Sunday, October 19, 2014

End of Readathon Wrap Up

This year I crashed around 4 am, which was pretty good for me.  I still got up at a normal time though, so I'm not sure how happy I'm going to be about this whole thing today.  We'll see!  I did feel, however, that I got back into my reading mojo.  That was SO worth it!  I've been so out of the loop and down and out in my reading, that this was an excellent way to get back to it.   Let's see where I go from here...

End of Event Meme:

  1. Which hour was most daunting for you?  First, at 9pm, which is a normal bedtime for me.  Once I got past that, 4 am--when I noted that I kept blanking out on what I was reading and realized that I kept falling asleep in the middle of my reading.  I would literally have to shake myself back awake and re-read what I had just read.  That got a bit too annoying and I finally just tossed in the towel!
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?  I've thought about this from year to year and can now say that you should pick whatever you feel you can finish.  There really is something to be said for feeling like you can finish something (at least it is for me).  I left a couple of books for the readathon that I was within 100-150 pages of finishing.  That helped me feel a bit more successful and left the high point of the novel for the readathon.
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?  Nope.  I really appreciate all the hard work that goes into it.  I always feel guilty for not taking more of a role in helping out in some way!
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?  I really liked the Goodreads page.  That was a nice addition this year.  :)
  5. How many books did you read?  4, although I only read one from cover to cover.  The rest were books that I finished up from various stages in reading them. 
  6. What were the names of the books you read? 
    Love Life by Rob Lowe, Always Emily by Michaela MacColl, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Saenz, and I Survived Hurricane Katrina, 2005 by Lauren Tarshis.
  7. Which book did you enjoy most?  Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe was really amazing.  I knew it was an award winner and so I had high expectations for it, but I was really surprised by the story's direction and the sensitive way it handled the main character's personal growth.
  8. Which did you enjoy least?  None of them.  I passed up a book if it didn't interest me.  The readathon is too short to stick with something for too long!  :)
  9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?  N/A
  10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?  Very likely!  I really enjoy and appreciate the focused time the readathon gives me.  It's a great time to get back into the reading groove.  In the future, I need to get more involved and try out some mini-challenges maybe or even host.

Readathon: Hour 19 Update

This just might be my last update for the night, as I know myself too well!  I took about a five hour break to finish laundry, make my bed, go get dinner, and do a bunch of grading.  Once I felt I had done my duty, I picked up something really short that was one the children's Beehive Award nomination list, I Survived Hurricane Katrina, 2005 by Lauren Tarshis.  I've been trying to make my way through some of the children's and YA nominees this year, so it was a nice little walk back into the readathon.  Talk about a gripping little tale.  I really hope grade school children and middle schoolers are getting the chance to read this one and others in the series.

To be honest, I hit my "fatigue" point about 9pm, which is when I generally get ready for bed during the week.  I had some caffeine and a huge glass of water, so I'm feeling pretty back to my normal speed.  We'll see how long that lasts.  I doubt I'll be finishing anymore books, but I'd like to make a good dent in a couple more before I call it a wrap for the night.

Here's where things are at for the moment:

Hours Read:  
 Once again, this is tough.  I haven't really kept track very well.  My guess is that I'm somewhere around 8?  It's still not very good though.  I've had a lot of little interruptions all day.

Books Read:
4--Love Life by Rob Lowe, Always Emily by Michaela MacColl, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Saenz, and I Survived Hurricane Katrina, 2005 by Lauren Tarshis.

Essays Graded:
5--Which isn't so hot.  I would have liked to have done more than that, but I'll take what I can get.  :(

Drinks & Snacks:  Surprisingly, no more snacks, just Wendys for dinner (bad, but so good) and then water, water, water all evening.  I'm honestly going to float away at some point, right?

Number of Readathons I've Participated In:  Just for record keeping sake, I went back to see how many of these I've participated in.  This will make my 10th readathon.  I started participating back in April of 2009, which is amazing and awesome to me.  There were two that I couldn't join in on over the years, but otherwise, I've always been here. 

