Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Review: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Here is a summary of The Glass Castle from Reading Group Guides:

The Glass Castle is a remarkable memoir of resilience and redemption, and a revelatory look into a family at once deeply dysfunctional and uniquely vibrant. When sober, Jeannette's brilliant and charismatic father captured his children's imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and how to embrace life fearlessly. But when he drank, he was dishonest and destructive. Her mother was a free spirit who abhorred the idea of domesticity and didn't want the responsibility of raising a family.

The Walls children learned to take care of themselves. They fed, clothed, and protected one another, and eventually found their way to New York. Their parents followed them, choosing to be homeless even as their children prospered.

The Glass Castle is truly astonishing -- a memoir permeated by the intense love of a peculiar, but loyal, family. Jeannette Walls has a story to tell, and tells it brilliantly, without an ounce of self-pity. 

My Review:
First, I think that I have to tell you that I usually don't enjoy non-fiction, but this memoir was amazing!  Walls gives us a glimpse as to what it was like growing up in a dysfunctional family, I mean honestly, if you thought your family was a bunch of mixed nuts you will feel much better after reading this book!

The Wall's family lived a wandering lifestyle, not wanting to settle in one place for too long.  It seemed that when the kids were just getting accustomed to their new home, the parents would decide for whatever reason that it was time to pick up and move on.   Knowing that they had to fit all of their belongings in the one car, and probably would not be returning to get anything left behind, the kids were allowed to choose only one or two items for the journey.

Jeannette's mother considered their gypsy lifestyle to be an adventure so she didn't like to stay in one place for any length of time.  When Jeannette's grandmother passed away and left them a comfortable home in Phoenix, this  probably marked the longest stretch of normalcy for the family.  This of course would only last so long as the parents did not seem concerned with the upkeep and maintenance of the beautiful home that was left to them.  Before too long they would be about to embark on another adventure to a new destination and home.

Adding to the family's dysfunctional attributes, Jeannette's father was an alcoholic.  There were many times throughout this memoir where he had the choice to provide food for his family, or nurse his addiction, and the alcohol won the battle almost every time.  It was very heartbreaking to watch these selfish parents as they nursed their personal dreams, goals, and addictions, while leaving these children to fend for themselves in almost every way.

I don't want to give away any more about this memoir, as I really believe that everyone should read it, although I may be the last blogger that has!  It made a great book club discussion  as all of the ladies in my group enjoyed this book.  With themes of family, loyalty, and perseverance, this book will keep you up later as you will be hesitant to set back on the nightstand before going to sleep.  I highly recommend this memoir!

My Rating:  5/5

Disclosure:  This book was from my personal collection and I read it as a book club selection and for my own entertainment. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Teaser Tuesday- Nov. 29

Check out Teaser Tuesdays from Should Be Reading. TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

Grab your current read.

Let the book fall open to a random page.

Share with us two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.

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 week my teaser is from House Rules by Jodi Piccoult:
   Apparently in the public schools, if you have a relative arrested for murder, the administration and teachers pretend you are invisible.
  Which, to be honest, isn't really all that different from the way I was treated before.

Kindle Edition-Location 3663 of 9574

Monday, November 28, 2011

Current Giveaways!!!

Here are some giveaways that I found out in blogland:

Bookin' With Bingo is giving away the audioversion of The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides.  Contest ends 11/30.

So Many Precious Books, So Little Time  is giving away The Greenhouse by Audur Ava Olafsdottir.  Contest ends 12/7.

Peeking Between the Pages  is giving away Come Back to Me by Melissa Foster.  Contest ends 12/17.

If I missed your giveaway please feel free to leave the link in the comment section below.

Have a great week everyone!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Winner of Everything We Ever Wanted by Sara Shepard!

I am very happy to announce that the winner of Everything We Ever Wanted by Sara Shepard is .....

Congratulations Ti!  I will be emailing you shortly to get your mailing information so I can get this sent out to you right away.  Thanks to everyone for stopping by and entering the contest!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Review: Testimony by Anita Shreve

Here is a summary of Testimony from the Hachette website:

At a New England boarding school, a sex scandal is about to break. Even more shocking than the sexual acts themselves is the fact that they were caught on videotape. A Pandora's box of revelations, the tape triggers a chorus of voices--those of the men, women, teenagers, and parents involved in the scandal--that details the ways in which lives can be derailed or destroyed in one foolish moment.

