I Bet You Were Wondering

Whether or not I was still alive. And I am! I feel like I have been away for months and months but in reality it’s just been two weeks.  I admit the holidays, along with some other stuff, has thrown me into a mini reading slump.  I have read barely anything in the past two weeks.  I had high hopes of reaching my goal of 100 books by the end of the year but now it’s looking like a lost cause.  I’m about halfway through The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson, which I’ve already read.  Nothing was catching my interest so I figured this would grab me.  It has, BUT it is still taking me longer than it usually would.

One book that wowed me recently though (and the only other book I’ve been reading recently, for that matter!) is Divergent, by Veronica Roth.  I could not put it down! It made me realize two things.  The first was that I should never have avoided this book.  I am not even sure why I did.  The second was that I am on a roll with YA dystopian fiction.  I read Delirium, by Lauren Oliver, a few weeks ago and was wowed by it.  I just need the sequels to that and Divergent to be released ASAP.

As for Christmas, what a whirlwind! It was a great day spent with family and there was a lot of eating going on, which is one of my favorite parts about any holiday.  Unfortunately I didn’t get any books as gifts but my husband did give me a new Kindle for Christmas! And by that, I mean we bought it together and I wrapped it myself.  But still.  It’s the thought that counts. I actually had a pretty hard time deciding which Kindle to go with.  I opted not to get the Fire right away because I didn’t want a color ereader.  I already have an iPad so if I needed to read something in color for some reason, that’s my go to.  I have subscriptions to US Weekly and OK via my Kindle app on the iPad, but other than that I rarely use it to read.  But I digress.  So anyway, it came down to the Kindle Touch or the regular Kindle.  I initially wanted the touch but the reviews were pretty disappointing.  So then I figured maybe I would just go for the regular Kindle.  I can’t tell you what eventually made me go with a Touch.  I mean, I have had a first generation Kindle for years, so maybe it’s time for a change.  So I decided on the Touch.  Then I had to decide whether I wanted to pay $50 more for the 3G.  That was actually a pretty easy decision.  If money were no object, the 3G would have been all mine, but in the end I couldn’t justify the extra $50.  There may be a time here or there when I will be inconvenienced without the 3G, but I’ll live with it.

I hope everyone else had a wonderful holiday as well!

Kindle vs Nook

I have always had a kindle.  It never was an issue because when I got it, there was no nook or kobo.  I think the sony ereader was already out, but nothing affiliated with any bookstore or site, so it was a no brainer.  I got my kindle years ago and have loved it ever since.  The color ereaders never interested me because they don’t have the same ink as regular ereaders and so they don’t seem to be as easy on the eyes.  Plus, I have an ipad, so if there is ever an issue where I would like to read something in color, I use that.  It has never been an issue but hey, it’s nice to have the option! As you can see, however, my kindle is a little outdated at this point and I have started itching for a newer, sleeker ereader.

My mom also has an ipad, although in her case she likes to read on it exclusively, which means her nook has been banished.  Knowing my dilemma about needing a new ereader, she went ahead and gave me her nook.  She’s a very nice mom! So now I have a dilemma.  I have the nook and, as far as I know, there is no way to transfer data from one device to the other, so I will have to finish reading the books I already have stored on my kindle.  As far as buying ebooks from Amazon, I usually only buy books that are extremely discounted.  They usually feature 100 books a month that are under $3.99, so I check those out and just keep my eye out for other good deals.  Does B&N offer discounted books for the nook?

Any other advice or tidbits you can share about the nook, I would love to hear it! Let me know why you chose one over the other, or, if you have used both devices, which one did you prefer and why?

Book Review: Jumping off Swings

Jumping off Swings

Jo Knowles

Candlewick

240 pages

You always know at least one girl like Ellie in high school.  The one that is called “easy”, who will seemingly hook up with anyone.  Josh is just one boy amongst quite a few that Ellie has had sex with.  They hook up in the back of a van and then, it’s over.  Josh leaves as if nothing has just happened, and once again, Ellie is devastated.  She knows what her peers are saying about her behind her back, but she is compelled to have sex with boys in an attempt to form a meaningful connection with someone.

Jumping off Swings is told from four different viewpoints.  Ellie, who is struggling to form a connection with a guy.  Josh, who was only interested in losing his virginity and used Ellie to accomplish that.  Caleb is in love with Ellie but hasn’t let on, so instead they are just friends.  Corinne is Ellie’s best friend and she’s frustrated over Ellie’s behavior.  Then comes the even bigger problem: Ellie is pregnant.