Well, enough nostalgia.  I don't want my sleepiness to catch up to me.  I have a little energy left and would like to keep it as long as possible.  For now, it will be book rotating time.  Best wishes to everyone who might still be hanging in there!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Readathon: Hour 11 & Mid-Event Survey

What an awesome day so far!  This has been my most productive readathon, no question.  Sometimes I feel like being a social butterfly and zooming around the net to see how everyone is doing, but this time I really wanted to just escape everything and just read!  It's been a bad 6 months for reading, so this has been a great time to dive back in--and boy have I.

Here's what I've been up to!

Books Read:  3--Granted, I was 1/2 way through all of them before the readathon began, so it would be more like 1 1/2.  Still, I'm saying 3.  :)
Pages Read:  390
Hours Read:  This is always hard to calculate, but I've been reading pretty steady today.  I've taken a few breaks here or there to do laundry, get a drink, go outside to read, etc.  I'd say at least 4?  Not great, but still good for the various interruptions, right?
Challenges or Cheering:  Zip.  I know!  It's really bad this time, but I HAD to get myself out of this reading slump.  :(  I keep saying I'll host another challenge down the road.  Maybe I'll join something later tonight???  I did go stop in on some blogs to say hi and see how they were doing, so that might count?!?
Drinks:  1 Diet Pepsi, 1 16 oz lemonade, and 1 huge glass of water.
Snacks:  Well, since I've skipped eating normal meals today, in place of reading (yes, I should go eat something), 1/2 of that bag of Doterra chips & 1/2 an apple.

UPDATE:  I should have realized the Mid-Point Survey was going up right around when I posted this.  I just came back in and attached it below.

Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now?  I'm going to grade some essays and then I'll dive into a few chapters of Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison until I rotate on to something else.
2. How many books have you read so far?  3
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?  I'm still waiting to get back to Landline by Rainbow Rowell.
4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?  Well, just household interruptions and the pressure to get my grading finished.  That will always be there, so I've been going back and forth between the two.
5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?  How much better I do if I stay away from the internet.  Sometimes I really like to feel connected to everyone, so I stay online a lot more, but I feel bad about how little reading time I get in.  This time, I swore to myself that I would spend as much time as possible reading.  I really needed it, so it has been great.

All right.  I think I'm off to go scrounge for some food, get my bed remade after cleaning my sheets, and grading some papers before I can sit back down and read in earnest.  I'll be back a bit later though!  Good luck to everyone!

Readathon: Opening Post & Hour 6

I've been up for a bit, but as I promised myself, I would spend some time reading as soon as I got up.  This has been such a bad year for reading and such, that I didn't want to give myself ANY excuses to wander off from the reading--so that's what I did.   I also set myself up for success and left two books that I was nearly finished with, so that I could get up and dive back into them.  It's psychologically satisfying to start the day off with a book already finished off, even if it's not a "start to finish" read.  :)

Anyway, here is my opening meme AND my report for hour 6 all wrapped into one!  I don't think I'll be back again until later this evening, unless I go a bit stir crazy (although I have a "book walk" planned in to take care of that), so here we go...

Opening Meme:
1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?  Salt Lake City
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?  Landline by Rainbow Rowell
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?  My Doterra chips.  :)  They are these awesome mixed variety of potato chips that include different sweet potatoes as well.  Yum!
4) Tell us a little something about yourself!  I turned 40, 10 days ago today, and it was kind of awesome!  (What's with all the 40 angst? It's really pretty cool.)
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?  I started with a couple of books that I was within 100 pages of finishing.  That way, as soon as I woke up, I grabbed one of them and just finished it as I was waking up.  It started my readathon off with a successful book finish!

Here's what I've finished so far:

I really thought that the last 75 pages of this book was a great choice for me to start my day off today.  I've read his previous autobiography, which was interesting and filled with insider information about Hollywood.  More important, I appreciate the details he includes about what he has learned about living his life and maintaining strong ties to his family and friends.  Those stories were interesting to hear and touching.

Well, there's my update and starting point!  I hope to be back in the next 5-6 hours.  Good luck to everyone and happy reading!

Friday, October 17, 2014

I'm Back!

Yes, I'm back.  Another readathon pulled me from the dark abyss of my own absence.  It's not that I haven't been reading, but I will admit to a bit of a reading slump and to needing a major time out from everything.  Regardless of the major silence going on here, I have read a few great things and have still been excited about this upcoming readathon!  I was especially excited to see that it fell over Fall Break this year, which meant I could actually push things aside and join in (once I knew I was going to be in town). 

