July 29, 2012

Classic Romance/Modern Twist

Anne Fortier
Narrated by Cassandra Campbell
16 discs, 20 hours

This book hit the wrong nerve with me from the very beginning. I kept reading because I had an audiobook copy (so no effort, basically), and I got it in order to write a review. In the end, I'm glad I finished it, but I didn't necessarily like it. There are a few spoilers in this review, so if you feel you'd like to read the book and judge for yourself, please skip to the last paragraph where I give my recommendations. 

The story is about a modern awkward twenty something girl, Julie, with a twin sister, Janice (who is nothing but a cheesy cliche), whose parents had died when they were quite young, living in Italy. Since that time, and as far back as they can clearly remember, they'd lived in the States with their great aunt, Rose and a 'handy man' Umberto (can't find the spelling anywhere, so forgive me if it's incorrect). After the death of their aunt, Julie is given the task to go back to Siena, Italy to find/protect the family treasure. 

Obviously, from the title, you can discern that there is a connection between this book and Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet. The play (in the story) is based on actual historic families and two forbidden lovers. The story is split in two for most of the book, one side being Julie's quest in the present, and the other is the story that unfolds in the documents her mother left for her, recounting the 'true' story of Romeo Marescotti and Giulietta Tolomei from 1340 AD (If you like books with parallel stories, try The Bone Garden by Tess Gerrison. LOVED that one.). I did like the split in this story, but only because the story taking place in 1340 was infinitely more interesting than the modern plot. 

I think most of my problem was with the narration of the story. Cassandra Campbell reads the book, and though the two modern twins grew up in Virginia, she only very rarely drops into a southern twang, and then it's usually on one or two words, and then it disappears again. Also, every time she read an Italian word or name, she'd launch straight into an Italian accent, no matter who was speaking it. Irk. Personal pet peeve perhaps. 

This problem seemed to be a theme, however, as the writing and characters all experienced this inconsistency. I think the dialogue between Julie and Janice is the best example. Janice's character is the worst, because although Julie explains in detail how evil/selfish/greedy Janice is by nature, she is constantly flip-flopping between snarky bitch and 'genuinely' concerned with her sister's choices. Actually she flip flops between every emotion she is allowed to portray in this book and snarky bitch. It's as if Anne Fortier kept forgetting who Janice was supposed to be, and added smart ass remarks in editing or something. It felt very disconnected. And by the end of the book Julie and Janice are BFFs. Really? That conclusion doesn't seem reasonable from what was laid out for us in the first few chapters.

The relationship between Julie (modern descendant of Juliet) and Alessandro (modern descendant of Romeo) is absolutely schizophrenic. One night they hate each other, the next they're flirting, the next she is suspicious of him again, running away terrified, then they're back to falling in love before she finds out something more and is suspicious again and runs away. Over and over and over. Most of the time Julie had a surge of enamored emotions toward Alessandro, it wasn't when he was next to her, it was when she found out something about him from somewhere else. It didn't feel real. It didn't feel like these two modern people were meant for each other. It didn't feel like anything special was happening between them at all. 

Above all, the most annoying thing about the two girls, Julie and Janice, though it isn't mentioned TOO often, is that they are after a fortune. They both assume, once their Aunt Rose died, that they would each inherit quite a large sum of money to pay off their debts. Julie goes to Italy expecting to find a fortune their mother left for her, and is completely unappreciative of the historical documents she found, even though she had apparently been obsessed with the play Romeo and Juliet for as long as she could remember. It seems to me someone like that would consider a journal recounting the true story of Romeo and Juliet to be a priceless treasure, not a means to an end. 

Now, I don't have much of a background with Shakespeare (which I regret, and hope to remedy), and I've only read pieces of Romeo and Juliet in lit classes, but I do know the gist of the tragedy. This is why, I think, I enjoyed the 1340 version of events. I'd be interested to find out if or how much research Fortier did on the pre-Shakespeare story, to see how much she molded to fit her own means. (One more complaint, then I'm done! How is it that all of the objects that play a part in the 1340 chain of events survive to be found by the characters in the modern plot? I find that highly unlikely). 

While there were some things that just seemed a little too convenient, and most of the plot 'ah-ha's were simply misunderstandings, the story was, at least, interesting. I liked the scenes with the modern artist character Maestro *something, I totally forgot his name*. I imagined his workshop as dark, dusty, and warm. A place you could sit down and have a cup of tea surrounded by beauty, history, and mystery. He may be my favorite character (I know, how could I have forgotten his name then?). 
Also, I enjoyed learning about the details of their mother's journey, which you don't begin to learn about until the very end of the book. And of course, the bit of romance there was between modern Romeo and Juliet, just before going to the weird party of Alessandro's god-mother's. (Huge Spoiler! Though seriously, if she's a 25 year old virgin, she is not going to just sleep with this guy she's known a week and isn't even sure she can trust!). 

Overall, I think this book is a little bit of a shame, I think it could have been a whole lot better with just a little more time, and some intense editing, because the story itself is very good, and a great concept. I would recommend this book to women who like historic-ish fiction and don't mind whiny, at times unreasonable characters, which so many modern lit (especially romance) stories contain. The plot does eventually all tie together, it is just the middle that is a little messy. It is a light, semi-fast paced, and eventually endearing story. If you aren't easily annoyed by cheesy dialogue, then I think you could enjoy it. Also, I recommend a printed version. The audiobook really just didn't do it for me. 

