Travel Reading

When I’m on vacation, I really like to read books about the places I’ll be visiting. Right now one of my best friends and I are backpacking through Europe, which means tons of time on trains and lots of time for reading.

I read Night by Elie Wiesel on our way through Germany. It made the trip to Berlin a lot more meaningful because we were there for the 20th anniversary of the fall of the wall and saw lots of exhibits about WWII, the Holocaust and the end of the Cold War. The book is a very short, quick read, but a story that really gets to you. Wiesel, who lived in Auschwitz for a number of years toward the end of WWII, won the Nobel Peace Prize for his literary works, which raised awareness about the horrors of the Holocaust. Night is the story of his journey from ghetto to concentration camp to liberation. Definitely worth reading.

I was a little sad about my choice though because I think far too much literature about Germany focuses on WWII. I know it’s something that we all shouldn’t forget, but I really wish I could read something uplifting about Germany, especially because the country has become so much more than that period in time. Germany is by far one of my most favorite countries to visit, but I think there are still a lot of negative connotations associated with it. Does anyone out there have any great recommendations for a book with the setting in Germany that’s not about WWII or the Holocaust? I’d love to hear about it if you have.

The second book I finished on this trip was Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. This book has been on my reading list for years, but I could never get past the first pages. But, with a trip to Ireland on my itinerary, I zipped through it in a matter of days. McCourt’s Pulitzer Prize winning memoir details his early childhood and teenage years in Limerick, Ireland, where his family lived in poverty. McCourt is able to detail the horrendous living conditions of his childhood with a sense of humor that makes you almost want to laugh at the absurdity of the situation if only it weren’t so tragic. Although this book describes a less than desirable existance in Ireland, it did make me want to go to Ireland immediately. The descriptions of the place and the people were vivid and colorful. And, of course, the accented dialogues throughout the book made me want to hear the accent for myself asap. I’m really looking forward to my trip there and will hopefully find a copy of ‘Tis, the sequel to Angela’s Ashes, while I’m there.

Will write again when I have Internet access.

-Becca

Published in: on August 25, 2009 at 10:57 am  Comments (2)  

Sorrow Wood by Raymond L. Atkins

Sorrow Wood is kind of a difficult book to explain. The book centers on the lives of Reva and Wendell Blackmon, documenting much of their life together. The two live in Sand Valley, Alabama, where Wendell is the town sheriff and Reva is the local judge. Throughout the book we are transferred from the present time (1985) back to previous times in the Blackmon’s lives, as well as into their past lives (as seen in Reva’s dreams). Mostly, the book is the story of their current life together, their difficult childhoods, and how they eventually came to be together. In the midst of learning about the destined love of the Blackmons, there is also a murder committed in Sand Valley with Wendell Blackmon trying to track down the murderer.

I really loved reading the stories of the two main characters. Much of the book takes place during the World War II era, with Wendell Blackmon serving in the Navy at the time. Raymond L. Atkins did a wonderful job of re-creating the feeling of duty many Americans felt at that time, as well as showing the sacrifice that many people made. There were also scenes from the Korean and Vietnam Wars in the book as we moved through the decades.

As with his debut novel, Atkins has created a cast of colorful characters with his latest novel. I really enjoyed his choices of words and the overall love story found in the book. I found the second epilogue to be a little bit over the top, but I think it was probably the quickest way to wrap up one of the storylines found throughout the book.

Published in: on August 6, 2009 at 8:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Movies Based on Books

I know, I know, this is a common complaint among those of us who read, but I’m going to bring it up anyway. I just saw Angels & Demons in theater and I just couldn’t believe the number of things they changed while making the movie. I realize that some of it was to make the story flow better, but, even major things were changed (like having Cardinal Baggia live). I also recently saw the new Harry Potter movie and I was just really not impressed by it. However, it has been quite some times since I read that book so I wasn’t able to pinpoint the major changes they made while turning the book into a movie.

