Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Title: Helpless
Author: Daniel Palmer
Pages: 406
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Publisher: Kensington Books
Pub. Date: January 31, 2012

I reviewed Daniel Palmer's first book, Delirious, last year and really enjoyed it. (Quick side note.. I just realized both covers have a man under water!) Anyway, I was enthralled by his first book and was excited to pick up the second, Helpless, which is a stand-alone thriller that also incorporates technology into its story.

In Helpless, soccer coach, Tom Hawkins, who is also the father of one of the players, Jill, is accused of having an affair with one of his high school students. Before he can even clear his name, the accusations start piling on including those about running a child pornography ring. And what's even scarier than the accusations alone is that the evidence, all involving technology, starts to pile up against him too. And who can refute that?

I used to work with sex crimes investigators and the families involved so I am aware, unfortunately, of how prominent these issues are. But I also am aware of the fact that sometimes allegations are fabricated and of the devastating effects they can have on those victims of the false allegations. I think that was part of what drew me to this book -- maybe a horrid fascination with how scary and big the internet and computers are and how these things can be so dangerously manipulated. In Helpless, Hawkins uses his skills from when he was a Navy SEAL to do his own investigation to clear his name, and he races to do it before he's put in jail for good because he knows that based on the evidence he'll be found guilty.

While I didn't like this quite as much as Delirious, I have to say Palmer wrote another great story that kept you guessing. One of the things that makes these books stand out is the technological aspect and how these are incorporated into the plot points. There was also a component that involved "sexting" which is so dangerous but also prominent among teens now. As I read that I imagined how I would address that if I had a child... it's one of those things that you can't just wait for, you have to always be open and let your kids know about the consequences. Because it is a scary thing that can have life-long, ruinous effects. In that sense, even though this is a thriller, this might be something that parents should read so they can be aware!!

My only gripe about this book is there was a sort of secondary mystery/storyline that I didn't care for, and while the two story lines were somewhat woven together, I wonder if it was really necessary to include both.

Regardless, Helpless was a smart and psychologically thrilling. I look forward to Palmer's next book!

Winner: Bond Girl!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The winners of Bond Girl are.....

Kristin and Anita!!!

I already have your addresses so I will let forward them to the publisher. For those who didn't win or who didn't enter, I do recommend this book! It was an enjoyable read.

Cover Copies: Blurry Streets...

Friday, January 27, 2012

So this cover copies post isn't as bad as past ones that were literally the same stock photo. But these came to my attention when I realized that I was mixing up these books in my head; I'd see one and think it was one of the other two, etc. They all are fairly new, so I wonder if each of the cover designers coincidentally had the same idea or maybe the same source of inspiration?? Or blurry streets are just trendy now?

Check out past cover copies here:
random teenage girl
another random teenage girl
back of girl's hair

Bond Girl (review & giveaway)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Title: Bond Girl
Author: Erin Duffy
Pages: 290
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: William Morrow (Harper Collins)
Pub. Date: January 24, 2012

Bond Girl is being touted as the Wall Street version of The Devil Wears Prada. It definitely had its similarities, and those who liked the latter will probably like this. I can't really compare since I've only seen the movie version of the second, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book about a young college graduate who starts a job in finance on Wall Street and realizes it's not as glamorous as she expected it to be. That's pretty much the whole gist of this book. She deals with some crazy things to impossibly work her way up the ranks.

So far I've made it sound mostly like "chick-lit". While it has those qualities, I thought it was more substantial than some others in that genre. It also had memoir-like elements which may have been a combination of first person narrative and the knowledge that the author has her own experience working on "the Street"; and it contained elements of an exposé, revealing the greed, back-stabbing, superfluousness, and worst, the rampant sexism in the industry. It was like Mad Men up in there, although it may be worse (I haven’t seen enough Mad Men to make a true comparison).

I loved reading about Alex and the craziness she endured at her new job, the things her boss put her up to. I laughed at various parts. But along with the humor, I found myself becoming angry as well. Although this is fiction, I believe it’s based on some of the author’s experiences so I took some parts to be truisms. Any time a money amount was mentioned I felt sick. I have a master’s degree and work to exhaustion every day, yet my annual salary is a fraction of the main character’s Christmas bonus.  The other thing that angered me was the way men treated the females in the book. It was so primitive and ignorant that it enraged me. It’s so hard to believe that kind of sexism exists. (But then, I work in a female dominated field of work so I have little experience with that!) Combining the ridiculously extravagant lifestyle and the sexist a-holes really made parts of this get to me. But despite all that, truly, I found Bond Girl highly entertaining. It’s a quick and fun read. You’ll probably find yourself cheering on Alex and shouting at her to make certain decisions throughout the course of the book.

