The Scent of Rain and Lightning (Review and Audio Giveaway)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Title: The Scent of Rain and Lightning
Author: Nancy Pickard
Pages: 336
Audio Narrator: Tavia Gilbert
Genre: fiction, mystery
Ballantine (Random House)
Release Date: May 4, 2010

What a fabulously, well-crafted novel this was! Despite being an utterly city-obsessed girl myself, I was absolutely drawn into the life of the characters in this small Kansas town. The Scent of Rain and Lightning starts out in the present time. Jody Linder (29-years-old) is approached at her home by her three uncles who inform her that Bill Crosby, the man who has served 26 of 40 years in jail for murdering her father (and potentially her mother), has been released due to his sentence being commuted. This scandal rocks the small farming town where everyone knows everyone. In fact, Jody has grown up alongside Collin Crosby, son of the infamous Bill Crosby; Collin, now a fledgling attorney, has used his new litigious skills to secure a new trial for his father in an attempt to prove his innocence.

The book then returns back 26 years to the days leading up to the murder of Jody's father. This portion of the novel takes up much more than I expected; in fact, after the first chapter, the rest of the first half of the book focuses on this time frame. This book was not a quick whodunit type of mystery -- and thank goodness, because had it been that, the reader would not have had an opportunity to relish Nancy Pickard's fantastic storytelling. Through deliberate pacing, Pickard crafted a story full of unearthed family secrets and snapshots of small town/country living. And like the tornadoes so well known to Kansas, Pickard sweeps the reader up into the atmosphere of her story.

I adored getting to know the characters in this town as well as observing the dynamics in the Linder family. The mystery picked up more near the end and, although I thought I had guessed the ending, I was still caught off guard which contributed to my enjoyment of the novel. The tension between families was also an interesting observation, as Jody had to grow up with not only those who interacted with both her family and that of the convicted murderer, but his actual son as well. I most definitely recommend this book to those who enjoy reading fiction in general.

I listened to the audio version of this book and thought the production was wonderful. Tavia Gilbert narrated well, and I liked most of the character voice changes; the one that kept pulling me out of the story was her interpretation of 3-year-old Jody -- but I'll admit half the time it hit me as strange but at other times it was sort of cute and worked.

And now for the GIVEAWAY!

I will be giving away my AUDIO copy of this book. It is unabridged and is 8 cd's long. I just recently bought this audio book and listened to it once, so it is in great shape.

To enter, just leave a comment below and let me know if you'd like to be entered. You don't have to be a follower of my blog; however, I will post the name of the winner on my blog instead of e-mailing the winner so keep an eye out!

The winner will be announced on July 10, 2010.

The Truth About Delilah Blue (Blog Tour)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Title: The Truth About Delilah Blue
Author: Tish Cohen
Pages: 409
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Harper Perennial (Harper Collins)
Release Date: June 8, 2010

The Truth About Delilah Blue was a somewhat melancholic read about a young woman who has grown up without her mother who seemingly abandoned her. The absence of her mother has plagued "Lila" and has diminished her ability to achieve a confident self-identity as she enters her 20's. Lila starts secretly modeling nude for art classes as a way to make some extra money and to achieve an education in art that her father refuses to pay for, believing she should pursue a business degree. Then Lila's mother unexpectedly re-enters her life, providing Lila with the maternal love she's so longed for. But what does this mean for her father who has raised her all this time? What secrets will Lila learn about both her parents, and how will this affect what she believes about herself and about family?

What follows is a fairly paced story about about Lila and her journey to figure out more of who she is and who her parents were. She's forced to face a variety of truths that she may not be ready to see. In the meantime, her father starts to succumb to Alzheimer's which complicates matters even more. There are two main secrets or "truths" to be found out in Delilah Blue. The first is extremely obvious; I question whether or not it was meant as a secret to the reader too or just to Lila. Ultimately, I believe in this case, due to its transparency, that the reader was given an omniscient view of the situation and allowed to merely watch until Lila learns the secret for herself. The second "truth" wasn't quite as conspicuous but was implied by prior foreshadowing. Nevertheless, these secrets lent themselves to interesting and well-defined characters that made the book a thoughtful and quick read.

It surprised me, however, that this turned out to be a fast read for me because the pace was slower than I expected and the mood more morose. The narrative switched back and forth from Lila's view and that of her father's. And interspersed among these narratives was a separate point of view, though still from the father's -- this narrative explained the couple weeks leading up to the apparent abandonment of Lila by her mother when Lila was 8-years-old. The entire truth is then revealed over time to the reader. This narrative style likely made it a quicker read because it maintained my interest maybe more than it would have otherwise.

Although the characters were well-defined, as I stated earlier, I really had trouble with them. I despised the mother (though I'm sure most will); I found my frustrations with and sorrow for the father coinciding and conflicting; and Lila's significant lack of self irritated me -- but then again, she's only 20-years-old! I'm sure I was like that too at 20. My favorite character, and one which I would have loved to learn more about (though I suppose it wouldn't have fit in this specific story) was 8-year-old Keirnan Scarlett (with two T's, she says) Lovett. Her precocious and overly mature ways were adorable (wearing school uniforms just because she's more comfortable in them, etc.) as were her other quirks.

In all, while there were moments in this book that were sort of dull for me, I inevitably fell for the characters and story and they have stayed with me since closing the book. The Truth About Delilah Blue is a good example of thoughtful women's fiction.

This review is part of TLC Book Tours.
Follow the rest of the tour at the following stops:

Tuesday, June 29th: Galleysmith
Wednesday, June 30th: Write Meg
Thursday, July 1st: 1330v

Or go back and catch up from the beginning:

Tuesday, June 8th: Confessions of a Bookaholic
Monday, June 14th: Chefdruk Musings
Wednesday, June 16th: Books By Their Cover
Thursday, June 17th: Cindy’s Love of Books
Tuesday, June 22nd: Crazy for Books
Wednesday, June 23rd: Books Like Breathing
Thursday, June 24th: Jenn’s Bookshelves

Sunday Salon

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Happy Sunday!

Today I wanted to talk about audio books a little. All week I read different posts about Audio Book Week hosted by Jen at Devourer of Books. I've only listened to one audio book ever, so it didn't make sense for me to participate. After reading all those posts, though, I'm convinced I'm missing out on something huge, lol!! And to think of all the non-reading time I could use to "read" more books... well, that sounds good. The only audio book I've read is The Rest of Her Life by Laura Moriarty. It took a little bit to get used to it. It was so strange to me to have someone reading the book to me. In fact, I don't even remember enjoying having people read to me when I was little.

I learned how to read when I was 3-years-old, and ever since then I've pretty much preferred to read to myself. I remember once, when I was about 7 or 8-years-old, two teenage friends of the family babysat my sister and me on New Year's Eve. They decided to read us a book that night -- and I specifically remember correcting them or helping them out on a couple of words they read incorrectly, lol. So it was completely unnatural to be read to. But once I got used to it, I really enjoyed the experience of listening to that audiobook. In fact, I found myself wanting to listen to it every second in the car. One time I had to drive a child on my case load (when I was a case worker) 3 hours away to a placement. Although I usually allowed the kids I drove to listen to (almost) anything they wanted, I eventually asked if he would mind if I listened some to my audio book. That's how bad I wanted to hear more, lol!!