Anyway, enough of the boring talk.  Yes, I'll be joining in the readathon again and will be posting.  I can't wait!  I'm a major book rotater though, so I don't anticipate finishing many books.  That's kind of okay by me.  I might be squirreling myself away this time and not jumping online very often.  In the past, that has taken my attention away from my reading, so I might stay away for large chunks of time.  We'll see though, who knows.  I miss people and I might get really overcome with a need for conversation and jump on!

Here are the books I have on rotation, with a few more on my iPad that I'll be "e-reading" along the way as well.  I'll also be breaking in to grade an essay every couple of hours or so (since that is just the norm around here).

Okay.  I have about six more essays to grade before I can head to bed, so I need to get to it.  I look forward to getting to my reading in the morning, so I'll see everyone bright and early!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Readathon Finish Line

I finally crashed last night about 3 am after finishing one last graphic novel and trying to read a bit more from goodness knows what else.  I just know I fell asleep my iPad next to me and the television on.  That's the sign that I needed to just call it a night!

Today I'm feeling a bit haggard, which I wasn't expecting.  I've been taking it easy and just doing some light reading and even took a little cat nap.  Very strenuous day, eh?

Well, here's my readathon wrap up!
  1. Which hour was most daunting for you? 3 am, when I finally threw in the towel!
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?  Eleanor and Park.  I didn't get it finished, but I really enjoyed what I started and can't wait to finish it this week.  I've learned that the key it diving into a book that makes you forget about the pages your turning and the time that's passing. 
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?  Not really.  I just really enjoy being involved and appreciate all the time and effort that everyone puts in to putting it together for us.  THANK YOU so much!
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?  The hourly posts and all of the constant communication.  It was easy to see where we were at and how everyone was doing, which was nice.
  5. How many books did you read? 3, but they were pretty short.  I read a book of poetry, 2 graphic novels, and several hundred pages in a couple young adult novels.
  6. What were the names of the books you read? Poems from Homeroom, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Graphic Novel, and The Uglies Graphic Novel.
  7. Which book did you enjoy most?  The book of poetry was a nice diversion and had some great stories.
  8. Which did you enjoy least?  None of them.  I liked them all.
  9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?  No.  They were great!
  10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?  Well, I need to see how things are going in the fall and how busy I am.  I'd love to try to host a challenge, if things are going well.  Sometimes it's all I can do though to just participate.
Well, I'm off to get ready for a busy week!  Thanks again to all those who put this together.  You all did an amazing job!

Readathon Update: My Late MidPoint Survey

It's getting close to Hour 19 now, and close to midnight.  Sleep is hard to ward off when you're used to crawling in bed before 10 pm so that you can be up before 6 am every day, but I'm hanging in there for the moment.  We'll see how much longer I last though!

Since I started WAY later than everyone else, I figured I'd catch up with the Mid Point Survey.

Mid-Event Survey
1. What are you reading right now?  Well, since I just finished a graphic novel, I'm going to move back to a novel.  I think I'm going to bounce between Eleanor and Park and Diamonds and Deceit.  Both are YA novels that keep things moving, which I need right now. 
2. How many books have you read so far?  2--amazingly enough, considering when I started.  I finished a short book of poetry and Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Graphic novel version.  I've also read over 100 pages so far in Diamonds and Deceit and listened to a bit in an audiobook. 
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?  Well, since I'm probably in my final stretch, I think I'll settle in with those listed in #1.
4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day?  No.  I really should have, but this has been my first day "free" for weeks, so after sleeping in and then running a quick errand, it was not quite the full day that I would have wished.
5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?  More than I expected.  I'm always surprised by the little things that interrupt a readathon.  Oh well!  You just dive back in and go back to reading.  :)
6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?  The crazy weather we've had that has made reading perfect.  We've had non-stop, constant rain here, which has been glorious!  When you live in a desert, the sound of rain on the windowpanes is absolutely hypnotic. 
7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?  Not that I can think of.
8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year?  Start earlier.
9. Are you getting tired yet?  I live with tired, so that's a given!  :)  Yes...I don't think I'll make it much longer.
10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered?  Finding a good story that makes sleep the farthest thing from my mind is always the best thing possible.  Really, that's the key.