There was a statement Alex makes at the very end of the book that was vague and that was never followed up with. It’s super minor but I’m curious what she meant, and I guess it’s supposed to not be a big deal. Oh, lest I forget! Bond Girl takes place in Manhattan (well, duh, it's on Wall Street) which was a fun addition for me as well. I loved my literary trip to NYC! I will happily be adding Bond Girl to my New York Shelf!

I am also happy to say that the publisher is allowing me to give away TWO copies of Bond Girl!! Fill out the form below to enter. The winners will be announced this Saturday.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close: Book-to-Movie Review

Saturday, January 21, 2012

I read Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer in January of 2011 and fell in love with it. I mentioned in my review that I was a little heartbroken about it being a movie because I just didn't think it could possibly compare to the experience of reading the book. Jason recently read (and loved) this as well, so we headed out to the movies last night to see it. To sum it up real quickly, this tells the story of a young boy, Oskar Schell, who struggles to cope in the aftermath of his father's death on September 11th. He finds a key in his father's closet and goes on a quest through all of New York City to find what the key is for. He does this in an attempt to find purpose, make sense of his father's death, and keep his father alive and with him in his mind and heart.

Right away it was evident that the film also used some techniques to portray some of the uniqueness of the book. It wasn't all the same, of course, but it was interesting how they did it. I'm not one of those people who ever notices (or cares for when I do notice) different filming techniques, but I did notice them in this movie and thought they were subtle enough and well done. Based on the reactions I heard from the other people watching throughout the movie, they invested in the characters and laughed at the parts that were funny. I didn't fall out sobbing like I thought I might (LOL), but there were definitely moments that made me cry.

One of the things I loved about the book was the raw emotion it evoked. I actually thought the movie did a great job of showing the intensity and complexity of Oskar's emotions as well as the difficulties in the relationship between him and his mother. But I might feel that way since I have more knowledge from reading the book. Jason said he read some reviews that talked about Oskar's character being a brat, and I think thought process misses the whole point of the complete anguish the child goes through after his father's death. The movie moves mostly chronologically but there are many moments when it goes back and shows a chronologically previous scene to explain something the character is thinking or referring to. There was one scene between Oskar and his mother, played by Sandra Bullock, that was pretty intense and evocative. That was probably the part that made me the most emotional because the relationship between the two of them is so fragile at a time when they really need each other. I do think this might be a difficult film to watch for people who did lose someone in the attacks on September 11th or for anyone who has lost a loved one recently.

The movie, of course, had to leave out some details and back story from the book. The book has sooo much more to love and I compel you to read it, especially if you're interested in the movie. But, I think the movie did a fantastic job at taking as many pieces of the book as possible and creating a way to get across the unique qualities of the book and the characters' emotions, and it followed the book very well. Sandra Bullock and Tom Hanks, though secondary characters to Oskar, added a lot to the movie. I feel like I can still return the book and enjoy reading it again without being "interrupted" by things from the movie because it fit very well into what I pictured anyway.

The Ruins of Us

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Title: The Ruins of Us
Author: Keija Parssinen
Pages: 321
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Harper Perennial (Harper Collins)
Pub. Date: January 17, 2012

Sooo... I started reading this a while ago and I initially put it down because I had some problems with some parts of the story (I'll explain in a bit) and I really did not like the characters. That was maybe 50 pages or so in, and I considered just writing my review based on what I felt at that moment. But because of my reading slump issues from last year, and really wanting to thoroughly fulfill my obligations to TLC Book Tours, I decided to keep reading and just see if I changed my mind. But I was skeptical. And a little cynical.

And then I ended up pretty much enjoying this read. That teaches me! I'm going to include some quotes from the book because it is sort of vital to the points I want to make, but keep in mind I am quoting from an advanced copy so there might possibly be some slight changes.