That was back in early 2008, though, and I haven't listened to one since then. The reason is because the only time I could think of to listen to audio books was in my car, driving. But in July of 2008 I changed jobs and no longer had to drive all over Central Florida for my job. In fact, for this job I drive 2 miles to work and 2 miles back. Not worth it to try to listen to an audio book. Of course, now that I'm doing in-home therapy, I'm back to driving around all over the place and have been thinking about trying this out again. Plus I'm reading about people listening to audio books while they clean, work out, other things, etc. and it makes sense. The only thing is, for me, the main use would be when writing reports because I do that ALL DAY at work as well as during the evenings for my internship. If I can manage listening while writing reports, that would be great! I just don't know if I'll be able to concentrate and process both.... I'm actually listening to an audio book right now while I write this; I'm doing better than I thought I would but still having some difficulty paying attention to the book... The other issue is I don't have an auxiliary hook up to use my iPod in the car so I need cd's, but anywhere else I would prefer the iPod so I can be up and about. I guess I could figure out how to burn mp3's to cd (which I have done before) but it just sounds so complicated.

Today is the last Sunday in June which means we are just about halfway through the year! I decided to try to complete a personal mini-challenge during the next 6 months: I would like to finish, by the end of the year, all the books I got for Christmas last year, lol!! It only makes sense that I finish them in the year. That means I need to finish New York by Edward Rutherford. I've gotten through about 200 of 800 or so pages but set it aside a while ago because it's quite a feat to get through -- but good. I also need to read The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, Jane Eyre, and finish The Gift of Therapy. I think I can do it... I just need to make it a focus.

For those of you wondering, my box of BEA books never showed up!!! I'm trying not to think about it all too much because it is really upsetting... I have plenty (too many) books to read in the meantime, lol, but I hate the thought that those are lost. Hopefully, and I am still hopeful, the box will show up sometime and will just have taken a really long time... we'll see.

As for what I'm reading now, I'll finish The Truth About Delilah Blue today which is good since I'm scheduled for a blog tour tomorrow, lol. I'm also reading The Starlet in hopes of finishing and reviewing it soon!

Audio Book update: I managed listening while writing this, but I haven't paid quite as much attention as I wish I would have and I'm slightly confused about what's going on. =(

BBAW 2010

Saturday, June 26, 2010

It's that time of year again! This year the third annual Book Blogger Appreciation Week will take place from September 13-17 of 2010. It's a fun time for the book blogging community with lots of networking, making new friends, participating in events, entering and offering giveaways, voting on awards, and more!

This year the nomination and award process has changed a little. Bloggers are now "nominating" themselves rather than having others nominate them. But more so than just nominating oneself, it's sort of a registration process in itself. Bloggers are to choose a niche and highlight 5 reviews they've done that fit in that niche.

I will be registering and entering my blog in the literary fiction category. In reality, I do review many types of books. But I've found lately that my taste has gravitated more towards the literary fiction genre, and I already had been reading many books in this genre anyway! So with that, I've chosen the following 5 posts (with some help from my friend, Jennifer... thanks!!) for consideration.

April and Oliver by Tess Callahan
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Dismantled by Jennifer McMahan
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Outside Boy by Jeanine Cummins

And I decided to enter myself in one of the feature categories, Best Written Book Blog. It feels almost presumptuous to enter myself in this category, but I've really grown in the past year in terms of my writing, and I am continually trying to improve my style. I've surprised myself by finding that writing reviews is great practice! I figured this would be a great and fun way to sort of reflect on how far I've come and to think about how to further better my writing in the future. So the 5 posts are the ones I've chosen to highlight for this category.

Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Review: Somewhere Inside by Laura Ling & Lisa Ling
Post: Why Some People Will Never Pick Up a Book... aka Why I Feel Like Screaming
Review: The Outside Boy by Jeanine Cummins
Review: April and Oliver by Tess Callahan

The Liar's Lullaby

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Title: The Liar's Lullaby
Author: Meg Gardiner
Pages: 353
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Publisher: Dutton (Penguin)
Release Date: June 24, 2010

If you've been reading my blog for a while you might remember how much I've enjoyed the Jo Beckett series by Meg Gardiner, and how much I was looking forward to the third installment, The Liar's Lullaby. I wasn't blogging regularly yet when I read The Dirty Secret's Club, but I did write a review for The Memory Collector so check it out!

Let me fill you in a little on this series. Jo Beckett conducts psychological autopsies as part of criminal investigations to determine if a person's death was the result of an accident, homicide, or suicide. So we get to learn a lot about a person's past and all the events leading up to their death as well as the state of the person's mental health, etc. The main detective she works with is Lieutenant Amy Tang who is a petite woman with an attitude (but is actually very tenderhearted). The Liar's Lullaby starts out when Jo and her sister, Tina, attend a concert by famous country singer (and ex-wife to the president), Tasia McFarland. During a stunt Tasia is killed by a gunshot, but due to the smoky (and other crazy) special effects, it's unclear if she shot herself, was shot by someone else, or if the gun she was holding accidentally went off. Shortly after agreeing to take on the case, Jo learns that Tasia left some messages in the form of some songs she wrote, and it appears that there is a lot more going on than just an accident during a stunt. Is there a conspiracy involving the president of the United States? Or does her death have anything to do with him at all? Was it a suicide as a result of her history of mental health issues?

I found myself, as I did with the last in this series, slightly confused in the beginning. Gardiner introduces all the different players in the beginning, but their involvement in the plot is unknown which led to that initial confusion. We know Tasia was once married to the current U.S. president; but then we see three people who appear to be sort of a radical anti-government group who religiously follow their online counterpart, Paine, who idolizes the thoughts of the original Thomas Paine. We meet someone named Noel Michael Petty (referred to as NMP) who appears to have an obsession for Tasia. These are just some characters among many others who may or may not be involved...

But as confused as I may have initially felt, no worries... it all came together; it reminded me of the first two in this series. It's as though the author gave us all the puzzle pieces and then adeptly pieced them together while we watched. As each piece fell into place, the puzzle started form a more clear picture; I realized exactly what role each of the many characters had in the whole picture as well. The entire mystery was intricate and so extremely smart. I did question how realistic it was that Jo figured out some of the answers she did, specifically as they related to the music -- they made complete sense once they were explained, but to be able to recognize some of the things she did reflected her high level of intelligence. I say intelligence because there these specific aspects I refer to had to do with basic music theory, though it was sort of intense, and for a layperson (as it pertains to music) to have the knowledge she did impressed me... definitely read this if that interests you.

A couple other things I thoroughly enjoyed were the characters and the setting. I've mentioned it before, but I truly love the characters in this series. If nothing else, I love returning to visit Jo Beckett and Amy Tang and continue to look forward to reading more about them! This series also takes place in San Fransisco, but this was the first time I really felt like a large part of the action took place on the streets of San Fransisco that I picture in my head (surely from what I've seen on tv... Full House intros anyone?? LOL) But back to this book, the setting was very fun for me too!

I do definitely recommend this series for those who enjoy this genre. The plot is thorough and smart, the writing is great, and I adore the characters. Can't wait for the next one!

Check out this article where the author, Meg Gardiner, discusses how she came up with the ideas that she used in this book.

