Waiting on Wednesday

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Here's my pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection:

The Blessings of the Animals by Katrina Kittle
Release date: August 3, 2010
(Author of The Kindness of Strangers, Two Truths and a Lie, and Traveling Light)

From Katrinakittle.com:
Shaken by her recent divorce, veterinarian Cami Anderson is on a quest to unravel the secret ingredient of a happy, long-lasting marriage. Cami’s parents are preparing to celebrate their fiftieth anniversary, yet her brother and his partner are legally blocked from marriage. Her best friend—and ex-sister-in-law—is newly engaged, but her teenaged daughter’s romance has developed its own complications. Surrounded by several couples approaching different milestones in their relationships, Cami reflects on the meaning of love and partnership, sharing her hopes and fears with an angry horse, a three-legged cat, and an escape-artist goat in her care. As she tends to the rescue animals, so, too, does Cami begin to rescue herself. Coming to terms with her own divorce, she learns poignant lessons in forgiveness, flexibility, and happiness that help her master the art of simply moving on.

Chasing Harry Winston

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Chasing Harry Winston by Lauren Weisberger was the perfect escape read for me since I was feeling stressed about a lot of things in real life. This one was light and funny, even though the situations were ridiculous and I really did not like the characters.

**I'm very confused because I was looking at the synopsis for this on BN.com. The names of the girls are different and the storyline is almost exact but still just a little different. Like maybe that was the original one she submitted prior to actually writing the book or something?? I don't know, but in this case, don't pay attention to that one.**

This book is about 3 girls living in New York City who are about to turn 30. Emmy is the girl who wants to marry and have children but is in a serious relationship that is going south. Leigh, who appeared to be the main character, or the "Carrie" if this were Sex and the City, is living the perfect life working for a publisher as a book editor. She has the perfect celebrity boyfriend that everyone else wants (but does she?) And Adriana is the Brazilian, slight accented, wild party girl who loves sleeping around. They all realize one day that their current situations aren't working and they need to change it up since they're officially going to be old soon. Adriana makes a deal to find ONE guy and settle down with him, while Emmy decides to take on "Tour de Whore" and sleep with a guy from every continent. Leigh doesn't really make a deal but just tries to find herself and what she really wants.

This book got a lot of bad reviews. Many of the complaints were about the characters and the lack of plot. Let me comment on that. The characters... I did not like them. I didn't read any of those reviews until I was done reading this. But during the reading I thought to myself that I really did not like specific characters in this book. Some of the men that the reader was supposed to swoon over I really despised. And Adriana drove me crazy. She was so ridiculous about sleeping with so many men and just her attitude about everything. And the fact she didn't work. I think she was maybe supposed to be endearing, but she really irritated me. And the lack of moral thing doesn't bother me... this is just a book. I thought the whole "tour de whore" thing was hilarious, but still just something about Adriana's attitude bothered me. Then the problem with Emmy and Leigh was that I couldn't really tell them apart. It must be a very difficult balance to create differences with your characters and still not make them too stereotypical or caricature-like, but in this case I had trouble separating the two characters. As for the lack of plot, it was fairly stale. There wasn't a twist or any major climax. It just was.

What was good about this read was that it was a fast read. It was fun reading about 3 late 20-something women living in New York. I adore New York and the thought of living there, so that is what I enjoyed about this book. Like I said earlier, it was a nice escape.

Apparently they're making this into a movie too. I'll admit I'm curious to see what they change in the movie adaptation. This might be one case in which the movie is better than the book (which by the way I'm going to post about again because I've had a lot of new thoughts aobut that since my last post). But anyway, that's that. If you like reading about single girls in New York and their relationship woes and need a light escape, this may be for you. Otherwise, maybe not.

Sunday Salon/ In My Mailbox

Saturday, March 27, 2010

I decided to combine my Sunday Salon and In My Mailbox posts today. Some of you may have caught a mailbox post already. I had one done but decided that I didn't really care for how the video turned out and I forgot a book and it really bothered me, lol.

I don't think I'll have a whole lot of reading time today. I do have some internship work to do, although I somehow ended up with no clients to see today. Then I am heading over to my friend's engagement party for most of the day. This week I posted reviews for The Unnamed and The Executor. It was nice to lighten it up with Chasing Harry Winston which I finished reading last night and which I'll probably review tomorrow. Today I'm reading The Housekeeper and the Professor but I'm not sure how much I'll get done even though it's short because I've got a lot to do today!!

That's about it for that. Here is my In My Mailbox video:

Books Mentioned
Bad to the Bone: Memoir of a Rebel Doggie Blogger by Bo Hoefinger
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting
Chasing the Dime by Michael Connelly
The Things That Keep Us Here by Carla Buckley
The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors by Michele Young-Stone
Saving Max by Antoinette van Haugten
The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa
Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
Bite Me: A Love Story by Christopher Moore

Bloggers Mentioned
Juju from Tales of Whimsy

The Executor

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Title: The Executor
Author: Jesse Kellerman
Pages: 341
Release Date: April 1, 2010
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons (Penguin Group)

Jesse Kellerman's The Executor is a dedication to philosophy and the thought of free will. This theme runs rampant throughout this psychological thriller that will draw the reader in, inevitably rendering the reader tense and conceivably disturbed.

Harvard grad student, Joseph Geist, finds himself all of a sudden with nothing. His thesis is without direction and he no longer has the funding to continue working on it. His advisor isn't interested anyway. Joseph's girlfriend, Yasmina, has kicked him out of the home they shared, and he has no financial means to support himself. Out of desperation, Joseph answers an ad for a conversationalist. He meets the venerable Alma Spielmann who pays him exorbitantly for the pleasure of a few hours a day of intelligent conversation. Joseph is immediately captivated by her knowledge and sophistication. Soon after, Alma offers Mr. Geist, as she refers to him, room and board in exchange for his continued conversations. Joseph's admiration for Alma turns into a strange and perplexing love, bordering obsession. So, naturally, Joseph reacts protectively when Alma's greedy nephew begins to come around for what Joseph believes is only financial purposes. What follows are a course of events Joseph quickly loses control of, yet which undeniably affect everything about his life and questions his philosophical beliefs.

