Friday, September 27, 2013

Instant Mom review

Instant Mom
by Nia Vardalos
April 2013

This was a fast read. A quick and enjoyable book for anyone who is thinking about adoption. In many ways, Vardalos seems to struggle to openly talk about the heartrending process of struggling with fertility and turning to adoption - as a comedian, she was always quick to gloss over any dramatic moment and throw in a joke or quick quip instead. The book starts with an extended apology - because she values her privacy, she admits that she leaves many details out. This is really too bad. I think those personal details are exactly what would have really brought this book to life.

While she doesn't make a huge point of it, it's obvious that she and her husband, after struggling a bit in the early days, must be multi-millionaires after the success of Big Greek Wedding. She does over a dozen IVF treatments, without even considering the cost. She decides to take a year off and not work just to get her head together.

I liked that Vardalos wanted to write a success story about adopting from foster care - she's right that only the stories of horrible abuse hit the press and skew the public's perception. She puts in a cheerful plug for explaining that there are thousands of children legally free for adoption. I still remain very skeptical, however. Check out the site - I challenge anyone to find an adorable cherub in good health with no mental or physical disabilities under the age of 4 available for adoption such as her daughter. The vast majority of toddlers available for adoption through foster care are deeply, profoundly disabled and most will never lead normal lives. Again, I think this is a spot where Nia's wealth and fame served her well. I doubt your average citizen would so quickly be offered such a great placement.

Vardalos has a sharp eye for how women interact with each other and talks about the difference between women who are supportive of each other (the way we all should be!) vs. what she calls, "BWS" or women with "Beautiful Woman Syndrome" - well-meaning, but ignorant women who think that their beauty substitutes for brains and loudly like to crow their uninformed opinions to anyone within earshot, vs. "The Coven" - catty women who only exist to tear each other down.

The second half of the book reads like any parent who is just besotted with his or her child. Vardalos admits that she has a big mouth, and she can't stop herself from nattering on and on about her perfect and charming her little girl is. Her daughter's biggest problem is fear of abandonment which manifests itself in fear of sleeping by herself. I enjoyed the story of how Nia and her husband took turns sleeping in a cot by their new daughter's bed, slowly inching the cot away bit by bit as their child grew more comfortable. I also loved the story of how they used their dog Manny to get closer to their daughter, pretending to make a "Manny cake."

Again, this is a fun, quick read, but not as emotionally honest or gripping as other adoption memoirs out there. Try Dan Savage's The Kid for a more in-depth, gritty yet still humorous adoption success story.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

New book domino record

The record has already been smashed for the greatest number of books toppled in domino-like fashion. Seattle Public did one earlier this summer; now Cape Town's Central Library already has them beat. I liked that they spelled out "Central Library" with the books. The cheers and hugs at the end made it look like everyone felt the hundreds of hours of set up was definitely worth it.


Friday, September 20, 2013

New Harry Potter artwork

Mary GrandPre, the artist for the American editions of Harry Potter has released some rarely seen full-color artwork depicting additional scenes from the series. Check out the complete set over at Buzzfeed.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Blue Bloods review

Blue Bloods
by Melissa de la Cruz
March 2007

First line: "The Bank was a decrepit stone building at the tail end of Houston Street, on the last divide between the gritty East Village and the wilds of the Lower East Side."

This series features absurdly wealthy teens in upper-class Manhattan, whose vampiric heritage is passed down from generation to generation. These vampires do sport fangs and occasionally drink blood, they are "immortal" in the sense that they are frequently incarnated, but other than that they don't share very many vampiric foibles such as problems with sunlight, crosses or garlic. Celebrity name-dropping and name-brand conciousness figures heavily here, as the students of exclusive prep school Duchesne: outsider Schuyler Van Alen, her best friend Oliver Hazard-Perry, love interest Dylan Ward, popular twins Jack and Mimi Force and Texan newcomer Bliss Llewellyn, gradually come to realize their true natures. The teen years are when new vampires are at their most fragile, and some uber-vamps known as "Silver Bloods" are hunting them.

Things gets a bit confusing at the end, with the revelation that the teens have been reincarnated over many centuries, with significant ties to the Mayflower, the Roanoke Colony and Ancient Egypt. Some of the vampires are descended from arcangels, and many of them are in incestuous relationships. Jack and Mimi apparently were an item in past lives, something Mimi would very much like to resume. Jack is interested in Schuyler, who might or might not be his former wife, his mother and simultaneously his aunt. See? Confusing. Lots of suspense... is Charles Force, the twins father, a villain, or just a grouchy patrician? Is teen dreamboat Dylan human or vampire? Is Dylan innocent or is he the one responsible for Blue Blood murders, or is he just a pawn? The series reads a lot like Gossip Girls, which makes sense, as the author is also responsible for the popular Au Pairs series. This is a light, fluffy, quick read, promising a series worth returning to.

