Sunday, July 31, 2011

Monthly Wrap-Up: July 2011 2011

Another month has flown by! It's hard to believe that summer is almost over. At the beginning of the month, I was looking forward to reading those books that we call "summer books" ... the easy reads, something light and not too dark or heavy, something that takes us away from where we are. While I have read several of those this month, it's hard to believe that there is only one month of summer left to try and fit all those summer reads in! Here's how my July looked, book-wise:

Number of Books Read: 9 
Reviews Done: 6
Favorite Book of This Month: of the ones I've written reviews for, it would be Faith: A Novel by Jennifer Haigh. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand was my favorite this month, but I have yet to write the review!
Least Favorite Book of this Month: The Secret Lives of Dresses by Erin McKean

I had such a productive reading month! Besides my least favorite book, everything that I read, I really enjoyed! I believe that the sunshine encourages me to read more ... I don't know why, but whenever it's sunny out, I'm drawn out to the comfy chairs on the deck to sit and read. In addition to this, I have acquired some new books (post about that coming soon) and planned my first vacation of the year (VEGAS!). Heading into the last month of summer, I'm hoping to keep up with my reading (this was my busiest reading month to date), and blogging (I have been lacking somewhat in keeping up with postings). I hope that everyone had a great month and here's looking forward to an even better August!

Friday, July 29, 2011

One Day by David Nicholls

One Day
Author: David Nicholls
Publisher: Vintage
Published: April 14, 2004
Paperback: 437 pages
Source: purchased on

My Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from It's 1988 and Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley have only just met. They both know that the next day, after college graduation, they must go their separate ways. But after only one day together, they cannot stop thinking about one another. As the years go by, Dex and Em begin to lead separate lives—lives very different from the people they once dreamed they'd become. And yet, unable to let go of that special something that grabbed onto them that first night, an extraordinary relationship develops between the two. Over twenty years, snapshots of that relationship are revealed on the same day—July 15th—of each year. Dex and Em face squabbles and fights, hopes and missed opportunities, laughter and tears. And as the true meaning of this one crucial day is revealed, they must come to grips with the nature of love and life itself.

My Thoughts: The premise of the book really appealed to me. Seeing two people on the same day every year, seeing where they are in life and where they are in each other's lives. It sounded like it would be an interesting book to read. Tracing Dexter and Emma's journeys from their college graduation until they are in their 40s, David Nicholls writes a beautiful story of growing up, maturing, relationships, jobs, and the difficulties of life during these years. Nicholls writing is very smooth and I never felt as if too much time had passed. His writing is very fluid and you don't miss a beat between each year.

The characters are very well written, too. Dexter comes from a wealthy family where he doesn't have to worry about finding a job after graduation. He takes his time trying to decide what he should do with his life. And while it would be easy to hate Dexter, I didn't. I could definitely relate to his struggle to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. Emma is wonderful character and there were so many points in the book where I felt like I was reading about myself. Now, I don't work in a Mexican restaurant, but I related perfectly to her. Her struggle to find a job that works for her, and when working at a job, knowing that this isn't what she wants to do with her life. I was rooting for her throughout the book, and seeing how her story turned out definitely gives me hope for my own life.

The ending to the book was also well-written and surprising. I won't give anything away, but it's something that you just have to read for yourself. If you are looking for a book to read before the summer is over, I would highly recommend this book. It's the perfect summer read; a little romance, a little hilarity, and a few lessons along the way.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Waiting On Wednesday (7-27-11)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. Each week, you get to highligh an upcoming release that you are eagerly anticipating. This week, my pick is fathermothergod: My Journey Out of Christian Science by Lucia Greenhouse (expected release date: August 9,2011).

