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Friday, September 23, 2011

Review: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Publisher: Vintage Books
Genre: Fiction, dystopian (?)
Hardback 288 pages
Book Source: borrowed from the library
My Rating: 97/100
Recommended by Nikola of Nikola's Book Blog

As a child, Kathy—now thirty-one years old—lived at Hailsham, a private school in the scenic English countryside where the children were sheltered from the outside world, brought up to believe that they were special and that their well-being was crucial not only for themselves but for the society they would eventually enter. Kathy had long ago put this idyllic past behind her, but when two of her Hailsham friends come back into her life, she stops resisting the pull of memory.

And so, as her friendship with Ruth is rekindled, and as the feelings that long ago fueled her adolescent crush on Tommy begin to deepen into love, Kathy recalls their years at Hailsham. She describes happy scenes of boys and girls growing up together, unperturbed--even comforted--by their isolation. But she describes other scenes as well: of discord and misunderstanding that hint at a dark secret behind Hailsham's nurturing facade. With the dawning clarity of hindsight, the three friends are compelled to face the truth about their childhood—and about their lives now.
(from Goodreads)

My Thoughts:

"If you are to have decent lives you have to know who you are and what lies ahead of you, every one of you." (pg. 81)

"You poor creatures," she repeated, almost in a whisper. (pg. 272)

This is a tough review to write because I don't want to give away the main "issue/secret".  So please bear with this cryptic review. 

This is a story told in mostly remembered memories of three friends who grew up in an English boarding school.  Kathy the narrator relates past events, saying things like, "Looking back now I was probably feeling..."  Hindsight is 20/20 and I believe that is what she is doing.  Situations are always clearer when looking back on them.

There are two words mentioned early on that deal with the secret at the heart of the story.  When I first read them, I thought, "What? What the heck does that mean?  This can't possibly end well."  And then throughout the story, I, just like Ruth, Kathy, and Tommy, know this thing is lurking in the background.  Something is off.  But the reader and the friends forget about it, and go on with the story.  Unfortunately, the story ends up showing that their fears about this secret manifest in the way they behave.  Tommy lashes out because a little part of him knows.

Towards the end of the story when the secret is out in the open, as horrified as I wanted to be, I wasn't.  The secret is a matter of fact, nothing can change it, life goes on.  This is pretty much how Ruth, Kathy, and Tommy deal with it.  What choice do they have?  I think that's what makes this book so haunting.  That this secret is accepted and life moves on.  May real life never  get this way.

Despite the point of the story, I enjoyed this book immensely.  The writing is beautiful and easily felt.  Another reason I enjoyed it so much was because this was so different than what I have read in the past.  This was a book with true, deep down, emotional human feelings.  This book struck a chord with me, and I now consider Ishiguro one of my favorite authors.

Thanks to Nikola's post for finally pushing me to get the book.  I know many  bloggers and read and recommended this book, but it was after his post, that I finally just requested it from the library, thinking "I have to read this now!"

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What's up Wednesday?

What’s up Wednesday is a weekly catch up event. I discuss anything that’s on my mind, or what may be happening in my life. It’s my take on “me time”. Feel free to join along in the comments or leave a link to your What’s up Wednesday post.

This week is about another one of most favorite TV shows: Fringe.

Season 4 premieres this Friday, the 23rd at 9:00 pm.  I have watched this show since day one and loved every minute of it.  Now you may say to yourself, it’s sci-fi I don’t like that; it looks creepy and scary; who the heck are these people and why should I care?  All valid reasons but if want good drama, interesting and fascinating characters with a side of scary and humor, then Fringe is the show for you.  What may be viewed as a “freak of the week” show is actually a show that  asks big questions: What would you do for those you loved?  Are you willing to sacrifice yourself or loved ones for the greater good? How do you balance the fate of two worlds who have equal rights to live? Who are you to make that determination? Can you forgive someone who has done you an irreparable wrong?  Can you let go of someone you love for their own good?

