Friday, August 28, 2015

Book Review: "Glass" by Ellen Hopkins

It has been about a year and a half or so since I read the first book in this series, Crank and damn if that horror show didn't come right back to me in the first few pages.  I love books written in verse because I always seem to become more emotionally connected somehow.  And with this being such a true and scary reality for meth addicts...  I had a sick feeling in my gut the entire time.

This book picks up not long after Crank finishes.  Kristina is home with her family and her mother is helping take care of her baby.  She has been able to keep the monster (meth) at bay...  but she's getting restless.  She's feeling too confined.  And she thinks that if she just has a little, she can keep it under control.  This is obviously very wrong, and it is so scary to see just how fast she spirals downward.

The thing to remember is that this series is based upon the author's experiences as a mother to a meth-addicted daughter.  This is not some imagined scenario...  there is truth wrapped up in the words.  That is the scariest part.  There is one more book in this series, Fallout, but I think it will be awhile before I can read that one.  Fallout follows years after Glass, and deals directly with the aftereffects of Kristina's addiction on her family - her children.  I know it is going to break my heart and make me angry, but I am going to have to read it.  Just not right now, I need to get over this one.  It is just too powerful a story and too powerful a storyteller for me to jump right back in.

by Ellen Hopkins
Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2007
681 pages
Series:  Crank #2
Source:  Purchased Used


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Book Review: "I Capture the Castle" by Dodie Smith

Seventeen year old Cassandra Mortmain lives in a broken down castle near the small English village of Godsend.  She lives with her father, the genius author who unfortunately has a serious case of writer's block, her artist's model stepmother Topaz, her older sister Rose, her younger brother Thomas and Stephen - their ward.  They might have had money, once...  but its been awhile and they are just scraping by.  Rose is the most bothered by their poverty...  so when the young Cotton brothers have returned to their inheritance - the large nearby estate - Rose is determined to marry one of them.

But this story is told from Cassandra's point of view, as she writes in three journal books over the course of six months.
She is a wonderful narrator, so young and innocent but also very observant and feeling.  This is really her coming-of-age story as she starts to see herself as a woman, as she starts to explore love and what love is...  all set against the beautiful English countryside.  I liked the contrast between country life and that of London.  Also, as the Cotton brothers (Simon and Neil) have come from America - there is also contrast between continents.  The Cotton's and Stephen add up to three young men for Cassandra and Rose to get to know, fall in love with, and have fall in love with them.  What happens with that combination though....

The language here is lyrical and beautiful, as befitting the setting.  This was just such a lovely book... and I liked the fact that there wasn't a neat and tidy ending.  The reader is left to dream about what happens next in Cassandra's life!  The words ran out when her journals did...  I loved it.  I really liked Cassandra and completed related to her.  I would have been friends with her for sure.

What is funny is that I read a used copy and in two separate locations, two words were blocked out with ink.  The first was "Good God", but I have no idea what the second one was!  I've read a lot of used books, and this is the first time this has ever happened to me!  So strange...  but I'll never forget it!

I Capture the Castle
by Dodie Smith
St. Martin's Griffin, 1998.  First published 1948.
343 pages
Source:  Purchased Used


Monday, August 24, 2015

Winner Winner - Bout of Books Challenge Style

Bout of BooksI hope everyone enjoyed this Bout of Books as much as I did!  It seems like most of you enjoyed my What To Read Next? Challenge (though I think everyone wished I'd allowed for more than 3 books each).  But I have to say - with only 3 books each - the Master List of Recommendations is over 170 different titles!!

The Winner of the Challenge, as chosen from the Random Number Generator, is

Bekka from Pretty Deadly Reviews!
Congrats Bekka!

Now for the Books Recommended the Most in the Challenge:

One title got the most mentions (and its one of my favorites of the year too):  
 Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

One title came in second in mentions:
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Four books tied for third most mentions:
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
The Martian by Andy Weir
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

And here are all the books mentioned more than once:
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
From the Start by Melissa Tagg
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Fairest by Marissa Meyer
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows

(clicking on the titles will bring you to the book's GoodReads page)

The full list of titles mentioned (in the order of mention) can be found on this Google Doc.  Enjoy the Big List of Recommendations, I know that I'm adding a bunch to my Fall TBR list!  Happy Reading and thanks to everyone who participated!!