Synopsis (from Lucia Ewing had what looked like an all-American childhood. She lived with her mother, father, sister, and brother in an affluent suburb of Minneapolis, where they enjoyed private schools, sleep-away camps, a country club membership, and skiing vacations. Surrounded by a tight-knit extended family, and doted upon by her parents, Lucia had no doubt she was loved and cared for. But when it came to accidents and illnesses, Lucia’s parents didn't take their kids to the doctor's office—they prayed, and called a Christian Science practitioner.  
 fathermothergod is Lucia Greenhouse's story about growing up in Christian Science, in a house where you could not be sick, because you were perfect; where no medicine, even aspirin, was allowed. As a teenager, her visit to an ophthalmologist created a family crisis. She was a sophomore in college before she had her first annual physical. And in December 1985, when Lucia and her siblings, by then young adults, discovered that their mother was sick, they came face-to-face with the reality that they had few—if any—options to save her. Powerless as they watched their mother’s agonizing suffering, Lucia and her siblings struggled with their own grief, anger, and confusion, facing scrutiny from the doctors to whom their parents finally allowed them to turn, and stinging rebuke from relatives who didn’t share their parents’ religious values.   In this haunting, beautifully written book, Lucia pulls back the curtain on the Christian Science faith and chronicles its complicated legacy for her family.  At once an essentially American coming-of-age story and a glimpse into the practices of a religion few really understand,fathermothergod is an unflinching exploration of personal loss and the boundaries of family and faith. 

So, what are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday (7-26-11)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, a new topic is posted and you can create your own top 10 list! This week's topic: books that tackle tough issues.

1) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - this book really spoke to me the first time I read it as a 14 year old. Having to choose the right thing to do when it's not the popular choice is not easy, but it's something that we have to do. This book is one that everyone should read and take the lesson to heart.

2) Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi - tackling the issues of eating disorders, de Rossi takes the reader into her illness. There were several times while I was reading this book that I had to put it down and walk away. It became too much to sit and read all at once. It definitely opened my eyes to something that I knew very little about.

3) The Anti-Romantic Child by Priscilla Gilman - I am not a parent, but reading this book was truly heartbreaking. Gilman's memoir tackles the issue of raising a child with a learning disability (her son had hyperlexia) and the difficulty of dealing with these issues. Whenever someone is pregnant, I don't think they dream of a child with a learning disability, which is what she discusses, how her son (whom she loves dearly) disappointed her dreams for the perfect child.

4) Night by Elie Wiesel - Wiesel's book focuses on his survival in a Nazi concentration camp. Haunting, scary, terrifying ... this book takes you into a world which few survived and shows you the strength that Wiesel had to have in order to survive. I believe that this should be required reading in school.

5) A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith - telling the story of Francie Nolan and her childhood in Brooklyn, Smith shows how living with an alcoholic parent takes a toll on the children, having a mother work to the bone to provide for her family, and the difficulty of growing up in the slums can affect a child. 

That's all that I could think of for this week. What do you think? What are some books that tacke those tough issues?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Secret Lives of Dresses by Erin McKean

The Secret Lives of Dresses
Author: Erin McKean
Publisher: Grand Central
Published: February 10, 2011
Paperback: 304 pages
Source: purchased at Target

My Rating: 2.5 stars

Synopsis (from Dora has always taken the path of least resistance. She went to the college that offered her a scholarship, is majoring in "vagueness studies," and wears whatever shows the least dirt. She falls into a job at the college coffee shop, and a crush on her flirty boss, Gary. 

Just when she's about to test Gary's feelings, Mimi, the grandmother who raised her, suffers a stroke. Dora rushes back home to Forsyth, NC, and finds herself running her grandmother's vintage clothing store. The store has always been a fixture in Dora's life; though she grew up more of a jeans-and-sweatshirt kind of girl, before she even knew how to write, Mimi taught her that a vintage 1920s dress could lift a woman's spirit. 

While working there, Dora befriends Mimi's adorable contractor, Conrad. Is he after Dora, or is working from a different blueprint? And why did Mimi start writing down--and giving away--stories of the dresses in her shop? 