The Ruins of Us tells the story of the Baylani family. American, Rosalie, and Saudi Arabian Abdullah have been married for 25 years. They have two teenagers, Faisal and Mariam. The story begins when Rosalie finds out her husband has taken a second wife and has hidden this fact from Rosalie. Although this is not uncommon to their culture, she is surprised because Abdullah was always different. Faisal is a confused teenaged boy who struggles with his bi-racial identity, sometimes resenting his mother for her causing him to not belong. He overcompensates by devoting himself to a political group and emphasizing his religious beliefs. And Mariam is a feministic teen who wants to grow up to be a journalist. She maintains a blog where she discusses issues in Saudi Arabia. There is also one other character whose perspective we hear from, Dan Coleman, who is an American friend of the family. The Ruins of Us is a portrait of the struggling marriage and how this affects the family; it's about Faisal struggling to fit in to his environment; and it's about how all these issues culminate with dangerous consequences

Although I don't feel quite as strongly about it now, I did not initially like this book because I just didn't think the characters were realistic or consistent. I couldn't figure the characters out at all. For instance, when Rosalie finds out about the second wife. Is she mad, upset, etc.? Yes. But there just didn't seem to be a gravity to it. I get that it's not totally uncommon to the culture, but for as progressive as the characters were described, it didn't make sense to me. (Honestly, it still doesn't... I think the character of Abdullah was the most inconsistent for me.) Like here, he's complaining that his wife has acclimated to the Saudi culture:
"If you're a Saudi man and you marry an American woman, the last thing you want is for her to become a Saudi wife. Otherwise, why would you go through all the trouble with the family?" (p. 41)
So, you become a "Saudi man" and marry a second wife? That seems inconsistent to me. There was another part where he was telling his friend about a girl who was flirting with him and expected him to reciprocate. The friend basically points out that well yeah, you have a reputation. And Abdullah acts all confused and says "I'm a married man." Um, hello, that didn't stop you from finding a whole new wife... And the reasons Abdullah justifies marrying a second wife are so superficial that it was hard for me to take it seriously. Yes, he felt he and his (first) wife had become distant, etc. but marrying another person? At least he acknowledged it:
He saw that now, acknowledged that he had not wanted to deal properly with the distance opening up between him and Rosalie and so had fallen back on the laws of the tribe to avoid it. (p. 104)
But more for inconsistency... in one part Abdullah gets mad at his son, and they get in a little tiff followed by this response.
"Don't speak to me like that, or you can be certain that you won't be going to any university, here or in America.  I will not tolerate this kind of behavior from my son." (p. 113)
I wonder if I missed something because not only did this statement elicit confusion from me, but was the topic of university an issue? I don't know. But then, a couple pages later, Abdullah is defending his son to his wife, basically saying ah, he's just being a kid.

Then some parts were just strange...
Rosie's taste for the dramatic raised her arguments with Abdullah to a form of high art, both of them gesturing wildly. Sometimes, Abdullah would just spank her, in utter seriousness, right in front of everyone, and then they would collapse all over each other with laughter. (p. 38)

I really disliked Abdullah's character. This following passage was the clincher for me. (Abdullah thinking about Rosalie.)
Her stubbornness was starting to wear on him and a strange coldness had filled him. If that was how she wanted to behave, then he would let her. He would be patient. He had all the time in the world because he had love available to him. It was she who would grow lonely night after night in an empty bed. (p. 118)
I did find a passage I liked, though, since much of this book is about marriage and parenting:
There should be some sort of training before you got yourself mixed up in such things -- marriages and divorces and children and second marriages. He had trained for every other part of his life, football as a youth and then business and economics as an adult. Even driving required training. Yet when you married, what advice did people give? Only congratulations, and what good does that do anyone? (p. 90)
I did find, though, that I became invested in the characters. I never did grow to like any of them that much except for Mariam. (Okay, Dan grew on me too). But then the last third of the book the plot totally picked up and I devoured the book to find out what would happen. It was sort of funny because this book had some similarities to the last book I read. They were both about Muslim teen boys who are confused and take their beliefs too far.

I did think it was interesting to learn about Rosalie and her motivations for living in Saudi Arabia. She had spent time there as a child (like the author...) and had idealized it as she grew up so that once she was an adult, she wanted to live there. Yet, she was always the outsider because of her looks but also because of her beliefs. A lot of this book is about her difficulty straddling the cultural divide. I felt like I could relate to her in some of these ways.