Somewhere Inside

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Title: Somewhere Inside: One Sister's Captivity in North Korea and the Other's Fight to Bring Her Home
Author: Laura Ling, Lisa Ling
Pages: 322 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (Harper Collins)
Genre: Memoir (journalist)
Release Date: May 18, 2010

If you keep up with current events or watch the news at all, you'll likely remember just a year ago when Laura Ling (Lisa Ling's sister) and Euna Lee, two American journalists, were arrested in North Korea for illegally crossing the border and were ultimately sentenced to 12 years working in a labor camp. Something about their plight affected me more than other similar stories I had heard. It's likely that it was because Lisa Ling is so well-known and I have enjoyed watching her on The View and now as a correspondent for Oprah. It may have been the Asian factor... I'm only half-Asian, but if you haven't noticed yet, I tend to identify with all things and people Asian. Or it may have had to do with the fact that Laura and Lisa are sisters (and I have one sibling - a sister) and I felt horror both at the situation Laura was dealing with and with Lisa's being separated from her sister in such a manner. Then I saw Laura and Lisa on Oprah talking about their experiences, and I know I had to know more. After reading this, I realized how intense this situation was behind the scenes... well, I did imagine that, but there is so much more we, the general public, didn't know going on. This memoir was a fascinating read about what happened during that time, and I enjoyed the way it was written by both sisters and also focused on the relationship between the two of them.

Laura and Lisa alternate telling their sides of the story throughout the book. We initially learn a little about their pasts and how they grew to be such close sisters. Laura talks about the documentary she was shooting about the China/North Korea border, about her arrest, and the five grueling months she spent in prison. During this time, she was sentenced to 12 years in a hard labor camp and had to contemplate the thought of not seeing her family again for over a decade, if not forever. Lisa discusses what was happening from her end in California. Immediately after hearing of Laura's arrest in North Korea, Lisa worked tremendously hard to call in all her contacts, their contacts, and do everything possible to secure Laura's and Euna Lee's releases.

I'll assume most of you reading this review have at least some rudimentary knowledge of North Korea and its regime. They are a communist country; they isolate the citizens of their country from the rest of the world. There is little technology, and the little bit of it is for the elite only. Communication outside the country is forbidden and punishable by execution. Yet they lead their citizens to believe that the rest of the world is a horror filled war zone and that their form of government and community is the grandest (and safest) of all. After the Korean War in the early 1950's, Korea split into North Korea (communist) allied with China and South Korea (democratic) allied with the United States. The border between the two, named the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) "is the most heavily fortified border in the world". (pg. 14, nook e-book). Families were cut off from each other, never to have contact with each other again. Think of a dystopian novel... but it's for real.

Laura Ling was in China, near the border to North Korea, interviewing what are called "defectors". These are North Korean citizens escaping over the border to find better lives in China. But this part of China is not safe, as some North Koreans are led to believe, and the women are often sold to Chinese men for marriage or are forced into the sex industry. Laura Ling and Euna Lee interviewed some of these defectors and, following their guide, they walked onto the frozen river separating the two countries. They accidentally stepped onto the other side of the boundary, and that is when everything started -- North Korean guards came running, and Laura and Euna Lee were unable to get away (though they did make it back to Chinese ground). They were arrested and were separated from each other for the majority of their imprisonments.

There were different facets of this memoir that, together, made this a riveting read. First, I was able to relate to the sisters. Laura and Lisa are the same age difference as me and my sister. I can't imagine the horror that Lisa felt not knowing what was happening to her sister. (In a way, this memoir was one about the relationship between sisters). And the love between Laura and her husband, Iain, is so genuine and romantic. It's what most girls yearn for in a relationship. I first watched on Oprah as they talked about how Iain wrote Laura letters every single day; he sat down at the same time each day too so Laura would know from the other side of the world what he was doing at that exact moment and they could "share" that time together. If for nothing else, I would have enjoyed this read because of these two relationships with Laura and how meaningful they were.

What this book also provided was so much insight into how politics works and the relations the rest of the United Nations has with North Korea. It was told in a simple enough manner that those who may not be interested or are naive to how things at this level work won't be confused or overwhelmed. In that sense, I found this memoir educational as well. It also allowed me to recognize the intensity of the events over the past year when North Korea tested missiles... I had an idea from watching the news what this meant, but reading it from such a personal level was scary. Also seeing how different government officials pulled together and made the necessary steps to free these women was fascinating. Now, this brings us to some controversy that I've heard here and there about this whole situation. There are those who were angered that the two journalists dared to do what they did and that the United States had to step in to help. And if that's the case, I imagine those people will disapprove of the time and effort put into helping these women (because in reading this, we learn there was an immense amount of effort). I think the fact that Laura and Lisa acknowledged this and realize how absolutely fortunate they are to have their connections will soften the negative thoughts some have about this situation. If you are someone who has strong negative opinions about this, then I would, of course, recommend not reading this unless you are able to keep an open mind.

Adding to the political angle of this situation was the manner in which North Korea used indirect communication and utilized both Laura and Lisa as conduits to the White House. Their indirect methods were frustrating, leaving Laura and Lisa to constantly guess as to what North Korea implied they wanted the United States to do; and the "ego-bruising" Lisa referred to was interesting too... not only did they play with the minds of Lisa and Laura, but those of many different politicians. This interaction among the countries' highest surprised me; I learned so much about how negotiations work and the relationships between countries of the United Nations.

But disregarding all the politics, this book taught me about the human spirit, as cliche as that might be. I had difficulty imagining the situation Laura was in, as I sat on my couch in my cozy home while watching tv. I think the fact that I knew how all this ended quelled the terror I felt at imagining her life in captivity. This allowed me to hold out hope while I read about her situation, even though it was still terrifying to imagine. What was also interesting was the relationships Laura built with some of the guards, the interrogator, and the translator; this again shows how human people all over the world truly are. Although they disagreed with each others' governmental ways, when it came down to it, they were all just people.

It's very unfortunate that Laura and her sister had this experience. Both are happy now, (at least by the end of this ordeal, as we already know), and Laura has had some exciting changes in her life. I can't help but feel, after reading this, like I know them and am so happy for them. This memoir was a fascinating look into their lives, into politics and the United Nations, and the situation in North Korea. Laura and Lisa Ling are both women I very much admire. As I mentioned earlier, some disagree with their actions. And though I can't necessarily say I agree with risking so much to report on other countries, I do admit to admiring their resolve to expose the truth about various situations. There is a lot to be gained from reading this book, and I recommend it!

A Question for those in the Publishing Industry: Publicists, Authors, Agents, etc.

Monday, June 21, 2010

I only recently learned/realized (in the past several years) that the sales of a book don't necessarily depend on each and every reader buying the book. When I buy a book, the author isn't notified that one more book sold off the shelf. I feel naive admitting that it took me a long time to realize that the sales of books were related to how many each bookstore ordered. That's how it is, right? Quick aside: is this why pre-sales are so important? So bookstores have a better idea how many they will need?

Anyway, I thought I read somewhere once that the deciding factor on how a book does in the market is how it sells in the first week of its release. That everything after that doesn't matter. That the first week sales will determine if the author is offered a deal on a second book. It will determine the size of the advance on your next book, etc. So now that I review new books fairly often, I am obsessed with ensuring the review is done on the release day so that I can say I reviewed it in time for buyers to buy the book on the first week. But, of course, as this is a hobby and I have a full-time job (and more) I don't have time to do this for every book and this leads to me feeling loads of guilt for all those books I don't review "in time". AND THEN a part of me feels that if I don't get it done by then, it's no longer worth it (well, except for reviewing it because I just plain want to read it... but it feels too late if I'm specifically reading it TO review it). There is a part of me that says this can't possibly be and I need to realize that and stop feeling guilty. The problem is... I don't know! And this is why I need help understanding how this all works.

