Saturday, January 30, 2010

J.D. Salinger 1919-2010

I believe Franny and Zooey will always remain one of my favorite books. May you rest in peace.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Youtube Connection 3

Youtube Connection is a Thursday feature where I will post a video (or more) that is somehow related to a book I've read.

This week's book is Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford. In the book, Carter's high school puts on a production of Guys and Dolls.

The first video shows a scene from the 1955 movie version of Guys and Dolls. I watched the movie after reading Carter Finally Gets It, and the song below was my favorite.

This next video is the play put on by UMiami. The scene I chose is one that is mentioned several times in Carter Finally Gets It. Feel free to skip the song by starting at 3:30.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

Told by the narrator Death, The Book Thief is the story of Liesel Meminger, who is a nine-year-old girl during Nazi Germany. After losing her family, Liesel must move to Himmel Street. During Liesel's stay at her foster family's home, she discovers something she loves: books. Liesel steals the books, while her foster father teaches her to read. On Himmel Street, Liesel also becomes best friends with Rudy Steiner, a boy who admires Jesse Owens and has a crush on Liesel. Together, they have many antics, which include stealing books. Along with Rudy, Liesel shares her books with Max Vandenburg, a Jewish fistfighter...

Some books leave an imprint on you, and The Book Thief was one of those books. From the very beginning, I had a feeling I would enjoy the novel, but I was cautious because setting high expectations is an easy way to ruin a book. The Book Thief surpassed any expectations I had. Markus Zusak takes a common setting, Germany during WWII, and puts an unique twist on it. The stories of Liesel, Max, Rudy, and all the other characters had so much heart, which is unusual for a book set during a time of death and sorrow.

Zusak's characterizations themselves were also quite interesting. My favorite characterization is easily Death. Throughout the novel, Zusak humanizes Death. Death is shocked by mankind's brutal nature. Death's typical characterization is generally cold and heartless, but to have a sympathetic Death was, in my mind, brilliant. This characterization makes me really think about the power of humans, and how we should all perform acts of kindness, rather than hate. I mean, it's pretty bad when Death itself is appalled. Anyway, I also loved Zusak's characterization of humans. Throughout the novel, humans are dehumanized by their various acts, including most obviously, their treatment of Jews. Zusak, however, also showcases various acts of kindness and shows readers that humans have the capability to be kind. With a story that is surrounded by cruelty, I think this was a powerful and important message.

I would recommend this novel to anyone looking for a story set in Nazi Germany.

Related Links
Markus Zusak's Website

I received this book from Random Buzz.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Wishlust 2

Wishlust is where I will post a few books that are on my infinitely long wishlist. By infinitely long, I mean almost 600 books! Hopefully, you will find a book or two that seem interesting to you. =)

Skin Hunger - Kathleen Duey
Sadima lives in a world where magic has been banned, leaving poor villagers prey to fakes and charlatans. A "magician" stole her family's few valuables and left Sadima's mother to die on the day Sadima was born. But vestiges of magic are hidden in old rhymes and hearth tales and in people like Sadima, who conceals her silent communication with animals for fear of rejection and ridicule. When rumors of her gift reach Somiss, a young nobleman obsessed with restoring magic, he sends Franklin, his lifelong servant, to find her. Sadima's joy at sharing her secret becomes love for the man she shares it with. But Franklin's irrevocable bond to the brilliant and dangerous Somiss traps her, too, and she faces a heartbreaking decision.

Centuries later magic has been restored, but it is available only to the wealthy and is strictly controlled by wizards within a sequestered academy of magic. Hahp, the expendable second son of a rich merchant, is forced into the academy and finds himself paired with Gerrard, a peasant boy inexplicably admitted with nine sons of privilege and wealth. Only one of the ten students will graduate — and the first academic requirement is survival.

Maybe - Brent Runyon
Maybe everything will be different here. Maybe I should drive away and never come back. Maybe my brother didn't mean to. Maybe my brother was right. Maybe I can get someone to have sex with me. Maybe no one will ever love me. Maybe I should be an actor. Maybe I shouldn't pretend to be deaf.

Maybe if I mouth the words no one will know I'm not singing. But maybe someone, somehow, will hear me anyway.

Brent Runyon offers a raw, wrenching novel of a boy on the edge. It's a powerful story about love and loss and death and anger and the near impossibility for a sixteen-year-old boy to both understand how he feels and to make himself heard.

I am the Messenger - Markus Zusak
protect the diamonds
survive the clubs
dig deep through the spades
feel the hearts

Ed Kennedy is an underage cabdriver without much of a future. He's pathetic at playing cards, hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey, and utterly devoted to his coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery.

