Ready Reader? 09/10/2011
 
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Ready Player One
by Ernest Cline
384 pages
2011
science-fiction? dystopian lit? general fiction? ...not sure...

***Recommended Reading

In the future, human connections are maintained primarily through interacting in an incredibly extensive virtual world created by a brilliant developer and lover of 1980s geekery. Our hero is Wade/Parzival, a high school student who has had a particularly difficult life and relishes the escape of OASIS for conducting his day-to-day activities. When the creator of OASIS dies, the mother of all treasure hunts is revealed to the world: hidden within the depths of the OASIS platform is a multi-billion dollar reward to the man or woman able to unlock the clues and succeed in the battles that arise for the competitors ("gunters" - egg hunters, as in "Easter egg") during their quest. Also battling for this money are the employees (called "sixers") of a huge corporation, kept as indentured servants, paid to search for the egg. Sounds like corporate America. Obviously these guys are the enemy.

First let me say that Ready Player One is completely unlike anything I have ever read. While reading it, I knew I was reading the words of a book that is going to receive a lot of attention upon its release. The number of references to the history of video game development and music and movies of the 1980s is remarkable and it is extremely apparent that the author worked very hard to create a great story from his obvious love for the decade. Don't worry - he in fact, wrote a GREAT story. One this non-gamer, 30 year-old female could get on board with. It will probably be going on my top ten of 2011 list at the end of the year.

So, the entire time I was reading I kept thinking about the probability of the book being optioned for a movie, and sure enough, I learned shortly after finishing that it has. I will be very curious to see how this evolves into a feature film. Will it work?

 
 
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Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day
by Ben Loory
208 pages
2011
short stories

***Recommended Reading***

A delayed review, thanks to a career change right in the middle of attempting to read a pile of books from NetGalley!

I followed the suggestion put forth by author Ben Loory in his fabulous title and read most of his stories at nighttime, which proved frustrating because I had a difficult time putting the book down. I quickly developed the "just one more..." mentality while reading and loved being whisked away at night with his take on the modern fable. I was extremely pleased to see the book featured at my local Barnes & Noble during my last visit to the store - it definitely deserves attention for its creativity and heart. I have a hunch it may be one of those quietly successful books that is passed around from book lover to book lover and discussed among friends.

While I am not generally a fan of short stories, I was completely mesmerized and delighted by this collection which was just as magical as the two collections I often recommend to others: Kissing in Manhattan and Magic for Beginners. I love stories that put you on edge, have an air of mystery about them, spark some magic, and keep you guessing. Since I was reading this on my nook, I never knew when a story was going to end, and that was a huge part of the fun for me as well.

After reading the entire book, I thought long and hard about which stories affected me most, whether for pure enjoyment reasons or because they made me think after I had moved on. It was challenging, but I narrowed the list to ten of my favorites, and then narrowed it even more for this review. If you are curious even a little about this collection, please check out this fantastic debut and dive into Loory's imagination with some of the following...

(I am not giving away anything really, because I just want you to have at it! Here is a tasting...)

The Book - in which a book with completely blank pages becomes and incredible success
The Crown - in which a dish-washing employee discovers an invisible crown in the suds and begins to wear it with results he does not anticipate
The Octopus - in which an octopus has left the sea to live in the city but struggles with agoraphobia
The Tree - in which a tree that can walk is fenced in for public display
The TV and Winston Churchill - in which a television, frustrated with showing horrible and mind-numbing programming, decides to compose an opera about Churchill

I think this book will be one of my top ten of 2011 and I will be pushing it on everyone I know.

 
 
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Still Alice by Lisa Genova
2007
general fiction
292 pages

***Recommended Reading***
***Recommended Book Club Selection***

Initial Review:
After reading countless five-star reviews from my book group friends, I knew it was time to pick this one up to read at the local library.

