Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Changes

Good Morning Fellow Bookworms!

As you might've noticed there has been a decline in the number of posts that I have done recently. I will not bore you with explanations, especially since that is not what this blog is about, simply put I will say that life happens. Sometimes it gets in the way of things that you enjoy.

So in an effort to continue with the blog I have decided to make some changes to how this is done. I will still be doing Book Series Sunday and then regular book posts will happen every Wednesday beginning next week. Friday is going to be new type of post called Author Day where I will choose an author, either contemporary or classic, that I feel you should know about. In the post I will include a bit of biography, why I personally like them, and a list of some to all of their books.

Keep reading Bookworms!

-Ariel

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Beka Cooper

Today's Sunday Series Recommendation are the Beka Cooper novels by Tamora Pierce.

Set once again in the fantasy realm of Tortall. The novels tell the story of Beka Cooper a policewoman in the capital of Corus. In book one the heroine is a rookie of the Provost's Guard, affectionately known as the "Provost's Dogs." As a rookie she is considered a Puppy and works alongside a pair of veteran Dogs. To everyone's surprise, in the first novel, she requests duty in the Lower City. It is considered a tough beat but for Beka it is comfortable. She was born there.

Paired Matts and Clary, famed among the Dogs, who are none too happy to have been set up with a puppy for the first time in years, Beka and her new mentors begin their beat in the Lower City. Little do they know that Beka brings something new to the table. Information. Whispers brought to her on the backs of a pigeons. Whispers that belong to the dead.

As the first novel continues Beka learns of a power shift in the underworld of the Lower City. Someone new is in play and they are strong arming citizens with fear into silence. But Beka's dead are impervious to fear and know that if something isn't done more whispers will be added to their number. Luckily Beka, while not impervious to fear, is a true Terrier and she won't let fear rule her.

Terrier is the title of the first novel and it is followed by Bloodhound and Mastiff. As the novels continue Beka's talents with magic become more clear and as per usual in a Tamora Pierce novel she is given a cast of animal sidekicks that help her solve the mysteries of her city. The novels are both fantasy adventure and mystery novels. With the interesting premise of a police force within a medieval inspired fantasy world.

Beka also proves to be one of Pierce's most clever heroines. She is resourceful and doesn't back down from a fight. Pierce has a knack for writing strong female characters. Alongside Kel from The Protector of the Small (check out its own blog post) Beka is one of my favorite female characters. Its a good book for middle school age girls but is also fun for us "adults". Definitely worth a read!

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Happiness Project

Today's Book Recommendation is The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.

Gretchen Rubin begins her year with a realization on a city bus. That she wasn't focusing enough of her energy on things that matter. Armed with this realization Rubin dedicated an entire year to finding what mattered and what she could do to cultivate happiness. She dubbed this year her Happiness Project.

Through simple changes she reinvents how she views and handles her life. From a daily list of things to be thankful for. To how she talks to her husband and her children. Rubin takes a look at what really matters in our day to day lives. Through all of her changes, some she succeeds at easily while others are a struggle, Gretchen Rubin documents her project on her blog/website which can still be viewed today. Ultimately the project sought to change her daily habits.


I read this book during my second year of graduate school. I was struggling with my thesis, a long distance relationship, and the threat of school ending. It was a rough year. On a whim I downloaded The Happiness Project on my Nook and began reading. While I couldn't relate to Rubin on some of the specifics, for instance I have no children, I could relate to the basic principles. How could I find small bits of happiness in my day to day life.

I took notes from the book. I kept my own gratitude book, wrote my goals on categorized sticky notes that I put on a window right over my bed. This made them the first thing that I saw when I woke up and the last thing that I saw when I went to bed. It also gave me some tools to make the separation from my Gentleman a little easier.

This felt like an important book to me. If you are struggling to find those little pieces of happiness in your life this might be a good teacher for you. I highly recommend it. Once you read it, if you desire to start your own year long happiness project you can check out www.gretchenrubin.com.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Sabriel

Today's Book Recommendation is Sabriel by Garth Nix.

The novel takes place in a country called Ancelstierre. Where Sabriel was sent to attend boarding school by her father The Abhorsen. Having spent most of her life in the shadow of a wall that separates Ancelstierre from the Old Kingdom Sabriel has little experience with what is known as Free Magic, nor does she have experience with the Dead who tend to not stay where they are supposed to. Everything changes during her final semester when her father mysteriously goes missing.

