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Showing posts from August, 2013

book review: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

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The basics: Orphan Train is the story of two women and their unlikely friendship (if you want to run for the hills at the beginning of that description--hear me out.) Molly is almost eighteen, which means she is almost aging out of the foster care system. Desperate to have her own copy of her favorite book, she steals a copy of it from her school library. Her punishment is fifty hours of community service. Her boyfriend's mother, who works as a housekeeper for a 90-year-old-widow, arranges for Molly to help the woman, Vivian, go through the boxes in her attic. These boxes hold memories of the journeys of Vivian's life, when she was sent on the orphan train from New York City to Minnesota many years ago.

My thoughts: The reality of orphan trains depresses me. While I welcomed the chance to learn more about this dark part of U.S. history, I'm grateful Kline interspersed them with Molly's modern scenes. It also helped to know Vivian somehow not only survives but thrives. I…

book review: Save Yourself by Kelly Braffet

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The backstory: Years ago, I used to discover new authors by browsing the new releases in the library and seeing which covers grabbed me. I had as many successes as failures, and my shift toward finding life-minded readers has certainly improved my success with books. Yet I still think fondly of those authors I discovered my old-fashioned way, and Kelly Braffet is one of those authors. I recall bringing home Last Seen Leaving and sitting down on my the screened-in porch to read it before dinner. I was up until the wee hours of the morning finishing it, and when I returned it to the library the next day, I picked up her first novel, Josie and Jack. Imagine my delight when I saw that seven years later, there's finally another Braffet novel to read!

The basics: Save Yourself is the story of two sets of siblings: Patrick and Mike Cusimano are still reeling from their father's arrest and conviction for killing a child while driving drunk. They live in their father's house, along …

three more mini-movie reviews

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Between the more leisurely pace of summer (and my aversion to its heat) and giving up satellite, I've been watching a lot of movies (both with and without Mr. Nomadreader.) Here are my brief thoughts on some recent ones.

The Cabin in the Woods

When I told Mr. Nomadreader I wanted to watch The Cabin in the Woods, he was surprised and excited, as horror is not my favorite genre, and it is one of his. But the very reason I wanted to see (and ended up loving) The Cabin in the Woods is that it's so smart. There's certainly something in it that will terrify everyone, but it's not terror for terror's sake. It works because it's brilliant and inventive. It pays homage to the genre's history, but it offers a delightfully fresh take on it.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Source: Netflix

Spring Breakers

At the end of a particularly bad day, I was in the mood for an escapist movie and several glasses of wine. Spring Breakers was the perfect antidote. The story of four friends, three …

mini audiobook reviews: Dreaming in Chinese, The Obituary Writer, and Someday, Someday, Maybe

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Dreaming in Chinese by Deborah Fallows, narrated by Catherine Byers

Fallows, a linguist, begins learning Chinese in preparation for moving to China with her husband. Dreaming in Chinese is part travel memoir and part lingual study of the language. If you already know a lot (or perhaps even a little) about the language, this book may not have even travel to keep your interest. If, however, you know little about the Chinese language, this book is fascinating. I now better understand how and why Chinese native speakers speak English. And it reaffirmed my belief that I do not have the patience or fortitude to actually learn Chinese myself. If you opt to read this one, don't listen. The narration is pretty awful: Byers is an over-anunciator, which works well in some parts, as this is a book about the nuance of language, but it's distracting at others time. Byers doesn't bring any warmth to the travel parts, nor does she bring any nuance to the epiphanies, in language and cultur…

three mini-movie reviews

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Between the more leisurely pace of summer (and my aversion to its heat) and giving up satellite, I've been watching a lot of movies (both with and without Mr. Nomadreader.) Here are my brief thoughts on some recent ones.

Snow White and the Huntsman I am not one who is caught up in fairy tales or modern re-tellings, but I was curious to see this feminist version, and I'm glad I did. The film is escapist fun. The three leads, Charlize Theron, Kristen Stewart, and Chris Hemsworth (whom I lovingly call the talented Hemsworth), are fantastic, and they strike right the balance of seriousness and silliness. They're appropriately over the top at times, but it's never distracting. The entire film is a visual feast, and I was utterly entranced with it while I watched. Is it one that will stick with me for a long time? No, but it was entertaining, fun, and I'll gladly see the sequel.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Source: Redbox

Your Sister's Sister
If you're looking for a classic ind…

book review: Sea Creatures by Susanna Daniel

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The backstory: When I read Susanna Daniel's debut novel, Stiltsville, I gushed that "it's the most emotionally engaging novel I've read in quite some time." It not only made my top ten of 2010, it came in at number two. Given my love for Stiltsville, I was eager to see Daniel return to Miami with her second novel, Sea Creatures.

The basics: In 1992, Georgia's college admissions consulting business has failed. When her husband Graham doesn't receive tenure at Northwestern, they move back to her native Miami, where a friend of Graham's has offered him a job studying hurricanes. Their three-year-old son Frankie hasn't spoken for eighteen months, but there seems to be no medical reason why.

My thoughts: I foolishly sat down to start reading Sea Creatures before work one morning, and it was a struggle to not call in sick. One again, Daniel's writing captured me from the opening page. It's the first print book to capture me with writing and charac…

The Backlist Book Club: The August 2013 pick is Half of a Yellow Sun

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The August 2013 Backlist Book Club selection is Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The votes this month were pretty close, with one exception: there was very little love for Kate Grenville's The Idea of Perfection. Admittedly, that title is perhaps the least well-known of the four. Here's the full voting breakdown:
Half of a Yellow Sun 38%Small Island 31%On Beauty 23%The Idea of Perfection 8%Half of a Yellow Sun won the Orange Prize (now Baileys Prize for Women's Fiction) in 2007 and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2006.
Here's how The Backlist Book Club works: You have all month to read the book. After reading last month's pick later than anticipated, I actually enjoyed having the opportunity to discuss the title before reviewing it. I haven't decided if I'd like to review it before or after the discussion, so stay tuned. On Saturday, August 31, I'll host a discussion of the book here. The Twitter hashtag is #Ba…