Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller

I just keep getting sucked into the teen world.  It's not a bad place to be, if you're not a teen!  And by teen world, I mean teen books.  There are some pretty darn good novels coming out now, and I'm having a hard time balancing my adult and teen reads!  "Oooh, I have to read that one" is pretty much my catch phrase lately at work when I wander through the teen section.  It doesn't help that I am already thinking Christmas thoughts, and which books to get which kids.  

I've heard a lot of buzz about The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller, and it's about reincarnation, so I picked it up and stayed up late last night to finish it.  Here's what I think:

It's an intelligent novel about reincarnation, with some teen thrown in.  Haven Moore is the young woman in the center of the novel.  She lives with her overbearing, over-religious grandmother Imogene,  and cowering mother  Mae in Snope City, TN.  She's an extremely talented clothing designer, and has a small business making prom dresses for high school students with her gay friend, Beau.  Both are outsiders in the small town.  Haven is known as the girl who's possessed by a demon, and Beau is the only openly gay person in town.  They are very close and support each other.

Haven has been having visions of  1920's New York City, a fire, and a man named Ethan all her life.  She believes she's seeing a previous life as Constance,  and Ethan is her one true love.  She's determined to get to New York City to find him.  Imogene and the town preacher are determined to keep her "safe" in Snope City.  Seeing Iain Morrow on TV, she's convinced he's Ethan.  

Haven manages to get to New York City, and meets Iain.  From here, things start to happen.  What is the mysterious Ouroboros Society?  Did Ethan kill Constance in 1925?  Is Iain killing now?  Can Haven trust him?  This part of the novel is great.  Kirsten Miller writes an interesting story line, and you are itching to find out more about Constance and Ethan.  The only thing I didn't like about it is Haven's wishy-washy feelings for Iain.  She is drawn to him, and claims to love him, yet is very easily swayed time and again into distrusting him and being suspicious.  Iain does give her reason to question his motives, but I found her constant back and forth loving, then distrusting and wanting to leave him a bit irritating.  Otherwise, I enjoyed the novel a lot and the ending is quite interesting.  Adam Roiser is a character to watch.  That's all I'll say.  Can't wait to read the sequel.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Countdown to the End of August

I am so glad I pre-ordered Mockingjay!  I will probably check one out from work and start reading it promptly tomorrow after I do my five mile run.  It will be a reward.  Everyone at work who hasn't read The Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins is getting with the program and reading them this week.  My niece Jamie reported in after reading The Hunger Games and is freaking out because she has to wait a few days to pick up Catching Fire.  When I told her the final book in the trilogy comes out Tuesday, she just sighed.  Oh, and school just started.  Gee, sorry kids!  

We received our shipment of Mockingjay late last week, and we could look at the boxes, but couldn't open them.  Oh so close, yet so far!  Sometimes strict on sale dates stink!  I suspect we will have a large influx of kids in the store tomorrow afternoon after school lets out to pick up the book.  Parents--your kids will probably be quietly sitting in their rooms tomorrow night, breathlessly reading, so just leave 'em alone.  You can start on The Hunger Games  and next week if you ask nicely, your child may be willing to loan you the other two.  
I do know of a few people in my family who need to read these--I'll be picking up some copies on September 1st to pass around.  One week left of my self-imposed book buying ban!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Delightful Novel About the Tower Of London--Pack Your Bag!

I loved this book.  Adorable.  Sweet.  Funny.  Quirky characters.  The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise by Julia Stuart takes place at the Tower of London.  I've been to the Tower, and this made me want to go back and look at it with fresh eyes--and without the litany of "Oh my God!  I'm at the Tower of London!" running through my head.  What can I say?  I'm a history nerd, with a BA in History, so I am firmly entrenched in the interesting happenings of this world.  England is a particular favorite of mine.

Balthazar Jones is a Beefeater at the Tower.  He lives there with his wife, Hebe, who works for the London Underground in the Department of Lost Things.  She spends her days accepting lost items that were left on the Tube, and then trying to match them to their owners.  She has a sarcophagus, a magician's saw box, and a safe that no one can open to keep her company, along with Valerie, her co-worker.  Yeoman Jones and Hebe have been married for over 30 years, and are both still dealing with the grief of losing their son Milo a few years before.

Life at the Tower is not glamorous.  Everyone lives in the damp, dank, stinky towers, where nothing can fit because the walls are curved.  Ghosts abound, and tourists are a pain.
The Queen decides the Tower needs more tourists, and wants all the animals she receives from other heads of state to be housed at the Tower.  Centuries before, the Tower had a managerie and it was very popular.  Yeoman Jones is put in charge of this, and reluctant though he is, he soon finds himself becoming attached to the animals.