Until Next Time!

July 22, 2012

Animal Tales

Love Is the Best Medicine
Dr. Nick Trout

I have a confession to make: I received this book for review from a goodreads.com giveaway (see what books are currently available for giveaway here), sometime last year, and I just now got around to reading it. I am an animal lover through and through, so I was sort of saving this one for a rainy day. In my experience, reading about animals of any kind usually brings me to tears (Where the Red Fern Grows is one of my all time favorites!). I haven't been in the mood that I could handle the emotional bomb that is animal literature, so this book waited for me on the shelf...

Until this week :-) Love is the Best Medicine is a memoir by a veterinarian at Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston. Trout wrote a book before this, Tell Me Where it Hurts, which I have not read, but is essentially a walk-through of 24 hours in the life of a high tech veterinarian. Love is the Best Medicine includes some modern animal medicine technologies and procedures, but with this book Trout describes two dogs who have changed his outlook on not only his profession, but his personal philosophies as well. A young Min Pin named Cleo and an old but energetic rescued Cocker Spaniel named Helen are the dogs who changed his perspective, and will live forever in the pages of his book. 

I've never read a book from the perspective of a veterinarian before, and it is definitely interesting to see even a little part of 'the other side'. One thing I am learning more and more as I get older, is that no matter what job someone has, they are still just people, and every person is prone to the same things that I am. Doctors make mistakes, judges, architects, and chemists all make mistakes. I do not understand why people can get so upset about getting a large bill from a doctor (and I understand that the money doesn't just go to the doctor, there are a lot of issues with pharmaceutical companies monopolizing things and whatnot), but being a doctor is a hard job, every single day, and they worked long and hard to get there. If you think about your own life, and even your own schooling...how much have you forgotten from your classes and school books? When you go to see a doctor, you expect him/her to remember everything he has ever learned about medicine PLUS keep up with all the new research/technology in the medical industry, because you want to stay as healthy as you can for as long as you can, and that is what you're paying for. Also, disease and medical ailments are not easy to identify, especially because everyone's body chemistry and anatomy is slightly different. that.job.is.hard. And personally, I am happy to pay a doctor or dentist as much as it takes, because when it comes down to it, the chances of them saving my life are a lot higher than me being able to save myself. 

Yikes, I find myself straying from the topic here...

The book was okay. It is about 250 pages and I read it in three week days (I mention week day, because I have a full time job, so I think that gives you a better estimate of how much time I spent reading it), so it went really quickly. I didn't find myself completely drawn into the story, though there were a few hilarious moments, and a few touching ones, and yes, I did cry - twice. The writing was a little rough around the edges, and I can't pinpoint why that is. I guess it just wasn't very emotional, although emotions/feeling were discussed, it just didn't resonate with me as deeply as I've been moved by animal stories before.

It was a nice light read, and not too heart wrenching. If you like to read about pet stories or behind the scenes medical type things, I recommend this one - I probably won't be reading it again, though. Also, I find it curious that both of his books have bulldogs on the covers, but there was no bulldog in this book (can't speak for the other one). They sure are cute though!

Speaking of dogs...here's mine!
Meet Molly
Peeking from behind a mirror...
Miss Molly and Me (I).

Happy Reading Everyone!

July 19, 2012

Medieval English Monarchy

The Lady of the Rivers
Philippa Gregory
Narrated by Bianca Amato
Historical Fiction
To buy Amazon - Barnes & Noble

I checked this audio-book out from the library thinking that I probably would not even end up listening to it. Usually I tend to lean more towards shorter books, and this one was 15 discs, and it sounded like an old medieval/fantasy story, something I normally wouldn't read. I'm not sure what compelled me to check it out ultimately. And it was sheer laziness that led me to renew it twice (that's six weeks for my library district), before ever popping a disc into my computer at work to give a listen. I'm grateful now that I did.

The book captivated me from the beginning. A young noble girl from France crosses paths with Joan of Arc before she is tried and burned at the stake for heresy. This girl possess 'gifts' from being of the line of a water goddess, Melucina (Mel-You-See-Nah. The worst part about reviewing audio-books is not being able to spell the odd words/names. I try!), and realizes very early, from her exposure to Joan, that powerful women are not welcome in the world of men. The girl, Jacquetta, is married off to a Duke of England who is occupying France, the Duke of Bedford. He is an old man, whose wife had died, and marries Jacquetta because he has heard of her gifts, not for love. He is a man who has hired herbalists, scholars, and alchemist on his quest for the Philosopher's Stone, and thinks marrying a young virgin with gifts of foresight will be the key to his quest. War takes up most of the Duke's time, and Jacquetta is left mostly in the care of his most trusted squire, Richard Woodville (real name Richard Wydeville), with whom she eventually falls in love with and marries (after her old man of a husband dies, of course). Easily the most enjoyable part of the story - Jacquetta and Richard had fourteen children together, they obviously loved each other very much! Because Richard is so far below her station, they have to marry in secret before notifying the English court, because the noble men were planning another arranged marriage for Jaquetta. In those times people were always married in order to ensure allies or strengthen bonds between families/countries, which is why Jacquetta married the Duke in the first place. At this point the young King of England, Henry VI, is arranged to marry Jacquetta's cousin from France, Margaret of Anjou, and Jacquetta is called to court to be her lady in waiting. This is where the story really starts.

