QUICK NOTE...Update: 1/2/19
The blog is slowly coming back on line. We were right in the path of Hurricane Michael (like so many others), and while the family is safe (pups, and parents), the house didn't fair as well. So, reading and blogging (as much as I adore it) have to take a back burner. I've finally reached a stage in all this chaos that I feel that I can try to take a few baby steps back into the blogging world. A post here, a post there, and who knows. Hope you stay along for the ride!
Monday, February 28, 2011
Tamara Goodwin has it all…or rather had before her life took an unexpected detour to “I-wish-I-wasn’t-here”-ville. Living the life with family and friends, her days were spent in school, but her nights and weekends were for partying, jet setting, and living it up on the town until one day all the glitz and the glamour fell away to reveal a frightening truth that would shake her world to its core. It seems that while everything on the surface looked ordinary, trouble was brewing dark and deep, in this case…money trouble. Her father did his best to take care of it all but when things finally got the best of him; he sought the only exit he could see before it all came tumbling down around them.
His rash actions did not leave behind the intended results as his widow and child were now forced from their (non) humble abode and into the waiting arms of Arthur and Rosaleen Byrne…her mother’s brother and his wife. But things are not always what they seem, my dear friends as Tamara is soon to discover. Though the grounds are majestic, the house quaint, and the hospitality welcoming, she can sense an undercurrent of secrets and lies….just what or whom they are about though is anyone’s guess or at least it was until a certain book came into her life. This wasn’t just any book though; this was a journal and it held a special magic all its own. The question is will Tamara discover the secrets it truly holds before it’s too late?
What to say about this one without giving away the story! It left me in quite a quandary after I finished it. I mean…it’s just…how to put it…oh, here. Let’s get Rhino from Bolt to explain my general feelings. Rhino…if you’d please….
Really! There is no better way to describe it. This was my first adventure into this author’s work, though I had previously seen her book turned movie P.S. I Love You. For those that haven’t had the pleasure, it’s a heart wrenching tale of a love that knows no boundaries…even death…and the lengths to which one man will go to be certain his departure does not floor his love (as in the girl) for life. It’s beautiful. It’s memorable. It’s definitely one to have a box of tissues at the ready because you WILL cry. It’s not a guess…it’s a fact, trust me.
As so often (and easily) happens to us avid readers, I was distracted by something new and shiny and away these titles went to somewhere within the beast I fondly refer to as
When I saw this title being promoted, I was immediately taken aback by the cover art. Go ahead. Take another look. *waits* Beautiful isn’t it? It’s not that there is something dramatic going on or a dizzying amount of patterns to contend with; it’s the simple beauty that speaks to the ever curious soul. I mean just look at the colors…great choice...and that added detail where it looks like the page is being turned to reveal something sparkly and magical...perfect. Now I have an ARC copy and I’m enthralled by it but I might just have to get a hardbound copy of the book after seeing it in store because as beautiful as this one is….its even MORE lovely and comes complete with a ribbon bookmark like those leather clad classics of old. Marvelous. As for the genre choice…
The concerns that probably landed it in the “adult” section are few (some language here and there with teen outbursts…one scene sensual in nature…death) especially when compared to the plethora of other YA books with much more “worldly” content. It’s one of those cases where I truly hope that the categorization of the novel doesn’t cut it off from readers...as I’ve seen that happen before with a title I truly loved…originally it was in the same situation, but luckily upon the paperback’s release, it was sitting firmly on the YA shelf…whew! Now let’s talk story…
Aside from the beautiful (I know, I’m using that word a lot here, but it’s certainly warranted) descriptions of time and place that draw forth images AND emotion in one sweep of the eyes, the characters are completely tangible. Tamara was the snarky little sixteen year old feeling like a duck out of water due to her family’s quick move and change in lifestyle…not to mention the death of her father...always looking for something more. What she didn’t know is that some of the very things she was looking for were right in front of her the whole time, just rather well hidden by others keeping a VERY big secret.
