Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I realize I am a little late on this favorite books trend we got going, but I will still put in my two-cents =)

In no specific order.

1. As mentioned by Cat, Handle With Care is my favorite Jodi Picoult book. Of course, I never think you can go wrong with Jodi though :)

2. WHITE OLEANDER- this obviously doesn't help seeing as everyone else has already read it.

3. The hour I First Believed - really a great book to get you thinking and the author is a fabulous writer (also try "I Know This Much is True" by the same author)

4. I recently read this: "The Bitch in the House" It's a series of short stories from women (mostly on the East Coast) who bitch about their predetermined roles as mothers, lovers, and singles. It's really interesting and quite entertaining.

That's all I got for now!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

You guys are going to kill me, as I have MORE Picoult books to add to the list of favorites:

1. The Pact - Jodi Picoult (My favorite Picoult novel is a story about a high school couple who are torn apart when one commits suicide and the other gets charged with murder, don't worry I didn't ruin anything as this is all said on the first page). Also, Handle with Care is her latest and I know is one of Julia's faves.

2. Freakonomics -by those Steven guys haha!

3. Light Chicklit reads include: All of Emily Giffith's books (Something Borrowed and Something Blue are the first two)

4. On my "to read next" list includes: The Help by Kathryn Stockett (it's supposed to be PHENOMENAL) and Shanghai Girls -Lisa See

Right now I'm reading One Fifth Avenue by: Candace Bushnell (author os SATC, duh) but it's kind of slow and lacking. Blah.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Hi C Lee!

Well, my favorites of all time are:

* White Oleander (which I know you ADORE)
* When the Nines Roll Over by David Benioff
* Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk
* My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
* Naked by David Sedaris
* Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
* The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (I hated it in high school, but have re-read it a couple times since then and have absolutely fallen in love)
* The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
* Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (focused on writing, but very creative, story-like, wonderful)

Hope that helps get you back on the reading train. =)

p.s. I am ashamed to admit that I got sucked into the whole Twilight madness. I read the first book and couldn't stop. I was gonna take it to the grave, but I figured I'd get it off my chest. lol Oh dear.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


It is clear I have not been my usual literary self lately. To get me started again (without having to resort to the "T" word...) what are your absolute favorite books of all time?

Some of mine:

Tree Grows in Brooklyn
White Oleander
Pretty Little Dirty
The Sun Also Rises

there are more, but that's all I can remember for now. Let me know your faves so I can check them out and hop back onto the readiiiiiiiiiingggggg rainboooowwwwwww.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Nazis, Sex, and a Dozen Eggs

"City of Thieves" by David Benioff

This is the story of a character named Lev Beniov and his accomplice Kolya who are assigned an impossible mission during the Nazi blockade of Leningrad. Lev is an intelligent, awkward, self-doubting 19-year-old Jewish boy trekking across the country with Kolya, the Slavic sex god who was imprisoned for wartime infractions. They are both summoned by the street police to go on an impossible mission of finding the Colonel’s daughter a dozen eggs for her wedding cake. Once done, they will get their ration cards back, be set free from jail, and allowed to go back to their families and towns, or whatever was left of them.

Despite the graphic details of the book as the two trudge from town to town and witness starvation, war, savagery, and killings, Benioff seems to insert almost irrelevant spits of humor and inanity – reminding the reader that our narrator is only 19 and has been shoved into war times barely with any chest hair or a place to call his own. He plays on the absurdity of the human condition and how sometimes we are compromised even in times of great struggle.

He travels quickly between humor and devastation, and I guarantee you will laugh out loud and cry a few times while reading this book. To quote a NY Times journalist, “Benioff reminds us what a beautifully ambiguous world we live in,” and it’s true. I promise you will not want to put this down.

If you like the novel and are interested in any of his other work, I’ve also recently finished “When the Nines Roll Over,” which is a collection of short stories by Benioff – they are lovely in so many sad and beautiful ways.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Hour I First Believed

Wally Lamb does it again.  Another engaging novel with thoughtful research to support the historical events throughout the book.   Don't expect to read this novel in a couple of days, but do expect to go on a journey with the main character Caelum Quirk.

The novel stems from the shootings at Columbine in 1999.  Lamb includes the real names of the survivors and victims from Columbine and does extensive research on Harris and Klebold to contribute accurate facts to the book.  To say the least, those were two men who were either evil or mentally ill.  We'll never know the answer.  The 750 pages don't focus entirely on Columbine but rather on 4 items that I gathered from the novel: Chaos Theory, PTSD, adultery, and spiritual journeys. Fear not my friends who are not drawn to religious novels, because this is by no means a preachy novel.  In fact Caelum Quirk laughs at those who use faith to get through tough times.

