Sunday, August 31, 2008

Nights in Rodanthe by Nicholas Sparks

Published in 2002. 222 pages.

I have to admit that several years ago I would never have picked up a novel by Nicholas Sparks. I didn't know much about his work, but I didn't think I'd be interested. I had heard an inspiring story about his tenacity in first getting published, which made me admire him as a person, though not necessarily want to read his books.

Then when my main IRL book club was organized - back in June 2002 - the first pick was The Notebook. Believing that the real fun of book groups is reading things you wouldn't have picked yourself, I read the book - and I really enjoyed it. Not too long after that I fell in love with the movie version of A Walk to Remember. And I've been a Sparks fan ever since!

Whenever I'm in the mood for a sweet love story or a good cry - or both - a Nicholas Sparks book will likely fill the bill. Nights in Rodanthe is no exception. Reading it for book club this month was actually a re-read for me - but I liked it just as well the second time around.

I'm not particularly excited about the movie version of Nights in Rodanthe, given the differences from the book. But then again, as I told my book club friends, if they're going to go see the movie, I'll go along just to see Richard Gere.

What I'd really like to do one day is visit the Outer Banks of North Carolina to see the place where this book is set.


Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Accidental Time Machine
by Joe Haldeman

Published in 2007. 278 pages.

The Accidental Time Machine was August's pick for Becky's Online Reading Group. Because I love time travel novels, I was eager to read this one. I was not familiar with Haldeman's work, but I discovered that he is an award-winning American science-fiction writer. His website is here.

First sentence: The story would have been a lot different if Matt's supervisor had been watching him when the machine first went away.

Last sentence: In 2072, Jonathan Marsh would be given the Nobel Prize in physics, for discovering a curious kind of time travel.

This was an enjoyable read, with some interesting visions of what the future will bring. I wanted there to be a little more substance to it all; I kept waiting for the question "so what?" to be answered. It never was - but it's a fun book nevertheless.

Other book bloggers' reviews of The Accidental Time Machine:
If you have read and reviewed this book, I would love to link your review here. Please leave me a comment or email me your link!


1776 by David McCullough

Originally published in 2005.
Abridged audio book read by the author.

I frequently will listen to an audio book on and off during my commuting time. 1776 was going to be a pick for my church women's group book club (although we ended up not having a meeting that month to discuss it), and my mom had given my husband the abridged audio book for Christmas a couple of years ago, so I decided I'd try "reading" it that way.

With a chaotic work schedule in July, it look me into August to get through the whole book. But McCullough has a pleasant voice, and I enjoyed learning more about this important year in American history. Being a visual learner, I probably would have comprehended the "big picture" of the year better if I'd actually read the book. I obviously missed a good amount of information as well - since this abridgement has five CDs, while the unabridged version has 10 - but I'm glad that I've finally "read" this popular book of American history.

Other book bloggers' reviews of 1776:
If you have read and reviewed this book, I would love to link your review here. Please leave me a comment or email me your link!


Friday, August 29, 2008

Life on the Refrigerator Door
by Alice Kuipers

Subtitled Notes Between a Mother and Daughter.
Published in 2007. 220 pages.

After finishing Breaking Dawn - at 756 pages - which followed closely my read of The Host - with 619 pages - this short, touching, easy-to-read book was exactly was I needed!

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of the book from Somer at SomeReads. (Thanks again, Somer!) I'd had it on my to-read list since last year, and I had included it on one of my Reading Full Circle Challenge lists. Since then the book was chosen as a Selection for the current Salt Lake County Library Reader's Choice list, which called it "a very quick read that is powerful, touching, and thought-provoking." Thus, the book qualifies for the Triple 8 Challenge in my Salt Lake County Library Reader's Choice category, and it also qualifies for my Every Month is a Holiday list in recognition of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. Not a bad list of accomplishments for an hour's worth of enjoyable reading!

Other book bloggers' reviews of Life on the Refrigerator Door:
If you have read and reviewed this book, I would love to link your review here. Please leave me a comment or email me your link!


Friday, August 08, 2008

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

Published in 2008. 756 pages.

I finished it late last night! From what I've heard, some people were disappointed with Breaking Dawn - but I think many of those weren't huge fans of the previous books either. It seems to me that there are people who just like picking on Stephenie Meyer for some reason. So what if the Twilight Saga isn't great literature?! It was fun, and my daughters and I enjoyed it!

