Thursday, June 30, 2011

Monthly Wrap-Up: June 2011

Well, it is now officially summer! June has come and gone, the sun is out (most of the time), and the rain has been almost nonexistent! With the end of another month there is another monthly wrap-up. I always look forward to these ... it's nice to see what all I have accomplished reading-wise in a month.

Number of Books Read: 6
Reviews Done: 7
My Favorite Book This Month: Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
My Least Favorite Book This Month: The Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve

This month was a busy one here at Kristen's Book Nook ... I had over 1,000 page views this month! I was so excited when I saw this! Now, I just hope that I can continue to grow from here! I'm also up to 73 followers, so to all my old and new followers, thanks for following me and for all the wonderful comments that you leave! I may not always have time to respond to them, but I do appreciate them! While my blog was busier this month, I didn't seem to read as much as I have been, so hopefully I can read at least 7 books in July. Other than that, life is going along like normal ... eat, work, sleep, blog. I think that pretty much sums up my life right now. Oh, and enjoying the sunshine whenever I get the chance to! 

I hope you had a great June and an even better July! Happy 4th of July to everyone ... stay safe this holiday weekend!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

Firefly Lane
Author: Kristin Hannah
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Published: January 6, 2009
Paperback: 479 pages
Source: purchased at library sale

My Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from In the turbulent summer of 1974, Kate Mularkey has accepted her place at the bottom of the eighth-grade social food chain. Then, to her amazement, the “coolest girl in the world” moves in across the street and wants to be her friend. Tully Hart seems to have it all---beauty, brains, ambition. On the surface they are as opposite as two people can be: Kate, doomed to be forever uncool, with a loving family who mortifies her at every turn. Tully, steeped in glamour and mystery, but with a secret that is destroying her. They make a pact to be best friends forever; by summer’s end they’ve becomeTullyandKate.Inseparable. So begins Kristin Hannah’s magnificent new novel. Spanning more than three decades and playing out across the ever-changing face of the Pacific Northwest,Firefly Laneis the poignant, powerful story of two women and the friendship that becomes the bulkhead of their lives.

From the beginning, Tully is desperate to prove her worth to the world. Abandoned by her mother at an early age, she longs to be loved unconditionally. In the glittering, big-hair era of the eighties, she looks to men to fill the void in her soul. But in the buttoned-down nineties, it is television news that captivates her. She will follow her own blind ambition to New York and around the globe, finding fame and success . . . and loneliness. 
Kate knows early on that her life will be nothing special. Throughout college, she pretends to be driven by a need for success, but all she really wants is to fall in love and have children and live an ordinary life. In her own quiet way, Kate is as driven as Tully. What she doesn’t know is how being a wife and mother will change her . . . how she’ll lose sight of who she once was, and what she once wanted. And how much she’ll envy her famous best friend. . . .
For thirty years, Tully and Kate buoy each other through life, weathering the storms of friendship---jealousy, anger, hurt, resentment. They think they’ve survived it all until a single act of betrayal tears them apart . . . and puts their courage and friendship to the ultimate test.
Firefly Laneis for anyone who ever drank Boone’s Farm apple wine while listening to Abba or Fleetwood Mac. More than a coming-of-age novel, it’s the story of a generation of women who were both blessed and cursed by choices. It’s about promises and secrets and betrayals. And ultimately, about the one person who really, truly knows you---and knows what has the power to hurt you . . . and heal you.Firefly Laneis a story you’ll never forget . . . one you’ll want to pass on to your best friend.

