Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Top 10 Only One Book

This week's topic from The Broke and the Bookish is: Top Authors I've Only Read One Book From But NEED to Read More.

Here are mine:

Mostly, these are books I loved, and definitely want to read the sequels, but just haven't had the time yet. Lots of fantasy and time-travel here!

Shadow and Bone - Leigh Bardugo
The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic - Emily Croy Barker
The Girl of Fire and Thorns - Rae Carson
Ruby Red - Kerstin Gier
The Magicians - Lev Grossman
Seraphina - RachelHartman
The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom - Christopher Healy
Freakling - Lara Krumwiede
Parallel - Lauren Miller
The Emerald Atlas - John Steptoe

What authors have you had a sample of, but just can't wait to read more?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Bitter Melon review

Bitter Melon
by Cara Chow
December 2010
Egmont USA

First line: "'Fei Ting, you are my reason for living,' Mom says to me. 'You give me a purpose for my suffering."

High school senior Frances is a timid and obedient girl, who only longs to excel in school so she can satisfy her mother's wishes of seeing her go to Stanford and become a doctor one day. This story was essentially Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother... from the unhappy daughter's point of view.

Chinese-American Frances has grown up in a cramped apartment with her single mom in San Francisco. The story takes place in the 1980's and obviously, Frances doesn't have access to internet, cell phones or social media, making her isolation from the mainstream all the more possible. Frances is truly withdrawn and mentally beats herself up for always falling short of her mother's impossible expectations. 

The mother in Bitter Melon is incredibly unlikeable. I would have liked seeing some more shades of grey for a more nuanced and compelling story. The book opens with a disgusting scene where Frances is being forced to massage her mother's stomach as her mother loudly belches due to her ongoing stomach problems. Even allowing for the fact that the mom is very hurt at being abandoned by her wealthy husband and forced to raise her daughter alone and close to poverty, it's impossible to work up any sympathy for her. She is tone-deaf to any of her daughter's feelings and seems to enjoy constantly putting Frances down, fearing that any kindness will make her daughter too soft. The mother's plan for Frances to go to med school so that she can treat her mother for free and finally work out her stomach problem seemed idiotic to me. It's hinted that it's a pretty serious problem, possibly even stomach cancer... wouldn't she be dead by the time her daughter finally finishes medical school?

Due to a mix-up at school, Frances finds that instead of being registered for Calculus as planned, she's been assigned a speech class. In a small act of rebellion, she decides to stay enrolled in the class, and begins competing in speech tournaments and winning. She also hides a crush on a boy from her mother, and starts to imagine what life would be like if she didn't pursue pre-med.

Frances finds a friend for the first time in her goody-goody cousin Theresa. She's spent years pitted against Theresa, due to their mothers' continual bragging and put-downs, but when Frances lets her guard down and trusts Theresa she is surprised to discover a valuable ally.

Ultimately, Frances house of cards comes crashing down when her mother finally discovers her complex web of lies. Surprisingly, Frances mom is on board with her new speech class, once she learns that Frances has been winning awards. She shifts gears, and begins to insist that Frances work towards becoming a newscaster or television personality, putting her daughter on a punishing diet so she'll look good for the cameras. Interestingly, Frances and her mother never really resolve their issues. For Frances, the only way to handle things is to start being more outspoken, contradicting her mother in public by challenging her mother's put-downs and finally, to secretly squirrel money away so that she can make her escape and lead her own life.

Compare to:
Everything I Was - Corinne Demas
Dirty Little Secrets - C.J. Omololu
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother - Amy Chua
What Can't Wait - Ashley Hope Perez

I borrowed this book from the library.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Evermore review

Alyson Noel
St. Martin's Griffin
February 2009

16 year old Ever is the sole survivor of a horrific car crash that killed her entire family. The shock of the incident has awakened psychic powers in her which allow her to speak to her bratty younger sister's ghost, and read the thoughts of everyone around her. Overwhelmed by the barrage of thoughts from her classmates, and trying to adjust to her new life with her career-driven aunt Sabine in Southern California, she withdraws into herself, wearing oversized hoodies, and listening to headphones as a way of trying to block everything out. Ever is fascinated with a new guy at her school, Damen Auguste, as she finds that he is one of the only people that she cannot read, and spending time with him brings merciful relief from the normal psychic chatter that she is subject to. This reminded me a lot of Twilight, as her power seemed similar to Edward's. Ever remains timid and helpless throughout most of the story.

Wealthy, jet-setting, sophisticated and bored, Damen Auguste doesn't eat much except for a mysterious "red juice" and it seems as if he's much, much older than he's letting on. School is a breeze for him. Surprisingly, the big reveal is that he's not a vampire, but an Immortal, an alchemist from the Middle Ages who has discovered a potion which gives eternal youth. Damen treats Ever badly, pouring on the charm, and then ignoring her, getting her into dangerous situations and then disappearing, leaving her to deal with the consequences. He showers Ever with tulips, and then turns around and starts flirting with other girls right in front of her.

Ever's reaction to this treatment is rather spineless. She's hopelessly devoted to Damen, and with every cruel little barb he throws her way, she finds ways to justify his behavior. Ever eagerly dumps her only friends, poor-little-rich-girl Haven and gay musical theatre kid Miles as soon as Damen is on the scene. She discovers that she has been reincarnated many times over the centuries, each time meeting and falling in love with Damen, but always meets an early end via Damen's jealous ex-wife, Drina, who is determined to keep her man to herself. Ever's final showdown with Drina seems anti-climatic when Damen steps in at the last possible moment and rescues her.

What this book does have going for it, is readability. It's a light, undemanding read. Noel's alternate take on immortality will appeal to teen readers who enjoyed the Twilight series.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Read in August 2014

The past month I read the following books:
1. Escape from Camp 14 - Blaine Harden
2. Quick Changes: Fresh Looks for Every Room - House Beautiful
3. Landline - Rainbow Rowell
4. Insurgent - Veronica Roth
5. Blackfin Sky - Kat Ellis

picture credit: Study of a Girl Reading by Valentine Cameron Prinsep

Friday, August 29, 2014

What Do You Feel Like Reading Infographic

Here's a great infographic from Random House... what do you feel like reading?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Dozen Books I Don't Have

This week's topic from The Broke and the Bookish is: Top Ten Books I Really Want to Read But Don't Own Yet. I couldn't limit it to just 10 though! Here's my list of a dozen books that I'd like to read, but haven't been able to lay my hands on. I don't feel like I need to own every book I read (that would be pure madness if I did, as I'd soon be drowning in books!) As a librarian, I'm a big library user, and you should be too, of course! So, that increases the number of books that I have ready to hand by quite a fair margin. 

Nonetheless, here are some titles that I haven't been able to get yet... maybe my library doesn't carry them, or perhaps the waiting list is still too long... and it's a little hard to justify going out and buying them when I already have so many other things to read. But I do want to get to these books, so they're staying at the top of my list!

Outpost - Ann Aguirre
Witchlanders - Lena Coakley
Fever - Lauren DeStefano
Wildthorn - Jane Eagland
Vanish - Sophie Jordan
Uninvited - Sophie Jordan
Stolen Nights - Rebecca Maizel
Boneshaker - Cherie Priest
Eleanor and Park - Rainbow Rowell
The Way of Kings - Brandon Sanderson
The Candidates - Inara Scott
All These Things I've Done - Gabrielle Zevin


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