Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A novel by Lauren Graham?

I'm a big fan of the actress Lauren Graham.  I loved her in Gilmore Girls.  I love her in Parenthood.  And this week, I found out she just wrote a novel!

My first thought was "Really?  That can't be any good."  I am a bit skeptical of actors turned authors, as it seems like they often just use their star power (rather than writing talent) to get published. 

But then I started to read more about the book, about a woman in the 90s trying to get a break in her acting career (sounds semi-autobiographical to me), and the book sounds kind of good.  Early reviews for the book also make it look promising.   It has now been added to my "to read" list, and I'm kind of excited about it.

The book is called "Someday Someday Maybe," and it will be released on April 30.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Eleanor and Park

Eleanor and Park
by Rainbow Rowell

Genre:  Young Adult
Pages:  320
Published:  2/26/13 by St. Martin's Press
Format:  ebook

My rating: 
5 out of 5 stars


Set in 1986, Eleanor and Park is the story of two awkward teens named Eleanor and Park (go figure!) who fall "in love" while riding next to each other on the school bus and sharing their love of comic books and music.

This is just the sweetest love story. So adorable and charming! It's not all bright and sunny, and there are some serious issues faced by these characters. But most of the time I couldn't help but just sigh with happiness as I read about how Eleanor and Park fell in love.

I loved the switching points of view between Eleanor and Park. I thought it worked splendidly for this novel. I especially liked when they switched back and forth within the same conversation or with just a few sentences from each character at a time. It was a clever way of telling the story that worked really well in my opinion.

I also loved that this book was different than most teen romance books out there. It still had plenty of romance (i.e. cheesy, mushy, over the top declarations of love for each other). But the relationship between Eleanor and Park was also awkward and insecure and real. Both Eleanor and Park (though Eleanor more so than Park) were considered misfits who were unattractive in some way and didn't fit in with the majority of their peers. They weren't beautiful or perfect, but they were real. And I loved that about them.

I've seen several reviews complaining about the lack of resolution with the ending. I get where those people are coming from, as the story could have ended with more closure. Often that can drive me crazy about a book. But in the case of Eleanor and Park, I really liked the ending. I felt that the story was resolved enough to satisfy me, but still open enough to engage my imagination in what the future might hold for Eleanor and Park.

I seriously loved this adorable book! I'm going to have to check out Rainbow Rowell's other books now!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Reconstructing Amelia

Reconstructing Amelia
by Kimberly McCreight

Genre:  Fiction/Mystery
Pages:  382
Published:  4/2/13 by Harper Collins
Format:  ebook

My rating:
4 out of 5 stars

Amelia Baron is found dead after jumping off a building at her school. But did she really jump? That question serves as the driving force in Reconstructing Amelia. Through shifting points of view between Amelia and her mother Kate, along with interspersed Facebook statuses and text messages, the mystery of both Amelia's life and death is revealed.

I have to begin by saying that I really regret reading a glowing review in Entertainment Weekly about this book. That review raved about this book and compared it to Gone Girl (a book that I loved). So I was expecting something amazing when I started to read Reconstructing Amelia, filled with mind blowing twists and turns.

My mind was not blown, and for the most part, I felt like all the twists and turns were fairly predictable. There was one point at the end where I thought I was reading a soap opera, and a few things seemed implausible. Yet at other times, it felt so real. Too real. Especially for me, a mother of two daughters who will someday be two teenage daughters living in this scary world. I don't know how much of the stuff that happens in this book happens in real life, as I am no longer a teenager. And I don't want to know!

I really did enjoy reading it. I think I would have enjoyed it even more if I hadn't started the book with overly high expectations. It is a great story and a page turner, and I stayed up late reading to finish the story. While it is a story about teenagers, I'm not sure that this is really a book for teenagers. I think it is best for a mature teen audience, as there is some language and sexual content that may not be appropriate for everyone.

The way this story is told is excellent. I loved the shifting points of view between Kate in the present and Amelia in the past, with pertinent Facebook and text messages inserted at appropriate points in the story. It worked beautifully to tell this story set in our modern world of social media.

I also enjoyed seeing both sides of the mother/daughter relationship between Kate and Amelia. Again, this hit home with me as I have girls of my own. I loved being able to see Kate's point of view of a conversation, and then later find out what Amelia thought about the same conversation.

To conclude, this is a highly readable book with enough mystery in it to keep you turning pages, even if it is not as surprising as it proclaims to be.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Third Son

The Third Son
by Julie Wu

Genre:  Fiction
Pages:  320
Published:  4/30/13 by Algonquin Books
Format:  book

My rating:
3.5 out of 5 stars

 I received an early copy of this book for review from Library Thing.

The Third Son by Julie Wu is about Saburo, who is the thirdborn son in his Taiwanese family. Saburo grows up during a tumultuous time in Taiwan, first being invaded by Japan and then by Chinese Nationalists. Saburo is also the least favorite child in his family; he is wrongly blamed for the death of his brother and constantly treated poorly and unfairly. Despite all these setbacks, Saburo manages to make the most of his life and overcome the obstacles put in his path.

This was a nice story, and for the most part, I enjoyed reading it. I couldn't help but cheer for Saburo, as he seemed to draw the short end of the stick constantly throughout his life. As with most stories like this though, I couldn't help but feel it was a bit unrealistic at times. Even though he went through a lot of difficulties, Saburo always managed to come out on top, time and time again. I know the point of the book was to tell his story of overcoming obstacles and difficulty, but sometimes everything just worked out too perfectly causing this plot to seem a bit contrived and unbelievable.

I think the first half of the book was the strongest. Once Saburo arrives in America, I felt my attention begin to wane at times. But still, I wanted to keep reading and find out if/how Saburo and Yoshiko would be reunited again.

Before reading this book, I knew very little about Taiwan's history. I enjoyed learning more about the history of Taiwan and the difficulties the country faced as they were constantly invaded and controlled by other countries.

Monday, April 1, 2013

New Releases

I love to read.  But sometimes (okay, most of the time!) I find the process of picking out books to add to my to-read list more fun than actually reading the books themselves.  My to-read list currently has 225 books on it, and it is growing on a daily basis.  There are books that have been on that list for years, and they will probably remain on the list for more years and possibly forever.  Picking out books is just so much fun for me!  I will never have time to actually read all of them.

However, right now, there are two books on my to read list that I am really eager to move to my "read" list.  Both of these books will be released tomorrow.  I rarely ever spend money on brand new books.  But I am so tempted to buy both of these on their release date!  I am sitting on some Amazon gift cards that I was trying to save for something bigger and more important.  But I might just spend some of my gift card on these books.  Or I can wait patiently to get my copy on the library's waiting list.  We'll see...

Here are the books that I am so eager to read!

Life after Life by Kate Atkinson.  I have read a few books by Atkinson, and I enjoyed them.  This one looks very unique and interesting and extremely ambitious, and I have read several glowing reviews that make me super curious.  Amazon listed it as one of the best books of the month with these words of praise:  "Life After Life is an extraordinary feat of narrative ambition, an audacious genre-bender, and a work of literary genius."  All the early hype for this book may be setting me up for disappointment, but I just have to read it and find out for myself!

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight.  I hadn't heard of this one until I read this review in Entertainment Weekly yesterday.  The reviewer compares it to Gone Girl, which was one of my favorite books last year.  I'm in the mood for a book that I have to stay up all night reading because I just can't put it down...and this one looks like it could be a winner.