Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Review: Empire Falls by Richard Russo

 The Book: (From Goodreads) Dexter County, Maine, and specifically the town of Empire Falls, has seen better days, and for decades, in fact, only a succession from bad to worse. One by one, its logging and textile enterprises have gone belly-up, and the once vast holdings of the Whiting clan (presided over by the last scion’s widow) now mostly amount to decrepit real estate. The working classes, meanwhile, continue to eke out whatever meager promise isn’t already boarded up.

Miles Roby gazes over this ruined kingdom from the Empire Grill, an opportunity of his youth that has become the albatross of his daily and future life. Called back from college and set to work by family obligations—his mother ailing, his father a loose cannon—Miles never left home again. Even so, his own obligations are manifold: a pending divorce; a troubled younger brother; and, not least, a peculiar partnership in the failing grill with none other than Mrs. Whiting. All of these, though, are offset by his daughter, Tick, whom he guides gently and proudly through the tribulations of adolescence.

 Shot through with the mysteries of generations and the shattering visitations of the nation at large, it is a social novel of panoramic ambition, yet at the same time achingly personal. In the end, Empire Falls reveals our worst and best instincts, both our most appalling nightmares and our simplest hopes, with all the vision, grace and humanity of truly epic storytelling.

What I thought: I've had this book on my TBR list for awhile for a couple of reasons. Primarily because it won the Pulitzer prize. I so badly wanted to like this book but it was just not a book that read easily for me. In fact I read three other books in the midst of starting this one because I just couldn't get into it. The entire story centers on the town of Empire Falls and more particularly around Miles Roby who runs a restaurant in the town.

Russo gives a somewhat detailed exploration of each of the important people in Miles Roby's life and this is a book primarily focused on the characters. In fact there were so many characters that it took me a 100 pages or so to get them all straight in my mind. The character development was amazing as was the attention to detail. Russo is an excellent writer many of the characters came alive in my mind. However, that wasn't quite enough for me. I wanted more of a plot, I wanted a little bit more forward motion, I just kept waiting for something more throughout the entire thing.

My Rating: B
I struggled trying to rate this book because it's not a bad book. The writing is excellent as is the character development. However, this book was just unsatisfying for me. When I finished I was just neutral and indifferent to the whole thing.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Candace Bushnell book signing...

Last friday Candace Bushnell came to a bookstore nearby and I couldn't resist another reading and book signing. This signing was a little different than Jodi Picoult's because I had never read anything by Candace Bushnell, but I'm a huge fan of the show Sex & the City so I wanted to see the woman who was responsible for one of my favorite series.

She was different than I expected, although I can't even really explain why. She read a passage from her newest book The Carrie Diaries (which I now own a signed copy of, review coming soon) and then answered questions. Much of them centering on Sex & The City. I actually learned a ton of things I didn't know. For example Carrie Bradshaw started off as her altar ego, there really is a Mr. Big (but she didn't marry him he married someone else) she had on tall adorable shoes that I could never ever pull off without breaking an ankle or looking like I was playing dress up. She also told a hilarious story about an IRL friend who behaves much like Samantha Jones. The story involved a party, a football player, and a cedar closet (I'll leave it at that). She was really very sweet and had a great approachable personality.

The only bummer about the entire thing was the staff at the bookstore were a little bit controlling about things. This wasn't a huge signing at all, but they gave us strict instructions. We could only have Candace write our name nothing else, they expected that we would take a picture with her while she was signing (which is dumb because who wants a picture of the top of her head as she's looking at the book...)
See...  a picture while she's signing not the best.

So I ignored that rule, it's much better to see each persons face (at least in my opinion).

The bookstore staff also really rushed people through the line. My friend came with me and he was asking Candace a question and one of the bookstore ladies rudely asked, "Do you want to get in line to ask your question?" Despite the fact that he had been waiting in line and it was his turn to ask a question. Candace very graciously clarified this and started to answer when the staff decided our turn was up and rushed us away while Candace was in mid-sentence. It seemed strange because Candace seemed really willing to engage each person for a bit but we kept getting pushed through. I did hang around browsing the bookstore and after everyone else had left I approached her again so we could ask another question, and I then also requested if I could have another picture this time without the table in the way.

Her response cracked me up. She said, "Sure Sadie you've been such a sweetie."(I got a pretty cranky look from a staff person when I made this request for once again defying their rules). Mostly I got a kick out of the fact that she remembered my name from earlier. It was a really fun night. She's great and I now want to actually read The Sex & the City book and I'm looking forward to part II of The Carrie Diaries. (And I did really love the bookstore. It was adorable and I would love to own one just like it. However, in mine I would let the author decide the rules of a signing instead of just rushing people through).

Me & Candace after the official signing.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Musing Mondays: Books & Movies...

Musing Mondays2Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about movies based on books…
What happens when you see a movie based on a book/story, especially one you’ve not read? Do you feel the need to track it down and read it?