The most fascinating part of this story, to me, is that every character in this book is based off of real history, real lords and ladies of 1400s England (here is the wiki page, we're looking at Henry VI in the 1400s). It is highly fictionalized, for in fact, there is no way to know exactly what happened so far back, especially because so much was hidden from the common knowledge of the people, but Philippa Gregory does a fantastic job weaving the characters in and out of each other's stories, and filling in the gaps. I even looked up these old English monarch's on Wikipedia, just to see how much of the story were actual events. Turns out, all the major plot points are absolutely in the historical record. All of Jacquetta's and Richard's fourteen children, the territories won and lost, and even the rumor that Queen Margaret's only son was not born of the King, but of a Duke, and advisor to the King.

The narrating was excellent. Amato did a wonderful job of changing the pitch and tambre of her voice for each character, none of which were too garishly overdone. I consider it a good thing when I sit here at my keyboard unable to think of anything that really stood out about the narration; Amato allowed the story to be the story, which is the best thing a narrator can accomplish. There were very few instances of foreign words in the text, but where they were they were perfectly done. The only thing at all I can think is that the entire book was done in an English accent, where the main character, Jacquetta, and the Queen, who plays a huge role in the book, were both French. But honestly, that is only a technicality.

For some reason, this book captivated me more than most. I was sucked wholeheartedly into this story, and these characters, and this bit of history (no matter how embellished). I think I especially liked it because the history is so old, and so generally unknown (by me anyway, I know nothing about medieval monarchy). Frankly, I cannot wait to read another of Philippa Gregory's books, I'm just uncertain which to turn to next. That reminds me! This book is actually part of a series called The Cousin's War, and The Lady of the Rivers is book three in that series. I'm almost scared to go back and read The Red Queen and The White Queen, the first two books of the series, because from what I understand, they both deal with events after where The Lady of the Rivers leaves off, and also, I'm afraid I won't be able to stay quite as interested if I am reading words like "Duke of Bedford", "Dower to Duchess", and "Edmund, Duke of Sommerset" over and over again all over the pages. I think having this book read to me was half of the magic. At folks, it was magic.

Happy Reading Everyone!

July 17, 2012

Generational Seacoast Life

Michael Crummey
Folklore Fiction
To Buy Amazon

I’m not sure what drew me to this book. It doesn’t have an intricate or telling cover, and the title doesn’t give much insight to what it names. For some reason, I saw it on display halfway across the library, and checked it out without a single thought. This book and I were meant to be (don’t you guys sometimes feel that way?).

Galore is a wide-spanning all-encompassing book, and it's hard to summarize in just a few sentences, so I've gone the other route, hardly explaining at all! When people asked me what my book was about when they caught me reading it, I’d generally say “a small coastal town in Canada," which is true, but doesn't do it much justice.

First and most of all, I’d like to talk about the writing. There are books that may span a summer, or a winter – a simple season of character development and transformation. Some entire books use 500 pages to describe a series of events that happened in only a few days, or even moments. Galore is a 300 page book that spans six generations in two parts. Michael Crummey grew up in the Newfoundland/Labrador area of Canada (the Atlantic coast), which is the setting for this book. He obviously knows the area, the lifestyle, and the folklore of his home, and it shines through in the story. Stylistically, he used sparse and stark language, and in places one sentence can progress the story through an entire season. There were details, but not every detail. Everything was tastefully done.

To me, writing a story of this magnitude would be just overwhelmingly complex. How do you describe everyone in a community, their relationships with everyone else in the communiy, the progression of the town through time, keep the reader interested, and still lead up to a conclusion that includes none of the characters you just spent the first half of the book detailing?? Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m afraid you will have to find this book yourself to answer that question, because I promise you it works out to a beautiful conclusion that adheres the two halves of the story together.

I love the way things are revealed about the characters, but still there is always a mystery behind each person. That quality almost makes you feel, as a reader, that you are a member of this community - where certain things are made public, and some things stay behind doors closed tight. I also loved that it’s the story as much about the people as the town growing within it. From the earliest beginnings in the story, we hear of the first settlers of Paradise Deep, King-Me Sellers and Devine’s Widow, how their families expand, and how the communities transform from a few shanties on the coast to having a school house, a church, a hospital, etc. 

I realize this doesn't tell you much about the story, I know, and I apologize. The thing is, the book is mostly details and relationship ties that are hard to explain without fear of accidentally starting my own novel right here in this post! Basically the catalyst of this story is this - a whale is found beached after a hard season of fishing, so everyone is convinced this beached whale is a miracle that has saved their lives through the winter. As they are tearing through the animal (after letting it die of it's own accord), a man crawls out, stark naked, unable to speak, reeking of fish, and white as a ghost. 

In short, I greatly enjoyed reading this book. I have a book that may be a little similar on my shelf, We, The Drowned, also a multi-generational sea adventure book (any of you read it??), and I'm very excited, and somehow nervous, to read it. I hope a few of you will go out and find Galore,  or I hope, at least, that the next time each of you goes to a library or a book store, a book reaches out and grabs you as Galore did to me. It's worth listening to those instincts (usually)!