Concerned that something might have happened to him Sabriel takes it on herself to go and find him. Leaving her school she ventures across the wall into the Old Kingdom. Here she finds that she possesses strange powers. She meets a young Charter Mage who calls himself Touchstone, and Mogget a potentially powerful and malevolent spirit who hides beneath feline form. Together they will travel deep into the Old Kingdom in hopes that they can find the Abhorsen before it is too late.

This is the first installment to the Abhorsen Chronicles. It is at once Game of Thrones meets the Lord of the Rings. If you are a fan of either of those book series you will love this novel by Garth Nix. The second book in the series is one of my favorite books of all time. But, for it to make sense to you, you'll have to begin with Sabriel. She is an excellent heroine who faces every challenge that comes her way with bravery. I love the allusion to Shakespeare by using the name Touchstone for one of the main characters. Especially in a novel that boasts such a strong heroine.

A novel that I would definitely recommend for teens and young women alike. I will warn you that it can sometimes be hard to find the novels independently from each other but the first novel in the series is the easier to find. Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Once Upon a Winter's Night

Today's Book Recommendation is Once Upon A Winter's Night by Dennis L. McKiernan.


Once upon a winter's night a poor ailing man trades his daughter's life for riches that he has never imagined that will last a lifetime. Now his poor daughter Camille is sent to live with the mysterious Prince Alain of the Summerwood. Here in this Kingdom of Summer love blossoms between Camille and the Prince who she never sees behind a mask of sadness. For Alain is under a dreadful curse and he believes that nothing can be done to lift the curse. Camille believes that together they can overcome this obstacle and decides to take matters into her own hands despite the warnings given to her. Now, she must deal with the consequences as everything is swept away from her. Now she must journey through the Faery realm in search of somewhere east of the sun and west of the moon.

If you haven't picked up on it yet, you should know that I love a good fairy tale retelling. This is one of the better ones. It reminded me of a favorite childhood movie, The Polar Bear King, which is retelling of Beauty and the Beast. This also happens to be one of my favorite fairy tales. However McKiernan takes it one step further and also weaves in a retelling that draws from a few other fairy tales and also Greek mythology. This is no easy take and the author does it with a beautiful edge.

Specifically the fairy tale is East of the Sun and West of the Moon whose themes are true love can conquer all. Where it delves into the Beast mythos is with the fact that Alain takes the shape of a bear during the day and he becomes a man only at night. While this might sound cliche it is only because the story is so familiar. What makes this stand out is how gracefully McKiernan writes.

This is a favorite series as well as there are three other books that follow this one and apparently a fifth book that I have yet to come across. I will warn you that these novels are sometimes hard to come by and you might have to venture onto Amazon or Barnes and Noble online to find them. Your best bet might also be to buy them used. Trust me though, it is well worth the leg work.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Panic

Today's Book Recommendation is Panic by Lauren Oliver.

In the town of Carp located in what would easily be considered the middle of nowhere during the summer there is nothing to do. As a result a game was born. The game is high risk but the reward is higher. Played by graduating seniors the game has become the stuff of legends.

Heather never thought that she would be one the play. Nor had she ever considered herself brave. That she would be the type of person that would fight to stand out. Until she finds something to fight for. Or better yet someone. As the game continues she will find that she is braver than she ever thought possible.

Dodge never feared panic and with the armor of his secret he has fuel to get him all the way through the game to be the winner. But what he doesn't know is that he isn't the only one with a secret. That he isn't the only one who has something to play for.

As the game continues Heather and Dodge discover unexpected alliances, revelations, and the chance at first love for both of them. Ultimately they learn that sometimes the thing you fear most is exactly what you need to succeed.

This novel differs from Oliver's other books. First off it is, at this point, a stand alone novel. She has written another book series that I will be sure to review at some point as it is wonderful. The other major difference is that this novel is set not in a dystopian future but rather out world as we know it. Oliver also accurately captures those years at the end of high school when we are trying to figure out who we are and what we fight for. The game provides a backdrop for the changing relationships that we all face as we exit high school. A novel that will have you on the edge of your seat and cheering for both Dodge and Heather. A fun worthwhile read.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Why We Broke Up

Today's Book Recommendation is Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler.