Sunday, August 23, 2015

What to Read Next Challenge for Bout of Books!

Bout of BooksHey Bout of Bookers!!  Ready for a Challenge!!  It's easy, promise.

Basically, I am always on the lookout for new books to read (and I know I'm not the only one).  So, help a fellow reader out in my "What to Read Next Challenge!"

For this Challenge, you need to recommend 3 books (and only 3 books) that you have read this year that you think should be recognized as something great - something everyone should have on their TBR list for this fall.  If you can, say a short little something about why you recommend these books.  Once the challenge is over, I will compile a list of all of the mentioned books, in order of mentions, to share with the entire Bout of Books community.  Oh and the prize?  Of course there is a prize!  One lucky entrant will be chosen at random to win $15(US) worth of books from me.  If you live in the US, the prize (title of your choice) will ship from Amazon and if the winner lives elsewhere in the world, the prize can be chosen from Book Depository.  Sound good?

You may enter by leaving a comment on this post with:
  • A link to where you have made your list (Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Your Blog, Facebook, etc.....)  If your link takes me somewhere where I can reach your list, you're good.
  • Leave your list right in the comment on this post 
This is open to Bout of Books participants ONLY (I will be checking!!) and you must live in an area where either Amazon or Book Depository delivers.  The winner will choose the book(s) they would like to receive, not to exceed $15US.  You may enter at any time between NOW and MIDNIGHT CST.  Late entries will not be eligible for the prize (but I may still include on the big list of recommendations).  I will contact the winner on Monday, 8/24.   

Good Luck!  And be sure to keep an eye out for the big list of recommendations to come!!


Monday, August 17, 2015

Bout of Books 14: Master Post

Bout of Books
Ready, Set, GO!  It's Bout of Books time!  For this entire week, August 17 - August 23, I'm joining readers from around the world who pledge to read as much as possible for the Bout of Books Read-a-thon.  (I will also be hosting a challenge with a prize toward the end of the week too... so keep a look out for that).

My goal for this week is to read 1,000 pages.

This is my master post - the one post I will update every day throughout the week.

Day 1: Monday

Pages read today:
Pages read this week: 148
Books completed:  none, yet.
Notes:  I read about half of Play On by Michelle Smith, which has been fun...  but I will admit to already lowering my goal to 1,000 pages.  I was thinking last night while reading that 1,000 is still a challenge but there's a better chance I could reach it.  1,200 is a harder challenge and considering the week I have ahead of me:  not very reachable.

Day 2: Tuesday

Pages read today:
Pages read this week:  273
Books completed:  Play On
Notes:  Play On was definitely a cute read - and I'm kind of glad I read this while in a "listen to a ton of Jason Aldean" phase...  I kind of picture Austin (the MC) like Jason Aldean (or sounding like him at least).  After I finished that book, I started another which was a quick DNF for me.  I borrowed it from the library on a whim, and it just isn't for me.  And truly, I read so little of it, that I'm not even going to share the title because that isn't fair to the book.

Day 3: Wednesday

Pages read today:
Pages read this week: 544
Books completed:  Play On, Death Note #2: Confluence
Notes:  It had been awhile since I read the first Death Note manga volume, but I instantly fell back into the story.  Personally, I think it is awesome.  Once I read that, I started in on Half Wild by Sally Green.

Day 4: Thursday

Pages read today
:  158
Pages read this week:   702
Books completed:  Play On, Death Note #2: Confluence
Notes:  I'm actually on track to reach my goal!  Yay!  I'm about half way through Half Wild right now...

Day 5: Friday

Pages read today:
Pages read this week:  911
Books completed:  Play On, Death Not #2: Confluence, Half Wild
Notes:  I finished Half Wild and I'm still thinking about how I feel about it.  In the meantime, I got some awesome book mail from my friend - including the ARC for Illuminae which I've been hearing all sorts of good things about....  so I started that a little bit too.