How are book sales determined? What determines a book's success? If I can't post the review right away but, say, can do so within a few months, does this have any affect? Not that any one review would affect the sales of books, but if a book doesn't sell well for a month or two but then picks up later, does this make a difference?

Please help me understand how this all works!! Thanks in advance to anyone who can help!

Sunday Salon

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Happy Sunday everyone!

Today I want to talk about my trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

But first, my current reading... I'm still working on The Liar's Lullaby by Meg Gardiner but hope to finish it today. The review for it will be on Thursday. And Tuesday I'll be posting a review/discussion (turned out really long, lol) for a memoir I really enjoyed reading.

That's it for that, lol. Well, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened this past Friday at Universal's Islands of Adventure here in Orlando. I really wanted to go but we already had plans to go down to Palm Bay to visit my in-laws on Saturday. So I suggested we go Friday evening after I got off of work. My husband texted me during the afternoon to tell me that the park was at capacity and they weren't letting anyone else in. Supposedly, a line went all the way down CityWalk for people waiting to get into the park just in general!!! Apparently, they were updating it on the news all day. I don't think anyone expected that kind of turn out! We decided to go ahead and give it a try anyway since we wouldn't get there until about 7:00 pm and we hoped it would clear out. Well, when we got there, we still ended up having to wait in line for about an hour just to get into the Harry Potter area of Islands of Adventure!! That was crazy! It wrapped around like half the park, haha. When we got in it was insanely packed. It's a fairly small area but still fun. I'm going to post some pics.. click on them to make them bigger! Oh, I forgot my camera so these are all crappy iPhone pics!

This is when you first walk in... going down Hogsmeade. See how packed it was!! It's hard to see the storefronts.

Can you read that store name? It says Olivanders. What you also don't see is a looooong line waiting to get in because that's where you go to find the wand that belongs to you... just like Harry Potter did. ;)

Huge barrel of butterbeer. The line for this was forever long. We waited about 25 minutes and still had a ways to go. Then we realized they also served it in The Three Broomsticks restaurant so we went there instead. You can get it frozen or "on tap" but either way it's super yummy!

The ride there is actually called Harry Potter's Forbidden Journey or something like that. It's a ride through the grounds of Hogwarts. It didn't take you inside as much as I expected, but we went all over the grounds. We flew through the Quidditch field, lol! And we came face to face with dementors!! AAHHH
Oh, we waited 1 1/2 hours to get on this ride!!

Some Hogwarts students.... I caught the end of this so I didn't get to see what they did.

This one you might be able to see if you click to make bigger. This was part of the waiting for the big ride. It's special effects, of course, but Harry, Ron, and Hermione there looked so real like they were really standing there talking to us!

There were other things like the Sorting Hat (while waiting for the ride). Outside at the other end of the area there was the Hogwarts Express. I couldn't get any good pics at all once it got dark because my phone camera doesn't have a flash. They sort of cheated and took a ride that already existed, Dueling Dragons, and just changed the location and look of the entrance to make it more "harry pottery". There is also a kid's ride, Flight of the Hippogriff. Apparently early that morning, the 3 main actors were there for the grand opening.

So anyway, that's all for that. We need to go back sometime soon to enjoy it a little more, but it's going to be crazy like that for a while so we might have to wait. It's nice, though, because the rest of the park is not nearly as crowded and the lines are shorter than usual because everyone is going to the Harry Potter attractions, lol!

Hot Book Club Titles for Fall: Part 1

Friday, June 18, 2010

One of the panels I attended at BEA this year was the Hot Book Club Titles for Fall. So I know everyone is talking about their books for summer, but I'm going to focus on what your book club can look forward to for the months after that. (Although, really, some of these come out in summer...) This will be broken up into multiple parts; the panel had 6 representatives and each was permitted to feature 5 books. They also had time at the end for each person to feature one more, so I'll post those too if I wrote notes down for them. =) Many, though not all, of the books discussed have already been released but have upcoming paperback release dates which works well for those who truly are looking for book club reads and whose book clubs can't necessarily afford to buy a new hardcover every month!

The first speaker was Michael Croy who is the Field Sales Director with Simon & Schuster. I took very limited notes, so I don't have a whole lot to say about each book! He highlighted the following books.

Half Broken Horses by Jeannette Wells
Original Release: October 26, 2009
Paperback Release: September 7, 2010

This memoir is by the author of the well-known memoir, The Glass Castle, which I have actually not yet read!! I know, I need to... everyone tells me I absolutely must read it. Half Broke Horses is another memoir about her grandmother.

A Happy Marriage by Rafael Yglesias
Release Date: July 7, 2010 (according to
August according to the power point @ the panel)

I didn't take notes on this one, but it's a marriage over time. According to, "what it means for two people to spend a lifetime together". It sounded really good when he talked about it.

Day After Night by Anita Diamant
Original Release: September 8, 2009
Paperback Release: August 10, 2010

Four women who escape from Nazi Germany. A novel about friendships.

Learning to Die in Miami by Carlos Eire
Release Date: November 2, 2010

Apparently this one doesn't have a cover anywhere online even though I know one's been designed! It was on the power point!!! LOL. Anyway, this is the follow up to the book, Waiting
for Snow in Havana. I don't know much about that one either, but I know my sister has it so I may need to borrow it. Both are memoirs about a boy's life. Learning to Die in Miami is, of course, after he is in the United States. LOL... I guess that was obvious.

Blue Nude by Elizabeth Rosner
Original Release: April 25, 2006
Paperback Release: September 14, 2010

This is obviously a reprint. The only notes I wrote for this were "WW II legacy".

Forest Gate by Peter Akinti
Release Date: February 2, 2010

I'm pretty sure this was the extra book Mr. Croy mentioned. These weren't on the power point so I could have it mixed up. But regardless, this was also recommended. It was described as similar to Little Bee in that it tells about the immigrant experience in England. However, whereas Little Bee is from the point of view from an author who is white, this book tells the immigration story from the point of view of an author who is black. For a great review of this book, check out Heather's review at Raging Bibliomania.

Throwback Thursday

Thursday, June 17, 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 week's throwback is:

Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue
Publish Date: May 28, 2002

Born to rough cloth in working-class London in 1748, Mary Saunders hungers for linen and lace. Her lust for a shiny red ribbon leads her to a life of prostitution at a young age, where she encounters a freedom unknown to virtuous young women. But a dangerous misstep sends her fleeing to Monmouth and the refuge of the middle-class household of Mrs. Jones, to become the seamstress her mother always expected her to be and to live the ordinary life of an ordinary girl. Although Mary becomes a close confidante of Mrs. Jones, her desire for a better life leads her back to prostitution. She remains true only to the three rules she learned on the streets of London: Never give up your liberty; Clothes make the woman; Clothes are the greatest lie ever told. In the end, it is clothes, their splendor and their deception, that lead Mary to disaster.
Emma Donoghue's daring, sensually charged prose casts a new sheen on the squalor and glamour of eighteenth-century England. Accurate, masterfully written, and infused with themes that still bedevil us today, Slammerkin is historical fiction for all readers.