When Mimi dies, Dora can't get out of town fast enough and cedes control of the store to her money-hungry aunt who wants to turn it into a t-shirt shop for tourists. But ultimately, she returns to Forsyth, willing to battle whatever may stand in the way of her staying there. Dora can trade her boring clothes for vintage glamour, but can she trade her boring life for one she actually wants?

My Thoughts: I really wanted to like this book. The plot sounded very interesting, the characters seemed like they would be interesting, but none of it added up to a good read. The plot summary makes it seem like the dresses will play more of a role in the book, but aside from Dora picking out an outfit, there wasn't that much to do with dresses or fashion. The story that was told was kind of bland. I felt that it was slow moving and that I could predict what was going to happen 10 pages before it did happen. And while I sometimes like that predictability in a book, I don't like it when it's so obvious what's going to happen and then the author builds it up for 10 pages. 

Another thing that I did like about this book were the characters. I felt that they were characters and not real people. Dora's aunt and cousin were so stereotypical that it was annoying. The handsome contractor who just falls for Dora on the first day of meeting ... it was just too much. And then there was the main character, Dora. She had no personality whatsoever. I just wanted to scream at her, "Grow up! Get a life!" Unfortunately, you can't yell at a character in a book. She was so weak as a character that it became annoying whenever she would think about what to do. She wasn't written to be a main character, and unfortunately, she was. 

If I had to pick something that I did like about the book, it would be the setting. In a small town in North Carolina, I thought it was a great setting and Erin McKean did a great job of painting a beautful setting for this book. Unfortunately, it was wasted on lackluster characters and no real plot. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Book Blog Hop and Follow Friday! (7-22-11)

Happy Friday everybody! Welcome to my blog, Kristen's Book Nook. For old followers, welcome back! I apologize for my lack of blogging this week, but work has been super crazy, and when I get off, the only thing I want to do is sleep or lie in the pool to get some relief from the heat! But there are a few reviews that will be posted this week. 

If you are hopping on through, welcome! I'm glad that you decided to check out my blog! Look around and leave a comment ... I love visitors and I visit back! Now, onto the fun ...

What’s the ONE GENRE that you wish you could get into, but just can’t?

Like everyone else this week, it would be sci-fi/paranormal/dystopian. Besides Harry Potter, I have never been able to get into these genres. It's just too much work for me, and since I like to read as a means of relaxing, it just becomes a bit too much!

Name 3 authors that you would love to sit down and spend an hour or a meal with just talking about either their books or get advice on writing from?

1) JK Rowling - I know that this is the most popular answer this week, but I would just love to sit and talk with her. I can't imagine having this whole fictional world just inside your head and putting it down on paper ... it just blows my mind!
2) Steig Larsson - I just think that his story is so interesting. To be rejected by publishers for this amazing trilogy and then to have such huge success. I would just like his take on all of it. That, and what inspired him to create Lisbeth Salander!
3) Jennifer Haigh - after recently reading two of her novels, I think she is an amazing writer. I would just like to sit and talk with her about what makes her choose her topics!

So, what genre can you not get into? What about 3 authors who's brains you would just love to pick? Let me know and have a great Friday!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Faith: A Novel by Jennifer Haigh

Faith: A Novel
Author: Jennifer Haigh
Publisher: Harper
Published: May 1 2011
Hardcover: 304 pages
Source: purchased at Borders

My Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from It is the spring of 2002 and a perfect storm has hit Boston. Across the city's archdiocese, trusted priests have been accused of the worst possible betrayal of the souls in their care. In Faith, Jennifer Haigh explores the fallout for one devout family, the McGanns.
Estranged for years from her difficult and demanding relatives, Sheila McGann has remained close to her older brother Art, the popular, dynamic pastor of a large suburban parish. When Art finds himself at the center of the maelstrom, Sheila returns to Boston, ready to fight for him and his reputation. What she discovers is more complicated than she imagined. Her strict, lace-curtain-Irish mother is living in a state of angry denial. Sheila's younger brother Mike, to her horror, has already convicted his brother in his heart. But most disturbing of all is Art himself, who persistently dodges Sheila's questions and refuses to defend himself.
As the scandal forces long-buried secrets to surface, Faith explores the corrosive consequences of one family's history of silence—and the resilience its members ultimately find in forgiveness. Throughout, Haigh demonstrates how the truth can shatter our deepest beliefs—and restore them. A gripping, suspenseful tale of one woman's quest for the truth, Faith is a haunting meditation on loyalty and family, doubt and belief. Elegantly crafted, sharply observed, this is Jennifer Haigh's most ambitious novel to date.

My Thoughts: Dealing with one of the tough issues that plagued our nation a few years ago, Jennifer Haigh writes a novel dealing with the priest molestations that were rampant a few years ago. With such a heavy topic, it would be easy for the book to become depressing but Haigh makes it more of a mystery, leaving the reader to decide for themselves what happened between her brother Art (the priest) and Aidan (the young boy). The story is narrated by Art's sister Sheila, who gives you a little family history and then fast-forwards to the present day and follows Art's tribulations as he deals with the accusations.

Instead of focusing on whether Art is guilty or not, Sheila spends most the novel detailing how her family is affected by the events. Their brother handles it differently than their mother, who handles it differently than Sheila. It isn't so much Art's story as the McGann family story. I don't want to go into too much detail because it was such a good book. Haigh's writing is clear, her characters alive and real, the topic relevant. It's something that I think anybody would enjoy. It is not accusing the Catholic church of wrongdoing or saying that all priests are bad. But it does show how a scandal such as this can rock not only the country, but the individual families. After finishing this book and Baker Towers (link to my review), I cannot wait to read more of Haigh's work.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The End of an Era

I normally shy away from posts like this, but with the last Harry Potter movie being released, I just couldn't resist. For many of us, this series is something magical. Something that we discovered many, many years ago, fell in love with, and have kept up with over the years. We have waited in lines at midnite release BOOK parties (it's weird to think about ever staying in a bookstore all day waiting for a book, but when it's Harry, it's weird to not stay up all nite and wait) and midnite showings of the latest films. We have grown up with these characters, and their journey has become a part of our own. We have grown to love and loathe some of them, forgive others, and learned about a magical world. 

I started reading Harry when I was 13. It's crazy to think back all those years. But Harry was there, during those awkward middle school years. He was there with me when I was in high school. He even came away with me to college. It's strange to think that a book (or book series) stays with you that long, but there was no other way about it. Harry was like a part of my family, and no matter what, he was always there when I needed him.

When I saw the movie yesterday, I couldn't help but cry. I had grown up with these characters. I felt like I was experiencing Hogwarts with them. Now, to know that this truly is the end, that there will be no more midnite book/movie releases, it marks the end of my childhood. Yes, I realize that I am 23, work a full-time management job and have bills, but I truly feel like this is the end of an era. I will always look back on those years fondly, not only because of what was going on in my personal life, but because there was always that movie or book coming out. There were people to talk to about it (since it's hard to find people who love books as much as I do). I met one of my very best friends thanks to Harry (at college, she and I bonded over our love of Harry and the Backstreet Boys ... obviously, we were cool). It was just a huge part of my life, and it's sad to think that it's over. I don't know if there will ever be another book/book series that is like Harry Potter. I don't think that there will be, but who knows. 

I do know this: this is not good-bye. Whenever I want to relieve those good-old days, Harry is only a page (or DVD) away, and he, Hermione, Ron, and Hogwarts will always be there. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Book Blog Hop and Follow Friday! (7-15-11)

Happy Friday everyone! I hope that everyone is ready for a fun and relaxing weekend ... since I had to work last nite (which means I don't get off work until 1 am), there was no midnite showing of Harry Potter for me. Hopefully I will be seeing it today or tomorrow, though! If this is your first time stopping by my blog, welcome! I have pretty eclectic reading tastes, so hopefully there is something that you will like! For old followers, welcome back!

