Monday, August 29, 2011

The Ghost Orchid

Carol Goodman

Ellis Brooks is excited to be invited to the Bosco - A beautiful estate transformed into an artist colony. You see, she's working on her first book and it happens to be about the medium Corinth Black and the controversy that now surrounds her and the previous owners of Bosco - Miles and Aurora Latham. While fighting through writers block Ellis must learn to navigate a fragile ecosystem of artists and their habits but when her fellow residents start to emulate the infamous characters from the Latham situation Ellis must learn to trust her instincts, even when they seem anything but right.

Let's ignore the fact that I've read three Carol Goodman books this year. However, let's not ignore the fact that each one has had a slew of problems, from implausible characters to shady historical dealings. Even so it's hard ignore how addictive her writing is.  The Ghost Orchid covers a few one of Goodman's specialties - groups of artists and academics living in close proximity. Not quite the boarding schools of Lake of Dead Languages and Arcadia Falls fame, but just as intriguing.

Goodman's Bosco estate is beautifully depicted, and the reasoning behind it is even more haunting. Aurora\Latham's story is heart breaking. Between her dead children and her likable, but not so great husband she had to retreat into the world of myth and fountains to create a safe haven, and I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't want to see Bosco's grounds (or library, or secret passageways.) With Bosco as a backdrop a store full of mediums, procession and lies seems more plausible, the characters plights more threatening and the heartbreak more real.

There's a reason why only a few of Goodman's novels are best sellers, The Ghost Orchid is an interesting and quick read, but it lacks the substance of many of her other novels. However if medium's and thrillers are you're thing check it out.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - Loved But Not Reviewed

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. This meme was created because they are particularly fond of lists over at The Broke and the Bookish. I'm sure they'd love to share your lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten list.

Top Five Books I Loved But Never Reviewed

Everything Is Illuminated - Foer - For the most part I've reviewed everything I've read since I started this blog. That mean's favorites that haven't been read in 2 years haven't gotten the attentiont hey have deserved. That is definitely the case with Everything is Illuminated. I read it my senior year of high school. It was one of the first books that really REALLY made me think, which in hindsight is kind of weird.

The History of Love - Krauss - Again, I haven't reread The History of Love since starting Loving books and that's the main reason for it's absents from my list. It's just such a fantastic book, guys. Go read it.

Catch 22 - Heller - Sometimes I have a hard time writing about classics. I get really worried that I'm going to say something too obvious or completely wrong or just plain stupid and then I panic about if for a few hours. That isn't healthy reviewing. It's not really healthy anything, really. I do really love Catch 22. I should probably reread it and give the review another shot.

Nine Stories - Salinger - I actually attempted a review of this, but please don't go looking for it. It's bad, guys. So bad. I'm not great with reviewing short story collections, but I love the Glass family and I love all of these stories.

Falling Angels -Chevalier - One of my favorite books of all time. I have a hard time writing coherently about it. For me it's the perfect blend of historical fiction and real emotions. Plus I love all of the characters and have tagged Lavinia as one of my favorite names.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Magicians - Grossman

Lev Grossman

Life is a chore for Quieten, what with his advanced classes at his Brooklyn private school, his best friend dating the love of his life and the nerve-racking Ivy Le age interviews he has to prepare for. The one thing that comforts Quinten is magic, and novels about his favorite fantasy land - Filroy.  He's great with magic, well the stage variety at least, but when given the opportunity to go to the exclusive Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy Quientins life is changed forever. Here he learn, love and lives until the real world comes to take him back, but is that the only option? 

The Magicians is often called the "adult" Harry Potter. It's easy to see why, schools dedicated to magic, a slightly neglected male protagonist and a good deal about friendship and relationships are all areas that overlap in both works, but if you've come to Grossman's first novel about the magic of Filroy (The Magician King came out earlier this month) hoping to find a Potter replica you'll be disappointed. Don't let that dissuade you from jumping into Quentin's head, though, because The Magicians is still a fantastic book. 

Possibly the most interesting part of Grossman's version of "the magician" is how complex magic is. There are specific hand motions for each spells, along with different conjugations depending on the weather, the sun and various other things. Where as in many other fantasy novels the magic just pours out of the characters the students at Brakesbill have to work very hard to perfect their skill.

The only issue I had with The Magicians lies mostly with Quentin and his friends, while they're all interesting and happy go lucky and all of that they can air on the side of petulant. This is especially true once Quentin and company graduate and are allowed to live in New York work free, drinking and screwing and generally ruining their lives and their relationships. Though necessary to progress the plot I found this section to just be long (it really wasn't that long, it just dragged) and irritating. While most of the Physics Kids were in the same boat as Quentin, Alice and Penny became some of my favorite characters here.