I devoured this book in one sitting, tears streaming down my face, as I read about Alice Howland experiencing her life changing due to Early-Onset Alzheimer's Disease. Once a brilliant professor at Harvard, Alice is faced with the realization that everything she knew is spiraling away from her and she cannot do anything to prevent her brain, once capable and revered by others, from deteriorating because of this horrible illness. Reading the scenes with her husband, torn between love for his wife and terror for what will be her future, were so unbelievably heartbreaking I found myself reaching for my pajama sleeve more than once. (I didn't even want to get up to get tissue!)

The writing in this book is near-perfect, and Genova's words will stay with you long after you turn the last page. Alice Howland is a character who will remain in my literary memory bank probably forever.

My Posting in My Book Group Thread:

As I mentioned in another thread, I tore through Still Alice in one sitting this week. The topic of Alzheimer's Disease is something too many of us can relate to (even if not in our immediate circle) and I think everyone can agree it is a truly horrible and heartbreaking illness. Early Onset Alzheimer's, which can appear in your 40s, takes that horror to another level because these patients are healthy in other ways which causes them to live with the illness for much longer.

I cried my eyes out throughout most of the book. Tears just streamed down my face as I turned pages and became more intense with certain scenes. Don't let this deter you from reading, though. This is undoubtedly one of the best books I have ever read and the writing is almost perfect in how Genova weaves the character of Alice. She takes you right into Alice's brain and its deterioration. Wow.

 
 
Water for ElephantsWater for Elephants by Sara Gruen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I absolutely loved this layered story about Jacob, a young man who worked for a circus during the Depression-era. From the aspects of aging and reflecting back on life, learning how to carve one's path as a young person, and dealing with love, I think this book has something for everyone. I found the research that went into this book most interesting; learning about the history of the circus in the United States was fascinating, and I am so glad that Gruen added photographs before each chapter. I can't believe I waited so long to read this one!

View all my reviews
 
 
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One Day by David Nicholls
2009
General Fiction
360 pages

***Recommended Reading***

It took me more than one hundred pages to become vested in the lives of Dexter and Emma, which is more than I would normally commit to reading in a book that is not grabbing me, but I stuck with it because the writing was good and my friend Lisa warned me that it might take some time to become involved. I am passing the warning along to you.

I'm glad I kept reading because One Day became a four-star story for me about the intersecting lives of two friends spanning twenty years. I found myself highlighting many quotes from the book and really lingering over particular witty lines or insightful thoughts about love and friendship. Dexter and Emma have a complicated relationship that the reader sees from both sides; at the beginning of the story this relationship is trying to find its footing, but by about 1/3 of the way into the story the writing and character development has engulfed us enough to almost feel like the third party.

One Day made it on many "Best of 2010" lists, and while I really enjoyed it, I know I read some books published last year that I found much more readable and interesting... BUT, this is not to be missed. Stick with it past 100 pages (come on, you did it with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and you'll be happy.

Oh, and don't read any spoilers.


 
 
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Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
1995
Thriller
468 pages...that go fast!

***RECOMMENDED READING***
The New York Museum of Natural History is experiencing a series of brutal and unexplained murders on the eve of one of its largest exhibition openings. With the discovery of certain artifacts from past expeditions, protagonist Margo and her mentor, Frock, realize that something truly horrible, unimaginable, and scientifically incredible is among the halls and catacombs of the large building. Detective Pendergrast is your stereotypical thriller-detective, but I found that I liked him a great deal and rooted for him to save the day.

Relic was certainly a departure from the types of books I normally read, and I am glad to have discovered it. It had a very similar vibe to books written by Michael Chrichton, particularly Jurassic Park and follow-ups; for me, that made it a really fun read that was a page-turner and the perfect book for all of the doctors' waiting rooms I have been in lately. This would also be the perfect book for road trips, flights, and waiting in airports. I plan on reading more by this author in the future.

4 stars and lots of fun! Quick read, fast pacing, plot-driven. Need a break? This is a good one!

