Monthly Archives: June 2009

The Blue Notebook – Review

The Blue Notebook, by James A Levine,

On sale 7/7/09

The Blue Notebook by James Levine: Book Cover

Batuk is a 15 year old prostitute on the Common Street of Mumbai, India. At only 9 years of age she was sold into slavery by her family to pay off their large debts. Having learned how to read and write at a Missionary hospital when she was 6, Batuk uses these skills to chronicle her life at the brothel, as well as create a world of fantastic and allegorical stories that help her mentally cope with her destitute situation.

James A Levine is a gifted author, and I am actually very angry at him for that, since I could not put this book down, despite the scenes that made me cry and want to shout and scream in anger. Not only does Levine indeed humanize the global issue of child prostitution, he also manages to send an inspirational message about the power of storytelling and  the written word. In some ways this book reminded me of Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. In Number the Stars, Annemarie uses fairy tale stories, such as Little Red Riding Hood among others, to help calm her fears and fill her with the courage needed to be support of her family and her friends. In The Blue Notebook, Batuk uses stories to dilute the despair of her life, to chronicle her life, and to validate her existence. The world of Batuk is funny, insightful and direct. I think anyone who reads this book will learn a little about the realities of humanity, and how it is found in the most unlikely of places.

All of Levine’s US royalties for this title will be donated to the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children (www.wicmec.org) and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (www.missingkids.com). Although I received this book for free for review, I will most certainly go out and buy my own copy to help support this cause and do what I can to try and end child slavery, exploitation and prostitution.

The Blue Notebook
by James A Levine
Spiegel & Grau, 2009 – July 7th, 2009
ISBN 0385528719
224 pages

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I Like It Like That – Review

***If you haven’t read Gossip Girl, You Know You Love Me , All I Want is Everything, and Because I’m Worth It, then this review will most likely be a spoilers for you, so please skid ahead!***

Gossip Girl book # 5 takes Blair and Serena to the snowy Sun Valley during the school winter break. Unbeknownst to the girls, Nate is also going to be at Sun Valley with current girlfriend and recovering drug addict, Georgina Sparks. Dan Humphrey is now a famous published poet in the New Yorker trying to make amends with his ex Vanessa and finding work as an assistant to one of the most pretentious editors of an elite poetry magazine. Jenny Humphrey is determined to figure out why her new boyfriend is so secretive about his family and his lifestyle. Chuck Bass? Well, he just gets in trouble anywhere he goes.

Book 5 is just as drama filled as the previous four, although at this point Blair seems to be a little bit more toned down. She has only two missions in life, to get into Yale and to lose her virginity, both of which she persues endlessly in each book, only to hit some type of roadblock along the way. After my complaints about Serena’s in the last book, she does have a somewhat strong character in I Like It Like That, but she still seems like a flimsy character, and nothing at all like her TV counterpart.

I have actually started watching the TV show, and so far, only the pilot and the second episode actually follows the book. The rest take on their own life and personality. Because they are so different, I enjoy each for their own sake. Its sort of funny how my boyfriend, who doesn’t watch the show with me, nor has he read any of my reviews, caught a snippet of the show last night and said “so, is this like Sex and the City for teens?” Hah! I love that. Its the first and most fitting description. This book does get really outrageous at times. Where are the parents?!? In this book we are finally introduced to Vanessa’s parents, but Serena’s parents are still in hiding, Blair’s mother is still lackadaisical and oblivious and Rufus Humphrey is well…father of the year in comparison. What is Cecily von Ziegesar trying to say? Are Dan and Jenny better off with their middle-class dad than their wealthier counterparts? I don’t know, if you’ve read the books, then you tell me. In my opinion, all these kids are a bit screwy.