My Thoughts: Following the friendship of Tully and Kate for over 30 years, Firefly Lane spans the decades to show the connection that women share with their closest friends and how they handle the good times and the bad. Starting in 1974, the novel shows how clothes, hairstyles, and fads changed over the years, but through it all, Tully and Kate were always there for one another. While covering so much time can be daunting and too much, Kristin Hannah's writing is so masterful that you really do feel as if you are growing up with these two women without it ever becoming boring.
There were so many things that I enjoyed about this book that I don't know where to begin. First, within 100 pages, Hannah had pulled me into this story. I was crying as I read about Tully's senior year of high school, relating to her experiences of losing a loved one. I rarely cry, especially whie reading, so this was the first sign that I was reading something truly touching. As the story progressed and Tully and Kate grew, I was able to relate to both women. As a young woman in her 20s, I feel like there is so much to do and see in the world, that I won't be able to get it all done, let alone have a family, so I definitely connected with Tully on that level. But I could also identify with Kate, the hopeless romantic that she is, wanting that fairy tale life and knowing that without family, nothing is worth it. Hannah crafted two perfect characters in these women; one the driven, ambitious go-getter, the other relishing motherhood and her family. While both are relatable, there were times that I didn't like one of them. But a few pages later, Hannah would have me back on their side. She is truly a master of her work, one that I cannot wait to read more of. While not a literary classic, Firefly Lane is a great book that I think every woman should read. It's a great summer read, and one that will stay with you for a long time.

Monday, June 27, 2011

In My Mailbox (6-27-11)

I haven't participated in one of these in a long time, but I just did some major book shopping and felt like sharing!

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

The Sinner's Grand Tour by Tony Perrottet

Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan

Faith by Jennifer Haigh

One Day by David Nicholls

A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Between Sisters by Kristin Hannah

Looking forward to reading all of these books in the upcoming weeks!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Punctured by Rex Kusler

Author: Rex Kusler
Publisher: AmazonEncore
Published: January 2010
Paperback: 256 pages
Source: won from GoodReads

My Rating: 2.5 stars

Synopsis (from Investigating your brother-in-law's murder can put a strain on sibling relations--when all the evidence points to your sister. Former Las Vegas Homicide Detective Jim Snow quit the force three years ago to play poker fulltime, but he’s been losing consistently for the last six months. Now he has a new challenge to take his mind away from his problems. His sister’s estranged husband was found murdered in an RV storage lot shortly after selling his trailer for eight-thousand dollars cash to their neighbor. Snow and his sister have issues—the last time Snow saw her was two years ago at their mother’s funeral in Minnesota—though they only live three miles apart. Suspicion points to his sister, since she stands to collect on the life insurance, and her previous husband died during a robbery near an ATM machine. Living off of life insurance settlements from her first two husbands, she’s never had to work. Snow’s not sure his sister is innocent, but he launches an investigation, enlisting the help of a feisty female detective.

My Thoughts: Jim Snow, a former homocide detective for the Las Vegas Police Department, embarks on a mission to clear his sister of murdering her husband. A simple plot for a mystery, but one that intrigued me, especially with Las Vegas as a setting. While the setting is removed far from the tourist activity on the Strip, the locale is interesting since Las Vegas is sitting in the middle of a desert. Rex Kusler didn't allow the setting to be the primary focus in his mystery, though, and instead focuses on the characters. He created a very likable guy in Jim Snow. He is like an everyday person, someone who you would pass on the street. The other characters are a bit odd and not as strong as Snow: his sister Karen acts strange throughout the story, then there is the neighbor, the tramp who Snow pays to be an assist with his unofficial investigation, and Alice, a current homocide detective who decides to lend a hand to Snow. The characterization was lacking in this book, with all of the characters seeming unsubstantial. There was no depth to any of them (except for Snow), which made the book just kind of float along. 

While the book did seem to just float along for me, it was an enjoyable, quick read. It wasn't a thriller or a mystery like the typical ones that we think of (Mary Higgins Clark always comes to mind whenever I think of mystery), but it didn't bore me. I didn't expect the ending to happen the way that it did, which was nice, but there could have been a bit more plot twists to keep the reader guessing. However, it was nice to read a mystery book that wasn't a thriller and didn't make me all jumpy (yes, I am wimp and get jumpy whenever I read mystery books). All in all, it was enjoyable, but not something that I will be rereading anytime soon.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Book Blog Hop and Follow Friday! (6-24-11)

Happy Friday, everyone! I am very excited that the weekend is here ... I don't know why, because I will be working the whole time, but I'm still excited for it! Since it's Friday, that means it's time for the Book Blog Hop (hosted by Jen) and Follow Friday (hosted by Parajunkee). Without further ado, let's jump in!

