Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday Finds: The Restorer & The Good Thief

Friday Finds is hosted by Should Be Reading and allows readers to showcase books they have discovered over the past week.  Here's some interesting books that I've heard about this week:

The Restorer by Amanda Stevens:

My name is Amelia Gray. I’m a cemetery restorer who sees ghosts. In order to protect myself from the parasitic nature of the dead, I’ve always held fast to the rules passed down from my father. But now a haunted police detective has entered my world and everything is changing, including the rules that have always kept me safe.

It started with the discovery of a young woman’s brutalized body in an old Charleston graveyard I’ve been hired to restore. The clues to the killer—and to his other victims—lie in the headstone symbolism that only I can interpret. Devlin needs my help, but his ghosts shadow his every move, feeding off his warmth, sustaining their presence with his energy. To warn him would be to invite them into my life. I’ve vowed to keep my distance, but the pull of his magnetism grows ever stronger even as the symbols lead me closer to the killer and to the gossamer veil that separates this world from the next.

The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti:

Twelve year-old Ren is missing his left hand. How it was lost is a mystery that Ren has been trying to solve for his entire life, as well as who his parents are, and why he was abandoned as an infant at Saint Anthony’s Orphanage for boys. When a young man named Benjamin Nab appears, claiming to be Ren’s long-lost brother, his convincing tale of how Ren lost his hand persuades the monks at the orphanage to release the boy and to give Ren some hope. But is Benjamin really who he says he is? As Ren is introduced to a life of hardscrabble adventure filled with outrageous scam artists, grave robbers, and petty thieves, he begins to suspect that Benjamin not only holds the key to his future, but to his past as well….

Beach Reading - Kristan Higgins

Now that warm weather is fast approaching I thought I'd share some fun and breezy books - perfect for a day at the beach.  I've already mentioned that Sarah Addison Allen novels are a perfect choice for beach reading.  Another author that is a great pick is Kristan Higgins.  She has perfected charming chick-lit with endearing characters and slowly building romances (admittedly also obvious romances...but it doesn't detract from the entertainment value).  I suppose my favorite of hers is All I Ever Wanted (yes, it's a horrible title) but all are equally fun reads.

So there you have it, if you're in the mood for some fluff go grab a Higgins book from the library and have yourself a fun day in the sun this weekend!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Latest Read: The Book of Tomorrow

Publisher summary:
Born into the lap of luxury and comfortable in the here and now, spoiled, tempestuous Tamara Goodwin has never had to look to the future—until the abrupt death of her father leaves her and her mother a mountain of debt and forces them to move in with Tamara's peculiar aunt and uncle in a tiny countryside village.

Tamara is lonely and bored, with a traveling library as her only diversion. There she finds a large leather-bound book with a gold clasp and padlock, but no author name or title. Intrigued, she pries open the lock, and what she finds inside takes her breath away.

Tamara sees entries written in her own handwriting, and dated for the following day. When the next day unfolds exactly as recorded, Tamara realizes she may have found a solution to her problems. But in her quest to find answers, Tamara soon learns that some pages are better left unturned and that, try as she may, she mustn't interfere with fate.   

What a cute little modern fairy tale!  I have a soft spot for magical realism and it is rendered beautifully in this novel.  Tamara is a fully fleshed-out character...however, most of the other characters seem either a bit contrived (Rosaleen is pretty unrealistic) or two-dimensional.  I was delighted with the slowly unfolding mystery and Tamara's use of the diary to try and discover clues.  I also loved the underlying theme that one book can change your life :)

Even though this was in the adult fiction section of my library...I'm pretty sure this is a young adult novel.  It definitely had the feel of a book geared towards high school readers as it is a story of Tamara's self-discovery (FYI: there's a bit of teen drinking and sex). 

Overall, I thought this was an entertaining enjoyable way to spend a few hours.
3.5/5 stars

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Latest Read: Soulless

Publisher summary:
Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she's a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette. Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire -- and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate. With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London's high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart? SOULLESS is a comedy of manners set in Victorian London: full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking.

Such a cool cover, no?

