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Showing posts from 2009

young adult book review: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

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Shiver is a werewolf love story. It's told through the points of view of Grace, who was bitten by the pack of wolves who live in the woods behind her house in Mercy Falls, Minnesota, and Sam, who was also bitten by these wolves and became one of them. No one in town knows the wolves are werewolves that change for the season. In the summer, Sam is a boy! In the winter, he's a wolf. No one in town notices that some people are only around in the summer. Yes, this is a plot hole, but the author attempts to explain this phenomenon through the fact, one year, the wolf will not change back and will be a wolf year round (until they die, and wolves apparently only live about fifteen years). Yes, this situation is rife for teen angst. 

Grace and Sam are in love, and perhaps my biggest problem with this book was the lack of development of their love. Sure, one could argue they had a powerful connection and attraction, but I still think it was underdeveloped. Mostly, I didn't like th…

book review: Superfreakonomics by Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner

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Superfreakonomics is the follow-up to the wildly successful Freakonomics, which I thoroughly enjoyed. This edition is more of the same. If you liked the first one, you'll like this one. If you didn't, then you probably won't. If you haven't read either, read the first one. This one is interesting, mostly, but the last chapter was a bit of a drag for me. There are some fascinating theories, statistics and illustrations. For the fans of their New York Times blog, however, there's not much that's new. The first book was a novelty, and a fascinating interdisciplinary one. This book is clearly a concerted effort, and it's enjoyable, but I recall random trivia and interesting points rather than the overarching themes. Did I enjoy it? Absolutely. Will I still talk about it at dinner parties in five years as I still talk about some of the theories in the first one? Well, I will reference one specific chapter.

In short, I loved it, although not quite as much as the …

young adult book review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

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Catching Fire is the sequel (and second in a trilogy) to The Hunger Games, which I liked, but I didn't love. After reading Catching Fire, I like The Hunger Games more. I won't spoil The Hunger Games for you if you haven't read it (and if you haven't, you really should.) The things that bothered me in the first book (the half-hearted romance and the lack of depth and a greater message) were my favorite parts of book two. The romance was beautifully written and perfectly placed within the drama instead of as an aside. There is depth and a greater message. If book three continues these trends, it will be an amazing, fully realized trilogy of dystopian literature. Knowing the depth of Catching Fire makes me appreciate what I took as the simplicity of The Hunger Games as the subtleness and groundwork for the trilogy. The restraint Suzanne Collins showed is amazing. The Hunger Games felt like young adult literature, but Catching Fire didn't. Yes, our narrator and heroine…

dinner and a movie: An Education

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Welcome to my Monday morning recap of my fabulous Friday night film at Spectrum 8 Theater and dinner at New World Bistro Bar!


The movie: An Education is based on Lynn Barber's memoir. Nick Hornby wrote the screenplay. Carey Mulligan is nominated for a Golden Globe for best actress (and many other acting awards). The entire cast is nominated for the Screen Actors Guild award. 


The barest of plot details: The film is set outside London in 1962. Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is sixteen, and one of the brightest students at her private girl's school. She wants to go to Oxford to read English literature. She meets a charming, friendly, older man. 


This film is perhaps the perfect coming of age story. Yes, I realize what a strong statement that is. Lynn Barber's story is not necessarily unique, yet it is a product of the time she was raised. Still, as someone who came of age in the 1990's United States rather than the 1960's Britain, it could have been my story. It is the perfect …

sunday salon: travel reading

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Originally, I intended to post my Favorite Books of 2009 today, but then I looked at the pile of books I have set aside for this week of train travel and vacation: The Graveyard Book, The Help, Wolf Hall, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Road, Gilead, and I thought making such a list would be premature. (I'll post my true Favorite Books of 2009 on January 1.)

Facing twenty-four hours of train riding (each way), I put far too much thought into what books to take, as I always do. Truthfully, the pile will probably change a few more times. Thank you to the friends and book bloggers who offered recommendations. Whether I take the time to always comment or not, I so enjoy reading book blogs. This week I'll be mostly offline, but I'll still post a few reviews, glance at my email, and read a few of my favorite book blogs. Everything else will be there after Christmas.

Happy Holidays and Happy Reading!



movie saturday: dvd reviews

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It's a well-known fact I adore awards. I'm not sure why, as I often disagree with them, but I do enjoy  being well enough informed to vigorously debate. This week, the Golden Globe Award nominees were announced. The Golden Globes are my absolute favorite award show. Why? Book awards aren't televised, and the Golden Globes highlight the best in television and movies. On a personal note, thank you Hollywood Foreign Press, for announcing your nominees at the end of the semester so I can indulge in copious movie watching over the semester break.