Ellie refuses to acknowledge her pregnancy at first.  She turns a blind eye in the hopes that the problem will go away if she ignores it.  Once the truth finally comes out, she is torn by the choices available.  Many books that deal with teen pregnancy focus on one outcome, but Jumping off Swings looks in depth at abortion, adoption and child rearing as Ellie tries to make a life changing decision.

All four narrators were genuine and compelling.  Even Josh was a particularly sympathetic character.  On paper he sounds like a real jerk, but he was just as confused as Ellie.  The peer pressure he felt as a result of his friends was overwhelming, so he went ahead and lost his virginity in order to appease them.  He only realized the ramifications later, once Ellie became more sullen and remote.  Then he comes to realize he is going to be a father, and consequences of his actions are even more obvious.

I read Jumping off Swings in one sitting.  I was in a weird mood one night and nothing seemed to grab my attention, so I decided to browse the Amazon Kindle deals and this one popped up.  I started reading it and was instantly drawn into the story.  I think this would be a great choice for the readathon!

Other Reviews:

The Story Siren

A Bookish Way of Life

I purchased a copy of this book from Amazon for my Kindle.

Book Review: Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker-in-Training

Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker-in-Training

Tom Jokinen

Da Capo Press

288 pages

I’ll admit, I have a morbid curiosity, and death has always fascinated me.  Books like Stiff, by Mary Roach are right up my alley, and in my attempt to find something in that vein to read for RIP VI.  I stumbled across this one on Amazon and downloaded the sample.  Twenty minutes later, I knew I was paying for this bad boy, and I continued to read well into the night.

Tom Jokinen decides to spend almost an entire year immersing himself in the funeral industry.  Inspired by Jessica Mitford (sister of Nancy) who wrote The American Way of Death and, thirty years later, The American Way of Death Revisited (one of my favorite books), Jokinen sheds light on the affect Mitford has had on the funeral industry and the way the industry has evolved in the last few decades, with cremation becoming more and more popular.

I thought it would be fun to share some of the interesting tidbits I gleaned from Jokinen’s memoir.

•By 2025, 59% of decedents will be cremated

•Red lipstick may look good on you while you’re alive, but once you die, purple lipstick is where it’s at.

•Speaking of makeup, you can’t use regular makeup on dead people, being as makeup adheres due to the heat in your body.  Therefore, a corpse needs something more like shellac.

•In Europe, it is common to lease a grave for 15 years.  If, when the lease ends, you choose not to renew it, the bones will be removed.

•Death rates are expected to rise again in 2020, when the baby boomers start dying off.

•A typical cremation uses 16 gallons of gasoline.  Obviously not very eco friendly.

Curtains is filled with hundreds of little nuggets like these, which I love.  I was rapt and read the entire book in less than 48 hours.  If you know of any other books that are similar to this, definitely let me know.

If you are interested in this book, you may also like:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Reviews:

The Book Lady’s Blog

S Krishna’s Books

I purchased this book from Amazon for my kindle.

This book counts towards RIP VI.

Book Review: Love Child

Love Child

Sheila Kohler

Penguin

256 pages

Bill has gotten used to the absence of her husband, who died a few months previously.  She has inherited quite a fortune upon the passing of her husband, and his solicitor is now breathing down her neck to write a will of her own.  The problem is Bill does not want to follow the attorney’s wishes and leave her fortune o her two sons.  She has never had a close relationship with them, wish is evidenced by her visit to their boarding school, where the two boys try to ignore her and the shame she causes them.  Although Bill has yearned for a more solid, loving relationship, she has never understood her boys, and vice versa.

Bill wonders at first who to bequeath the fortune to, but the answer quickly comes to her, and in that revelation, we learn more about Bill and her background. As her history unfolds, her relationships and decisions start to make more and more sense.

This was a quiet but powerful book.  It felt more like a novella to me, and I read it in 1.5 sittings. Although there wasn’t a lot of action, Bill’s story gave me a lot to think about.  Unfortunately, Love Child didn’t make as big of an impact on me as I expected.  It had me pensive throughout, but once I finished the book, the details started drifting off and I couldn’t remember the gist of the book until I read a synopsis of it.  Luckily, everything came flooding back at that point.

Two superficial aspects of the book that I feel I need to comment on.  First off, I LOVE the cover.  It is so evocative and really details the time and place of the book. One thing I didn’t love was the name Bill.  I understand it was a nickname, but whatever meaning the author intended it to render, I don’t think it did.  Instead, it just irritated me, because I can’t reconcile the name Bill with an adult woman.  It didn’t ruin the ambiance of the book for me, but I found it to be a confusing annoyance.

Love Child certainly has its pros and cons. Despite its flaws, I would recommend it.