Also, we are about 5 books into the series and have yet to see a significant role devoted to someone of color. The only two minority characters are Katy and Isabel and thus far they have played a pretty low-key and unmemorable roles, which is a sad message to send to kids of color reading this series. Only the white are rich and only the white-rich actually matter. Even in the TV show you see mostly white kids, except for the role of Vanessa. In the book she’s a white, gothic, rebel chick. In the TV, she’s still a rebel, but has a full head of fashionably styled hair and matching clothing attire. For the most part, I think teens are used to seeing only white actors on TV shows or in magazines. Its not a message that should be accepted. While Cecily addresses a class issue in her books, the race card is still left unturned.

I Like it Like That (Gossip Girl #5)
by Cecily von Ziegesar
Little, Brown and Company, 2004
ISBN 0316735183
202 pages

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Time Traveler’s Wife – movie update

At long last, there is finally a trailer and an actual release date for the eagerly and rather impatiently awaited movie adaptation of Audrey Niffeneggar’s Time Traveler’s Wife.

This site includes a full trailer, synopsis and photos. I’ve already made plans to drag my boyfriend to go see this movie with me August 14th, although I’m debating if his reluctance to want to watch a chick-flick might actually kill the movie for me.

Is anyone else planning on rereading the book before the movie is released? Or will you give the movie the benefit of a doubt and hope that the producers directors actually got it right?

Everyday I Read

Everyday I read,
I see the world through someone else’s eyes.
Everyday I read,
I learn, feel, and experience something new.
Everyday I read,
I live a life I might not have otherwise known.
Everyday I read,
I learn to refine,  and redefine myself, my beliefs and my ideas.
Everyday I read,
I see the changes in history, I see what stays the same. I feel a love for humanity and sometimes I feel shame.
Everday I read,
I laugh and a cry with a family that is not mine, but one I am still connected to.
Everyday I read,
I learn to be brave, to be inspired and most of all, to always stop and appreciate all the wonder that surrounds me.
(6/21/2009 – Nari @ The Novel World)

Bad Girls Don’t Die – Review

Despite the seemingly cliche concept; haunted house, demonic doll, possessed child hell-bent on a murderous rampagem, Bad Girls Don’t Die by Katie Alender is a really good book.

I think what worked best for the author is to start the book with the young girl, Kasey, already possessed by the demon haunting their house. All the events take place in less than a week, creating a sense of urgency with the book, and also making it impossible to find a page to put the book down (I seriously read as I brushed my teeth, I could not part with this book for more than 1 minute). The characters are, well, normal teenagers. Kasey’s older sister Alexis is an outcast at school. She’s not a cheerleader, but she’s not a part of the local band of misfits she’s dubbed The Doom Squad. Katie is her own person, who is not afraid to stand up to the cheerleaders and to protest something she doesn’t support. Her parents are drifting apart, as her mother puts in extra hours at work to gain a promotion, and her father is always at a friend’s house to watch sports. This leaves Kasey and Alexis to their own anti-social devices, although Kasey is content with just building her doll collection.

I did think that Alexis was a wonderful narrator, not to insightful but clever enough to be able to figure out what was going on and what to do. The story slowly grows larger and more complicated but each new piece of information or character introduction plays a relevant part in figuring out Kasey’s mystery. I would definately recommend this book to teens who are interested in horror stories. As usual, this book is geared towards girls, as they are the main characters. Why are females always the vengeful ghosts? (well, minus Hamlet). I wonder if its just the books I’m reading, or if nearly all teen books are geared towards girls? I need to start reading more boy-audience books.

Just a personal note, I was quite miffed at the school librarian in Bad Girls Don’t Die. I don’t think she handled the situation well, and I can’t believe the school encouraged certain books to be withheld from the library stacks.

Bad Girls Don’t Die
by Katie Alender
Hyperion Books, 2009
ISBN 1423108764
346 pages

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How to be a Budget Fashionista – Review

Creating a fashionable style and even buying those high fashion design names can be achievable by the non-elite, the normal working class. Kathryn Finney, creator of the website www.budgetfashionista.com takes us through a detailed step by step guide towards revamping our wardrobe, finding fantastic deals and putting together a look that is unique, fashionable and usually under $100 dollars.

