Monthly Archives: January 2013

Book Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky



From Goodreads:
And while he’s not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his year yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it.

Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mix tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But he can’t stay on the sidelines forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.

Being a teenager myself in the early 90’s, the movie based off this book caught my attention and, since I try to read the book before I see the movie, I picked this one up. It’s really short and written in the form of letters which makes it a breeze to read. I was able to finish it in just a few hours.

The book takes the form of letters written by Charlie to his “dear friend” and follows his freshman year of high school and what a year it was. I loved the 90’s references to television, movies and lots of music. What teenager in 91′ wasn’t in the process of making a mix tape in the hopes of pouring out our soul to anyone who would listen? I think the references are what made this book worth reading.

What kept this at 3 stars is that Charlie’s POV left me slightly confused. He’s 15, a freshman in high school and a bit of a misfit, which makes him a typical teen of this era. The problem is his voice isn’t consistent. I felt like I was reading the narrative of an 8-year-old who is living the experiences of a 20-year-old. He cry’s A LOT! And not just in private. It makes him seem much more immature than the actions he participates in.

What’s good about Charlie? He’s extremely perceptible to the emotions of the people around him. He’s sensitive, respectful and kind. He has thought’s that are beyond his years yet is so awkward. He tries so hard to please everybody and has to learn to live for himself and not others. Charlie is endearing but wholly frustrating.

Charlie’s friends are diverse and wonderfully unique. A hodgepodge of raging hormones and teen angst, they give Charlie and the story purpose and direction.

In my opinion, the author puts Charlie in way to many unlikely situations. The situations themselves aren’t unlikely, but the sheer number of them are. Here’s a rundown: smoking, drugs, alcohol abuse, sexual abuse, virginity, sexuality, abortion, mental breakdown, etc. How many 15 year olds experience all of these themselves or by association in one years time? In 4 years of high school, maybe, but just 1? Could happen, yes, but unlikely.

I think this would make a much better movie and I look forward to watching it soon.

If you enjoy atypical coming of age stories or dated references, this is a good fast read. Be prepared to be pummeled with life experiences, some of which are not “perks”.

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Sculpture and Books = Beauty

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Book Review: The Dinner by Herman Koch



From Goodreads:
It’s a summer’s evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. Between mouthfuls of food and over the polite scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse — the banality of work, the triviality of the holidays. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened.
Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. The two boys are united by their accountability for a single horrific act; an act that has triggered a police investigation and shattered the comfortable, insulated worlds of their families. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children. As civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple show just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.

It’s very hard to write this review without giving away the best thing about this short novel; the shock factor. It starts out as a simple story about the hassle of dining with another couple. It’s told by Paul, a regular guy with a regular family. The beginning premise of a simple dinner date and general dinner banter is relatable and somewhat humorous. Over the course of the dinner things start to get tense. There are glimpses of an underlying problem, fractures in the normalcy the characters are trying to convey. Paul isn’t the regular guy we thought he was.

Then, BAM! Dessert hits the table and it all turns south. The evening plummets downhill with such a surprising, horrific and tragic turn. As a parent of teenage boys I found the second half of the story disturbing. This, at least, kept me turning the pages. I’m not sure whose actions were more disturbing, the boys or their parents. I was most disturbed by Paul’s wife. Her acceptance of the circumstances and eagerness to take it into her own hands is, dare I say it, monstrous.

This is definitely a book you have to work to get through. The first half is drawn out and too much time is spent on descriptions of restaurant staff and food or lack there of. The second half, I thought was too vague. There wasn’t enough background on the couple’s sons to understand, if that’s possible, their behavior. I also felt that the ending was too abrupt.

This is a great book for discussion though. It opens up questions regarding how far parents are willing to go to protect their children, consequences, punishments and what out duty is to our own family and others.

Although a tad tedious in parts, the twist in this book makes it a story worth reading.

This book was provided for review by Netgalley.

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Attention Historical Fiction Lovers: Today’s Kindle Deal 1/20/13 – Wilderness by Lance Weller


Today’s Kindle Deal is Wilderness: A Novel by Lance Weller. You can pick this wonderful book up for just $1.99!

Wilderness was my favorite book of 2012. I reviewed the book back in August. It’s a heartbreaking, deeply affecting civil war story like no other. Grab it at this great deal while you can!

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Book Review: The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings



From Goodreads:
Matthew King was once considered one of the most fortunate men in Hawaii. His missionary ancestors were financially and culturally progressive–one even married a Hawaiian princess, making Matt a royal descendant and one of the state’s largest landowners.