All right, it's time to fight the good fight and see how much I can read in these final hours.  Good luck to the rest of you as well!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Readathon Kickoff: SO Late!

Yep.  I'm just kicking off here.  Let's state the obvious and get it out of the way.  I haven't posted in forever!!!  What better way to "try" to get my groove back than with a readathon though, right?  Life has really kicked me in the rear end in so many ways over the past six months, that it has been crazy.  I don't even know if I've read/finished a book in the last month, which is sad enough as it is, so I'm just happy to be here!  Work always overwhelms me with all of the grading & responsibilities for one.  But my grandmother passed away the first of this month, so I'll admit it--I clammed up a bit.  Not always my best quality, but now I'm ready to step back out.   

Thank goodness for a readathon to move things along though!  The grades have been graded, the sleep has been slept, the errands have been erranded (ha, ha).  Let me get reading now! 

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?  Salt Lake City
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?  Eleanor & Park, Allegiant, or finishing up The Chocolate Touch (It's all about the escape read for me today!)
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?  Crackers & Cheese--I picked up some of those fancy water crackers w/ sesame seeds.  I love, love, love them.  I'm a bit more of a savory gal than a sugar fan, so this is what I'm actually getting ready to snack on. 
4) Tell us a little something about yourself!  I'm a book "rotator," (20 books at a time to be exact--yes, it's an illness, I think)  so I'm worried that I won't actually finish a darn thing with as little time as I'm giving myself!  I have a feeling I'm going to get going and will flip to something else.  I might have to grab a graphic novel just so I feel like I can accomplish something before it's all said and done.
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?  Relax.  I've learned it doesn't do me any good to fret over what I can't do.  I can't do it perfectly, so do what I can do and enjoy my time here!  It's just great that we have a community of readers who enjoy doing this in the first place.  I'm just thankful that there are amazing folks who are still so willing to put it together.  THANK YOU!!!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Review: The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "In the ancient town of Ephesus, Mary lives alone, years after her son's crucifixion. She has no interest in collaborating with the authors of the Gospel—her keepers, who provide her with food and shelter and visit her regularly. She does not agree that her son is the Son of God; nor that his death was “worth it;” nor that the “group of misfits he gathered around him, men who could not look a woman in the eye,” were holy disciples. Mary judges herself ruthlessly (she did not stay at the foot of the Cross until her son died—she fled, to save herself), and is equally harsh on her judgment of others. This woman who we know from centuries of paintings and scripture as the docile, loving, silent, long-suffering, obedient, worshipful mother of Christ becomes, in Toibin’s searing evocation, a tragic heroine with the relentless eloquence of Electra or Medea or Antigone. This tour de force of imagination and language is a portrait so vivid and convincing that our image of Mary will be forever transformed."

Review:  When the long list for the Booker Prize came out, I saw The Testament of Mary and was pretty intrigued by the idea of Mary's story and what she might have had to say about her son's life and death.  Having visited Ephesus and the home that is believed to have been Mary's home, this all felt like a story that really was waiting to be told by someone.  The question was whether someone could tell it in a way that would feel honest and with the right tone, not fearing the backlash that might come from taking on such a character. 

We pick up the story after Christ's death, with Mary reflecting on her son's life and those who she seemingly felt might have pushed and pulled him along the way.  Her tale is a sad one, filled with the words a mother might speak about her lost child; however, in this case, that child is one whom she has lost in a most horrifically jarring way.  Yes, he was a religious figure, but she was his mother.  Her thoughts are a mother's thoughts, and we see her filled with anguish over the mortal actions and decisions surrounding her child.  Mary speaks not as a mother heralding the Son of God, but as a mother concerned for a child who might have been pushed and pulled in too many directions in his short life.

I found this short novella to be incredibly moving, and an interesting tale to be told.  Granted, this was a piece of fiction, and not a piece of Biblical writing, and yet the title and characters lend themselves to that immediate and strict judgment and comparison.  I simply couldn't do more than listen to the story being told and consider how Mary, as presented, really felt.  Wouldn't her isolation, hiding, frustration, and deep sorrow make sense to any person at this point in the story?  Her lines were haunting to read, but so interestingly moving and thought-provoking.  This is one of those stories that will stick with me and have me thinking for some time.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Blog Tour Stop & Giveaway: R for Rebel by Megan Mulry

Yesterday I featured Megan's fourth in the Unruly Royal series about the youngest sister Abigail, HEREToday, I'm excited to welcome Megan Mulry back to talk about her newest installment.

