Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Teaser Tuesday...Romping through the Highlands

I'm trying to pick books that will be quick reads and that I can finish before I leave on vacation this weekend.  Having said that, this week's teaser comes from Jude Deveraux's The Duchess, one of the many books in the Montgomery series and NOT to be confused with the Keira Knightley film of the same name.

"She sat there for a long while, breathing the sweet, cool Scottish air and looking at the hills.  After a while she turned and saw that Trevelyan was staring at her.  He seemed able to read her thoughts, but she had no idea what he was thinking" (65).

This book started off really slow...thankfully it's started to pick up (100 pages in).  Now I have until Friday night to finish it, along with grading a massive stack of essays and poem responses.  Joy to my burning eyes ;)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Speaking Loudly by Staying Mute

I picked up Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak at the Friends of the Library book sale over the holiday season (along with about 20 other waiting-to-be-explored worlds).  I've been contemplating reading this book for a long time after discussing it with my dear friend, Ashley, who had this as part of her required curriculum while teaching at a high school in the area.  I thought it sounded intriguing and horrific.  Honestly, I was shocked that the school board had approved this book for the curriculum, while some ban such books as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Night (though, thankfully, not in Oregon).

Speak is a book filled with so much silence that has never been so deafening and loud.  Melinda, an incoming freshman, starts the year with zero friends and a terrible, debilitating secret...she was raped by an upperclassman over the summer.  Everyone at school knows her as a narc for calling the police during a party and proceed to make her life miserable, including her former best friends, while she tries desperately to deal with something so horrific that she becomes increasingly introverted and removed from her social surroundings.  Melinda's only saving grace comes in the form of her art class and an amazing instructor, Mr. Freeman (a fitting and ironic moniker).  It is through her various attempts at representing a tree that Melinda is eventually able to silently vocalize her trauma.  In addition to being completely alone in the terror that is high school, Melinda's own parents are not even active members of her very fragile life.  At the end of the book there is finally a brilliant showing of fight and survival that has been slumbering within Melinda for the entire book.  It's satisfying and justifying.

I found this book provoking and incredibly important.  This should be required reading in high schools, and middle schools for that matter, across the US.  The veil that is pulled over rape victims and the hushing that is done is appalling.  Perhaps through thoughtful discussions of this book and by requiring students to feel what Melinda felt, we can take a step in the right direction of rape prevention and reporting.  It's an important and valuable read.

They did adapt this into a screenplay and make a movie.  I don't remember EVER hearing about it.  Interesting.  It is now in my Netflix queue and I WILL be watching it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Teaser Tuesday...Back into Cassia's World

I have to admit...I have been SUCH a blogging slacker these past few weeks.  I could blame this on the term starting up at the beginning of the month, but that's really not a good enough excuse (honestly).  I'm sitting here and I have three books that I've finished and need to post reviews for.  Those three books have been sitting next to my computer for nearly two weeks.  See what I mean?!  Terrible...just terrible. 

Anywho...enough of my slacker-tude.  It's Tuesday and we all know what that means:  Teaser!  I'm just about done with Steven Tyler's book, so this teaser comes from the book I'll be starting as soon as I finish that one, Allie Condie's Crossed, the sequel to Matched.

"Xander smiles and in the expression I see surprise and cunning and happiness all mingled there together.  I've surprised Xander--and myself.  I love Xander in ways that are perhaps more complicated than I first expected" (36).
I can't wait to see Cassia break through her glass world!!  Definitely excited for this read.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Teaser Tuesday...Conversations with Steven Tyler

I've finally picked up another book that will work for my A-Z Reading Challenge (the never ending reading challenge), Steven Tyler's Does The Noise in my Head Bother You?:  A Rock 'n' Roll Memoir.  This book has been in my closet for several months; it's one I picked up for next to nothing during the sad days of our local Borders liquidation.  So I figured that I would finally start it (fitting seeing as how he's the main guest on Ellen today...and AI will be starting tonight, I think) and offer up a teaser since it's Tuesday :)

"I love going out on that stage.  You come out of your dressing room, head down that gray cinder-block corridor with bodyguards and road manager flanking you, up a ramp, onto the stage, and there you are--twenty-five thousand Blue Army Aerosmith faithful out there waiting for you to light the fuse.  It's a high that I'm not sure ever goes away" (153).