Happy Reading Everyone!

July 12, 2012

Book Vs Movie: A Steampunk Adventure

The Golden Compass

Philip Pullman
Young Adult
Fantasy Adventure
(movie information below)

The Golden Compass is part one of a young adult trilogy (The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass are the titles of the other two installments). I first began my journey with this story in middle school, when my best friend, also an avid reader, suggested I read an old scruffy paperback copy of hers.

The story gripped me immediately: a young tomboy orphan girl, Lyra, who resides in a renowned college in Oxford but runs the streets as a gypsy, is longing to go on an adventure to the North, a land of ice bears and mystery. She gets a chance when a beautiful and sophisticated woman comes to visit the college, Mrs. Coulter. Coulter recruits the young girl to be her assistant, reasoning with the master of the college that a young girl simply cannot be raised by a bunch of old men. Meanwhile, children all over Lyra’s world have been disappearing unexpectedly, never to be seen again. Before Lyra departs with Mrs. Coulter, the master of Jordan College gives her a valuable relic, the Golden Compass (also referred to as an Aletheometer), with instructions never to tell anyone she has it – he also mentioned that it had belonged to Lyra’s uncle, Lord Asriel, who was absent, exploring in the North.  After a whirlwind of makeovers and shopping, Lyra’s sense of adventure rears it's head, and she decides to sneak away from Mrs. Coulter and take the Golden Compass to Lord Asriel.

In between the lines of this simple seeming adventure are heavy themes that can either be taken at face value as part of the story, or as a sort of commentary on humanity, religion, and science in our own world. The plot is riddled with interesting characters that keeps excitement up, and keeps kids interested. Things like Armored Bears, Gyptians who reside on longboats, Witches who age very slowly and do not feel the cold (well, they feel it, but can ignore it), and a feisty aeronaut (what we would call a Hot Air Balloon man) fill the pages with endearing and sometimes freighting eccentricities. I highly recommend this series to anyone middle school level and older. I'm talking full grown men could enjoy this series, because as I said, the themes resonate throughout humanity.

A movie was made of The Golden Compass in 2007 based on the novel, directed by Chris Weitz and starring Nicole Kidman (Mrs. Coulter), Daniel Craig (Lord Asriel), and Dakota Blue Richards (who plays Lyra).

I was excited to see the movie as soon as I heard it was coming out (I think I first saw the preview in the theater when I went to see the remake of The Poseidon Adventure, called simply Poseidon), since I cherished the books so much growing up. On the part of Hollywood, I think it was a good idea to make the first installment of this adventure into a movie; not only is this book a great foundation for a larger adventure spanning the universe and many creatures, but it is well rounded enough to be able to stand alone and still make a great movie. There were many changes, and a lot cut out, but the movie, in my opinion, doesn't suffer much from it.

The biggest sort of difference I felt between the two, is the demographic they were made for. The movie felt like a kids/family movie, while I never really got that impression by the books. Obviously they were not written for adult readers, but the books didn't necessarily read as children's, or even young adult. When I first read them in middle school, it was a challenge to adjust to the type of words Pullman used. For example, he used a special character 'æ' in a word that appeared very often throughout all three books. If I decided to read them again tomorrow or even five years from now, I wouldn't feel like I was reading a children's book, but I will always feel that The Golden Compass movie is geared towards younger kids, even though (while played down) there re some scary occurrences.

I think one thing the movie sacrificed is a lot of the prominent themes that make this series (especially this first book) enjoyable for adults. The story is jam packed with commentary about the treatment of children, the over protectiveness of establishments of power over citizens, religious commentary, and the metaphysical. The movie barely scratches the surface of half of these, and doesn't convey the urgency of understanding the concepts. What does shine through from the book are the themes of loyalty, friendship, and the warning of having blind faith/trust in something/someone (I am using a lot of slashes in this review!), which are more childish. I can understand why the movie makers had to choose which themes to include, and which to enhance further...it's just simply something you have to do when adapting novel to screenplay.

One thing the movie did very well was the steampunk aspect. Gyrocopters, Zeppelins, clockwork spies...it gives you the impression of the differences between our world and Lyra's. With a movie you get a lot of chances to get more creative and literally show the audience they're in another world. I thought it was very well done, and not over the top, which could be tricky. Also I'd like to say that I LOVE the steampunk concept and I'm very excited that it's becoming bigger and more popular in today's market (though not too popular I hope, vampire romance fiction anyone??).

Of course, if you are reading this trying to decipher whether or not it will be worth your time to read the book(s), or if the movie will suffice, I beg you to do the reading. I think I like the second two books better than the first, which doesn't always happen with a trilogy. I don't think they are planning on making The Subtle Knife or The Amber Spyglass into movies, in fact, they changed the ending of the first book in the movie, and I'm not sure how they'd recover that for a sequel...but never mind that! It doesn't matter because you are all going to go read the books instead!

Winner: Book!

Until next time,
Happy Reading Everyone!

June 30, 2012

Another Religious Adventure

The Book of Names
Jill Gregory & Karen Tintori
To Buy Amazon - Barnes & Noble

Here's another review for Audiobook Week (an occasion I didn't know about this until I stumbled upon a twitter hashtag on Tuesday). The book is seven discs, (8 hours), and is narrated by Christopher Graybill.