Day 6: Saturday

Pages read today
:  84
Pages read this week:  995
Books completed:  Play On, Death Not #2: Confluence, Half Wild
Notes:  Didn't get much reading done (how in the world did I manage to stop reading 5 pages away from my goal!?!??)  but I went on a major cleaning spree in my house.  I managed to toss 3 huge garbage bags of junk out of my room alone, gather 3 bags of clothes and 2 bags of books for donation....  and I've only made a dent towards my vision of a fully cleaned out house. (And I haven't even read The Magic of Tidying Up or whatever its called yet - even though I did buy it last week.)  I also mowed the lawn and went out to eat with the family and watched a Demetri Martin special on Netflix.  So, yeah, a big busy day.  I've got some things planned for Sunday too...  but I will reach my Bout of Books goal which is awesome!!  Illuminae is fantastic, by the way.  Also, I'm hosting the Bout of Books Challenge on Sunday - so look for that too!!

Day 7: Sunday

Pages read today:  
Pages read this week:  1,136
Books completed:  Play On, Death Not #2: Confluence, Half Wild
Notes:  I am so into Illuminae, its not funny.  I love the way this story is being told!  I'd hoped to read more of it, but Sunday got a little away from me.  Plus, I was doing my best to keep on top of the Challenge I posed BoB'ers yesterday.  It seems like most people liked it, and it was a challenge to only name 3 books!  So I'm glad it went over well.  I started building the Master List of all the recommendations and woah.  It is going to be a very long list!  I love it!!

Overall Wrap-Up:  I think this was a very successful Bout of Books for me.  I reached my (amended) goal, read some great books, and hosted my first Challenge!  I'm looking forward to the next one in January!


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Book Review: "Our Souls at Night" by Kent Haruf

One afternoon, Addie Moore walks down the block to Louis Waters' house.  They don't know each other well, but as they have both lived in this small Colorado town for decades - they know enough about each other.  Addie and Louis are both widowed, and have each been alone for quite some time.  Their children have moved away, and they have each been going about their business...  getting through each day.  Which is why it was unusual for Addie to go visit Louis in the first place.  Even more unusual is the reason why.  She has a proposition for him - would he like to come by and spend the night?  Not for sex...  but just so they wouldn't be alone anymore.  So they could have someone to talk to in the night.

This is such a sweet story, simply told about being older and feeling lonely.  There is kind of an unofficial rule that once you reach a certain point in life - that's it...  you are who you are, the habits you've formed will always be your habits and you are not allowed to change.  But Addie wasn't happy or satisfied and so she broke the mold.  As Louis said, she was brave.  They made it a point to not care when the townspeople began to talk (and they did begin to talk).  They stood up for themselves when their children got wind of their relationship.  And how lovely a relationship...  because really, those nighttime conversations with the one who shares your bed are really the best, most intimate conversations you ever have, aren't they?  That intimacy is a comfort and I love that these two managed to find that - even if in a bit of an unconventional way.

I really wish that I had the time to have read this in one or two sittings.  This summer has just been crazy (in a good way).  But even if I only had a few moments to read at night, I did enjoy coming to the quiet simpleness of this book.  So, really, maybe I'm thankful I got to stretch this slim book out over several nights then?

Our Souls at Night
by Kent Haruf
Knopf, 2015
179 pages
Source:  Library


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Book Review: "BiblioTECH: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google" by John Palfrey

I cannot for the life of me remember where I discovered this title, but I am so glad I did.  As a librarian, and a recent library school graduate - everything in this book resonated with me.  EVERYTHING.  So much so that when just a few chapters in, I made a point of recommending this book to my Library Director.  She then told me that she just got it on a book list supplied by Maureen Sullivan (former President of American Library Association) for one of the professional groups of which she is a member.

While I was discussing this book with my Director, I really started thinking that this should be recommended (strongly) to library Trustees and other stakeholders - in particular, all of those in government positions that have any affect at all upon funding libraries, from local to state to federal.  Library staff would gain a lot from reading this.... as well as any of those people who think that libraries are dying out or becoming less important in the digital age.

