about a topic that doesn't really fit in with a general book blog so I hesitate and think I should do a completely separate blog, but then I really don't want to maintain a different blog too... plus it is something I can definitely tie in to reading/books as well... so we shall see.

Be back later to talk books!

Sunday Salon

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Happy Sunday everyone!

Wow, I haven't been around much! It's the same story... been crazy busy! Yesterday I was in a wedding for a friend of mine and that was a blast! The wedding was gorgeous! But of course, I didn't do any reading or checking in online. And even the days I do, lately, it's not a lot. I posted a total of one pre-written (or any kind of) reviews in the past week. And I've looked through my google reader just here or there. I expect that my reviews will be sparse probably from now until Christmas. But things should (hopefully!!) slow down for me around that time and I'll be back to reading and posting regularly! In the meantime, I do have quite a few reviews that I still need to write so hopefully I'll have at least one review up per week. At least. And I will try my best to keep up with everyone else's reviews and commenting!


Monday, November 8, 2010

Title: Monster
Author: Walter Dean Myers
Pages: 281
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult
Publisher: Amistad (Harper Collins)
Release Date: April 21, 1999

I had my eye on this one for a while and finally decided it was time to pick it up. This would have made a great read-a-thon book because of its unique and engaging style of writing. Ah well. But it's definitely a quick and enjoyable read that also gives you something to think about.

Steve Harmon is a 16-year-old African American boy on trial for a murder he may not have committed. Steve has been sitting in jail awaiting his trial and is terrified at the thought of being sentenced to 25 years to life. Prior to going to jail, Steve was a high school student and enjoyed his film class. So in order to quell his anxiety, Steve turns his trial into a movie script. Each chapter started off with a few pages of Steve's writing that are either similar to a journal entry or are in the form of "notes". The following pages of each chapter are the movie script of what is going on around him, including the production instructions including what camera angles to use... (focusing in on the jury, long shot of the courtroom, close up of the defendant, etc. etc.)

The majority of the script is the trial itself which is the mechanism through with the reader learns what may have happened (keeping in mind, of course, that not all the witnesses may be motivated to tell the truth). In a few scenes, Steve flashes back to give the reader a glimpse into what his life was like prior to being arrested.

Monster lacked the big punch at the end that I had somewhat anticipated but did contain some more subtle messages about truth and prejudice. For instance, Steve's attorney, though creating a great defense, actually believes he committed the crime because of her prejudice. Though this isn't a major part of the story in any way, it contributes to the illustration of this concept; and in one moment near the end, Steve finds himself confused at her actions because of his naivete to said concept. Monster was an easy read but one that clearly presented some social issues that could lead to discussion!

Monster was the winner of the Michael Printz Award for Young Adult Literature in 2000, was a National Book Award finalist in 1999, and was a Coretta Scott King Honor Book in 2000. Definitely worth checking out!


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Title: Hummingbirds
Author: Joshua Gaylord
Pages: 368
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Harper Perennial (Harper Collins)
Release Date: October 5, 2010 (paperback); October 2009 (hardcover)

I've read other mixed reviews for this one, and mine might be somewhat mixed in itself. I actually liked this book.... but it had elements that made me uncomfortable.

Hummingbirds takes place at an elite private school, Carmine-Casey, on the upper east side of Manhattan. It's somewhat of a social commentary on the lives within the school. The teachers, the students, and the combination of both.

The goods: Well, I enjoyed this book for much of it's literary merits. The writing was engaging but smart. I loved each sentence and paragraph for its wording. The author's has his writing down, for sure. The character studies, which was one of the main points, kept me transfixed as well. Some characters were developed better than others. For instance, we get much more into the mind of the main character, Leo Binhammer, and his circumstances, and he seems to be fairly genuine. But then other characters, like student Dixie Doyle, were fairly stereotypical and/or represented the idea of that type of character rather than being an individual herself. But this actually worked for me in the book, especially because in many ways I felt this book was a commentary on that lifestyle. I also felt that though there wasn't a huge climactic situation, there was still some subtle tension, for instance, the whole background between Binhammer and new teacher, Hughes. Not to mention the way in which Hughes starting work at the school gives Binhammer this identity crisis because, after all, he is no longer the only male teacher for whom the girls fawn over, etc.

Another slightly fun aspect was watching the interactions of the teachers in the teacher's lounge, etc. (Made me think of Glee...) When you're young you think of your teachers as TEACHERS and that is the end of their identity! But seeing them interact with each other "behind-the-scenes" was fun.