So to conclude, I had difficult in the beginning but I'm glad I decided to read the rest. I didn't care for the characters most of the time, but I did enjoy the story. And I actually think this book would be a great read for book clubs, because there are a lot of topics that could be discussed. I have to say that I appreciated The Ruins of Us for making me think so much whether it was about the story, the characters, or the issues they all dealt with.

Follow the rest of the tour here:

Tuesday, January 17th: Book Hooked Blog
Thursday, January 19th: Broken Teepee
Friday, January 20th: Bibliosue
Monday, January 23rd: Book Club Classics!
Tuesday, January 24th: Wandering Thoughts of a Scientific Housewife
Thursday, January 26th: Peeking Between the Pages
Tuesday, January 31st: Col Reads
Wednesday, February 1st: The House of the Seven Tails
Thursday, February 2nd: Raging Bibliomania
Monday, February 6th: Library of Clean Reads
Tuesday, February 7th: Man of La Book
Wednesday, February 8th: 2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews

American Dervish

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Title: American Dervish 
Author: Ayad Akhtar 
Pages: 357  
Audio Narrated by: Ayad Akhtar 
Audio Hours: 9 hours, 28 minutes
Genre: Fiction  
Publisher: Little, Brown & Co. (Hachette)
Audio Publisher: Hachette Audio
Pub. Date: January 9, 2012

American Dervish is a coming-of-age story of sorts. It tells the story of Hayat Shah, a Muslim Pakistani American growing up in Wisconsin. Adolescence is difficult enough without having to learn to manage a cultural divide, and American Dervish follows Hayat as he learns to do just this. We enter the main part of the story when Hayat is 10-years-old. Hayat's parents appreciate their culture but are fairly mainstream in terms of their lifestyle. But then they bring Hayat's "aunt" Mina from Pakistan to save her from her wrecked marriage. Everyone is drawn to Mina, including Hayat. Mina starts teaching Hayat about the Qur'an and encourages him to study to become a Hafiz (one who memorizes the entire Qur'an). Much to his parents' dismay, Hayat passionately takes on this religious study. In the meantime, Mina meets and falls for a Jewish doctor whom Hayat likes well enough but dislikes for his Judaism. Hayat naively acts on this, and this ironically innocent act of hatred leads to unforeseen consequences which ultimately aim to teach Hayat about life and about what Islam really means.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I haven't read many (any?) Muslim coming-of-age books, and it was interesting to learn from Mina about the Qur'an along with Hayat. I loved some of the insights she relayed, whether they were talking about the Qur'an or life in general. I didn't bookmark it so I don't have the exact quote, but her explanation of what happens to people who keep their pain inside (they become their pain, feel they deserve pain, etc.) was so astute (and something I thought I could use in therapy!) I had a lot of these moments in the first half of the book. I'll admit, though, that as the story progressed and Hayat became more immersed, I became more uncomfortable. There were a couple moments when I felt like the philosophical talk about Islam became a little too much that I started to feel detached from the story. But it could also have been my discomfort with Hayat as well. Especially as he starts to really think negatively about Jewish people at one point; I'm not Jewish, but it was still uncomfortable for me. He starts to ignorantly take on beliefs without really thinking through them and often doesn't think them through unless something happens or, as in one instance, his mother confronts him about the ridiculousness of what he is saying.Despite my discomfort, I was so absorbed in the story and the things that happened to the family. The experiences that the others had, not just Hayat, in dealing with their culture and faith while living in America were interesting. And it was disheartening in some ways, because they weren't always able to just be themselves or follow their true desires because of the pressures and expectations from others of their heritage.

Jill mentioned in her review her disappointment in Hayat and his failure to grow as a character throughout the book.  I read that when I was about halfway through so it was on my mind a little, and I do have to agree that Hayat's growth was fairly superficial. I did find myself immersed in the story and his journey, though, so for me American Dervish was still really enjoyable.

