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Friday Favorite: Favorite Memoir

November 12, 2010 1 comment

Let me say one thing about favorites.  I have a lot of them.  My husband always teases me that I don’t know the real meaning of the word “favorite.”  The truth is, I do know the definition, but I perhaps bestow the title of “my favorite” too liberally.  This is something I got from my mom, who never hesitates to call something a “favorite” if she likes it a lot in that moment.

So while something is my favorite whatever this week, it might not be next week or next month or next year.

Anyway.

Okay, it took me a while to come up with a category for this week, but I finally did.

Favorite Memoir.

I’ve chosen The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson.  This book came out a few years ago, and being a big Bill Bryson fan, I read it as soon as it did.

First of all, everything I’ve ever read by Bill Bryson is hilarious.  Laugh out loud funny.  Full of perfectly couched one-liners that I share with my husband.

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid was no different.  I laughed and I cried (because I was laughing so hard).

It’s all about growing up in the fifties, and even though I didn’t grow up then, I can still appreciate the time period with all its wackiness and uncertainty.  I also think that no matter when you grew up, there are certain themes and rites in everyone’s childhood that make this book incredibly familiar to anyone who’s ever been a child.  Which is to say, all of us.

I love Bill Bryson.  He is probably one of my top five favorite authors of all time.  And he definitely is my favorite non-fiction writer.  If you haven’t read anything by Bill Bryson, you are totally missing out.  For some reason, I usually end up taking Bill Bryson books on trips, but why that is, I don’t know.  Maybe because he’s mostly a travel writer?

(Disclaimer: Bill Bryson does use occasional foul language in his books for all easily offended friends out there.  Personally, I hardly notice it, but I know that is a big thing for some people.)

Four and a half stars for being awesome.  I would actually probably give all Bill Bryson books a four and a half.  (Except for A Short History of Nearly Everything, which I would give a four only because it’s so dang long.)

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Friday Favorite: Persuasion by Jane Austen

November 5, 2010 Leave a comment

This week’s Friday Favorite category is “Favorite Classic.”

I actually like quite a few classics, but I wanted to review one that is less popular or read, I guess.  So I’ve chosen Persuasion by Jane Austen.

I love all of Jane Austen’s novels, but Persuasion is probably my favorite (after Pride & Prejudice, of course).

Here’s the synopsis from Goodreads:

‘She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older – the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning.’ Anne Elliot seems to have given up on present happiness and has resigned herself to living off her memories. More than seven years earlier she complied with duty: persuaded to view the match as imprudent and improper, she broke off her engagement to a naval captain with neither fortune, ancestry, nor prospects. However, when peacetime arrives and brings the Navy home, and Anne encounters Captain Wentworth once more, she starts to believe in second chances. Persuasion celebrates romantic constancy in an era of turbulent change. Written as the Napoleonic Wars were ending, the novel examines how a woman can at once remain faithful to her past and still move forward into the future.

It’s a story about second chances, ultimately.  And whether or not to take them.  The power of persuasion is an obvious theme as Anne considers whose advice and feelings she should consider when making decisions.

I have read a lot of so-called “sequels” or spin-offs of Jane Austen, and one of my favorites is a series called Frederick Wentworth, Captain by Susan Kaye.  It’s Persuasion retold from Captain Wentworth’s perspective.  I really enjoyed it because, frankly, it’s nice to hear that men get as caught up in love as women do.  And that they worry about some of the same things.

Give Persuasion a read or a re-read, as the case may be.  You won’t be disappointed.

Love Jane Austen.  Love sweet, dutiful Anne Elliot.  Love totally swoon-worthy Captain Wentworth (check out the 2007 BBC film adaptation to see what I mean!).

Friday Favorite: The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

October 29, 2010 1 comment

I’ve decided to start a new meme, so here it is: “Friday Favorite.”  Every week, I will tell you about a favorite from my list.  Maybe sometimes I will tell you about my favorite characters, favorite authors, or even my favorite episode of Modern Family. (Love that show!)

Today, it’s simple: one of my favorite recent-reads.

It’s The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting.  I love this book so much that I’ve added it to my All-Time Favorites list.

Here’s the blurb from Kimberly Derting’s web site:

Violet Ambrose is grappling with two major issues: Jay Heaton and her morbid secret ability. While the sixteen-year-old is confused by her new feelings for her best friend since childhood, she is more disturbed by her “power” to sense dead bodies—or at least those that have been murdered. Since she was a little girl, she has felt the echoes that the dead leave behind in the world… and the imprints that attach to their killers.

Violet has never considered her strange talent to be a gift; it mostly just led her to find the dead birds her cat had tired of playing with. But now that a serial killer has begun terrorizing her small town, and the echoes of the local girls he’s claimed haunt her daily, she realizes she might be the only person who can stop him.

Despite his fierce protectiveness over her, Jay reluctantly agrees to help Violet on her quest to find the murderer—and Violet is unnerved to find herself hoping that Jay’s intentions are much more than friendly. But even as she’s falling intensely in love, Violet is getting closer and closer to discovering a killer… and becoming his prey herself.

Here’s what I really loved about this book:  Violet has a really whack-jack kind of ability, but she’s actually pretty normal.  She has a normal high school life, that is actually totally relatable.