I know I can’t expect the movie to be the same as the book, but why am I always so disappointed by the big screen version of books I loved? It really, really makes me not want to go see The Time Traveler’s Wife or My Sister’s Keeper. I just know they’ll let me down. I mean, honestly, how could they possibly make The Time Traveler’s Wife into a movie and keep the major story line the same? Has anyone seen these new ones? What did you think?

Published in: on August 5, 2009 at 9:43 pm  Comments (9)  

Movies Based on Books

I know, I know, this is a common complaint among those of us who read, but I’m going to bring it up anyway. I just saw Angels & Demons in theater and I just couldn’t believe the number of things they changed while making the movie. I realize that some of it was to make the story flow better, but, even major things were changed (like having Cardinal Baggia live). I also recently saw the new Harry Potter movie and I was just really not impressed by it. However, it has been quite some times since I read that book so I wasn’t able to pinpoint the major changes they made while turning the book into a movie.

I know I can’t expect the movie to be the same as the book, but why am I always so disappointed by the big screen version of books I loved? It really, really makes me not want to go see The Time Traveler’s Wife or My Sister’s Keeper. I just know they’ll let me down. I mean, honestly, how could they possibly make The Time Traveler’s Wife into a movie and keep the major story line the same? Has anyone seen these new ones? What did you think?

Published in: on August 5, 2009 at 8:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sic by Brin Friesen

Brin Friesen’s debut novel, Sic, is a harsh look at the reality of the bullying that takes place in schools everywhere. Through the eyes of younger Jasper Finch, one of the bullied, we see the complete desperation and anxiety some children face when going to school each day where they are forced to interact with their tormentors. While I’d like to think that bullying doesn’t ever get as far as it did in this book, I’m sure it really does. Otherwise we wouldn’t have school shootings and teen suicide, both of which are addressed in this novel.

Friesen’s book really made me think, but it was incredibly uncomfortable to read. First, because I was one of the mean girls in elementary school so it pained me to read about the girls (and boys) like me who relentlessly taunted the less popular children. Back then I thought it was hilarious, but now when I think about my behavior between ages 10 and 12 I feel terrible. At one point in the book, Finch is kicked in the shins by one of the mean girls and I literally cringed because I cannot even count the number of times I kicked little boys in the shins back in elementary school.

Later, the book became easier for me to read because I understood Finch’s anxiety upon entering high school. Right before I began middle school my family moved to a new town. And then moved again just before my high school years, so I know longer had the luxury of being one of the mean girls. I didn’t fit in and did my best to be invisible during those years. Unfortunately for Finch, he wasn’t able to be invisible because he moved up to high school with the same people who had beat him up and hated him in elementary school.

This book is very “Lord of the Flies,” only worse, because it’s all happening in a place where children are expected to feel safe and are under the eye of protecting adults. It’s definitely worth reading and will really make you think, but it will also make you cringe and squirm. Some of the fight scenes are particularly brutal and reading about children talking so much about sex was hard for me to read. I want to believe all children are innocent and pure, but I know that’s just not the case. As I’ve mentioned, this book made me think back to my own childhood – many times – and no matter how much I tried to debunk it, saying children don’t do this or children don’t do that, I knew, from my own experience, that this really was how (some) children act. I think often children are worse than adults when it comes to fowl language and talking about sex, and that really comes through in this novel.

I don’t recommend this book if you’re looking for something light and cheery. This is definitely not a pick-me-up type book. It feels like it is at one point toward the end, when you’re cheering for Jasper Finch and you’ll think, “Yes! Let’s end on a high note! I knew this was leading to a happy ending!” But then, just as with real life, Jasper (and the reader) are only able to revel in the glory for a short time before the joy of it fades and we’re plunged back into reality. The last section of the book makes the other two parts worth reading, so definitely keep going even if it feels a little slow in the middle. You won’t regret it.

Published in: on July 31, 2009 at 8:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

Pop Box Contest

Lance Reynald, author of Pop Salvation, is putting on a contest in which you can win a box filled with books and goodies related to pop culture. All you have to do is get your photo taken in one of those old school photo booths, scan the photo strip into the computer and email it along with a short description of where you were and what you were doing when the photos were taken. Examples can be found here. More information about the contest can be found here. And, to see what’s going into the box, follow Lance Reynald on Twitter.