It took me awhile to warm up to Graybill's reading, as it is with nearly every audiobook I listen to. Generally my first thought on track one is something like 'this guy/gal sounds so weird, how did he/she get this job?!' but about five minutes in everything is fine, and the voice simply becomes part of the story (except in one or two very bad cases). It catches my interest when an audiobook includes some kind of audio detail that you don't always hear, and in The Book of Names, it was sort of an echo microphone effect used when characters were either thinking to themselves or conversing through a telephone. It was a little odd sounding, but it was very effective within the story. The book is broken down into very small 'chapters', usually jumping points of view as the action sets up, typical thriller set up. I've seen some audio books that use multiple narrators to cover the voices, but that wasn't the case here. Graybill used variants of his vocal range and regional accents to cover the entire character spectrum. Some of the voices seemed a little exaggerated, but there was an international cast of characters, so it worked pretty well.

It is said that there are 36 souls in each generation that are capable of complete spiritual enlightenment. If any of them die prematurely, leaving less than 36 righteous souls at any time, the world becomes more chaotic. If all of them should die, the world as we know it, comes to an end. These names were recorded by Adam from the word of God, and were passed down until eventually the Book of Names was lost in time...

I liked the story - the fast pace and interesting historical questions made the time pass quickly while I listened at work. I have a love of old cultures and traditions, so many of the subjects discussed in the book intrigued me: Kabbalah, Tarot, Zodiac, biblical references, the Tree of Life, and of course, any secret societies (there is a bit of a conspiracy theorist in me)! I have little to no knowledge about Judaism, so a lot of the content was new to me, and I'm not completely certain what was fact and what was fiction, but it doesn't detract from the story.

The plot was very DaVinci Code esque:

In the DaVinci Code, Robert Langdon, a world-renowned symbologist (a person who studies symbolism throughout time and cultures), who teaches class at Harvard University, is sought out to help solve the murder of the Louvre curator. After analyzing the body and teaming up with a police cryptographer, Langdon begins an incredible journey of puzzles, history, and alternate biblical conspiracies.

In The Book of Names, David Shepard falls off a roof when he is young, and has a near death experience. Ever since that time, names fill his mind, names he's never heard, people he's never met - and he records them in a journal. We find out that these names are the same names in the fragments recovered from Adam's Book of Names. Unfortunately, a dark, evil, secret society, the Gnosios (I think, I only listed remember? The word derives from Gnostic) also finds out that David knows these names; names they have been desperately trying to recover for generations in order to destroy the world as we know it, to have it born anew.

The plots are fairly similar, but one thing really jumped at me. In DaVinci Code, Langdon is the teacher. He goes through his adventures with a knowing and calculating mind, and all the tools he needs as his adventure progresses. Shepard, on the other hand, knew nothing of any religious affiliations or even anything strange - for all he knew, the names were just a slightly strange side effect from a nearly fatal accident when he was a kid. I mean, his degree was in political science (his dad was a senator), and neither of those facts came in handy for him, except for one character he met through his father. I'm not sure which is more annoyingly convenient; having a character that 'happens' to know everything he needs to survive, or a character that depends on the people he 'happens' to meet along the way - I think the latter, because how could he have known who to trust? If he had let the wrong sort of person know about his gift, the story could have concluded with the end of the world.

As it was, David Shepard happened to hear one of the names on the news one day as he was writing it down - the woman had been murdered. Once the initial shock passed, he began searching for the other names, finding many of them also deceased. Unsure of what to do next, he asks his best friend and colleague, a professor of religion, who refers him to a Rabbi, and the adventure goes from there. Before he sees the Rabbi, however, he received a call from his step-daughter, whose mother had just remarried. The new husband adopted the daughter, changing her name to something very familiar to David...one of the names on his List...the list of people who mysteriously end up dead.

June 26, 2012

A Humorous Bite of Life

Tina Fey

I am a huge fan of memoirs. I’ve read only a handful at this point, but I’ve enjoyed them all quite thoroughly (small insight into my life? I have never been able to spell ‘thoroughly’ without spell check – I know, really Emma??). I found Bossypants as an audiobook in my local library, and listened to it while diligently working, as I do.

I found Bossypants much more well-rounded than I expected. I’m not sure why I’m always surprised by the validity of books with cheesy/humorous titles, besides the same reasons other people have for the same thought. I was aware of how popular the book was, which is usually a turn off for me, but by now the hype has died down about it, and it was sitting there so politely on the library shelf on display. The rest, my bookish followers, is history.

The Bossypants audiobook is, as the best ones are, narrated by the author. The book is about 5 ½ hours on 5 discs and includes a PDF file for embarrassing/milestone photographs. One of the best things about this audiobook, that differs from other audiobooks that I’ve read so far, is that Fey recognized her readers as ‘listeners’ and changed some things to be more suited to her audience. Brilliant. She often related that there was a corresponding picture to the anecdote currently being discussed to be found in the PDF, and the original SNL skits are actually played for us to hear in the chapter about Tina’s ‘Sarah Palin days’.