It's also possible, however, that I enjoyed this book because I listened to it on audio (which I haven't done much of but hope to get into more). I didn't realize right away that the author narrates the book himself. And I only thought to look because I was really enjoying his narration. He has a nice reading voice, and he did an excellent job with the different voices which involved various Pakistani accents, a Boston accent, and a couple times a female Wisconsin accent. I looked him up and turns out the author is also a trained actor which would account for the great audio performance. Despite some of its flaws, there are some really interesting aspects to this story, and I would still recommend it.

The Chalk Girl

Friday, January 13, 2012

Title: The Chalk Girl
Series: Mallory #12
Author: Carol O'Connell
Pages: 373
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons (Penguin)
Pub. Date: January 17, 2012

I used to have a pretty hard and fast rule that I would not pick up anywhere in the middle of a series. But on a couple occasions I've picked up in the middle out of some type of necessity and found it isn't always so bad. And I was really interested when The Chalk Girl came to my attention, even though it's the 12th in the series! I am so happy I took a chance with this one because I loved this book and excited about reading future books in the series (as well as the first 11).

Kathy Mallory (better known just as "Mallory") is a detective in the Special Crimes Unit in New York City. Mallory is a hardened, rough around the edges girl with a crazy past. She grew up in the foster care system, and I'm sure there's a lot more back story in previous books, but I felt like I was given a lot of information in this installment. Some compare Mallory to Dragon Tattoo's Lisbeth Salander, but I think Mallory is much scarier and seemed more emotionally hardened. In The Chalk Girl, a little girl is found lost in Central Park. No one knows where she belongs since no one has filed a missing child report. The child seems different in some way, and no one knows what to make of her statements that her uncle turned into a tree. Surprisingly, the little girl attaches immediately to Mallory and through this connection they slowly unravel the mystery of the current situation as well as unearthing a long hidden crime.

The setting, the "special victims unit", and the complexity of the situation reminds me of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit which I love. The characters are different, of course, but I think otherwise that fans of the show would likely be fans of this book. I'm curious to learn more about the characters, although I will say that for this being the 12th book I wonder that Mallory's character hasn't grown more than she has. But then, I don't know where she started.

One interesting aspect of the writing was the way the author sometimes added in her own short commentary of sorts; the narration, overall, is the traditional third person past tense, but I noticed a sarcastic or facetious comment every now and then. Usually I would find this distracting, but it was amusing it its context. The Chalk Girl also tells two related stories... the main story is the one I've described, but the beginning of each chapter has a quote or paragraph from a different story. Those pieces in themselves were intriguing, albeit somewhat confusing, but the further you get in the book the more you realize the two stories are intertwined. 

I have to apologize because it's been at least a few weeks since I read this so I'm not saying as much as I may have if I'd reviewed it then. But I do know that this story absorbed me and I'm excited to read more in the series!

The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories, Volume 1

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Title: The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories, Volume 1
Compiled/Edited by: hitRECord & Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Pages: 83
Genre: Humor, Entertainment
Publisher: !t (Harper Collins)
Pub. Date: December 6, 2011

I'll admit up front that part of the reason I wanted to review this is because it was associated with Joseph Gordon-Levitt who I love as an actor. But, also, the book sounded so unique. This book is essentially a compilation of the contributions to Gordon-Levitt's production company hitRECord where artists of all types tell tiny, but impactful, stories utilizing a combination of words and art.

The book is actually tiny and adorable. I read it as soon as it came in the mail, and it took me about 5-10 minutes. I then handed it over to my husband who read through and enjoyed it as well. Some of the stories are better than others, but overall it was a fun read. It's one of those where you appreciate the story told because of its wit as well as for the artwork that goes with it. I don't know that I would spend the listed $14.99 on it for myself, but as a gift for someone who's the creative type or maybe even as a conversational piece for the home or office I would. It is definitely charming.

Here are a few of my favorites.

Joining the People's History Read-a-Long

Monday, January 9, 2012

This last year has found me getting more interested in both non-fiction and in learning about history... so, I decided to join the read-a-long hosted by Jill and Jenners for A People's History of the United States. It's at a totally casual pace of one chapter a week (and, really, the chapters are not that bad), so the plan is to finish in early July!

