Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

I am one of those psycho Harry Potter fans. I read all of the books, some more than once, and have seen all of the movies a million times. I can't wait to have kids so I can read the series to them. It might be the only reason I would want to have kids. HA. The Harry Potter books may be my favorite books that I have read EVER. Seriously, if you haven't read them I don't know what's wrong with you. I honestly don't know if I can be friends with people who haven't read Harry Potter. They are THAT good.  So, when J.K. Rowling announced that she was going to write a book for adults, I couldn't wait to read it. I pre-ordered it so I wouldn't have to wait in line at the bookstore or be disappointed if  they ran out of copies. I anticipated The Casual Vacancy along with everyone else who is a J.K. Rowling fan.

J.K. Rowling has sold 450 million copies of her books. So, of course people will compare her new book to her Harry Potter series. I was determined not to read any reviews before I read it myself. I made the mistakes of seeing how many stars people were giving it on goodreads. It told me that people were judging it pretty hard. I closed the site and didn't look at anything else until I finished the book.

The Casual Vacancy begins when Barry Fairbrother, a Parish Counselor (a member of their small town government), dies of a brain aneurism. After his death, the town has a "casual vacancy" within the counsel. Sounds pretty boring, but I gave Rowling a chance. The book was difficult to get into initially. I found myself almost blacking out; turning pages but not remembering what they were about. There were so many characters and I couldn't keep them straight!! About a quarter way in, things started to fall into place. I was right to trust the author; the book started to get good.

Rowling has the ability to create characters in a way that the reader can actually understand what they are thinking, see their facial expressions, and interpret their emotions. Very reminiscent of Peyton Place (the New York Times also saw the resemblance), The Casual Vacancy depicts the lives of the inhabitants of a seemingly average small town and examines real life issues; martial woes, teen bullying, rape, heroin abuse, child neglect, socioeconomic status clashing, self-entitlement, mental heath issues, teenage lust, self-mutilation, and domestic violence.

The underlying theme was to examine people on the outside and then discover how different they are when you get inside their heads and know their thoughts. The characters were all twisted; mothers dreaming about underage boys, parents disliking their children, children trying to ruin their parents lives, and teens trying to get pregnant in order to get out of the projects. The story builds up to a final climax which will finally change all of the characters.

Overall, I was slightly let down. I did not enjoy the political side of the story. I did enjoy the way the characters all intertwined with one another and how all of their stories came full circle at the end of the book. It's not memorable based on the plot alone. It was a good; but it is not memorable. I can see myself forgetting the plot all together in a few years. I give the book 3/5 stars for plot and 4/5 stars for character development and theme.

If you are going to read this book, don't compare it to Harry Potter. It is NOTHING like Harry Potter. There is no magic or adventure. Read it with an open mind and without expectations.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Great day at Barnes and Noble!

Yesterday was my designated "sleep in day." I had been planning it for two weeks. I just wanted to SLEEP until I couldn't sleep anymore. I woke up at my usual time of 5:30am, but was able to fall back asleep a few hours at a time until 11. At 11 I woke up, drank some coffee, and then sat down to work on my progress reports for work. After about 3 hours of that, I got sucked into my speech therapy blog addiction. I follow about 3 religiously. ALL I did for the rest of the day until like 12pm that night was get therapy activities online, print, cut, and laminate them. I seriously almost had to call intervention was how bad it got. Anyway, I started planning my therapy for my Tuesday preschool class and I decided to do the book The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid Of Anything. I was too late to get it at the library for the season so I placed an order for my local Barnes and Noble. It's a super good perk that the bookstore has if you ever want to reserve a book for pick up. So, today I go into Barnes and Noble to pick up my ONE book and I left with 5. The woman at the counter introduced me to the Educator's Card which entitles you to 20% off all educational purchases! She also told me that today was the last day of Educator Appreciation Week and that it would apply to personal books as well. I was PUMPED. I ran around the store trying to find other books that I wanted. I had been looking to buy Go Away Big Green Monster by Ed Emberly a few weeks ago (super cute for Pre-K), but I bought that on my iPad yesterday.... It's awesome on the iPad. It comes with a song version! So, I found Where is Baby's Pumpkin? by Karen Katz. It's a great book for  working on basic concepts (under, behind, inside etc). I hammer basic concepts into my preschoolers so I thought this was a great book!! Can't wait to use it this week in therapy.

THEN, I found this section that was BUY TWO GET ONE FREE. I was so excited. Remember my post about When She Woke? The futuristic Scarlet Letter by Hillary Jordan? Well I picked up another book of hers called Mudbound which is apparently better than When She Woke. It has been on my list for a while. I also picked up Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, the author of Gone Girl. I can't wait to read this one. It's a short one (only about 250 pages) which is great. I keep reading really long books. And the last one I picked up is called The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow. I hadn't heard of this book until today, but it looks pretty good. Soo, I just added these three to my never ending collection of books that I have to read. I probably have 30 books on my shelf that I just HAVE TO BUY and then it takes me year to read them.... but I just love buying books. I think I need intensive therapy for my book buying and speech therapy blog addiction. Buy hey, I guess it's better than crack....