This was my first steampunk book, and what a fun read!  Soulless is a unique little novel - a Victorian setting, a splash of the supernatural, a seriously quirky heroine, humor and a little romance...what's not to like?  The main characters are fully fleshed out and their flaws make them all the more endearing.  I loved the banter between Alexia and Lord Macon - it kept me quickly turning the pages with an amused smile.  Oh also, it's um...quite sexy.  There's some serious chemistry steaming up several parts of the book.  It makes me blush just thinking about it :)

This is the first book in the Parasol Protectorate series and I can't wait to see what else is in store for Alexia.  I definitely recommend this compulsively readable book to those who like historical, paranormal, and/or Victorian fiction!
4/5 stars.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Latest Read: The Word Made Flesh

It's not often that I review a non-fiction picture book but I won this beaut from a contest over at The Introverted Reader and had the pleasure of perusing its pretty pages (check out that alliteration)!

What a great book...wonderful photographs, interesting back stories and even my own lovely Bloomington was featured (thanks to a local tattooed bookworm)!  I also love that they showcase some E. E. Cummings tattoos as he's one of my most favorite poets.  My one complaint is that I wish it was longer.  While the editors did represent tattoos from more modern books, really the only ones shown were from the blockbuster Harry Potter series and Twilight series.  I would have loved to seen more modern fiction represented besides the aforementioned novels.  If you read this book and are also left wanting more, they have a blog that features literary tattoos Pretty nifty, eh?  All in all, I really enjoyed reading this book and seeing where others found inspiration from reading.

A little excerpt from the book for your viewing pleasure:
Line from Lady Windermere's Fan by Oscar Wilde
3.5/5 stars.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday is a  touring meme where book bloggers share their bookish acquisitions from the week prior.  It is hosted this month by Passages to the Past.

Well, as I mentioned earlier, this past week was quite a busy one for my little ol' mailbox!  Here's all of my wonderful book booty:

I've already read The Word Made Flesh (and will posting a review shortly) which I won through a contest.  The rest of these suckers are all ARCs and ought to keep me busy for quite some time!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Cheap Creative Dates for the Weekend

Being together with your significant other for awhile inevitably leads to a lull in the new/exciting arena of the relationship.  It allows for the "been there, done that" attitude to sneak into your partnership.  I mean, if the hubs takes me out to dinner for a doesn't seem that special because we do that often.  Thus, it's time to get creative!  So, I went on a quest for new and fun things the hubs and I could do together for our dates and here's what I've found/come up with:

  • Buy a large canvas and some paint, head to a park, and take turns adding to the painting.  After we've finished, we can hang the creation in our home or we can try and sell our painting to a passerby.
  • Watch a local theater performance (gotta love the Bloomington Playwright's Project)!
  • Go to the planetarium on campus at night to do some stargazing.
  • Drink some wine and write a silly short story together.
  • Have Sunday brunch together and tackle the crossword puzzle whilst listening to "Wait! Wait! Don't tell me!"
  • Go to the Starlite Drive-In (okay we do usually do this most summers but it never loses its appeal for me).

Have a fun weekend folks!  P.S. - if you have any other fun/creative date sure to pass them on!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

TBR Snapshot - Fairytales

Here's another teensy category from my ridiculously long TBR list.  I give you, the fairy tale portion! 

If the ridiculous attention to categorization didn't tip you off...then my addition of descriptions to assist in book selection surely alerts you to the fact that I'm a total nerd (in the most awesome sense of the word).  Hopefully, you'll join me in my nerdy-ness by reading some of these seemingly awesome books!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Latest Read: Just Kids

I've been a long-time fan of Patti Smith...ever since I saw her perform at a Green Party rally when I was in High School.  This memoir took me quite awhile to read.  Not because I didn't like it but because this is not a book to devour, but rather it's one to savor.  So, I stretched this wonderful story out for as long as I could.

Here's just one example of her amazing writing:
"It is said that children do not distinguish between living and inanimate objects; I believe they do.  A child imparts a doll or tin soldier with magical life-breath.  The artist animates his work as the child his toys.  Robert infused objects, whether for art or life, with his creative impulse, his sacred sexual power."

Not only was the writing beautiful but the story of Patti's and Robert Mapplethorpe's trials and tribulations in their quest to become bona fide artists was fascinating.  There are so many great anecdotes about encounters with famous artists of that era (i.e. Janis Joplin, Allen Ginsberg, Todd Rundgren and many more).  Also, their will to persist in the face of some serious obstacles was extraordinary.  She does such a wonderful job portraying the artist's quest for finding herself and the ultimate outlet for her talent.