 
 
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Hidden Wives by Claire Avery
2010
General Fiction
336 pages

*** Recommended Reading***

Thank you to the authors for a providing me with a signed copy of this book!

Claire Avery, the pen name for two sisters who wrote this debut novel together, have written a page-turning exploration into the world of a polygamist sect based in Utah. The sisters' interest in and knowledge of extreme religions is portrayed through fictional characters Sara and Rachel, two young members of this sect. After spending their lives with The Blood of the Lamb society, the sisters endure many horrific experiences before deciding to flee the only home and faith they have ever known, ...more Claire Avery, the pen name for two sisters who wrote this debut novel together, have written a page-turning exploration into the world of a polygamist sect based in Utah. The sisters' interest in and knowledge of extreme religions is portrayed through fictional characters Sara and Rachel, two young members of this sect. After spending their lives with The Blood of the Lamb society, the sisters endure many horrific experiences before deciding to flee the only home and faith they have ever known, and will be tested in many ways.

What surprised me most about reading this book is how quickly you like and sympathize with the two main characters. I was rooting for them after only a couple of pages, and the manner in which the story is written makes it a compelling read that is difficult to put down...SO I read it in a couple of sittings.

Many of my friends have read and enjoyed The Nineteenth Wife, which deals with similar issues. I think I will be moving that one higher on the to-read list after experiencing Hidden Wives. Hidden Wives would make a great summer read and a great book for discussion groups because of the nature of the material.

As a side note, I have corresponded with the authors, and they are so kind to their readers. When authors reach out to book addicts like me, I am even more receptive, and Claire Avery has a new "follower" in me. I will definitely be looking for more books to come, so keep writing, ladies!


**side note** With the popularity of the recent television hit "Sister Wives" on TLC, I think this book, along with other books with similar theme will receive more attention. This is a topic that captivates many people because it provides us with a glimpse into a world so different than what we know.

 
Jackpot! 08/27/2010
 
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Lottery by Patricia Wood
2007
General Fiction
320 pages

***Recommended Reading***

It only took me one chapter to fall in love with Lottery, and it will now hold a place on my "recommended fiction" list I usually have ready for anyone that asks what to read next.

Perry is not retarded. He is slow. Perry reminds us of this throughout the novel as he is faced with many different life-changing situations. The narration is perfection and the main characters phenomenal. This is one of those books that I could clearly envision while I was reading. I even teared ...more
It only took me one chapter to fall in love with Lottery, and it will now hold a place on my "recommended fiction" list I usually have ready for anyone that asks what to read next.

"Perry is not retarded. He is slow." Perry reminds us of this throughout the novel as he is faced with many different life-changing situations. The narration is perfection and the main characters phenomenal. This is one of those books that I could clearly envision while I was reading. I even teared up a few times, especially at the end of the story.

You owe it to yourself to check out this book. Perry will win your heart and so will his story. Fantastic.


 
 
***** Recommended Reading*****

Garden Spells

Published in 2007
290 Pages

This is one of the most pleasant reading experiences I have had lately. Sarah Addison Allen weaves such a beautiful story of two sisters who possess unique abilities passed down through the Waverley generations. The main character, Claire, has a gift that enables her to cook and bake using ingredients from her magical garden to make those eating her dishes feel or act a certain way. Her sister, Sydney, has another gift that she discovers about halfway through the book. We are also introduced to ...more This is one of the most pleasant reading experiences I have had lately. Sarah Addison Allen weaves such a beautiful story of two sisters who possess unique abilities passed down through the Waverley generations. The main character, Claire, has a gift that enables her to cook and bake using ingredients from her magical garden to make those eating her dishes feel or act a certain way. Her sister, Sydney, has another gift that she discovers about halfway through the book, which I will not reveal here. We are also introduced to a bevvy of other interesting characters, many of whom we get to know more through flashbacks. These include the neighbor next door, an old childhood friend, a rival family, a cousin who has an uncanny knack for providing people with gifts they are going to need but don't know for what at the time of receiving them, and an apple tree with a mind of its own. Magical and fun, this story reminded me a little bit of "Practical Magic" but carried a more whimsical tone.