Here's a pick of my awesome buys today:

Anyone pick up any good books recently?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

City of Thieves

So the first quarter of the new school year is over at my new job. I am loving my new district and my kids. This job is much more demanding than my last job, so I am sleeping less and working more. My part time job is keeping me busy, too. I get home at 7pm 4 days a week and am literally falling asleep on the couch by 9:30. So lame, I know. So I am getting through books I am actually reading pretty slowly, but I'm still listening to audiobooks quickly because I am in the car so much. This next book actually helped me to get in the car earlier each day before work because I couldn't wait to hear what was going to happen next.

Based during the siege of Leningrad, David Benioff, the author, takes us on a week long adventure with two unforgettable characters. Lev, the story's 17 year old insecure and virginal narrator, comes across a dead German body in his hometown of Leningrad. The army catches him looting the dead German's belongings and arrests him. While in jail he meets Kolya, a 20 year old deserter of the Russian army. Kolya is a romantic, mysterious, and confident womanizer. The unlikely pair form a bond as they are forced to find a dozen eggs for a Russian general in time for his daughter's wedding in exchange for their lives. 

Throughout the mission, Lev and Kolya discover the devastation that the war has brought to Leningrad. They find rooms draped with human body parts, homes inhabited by Russian girls living as German sex slaves, and they endure brutal cold and intense hunger. I literally wanted to close my eyes during the brutal and gruesome descriptions of what the Russian girls lived through. I gasped out loud as I learned what these German soldiers were capable of.

On the surface this story appeared to be a serious novel, however, it was one of the funniest books I have read in a while. Kolya's accounts of his past sexual encounters left me laughing out loud. Lev's reactions to Kolya's endless stories were hilarious. Because he was a horny virgin, Lev was furious with Kolya. He was jealous of Kolya's vast experience. The relationship between Lev and Kolya was what made the book the most memorable for me. Now that the book is over, I find myself missing Kolya.

For those of you you enjoy historical fiction, sexual humor, and adventure this is a book for you. Men and women alike will be sucked into this fast paced story.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Lone Wolf

A few years ago I swore off Jodi Picoult. I loved My Sister's Keeper, Nineteen Minutes, and Plain Truth. After those I started to think they were all the same. Her writing was always the same. But, somehow I was in the library and picked this up on audiobook. I thought I would give her another chance to wow me. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, I was let down. I finished the book thinking SO WHAT?? This book is based upon the controversial topic of whether or not to take loved ones off of life support if there is little to no chance of life without machines. Basically, take that topic and put it into every other Picoult book.Not to say this topic is not interesting, but her books are just not the page turners they once were for me. I'm obviously not the best person to review a Picoult book because I have a bias, so here's her synopsis from her website if you are a Picoult fan:

Edward Warren, 23, has been living in Thailand for five years, a prodigal son who left his family after an irreparable fight with his father, Luke. But he gets a frantic phone call: His dad lies comatose in a NH hospital, gravely injured in the same accident that has also injured his younger sister Cara.
Cara, 17, still holds a grudge against her brother, since his departure led to her parents’ divorce. In the aftermath, she’s lived with her father – an animal conservationist who became famous after living with a wild wolf pack in the Canadian wild. It is impossible for her to reconcile the still, broken man in the hospital bed with her vibrant, dynamic father.
With Luke’s chances for recovery dwindling, Cara wants to wait for a miracle. But Edward wants to terminate life support and donate his father’s organs. Is he motivated by altruism, or revenge? And to what lengths will his sister go to stop him from making an irrevocable decision?
LONE WOLF looks at the intersection between medical science and moral choices. If we can keep people who have no hope for recovery alive artificially, should they also be allowed to die artificially? Does the potential to save someone else’s life with a donated organ balance the act of hastening another’s death? And finally, when a father’s life hangs in the balance, which sibling should get to decide his fate? 


 Are you on Goodreads yet? Check out more books I've read at this awesome site!! :)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Gone Girl

If you are a reader and haven't heard of this book, you have been living under a rock. It's currently #5 on the New York Times bestseller list. I bet it would be higher if it weren't for Fifty Shades. I'd never heard of Gillian Flynn prior to hearing about this book, but after reading this one I think I am going to check out her other books.

 This is not your typical husband allegedly slaughters wife mystery. It's a fast paced psychological thriller with haunting characters. I still find myself cursing the culprit..and being grateful for my normal life. Amy and Nick Dunne are seemingly normal on the surface, but underneath they are both complete psychopaths which is what makes the book different from other mysteries. 

I recommend not reading many reviews before checking this book out. You don't want to know anything before you pick it up. It makes it much more fun. All you need to know is that this book is exciting, full of plot, and will not disappoint you.