Jen at Crazy for Books hosts the Book Blogger Hop. This week's question:
How/Where do you get your books? Do you buy them or go to the library? Is there a certain website you use like paperbackswap?

Most of my books are bought at Borders or from my library's used book sale. During the summer months are library has a huge crush of readers (everyone wants to read during the summer!) so the pickings are slim, but I'm hoping to get back there once fall rolls around. I believe it's important to support local libraries, especially with all these buget cuts going on across the country. Don't want to lose the libraries!

Follow Friday is hosted by Parajunkee. This week's question:

What do I do when I am not reading?

Work! No joke ... a restaurant manager's life isn't very glamorous, unfortunately. It's at least 50 hour work weeks, add that to the 30-40 minute drive each way to work, and the fact that I never have a set schedule week to week. Luckily, I have a weekend this week (off today and tomorrow), but I'm usually not so lucky. When not working or reading, I like to workout, watch movies and my favorite TV shows (The Office, Glee), and hang out with friends. Pretty normal stuff!

What do you do when you aren't reading? Let me know ... and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Waiting On Wednesday (7-13-11)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. Just highlight an upcoming release that you cannot wait to come out! This week, my choice is The Latern: A Novel by Deborah Lawerson (expected release date: August 9, 2011).

Synopsis (from A modern gothic novel of love, secrets, and murder—set against the lush backdrop of Provence
Meeting Dom was the most incredible thing that had ever happened to me. When Eve falls for the secretive, charming Dom in Switzerland, their whirlwind relationship leads them to Les GenÉvriers, an abandoned house set among the fragrant lavender fields of the South of France. Each enchanting day delivers happy discoveries: hidden chambers, secret vaults, a beautiful wrought-iron lantern. Deeply in love and surrounded by music, books, and the heady summer scents of the French countryside, Eve has never felt more alive.
But with autumn’s arrival the days begin to cool, and so, too, does Dom. Though Eve knows he bears the emotional scars of a failed marriage—one he refuses to talk about—his silence arouses suspicion and uncertainty. The more reticent Dom is to explain, the more Eve becomes obsessed with finding answers—and with unraveling the mystery of his absent, beautiful ex-wife, Rachel.
Like its owner, Les GenÉvriers is also changing. Bright, warm rooms have turned cold and uninviting; shadows now fall unexpectedly; and Eve senses a presence moving through the garden. Is it a ghost from the past or a manifestation of her current troubles with Dom? Can she trust Dom, or could her life be in danger?
Eve does not know that Les GenÉvriers has been haunted before. BÉnÉdicte Lincel, the house’s former owner, thrived as a young girl within the rich elements of the landscape: the violets hidden in the woodland, the warm wind through the almond trees. She knew the bitter taste of heartbreak and tragedy—long-buried family secrets and evil deeds that, once unearthed, will hold shocking and unexpected consequences for Eve.

So, what are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday (7-12-11)

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Each week, a different topic is posted, then you create your own top ten list! This week's topic is: author's you'd die to meet.

1) JK Rowling - seriously, who wouldn't want to meet this lady? I find it fascinating that this whole magical world is inside her head. Even if we didn't discuss books, I just think she would be a cool person to meet and talk to.

2) Jane Austen - she would be interesting to meet. I would love to know what she thought about all these classic characters she created ... and if she ever envied the lives that she created for them, but that was lacking in her own life.

3) Robert Frost - okay, he's not really an author, but his poetry is just so beautiful. I would love to take a walk with him.

4) Harper Lee - I would just want to know why she never wrote again! I think it's something that everyone who has ever read her book have wondered about.

5) Tina Fey - just because I loved her memoir, Bossypants (link to my review)! Literally, the book had me laughing out loud!

