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Looking forward to the rest of 2011

As I often do, I was browsing upcoming book releases on Amazon. There are some books coming out this year that I’m excited to read. Below is a list of what and when by authors I’ve already read (and really enjoy). I’m sure there will be more exciting books from new authors but I don’t know what they are yet. If you know of an unreleased book that’s getting some buzz, drop me a comment and let me know!

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen
March 22nd

Bumped by Megan McCafferty
April 24th

If You Were Here by Jen Lancaster
May 3rd

Ordinary Beauty by Laura Wiess
June 14th

Uncommon Criminals (A Heist Society novel) by Ally Carter
June 21st

Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner
July 12th

The Dog Who Knew Too Much by Spencer Quinn
September 6th

The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
August 30th

The Death Cure (Maze Runner Trilogy #3) by James Dashner
October 11th

Crossed by Ally Condie
November 1st

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2011 in Literature

 

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Because I don’t talk enough about books

Usually I read 2 or 3 books at the same time.  Some people may find that confusing but I don’t.  It’s not as if I can’t concentrate on one book.  It’s more like I am eager to read so many books that if I don’t have 2 or 3 going, I feel like I’m falling behind.

So, here’s some books I’ve recently read and a few that I’m currently reading.  Enjoy!

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen
In her latest book, Quindlen steers the reader through the everyday life of Mary Beth Latham and her family: twin boys who are as different as night and day; Ruby, the eldest, who has the confidence and grace of a woman twice her age; and Mary Beth’s husband with whom she steals time alone when possible.  Of course, nothing is perfect.  One of the boys becomes depressed and starts seeing a psychiatrist.  Ruby’s had her issues, too, and her latest one is a boyfriend who just won’t take the hint.  Then, right as the reader is feeling settled in the pace of the novel, a drastic turn is taken; a violent act shakes the Latham family dynamic and is forever changed.  Quindlen’s writing, as it has in years past, tugs at the heartstrings.  As with her other books, the reader will be compelled to continue reading, despite the hard subject matter.  I wanted to cry throughout the last half of the book.  It was both heartbreaking and gut wrenching but ultimately, Mary Beth’s strength, when she finds it, was comforting.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
Fans of Sarah Addison Allen’s Garden Spells will enjoy this book.   Just before her 9th birthday, Rose discovers she possesses the power to taste people’s feelings through the food they cook.  It starts with her mother’s lemon cake in which Rose tastes despair.  Her mother seems perfectly happy on the outside, but as Rose continues to eat her mother’s meals, she realizes how unhappy her mother really is.  At school, Rose eats out of vending machines because they’re stocked with factory-produced food that won’t depress her.  Machines, after all, don’t have feelings.  Still, she has to endure dinner with the family and all her mother’s feelings along with it.  A few years go by and when Rose bites into her mother’s dinner one night, she discovers euphoria and guilt mixed together.  Her mother, Rose discovers, is having an affair.

The book is not just about Rose and her special skill.  Joseph, her older brother, retreats into himself throughout the years, so still and quite that it’s like he’s just a piece of furniture in the room.  Her oblivious (to the affair, at least) father slowly opens up to Rose, although he still holds his past closely to his chest, protecting it.  Throughout the book, Rose tries to run from her skill, but in the end she begins to find a way to make it work for her and not against her.  The plot alone is compelling but what’s even more compelling is the little quirks the characters pick up along the way.

The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson
I just started this book yesterday but it has already captured my attention.  Laurel wakes up in her cookie-cutter house in her cookie-cutter neighborhood one night to find a girl standing at the end of her bed.  The girl leads Laurel to the window that overlooks the backyard.  There, Laurel sees someone floating face down in her pool.  She rushes downstairs and finds that it is the same girl who was in her bedroom.  (Cue dramatic music.)  This is about as far as I’ve gotten but already Jackson has hinted that there has been an “accidental” death in Laurel’s past and I’m eager to see if my theories are right.  So, while I don’t have much to say about this book yet, I do want to say that I’m enjoying it so far and the writing is pretty decent (I’ve never read Jackson before).