“When did you realize reading was your passion and a truly important part of your life?”

I don't remember at what point in my life I realized that it was a passion of mine. I have always been reading, from a very young age. I would read the Golden books, Disney books, magazines, road signs ... whatever I could read, I would! In the spring of 2009, I started a management internship at the Walt Disney World Resort, and the long hours and constant exhaustion really took a toll on me and I didn't read anything for about 6 months. However, I realized how much I missed reading and fell back into it quickly!

Q. In light of the Summer Solstice. Also known as Midsummer...let's talk about fairies. What is your favorite fairy tale or story that revolves around the fae?

I don't read much Irish literature, but I have discovered Pete Hamill this year. While his stories don't focus on fae, they are a part of each of his books. It's always intriguing to learn about that kind of stuff, so maybe I will look into reading more books where that is a focus!

As for favorite fairy tale, it has to be Beauty and the Beast. A girl, living in France, who loves to read ... come on, that's basically describing me to a T (except for living in France, but I would go in a heartbeat if given the chance!) I just love that story and really do think it's a timeless message, and one that every girl should pay attention to. You don't need a man, sometimes he needs you, and don't pay attention to outer beauty, because it's what's inside that counts. Okay, I'm going to stop myself now, because I could talk about this forever!

So, what's your favorite fairy tale?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve

The Last Time They Met
Author: Anita Shreve
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Published: January 2002
Paperback: 313 pages
Source: purchased at Friends of the Library sale

My Rating: 2 stars

Synopsis (from In The Last Time They Met, Anita Shreve, author of Fortune's Rocks and the bestselling Oprah pick The Pilot's Wife, shows how the decisions we make can affect the course of our lives. It is with mixed emotions that poet Linda Fallon greets her old lover, fellow poet Thomas Janes, when they bump into each other at a literary festival. Devastated by their breakup years before, Janes chose this moment to reconnect and, if possible, reignite their romance.

My Thoughts: This book follows high school sweethearts Thomas Jane and Linda Fallon as they reconnect at two different points, later in their lives. Anita Shreve has written the book in three sections, with the first section taking place in the present-day, the second part set in Africa when Linda and Thomas are in their 20s, and the last section is when they are teenagers and meet for the first time. The first and last section are told from Linda's point of view and the middle section is narrated by Thomas. Shreve tracks their romance across the years, showing how strong their connection is when spread out across many miles and many years.

I typically enjoy Shreve's writing, finding it to be almost poetic. However, this book was too language-heavy for my liking. I felt like there was no action, that there was no pull between the characters. Shreve wrote of the connection between them, but I didn't feel it as the reader. I felt there was little connection between the characters and the reader. There was very little dialogue, and when there was, Shreve did not use quotation marks, but marked conversation with "-". A dash ... it just really threw me off. The whole book was just not to my liking. I felt like the plot idea was strong, but the writing just pulled it down and made it a long read. All that being said, I will still look forward to reading Shreve's work.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday (6-21-11)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Now, I always love their blog, but it is their 1 year blogoversary, so they have lots of fun stuff going on this week, so make sure to check it out! This week's topic is: Reasons I Love Book Blogging!

1) Finding others who love books - I know few people who enjoy reading as much as I do, so book blogging allows me to meets so many other people who share my love of reading and books!

2) Learning about new books! - I love learning about upcoming releases. Before, I would find book recommendations through O Magazine and by wondering around my local Borders (RIP). Now, I can find hundreds of blogs that talk about new books to be on the look out for.

3) Reading reviews - I love reading reviews by other bloggers. No matter the genre, I love reading reviews and seeing what people thought of books. I also love getting to read real reviews. Whenever you read a professional review, it's so cold. I enjoy being able to read a blogger's review, where it's more organic. It also makes it easier to see if I would really enjoy a book or not.