6) David Sedaris - once again, just because he is so funny. I would love to go to one of his book readings!

7) Ernest Hemingway - I have never liked Hemingway's writing, but I think he would be interesting to meet. Everything that I have read about him, he seems like such a character!

Well, that's all I could think of this week. Which authors are you dying to meet?

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz

The Sweet Life in Paris
Author: David Lebovitz
Publisher: Broadway
Published: April 25, 2009
Hardcover: 304 pages
Source: purchased at library sale

My Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (from Like so many others, David Lebovitz dreamed about living in Paris ever since he first visited the city in the 1980s. Finally, after a nearly two-decade career as a pastry chef and cookbook author, he moved to Paris to start a new life. Having crammed all his worldly belongings into three suitcases, he arrived, hopes high, at his new apartment in the lively Bastille neighborhood. 

But he soon discovered it's a different world en France.

From learning the ironclad rules of social conduct to the mysteries of men's footwear, from shopkeepers who work so hard not to sell you anything to the etiquette of working the right way around the cheese plate, here is David's story of how he came to fall in love with—and even understand—this glorious, yet sometimes maddening, city.

When did he realize he had morphed into un vrai parisien? It might have been when he found himself considering a purchase of men's dress socks with cartoon characters on them. Or perhaps the time he went to a bank with 135 euros in hand to make a 134-euro payment, was told the bank had no change that day, and thought it was completely normal. Or when he found himself dressing up to take out the garbage because he had come to accept that in Paris appearances and image mean everything. 

The more than fifty original recipes, for dishes both savory and sweet, such as Pork Loin with Brown Sugar–Bourbon Glaze, Braised Turkey in Beaujolais Nouveau with Prunes, Bacon and Bleu Cheese Cake, Chocolate-Coconut Marshmallows, Chocolate Spice Bread, Lemon-Glazed Madeleines, and Mocha–Crème Fraîche Cake, will have readers running to the kitchen once they stop laughing. 

My Thoughts: I have always wanted to go to Paris (hopefully, I will have had my first visit within the next year). I have always felt a connection to Paris, that it was calling to me. I don't know why, but I have always known that I just have to go there. David Lebovitz's book allowed me to journey to Paris without spending a dime on airfare, hotel, chocolate, or the incredible pastries that the French are known for. Lebovitz moved to France to pursue his culinary interests. After working in posh restaurants in San Francisco for 20 years and 2 cookbooks, Lebovitz was ready for a change. And for a chef, what better place to lose yourself than Paris? Unfortunately, he knew no French, had no family or friends there, and was trying to battle with the difficulties of moving to a foreign country and dealing with all the government paperwork. Lebovitz highlights his move to Paris and the difficulties that ensued. And, to make the book even better, at the end of each chapter, he includes a few recipes that will leave your mouth watering.

Lebovitz humorously tells you about his life in Paris, from battling his way down a sidewalk to facing his childhood fear of squid to dealing with employees in French stores. He tells each story in a chapter, focusing on a particular item or issue that he faces in Paris. He tells each chapter with humor and balancing the viewpoints of Americans and Parisians. I felt like I was walking the streets with Lebovitz, experiencing his life in Paris, from his favorite chocolate shops to cafes to small stores that he likes to shop in. After finishing his book, I cannot wait to travel to Paris and experience all that this wonderful city has to offer ... including all those delicious pastries!

I read this book as part of Paris in July, a month-long feature being hosted by Karen at BookBath.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Water for Elephants
Author: Sara Gruen
Publisher: Algonquin
Published: April 6, 2006
Paperback: 335 pages
Source: purchased at Borders

My Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski's ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell. 

Jacob was there because his luck had run out - orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on this locomotive 'ship of fools'. It was the early part of the Great Depression, and everyone in this third-rate circus was lucky to have any job at all. Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, was there because she fell in love with the wrong man, a handsome circus boss with a wide mean streak. And Rosie the elephant was there because she was the great gray hope, the new act that was going to be the salvation of the circus; the only problem was, Rosie didn't have an act - in fact, she couldn't even follow instructions. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.