I was surprised at how much I liked Tina Fey. I’d heard of her before, I knew enough about her to know she was on Saturday Night Live (which I’ve only seen skits of on youtube), and to recognize her by sight (she was in Mean Girls, for instance, but did you know she wrote the screenplay too?), but beyond that...clueless. When writing about her life, she made the awkward and light-hearted things laugh out loud funny, but kept the serious things serious, which brought the well-rounded feeling overall. She wrote a lot about growing up and becoming a woman, into her improve days, and how all that has helped her in her life today. The part I enjoyed the most were the bits about her daughter and parenthood (both the funny and serious parts), and I loved how honest she was throughout (no problem spelling that one, by the way!). The book was closed (I don’t consider this a spoiler because it is a memoir after all, and she is a celebrity) by her internal debate on whether or not to have another baby, and how at the end of the day, it was her decision, no matter how many things hung in the balance (possibly the difference between sanity and the alternative).

The only thing I wasn’t so sure about is the title. The book led up to her show, 30 Rock, of which I guess she is ‘The Boss’, but she didn’t necessarily write about being the boss. She did talk about the inner-workings of the TV show a bit, and how she is involved in the many aspects of it….I guess when I think of ‘Boss’, it’s the managing people part of it that I think of. I didn’t really get much of that from the book here, which is not necessarily a bad thing, just something I noticed. And 30 Rock is after all, only a small piece in the book that is Tina Fey’s life.

I would highly recommend this book to everyone, in every walk of life – after all, who doesn’t need a good laugh? This book was energetic and refreshing and a joy to read. I’m seriously considering purchasing (the audiobook version) for myself to keep listening to forever, but the price is not quite right for this point in my life ($20!). [This is the reason all the audiobooks I review come from the library!] My alternative is the paperback version. But if you can get your hands on the audiobook version, I’m telling you, you won’t be sorry!

Excuse me, everyone, while I go look up how much “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me” by Mindy Kaling is on NookBook!

June 18, 2012

Library Love Flashback

This, quite obviously, is not my typical book review - more of a bookish rambling inspired by my trip to the library today. As I'm sure I've mentioned before, there is a library branch located just across the street from my work building. Since I just got my license a month ago (and still don't have a car, so my boyfriend carts me around), I've spent a lot of time there in limbo between my work and my ride.

I got my first library card when I was five years old. That is the earliest you can get one in my neck of the woods. My mother was good like that :-) I remember being so excited that I could finally check out books with my own name. Also, how about a shout out for libraries around the nation that have amazing sections for kids, which don't only have amazing books at every reading level, but adventurous and comfy places to curl up and read them. Some of my fondest memories of the library are from back in those days. 

Anyway, I've always loved to read, and all of my books came from the library when I was growing up. I don't think it actually occurred to me, other than when the book wagon came to school, that you could buy the same books they had at the library. Not to say we didn't have books at home, I remember we got The Berenstain Bears books by mail twice a month. I just don't remember ever in my life thinking 'Hey, that was a really good book, I want to buy it and put it on a shelf'. I guess I just always figured that any particular book would go back to the library shelf and wait for me until I was ready to read it again.

I don't remember many of the books I read from the children's section way back when, but I actually remember the day I graduated to the young adult section. I think it had been quite some time since our last trip to the library, I might have been 10 or 11. The branch we were in had the kids section entrance on one side once you walk in the door, and the adult section on the other side. Well, I must have been feeling a little old for the kid section, so I went with my mom to the adult section. I can't remember if she suggested it, or I found it on my own, but there was a separate room in the back of the adult section for young adult books. It was perfect. There were several shelves, and it felt isolated, like my own secret library. I think at that time I was still a little young for some of the themes in those books, and I can't remember any of them very clearly. 

Jump forward and I'm about 15. A new library had been built not far from where I was going to school, and I went there frequently. The young adult shelves there hold the books that I start to remember reading. These books I fell in love with. I remember standing there looking at the shelves, usually in the A-G section and just looking over the titles over and over. I remember being diplomatic about some of my book choices. Sometimes I would pick a book by an author there was only one book by. Sometimes I would pick a book by the most interesting or colorful cover. Sometimes I would pick by the merit of the title. Sometimes I would deliberately leave my comfort zone of shelves A-G and pick a book from the other shelves H-Z...though for some reason I never liked doing this (even though I found some good books there too). A few titles I can remember, but I never learned the authors. Armageddon Summer, Someone Like You, Stargirl, East. Mostly I remember the content. Sometimes it haunts me that I will probably never know what book some of these ideas in my head came from. So many of them changed the way I read and look at the world. 

I remember for a short phase I would go to the D section in every young adult section of every library I went in and picture where my future books would fit in with all those others (it has always been a distant dream of mine to be among the library titles). Usually it was near the bottom or way up high, or in between unattractive books. I think that was the driving force behind my strange book picking habits. What about those authors, I would think, they worked just as hard and as long on their books, and most people don't even look that high, or that low. I made a point to be the person who did. 

That feeling, the feeling of perusing the shelves, knowing the perfect book is out there if you just look for the right thing, that's what I had again this afternoon. Most other days I go and plop into a chair to read the book I brought with me. It's been a long time since I just wandered the shelves looking through everything, considering titles, authors, covers, and plot summaries. It seems like lately I don't read a book unless I've seen a high rating of it somewhere, or someone else I know is reading it. It's easy to forget while clicking from one link to the next on the internet that it's the books in between, the ones hiding between the hits on the shelves, that can be the most valuable treasures. 