The weird concept of Chaos Theory that gets Caelum's head turning may be something we have thought about before.  It essentially is cause and effect.  What event triggers the event of CHAOS? For Eric and Dylan was it being bullied?  What if one less kid provoked them?  None the less there were events that lead to the chaos of Columbine and then there are events that stem from Columbine.  Ironically I was watching the show Intervention and the man in trouble was a Columbine bully who resorted to drugs to ease his pain.  If Columbine never happened he wouldn't be a drug user, his family wouldn't be in distress, and his mom wouldn't have resorted to drugs because she couldn't handle her sons actions.  It's interesting to think about....

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a huge part of the novel.  It's frustrating as a reader because you just went to yell "get over it you are ruining your life!".  Easy to say, not so easy when certain things people say trigger your mind, certain sounds remind you of the experience, certain smells....

And HOLY ADULTERY.  I am beginning to wonder if anyone is faithful these days!

Lastly and most importantly is the spiritual journey or quest of Caelum Quirk.  He goes through so much (I would be pissed and angry all the time too).  It makes you wonder if there is an hour you will first believe or maybe you've already had it.  The hour to first believe in ourselves, each other, or perhaps something greater.

Book gets an A+ for sure..... Kolleen you should read it!! 

Friday, September 11, 2009

gods in Alabama

It took me three days to read this would have only been two had drinking not taken place on one of these nights.

In this book, Joshilyn Jackson grabs you in the first chapter and makes it hard to put away. "There are gods in Alabama: Jack Daniel's, high school quarterbacks, trucks, big tits, and also Jesus. I left one back there myself..."

It's a good book about human relationships, racism, and love.  It's about a couple living in Chicago making a trek back to the narrator's hometown...Possett, Alabama.  Did I mention the boyfriend is black and she is white?  Of course that's where some drama comes in, but the book is moreso about rape and murder.  It's quick and easy if your looking for an uncomplicated lay.  Whammy!!!!

Now, I'm reading Wally Lamb's latest book, "The Hour I First Believed".  I can only stay away from books about tragedy for so long.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Pennies for Peace

Oh Julia, I'm glad you finally finished it. I would have to agree with the B+ you gave it. As much as I love the book, it took me a while to get into it and to stay into it. The one part of the book that I really loved was the start of the Pennies for Peace drive (or in the book the "Pennies for Pakistan" drive), the real climax of the book I suppose. He writes,

"Children had taken the first step toward building the school. And they did it with something that is basically worthless in our society – pennies. But overseas, pennies can move mountains.”

It's amazing that something so small could make such a huge difference around the world. And overall, that's the impact the book had on me. It reminded me that even through failure (with his K2 attempt), you can rise up and find good in things and make life and the world around you better than how you found it. =)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Three Cups O' Tea and then some

So I FINALLY finished this book.  I'm pretty much used to light reads, but this one gave me a lot to think about.  This man made it his quest to build schools (55 to be exact) in Afghanistan and Pakistan because he was so moved by the poverty and gender discrimination he saw on his failed summit of the mountain called K2.  I think the most powerful part of this book is the fact that he lived and breathed every day thinking about how to help these people.  His ambitions go through some rocky territory as well as some of his relationships back in the United States.  The message of the book is powerful though, one person can help change the world.  

I am currently looking into teaching English in Korea, and coincidentally this book happened to be the one I was reading.  To say the least it is swaying me towards leaving the States and doing good elsewhere.  I think sometimes we have all these ambitions to help others, but most of the time they are just ambitions and we tend to help ourselves first.  I will be the first to admit that sometimes I am more talk than I am action.  This book made me realize I need to make some changes.

On a journalistic note, it was funny reading what the main character (Mortenson) thought of journalists post 9/11 in his foreign territory.  He pretty much thought they were vultures and missing the story that was out there (something that would make our J-School professors cringe at).  He even suggested that the journalists should have paid for some of the interviewees dinners and then they would have gotten a better story.....I think I started yelling at this point, "That's journalistically unethical".  

Do I recommend this book? Absolutely.  You do however need time to digest this book because it is not a quick read.  I want to know what my lovely Logey ended up thinking of this book.  My grade is a B+ (It took me awhile to get into it!)

In a side note, Elizabeth Gilbert is having a book published in January called Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage.  My question is how can you write a book (Eat, Pray, Love) on being ok with being on your own and then GET MARRIED.  As far as I'm concerned she is on my shit-list right now.  Alas, I will be reading her book in January.  She better have a good excuse for herself.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Devil Comes to Orekhovo

When the Nines Roll Over & Other Stories by David Benioff

For those of you who have waning attention spans and have trouble finishing an entire book before you start the next one, this collection of short stories might be perfect for you. David Benioff wrote The City of Thieves, which was incredible, and he didn’t fail to impress me with these short stories.