Megan:  Hi Becky! Thanks for having me at One Literature Nut.

Becky:  I'm always excited to have you here!

I have loved that your first two novels were about the male royals and now the last two are from their sisters' perspectives.  What story spark drew you to putting together these American + British royal couples?

Megan:  The first spark was this desire to do a Regency romance in a contemporary setting, and because some of my favorite Regency romances (like early Judith McNaught) had a feisty American heroine who knocked the socks off a British aristo hero, that's what I did first.

After I got the seed of the idea, I started researching contemporary British aristocrats and one thing led to another. I'd always been a complete anglophile, so it wasn't really a stretch. Throughout his life, my father sent me clippings and obituaries about eccentric Brits, and this one about the 17th Duke of Norfolk never left me.  That became the inspiration for the fictional Northrop family.

Becky:  You have such a fun social media presence on twitter (@meganmulry).  Which of your characters do you think would have an active online media presence, and which ones would absolutely avoid it?   (Just FYI, for some reason, I keep thinking all of the American ones would have one.  Why is that?!?  I don't think Twitter is totally gauche or anything, but I've thought someone like Claire, for instance, would avoid it, while many of the others might actively participate.)

Megan:  I love this question! Obviously Bronte is a total media whore, so she would be on Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Tumblr, Facebook—you name it—all the time. (I picture Max throwing her cell phone into the Thames on a regular basis).

I think Devon would probably have a secret Twitter account so he could stalk everyone without having to actually put himself out there.

Sarah would have a business account for the shoe company, but I don't think she'd feel totally comfortable with the self-revelatory nature of that kind of social media; maybe she'd have a Tumblr with lots of shoe shots from fashion shows and awards dinners.

I think Claire would actually thrive on Pinterest; her love of color and design and fabrics is a perfect match for that. One of my childhood friends who reminds me of Claire--temperate, creative, loving--surprised me when I learned about her very extensive social media presence.

I think Abby would hate it all. She barely carries a cell phone, except to sext Eliot, and I think she'd inherently dread putting herself before her cause for any reason. Eliot probably has some super stylish twitter account with a mix of cool philosophical sayings and candid pictures of Italy and Paris and Miami mixed in, with about 300,000 followers.

I think Ben would say, "I'm too old for Twitter."

Becky:  Oh my goodness, I love it!  :)  If it wouldn't take an inordinate amount of time, I'd love to see an account from any of these characters.  To be honest, the end of R is for Rebel had a nice spot for some blabbing on social media by some of these folks and a few others!  It would have been hilarious to see what they were thinking.

Megan:  Thanks so much for having me!

Thank you again so much to Megan for stopping in and sharing a little bit more with us about her Unruly Royals series and R is for Rebel.  Check out the series and this newest release.

About the Author:

Megan Mulry writes sexy, modern, romantic fiction. She graduated from Northwestern University and then worked in publishing, including positions at The New Yorker and Boston magazine. After moving to London, Mulry worked in finance and attended London Business School. Mulry is a member of RWA. She has traveled extensively in Asia, India, Europe, and Africa and now lives with her husband and children in Florida. Her latest book is R Is For Rebel, out now.

Now for a little giveaway:  
I'll make this simple this time around!  Do you have a thing for British royals/aristocrats in a story or not and why?  Respond to this simple little question before Monday, February 17th by midnight (MST) with your response and email address for the chance to win one copy of R is for Rebel, U.S. & Canada only.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Review: R is for Rebel by Megan Mulry

Tomorrow I'll be featuring a Q&A with author, Megan Mulry, along with a book giveaway for her newest in her series.  Read more about her book below and then stop by tomorrow to hear from Mulry, herself!