Only the Good Spy Young by Ally Carter
I’ve mentioned Ally Carter before and recommended her Gallagher Girl series.  This is the 4th and latest in that series.  In this adventure, Cameron and her friends are trying to figure out why a society called The Circle of Cavan is after Cameron.  They also want to know why their old teacher Mr. Solomon is suddenly wanted by the CIA.  And they’re trying to figure out just who killed Cameron’s father and why.  Who can be trusted?  Mr. Solomon?  Zach, the cute boy from the boys’ spy school Blackthorne?  The MI6 operative who has taken over Mr. Solomon’s class?  Cameron and her friends aren’t sure but something tells me that they’re going to find out.

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2010 in Literature

 

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The most common question has the hardest answer

“What are you reading right now?” coworkers and customers alike ask me.  Sometimes I think it might be easier to answer the question, “What aren’t you reading right now?”  I usually have two or three books going at once but currently I have a few more than even that.  Some books take longer than others, especially if the subject is a difficult one.  Even if I finish one book, another one may grab my attention so I begin that one rather than finishing another one that I’ve already started.  It really doesn’t help that I see all the new books that come into the bookstore where I work or that I’m constantly talking about books and authors with friends, coworkers, and customers.  So, in no particular order, here is what I am currently reading:

Heist Society by Ally Carter
I’ve enjoyed reading Carter’s Gallagher Girls series so I picked up this stand-alone.  In the book 15-year-old Kat Bishop is blackmailed into returning some stolen paintings to Arturo Taccone, who thinks that her father took them.  Believing her father is innocent, Kat sets off to find the paintings and get them back to Arturo before her deadline is up.  She locates the paintings but has to assemble the best teenage thieves she knows to get them back.  So far, I’m enjoying the humor and adventure in the book.  I also like how Carter has tied WWII history into it (Kat thinks that Arturo’s paintings were stolen out of homes by the Nazis).  There are minor things that irritate me, though, like how many times the action breaks right after someone hears a familiar voice and confusion over who is speaking and to whom.  I did not have this problem with the Gallagher Girl books, but those are written in first person whereas Heist Society is written in third.  Overall, though, it’s a fun read.

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
This book is all arguments for why god doesn’t exist.  Dawkins views several areas of argument for and against religion to drive home his thesis.  I am already atheist so I agree with what Dawkins says but I still find it interesting to see how others argue for religion (and his rebuttal to said arguments).  I’ve been reading this for several months now, not because I’m not enjoying it, but because Dawkins is quite intelligent and it’s hard for me to read too much at once.  Also, I do the bulk of my reading in the morning to wake up my brain and this book is not one for a sleepy mind.  Keep checking back as I will write a full review of the book once I’m done reading it.

Yes Means Yes!  Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape ed. by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti
Not only am I an atheist, I am also a feminist.  Jessica Valenti has written some amazing books on feminism so I snatched this book up when I found out she helped with it.  The book is a collection of essays from several writers.  Each essay has several themes and the reader is encouraged (from the introduction) to use the themes listed at the end of essays like links on a webpage.  “If you like x theme, try these essays next.”  Like clicking on a webpage, the reader can jump around the book rather than being constrained to reading from front to back.  This is one of the many things I like about this book.  Sometimes I’m not in the mood to read about “Media Matters” or I may be drawn to “Surviving to Yes” some days.  It’s also a perfect layout for someone like me (someone who is reading a lot of books at once).  The essays are easily read in short increments.  The subject matter, though, is tough and gets me riled up (we shouldn’t put blame on the victims of the crime but on the criminals!) or depressed (why does rape even have to happen?).  Females and males both should read this book.  Everyone is affected by rape and it can only end when we start talking about it (silence breeds the disease).

The Big Bento Box of Unuseless Japanese Inventions by Kenji Kawakami
I’ve seen this book around for years but it wasn’t until recently that I acquired it.  The book is exactly what the title says: “Unuseless Japanese Inventions”.  Apparently, it’s a form of art to make something people could use but is so ridiculous that it can’t be used.  Pictures, of course, show these inventions and brief descriptions of each are given.  Take for example The Earring Safety Net.  Tiny bowls are strapped to a woman’s shoulders and should an earring come loose from her lobe, there’s no need to worry!  The Earring Safety Net will catch it.  You’ll never have just one earring again!  The idea itself is hilarious but to truly appreciate it, you must see the picture.  Go pick it up at your local library or bookstore.  You won’t regret it.

