Sunday, November 6, 2011

A New Teen Fad in the Works

It would seem that I do not read original, unknown books to report on. I read bestsellers and then report on what everyone already seems to know.

I began reading this little book (soon to be major motion picture) called The Hunger Games with my class of middle schoolers. I am an English teacher and I wanted them to read something that would be fun and interesting to them, as opposed to the traditional. That plan backfired, though, as they are middle school children and absolutely nothing interests them.

The plan also backfired when I was sucked into the tween trilogy and spent an entire week cooped up in my apartment unable to put the books down.

The media is comparing this series to Twilight and Harry Potter. And I will say that it does not hold a candle to HP. That's not to say that the Hunger Game series is bad or not enjoyable, but Harry Potter was an entire decade of books, movies, midnight showings, costumes, video games, theme park attractions and more. Twilight is a better comparison, however I did enjoy the Hunger Game series better than Twilight. It was better written, in my opinion and the story line was more inventive.

I'm not going to say this series of books is a MUST READ! unless you are a 13 year old girl. It was most definitely entertaining and very well thought out. It showed originality that is rare in this day and age, but the book itself is made for a younger audience. It's a thrilling, suspenseful series that I obviously couldn't put down.

It centers on a country called Panem, once North America. War, weather related disasters and people however changed the nation and civilization completely. The whole premise of the book centers around the "hunger games" in which the capitol of Panem, quite originally named The Capitol, chooses 1 boy and 1 girl between the ages of 12-18 from each district (city, 12 in all) to fight to the death. The winner of the 24 children, the one who is still alive at the very end of it all, receives much needed supplies for him or herself and the whole district in which he or she lives. The drama unfolds as Katniss, the main character in the series, is placed into the Hunger Games with a young man, Peeta. The two of them create a dynamic strategy for survival that makes audiences go wild. It's a story about love (of course, it's a tween trilogy), human survival, friendship and trust.

With the movie due to come out in March 2012, it's bound to be a bigger hit than it already is.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Do You Know How Much an Elephant Drinks?

I don't have much to say about this book, it's clearly a bestseller for a reason and is also now a major motion picture. I've watched the movie and read the book and as usual, I must declare that the book is far superior.

Water for Elephants is a brilliant look into a long forgotten lifestyle. Sara Gruen absolutely did her research and painted a deeply moving picture of the circus during the Great Depression. She makes you understand how things were and how people really got by, which is something I think we don't really understand in today's culture. The animals in the book are also very well described, each has it's own unique personality that one doesn't forget in reading the book.

All in all, I agree with the rest of the nation in saying that this is a must read. It's well written, unique in content and fantastically interesting, gripping, hilarious and picturesque.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Naked is Not Always Better

Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby. Bloody hell, it feels like I'm starting a book report in middle school. However, this book is not for middle schoolers...or high school students for that matter. It's mature, and not mature in the way the world is accustomed to, with all the explicit sex and dirty language. It's mature in a way that's thought provoking and charming. It looks at an almost middle aged woman, Annie, who's wasted fifteen years of her life with a man who was just easy rather than amazing, charming and completely in love with her. A man who ignites fire and passion within her. Duncan is definitely not that man.

Duncan is in love with another man...but mysteriously not in a homosexual way. He is obsessed with a musician who no one has ever heard of and who disappeared after an inexplicable event in a bathroom. So, when Duncan leaves her, she is left wondering what has become of herself, why she wasted so much time and how she make up that time. It leaves her wondering if she can have children (if anyone would even want to have sex with her even Duncan didn't).

She has a chance encounter with the musician, Tucker Crowe. And baffling questions are answered...Annie's life problems are...well not necessarily solved, but definitely examined.

This book is poignant and interesting, it's intriguing and really makes you scrutinize what makes life worth living. This is a quality that Nick Hornby has been able to write about very well, as noted by his other bestsellers, About a Boy and High Fidelity.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Essential Ingredients



Cinnamon and Sugar…

The smells of childhood memories and summer romances…

Memories flood through taste buds. Sweet and savory aromas awaken passion. Lillian uses her Monday night cooking class to stir up love, friendship and delicious treats. In her debut novel, The School of Essential Ingredients, Erica Bauermeister portrays how the lives of eight people are brought together through food. Lillian, the chef, who creates unique but exceptional flavor combinations, uses her class to help an older couple remember their passion, a young mother remember who she is and more. This original work is riddled with delicious recipes and individual anecdotes.

For her first novel, Erica Bauermeister is already a success. She gained insight into the art of food appreciation through her two years in Italy.

Praise for The School of Essential Ingredients

“In this remarkable debut, Bauermeister creates a captivating world where the pleasures and particulars of sophisticated food come to mean much more than simple epicurean indulgence.”