Now his luck has changed. His two daughters are out of control: Ten-year-old Scottie is a smart-ass with a desperate need for attention, and seventeen-year-old Alex, a former model, is a recovering drug addict. Matt’s charismatic, thrill-seeking, high-maintenance wife, Joanie, lies in a coma after a boat-racing accident and will soon be taken off life support. The Kings can hardly picture life without her, but as they come to terms with this tragedy, their sadness is mixed with a sense of freedom that shames them–and spurs them into surprising actions.

Before honoring Joanie’s living will, Matt must gather her friends and family to say their final goodbyes, a difficult situation made worse by the sudden discovery that there is one person who hasn’t been told: the man with whom Joanie had been having an affair, quite possibly the one man she ever truly loved. Forced to examine what he owes not only to the living but to the dead, Matt takes to the road with his daughters to find his wife’s lover, a memorable journey that leads to both painful revelations and unforeseen humor and growth.

I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to get out of this novel. It wasn’t funny but had a hint of humor. It wasn’t devastatingly sad but had heavy moments of sorrow. It was a menagerie of sorts.

Throughout pretty much the whole first half I wondered why I was even bothering to read it. The main character, Matthew, from whose POV the story takes place, is an unlikable, fairly nonexistent father figure. He freely admits his fatherly shortcomings. His voice comes through flat and monotone, barely giving any real emotion. His girls are no easier to like. They’re obnoxious, obstinate and disrespectful. They have been left to her own whims for far too long. I couldn’t really like Joanie either (terrible to say that about someone in a coma, I know), at least not from Matthew’s point of view.

But somewhere along the way something changed before I even knew what was happening. The extended loss and pressure of Joanie’s imminent death changed them. Matthew changed not only as a father but also as a husband and family successor. He’s forced to see things for what they are, forced into the position of reconciling things he has put off for far too long and has to face painful truths about his marriage and his family. I must say that I was impressed. He stepped up to the challenge and, although not perfect (who is?), meets it head. I liked that he was brave enough to take a hard look at himself, and, not liking what he saw, has the wherewithal to try to change it. Try is the key word here. We don’t get to glimpse into the future of this newly downsized family. I do wonder if what has linked them together in this time of sorrow can keep them close in the future. Will they prosper after Joanie or will they fall back into the existence of before?

There are lots of great quotes and reflections in this book in regards to death, love and parenthood and there is certainly something in the book everyone can relate to. We’ve all lost someone close to us, experienced those exasperating years of childrearing, been devastated by something a loved one has done or have had to deal deal with extended family that only like us when they want something from us. But, like this family of descendants, hopefully we can pull it together, forgive but not forget, learn from the past and be better in the future.

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I’d Rather Read a Book Than ………….. [5]

I’d Rather Read a Book Than …………..


………….. grocery shopping. I go and spend tons of hard earned $$$ and then come home and wonder how I got so little. Having 3 grown men in the house eating everything that’s not nailed down and the cost of trying to keep up makes me feel bad every week. But, as quite a few books I’ve read lately have reminded me, I’m more than thankful for what I have. It’s amazing how a book about hardships can put things into perspective.

City of Thieves by David Benioff



A moving tale of two boys who are brought together by circumstance and end up bound by so much more, City of Thieves is a journey well worth taking.

From Goodreads:
As wise and funny as it is thrilling and original – the story of two young men on an impossible adventure. A writer visits his retired grandparents in Florida to document their experience during the infamous siege of Leningrad. His grandmother won’t talk about it, but his grandfather reluctantly consents. The result is the captivating odyssey of two young men trying to survive against desperate odds. Lev Beniov considers himself built for deprivation. He’s small, smart, and insecure, a Jewish virgin too young for the army, who spends his nights working as a volunteer firefighter with friends from his building. When a dead German paratrooper lands in his street, Lev is caught looting the body and dragged to jail, fearing for his life. He shares his cell with the charismatic and grandiose Kolya, a handsome young soldier arrested on desertion charges. Instead of the standard bullet in the back of the head, Lev and Kolya are given a shot at saving their own lives by complying with an outrageous directive: secure a dozen eggs for a powerful colonel to use in his daughter’s wedding cake. In a city cut off from all supplies and suffering unbelievable deprivation, Lev and Kolya embark on a hunt to find the impossible. A search that takes them through the dire lawlessness of Leningrad and the devastated surrounding countryside creates an unlikely bond between this earnest, lust-filled teenager and an endearing lothario with the gifts of a conman. Set within the monumental events of history, City of Thieves is an intimate coming-of-age tale with an utterly contemporary feel for how boys become men.