What a ROCK GOD!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Breaking the Rules of the Match

I loved, Loved, LOVED this book!  Ally Condie's Matched, the first in a trilogy, was absolutely phenomenal.  I can not recommend it more.  A young adult installation, Matched is set in a futuristic society where, basically, your entire life is mapped out for you by government officials, the Society.  There is no free choice or free will.  You dress alike.  You live alike.  Your career choice is made for you.  You stay the course to keep in the good graces of the leaders.

The story starts with Cassia Reyes on the day of her seventeenth birthday.  At the age of seventeen, all children, unless otherwise chosen, are "matched" with their ideal life-partner.  The government bases the choice on what will produce the strongest offspring.  At her matching ceremony she is surprised to find out that she already knows the person she's been matched with; an unlikely occurrence.  When she finally views her match card a few days later, something strange occurs and another face she knows is presented to her.  Thus follows Cassia's struggle with her trust of the Society she has always believed in and who her real match should be...the one announced at the Matching Ceremony or the second person who appeared on her screen.  Throughout the story Cassia is constantly questioning which one she feels more for and the government is becoming more and more a part of her life...in ways that are abnormal for the citizens of Oria.  As the story comes to a close there is massive upheaval in Cassia's life as well as the lives of the entire community.  People are displaced and a darkness hangs in the air.

Needless to say, I can't wait to read the second book in the series, Crossed.

Scotland's Brimming with Love

Hands down, my favorite book in the 44 Scotland Street series so far!  Alexander McCall Smith's Love Over Scotland takes the reader back to those quirky characters on Scotland Street, as well as bringing in a few more to mix things up.  There is a lot that happens to each of the characters in this installation and all come out in a different place than they started.

Pat finally has a viable love interest...or two, though one might not be as honest as the other, and has started at the university studying Art History.  Domenica is off on her anthropological study of pirates in the South China Sea.  Angus is missing Domenica tremendously.  New character Antonia Collie, an old friend of Domenica's, is subletting her flat in Scotland Street while she's away.  Angus does not like this.  Poor Bertie has been forced into yet another extra-curricular activity; one that provides him with utmost embarrassment:  the Edinburgh Teen Symphony.  Embarrassing because Bertie is not a teenager...he's not even a preteen.  His very pregnant mother, Irene, is still as delusional as ever.  Stuart, Bertie's bowled over father who had so much promise at the end of the last book, has fallen back into his submissive ways, alas.  Big Lou has saddled herself with a philandering chauvinist...whom everyone but her sees through.  And Bruce has moved to London in pursuit of greener pastures.

As the story unfolds there are a series of events that take place:  Pat falls for a wolf...not in sheep's clothing; Matthew's feelings are revealed; Domenica gets lost at sea and finds some music; Angus's dog, Cyril, is dog-napped and goes on an adventure of his own; Bertie gets lost in Paris and makes some friends; Big Lou loses a lot of cash; and the mob comes to town.  Yikes!

I, honestly, loved every aspect of this story.  In fact, there was only one thing that I was slightly disappointed in.  I can't believe I'm saying this, but I missed the presence of Bruce...egotistical Bruce with his clove scented hair pomade.  Who would have thought?!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Compromising in the Highlands

Ah...another easy smut novel to breeze through.  Jude Deveraux's Highland Velvet was one of my 50 cent finds at the Friends of the Library book sale and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  One reason being that it was quick to get through (as all romance novels are) and another reason was because it was set in Scotland...I LOVE SCOTLAND!