Min is breaking up with her boyfriend. But, before it becomes official Min is giving Ed a box. Inside the box there are two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a protractor, books, and a book of matches just to name a few. The box accompanies a letter in which Min has written to Ed why they broke up. The covers their giddy, intimate, and ultimately heartbreaking romance.

The novel is written with an acute wit and accompanied by wonderful illustrations by artist Maira Kalman. For that reaon alone it should be mentioned that you will not want to read this novel on a tablet, unless it has color, for the illustrations add to the experience of the novel. It should also be mentioned that Daniel Handler is the mastermind behind the Lemony Snicket books.

I found this novel very poignant for anyone who has endured a break up. And for a male author Handler captures the voice of a teenage girl extremely well. She is funny at times in her reactions, melodramatic, and immensely human. I will say that this book will not be for everyone. But, it is definitely worth taking a gander at.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Rebecca

Today's Book Recommendation is Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.

Our nameless heroine begins her story as a lady's companion. It is a bleak and boring future that doesn't seem to have a shred of hope on the horizon. Then on a trip to the South of France our heroine meets Max De Winter. A dashing gentleman who surprises her with a marriage proposal after only a few days of knowing each other. After a whirlwind wedding and moving from hotel to hotel for a while our heroine is brought home to Manderlay. His rather ominous estate.

Here our heroine finds that her husband is a changed man as the memory of the first Mrs. De Winter is ardently kept alive by the foreboding figure of the head of household Mrs. Danvers. Not only does she keep the memory of her first mistress alive but she also intimidates and frightens her new mistress.

After a while our heroine begins to believe that she can't compete with the former mistress of the house who was beautiful, talented, and brilliant. At least that is what everyone keeps telling her. Slowly, if only to calm her own nerves, our heroine begins to unravel the mystery of Rebecca's death. But, the question is...will she ever really be free of the long shadow that Rebecca casts.

This novel is a classic piece of gothic inspired ghostery (yes, I made that word up). If you liked Jane Eyre but want something with a slighly more sinister air this is a novel that should definitely be checked out. There is a moment at a masquerade that is particularly chilling. Both for the event and for the manipulation behind it.


My Lucky Life in and Out of Show Business

Today's Book Recommendation is My Lucky Life in and Out of Show Business by Dick Van Dyke.

It begins with a forward by television writer royalty Carl Reiner who was also the producer of The Dick Van Dyke Show. And then delves into the early days of Mr. Van Dyke's childhood memories. It takes us through his years traveling in a comedy duo. Into his first production on broadway. And finally into his years in film and television. Throughout the whole novel Mr. Van Dyke offers a touching portrait of the Golden Age of Hollywood.

It shows us how a man we admired for his beaming smile, his comedic timing, his ridiculous stunts, and amazing dancing skills got to be where he did. He talks about being on set with Mary Tyler Moore, who played his wife on his tv show, and also about working with Julie Andrews. He unabashely talks about the separation from his first wife and how he fell in love with another woman. He even lets us in on several years where he battled with alcoholism and how it led to a bout with depression in his middle years.

I grew up watching Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I would often dance around the house doing my best impression of Bert the Chimney Sweep. There is a whole generation who grew up with the Petrie family. A generation after that who grew up on his lovely singing and dancing movies. And today people are still discovering this amazing talent who still refers to himself as a "simple song and dance man."

While reading this I felt as though I was sitting with my grandfather and listening to him tell stories about his youth. If you grew up with a love of The Dick Van Dyke Show or if you were born a little later into the world of Mary Poppins. This is a memoir that I highly recommend. I will say that after reading it I bought season one of his show on DVD. Side note, if you are a writer and hope to write for television you should definitely check this show out. The writing is some of the best that I have ever seen and it is jam packed with amazing comedic actors.

Fan Girl

Today's Book Recommendation is Fan Girl by Rainbow Rowell.

Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Let's be honest the whole world is a Simon Snow fan. For Cath and her twin sister Wren they have been encroached in their fandom since they were kids. The fantasy series got them through their Mother leaving. They dressed up to go the the movie premieres. Read. Reread and reread again. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums. Even writing their own fan fiction. All of these facets of Fandom and Cath is good at.