My Thoughts: Jacob Jankowski, the narrator of this story, reflects back on his life as he sits in a nursing home, waiting to see the circus that has come to town. For a few months of Jacob's life, he works on a traveling circus during the 1930s. After the death of his parents, Jacob feels lost and unconnected to anything in the world, so he jumps a train, ready to be swept away to a new place. The train that he jumps is the Benzini Brother's circus train, and he becomes the show's new vet. For a few months, he is swept up in the circus life, taking care of the animals, living life on the train, and falling in love with Marlena, the star of the equestrian, who also happens to be the wife of his boss. Jacob is literally swept into the high stakes world of being a part of a traveling circus.

To me, this book is the reason why I love reading so much. Being caught up in the life of a Depression-era circus, a stampede of exotic animals, en elephant as a main characters ... only a book can sweep you away like that. I love how Sara Gruen told the story, with 93 year old Jacob reflecting back on his memories, and then flashing back to the present, where he is waiting to be swept up by the circus, once again. I thought that her writing was flawless and I instantly felt for both young and old Jacob. To be able to connect with a character is a crucial part of any story (for me), so being able to connect with a young man who is struggling with grief and no real plans for his life, and the old man who is struggling with connecting with his family, I loved. 

The setting was gorgeous, the characters flawed but still intriguing, and the story one that truly swept me away and made me want to run away and join the cirucs! If I have one bad thing to say about this book, it is that is was too short! I will definitely be checking out more of Gruen's work!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Waiting On Wednesday (7-6-11)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jen at Breaking the Spine. Each week, you highlight an upcoming release that you are looking forward to! It's a great way to connect with other bloggers and add even more books to your TBR pile! This week's pick: Burnt Mountain by Anne Rivers Siddons (expected release date: July 19, 2011).

Synopsis (from Growing up, the only place tomboy Thayer Wentworth felt at home was at her summer camp - Camp Sherwood Forest in the North Carolina Mountains. It was there that she came alive and where she met Nick Abrams, her first love...and first heartbreak.
Years later, Thayer marries Aengus, an Irish professor, and they move into her deceased grandmother's house in Atlanta, only miles from Camp Edgewood on Burnt Mountain where her father died years ago in a car accident. There, Aengus and Thayer lead quiet and happy lives until Aengus is invited up to the camp to tell old Irish tales to the campers. As Aengus spends less time at home and becomes more distant, Thayer must confront dark secrets-about her mother, her first love, and, most devastating of all, her husband.

So, what are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

A Visit From the Good Squad
Author: Jennifer Egan
Publisher: Anchor
Published: 2010
Paperback: 340 pages
Source: purchased from

My Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from Jennifer Egan’s spellbinding interlocking narratives circle the lives of Bennie Salazar, an aging former punk rocker and record executive, and Sasha, the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Although Bennie and Sasha never discover each other’s pasts, the reader does, in intimate detail, along with the secret lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs, over many years, in locales as varied as New York, San Francisco, Naples, and Africa.
We first meet Sasha in her mid-thirties, on her therapist’s couch in New York City, confronting her long-standing compulsion to steal. Later, we learn the genesis of her turmoil when we see her as the child of a violent marriage, then as a runaway living in Naples, then as a college student trying to avert the suicidal impulses of her best friend. We plunge into the hidden yearnings and disappointments of her uncle, an art historian stuck in a dead marriage, who travels to Naples to extract Sasha from the city’s demimonde and experiences an epiphany of his own while staring at a sculpture of Orpheus and Eurydice in the Museo Nazionale. We meet Bennie Salazar at the melancholy nadir of his adult life—divorced, struggling to connect with his nine-year-old son, listening to a washed-up band in the basement of a suburban house—and then revisit him in 1979, at the height of his youth, shy and tender, reveling in San Francisco’s punk scene as he discovers his ardor for rock and roll and his gift for spotting talent. We learn what became of his high school gang—who thrived and who faltered—and we encounter Lou Kline, Bennie’s catastrophically careless mentor, along with the lovers and children left behind in the wake of Lou’s far-flung sexual conquests and meteoric rise and fall.

