Showin’ Off my Shelves: Shelf #3

First off, Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

We are still in the As.  As always, the titles bolded are titles I have read.

When possible, I have provided a link to each title on Amazon.

Daughter of Fortune, Isabel Allende

Ines of my Soul, Isabel Allende

Portrait in Sepia, Isabel Allende–Yes, your eyes do not deceive you.  I have not read a single Allende book!  Anyone have any suggestions about which one I should start with?

First Ladies, Carl Sferrazza Anthony

Florence Harding, Carl Sferrazza Anthony

Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood

Bluebird’s Egg, Margaret Atwood

Bodily Harm, Margaret Atwood

Cat’s Eye, Margaret Atwood

Dancing Girls, Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood

Jane Austen: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Emma–I have read all three of these but I ended up buying single copies of all three.  It is impossible to comfortably read such an unwieldy book!

Emma, Jane Austen–my favorite Austen book

Mansfield Park, Jane Austen–my second favorite Austen book!

Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen

Persuasion, Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

Keeping the House, Ellen Baker–this was the pick for my book club one month.  It was ok, but not something I would have read on my own.

Intertwined Lives, Lois Banner

The Great Influenza, John M Barry

Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, John Bartlett–this is another one of the books that originally belonged to my grandfather.  It’s pretty cool!

Book Review: Speak


Laurie Halse Anderson

Penguin Group

198 pages

First off, you’ve probably heard of Speak.  It is one of those books I felt remiss in not having read thus far.  I’ve read at least one other book by Laurie Halse Anderson but so far she is definitely most well known for this work.  Melinda is starting off her high school–literally, the book starts off on her first day of school.  The reader is aware right off the bat that something is not right–Melinda has been ostracized by what seems to be the entire school.  The full story is related in bits and pieces throughout the book; Melinda is raped by a classmate at a summer party which was being held at the home of one of their peers.  In the aftermath of the rape, Melinda calls the cops but becomes frightened when they arrive at the party and flees without reporting the rape.  So while everyone discovers that Melinda is the one that called the police, no one knows the true reason she did so.

Melinda spends her freshman year as an outcast.  She takes over an abandoned janitor’s closet and uses it as a hideaway.  She has no one to confide in or find comfort with; her friends have all turned against her and her parents are work-a-holics.  Melinda’s issues become obvious as she literally refuses to speak.  Her parents and teachers can’t seem to figure out what is wrong–they show concern but have a tough time deciphering Melinda’s emotions.

The one outlet Melinda has throughout the book is her art class.  Many times she is able to open up to herself in a way that doesn’t involve speaking, so that her art project becomes cathartic to her.  Mr Freeman, the art teacher, also seems to become someone whose insight Melinda trusts, even if they don’t necesarily form any kind of personal relationship.  At one point, Mr Freeman gives Melinda a ride after coming upon her walking in the rain.  During the car ride, he says to her:

Art without emotion is like chocolate cake without sugar.  It makes you gag . . . The next time you work on your trees, don’t think about trees.  Think about love, or hate, or joy, or rage–whatever makes you feel something, makes your palms sweat or your toes curl.  Focus on that feeling.  When people don’t express themselves, they die one piece at a time.  You’d be shocked at how many adults are really dead inside–walking through their days without any idea who they are, just waiting for a heart attack or cancer or a Mack truck to come along and finish the job.  It’s the saddest thing I know.

By far that passage stuck with me the most out of the entire book.  It felt like Anderson really struck gold in that paragraph, and to me it really summed up Melinda’s situation; either she could try to put the pieces back together and move on with her life by accepting the rape and the emotions that came along because of it, or she could numb herself to the world and, as a result, neglect to live her life fully.

I am not sure I liked the style of the the book.  Normally I am not put off by choppy, disjointed writing styles, but for some reason Speak threw me off.  In theory, it seems like the perfect way of writing this type of story, but in some ways it made it hard for me to relate to Melina and to understand where she was coming from.  I had a hard time connecting with her and that is where the story fell flat for me.  Maybe this issue had nothing to do with the style of the story, but in my mind the two are correlated.

Overall, I thought Speak was a worthwhile read; it tackled a heavy subject in a way that was relateable and readable.  I think there were a few kinks that could have been worked out to make the book stronger, but the overall style of the book does not detract from its powerful message.