Regardless of Quentin's sometimes trying demeanor I'm excited to pick up The Magician King and see where Quentin and his remaining friends go.  Definitely a good, light fantasy read.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bookish Things are all the Rage

Bookish things are cool. Not just books, which are cool too, but things that are like books but not. For instance I'm really into You've probably seen their shirts around. They take classic covers, like this awesome iconic Catcher in the Rye image  and put them on super comfy shirts and the occasional hoodie.
Sadly, I only have this shirt, but I've been dying to get the Pride & Prejudice hoodie and the stylish but girly Great Gatsby top. While their clothes are fantastic, and alert you to fellow bookish folk like Threadless unites college students my favorite thing about Out of Print is that for every shirt they sell they donate a book to a community in need. 

If you don't want to cover your body with books how about your walls? Spineless Classics could be for you. High quality posters, framed or unframed with the entire text of a book in a cool design. 

While I love the designs on most of their posters, my favorite is the single sheet version of War and Peace. In case you're wondering, to hang that beauty in your house you'll need around 15 feet of free wall space to hang that in your house. Admittedly I haven't gotten anything from Spineless Classics yet, but I already know what my first home-warming present will be to myself the next time I move.  

Lastly there is the lovely Etsy. Of course I don't have enough time (or money, or space in my house) to try all the shops dedicated to all things bookish, but I can attest to the awesomeness of Brookish - A Jane Austen inspired shop. I'm a huge fan of her mugs

I have two, actually. Aside from the adorable mugs she has fantastic shirts and decorative items. 

So those are some of my favorite places to browse through bookish things. What about you? Do you like to flaunt your love for books on your sleeve or with things other than beautiful bookshelves? What are some of your favorite sties/stores to browse through? 

PS: I'm working on another Behind Every Girl is an Amazing Nail Polish post and would love to know which characters you'd like to see featured!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - Favorites of 2011

It's Tuesday, which mean's it's a Top Ten Tuesday, which doesn't always mean I've managed to come up with a witty list...I digress. This week's a free week, and I'm going to use it to tell you about the 10 best books I've read in 2011 so far.

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. This meme was created because they are particularly fond of lists over at The Broke and the Bookish. I'm sure they'd love to share your lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten list.

Top Ten Books of 2011 (Part the First)

1.The Paris Wife - McLain - The story of Hadley Richardson, Hemingway's first wife and mother of his eldest son is incredible. It's life in the 20's in Paris, it's the Fitzgerald's fighting in the background and it's Hemingway writing and running with the bulls and generally showing signs of the complete bad ass he is going to become. Also, there is no suicide, which is nice, only divorce. Oops, I guess that's a spoiler, but if you picked up The Paris Wife without knowing there were many other wives to come you kind of deserve it.

2. Exit the Actress - Parmar - The story of an Oyster girl turned Orange girl turned Actress turned Kings Mistress set during the mid 1600's is equal parts funny and informative. If you're into historical fiction it's definitely one to check out. Plus Nell Gwyn is hilarious as a historical figure, and she isn't a character you'll see on every cover. *cough cough Anne Boyle cough*

3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Rowling - My favorite book in the series seems to change with each read through, this year it's Deathly Hallows. Maybe it's Harry growing up that gets me, or Neville turning into a hero, or Snape being...well, Snape, but I just wept through Deathly Hallows like no one would let me read Rowling ever again. It was an situation. There were tissues everywhere and I kept saying things like "Harry no!" to no one in particular, and then I watched all of the movies again. Hello, I'm Sarah, I like books and I'm a Potterphile, if you know of any support groups please sent them my way.

4. Pride & Prejudice - Austen - I think Kate at Hark! a vagrant put it best -

5. The Alchemist - Coelho - I'm a little late on The Alchemist bandwagon, but it's a great little fable. It totally made me feel like I could go out and do whatever I wanted with my life. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not, but since I'm a recent college drag searching for job prospect and reading depressing books I'm going to pretend that it's the best thing ever. 

6. The Magicians - Grossman - If you'll remember from #3 I'm a bit of a Harry Potter fan. I needed a fix so I tried this "Potter for Adults" book about a magical college and a land that resembles Narnia. It was great. Two whole Universes created in under 400 pages. I was impressed. While it wasn't really Harry for the older readers it is a good story about Wizards. 

7. The Ghost Orchid - Goodman - I've read to much Goodman this year to not put her on this list, and this was my favorite of the three books of hers I read. Set at an artists retreat in upstate New York it has love, murder, psychics and a swamp. Also, secret tunnels. Really, tunnels! 

