Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What I Read Wednesday

Bad Monkey
I love Carl Hiaasen. I've read all of his books--some of them multiple times. What I love about his books is that his characters are so quirky and engaging, yet they're still believable. He also tends to carry certain characters over into subsequent novels, so you'll find beloved characters popping up in smaller roles. This book follows Andrew Yancy once a police detective, now demoted to restaurant inspector for assaulting his ex's new love with a vacuum hose in a most uncomfortable spot. Yancy is in possession of a severed human arm which is lacking a body. No one wants the arm, so it's taking up space in his freezer. The arm leads him on quite an adventure, through Miami and the Keys, down to the Bahamas where he meets a voodoo priestess and an ill-tempered monkey said to have starred with Johnny Depp. As Yancy follows the trail of the arm, the plot thickens, as it always does in Hiaasen novels, and things become ever more dangerous as he tries to find out what happened to the owner of the arm and win back his job as detective.

Help for the Haunted: A Novel
Sylvie is used to her parents getting calls late at night. As the daughter of two parents who help those dealing with hauntings, her parents often receive late calls to assist those in needs. But on their last night alive, this call in different. She's taken along and told that they're going to meet her estranged sister in a church. When they arrive, the church is dark and by the end of the night, both of her parents are dead.
This story chilled me, on so many levels. The supernatural level, of course. As it unfolds, you learn about Sylvie's parents and the cases they took on, many of which were unsettling, with a fine layer of wondering if Sylvie's parents were real or frauds. But there are many complexities within this story. You have Sylvie's relationship with her sister, Rose. Sylvie and Rose's relationship with their parents. The bullying and cruelty that Sylvie deals with from her classmates after they find out that Sylvie's parents help the haunted. The entire time, you're wondering who the haunted really are and that question haunted me as I was reading it. This was one that I stayed up way too late reading it. It's good. Really good.

The Husband's Secret
This is one of those books that I started reading it, then I put it down because there were so many characters introduced that I couldn't focus or get into it. Fortunately, I decided to give it another try and I'm pretty sure the issue was more how tired I was than the book itself because upon picking it up again, I was pretty quickly hooked.
While her husband is away on business, Cecilia discovers a letter from him that says: to be opened only in the event of my death" on the outside. Because Cecilia is a better person than myself, she doesn't immediately rip it open and instead mentions it to her husband over the phone. Although he's fairly flippant about it over the phone, he cuts his business trip short and arrives home three days early to discover that she still hasn't opened the letter--much to his seemingly apparently relief. In this novel, we also meet Tess whose husband and cousin just told her that they're in love with another, leaving her to escape to her mother's house with her young son, Liam, as well as Rachel, whose daughter Janie was murdered at the age of 17--and Rachel finds herself haunted by the question of who did it? And why? All three women are intertwined throughout the novel in ways both public and private--Cecilia's husband isn't the only one with a secret. While some of the plot twists were predictable, I still greatly enjoyed this story and the characters and definitely found myself drawn into their lives. It's hard to discuss too much without giving away major plot points, but while parts of it made me sad, I loved watching the characters grow throughout this novel.

What are you reading?

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Little Mermaid [Review/Giveaway]

As a little girl, The Little Mermaid was my favorite of all the Disney movies (well, next to Alice in Wonderland--I was a strange child). I loved it so much that in elementary school, I used to call my best friend and we would sing on the phone to each other, pretending to be Ariel. When I saw that it was to be released from the Disney vault and on Blu-Ray for a limited time only, I was pretty excited. Of course, I have a boys--would they like it? Would they be as enchanted as I was?

We watched it together last night and they were captivated. Of course, they didn't want to be Ariel, but they fell in love with the singing, so much improved and bold on Blu-Ray. They were terrified by Ursula, as I was all those years ago. They cheered for Ariel. Yes, this one falls under timeless classic, and I am so glad.

We also explored some of the bonus features, like Carly Rae Jepsen singing "Part of Your World." At 6.5 Luke is starting to get into "songs he hears on the bus," she was definitely into the girl who sings "Call Me Maybe," singing a song from The Little Mermaid.

The best part is that they've already asked if they can watch it again tonight, and I cannot wait. It definitely takes me back to being a kid and watching it again and again and... well, you get the picture. Once you've checked out the movie, you can check out the website for some more games and bonus features to go along with the movie. We haven't done this yet, but I definitely plan on doing it soon.

The best part of all this? I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader [US only]. If you'd like to enter, please leave a comment telling me who your favorite childhood Disney character was. Did you sing Ariel's songs? Dance with teapots like Belle? I want to know!
Giveaway ends Monday, Sept 30.

I was given a copy of The Little Mermaid. All Ariel loving opinions are my own.

Giveaway ended. Congrats to Many Thoughts of a Reader!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What I Read Wednesday

The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese
I didn't remember requesting this book, so when it came in from the library, I was like, "Why on earth did I want to read a book about cheese?" Except that I really like cheese, so I figured that was probably why I requested it. I am definitely glad that I did, because as the title suggests, it's about more than cheese. The author is a brilliant storyteller and weaves a tale of the small Spanish village of Guzman, a mystical cheese, the cheese maker, his wine, his stories and his betrayal. Although the book wanders at points, the tale of Ambrosio and his cheese is one that hooked me in enough to keep me reading and wanting more.

