Sunday, April 13, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (Apr. 14)






It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a fun weekly meme that is hosted by Shelia at Book Journey, in which we share what we've read and reviewed and what we plan on reading in the coming week.

Books finished this week:
None

Books reviewed this week:
1) Labor Day by Joyce Maynard (review)
2) The Reason that I Jump by Naoki Higashida; translated by K.A. Yoshida and David Mitchell (review)
3) Somewhere in France: A Novel of the Great War by Jennifer Robson (review)
4) The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer (review)
5) Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup (review)
6) Shopping, Seduction & Mr. Selfridge by Lindy Woodhead (review)
7) The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle (review)

Books I hope to finish this week:
• HHhH by Laurent Binet
• Princess Elizabeth's Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal
• The Orenda by Joseph Boyden

Books I hope work on this week:
• Flight Behavior
• The Mysteries of the Udolpho
• The Woman in White
• War & Peace
• The Count of Monte Cristo

Hope you have a good week :) 

Sunday Salon - Changes

As I write this post, I am in the midst of making changes.  They aren't really big changes, but they are changes nonetheless.   A few weeks ago, my mom asked me if I wanted to move some furniture around to make my bedroom more liveable.  After thinking about it for about a day, I realized that this would be a good thing.

But as some of you know, I really don't like changes and changes of any sort kinda make me anxious, even if they are good changes, which this is.

When I moved into my place about 4 and a half years ago, for some reason, it was decided that the walk-in closet in my room would hold my books.  While it was nice to have, I didn't really use it, as it ended up being a place where I stored boxes that I hadn't gone through since I had moved into my apartment and it was a place that I really didn't go into much.

My parents had asked me if I had wanted to have a TV in my bedroom and I decided against it due to a number of factors and then was proposed to me a little bit later that maybe I could possibly create a space for me to read and just relax and place for me to go to when I had the need to.  This definitely sounded better to me.  It's not that I don't like to watch TV, I do, its just that when I go to my room, I want it to be a place in which I can really unwind and relax and while I can do it on my bed, it can get a little uncomfortable at times. 

So it was suggested that I move my four bookshelves into the den area, which was another "dumping ground" for stuff and a place I didn't really use and have my dresser and some other things moved into the closet, which would allow me store things that have been just lingering in my place in a proper spot and allow for more organization.  I am looking forward to what the final product looks like and I may post photos on my blog in a few weeks time.  So if you want to see the final product, you might want to keep yourself updated.

Yesterday evening (Saturday),  I managed to get caught up with my book reviews; it was a bit easier than in the past, as I wrote the book reviews down in a notebook so as get my thoughts down a little better ahead of posting here, but sadly haven't had much motivation to read this week, but I am hoping to read a bit more this coming week, but with the move, I don't know how much I'll be able to get done, as there is a lot to be done in the coming days.

Reviews:
1) Labor Day by Joyce Maynard (review)
2) The Reason that I Jump by Naoki Higashida; translated by K.A. Yoshida and David Mitchell (review)
3) Somewhere in France: A Novel of the Great War by Jennifer Robson (review)
4) The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer (review)
5) Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup (review)
6) Shopping, Seduction & Mr. Selfridge by Lindy Woodhead (review)
7) The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle (review)

Till next week, hopefully...

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Whole Golden World - Kristina Riggle

Title: The Whole Golden World
Author: Kristina Riggle
Pages: 448
Published: 2013
Challenges: I Love Libraries
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
Edition: Paperback
Source: Library

Description: To the outside Dinah and Joe have a perfect family-three lovely children, a beautiful home, and a café that's finally taking off. But their world is rocked when it's discovered that their oldest daughter, 17-year-old Morgan is having an affair with her married teacher, TJ Hill.

Their town rocks with the scandal. When the case goes to trial, the family is torn further apart when Morgan sides not with her parents-as a manipulated teenage girl; but with TJ himself-as a woman who loves a 30-year-old man. (via Goodreads.com)

Thoughts:  While for the most part, I liked book, there were times that I didn't and felt that three narrators, Morgan, Dinah, and Rain, were from time to time fairly self-centered and it seemed that their only concern was for their own reputation and well-being, no matter what the costs were to those around them, mainly the male characters in their lives.  This seemed to be especially to be true of Dinah, who seemed to not realize that her lack of involvement in her children's lives made them act out in ways that, at least to her, contrary to the way that she perceived them to be; she thought of them to be angels and as though they were innocent of any sort of wrong doing, no matter what happened.