Sounds pretty heavy, right?  These issues are but Fringe incorporates all of these issues in such a compelling way, that it has become appointment TV for my husband and I.  Not only is the writing fantastic but the actors are as well.  They have to be, since they have double roles to play.  Say what? Yes, there are two universes, the Blue (ours) and the Red (over there).  The characters are almost complete opposites and each actor has dual roles.  Do you know how hard that is to pull it off believably?  They did it and weren’t even recognized with an Emmy nomination for their work. (Sorry but I’m bitter about that.)  And now there is a bridge between the universes so they can work together to co-exist.  They must because they are symbiotic.  However, old habits and grudges die hard.  Interested?  Intrigued?  I hope you are.  

You can catch up on things by heading over to Fringe’s website:

There is a video that will explain everything and if you have more questions feel free to ask.

As I was thinking about this post, I realized there are very few TV shows I consider appointment television.  There is one more show that I will highlight in a few weeks, but other than that, not many.  

Do you have TV shows that you consider "appointment TV"?  If so, why?  Also, what's up with you this Wednesday? 

Take care :)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Review: Wherever You Go by Joan Leegant

Publisher: W.W. Norton and Company
Genre: Fiction
Paperback, 272 pages
Book Source: TLC Book Tours
My Rating: 95/100

A gripping novel about the lengths to which we will go in the name of a cause.
Yona Stern has traveled from New York to Israel to make amends with her estranged sister, a stoic ideologue and mother of five who has dedicated herself to the radical West Bank settler cause. Yona’s personal life resembles nothing of her sister’s, but it isn’t politics that drove the two apart.
Now a respected Jerusalem Talmud teacher, Mark Greenglass was once a drug dealer saved by an eleventh-hour turn to Orthodox Judaism. But for reasons he can’t understand, he’s lost his once fervent religious passion. Is he through with God? Is God through with him?
Enter Aaron Blinder, a year-abroad drop-out with a history of failure whose famous father endlessly—some say obsessively—mines the Holocaust for his best-selling, melodramatic novels. Desperate for approval, Aaron finds a home on the violent fringe of Israeli society, with unforeseen and devastating consequences.
In a sweeping, beautifully written story, Joan Leegant weaves together three lives caught in the grip of a volatile and demanding faith. Emotionally wrenching and unmistakably timely, Wherever You Go shines a light on one of the most disturbing elements in Israeli society: Jewish extremist groups and their threat to the modern, democratic state. This is a stunningly prescient novel.  (From TLC Book Tours)
My Thoughts:

"He told me last night that he needed to change his life.  Like really change it....Everyone who comes here does that eventually.  Sometimes it's why you come in the first place.  To fix something that isn't working." (pg. 183)
To me the Jewish faith is not only a religion but a way of life.  It is also the framework of  Jewish culture.  Jewish religion and culture are so enmeshed within one another that I think is almost impossible to have one without the other.  Therefore a Jewish person who begins to question their life, choices, actions, their very being, is questioning not only their existence thus far but the very core of who they are; their faith and religion.  This is exactly what the three main characters in this novel are doing, and their travels to Israel and subsequent epiphanies are all tied together much like their faith and culture.

Yona, Mark, and Aaron all had interesting journeys which were shaped by the people and circumstances around them.  Several popular opinions that surround the Israeli-Palestine conflict are represented in this book.  From the extremists, to law enforcement, to lay people who see both sides of the argument, all have a stake in what happens in these two countries.  It is the extremist views and actions of Aaron that ultimately cause these three story lines (Yona, Mark, and Aaron) to intersect.  However it is this intersection that finally brings the characters to where they want to be as individuals.  It truly shapes their lives.  

Leegant has written a interesting and poignant story about modern day Israel and its people.  I was immediately drawn in by each of the characters, even Aaron the extremist.  Nurturing and compassion at an early age, probably would have kept him from becoming such a jaded and misguided young man.  In his mind Aaron is in a no win situation, and maybe he is.  Luckily his story is balanced beautifully by Yona and Mark's stories.  It is possible to have balance and happiness in your life.  You just need to come to terms with who you are and let the past go.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and am so glad I stepped out of comfort zone to read it.  

