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Archive for October, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Posted by Caitie F on October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween everyone! i hope you all have a fun and safe holiday. I am hope sick with my sinuses stuffed up, so Jason is passing out candy tonight (he has no school today because of the snow storm we got this weekend). I will be looking at all the cute costumes from a safe distance. We got some good candy to give out, so I hope it is a slow year!

I am currently reading Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson. Wow. What an awesome book. It is so creepy and fun to read. I hope to finish it today and review it later this week. Spoiler: it rocks so far!

I am going to have some soup, lie back and hope my sinuses clear up so I am not miserable all week.

 

Happy Halloween!

Posted in Misc | 1 Comment »

Life Itself by Roger Ebert

Posted by Caitie F on October 26, 2011

Title: Life Itself
Author: Roger Ebert
Hardcover: 436 pages
Publication Date: 9/13/2011
Publisher: Grand Central (Hachette)
Rating: +++++

Summary from goodreads:

World-famous film critic and television host Roger Ebert delivers one of the most eagerly-anticipated memoirs of the year.

Roger Ebert has been reviewing films for the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967. The first film critic ever to win a Pulitzer Prize, he has been a fixture on television for over 30 years, co-hosting Siskel & Ebert at the Movies until Gene Siskel’s death in 1999, and then with Richard Roper until 2006. Then, complications from thyroid-cancer treatment resulted in the loss of his ability to eat, drink, or speak. But with the loss of his voice, Ebert has only become a more prolific and influential writer.

And now, for the first time, he tells the full, dramatic story of his life and career. He chronicles his loves, losses, and obsessions; his recovery from alcoholism, his marriage, his politics, and his spiritual beliefs. He also provides details about his years at the Sun-Times, his colorful newspaper friends, his friendships with Oprah Winfrey, Studs Terkel, and others, insights into stars like John Wayne, Lee Marvin, and Robert Mitchum, and his perspective on such influential directors as Ingmar Bergman, Martin Scorsese, and Werner Herzog.

Review:

If you read one memoir this year, this should be the one you read. Whether or not you like movies, there is plenty to love in this book.

I have been familiar with Roger Ebert for a while. I read his reviews growing up and always thought he was a go to guy for movies.

I never watched Siskel & Ebert, but saw the very end of Ebert & Roeper. Now, I enjoy Ebert Presents: At the Movies regularly. While he no longer is a host, he always does one review and it tends to be beautiful. Even if I don’t care about the movie, or even type of movie, he reviews, I still watch because he is basically a genius with the English language.

That is what makes this book so amazing. He is a highly skilled writer, I would say he is one of America’s great writers. This book is full of beauty and insight, each word chosen with care.

The structure of the book is unusual. Instead of being strictly chronological, it is by topic. It is, in general chronological, but more by when certain people first impacted his life. Since he knows everyone, it made for a much easier read, since the reader doesn’t have to think back 80 pages to the last time he mentioned someone!

The best parts weren’t about the people he knows, how he grew up, or the details of his health (though they were all great!). The best parts of the book is when Ebert writes about his philosophy of life. From his politics to his look on religion, it can make you think and make you respect the man even more. His love for his wife and all his friends is also very moving. They are words that most of us can relate to, but very few can articulate in the way he can.

Here is my favorite couple sentences from the book

“How can I begin to tell you about Chaz? She fills my horizon, she is the great fact of my life, she is the     love of my life, she saved me from the fate of living out my life alone…If my cancer had come, and it would have, and Chaz had not been there with me, I can imagine a descent into lonely decrepitude. I was very sick. I might have vegetated in hopelessness. This woman never lost her love, and when it was necessary she forced me to want to live. She was always there believing I could do it, and her love was like wind pushing me back form the grave”  (page 361)

This is just a wonderful book. Do yourself a favor and read this great memoir from one of the great American writers.

Posted in Review | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Posted by Caitie F on October 16, 2011

Title: Lola and the Boy Next Door 
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Hardcover: 338 pages
Publication Date: 9/29/2011
Publisher: Dutton (Penguin)
Rating: +++++

Summary (from goodreads):

Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit — more sparkly, more fun, more wild — the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket — a gifted inventor — steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door

Review:

I adored Stephanie Perkins first book Anna and the French Kiss. In fact, I loved it so much that I said it was one of the best books I read in 2011. So this book had a lot to compete with.

Well, you should expect to see this on my Best Books of 2011. Perkins knows how to write an engaging and beautiful romance. She knows how to make you fall in love with all her character (except Max, but more on that later). I felt like I was reading about friends that I cared about the entire book. Lola is smart, creative, and caring. She is actually a good teen, doesn’t get in trouble and loves her parents. She is what many many teens are like and I think that is a big reason why she is so lovable!