It has to be said that in The Executor (at least, as this is the only novel of his I've read) Kellerman has displayed his mastery over the art of story telling and use of language. The manner in which he chose and placed his words made the physical act of reading savory. The pace of the story was fitting with the plot. The majority of the novel was written in first person, but one section transitions to the rarely used second person tense. The author's use of this technique in that section helped increase the anxiety of the character, which in turn, intensified the experience for the reader. Psychological thrillers have the tendency to scare me as the reader, but not in the fun kind of scare. Rather, they leave me uneasy and unsure. I had a moment of amusement near the end of this book when I made a realization about the author's ability to draw me in to feel what the character was feeling. I, personally, didn't care much for Joseph. He irritated me with his ironic lack of ambition -- failing to work a "real" job or sufficiently support himself. I didn't feel any empathy toward him. But near the end of this book, I felt a significant amount of perturbation and realized I had, without meaning to, completely related to the character and placed myself in his shoes. Unfortunately for Joseph, I was able to sigh in relief in remembering that I didn't need to feel the distress he was at that point in the book. For me, this was a mark of talent on the author's part.

Based on my thoughts as I've processed them to this point, I have to admit that Kellerman's latest novel is well done and fits the genre well. However, I wasn't extremely fond of it myself. Part of this may be due to my expectations of more suspense . The plot itself was fairly simple while I prefer a more involved and complex one. And the relationship between between Alma and Joseph was too weird for me. I believe it may have been the intention to leave their relationship somewhat ambiguous, but it left me feeling, for lack of a better word, creeped out.

The Executor is likely more for fans of psychological thriller specifically -- those who enjoy having their minds intelligibly twisted and made somewhat uneasy. This book would also be interesting to those who enjoy philosophy. The touch on free will talk isn't so much that non-philosophians will be utterly bored, but it's enough that it may spark some debate for those who enjoy it. This book certainly isn't for everyone, but it was well written and nicely done.

This review will also be posted at Luxury Reading.

A Shout Out to Some Fellow Bloggers!!! (Part 1)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The fourth task in the Blog Improvement Project 2010 is to promote others in my group. There were quite a few different ways to fulfill this task, and I've been sort of unsure how to go about this. What I've decided to do is to take a few different days/posts to highlight a few different groups of bloggers. I feel bad sometimes highlighting certain people, because there really are so very many blogs I like. I would highlight my very favorites but don't want anyone to feel bad either. So, I figured breaking up into different groups would be good. So, the first bloggers I want to highlight are my fellow friends from paperbackswap. I'm sure there are probably lots of you on that site that I don't know about. But there are some people that I was friends with there before I ever started blogging! I joined the games community a few months after joining the site which was in May of 2007. The games were addictive and fun. They rapidly increased my TBR pile (no seriously, I went from 2-3 on TBR to 300-400 haha), and that is where I came friends with these girls. I didn't start this blog until around July of 2008, but didn't really get into blogging until a year later. Here are some of my fellow PBS book blogger friends.

Jennifer from Crazy for Books
--one of the friendliest people ever and very involved in any of the book "communities" which is evident in her recent popular Blog Hop feature! She and I have *almost* the exact same taste in books.

Rhonda from Once Upon a Time
--also super friendly and great taste in books. i've always alternated between Rhonda and Jennifer when I needed a moderator for a game I wanted to host. =)

Lori from Lori's Reading Corner
--known on PBS as the "book pimp" because she is THE go-to girl for book recommondations and upcoming releases!

Wendy from Wendy's Minding Spot
--i've only gotten to really know her more recently, but she's always been nice and friendly and I've always thought of her as one of the PBS veterans. =)

The above four are also game moderators, and I was fortunate enough to join them as a game mod a couple months ago!

Also from PBS are

Melissa from Coffee, Books, and Laundry
--also has great taste in books and I love her blog. for some reason one of the things I always remember is how she played in the NBA Finals game I hosted last year that went on forever. the game didn't quite work the way it was supposed to b/c of how small our group was, but she hung in there the whole time even though I know the game must have gotten frustrating, lol!

Kristen from Kristen's Always Reading
--I really haven't talked to Kristen specifically too much, but we have played in a lot of games together!

and although she only JUST realized who I was the other day (jennala9 from PBS) LOL

Deborah from Books, Movies, and Chinese Food
--her blog (along with Lori's) were probably the first ones I ever saw. Their blogs are technically what introduced me to the world of blogging, though it was still a little while before I started my own. It's been a while, but I played in some games with her too -- mainly Christian Fiction ones if I remember correctly.

So that's the group from Paperbackswap games. If I left anyone off, I apologize! It's late and my eyelids are getting really droopy! Stay tuned in the near future for my next group!

The Unnamed

Monday, March 22, 2010

Title: The Unnamed
Author: Joshua Ferris
Pages: 310
Release Date: January 18, 2010
Publisher: Reagan Arthur (Little, Brown & Company)

I'm torn about this book. There were things I really liked about it, but there were also things I didn't like. But I felt like I'm supposed to like it. Most of the reviews I've read exclaim its greatness. My husband also read it and really enjoyed it. And I'll admit my mixed emotions might be related to the high expectations I had for this book.

Let me start off by saying the author, Joshua Ferris, has a talent for putting words together. The Unnamed would be a great book to read slowly just to savor the writing. In The Unnamed Tim Farnsworth, husband, father, and attorney, is afflicted with a rare disorder in which he is overcome by his body taking control of itself and walking for miles on end. Tim has no control over the walking, yet still suffers the natural consequences of such endurances including exhaustion. Most of the uncontrollable walks are followed by deep sleeps wherever he may stop. Tim's wife, Jane, is ever dedicated to him and will pick him up anywhere at any time. This book was, in many ways, a reflection on marriage and its obstacles. Jane's obstacle is a large and very frustrating one, but so are many other more typical ones. Ferris shows the reader what an authentic marriage is and how something like this can affect a great couple in love like Tim and Jane. Some parts illustratee the love the couple has for each other despite the mundanities of married life. I love this following quote because of the way it does exactly that.

Later that day at an early lunch they taked about what had transpired since breakfast, which was nothing, really, but they still talked as if they hadn't seen each other in a while. They had lived another half a day and that time had gone by without incident and they were together again, and this alone made them talkative. (pg. 168, nook)

Tim also has a daughter (who is young at the start of the book). The book goes somewhat into how her relationship is affected by her father's strange disorder. We see how she struggles with what she considers the absence of her father in her life as well as with wondering if her father is even making this up. Meanwhile, Tim struggles with trying to convince the medical community that this is, indeed, a medical issue and not a mental health one.