Now headed for college Wren has grown away from her Simon Snow fan days but Cath can't let go. If she is being honest she doesn't want to. But, now Wren has told Cath that she doesn't want to be roommates. Cath is without her twin and out of her comfort zone. She has a surly roommate with an always around albeit charming boyfriend, a fiction professor who believes that fandom is the end of the world as we know it, and a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words. Cath is also very concerned about her father, a loving and fragile man, who has never really been alone.

The Simon Snow characters that are referenced in the novel are reminiscent of the Harry Potter novels. Which for those of us old enough to remember had a world all its own. I can personally remember going to late night book release parties. And there is definitey a world of fan fiction out there. After all Fifty Shades of Grey was supposedly Twilight fan fiction (disclaimer: there is no documented evidence to support this). Ultimately Cath has to decided whether she wants to continue in her Simon Snow fandom or if its time to finally move on.

All of this provides and interesting back drop for a coming of age story that we are all familiar with. That first year of college where we don't know anyone, when we are forced to live with someone that we have never known, and for many of us when some homesickness sets in. It's that weird period of life where you are out on your own for the first time in your life and you have to figure it out. Throughout the novel Rowell provides a very account of how the first year of college can be for the shy creative types. If you were one of them, like myself, you will definitely enjoy this novel.

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Handmaid's Tale

Today's Book Recommendation is The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.

Offred is a handmaid. She lives in the Republic of Gilead. A place where signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. Once a day she may leave the house of the Commander, the man whom she lives with, to go to the market for food on a list given to her by the Commander's wife. Once a month the Commander and her lie together and she must hope that he makes her pregnant. For Offred and the other Handmaids are only valuable so long as their ovaries are viable.

But Offred remembers a time before. A time when she had a husband, Luke, who loved her. When she made love with him not for the sake of a declining population. When she had a daughter that she loved and played with. When she had money of her own. When she had a job. When she had access to knowledge.

This was my first Margaret Atwood novel. I have gone on to read several others but this is one of my two favorites thus far. At once we are given a look at a bleak and declining future. One that doesn't allow women the pursuit of knowledge or to have choices of their own. Even the Commander's wife has restrictions on her life. But Offred seems to face all of this with a quiet courage. A courage that seems born of her ability to remember the past.


Here is a world with a declining population that must also be controlled at the same time. A world where they felt that the threat of knowledge would be the undoing of life as we know it. Yet, Offred finds small moments of resistance. Moments that lie in the memories of her husband and daughter.

There is so much that happens in the novel from the Commander revealing that he has access to forbidden contraband like old Vogue magazines, that another handmaid has become part of a resistance trying to over throw the Gilead government, to secret night clubs where Offred's Commander and his fellows mingle with prostitutes, and an affair with a man that isn't the commander or her husband.

Told in Offred's own words the novel slips between the present and the flashbacks of the world before Gilead. No one can say that Atwood isn't a prolific writer. She writes about our world in a way that it is unrecognizable but also seems to be something that we could be headed for if we made the wrong choices. This novel is also a good jumping off point if you have never read Atwood before.


The Night Circus

Today's Book Recommendation is The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

The circus arrives without warning. There is no preamble. No announcement. Within its black and white tents guests find breathtaking amazements that defy the expected. It is called Le Cirque de Reves and it is only open at night.

As guests wander from tent to tent they have no idea that within the circus a fierce battle rages. Two young magicians, Celia and Marco, trained in the magic arts since their childhood compete against one another. They each have a tutor and benefactor who has taught them all that they know. But, what their tutors have failed to tell them is that this is a competition where only one magician can be left standing and the circus is the battlefield on which one of them will fall.

Despite their best intentions Celia and Marco begin to fall in love with one another. Dazzled by each others prowess, imagination, and will they tumble headfirst into it. They have no idea that their fate, the fate of the performers, and even the loyalist of guests rests precariously on their shoulders. As precarious as the acrobats who fly from trapeze to trapeze in the black and white tents.

This was a novel that it took me a while to jump on board with. What is interesting is that the synopsis that I gave you is very similar to the one found on the back of the book or on websites such as Goodreads (which all bookworms should join by the way). But, what the synopsis does not tell you in that there are several other stories within the battle of the magicians that also play a part in the narrative of the circus.