As a somewhat random aside, I wonder if artists do not pursue their craft as wholeheartedly as Patti portrays her and Robert's journey.  Have we lost something in this modern age?  I'm not trying to condemn everyone...there are some great musicians and artists out there right now; however, it seems that those who are the most significant in the public conscience are lacking depth.  It just makes me wonder which is more true: is there a dearth of quality artists and musicians in this day and age...or are we spreading the talent pool too thin by amusing ourselves to death as entertained in Aldous Huxley's A Brave New World?  Patti expressed similar musings in a far superior manner when describing the journey of her band.  She said:

"We imagined ourselves as the Sons of Liberty with a mission to preserve, protect, and project the revolutionary spirit of rock and roll.  We feared that the the music which had given us sustenance was in danger of spiritual starvation.  We feared it losing its sense of purpose, we feared it falling into fattened hands, we feared it floundering in a mire of spectacle, finance, and vapid technical complexity."

Interesting things to ponder, no?  Anyways, after finishing this enchanting novel I was left with the impression that, while this book is many things, ultimately it is Patti's extended love letter to her best friend Robert.  Honestly, this is one of the best memoirs I've ever read...I highly recommend Just Kids.

And now, I'd like to leave you with one of Patti's masterpieces:

5/5 stars.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Latest Read: Enclave

Apparently I have a thing for dystopian sagas this year...The Hunger Games series, The Chaos Walking trilogy and now The Razorland series.

I recently finished the first in this wonderful new YA series by Ann Aguirre.  I really enjoyed this novel (one of my favs of the year) and am looking forward to seeing what befalls the characters in the next installment of the trilogy.

I really don't like the publisher summary as it's a bit too I'm going to try and give you a vaguer one (hint, if you get the book, don't read the back basically gives away the main plot points).  So, here goes:

In this gritty post-apocalyptic zombie story the reader follows Deuce (our awesome teenage heroine that kicks-butt) through her naming ceremony in which she officially becomes a "huntress."  She and her partner (an outcast boy named Fade) must do their duty to hunt for food and kill the "freaks" that come near their underground enclave.  Soon, Deuce's world is turned upside down and she must fight for her life in ways she never imagined.

There, I hope that gives you enough of a taste to whet your appetite.  I love the character of Deuce.  She's a strong female role model but she's also made more realistic through her faults and her naivete.  I wholeheartedly recommend this book.  Enclave encompasses an imaginative world with lots of action, adventure and romance - go get a copy!

**Update: the publisher has changed the summary to be less just watch out for other online reviews as many use the older version (including GoodReads)

4/5 stars.

Monday, April 18, 2011

It Must Be My Lucky Week!

Exciting news on the book acquisition front! 

Not only did I just win a copy of The Word Made Flesh from fellow book blogger The Introverted Reader but I also received a galley copy of The Sisters Brothers from HarperCollins.  So exciting!  I'm looking forward to reading these suckers ASAP as I've heard great things about both books.

Weekend Recap

So, the 90's party was a success and a great time!  It pretty much pooped me out for the weekend but I managed to leave my couch on Saturday to meet up with the Bloomington Booksters for our latest soiree!  Katie chose The Eyre Affair for her turn as host (which I happened to have read before).  The group was somewhat slacker-ish this time around as two of us didn't finish the book...whups! :)

It ended up working out just fine as this particular novel doesn't easily lend itself to a typical book club discussion.  Since I had read it before I was going to try and read the sequel but I didn't get around to it - making me a slacker as well!  It was a fun time with the ladies and we ate some delicious appetizers while chatting the night away.  Since everyone has hosted once, we are going to try to change things up for the next round.  We were thinking of having the hostess choose a favorite book that she wants the others to read rather than choosing a book she's never read.  Should be fun!  I'm excited to see what people pick and I have no idea what I'll choose for my turn...maybe Snowflower and the Secret Fan or Room or The Knife of Never Letting Go or The Forgotten Garden...sheesh, how will I ever choose?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Latest Read: Shortcomings

This was my first foray into the realm of graphic novels!  Unfortunately, as excited as I was to finally introduce myself to this genre...this book solicited a "meh" response and not much else.