4) Starting a TBR pile - It may sound weird, but I love having a TBR pile now! Before I started blogging, I would just go out and buy a book whenever I wanted. Now, because I read so many reviews, I have a pile of books waiting for me whenever I need another book!

5) Meeting new people - the book blogging community is amazing! I don't know how else to say it, but before book blogging, I had no idea that there was this large community of people who all loved books as much as I do! I have only been blogging for a few months now, but I have met so many wonderful people through blogging!

6) Finding books that fit my tastes - No matter what kind of book I am in the mood for, there is a blog out there for it. Where it be mystery book or historical fiction, there are specific blogs that are focus on these genres. My favorite niche blog? Historically Obsessed (historical fiction ... go check it out!)

7) Knowing which books might be worth my time - I HATE when I would buy a book and hate it. Now, there are many times when I find a book that I might think is interesting. I look for reviews of it before I buy to make sure that it's something that I will enjoy. It's not the only thing that I consider when buying a book, but if I see several reviews that are less than favorable, I am less likely to waste my money.

8) Writing reviews - I love being able to use my brain in something truly engaging and meaningful to me. I graduated from college two years ago and haven't really written anything in that time. Book blogging gives me the chance to put my thoughts down and write a coherent review about what I have written. It's so nice using my brain in this way that I didn't even realize how much I missed writing until I started blogging!

9) Weekly memes - Find those weekly gatherings (such as this one) make book blogging so much fun! That, and being able to meet tons of other bloggers that I wouldn't be able to otherwise, make blogging so much fun!

10) Being a part of something - I love knowing that I am a part of a community, that I contribute things that people are interested in reading. I love knowing that there are other people out there, who I will probably never meet, but who share similar thoughts and interests as me. I love knowing that, no matter the time of day, I can log on and find new book reviews, learn about other bloggers, and just be a part of something that is so wonderful. I love the book blogging community!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Book Blog Hop and Follow Friday! (6-17-11)

Happy Friday everyone! Another Friday means one thing ... time for the Book Blog Hop and Follow Friday! For my followers, welcome back! For those of you seeing my blog for the first time ... welcome! I'm glad that you decided to check out my blog! Go ahead, look around and learn a little bit more about me! Now, onto the fun ...

“How many books are currently in your To-Be-Read (TBR) Pile?”

Oh goodness, let me see. According to my reading list page on my blog, I have 26 books in my TBR pile. I have another 7-10 that I keep on forgetting to add though. So max, I have 37. That's small compared to most everyone else's piles, but I like having a small, manageable pile. That way, I don't forget/lose books in the piles!

Q. Genre Wars! What's your favorite genre and which book in that genre made it your favorite?

My favorite genre is historical fiction, hands down. I love being able to be truly swept away by a book ... to a different time and place in history. Being able to see how people lived during a certain time period is also fascinating. I tend towards novels set during WWII, although I am open to nearly any kind of book. And I don't know if I can pinpoint one book that started my love of this genre. When I was younger, I LOVED Ann Rinaldi books, so I would have to attribute her with my love for this genre.

So, how many books are waiting for you in your TBR? And what's your favorite genre? I would love to know! Have a great weekend and happy hopping!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner

Fly Away Home
Author: Jennifer Weiner
Publisher: Atria
Published: July 13, 2010
Hardcover: 397 pages
Source: purchased at Borders

My Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (from When Sylvie Serfer met Richard Woodruff in law school, she had wild curls, wide hips, and lots of opinions. Decades later, Sylvie has remade herself as the ideal politician's wife-her hair dyed and straightened, her hippie-chick wardrobe replaced by tailored knit suits. At fifty-seven, she ruefully acknowledges that her job is staying twenty pounds thinner than she was in her twenties and tending to her husband, the senator. 