At first this tendency to jump from one character to another both in time and location is a bit disorienting. Especially since you can't always tell where in time you are. Make sure to pay close attention to chapter headings as they often tell you where you are and when. Eventually all these different story lines begin to weave together like pieces of an elaborate puzzle. And while the love story is a major part of the narrative it does not dominate it in a way that it feels like a romance novel.

My favorite part of the novel was ultimately the various descriptions of the circus, the tents, and an elaborate clock that serves as the focal point for the circus performances itself. A clock that I actually wish existed in real life. When the story lines begin to knit themselves together you will develop an appreciation for Morgensterns writing style and over all narrative. It does become a page turner. And I have several well read friends who loved this novel from the very start.

Despite my lukewarm statements I actually really liked this book in the end. It sold me on the imagery and the fantasy. I think this would make a lovely film too. Although because of the complexities I would think that it would be better served as a mini series or television series. A feature length film just wouldn't give it the time that it deserves.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Somewhere in France

Today's Book Recommendation is Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson.

Set in 1914 British Society the Lady Elizabeth Neville-Ashford wants to travel the world, attend her mind to the pursuit of a career, and marry a man for love not social advancement. But in the stifling aristocratic society and under the thumb of her mother's expectations Lady Elizabeth has not the freedom to do any such thing. She is unable to follow her heart.

Then war breaks out. Here Lily, as she prefers to be called, seizes her chance for freedom. She defies her parents and moves to London. Effectively disowning herself from their name, their money, and their expectations for her. She eventually becomes an ambulance driver in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corp. An exciting but treacherous job that slowly brings her closer and closer to the Western Front.

Eventually she is stationed in France and here she is reunited with her brother's best friends. A young doctor by the name of Robert Fraser. This handsome Scottish Surgeon has always encouraged Lily to pursue her dreams, indeed he was one of the reasons that she chose to enlist. Not caring that he grew up impoverished Lily yearns for their friendship to become something far more. But the constant threat of an enemy attack keeps them at arms bay for Robert is determined to keep her safe even if it means breaking her heart.

This is a novel that is definitely for the ladies. In particular anyone who is a fan of the BBC period drama Downton Abbey. Which happens to be one of my favorite shows so of course you can see the appeal. Robson explores the conscription of class and the threat that each day spent on the front could be your last. It adds a tension to the novel that makes you want things to work out for Lily and Robert even more.

I think what makes this novel different from others, that I have read at least, is that here you are presented with a woman who does something that we don't often hear about. We've heard about the nurses in World War I, amazing women all of them, but I can't think of another novel that places a woman as the ambulance driver. The one making the trek from the front lines to the camp where the soldiers can receive treatment. I can't even imagine what it might be like to transport wounded and often dying soldiers between two points. Especially in this war where injuries were so gruesome. Trench Foot, battlefield amputations, and poisonings from the noxious gases that were used in some of the earliest chemical warfare.

Lily faces all of this with a courage that I can only hope to posses in my day to day life. Not only that but even after she has spent her entire day transporting men she sits by their besides and reads to them. Perhaps we could all take a note from this heroine that Robson has given us. She is an example of kindess and spirit that we all should strive for.


Throne of Glass

This weeks Sunday Series Recommendation is the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas.

For crimes she committed assassin and eighteen year old Celaena has spent a year working in the Salt Mines of Endovier.  She thought the mines would also be her tomb when she is dragged before the crown prince and offered a deal. If she will represent him in his father's competition for a new royal assassin she will be taken out of Endovier and given the chance to earn something she has longed for even before she was a prisoner. Her freedom.

Her competitors are all men. Thieves, Mercenaries, and other assassins sponsored by members of the king's council. If she can beat each of them in a series of tests then she will be conscripted as the royal assassin for three years and then she will be free. Free to leave a land that she holds no allegiance to.

She trains with the captain of the guard, Westfall, which she finds exhilarating and challenging. But she finds life at court tedious and boring. Until she begins to befriend her sponsor the crown prince. For the two of them share a love of books. As she spends her days confined to the palace and training for each test that the contest will throw at her Celaena finds that life becomes more interesting. Especially when her fellow competitors start showing up dead. Now she must figure out who the killer is before she too becomes a victim. And what about the greater destiny that she begins to discover in the process?

