Monthly Archives: March 2012

Troy High (Shana Norris) Tween-Teen Tuesday Reviews

Troy HighTroy High by Shana Norris
Age: 7th grade +
Genre: Fiction
Source: Library
Publisher: Amulet Books, 2008
ISBN: 9780810946477 / 263 pages

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When Elena Argos is transferred from Lacede High School to Troy High due to redistricting, she ends up breaking up with her boyfriend Lucas Mennon for Perry Prince, causing the half-century rivalry between the two schools to go into chaos as the boys compete and fight for dominance in this clever retelling of The Illiad.

Granted, its been quite a few years since I read The Illiad, but much of this book rang true with the original. The story is told through Cassie Prince, younger sister to football star older brothers Hunter and Perry. Cassie’s best friend is Greg Mennon, younger brother to Lucas, who attends the rival school. Cassie and Greg’s friendship is tested time and time again as the school duel on and off the football field.

Although Cassie is a sophomore, she acts and is treated as if she’s in middle school. Although she is fairly insightful and painfully shy, I think she is an excellent narrator, and I think boys will like this book as much as girls. I also think most middle schoolers will really like this book for the boy drama and boy crushes and love triangles. Fans of 10 Things I Hate About You will also get a kick out of another well written modernization of a classic. The characters were well-developed and each teen perfectly matched their Greek counterpart. My inner nerd loves that Shana Norris left a note at the end of the book comparing Troy High to The Illiad, slightly nudging young readers to pick up the epic masterpiece. Even just talking about Troy High with my husband had us both wanting to reread The Illiad right away.

It’s a light and fun read. Great for the beach, and a great way to introduce The Illiad / The Odyssey / The Aeneid to a new generation of readers.

Bel Canto (Ann Patchett)

Bel canto : a novelBel Canto by Ann Patchett
Age: Adult
Genre: Fiction
Source: My Copy
Publisher: Harper, 2001
ISBN: 9780060934417 / 318 pages
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In South America, at the home of the country’s Vice President, a special birthday party is being held for Japanese business man, Mr. Hosokawa. The main event is a special musical performance by operatic star Roxane Coss. But before the night end, a renegade group storms into the home, taking all of the guests hostage. When their initial plans fails, the militia group has to rethink their plan, all the while holding hostage Roxane Coss and all the men of the party for over 4 months. During the time spent in the home, new friendships are forged in the most unlikely of places between the most unlikely of people.

The plot is ridiculously slow-moving, like molasses. It is sort of balanced with Patchett’s eloquent prose. I like the characters, each was unique and special and wholly different from the rest. This book required 2 major suspensions of disbelief, which for me drained the book of much substance. 1. Being held hostage for so long 2. The ending! The ending made me so mad. It was predictable, but the epilogue just took me by shock.

The relationships the hostages made with their captors seemed plausible, very Stockholm syndrome. As a character study, this book excels. In regards to plot…it missed its mark for me. It is a winner of the Pen/Faulkner Award, and I bumped into a gentleman on the bus who said he really enjoyed this book. I still stand firmly in the middle. I didn’t realize it was possible to love the characters and the character development while simultaneously hating the plot and the length of the novel.

How to Eat A Cupcake (Meg Donohue) – Review

How to Eat a Cupcake By Meg DonohueHow to Eat A Cupcake by Meg Donohue
Age: Adult
Genre: Chick-lit / Fiction
Source: Publisher
Publisher: Harper Collins 
Publication Date: 3/13/2012
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Annie Quintana and Julia St. Clair haven’t seen each other in 10 years since their friendship came to a devastating end towards in high school. After reuniting at  a lavish affair held by Julia’s mother and catered by Annie, the two team up to open up their own cupcakery in San Francisco using Annie’s supreme baking skills and Julia’s business know-how. Each woman harbors a secret, and as they work together, their negative past comes to light.

This book is as light and fluffy as a cupcake. It is 100% chick-lit, and therefore falls victim to the formulaic & predictable plot, interchangeable main characters, and the required happy, no loose ends, ending.

Although Annie was penned as the free-spirited one and Julia is more reserved, I felt that both women were equally neurotic, insecure, vulnerable and friendly. It seemed like the only way Annie was free-spirited was through her awkward fashion sense. The chapters alternate between Annie and Julia’s voice, so I wish there had been more of a stark difference in tone between the two characters.

I usually veer away from chick-lit, but this book has two attractions: 1) San Francisco & 2) cupcakes.  I wish there had been at least 1 cupcake recipe included in the book, (particularly the chocolate persimmon one). Aftertaste by Meredith Mileti, another foodie chick-lit novel,  had a bevy of recipes in the back of the book, which I really enjoyed. How to Eat a Cupcake is in essence a  light & quick read, and will definitely have you running to your nearest bakery for a cupcake. I think I grew a sweet-tooth over the course of reading this book, and I don’t even like sweets!

Author’s website

In Pursuit of Silence (George Prochnik)

In pursuit of silence : listening for meaning in a world of noise In Pursuit of Silence by George Prochnik
Age: Adult
Genre: Non Fiction / Social Sciences
Source: My Copy
Publisher: Anchor Books, 2010
ISBN: 9780767931212 / 342 pages
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Frustrated by the constant high levels of noise in his native New York City, George Prochnik takes it upon himself to discover the meaning and virtues of silence in a world that is perpetually filled with noise. His research takes him to trappist monasteries, boom car conventions, as well as to scientists who explain the ear canal and the scientific functions of noise and sound.

Prochnik provides an in-depth exploration of silence in our modern community. In his pursuit of silence, Prochnik went everywhere from a trappist monastery, to a boom car convention in Florida, and investigated how music and noise is used in the retail and hospitality industry to promote business and shopping. Along with the science studies about the ear and the history lessons of anti-noise policies developed by local and federal governments, Prochnik provides a well-rounded look at the benefits of silence. He delves into the questions of why we have to search for it, and what the detriments are of noise and lack of silence appreciation in our lives.

It’s very inspirational…in that I listen to my car stereo at a lower volume, have abandoned by iPod when I go for walks, and in general, try to be quieter and listen to the world around me, rather than try to drown it out.

Although I like the variety of topics discussed in this book, I found them somewhat random and unrelated. He definitely did his research with each section though. There is a full bibliography in the back of the book for anyone wanting more material on the same topic.

His writing style has a very flow. Its witty, quippy, eloquent and informative. It’s not too wordy, the chapters were perfect lengths, and his devotion to the subject is really apparent in each chapter. It’s a good read for anyone needing a reminder that sometimes its better to enjoy the silence than to drown out the nonsense in your life.