Monthly Archives: June 2010

Teaser Tuesday (6/29/2010)

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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.

# 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! # Please avoid spoilers!

My Two Teasers:

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

“Dear God,” she prayed, “let me be something every minute of every hour of my life. Let me be gay; let me be sad.”

Can I just take a moment to say how much I adore this book? I’m taking that moment…

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East of Eden – Review

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East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Age: Adult

East of Eden is an epic tale of both the Hamilton and the Trask families. Written mostly as an ode to his own family, Steinbeck recreated the Salinas Valley and all its inhabitants in this tragic tale. Following the story of Cain and Abel, Steinbeck recreates a number of brother/sibling rivalries throughout the book that propel the narrative from one generation to the next.

I really don’t know what to say about this, how to sum it up and how to clearly define how I felt about it. This is one of my favorite books, hands down. Now I really understand why my boyfriend rereads this book once a year. Steinbeck did a fantastic job dissecting human nature, filial bonds, sibling rivalry, religion and all by connecting the dots through the religious story of Cain and Abel. There are a number of ways to dissect this book. Good v. Evil (Adam Trask v. Cathy, or Caleb v Aron). A study of human nature, nature v. nurture, fate v deliberate decisions, etc.

Lee is my favorite character. Lee and Samuel Hamilton were the most insightful, entertaining characters. I think Cathy was a sore spot. Other than just being pure evil, she did nothing for the narrative and her role was very stale even with her interactions with her sons. There was a small glint of change towards the end of her life, but she was otherwise a very dry character.

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I also wish Steinbeck had spent more time on his own family tree. The Hamiltons seem like such a fun, inventive and curious family. So large and varied with so many personalities. It was really awesome to get a glimpse into Steinbeck’s life reading this book. You really learn more about his writing style and his perspective on society when you learn about the family that surrounded him.

Since this was a book club pick, we decided to make it a book club field trip with a drive down to Salinas (its about a 2 hour drive from San Jose).

We of course went to the National Steinbeck center. Its a very interactive museum, following the course of his life, highlighting his work and lifelong accomplishments.

After that, we walked around Salinas a bit, recreating Cathy’s walk on her weekly outing from the Brothel that she ran. We also went to Steinbeck’s house, the house that is mentioned in East of Eden, the one where the famed author grew up. Unfortunately the house is closed on Sundays, so we were able to go inside for the tour, but I did plenty of peeking in through the windows to get a glimpse. Its so funny how authors are the famed celebrities of bookworms. My group was also a little bit morbid, because we went to see the Steinbeck grave at the Salinas cemetery.

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Reading East of Eden (and virtually any Steinbeck novel) then going to Salinas really makes the stories and the characters more real because Salinas has not changed very much since Steinbeck’s time there. Its a very small, quaint and somewhat run-down city.

If you are in the Bay Area, I also recommend stopping by the San Jose State University Steinbeck Center for more information, relics and educational resources on John Steinbeck.

East of Eden
by John Steinbeck
Penguin
ISBN 0142000655
601 pages

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Find this book at your local library

Catching Fire – Review

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Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Age: YA

******SPOILERS*******SPOILERS*******SPOILERS*******

In the stunning sequel to The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins picks up exactly where the first book ended. Against all odds, as well as against the Capitol’s wishes, Katniss is the victor of the Hunger Games, along with her fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. Although, she should be feeling relieved at having survived the deadly arena, she will soon return to her family and friends and never have to worry about stepping foot in the arena ever again. That was the idea, until President Snow paid Katniss a visit shortly after her return home. Only then did Katniss realize the full extent of her actions in the arena and the rumble she and Peeta unknowingly started throughout the 12 districts in the Capital. Now its up to Katniss to try to quell the anxieties of the districts by proving her love to Peeta beyond a shadow of a doubt, otherwise the consequences will be terrifying.

I couldn’t wait to jump right into Catching Fire, so I grabbed the audiobook because it was the only format available at my library. I did really enjoy this book. It carried the same quick pace as Hunger Games, the same themes of tyranny, censorship and instinctual human behaviors come into play.

