Books are cheaper than heroin, but they DO add up....

Amy, Carrie, Chanin and Sarah buy (and read and review) their own stuff. They've been known to shop around from dealer to dealer looking for the best price. If you're interested in slipping them something to try out, just contact us.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Candy Girl by Diablo Cody

Sarah's Reaction:  My neighbor lent me this book with the words "I sometimes read weird things."  Mmmkay.  I sometimes read weird things as well.  And this book is both weird and oddly commonplace.  Before Diablo Cody became known as the woman who wrote the screenplay for the movie "Juno," she was a stripper.  Well I haven't ever actually seen her take her clothes in front of other people, but I'm taking her word (or in this case book) for it.

Candy Girl gave me a lot more insight to the world of sex workers than I needed though it was not grotesque, explicit, and was blissfully devoid of judgment.  For someone of Cody's obvious intellect with a knack for pith, it's refreshing that she could not just get close but work along with some of the world's sorriest cases and not smear them with disdain for their lives.  She constantly mocks, but not those around her at work and she does not pretend to have the answers for the other women who so clearly struggle with myriad vices and neuroses. 

What still perplexes me is where Cody picked up such insecurity and need for validation.  She is smarter than most, funnier than average, and clearly can excel at many professions.  I mean, I enjoyed the account of her time as a stripper but I'm still not sure why she felt the need to do it in the first place.  When did self-discovery become such an obvious metaphor in the shedding of clothes?  Throughout the whole thing she never seems happy, but I guess not everyone is meant to be.  Still it was a very enlightening and entertaining read.

From Booklist

A copy typist by day in Minnesota, Cody was hardly a likely candidate for entering an amateur stripping contest. But her curiosity got the best of her and, encouraged by her boyfriend, enter she did. The contest left her with an increased curiosity about the profession, and Cody decided to take an evening job stripping at Schieks, a local club. There Cody learns the ins and outs of stripping--how to catch a client's attention, how much the house takes, how some nights are highly profitable and others leave a stripper in debt to the club. Eventually Cody outgrows Schieks and moves on to Deja Vu, a bigger club that's much faster paced. A promotion at her day job forces her to give up stripping temporarily, but before long she's back in the adult entertainment business, this time stripping behind glass in an emporium. Cody's lively romp through the adult entertainment business is bound to appeal to those wanting a peek inside the inner workings of the sex industry. Kristine Huntley
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Monday, March 28, 2011

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Amy says:  Unlike my last review, I actually paid for this book.  Shocking, I know!  A friend had been talking incessantly about it and her self-proclaimed addiction to its characters on Facebook, so I had to see what all of the fuss was about.  And  while I didn't feel the need to update my status after every chapter (I was a little embarrassed to admit that I was reading a Young Adult novel), I will admit that I devoured this book in a weekend.  
The author created a plot that was intense from the very beginning.  Being introduced to the main character, Katniss, right as she was thrown into a competition for her life left me no choice but to attach myself to her immediately.    I love reality TV (something else I am a little embarrassed to admit) and following Katniss through the competition gave the book  a reality TV feel (think Survivor), which made it that much harder for me to put down.
Like I said, I read this book in basically 48 hours.  But the fact that the author used children, some as young as 12 years old, as competitors in The Hunger Games totally disturbed me.  I found myself on the verge of being sick to my stomach in some chapters and had to remind myself that it was all make-believe.   While that is a testament to the talent of the author, I would think twice about letting a young reader read this book.   
I have since read "Catching Fire" and "Mockingjay," the other two books in the trilogy, and will review those in future posts. 
Amazon's synopsis 
In a not-too-distant future, the United States of America has collapsed, weakened by drought, fire, famine, and war, to be replaced by Panem, a country divided into the Capitol and 12 districts.  Each year, two young representatives from each district are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games.  Part entertainment, part brutal intimidation of the subjugated districts, the televised games are broadcasted throughout Panem as the 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors, literally, with all citizens required to watch.  When 16-year-old Katniss's young sister Prim, is selected as the mining district's female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place.  She and her male counterpart, Peeta, the son of the town baker who seems to have all the fighting skills of a lump of bread dough, will be pitted against bigger, stronger representatives who have trained for this their whole lives.
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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Book News

From Sarah:

Two things sent me to blogger this morning, both of which were brought to my attention by Barnes and Noble (they send me emails, I'm lazy like that), therefore I've linked back to them.

1.  Edith Piaf's biography No Regrets: The Life of Edith Piaf
If you don't know who she is, you never had the great misfortune of having me as your French teacher.  She was a singer but in the way that a tragic background and stardom can make you more, she was much more.  I won't go into all of it, as you can read it for yourself either in the biography or the review of the biography found here, but in her life she was abandoned by her mother, raised in a brothel, mixed up with the Parisian mob, a teenage mother (the baby didn't live past age 2), a folk hero of the darker side-with a heart of gold of course-of Paris, a perpetual loser in love (it would've helped if she hadn't continually picked married men to be her lovers), and a national icon.  Her life was interesting to say the least, and I'm adding this book to my list.  And now I have Milord stuck in my head.