In honor of Ms. Donoghue's new book, Room, coming out in September that I'm really excited about, I decided to feature the first book I read by her. I'll be honest in saying I don't remember all that much about this book because I read it 8 years ago before I was keeping track of my reading in any way. I do remember I asked for this book for my birthday that year and my sister got it for me. And I do remember I really liked it. I may need to re-read it one of these days!

Denial (Blog Tour)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Title: Denial: A Memoir of Terror
Author: Jessica Stern
Pages: 293
Genre: memoir
Publisher: Ecco (Harper Colllins)
Release Date: June 22, 2010

Reviewing a memoir is tricky for me; not only is it as much the product of hours and hours of work as it is for a fiction writer, but the memoir writer bares their personal stories, exposing themselves to vulnerability. And just as in fiction, different individuals will respond to what they read differently depending on what their own experiences, etc. That being said, I found parts of this book fascinating, and other parts I almost felt didn't pertain to me as a reader.

Jessica Stern is a Harvard educated expert on terrorism. She has placed herself in dangerous situations, interviewing terrorists on their home turf, yet she admittedly fails to feel the inherent danger. But little things (like the annoying and persistent ticking of the car's turn signal) can have the opposite effect, unnerving her. When she was 15-years-old, she and her 14-year-old sister were raped at gunpoint in their home by a stranger. She describes her process of disassociation at the moment as well as for the rest of her life. She discusses the unfortunate reactions of others in the community who didn't necessarily believe that this either happened in the first place or didn't believe it could have truly been a stranger. The author discusses how until she began investigating this case and reading over the investigative files first in 1994 and then again in 2006, she remembered very little. In fact, she almost feels that other than knowing, for a fact, that she was raped, she almost doesn't remember. She certainly doesn't remember the things she wrote in her statement. For instance, she didn't remember all the facts of the incident itself; she didn't remember that her father, on a honeymoon overseas, didn't return home until 3 days later, finishing his honeymoon.

Throughout the course of this book and her own investigation of the rape (as well as the rapist himself), the author comes to terms with her own post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She realizes the ways in which she has unknowingly experienced the symptoms of PTSD and, in fact, has disassociated from the trauma in so many ways.

The chapter I found the most fascinating was the chapter titled, Denial, in which she discusses the reactions of others and how this affected her own ability to heal directly after the event. She provides great insight into the manner in which a child is continuously re victimized when the adults they turn to don't necessarily believe them or don't provide the support they so need. She describes how the non-believers become the perpetrators too by perpetuating the abuse the child endured. I likely found this part so interesting because of the work I do, assisting in the investigations of children who have been sexually abused and/or raped. I've interviewed many teenagers. I've seen the reactions of the surrounding adults when they do or don't believe what's been alleged, so reading this chapter was powerful in visualizing the effect this can have on children.

There were other parts of this memoir, however, that I felt were possibly more therapeutic for the author but that didn't interest me as much as a reader. She had some obvious difficulties to work through with her father, due to her perception of him (as stated above he continued his honeymoon despite finding she and her sister had been raped). She learns about his horrid past and comes to her own conclusions about him and the trauma he experienced at an earlier moment in his life. Other sections of the memoir include her tracking down those individuals who knew the rapist and interviewing them about themselves and about him. This part fell somewhat flat for me because I felt the interviews were unnecessarily detailed rather than an overall summation of what they said. And I found I didn't care to hear too much about the rapist's past as I thought I would.

Despite the parts that didn't interest me as much, I could tell the journey of writing this book was a therapeutic one for the author. The writing style is simple but intelligent and will satisfy readers of all types. The author mentions in one section that those who experience trauma together fare better than those who do individually basically because of the support they are able to provide that others can’t or don’t and the shared experience. Because of that, I think that those who have experienced some kind of trauma and/or who have PTSD would benefit from this book by gaining further insight into the experience through the eyes of someone who investigated her own trauma from the beginning to the present. Those who haven’t survived trauma will likely find parts of this memoir more powerful than other parts, but as I mentioned earlier, readers’ thoughts will vary based on their own life experiences. For those who may be concerned, the chapter in which the author describes the actual rape may be difficult for some to read -- especially if they experienced something similar. However, the rest of this was not a difficult read in that manner.

This review was part of the TLC Book Tour. Follow the rest of the stops below:

Monday, June 14th: Book Nook Club
Tuesday, June 22nd: Electric/Eccentric
Wednesday, June 23rd: Rundpinne
Thursday, June 24th: Heart 2 Heart
Thursday, July 1st: lit’ chick
Tuesday, July 6th: Crazy for Books
Wednesday, July 7th: Reading on a Rainy Day
Thursday, July 8th: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Monday, July 12th: Sophisticated Dorkiness

The Outside Boy

Monday, June 14, 2010

Title: The Outside Boy
Author: Jeanine Cummins
Pages: 360
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: NAL (Penguin Group)
Release Date: June 1, 2010

I really wasn't so sure what to think before and right when I started this book about a Pavee Gypsy in 1950's Ireland. A what?? Then, I watched the author's video at and thought, okay, sounds intriguing enough. It's about a 12-year-old boy raised by his father; they're travellers (spelled this way on purpose per the author's note), or "tinkers", as they're derogatorily referred to by the townspeople -- these house dwellers, referred to by the Pavees as "bluffers", discriminate against the Pavees, considering them merely homeless and dirty. They often close their shops to the Pavees or retaliate against them in school.

In The Outside Boy, 12-year-old Christy (short for Christopher) Hurley narrates his story. The book begins with the death of Christy's grandfather with whom he has a close relationship. In discussing matters of death, the reader is first introduced to the cultural aspects of being a Pavee Gypsy or traveller. Christy and his cousin, Martin, have always been taught to care for the deceased a certain way, so when things are unexpectedly done differently, they horrify their family by taking matters into their own hands. Another storyline involves Christy investigating the truth about his mother; he's always known he "murdered" his mother, as she died by bleeding to death seven minutes after his birth. But an auspicious happening leads Christy to believe his grandfather (Grandda) sent him a last message in which Christy learns everything he's known about his mother may not be completely true.

Although the promised event regarding the truth about Christy's mother follows through in its intrigue and adds to the story overall, this doesn't take up a large part of the plot. The majority of The Outside Boy is about Christy's experiences as a child entering adolescence and trying to fit in. This story will strike a chord with anyone who grew up "different" in some manner, be it culturally or otherwise. We watch Christy yearn for acceptance in school and as he experiences his first crush on a girl he names Finnaula Whippet (because he doesn't know her real name, and she just looks like a Finnaula to him). We see as Christy doubts his identity and how this affects him in his interactions with classmates. In an amusing chapter, Christy learns about the ten commandments in Catholic school and is aghast at the thought that he unknowingly committed these sins. He then angrily confronts his father for not teaching him these commandments earlier. In the following quote, Christy has just finished a conversation with his father in which his father unburdens him of his worrisome thoughts.