Writing with a pace and intensity surpassing even her own greatest work, Anita Shreve delivers in TESTIMONY a gripping emotional drama with the impact of a thriller. No one more compellingly explores the dark impulses that sway the lives of seeming innocents, the needs and fears that drive ordinary men and women into intolerable dilemmas, and the ways in which our best intentions can lead to our worst transgressions.

My Review:
I admit to being a fan of Anita Shreve, but I have to tell you that I had some reservations about this novel after reading so many mixed reviews.  It seems that this was a book that people either loved or hated, and I can now be added to the side of people that loved this novel.  I am thinking that it is the subject matter of the sex scandal in a private school that caused so many people to be turned off by this novel, but I find this to be a realistic probability and although it wasn't fun to read at times, I found that I couldn't put the book down.

Every chapter of this novel alternates to various characters throughout the book.  I usually enjoy books that are written in this format, so this one is not an exception.  I think my only complaint about this book is that we are given the perspective of maybe too many characters for my taste.  Sometimes at the beginning of a chapter I would have to stop and think about who was narrating and how that specific person was affected by the scandal.

The sex scandal involves a few students of the private high school that come from various walks of life.  One is a nice local boy, another is a sharp young man that has already been accepted to a prestigious college,  while another is not quite as bright as he had to repeat a year.   The older student is able to provide them with alcohol for the evening and for some reason events just spin out of control.

Shreve does a beautiful job of unraveling this disturbing tale that takes us through the events that lead up to the incident.  I love the human element of the emotions and feelings of all who were involved and effected by the mistakes that these kids made.

I don't think I can tell you any more about this story without giving too much away so I am going to leave it at that.  Even though I know many people have not liked this book, I really believe that it would make a great book club discussion.  With themes of deceit, mistakes, and justice, this book could spark quite an interesting discussion.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:  This book came from my personal collection and I read it for my own entertainment.

Monday, November 21, 2011

What Are You Reading?

Sheila over at Book Journey hosts this meme that gives you the opportunity to share the books that you have been losing yourself in lately and also the ones that you are looking forward to picking up next.

So here is what I finished reading last week:
The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey is an ARC that has been sitting on my shelf for quite some time.  I just loved this book and have been taking a couple of days to compile my thoughts for a review.  Watch for it coming soon!

And what I've started reading on my Kindle:
My book club selection for November is House Rules by Jodi Piccoult.  I like this one so far, my only criticism at this point is that the cover does not fit the book!

What's next?
Ok, I'm not positive about this one but I am leaning towards picking up Room by Emma Donaghue.  This is another ARC that has been collecting dust on my shelves.  I'm trying really hard to not participate in any blog tours or accept any more ARC's until I make a dent in the pile of older ones.  Of course that only works until I receive a new Shelf Awareness Newsletter! 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

2011 Audiobook Challenge Completed!

Well it looks like I have another challenge under my belt!  This time it's the 2011 Audiobook Challenge that was hosted by Theresa's Reading Corner.  About five years ago we moved to a more rural location that required me to have a longer commute to work.  So I figured if I was going to be spending 30-45 minutes in my car every day, I might as well start listening to audiobooks!  I will tell you that I am so glad that I started doing this!  Since I've never been able to be a very fast reader at least I have been able to experience more books since I started listening to them.

I signed up for the addicted level, which required me to listen to at least 12 audiobooks and here is what I have listened to so far:

1. Still Missing by Chevy Stevens--Completed 1/12/2011
2. The Brave by Nicholas Evans--Completed 2/1/2011
3. The Bourne Objective by Eric Van Lustbader--Completed 3/4/2011
4. An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin--Completed 3/17/2011
5. A Secret Kept by Tatiana de Rosnday--Completed 3/31/2011
6. Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson--Completed 4/15/2011
7. When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson--Completed 5/9/2011
8. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley--Completed 5/29/2011
9. The Good Guy by Dean Koontz--Completed 6/10/11
10. Love Over Scotland by Alexander McCall Smith--Completed 7/1/11
11. The Camel Club by David Baldacci--Completed 8/2/11
12. Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand--Completed 9/6/11
13. To Be Sung Underwater by Tom McNeal--Completed 10/7/11
14. The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta--Completed 10/31/11
15. One Summer by David Baldacci--Completed 11/12/11
16. Iron House by John Hart--Completed 12/14/11
17. The Snow Angel by Glenn Beck--Completed 12/24/11

You should be able to click on the title if my review has been posted already.  I hope to keep adding titles to this post as I keep listening to books throughout the rest of the year.  I can't wait to see how many I actually finish with!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Audiobook Review: The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta

Title:  The Leftovers

Author:  Tom Perrotta

Narrator:  Dennis Boutsikaris

Unabridged Length:  approx. 11 hrs.