2.  Sarah Vowell's new book Unfamiliar Fishes
Depending on when this was released this month, it's killing Carrie that she can't buy it immediately.  {Carrie gives up buying new books for Lent.  It's a long 40 days for book sellers round the world.} This one is also going on my list, as I really liked Vowell's other books and they have a tendency to focus on things in American history that don't often get that much attention.....or attention in this manner.  If you haven't read any of her other books, Carrie and I would encourage you to do so as you learn quite a bit even if you don't try and rarely notice.  Unfamiliar Fishes focuses on Hawaii and its journey from island to state which is enough fodder to fill three books in my opinion.  You can find information about Vowell and her books here.

Happy reading!      Pin It

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang

If I promised you a story spanning 500+ pages, 60+ years, 3 generations, 4 different regimes, innumerable unpronounceable locations (by Western standards) and countless human suffering (by anyone's standards), wouldn’t your fingers get all tangled up in your race to to order a copy?  I know.  I know.  You missed the question because your eyes glazed over just at the mention of 500+ pages.  Normally, I would, too, but it would have been a shame if I had missed reading Wild Swans for any of the normal reasons I avoid a book.  (It's nonfiction.  It's all about China.  It's depressing. It's not a police procedural or romantic comedy or urban fantasy. Ugh. Yawn. Boo. Hiss, hiss, hiss.)
Yet this tale of three Chinese women--grandmother, mother, daughter--is an engaging story that I am determined to share, to recommend, because despite all the reasons I listed for normally avoiding it, this book actually contains much of what I think makes a good book.  The mystery of another culture is, well, not solved exactly, but explained.  Plenty of evidence is compiled.  Boy meets girl, boy falls for girl, boy wins girl’s heart.  A fantasy, complete with world mythology, is introduced; they call it communism. There are monsters in the fantasy, and at the end, the youngest heroine escapes. 
The book is banned in China, and you won't need to read past the foreword to understand why.  This book is a tribute to the Chinese people and what they have endured, but makes no apologies for the cruelties and oppression of any of the Chinese governments (feudal, Japanese-backed, Kuomintang or Communist).  So read this book.  It will make you think, and it will make you grateful--even if your eyes glaze over at all the unpronounceable names.
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Monday, March 21, 2011


So we've added a few things here.  Links to separate pages for each of the contributors can be found at the top of the page.  Each person gets to maintain their page as they see fit.  Which basically means that I'll probably be lazy and not change it as often as I should.  So you may think I'm a really slow reader because I won't update that regularly.  And that may annoy you that I'm not reliable in that way.  But, honestly, what did you expect from an addict?

You can also find some "book news" here from time to time.  It may get its own page or we may just put it up as its own mini-post.  It will be basic information about good deals and book releases from authors who got us hooked in the first place.  For example, one of my reliable dealers, Barnes and Noble, is selling children's board books for 45% right now.  Granted, this is beginner fare; light and mellow with pictures and sometimes even music, but it's a great place to start making little addicts.  Personally, I recommend anything Sandra Boynton (Snuggle Puppy is my favorite), Goodnight Moon, and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (we used it to teach my oldest animals and colors).  So pass the word and tell me what I should go buy for my two little addicts. Pin It

The Solace of Leaving Early by Haven Kimmel

This was not so much the story of a romance rather than the story of an internal struggle resolved.  It was slow to start and I often found myself feeling a little dumb in regards to the philosophe references (though I comfort myself with the fact that I know the term philosophe), but ultimately I enjoyed this book quite a bit.  I was touched by the characters and how each one coped with the extraordinary and the everyday matters that presented themselves throughout the story.

There were great moments of crisis, but they were handled well so as not to be overly melodramatic.  I greatly appreciate that as it's one of the things I find most obnoxious about books  in which two characters become romantically involved.  Too often it seems that circumstances beyond the romancers are the main reason they end up together, rather than two people meeting, dating, falling in love, and choosing to be together (or at least two of the four).  Of course that would probably be a fairly boring book and on e of many reasons I will never be a successful writer....I digress.  There is an absent character who could have very easily been vilified but was, instead, treated as someone more than his actions and that is something I also greatly appreciate.

A small town was the setting of the story but it was actually smaller and larger than that since the book takes place mostly on two street and within the overly analytical minds of the main characters (who specialize in literature, academia, and religion).  It was a very subtle recognition that not everyone is suited to know everything, and that most of us bias our world of knowledge with the only facts we want to know anyway.
The book concludes with a slightly implausible ending, in my opinion, but good all the same; especially for a girl who is seduced by "The Flea." 