"And I felt something creeping over me, relief mingled with something else. I was glad I'd told him, and I even felt grateful for him a little, because he'd managed to bring me back from a dark place. But as he stood and brushed his hands against his trousers, I had the feeling I'd taken something very big from him. Like he'd seen I was missing a leg, so he'd lopped his own one off and gave it to me." (pg. 184 of advanced copy)

This quote demonstrates my two favorite aspects of this novel: the writing and Christy. The author excelled in her writing style; never once did I feel an extravagance where a word was used just for the sake of using it. The word choice was simple yet contributed to beautifully worded sentences. Parts of the narrative are told in the Irish Pavee vernacular -- "We was all sleeping when them headlamps slid acrosst my face in the darkness... My eyes was as wide as them luminous circles..." (pg. 8 of advanced copy) -- but not all, so when it was there it contributed to the atmosphere, but when it wasn't there it made easier reading. And just to provide one more quote near the beginning I feel exemplifies the writing I enjoyed:

"Dad was only in his bare feet, and he made a frantic silhouette, leaping out of the wagon after his mother. I crawled to the door behind him and watched Granny deliver her unholy cries into the dark camp. I pulled my blue ankles up and tucked my blanket 'round them while I watched the horrible scene unfold: Grann, down on her knees beside the deadened fire, rocking back and over so hard I feared she would topple into the ashes. The keen she let up was so thick and tender I could nearly see it coming out of her, her breath spiraling out violently in torrid colors, defeating the darkness and drenching the camp with grief."
(pg. 3 of advanced copy)

And as I mentioned, I adored Christy. His thoughts were so genuine as he struggled with his thoughts about being a traveller as well as those thoughts he had regarding the truth about his mother. He expresses pride for his lifestyle, but like any other child his age, feels doubt too. Christy was an immedately lovable character with an innocence but desire to figure out his place in the world. Additional elements I should mention are Christy's relationship with his cousin, Martin, and his revelations about his parents. Christy's cousin, Martin, plays a great secondary role to Christy. Martin is the braver of the two, always in more trouble, but he's also more comfortable in his skin than Christy. It was adorably entertaining to watch the two play off of each other. And near the end, Christy learns a great deal about both his parents; this compelling situation was, again, so relatable. How many of us have learned things about our parents, perhaps after determining our own opinions based on the little information we had, only to learn there was so much more -- that our parents were real people with different lives and complications before we were ever even born?

The only downside for me? I still feel a slight lack of understanding of the Pavee lifestyle. At times it seemed fun and free, but at other times I had difficulty discerning it from a homeless lifestyle. I'm aware being thought of as homeless is a stereotype of the Pavees, but the main thing that led me to this confusion was when Christy would mention he was hungry or didn't have enough food. I wonder why, if they aren't sufficiently provided with enough food, is the lifestyle so loved? I understood the other parts, (the freedom, the family, the fun), but the hunger issue was the one part that made it difficult for me to relate.

In all, I truly didn't know what to expect going into this. I hoped to like it, I'll admit, after meeting the author, who is such a fun person, at the Book Blogger Convention; but as always I aim for complete, if sometimes nicely worded, honesty. And in this case, I found that Christy and his story found a spot in my heart. While the lack of continous or fast plot may dissuade some readers from this book, others will find this gem of a story a heart-warming one not just about the Gypsy population of Ireland but of a 12-year-old boy trying to define his identity.

Sunday Salon

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Some days seem to drag by, and the weeks always do to me since I'm constantly exhausted during the week and can't wait until Saturdays -- my only day off! But then before I know it I find myself writing another Sunday Salon post, and I realize time is actually going by pretty quickly! However, exhaustion has taken over every minute of my life these days. I've wondered how much longer I can take school/working an internship in addition to everything else. Had I known before I started it would take me as long as it has so far, even, (not to mention the next year, at least) to get my master's degree, I promise I would never have started. I feel like I was tricked. *sigh*

So that's been on my mind, but the other thing that has me close to tears is the still-missing box of books I shipped myself from BEA!!! Where is it??? And why did I not think to put tracking on it??? I called the post office the other day and the person I spoke to said parcel post can take up to 2-3 weeks so I shouldn't worry about it too much. She also said that it travels by truck and it's all about finding room for it in the truck. I secretly suspect some person(s) may or may not want to lift the 50 lb. box and that's what's taking so long. Had I known it would be like this, I would have tried to fit many more books in my suitcases and carry on luggage, lol! But I think I may actually cry for real if it never arrives...

As for what I'm currently reading... I've got about 4 books going right now, lol! I try to stick to one at a time, but there are so many I want to read that I start reading them all at the same time. My main reading has been The Outside Boy by Jeanine Cummins. Overall, it's pretty good so far. I'll finish it up today and have a more thought out opinion. I'll be posting the review soon.

If you're a fellow book blogger, you probably already know about Book Blogger Appreciation Week coming up. The week is actually in September, but registration/"nominations" take place between now and July 7th. I will be registering and posting my links soon. I think I have myself narrowed down to a niche. But I fear that if I register now I'll write something great between now and the end of registration and won't get to include that link, lol! So we'll see, but you should see my post up for that in the next week or two.

Also, I am starting a new feature on my blog soon. It's just something really little but will be fun for me and will allow me to feature even more books on my blog. So look for that! And I never did get around to posting about the Hot Book Club Books panel I attended at BEA. I will still be doing that but I think I'm going to post it over 5 posts since they featured so many books. But we'll see.

Happy Sunday and great week to everyone!

Dismantled (Blog Tour)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Title: Dismantled
Author: Jennifer McMahan
Genre: Fiction, Literary Suspense
Harper (Harper Collins)
Release Date: June 2009 (original); May 2010 (paperback)

Holy cow... I had no clue what I was getting into when I started this book!! Dismantled was such an enthralling and utterly absorbing read! I absolutely loved this book and spent every free moment I could find reading more. Despite its 422 pages, it's likely one that could be read in a sitting (or a day) because of the way the story hooks the reader; (unfortunately, I literally don't have the time right now to read that much in one go so it still took me a couple days.)

Dismantled is a superbly written and well-plotted story about a 9-year-old girl, Emma, her parents, Henry and Tess, and a big secret from their past. More so, it's about Emma's childhood innocence, her efforts to keep her parents together, a chain of events seemingly started with a suicide, about family, guilt, fear, and a little bit of a ghost story too. Without giving anything away (won't tell more than what's on the back cover), Henry and Tess were once part of a group of 4 in college called The Compassionate Dismantlers. Initiated and led by their friend, Suz, the radical group embarked on missions to "stick it to the man" (my words, not in the book) -- to "dismantle" things because per their motto, "To understand the nature of a thing, it must be taken apart." Their acts of vandalism and other pranks transitioned from innocent to dangerous and, ultimately, Suz dies. Her death is hidden by the other members of the group and they all drift apart.

Ten years later, the story focuses on Henry, Tess, and their daughter, Emma. Something happens which I won't reveal, a former acquaintance commits suicide, and it sets off the events and tension that continue for the rest of the novel.

There were so many things I loved about this book! First, I wasn't quite sure how I'd like the ghost story aspect since I'm not all that into supernatural things. But the author did a spectacular job of including this element but leaving it subtle; she managed to simultaneously add it to the story while keeping the reader guessing about it which was fun and spooky at the same time! There were moments when I was a bit scared to go to sleep after reading... I used it as an excuse to continue on to the next chapter even though it was past time for bed just in case I could reach a good stopping point when I wasn't so spooked. ;)

The character development was also fantastic. The author excelled at showing the character, allowing the reader to learn about the characters through their actions, rather than telling the reader what to think. In that sense, Suz, the leader of the Compassionate Dismantlers, could be considered the main character. Though she's deceased, the memories of her are a large part of this book because of the long-lasting effects she has on the remaining group members. And although I despised her character, it's possible that others may see a different side of her because, again, the author doesn't tell the reader what to think. And seriously, what a strong, intense character she is.