That's when the first ace arrives in the mail.

That's when Ed becomes the messenger.

Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary) until only one question remains: Who's behind Ed's mission?
A 2005 Michael L. Printz Honor Book and recipient of five starred reviews, I Am the Messenger is a cryptic journey filled with laughter, fists, and love.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Youtube Connection Week 2

Youtube Connection is a Thursday feature where I will post a video (or more) that is somehow related to a book I've read.

This week's novel is Violet and Claire by Francesca Lia Block. I chose to show a trailer from a Shunji Iwai film. When I was writing the review for Violet and Claire, I realized that even though Block writes books and Iwai directs films, they have similar styles.

The film is Hana and Alice, which also reminds me of Violet and Claire. The movie is about best friends who develop a crush on the same boy, except it's a bit deeper than just that.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Open Ice - Pat Hughes

Ever since he was young, sophomore Nick Taglio's life has revolved around hockey. Nicky not only enjoys hockey, but he's great at it and plans to get an athletic scholarship to college. No matter how dangerous hockey is and how many concussions Nick receives, he continues to play. Between hockey and his girlfriend, Nick's life is good. Then, Nick receives another concussion, his fourth one in fact by keeping his head down, his number one habit. This concussion is not like the others, and Nick may never play hockey again. If Nick loses hockey, his life, then what else is left for him?

When I began reading Open Ice, I was a bit apprehensive because I had heard few things about it. Basically, all I knew was that the book was a coming-of-age novel about hockey. I like coming-of-age and hockey, so I figured I would give it a way. Luckily, I thought Open Ice was a good novel. Pat Hughes did a great job characterizing Nick. He was an incredibly realistic character, and I enjoyed the way Hughes portrayed him after his concussion. That's not to say I agreed with his actions, but his actions seemed like the way many guys would have reacted to being told to say goodbye to their favorite sport. Hughes also did a great job portraying Nick's parents. When dealt with Nick's situation, they acted in a responsible manner, without seeming cheesy.

The only character I had a complaint about was Devin, Nick's girlfriend. She's a stereotypical girl who only wants to date a star hockey player, and Nick is completely smitten (in the beginning at least). I think Hughes could have developed Devin more, while still keeping her general persona. Devin was just so blaaah, and aside from looks, I could not see any reason Nick dated her. At times, I also thought Hughes tried to push to appealing to teens too much. The smoking pot and Daves Matthews Band seemed forced at times. Overall, however, Open Ice is a wonderful portrayal of dealing with life after a sport injury.

I would recommend Open Ice to anyone looking for a coming-of-age that reveals the hardships of leaving a favorite sport.

Related Links
Pat Hughes's Site
Random House Teens

I received this book from YA Books Central.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Lonely Hearts Club WINNERS

Congratulations to...

Leslie, Jenna, and Anfisa.

You should have received my e-mail, so be sure to e-mail your mailing addresses to me at towerofbooks(at)gmail(dot)com within 72 hours. :)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Lonely Hearts Club Twitter Party

Join Lonely Hearts Club author Elizabeth Eulberg and Amy of MyFriendAmy for a Twitter party Wednesday, January 20, between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. EST!

  • Join the fun! No one expects you or your tweets to be perfect; we’re just happy you made it to the party!

  • Anyone who tweets during this hour using #LonelyHeartsClub is entered to win a limited edition Lonely Hearts Club t-shirt!

  • Watch for questions from @MyFriendAmy and win awesome prizes including an iPod shuffle, $50 iTunes gift card or $25 VISA gift card!

  • Ask Elizabeth questions or chat with other partygoers about how excited you are to read LHC—just use the tag #LonelyHeartsClub in all of your party tweets! (This is added automatically in TweetGrid.)

  • Please don’t post any spoilers and don’t forget to pay attention to the time zones, the party starts at 8:30pm EST.
I'll definitely be there, and hopefully you will too!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Most important thing in choosing a book to read

When you are choosing a book to read, what's the most important thing you look at? The cover, the summary, the author, the title, reviews, or something else?

Although I use a combination of the above (like most people, probably), I would have to say reviews are the most important. I like to see what other people like or dislike about the novel. The one I could probably care least about is the author. If I like one book by an author, I try to read the others, but if I dislike a book by an author, I try to give his/her other books a chance. I also love discovering new authors.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Snippet

A Snippet is a new feature on my blog. I will quote a passage from a novel that particular strikes me and include why I enjoy it. I may take out the second part later. It seems like it may be overkill, but I don't know. Tell me what you think!