One of the reasons that I liked this book series thus far, I have only read two of the novels, is because of the main character. One moment she is incredibly likable and in the next she is almost annoying. There are moments where she reads so cold that I almost felt as though ice was forming on the pages as I read them. Moments where she becomes so materialistic and obsessed with shopping that I found myself rolling my eyes at her. Then there are the moments where she shows such tenderness and regard for the people around her. That I finally realized why I ultimately like her. She reminds me of both myself and countless women in my life that I count as friends. Afterall we aren't all wonderful all of the time, are we?

Maas manages to give us a very flawed heroine who is tangibly human. At eighteen years old it is no wonder that her moods and attitudes would change like the tides. Celaena also posesses an intelligence and love for literature that I think needs to be fostered in today's world.

And it isn't just the heroine that has her strengths and flaws bared to the readers. Westfall, the Crown Prince, a foreign princess named Nehemia who Celaena befriends, and even some of the more nefarious characters have moments of humanity that you don't often find in Young Adult literature these days. Yes, there is the viewpoint of a novel on them but their struggles are ultimately ones that we face everyday in the real world. Even if that struggle is only what should we wear to dinner?

The other titles in order of the series are Crown of Midnight and Heir of Fire. I believe there is a fourth installment coming but I haven't seen what the title of it is yet. Happy reading!


Friday, April 3, 2015

The Caves of Steel

Today's Book Recommendation is The Caves of Steel by Issac Asimov.

Set a in the future, about a millennium later, there are two advancements that have revolutionized the world. The colonization of the galaxy and the creation of a device know as the positronic brain. In this new world we are introduced to an unlikely partnership. A New York City detective and a humanoid robot who must learn to work together to solve the murder of a prominent Spacer (the people who live on the Outer World colonies).

For the majority of people left on earth they have very little love for their Spacer compatriots or the robotic companions that they have created. Its a two way street as the Spacers have little love or trust for the Earthmen. Now Detective Elijah Baley must find the killer while working with his new partner R. Daneel Olivaw. The R stands for Robot. What makes the situation even more complicated is Baley's new partner is made in the image and likeness of a the murder victim.

I am pretty sure that this novel alongside the short story I, Robot was the inspiration for the film of the same name starring Will Smith. While I had certainly read some of Asimov's short stories in my writing and literature classes in college I had never read one of his novels before. The story is compelling and covers all angles of prejudice, environmental worries, and has the typical beats of a good murder mystery. While at times the pacing of the novel can be a little slow the developments of the characters, both Baley and Daneel, keeps you reading.

In terms of the environment its a little scary how in tune Asimov was into future problems. His characters are earth face a lack of resources and the threat of over population. It's a shame that Asimov wasn't able to foresee a solution to such issues beyond leaving earth to colonize other planets. After all this is the only planet with chocolate.

While I would suggest starting with his short stories first this novel is a good selection for Asimov fans and newbies a like. I will have to let you know how the second book is.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Mother Night

Today's Book Recommendation is Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut.

In Israel, Howard W. Campbell Jr. is on trial for crimes as a Nazi war criminal. The thing is? He was an American spy who was sending coded messages within his Nazi propaganda war announcements. On top of that there was only ever one man who knew that Campbell was a spy and he is nowhere to be found. It would seem that Campbell will indeed be sentenced for his crimes, but is he really guilty?

The novel covers some of the time that Campbell spent working for the Nazi's, some of his time hiding out in New York city before he was discovered, and then of course his time in the Israeli prison. Told with dark humor and wit this novel will having you seeing shades of gray.

This was my first soiree into Vonnegut territory. It was recommended to me by a good friend and fellow bookworm. I will admit to be slightly apprehensive as I had tentatively tried out Vonnegut before. Picking up his more popular novels in the book store, reading the back cover, and even opening it for a few pages. Something always drove me to put the book back. Let me say that it had nothing to do with his writing. Vonnegut is an amazing writer. But, it just didn't seem like my type of story. I typically like Science Fiction and Fantasy. Or more contemporary titles that would probably be considered chick lit.

