Monday, August 24, 2009

Books up for grabs!

Lisa recently sent me Shanghai Girls by Lisa See and the memoir, Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah.

Lisa wrote up good reviews on these books already, so I won't repeat ... but I will add that it was a very interesting pairing - since these books overlapped a lot of the same history, but one was fiction and the other a non-fiction memoir. Personally, I really enjoy historical fiction, and actually learned quite a bit about Shanghai and Chinese history in general that I really just had no idea about. I preferred the story in Shanghai Girls (even if the ending was a bit abrupt), as the memoir was interesting, but rather dry and incomplete in parts.

So if anyone is interested in reading them now, just let me know!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Welcome to the crew!

We have a new contributor: Penelope Przekop, artist, author of the novel, Aberrations, and blogger of Aberration Nation. Check out this book review that Penelope wrote: Chick Lit vs. Wit Lit.

Welcome, Penelope!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Aberrations (a novel)

Aberrations by Penelope Przekop: Penelope is the author of a blog called Aberration Nation, which examines, discusses, and celebrates diversity. A while back, she approached me about interviewing me for a piece on her blog (you can find the three-part interview here, here, and here). Penelope is a cool and talented chick! In addition to blogging, she is an artist and novelist, and this, Aberrations, is her debut novel. It is the story of Angel Duet, a young woman who has narcolepsy and is searching for the truth about her mother's death, a woman who died before Angel ever got to know her and who has taken on mythic proportions for Angel. It is also a story about relationships and self-discovery. As an aspiring writer, I am always intrigued by the creative storylines and characters that authors are able to bring to life. This is a story worth reading!

My copy is up for grabs, so say the word if you'd like me to pass it along to you.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Movie Review: The Time Traveler's Wife

Last night a friend and I went to see The Time Traveler's Wife, as we had both read the book. The movie seems to be getting not-so-great reviews by critics, but I have to say that I really enjoyed it. I thought the adaptation was very well done, and the actors were very believable.

The Time Traveler's Wife, a novel by Audrey Niffenegger, tells the story of a man who spontaneously hurtles back and forth in time due to a genetic anomaly, and the woman who loves him from the time she is a little girl and first encounters the time traveling stranger in the meadow where she plays. One the one hand, it's a sweet love story, but also frustrating, as it's difficult to imagine such a tortured existence for both the ever-disappearing man and the woman who loves him. I remember finding it difficult to keep track of timelines (and kept wondering how on earth the author came up with such a complicated plot - was she on acid?), but when I finally just surrendered and stopped trying to keep track of when in time exactly the current events were supposed to be taking place, I really enjoyed the story.

It's impossible, of course, to fit an entire book into a movie, so quite a bit is left out of the movie, but it still flows. I kept wondering, though, if someone who had not first read the book would enjoy the movie as much and understand exactly what was going on. I think it might be difficult, but maybe not.

If you read the book and enjoyed it, the movie is definitely worth seeing.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Bean Trees (a novel)

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver: I bought this book because I loved Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible so much. The Bean Trees was apparently her first novel, published more than twenty years ago.

This is the story of Taylor Greer, a girl who grew up poor in rural Kentucky and when in her early 20s decides to pull up stakes and drive a dilapidated Volkswagon across the country, making the decision to put down roots wherever the Volkswagon finally gives out. She ends up in Arizona, having acquired an abandoned American Indian child along the way. The Indian girl's story is heartbreaking, and Taylor develops attachments to other people with heartbreaking stories in Arizona, but really this is a story about resilience and happy endings. I liked the book more and more the more I read.

I love a book with a cryptic title, one that you go through the book wondering, "Why that title? What does it mean?" And then you come across a single passage, buried in the book, and suddenly the title makes perfect sense. I won't give it away - read it and find out for yourself!

There's already someone who wants this book, so I won't put it up for grabs, but I do recommend it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Without a Map (memoir)

Without a Map by Meredith Hall: I reviewed this book a while back here, and passed the book along to a friend. She read it and returned it to me today, so I'm putting it up for grabs again. It's really good.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


Anyone done this? Books on tape or CD or MP3 or whatever? I never have, but I'm seriously considering it. Mainly because my book club has chosen Twilight as an upcoming selection, and it's a book I've been resistant to forever. I had hoped to never have to read it (that, along with Harry Potter). I'm wondering if it might be easier to listen to it than to actually read it. Thoughts, opinions?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Karina Has Down Syndrome (non-fiction)

Karina Has Down Syndrome by Cheryl Rogers and Gun Dolva: I will say right off the bat that this book was a huge disappointment. I am still trying to figure out why it cost me $25+. I was expecting a pretty substantial hardcover memoir for that, but in reality it's a very thin paperback, just over 100 pages, that I finished in a couple of hours (I guess I should have paid more attention to the product description on Amazon).

I was initially intrigued by the book because an excerpt I read online indicated that Karina, the child with Down syndrome who is the subject of the book, was born at home two weeks before her due date. Since this was how Finn's life began exactly, I felt destined to read this book. While there are parts of the account that are moving, and I could certainly relate to some of the mother's expressed anguish, for the most part the book reads like a report or article - it all seems pretty detached although it is the mother's personal account. The book covers Karina's first six years - in just over 100 pages! - and it was only after I started reading that I realized she was born in 1990, so I had to keep reminding myself that so much has changed in the last almost 20 years for children born with Down syndrome.

So, did I do a good job of selling you on this book?! It's up for grabs if anyone wants it. And just think, it'll save you 25 bucks!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan (novel)

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan: In this debut novel set in post WWII Mississipi, Hillary Jordan writes convincingly in the six different voices of the main characters, who include a man bent on being a farmer, his lovelorn brother damaged in his soul by the war, his unwilling wife, a black tenant farmer, his wife, and their son who fought heroically in the war but comes home to the same old prejudices which dictate how a person is treated depending on the color of his or her skin. Set in the deep south in an era in which active racial hatred was very much alive, this novel tells the story of a white family trying to tame the land on which they live while quietly fighting their inner demons, and how they ultimately cause the destruction of the black tenant family eking out an existence on their land.

I was sucked into this story from the very first line and could hardly put it down; it took me four days to make my way through its 340 pages. The author writes so convincingly in both the male and female voices, as well as in white and black voices. It's hard not to like most of the characters, while still seeing their very realistic human flaws.

I really loved this book! I can't offer it up for grabs here, unfortunately, as it's the current reading selection of my book club, so I am obliged to pass it along to someone there. However, if you're looking for a good book to read, I highly recommend this one!