The bads: The main literary aspect that bothered me was the constant transitioning from one character's thoughts to another. The narrative was supposed to be omniscient, overlooking all the characters at the same time. But it seemed that the narrative got into each individual's thoughts too much for having an omniscient view. So one second you're reading about Binhammer's thoughts and then all of a sudden we know exactly what Sibyl is thinking -- not because we are assuming by the way she acts but, instead, the narrator is telling us exactly. Then it would switch to another character, back to Binhammer, then to another, etc. It was strange for me.

And now the elephant in the room... this is a story about a young-ish high school teacher who has sexual tension with his high school students. Granted, their seniors and are 17-years-old for the most part, but they are still KIDS, and the whole concept made me squeamish. Especially because of the work that I do (with kids, of all ages, who have been sexually abused) it made me somewhat squeamish. Kari over at Five Borough Books explained it well in her review... considering the author has also worked at a prep school and, in that sense, is similar to the main character... it's even weirder. I don't want to believe that all male teachers actually picture their high school students naked or are overly conscious of where on their bodies they've accidentally touched or grazed. To a certain extent, I know that some of what he talked about is genuinely how things happen. I know girls fawn over their male teachers, especially if they are relatively young and attractive. And this part of the teacher's identity was reflected in his jealousy over the new male teacher that swayed some of the girls his way. But just the underlying tension between the teachers and students was uncomfortable for me. And I wonder if I just didn't get what point the author was trying to make. And there was a scene where the high school student, Dixie, wants to kiss her friend's young, pre-pubescent brother, and I also didn't get that.

Soo... while I was interested in the world of Manhattan prep schools, thought it was a great character study and literary novel in general, a lot of the actual content made me feel slightly awkward and did nothing for the lack of trust in most of the male population that I already have. It's certainly a difficult dichotomy to explain!

I read this for TLC Book Tours. Check out the other reviews on the tour:

Tuesday, October 5th: Write Meg
Thursday, October 7th: The Scholastic Scribe
Monday, October 11th: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
Tuesday, October 12th: Helen’s Book Blog
Wednesday, October 13th: Bookstack
Wednesday, October 20th: Life in the Thumb
Friday, October 22nd: After ‘I Do’
Monday, October 25th: Bookworm with a View
Tuesday, October 26th: Bibliophiliac
Thursday, October 28th: five borough book review
Wednesday, November 3rd: Take Me Away
Friday, November 5th: Tales of a Capricious Reader

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Monday, November 1, 2010

Title: A Thousand Splendid Suns
Author: Khaled Housseini
Pages: 367
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Riverhead Books (Penguin)
Release Date: May 22, 2007

This had been recommended to me by pretty much everyone for a long time. And it was one of those I kept meaning to read but that sat on my shelf forever -- until just recently when I joined the world party reading challenge. October happened to be Afghanistan so what a perfect reason to pull this off the shelf and read it!

A Thousand Splendid Suns gives you not just a glimpse, but a wide eyed look at life in Afghanistan over the past 20 or so years. It's one that I almost wish I had read more slowly just so I could savor the story and characters more. (I always find the concept of reading more slowly sort of strange because I typically want to finish each book as fast as I can, but now I find myself missing this book... and yet, I wonder WHY?! do I feel this way... because the story itself is pretty horrifying).

I suppose I won't say too much since even the publisher's summary doesn't give away a lot. Basically it's about two different characters, Mariam and Laila, who we get to see quickly grow from children into adults. Mariam is a generation older than Laila. So part one focuses on Mariam, part two on Laila, and parts three and four on both. Mariam's and Laila's life circumstances bring them together, and through these characters we learn the history of Afghanistan and the terrors of the wars that have raged there.

One of the things that freaked me out was watching the progression of years; it was well paced so nothing ever seemed to drawn out, and even though a few years were skipped at a time here or there, it wasn't anything noticeable. But imagining the horrors Mariam and Laila dealt with -- the barbaric rules and nefarious manner in which they were treated just because they were women -- and then watching the years go up to 1999, 2001, etc. That wasn't a long time ago! Essentially that's now! Because of the Taliban these women weren't allowed to be outside without the companion of a man?! And if they were found they were questioned and often beaten. They had to wear a burqa everywhere they went. And because of this attitude towards women, domestic violence ran rampant and was accepted. The amount of physical abuse towards these women sickened me. And though I knew about some of the things happening in that part of the world, I don't think it really hit home how extreme it was. And them doing all that while I was out with my friends, driving myself around, graduating from high school, then college. It just doesn't seem right. And it's not, but this book really brought it home for me. Of course, now I feel frustrated because what can I do? Really? And is it still like that now? I don't know!