Here is a summary from the Macmillan website:
What if—whoosh, right now, with no explanation—a number of us simply vanished?  Would some of us collapse? Would others of us go on, one foot in front of the other, as we did before the world turned upside down?

That’s what the bewildered citizens of Mapleton, who lost many of their neighbors, friends and lovers in the event known as the Sudden Departure, have to figure out. Because nothing has been the same since it happened—not marriages, not friendships, not even the relationships between parents and children.  

Kevin Garvey, Mapleton’s new mayor, wants to speed up the healing process, to bring a sense of renewed hope and purpose to his traumatized community. Kevin’s own family has fallen apart in the wake of the disaster: his wife, Laurie, has left to join the Guilty Remnant, a homegrown cult whose members take a vow of silence; his son, Tom, is gone, too, dropping out of college to follow a sketchy prophet named Holy Wayne.  Only Kevin’s teenaged daughter, Jill, remains, and she’s definitely not the sweet “A” student she used to be.  Kevin wants to help her, but he’s distracted by his growing relationship with Nora Durst, a woman who lost her entire family on October 14th and is still reeling from the tragedy, even as she struggles to move beyond it and make a new start.

With heart, intelligence and a rare ability to illuminate the struggles inherent in ordinary lives, Tom Perrotta has written a startling, thought-provoking novel about love, connection and loss.

My Review:
What an interesting book this was that sets us in a town after a portion of it's citizens have disappeared.  The people that were left behind struggle with reasons as to why they weren't taken and where exactly the missing people went.  They were here one second and gone the next...but gone where?

Kevin is the mayor of Mapleton and although his family weathered the Sudden Departure, it definitely left them all broken in their own way. Kevin's wife Laurie does not think that the way they are living is benefiting society, so she joins a group that believes they are fulfilling a greater purpose.  His son Tom was in college when the Departure took place, so after losing half of his classmates to this event, he withdrew from school to follow an odd character who also thought had all the answers.  Kevin's high school daughter Jill still lives at home, along with her best friend that moved in, but high school has been elevated to a new level since the Departure.

We follow all of these characters lives throughout the novel, as we get a closer look at their hopes and fears.  They are all trying to move on with their lives, but find themselves stalled as there is so much uncertainty in the world where they live.  Half of the population is gone and who is to say that the rest of us won't be gone tomorrow?

There is so much to contemplate within this novel and I really feel that I shouldn't disclose any more about it that would ruin the story for you.  I love stories that make me stop and think, "How would I react in this situation?"  That is the type of book this is and the narrator did a great job of keeping the listener's attention.   With themes of end times, forgiveness, love and redemption, this book will give the reader or listener plenty to ponder long after you have turned the last page or listened to the last track.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:  This book was provided to me through the Audiobook Jukebox reviewer program in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mailbox Monday-Nov. 14

Mailbox Monday is a great meme that has us list the books that we receive.  Different bloggers now have the opportunity to host this meme for a month at a time.  This month you can see what everyone received over at the Mailbox Monday Blog. 

Here is what was in my mailbox:

Well that's all that was in my mailbox last week.  I'm kind of thankful that I only received the one book, because I am getting a bit stressed out trying to fit everything into my day!  There are so many things that I want to accomplish lately and only so much time available. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Teaser Tuesday-Nov. 8

Check out Teaser Tuesdays from Should Be Reading. TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

Grab your current read.

Let the book fall open to a random page.

Share with us two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.

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 week my teaser is from The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey by Walter Mosley:
Then Reggie the man was standing next to him in the hall but next to them was Reggie the corpse in the whitewashed pine coffin.  The children were on the floor.

pg. 71
***Please note that this is from an Advanced Reading Copy so the final printing may change.

What Are You Reading?

Sheila over at Book Journey hosts this meme that gives you the opportunity to share the books that you have been losing yourself in lately and also the ones that you are looking forward to picking up next.

Here is what I most recently finished:
Last week I finished reading The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.  This was actually our last book club selection and I can confidently tell you that all of the ladies enjoyed this book.  You will have to watch for my review of this one.