I did have a problem with Katniss though. Throughout most of the book, I found her to be more naive than her character was originally set up to be in the first book. I found her fake love for Peeta to be somewhat alarming at how easily she could slip into the lovey-girlfriend role. Her impulses are emotionally driven, and not very accurate most of the time. She is overly suspicious of everyone around her, quick to cast accusations if anyone says or does something she doesn’t like. She and Peeta form a strong bond with their time in the arena, and then again on tour across the districts as the star-cross lovers, the Victors of the Hunger Games. Another thing that didn’t sit well with me is that Catching Fire seemed repetitive. It was a lot like Hunger Games, pretty much the same book, but with a few minor tweaks and twists at the end.

It did end on a powerful, although expected, cliffhanger. I feel fully vested in this series, even though I had higher hopes for Catching Fire. It does serve its purpose as the middle title in any trilogy. It forms the bridge that carries the story from its troublesome beginning, to the most likely violent and dramatic ending.

Catching Fire
by Suzanne Collins
Scholastic Audiobooks
10 discs, 11 hours and 37 minutes

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Find this book at your local library

My Life in France – Review

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My Life in France by Julia Child

Age: YA – Adult

Julia Child’s transformation from wife, to internationally known chef bringing French food and life to America with her cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking and with her hit TV show The French Chef began in 1948 during her first year of marriage to Paul Child.

The memoir traces her life from her first steps onto French soil, through her explorations of the French food markets, to her classes at Le Cordon Bleu,  and finally through the path of creating and collaborating a French how-to manual for women in America. The memoir continues even after Julia Child moved back to the United States and how her passion for good food became a lifelong part of her world.

Julia Child’ voice is friendly and entertaining as she takes you through the story of her life. She is an inspirational woman, who is fully accepting of her faults as well as her virtues. Finding love late in life, standing taller than most men and women of her time, Julia found it hard to really fit in anywhere. Rebelling against her father’s conservative Republican views, she did not follow the tradition of settling down to marry a rich Republican man and becoming a simple housewife in quiet Pasadena, CA. Instead, she worked in government, traveling to India and China, where she met her artist husband to be Paul Child.

Reading the book was like sitting in a room with Julia Child herself. Her voice is endearing, full of the charm and friendliness that helped her became so loved around the world. The book is full of little jokes and quips about her experiences. Funny anecdotes accompany even the most minor of character introductions.

To be truthful, I enjoyed the first half of the memoir much more than the second half. I loved reading about Julia explorations of French food, and seeing her passion develop over time and learning about all the hard work she put into becoming one of the best chefs of her time. As the book progressed, I got a little bored as she talked about traveling and promoting the book. I preferred the sections of her experimenting with a recipe hundreds of times to perfect every single notation and instruction, or researching and talking to experts of recipes she wants to include in the book. Her troubles collaborating with Simca and Louisa on both books as well as initially introducing a book like this into the publishing world.

Also, reading this book made me feel a number of emotions: 1. constantly hungry because of her talk of good food, 2:  guilty because one should not eat a McDonald’s cheeseburger while reading about Julia Child’s French recipes, 3. Excited for next Spring, when Chris and I go to France for our honeymoon. We want to sign up for a single class at Le Cordon Bleu and learn how to make, well, anything!

This is a great summer read, although you might end up overheating your homes by wanting to cook more often after finishing!

The French Chef
by Julia Child w/ Alex Prud’Homme
Anchor Books, 2006
ISBN 9780307474858
352 pages

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Find this book at your local library

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The Perfect Wedding Details – Review

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The Perfect Wedding Details by Maria McBride-Mellinger

Age: Adult

The Perfect Wedding Details by Maria McBride-Mellinger is a unique assortment of decorative ideas for a wedding ceremony and reception. Along with the creative ideas, is the layout and instructions that come in this elegant DIY wedding handbook. McBride-Mellinger addresses ten aspects of the wedding that can be dressed up in a simple and fun way.

Most of the ideas are pretty general, and can be modified with personal flairs that reflect the bride and groom. I had my eye on a few of ideas such as the Champagne Cage Card Holder which is made to look like cute miniature chairs. I also liked the Pop-Out Table Numbers, adding a little flair and creativity. If I had room on the tables, I would totally use the Table Number Bucket, which is a bucket filled with beautiful flowers, with a decorative number cut from contact paper pasted onto the bucket.