The book is broken into 3 steps:

Step 1: Know Your Budget. Finney does not condone blindly spending money on even sale items. She insists that you should know your income, set aside a specific clothing budget and shop below your means. She provides spreadsheets and tips on balancing the checkbook and understand your spending habits in order to reign it in.

Step 2: Know Your Style. Buying a designer clothing item for $10 isn’t worth it if it doesn’t fit you, or if you won’t wear it. Finney goes by one major commandment in the book. “Love what you Buy, and only Buy what you Love.” This is a trick I’ve had to implement often when shopping at high-price stores (my particular weakness is Anthropologie). I even put back a rare $20 shirt only because the fit wasn’t quite right and I didn’t see myself wearing it. In this step, Finney helps us determine our shape, our bra size, doing a closet inventory to see if we have the 10 essential items each girl should have (I have 4 of the ten).

Step 3: Know Your Bargains. In this section, Finney describes how to locate great finds at non-profits such as Salvation Army and Goodwill stores (for instance, you’ll be more likely to find nicer items in wealthier areas as opposed to low-income areas). She includes tips on shopping at Department stores, Outlets, etc.

Finney’s writing style is jovial and interactive, filled with a quiz and a few worksheets and assignments to follow as your read the book. I cheated and didn’t exactly do a closet inventory, but I have a small enough closet to know what I have and don’t have and what my general style is. I’m 25 and a librarian, so its doesn’t necessarily require a fashion-forward style, but I do need to dress professional to stand out.  This book was published in 2006, so keep in mind that many of the links and stores highlighted in this book may no longer be operable (ie Loehmanns). Don’t worry though, I did the leg work for you and nearly all of the links provided in the book are still up and running.

So, why should this book matter to you?

If you watch America’s Next Top Model, or Project Runway, if you flip through the pages of Vogue, Elle or Marie Claire coveting those outfits, then this book is for you. If you are a jeans and t-shirt type of girl, then this book probably isn’t what you need unless you want to redo your entire wardrobe. Finney even address this in her book, discussing which career field best benefit from fashionable looks and which professions benefit without. Whatever your situation, Finney provides excellent shopping tips that I plan on implementing on a trip up to Powell Street in San Francisco this week. =)

I read this book for my Dewey Decimal Challenge for the 600s.

How to be a Budget Fashionista
by Kathryn Finney
Ballatine Books, 2006
ISBN 0812975162
222 pages

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Because I’m Worth It – Review

***If you haven’t read Gossip Girl, You Know You Love Me and All I Want is Everything, then this review will most likely be a spoilers for you, so please skid ahead!***

Book 4 of the Gossip Girl series takes us on an adventure of love. Winter break is over, and now the month is February. Seniors are in a bad case of “senior slump” and are now making new friends. Jenny befriend’s Elise during a mentoring meeting the two attend with Bloair and Serena as their senior mentors. Nate gets busted buying weed from his dealer and is sent to rehad where he falls for the dangerously alluring Georgina Sparks. Blair is on an never-ending mission to find her way guarenteed to Yale, and Serena, well, Serena is the embodiment of the word spontaneity.

4 books into the series, and I’m still loving it. Serena is starting to get incredibly annoying and vapid. I roll my eyes whenever the author talks about Serena’s beauty and demeanor (it gives me flashbacks of Stephanie Meyers’ incessant descriptions of Edward as Godlike). Up until this book, many of the character situations and circumstances seemed somewhat believable. But Serena being pulled into a fashion show and all of a sudden being the hottest thing to hit the runways, is well in teenspeak – gag-inducing. I’m not exactly sure what Cecily von Ziegesar’s intention is with Serena, but for now, she’s a throwaway character, the opposite of Blair. Whereas the first few books were focused on Serena’s return to Manhattan, we saw a girl with depth, vulnerability and insecurities. The new popular Serena is aimless and now all the focus of the books is on Blair. The sexual shock-factor of the series has calmed down at this point, and we wait for now is to see what happens to Blair and how far she’ll go to get into Yale.