Anyway, Mariam and Laila are characters who had a significant impact on me. I don't think I realized how much of one until after I finished the book and, later, wanted to return to it. And while the ending wasn't a big punch or anything, I became emotional the minute I closed the book. And I hadn't cried during any other part of it.

A Thousand Splendid Suns was an amazingly well-told story. The author utilized some subtle and basic literary techniques that I really appreciated. I've seen this book on some "school lists" at different bookstores and wholeheartedly agree this is a great book to be read by students in an effort to learn about the rest of the world.

And in that sense, the perfect pick for Afghanistan on the World Party Reading Challenge.

Sunday Salon

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Haven't done a Sunday Salon in a while! Happy Halloween!

The last 3 years we haven't had any trick-or-treaters, but this year there seem to be a ton of kids on our street so we got some candy just in case. I'm really not into Halloween, though, so I can't wait for it to be over!

There's really not a whole lot interesting going on here which also means not much reading. =( I'm getting closer and closer to finishing school but in the meantime I'm going through periods of crazy that leave little time for doing what I enjoy.

I utterly failed at reading the books for the Dueling Monsters challenge. I started Dorian Gray but never got very far in it. I want to finish it eventually but it will feel so wrong since I was supposedly reading it for a Halloween-type challenge. AND I had hoped to read Jekyll and Hyde too... haha!

I did get my October Afghanistan book read for the world challenge, but the review will have to wait since I just finished that yesterday. And then I've got to finish Hummingbirds for my blog tour Wednesday.

In other news, tomorrow is Wednesday which officially starts the holiday season in my eyes!! Yay! I've got many fun and exciting things planned for the next couple months including the wedding of a good friend of mine (in which I'm a bridesmaid), Thanksgiving, Young Frankenstein play (if I can still get tickets!!), more Orlando Magic games, the annual kids Christmas party by my work which is a amazing event, a Christmastime trip to NYC!!!!! full of lots of fun NYC outings such as Spiderman on Broadway, the Rockettes, the New York Giants game, etc. etc., then back in Florida have tix to see Trans-siberian Orchestra, then Christmas, etc. And maybe I'll get to fit in a couple more things! Love this time of year. And hopefully I'll fit in some reading too. ;)

Throwback Thursday: Ceremony

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Throwback Thursday – this is an event hosted by me! It used to take place weekly, but is now once a month on this blog. It is the time to recognize those older books… an older book you’ve always wanted to read, or one that you have read and love; maybe one from your childhood; or review an older book -- how about even a classic! Leave a comment here and feel free to take an icon and use it on your blog! Also feel free to do this on as many Thursdays as you like. =)

This month's throwback is:

Ceremony by Leslie Marmon-Silko
Published: 1977

Synopsis from

Tayo, a young Native American, has been a prisoner of the Japanese during World War II, and the horrors of captivity have almost eroded his will to survive. His return to the Laguna Pueblo reservation only increases his feeling of estrangement and alienation. While other returning soldiers find easy refuge in alcohol and senseless violence, Tayo searches for another kind of comfort and resolution.

Tayo's quest leads him back to the Indian past and its traditions, to beliefs about witchcraft and evil, and to the ancient stories of his people. The search itself becomes a ritual, a curative ceremony that defeats the most virulent of afflictions -- despair.

I just recently saw a review for this at The Little Reader and before I even read her review I remembered how absolutely wonderful this book was. And I couldn't believe I forgot about it! I had to read this book in high school; it was not one I expected to enjoy. For starters, I didn't like any books that were assigned reading in high school (even if I later learned to enjoy them as an adult). And second, despite my own cultural diversity, I often found it difficult to relate to books about other cultures of which I knew little. So I didn't expect to like it. And I was surprised to find Ceremony to be one of the only assigned reading books in high school that I really enjoyed. That I found powerful. And could realize even at that time was a well done, important read! I had this copy for a while and after I saw Little Reader's review I went to look on my shelf for my copy.

And then I remembered.

In my desperation to post books on when I first joined, I swapped this book. My beautiful copy of this book. I guess I really believed I wouldn't ever read it again. Or maybe I just thought I could buy a new copy one day. Anyway, the day has come and I really want this book again, lol! I want to read it again and see how I feel about it now.