Here's the synopsis from
A classic since its original landmark publication in 1980, Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States is the first scholarly work to tell America’s story from the bottom up—from the point of view of, and in the words of, America’s women, factory workers, African Americans, Native Americans, working poor, and immigrant laborers. From Columbus to the Revolution to slavery and the Civil War—from World War II to the election of George W. Bush and the “War on Terror”—A People’s History of the United States is an important and necessary contribution to a complete and balanced understanding of American history.
I won't necessarily be posting every Monday, but the first chapter is to be done and "discussable" on January 16 and then one chapter each Monday after that. I started reading and it seems like it's pretty engaging and accessible. I'm looking forward to this!

The Submission

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Title: The Submission
Author: Amy Waldman
Page: 299
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (Macmillan)
Pub. Date: August 16, 2011

The Submission is a serious and thought provoking novel about issues of racism, tolerance, and awareness; about immigration, belief systems, and grief's healing processes. It's two years after the 9/11 attacks on the twin towers. A jury of artists and professionals, including one family member of a person who died in that attack, have convened to choose the winning architectural entry for the memorial that will be built at ground zero. After some conflicts and thorough discussion, they decide on a winning entry. Only, when the name of the winning design is announced, Mohammed Khan, everyone immediately recoils in fear and astonishment. How is it possible that a Muslim man's design is the winner of the memorial for the attacks perpetrated by Muslim men?

What follows is the fight over how to handle this situation both by the jurors and then by the American public, as the information is leaked to the press. Some think Khan's design shouldn't be allowed to be created while others believe his rights are being violated. Some believe Khan, himself, would be doing the right thing by withdrawing his submission (despite the fact that this memorial would be an extreme milestone in his architectural career). Then there's the discussions about the difference been a Muslim man and an Islamic extremist, not to mention Khan may not even believe in Islam. No one really knows; not even Khan, at times. Although the entire book revolves around this exact plot and storyline, there were several supplemental themes. What about the people who were in America illegally but who also lost family members in the attacks. Should they not be provided with the same concessions and care that other family members are provided? And how is it decided what is the best way for people to heal from extreme grief?

This novel was so emotionally charged for me, as I'm sure it will be for many readers. I abhor ignorance, especially as it relates to racial issues. The Submission is told from various viewpoints, so the reader is often provided with Khan's perspective. I think knowing how benign his attitude and reason for entering the contest made it that much more enraging for me the way he was treated. There was a quote near the beginning of the book about a woman so pessimistic that in looking so intently for a bruise in an apple eventually caused the bruise herself. (Unfortunately, I can't remember the page number). That was how I felt about the characters in this book. Their fear became so exaggerated that they caused new fears they hadn't necessarily had in the first place. Even the person who was his staunchest advocate started creating fears of her own and questioning her beliefs. And it seemed like Khan wasn't always sure that the route he had taken (for instance, not having to answer any questions whatsoever, on principle) was the right way to go.

One of the dynamics I found so interesting was those of Khan's and how he so questioned his own beliefs. While he seemed assured and was rational (though there were times when I wished he would concede in just the smallest of ways to help come to a compromise) he was often conflicted. This is evident as described in this quote about the way he tamed his interactions with others.
...he realized that the difference wasn't in how he was being treated but in how he was behaving. Customarily brusque on work sites, he had become gingerly, polite, careful to give no cause for alarm or criticism. He didn't like this new, more cautious avatar, whose efforts at accommodation hinted at some feeling of guilt, yet he couldn't quite shake him. (p. 25)
And this quote describes the way in which his rationality started to give way to paranoia because of some of his experiences.
The memory of the airport interrogation was unpacked, shaken out, stuffed full of straw to make it lifelike once again. There was no evidence Roi hadn't elevated Mo because he was a Muslim but none against it, either. If he had been singled out once, why not again? Paranoia, no less than plasticine, could be molded. (p. 40)
Unfortunately, there isn't a wonderful, pretty resolution to everything. Though I found the book gripping, its focus was really on how this situation affected various people in the community from those who lost family members to those who wanted to have a "cause" to fight (for or against) to the governor who wanted to twist this for her future presidential campaign. This book angered and saddened me, but it wasn't overly dark or melancholic either. I thought the author did a good job of portraying the complexity of the various perspectives. The ending was a little ambiguous, but the real meat in this book was the dynamics of the characters and all the thoughts they elicited for me. This is one I will not be forgetting for a long time!

The website for this book is actually pretty interesting. It introduces all the main players in the book. Check it out if you have a chance!