I had only seen three of the nominated films: Julie and Julia, Precious and Invictus. Nomadreaderboy and I have been watching the films already on dvd this week. For your viewing pleasure, some mini movie reviews.


Coraline is nominated for best animated movie. I haven't read the book by Neil Gaiman, but I was excited to see the film. Visually, it's absolutely majestic. The storyline is not quite as exciting as the art on screen,…

holiday swap: thank you!

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My book blogger holiday swap present arrived this week! I was thrilled to discover it in my mailbox. Inside, my Secret Santa, (who took the time to wrap my present in actual wrapping paper!), gave me the dvd of The Jane Austen Book Club, from my Amazon.com wish list! I also got some gingerbread cookies.

This year was the first time I participated in the book blogger holiday swap, but it was so much fun! Thank you to my Secret Santa, whomever you are.

Happy Holidays!

graphic novel review: Stitches by David Small

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Stitches is a memoir in graphic novel form. It traces David Small's life through childhood. I've read several reviews of this book, but the one I remember most was Citizen reader's review entitles "Sadness, illustrated." It's a beautifully haunting and sad tale, and despite the often grim story, it was a fast read. There were a few moments I laughed out loud. I enjoyed it, and perhaps my favorite part was the author's note at the end, where David Small used prose to flesh out a few memories, thoughts and ideas. Part of the beauty of a graphic novel is the emotion and story told through pictures, and in this case, I find it difficult to express the emotion and depth of Small's graphic novel with only words. My advice: read it for yourself.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Pages: 335
Publication date: September 8, 2009
Source: my local public library


Buy Stitches: A Memoir from Amazon.com. (As an Amazon Associate, I will earn a small commission if you buy through …

book review: Nanny Returns by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

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Nanny Returns is the sequel to the very popular novel, The Nanny Diaries. The original book was published in 2002, and I read it that year. I vaguely remember seeing the film on dvd, but I don't remember many of the details of the first book. Thankfully, my lack of reading memory was not a burden. There were just enough reminders in Nanny Returns to revive my memory.

Nan is now married to Ryan (the Harvard Hottie!), and after living many places around the world, they have returned to New York City and purchased a house in Harlem that is in disrepair. Nan has her master's degree and works as a consultant, even though she only has one client. Grayer, whom Nan used to nanny, is now 16, the Xes are divorcing, and now there is an adorable 7-year-old Stilton X as well.

Here's what is really important: the book is laugh-out-loud funny. I loved it more for the social commentary, which I daresay will age well as a tale of the privileged, private schooled rich New Yorkers in the lat…

waiting on wednesday: The Passage by Justin Cronin

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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine to spotlight an upcoming release you can't wait to read.



The Passage by Justin Cronin won't be released until June 8, 2010, but those lucky enough to have read it can't stop gushing. Stephen King almost put it on his best books of the year list. On Twitter, @oblongirl said it was one of the best books she's ever read. I absolutely cannot wait to devour all 720 pages of this book. Here's Stephen King's blurb he wrote for the publisher:
"Every so often a novel-reader's novel comes along: an enthralling, entertaining story wedded to simple, supple prose, both informed by tremendous imagination. Summer is the perfect time for such books, and this year readers can enjoy the gift of Justin Cronin's The Passage. Read fifteen pages and you will find yourself captivated; read thirty and you will find yourself taken prisoner and reading late into the night. It has the vividness that only epic works o…

dinner and a movie: Invictus

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Welcome to my Monday morning recap of my fabulous Friday night movie at the Spectrum Theater and dinner at New World Bistro Bar!

Invictus: I was thrilled Invictus finally came out. I love sports movies, and I am quite a big fan of Matt Damon. Throw in Morgan Freeman, and I was sold. I wanted so badly to like it, but it was only okay.

The movie opens with some sensationally remade news footage of Nelson Mandela (with Morgan Freeman inserted) to provide backstory. Mandela takes over the presidency of a very divided South Africa, and he tries to unite the country around its rugby team. As the story begins, the white fans cheer for the Springboks, while the black fans cheer against them, no matter what team they're playing. Matt Damon plays the rugby team captain, Francois Pienaar.

The good: The acting was good, and at times great. Morgan Freeman completely captured Nelson Mandela's frailty and disposition. Matt Damon was good, although I didn't think he had too much to do. The …

The Sunday Salon: End of the semester joy!