I don't want to give anything away, so I'll just say the following:

  • I was satisfied with this conclusion to the saga.
  • I'm not sure what I was expecting would happen, but Meyer managed to both surprise me and keep me engaged.
  • A few pages - maybe more than a few - could have been edited out, but for the most part, I'm glad Meyer didn't cut the story short.
  • I hope that we'll get to return to the world of the vampires and werewolves some time in the future.

Other book bloggers' reviews of Breaking Dawn:
If you have read and reviewed this book, I would love to link your review here. Please leave me a comment or email me your link!


More Like a Slow Leak

July's Book Blowout - hosted by Mrs S at Blue Archipelago - is over. While I knew, given my calendar, that I wouldn't be able to have a banner month of reading, I didn't even come close to my goal of reading eight books during the month. This is what I managed:
  • The Host by Stephenie Meyer
  • - that's one book!
  • Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
  • - that's a second book!
  • Most of an abridged audiobook version of David McCullough's 1776
  • - i'm counting that as a half of a book
  • About half of Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
  • - that's another half!
So I guess that adds up to three books ... Sigh.

Here are a few questions that Mrs S has suggested that participants answer:
  1. Did you discover a new author? Actually two of the four books I was reading were new-to-me authors. I'd been meaning to read Sarah Dessen for some time and finally got around to it - and I'll definitely be reading more of her work. I'd also not read any of David McCullough before now.

  2. Where was the most unusual place you found yourself reading? Because I was on vacation in Washington State with my family during July, I carried my books on a ferry ride, through several museums, and all over a national park!

  3. Did you read more than usual? Unfortunately, my reading pace hasn't been very quick lately. July was not a lot different than previous months.

  4. Did you give up anything in order to read more? I'd like to think I spent a little less time on the computer - but I'm not sure if that's true or not. I know I didn't watch the DVDs that I was hoping to also get to in July.

  5. If you won the Amazon voucher, what would you spend it on? Oh, where to start?! My to-read list is so very long, and although I get most of what I read from the library, I do love buying books.

  6. Would you like to see a 2009 Book Blowout? Of course! I love this stuff.

To see how other blowout participants fared, visit Mrs S!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Not Too Old

Growing up, I spent a great deal of time at the public library in the small city in which I lived. I especially loved participating in the summer reading programs, and some of my favorite childhood memories include meeting with children's librarians to report on my reading for the week or sitting on the floor in our living room with the stack of new books I'd just brought home from a library visit. I loved novels, especially historical fiction and mysteries.

By the time I got to high school, though, most of the time I spent at the public library - at least during the school year - was spent on debate research. I certainly still considered myself a reader - and I enjoyed most of what I was required to read at school, including To Kill a Mockingbird, Dandelion Wine, and The Fountainhead - but I wasn't visiting the library to find novels. In some ways I no longer quite fit in at one of my favorite places to be.

According to Wikipedia, the 1970s to the mid-1980s were the golden age of young adult fiction, when publishers began to focus on the emerging adolescent market, and booksellers and libraries, in turn, began creating YA sections distinct from either children's literature or novels written for adults. As with many trends, my town was apparently behind the times. I distinctly remember, at perhaps fifteen years old, asking the children's librarian one summer if I could participate in the reading program. She reluctantly allowed me to do it - but it was clear that I was really too old. There was no YA section at the library, no teen summer reading program.

Since becoming an adult - especially a mother of two teen girls - I have discovered that the young adult genre is not only one that I enjoy but also one that is filled with excellent novels. Just because these books are about adolescents and are marketed for adolescents, that doesn't mean that they, as a group, are in any way inferior to adult novels in character, plot, setting, theme, or style. I love visiting the teen section at the local branch of our county library, especially to peruse the new books shelf.

Among some of my favorite YA reads over the past couple of years - with links to my reviews - are the following:

I wrote this post for August's Bookworms Carnival,
hosted by Florinda at The 3R's.
Check out other carnival posts here.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Books in the Mail

Three books appeared in my mailbox
during the past week.
Does life get much better than that?!

(Click on the book covers for more information.)

From Somer at SomeReads

(who read it during the read-a-thon and offered me a copy)

From Publishers/Publicists

(which I'll likely pass on to interested readers
after I read and review them)

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

Published in 2006. 371 pages.

First sentence: I taped the commercial back in April, before anything had happened, and promptly forgot about it.