Here is a quote where Tim is talking about how the walking sensation overcomes him and is separate from his mine.

His mind was intact, his mind was unimpeachable. If he could not gain dominion over his body, that was not "his" doing. Not an occult possession but a hijacking of some obscure order of the body, the frightened soul inside the runaway train of mindless matter, peering out from the conductor's car in horror. That was him. That was her husband. She reached out in the darkness and touched his breathing body. (pg. 26, nook)

And here's another quote about the cycles that place in a marriage.

Was she up for this? She lay in bed under the covers, her breath visible in the slant moonlight. Really up for it? The long matrimonial haul was accomplished in cycles. One cycle of bad breath, one cycle of renewed desire, athird cycle of breakdown and small avoidances, still another of plays and dinners that spurred a conversation between them late at night that reminded her of their like minds and the pleasure they took in each other's talk. And then back to hating him for not taking out the garbage on Wednesday. (pg. 23, nook)

The first two sections of the book focused on Tim's iwith his wife and daughter and how this was affected by his walking. It also was comedic but sad in the way it affected him at work. The latter sections of the book focused more on Tim's inner thoughts. As with the rest of it, the author's writing was put together so well. I felt like reading this book was a lesson in writing. But at the same time, I got sort of bored with that part. So while I flew through the beginning, I had more difficulty with the latter part. But I have also read other reviews that loved this introspection. In speaking to my husband about this book, he seemed to really enjoy it because of how *authentic* he thought the characters and relationships were. He was also able to relate to the frustrations of the main character. While I've certainly never heard of anything like this disorder, it can easily be alternated with other lesser difficulties and still have the same affect in a person's life and family.

If for no other reason, read this book so you can learn what great writing is or see how characters should be fleshed out in a book. Or read it because it may become a modern classic. (I just feel like it might). Or at the least it will win a lot of awards, and you'll want to know what this book about the man who can't stop walking is. I will say that I worried I would get bored reading about a man who is walking. But that in itself is not the focus of The Unnamed. In fact, those parts are actually pretty comical. So, yes, my feelings are mixed, but I still think this book should be read, and I'm glad I did.

Other Reviews

Michelle at My Books. My Life.
Trish at Hey Lady Whatcha Readin
Heather at Book Addiction
Deb at Bookmagic

The Sunday Salon

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Hi everyone! How was everyone's week?? My life outside of blogging was pretty hectic this week, so I'm really surprised I got even as much reading done as I did! On Tuesday evening as I was driving to my therapy office to meet with clients, I received a call from the lead counseling professor saying they changed the class I was going to take on Thursday to Tuesday (that night) AND it was going to be at the south Orlando campus which is much further than the north campus I usually attend. However, I really wanted to stay with this same teacher so I had to make last minute arrangements to change things which included losing a Tuesday night client who will now have to be re-assigned. Wednesdays I'm on call for work and had to stay late. Then this week I had my first ever Friday night class. I have been so angry thinking about having to be in school on Friday night which is one of my only free moments each week. But I only have 2 actual classes left to take and that's when it's offered... fortunately, the teacher is very fun and interesting, as is the class, so it shouldn't be too bad.

Then Saturday my husband and I celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary! It was very low key -- we didn't do anything major. We went and saw The Bounty Hunter which was cute and funny. I love the actors (Jennifer Aniston and Gerald Butler), but I have to admit there were some boring parts too. While there I saw a preview for SATC 2! I also realized it comes out while we will be in NYC. I don't know why I found that exciting, lol.

Anyway, this week I finished reading The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris and Between Friends by Kristy Kiernan. Hopefully, I'll have The Unnamed review done for Monday. The review for Between Friends will be up on April 6 when the book is released as well as an interview sometime around then (which reminds me, I need to think of my interview questions!) I'm also trying to work out whether or not I can go to one of her tour stops. Most of her stops are closer to southern Florida and I really don't have time to take a trip down there, but she does have one stop that is about 40 minutes south of where my sister lives (70 miles south of here) so that's not too bad. I just hope I'm not on call for work that weekend. We'll see!

As for what I'm reading now... I am working on The Executor by Jesse Kellerman for review. I'm not that into it yet, but I really just started it. I'm also reading Chasing Harry Winston by Lauren Weisberger. For some reason I never picked this one up when it came out even though I loved her last book Everyone Worth Knowing. I happened to be in CVS the other day waiting on a prescription and picked this one up (have you seen the beautiful new paperback cover? ------------------->>>>>>>>>
The blue on her dress is actually shiny in real life... really pretty!) and read the first couple pages and was automatically hooked and laughing to myself. So I bought it on my nook. So yeah, I'm reading those two for now.

As it relates to my blog this week I posted a video of a local middle school that had a "flash mob" about reading that was aired on Oprah. Check out the video here if you haven't yet! I interviewed Malena Watrous, author of If You Follow Me, which I loved. I thought she had great answers!

And one last thing, Jazz from About Books started a new meme called Book List Saturday and I wanted to participate this week. The list topic is 10 Books You Want to Re-Read. Here's mine in no particular order (some of which I have already re-read at least once):

1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
2. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas
3. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
4. I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb
5. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
6. Everyone Worth Knowing by Lauren Weisberger
7. Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier
8. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
9. All of Jen Lancaster's books
10. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Hope everyone has a great week!

Winter Garden

Friday, March 19, 2010

Wow, what a surprise this book turned out to be! I have been a fan of Kristin Hannah's work ever since a couple years ago when I alternated reading Angel Falls with writing a research paper for an entire Saturday. I finished the book that day as well as my research paper. Since then I've read 5 other books by her and loved most of them. Including that first one, Winter Garden was the 7th book I've read by Ms. Hannah.

I was initially disappointed. In fact, for the first half of the book I found myself bored, trudging through only because I had loved the author's previous works. Winter Garden started out in 1972 when sisters, Meredith and Nina, tried putting on a play at Christmastime to gain their mother's attention. Something happened to anger their mother and from that moment, the girls stopped trying to earn their mother's love. After that the book fast forwards to 2001. Meredith is the responsible sister, staying home and caring for the family apple orchard. Nina is a world traveling photographer who rarely visits home. Their relationship with their mother continued to be strained over the years, and their only connection was through their mutual love for their father.