For more information about the author. please visit her website:

For more thoughts on this book, please visit the other stops on the tour:

Monday, August 22nd: Reviews from the Heart
Tuesday, August 23rd: Life In Review
Wednesday, August 24th: The Scarlet Letter
Thursday, August 25th: Books Like Breathing
Friday, August 26th: A Bookish Way of Life
Monday, August 29th: Life is Short. Read Fast.
Tuesday, August 30th: Rundpinne
Wednesday, August 31st: Among Stories
Thursday, September 1st: Iwriteinbooks
Monday, September 5th: Unabridged Chick
Tuesday, September 6th: nomadreader
Wednesday, September 7th: Lit and Life
Thursday, September 8th: Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile
Monday, September 12th: In the Next Room
Wednesday, September 14th: Wordsmithonia
Thursday, September 15th: Life in the Thumb
Friday, September 16th: Jenny Loves to Read
Thanks to TLC Book Tours for including me on the tour.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What's up Wednesday?

What’s up Wednesday is a weekly catch up event. I discuss anything that’s on my mind, or what may be happening in my life. It’s my take on “me time”. Feel free to join along in the comments or leave a link to your What’s up Wednesday post.

This week is about creepy reads, those books I am reading for October.  I’m starting early because I recently started two books that I put down after about 100 pages.  They just weren’t doing it for me.  The first was The Book Thief.  Many love it, I did not.  Sorry!  The second was The Reincarnationist.  Again the main character was  not doing it for me.  I liked his past life scenes but when it came to modern day I just wanted to slap him like they did on Airplane!   Therefore I started my first creepy read which is The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. 

This book is amazing and yes it is creeping me out.  I would highly recommend it.  The rest of my list changed slightly,  because I went to the library last night to pick up a book I requested.  While I was there 2 more books grabbed my attention and I just couldn’t say no.  Books are my crack so I indulged.  The first is World War Z by Max Brooks.  I have been wanting to read this for quite a while, and now that the movie is being made, The Walking Dead is coming back soon, It’s time for zombies my friends!  The second which I am counting as creepy, although it is a courageous story is The man who broke into Auschwitz: a true story by Denis Avey.  Need I say more?  The third book I picked up so doesn’t fit with the rest is The Luxe by Anna Godbersen.  I am one of the few people on the planet that hasn’t read it yet, so I grabbed it. 

The other books on my creepy list, which is probably going to extend into November at this point is The Mysteries of Udolpho by Anne Radcliffe, and The Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead by Paul Elwork   .  Udolpho I volunteered to read for the Classics Circuit.  Another one I have always wanted to try.  The Girl Who Would Speak for The Dead was kindly sent to me by my dear friend Staci of Life in the Thumb.  She enjoyed it so I’m sure I will too.  I’m also going to try and squeeze in a short story, The Victorian Chaise Lounge by Margharita Laski.  Natalie from Coffee and a Book Chick totally loved this story, well as much as one could like a creepy story, and sold me on it.  This story is only 99 pages so I should be able to squeeze it in.

What about you?  Do you have any creepy reads planned for October?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: You are My Only

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine.  This post spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

I don't normally do this weekly meme but an author, Beth Kephart, whose work I enjoyed immensely, (Dangerous Neighbors)  needs my assistance.  Plus Beth is a fellow Philadelphian so how can I not help her out.

Beth Kephart is the author of many moving young adult novels that deal with weighty issues, sometimes adult issues.  Things that young people shouldn't have to deal with so soon.  Beth's writing is beautiful, moving and really puts the reader in the mind of the character.  Beth has a new novel being released on October 25, and here's the scoop:

Emmy Rane is married at nineteen , a mother by twenty. Trapped in a life with a husband she no longer loves, Baby is her only joy. Then one sunny day in September, Emmy takes a few fateful steps away from her baby and returns to find her missing. All that is left behind is a yellow sock. Fourteen years later, Sophie, a homeschooled, reclusive teenage girl is forced to move frequently and abruptly from place to place, perpetually running from what her mother calls the “No Good.” One afternoon, Sophie breaks the rules, ventures out, and meets Joey and his two aunts. It is this loving family that opens Sophie’s eyes, giving her the courage to look into her past. What she discovers changes her world forever…
The riveting stories of Emmy and Sophie—alternating narratives of loss, imprisonment, and freedom regained—escalate with breathless suspense toward an unforgettable climax. 