Today's quote is from The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch. I read this book a few years ago and saved this quote. Unfortunately, I did not write down the page number. If anyone knows, then I will love you forever! I mean it. :P Anyways,

"Those shells, as unique and timeless as bones, helped me realize that we all die young, that in the life of the earth, we are all houseflies, here for one flash of light."

Normally, mankind views themselves as the center of the world, and everything revolves around us. In this quote, Lynch reverses this thought by making us houseflies, which are commonly viewed as an insignificant part of the world. The quote conveys to readers that humans have one burst of life, and personally, it makes me want to make that burst of life count. I also love "timeless as bones." To me, it seems unusual to think of bones as timeless (I think of negative words like rotten first), although it's certainly true.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

In My Mailbox Jan. 4-9

In My Mailbox was created by Kristi of The Story Siren.

Just Kids - Patti Smith (ARC)
It was the summer Coltrane died, the summer of love and riots, and the summer when a chance encounter in Brooklyn led two young people on a path of art, devotion, and initiation.

Patti Smith would evolve as a poet and performer, and Robert Mapplethorpe would direct his highly provocative style toward photography. Bound in innocence and enthusiasm, they traversed the city from Coney Island to Forty-second Street, and eventually to the celebrated round table of Max's Kansas City, where the Andy Warhol contingent held court. In 1969, the pair set up camp at the Hotel Chelsea and soon entered a community of the famous and infamous—the influential artists of the day and the colorful fringe. It was a time of heightened awareness, when the worlds of poetry, rock and roll, art, and sexual politics were colliding and exploding. In this milieu, two kids made a pact to take care of each other. Scrappy, romantic, committed to create, and fueled by their mutual dreams and drives, they would prod and provide for one another during the hungry years.

Just Kids begins as a love story and ends as an elegy. It serves as a salute to New York City during the late sixties and seventies and to its rich and poor, its hustlers and hellions. A true fable, it is a portrait of two young artists' ascent, a prelude to fame.

Chasing Brooklyn - Lisa Schroeder
Restless souls and empty hearts

Brooklyn can't sleep. Her boyfriend, Lucca, died only a year ago, and now her friend Gabe has just died of an overdose. Every time she closes her eyes, Gabe's ghost is there waiting for her. She has no idea what he wants or why it isn't Lucca visiting her dreams.

Nico can't stop. He's always running, trying to escape the pain of losing his brother, Lucca. But when Lucca's ghost begins leaving messages, telling Nico to help Brooklyn, emotions come crashing to the surface.

As the nightmares escalate and the messages become relentless, Nico reaches out to Brooklyn. But neither of them can admit that they're being haunted. Until they learn to let each other in, not one soul will be able to rest.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Wishlust 1

Wishlust is where I will post a few books that are on my infinitely long wishlist. By infinitely long, I mean almost 600 books! Hopefully, you will find a book or two that seem interesting to you. =)

10 Things to Do Before I Die - Daniel Ehrenhaft
1) Lose my virginity
2) Apologize to Rachel
3) Get back at Biff
4) Jam and party with Shakes the Clown
5) Laugh in death’s face
6) Go to Africa
7) Rob a bank
8) Tell Mark to screw himself
9) Find out why Grandpa and Dad don't talk
10) Tell the truth

Luna - Julie Anne Peters
Regan's brother Liam can't stand the person he is during the day. Like the moon from whom Liam has chosen his female namesake, his true self, Luna, only reveals herself at night. In the secrecy of his basement bedroom Liam transforms himself into the beautiful girl he longs to be, with help from his sister's clothes and makeup. Now, everything is about to change-Luna is preparing to emerge from her cocoon. But are Liam's family and friends ready to welcome Luna into their lives? Compelling and provocative, this is an unforgettable novel about a transgender teen's struggle for self-identity and acceptance.

Hard Hit - Ann Turner
As the pitcher on his HS team, Mark lives and breathes baseball. Sure, there's pressure from his coach and his dad, who both push him hard, but it's nothing that time with his buddy, Eddie, or with his crush, Diane, can't diffuse. But all that changes when Mark's dad is diagnosed with cancer, and everything Mark has ever believed in--love, God, and baseball--is called into question.This profoundly affecting novel in verse traces the physical and emotional journey of a boy in crisis, and all the requisite emotions--anger, denial, fear, bargaining, sadness, & acceptance--that accompany loss.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Violet and Claire - Francesca Lia Block

Violet dreams of writing and directing films one day. Then, she meets Claire, a fantastical girl who wears a Tinker Bell t-shirt and tapes fairy wings to her back. Claire loves writing poetry. Together, Violet and Claire decide to make a film that will show the audience the magical world that they believe in can exist. However, when Violet finds fame through a shocking way with the help of a mentor and Claire begins a relationship with a poetry instructor, the girls are driven away from each other. Will the power of love be strong enough to bring Violet and Claire together again?