(It really bugs me when I read a story and the high school scenes seem far-fetched, too serious, or just unrealistic.)

The high school interaction felt just like my own high school experience.  Not like I had some creepy, weird ability or anything, but just like… it totally could have taken place in my high school.

Anyway, I love Violet and I love her best friend, Jay.  My best friend in high school was a boy, too, so I really love that element.  Their relationship is very natural and easy, despite Violet’s morbid finds.

Another thing I really liked about this book was that the identity of the killer wasn’t totally obvious to me.  I actually had no idea until the very end.

Five stars for this book because I couldn’t stop thinking about it for DAYS afterward.  One more thing to love: a sequel, Desires of the Dead, is scheduled for release in March 2011!

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

September 10, 2010 5 comments

Last week, Cassandra Clare came to my local library to do a signing as part of her book tour.

The Mortal Instruments (MI) series is at the top of my favorites list, so I had been waiting for this new book, Clockwork Angel.

Clockwork Angel is the first book in a new prequel Shadowhunter series called The Infernal Devices.  It takes place in 1878 in Victorian London, which is (obviously) such a contrast from modern New York City, where MI takes place.

Here’s the synopsis:

Magic is dangerous–but love is more dangerous still.

When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London’s Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.

Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What’s more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa’s power for his own.

Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by–and torn between–two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm’s length…everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world…and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.

(By the way, you can read the first 100 pages here.)

Like I mentioned, I have been waiting for this book for a long time, and when I was in line with it, waiting to get it signed, I had this brief moment of panic when I thought, “What if it’s bad?  What if I don’t like it?”

I don’t know how I could have ever thought that.

I loved this book.  Loved it.  And it quickly earned a place on my favorites list.

I already loved the whole Shadowhunting world, but add witty and clever protagonists and steampunk villains, and what more could I want?

This book was quite funny.  A lot funnier than most of the MI.  Maybe because Tessa is really clever and doesn’t put up with flack from anyone, whereas in MI, all the wit comes from Simon and sometimes Jace.

I really liked the main characters and found them to be believable and lovable.  They’re really easy to like, although Henry is certainly high on my list because of his red hair.

I was happy to find that Tessa, the  main girl in the story, was so different from Clary (although she faces similar conflicts).  Although Will, who is an ancestor of Jace’s, seems so much like Jace at times, you wonder if snarkiness and self-destruction are inherited traits.  I don’t think it’s bad that they’re so alike, because it feels more like they’re supposed to be.  Because they’re two apples from the same crazy Herondale tree.

Meeting Cassandra Clare was awesome.  She was cool and funny and everything I hoped she’d be.  She had hot shoes and purple streaks in her hair that really made me think about dying mine, too.  I felt like a big dork, which I am wont to do when I meet people who are obviously so much cooler than me.  But Cassandra Clare was nice and cool about it.  So, thanks for that, Cassandra Clare.

Thanks for being cool to all the dorks out there who love you.

After that picture, I went home and started reading Clockwork Angel right away. I finished it the next day.

I have no self-control when it comes to books.

Thank goodness that her next book, City of Fallen Angels (MI #4), comes out in 207 days.

Five stars for being totally brill and living up to the hype.  Too bad Clockwork Prince (ID #2) doesn’t come out for another year.

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

August 13, 2010 2 comments

I remember the exact place I first saw this book.  It was about three years ago in my local Borders, on the “Employee Recommendations” endcap.  It caught my eye because, hello, the cover is so striking.  And also, so is the title!  Uglies?!  With a pretty girl on the cover?!

I didn’t buy it, but jotted down the title and author to read at a later date.  A few weeks later, I found out that one of my friends owned the books and really liked them, so I borrowed them and read all four in about a week.

To be short, I loved them.  Well, Extras (the fourth in the series) is kinda meh, but it’s not really related anyway.

So, when our book club was picking our 2010 books at the end of last year, I recommended Uglies, and it actually got picked!  (It made me feel very important.)

Here’s what it’s all about, according to Scott Westerfeld:

It’s about a world in which everyone has an operation when they turn sixteen, making them supermodel beautiful. Big eyes, full lips, no one fat or skinny. This seems like a good thing, but it’s not. Especially if you’re one of the uglies, a bunch of radical teens who’ve decided they want to keep their own faces. (How anti-social of them.)

This is included in the dystopian fantasy genre (home to other great books such as The Hunger Games), but it’s got all the elements of YA that we love– a boy, fighting with another girl over said boy, adventure, romance, and good old-fashioned problems with authority.

The main character is a girl named Tally Youngblood.  (She’s facing off against Katniss Everdeen in the YA Fantasy Showdown.)  She has been waiting her whole life for the operation, and since her best friend Peris got the operation, she’s been counting down the days until she can join him.

While she waits, she makes friends with a girl named Shay, who is also waiting to turn 16.  But Shay doesn’t want the operation and runs away, leaving Tally to deal with the consequences.

I love this series.  It’s on my favorites list, and it’s one of the first series I recommend to people.

So.

I recommend it to you.  🙂

Five stars = a favorite.  If you haven’t read it yet, you’re missing out.  Go out and read it, or I’ll send Special Circumstances after you. (You won’t get that until after you read it, sorry.)