For anyone keeping track, the series is nothing like the TV show, and I like them both equally.

Because I’m Worth It
Cecily von Ziegesar
Little, Brown and Company, 2003
ISBN 0316909688
234 pages

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All I Want is Everything – Review

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All I Want is Everything by Cecily von Ziegesar
Age: Teen
Genre: Fiction
Location: New York

If you haven’t read Gossip Girl, and You Know You Love Me, then this review might be a spoiler for you, so please skip on if you plan on reading the series at some point.

Book three of the Gossip Girl series finds us at the cusp of midterms and winter break at Constance Billard School for girls. Newly reunited best friends, Blair and Serena navigate through the high school waters of gossip and boy trouble well dressed and knowing exactly what they want, which is as the title says, everything. Blair is furiously focused on writing her early admissions essay for Yale, despite the family vacation to the elite St. Bart’s. Serena is yet again the inadvertent focus of attention of famous frontman for the hit band 45, Flow. Dan and Vanessa decide if they want to the next physical step in their relationship and Jenny falls even more head over heels managing to snag Nate away from Blair at the end of book 2.

This series is really addicting. I have a bias towards it mostly because I got caught up in the TV series last season. I have the characters already pictured in my head and have some sort of idea of what their future is. It is fun comparing the differences between the on-screen characters and the written characters. Blair Waldorf is still my absolute favorite with her snide sarcasm and her earnest desire to get into Yale and find true love and be just like Audrey Hepburn, and I adore her fashion sense in the TV show. Von Ziegesar does a fantastic job of capturing the teenage crush mentality; when the boy you adore is seeminly perfect and every single thing they do makes them more perfect than they were 5 seconds ago (see Jenny and Nate’s baby-romance budding in this book). While sex, and booze are the hallmark habits of most of the teens, this book takes a step back and focuses more on the personalities and quality traits of the characters over the more superficial and distracting qualities. A great series for teens and adults as well.

All I Want is Everything
by Cecily von Ziegesar
Little, Brown and Company, 2003
ISBN 0316912123
215 pages

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Midnight Champagne – Review

In Midnight Champagne by A. Manette Ansay, April Liesgang has only known Caleb Shannon for 3 months before their Valentine’s Day wedding at an infamous chapel near Lake Michigan. The perfect fodder for family gossip, the ceremony and reception leave room for wide amounts of speculation and rumors over the newlyweds. While the Liesgang’s bicker over past regrets, a domestic quarrel at the nearby Hidewawy Lodge ends in a terrible tragedy. As the night unfolds, the lives of these seeminly separate groups interwine.

I’m not exactly sure why I first picked this book up from the library. I was on a book gathering binge at the library and the back cover synopsis sounded interesting. The story itself was what I call a sleepy story. By sleepy story, I mean passively written and most of the story was focused on the past lives of the characters rather than their present. Overall, I thought this book was a good study at snap judgments , superficial perceptions and the negative states of denial that nearly every character  embodies in one form or another. The setting at a chapel and the haunted lodge that plays host to ghost of the murdered madame of what used to be brothel is a great setting for this shotgun wedding and gives the characters reason to reexamine the choices made in their lifetime and better understand their role in the world.

Midnight Champagne
by A. Manette Ansay
Perennial, 1999
ISBN 038072975X
225 pages

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Teaser Tuesday (6/9/09)

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

Grab your current read.

Let the book fall open to a random page.

Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.

Please avoid spoilers!

You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

This is from The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Its the very first book for my very first book club!

Shapes of dried blood in the stubble grass and gray coils of viscera where the slain had been field-dressed and hauled away. The wall beyond held a frieze of human heads, all faced alike, dried and caved with their taut grins and shrunken eyes.