–Publishers Weekly

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Lay Me Down

I just now watched the movie Marley & Me, and I sobbed myway through it. At one point I had to leave the room, and I still tear up just thinking about it. Books and movies like these really touch close to home to pet owners, just like a book I recently read called Chosen By a Horse by Susan Richards.

"Lay Me Down expressed affection by sighing. I saw it as an expression of relief, a letting go of all the tension she carried in that big body for such a long time, the horse equivalent of 'Phew, I made it.'
She sighed a lot. She sighed when I poured the bran mash into her feed bin. She sighed when I put her blankets on at night, and she sighed in the morning when I took them off. She sighed at her hay, she sighed when I brushed her, she sighed when I kissed the end of her nose...great big wet sighs, big enough to spray me with snot sometimes; loud, wet affectionate sighs...Sometimes I sighed back...I wanted her to know I felt the same way. I was relieved, too. 'Phew, we've made it,' I sighed. We were both safe."

In this memoir, Susan writes of her experiences rescuing an abused mare and her foal (mother and baby horse for those of you who don't speak horse). The mare, Lay Me Down, is so full of love and trust, even though she suffered terrible abuse at the hands of humans. While Susan tries to rehabilitate her, Susan learns things about herself and pushes herself to be more open to love, just as her horse is.

"Two kindred spirits find each other in this beautifully written memoir about the human-animal bond." -Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation

I cried myself through this book, too. (I'm a bit of a cryer...if it wasn't already apparent.) If you like horses...or really any animals, you should definitely read this book! It's already a national bestseller!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Little Princes

People always seem to ask me to take care of children, for some reason unknown to me, and every time I don this deer in the headlights look and my brain scrambles for excuses..."I'm too busy," "I'm moving...possibly..sometime..perhaps in the future..." "I have a cat and I would hate it if one of the kids was allergic, went to hug me and fell out in full anaphalactic shock." The truth is..I am TERRIFIED of children. Which makes Connor Grennan one of my newest heros.

"It was well after nightfall when I realized we had gone the wrong way. The village I had been looking fr was somewhere up the mountain...if we could even find the trail in the pitch-dark. My two porters and i had been walking for almost thirteen hours straight. Winter at night in the mountains of northwestern Nepal is bitterly cold, and we had no shelter. Two of our three flashlights had burned out. Worse, we were deep in a Maoist rebel stronghold, not far from where a colleague had been kidnapped almost exactly one year before...I wondered how thing would have been different if I hadn't gotten hurt."

Connor wrote one of the most moving books I've ever read, Little Princes, to be published in February 2011. A few years ago, after working for the EastWest Institute in Prague and Brussell's, Connor was bored with life and quit his job to go on a trip around the world. With friends telling him how selfish and crazy the whole thing was, he decided to try out an act of selflessness and volunteer at an orphanage in Nepal for three months to start out his vacation.

On his second round at the orphanage, Connor discovers seven more children living in poverty and starved half to death. This sets him out on the adventure of a lifetime to save these children that he realizes aren't orphaned at all. In the process he reroutes his own destiny, founds a NonProfit organization, finds love and gains at least 30 new brothers and sisters in a country 9000 miles away from home.

This true story is ABSOLUTELY a MUST READ. At the time, American's were so focused on the war in Afghanistan and Iraq that nobody even noticed the civil war in Nepal, but Connor was in it, risking his life for an impossible fight.

If you'd like to know more about Connor and his NonProfit, Next Generation Nepal, go to And mark your calendar for February 2011 to look out for Little Princes by Connor Grennan.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Voices in My Head

I had the very distinct pleasure of meeting Kirk Farber, author of the recently published Postcards From a Dead Girl, last week. You may be thinking that his title sounds quite morbid, which may be true, but the book is far from it.

Postcards is centered around Sid, a travel agency call center worker who starts to receive these, yep you guessed it... postcards from a girlfriend he hasn't spoken to in a year. He speaks to his deceased mother who hangs out in a bottle of '67 Bordeaux and he communicates quite effectively with his dog, Zero.

Is your interest piqued yet?

Kirk has a deliciously quiet, yet quirky humor that made this book especially entertaining and surprisingly thought provoking. What I mean by that is he takes this idea and these characters and events and makes you, the reader, really think about what's going on. Too many books (and movies) now are created for the sole purpose of letting the reader (or viewer) drone out in meaningless nothingness, but Kirk has found a way to entertain without losing brain activity.

I don't want to give anything away, but let me just say that I LOVED the last chapter. It won't make sense without the context of the book, so don't just read that... you'll just have to go out and read the whole thing!

And as for the voices in my head... that is in reference to a personalized note written on the inner flap of my newly acquired book by the author himself. Signed copies make my heart dance.