I am so glad that I set that assumption aside and tried out this book. While reading it there were moments where I was sure of Campbell's innocence. Then there would be a chapter about his time during the Nazi occupation or about some of his activities in New York and I would find myself wondering if he was actually a good guy. Did he believe what he was saying on the radio or was he really just trying to send coded messages?

I think if you have never read Vonnegut that this is a good book to start with. I know that after reading it I have every intention of checking out his other works. I just haven't decided which one yet.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Tell The Wolves I'm Home

Today's Book Recommendation is Tell The Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt.

It's 1987 and there is only one person in the whole world that has ever understood fourteen year old June Elbus. Her uncle Finn, a famous painter who lives in New York city. June visits her god father on a regular basis and he takes her to museums, out for food, and to their favorite places. She is distanced from her sister and feels that she can't be herself with anyone but Finn. He is her best friend and her confidant. Until he dies of a mysterious illness that her mother, Finn's sister, won't even talk to June or her sister about. June feels as though her world has come crashing down around her.

Then at Finn's funeral she spies a strange man lingering just on the edge of the crowd. She is struck by his appearance but doesn't know who he might be. Then a mysterious package arrives at the house addressed to her. Inside is teapot from her Uncle's apartment and a note from the mysterious man, Toby, asking her to meet him. As she tries to decide whether or not to trust this unexpected friend she finds that she is not the only one that misses Finn.

This novel is definitely a coming of age novel. It tells of love lost and then found again. Between the relationship between June and her sister, the flashbacks of the relationship between June and her Uncle, and even the developing relationship between June and Finn we are given several different types of relationships. Each of this relationships faces different trials and morphs with the outcome of the trials. Its a story of grief but it is also a story of healing.

It is also 1987 and its the beginning of AIDS pandemic. Brunt doesn't ignore this fact in her writing and she writes of the perspectives that the world had on the disease when it was something that had never been seen before. The fear and the misunderstanding that go alongside the revelation of the disease.

This was a wonderful and heartbreaking novel that will hit you, for lack of a better description, right in the feels. There are moments where the pacing is a tad slow but the prose is very well written. There are wonderful descriptions of paintings that Finn has done, several that June does, and the descriptions of June herself are wonderful. Sure to strike a chord with those of us who felt a little on the outside, like we were meant to live in another time period, or simply that we couldn't be ourselves around anyone else.

Wild

Today's Book Recommendation is Wild by Cheryl Strayed.

Its begins in the middle of the Pacific Coast Trail with Cheryl taking off her hiking boot only to loose it down the side of the mountain that she has taken respite on. As she watches the boot tumble down the side of the ravine she takes her other one, chucks into the oblivion, and yells a defiant "Fuck You!" to the universe.

Four years prior to this moment Cheryl Strayed lost her mother. The woman who was her best friend and proclaimed love of her life. this sends Cheryl on a destructive course of drugs, sex, and eventually divorce. So, in a moment of bleakness she makes a decision. With no experience, no training, and completely alone she will hike the Pacific Coast Trail from the Mojave desert up into Washington State. Thus begins a beautiful, biting, and reformative journey through the American wilderness.

Told in both the present of the hike and memories of the years after her mother's death you are given a complete look at one woman's grief and eventual salvation. Along the trail she meets men and women who share a passion that she has only begun to tap into. While facing the dangers of wildlife, dehydration, and even some rapid weather changes Cheryl finds that she is stronger than she thought she was. Ultimately this is a story of healing and finding yourself. Proof that even when you have nothing to loose you can find something to gain.

I read this book in one day. While sitting on set I was enthralled by Ms. Strayed's story. It had me wishing that I hadn't been ill when she visited my graduate program. This is a woman that I hope to one day meet. the book it a brutally honest portrait of the hike that she took in her early twenties. the prose that she describes her adventures is beautiful and paints a perfect picture of the experiences. While she simultaneously isn't afraid to delve into the ugly moments of her life.

I had the opportunity to see the film adaptation starring Reese Witherspoon this past spring and I thought the film really did the book justice. Although, I recommend reading the novel before seeing the film. As always.

There is part of me that wants to do this very same hike now. Granted I already have a slight fascination with hiking and a girlfriend who wants to do it as well. I guess we shall see if I have a little Wild in me. I think this a book that all mothers and daughters should read. Perhaps we need a mother daughter book club?