Musing Mondays is hosted by Just one more page
In a word yes. Although I almost always try to read books before watching the movie. Generally, the books are better (although there are exceptions like Forrest Gump the movie is way better than the book) and I don't like the movie to color my perspective of what I think characters look like or who they are. There have been a few instances though when I haven't known a movie had a book counterpart until watching the movie and seeing, "based on the novel by ______" in those cases I pretty much always go and find the book, especially if I really liked the movie. 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

In my mailbox (3)...

In My Mailbox was started by Kristi over at The Story Siren and it explores the contents of my mailbox, shopping bag or library acquisitions on a weekly basis. This week I added the following:

Born to Bite by Lynsay Sands. This book comes out August 31, 2010. I won an advance readers edition through the goodreads first reads program. I've never read anything by Lynsay Sands and this book is a little outside the realm of what I normally read but I'm up for new things.

Wildflower Bride by Mary Connealy another goodreads first reads giveaway win. I think the cover of this book is beautiful. 
The Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies - This is from paperback swap and within the one book contains the three books: Fifth Business, The Manticore, & World of Wonder. For one of my reading challenges we're suppose to read a trilogy and after a quick google search for the best trilogies I decided to try out this one. We'll see I guess. (This is also not the cover my has but I couldn't for the life of me find the edition I received from paperback swap).

The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell. I went to a book reading and signing for this book and so I of course had to purchase it and now own my own signed edition. 

The Opposite of Me by Sarah Pekkanen - This is also an advanced readers edition. A book store in Mystic, CT was giving away copies of old Advanced readers editions and I can't resist free books.

Total new books = 5  Total price = $15 (For The Carrie Diaries) 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Book: (from Goodreads) In a future North America, where the rulers of Panem maintain control through an annual televised survival competition pitting young people from each of the twelve districts against one another, sixteen-year-old Katniss's skills are put to the test when she voluntarily takes her younger sister's place.

What I thought: I only picked up this book because I have heard tons and tons of good things about it, which generally makes me run in the other direction. (I'm strange I know but I didn't read any Harry Potter until book 7 came out because I resist things that seem to be over done fads). Anyways, I was immediately hooked on this book. I love dystopia books and I also love that the main character was a strong female (strong protagonists are often in short supply). Katniss is the provider of her family and strong mentally and physically. It wasn't hard to root for Katniss from the beginning.

I will say however, that parts of this book seemed too easy. Katniss avoids having to make any really difficult decisions during the Hunger Games (I won't be more specific so as not to spoil) but it took away from some of the moral dilemmas and ethical considerations that Katniss had to face which would have added depth to the book. I was looking forward to seeing her wrestling with those decisions based on her strong moral character. (Although perhaps that's due to the book being geared towards Young Adults who knows).

Another aspect of this book that I really loved was the social commentary. Throughout the book we slowly get a glimpse into the future world of North America, the country's history and how it is set up and run. Each district is divided by strict social classes and stratification and in many ways some of the portrayals of the various districts mirror some of our current systemic oppression based on class, race, education etc. The systemic oppression then limits and prevents the ease of upward mobility and access to better opportunities in our own country and in the country created by Collins.

Rating: A+
Overall, it was a fascinating book that I read in a few hours. I immediately wanted to run out and by book #2 Catching Fire (but thus far I've resisted considering the number of books in my TBR pile). If you haven't already ready find this book and read it. It's amazing and you won't be able to put it down. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

Musing Mondays: Finding time to read...

Musing Mondays2Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about finding time for reading.
Do you have to carve out time in your day for reading (due to work and other obligations), or does your reading just happen naturally? 

PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT with either the link to your own Musing Mondays post, or share your opinion in a comment here (if you don’t have a blog). Thanks. For more responses head over to Just one More Page.

This question made me laugh a little bit. Reading doesn't just happen naturally around here, it happens when ever I have a spare second from everything else I have going on. With one year old twins and up until Friday being a full time graduate student and now applying for jobs and packing for our cross country move, carving out time for reading is necessary. I read when the babies nap (although it's rare that they nap at the same time).

Occasionally when the babies are awake I'll read a page or two if they're quiet and occupied for a few minutes. I also carry a book with me every where I go in case there's ever any down time. In line with this I go to any appointment about 30 minutes early with the intention of having a few minutes of peace to read. Of course my largest opportunity to read is after the babies go to bed for the evening when I can read for a longer period of time. I'm lucky that I read really quickly so although my reading time is limited I can get through a fairly large volume of books. 

Sunday, May 9, 2010

In my mailbox (2)...

In My Mailbox was started by Kristi over at The Story Siren and it explores the contents of my mailbox, shopping bag or library acquisitions on a weekly basis. I had another really good book week (which helps make up for a really poor week in other ways). This week I added the following:

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs - This book is from paperback swap and it's not something I would usually read. Which is exactly the point since it's for an online reading challenge where we allow someone with opposite tastes in books to pick something for us outside of our comfort zones. We'll see how it goes.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - I bought this book because I've heard a ton of rave reviews and they were right. I read this book in a few hours (a full review coming soon).
Notebooks by Tennessee Williams - I've actually already read this book. It's a collection of all of Williams' personal journals, however the copy I read is from the library which I have to return soon and it was too good. So when a 40% off coupon arrived for Borders I figured it was a sign or something and I ordered the book.