It also felt like that this sort of book would be perfect to show as a movie on Lifetime.

Bottom line: If you are a fan of Jodi Picoult, I would probably recommend this book, but if you're not, I would probably skip it and read something else.  Recommended.

Rating: 3/5

Pages for 2014: 5890

Shopping, Seduction & Mr. Selfridge - Lindy Woodhead

Title: Shopping, Seduction, & Mr. Selfridge
Author: Lindy Woodhead
Pages: 352
Published: 2013 (first published 2007)
Challenges: I Love Libraries, Non-Fiction
Genre: Biography, Non-fiction
Edition: Movie Tie-In Paperback
Source: Library

Description: Harry Gordon Selfridge was a charismatic American who, in twenty-five years working at Marshall Field’s in Chicago, rose from lowly stockboy to a partner in the business which his visionary skills had helped to create. At the turn of the twentieth century he brought his own American dream to London’s Oxford Street where, in 1909, with a massive burst of publicity, Harry opened Selfridge’s, England’s first truly modern built-for-purpose department store. Designed to promote shopping as a sensual and pleasurable experience, six acres of floor space offered what he called “everything that enters into the affairs of daily life,” as well as thrilling new luxuries—from ice-cream soda to signature perfumes. This magical emporium also featured Otis elevators, a bank, a rooftop garden with an ice-skating rink, and a restaurant complete with orchestra—all catering to customers from Anna Pavlova to Noel Coward. The store was “a theatre, with the curtain going up at nine o’clock.” Yet the real drama happened off the shop floor, where Mr. Selfridge navigated an extravagant world of mistresses, opulent mansions, racehorses, and an insatiable addiction to gambling. While his gloriously  iconic store still stands, the man himself would ultimately come crashing down. (via Goodreads.com)

Thoughts: If I wasn't for the TV series airing on PBS, I probably wouldn't have picked up the book, as I hadn't heard of the book prior to the series.  While the book is an interesting look at the life of Henry Gordon Selfridge, the founder of Selfridges, the author seems to get bogged down in the sort of details that most people wouldn't be interested in, including myself, especially those about the financials, which made me bored to tears.  As you can probably tell, I was more interested in his personal life, but I guess since that his personal life was intertwined with that of the store, one couldn't exactly ignore the business side of his life.

Bottom life: While the book has lots of information, the way that the author presented the information became dry due to her descriptions that became wordy, even though the author does do a wonderful job in telling who Henry Selfridge was, both good and bad.  Recommended, but with some reservations.

Ratings: 3/5

Pages for 2014: 5442

Twelve Years a Slave - Solomon Northup

Title: Twelve Years a Slave
Author: Solomon Northup
Pages: 2008 (first published 1853)
Challenges: I Love Libraries, Non-Fiction
Genre: Non-fiction, biography, Memoir
Edition: Hardcover
Source: Library

Description: Here is the harrowing true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man living in New York. He was kidnaped by unscrupulous slave hunters and sold into slavery where he, endured unimaginable degradation and abuse until his rescue twelve years later. A powerful and riveting condemnation of American slavery. (via Goodreads.com)

Thoughts: After watching the movie, I thought that I would give this  a try and it would be interesting to see how much of the book was used in the movie (and from what I can recall, the movie was pretty accurate to what was written in the book).  Maybe it wwas the visual nature of the movie, but I honestly felt that the book was tad dull and lacked the emotional depth that the movie had.

It also felt like somebody was telling another person what they felt about a particular event and not as engrossing as maybe hearing it from the person talk about the events; it felt like I was reading the transcript of a really amazing speech after seeing the video recording of the same speech online or in person.

Bottom line: I would probably recommend this book to those that have a strong interest in African-American studies prior to the start of the American Civil War.  Recommended.

Rating: 2.8/5

Pages for 2014: 5090

The Interestings - Meg Wolitzer

Title: The Interestings
Author: Meg Wolitzer
Pages: 480
Published: 2012
Challenges: Chunkster, I Love Libraries
Genre: Literary Fiction
Edition: Hardcover
Source: Library

Description: The summer that Nixon resigns, six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts become inseparable. Decades later the bond remains powerful, but so much else has changed. In The Interestings, Wolitzer follows these characters from the height of youth through middle age, as their talents, fortunes, and degrees of satisfaction diverge.

