Posts Tagged ‘recommended by a brilliant book blogger (or two or three or . . .)’

MWF Seeking BFF:

My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend

by Rachel Bertsche

Ballantine Books, 2011

Source: public library

Read it because . . . I read this review and it sounded interesting


Two years after moving to Chicago with her boyfriend, Rachel Bertsche realizes there is a gaping hole in her life: she has no local best friends. Seeking to remedy the situation, she decides to embark on a year of friend-dating – 52 first dates in all – hoping at least one of them will lead to a new BFF. In MWF Seeking BFF Bertsche recounts her experience, sprinkling her friend-date anecdotes with discussions on current research and studies on friendship.

MWF Seeking BFF was an entertaining read. Bertsche is a humorous, open writer, and I never stopped being impressed by her pro-active approach to solving her best friend dilemma. I was pleasantly surprised by her inclusion of friendship facts and studies, and was pleased that she inserts her friendship research findings in the middle of her anecdotes with relative ease. She cites studies that highlight the positive affect friendships have on both mental and physical health, the stigma attached to admitting loneliness, and the overall decline of adult friendships in our society. Her book brings to light a subject few people are willing to discuss for fear of sounding “pathetic”: that many adults have only a few (if any) really close friends, and that making friends is much more difficult once you grow up.

As I read, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own friendships. Like Bertsche when she began her search, all of my best friends live rather far away. (Most live in a completely different time zone.) I have friends here, but no one I would feel comfortable calling at 2 am (which, in my mind, is one of the differences between a friend and a best friend). I’m not complaining, mind you. I have amazing friends and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. And I am, overall, pretty content with my life. But Bertsche did get me thinking about my local friendships and whether or not it’s time to expand my friendship horizons a bit.

My only quibble with the book are the repeated declarations concerning the Inherent Differences in the Friendship Needs of Men and Women. I am rather uncomfortable with absolutes and so I cringed every time Bertsche said something about men needing one kind of friendship and women needing another. I don’t think the issue is quite that black and white.

Overall, an interesting read. I recommend it.

P. S. This all started as a blog, which you can find here. (Confession: I haven’t looked at it yet.)

Other reviews: Book Addiction, Curled Up With a Good Book and a Cup of Tea, S. Krishna’s Books, The Written World

Did you write a review?  Let me know and I’ll add it to the list!

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by Shobhan Bantwal
Kensington Books, 2011
Source: public library
When I spotted The Full Moon Bride on my library’s new books shelves a while ago I remembered that S. Krishna had given it a positive review.  I impulsively checked it out, stayed up way too late reading the first half of the book, and then, over the course of the next week . . . skimmed the rest.  This may sound strange, but I’m actually proud of myself for skimming the second half of the book.  As I mentioned once before, I am bizarrely obedient when it comes to finishing books.  I don’t like to put down a book half-finished, even when it’s just not working for me.  Hence my delight my skimming the rest of The Full Moon Bride.  It’s a baby step in the right direction.
Even though I had a tough time finishing it, I’m not going to rip on The Full Moon Bride.  It’s a fairly decent book, and one I might have enjoyed it more were it not for one little thing: there was way too much telling and not enough showing.  (Actually, there were other little things that bugged me, too, but that was the main annoyance.)  I wanted to tell Soorya, the narrator, “Stop.  Stop telling me who you are.  Stop telling me who everyone else is.  Just live your story, and I will see who you are.”  The characters never really came to life for me, which is a pretty big drawback in a book that’s more character-driven than plot-driven.  
I do encourage you to check out other reviews before writing this book off completely.  If you wrote a review, please let me know so I can add it to the list.
I realized when I sat down to write this review that I can count this book for two different challenges – the South Asian Challenge and the What’s in a Name? Challenge (for the “life stage” category).  Yay!

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The Heroine’s Bookshelf: Life Lessons from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder

by Erin Blakemore
HarperCollins, 2010
Source: e-bookpurchased from Barnes & Noble
The Heroine’sBookshelf by Erin Blakemoreis an ode to twelve literary heroines, from Scout (To Kill a Mockingbird) to Celie (The Color Purple). Blakemore celebrates the traits that make these heroines worthy of ourtime, attention and admiration.  In theprocess of reacquainting herself with her favorite heroines, she explores thewomen behind these heroines, making startling discoveries about the authors inthe process.  Many of these women ledlives filled with heartache, poverty and despair, and yet, in the act ofcreating their characters, became heroines themselves.
I tore through thisbook in a day.  I knew nine of the twelveheroines, and so reading this book was like catching up with old friends Ihadn’t seen in decades.  I experiencedfamiliarity and newness at the same time, as I relived these characters’ livesand became acquainted with their authors’ own lives.  Half the time I was reading I wanted to dropthe book and reread the heroine’s stories. I suddenly wanted to hear Celie and Jane Eyre’s voices again, wanted towalk in Janie Crawford and Elizabeth Bennet’s shoes.  The sappy, preachy side of Little Women gets under my skin now, but as I read The Heroine’s Bookshelf I remembered how much I love Jo Marchand how many times I read LittleWomen when I was youngerjust so I could spend time with her.
Blakemore’s book isas much an ode to literary heroines and their creators as it is a reminder toher readers that we are “the heroines of our own lives, not supportingcharacters” (5).  “Luckily,” she writes,“we’re not required to be brave to be heroines . . . all we have to do is showup for our own stories.  Even if thereality is less glamorous than fiction . . . even when it feels impossible totap into a spirit that’s bigger and better than you, but IS you, we’re calledupon to lead big, sloppy, frustrating lives” (6).  Fortunately we are not alone in our heroine’swork.  We have our literary heroines,their authors and each other.
It’s funny that Ishould pick up this book now, at a time when I am more acutely aware of theheroines in my own life.  On October 31and November 2 I learned that two of the women in my life had breastcancer.  In the last few months they bothhave exhibited heroic fortitude and spirit, as have all the women aroundthem.  Being a heroine for them andmyself has meant drawing on a strength I didn’t know I possessed every time Ifelt my heart crumbling.  This heroicwork is ongoing: one of these women has three more rounds of chemo ahead ofher, the other is looking at a second surgery in March.  But I know that all of us – heroines and heroes alike – have the spirit to get through this.
Other reviews:
Wait!  There’s more!  Enjoy some Heroine Love over at The Heroine’s Bookshelf blog.

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Among the Shadows: Tales from the Darker Side
by L. M. Montgomery
Bantam Books, 1990
Source: public library
*review contains spoilers*

When I first decided to join the RIP V challenge, I received a plethora of book suggestions from other bloggers.  The suggestion that caught my eye was Among the Shadows by L. M. Montgomery, largely because I never thought I would ever see “spooky” and “L. M. Montgomery” in the same sentence.  Spooky?  L. M. Montgomery?  Really?  I couldn’t resist.

Among the Shadows is a collection of nineteen stories originally published in magazines and newspapers between 1897 and 1935.  The stories range from whodunits (like “Detected by the Camera,” published in 1897) to ghost stories (like “The Closed Door,” published in 1934) to stories containing just the slightest air of mystery (“The Man on the Train,” published in 1914).  Of the nineteen stories, however, seven of them do not have any ghosts, supernatural activity (explained or otherwise) or any real mystery to them.  Those seven stories totally threw me for a loop, and all I can figure is that they must be darker than Montgomery’s better-known works.  (I haven’t read the Anne or Emily books since I was a kid, so I don’t know this for certain.)

The other twelve stories are not necessarily the creepiest stories ever written, but a few of them did send a shiver down my spine.  To me, the spookiest (and the best-written) story in the collection is “The House Party at Smoky Island” (published in 1935).  (It didn’t help that I read it in a rather dark room!)  The arrival of the ghost was handled so subtly that I actually gasped aloud when I realized it was a ghost.  (And then, I confess, I glanced around to make sure there wasn’t an additional presence in the room.)

As I read Montgomery’s tales, I noticed that the reader is often kept at a safe distance from the events in these mysterious and spooky stories.  The twelve stories are told either in the third person, by one character to another, or by a first person narrator who, for the most part, exists on the sidelines of the story.  (See my list below.)  For example, while the first person narrator is present when the ghost shows up in “The House Party at Smoky Island,” he really just happens to be at the right place (or maybe the wrong place!) at the right time; the main story doesn’t really involve him at all.  Of all the first-person narrators in this collection, however, he was the most involved in the story, and I think that involvement is one of the reasons this story spooked me the most.  The more distance you put between the teller and the listener of a ghost story, the less real, and therefore less spooky, it feels.  With several of these stories there was just too much distance between me and the supernatural activity for me to get significantly creeped out.

The funny thing is, this point actually comes up in one of the stories.  In “Davenport’s Story,” (published in 1902), the story opens up with the characters telling each other ghost stories, which are criticized by one of the characters:  “He said our stories were all second-hand stuff.  There wasn’t a man in the crowd who had ever seen or heard a ghost; all our so-called authentic stories had been told us by persons who had the story from other persons who saw the ghosts” (15-16).

This collection is full of “second-hand stuff,” which makes me wonder if Montgomery’s decision to give it to us “second-hand” was intentional or unintentional.  Was she trying to make her stories less credible or realistic?  (And what’s up with the ending of “Some Fools and a Saint”?)  Hmmm.

Overall, it was an interesting read, and one I recommend to Montgomery fans and anyone else curious to see her “darker” side!

Other reviews:

Chandra Universe

* * * * *

For the nerds in the crowd, here’s a breakdown of the twelve spooky stories by category (ghost, whodunit, etc) and how they were narrated.  I’m deliberately not including the titles of the stories because I don’t want to give away more than I already have!

Of the twelve stories containing some mysterious element, there are . . .

2 whodunits: one told in the third person, one told by an initially peripheral first person narrator

1 murder: told by a first person narrator to an unseen audience

5 ghost stories: one told in the third person, two told by a (mostly) peripheral first person narrator, two told by one character to another

2 ghosts-who-aren’t-really-ghosts stories: both told in the third person

1 slightly (mostly explained away) magical story: told in the third person

1 mysterious stranger
: told in the third person

Happy Halloween!