8. A Game of Thrones - Martin - I've been wanting to start the A Song of Ice and Fire series for over a year but had always been intimidated by the page length and it's incomplete status but A Game of Thrones is totally awesome. I was definitely missing out by waiting. I wasn't a huge fan of all of the child POV characters (except Jon Snow. he seems like a BAMF) but overall I think I've found a new series to obsess over. On to A Clash of Kings!

9. Tree of Codes - Foer - Not really a book as much as an Art project, or Artist Book, Foer took his favorite book, Street of Crocidiles and cut it to pieces to make his own unique story out of Schulz original work. The story is almost secondary to the reading process, which with being able to see the pages is definitely a process (I started by using a sheet of paper behind each page but when that was taking to much time I just held the page up so it wasn't flat against the rest of the book), but was completely worth the trouble.

10. The Secret Lives of Dresses - McLean - I finished this last night. While it wasn't the most creative of stories or the best written novel it still gave me warm butterflies and an urge to go shopping. Both things are good in my book. So are Vintage clothing stores, coffee shops and shirt dresses, which this book has in spades! 

Friday, August 12, 2011

My American Unhappiness - Bakopoulos

Dean Bakopoulos
(Amazon Vine Copy)

Zeke Pappas is on a mission - to compile a list of what makes Americans unhappy. Which is perfect, because he works at the Great Midwestern Humanities Initiative. Aside from having a pretty sweet job Zeke plays father figure to his twin orphan nieces and roommate to his elderly mother. When his mother has a change of heart Zeke needs to find a wife before everything he knows is taken from him.

My American Unhappiness sounds interesting, right? What with interviews of the general population and a man interested in compiling a list of their woes? Only it's not. The actual  Unhappiness Project takes up a pitifully small portion of the book. Everything else is Zeke Pappas being....Zeke. This is truly a case of an unlikable protagonist ruining what could be a good book. The problem is that Zeke doesn't understand his life. He thinks everything is perfect, that he'll find love one day and that his ability to predict strangers Starbucks orders is endearing. When his life starts to fall apart he thinks he takes it in stride, but in reality he is crying in his office (which he denies) and proposing to near strangers after a first date.  Maybe if My American Unhappiness had been marketed as a man unknowingly coping with some form of mental illness Zeke would be easier to stomach, and truly I tried, but his outbursts and routines broke me down.

While I didn't love the majority of Unhappiness there were a few things that stood out as brilliant. The Unhappiness Project is really interesting. I almost wish the entire book was just interviews with people talking about what makes them unhappy. Really, anything from technology to lack of sleep makes the list. The other thing I love was how well the Midwest was represented by Bakopoulos. Having grown up in Michigan (in Livonia, the city Zeke visits at the end!) and going to school in Illinois I really connected with the Madison setting and the general feeling these often overlooked areas can create. Truthfully, I finished this book because I loved how distinct each place, Madison, Ann Arbor, Chicago, came across.

Definitely not my favorite read of the year,  but I'd lay a majority of the blame on the blurb being woefully incorrect and Zeke being a irritating pansy.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Night Villa - Goodman

Carol Goodman

After a fatal school shooting Professor Sophie Chase finds herself on a trip she never expected to take.Quickly she finds herself in Italy with an ex lover, a computer mogul, several other academics and her favorite student, Agnes. While on the beautiful isle of Capris Sophie starts to find herself, and the subject of her research Iusta, an intriguing slave girl living in Herculaneum when Vesuvius erupted, are both growing in unexpected ways. As her research progresses and mysterious appearances start happening
Sophie will have to learn that the truth isn't always what it seems.

Let's pause for a minute to look at a very dangerous piece of rock. 

If you've read Carol Goodman before you're probably aware that most of her books have three things 1.) ! rouge relationship that may turn out better than the heroin could ever anticipate. 2.) The Classics (usually Latin) or art. 3.) Murder. The Night Villa has all three. As a suspense/mystery (which if pressed is what i would classify most of Goodman's books) The Night Villa delivers. My predictions, which usually turn out correct were hopelessly wrong in this transatlantic who-done-it. Structurally, Goodman delivers, there is just the right amount of suspense, intrigue and false information to keep readers interested while still moving the story forward at a good pace.

Now for the story, or stories, is actually more accurate. Goodman uses her tried and true method of using her broken heroine, in this case Sophie, to narrate the majority of the book, but for the necessary glimpses into the past there is a lost scroll belonging to a man named Phineas, who spends most of his time talking about Iusta. Sophie's story is compelling, she's searching for information, and a way to heal the wounds left by her crazy ex. Iusta's story is different. True, she's "fighting" for her freedom and she's a historically interesting case, but her story running against the impending eruption of Vesuvius, while giving it a sense of urgency also makes it seem pointless against all of the deaths that are about to occur. Overall not my favorite Goodman novel, but if you're interested in crazy cults, Latin or Pompeii it's worth checking out. Good for a summer read to transport you to the clear sea side!