The father becomes ill, and upon his deathbed, he asks the girls to have their mother finish telling them the fairy tale she has always told. The furthest their relationship ever went with their mother was when she used to tell them a fairy tale about a peasant girl falling in love with a prince. However, she never finished this fairy tale, and after that fated incident in 1972, rarely even told the beginning of the tale. Meredith and Nina then spend many moments after their father's death arguing about what to do to care for their mother and whether or not they should force her to tell them the rest of the fairy tale.

Ok. This is for about 200 pages and at this point I very seriously considered stopping and making this book a DNF (did not finish). I thought "who cares about the fairy tale??" I didn't care for the characters, couldn't relate to them, and thought they were unbelievably boring and contrived. I didn't think the beginning of the fairy tale was intriguing. I even looked at the reviews on amazon to see what everyone else said. But while a sporadic few said it was a waste, the majority said that despite the very slow beginning, it was extremely well worth the rest of the read. So I pushed on.

Well, as it turns out, I didn't have to push myself much past that point anyway because it immediately started to pick up. At that point, Meredith's and Nina's cold, seemingly heartless mother starts to very slowly open up. And she does tell the rest of her tale. Meredith and Nina soon realize that the tale is more than just that.

What follows is a story about a time in history -- the siege in Leningrad during WWII. I don't know much about history so I really didn't know anything about this. And as with any historic fictional accounts, I now want to go and learn more about it. But back to Winter Garden, the story told was heart wrenching. The characters in the "fairy tale" were much more genuine and I felt I was right there alongside them during their sorrows. The amount of hardship the characters went through at that time is unbelievable. This part of the book became very intense and is so different from anything of Hannah's that I have read before. I cried, almost sobbed (except that my husband was sitting next to me looking at me like I was a weirdo) through much of the second part. And in this, Kristin Hannah was able to prove to me, again, how emotionally charged her writing can be.

Since closing the book, I have continued to think about the characters (of the supposed fairy tale) in my mind. And in reading this, I was often reminded of a multi-generational memoir I reviewed in September of 2009, Bending Toward the Sun, in which a mother's tragic past affects her relationship with her children. (Definitely read this if you havent!) While I didn't think there was anything that could happen that would make me think differently of the mother's character (Winter Garden) or excuse her disdain for her children, I was surprisingly wrong. Winter Garden proved to be an intense, affecting read about the relationships between a mother and her children, and how this can be impacted by events of the past. I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it to fans of women's fiction or of this author. If you read this and get at all discouraged in the beginning, just keep reading because it picks up and is another great Kristin Hannah read!

Throwback Thursday

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Throwback Thursday – this is a weekly event hosted by me! It is the time each week 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!

This week's throwback is:

Watership Down by Richard Adams

From bn.com:
A phenomenal worldwide bestseller for over thirty years, Richard Adams's Watership Down is a timeless classic and one of the most beloved novels of all time. Set in England's Downs, a once idyllic rural landscape, this stirring tale of adventure, courage and survival follows a band of very special creatures on their flight from the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their home. Led by a stouthearted pair of brothers, they journey forth from their native Sandleford Warren through the harrowing trials posed by predators and adversaries, to a mysterious promised land and a more perfect society.

I actually never read the whole book, for whatever reason. But I do remember that I really enjoyed the part I did read. I was an adult by the time I first started to read this (may have been around college time). I had a pet rabbit at the time. We didn't really have pets growing up so my rabbit was my first real pet of my own. This book was so fun to read because I felt like I could get into the mind of my rabbit. =) However, just a disclaimer, if I remember correctly there were some pretty violent/graphic scenes. Not sure that I would read this to young children!

Waiting on Wednesday

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Here's my pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection:

The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Release date: May 4, 2010

Apparently this is a young adult/middle grade book written by the well known author of The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel's Game!

From bn.com:

A mysterious house with an unimaginable secret...

It is war time, and the Carver family decides to leave the city to settle in a small coastal town where they have bought a house. But from the moment they cross the threshold, strange things begin to happen. In the mysterious house lives the spirit of Jacob, the son of the old proprietor who drowned years ago.

With the aid of their new friend Roland, Max and Alicia Carver begin to summon the Prince of the Mists -- a diabolic creature who has emerged from the darkness to settle a debt from years past.

Soon the three young people find themselves in an adventure of sunken ships and enchanted statues that will change their lives forever.

Interview with Malena Watrous

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Last week I reviewed If You Follow Me by Malena Watrous and really enjoyed it. (My review can be seen here). She is a great writer and I believe she will be an author whose books to look out for! I was fortunate enough to be able to interview her last week. Malena had great answers that were insightful and some that made me laugh out loud. I read her e-mail while I was at the airport so it's possible I got a few funny looks. =) Nevertheless, enjoy the interview and maybe it will help you decide if you want to read the book!

1. What was your inspiration for this book?

I had been back from Japan for about 9 months when I first started the story that eventually grew into a novel. I was living in Iowa City and attending the Iowa Writers' Workshop. I'd never lived in a small town in America before, and was surprised by how many things about it kept reminding me of the small town (Shika) where I'd lived in Japan. Specifically, people in Iowa City seemed to spend a lot of time watching their neighbors. I lived in a house that was split in half, and my landlords lived on the other side, and they'd leave me these passive-aggressive (but increasingly aggressive) notes whenever I went out and left the lights on. The winter was even colder than it had been in Japan, and one time I threw out a bag of trash without cinching it properly, and then it rained and iced solid, and my landlords got upset with me so I brought it into my apartment and put it in the bathtub. That object and image, "the trashsicle," started reminding me of Japan and how hard it had been to learn the garbage rules, and that was the original impetus for the first part of the book. I was feeling claustrophobic and monitored, and those were the initial emotions that I was intrigued to explore.
Pretty soon though, the story about the two women took over. On the one hand, their relationship that isn't working, their characters aren't really compatible, and I'm sure that if they were in the United States, they would have broken up much sooner. But they are stuck in a lease and job contracts that would be hard to get out of, in a foreign country where they depend on each other for everything, and they can't imagine being there alone.

2. How much of this novel, if any, was autobiographical? I noticed the main character's name is similar to your own ;) I also read on your website that you taught English in Japan. What parts were added to enhance the story?