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When I sat down a few days ago to catch up on my favorite book blogs I realized how much I miss this book blogging world.  I miss reading reviews, chatting with fellow book lovers, and planning and writing my own reviews and bookish thoughts.  I miss having a tiny corner of my life separate from work and school.  At first I was a little caught-off guard by this feeling, and then I felt a little sad, because unfortunately this is just the beginning. 

Sigh.  Drat being a responsible adult.

I want to apologize for my absence here, my delayed (or completely lack of) comments on your blogs, and all current and future whining about the intrusion of my thesis and work on my book blogging life.  I’m a little bundle of stress these days, but I’m trying really hard not to inflict that on anyone.  (I think I would be a little more successful at that if I moved to Antarctica.  But I hear it’s kinda cold there.)

Even though work, school and being sick (yes, I’ve been sick, too, which is just not fair, if you ask me) have kept me from blogging, I’ve managed to squeeze in quite a bit of “fun” reading.  (Mostly because I read while at work, but don’t tell on me!)  I don’t really have a review in me right now, so here’s a brief recap of some recent reads:

I did read one more Isabel Allende book last month – Daughter of Fortune.  Most of the novel takes place in California during the Gold Rush, and it was interesting to read an Allende novel about a time and place I’m familiar with.  She is such a vivid writer, though, that even if I wasn’t a native Californian I would still have felt like I was there.  I’ve never been to Chile, and yet after reading House of the Spirits I feel like I have.

Hmmm, what else . . . I finished up the Stieg Larsson Millennium series a few weeks ago.  Not the all-time greatest books I’ve ever read, but still very good.  A coworker loaned me Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen last week, and I feel a little ho-hum about it.  I’ve definitely read better memoirs (A Girl Named Zippy comes to mind; wow, do I love that book!). 

I’ve had a good reading streak since then: I finished Bad Mother by Ayelet Waldman last night and lovedlovedloved it.  When I have available time and brain space I’m definitely going to review it here.  (In the meantime, check out Jenny’s review.  Wonderful.)  I’m on a mini Diana Wynne Jones kick, too.  I read Charmed Life the other day (good times, big fun) and am in the middle of Dogsbody, which is just fantastic.  I’m also in the middle of Among the Shadows by L. M. Montgomery, (recommended by Chandra), because frankly I could not resist reading a collection of spooky stories written by the author of Anne of Green Gables.

And on a totally unrelated note, autumn is finally getting rolling here, which just thrills me to pieces.  The leaves are blowing everywhere, there’s a chill in the air . . . I would be totally okay with it staying like this until spring 🙂

What are you up to?  Any great reads?  How’s autumn treating you?

P.S. In more unrelated news, I just discovered that Gail Carriger (author of Soulless, which I reviewed back in July) quoted my review on her blog!  A real, live author quoted me!  Wow.  I’m getting all giddy and starry-eyed over here.

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An Abundance of Katherines
by John Green
Dutton Books, 2006
Source: public library

It was after reading the second review of Will Grayson, Will Grayson (first Birdbrain(ed) Booksreview and then Ana and Renay’s joint review on Subverting the Text) that I decided to stop wondering who this John Green guy was (and why every mention of him was accompanied by gushing) and read one of his books already.  The sample of Will Grayson, Will Grayson I read failed to captivate me so I went an earlier work, An Abundance of Katherines.

I understand the gushing now.

An Abundance of Katherines stars Colin Singleton, the biggest nerd on the planet.  (And I mean that in the nicest way possible.)  He has strange quirks, like his ability to anagram everything and his inability to whisper, and is a cornucopia of random information.  He’s also dated, and been dumped by, nineteen Katherines.

What I loved about the book (in no particular order):

  • Colin’s never-ending supply of facts (which meant I learned lots of useless information that promptly went in one ear and out the other).
  • the footnotes.  After reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, I fell in love with footnotes in fiction.  When I saw that An Abundance of Katherines contained footnotes – and that they were just as entertaining and wonderful as Susanna Clarke’s – I wanted to hug John Green. 
  • Colin’s best friend, Hassan.  That guy is fugging hilarious.  He’s not just an amusing sidekick, though, which I really loved.  There’s more depth to Hassan’s character than you see in most best-friend-to-the-main-character characters.
  • Colin’s declaration that love is graphable.  I nearly fell off the bed, I was laughing so hard.  This declaration was followed by pages upon pages of him attempting to graph, and create a formula for, all of his Katherine relationships.  (And yes, the graphs and formulas were included in the novel.)
  • the dialogue.  Green’s dialogue not only sounded realistic, but revealed more about his characters’ personalities than pages of description and back history ever could.
In short: better than I expected.  It’s definitely one I would read again, if only to re-experience the dialogue and graphs.  So tell me, John Green fans, how do his other books measure up?

Other reviews:

Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog

things mean a lot

Did I miss your review?  Let me know and I’ll add it to the list!

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