Aaaand... that's all I read this week. Somehow I had no free time and during silent reading time, my students kept interrupting to ask me how my pirate monkey book was going. Yeah. It's been of THOSE weeks. Hopefully I can tell you about my pirate monkey book next week. What are you reading?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What I Read Wednesday

Turn Around Bright Eyes: The Rituals of Love and Karaoke
This was an interesting book. When I checked it out, I was kind of thinking, Am I really going to like this? I'm not a karaoke person. How is this memoir going to work for me? But it did. Rob Sheffield examines his own life, after suddenly becoming a young widow, through karaoke. He writes of how, in a way, karaoke saved him. The book goes way beyond that, but overall, it was just an easy, enjoyable read.

Night Film: A Novel
I feel like this will either be one of those books that you love or hate, no in between (and if you read it or have read it, please tell me which category you fall into). First of all, it's a mystery novel, but it's 600 pages. So it is not the fluffy mystery novel that you take to the beach. It's also one of those books where the author has created multimedia inserts to enhance the novel, such as newspaper articles and websites, to make it more realistic. This is a touch that I love.
Scott McGrath is a journalist who has an obsession with underground film maker, Stanislav Cordova. Cordova's films are so dark that they've been banned from mainstream movie theatres and are now, literally, shown underground: in subway tunnels and other hidden venues. The director himself hasn't been seen or heard from in years and is as mysterious as his films. McGrath lost his job over calling Cordova a predator. When Cordova's daughter is found dead, McGrath sets out to find the truth about her death and about Cordova, following a twisting passageway as dark as one of Cordova's film.
This book definitely pulled me in. I didn't want to stop reading it. I would bring it to work to read during silent reading time and I would think about it sitting on my desk and want to read it right then and there. It's good. Really good.

Oryx and Crake
Apparently the final book in this trilogy was just released, so I thought it was a good time to check out the first book. Snowman, formerly known as Jimmy, is the last surviving human in a post-apocalyptic world. Unless you count the children of Crake, who are somewhat human but are engineered to have some of the more desirable qualities of various animals. Throughout the story, Jimmy weaves the present with the past as he tells what happened to bring about the end of the world. I loved it and can't wait to read the next two.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

What I Read Wednesday(s)

So hey, I've been reading, but every Tuesday night, I put the kids to bed and make lunches and then I'm just too tired to blog about what I'm reading. I miss summer. A lot.

Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison
I love the Netflix show. Like, devoured it in three days and when does season two release?! I knew that the book really only loosely followed the first three episodes, so I wasn't expecting the TV show in book form, but I was still interested to read Piper's memoir. It was interesting in a lot of ways, but not the ultimate redemption story that I was hoping for, for many reasons. I'll be honest, if I was in prison with Piper, I would've shivved her simply for the mention of all the mail she received compared to the other women. And not just mail, but special mail from her friends who have Louis Vuitton stationary. I just couldn't get past the author's uppity tone. She got more mail. The prisoners all stayed within their racial divides, except her. She was friends with EVERYONE. It's evident that she comes from a more privileged lifestyle, which is part of what's intriguing about the book, but I guess I just found some of the mentions unnecessary. I also found the ending really disappointing. She spent the entire book talking about these women she met in prison and how they were all getting out at the same time and she wrote down their information so she could connect with them outside. Here is this woman with an education and connections, who could be an honest asset to women who don't have these things... and the book ended upon her release from prison. So, did she just use the womens' stories to write a book and that was that? I would've liked a little more.

Son of a Gun: A Memoir
This is one of those memoirs that really worked. Sometimes I read a memoir and think, But why do I want to read about your life? I don't really care. This was the exact opposite. The author's mom was murdered by, presumably, his step-dad and he sets out to retrace steps and make sense of her sad life, why she died so young and why she lived through so much abuse, all the while tying in the history of the town of Tombstone, where he grew up and where his mother met the man who would eventually cause her undoing it. It was sad and really beautiful and everyone should read this one.

The Shining Girls: A Novel
I'd been looking forward to this book for a long time and it fell far flat of what I'd hope for, unfortunately. Maybe because I'd so been looking forward to it? But c'mon. A serial killer version of The Time Traveler's Wife? That's genius. Except it wasn't. The characters were all flat. I didn't feel any connection to any of them. While I was worried the book would leave me a little too on the edge, it didn't. At all. The serial killer wasn't developed enough to scare me. I didn't feel enough of a connection to the shining girls to feel sorry when he killed them. And why is he killing these girls? That's kind of developed but not really. There was just a lot missing in what could've been an amazing book. Was it a decent read? Sure. Did it grip me the way I thought it would? Not even close.

Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson
I took a class on cults and alternative religions in college. Topics like this have always fascinated me. That said, a 400 page book on Charles Manson is not exactly light bedtime reading, but it was absolutely fascinating. It began with his childhood and carried all the way to present day, with a look at the socio-political climate at the time the Manson family began Helter Skelter, as well as an in depth look at the media circus in the aftermath and the work it took police to finally bring them in to the courtroom. It was absolutely fascinating.

What are you reading?