Thursday, August 30, 2012

30-Day Book Challenge - Day 30

Day 30 - Your Favorite Book of All Time

Here we are at the end - end of this challenge and nearing the end of summer. I tried to convince myself that I had something ... more... for this last question. My favorite book of all time should be Hemingway or Austen or Dumas or something like that. I mean - come on! I was an English major! But, I looked at my Top Ten on Shelfari and I looked at all of the favorites since then. And I thought - which of these do I know inside and out? Which will I never tire of? And, which would I read right now, without hesitation?

Harry Potter. All of them. My love for this series hasn't wavered since the start. I've read each book more times than I can count, and now that I own each book on audio - I've listened to them all several times as well. I know these books inside and out and yet - the magic of them never fades. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

30-Day Book Challenge - Day 29

Day 29 - A Book That Makes You Cry

Every. Single. Time. I do also get emotional whenever Cedric Diggory, Sirius Black and Dumbledore die in previous years. But this book - it kills me every time. First there's Snape. I start crying the moment his Patronus shows up as a doe. Then, when he dies and hands his memories over to Harry and we relive all of the years Snape loved Lily, the grief he felt when he lost her,... "Always." And then Lupin and Tonks! Fred Weasley! Right up to the very end when Harry scolds his son - Albus Severus. Oh man - I'm pretty much crying as I write this. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Broken Harbor - Tana French

Rating: 3 stars

While not quite on par with French's first three novels in the series, Broken Harbor still does not disappoint. It follows the brash cop, Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy, who makes appearances in French's third novel, Faithful Place. Kennedy hasn't worked a big case for two years, and the deaths of one family in the middle of Brianstown - a failed development in the middle of a place once known as Broken Harbor - gives him and his partner, Richie, the chance to get back on top. But, in true French fashion, Broken Harbor holds much more for Kennedy than this case. It's a place he visited as a child, that holds both happy and painful memories that he'll be forced to face.

As always, French's strength is her characters. Each one has always come alive for me, right off the page. The same is true for Mick Kennedy, his partner Richie and the rest of the minor characters in the novel. But, the first thing that caught me with French's debut novel, In the Woods, was how rich and vivid the language was. It wasn't just some crime novel - it was gorgeous. Even if i wasn't a fan of the main character - there was something beautiful about the way that book was written. Same goes for The Likeness and Faithful Place. But the beauty was missing here.

It makes me wonder if she's through with the Dublin Murder Squad. Will we see another book from her in this series, or will we get something completely new? Though I've loved reading the series and guessing who was coming next - I'd welcome something fresh from Tana with open arms.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

30-Day Book Challenge - Day 27

Day 27 - The Most Surprising Plot Twist or Ending

The back cover of my edition promised one of the most shocking conclusions in literary history. Given that this book came out in 1895, I was skeptical. What was shocking then would hardly bat an eye now. But - there isn't even anything that I've ever read that comes close to how shocking and disturbing it actually is! This book was my favorite of that year - and one of the most tragic, most controversial and yes - most shocking - books in literary history. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

30-Day Book Challenge - Day 26

Day 26 - A Book That Changed Your Opinion About Something

I read this book directly after I watched Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. Though represented differently and with vastly different opinions on the matter - the discussion is exactly the same. What I found more shocking than Global Warming: Fact or Myth - was my ability to immediately buy in to whatever books or movies are selling. I took An Inconvenient Truth to heart as a complete truth and not at all political/celebrity propaganda. 

And let me just say before the hippies come and kill me in my sleep - State of Fear isn't about being anti-earth, anti-global warming. It's about how many non-facts there are floating around out there in order to instill a fear of global warming. 

There's a chart that Al Gore shows in his movie, of rising CO2 levels. It's completely staggering, when Al Gore references it, how quickly we're killing our planet. That same chart shows up in State of Fear, except this time, we're given the entirety of it. The one Gore shows in the movie is a small section of the chart - chosen because of how extreme it seems out of context. 