Synopsis by Publishers Weekly

A romance evolves in the wake of a domestic shooting in Kimmel's intelligent and compassionate debut novel, which brings two friends of one of the victims together in a small Indiana town. Amos Townsend is the male protagonist, a 40-ish preacher who counseled the late Alice Baker-Maloney as her frayed marriage degenerated into a fatal confrontation with her controlling husband, Jack. Amos remains tormented by his attraction to Alice and his inability to have prevented the tragedy. Meanwhile, bookish Langston Braverman has returned home after dropping out of her Ph.D. program following an affair with an academic colleague and subsequent nervous breakdown. The two clash after Langston's mother, AnnaLee, orders her to abandon her literary projects to care for Alice's two orphaned daughters; Amos accuses Langston of being unfit for the job when both girls continue to exhibit a bizarre variety of compulsive, religiously oriented behaviors. The girls' crisis continues to escalate, leading to a series of melodramatic scenes in which Amos and Langston are forced to confront their own demons. There are some winning moments as the protagonists move toward a romance, although things are hindered somewhat by the sluggish pace in the early going, as Kimmel (A Girl Named Zippy) meanders through scenes detailing smalltown Midwestern life and as she delves into the pasts of the two leads. Still, she proves a wise, compassionate and often very witty storyteller whose affection for her characters is contagious. Pin It

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Apothecary's Daughter by Julie Klassen

I'll be honest and state upfront that I read this book because it was a "Free Friday" selection from Barnes and Noble.  It is a historical romance set in England in the early 1800s, so I wasn't sure it would be to my liking.   But I'm thrifty and it IS a free book, you know!   I am happy to report that I liked it way more than I thought I would.  
I could very much relate to the main character Lilly and her struggle to balance all of the relationships in her life.  From working for her father in the family's apothecary shop, to mentoring an apprentice that she may or may not have feelings for, to steadfastly protecting her special needs brother, Lilly seeks to make it all work.   When tragedy strikes, Lilly is forced with a series of difficult decisions, all of which weave themselves into  the different relationships.   
The author also did a good job of including the historical significance of the practices and stigmas of apothecaries versus doctors during the time period.  I found it gave the story the credibility it needed in just the right places. 
I look forward to going back and reading the author's first novel, Lady of Milkweed Manor,  to read more of Ms. Klassen's work.

Jacket Summary
While working in her father’s apothecary shop in the small village of Bedsley Priors, Lilly Haswell dreams of one day traveling the world, perhaps even finding her mother, who had left her family three years before and has never been heard from since. When the chance to live with her maternal aunt and uncle is unexpectedly offered to her, Lilly sees the opportunity for a new life. Once in London, she indulges in a bit of romantic flirtation with several different men while also learning more about her mother’s mysterious disappearance.
Then, when a crisis forces Lilly to return to Bedsley Priors, she faces the difficult challenge of giving up her fabulous independent life in order to help out the family she has always loved.
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Monday, March 7, 2011

Some people.....

So my wonderful, beautiful, crazy smart sister, Carrie, is the reason we have a disclaimer that we buy our own books.  And she is also the reason that I have to post this note.  Because she didn't actually buy the book she is reviewing.  Insert heavy sigh.  Carrie got this in e-book format as a free advanced reader copy.  Which kind of makes us this blog even cooler cause it's kind of a "review it before you can buy it" situation.  That's right.  We are that awesome.

We're perfectly willing to do this for others so send all the free books you want!

Without further ado, here's Carrie's review.  And I promise to try to keep her in-line in the future......if at all possible. Pin It

California Schemin' by Kate George

This book is an action-packed bi-coastal romp with a heroine I will keep following.  Our heroine witnesses a death (more or less) and, like a good citizen, contacts the authorities. This brings Bree nothing but trouble--break ins, threats to her friends, and kidnapping--until the man responsible for the death is stopped.

The story was fun, but I would call it “okay” instead of “good” for one little reason and one big reason.  First, the minor point, I was slow to warm up to the characters because I felt like I had been dropped down into the middle of a two-part mini-series.  If I had read the first book, Moonlighting in Vermont, I might have felt differently.  (Of course, if I had read the first one and the second then contained tons of back story, I would have been annoyed.  I know this about myself.  That's why this is a minor note.)

Second and more importantly, I love mysteries because they satisfy my inner Nancy Drew.  I want to piece through the clues and evidence and try to figure out "who done it" before the author reveals the answer.  Because Bree's time was spent running for her life and rescuing her boyfriend, my inner Nancy Drew was left uninvolved.

Despite poor Miss Drew’s dissatisfaction, I will go back and read the first book (Moonlighting in Vermont).  Also, there were two characters in this book that I hope make it into future books: man of intrigue, Richard Hambecker, and the FBI agent, Madison Truefellow.
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