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It's finally here, fellow bibliophiles: the end of my semester. Bring on endless time to read, catch up on my DVR, see more movies and play board games! This week I'll catch up on reviews of books and fall television, prepare my Best of 2009 list and, of course, read. It looks like I will make my goal of reading 100 books this year, even though many of them were children's and young adult. Next year, I'm shifting my focus to quality over quantity. Several book bloggers have coined 2010 The Year of Deliberate Reading. I first heard it from the Literate Housewife on Twitter, and I'm using it too. I'll be focusing on reading the finalists in the awards I enjoy the most: the Newbery Award, the Booker Prize, the Orange Prize, the National Book Award (fiction), the Pulitzer (fiction), and a few of the "best of the year" lists from publications I trust the most. I also hope to read more classics and more of the books I've been meaning to read forever.


A…

book review: You Must Be This Happy to Enter by Elizabeth Crane

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This statement will be sacrilege to many of you: I do not normally read short stories. I am a devoted New Yorker reader, and I often don't finish the short story in each issue. I don't seek out short story collections to read. I'm not quite sure why I have an aversion to short stories, and I'm trying to be better.

Personal backstory: I discovered Elizabeth Crane, one of my favorite authors, when her first book of short stories, When the Messenger is Hot, was first published. I read a glowing review in Entertainment Weekly and immediately requested it from the library. When I picked it up, I realized it was short stories. I reread the review, and I decided to read it. To this day, it's one of my favorite books. I eagerly read her second collection of stories, All This Heavenly Glory, and I finally got around to reading her third collection, You Must Be This Happy to Enter.

Review: Short story collections are difficult to review. I'll say this: the first story (&q…

dinner and a movie: Precious & seafood specials

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Week two of my Friday night dinner and a movie at the Spectrum was a blast.

The movie: The movie Precious is based on Sapphire's only novel to date, Push.  Here's what I knew going into the film: Precious is sixteen and pregnant with her second child.

Precious is certainly bleak, but it's empowering and uplifting in a real way rather than a feel-good based-on-a-true-story kind of way. As the sad, dark revelations about her life unfold, the movie shifts inside her imagination to brief shots of Precious in her dreams. I loved this storytelling device; when the story got dark, there was something hopeful. The audience shared with Precious's coping mechanisms.

I absolutely loved the film as whole, even though it's not necessarily a film I want to rewatch. Gabby Sidibe was fantastic. Mo 'Nique has gotten a lot of positive reviews, but I found her performance adequate, but not amazing. Paula Patton, however, absolutely stole the film for me. She was mesmerizing, subtl…

sunday salon: week in review & the new art history challenge

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First, the big news: Sarah is no longer able to host the Art History Reading Challenge, so I will be taking over the hosting duties for 2010. She already had a blog and buttons set up, so taking it over is a breeze. Look for the 2010 sign up post in the next few days. I'll post the a reminder here too!




Books read this week:
I finished and reviewed A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve. I really liked the book.I read You Must Be This Happy to Enter by Elizabeth Crane, my favorite short story writer. My review will publish Tuesday.I read David Small's harrowing graphic novel memoir, Stitches yesterday as part of the the Read.Read.Read-a-thon. My review will post Thursday.
Currently reading:


Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. Now that the release date for the third in the Hunger Games trilogy has been announced, I'm finally ready to read the second one. Needless to say, I'm enjoying it so far.



Movies seen:
For Friday night's dinner and a movie, I saw Precious. My review will …

It's almost Read.Read.Read-a-thon Day!

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It's time for the Read.Read.Read-a-thon! It starts at 9 a.m. EST tomorrow and lasts for 24 hours. Sadly, I am still finishing one final project before my semester is over, so I won't be able to read all day. I'm still hoping to at least read Catching Fire, the sequel to The Hunger Games. Yesterday, Scholastic announced the third book in the trilogy will be released August 24, 2009, and the rumored title is The Victors. 


Good luck to all of you taking the entire day to read. I'm definitely with you in spirit, and I will be reading with you for at least a few hours. I'll follow the action on Twitter (#rrreadathon) too!

Happy reading!

In the spirit of a read-a-thon, here's a fun contest for bloggers too!
April Showers Blog Design is having a HUGE giveaway and celebrating her OPEN waiting list that starts January 1st! April not only does blogs - but also invitations, announcements, calendars, cards, business cards, custom illustrations, and so much more! Just by pasti…

book review: A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve

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Somehow, I've never read Anita Shreve. I always had a positive opinion of her, as I think she's one of the more literary female authors who manages to appear in the mainstream enough to be on bestseller lists. Although I've read middling reviews of her latest novel, A Change in Altitude, the subject matter appealed to me, so I decided to read it.