I realize why it is a critic's darling.  It deals with weighty issues such as race, stereotypes, relationships and identity.  The illustrations are well-drawn (not that I'm much of an expert in this area).  Yet, it just wasn't my kind of story.  The protagonist is extremely unlikeable (whiny, self-absorbed, get the picture).  Unfortunately, the other characters do not distract the reader from his gloominess.  In fact, with the exception of his best friend Alice, the supporting characters are pretty one-dimensional...I could not have cared less about their fates.  Also, the story ends on a not-so-happy note (I won't elaborate so as not to spoil but I will say it was lacking somewhat).  Found this amusing synopsis of Shortcomings on the interwebs (read, this is not from the actual book):

Despite all of my hangups about this novel, I think it would make for interesting discussion - whether in a classroom or amongst friends.  Perhaps it is simply meant to make you pause and think about some of these issues...

3/5 stars.

90's Dance Partay...Music Edition

Here's a ginormous amount of 90's vids to gorge yourselves on...enjoy!

Awww yeahh! This is gonna be a blast :)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

90's Dance Partay...Part Deux

Allright, folks!  Here's some more 90s party goodness for ya :)
So, we've already discussed costumes...I guess the next thing on the agenda would be the decorations.  This is a toughie but I did luck out in finding some awesome balloons from Urban Outfitters (on sale for 99 cents!):

Blue - "Chillin;" Green - "All that & a bag of chips;" White - "Chillaxin, Poser, Chillin, Booyah!, Stylin;" Orange - "Phat"
Balloons not pictured are a smiley-face (those were big in the 90s thanks to a 70s revival/obsession) and "She could be a farmer in those clothes" (a memorable Clueless quote).  How fun are these??

I'm planning on incorporating other things into the decor too.  If I had a lava lamp, I would definitely dust it off and display it prominently.  But, alas, my lava lamp from the 90s is packed away somewhere at my parents' house.  So instead I'll be using lots of black lights (as those were huge at the time) and lots of bright neon colors.  Oh, and for a bit of reminiscent fun...I'm going to try and find some slap bracelets (mayhaps at a party store) for guests to play with  :)

And now for some party tunes:

EMF - Unbelievable...yeah, one-hit wonders!

I still love this song

This will forever remind me of SNL's "Night at the Roxbury" skits

Monday, April 11, 2011

90's Dance Partay

I know that I normally write about books...but this Friday is the hubs' b-day and he requested that I throw him a 90's dance-party for the occasion.  Soooo....I decided to dedicate the entire week of this blog to 90s stuffs!  Mayhaps you'll want to throw an awesome 90s-esque party in the near future.  If so, after reading this week's worth of educational info, you should be well-prepared for an awesome bash.  I'll try to attach several music videos in each post this week that will be featured at the party.  For all you 90's kids...let's take a walk down memory lane, eh?

Okay, I 'spose I'll start with the costumes...yep, 90s getup is a requirement.  The hubs decided that he wants to go as a contestant from "Legends of the Hidden Temple."  Looks like his Tron helmet from the 80s Halloween party will be getting a yellow makeover :)

And I'm hovering between two costumes...either Andrea from 90210:

Or a Fly Girl from "In Living Color"

We'll really just depends on what I can find at the local costume shop and Goodwill.  And now onto some of the "tunage" we'll be playing at our shindig :)

First up, some Black Box (FYI - the gal in the vid is NOT the actual singer she's a model...ha):

Next, one of my favs "Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia):

And, of course, we gotta have some Salt-N-Pepa for a 90s dance party :)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Weekend Fun With Pinterest

I decided for this roundup of Pinterest fun I would feature favorite rooms that showcase books.  Enjoy the eyecandy!

Bright and cheery nursery:

Super-fun bookcases:

Cozy little reading nook:

Bright and bold office:

Happy weekend folks!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Latest Read: Kat, Incorrigible

Kat, Incorrigible is a seriously fun read!  I was searching around for a book that I could recommend to my little sister and came across this delightful YA novel. 

Publisher Summary:
In this prim and proper world, twelve-year-old Katherine Ann Stephenson is at a loss: Her sisters, Elissa and Angeline, have recently entered Society and now gossip incessantly in whispers; her foolish brother, Charles,has gambled the family deep into debt; and Stepmama wants nothing to do with them at all.  What can Kat do but take matters into her own hands?

Luckily Kat has inherited her mothers talents and has the courage to use them - if she can only learn how.  But with her sister Elissa's intended fiance, the sinister Sir Neville, showing a dangerous interest in Kat's magical potential; her sister Angeline creating romantic havoc with her own witchcraft; and a highwayman lurking in the forest, even Kat's reckless heroism will be tested to the utmost.  Will her powers be enough to win her sisters their true loves? 