Velvet follows the arranged marriage (or marriage for services rendered to the king) of Stephen Montgomery, a British aristocrat, and Bronwyn MacArran, a Scottish clan leader.  Of course these two don't see eye to eye at all.  For one thing, Stephen is convinced, before meeting Bronwyn, that she is absolutely hideous and Bronwyn is a very strong, independent woman who is used to being a leader of men.  These two butt heads from the very beginning and continue to argue despite the fact that they are falling deeply in love (obviously).  There are trials and tribulations added to their constant bickering, but this forced the two to rely on each other more than they thought possible.  And, of course, it ends happily ever after...if you think living in the 1500s gives you an ever after ;)

I've been reading more and more of Deveraux's books lately and, for the most part, have really enjoyed them.  I'm finally branching out from my Nora Roberts obsession!  Good deal!  Another plus in this area...this book is part of a series (though you don't have to read them in order) that follows the four Montgomery brothers on their journey to love.

Love in Boonsboro

I don't know what it is about books written by Nora Roberts (excluding her alter ego, JD Robb), but I love every single one of them!  It probably has a lot to do with the fact that they are easy to read, they keep you engaged, and they end happily.  Always pluses in my mind and a nice change from the books I normally pick up to read :)

Nora Roberts' The Next Always, the first book in her new Inn  Boonsboro trilogy, begins with the story of Clare and Beckett.  Beckett, his two brothers, and his mother have purchased a landmark building in their hometown of Boonsboro and are working to restore the building to its former glory.  Clare has moved back to Boonsboro after the death of her husband, who was killed in Iraq, with her three young sons.  Beckett and Clare grew up together and Beckett has always been in love with Clare, though he probably didn't classify it as love when he was younger.  As the two begin to form a deeper relationship, there are past issues that arise, including a man who thinks he has authority over Clare's life.  In addition, while restoration is taking place in the inn, the upheaval in the building causes strange, unexplainable things to happen.

Though Roberts' books, recently, have started to veer more toward the supernatural and unexplainable, I still look forward to reading them.  Also, despite the fact that nearly all the series have the same structure and whatnot, I still enjoy them.  A guilty pleasure for sure.  I enjoyed this installation and can't wait for the second in the trilogy to be released in May!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Slice of Life in China's Cultural Revolution

  “I was carried away, swept along by the mighty stream of words pouring from the hundreds of pages. To me it was the ultimate book: once you had read it, neither your own life nor the world you lived in would ever look the same.”

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, Dai Sijie's novel about General Mao's attempt at re-educating the youth of China by taking them from their families and placing them in rural areas, was a beautiful slice of Chinese life.  I had mixed feelings upon finishing this novel.  First, I loved how easy this book was to read.  It has a lovely flow that lends itself to quick sessions of concentration and interruptions.  Second, the story of Lou and the narrator's experience living and working on Phoenix Mountain is a heartwarming one of discovery, self-awareness, and lost innocence.  As a reader, you want to see how the story will turn out and what will happen next.  Sijie's portrayal of forbidden books and the lengths avid readers will go through to obtain any and all reading material is one I was able to identify with.  I couldn't imagine never being able to read again.  I think I would probably die of boredom and become severely depressed.  I need that method of escape!

On the downside...I wasn't as impressed with the novel as the other members of my book club.  Everyone seemed to really like this book.  I was in the more "meh" area of contentment.  Yes, it was entertaining at times.  Yes, it was a quick read.  Yes, it had some beautiful scenes.  But, overall, I wanted more to it.  I was dissatisfied with the characters.  I was dissatisfied with the ending.  I guess you could say I was dissatisfied. 

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for the entirety of the novel, it was adapted into a film version and released in 2002.  It's now in my Netflix queue and I do plan on watching it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Teaser Tuesday...Speak No Evil

I started Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak last night, a book that has become required reading in a lot of high schools across the country, and am quickly being sucked in to the encompassing silence and fear that permeates through the pages. This is a quick read...a heavy read...an important read for anyone.

"I feel like the Prince of Darkness has swept his cloak over the table.  The light dims.  I shiver.  Andy stands behind me to flirt with Emily" (90).

Learn from it!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Teaser Tuesday...Adventures in Arranged Marriages

This week's teaser comes from Ally Condie's Matched, the first in a series!

"I smiled back.  There's no point telling her that I'm thinking about the wrong boy.  No, not the wrong boy.  Ky may be an Aberration but there's nothing about him that is defective.  It's our Government and their classification system and all their systems that are wrong.  Including the Matching System" (220).

I'm kind of excited for this read :)