This book was so enjoyable because the characters are just lovely.  Each has their quirks and secrets, and Julia Stuart has written the story in such a way that you find yourself smiling and sighing over each one of them.  It's a very English novel.  Please, pick it up.  It will lift your spirits and also provide you with little snippets of Tower history.  History in a well written book?  No way!  Yes, way.

I'm going to look at my photos of the Tower right now.  Thank you, C-Joy and Ty, for taking me there!  I'm ready to go back anytime.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

How Am I Doing So Far?

I've made it through most of August without buying any books.  I've had a few close calls, though.  It is hard to explain to kids who want books that I can't physically buy them  because I'm trying to get through my backlog of books at home.  Luckily, Laura and Cole immediately went to the Silly Bandz and toy Halo products we have at the store.  I was off the hook this time and it's the one time I've been glad they didn't want a book.

Then Jamie comes into the store and stacks a pile of books that she must have.  She doesn't have enough money; will I please buy her a book today since she has nothing to read?  I actually made it to the register before I realized what I was about to do.  Luckily, a co-worker was nearby who bought the book for her and saved me.

My list of books to buy has grown to about ten titles.  I know one I will immediately buy:

I'm reading Julia Stuart's latest:  The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise and I'm enjoying it a lot!  Her previous book, The Matchmaker of Perigord looks to be as whimsical and fun to read as her latest.  Plus, the cover art makes it irresistible.  I'll review The Tower in a few days when I'm done.

I have read 61 books so far this year; I think I'm on track to get to 100 by December 31st.  It's the first time in a long time I've kept track of what I've read and I am amazed at the variety I've picked up.  I just finished The Bride's Farewell by Meg Rosoff.

Once again, the cover caught my eye.  It's about Pell Ridley, a young woman who runs away the morning of her wedding.  She lives in 1850's England, in a small town with a drunken father and a mother who has been worn down from birthing children and being beaten for years.  Pell can't stand the thought of ending up like her mother, even though Birdie, her fiance, is a blacksmith who has grown up with her and loves her very much.

The book is about Pell's journey after she leaves home.  Her little brother, Bean, a mute, runs away with her.  Pell's journey takes her to Salisbury for the fair, where she hopes to find work.  Instead, she meets some kind people, and Dogman--a mysterious man who is a poacher by trade.  Pell and Bean are separated, and Pell's efforts to find Bean take her throughout the countryside and other adventures.

Pell is an extremely strong young woman.  With literally nothing but the clothes on her back, she is determined to find Bean and make a new home.  If you're looking for a feel good romancy novel, this isn't for you.  But, if you want to read about a young woman's struggle to be free of the restrictions women had in rural England during the 1850's, this is for you.  You may be disappointed in the end, but I thought it was an interesting ending to Pell's tale.  Not every story has a fairy tale ending, but a real ending.  This is one of them.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

This Vampire Doesn't Look Like Alexander Skarsgard!

Eternity as a chunky 15 year old? That really sucks!
Fat Vampire by Adam Rex is a teen book about Doug, a fifteen year old high school student nicknamed "meatball" (because he used to smell like garlic as a child) who's been turned into a vampire in the Poconos.

Doug isn't very happy as a vampire--even on a diet of cow blood, he still can't lose any weight, and he doesn't feel very vampiric.  He has to wear a poncho out to school so he doesn't get burned, and he still has to wear glasses.  Sometimes he turns into a bat, but has no idea how and can't do it on command.  What a rough after life!

This book starts out very funny--some of the lines require reading out loud.  Doug and his best friend Jay are just trying to figure out how to get through each day.  A lousy sensational vampire hunter show has seen  security  camera footage of Doug trying to suck blood out of a panda (you must read this part!) and is convinced they've finally found a bona fide vampire--they are on the chase to find Doug.  They're both a couple of door knobs.

The first part of the book is very enjoyable, and Doug soon falls for an Indian exchange student with a mysterious internet past.  She's a bit reserved, and you just don't know if they will hit it off.  The second part of the book takes a more serious tone; I wasn't very happy with the rest of the novel.  Doug is likable in the beginning, but I found myself annoyed with him and his changing attitude.  He became unlikable and distant from Jay.

So read it and see what you think of the end.  I wasn't too thrilled with the end and a bit confused, too.  What I did like about this teen novel is that it's about a teen boy vampire, and not one that's a gorgeous perfect football player vampire.  It will appeal to boys and girls.  There are some absolutely hysterical scenes and lines, and that's what I missed in the last half of the book.  But, there's enough to keep you reading, and certainly will get you talking to your friends about it.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Peek Inside P.T. Barnum's World

The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno by Ellen Bryson is a novel about a man who works for P.T. Barnum at his museum in New York City in 1865.  Barthy is the thin man in the show; he weighs 65 pounds and is 6 feet tall.  His meals consist of eating a very small amount of green beans with mustard.  He takes great pride in his rib cage sticking out and works to have customers faint when they see his show.