Lizzie, the Woodruffs' younger daughter, is at twenty-four a recovering addict, whose mantra HALT (Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired?) helps her keep her life under control. Still, trouble always seems to find her. Her older sister, Diana, an emergency room physician, has everything Lizzie failed to achieve-a husband, a young son, the perfect home-and yet she's trapped in a loveless marriage. With temptation waiting in one of the ER's exam rooms, she finds herself craving more. 

After Richard's extramarital affair makes headlines, the three women are drawn into the painful glare of the national spotlight. Once the press conference is over, each is forced to reconsider her life, who she is and who she is meant to be. 

My Thoughts: We live in a country where politicians often make the headlines not for the good work they are doing for the country, but for their infidelity and lying. Jennifer Weiner's latest book explores the infidelity of a politican, Richard Woodruff, and how his life as a politician has affected his wife, Sylvie, and two daughters, Diana and Lizzie. While this is not a groundbreaking plot (given the latest political scandals of Arnold's love child and John Edward's being charged with using campaign funds for his mistress), it is something that I have not really considered before. I certainly had opinions of those women standing behind their husbands as they admitted their wrongdoings and I couldn't help but wonder, "Why are these women standing up there, supporting their cheating husbands?!?" Weiner explores that in her book, about how Sylvie can stand behind her husband at his press conference, announcing his infidelity to the world. Sylvie takes you into that world of the scorned wife, of someone who has spent her life supporting her husband and his political aspirations, and how it can all come crashing down so quickly and leave one feeling stripped of their identity.

The novel is told from 3 different points of view, with the chapters being told from Sylvie, Diana, and Lizzie's points of view. Each woman is struggling with her own issues, so it's easy to relate to at least one of the women in this story. Sylvie is trying to discover who she is and what she wants after years of supporting her husband. Diana is suffering from fidelity issues of her own and the pressures of being a working mother and wife. Lizzie is a recovering addict, trying to live a substance-free life and truly experience a drug-free world. The character's voices don't differ that much, but their stories all come together to tell a story of how family shapes each of us, how the decisions our parents make when we are young will affect us for the rest of our lives.

Weiner is a fabulous writer, one who can craft a story that most of us will never live through, but something that we witness constantly in our society. The cheating spouse and the family that is left to pick up the pieces afterwards. The story is strong, and if the character's voices had differed a little, I would have liked this book even more. I am looking forward to reading more from Weiner in the future and would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for that classic summer read.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Waiting On Wednesday (6-15-11)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where you highlight an upcoming book release that you are eagerly awaiting. It's a great way to meet other bloggers and add some more books to your wishlist (which we all need, haha). My pick this week is Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner (expected publication date: July 12, 2011).

Synopsis (from Jules Wildgren is a Princeton senior with a full scholarship, acquaintances instead of friends, and a family she’s ashamed to invite to parents’ weekend. With the income she’ll receive from donating her “pedigree” eggs, she believes she can save her father from addiction.
Annie Barrow married her high school sweetheart and became the mother to two boys. After years of staying at home and struggling to support four people on her husband’s salary, she thinks she’s found a way to recover a sense of purpose and bring in some extra cash.
India Bishop, thirty-eight (really forty-three), has changed everything about herself: her name, her face, her past. In New York City, she falls for a wealthy older man, Marcus Croft, and decides a baby will ensure a happy ending. When her attempts at pregnancy fail, she turns to technology, and Annie and Jules, to help her dreams come true.
But each of their plans is thrown into disarray when Marcus’s daughter Bettina, intent on protecting her father, becomes convinced that his new wife is not what she seems . . .
With startling tenderness and laugh-out-loud humor, Jennifer Weiner once again takes readers into the heart of women’s lives in an unforgettable, timely tale that interweaves themes of class and entitlement, surrogacy and donorship, the rights of a parent and the measure of motherhood.

So, what are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Book Blog Hop and Follow Friday! (6-10-11)

Happy Friday everyone! Each Friday, Jen at Crazy For Books and Parajunkee post their weekly memes. Each asks a question, you answer, then link up on their respective blogs!