The Sugar Queen

Published in 2008
276 Pages

Not as magical and fun as Garden Spells, The Sugar Queen still tells a good interlocking stories of an overbearing mother, a delicious mail carrier, a gorgeous man who appears to have been drawn with charcoal, a cheating boyfriend, a woman hanging out in a closet, two gals with trendy names, and box upon box of Swiss Cake Rolls mixed with other assorted sweets. Some people will really enjoy the twist ending; others like me (patting myself on the back here) will figure it out long before turning ...more Not as magical and fun as Garden Spells, The Sugar Queen still tells good interlocking stories of an overbearing mother, a delicious mail carrier, a gorgeous man who appears to have been drawn with charcoal, a cheating boyfriend, a woman hanging out in a closet, two gals with trendy names, and box upon box of Swiss Cake Rolls mixed with other assorted sweets. Some people will really enjoy the twist ending; others like me (patting myself on the back here) will figure it out long before turning the final pages.

If you're new to the author, try Garden Spells first.


The Girl Who Chased the Moon
Published in 2010
269 Pages

Addison Allen weaves together yet another wonderful story with magical elements in this tale about "coming home" to Mullaby. You can read the summary on Goodreads, but I would hate to give away any more than that as far as plot, characters, and the magic. Addison Allen has hit a nice stride with the types of books she is writing, and people are certainly responding.

If you liked Garden Spells and The Sugar Queen, this is a sure bet, although Garden Spells is still my favori...more
Addison Allen weaves together yet another wonderful story with magical elements in this tale about "coming home" to Mullaby. You can read the summary on Goodreads, but I would hate to give away any more than that as far as plot, characters, and the magic. Addison Allen has hit a nice stride with the types of books she is writing, and people are certainly responding.

If you liked Garden Spells and The Sugar Queen, this is a sure bet, although Garden Spells is still my favorite!

 
 
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This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
2009
General Fiction
339 Pages

*** Recommended Reading ***

I loved the smart, witty writing style that depicted the Foxman family in this fantastic story about a family sitting shiva following the death of the father. They are delightfully dysfunctional, sweet, and real and I found myself dreaming about an independent film and who I would cast while reading the book.

THEN, I read the author information and saw that it is already in the works with Warner Bros. Mr. Tropper, if you read reviews on Goodreads, be very careful on who is cast to pl...more
I loved the smart, witty writing style that depicted the Foxman family in this fantastic story about a family sitting shiva following the death of the father. They are delightfully dysfunctional, sweet, and real. I found myself dreaming about an independent film and who I would cast while reading the book and later discovered that some critics saw the screenplay in the plot and writing style and published negative reviews because of that. Was Tropper writing for a movie? Maybe, maybe not. Probably. Don't most authors want movies?

Anyways, I then I read the author information and saw that it is already in the works with Warner Bros. Mr. Tropper, if you read my blog (which you probably don't, but just to cover my bases) be very careful on who is cast to play these important roles. It truly is going to make or break the movie. The actors selected will be solely responsible for making this an incredible film or a huge flop. If Warner Bros. tries to go too big, I think it is going to turn into a mess.

Regardless, read and love This is Where I Leave You before Hollywood turns it into trash or treasure.
The cake scene alone will have you laughing, in spite of the situation.

You're probably reading this and thinking, "Stephanie isn't really telling me about the book. She's just ranting about how worried she is about the film version." Well, you're right. This was nothing even resembling a review (which is why I call them book NOTES) and I just want my opinion heard. I have recommended this book to MANY people, all of whom loved it with the exception of one, who didn't see the dark humor.

Just go read it.