It is a collection of eight people and snippets of their transformations and some of the character-changing events in their lives. Not only do you get to know each character better than you might like, you almost feel every stage of agony, every humiliation, rebellion, and desire that each experiences. A single moment of clarity or sadness is illuminated by humorous flip sides with political undertones. And every story has a twist that you don’t quite see coming. Benioff is honestly a storytelling force. I breezed through this 223-page book in 2 days, unable to put it down or even take it out of my bag.

Just to give you a sneak peak, I’m including a snippet of one story so you can get a taste of his writing and what you might expect if you run across it in the near future.

“Every time I look out my window I see the city where you live, and I wonder where you are, and what you’re doing, hidden behind the stacks of tall buildings. Nothing so mundane as laundry or grocery s hopping – no, the laws of bad reality don’t apply to you, you give birth to dead fathers.

Somewhere in the city Leonard exists, haunting the mind of another blessed suitor. I’m in mourning for a man who never was, that’s true, but I still expect to meet Leonard one day, playing dice in the back room of a sawdust bar, a crude mermaid tattooed on his forearm, a battered copy of Moby Dick in the pocket of his leather jacket. I’ll buy him a glass of whiskey and listen to his stories.”

Grade: A

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Pedophilia, Classics, Murderers..All In A Day's Read

I've just finished a whole slew of books which is typical for me. I don't savor and pour over books. I read them like my dog drinks water after lying in the sun for hours. If this isn't a clear enough metaphor, let's just say I devour them.

The first I will mention here is Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates by Tom Robbins. After sending out a little facebook query, three people from totally separate segments of my life recommended Tom Robbins. That's a sign if I ever saw one. This book has some parts that made me queasy due to the main character's lust for his teenage stepsister (it's not cute like stepsibling love in Clueless), still I haven't read something this funny in a while. Also it took me a few weeks to get through (read: a looong time for me) because there was lots of extremely garrulous repartee. That's right, kids, words I didn't know! It excited me to no end. Robbins doesn't hide his love for words or his thoughts on the silly American way of life. He has a way of making bizarre Amazon tribes look more put together than CIA officials and I wondered the whole time...isn't that the truth? Robbins' social commentary is funny enough that you don't have to be a flaming liberal (though you will enjoy it more) to appreciate the plot and subtle jokes. Also even though it takes place in modern day the reality isn't too real. So just relax and get in the mind of a far out hippie dude for a bit.

I tend to be stuck on classics, because I feel Classic Guilt - or the pressing need to read every book listed on those Top 100 Books of All Time lists. This summer I made a conscious effort to meander off classics for a while.

I read the following mediocre books and saved you time by listing the quality book you should read instead:
1. You Shall Know Our Velocity! by Dave Eggers (Swap for: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius)
2. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig (Swap for: Siddhartha by Herman Hesse)
3. Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman. (Swap for: Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs)

Just because I preach these to whomever is listening.... As a hardcore Illinoisan I would recommend Manhunt: The 12-day Chase for Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson. I would not lead you astray to some boring presidential retelling. This book is chock full of details but still reads like a solid murder mystery. Also I walk by the Ford's Theatre where Lincoln was killed every day on my way to work. I hope to see his ghost soon and give him a hug.

Secondly, check out The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. This is great if you like Chicago, World's Fair history, architecture, and/or gory mass-murderers. Yes, you can have it all! Plus it's nice to read some nonfiction that is palatable. It also helps develop great trivia for happy hour.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

It's the climb.

Typical, Julia. Typical. I kind of love this blog, though. Also, put the Holocaust book down.

I adored Eat, Pray, Love as well. It makes me think that even if we fuck up our decisions right now about where to go in life, stay in a relationship too long or never realize what we want... we'll figure it all out some day.

I thought My Sister's Keeper had an original story idea, was well written and had interesting characters, but it was SO hyped up before I read it; I don't know if it had a fair shot to make it into my favorite-books-of-all-time list. Cat- thanks for the shout out recommendation for Plain Truth. Although I'm not in crim. law this semester, it sounds interesting. Chels- I only got mid-way through Water for Elephants, too. Not to mention 10 other books (Julia you know I've been working on White Teeth for 4 years now).

Now that I've spent all this time responding and commenting to other bloggers... let me tell you how absolutely devoted I am to Jon Krakauer (Author of Into The Wild). While that book is one of my favorites, I recently read his book Into Thin Air and recommend it whole-heartedly.