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "Abigail Heyworth is a rebel heiress, bucking the restrictions of her royal family every chance she gets. After ending a long-term relationship, she finds herself inexplicably drawn to the sophisticated American, Eliot Cranbrook. Despite all their differences-he's a self-made businessman; she's a royal hippy-they fall hard for each other. When the intensity of their affair escalates and Abigail is forced to look at the nature of her rebellion, she has to decide if she has an entirely different kind of courage."

Review:  We enter the 4th in the series with the decided relationships of Abigail's three older siblings firmly in place and Abigail simply trying to figure out what direction she wishes to go in her life.  The book starts off with a solid friendship with her brother's business partner Eliot Cranbrook, but their romance seems to frighten Abigail and make a relationship that seems simple from the outside more complex and filled with problems than either of them could have expected.

When I started reading this fourth installment, I was a little startled at how quickly this couple jumped all-in to their romantic relationship.  I wondered where the conflict was at, and I feared what I couldn't see ahead.  Surely they liked one another too much, too soon?  Sure enough, there was so much more coming, and that really was what kept me reading.  

Abigail is a difficult character to wrap my mind around, and I'm sure she must have driven Eliot batty.  Although she has all of this strength of character and experience with philanthropy, she reserves her own heart and fails to express what she is really feeling and shuts people out.  It was infuriating at times.  Honestly though, I wonder if Eliot would like Abigail in the long-term if she wasn't a bit more of a fight, as odd as that sounds.

By the last third of the book, there is a crazy, dramatic twist that you just can't see coming. In some ways, it would have felt like a romantic comedy with its twists and turns if the heightened emotions weren't so gut-wrenching.  I ended up enjoying the way Mulry handled it, but do wonder if she had a few other endings that she played with a bit.  While Abigail was once a bit of a rebel, I think she just refused to ever do anything in her life half-hearted, include love.  Thankfully, I don't think that will be her problem!

*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based on an advanced review copy of the book.  

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Review: And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

As an AP Lit. teacher, I'm always trying to keep current with the newest books out there, and yet that's NOT why I read Khaled Hosseini's newest novel And the Mountains Echoed.  I read this newest novel, because to not read his any one of his novels would feel to me like a deprivation.  To say that I've loved his novels would mean that I've enjoyed them, which isn't really the right word choice.  In fact, I think the correct way of describing my reading experience with each of Hosseini's novels would be provoking.  I mean that in a moving and meaningful sort of way, but in a manner that always leaves me feeling something deep and thoughtful.  For that, I am always drawn to anything Hosseini has published, and I was not disappointed by And the Mountains Echoed.

Review:  The story begins with a tale or myth of sacrifice that parents might recount to their children as some type of bedtime story.  In this opening chapter, the father in the story tells his young son and daughter this myth as he walks across a vast desert--the young son only along on the journey because he wants to help push his much-beloved younger sister into the city.  Little did he know that the sacrificial story his father told him would echo into his own life.

In marvelously poetic language, each chapter is woven like a thread in the tapestry of the tale, adding another character that is important and touches the lives of the original brother, sister, or impoverished father.  We travel from the farmland that the father took his children across the desert into the city, into the streets of Paris, across the sea into Greece, and even farther into the busy streets of California, each adding a character and another layer to the story of this family.

While the constant change in direction can feel jarring in the beginning, it soon becomes apparent that these tales each play a vital role in the development of the plot.  In essence, the storyline is linear and circular all at the same time, if the reader will only be patient enough to see it through.  We meet many different characters who intersect in the journey of these two little children at the beginning of the book, or who impacted them in some way, and what made these people into who they were in the present moment.  In short, Hosseini reminds the reader that we shouldn't judge until we have walked in someone else's shoes.

One of my favorite chapter-tales was story of the American doctor who arrived in Afghanistan to do foreign aide work and service.  During his time, he realized how selfish he was and even how selfish his own children were back home.  Without giving away the entire story, I was blown away by how easy he was to relate to and how completely he affected me.  Why?  Because he returned home and ever so slowly grew numb again to all that he had awakened to in his time in Afghanistan.  I sobbed into those pages and felt the air crush from lungs, because I could see so clearly how mind-numbingly easy we are to forget.  We. Simply. Forget.  Rather than hang onto our endeavors to change the world and make things better, it's easier to forget and grow numb; it's easier to live in our simple lives and forget that life is not so easy for others.  In short, this chapter hit way too close to home.  The mirror was held up to me, and I cried.