Arthur and Rosaleen, while they certainly mean well, it’s obvious who wears the pants in the family (so to speak)…as is who is stable and who is not…O_O. Both of our young male love interests are written as half delinquent, half prince….Marcus, from the book bus just gets a bit more trouble than he bargained for while Weseley acts as Tamara’s partner in crime for many scenes later on. Let’s not forget about Sister Ignatius in all of this because really, she is in all of this more so than we know. Together they make an unusual family portrait to be certain but a family of sorts nonetheless based on their connections to each other through blood and acquaintance. So let’s talk details…
I bet you’re wondering if there is an actual “book of tomorrow” in the story...am I right? Fear not fair readers, there is though perhaps not as you might anticipate. Though its appearance has significance and it certainly plays its part in moving the story along in surprising ways, I was left wondering about the books actual origins. Where did it come from? Who had it before? Where was it when all the lies and secrets were being concocted? It sure could’ve saved this family a lot of grief…and one of them a bit of their sanity, though I couldn’t tell you how much since they are pretty far gone despite outward appearances.
What a fabulous idea for the mere fact that it helps bring literature to those families that are either without or far away from a library (the horror…)…and it doesn’t hurt that the young driver is rather dashing himself. Hello, Marcus! Though things get a bit sticky for this character later on, he has a heart of gold and the way he tries to take Tamara’s mind off her troubles with a “trip” to foreign lands will leave bookish readers with one question…can I have a “Marcus” too please? (Seriously! I have to find out where to find one…)
For as much beauty as there is though, there’s also plenty of mystery, secrets dark and buried deep, and…humor. No really…in the strangest of places you’ll happen upon a passage that you just can’t help but smile, laugh, or downright guffaw at. Take this one as Tamara recounts an encounter with some construction folks installing her family’s pool…
There was one guy, Steve, who kept trying to get a look at me in my bedroom while I was getting dressed. So one morning I really gave him something to look at. Don’t get the wrong impression; I took three hairpieces and pinned them to my bikini – you can guess where – and I took off my bathrobe and paraded around my room like Chewbacca, pretending I didn’t know he was looking. – pg 37 (ARC)
I’ll allow you a moment to compose yourself although I know it’s going to be very hard (hehe). I mean you can actually picture her doing this and well…you just get lost in the moment and laugh yourself silly; a big “no no” to Steve but a big “you go girl” to Tamara. I could literally quote at least one passage from each chapter and it would never get old…though I won’t to save you the trouble of reading it here and then once again in the actual book.
In the end, I believe it’s clear…I LOVED this book. It was surprising and beautiful (there’s that word again) in all the right ways and I can’t recommend it enough. There is one warning that I will pass on to you readers, the last chapters are a DOOZY. There is so much to absorb you may find yourself rereading a section or two, but don’t worry…it ties everything together quite nicely. Trust me.
Until next time…happy reading!
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Saturday, February 26, 2011
Friday, February 25, 2011
Angela is a girl who knows what she wants in life; her dreams and aspirations echoing so many others round the world. Gain an education, find love, and make lasting friendships. There is one however that sets her a bit apart from the crowd. One wish that she would rather not have on her list of wants and desires; one hope that if given the chance, she’d gladly erase from her “things I want in life” tally with a smile upon her face. That deep seeded wish…for her recently transplanted kidney to remain healthy and strong. Unfortunately, the things we want most don’t always come true…and yet even in those darker times all hope is not lost. In fact, sometimes the best things in life are discovered at the most inopportune moments and in the discoverer’s eyes their value increases ten fold for it.
The touching story of one woman’s life, love, and search to find herself….with a transplant or two along the way. The unique part about this particular memoir is that while the topical issue being dealt with is kidney failure, in all its not-so-glorious and heart-wrenching moments, the heart of the book lies in the sharing of how life came to be where it is now and where it seems to be headed. It’s about more than a disease; it’s about a life lived to its fullest with a disease tagging along. It didn’t define her even if it did try to control her every waking moment, at times successfully. She rolled with the punches come what may and found not only who she wanted to be but a life long partner along the way.