Since I share my name with the young title character I had to see what this book is all about!  Take romantic endeavors gone awry (a la Jane Austen) mixed with a spirited young protagonist (like Pippi Longstocking or Anne Shirley), sprinkled with a little magic and you have a good sense of this charming read.  Kat is such a spunky and endearing character...watching someone constantly get in trouble has never been so fun!  I also loved her sister Angeline as she's equally as feisty.  Compulsively readable, I flew through this book in one sitting.  My only complaint is that the book ended far too soon!  Go out and read this book ASAP, you won't regret it!

4.5/5 stars.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Latest Read: Deerskin

I cannot rave enough about the wonderful author Robin McKinley!  Her fairy tales always feature very strong female protagonists, well-drawn characters and imaginative stories.  For fairy tale-lovers of all ages I wholeheartedly recommend The Hero and the Crown (about the fiery-haired dragon-slayer Aerin) and The Blue Sword (about a woman named Harry who found her purpose as a warrior against evil) - they were some of my most favorite books growing up!

Now, as for Deerskin, it is most definitely an adult novel as it deals with a very disturbing subject.  This book is loosely based on the little-known Charles Perrault fairy tale called "Donkeyskin."

From the publisher:
As Princess Lissar reaches womanhood, it is clear to all the kingdom that in her breathtaking beauty she is the mirror image of her mother, the queen. But this seeming blessing forces her to flee for safety from her father's lust and madness. With her loyal dog Ash at her side, Lissar will unlock a door to a world of magic, where she will find the key to her survival-and an adventure beyond her wildest dreams...

There was some serious Oedipal shiz going on in this book...whoa!  A story that includes rape and incest is...uh, difficult reading to say the least.  However, the latter two-thirds of the novel focused on transformation, hope, love and a bit of magic.  In a way, this book is an ode to the power of a relationship between a woman and her they give each other strength to persevere (awww).

While I did like the story, I enjoyed my childhood favorites much more than Deerskin.  It's not actually due to the disturbing nature of the story (which I thought might be the case) but more due to Lissar's interludes in the cabin which dragged a bit for me.  Also, it was pretty obvious where - or should I say, to whom - Lissar's journey would take her (although there were plenty of surprises along the way).  Yet overall, I thought this was a good book.  One of my favorite things about this novel is that the characters seem less idealized and more realistic.  While romanticized characters can make for a more entertaining read, realistic characters (especially placed in a fairy tale) make for a far more interesting one!

3.5/5 stars.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Kentucky Derby hat...handmade by moi!

Sorry about the absence of post yesterday!  Things have been crazy-busy with work, spring cleaning, doggy-walking, husband-chauffeuring and yoga bootcamp (that just started this week)!  Luckily I've still had plenty of time for reading and finished two books by the wonderful Robin McKinley (reviews to be posted soonly) and am currently savoring Just Kids by Patti Smith.  Since I have nothing bookish to talk about today I thought I'd post about my latest craft project.

So, my lovely friend Charlotte is attending the Kentucky Derby this year and asked me to make her hat (instead of paying some ungodly amount) and, of course, I jumped at the opportunity to do a bit of crafting!  Her dress is black and she wanted to incorporate red roses.  This is what I came up with:

Love the deep lucky to have found some matching flowers and feathers!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Spring Cleaning My House & My Reading

So, it's spring-time which means that 'tis the season for organizing and cleaning your life!  In adherence to this age-old practice I not only dusted the overhead fan-blades (which is a thoroughly disgusting job) but also finally created some order in the chaos that is my TBR list!  I know this is going to take me into uber-nerd territory...but, I categorized my TBR list.

Yes, go ahead and laugh - I know I deserve it :)
My reasoning for doing so is that sometimes I'm in the mood for a certain kind of book and now, rather than wading through the hundreds of titles trying to find said type of novel, I can quickly go to the desired category and easily choose a book from there.  I know...I'm totally lame.  Anyways, I thought I would share the novels in one of my teensy categories.  I bring you, the foodie fiction section!

  • Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
  • Blackberry Wine by Joanne Harris
  • The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted by Bridget Asher
  • Georgia's Kitchen by Jenny Nelson