After that chapter.  I had to set the book aside for about two weeks.  I would look at it and close my eyes with real sadness.  What power Hosseini had used in language, words, and story to show me my own weaknesses.  That chapter wasn't just about mankind.  It was about me, and I've thought about it ever since.

In short, I was blown away by And the Mountains Echoed.  While some readers have felt the narrative thread was not as cohesive as they would like, in that it was not a linear story with the main characters followed throughout, I have to say that I thought this was his most powerful novel to date.  The echoes of what human connection, family, and kindness can do were not lost on me.  This was a game changer in a novel and whispered of action in ways that telling me never would have done.  Brilliant.  Just brilliant.

Have you read Hosseini's newest novel? If so, which of the chapter tales most stood out to you?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Review: Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "Meet Sloane Emily Jacobs: a seriously stressed-out figure-skater from Washington, D.C., who choked during junior nationals and isn’t sure she’s ready for a comeback. What she does know is that she’d give anything to escape the mass of misery that is her life.

Now meet Sloane Devon Jacobs, a spunky ice hockey player from Philly who’s been suspended from her team for too many aggressive hip checks. Her punishment? Hockey camp, now, when she’s playing the worst she’s ever played. If she messes up? Her life will be over.

When the two Sloanes meet by chance in Montreal and decide to trade places for the summer, each girl thinks she’s the lucky one: no strangers to judge or laugh at Sloane Emily, no scouts expecting Sloane Devon to be a hero. But it didn’t occur to Sloane E. that while avoiding sequins and axels she might meet a hockey hottie—and Sloane D. never expected to run into a familiar (and very good-looking) face from home. It’s not long before the Sloanes discover that convincing people you’re someone else might be more difficult than being yourself."

Review:  In this fun story, the seemingly implausible becomes plausible.  What if you really didn't want to face a challenge that everyone expected of you and there was another person with your name and looks to take your place?  Okay.  So it seems, as I mentioned, implausible; however, in Being Sloane Jacobs, we get to run with the possibility.  One Sloane wants to escape the high pressure of figure skating, while the other thinks a break from hockey camp might be nice.  Why not just switch places?  They'll both be on ice, right?

Although it felt far-fetched at times, the story and characters were so fun that I quickly got lost in the idea and just threw that aside and went with it.  I liked these "Sloane" characters and genuinely wanted to see what this experience did for both of them.  My prejudice going into it said that I wanted Sloane Devon, the hockey player, to have some big epiphany, but Sloane Emily was interesting to watch as she went from ice skating into hockey.  I loved watching their preconceived ideas about one another crumble, while other character traits they had obviously ignored start to flourish a bit more. 

This really was a fun book.  While you felt you knew where things were headed at times, you still couldn't know for sure and had to keep flipping pages to find out.  These characters came to life and were fun to watch.  I had a great time reading this book and almost felt like I needed to go put in a good session at the gym after all their training sessions!  Thankfully, I won't need to take body slams from anyone or have to do flips on a single blade--as entertaining as that might be for anyone watching.  Overall, I have to say this was a great read.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Mini Reviews: YA Catch Up

Here are some YA novels I need to play catch up on.  I thought I'd do some short mini reviews in an effort to share what I've been reading.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth--In book two of the Divergent series, we find the fall out from the simulation and Tris trying to deal with her initiation into Dauntless.  Book two picked right up where the first left off and there is a lot of back and forth in this one.  We learn more about the role of the other factions and find that there is still a lot of intrigue confusing Tris about who is good and who is bad, who could be right and who could be wrong.  I really liked this installment, but will say that at times I was exhausted by what was not shared between Tris and Four.  I found myself yelling at Tris to just trust Four and tell him what was really going on!  Since I have just started Allegiant, I happen to know that will come up again, so I will be hearing more about that later on...  Still, an amazing read.  The last 75 pages or so really locked this one in for me.

Everbound by Brodi Ashton--Yet another second book in a series, this is the next in the Everneath series.  Book one, based on the Persephone story continues here with Nikki grieving her boyfriend Jack and his sacrifice for her into the Everneath.  How can she explain his disappearance and how can she get him back?  In this installment, Nikki has to enter the Everneath and figure out how to stay connected to Jack.  While I sometimes got confused with the layout of the Everneath at times, by the end, I was shocked and flipping pages like crazy to find out what was going to happen!  This is an exciting follow up to book one and not a disappointing sophomore follow up at all.  In fact, I'm eagerly waiting for the third book.