Other reviews:

BermudaOnion’s Weblog

At Home with Books

Maw Books Blog

Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’?

Lakeside Musings

A Novel Menagerie

The Bluestocking Society

things mean a lot

It’s All About Books

Stuff as Dreams are Made on . . .

The Zen Leaf

I read this book as a part of the Women Unbound challenge.  More information on this challenge can be found here.

Teaser Tuesday: The Jade Cat

teasertuesdays31 Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser this week is from The Jade Cat, by Suzanne Brøgger.

Here is a description of the book (I am about 150 pages in and it is really good so far!)

From Publisher’s Weekly–

Brøgger’s lively and insightful novel chronicles the fates of the Jewish Løvin family as they endure the tragicomic events of the 20th century and adhere to patriarch Max’s injunction: Thou shalt be a personality. Forging an identity, however, becomes complicated when the family is torn apart by war and forced to abandon its religious identity and nationality. Although the novel expands its breadth by including anecdotes about even the most minor players, the narrative’s emphasis is on three generations of women—strong-willed Katze; her daughter, Li, who comes of age during WWII; and Li’s eldest daughter Zeste. Hypocrisy, particularly with regard to gender-appropriate sexual conduct, is a major issue for all three, though each fares badly in the battle of the sexes. Attitudes toward Jewish identity—animosity, denial, ambivalence—also provide a common link among the stories. Brøgger offers readers a powerful, personal account of rapidly changing times through the lens of a family whose comedies, tragedies and absurdities are magnified by historical context and whose contemporary descendants provide a glimpse of a more hopeful future. (Sept.)

My teaser is a portion of a letter written by Tobias to his wife Katze.

You are a terribly dangerous woman when you send sweet loving words over the ether or in a letter.  Or when you, “à la woman”, aim your delightful blue searchlight at some poor man! You are hard to resist when you want something. And the worst of it is that you are always so convincing because you believe in it yourself for the moment. You are–to speak the language of today–a magnetic mine, so I can well understand how a man would run straight into it, even if it meant being blown to pieces.

-page 64

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Marcia of The Printed Page.

This week has been another slow one for me.  Once again, only one book.  And, as always, I still have plenty of books to keep me occupied, so this was a blessing in disguise!

The publisher and author were nice enough to send me Ballads of Suburbia.  Looks like some great YA fiction.

What did you get this week?

Sunday Salon

As I anticipated, this week was somewhat slow for me.  I was reading Sylvia’s Lovers, by Elizabeth Gaskell, for the Classics Circuit.  Classics always take me longer to read, and at 500 pages, it took me six days to read this one.  I finished it last night and moved on to Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson.  I just finished that moments ago, so that leaves me with two books this week, which is pretty average.

My review on Sylvia’s Lovers will be posted a week from tomorrow and my review on The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins (also for the Classics Circuit) will be posted on Black Friday, so watch for both of those.

I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed recently by both my review copies and my library books.  I have 20 review copies and 17 library books to read right now.  Because both piles are beginning to stack up, I have decided to devote the next two weeks to only review copies and library books.  Which means I will not be reading any Bookswim books or any books that I own.  Speak was from the library, so it was nice to knock out one library book this morning.

I have also decided to join two challenges. The first one is:

It is hosted by J Kaye’s Book Blog and the info can be found here.

I will be going for the Stepping it Up level, which is fifty YA novels.  I think that is doable in a year’s time but we shall see.

I have also signed up for the 2010 challenge at Bart’s Bookshelf.

The goal is to read two books from each of ten separate categories.  The categories are as follows.