(From Goodreads)

For more information about Beth and her other books, please visit her website:

I will certainly be reading this one.  Good luck Beth and congrats on the forthcoming release :)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Review: Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas

Late in the summer of 1877, a flock of purple-and-white hoopoes suddenly appears over the town of Constanta on the Black Sea, and Eleonora Cohen is ushered into the world by a mysterious pair of Tartar midwives who arrive just minutes before her birth. "They had read the signs, they said: a sea of horses, a conference of birds, the North Star in alignment with the moon. It was a prophecy that their last king had given on his deathwatch." But joy is mixed with tragedy, for Eleonora's mother dies soon after the birth.

Raised by her doting father, Yakob, a carpet merchant, and her stern, resentful stepmother, Ruxandra, Eleonora spends her early years daydreaming and doing housework—until the moment she teaches herself to read, and her father recognizes that she is an extraordinarily gifted child, a prodigy.

Three Reasons Review

1.)  1.) Reasons you chose this book

I accepted this book for review because the synopsis was intriguing, the cover beautiful, and Stamboul does not usually serve as a setting for my usual reads. 

2.) Reasons you liked or disliked this book

I loved this book!  From the moment I started and met Eleonora I was hooked.  Eleonora’s entrance into the world was marred by tragedy however her birth is an important one.  There is a mysterious prophecy surrounding the circumstances of her birth, and as Eleonora grows up, you realize she is one super special girl.  Her intelligence is astounding and she is described as a savant.  So when some of the events in the book occur you have to remember that although she is 8, she is a very smart 8 year old.  Wise beyond her years, although not in the ways of the world.  Elenora adores her father and when he travels to Stamboul she follows him.  Maybe not the wisest choice in the world, but one that provides Eleonora with a glimpse of a possible future.

As events occur in Stamboul, the reader follows along with Eleonara and we learn a little but not much. I imagine this was how Eleonora felt and that’s why some things are not fully explained.  She becomes a pawn in the machinations of covert affairs in Stamboul at the time, and although she is book smart, she does not know the ways of the world yet, and thus makes some mistakes.  By the end, Eleonara learns enough to know that she will have to make her own way in this world if she wants to have any choice in the matter.  Choice and freedom is I think what she has wanted for a long time.

Stamboul and this time period, the 1870’s, is interesting and I don’t know much about either in this part of the world.  This book has inspired me to research this further, and you know I love books that make me do that.  Lukas’ writing painted beautiful pictures for me and allowed me to experience how Eleonora felt.

The only aspect I disliked was how the story didn’t fully explain things, like the prophecy.  It just kind of hung out there in the air, with no real explanation.  However, I now think it’s because we are reading this story from Eleonora’s point of view.  She didn’t know so why should we.

3.)Reasons you are recommending this book

I am recommending this book because even though it is not a very deep book, the story moves along swiftly, and I became invested in Eleonora.  Time and place melted away as I was reading it and before I knew it I was finished.  I was disappointed the story was over and for me that is an excellent read.

My Rating: 97/100

For more information about the author, please visit his website.
You can also visit the tour home page.

Publisher: Harper Perennial
Genre: Historical fiction
Paperback, 320 pages
Book Source: TLC Book Tours
2011 Challenges Met: HF

Her is a list of the other stops on the tour:

Tuesday, August 30th: The Lost Entwife
Wednesday, August 31st: Books Like Breathing
Thursday, September 1st: Jenny Loves to Read
Friday, September 2nd: Wordsmithonia
Tuesday, September 6th: Literature and a Lens
Wednesday, September 7th: Lit Endeavors
Thursday, September 8th: Rundpinne
Friday, September 9th: Let Them Read Books
Tuesday, September 13th: Raging Bibliomania
Wednesday, September 14th: JenandthePen
Thursday, September 15th: CafĂ© of Dreams
Friday, September 16th: Bookfoolery and Babble
Monday, September 19th: The Book Nerd Club

Thanks TLC for my review copy :)