The stars didn’t part and gift them their guiding light. The moon didn’t hang lower in order to illuminate the beauty of a new beginning. It was more the “shine” of another type of moon that took the edge off a chance meeting at a college party and the rest…well, it wasn’t exactly history yet, but it eventually came to that foreseeable end. The trials and tribulations they met were similar to most couples, at least until her health took a turn for the worst. It is bad enough to see a loved one sick with a cold or in bed with the flu but factor in a life changing possibly life ending illness and things get serious fast, grant it not in a “marry-me-now” sort of way as that would come later in life, but definitely in the “for-better-or-worse” way.
Ms. Balcita had a hard journey with multiple medical interventions along the way to stave off the end her health was bringing her to. At times crushing in its intensity, her delivery still remains light with a comedic touch much like the “routines” her and her husband put on from time to time when delivering their story to a crowd. Why the theatrics? Well, laughter IS the best medicine after all. Why not leave people with a smile? You would think that would be hard to do with all she endures, but it’s pulled off with great success making this a story to remember.
As I see it, that’s just a surface glance and perhaps a shallow one at that. I believe that it’s not merely the strength of the person, but the strength of the love they share that sees them through those tough unexpected times. It can be newly discovered or in the greyer shades of aging, but that connection they share will empower them to catch each other if ever they fall, laugh when they should be crying, and see the hard times through to another day. It is special and hard to find, but once found, it never lets go.
Recommended read for older teens through adult readers. This story, while not a fairytale come true, is in fact about seeing the wonder of life unfold despite the circumstances thrown your way. While dealing with a serious subject, the author reminds us that life is more than simply the sum of what ails us, it’s about “sucking the marrow out of life” (which I totally borrowed from the Dead Poets Society movie…great movie by the way...and Thoreau) and truly enjoying every moment. A lesson hard learned even from the author’s inside perspective, but words to live by once discovered.
Harper Perennial. (THANKS!) For more information on this title as well as their full catalog, you can find them online via their website, blog, or Twitter feed. For more information on the author, visit her online via her site. On her page, there is also a link to find out more about the National Kidney Foundation Living Donor Council on her web page for those seeking to to learn more about how they can help. This book was released earlier this month so be on the look out in a bookstore near you to check it out first hand.
Until next time…happy reading!
Thursday, February 24, 2011
Everyone knows the name Emily Dickinson. It’s synonymous with poetry in all its finest forms. But how much do we know about her life and times? I mean really, poetry is not often the product of a life half-lived but rather a life filled with challenges, lessons learned, hearts mended and broken. The rush of life is what gives it its edge, its essence, a flavor all its own. That is the real mystery here. What happened in her younger days to create the poetess known round the world? Not much is known of the finer details, but one can suppose…and just what one gets with that supposition can result in pure magic.
The truth can be hard to discern from fiction in this well written novel as it is apparent when taking a look at Ms. Dickinson’s life. Great care was taken to incorporate accurate details regarding places, times, people, and the like, making it almost an extension of those accounts we deem biographic in nature instead of a work of mere fancy. I for one am not usually for history laden stories; this time around I found the accuracy refreshing as I took a walk through a short history of the author’s life afterward via the net as a friend rather than an acquaintance. The author’s imagination was far from liberal except where liberties needed taking…such as her chance encounters with love and what may or may not have transpired.
Here, Ms. Dickinson kindly refrains from being too brash choosing instead to make mention of ‘Vesuvius’ in scenes where the meaning can not help but be understand, though it is not always the same. In general it refers to an eruption of words, feelings, or reactions depends upon the situation but it is safe to say that no matter the instance to which the image is brought forth, it is a powerful force to be reckoned with…as are her feelings on love. Though the chances may be fleeting and one rather haunting, you have to smile at her sensibilities regarding those she seizes. In one instance, she makes plans to run away with Brainard (aka Domingo) one of those gents that has caught both her eye and her mind, but she is halted by the thought of leaving her beloved Carlos…her dog…seeing how he would not be able to ride in the train car undetected; a reaction that speaks to my own dog loving nature.