This was such a moving story. Lev and Kolya are opposites in so many ways. Lev is the serious one, the poet’s son. A good heart, a sense of right and wrong, he’s a gentle soul at heart. Kolya, the ladies man, the sweet talker, is the negotiator. He’s the boy soldier with the big talk but a soft heart. Circumstance brings them together for a quest that sends them on an adventure like no other. The two work in tandem, each playing off the other and before they realize it, they become friends capable of loving each other like brothers.

Their adventures lead them to the brink of what will be their defining moments, the moments they find out what they are truly capable of and they are transformed into men right before our eyes. It’s such a compelling story. It felt like I was sitting at the table with a cup of coffee listening to Lev tell the story in his grandfatherly voice. After reading it, I can tell you with certainty that: I have never known real cold. I have never known real hunger or fear or loneliness. I really only have a semblance of what it would be like. A book like this puts all those things into perspective.

One of the things I loved was the humor that shined through the darkness of this harrowing story. It endeared Kolya to me and leant authenticity to the story. Even in the worst of predicaments, humans are still human. We need laughter to help quell our fears.

I’ve passed this one along to my teenage sons. I’m hoping it will leave as positive an impression on them as it has left with me. This one is going on my list of all time favorites.

If you enjoy historical fiction, WWII history, life changing adventures or love the inspiration that stories of friendship can give, you will LOVE this book.

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Siege of Leningrad – Wikipedia

All Hail the Return of Robert Langdon

Titans and other giants are imprisoned in Hell...

Today, Dan Brown announced his long-awaited new novel, Inferno, which will be published on May 14th. If you recall, back in May, I posted a link to an article which mentioned that Mr. Brown was hard at work on the then unnamed book.

Inferno will center around Dante’s Inferno and will again feature one of my most beloved characters of all time, Robert Langdon.

You can read the official press release on Dan Brown’s website. It’s also available for preorder on or iBooks.

Let the count down begin!

The Next Always by Nora Roberts



From Goodreads:
The historic hotel in BoonsBoro, Maryland, has endured war and peace, changing hands, even rumored hauntings. Now it’s getting a major facelift from the Montgomery brothers and their eccentric mother. As the architect of the family, Beckett’s social life consists mostly of talking shop over pizza and beer. But there’s another project he’s got his eye on: the girl he’s been waiting to kiss since he was fifteen…

First things first; I am not a regular romance kind of girl. I must have something else in order to digest it. It could be something paranormal or a murder mystery but the story simply has to have something else going on. The Next Always just didn’t have that extra something.

I live very, very close to the real inn this book is based on so when it became this Month’s book club pick I was happy to give it a try. Ms. Roberts actually owns the Inn Boonsboro in Boonsboro, MD, which she and her husband restored. It serves as the backdrop for this book and the catalyst for the story’s budding romance. You can tell that the Inn was a true labor of love just by the descriptions. They are so detailed; you instantly fall in love with the idea of staying there. I’ve never had the privilege, but it sounds wonderfully tranquil. The book is like a vacation brochure.

The book is undeniably well written by a seasoned author. The descriptions and detail that went into recreating the small town feel is well done. The characters banter and play off each other, which make them seem real and more like someone you know. The kids in the book add a little fun and spontaneity. No need to eat that candy bar, this book is super sweet with enough sugar to cover you for a couple of days.


The characters are likable, but regular. These are just regular people doing their regular thing. I’m a regular person (my kids may disagree) who does regular things. It’s boring. I read to escape my boring life, not relive it. Halfway through it got to be a little tedious. It just wasn’t much fun reading about someone’s monotonous days, even with a little romance thrown in. Go to work, do laundry, cook, clean, run errands, help with homework, go to bed, wake up and do it all over again. I don’t need to read it, I live it and it’s exhausting.

If you enjoy romance as the main event in a story and don’t need anything extra, you’ll probably enjoy this one. It’s sweet and pleasant. It’s well written and the Inn will put you in the mood to decorate. But, if you’re like me and prefer your romance as a perk instead of the main event, this one may not be the best fit.

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Movie Cameos by Authors You Know


It’s surprising how many authors have done cameos in the movie adaptations of their books. We can all probably name at least one and I bet most of you have spotted Stephanie Meyer in Twilight.

Head over to Mental Floss to see 14 cameos, some of which may surprise you. I’ve watched most of these movies and missed the cameos. Good thing there’s video!

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