The relationship between Max and Lola will remind readers of so many first romances. Max is not a lovable character, yet it is easy to see why Lola is so interested in him and falls in love with him. An older reader will see the warning flags and the problems with him, but it is very real to life. When you are in love for the first time, the flaws are hidden and you are just infatuated. Since this relationship felt so real, Lola’s emotions throughout felt real and deep.

Cricket was another swoon-worthy male character. He was so kind and caring, not just with Lola but with her family and friends. He is just the kind of guy you cheer for and hope that everything works out for him. The best part of him though is that he brings out the best in Lola. That is what great relationships can do – they bring out the best in each other and it makes the relationship strong and makes it last. I would have learned a lot about relationships from this as a teen.

The relationships between Lola and her family also add another layer that makes this more than just a fun romance. She has to deal with two overprotective fathers and her birth mother (the sister of one of her fathers) who has made so many mistakes that she cannot deal with. Reading the familial relationship grow and shift added another layer to everything and again, made it feel more realistic.

Finally, Anna and St Clair are back! I won’t spoil anything but they are in the book and i loved seeing them again.

I adored this book and cannot wait to see what Stephanie Perkins writes next. She is a genius and you should really read it!

Posted in Review | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Triangles by Ellen Hopkins

Posted by Caitie F on October 15, 2011

Title: Triangles
Author: Ellen Hopkins
Hardcover: 544 pages
Publisher: Atria (Simon and Schuster)
Publication date: October 18th, 2011
Rating: ++++

Summary (from goodreads):

In this emotionally powerful novel, three women face the age-old midlife question: If I’m halfway to death, is this all I’ve got to show for it? Holly, filled with regret for being a stay-at-home mom, sheds sixty pounds and loses herself in the world of extramarital sex. Andrea, a single mom and avowed celibate, watches her friend Holly’s meltdown with a mixture of concern and contempt. Holly is throwing away what Andrea has spent her whole life searching for—a committed relationship with a decent guy. So what if Andrea picks up Holly’s castaway husband?

Then there’s Marissa. She has more than her fair share of challenges—a gay teenage son, a terminally ill daughter, and a husband who buries himself in his work rather than face the facts. As one woman’s marriage unravels, another one’s rekindles.

As one woman’s family comes apart at the seams, another’s is reconfigured into something bigger and better. In this story of connections and disconnections, one woman’s up is another one’s down, and all three of them will learn the meaning of friendship, betrayal, and forgiveness before it is through.

Summary:

Though I love YA books, i have never read any of ELlen Hopkins’ books before. I always thought the verse seemed strange and didn’t think I would enjoy it.

Well, this book is also written in verse and I thought it was really good! It is not like the story is told in rhyming verse like i thought it might be. It actually reads like a paragraph would, only it allows for more creativity and explanation through the shape of the text. That said, if you have an ereader that doesn’t have text formatted, I would suggest that you get the print version of this book. The format really adds to the storytelling and emotions of the story.

This was so much more than the womens’ fiction book it appeared to be, and that is mostly because of Marissa’s story. Getting to see her change and grow throughout was a real joy. Her daughter’s story broke my heart, but also was the source of joy. Watching her son truly be comfortable with who he was, and convince his parent’s to feel the same way, lifted my spirits.

I didn’t love all the story lines. I wanted to smack some sense into HOlly many many times. But I did like how Ellen Hopkins approached infidelity.

This book was just so much fun to read. i stayed up late both nights that I read it because I couldn’t put it down!

Posted in Review | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Posted by Caitie F on October 11, 2011

Title: The Scorpio Races
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Hardcover:  416 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: October 18, 2011
Rating: ++++

Summary from goodreads:

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

Review:

While I wasn’t a fan of The Wolves of Mercy Falls, it was not because of the writing, so when I saw this book at BEA. I wanted to read it very soon!

The book was exciting and dangerous. It mattered so much because the stakes were so high. Puck had three possible endings to her race: 1. She could win and pay off her families debt so they would not have to leave the island she and her brother love. 2. She could lose and be in the same spot she is in, poverty and hopelessness 3. She could (and people think she probably will) die.

But Puck isn’t going to let this or the impossible odds against her stop her from doing anything she wants. Luckily, she finds some help in other women on the island and specifically help from the mysterious and veteran racer, Sean Kendrick.

Her journey is beautiful to read. The relationships in the book are real, I understand why Sean is intrigued by Puck. Their romance is fun to read, especially since it develops naturally and gradually. However, the most interesting relationship is between Sean and his water horse. They are deadly creatures who feel the call of the water. Yet this horse is different. They have a connection and watching Sean calm these deadly horses is exciting and breath taking. He is truly a horse whisperer.

This book was amazing. I really hope she continues writing books that are more like this. I hope you get a chance to read it!