I certainly drew a lot from my experiences living in Shika, and the town itself was too weird and wonderful not to use as a setting, although I took some creative liberties as well, especially as time went by and I remembered less and had to imagine more. The plot is made up, however, and the characters are fictional, although again some were inspired by people I knew or (more often) amalgams of different people. Haruki, for instance, the overweight boy in the secretarial girls' class, was a real kid (name changed), a boy who had (like the character) been a "shut-in" for years and had just emerged from his room to start his freshman year of high school when I started teaching. Unlike in my novel, he didn't do anything creepy to me or stalk me, or live across the street, but he was almost catatonic, totally silent, and he fascinated me. I always wondered why he'd been a shut-in and then why he'd emerged from his room but not really or fully "come to life," as far as I could tell. So I wrote the character to flesh out those questions.

3. Was Marina's experience in Japan similar to your own? What was different about your experience than hers? I did want to add that the dialogue between the characters was amusing to me because it was so real in the ways that the Japanese characters spoke English the way they did because of what they're used to in their language. You did such a great job at portraying the Japanese characters!

I lived in Ishikawa (the prefecture) for two years, but in my second year I transferred two hours south, from Shika to the city of Kanazawa, which I always say is like Providence, Rhode Island--big enough that people know of it but not especially significant. It boasts "the third nicest garden in Japan," if you catch my drift. That said, it was much more cosmopolitan and comparatively international than Shika, so I had two very different experiences in Japan. In terms of the language, I love malapropisms and idiosyncratic speech. When I taught an adult English class at the community center in Shika, I had the students write poems and was amazed by how original and inventive their poetry was. They were literally unable to write cliches in English because they didn't know English well enough. Even when they tried to use a familiar idiom or phrase, they usually got some aspect of it "wrong" in a way that I found moving and funny and wonderful. Right now I have a young child, a two and a half year old, and he's still learning to speak (English and Spanish) and he also delights me by saying things that aren't quite right, but unique and surprising.

4. That is so interesting about their writing! You mentioned you started the initial story 9 months after you returned from Japan. How long did it take you to complete this book? Were there parts that were more difficult to write than others?

Well, I wrote a story in 2000 rather quickly and then I set is aside for a couple of years while I was working on a collection. But a couple of years later, when I looked at the collection as a whole, I wasn't sure that the pieces fit together and I decided that this one, set in Japan, felt unfinished. From that point, I spent about 3 years writing the novel. It was tricky taking something that worked as a complete piece of short fiction and figuring out how to grow it. I wrote a lot of drafts, and tried a lot of different strategies, before figuring out the current structure.

5. Wow, sounds like you really put a lot of work into it. What was your favorite part about the book/about writing the book?

This might sound strange, but when the writing was going well, I sometimes felt like I was back in Japan, able to see things and smell things and taste things that I didn't even realize how much I missed until I was writing. When I finally finished, I felt sad like I was leaving the country again. I enjoyed writing Miyoshi-sensei's letters. He was a fun character to inhabit.

6. I loved his letters too! I also loved the fact that he wrote her those letters instead of just speaking to her, lol! So speaking of Miyoshi-Sensei, I found him very interesting. I felt like there are still some things about him that we don't really know, but then, I also think that this is part of the cultural difference in that the Asian culture is often very private so I wondered if this was on purpose.
Tell me about your inspiration for his character.

I think that's right. I spent so much time thinking about him, and writing in his voice, and I feel like I know him as a character the way that Marina would have known him in the book--she has an increasingly deep sense of him, who he is, even though he's not particularly forthcoming about his life. She has never been to his house, for instance. That's pretty typical in Japan. I was fairly good friends with my first supervisor, and with several other teachers at the school, and I didn't even know where they lived in this very small town. I think that he's the character who interests me the most in the book, maybe because he keeps some parts of himself a mystery.

7. How about Joe and his decision to stay in Japan? I've heard in the past that some American men feel that they have it better in some Asian countries and feel more respected. Was there another purpose in Joe staying there (either in the story or as your decision as the writer to keep him there)? Well, except for the parts that you would have to read the book to know! =)

We used to joke about the "2-to-10 factor," where a foreign guy who was just a 2/10 in the States suddenly got treated like a 10/10 in Japan. Joe doesn't quite fit that profile, since he's supposed to be quite good looking. But I wanted him to be someone who wasn't thriving in his own culture, who got coddled in Japan, for whom life was comparatively easy--at least it seems that way to Marina, who sees his treatment as sexist and unfair. I would say that the foreign women I knew in Japan pretty much universally complained about how much easier the foreign guys had it.

8. Haha, that 2-to-10 factor is too funny! It's a shame though that foreign men and women were treated so differently. Were any of your characters based on people you knew in Japan?

Mostly the minor characters. Haruki, and a very tiny librarian who had an arranged marriage, and the matchmaker. The matchmaker in Shika was actually a junior high English teacher (not a banker) but like the character in the book she was very provocative and nosy, and she did it as a side gig, which I found interesting.

9. This is your first novel, but you have extensive writing experience. How did this affect your ability to write your novel and/or publish? Were there any drawbacks?

It took a lot of years to write the novel, and I was learning how to write a novel as I was writing the novel, so part of the revision process was trying to hide my learning curve. That said, I'm not sure you ever really learn how to write a novel (or a story or a poem). By the end of one, you've learned how to write *that* book, and you've certainly gotten more adept at particular craft points, but I feel like a beginner every time I sit down to start something new, and again whenever I get stuck or have to begin a big revision. But I'm sure this is why writing is more engaging and satisfying than other things that I do. If I thought I'd figured out how to do it, then it wouldn't be as compelling (or maddening).

10. What do you hope the reader gains from reading If You Follow Me? Is there a message you hope to convey?

I am resistant to message-driven fiction, because it sounds moralizing, and I definitely don't think I have greater moral authority than the next person (probably less). But I think in the end that one thing that is important to me about the book is how the main character deals with shame with regard to different parts of her life, from her relationship with another woman to her father's suicide. I feel like part of her growth over the course of the book is learning to be more honest and open and less concerned with other people's opinions, less ashamed of things she can't control. Is that a message? Am I contradicting myself?

11. What an insightful answer... I never thought of it like that! I usually like when I find a message in fiction, but I suppose what I actually like is when *I* am able to glean or interpret a message from what I'm reading. So if you look at it that way then just because that's what you find important doesn't mean you're contradicting yourself. =) (Although I agree that message did get across, and I think it's a good one).