While pretty much none of these cute little details fit into my design plan for my wedding, I think they can double as decorative ideas for any fancy get-together like BBQs and birthday parties because of the simplicity. There are only a few things in this book that stand out as “wedding” the rest are just cute ways to dress up a party.

McBride-Mellinger has set up the ideas to be read as a cookbook. There is one column on the left that is a list of ingredients and a column on the right with step by step instructions for the execution of the design. On the top of the page, she includes a brief paragraph about the use and relevance of the idea. I found her instructions to be very clear cut, and I love that she included the quantities of materials (something I can never figure out properly). In the back, there are a couple of pages about the tools used and a list of stores where you can find all the materials.

I think this book is best for someone who doesn’t have a theme or concept for their wedding yet. I think certain aspects will jump out at the reader, helping them realize what sort of mood they want to create at both the ceremony and reception.

Maria McBride-Mellinger has also written The Perfect Wedding and The Perfect Wedding Reception.

The Perfect Wedding Details
by Maria McBridge-Mellinger
HarperCollins, 2004
ISBN 006052183x
239 pages

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Find this book at your local library

Teaser Tuesday 6/15/2010

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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.

# 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! # Please avoid spoilers!

My Two Teasers:

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

Sociologists write about “the Disappearing Middle,” referring to both middle America and mid-sized operators: whole communities in the heartland left alarmingly empty after a decades-old trend toward fewer, bigger commodity farms. We are quicker to address our problems with regional rather than national solutions.

Not the most riveting two sentences from a book, not hey, what do you expect from a memoir about living off of sustainable foods from your very own farmland for a year?

The Hunger Games – Review

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The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Age: YA

Set in the ruins of what was formerly North America, lies a country named Panem. In control is the Capitol, surrounded by 12 outlying districts living in poverty and fear of the cruel rules set by President Snow in the Capitol.

As a form of punishment for crimes committed by generations past, every year each district must supply one male and one female tribute between the ages of 12 and 18 to participate in the Hunger Games. Katniss Everdeen is only 16 when she steps up to take her younger sister’s place in the death-match arena. Having already resigned herself to the dim fate of death, Katniss surprises herself and the nation when she finds herself standing strong and surviving the barbaric games. Although Katniss had her future in the arena planned, everything changed because of one Peeta Mellark,  whose bombshell announcement at the beginning of the games left Katniss with difficult choices to make about life and death.

What can I say about this book that hasn’t been said already? What praise can I bestow that won’t sound redundant to every other book blogger that has already posted a review about this book. I couldn’t put the book down, I read it into the wee hours past midnight, and finished it completely the next morning after a restless night of sleep thinking about the book.

Obviously, I loved this book. I loved Collins ability to create a dystopia world of censorship, tyranny and abuse of personal freedoms. It formed a commentary over the world of individual rights abuse taking place in Vietnam, China, Iran and many other countries that try to silence their citizens through fear and cruelty.

The Hunger Games is set up like the Olympics, full of fanfare, district uniforms and even televised interviews with each tribute. The whole thing is a disgusting display of power and corruption on behalf of the Capitol. The districts have no choice but to obey with the yearly reaping.

Katniss is a likable character. She is clever, and as quick on her feet as she is sharp of the tongue with her wit. Having taken control of the family affairs and livelihood at an early age after her father died in a mining accident, she is full of survival skills and self-reliance to forge through the games. I found Peeta to be compassionate, reliable, but also resilient and a fighter. Strong of heart, eloquent with words and highly ethical and contemplative of his and Katniss situation.

If you loved, liked, or even vaguely enjoyed the Uglies trilogy, then this is the book and series for you. Katniss reminded me a lot of Tally Youngblood. Forced into a situation out of her control, her fate in the hands of people with no compassion or care. Her struggle to find her identity in a fight or flight arena, faced with difficult choices of loyalty, acceptance and understanding.

The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins
Scholastic Press, 2008
ISBN 0439023483
374 pages

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Find this book at your local library

Bloggiesta Finale

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Its now Day 3 of the Bloggiesta and I haven’t accomplished nearly as much as I had wanted to. Don’t get me wrong, I did cross off 40% of my blog to-do list on Friday, but much of it didn’t take up much time.