Contest ends August 1, so get to it!

Published in: on July 19, 2009 at 6:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Author Groupie: Meeting Lance Reynald

I went to San Francisco to see Lance Reynald read from his book, Pop Salvation, on Thursday evening. (That’s me with the short hair and big earrings). There were only a few of us in the audience, which made it cool because we were all able to ask questions from the author and had more time to talk to him than if there had been a hundred people waiting to get a signature. I was a little bit starstruck though. I got all nervous and fidgety for some reason. This seems to happen to me whenever I meet authors I’ve talked to online. I don’t know why. Does this happen to any of you?

Published in: on July 11, 2009 at 4:56 pm  Comments (2)  

Author Groupie: Meeting Lance Reynald

I went to San Francisco to see Lance Reynald read from his book, Pop Salvation, on Thursday evening. (That’s me with the short hair and big earrings). There were only a few of us in the audience, which made it cool because we were all able to ask questions from the author and had more time to talk to him than if there had been a hundred people waiting to get a signature. I was a little bit starstruck though. I got all nervous and fidgety for some reason. This seems to happen to me whenever I meet authors I’ve talked to online. I don’t know why. Does this happen to any of you?

Published in: on July 11, 2009 at 4:56 pm  Comments (2)  

Check it out

Hey there, I just wanted to direct you to a fab interview with Lance Reynald, author of Pop Salvation, which I reviewed here. He was interviewed at LitPark today, so hop on over and take a look.

Also, just a reminder that Lance Reynald will be doing a reading tomorrow evening at Books, Inc. in the Castro (San Francisco). Details:

Thursday, July 09, 2009
Location: Books Inc. in the Castro, 2275 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94114
Phone: 415-864-6777

Published in: on July 8, 2009 at 8:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Two New Books Coming My Way

Last night I won a Twitter contest held by Lance Reynald, which got me a free copy of his new book Pop Salvation, which will be released June 23 (Tuesday!). I was hoping to see Reynald on his book tour as well, but it looks like he only has two stops, so winning his book was a good consolation prize. If you haven’t heard of Pop Salvation, here’s a little blurb about it from the HarperCollins website:

Caleb Watson is not like the other children at his Washington, D.C., private school. Having skipped a grade—and being younger and smaller than the rest of the boys—he finds that his Southern accent and sensitive, reserved nature set him even further apart. Caleb simply does not belong.

But on a field trip to the art museum, Caleb discovers his hero—his icon—when he is exposed to the art of Andy Warhol. In the beauty of the things that don’t fit, in the art and philosophy of Pop plus the glorious camp of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and its creatures of the night, Caleb will find sanctuary, transforming himself and the eccentric friends he meets along the way into his own little version of Warhol’s Factory.

I love the idea of finding yourself through art. I can’t wait to read it.

Also, I have been given the opportunity to receive an advanced copy of Greg Olear‘s book, Totally Killer, which will be coming out on October 1. The only descriptions of the book I have to offer are this quote from Jonathan Evison, author of All About Lulu: “Olear has created a veritable almanac of the ’90s. TOTALLY KILLER is, well, totally killer. You’ll laugh. You’ll cringe. You’ll weep. You may even find yourself humming Whitney Houston.” And this one-sentence description from GoodReads: “Conspiracy theory and pop culture collide in 1991 New York in this dazzling and dark debut from Greg Olear.”

Olear is one funny guy though so I expect that his book will rock my socks (and hopefully yours!). I’ll be sure to post more information when the book arrives. And, of course, a review will be coming. I plan to take Totally Killer with me on the road to Istanbul and share it with you all closer to the release date, along with an interview with Mr. Olear. Super exciting.

I’m really excited to be getting more debut novels to review. I really want to start reading more books by lesser-known authors. I guess I feel like the biggies get enough attention from the “real” media. I don’t know, what do you think?

Published in: on June 21, 2009 at 3:58 am  Comments (2)