Because this was the first book I have read by Francesca Lia Block, I had no idea what to expect. I found myself enthralled in a story that takes place in an enchanted world of its own. As I later learned, Block is known for her use of magical realism, which she certainly excels at. I particularly liked the magical realism in Violet and Claire because it gave the novel a fitting movie-like feel. Block's ability to make the readers question certain events, without making them frustrated, was also good. Throughout the novel, I was not sure the exact details of things, but for once, I was not actually annoyed by this. In fact I kind of liked it. This will also make readers want to reread the novel.

Unfortunately, Violet and Claire had some flaws that can not be forgotten. Towards the end, the novel felt rushed. At only ~176 pages, this really hurt the novel. However, the ending was not just rushed, it was unsatisfying. I felt that Block had the potential to make the book a lot better than it was, but for whatever reason, the potential never came out. Of course, I could be wrong because I have never read her other novels, but seeing as she's been around for years, I'm sure she can do better.

Violet and Claire
is a decent choice if you are looking an unique novel.

Related Links
Francesca Lia Block's Site

I purchased this book.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Youtube Connection Week 1

Every Thursday, I will post a video (or more) that is somehow connected to a book I’ve read. I’ve also included a Mr. Linky widget at the bottom for anyone that’s interested in posting videos of their own.

This week's novel is Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay. The video is during last year's Comic-Con, but don't worry there are no spoilers for past seasons. Make sure to wait for Michael C. Hall's response because his response is the funny one and the reason I chose this video. :P

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Darkly Dreaming Dexter - Jeff Lindsay

By day, Dexter Morgan is a blood splatter analyst for the Miami Police Department. By night, Dexter is a vigilante serial killer. He has gone years unnoticed by the people around him--his coworkers, his girlfriend, his sister, etc. However, Harry knew who Dexter was. After meeting a young Dexter at a gruesome crime scene, Harry decided to adopt him. Before long, Harry had to teach Dexter the art of killing while remaining uncaught. All is going well for Dexter, until a series of murders appear in Miami that unusually mimic Dexter's own murders. Who is killing these people, and how are they connected to Dexter?

After watching the tv series Dexter, I was more than happy that my Secret Santa (who still remains a secret...) gave me Darkly Dreaming Dexter. I really wanted to see how the tv show compared to the original novel, and as I'm such a huge fan of the tv show, it's impossible for me to review the book without comparing. Before I actually begin comparing though, let me discuss the book. Darkly Dreaming Dexter is a dark and unique novel that readers of crime novels will enjoy. Very rarely do people root for the serial killer. Bravo to Jeff Lindsay for having the ability to do that. Lindsay also did a wonderful job adding dark humor. In the series, the dark humor is one of the best parts of the show, and it's good to see that the novel incorporated just as much dark humor. The one part that fell a little flat for me were the scenes where Dexter discussed his true self. Frankly, I found the parts to be a little boring. As objectively as I can, without taking into account the tv series, Darkly Dreaming Dexter is a unique novel that will leave readers wanting to know more. Readers who have never watched Dexter are also sure to enjoy the novel.

And now it's time for some major comparing. As I have already mentioned (several times), I am a big fan of Dexter. I have watched all the seasons and am anxiously waiting the next. Darkly Dreaming Dexter correlates to the first season of Dexter. If you have watched the first season of Dexter, you are probably wondering if you should read the novel. I say, do it! First of all, it's always fun to compare, and second, the tv show made a change towards the end that has affected all the later seasons. Having said that, do not expect the novel to be better than the tv series. I still thoroughly enjoyed the novel, but personally, compared to the cast of the tv series, the characters in the novel fell flat, especially Dexter. Michael C. Hall does an amazing job playing Dexter, and I'm hoping he wins the 2009 Golden Globe (This is his 3rd nomination as Dexter). Hall gives the character so much depth that Lindsay could not do with his own character. One plus with the book, however, is no awkward sex scenes! The tv series has quite a few.

Now, if you've never watched Dexter, what are you waiting for? Go watch it now! If you don't have access to Showtime, the first season is only $20 on amazon! Now, time for a random fun fact: Jeff Lindsay's wife is the niece of Ernest Hemingway.