Palfrey has a unique perspective for this book.  He is the founding chairman of the Digital Public Library of America, the current Head of School at Phillips Academy and the former library director of Harvard Law Library, but is not nor has he ever been a librarian.  But he gets it.  He understands this, and uses his outside professional knowledge and experiences to break down exactly why libraries are so important and gives his opinion on how to move forward in this digital age.  He highlights several innovative librarians and library systems as examples of progress being made in the profession.  There is also an extensive section of notes which expand on specific points and examples he is making as well as a huge bibliography for further reading!   He writes in a very accessible manner too - there is a bit of library jargon but most of it is defined in lay terms, so that this can be easily enjoyed by anyone - librarian or not.
BiblioTECH:  Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google
by John Palfrey
Basic Books, 2015
280 pages
Source:  Library (of course!)


Monday, August 10, 2015

Book Review: "Reality Chick" by Lauren Barnholdt

So, this is a little awkward.  I read Reality Chick and when I was looking into the GoodReads page for the book - I see that it was republished in 2010 under the title Watch Me.  So there's that little nugget to start this post off with a bang!

No matter which title/cover you prefer, this is the story of Ally Cavanaugh - a freshman at Syracuse College - who was chosen to live out her freshman year on reality TV.  She lives in a separate house with four other roommates/cast members.   She's the only one in a relationship, but her longtime boyfriend Corey is far far away at the University of Miami on a basketball scholarship.  Ally is fine with that as she is determined not to let the show break them up.  It does get a little awkward though, having those cameras and microphones following her around constantly.... especially as she starts to develop some feelings for her roommate Drew.

This is a cute little story...  It was originally published in 2006, though and definitely feels a bit dated.  I was looking for a light, fun book to read today as I am still recovering from a great weekend at the beach with family - and that's what I got.  I breezed through this in a matter of hours and feel thoroughly entertained.  There are a couple of issues that I had - mostly the way that Ally completely dismissed Drew and labels him unfairly and without any evidence or cause the moment she meets him.  Really, she did that with all of her roommates, but dropped those "labels" about all of them very quickly - except for Drew.  It just felt like it was an overly forced point to create unneeded drama.

I should mention the reason I picked up this book was because it is set in my hometown, and I even when to Syracuse University.  So there were a couple of scenes that reminded me of home.  Much is made of Syracuse being the snowiest city on record (which is absolutely true) and part of the reason I no longer live there!  I did like Barnholdt's writing though, and I'd like to see where she went with it so I'll likely check out something a bit more recent from her.

Reality Chick
by Lauren Barnholdt
Simon Pulse, 2006
270 pages
Source:  Library


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Book Review: "Jesse's Girl" by Miranda Kenneally

It's Shadow Day for the Hundred Oaks Seniors, where the students get to shadow someone working in the real world - doing what they'd like to do.  Maya Henry never thought that when she said she wanted to be a rock star that her school would set her up to shadow a real music star.  Not just any one either, but none other than Jesse Scott, the 18 year old country music star.  Things don't start out so well - considering Jesse is only used to people wanting to know him for their own selfish ulterior motives, and Maya is a little gun shy about letting her guard down as well.  But they both have things to learn...  and who knows what might happen?

Ok, so that was the worst/cheesiest question to ask.  Because if you've read any of Miranda Kenneally's books, you know exactly what might happen.....  and that is why you are reading these books.  Personally, I love them.  You know what you're in for - a sweet romantic story with good friends, a strong female character and a swoony male character.  It is a perfect happy read.

The bonus here is that it is part of the Hundred Oaks series.  If you've been reading along, Maya is Sam Henry's younger sister - only she's seventeen now.  Sam and Jordan are side characters here, and it is fun to get a glimpse into what they are up to now.  The thing that bothers me is that of all these books, I read Breathe, Annie Breathe out of order - that was the book that immediately precedes this one.  And while I do realize that this really and truly does not make a difference in the general story... now that I've gotten to know them all - I need to go back and revisit that book.

Jesse's Girl
by Miranda Kenneally
Sourcebooks Fire, 2015
287 pages
Series:  Hundred Oaks #6
Source:  Purchased New

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