Barthy's close friend Matina is the fat woman; Ally is the  strong man, who has feelings for Matina that Barthy doesn't want to acknowledge.  Barthy sees a secret visitor arrive with Barnum late one night, and his determination sets in motion his transformation.

The secret visitor is Iell, a beautiful red head who has a mysterious relationship with Barnum.  She's the bearded lady, and Barthy finds himself becoming entwined in her world with Barnum, trying to help Iell and keep his job at the same time.  Just what secrets does she have?  Can Barthy keep his feelings to himself, or will he tell Iell about his love for her?

Barthy is a very interesting character.  His transformation occurs throughout the book, as he realizes he's a product of his mother's twisted actions during his childhood, and that he is free to go "outside" the museum to live a normal life.  It's the best part of the book--seeing Barthy awaken to his potential as more than just the thin man at the museum.

P.T. Barnum's museum in 1865 New York City is an amazing character in this novel.  The author does a great job creating an atmosphere full of quirky characters, dark corners, and secretive meetings.  And Barnum himself is a man that uses all his smarts to get his way, and his showmanship to keep the crowds coming in to the museum.

I liked this novel.  Up until the end, you just don't know what's going to happen to Barthy--will he stay or go?  Can he repair his relationship with Matina?  Does he find happiness with Iell?  If you're looking for a historical novel that is chock full of the smells, sights, and sounds of 1865 New York City, try this one.  It was an enjoyable read.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Making Progress!

I'm four days into my self-imposed ban on buying any books this month, and I must say I'm pleased with myself.  I've managed to finish two more books this week, and am reading a few more "food writing" books for my book presentation in a few weeks for the foodie group at the local grocery store.

I still have a large pile, but I'm happy to say I can see progress and the sense of overwhelming panic is gone.  I'm keeping a list of what I want to read, and so far I have about 6 titles just in the last few days.  Eeks!  I think I'll find myself back in the same boat again....

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tested at Work by Well Meaning Co-Workers

Apparently everyone at work knows I buy a lot of books, cause last night at work I had three different co-workers tell me about books I had to read.  Arrgh!!  I love them all, but my golly, I will not make it if they all gang up on me!  I've taken to keeping a list of books I want to buy after my self-imposed ban.  It's a good thing Bud will be busy hunting this fall, since I will need plenty of time to read through my growing list.  I have read two of my already purchased books, so I'm getting a good start on the backlog.  

There's a new humor book by Lane Smith that I fell in love with yesterday.  If you're familiar with Lane Smith, you know he co-wrote The Stinky Cheeseman and Other Fairly Stupid Tales (one of my all time favorite kids books).  It's called It's A Book and it's a simple tale about a monkey, a mouse, and a jackass.  The Monkey is reading a book, and the jackass has no idea what it is, because he uses every electronic gadget around to read.  It's a very simple story, but it is so da*n funny it will make you laugh out loud.  

It will definitely be on my bookcase at home, and I hope we never get to the point where we have to have a monkey show us what a book really is!  I believe there's room for many ways to read, as long as people realize they have to grab a book once in a while and enjoy the smell and feel of it, along with the story. There really is nothing like the comfort of settling in with a book for a good long read.

The ever brilliant Lane
Smith does it again

Sunday, August 1, 2010

I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti by Giulia Melucci

Just about every woman has a great story about the "one".  That one that seemed so darn good at the beginning, and ended up being waaay wrong at the end.  In I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti by Giulia Melucci, she has more than the "one".  Giulia's book is about her travails in the world of dating and relationships.  Poor girl.  She's pretty, smart, a great cook, has a great job and plenty of friends, but keeps trying to mold herself into what she isn't for each of the men who enter her life.  It's quite funny; Giulia also has a great sense of humor, and can look back on her romances and see exactly where they went wrong, and how they went wrong.

Interspersed within each chapter are recipes that coincide with each romance.  Giulia loves to cook, and is quite a good one, too.  She finds it a little frustrating to be dating a man who doesn't really care much about food at all; her efforts at creating lovely dinners go unrecognized and unappreciated.

If you're looking for a humorous look at dating in the 21st century, look no farther.  Giulia's book is delightful to read, and sometimes a bit sad, too.  Will she ever find someone who appreciates all of her?  Can she stop herself from trying to be what her men want, and not being her true wonderful self?

I enjoyed this biography.  I got online and checked up on Giulia; she's doing just fine, thank you.  Her dream of being a writer has been realized, and I hope she continues to write.  She has a great voice and you'll find yourself sipping a glass of wine, laughing over her disasters, and buying tomatoes and pasta (not Barilla) to make yourself a delightful dinner for one.