What is your writing schedule like? You mentioned you have a young child at home. How do you balance it all?!! =)

I try to write for at least two hours, every weekday morning, three or four if it's going well or I have a deadline. I drop my child off at preschool, and then I go to a coffee shop (so it feels like a treat and I can get out of the house) and then I do my personal work until lunch. After lunch I work on teaching and freelance writing. I feel fortunate in that I really enjoy the different aspects of my day and "job." I still can't believe that I get to read and write fiction for a living. It was a childhood dream. I'm not always perfectly disciplined though, but I cut myself slack. And there are times when the writing is going well and I use evenings and weekends too, so I feel like it all balances out.

12. Are you working on anything new? How much can you share?

I have been working on two different projects, one contemporary and set in San Francisco, and one historical that's exciting to me but hard because it requires research. I've also been writing stories and essays, and going back and forth between these things. I assume I'll eventually focus on one until I complete it, but it has been fun to play for a while.

Well, I definitely look forward to reading more from you! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview!

Check out Malena's website at www.malenawatrous.com.

How Do You Get Middle Schoolers to Read?

Monday, March 15, 2010

One of our local Central Florida schools made it to Oprah by sharing a music video "flash mob" they put together about reading. (I've never actually been to the middle school, but I've been to their local high school many times because I had children on my caseload attend that school when I was a case worker.) Anyway, they attracted the attention of Oprah and the entire student body was on Oprah via skype. One of the girls even mentioned that the students read a lot more and their FCAT scores are "through the roof!" (FCAT is the THE test that determines if Florida children can move on to the next grade... just fyi, not to stir any political debates!) Now, I wonder how many of these students actually like to read? ;)

In My Mailbox

Sunday, March 14, 2010

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren and was inspired by Alea at Pop Culture Junkie. Every week we'll post about what books we have received that week (via your mailbox/library/store bought)!

Books Mentioned
Between Friends by Kristy Kiernan
Inside Out by Maria Snyder
The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers by Gary Chapman
The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
The Unit by Nini Holmvquist
Little Face by Sophie Hannah
Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story by Carolyn Turgeon
Scandal Sheet by Gemma Halliday

Bloggers Mentioned
April at Good Books and Wine
Jennifer at Crazy-For-Books

Sunday Salon

Well, remember how last week I said I wanted to finish Before I Fall AND Winter Garden on Sunday and then read 3 MORE books on my work trip? Haha. I'm so overly ambitious. I finished Before I Fall on Wednesday on my flight back home and just finished Winter Garden yesterday. Forget about the extra 3!! I ended up not having nearly as much time to read as I thought I would. This was partly because there was some down time that I had free and instead of hanging out and reading I explored the surrounding cities a little bit. The other reason was because here in Florida, I'm used to having to wait outside the courtroom when I testify in a case. But where I was in North Carolina, all the witnesses are allowed to stay in the courtroom and watch the entire trial. So that's what I was doing with my other waiting time. Just for fun I've included a couple pictures of my trip up there. This was my first time ever in the mountains and it was an extremely scary experience for me!! I also hadn't seen snow in close to 10 years, so that was pretty cool.

Anyway, the review for Winter Garden will be up Friday. Check back tomorrow for a cool video involving some local Florida kids and reading! If you haven't already, check out the reviews I posted this week for If You Follow Me and Before I Fall. For today I will be reading (or finishing up?) The Unnamed which I started yesterday. I'm enjoying it so far. I've seen rave reviews for it, and my husband really liked it as well. I have another Magic game tonight. And at this one, my mother and a bunch of other women from Jazzercise will be performing at the pre-game show, haha! =-o Should be fun!

Alice Challenge Last Reviews!

We're done! All three people that are vying for first prize had only the movie left to watch, and I believe you've all watched it. So now it's a matter of who posts and links their review here first. The winner will be the FIRST person to link their last task/or a wrap up post to MckLinky. It will be easy to see who was first because that person will be listed as #1. =) (All others feel free to link any reviews you have done that you have not yet posted.

The first prize is a $25 amazon gift card. Second and third prizes are extra entries to giveaways.
Good luck to everyone, and thank you so much for participating!!

Where East Meets West...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I had already been sort of wondering about the large number of books about Japan lately. It seems like there are a few books out there that are fiction/semi-memoirs about Americans being in Japan. Then I came across these two book covers.... I feel like there's another one just like it too but I can't think of what that one was. But really? How does this happen? I know there are trends in book covers... right now it's a picture of real people from the side or back to where their faces can't be seen. But these two are quite similar.

But, like I said, I also found it interesting that there are all these books about Japan out. Girl in Translation is more about a Japanese girl living in America, but these other four are either a memoir, fiction, or combination of American's in Japan.

So what do you think? Have you read any of these? And if you have, do you plan on reading any of the others? This is also interesting to me because of a recent conversation with some other bloggers about more than one book being published about a similar topic. (You probably know who you are but I didn't mention your name in case you didn't want me to). If you like one of these books does it make you want to read more like it? Or do you want to only read the one to savor that specific one? Or does it just depend? And just for fun, which of the above is your favorite cover? I like If You Follow Me because it's different and I like the Cherry Blossoms on it, but I also really like the Plum Wine cover. (Just for the record, I've only read the last two of these).

Before I Fall

Friday, March 12, 2010

Title: Before I Fall
Author: Lauren Oliver
Pages: 470
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release Date: March 2, 2010

Before I Fall
by Lauren Oliver is an amazing debut! High School senior Samantha Kingston is one of the most popular girls in school. She and her best friends, Lindsey, Elody, and Ally are living a life full of fun and privilege afforded them because of their popular status. Then on February 12, Samantha lives her last day.

What follows are 6 more chances for Samantha (Sam) to live the same day over again. These next 6 days are opportunities for her to change the decisions she makes. But more so Sam ironically learns about who she is and what truly matters in life.

What I loved about this book was how insightful it ended up being and how introspective the main character was. Even though Sam comes off as superficial, the more we learn about her the more we realize that the real her she's pushed away may be more than the popular girl we meet at the beginning of the book. The growth Sam makes through the course of the novel is inspiring but also heart breaking at the same time, knowing what has led her to this. The author did a great job of making Sam a fully fleshed out character as we simultaneously learn more about her past and she learns more about herself.

Another reason this book was so wonderful is because any girl out there could easily become Sam. She wasn't a bad person, but the need to belong led her to make bad decisions that ultimately affected everything else in her life. But in learning more about the main characters, every teenager can probably relate in some way whether it's to any of the popular girls, the girl who was picked on, or the mere friend who secretly vied after their popular friend. I loved the way the author added more information on each of the 6 days that showed us more about what exactly happened to lead to Sam's death and other events throughout the day. She was also able to describe the same day repeatedly while continuing to add to the plot and have Sam gain more insight. The personal growth in Sam was discernible from one day to the next.