Hopefully this idea sticks with you, and on your next trip to the library you will take a second look at some of the books you've never considered before. Chances are, you'll find some really good stuff hidden in plain sight. 

Happy Reading Everyone.

These pictures are not of my local libraries, but random libraries scattered throughout the internet ;-)

June 9, 2012

These Ancient Greeks Are Just Like Us!

Unknown Translator

Well this is a first for me - I have never reviewed a play before on this blog, in fact, I haven't really read any plays before (save for one or two in high school). But after watching my friend Dean's video book review on it, I decided it may be worth a go. It took only an evening for me to read it on my Kindle (94 pages) and this morning I watched it in play form on youtube (which I highly recommend after reading). 

I downloaded the free version from the Kindle store, which was 'converted from its physical edition to the digital format by a community of volunteers.' (from the book description), but unfortunately I was unable to find which translation it was taken from. The version I read had a list of characters in the front of the book, but was not separated into acts and scenes as a standard play would be. I think it was especially helpful after reading this play to watch it being performed, as many of the parts were declared simply 'women', 'men', 'Spartans', 'old men', and 'Athenians'. One other critique of this version is the over the top lyrical lines. This was obviously not written in English, so even though it was poetic in Ancient Greek, I would rather have more exact translations to really get the meaning behind the lines. If I ever end up purchasing this play for my library, I will hunt around for a better translation.


Lysistrata is an example of a timeless piece of work, been written and performed before the time of Christ, it still resonates with us today. It is a Classical Greek Comedy, set during the Peloponnesian War (civil war between Athens and Sparta which lasted from 431 BC to 404 - 27 years). At the start of the play, the women had been suffering the absence of their husbands for years. One woman, Lysistrata, thinks she knows a way to end the war, and calls a meeting at the Acropolis to discuss her tactics. 

Lysistrata is hesitant at first to reveal her strategy to end the war, as it would prove a difficult trial for both the women and their husbands. Her plan is to lock themselves into the Acropolis to ensure the celibacy of the women, wives of soldiers and powerful men. Hilarity ensues as the play unfolds - some women try to sneak out of the meeting, making up ridiculous excuses, to which Lysistrata is not fooled. As time passes in the play the men becoming increasingly sex starved (not to mention the women), are all walking around with massive erections by the end of the play, begging for a resolution. 

Many critics have dismissed this play because of it's phallic nature, but you can't deny the themes we can still sympathize with today. I don't know of how many jokes I've heard on movies and television of women trying to manipulate men in the same ways described in this play. Thought the concept of this play is humorous on the surface, Lysistrata's motivations were pure. She and her comrades were quickly aging while their husbands were away, dwindling down their child bearing years, for what? In one line, Lysistrata is arguing with the magistrate about the issue. She offers that while the men also age, coming back with heads of grey hair, they are still able to take a young ripe wife if he so chooses, while women only have so many fertile years to bear before 'shriveling' up. 

It is for these timeless themes that I believe Lysistrata has endured the centuries, and will continute to resonate with readers for many to come. Before Dean's review video popped up on my youtube feed, I had never heard of this play, so thanks Dean! I look forward to reading and reviewing many more plays, and also some more ancient greek stuff, which I always enjoy :-)

If you'd like an extremely quick and hilarious summary of this story, click here!

Happy Reading Everyone!

May 1, 2012

Reread: Merchant Princes

The Merchant Prince Series
Charles Stross
Science Fiction/Series
To Buy (Book One) Amazon - Barnes & Noble

I hate to continue writing posts few and far between, about books that really aren't that great.....but I just finished the first two books in The Merchant Prince Series by Charles Stross, and I'm just jumping back into a reading-all-the-time phase (so look for some more reviews coming up soon).

This is the second time I have started this series: once about five years ago (on a recommendation from my mother, who was recommended by a friend), and I got through book three, The Clan Corporate; and started them again last week, reading through books one and two, The Family Trade and The Hidden Family, respectively. 

The books have an interesting premise - a family who is genetically exclusive to a world walking ability that our main character happens to stumble upon early in the first book: The Family Trade. I admit, the first book captivated me, but finished with too many loose ends (as they do when it's part of a series eh?). The second book, however, tied up nearly every plot point that interested me from book one, so I feel no real desire to continue reading (in fact, I don't even remember what the third book is about from my first reading...everything I remembered about the books was from books one and two). 

The story starts in crisis, as many thrillers do, where Miriam Beckstein stumbles onto a corporate money laundering mess that gets her fired and on the run. Her mother then chooses this critical moment to pass down relics from her 'real' mother (Miriam was adopted), including a strange locket that she will soon find out is a passport to another world. What she doesn't know, is that there is a sophisticated mob of her own blood family members in that world, who end up kidnapping her and introducing her to the family. 

Miriam realizes that this new world is medieval in much of the politics and technologies, and she hopes to wean her aggressive family members off the drug circuit in her world, and onto pursuits of making a profit from advancing the new world into modern civilization. I assume this is what the rest of the six book series is about (book two adds many juicy details a plot twists, adding a convenient intermediate third world), though the writing didn't urge me to keep reading. 