Finally, there are two books I am just a few pages into so I can’t really say much about them.  They are Waiter Rant by Steve Dublanica and On the Road by Jack Kerouac.

Well, it looks like I have some reading to do!  Until next time…

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2010 in Literature

 

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The best part about being a teen

No, I am not a teenager. I do not want to go back to those difficult years when my life had limited experience. Even though I’m almost 30, I still read teen novels. I read more of them now then I did when I was an actual teen. The teen section at my bookstore* has the best written adventure and fantasy novels that I’ve read. There are some I won’t touch, mostly the superficial series, like Clique and Gossip Girl (I really don’t care to read about 15 year-olds having sex and doing drugs). If you’re looking for a fun, easy read, whether you’re 15 or 30 or even 45, here is a list of my favorite teen books:

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

This is the first book in a trilogy. Thomas wakes up in a metal chamber with no memory except for his name. When the doors finally open, he finds himself in a large clearing with a couple of buildings spread about and a group of boys who’ve built their own society there. They call the clearing the Glade and Thomas comes to learn that it lies in the middle of a maze. Each day, certain boys run out into the maze to find an exit, to no avail. Everyone has to be back to the Glade by sundown or the Grievers, vicious monsters (yes, they were scary, even to me) will kill them. But then things start to change when the first girl is sent to the Glade. Suddenly, it is more important for them to solve the maze than ever before. Will they find their way out? What awaits them outside of the maze? Are their families still alive? Will they ever gain their memories back? This is actually the first book that made me want to call in sick to work, just so I could finish reading it.** It captivated me from beginning to end and when the next book, The Scorch Trials, comes out in October, you can bet that I will be locked up in my room reading it. (Side note: Dashner’s other series The 13th Reality is also a good read.)

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Finn has only known life inside the prison Incarceron, where riots break out daily and red eyes watch every move made. Songs are sung of the legend Sapphique, the only prisoner to escape. Finn dreams of Outside and desperately wants to get there. One day a key comes into his possession – a key that is said to lead to Outside.  So Finn, with a couple of companions, starts out on a journey. At the same time on the Outside, young Claudia is looking for an entrance to Incarceron. She figures she must be close because her father is the warden and holds the only key to the prison. Her search is heightened when she is told her arranged marriage will take place sooner than first expected. Through a magical item, Finn and Claudia start communicating. They work together to get Finn out and stop the marriage from happening. This is another book with twists and turns in every chapter. It had my head spinning. The sequel, Sapphique, is due out in the US at the end of the year.

I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have To Kill You by Ally Carter

Despite the long name, this is a quick read.  It’s the first book in yet another series about Cammie who attends a very prestigious school…for spies.  Cammie is known amongst her spy friends as The Chamaeleon because she’s got a knack for blending in and going unnoticed.  But things start changing when a townie notices Cammie while she’s out on a mission.  Now she and her super-smart friends use their spy skills to solve the biggest mystery they know: boys.  This book, and its sequels, is a fun, fast-paced read.  The second book Cross My Heart And Hope To Spy brings another boy Zach, who’s also a spy, into Cammie’s life and many mysteries surround him.  The questions raised in the second book about Zach get even more muddled in the third book Don’t Judge A Girl By Her Cover.  I can only hope that some light will be shed when the fourth book Only The Good Spy Young comes out in late June.  I should point out that I just love these titles, which is what attracted me to the series in the first place.

Wuthering High by Cara Lockwood

Troubled teen Miranda gets sent to a boarding school on an island.  The school is old and creepy and to make matters worse, there is no cell phone signal.  The teachers are only known by initials, like Headmistress B, Coach H, and Mrs. W.  The first day at the new school, Miranda meets a mysterious guy Heathcliff who calls her Catherine.  Miranda’s roommate, Hana, claims to have seen Dracula.  Then even weirder things start happening when Miranda finds out a secret about the teachers and how close her world and the literary world are linked.  This book, and the other two in the series, actually made me want to start reading classic novels.  I’ve never had a book do that before, which I think shows the mark of a good author.

*To be clear, I don’t own the bookstore. It’s a chain bookstore, but I like to claim ownership to the store at which I work.

**No, I did not call in sick. It was really, really tempting, though.

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2010 in Literature

 

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