Compare to:

I borrowed this book from the library.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Top 10 Books to Movies

Top Ten Tuesdays is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is: Top Ten Books You'd Love to See as a Movie.

Guess what? It seems like any and every popular YA book these days is quickly optioned for a movie treatment. I couldn't limit my list to just 10! Here's my list of Top 15 (possibly) upcoming books to movies.

1. Delirium - Lauren Oliver
This was optioned as a movie, then filmed as a TV pilot for a series, but not picked up. Will it ever see the light of day?

2. Firelight - Sophie Jordan
I loved this book. I barely remember the non-dragon twin sister, but I bet they could feature lots of drama with her jealously staring down her sibling.

3. House of Night - PC Cast
I'm curious if they'll tone down the paganism in a big screen adaptation of this book series.

4. Paranormalcy - Kierstan White
This would be a lot of fun.

5. The Forest of Hands and Teeth - Carrie Ryan
A great zombie story and would provide lots of awesome visuals I think.

6. Vampire Academy - 2/14/14 - Richelle Mead
I am a sucker for stories that take place at boarding schools.

7. Divergent - Veronica Roth
This is coming out in March 2014.

8. Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Laini Taylor
Excitement is running very high for this adaptation. The last I heard, they are still working on a script. I can't wait to see this one!

9. Matched - Ally Condie
Disney has bought the rights, but no further word on this project.

10. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Ransom Riggs
This deliciously creepy and wonderful book is in development for a film adaptation and tentatively scheduled for release in 2015.

11. Shadow and Bone - Leigh Bardugo
In development.

12. The Raven Boys - Maggie Stiefvater
Here's another book that's been picked up and is in development.

13. Uglies - Scott Westerfeld
In development.
14. Wicked Lovely - Melissa Marr
In development with no release date or even casting news yet.

15. Graceling - Kristin Cashore
This is in development and may come out in 2014.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Book Lovers infographic

I just found this neat infographic. What kind of Book Lover are you? I'm having a hard time deciding, myself. I think I'm split between at least four different sub-types!

What Species of Reader Are You?--Infographic

Infographic by Laura E. Kelly

Friday, September 6, 2013

A Lesson Before Dying review

A Lesson Before Dying
by Ernest J. Gaines
Random House
December 1993

I can see why English teachers love this book, and why generations of students will be doomed to hate it. It's an unsubtle look at race relations and the death penalty, with a bit of religion thrown in for good measure. This was an Oprah's Book Club pick, and is sure to remain a popular alternative to To Kill a Mockingbird for years to come.

Grant Wiggins is an unhappy school teacher at a segregated black school in the 40's. He's pressured by his family into tutoring Jefferson, an innocent black man found at the scene of a bar robbery turned homicide. Jefferson has been sentenced to death and his "nannan" - godmother, wants to prove that he is more than a "hog" as his defense attorney had claimed.

How to make this book more relatable for teens? Hmm... you could draw parallels to the Troy Davis case, although it seems that the fervor surrounding that case has already died down. NPR did a piece on Willie McGee and the Traveling Electric Chair.

What's really striking is that for all the visits, and all the food that's brought for Jefferson - he and Wiggins really don't speak much at all, and Jefferson never does get the equivalent of a high school education. Everything that Wiggins encourages Jefferson to do is much more for the comfort of the people who will survive him. The story is rather slow paced and full of atmospheric details of racist Louisiana in the 40's. The last chapter is a doozy as the emotional impact of the actual execution affects everyone in their small town.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Top Ten Books for School

This week's Top 10 Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is:
 Top 10 Contemporary Books That Would Be Great Paired With A Required Reading Book.

I'm not sure if I can think of 10 - but let me see.

First and foremost:

1. A Lesson Before Dying by Earnest Gaines paired with Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. This is actually such a great pairing - I'm going to have to post a review of A Lesson Before Dying to explore this more fully.

2. Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie paired with The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich. I know that there are schools out there that are doing this pairing already. But, I'm suggesting it mostly because I wish I had read them together. The Birchbark House is such a great book - it really is like The Little House on the Prairie from a Native American's point of view.

3. Here's a great pairing: The Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum and The Search for WondLA by Toni DiTerlizzi. It's subtle, but little hints and nods to The Wizard of Oz are definitely there.

There are so many modern takes on Shakespeare out there. I think any of them are more enjoyable if you know the source material. Here are some of my favorites:

4. Jenna and Jonah's Fauxmance with Much Ado About Nothing

5. Wondrous Strange paired with A Midsummer Night's Dream.

6. Just One Day with any Shakespeare play.

Along those lines:

7. Jane by April Lindner with Jane Eyre.

And for something completely different:

8. Birthmarked with A Handmaid's Tale.

9. The Hero With a Thousand Faces with Harry Potter

10. And.... I'm out of ideas! What would you pick for the 10th pairing? 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Read in August 2013

This month I read the following the books:

1. Defiance - C.J. Redwine
2. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Ransom Riggs

Picture credit: Interesting Story by William Stephen Coleman


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