Out of Line by Jen McLaughlin--Technically considered "New Adult" more than Young Adult, this was a book I had seen discussed a bit online, so I decided to read it and give it a try.  I'm not sure I should have done that though, as my reading experience was a bit painful.  The story was about Carrie, the daughter of a Senator being tailed by Finn, the Marine.  However, Carrie thought she was away at college and free, not realizing that she was being tailed by secret protection.  Finn and Carrie became friends and then more than friends, but then how could Finn tell Carrie that he was being paid to protect her? Honestly, I really should have stopped reading this book around page 50.  The story became pretty predictable and I found it irritating that the lies and sexual tension were the main crux of the story.  I understand that the heightened tension, adult situations, and age of the characters all put it in the category of New Adult, but I can't shake the predictability of the story or the non-stop lies that kept the story rolling. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Review: The Passions of Dr. Darcy by Sharon Lathan

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "While Fitzwilliam Darcy is enjoying an idyllic childhood at Pemberley, his vibrant and beloved uncle, Dr. George Darcy, becomes one of the most renowned young physicians of the day. Determined to do something more with his life than cater to a spoiled aristocracy. George accepts a post with the British East India Company and travels in search of a life of meaning and purpose.

When George Darcy returns to Pemberley after many years abroad, the drama and heartbreak of his travels offer a fascinating glimpse into a gentleman's journey of self-discovery and romance."

Review:  In previous novels by Sharon Lathan, we've been introduced to George Darcy, and yet we've known very little about his back story.  In this stand alone novel, we finally learn about the talented doctor and why he gave Fitzwilliam the advice he gave him in the other books--his life is an obvious collection of love and pain that he tidily tucks away and uses judicially.

As a young doctor, George set off for India to serve there and learn.  He is taken on by an amazing Indian doctor and taught local medical practices that go beyond any of his western medical training.  Over time, George grew in talent and respect as a doctor, yet love continued to be elusive in a traditional sense.  We find that over time, George has almost a series of experiences that we follow with him.  He experiences love and loss, along with professional success, and yet stays in India far from his English home until his story intercepts with Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth's and he returns home with an ocean of experiences in his heart.  As readers, it now makes perfect sense why he is the person we have read about in previous installments of Lathan's series.

In characteristic, romantic fashion, Lathan has crafted another beautiful tale.  In the beginning I was sad for what seemed like continual changes to George's life, but I could see that over the course of the novel how the experiences George had, created the self-assured man that he was in the end.  The journey seemed long and painful at times for poor George, but I think that while fictional, he definitely became real to us as readers.  Once again, I enjoyed Lathan's tale of the Darcy clan.  These are romances with romantic moments, but so worth it for readers. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Long Weekends & Martin Luther King Day

I'm back to the keyboard today--finally.  Life spun maniacally out of control after Christmas Break with our end of term at school, so I literally got next to no sleep for ten days.  I had 20 hours of sleep over six days, then crashed one day, went right back to four hours of sleep a night for one more week of school to start a new semester.  It wasn't just at school, but in my online job as well.  They had finals, so it was the mania of students who had procrastinated an entire semester and decided to do everything in two weeks.  As you can imagine, I'm happy to now collapse into a heap of fatigue over this three-day weekend and try to finally log back on! 

Today is a monumental holiday in terms of humanitarian work and giving back, as Martin Luther King Jr. was an amazing humanitarian, activist, and leader who heralded a change that called for the good in all of us to come forward.  I've thought a lot about his bravery today and ways that I can be brave in my personal and professional life.  I don't want to go off on a long, philosophical post, but I think we can agree that there is much that we can still do to achieve King's dream of equality for so many. 

Well, I hope that over the coming days and weeks I can find some balance and write a bit more.  I'm hoping to do some mini book reviews and even get onto some film reviews before the Oscars in March.  For tonight, I'm off to write a few posts and then escape into some more reading before this long weekend is over!

What have you been up to this weekend?