There are some very important messages in this book for not just teens but all people. I think one of the things that might make teens relate to this book is how real the author described high school/teen life. She didn't shy away from including parties and sex talk, but she also didn't overdo it to try to shock either. She was very genuine in her depiction of these teenagers.

There are a couple quotes from the book I wanted to include. In this first one, Sam is reflecting on the fact that she has separated from her parents and she's realizing her feelings about this.

"I hate both of my parents right now: for sitting quietly in our house, while out in the darkness my heart was beating away all of the seconds of my life, ticking them off one by one until my time was up; for letting the thread between us stretch so far and so thin that the moment it was severed for good they didn't even feel it." (pg. 111, nook)

And in this quote, Sam is starting to see that people may not always be what you think.

"I shiver, thinking about how easy it is to be totally wrong about people -- to see one tiny part of them and confuse it for the whole, to see the cause and think it's the effect or vice versa." (pg. 225, nook)

If you enjoy young adult books or books and/or introspective characters, you will definitely enjoy this book.

Blog Hop

Jennifer at Crazy-For-Books is hosting a Friday blog hop!

She says, "Every day I seem to find another book blog that I start following. In the spirit of the Friday Follow, I thought it would be cool to do a Book Blog Hop to give us all bookies a chance to connect and find new blogs that we may be missing out on! It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs that they may not know existed!"

This was a hit last week! If you'd like to participate, go to Crazy-For-Books and leave the link for your blog in the MckLinky. Repost this and then go back and visit the other blogs!

If You Follow Me (Blog Tour)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Title: If You Follow Me
Author: Malena Watrous
Pages: 354
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Harper Perennial (Harper Collins)
Release Date: March 9, 2010

"I am kind of so sorry."
"You have committed a rude."

The use of the above accented English is just one way in which Malena Watrous, debut author of If You Follow Me, transports her readers to Japan where 22-year-old Marina has moved with her girlfriend, Carolyn, to teach for a year. Carolyn and Marina meet each other at a grief support group after Marina's father committs suicide. They are disappointed to find they have been assigned to schools in the Japanese countryside rather than in the city of Tokyo where they requested. Nevertheless, they immerse themselves in the Japanese culture -- though some of the immersion is involuntary. In the beginning of the novel they constantly find themselves in trouble with an unexpected cultural norm -- for not separating their garbage correctly and putting the different types of garbage out on the correct days.

As they learn to deal with the garbage issue (gomi) and other cultural roadblocks they come across, they also grow individually. (Although I will say at one point I thought "enough with the gomi!" LOL). But the amount of time spent on the gomi issue only enhanced the understanding of the cultural attitudes to which Marina had to learn to adjust. Meanwhile, Marina hoped her relationship with Carolyn would grow stronger by moving to Japan together. This is despite having to keep their relationship a secret, due to the more stringent attitudes of the Japanese culture. But somewhere along the line their relationship starts to fall victim to the same pitfalls of so many relationships.

I really saw this book as hardly about Carolyn at all. It was more about Marina and her own growth as a person and learning who she is. She spends the entire novel learning how to deal with the unexpected death of her father. Her time spent assimilating to the Japanese cultural is almost therapeutic in that it helps her reflect on her life as a whole and what her father's death means in it all.

The book is broken up into 4 parts. Each part represents a season of the year she is there, and, in a way, it represents another level of growth Marina has made. Ms. Watrous expertly writes about many of the nuances of the Japanese culture but does so by inserting these mannerisms into the characters. The writing was beautiful and in no way reflective of a new author. But then Ms. Watrous isn't new to writing. She has an extensive history of writing stories, essays, and book reviews. (Check out her website for details). Her characters, specifically Marina, were very real and genuine. I never felt that anything was contrived, and Marina's growth as a person throughout the novel seemed authentic. Comedic moments combined with somber reflections throughout and created an honest portrayal of humanity and of people trying to understand each other's differences.

And you can't ignore the beautiful cover!! I also want to quote an author who provided her thoughts on the book because I don't quite feel that my more amateur writing ability adequately sums up the essence of this book.

Curtis Sittenfield, author of Prep and American Wife says "It's fearlesly honest, ocasionally heartbreaking, and extremely funny..."

The synopsis on the back of the book also calls If You Follow Me "a dark comedy of manners." I thought both of these quotes described this book perfectly.

So, in summary, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and thought it was very well done. Marlena Watrous has proven to be an excellent author in writing, storytelling, and character depictions,
and I can't wait to read more by her.

Stay tuned for an interview with Marlena Watrous about If You Follow Me and her writing in general!

Other reviews:
Connie at Constance Reader

Sunday Salon

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Well, this week I finished If You Follow Me by Malena Watrous which was an excellent debut!! The blog tour review for it will be up on Wednesday. Today I will be trying to finish up both Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah and Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. I suspect I won't finish both though, lol. But those are both what I'm reading for today. Last week I told you about my upcoming work trip. My goal (though this may be ambitious) is to read 3 books (in 3 days, hehe). I have a bunch I can choose from but for right now I have it narrowed down to House Rules and The Unnamed. Not sure what the third will be yet. But that could change at any time, lol. I'm also going to try to put up my review of Little Bee this week (preferably tomorrow). We'll see if that happens!

This week I started a new ning group for Florida bloggers. I'd sort of been wanting to ever since I saw how fun the Utah group looked that is hosted by Natasha at Maw Book Blog. So if you're in Florida and haven't signed up for the group, go ahead and head on over! I'm the only one in the group so far!! LOL.

There's been a lot of talk on Twitter again lately about BEA/BBC. I'm getting excited!! Did you all see who some of the speakers are? Jon Stewart, Condoleeza Rice, Sarah Ferguson, John Grisham... wow! How many of you are still planning on going or still thinking it over? For those of you going, do you know where you're staying? My hubby and I are both planning on going and we plan on staying at the New Yorker hotel right at Penn Station which is where we stayed during our last NYC trip and we really liked it. Hopefully I will be able to book all our travel for good by the end of this month. I also need to request a couple extra days off work since I'm planning on also attending BEA instead of just BBC!