Ironies of all kind consumed the book, increasing the tension. And the pacing was perfect. Though the story continued to progress, I had the opportunities to savor the writing and characters too. I can't fail to mention how significant the character of the daughter, Emma, was to the story. Her innocence and desire to be liked by her cool friend, Mel, play a large part in the craziness of the story! And she plays a part in the ironies I mentioned!

The ending surprised and gripped me, and suspense filled the last 50 or so pages of the book. I laughed at myself when my jaw dropped during one of the revelations near the end because of the sheer unexpected and cunning qualities that moment possessed. I'll admit the last couple pages just slightly disappointed me, but then making up for it, the last paragraph was the perfect ending and answered the one question I feared would go unanswered. And I loved the answer.

In many ways, Dismantled, was a portrait of a family, their struggles, and the child's efforts to keep it together. As you can tell, this book completely enraptured me! On a somewhat different note, I was able to have a copy of this book signed by the author, Jennifer McMahan, at BEA (after I had already signed on for this blog tour) and I wish I had read this book before that so I could have let her know in person how much I enjoyed this book!

Check out the previous stops of the tour:

Tuesday, May 18th: Rundpine
Wednesday, May 19th: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Thursday, May 20th: Luxury Reading
Tuesday, May 25th: The Cajun Book Lady
Thursday, May 27th: Lit and Life
Monday, May 31st: I’m Booking It
Tuesday, June 1st: Drey’s Library
Wednesday, June 2ed:
Thursday, June 3rd: Chick With Books
Monday, June 7th: Regular Rumination
Wednesday, June 9th: Booksie’s Blog

The Dead-Tossed Waves

Monday, June 7, 2010

Title: The Dead-Tossed Waves
Author: Carrie Ryan
Pages: 407
Genre: Young Adult, Zombie
Publisher: Delacorte Press, Random House
Release Date: March 9, 2010

I wrote about my surprise when I thoroughly enjoyed the first in this series, The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Obviously, I was I intrigued enough to pick up the book, so maybe I shouldn't have been so surprised! And I'm happy to report that I thoroughly enjoyed this one as well. Rather than being a direct sequel, The Dead-Tossed Waves, follows up approximately 15-20 years later with Gabry, the daughter of our first protagonist, Mary. This review won't be as thorough as I prefer since it's been almost 6 weeks since I read this and my brain's a little fuzzy! I've just been lazy with writing reviews. =/

Now in Gabry's world, zombies exist but they aren't the constant and continuous threat they were in her mother, Mary's, world. Mary and Gabry live on the beach in a lighthouse and one of Mary's main responsibilities is to keep her eye on the unconsecrated that wash up on the beach with the waves and to kill them before they make it any further on land. But other than that, zombies aren't something that they have to think about too often. Gabry and her friends, however, have heard stories about the unconsecrated and the dangers they present. They've been warned throughout their lives to not venture past the wall encircling their village because beyond there they will certainly encounter the dangers they've up till now only heard stories about.

The action in this book starts immediately as Gabry and her friends rebel by hanging out near the roller coaster just beyond the wall. A new form of zombie, breakers, are introduced in this book that increases the tension and adds a new element to the zombie story. There were moments that I thought this book was much better than its predecessor and moments where I preferred the original. Regardless, I ended up loving this one as much as the first. The storyline of this one was very much more involved and made the first appear as though it were only setting the scene for this one - an important element in books in a "series" or of "companion" books as this is referred.

While this addition featured a similar journey as the first, the additional characters created a newness that made the journey different. There was another love triangle, though this one was complicated in a way that will likely force the reader to feel strongly one way or another, cheering Gabry on or yelling at her to come to her senses. There was also a level of innocence in this that separated itself from the first novel and Gaby from Mary. In Mary's world, the zombies were forever and always leaning in on the fences trying to reach the villagers. But Gabry hasn't had to live her life with these difficulties. Just as through generations, parents tend to have had things more difficult than the children they raise, Mary somewhat shelters Gabry from the horror of the unconsecrated; this makes Gabry's journey through The Dead-Tossed Waves one seen through a fresh perspective.

This was a wonderful follow up to The Forest of Hands and Teeth and I really look forward to the third installment coming out in the spring of 2011!

Sunday Salon

Sunday, June 6, 2010

With the fun filled week I had recently in NYC, I feel today's Sunday Salon is so boring, lol.
I had extremely ambitious plans to read a lot prior to BEA so when I met certain authors I could already have read their books. That didn't happen. Nor did I read at all my week there! So I feel like I've read a lot less lately than usual. I'm also back to my ridiculously packed schedule and have been having trouble focusing on reading too much. I've found that I get much more easily frustrated with books if I don't love them because I just don't have that time to waste!!

I did get to finish one of the books I brought back from BEA, Room by Emma Donoghue. It was so different than anything else I've read in a long time. I think it will be really popular. But that's all I'm going to say about that for now... you'll have to read the entire review sometime closer to the release date in September. ;) I also finished Caught by Harlan Coben last night. Today I'm working on a book for blog tour I have coming up.

I have one more BEA related post spotlighting hot book club books that will be up later this week. Speaking of which my 50 pound box of books from BEA has not yet arrived!! Where is it??? Hope it finds its way here soon!

Reading is like Eating...

Friday, June 4, 2010 least for me, but I suspect for all of us. After all, reading provides our brains nourishment. Reading any kind of book is better than nothing at all, though some books are better for our brains than others. And even when we're eating healthy, it's always nice to mix it up with some ice cream or chips every now and then. And some people can eat all the marshmallow fluff they want and still have the perfect body (or read "fluff" but are incredibly intelligent... maybe it's what they need to "Take Me Away"... haha, just had to put that in there). What led me to this thinking was what I've noticed about my ever evolving reading taste. And while I hated vegetables when I was young, I now eat them more often and crave them at times, lol! So what do you think? Is this a fair comparison?

Here's what led me to my musings:

Whether it was a fellow blogger or an author or publicist I met at BEA, one of the first questions they asked was “what type of books do you review?” My typical response was to laugh somewhat and explain that “according to my blog” I enjoy reading contemporary women’s fiction and mystery/thriller the best but that, in reality, I read a large variety of books; therefore, my reviews tend to be a very eclectic mix of genres. I’ve deliberated this in my head for a while (even before BEA) because lately I’ve found myself drawn more often to other genres (though similar) in place of these two. Is it just that the books I have the opportunity to review are different so it’s a coincidence? Or is it that my reading tastes are continually evolving?

Although I’ve always thought of myself as the same type of reader over the years, I have changed in what I enjoy or am drawn to the most. I was a typical young girl reader – anything in the Babysitter’s Club series or Sweet Valley Twins (and later Sweet Valley High) or similar books with girls my age drew my interest. (In fact, I am still searching for a series about 4 girls who wrote each other letters… the chapters were from different points of view and were designed with that girl’s stationary and her own font…) I enjoyed many books from the Apple imprint of Scholastic. (Actually, pretty much anything I could find at the Scholastic book fair). I loved the Ramona books and Superfudge. However, I detested anything with paranormal or sci-fi elements and feel like I’m the only one who did not like A Wrinkle in Time. In fact, anything that I was encouraged to read in school probably bored me, even if I enjoyed it at a later time. I did not enjoy books that took place with animals in the wild (hated having to read Julie of the Wolves) and had no desire to read Call of the Wild. This must be where my love of contemporary “women’s” fiction started; I just wanted to read about girls like me. (Okay, one exception… My Father’s Dragon… LOVED that book!!)