Q. The magic book fairy pops out of your cereal box and says "you and your favorite character (from a book of course) can switch places!" Who are you going to switch with?

My goodness, I can only pick one?!? I don't know if I can limit it down. Ron from Harry Potter has always been one of my favorites, but since anyone from the series will be a popular answer today, I'm going to go with Marie from Madame Tussaud. I keep on thinking back on how much I enjoyed that book and how I really want to read more novels based during the French Revolution. But Marie was such a central player in the revolution that it would be interesting to see how everything happened.

So, who would you trade places with? Let me know! And have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton

Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef
Author: Gabrielle Hamilton
Publisher: Random House
Published: March 1, 2011
Hardcover: 290 pages
Source: purchased at

My Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from Before Gabrielle Hamilton opened her acclaimed New York restaurant Prune, she spent twenty fierce, hard-living years trying to find purpose and meaning in her life. Above all she sought family, particularly the thrill and the magnificence of the one from her childhood that, in her adult years, eluded her. Hamilton’s ease and comfort in a kitchen were instilled in her at an early age when her parents hosted grand parties, often for more than one hundred friends and neighbors. The smells of spit-roasted lamb, apple wood smoke, and rosemary garlic marinade became as necessary to her as her own skin.

Blood, Bones & Butter follows an unconventional journey through the many kitchens Hamilton has inhabited through the years: the rural kitchen of her childhood, where her adored mother stood over the six-burner with an oily wooden spoon in hand; the kitchens of France, Greece, and Turkey, where she was often fed by complete strangers and learned the essence of hospitality; the soulless catering factories that helped pay the rent; Hamilton’s own kitchen at Prune, with its many unexpected challenges; and the kitchen of her Italian mother-in-law, who serves as the link between Hamilton’s idyllic past and her own future family—the result of a difficult and prickly marriage that nonetheless yields rich and lasting dividends.

My Thoughts: As someone who works in the restaurant industry, I was originally drawn to this book for several reasons. For one, I wanted to see what it takes to own and operate a successful Manhattan eatery. I was also curious to see someone else's take on the whole experience. If you have ever worked in food service, whether it be as a dishwasher, a line cook, a waitress ... you know that it is a strange business. Filled with strange people, long hours, and crazy guests, it is an exhausting job. It can be fun, though. I was looking for someone else's view on this crazy business, and Gabrielle Hamilton definitely gave me a different perspective.

The book follows Hamilton from her childhood all the way to her mid-30s, when she is raising her own two children. She chronicles the way that food has shaped her life, from the way that her mother prepared meals to her first job at the age of 13. She was pretty much worked every job in this industry, and she describes many of her experiences in this book. She also describes her exasperation with the food industry, how draining and unrewarding it can be. I loved how she acknowledged the highs and lows, the small things that really make your day (her description of organzing the coolers was so dead on. It's one of the few ways that you feel you can have control and organization in your restaurant, which is why it is one of my favorite things to do), and the small things that can push you over the edge.

Hamilton's writing is superb. She perfectly captures various activities and knows just how to describe them. While her writing and restaurant stories were great, I really didn't enjoy the parts chronicling her home life. Her marriage and children, I just didn't feel a connection between those passages and the other parts of the book. I felt that if she had just focused on her career and life in the restaurant, it would have been a more cohesive book. Overall though, I found Hamilton's story to be engaging, funny, and a great representation of the food and beverage industry. Even if you do not work in this line of business, I think that it would be refreshing to read and learn about this crazy world that she lives in.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (6-8-11)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where you get to highlight an upcoming release that you are looking forward to. This week, my pick is Escape by Barbara Delinsky (expected publication date:July 5,2011).