Related Links
Random House's Dexter Website
Showtime's Dexter Website

This book was a gift from my Secret Santa.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Honorable Mentions of 2009

This is a list of novels I read in 2009, that although weren't my favorite, had some really great parts. The list in no particular order.

1. Little Black Lies - Tish Cohen - I loved learning about Sara's family.

2. Flash Burnout - L.K. Madigan - Reading Blake's struggle between his girlfriend and the girl that just a friend was a pleasure.

3. Forest of Hands & Teeth - Carrie Ryan - This one had an interesting story line, and I am excited about The Dead-Tossed Waves!

4. Chenxi and the Foreigner - Sally Rippin - This was a really unique YA novel that takes place in China in the 1980s.

5. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Flavia was a wonderful and lovable protagonist.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Lonely Hearts Club Giveaway

If you've been reading my blog lately, you'll know that I really enjoyed Elizabeth Eulberg's The Lonely Hearts Club. Now, I am going to give you the opportunity to win a copy of the book. I am giving away three copies of the debut novel. The giveaway ends on January 18, so enter away!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Apprentice's Masterpiece - Melanie Little

15th Century Spain is a multicultural hub where Jews, Muslims, and Christians can coexist. Soon, however this will all change. Under the throne of Queen Isabella, Spain's people are forced to become Christians or face death. Even people who convert to Christianity face scrutiny like the Benvenistes, a former Jewish family of scribes. In a world full of spies, the family constantly fear for their lives. Then, one day, a slave by the name of Amir is brought to the household. While the rest of the household welcome him, fifteen-year-old Ramon is suspicious. Who is Amir, and can he really be trusted?

Told in verse, The Apprentice's Masterpiece is a story that should transport readers to a time period unlike their own. I, however, found myself bored most of the time. Part of the reason is probably because of my unfamiliarity with 15th century Spain. Initially, I thought this novel would be a great way to learn about the time. Not too mention, the summary sounded promising. Unfortunately, it soon became apparent, that without a clear background, I would not feel fully transported to the time period. Melanie Little provides readers with a prologue, so they will know about the time, but personally the prologue just was not enough.

One of the most bothersome parts about the book was knowing that if the story was not in verse, I would have enjoyed it so much more. I mean the parts that were not in verse (the prologue, epilogue) were good enough. While verse may work for Lisa Schroeder's books, Little's story of the Spanish Inquisition requires so much more explanation and depth, which verse simply does not provide. Despite my complaints, however, The Apprentice's Masterpiece did have some highlights. My favorite parts involved Ramon's Christian girlfriend (for lack of a better word). I also liked how Little switched the story from Ramon to Amir and back to Ramon. The novel shows evidence that Little is a talented writer, but for me, the verse just did not work. Also, I feel that if I knew more about the Spanish Inquisition, I would have enjoyed the story more.

The Apprentice's Masterpiece will appeal to readers who enjoy learning about the Spanish Inquisition.

Related Links
Melanie Little's bio + The Apprentice's Masterpeice Q&A
Annick Press

I received this book from Annick Press.

In My Mailbox Dec. 27 - Jan. 2

In My Mailbox was created by Kristi of The Story Siren. :)

Isabelle's Boyfriend - Caroline Hickey

Taryn has found the perfect guy. Epp is tall, athletic, handsome, and best of all, she is sure he likes her, too. There’s only one problem: He’s dating someone else. But when Taryn becomes friends with Epp’s beautiful girlfriend, Isabelle, her life begins to change. New friends, movie dates, and a first kiss—life couldn’t get any better, could it? Except that Epp is still Isabelle’s boyfriend. Girls will relate to Taryn’s sincerity and humor as she tries to balance family, friendship, and, of course, romance.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Upcoming Releases - January

These are the January releases I am looking forward to! Each book cover is linked to the book's amazon page. :)

What releases are you looking forward to?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Best of 2009

2009 was a great year of books for me. I read 70 books (excluding manga), which is a record for me. For 2010, my goal is to read 100 books. I know it's going to be quite a challenge, but I'm at for it. Now, without further ado, here are my top 10 reads of 2009.

10. The Lonely Hearts Club - Elizabeth Eulberg

9. Twenty Boy Summer - Sarah Ockler

8. In Ecstasy - Kate McCaffrey

7. Marcelo in the Real Word - Francisco X. Stork

6. Are We There Yet? - David Levithan

5. Funny How Things Change - Melissa Wyatt

4. Going Too Far - Jennifer Echols

3. A Little Friendly Advice - Siobhan Vivian

2. The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

And now a drumroll...

1. Paper Towns - John Green

Stay tuned for an honorable mentions post! There were a few books, that although were flawed, I still really enjoyed. :)