Krakauer is a journalist (!) at Outside Magazine, and writes non-fiction, outdoorsy, extreme circumstances types of books. He is everything I'd want to be as a journalist and writer. Many of us spent years in the j-school learning how to one day maybe write and research this well. (ps. another survivor of the expedition wrote a book refuting some of Krakauer's assertions, mostly because he didn't like the observations Krakauer printed about him. However, Krakauer and his editors have explained their research and comments- we all know that journalists can get slack for telling truths that some people don't want to hear).

Anyway, Into Thin Air, is an intensely honest account of an expedition to the top of Mt. Everest that went horribly wrong. As a storm rolled in, mistakes were made, oxygen-depletion clouded the climbers' physical and mental capabilities, and many people died as a result- several of whom were famous mountaineers. Their back stories are all included and pretty compelling, too. The author attempts to recount each detail that contributed to the incident, and even accounts for his own mistakes. Although you pretty much know right off bat who lives and dies, it still pained me to read about their deaths, because Krakauer gets you so invested in their lives. I had to fight back tears during some chapters. (And nausea during others... oxygen depletion does not do good things to the body). He drags on a bit when it comes to historical aspects of the mountain and its climbers, but it all comes together.

Grade: A

Must get back to my other books now- contracts and civil procedure! WOO.

loves, Jess

(Also, I know it's not a book, but you guys should seriously see District 9. I loved it. But not Julia, because it's sci-fi).

Satan sells Hamburgers?

Just in case you run across this book whilst scanning the shelves at Borders, I am sending out this warning.

* Satan Burger by Carlton Mellick III.

This is one of the few books I have ever read that I would never recommend to anyone. (This and the biography of Abigail Adams that I read in 7th grade – it made me want to stab my eyes out; so I decided to cut out her picture from the cover of the book with an exacto knife. Lol Yeah, it was that bad.)

Anyway, Satan Burger is about a burger shop called Satan Burger that is run by the actual Satan in what is supposed to be the future Earth before the death of humanity. The protagonist, Leaf, and his strange friends all work at Satan Burger in exchange for souls because God has given up on the human race. Heaven is closed in this book, so there’s this vagina, called the Walm (also the cover of the book – a lady’s vagina), that serves as a gateway between dimensions, constantly spewing out demon-possessed creatures and blue women. Leaf, who happens to have God’s eyes and can leave his own body to observe the world around him, gets impregnated by a blue woman and then meets Jesus. It’s a twisted story about the end of the world that is disjointed, apocalyptic, and bizarre. As much as I love South Park and twisted stories and characters, this was just too much. You have been warned.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


I'm going to go ahead and assume the "vegan cookbook" reader is me...and how creepily right you are. I'm actually in the middle of reading Skinny Bitch, review soon to come; I know all you meaties cannot wait.

Anyways, as much as I love reading, for some reason lately I haven't been able to get through ANY books. I'm just going to go ahead and blame the J-school; I already blame it for all bad things in life anyways. :)

Some of my most recent half-reads are Franny and Zooey, The Time Traveler's Wife (I plan on finishing this soon so I can see the movie...mmm Eric Bana), Three Cups of Tea, Water for Elephants and Love in the Time of Cholera. If you've read any of these books and LOVE them, let me know so I can give them another try. In an attempt to get back to my former bookworm self, I decided to re-read one my favorite quick (but not light) reads — Smashed: The Story of a Drunken Childhood by Koren Zailckas.

Smashed chronicles Koren's drinking career, a frighteningly accurate representation of my (and most girls, I'm sure) high school and college experience, from her first taboo sip at 15 to the still comedic bleary-eyed hangover at 16 to the terrifying near hospital visit at 17 to her social dependency on alcohol at 22. As a recent college grad, I find this subject both engaging as well as eerily relatable. While there is plenty mention of blackouts, frat parties, jell-o shots, party foul push ups, seas of red cups overflowing with natty, unidentifiable morning-after bruises and the insatiable want, no wait THE NEED, for 2 eggs over easy with wheat toast at 3am (okay, maybe not that last one), Smashed is an important look at the root of these kinds of risky actions and the curious culture of alcohol, college and, most importantly, alcohol + college.

An easy read on a not-so-easy subject. (A)

Books Galore

So, even though I have yet to read a Jodi Picoult book, I can honestly say that I have a reading obsession and that she is on my list.