Little Princes

Monday, January 2, 2012

Title: Little Princes
Subtitle: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal
Author: Conor Grennan
Pages: 305
Genre: Memoir, Sociology
Publisher: William Morrow (Harper Collins)
Pub. Date: January 25, 2011 (Hardcover); December 27, 2011 (Paperback)

I was so excited to have an opportunity to review this book for its paperback release. I immediately regretted passing it up last time I had the chance, especially after hearing such wonderful things about it. The sociological aspect of it combined with helping children is right up my alley. This book did not disappoint at all. I absolutely adored it!!

When author, Conor Grennan, decided to take a year long trip around the world, he planned on spending a couple months at a children's orphanage in Nepal. He admittedly included these plans more for the achievement and how it would look to others. But what he didn't expect was to love and care for the children so much. Shortly afterward, he learned that the children were being trafficked from their mountainous villages and being sold for labor in the bigger towns. This, and his love for the children, sparked in him a desire to do everything he could to save these children and reunite them with their families. This led, later, to the creation of the non-profit organization, Next Generation Nepal.

Little Princes turned out to be more memoir-like than I expected. For some reason I imagined it being more sociological non-fiction. But, regardless, the memoir form worked just as well and gave it a personal component. I was surprised at the humor that sparkled throughout the book. Conor was very unprepared for the cultural differences in Nepal, and describing his reaction to these experiences was fun to read. I loved the scene when he first arrived a the orphanage and the children jumped all over him. I love that they all called him "Brother", and I loved the scene when he was trying to teach them how to say his name. Oh, and his experience walking through the village telling all the villagers "Namaste" had me rolling with laughter. (You have to read to find out why).

These funny moments were more in the beginning of the book. The latter parts became more serious, though the children and the volunteers' interactions with them lent a lighter bent to the book. It's probably not surprising that the book was very heart warming as well! It sounds like the author really had a life changing experience in volunteering at the Little Princes orphanage. While I don't find myself being brave enough to travel around or across the world to do what he did, he re-inspires me to dedicate myself to the children I am passionate about here in the U.S. I truly loved this book and will be recommending it for sure!

I reviewed this book as part of TLC Book Tours. You can follow the rest of the tour below:

Tuesday, December 27th: sidewalk shoes
Wednesday, December 28th: The Feminist Texican
Thursday, December 29th: The Road to Here
Tuesday, January 3rd: Amused By Books
Wednesday, January 4th: The House of the Seven Tails
Thursday, January 5th: Amusing Reviews
Monday, January 9th: Library of Clean Reads
Tuesday, January 10th: Book Snob
Wednesday, January 11th: Tales of a Capricious Reader
Tuesday, January 12th: BookNAround

Reading & Blogging Resolutions for 2012

Sunday, January 1, 2012

I hope everyone had a wonderful New Year's Eve! I'm recovering from the wedding of one of my best friends last night!

I'm hoping 2012 will be a much better reading year for me! It's ironic that in 2011, I did about half of my total year's reading during the first four months of the year when I was finishing grad school and worked two jobs... then I graduated and downsized to one job but found that the job takes up way too much of my time. So I need to better prioritize my free time! I haven't made regular new year's resolutions, but I did make some for reading and blogging!

  1. Read 100 Books: This has been my goal for many years and I've yet to reach it. This year's total has been my worst in a while (62). We'll see how it goes. My husband is also making a goal of 50 for the year which is HUGE! He actually has read 40 so far this year which is his highest ever.
  2. Read More of What I Want: Hasn't this always been a goal since I've been blogging as well? I just want to be more conscious of reading what I want rather than only reading review books. January is always my very favorite reading month every year because I focus on reading mainly what I want... I want this to last throughout the year!
  3. Post at Least One Review a Week: I used to have a goal of three a week... how did I ever keep up?!?! I think one a week is realistic for me at this time. I've got some reviews to catch up on, but I have enough pending to do this for January and February. I just need to keep up the reading!!
  4. Keep Better Track of Review Books/ Maintain Communication with Publicists: I don't keep track of this in any way, and even when I do read a review book timely I rarely follow up with the publicist/author/etc. I want to focus on being more aware of this as well. Not that I'll necessarily be posting reviews any quicker (although that would be nice), but I can promise to be more aware.