Posted in Review | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

We the Animals by Justin Torres

Posted by Caitie F on October 10, 2011

Title: We the Animals
Author: Justin Torres
Hardcover: 128 pages
Publication Date: Sept, 1 2011
Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Rating: +++

Summary from goodreads:

Three brothers tear their way through childhood— smashing tomatoes all over each other, building kites from trash, hiding out when their parents do battle, tiptoeing around the house as their mother sleeps off her graveyard shift. Paps and Ma are from Brooklyn—he’s Puerto Rican, she’s white—and their love is a serious, dangerous thing that makes and unmakes a family many times.

Life in this family is fierce and absorbing, full of chaos and heartbreak and the euphoria of belonging completely to one another. From the intense familial unity felt by a child to the profound alienation he endures as he begins to see the world, this beautiful novel reinvents the coming-of-age story in a way that is sly and punch-in-the-stomach powerful.

Review:

I picked up this novella at BEA. The people at Harcourt were raving about it and I was intrigued.  The thing they raved about the most was the writing. And on that count they were 100% correct. This was a beautifully written book. Torres’ grasp of language far exceeds most writers, including writes I love.

This is called a novel, but to me it felt more like a series of short stories all about the same five people. Each chapter wasn’t really connected to the next. It was never they next day or month, it was just later. I actually really enjoyed that. It felt like I was glimpsing into the life of this family and getting to see the incidents that were important. Was it always pretty? No, but that made it feel real.

My major problem was with the ending. It jumped quite randomly to late teenaged years and went in an unexpected direction. That in itself isn’t bad, but the purpose was not clear. It felt like I was missing a hundred pages. How the character got there and what happened to him after were not disclosed and it made the novella feel incomplete and confusing.

That said, I will pick up the next work by Justin Torres because he is a fantastic writer.

Posted in Review | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Happy Accidents: My Gleeful Life by Jane Lynch

Posted by Caitie F on October 3, 2011

Title: Happy Accidents: My Gleeful Life
Author: Jane Lynch
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Voice (Hyperion)
Date Published: Sept 13, 2011
Rating: +++

Summary (from goodreads)

In the summer of 1974, a fourteen-year-old girl in Dolton, Illinois, had a dream. A dream to become an actress, like her idols Ron Howard and Vicki Lawrence. But it was a long way from the South Side of Chicago to Hollywood, and it didn’t help that she’d recently dropped out of the school play, The Ugly Duckling. Or that the Hollywood casting directors she wrote to replied that “professional training was a requirement.”

But the funny thing is, it all came true. Through a series of Happy Accidents, Jane Lynch created an improbable and hilarious path to success. In those early years, despite her dreams, she was also consumed with anxiety, feeling out of place in both her body and her family. To deal with her worries about her sexuality, she escaped in positive ways such as joining a high school chorus not unlike the one in Glee but also found destructive outlets. She started drinking almost every night her freshman year of high school and developed a mean and judgmental streak that turned her into a real- life Sue Sylvester.

Then, at thirty-one, she started to get her life together. She was finally able to embrace her sexuality, come out to her parents, and quit drinking for good. Soon after, a Frosted Flakes commercial and a chance meeting in a coffee shop led to a role in the Christopher Guest movie Best in Show, which helped her get cast in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Similar coincidences and chance meetings led to roles in movies starring Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, and even Meryl Streep in 2009’s Julie & Julia. Then, of course, came the two lucky accidents that truly changed her life. Getting lost in a hotel led to an introduction to her future wife, Lara. Then, a series she’d signed up for abruptly got canceled, making it possible for her to take the role of Sue Sylvester in Glee, which made her a megastar.

Review:

It seems like so many celebrities are writing memoirs now. I tend to not read them, unless they are someone I really love. After getting to meet Jane Lynch at BEA (she was lovely), I knew I would have to read her book too, especially since I am a Gleek (who else is excited for tomorrow’s episode??).

It is good, not great. Jane is a decent writer. When she is more passionate about an idea, her writing stands out. But there are also times when she repeats herself and isn’t as focused which greatly slows everything down.

What I loved was reading about everything she had to do to overcome her addictions and struggles with her personal demons and flaws. She is honest about herself and her journey to finding who she really was, and that was the most enjoyable part of the book. She was not always such a nice and gracious person, but I think it is great that she sees that and learned from it.

I really wish the past 5 years had more of the focus of the book. Her struggles just went on and on and could have been condensed. Once she is beating those things and learning to be the amazing, caring, and wonderful woman she is now, she is more interesting and the book is more enjoyable to read. I found myself getting very down in the middle third, which made this book a very long read. I just wish she hadn’t written this year. I think in three to five more years it would have been a more complete and interesting book.

It was a decent book, but unless you are a big Jane Lynch, I would say you can skip it.

Posted in Review | Tagged: | 1 Comment »