Other Reviews:

Readin’ and Dreamin’

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.

Book Review: The Reservoir

The Reservoir

John Milliken Thompson

Other Press

368 pages

It is 1885 in Richmond, Virginia when Lillie Madison shows up dead in the local reservoir.  Add to that the fact that the victim is very pregnant. And unmarried.  Put that all together and you have one hell of a story.

The Reservoir is told from the viewpoint of Lillie’s cousin, Tommie Cluverius.  He is a young attorney in Richmond and it becomes apparent from the start that he knows something of the circumstances surrounding Lillie’s death.  He has been in love with Lillie for years, but how that ties into Lillie’s death isn’t immediately obvious.

It was difficult throughout the book to determine whether Tommie was being truthful about Lillie’s death and what role he played in it, and there is definitely not complete resolution even in the end.  It all made sense when I discovered that the murder of Lillie Madison was a true story, and that Lillie’s cousin Tommie Cluverius was tried for the murder.

I wanted Tommie to man up from the very beginning.  He was unwilling to take responsibility for his role in Lillie’s death.  And yet, I felt a lot of sympathy towards him.  It was strange, because I began to question whether or not he deserved to be punished if he did murder Lillie.  The way he acted towards her at times was deplorable, but at the same time, it seemed that he just got caught up in society’s expectations, and in the end he let down both Lillie and himself.

It is really difficult for an author to spin such a story in a way that it elicits sympathy towards someone who probably didn’t deserve it, so I thought Thompson did an excellent job.  I read an interview with the author and, if I am not mistaken, this is his first work of fiction.  In that respect, he really hit it out of the park.  The decision to turn this story into a novel was a great one, and I would read more from this author without hesitation.

Other Reviews:

The Book Lady’s Blog

Devourer of Books

Linus’s Blanket

Jenn’s Bookshelves

I received a digital copy of this book via Netgalley.

 

Book Review: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

Tom Franklin

Harper Perennial

304 pages

Larry Ott is a solitary figure.  Having lived in a small, southern town for his entire life, his reputation is tarnished and he is treated as a pariah.  As a teenager, Larry had been an outcast, so everyone was surprised when he was asked on a date by one of his female peers.  No one knows what happened to the girl, who disappeared while out with Larry.  From then on, the suspicions of the entire town lie with Larry, and everyone believes that he is guilty of the girl’s disappearance.

Now, years later, Larry lives by himself in the same town, and his old friend Silas “32” Jones is the constable of the town when another girl disappears.  Once again, Larry is caught in the middle of everyone’s suspicions.  32 is himself coming to terms with what happened years ago, and as the book wears on, his old relationship with Larry comes to light.  Added to all this complexity is the fact that 32 is black and Larry is white; not a seemingly big deal now, but decades ago in the south, their friendship was something that had to be more hidden.

I am a big mystery buff; literary mysteries are my weakness, and I expected this to be your run of the mill mystery about two missing girls.  In fact, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter was anything but.  The character development was absolutely exquisite.  Both 32 and Larry, especially, were so intricately woven that I was immediately submerged into their world.  Larry became one of the most sympathetic characters I have ever encountered.  One scene was especially poignant for me.  The boys are teenagers, and Larry is dressed as a ghost for the local haunted house.  It seems as if his peers may have accepted him at this point, and he is part of the social scene, or so both he and I expected.

‘Anyway,’ he went on, ‘when Larry come out of the haunted house, we all just kind of pretended not to see him.  All of us.’

He told her how Larry stood in the floodlight for a long time.  Figuring it out.  The mask deflated under his arm.  Finally he turned and walked down the dirt road to the paved one.  He paused at the road in his whipping sheet and waited, as if a car was coming though none was, waited a long time, and still no car came.  Some of the seniors had forgotten him and were passing cigarettes and beer, but Silas watched as Larry finally crossed the road and walked into the parking lot.  He stopped there, too, and took off his sheet and looked over the cars, as if selecting one to buy.  He’d forgotten where he’d parked his mother’s Buick, that’s what he was doing now.  In case anybody glanced over and happened to notice him and yell, ‘Hey, look! It’s Larry! Come back! Join the party!’

My heart ached for Larry.  He is one of those characters that I expect will stay with me for a long time to come.  I just now realized that Franklin has written other novels prior to Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, and I am anxious to see if anyone has read them and, if so, how they compare to this one.

Other Reviews:

The Book Lady’s Blog

Rhapsody in Books

The Literate Housewife Review

Caribous Mom

Books and Movies

Eclectic/Eccentric

Fizzy Thoughts

Page 247

Linus’s Blanket

Lesley’s Book Nook

I purchased this book for my kindle.

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