To me, the story started to get dry with the backdrop of Miriam having to convince her drug cartel family members to drop the drug trade and invest in something more worthwhile. Though the conversation was varied, it seemed like getting their approval was all  Miriam thought about and talked about with all of the characters. She is a very driven person, and always seemed to know exactly what to do - this means either she was much more clear headed and logically thinking that I am, or that this woman was created in the mind of a man. Also, the politics and genetics of the family was explained to death, which I mostly skipped over...as a reader, all I cared about was which characters were able to world walk and which weren't, not particularly why

Basically, these are good books if you are looking for something to entertain you and make your mind work around inter-galactic phenomena. We all, at some point, hope to find a good long series of books we can really latch onto, because lets face it, it can be very difficult to find a good book these days. This series may be that for you, it just wasn't for me. Then again, as I said - I read them once and they were always in the back of my mind, had to read them again to scratch the itch of half-memories. 

Have any of you read this series? Am I missing much by stopping at two? Please let me know!

March 17, 2012

In honor of St. Patrick's Day

Hello Everyone,

I am an Irish girl - well I'm an American who is mostly Irish in ancestry, a fact I was quite proud of growing up, and I'm not even sure why. 

Now, I don't know about you guys, but I never knew why Saint Patrick's Day is celebrated, so I decided to look it up today. Lucky you guys, I did the research for us all! 

St. Patrick's Day has been celebrated for more than 1,000 years, and marks the anniversary of St. Patrick (March 17th, 461), the national apostle of Ireland. He is credited to bringing Christianity to Ireland. Legend has it he explained the Holy Trinity using the three leaves of a shamrock. Traditionally in Ireland, pubs were closed on March 17th, as it was a religious holiday, but in 1995 the government realized they could use the holiday as a tourism campaign - now over one million people gather in Dublin to partake in St. Patrick's Day celebrations in Dublin (the Mardi-Gras of Ireland!). Although it is an Irish holiday, it is celebrated in many countries including the United States (home of the biggest St. Patrick's Day Parades), Canada, Australia, Japan, Singapore, and Russia. 

In honor of the day, here are a few Limerick Poems :-)

A flea and a fly in a flue
We're imprisoned, so what could they do?
Said the fly, "Let us flee!"
"Let us fly!" said the flea
So they flew through a flaw in the flue

There once was a boy named Kyle,
who passed out in a pile,
"Shit" he said,
as the pigs were fed,
I must of been out for a while.

There was an old man with a beard
Who sad, 'tis just as I feared!
Four larks and wren,
Two owls and a hen,
Have all built their nests in my beard!'

My dad said there was once a lady
Who lived to one hundred and eighty
She only ate flies
Which she baked into pies
But I think this story's a bit shady

Einstein was exceedingly bright
And exceeded the speed limit of light
He set out one day in a relative way
And returned on the previous night

Now go out and drink some festive green beer tonight, there's time to read tomorrow! 

(All limerick poems from limerickpoems.org)

March 16, 2012

It's Been Awhile - New Book Review!!

It has been so long since my last post that I literally had to look at previous posts to get the format right.
So without further ado...

Corwin Ericson
Maritime/Island Fiction
To Buy Amazon - Barnes & Noble

For some reason, I have an absolute inexplicable attraction to books about the sea. Let me explain why this just may be the strangest thing about me. 

I live in Colorado. My family moved here when I was very young, and I cannot remember anything in my life before this place. I've been to the ocean twice (maybe three times, I can't really remember), and every time I went, I didn't enjoy it much. I hate seafood and sushi and the smell of fish. Yet, I am always intrigued by a story pertaining to a sea faring adventure - a voyage. It is this draw that made me pick up Swell.

The book was interesting. It wasn't the best story - in fact, parts of it were quite strange. The story revolves around one man, Orange Whippey, who lives on an island off the east coast called Bismuth. Basically the guy is a bum. He has no real job or real friends, everyone on the island is familiar because they've all known each other forever. He gets caught in a strange series of events involving a package/drug deal (sea gum is the drug...some kind of mouth numbing chew). Anyway, it's basically one unlikely thing after the next tangled in a web of almost over-defined characters, or at least overly-quirky.

Despite the large whale on the awesome cover of this novel, there is really only one whale in the story, and it is in the last fifth of the book. What it boils down to, is the perspective of two neighboring cultures (not Bismuths, but these other two people, and I still don't really know why they were on the island...) and their treatment of whales. The arguments are overly dialogued and stretch for pages at a time, but were the most interesting part for me. I'm an anthropology-loving kind of person, so even fictional peoples are interesting to me. One of the cultures breeds and herds whales in relative captivity, killing them for supply/food selectively through their breeding process. The other hunts whales in the wild, killing the strongest, oldest males - yet both cultures hold the whale in high revere. There is a lot of information packed into the character arguments, which can make it a little 'boring' to read, for want of a better word.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book - mostly because it fulfilled my maritime fascination, and I would recommend it to someone who enjoys similar themes. At times the writing did seem unskilled, but overall, and for a first novel, it really wasn't bad. I'd originally checked it out from the library, but I bought it on Amazon halfway through reading. I plan on expanding my maritime literature collection, and I consider this a good start :-)

Until Next Time....
Happy Reading Everyone...