The story takes place in Kenya in the 1970's. It's largely the story of Margaret and Patrick, a recently married couple from the U.S. Patrick's job takes him to Africa, and Margaret is thrilled to go with him. As someone about to get married, I'm fascinated by novels about new marriage (and weddings) right now. I'm also a fan of stories about ex-patriots.

I was immediately struck by the beauty and grace of Shreve's writing. It's almost lyrical, and the prose flows so beautifully that the novel reads remarkably quickly given the amount of subtlety to the action and language. Although the novel is a firs…

waiting on wednesday: If You Follow Me by Malena Watrous

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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. It encourages bloggers to spotlight upcoming releases we can't wait to read!


Last April, there was an interview with Curtis Sittenfeld, who wrote my favorite book ever, American Wife, in the New York Times books blog, PaperCuts. In the interview, she mentions the best book she's read lately, an early copy of If You Follow Me by Malena Watrous, despite the fact it's coming out in 2010. Sittenfeld said the book's release "seems really far away, but I swear it's worth marking your calendar for." I did, and when it popped up this week, I was thrilled to rediscover it, and I still can't wait to read it. Her blurb quote running on Amazon is this: "I love, love, love IF YOU FOLLOW ME. It's fearlessly honest, occasionally heartbreaking, and extremely funny, and I can't recommend it highly enough." I'm sure there are plot descriptions out there, but I don't want to read them…

book review: No Time to Wave Goodbye by Jacquelyn Mitchard

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No Time to Wave Goodbye is a sequel to Mitchard's first novel, The Deep End of the Ocean, which was most famously chosen as Oprah's first book club selection. If you haven't read The Deep End of the Ocean, there will inevitably be a few spoilers in this review.

A lot of time has passed between the two novels, both in publication dates and in the characters' lives. In many ways, however, not much has changed, and not much happens the first ninety pages. There's an awkward mix of catching readers up on what they may not remember about the last book and catching readers up on what happened since the events of the last book. I read The Deep End of the Ocean only last year, and I sometimes had a hard time figuring out which events I already knew about. There are a ton of characters thrown at the reader, including many characters calling Ben Sam to his face but thinking of him as Ben.

The opening scene itself is so interspersed with backstory, it's incredibly distract…

movie monday: Coco Before Chanel

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One of my new goals is to start seeing movies in the theater again. My specific plan is to treat myself to a film every Friday night at the Spectrum, the local, independent art house theater, which is conveniently located next to the New World Bistro Bar, my favorite restaurant in town, where I'll treat myself to a glass of wine after the show. I started my new tradition last Friday, and I had so much fun. I'll post my movie reviews here on Monday mornings.

The movie: Coco Before Chanel is aptly titled; it follows Coco Chanel from her time in an orphanage, but it stops where most people become familiar with her story. The film stars the delightful Audrey Tatou as Coco. Perhaps my favorite thing about Coco Before Chanel was it's honesty. I confess to loving the feel-good rags to riches biopics as much as anyone, but it's rare to see a biographical film provide hope with honesty and without sappiness. Most of the film is not feel good. It's hardly depressing, but it i…

sunday salon: Thanksgiving wrap-up

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While Thanksgiving brings wonderful time spent with family and friends, as well as a few days to relax, the most exciting about Thanksgiving for a graduate student is knowing the end of the semester is almost here. There may be a lot to get done in the next two weeks, but I'm already looking forward to the ability to read, relax and watch movies without feeling guilty.

I also became an Amazon Associate this week. You should notice the Amazon search box to the right of this post. You'll also notice a link to purchase each book I review at the bottom of posts. The program is rather simple: when you click on links from my site to purchase things at Amazon, I get a small percentage commission; you pay the same price. While it's not secret I want a Kindle, I decided to stop hoping I win one and start making plans to buy one. I'll use the money I earn through the Amazon Associate program to finance my Kindle. I hope the advertising won't be distracting. I don't have …

graphic novel review: The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

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The Complete Persepolis contains Persepolis and Persepolis 2 in one volume. Although there is no indication where the second volume begins, there is a shift in the story. Persepolis is an autobiography in graphic novel. Marjane Satrapi grew up in Iran, and the book is as much a story of the Persian people and Iran's history as it is her own. It's a fascinating look at a country and its history, but it's most remarkable seen through the eyes of a child. It's incredibly moving to think and see how much geography plays into our own sense of self and autobiography.

From a visual standpoint, Persepolis is simple and beautiful. There are frames so packed with meaning, I would stare at them for a few minutes. I would gladly hand several on my wall. It's an incredibly accessible graphic novel, as it's rather verbose, but Satrapi's drawings are powerful.

Persepolis is clearly a powerful book, and I do believe it's an important book, particularly for Westerners. I…