Other Goodman Reviews:
Arcadia Falls
The Lake of Dead Languages
The Seduction of the Water

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Bookbinding + Harry Potter = The Best Final Ever

You may remember I was taking a bookbinding class last semester. You may also remember I took a crazy awesome Fantasy Lit class exclusively on Harry Potter. No big deal or anything. Well, I ended up combing my final projects and creating three books from the Harry Potter series. I was totally going to post pictures right after I finished them, but being with out camera or webcam my plans had to be put on hold UNTIL NOW.

My interpretation of Tom Riddles mass marketed diary - sold at a wizard Target near you! 

The Monster Book of Monsters! Made out of ripped up stuffed animals and googly eyes! (Note: Never sew through fake fur ever again. EVER)

Monster cover page!

My roommate drew a bunch of really awesome mythical creatures for me since I am about as artistic as a one armed blind lumberjack but my favorite is still the big ol' question mark she drew for the Boggart. 

The Half Blood Princes Advanced Potions Book. It is actually dented and has stains on the cover but the camera didn't pick that up.

Snape has feelings. 

And sometimes he invents spells.

And sometimes he uses Veritaserum on Lucius Malfoy to find his Cape and plays tic tac toe with Lily Evans.

There are also pages detailing Snape's plans to use Polyjuice Potion to turn into James Potter, snog Lily and then get James expelled, as well as Lily's schedule on the page behind Amortentia.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - Trends

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. This meme was created because they are particularly fond of lists over at The Broke and the Bookish. I'm sure they'd love to share your lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten list.
This Week's Top Ten Tuesday Topic is:
Trends you want to see More/Less of in Literature

Less, please, just less.

Vampires - I never got into the Vampire craze, so I know I'm biased, but that doesn't mean I haven't noticed what has been happening. I should be able to walk through any given aisle in the fiction section at Barnes and Nobel and not be assaulted by 10 different vampire stories. Also, series about vampires can leave. No more Suki or Bella and their Vampire loves for book after book after book. NO MORE! *starts minor revolution*

Classic + Monster = LOOK WHAT I CAN DO WITH THINGS IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN - Okay, when it was just Pride & Prejudice and Zombies I was intrigued. It was an interesting concept, classic Austen but with slight rewrites, but then we got Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and Android Kareninia. Oh, and don't forget that book about Queen Victoria being a demon hunter and that one with Lincoln. I guess I'm more of a traditionalist. I'd rather see a talented writer work on their own original work than take a seam ripper to things I had to read in high school.

Historical Fiction Covers with Girls in Low Cut Dresses and No Heads -

Memoirs About Your Sad Uneventful Life - Oh, your left your husband and now you want to write a book about how you're a new woman and you're 35 and life is so difficult. I don't care. I don't think many people care, actually. Maybe your mom does. Go show her your diary. Don't publish a Memoir with a stupid title. 

Celebrity Memoir/Unofficial Biographies for the Under 20's - I know, Star's are a brand blah blah blah merchandise blah. Just keep it out of my book store. Also, if you're younger than my 22 year old self and didn't survive some amazing feat like outrunning Cyberman Nazi's wielding the elder wand I don't care. 

Dystopian Anything - I'm a fan of Dystopian Lit. I really am. It makes me think. That being said I'd like to see less of it. It's become so popular in the past few years it's starting to become the new Vampire book. Only with hunky hero's and clever heroines. 

Historical Fiction Titles that Suggest Romance When They Really Mean People Getting Their Heads Cut Off - I'm a huge historical fiction fan. Really any time between 1400 and 1930 I'm totally into.  That being said I'm usually a little ashamed to tell people what I'm reading, not because the content is iffy, but because of titles like The Virgin's Lover. I just want the title of the book I'm reading to match the content. 

New York - Hello most common setting, nice to see you again. Oh, you're going to go take a taxi uptown to go window shopping. That's nice. I get it. New York's a big city. People love it and it's an easy go to setting, but I'd love to see more of other big cities. Chicago, Boston, DC. They might not be as big as the Big Apple, but they each have their own history and unique populations. Use them. 

MORE, Pretty Please!

Books About Artists/Writers - I'm a huge fan of books about Artists and Writers. This probably isn't a surprise if you're one of my followers. It's just so interesting to see a possible insight into the brain of someone like Hemingway or Van Gogh.

Real Life Book Clubs - There just aren't any around me, and it makes me sad. Someone read with me please?