As I grew older, I turned to “horror” books and loved anything written by R.L. Stine for his Fear Street series. My favorite series was The Cheerleaders: The First Evil, The Second Evil, and The Third Evil… and then The New Evil. In fact, I may still have these somewhere, lol. And there was a special edition one called Silent Night that I loved. Around this time I also read R.L. Stine’s younger series, Goosebumps, even though I considered them “juvenile”, haha. I’m not completely sure when the next transition took place, but the next set of books I remember reading were both by Stephen King: Carrie and Cujo. (Those remain the only King books I’ve read). And in high school I read some Alice Hoffman, Anna Quindlen, started Nicholas Sparks, some early “Oprah Book Club” books, etc. I have to note that as much as a bookworm as I am, my reading in junior high and high school (and even most of college) was fairly sporadic and infrequent. In fact, my reading didn’t start picking back up until 2005 when I graduated from college. That’s also when I started keeping track of how many books I read; in 2005 I read a total of 5 books! In 2006 it jumped to 13, and then in 2007 I read 75!

In college I started reading a lot of chic lit. I adored the Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella (well, at the time it was just the first book), and I fell in love with Jane Green's Jemima J (and recommended it to everyone). I enjoyed those for a couple years but then transitioned out of them and now turn to them mainly when I need a lighter or "happier" read. Although I still agree that some of the books in this genre are not as light as some of their counterparts and are extremely well written. This transition led to regular women's fiction. Mystery/thrillers have notoriously been quick, fun reads for me as well.

That brings us to now (finally, right? if you even read this far, haha). I've found my tastes turning more literary. Not so much in that I crave classic liteterary authors or the like; but I enjoy more atmosphere in books, well developed characters, and superb writing. I feel sort of hypocritical being so particular about writing skill since I've started dabbling in writing and I can't seem to climb out of the well of telling the story intead of showing. But back to the point, I find myself frustrated when a novel lacks these elements. I still love contemporary women's fiction and mystery/thrillers but I veer more towards these specific things even in these novels. Another funny thing is I never used to be a fan of history, but I almost always love the historical fiction novels that I read.

Basically, this was just a long way of explaining how my reading taste has evolved over time. I think the thing that has stayed consistent over time is my need for variety. I refuse to be stuck to one type of genre. Sometimes I feel like some book blogs fare better when they focus on one genre. But like I explained to another person I spoke to at BEA, I review here what I want to read. And I like to read a variety of genres.

Have you found that you do this as well? Has your taste evolved over time? Do you stick to one genre? What do you gravitate towards most often?

BEA: Author's Breakfast

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

My husband and I both agreed that one of our favorite parts of BEA was attending the author breakfast. I had gone back and forth on this one, and at one point I was told it was sold out! But then after that I found out other people were able to get tickets so I called and found out they added seats. Thanks for the notice, BEA, lol! Anyway, I called and got tickets.

The breakfast was hosted by Jon Stewart of The Daily Show who has a book coming out called Earth. As he was the host, his book wasn't discussed much so I really don't know too much about it. However, I have to say Jon Stewart was hilarious. He made fun of the "muffin bucket" we were served for breakfast and said something about how it's always great when your meals can be served in a pile, lol. Jon also poked fun at some of the audience members who asked questions.

The first book that was discussed was Condoleezza Rice's upcoming A Memoir of my Extraordinary, Ordinary Family and Me. Whether you're a republican or a democrat I think this story will likely amaze, inspire, and fascinate any reader. Hey, even Jon Stewart responded to her talk by stating, "Don't... make... me... like.... you...." LOL. Because after she spoke, how could you not like her? Her love for her family is so apparent, and I was heartbroken to learn that both her parents passed away before she even left for Washington. She had accomplished many successes by then, but they never got to see how far she actually went. Condoleezza (who's adorable in her picture on the cover!) grew up in Birmingham, Alabama during the 1960's civil rights era. Having recently read a few novels that took place during this era, I am wholly amazed at what Ms. Rice overcame to end up where she is today. She talked about how her parents were such strong advocates for education; when one of her teachers told her she wouldn't do well, Condoleezza practically laughed it off because her parents had instilled and nurtured such a healthy self-esteem in her. I'm very much looking forward to reading this memoir!

The next speaker was John Grisham. His newest book isn't yet complete, but the scheduled release date is in late October. He talked about a past non-fiction book he wrote called The Innocent Man. (I have this on TBR but still need to read it!) Anyway, he spoke about how this fueled in him an interest in learning more about wrongly convicted individuals who are still sitting on death row. It's a subject he has become passionate about; and though he reportedly doesn't think about a book again once he's done, he was unable to get The Innocent Man out of his mind. In fact, he's been working ever since with a group that helps try to get these wrongly convicted individuals off of death row through new types of evidence. And so The Confession was born. In it, a man murders another. He then sits back and watches as another man takes the fall for the crime; as the police chief and officers proudly announce the arrest at a press conference; sits in court as the trial progresses; as the prosecution shouts about the horrific crimes that the defendant perpetrated; and as the other man is sentenced to death. Time passes and it's days away from the day of execution. And what does the murderer do? Does he do the right thing? Or let an innocent man fall for his crime? Sounds intriguing, doesn't it! I'm hoping to try to read The Innocent Man before this one.

And last, but certainly not least, Mary Roach spoke. After enduring Jon Stewart's jokes of not knowing who she was, she joked about the initial flyer she saw regarding the breakfast: Jon Stewart, Condoleezza Rice, John Grisham, and more... haha! So she made a couple more jokes by referring to herself as "and more" and then talked a little more about her book. I can't believe it now, but I have never read one of her books! I didn't even realize who she was. Well, she wrote a few prior books, Stiff (about human cadavers), Spook, and Bonk (for which she and her husband had an ultrasound during sexual intercourse. Really!) Well, I didn't initially think I'd be interested in a book about space because it's just not one of my most interested topics. But, Mary takes quite a different look at the "life in the void". For instance, what is it like going that long without having sex? And dandruff... does it just float off your head into the confined helmet air? She talked about the extensive research NASA did in trying to create an outer space toilet. And really, have you ever thought about what happens when an astronaut needs to use the bathroom? (Well, not since the astronaut love triangle, right, hehe). No, but really. She poked fun at NASA engineers who insist on creating their own formula for inducing bowel movements rather than asking researchers of baby diapers. She described the process of researching the depletion of excrement from the body. An actual person has to enter a space stimulated machine and has a 22 second window during which he has to let go the excrement. NASA workers stand around and cheer him on and are sorely disappointed when he isn't able to produce the product. She also talked about gravity and "plop", because as you can imagine, this phenomenon is lacking in outer space.... yup, this was all during our breakfast of "muffin buckets"! Fun stuff! Anyway, she was hilarious and I think I will be reading this book as well!

I hope the author lineup for next year is as good as this one!