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson - This book book was sent to me by a wonderful woman from South Dakota for an on-line book exchange I'm part of. I'm so excited to finally have a chance to read it.
Stone into School by Greg Mortenson - Also sent by the wonderful lady above for the exchange!

The Hardy Boys The House on the Cliff by Franklin W. Dixon - This book actually belongs to my one year old daughter. My mother in law sent it too, but since she's too young to blog and we did get it in the mail it still counts.

Total books this week =6  Total cost = $30 for Notebooks and Hunger Games the rest required no money.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

From the Shelves of Eli & Emerson (1): Make Way for Ducklings...

I am occasionally going to write about what I've been reading to my babies as a way to keep track and remember all the books of their childhood. The most appropriate way to start seems to be with Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey.

We recently took a trip to Boston to have the babies one year pictures taken and it just so happens that we were taking the pictures in the Boston Public Gardens the setting of this book. In preparation for the trip my Mother-in-law sent the babies their very own copy so they could be ready.

The night before we left Marcus read the babies the story (which is just adorable). I had forgotten how cute this book is.
Marcus reading to the babies.

Once at the park we immediately went searching for the statues and it wasn't hard to find because there were surrounded by little kids. We waited patiently for our opening and stuck our kids next to the statues for a photo op. They had no idea what was going on but they both starting touching the duck, laughing and then Eli started licking it (which totally grossed me out.)

I have to say it's one of the cutest statues I've ever seen.

Checking out a duckling.

Emerson sitting on Mrs. Mallard the mama duck.
Eli sitting on Mrs. Mallard.

It was a great afternoon, and the story is adorable. I know we'll be reading it over and over again with the babies.

(An Ice Cream truck outside the park with a Make Way for Ducklings illustration on it). 

Monday, May 3, 2010

Musing Mondays: second hand book stores...

Musing Mondays2
Do you frequent second hand book stores? Have you ever bought a book home only to find anything interesting within their pages? To see other answers check out Just one more page. The host of this meme. 

I started my book collection many years ago at a used book store. When I was younger my grandparents used to take a grandkid and let them stay by themselves at their house for a week or so. During my week we did lots of different activities that were specific to my interests. By far the best part of that stay was going to their used book store. My grandparents had a ton of credits and they let me pick out as many books as I wanted. (And I picked out 7 John Grisham books which I still have, among others). I was in heaven getting free reign over the books. I remember the bookstore owner kept trying to direct me over to the children's section but I was more interested in Grisham and Stephan King. 

Since that early experience I haven't actually been to a used book store until a few weeks ago, when I discovered a great used bookstore down the street from me (It only took me 3 years of living in this city to discover it). I've also found the goodwill store a great place to find books at really cheap prices. 

Unfortunately I haven't ever found anything exciting in the pages. In fact all that I have ever found is this, 
Not nearly as exciting as money or something. 

Sunday, May 2, 2010

In my mailbox (1)...

 In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi over at The Story Siren and it explores the contents of my mailbox or shopping bag on a weekly basis. I doubt I'll have new books every week (although a girl can dream) but I actually have some new additions from this last week:

A Separate Peace by John Knowles. I've been wanting to read this book forever and when I went to find it at the library I discovered it was one of the "lost" books. (Which is such a sad concept, a book just misplaced somewhere amid millions of volumes). So I finally got a copy through paperback swaps yay!

The Best American Nonrequired Reading edited by Dave Eggers. I won this book in a blog giveaway from Lovely Little Shelf. From the back, "The Best American series is the premier annual showcase for the country's finest short fiction and nonfiction."

Fencing The Sky by James Galvin. This book I picked up in the lounge of my graduate school from a box of books marked 'free'. I love this time of year because people always clean out their books and give them away around here. As an added bonus to being free it's in perfect condition and it's signed. 

Do Not Go Gentle by Ann Hood. Also from the box of free books. 

Reckoning with Apocalypse Terminal Politics and Christian Hope by Dale Aukerman (another from the box of free books). The title of this one sounds really strange but the premise sounds really fascinating, although it could go very wrong. I guess we'll see.

Total new books =5 Total cost = $0 (my favorite way to acquire books)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

What I read in April...

1. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
2. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
3. Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
4. Dark Testament and Other Poems by Pauli Murray 
5. Finders Keepers by Karin Kallmaker 
6. The Orange Girl by Jostein Gaarder 
7. The Chosen by Chaim Potok
8. Serena by Ron Rash
9. Look Again by Lisa Scottoline 
10. Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
11. On Writing by Stephen King
12. Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters by Chesley B. Sullenberger
13. Song Yet Sung by James McBride
14. Just Hospitality by Letty Russell 
15. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer 
16. Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics by Margaret Farley 
17. Church in the Round: Feminist Interpretation of Church by Letty Russell 

I had a big reading month in the beginning of April. Then towards the end the semester came to a close and final papers and exams arrived. I haven't had time to read anything for fun in a few days.