I identify for certain with many an idea and thought shared by our fictional mistress though my own plumage neither is nor ever was as grand as that which she donned within these pages and often fails me in speech where it holds strong in print (a bit conceited when put like that, I admit but I’m merely speaking of feedback previously received….the size of my head is still intact I assure you… ^_^). She had her moments of whimsy, her flights of fancy, but despite all the dreams and loves both lost and found, I feel her truest self was revealed when scribbled from hand to paper as she often did regardless of time and place…a fact which is captured wonderfully in this particular passage despite the bleak news she was delivered moments …
I’d rather have oblivion than be a prisoner without my Pen. I cannot soothe the constant noise inside my Brain, like a fluttering of feathers that grows fierce until I can scratch the syllables that each feather suggests – see them, touch them, my own fine feathers. Emily’s Brain will burst with all the bustle of her Plumage. – pg 199
That's the thing about the written word. Whether it is poetry gliding along effortlessly or a work of fiction shared in a novel, no two readers escape with the same experience. You can read the work together or separately. Word by word, or page by page. With Tutors or Domingo’s, with powerful preachers or man's best friend. Each will squirrel away what spoke eloquently to THEM for some future use or reflection and leave the rest behind like so many unworthy suitors.
nom de guerres sprinkled throughout her story, why my dear readers, we all have many a name to which we answer when beckoned. Whether it be a nickname, a token of affection, our given name...or the one we mask ourselves with when appearing online....they are the many roles and faces that make up who we are; in the end, we just have to remember which one is our true selves lest we get swept away in the majesty of any one moment.
Whether you are a fan of the poetesses works or merely a rabid reader of fiction, this book combines a bit of both worlds so well in fact that they blend seamlessly (to my eye at least) together and may just leave you wishing to explore her life, times, and published works further upon reaching the final page. The paperback release of this title occurred within the last week or two, so look for it in its various formats at a retail or online bookstore near you. Need a few links to go on? No worries. It is available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble in both print and eBook options (1 and 2)...not to mention there's a nifty little excerpt just waiting for your reading pleasure in case you are still debating whether or not to add this to your future reading list.
Seeking to know more about the author behind the book? Here’s a brief bio on the man himself…
Jerome Charyn (born May 13, 1937) is an award-winning American author. With nearly 50 published works, Charyn has earned a long-standing reputation as an inventive and prolific chronicler of real and imagined American life. Michael Chabon calls him “one of the most important writers in American literature.”New York Newsday hailed Charyn as “a contemporary American Balzac,” and the Los Angeles Times described him as “absolutely unique among American writers.”Since the 1964 release of Charyn’s first novel, Once Upon a Droshky, he has published 30 novels, three memoirs, eight graphic novels, two books about film, short stories, plays and works of non-fiction. Two of his memoirs were named New York Times Book of the Year. Charyn has been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. He received the Rosenthal Award from the
of Arts and Letters and has been named Commander of Arts and Letters by the French Minister of Culture. American AcademyCharyn was Distinguished Professor of Film Studies at the American Universityof until he left teaching in 2009. ParisIn addition to his writing and teaching, Charyn is a tournament table tennis player, once ranked in the top 10 percent of players in . Noted novelist Don DeLillo called Charyn’s book on table tennis, Sizzling Chops & Devilish Spins, "The Sun Also Rises of ping-pong." FranceCharyn lives in Parisand . New York City
For more information, look no further than the author's site, Facebook page, or Twitter feed.
Tribute Books for the review copy and for organizing this grand blog tour. (THANKS!) To find out more about this great company, check out their website, main blog, review blog, or Twitter page for the latest. For more information on this book tour, be sure to visit the blog, Facebook page, or follow along on Twitter. The publisher of this title is W.W. Norton & Company and more information about this title as well as their full catalog can be found at their site.
Until next time…happy reading!
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Can you imagine reaching the heights of fame, fortune, and notoriety that your greatest musical (or otherwise) idol has?