Synopsis (from Emily Aulenbach is thirty, a lawyer married to a lawyer, working in Manhattan. An idealist, she had once dreamed of representing victims of corporate abuse, but she spends her days in a cubicle talking on the phone with victims of tainted bottled water—and she is on the bottler’s side.
And it isn’t only work. It’s her sister, her friends, even her husband, Tim, with whom she doesn’t connect the way she used to. She doesn’t connect to much in her life, period, with the exception of three things—her computer, her BlackBerry, and her watch.
Acting on impulse, Emily leaves work early one day, goes home, packs her bag, and takes off. Groping toward the future, uncharacteristically following her gut rather than her mind, she heads north toward a New Hampshire town tucked between mountains. She knows this town. During her college years, she spent a watershed summer here. Painful as it is to return, she knows that if she is to right her life, she has to start here.

This book sounds so appealing to me right now, especially since I think about doing something like this every single day. What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday (6-7-11)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, a different topic is posted and you get to create your own top ten list and connect with other bloggers. This week's topic is: Top Ten Favorite Book Settings

1) Hogwarts - come on, who wouldn't want to go here?!?

2) Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil. E Frankweiler) - sleeping in the beds of former kings and queens, surrounded by beautiful art ... who wouldn't want to be in this setting?

3) Pemberley (Pride and Prejudice) - dressing up for fancy balls, spending time out in the beautiful gardens, Mr. Darcy to look at. Once again, I would love to spend my days here.

4) Manhattan (Sex and the City) - after reading (and watching) Carrie live out her days in this city, I long for the days of being able to walk around the city, go to the best restaurants, and soak in all that the city has to offer.

5) Versailles (Madame Tussaud) - if I could skip the whole French Revolution/beheading part, then I would love to spend my days here as a member of the royal court. The gardens are just too beautiful to pass up!

6) Paris (The Invisible Bridge ... or any book set in Paris!) - spending days with Andras as a student, time in small cafes, being in the lavish apartment of Clara. Really, any book in Paris just makes me want to go (which I have decided needs to happen sometime within the next two years!) Seeing the lights reflected in the water at nite, seeing all those cafes, looking at all the pastries ... I'm about to pack my bags right now!

7) New England (All He Ever Wanted by Anita Shreve) - hearing Shreve describe the small New England college town as the backdrop for her story ... it left me wanting to plan a trip up there to see the foilage in the fall. No one can describe a place quite like Anita Shreve

Not quite ten, but that's all that I could think of. So what book settings would you love to visit?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Baker Towers by Jennifer Haigh

Baker Towers
Author: Jennifer Haigh
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Published: January 2006
Paperback: 368 pages
Source: purchased at used book sale

My Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (from Bakerton is a company town built on coal, a town of church festivals and ethnic neighborhoods, hunters' breakfasts and firemen's parades. Its children are raised in company houses - three rooms upstairs, three rooms downstairs. Its ball club leads the coal company league. The twelve Baker mines offer good union jobs, and the looming black piles of mine dirt don't bother anyone. Called Baker Towers, they are local landmarks, clear evidence that the mines are booming. Baker Towers mean good wages and meat on the table, two weeks' paid vacation and presents under the Christmas tree. Born and raised on Bakerton's Polish Hill, the five Novak children come of age during wartime, a thrilling era when the world seems on the verge of changing forever. The oldest, Georgie, serves on a minesweeper in the South Pacific and glimpses life beyond Bakerton, a promising future he is determined to secure at all costs. His sister Dorothy, a fragile beauty, takes a job in Washington, D.C., and finds she is unprepared for city life. Brilliant Joyce longs to devote herself to something of consequence but instead becomes the family's keystone, bitterly aware of the opportunities she might have had elsewhere. Sandy sails through life on looks and charm, and Lucy, the volatile baby, devour's the family's attention and develops a bottomless appetite for love.

My Thoughts: I was drawn to this book because I really wanted to read Jennifer Haigh's latest novel, Faith, but since I didn't want to buy a book that I wasn't sure I would like, I thought this would be a good way to see if I liked Haigh's writing style. Well, the good news is that I really enjoyed Baker Towers and Haigh's writing style. The bad news is that I want to read more of her books!