Last sentence: It was bright and warm, catching the ring on my thumb as Owen reached for it, spinning it slowly, slowly, as the song played on.

Why I read this book: I wanted to have a young adult novel with me on vacation, for a quick read after I finished The Host. My seventeen-year-old daughter is a fan of Dessen, and I've been wanting to read some of her work. I mentioned Just Listen in a post I wrote for Weekly Geeks about teen dating violence, so it's been on my mind - and it was what I picked up when I was at the library.

Description of the plot (adapted from the book jacket): Annabel Grene is the girl who has everything. At least that's who she plays in a department store commercial. In real life, though, Annabel is the girl who has nothing: no best friend since mean-but-exciting Sophie dumped her with malicious rumors flying, no peace at home while her older sister's eating disorder preoccupies the family, and no ability to tell anyone what's on her mind. Then she meets Owen Armstrong - intense, obsessed with music, and determined to always tell the truth, no matter what the consequences. Can a girl who hates confrontation find a way to connect with a guy who thrives on it? And can Annabel find the courage to tell what really happened the night she and Sophie stopped being friends?

What I liked about this book - and how I think it compares to Speak: Comparison of Just Listen to Speak, which I reviewed earlier this year, is inevitable. The basic plot lines are similar, and even the titles invoke the same concept. The books are quite different, however, most notably in tone, but also, I think, in the subtext; I came away from Just Listen with a different feeling than I got from Speak. I really loved Speak, and I also loved Just Listen - but I think for different reasons. Both books have great protagonists with strong voices - but their voices aren't the same. In Speak Melinda has the perfect combination of sarcastic wit and honest pain; Annabel is more "chatty," giving more details about her days. In some ways, I might equate Melinda to my older daughter and Annabel to my younger; I love talking to them both, but the conversations proceed quite differently. Both books also make use of symbolism - something I greatly enjoy in a contemporary novel. Speak is more subtle about it than Just Listen is, with Just Listen packed full with symbols that help define the themes of the book. (A couple of times I wondered if teen readers would find the symbolism a little too blatant, as in, "Enough with the symbols; I get it already." But personally I love symbolism!) The way that music played an integral part in Just Listen's plot was a major plus for me, and I always like a sweet love story.

For more information: I liked this review at Dessen talks about how she got the idea for Just Listen on her website.

What I'm going to read next: I'm already committed to reading quite a few books for August, including Breaking Dawn, The Accidental Time Machine, Suite Française, and Nights in Rodanthe (that one's actually a re-read), but I'd love to fit in another of Dessen's just as soon as I have the time! I'm going to ask my daughter which she recommends ...

Other book bloggers' reviews of Just Listen:
If you have read and reviewed this book, I would love to link your review here. Please leave me a comment or email me your link!


Friday, August 01, 2008

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Published in 2008. 619 pages.

First sentence: The Healer's name was Fords Deep Waters.

Last sentence: "The strangest," he agreed.

The premise of the book: On Stephenie Meyer's website, The Host is called "science fiction for people who don't like science fiction." It's a post-apocalyptic tale in which humans have become hosts for a species of invaders. Their minds are taken over, but their bodies remain intact and continue their lives. Wanderer is the invading "soul" of Melanie - but Melanie refuses to relinquish possession of her mind. The plot of the book outlines what happens as these two beings interact and learn about each other.

From the book jacket: "One of the most compelling writers of our time, Stephenie Meyer brings us a riveting and unforgettable novel about the persistence of love and the very essence of what it means to be human."

Why I read this book:
As a big fan of Meyer's Twilight Saga, I probably would have read this - her first novel for adults - sooner or later. After getting a few recommendations from family members, I decided that I should get to it sooner than later. Since it was the July pick for Becky's Online Reading Group, "sooner" become "now." I'm also including this read on my 42 Challenge list.

What I thought: I like the Twilight books better, but I still enjoyed this one. At 619 pages, it took me a while (although my daughter Jelly Bean read the whole thing - plus five other books - during the 24 Hour Read-a-Thon). Meyer is a great storyteller, and toward the end of the novel, in particular, I was having a hard time putting the book down. The basic premise - while not particularly original - was well executed. Reportedly, there is a sequel in the works, and if that happens, I'd certainly read it.

Other book bloggers' reviews of The Host:
If you have read and reviewed this book, I would love to link your review here. Please leave me a comment or email me your link!