State of Fear didn't exactly change my mind about how I think we should treat our planet - as I don't think it was meant to. But it did change the way I think about everything. It's the primary reason I read more non-fiction now than I ever did before. I'm searching for the truth of all things - not just the things that Leonardo DiCaprio wants to talk about. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

30-Day Book Challenge - Day 25

Day 25 - A Character Who You Can Relate to the Most

Jo March from Little Women. First and foremost, she's a reader and writer. She's smart, strong-willed and kind. But she also has trouble fitting in - with others and even, at times, within her own family. Her big mouth tends to get her into a lot of trouble. She has a ridiculous temper. And, she often feels boxed in and longs to spread her wings and fly. Still, despite these attributes, Jo never stops trying to be her best person.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Kingdom Come - Mark Waid, Alex Ross

Rating: 5 stars

This powerful graphic novel came to being out of two basic ideas: What would the world be like if the children and the grandchildren of superheroes turned out to be schmucks; and an idea raised in the Introduction by Elliot S. Maggin - "Why Must There Be a Superman?" As he explains, his own original idea had been that Superman realizes that in helping humankind, he is in fact hindering it.

The original Justice League has long since disbanded - following Superman into retirement and all but disappearing from the collective conscious. But their children and grandchildren have taken over - a race of metahumans intent on fighting each other with no regard to innocent bystanders or the impending destruction of the world. Sensing doom, Wonder Woman coaxes Superman with "Truth and Justice" and together, they reform the League. But it's clear that - even with the League - superheroes and humans alike have to change their paradigms, work together or face annihilation.

With this storyline and gorgeous artwork, Mark Waid and Alex Ross force us to realize that the ordinary can be extraordinary, and the super can be extremely flawed. We must learn to grow and change, and to offer these lessons to the next generation.

From the introduction: "The heroes of fable and fact to whose virtue we all aspire, are not only colorful people living vivid lives; they traditionally understand the value of human life in all its places and conditions. But real-life heroes, unlike many of the icons we have created, also understand human dignity and human immortality, and these concepts are lacking in, for example, Superman's education. Heroes especially need to understand the value of the things of a life; its artifacts, its ideas, its loves."  And this is exactly what this graphic novel achieves - using the flaws of the super as the extreme, but showing us the paths we might also take for our future outside of this superhuman realm.

Friday, August 17, 2012

30-Day Book Challenge - Day 24

Day 24 - A Book You Wish More People Would Read

Definitely Fall On Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald.

Book snobs, ignore the O on the cover. This novel is a contemporary classic - in that I mean, it reads like the kind of quality literature produced in the 1800s, but was published in 1996. It is one of my all-time favorites

Purchase Now from Amazon: Fall On Your Knees 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

30-Day Book Challenge - Day 23

Day 23 - A Book You've Wanted to Read for a Long Time but Still Haven't

Look Me In the Eye: My Life with Asperger's by John Elder Robison has been on my bookshelf  and the 'next' book in my TBR for years.

John Elder Robison is the older brother of the more famous writer, Augusten Burroughs. He actually wrote this book at the urging of Burroughs and it - from reading reviews and such - is an amazing inside view to living a life with the disorder. Robison, it seems, didn't know that there was a name for his 'strangeness' until he was diagnosed in later life. It allowed him to find new ways to cope in social situations. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

30-Day Book Challenge - Day 22

Day 22 - The Book That Made You Fall In Love With Reading

According to my parents, I loved being read to. Even as an infant. My father loves remembering how my eyes would be fixed on him as he read to me in my crib. And then as I got older - on those nights when he was tired and tried to skip a page, I'd be paying such careful attention that I'd know. So, I think I was born loving reading. However, one book that my father read to me really sticks out in my memory.

Wow! I can't even believe I found this photo of it on the webs! Reader's Digest World's Best Fairy Tales. It belonged to my grandfather and he either gave it to me, or I rooted it out of his basement. There were a bunch of Reader's Digest (which I thought said Reader's Diggiest. As in, I dig reading) down there and I used to just pick something out and keep it. Anyway, I'd frequently request that my father read to me out of this lovely collection. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition - Daniel Okrent

Rating: 5 stars

Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, covers the entirety of the most ridiculous era in American history - that time when suffrage, the income tax and World War I came together to somehow vote the Eighteenth Amendment into being.

Daniel Okrent is amazing. He spans over 100 years of history - from early discussion of temperance to beyond the Great Depression and the Repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment - while maintaining humor and a conversational tone that kept me engaged from start to finish.