My Thoughts: For months, I had debated whether or not to buy this book. I saw it when it first came out, then a few weeks later, then months later. For some reason, it just never made the leap into my basket. After it had won the Pulitzer, I figured that maybe I was missing something. That there had to be something worth checking out. While I do not think that this book is on the level of many other classics, it is a good story (for most of the book). Each chapter is told from a different person's point of view. Sometime it's first person, sometimes it's third. Sometimes you instantly know who is talking, and other times, it takes awhile to figure out (for me, I sometimes had no idea who it was!) It jumps around from the 1970s to the future, with no real plot. Each chapter teaches you something about the people who are involved in Bennie and Sasha's lives. The variety of characters was interesting for me, but made it difficult to follow at times. You don't actually have that many chapters from Bennie or Sasha, so it really is up to you to keep track of the characters, what year you are in, and how they relate to one of the two main characters.

My favorite part of the whole book was the second to last chapter; it was a PowerPoint presentation. It is a slide journal done by Sasha's daughter. She chronicles the lives of her mother, father, and brother with the various techniques that you can add to a PowerPoint slide. It was so interesting to see how technology affects kids. Instead of a normal journal, she keeps all of her thoughts in slides. That's how her brain thinks. It's scary to sit back and think about what all of this technology will do to us and our children in the future.

My least favorite part of the book? That last chapter. It goes on for well over 20 pages and is told from the future, where babies somehow choose what music will be popular and everyone has headsets (I think they are like full blown computers that are the size of a tiny flip phone ... not really sure though). While the rest of the book was good and I could follow, this chapter really threw me. I couldn't process it all ... I don't know if it was because it was set in the future or they were speaking in a weird text language. It really turned me off to the rest of the book.

This might be the hardest book that I have ever had to write a review for. I didn't love it, I didn't hate it. There were so many characters, but not too many that I couldn't keep track of everyone. It was interesting, and at times boring. Once again, I don't know if it is one of the greatest books ever written, but it's something that everyone should check out.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Book Blog Hop and Follow Friday! (7-1-11)

Happy Friday and 4th of July weekend to you all! If you are stopping by my blog for the first time, welcome! My name is Kristen (hence, Kristen's Book Nook) and I enjoy a wide variety of books. So go ahead, look around, and I hope you like my little blog! For my old followers, welcome back! So, now on with the fun ...

What keeps you reading beyond the first few pages of a book, and what makes you want to stop reading a book and put it back on the shelf?

I always give a book more than the first few pages. It sometimes needs time to develop into something, so I try not to judge too quickly. However, if I reach the half way point and it's still nothing happening, I decide it's time to end. It has to be an interesting plot, well-written, and the characters HAVE to be engaging. I hate a book where the characters are lack-luster. That's what really turns me off from a book.

Q. ACK! Your favorite book/movie character (example Hermione Granger played by the Emma chick) just walked into the room! Who is it and what would be your first reaction? You get extra points if you include visual stimulation.

I would have to say Rupert Grint (Ron from Harry Potter). I don't know why, but the facial expressions he makes just make me giggle! If I met him, I would probably try not to bother him. It's strange, but being a celebrity would get to be annoying with people coming up to you all the time, so I wouldn't want to be one of those annoying people who bugs them or creeps them out. It's weird, I know, but if I were in his shoes, I wouldn't want that happening to me all the time!

So, who's your movie character freak out? Let me know (leave a link) ... I love to know what other people think! And have a happy and safe 4th of July weekend!