She lands smack dab in the middle of Cavern-mania….a media and fan induced craze inspired by their music. The Caverns. HER band. But wait…something isn’t quite right. Being the fan that she is, Gina’s room has its fair share (okay, more than its fair share) of Beatles memorabilia….bobble heads, posters, records, and the like. Now, it’s all been replaced with images of…herself and her friends; weird…but cool. Stranger still, she seems to be the only one that is aware of this shift in realities...everyone else just thinks it’s another day in “paradise”. As if that wasn’t enough, the tension between her and her band mates, while high the previous day due to the supposed break up (although since she’s in another reality I guess that’s a moot point) is even more palpable now….WHY is the question.
Super stardom, jet setting, money, high profile boyfriend….a girl could get use to all that. I mean really, what more COULD she ask for? What more indeed. Gina’s about to discover that while the ends may meet the means, giving her everything she’s always dreamed of…without the journey to get there it may not quite be the “heaven” she’s always imagined.
So how does a girl like me with no particular fondness for the Beatles end up reading a book about a girl becoming them? Simple; I received an email from Ksenia the great at Feiwel and Friends lending me the necessary insight to take a look beyond the title/cover. In fact, let’s discuss this title for a second. While it gets to the point of the story, it is perhaps a bit TOO much to the point. There’s no mystery; no chance to wonder at what it could be about. It’s just there in black and orange font. Now I appreciate straightforwardness as much as the next person but a little mystery goes a long way. Had I not read about the story a bit more, I can honestly say…the title would not have drawn me in. Apart from rabid fans of the group, I’m not certain who it would speak to really…but lucky me, I had that insider’s look. I say lucky because all in all…it was a good read.
Or perhaps it’s closer to draw a comparison between it and The Prince and the Pauper when royalty and the common man change place for a time. Any way you slice it, it has echoes of those stories that came before it, but they remain just that…echoes. The author takes the story and the characters on a journey of their own to a land where replacing your idol is common place and the decision on whether to stay or not is all up to you. It was an interesting concept I admit, especially with the fairy godmother (not really a fairy, not a godmother per se) communicating electronically (we’re talking email baby…yep, a fairy that’s hip to the times).
The characters on the other hand were a mixed bag. While I could understand the turmoil brewing within Gina’s own little group on both reality plains as well as the unspoken feelings she held for a particular love interest, there was a time or two that I wondered if she was “for real”. I suppose that’s bound to happen when dealing with alternate realities, I mean if she’s not really her, how can she come off as three dimensional…right? Still, she was believable enough to want to follow her through the various adventures she has….and enjoy a bit of celebrity status she “earned”. Her experience rocking out to the songs she’s loved for most her life was enviable as you imagine the euphoria she was feeling.
Then there’s Aberthy…a seemingly inconsequential driver whose wisdom runs far deeper than merely knowing the best way to get from point A to B. Take note readers…some characters are much more important than they appear on the surface. I did not however connect with her mother who was a rather selfish person in both lives (totally due to my own experience with Mom not the writing). My Mom has always been so dependable whereas hers…not so much; it’s not an uncommon betrayal of parents in literature, but still her phantom appearances irked me. That being said, back to the story….
- Be yourself for that is as original as it gets and the only way to ensure a genuine enjoyable ride on this crazy trip we call life.
- Have faith in yourself and don’t always wait for things to happen…MAKE THEM HAPPEN.
- Time waits for no one…don’t be that “no one” waiting for it.
(Hmm…sounds like a message many of us could learn from, myself included…) It’s a book that reminds you that although the grass may in fact be greener on the other side, it also might really be Astroturf (as in fake) and any life truly worth living should have the most real form of you in the spotlight. A fun read for all ages, it's great for a quick reminder that although life may not be everything you wish it was at the moment, things can and will change…but a little nudge from you along the way never hurt anything.
Special thanks to Ksenia at Feiwel and Friends for the ARC for review. (THANKS!) For more information on this title as well as their full catalog, feel free to check out their website, blog or follow along on Twitter. This book released a bit earlier this month so be on the look out for it on a bookstore shelf near you. In the mean time…how’s bout a little contest…hmm?
I don’t care if it seems silly, or like the grandest dream ever dreamt….just share your thoughts and BAM…step one is complete.