This book is set during World War II, which really drew me to the book. It follows the 5 children of the Novak family as they grow and mature during the 1940s. With their father dead from year's of work in the local mines, the Novak children without a strong male presence in their lives and an Italian mother who married a Polish man and doesn't fit in with the rest of the Polish women in their neighborhood. The children all experience their small-town life in different yet similar ways. They all recognize that there must be something more out there, but they all all inexplicably drawn back to their home. Haigh's writing is clear and lets the story move quickly. It's descriptive without being too heavy. If there was one thing that I didn't like, it would be that towards the end, I felt like there was too much jumping around between the siblings. Instead of focusing on one sibling, each chapter would feature several of the siblings, which got to be a bit confusing. Also, Sandy was not in the book that much. I kept on wondering what was happening with him, where he was, but I guess we will never know.

If you are looking for a book set in a different time and that moves quickly, I would really recommend this book. Haigh's writing is clear and moves the story along at an enjoyable pace. After reading this, I will definitely be on the look out for more books by this author.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

The Devil Wears Prada
Author: Lauren Weisberger
Publisher: Broadway
Published: 2004
Paperback: 360 pages
Source: purchased at Borders

My Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from Andrea Sachs, a small-town girl fresh out of college, lands the job "a million girls would die for." Hired as the assistant to Miranda Priestly, the high-profile, fabulously successful editor of "Runway magazine, Andrea finds herself in an office that shouts "Prada! Armani! Versace! at every turn, a world populated by impossibly thin, heart-wrenchingly stylish women and beautiful men clad in fine-ribbed turtlenecks and tight leather pants that show off their lifelong dedication to the gym. With breathtaking ease, Miranda can turn each and every one of these hip sophisticates into a scared, whimpering child. THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA gives a rich and hilarious new meaning to complaints about "The Boss from Hell." Narrated in Andrea's smart, refreshingly disarming voice, it traces a deep, dark, devilish view of life at the top only hinted at in gossip columns and over Cosmopolitans at the trendiest cocktail parties. From sending the latest, not-yet-in-stores Harry Potter to Miranda's children in Paris by private jet, to locating an unnamed antique store where Miranda had at some point admired a vintage dresser, to serving lattes to Miranda at precisely the piping hot temperature she prefers, Andrea is sorely tested each and every day--and often late into the night with orders barked over the phone. She puts up with it all by keeping her eyes on the prize: a recommendation from Miranda that will get Andrea a top job at any magazine of her choosing. As things escalate from the merely unacceptable to the downright outrageous, however, Andrea begins to realize that the job a milliongirls would die for may just kill her. And even if she survives, she has to decide whether or not the job is worth the price of her soul. 

My Thoughts: After watching the movie numerous times, I finally got around to reading the book. I was skeptical at first that it would be too different from the movie for me to like, and while it did differ slightly, it was a great read! Told from Andrea Sachs' point of view into the working world of fashion magazines, we are all introduced to one of the many "bosses-from-hell" that I think we all have dealt with. Miranda Priestly is definitely one of the worst, though. Her outrageous demands, the way she talks to others, the way she treats people ... it's just awful! Seeing Andy deal with her antics for nearly a year is comical, sad, and uplifting at the same time. Lauren Weisberger is a great writer, one who truly knows how to dish it out without making her characters too whiny or unreal.

If I had to pick out my favorite part of this book, it would have to be the characters. It's such a diverse group of people in this book and each of them has their own, distinct personality. Weisberger throws a lot of people at you, but it was never overwhelming and it didn't feel like anyone was just there for the sake of being there. Every character contributed something, whether it was Andy's boyfriend Alex with optimism or Emily (Miranda's other assistant) with cruel jabs, which never seemed cruel, each character brings something to the table. Weisberger also does a great job of moving the story along. It would be easy for the book to become depressing with Andy's stories of Miranda's demands, but it moves along and actually seems quite light.

While the book was different from the movie, it was a great read and one that I would recommend to anyone looking for a chick-lit read. It wasn't too gushy with romance, but seeing Andy worklife a year out of college definitely made me feel better about my current boss! It was a great read for summer and something that I think I will definitely read again!