I am currently in the middle of three books:

1. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson, which is LOVELY Julia. Yes, it is hard to get in to, but it was recommended by my Law and Ethics professor who is from South Africa. It's a little difficult to get through because it's not the interesting court cases and flowery writing and action after romance after action type of novel, but it does paint the beautiful picture of a man dedicated to education and to helping other people...a feel good. I have about six chapters left.

2. Possible Side Effects by Augusten Burroughs (the author of Running with Scissors). The majority of Burroughs's books are semi-autobiographical and have many stories of his life as a gay man with a drinking problem. He blends dry humor with provocative stories that literally have left me laughing out loud in public places. It's sexual, disturbing, hilarious, and comical at times because it is essentially him delving into his most personal problems and making fun of it all the while. It makes for a super interesting read. Worth it.

3. The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau. Ok, so everyone knows that I am an elementary education major, so I am required to read popular young adult novels for the majority of my classes. This book is science fiction, I know, you're thinking, "Gross, why would I ever want to read science fiction?" But, this is such a great book. Great enough in fact that I am on book number three of the four part series. It is essentially about two children who are assigned jobs to work in their city (sort of like The Giver by Lois Lowry), and they try to solve the problems of their city and escape before they run out of supplies or the lights go out. If you like mysteries, reading at a middle school level, and want a fun, quick read, I would totally recommend the first two books of Ember.

That is all for now. There are many, many other books that I've read this summer that I have adored and would be happy to recommend, but I am in the process of moving all of my belongings from my house in Texas to my new house in Orlando. Very sad and exciting moving on with life. I hope all of you are well and that you look into some of these books. I'm definitely going to check out Picoult next time I'm in Borders (which is much better than Barnes and Noble, no offense Jess, because they have crazy good coupons, great kids books, and dollar bins with great books). Ok, enough from me. =)


Plain Truth- Jodi Picoult

I know, I know. ANOTHER Jodi Picoult novel. What can I say? It was Buy 2, Get one free at Barnes and Noble the other day, and not only did I practically push others out of the way so I could see what Picoult books were on the selection table, I'm already half way through the Plain Truth.

Plain Truth follows the story of a teenage Amish girl who is charged with first degree murder of her newborn son. I was first drawn to the title because I've always had an unhealthy obsession with learning about the Amish, and while this book gives you an introductory course to Amish culture, it lacks an exciting twist that usually is guaranteed with other Picoult novels (In her defense, I still have 200 pages left, but I was too excited/bored not to write a blog entry sooner...hah!) I also feel that most of the story is predictable as well as repetitive and does not leave the reader guessing as to what could happen. While it is an interesting topic, I am going to have to say I am still looking for a Jodi Picoult novel that competes with that of The Pact (about teenage double suicide pact) and My Sister's Keeper (which we all know and already love).

Book Grade: B

Do I recommend this book? Yes, but only for those of you (Ms. Grunberg) in law school and appreciate a good court case.

Ok, I'll go first :)

This little bookworm is going to share her thoughts on books whether you like it or not.  So my favorite book still remains Eat, Pray, Love.  I'm not sure how everyone feels about the book but it inspired me to never marry and just travel the world.  I'm also fairly certain it became my favorite book because I read it while I hated my life and would have hurt a small child in order to leave the country and travel to Italy, Indonesia, and India.  Wouldn't it be nice if we could all have a monk help us find ourselves again.  Not to mention fall in lust with an Italian stud and drink wine like it's going out of style.

A more recent favorite has been Jodster's latest novel, Handle With Care.  I thought it was JUST AS GOOD as My Sister's Keeper.  Picoult loves to tackle moral issues and get you thinking about what you would do if you were in these characters situations.  What would you do if the man you desperately wanted to love you again ended up raping you? Press charges? Stay quiet? Or what if saving your daughter meant taking a heart donation from a killer?  What if you knew you were going to have a child with physical handicaps... would you still have it?  Jodi tends to be depressing and that's why I love her.  Besides these are issues I think about all the time :)

Next on my book list is Three Cups of Tea. Cat was definitely right, it's very hard to get into.  It's about a humanitarian doing good in third world countries, but if it doesn't pick up soon I'm switching to Gods in Alabama.  It's a book about southernors and racism.  Naturally a white girl falls in love with a black guy, what will happen!!!???!!!!

So what is your favorite book? Best summer read? Most overrated book? I'm DYING to know :) Love you guys!

Let's have some fun, these books are sick

I know most of you hate me for starting a book blog, but I don't care.  I go back and forth at bookstores, do I buy another Jodi Picoult book? how much will Jess judge me if I get another book on the Holocaust?  When you shop for shoes you know whether or not it fits.  Well, you can't exactly try on books.  So this is my sad attempt to have anyone and everyone share what they are reading, what they've read, and what they think.