I've been reading a lot of non-fiction this year - maybe to make up for last year's rise of the celebrity bios. I do like to read at least two works of non-fiction a year. Keep the old brain noodle working. Keep it a-learnin'. Last Call is definitely one of the best I've ever read - intelligent, thorough, and fun. The book had me researching and discussing a topic I hadn't given much thought of before - besides what remains of the gangsters and bootleggers in Hollywood. So much about our culture today was shaped by those thirteen years... just read it, okay?

Monday, August 13, 2012

30-Day Book Challenge - Day 21

Day 21 - Favorite Book From Your Childhood

I didn't actually own this book until college, when my roommate purchased it for me based on me over-telling the story about how much I loved this book and how hard it was to actually get my hands on when I was a kid. Neither the school library nor the public library ever had it on hand - that's how popular it was. But, man - when I finally did get to take it out! What a treasure! There's something so pleasing about lifting the flaps and reading all of the correspondence between fairy-tale characters. 

Purchase Now from Amazon: The Jolly Postman

Thursday, August 9, 2012

30-Day Book Challenge - Day 20

Day 20 - Book Turned Into a Movie and Completely Desecrated

The Percy Jackson series is a good group of books. It's the kind of awesome boy adventure series that is a lot of butt-kicking fun, but also teaches kids a thing or two about mythology. Everything in the books is an allusion to Greek mythology.

Then came the movie, which I was really excited for. I mean, it's rare that a truly great series of books comes along. It's not so rare that Hollywood then turns that series into a movie - but I ain't care! And, mind you - I never assume that the movie will be just like the book. In fact, I'd rather the movie and book be different experiences, so that I can hold them in their own regard. All I ask is that the filmmakers maintain the integrity and feeling of the copied work and that some fan-favorite scenes and characters be portrayed accurately. This movie did nothing of the sort. Firstly, it abandoned it's core, already established middle-grade fan base by aging the kids and turning it into a movie for teens - an audience that most likely hadn't read the books. Then, they completely re-wrote the story into something that had not a hint of the original book. And, worst of all, the main mythological element/story was one that ISN'T EVEN A MYTH. Horrible. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

30-Day Book Challenge - Day 19

Day 19 - Favorite Book Turned Into a Movie

Of course. The entire film series, from cheesy start to serious finish. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Telegraph Avenue - Michael Chabon

Rating: 3 stars

Though the book isn't due out until September 2012, I was granted access to it via a Read Along hosted by Emily at the blog As the Crowe Flies (And Reads!). You'll find my general impressions below, but if you're interested in checking out my posts for the read along (and others) you'll find all the necessary linkage here.

Telegraph Avenue takes place in 2004, on the famous Telegraph Avenue that separates Oakland from Berkeley - two socioeconomically clashing worlds. It follows two families of different color, the Stallings and the Jaffes, as they navigate race gaps, generation gaps, economic gaps and the American Dream to the tune of 1970's jazz. Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe are partners at Brokeland, a rapidly failing record store that is about to be put out of business by the big box, Dogpile Thang. Their wives, Gwen and Aviva, are also partners in their midwife business. They also face potential dissolution at the hands of the local hospital. And their sons, Titus Joyner and Julius Jaffe form a partnership of their own, as they navigate  how painful it is to be a teenager while also getting mixed up in old Oakland troubles courtesy of Archy's deadbeat dad, Luther.

That's, honestly, the best I can do as far as a recap goes. There's just so much going on in this book. And, while you find yourself immersed in this world that could have been, with characters that are very well drawn, amidst a million different heavy themes - it's a dense book that requires a lot of work. Chabon's style is lyrical and often mirrors a jazzy-funky-beat, which, at times, lends itself to the narrative. At other times, it slows the reader down. Trips the reader up.

In the end, with a finale that's got a unsatisfactorily neatly tied bow wrapped around it, I'm not sure I can tell you whether or not it was worth all the work. I think so?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

30-Day Book Challenge - Day 18

Day 18 - A Book That Disappointed You

Ah! Here's where we can use A Lion Among Men.

I am a very big fan of the first two 'volumes' in this Wicked Years series. I wasn't able to purchase and read it right away, but I kept eyeing it, eager with anticipation for the day that I could actually crack its spine. I finally got my hands on it via e-reader and to say it was awful is an understatement. It held none of the magic or purpose of Wicked nor Son of a Witch, seeming to exist only as another way to make a buck. 

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