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Friday, March 5, 2010

Title: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Author: Betty Smith
Pages: 493
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: HP Modern Classics (Harper Collins)
Release Date: 1943 (original)

I was going to wait to review this until my sister finished it and we discussed, but we didn't do very well at reading together this time, lol. So I'll post this and she and I can discuss later. =)

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a modern classic written in 1943 by Betty Smith. I didn't realize this when I first started reading, but Brooklyn is an autobiographical novel. According to the forward written by Anna Quindlen (quick tip that I learned a long time ago: never read the forward to a classic until after you have read the book, unless you love spoilers) Betty Smith originally tried to publish this book as a memoir. She was told to change it into a novel because it would never sell as a memoir. But in reading the extras that were included at the end of this book by the publisher, it is obvious that the author and the main character, Francie Nolan, are one and the same!

Just like Francie Nolan, Betty Smith grew up in Brooklyn in the early 1900's with immigrant parents. (The book flap says German immigrants, but I really thought it was Irish.. so I left it at just plain immigrants). She knew what it was to be poor and to have to go without food at times. She made it a point to attend school and gain an education so she could succeed in her life. She loved reading and spent hours in the library. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is basically the story of Francie, her parents, and her brother, Neely. It is hearwarming because Francie and Neely are such endearing characters. And I loved seeing what the mother and father went through to try to provide for their children and maintain their standard of living.

One of the great things about Brooklyn was the manner in which it demonstrated the value in reading and education. This is exemplified in the quote below.

pg. 83
"Mother, I am young. Mother, I am just eighteen. I am strong. I will work hard, Mother. But I do not want this child to grow up just to work hard. What must I do, Mother, what must I do to make a different world for her? How do I start?"
"The secret lies in the reading and the writing. You are able to read. Every day you must read one page from some good book to your child. Every day this must be until the child learns to read. Then she must read every day, I know this is the secret."

I think one of the things I loved about this book was the way I was able to visualize people and life in the 1900's to 1940's. It always fascinates me to see how similar people are over time. People think and do the same things today in the 2010's that they thought and did both in the 1940's and even 1900's. I try to imagine that it was in the 40's when the author was writing this, but she was also recording her own life from the early 1900's. Having the opportunity to peek at humanity during this time was fun for me, and Ms. Smith did a fantastic job of describing this world for the reader. Here's one example I found that shows how people over time have remained the same and provides an important message too.

pg. 237-238
Most women had the one thing in common: they had great pain when they gave birth to their children. This should make a bond that held them all together; it should make them love and protect each other against the man-world. But it was not so. It seemed like their great birth pains shrank their hears and their souls. They stuck together for only one thing: to trample on some other woman... whether it was by throwing stones or by mean gossip. It was the only kind of loyalty they seemed to have.
Men were different. They might hate each other but they stuck together against the world and against any woman who would ensnare one of them.

While I don't necessarily agree with this line of thinking 100% of the time, I know that it holds some truth today; and I know some women who believe this is completely true today!

I also learned some things about that time frame; for instance, jobs existed at a "clipping bureau" where girls would read all the country's newspapers to find any clippings related to a topic that their client wanted and they'd cut them out and send them. (At least that was my understanding of the job. I could be wrong!) How interesting! And a great way to stay up on current events. I might like a job like that now, haha. The writing was also engaging. It was by no means difficult reading, and for that reason, would be a good "classic" to read if you haven't.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn has been criticized for its lack of distinctive plot. Let me clarify this for you. It doesn't have the twist and turn plots that are popular in most books (and that I think are necessary for so many). It is about the life of Francie and her family as they try to fit in and live in 1900's Brooklyn. We watch Francie grow from a child into a woman and read about her different experiences. For me, the storyline reminded me of books I have read by Maeve Binchy even though she's a more modern writer. The focus of the story is not so much on a specific plot as it is about the people. I will admit there was a moment, somewhere between pages 100 and 200, that I thought "ohhhh where is this going? i'm getting bored!" That was where the author began describing the history of her maternal relatives and paternal. I probably could have done without it, but it did contribute to why each of her family members was the way they were. I stuck with it and am glad I did! And really, once I got past that part, there were still different things that occurred in Francie's life that were interesting. In fact, there were various moments throughout the book that I either laughed out loud or that brought tears to my eyes.

I thought this book had a great message in it for women about persevering and working hard. It was also a great story about family. It told about the struggle for people to do better for themselves, but also told about the hypocrisy inherent in society.

pg. 147 A person who pulls himself up from a low environment via the bootstrap route has two choices. Having risen above his environment, he can forget it; or, he can rise above it and never forget it and keep compassion and understanding in his heart for those he has left behind him in the cruel upclimb. The nurse had chosen the forgetting way. Yet, as she stood there, she knew that years later she would be haunted by the sorrow in the face of that starveling child and that she would wish bitterly that she had said a comforting word then and done something towards the saving of her immortal soul. She had the knowledge that she was small but she lacked the courage to be otherwise.

So, in all, I thought A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, was a beautifully written story about a family in Brooklyn. I adored Francie and Neely (and even the rest of the characters, though they sometimes frustrated me!) Did I love this book? Pretty much. It might be different if it were randomly written today and didn't have the background it does. But nevertheless, I really enjoyed this book and will definitely read it again someday!

Other Reviews
The Zen Leaf
Five Borough Book Review

Non-Fiction Five Challenge 2010

Yes, that's right. Another one. Really, I just want every book I read, ever, to fit into a challenge, hehe.

The Non-Fiction Five Challenge of 2010 is hosted by Trish at Trish's Reading Nook.

1. Read 5 non-fiction books during the months of May - September, 2010 (please link your reviews on Mister Linky each month; Mister Linky can be found at the beginning of each month on this blog)

2. Read at least one non-fiction book that is different from your other choices (i.e.: 4 memoirs and 1 self-help)

I'm not listing my books yet b/c I'm not sure what I'm going to read yet!

Throwback Thursday

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Throwback Thursday – this is a weekly event hosted by me! It is the time each week 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!

This week's throwback is:

1984 by George Orwell

From bn.com:
Orwell's final novel, 1984, is the story of one man's struggle against the ubiquitous, menacing state power (“Big Brother”) that tries to dictate nearly every aspect of human life. The novel is a classic in anti-utopian fiction, and a trenchant political satire that remains as relevant today as when it was first published.

This book equally fascinated and terrified me. Creeped me out is actually more like it. These feelings are typical, for me, of dystopian fiction. Reading dystopia is like voluntarily entering into a nightmare. But I still do it every once in a while, lol.