  1. Young Adult
    Any book classified as young adult or featuring a teenage protagonist counts for this category.
  2. T.B.R. **
    Intended to help reduce the old T.B.R. pile. Books for this category must be already residents of your bookshelves as of 1/11/09.
  3. Shiny & New
    Bought a book NEW during 2010 from a bookstore, online, or a supermarket? Then it counts for this category. Second-hand books do not count for this one, but, for those on book-buying bans, books bought for you as gifts or won in a giveaway also count!
  4. Bad Blogger’s ***
    Books in this category, should be ones you’ve picked up purely on the recommendation of another blogger count for this category (any reviews you post should also link to the post that convinced you give the book ago).
    *** Bad Bloggers: Is hosted by Chris of Stuff as Dreams are Made on.
  5. Charity
    Support your local charity shops with this category, by picking up books from one of their shops. Again, for those on book-buying bans, books bought for you as gifts also count, as long as they were bought from a charity shop.
  6. New in 2010
    This category is for those books newly published in 2010 (whether it be the first time it is has been released, or you had to wait for it to be published in your country, it counts for this one!)
  7. Older Than You
    Read two books that were published before you were born, whether that be the day before or 100 years prior!
  8. Win! Win!
    Have a couple of books you need to read for another challenge? Then this is the category to use, as long that is, you don’t break the rules of the other challenge by doing so! ;)
  9. Who Are You Again?
    This one isn’t just for authors you’ve never read before, this is for those authors you have never even heard of before!
  10. Up to You!
    The requirements for this category are up to you! Want to challenge yourself to read some graphic novels? A genre outside your comfort zone? Something completely wild and wacky? Then this is the category to you. The only requirement is that you state it in your sign-up post.

More information can be found here.

As for current challenges, I am officially dropping out of the Fall into Reading challenge.  Why, you may ask.  Well, it has been over two months, with one month left in the challenge, and I still have not read one single book on my list!  Pretty pathetic!

As for today, I hope to get some reading done but there is quite a bit of laundry and other chores that need to be done.  I am not too worried because I should get a good amount of reading done this week anyway, with Thankfully Reading coupled with the fact that I will have a lot of time off of work for the holiday.

What do you plan on reading today?

Book Review: Hate List

Hate List

Jennifer Brown

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

416 pages

Imagine that you are in high school and your boyfriend dies. Now imagine that he has killed himself while on a shooting rampage in your school. Now add to the situation that you are ostracized because of it and seen as a co-conspirator. Valerie finds herself in just this situation in Hate List, by Jennifer Brown. Valerie’s boyfriend Nick has opened fire on her classmates and teachers during school one day. Valerie witnessed the massacre first hand. Now she is trying to deal with the loss of her boyfriend on top of the trauma of a school shooting. Unfortunately for Valerie, the school shooting seemingly evolved from a notebook she started called “The Hate List”. Valerie and Nick often found themselves to be an easy target for the “cool” kids in school to pick on. In order for Valerie to deal with the bullying, she has begun to write names down on her list. You teased her or said something degrading to her? Consider yourself on the list. For Valerie, it was just a defense mechanism; a way to deal with the tormenting. But Nick took it one step further by actually opening fire on kids from the list.

Because Valerie never imagined actually following through with the list or physically harming anyone, she was as shocked as everyone else when it came to the school shooting. However, she soon became implicated by “The Hate List” and others began to turn away from her or fear her. As a reader, we know from the get go that Valerie really did not help Nick plan the massacre, nor did she have any idea that his pent up anger would lead to violence. So it was incredibly frustrating and sad that she had to deal with the misconceptions of others while grieving just as much as anyone else over what had happened.

I became especially upset with the treatment Valerie received from her father. He was immediately distrustful of Valerie and eventually came to resent the way the school shooting affected his personal life. There is no one more important to a child than their parents, and in a time of such adversity, Valerie needed the love and support of her parents. The fact that her dad was unwilling to give that support infuriated me.

For those of you that have read this book, did you feel sympathy for Nick? I don’t think I felt one iota of sympathy for him. And it’s not necessarily because he took the cowardly way out compared to the way Valerie behaved and carried herself. I recently read We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver, which is also about a teenage boy who commits a shooting at school, but I saw Kevin as being a pathetic kid—someone who desperately needed love and became unhinged by his need. However, I just saw Nick as selfish. Maybe it’s not fair to draw a conclusion either way, because the reader is not given hardly any insight to Nick in Hate List, although Valerie never forgets that there was good in him and that he had favorable qualities.

I think Hate List is the perfect example of YA fiction with substance. To any naysayers out there who try to claim that YA fiction is not worthwhile reading, I say read Hate List and tell me you still feel that way!

Other reviews:

My Friend Amy

Presenting Lenore

The Story Siren

Linus’s Blanket


A Patchwork of Books