Reading now:
The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey by Walter Mosley has been on my review pile for close to a year.  In an effort to get caught up with some of my ARC's I picked this one up.  Although it is sad, it is also a very good story.

Next up:
 For the month of November my book club has chosen House Rules by Jodi Picoult.  I have only read a couple of Picoult's books, but have enjoyed them both so I am looking forward to this one.

That is what my reading agenda looks like.  How about you?  What are you looking forward to immersing yourself into this week?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Review: Angel Sister by Ann Gabhart

Here is a summary of Angel Sister from the author's website:

It is 1936 and Kate Merritt, the middle child of Victor and Nadine, works hard to keep her family together. Her father slowly slips into alcoholism and his business suffers during the Great Depression. As her mother tries to come to grips with their situation and her sisters seem to remain blissfully oblivious to any problems, it is Kate who must shoulder the emotional load. Who could imagine that a dirty, abandoned little girl named Lorena Birdsong would be just what the Merritts need?

This richly textured novel reveals the power of true love, the freedom of forgiveness, and the strength to persevere through troubled times. Multidimensional characters face real and trenchant problems while maintaining their family bonds, all against the backdrop of a sultry Kentucky summer.

My Review:
When this book was chosen as a book club selection, not one of us ladies realized that it was actually Christian fiction.  Although I am a Christian, I have found that much Christian fiction I read just ends up being a bit too unrealistic for my taste.  I can tell you that most of the ladies in my group loved this novel, while my final thoughts tend to be a bit more reserved.

Although I didn't enjoy this story as much as the other ladies, I did find appreciation within the story itself.  We are brought to a small community in Kentucky during the Great Depression to follow the lives of the Merritt family.  We are shown glimpses of past events that all of the family members have been avoiding, but now realize that they must confront these demons if their lives are going to continue without hurting one another.

Victor and Nadine fell in love long ago, and it was very touching as they both reflected on their love and lives together as they were struggling to keep their marriage intact.  They were so young and in love that I don't think either one of them realized how they got to this place in their marriage where they no longer recognized each other.  But Nadine kept her faith in the Lord and her husband and once Victor admitted to Nadine that he needed help, she embraced him and offered him her support.

Kate is the middle sister of the Merritt family and for some reason has taken the weight of the family's problems on her own shoulders.  When Kate discovers a young girl that appears to be left on the church doorstep her motherly instincts take over and she takes young Lorena Birdsong under her wing.  When Kate brings Lorena home everyone is smitten with her, but little do they know the fight that is ahead of them if they intend to try to offer a home to her in the future.  This little girl's presence within the Merritt household ignites a tenacity within the household that is needed if they are going to stay together.

I don't want to give away any more of the story in the event that you read it yourself.  As I indicated earlier, I did enjoy the story but there were snippets of the writing I did not enjoy.  The book is told in third person, but every now and then a phrase was in there that was from a first person viewpoint.  I also had a problem with the timeline throughout the novel.  Very often a character was reflecting on past events and I found that the flow from past to present to be confusing.  I found myself having to stop reading once and awhile and go back over the last couple of pages just to be sure I was following the story correctly.

Besides my few problems with this novel, I did find enjoyment from reading it.  The ladies in my book club loved it and it created great discussions with themes of love, forgiveness, war, and familial relationships.

My Rating:  3/5

Disclosure:  This book is from my personal collection and I read it as a book club selection.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wondrous Words Wednesday-Nov. 2

Bermudaonion asks you to share new words that you have learned during your reading adventures in the last week. Feel free to join in the fun!

Here are a couple of new words that I learned while reading The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls:

Gypsum: a colourless or white mineral sometimes tinted by impurities, found in beds as an evaporite. It is used in the manufacture of plaster of Paris, cement, paint, school chalk, glass, and fertilizer.

Here is how gypsum was used on page 19:
Dad would get a job as an electrician or engineer in a gypsum or copper mine.

Centrifugal: moving or directed outward from the center.

Here is how centrifugal was used on page 74:
They'd stick their heads into her classroom and see the students playing tag and throwing erasers while Mom was up front, spinning like a top and letting pieces of chalk fly from her hands to demonstrate centrifugal force.

Well that is it for my new words this week...did you come across anything new?  I can't believe I've never heard of gypsum before!  First time for everything I guess!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Winners of my Blogiversary Contest!

I have 3 winners to share with you all today!  First of all, the winner of the $20 Amazon gift card is....
And the runners up who get their choice of books are:

Congratulations to the winners!