The main time and effort vacuum for my blog makeover is organizing my categories. I know this is a useful way for readers to browse through my blog when not looking for specific title reviews. I’ve just been woefully neglectful of assigning any categories for the past year. I didn’t think they were useful for myself and I hadn’t put an option for a category search for readers. That’s going to change.

I also updated my blogroll, but there wasn’t much to change to that. I added a new feature in the sidebar, highlighting literary festivals around the US, and also author visits to some of my favorite independent bookstores in the Bay Area, Keplers Books in Menlo Park and Books Inc. (ranging from San Francisco to Mountain View).

Today I planned on spending a good portion of the time updating the categories and making sure my images and links work in each post. I did have work all weekend, so I didn’t get to spend nearly as much time as I should have making improvements. I think I spent about 5 or 6 hours total working on my site.

I feel as if I’m going backwards in time reading my blog, editing typos, checking links and modifying tags and categories. Some reviews I want to rewrite completely to flesh out  my opinions a little more, or at least give them more substance. I’ve come such a long way in my blogging and review career since January 2007. I’ve become acquainted with some fantastic people online, other bloggers that I watched grow from small posts, to panelists at Expos and conventions. Its a great experience seeing the love and admiration for all things book on the Internet.

Most people don’t associate an Internet personality with a love of books. Apparently it has to be only one or the other. I always hear people say that the Internet and technology connects the world, but also isolates us at the same time. We can be found at a moments notice, but how developed and intimate are our relationships that develop via Intel microchips? I can say that I feel the book blogging community that has developed over the past 3 years makes me question this line of thought. I’ve witnessed friendships formed from the community builders in the online world. I bet you guys would be first to bring the welcome wagon to any newcomers into the neighborhood.

I wasn’t expecting to get so nostalgic working on the bloggiesta this weekend. I just wanted to spruce up my site and make it look more presentable and less chaotic. You can’t avoid nostalgia when you sign up to take an in-depth look at your life in writing.

Book Blogger Hop: June 11-14th

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Welcome to this week’s Book Blogger Hop which is hosted by Crazy-For-Books. Go over to her blog for more information and to leave your links to your post.

About me:

1. My name is Nari, I’m a librarian in the Bay Area, and I’ve been blogging for about two and a half years.

2. My reading taste is pretty eclectic, I’ll read children’s, teen’s and adult fiction and nonfiction. I can rule out what I don’t like reading easier than what I do like.

3. I’m currently reading My Life in France and listening to Catching Fire on audio cd.

4. My next book will be Animal, Mineral, Vegetable by Barbara Kingsolver.

5. You can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook for blog updates.

Thanks for stopping by!! Leave a comment and tell me something about your blog!

Bloggiesta 2010

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This weekend I will be participating in my very first Bloggiesta!

This is a great weekend blogging marathon set up by Natasha at Maw Books, and this weekend will be the third installment.

Bloggiesta: PedroThe premise of the bloggiesta, for those that haven’t participated before, is to spend the entire weekend working, updating, improving your blog. From minor things such as writing up posts, to reaching out for guests posts and reorganizing all of your tags and categories.

I unfortunately have to work both Saturday and Sunday, so I’m going to try and make the best of my free time this weekend by working on my site. I don’t have too many to-do items on my list, but the few I have will turn out to be quite time intensive.

So, what is my gameplan for the weekend? Well, here is my checklist of things I would like to accomplish by Sunday 9pm

1. Type up review of East of Eden

2. Discuss bookclub field trip to Salinas for East of Eden.

3. Put proper tags and category marks on all posts.

4. Update images of book covers that are no longer available

5. Make sure any and all links on my site are still active

6. Design a new features area for the main page.

7. Update Blogroll links

8. Update About me/Review Policy page

9. Update Boolist with titles I’ve read, link reviews to Librarything

10. Draft upcoming Teaser Tuesday post

11. Type review of Hunger Games

12. Join a new book blog community meme

Whew…I’m sure there’s more that I need to do, but this is a good start until I figure out what else I’m missing!!

Anybody else having a bloggiesta weekend? What changes do you have planned?