The kind of creativity that is rewarded at age fifteen is not always enough to propel someone through life at age thirty; not everyone can sustain, in adulthood, what seemed so special in adolescence. Jules Jacobson, an aspiring comic actress, eventually resigns herself to a more practical occupation and lifestyle. Her friend Jonah, a gifted musician, stops playing the guitar and becomes an engineer. But Ethan and Ash, Jules’s now-married best friends, become shockingly successful—true to their initial artistic dreams, with the wealth and access that allow those dreams to keep expanding. The friendships endure and even prosper, but also underscore the differences in their fates, in what their talents have become and the shapes their lives have taken.

Wide in scope, ambitious, and populated by complex characters who come together and apart in a changing New York City, The Interestings explores the meaning of talent; the nature of envy; the roles of class, art, money, and power; and how all of it can shift and tilt precipitously over the course of a friendship and a life. (via Goodreads.com)


Thoughts: I first heard about this book either through the Bookrageous or through Books on the Nightstand, but I pretty sure I heard about the book through both at some point, and then heard about the book through the New York Times Book Review Podcast, which convinced me that I really did need to read the book and that it did appeal to me.

And I wasn't disappointed with it at all.  While I felt that it took a bit of the story to actually get going, once the story did get going, I really got into the story.  What I really liked was the shift between the characters and how very different their narratives ended up being from each other and reflected their personalities well.  I also liked how they interacted with each other and was really surprised how involved I got with the various characters, especially with Jules.  In fact, I got so involved with the story that I found myself bawling as I finishing up the book.

I don't know why the book struck a chord with me in that manner, but while I didn't like it so much as to garner a higher rating, it was a book that probably will stay with me for a long time.

Bottom line: If you enjoy reading more contemporary pieces of fiction, you probably will enjoy this book.  Or even if you want to read something that allows you to think a bit while being engrossed in a book that allows one to escape for a bit.  Highly recommended.

Rating: 4.5/5

Pages for 2014: 4946

Somewhere in France - Jennifer Robson

Title: Somewhere in France: A Novel of the Great War
Author: Jennifer Robson
Pages: 400
Published: 2013
Challenges: I Love Libraries, War Through the Generations, Historical Fiction, Eclectic Reading
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance
Edition: Paperback
Source: Library

Description: Lady Elizabeth Neville-Ashford wants to travel the world, pursue a career, and marry for love. But in 1914, the stifling restrictions of aristocratic British society and her mother’s rigid expectations forbid Lily from following her heart. When war breaks out, the spirited young woman seizes her chance for independence. Defying her parents, she moves to London and eventually becomes an ambulance driver in the newly formed Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps—an exciting and treacherous job that takes her close to the Western Front.

Assigned to a field hospital in France, Lily is reunited with Robert Fraser, her dear brother Edward’s best friend. The handsome Scottish surgeon has always encouraged Lily’s dreams. She doesn’t care that Robbie grew up in poverty—she yearns for their friendly affection to become something more. Lily is the most beautiful—and forbidden—woman Robbie has ever known. Fearful for her life, he’s determined to keep her safe, even if it means breaking her heart.

In a world divided by class, filled with uncertainty and death, can their hope for love survive. . . or will it become another casualty of this tragic war? (via Goodreads.com)


Thoughts: Saw this book recommended on a blog somewhere (this may be a bit redundant, as most books I read come from blog recommendations) and it intrigued me.  Luckily for me, I was able to get a library copy fairly quickly and hence I was able to finish the book within fairly short order.

What appealed me to the book was the fact that it reminded a lot of the plot line of Downton Abbey and it also appealed to me in that it looked to be a fairly easy read and something that I could read in short order, which I was able to.

Now that I have had sometime to let the book soak in and my thoughts to be properly formulated, I was reminded of Sarah's Key, in that it was a book that I could easily put down for a period of time and pick up just as easily without missing too much of the storyline.

While the book was nothing too memorable, the writing was decent enough and I liked the characters, even if the book became a bit too cliched for my liking.

Bottom line: If you gravitate towards lighter fiction and are a fan of Downton Abbey, I would recommend this read or even if you need something lighter for a bit.  Recommended.

Rating: 3.75/5

Pages for 2014: 4466
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