Winners!!

And here are the winners of my Jodi Picoult giveaway…..

Plain Truth will go to Jen!

Nineteen Minutes will go to Audrey!

Second Glance will go to Michelle Rosborough!

Keeping Faith will go to Holly!

and last, but not least, The Pact will go to Anvi!

If you lovely ladies could all email me at heather.oroark@comcast.net with your snail mail addresses, I will send these books out to you as quickly as possible.

Congratulations to everyone who won, and thanks so much to all of you for playing. :)

Review – Atonement

Atonement  by Ian McEwan

From the back cover -

On a summer day in 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses the flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant.  But Briony’s incomplete grasp of adult motives and her precocious imagination bring about a crime that will change all their lives, a crime whose repercussions Atonement follows through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth century.

My thoughts -

Ultimately, I have to say that this was a very excellent book.  I was very put off at first by the extremely slow start to it, but looking back I think McEwan had to really establish the characters and let the reader get to know them so that when the “crime” happened, it would be all the more important in the readers’ minds.  Even with the slow start, I started to enjoy the plot by about page 50 or so, which made the slowness a lot easier to get through.  I also became immersed in the incredible writing, so once I got used to the way the book was written, I was just loving and savoring every word.  I have to say that there was a chunk of the book in the middle (it has to do with Robbie, for those that haven’t read the book I’m not going to spoil anything, but for those that have, you probably know which part I’m talking about) that I was very bored by.  The whole subject matter is something I don’t ever enjoy reading about, and I didn’t feel connected to any of the minor characters in that section, which made it harder to get through.  But once that part faded out, I was back into the book, engrossed in the storyline and the characters once again.

I finished this book a few days ago and I’m still not sure how I feel about the ending.  Obviously I’m not going to say what happened, but I can’t decide if the way McEwan decided to end things was helpful to the story, it being such an open-ended way of doing things and all, or if it was kind of a cop-out, like McEwan couldn’t decide what he wanted to do with it so he chose to end it the way he did.  I’m still not sure.  I think I liked the ending but… I’m just questioning it still.

Anyways.  This was a pretty excellent book, even though I did have minor issues with it, I’m still very glad I read it, and I’ll definitely picking up more work by McEwan in the future.

8 stars.

Also reviewed by: Caribou’s mom, Thoughts of Joy, Trish’s Reading Nook, Care’s Online Book Club, Educating Petunia, Books for Breakfast, Sadie-Jean’s Book Blog, The Written Word , Lynne’s Little Corner of the World, Books and Cooks, and Musings of a Bookish Kitty.

giveaway news

I really thought I had already posted about this one, but I’m looking through my posts and realize that I never did… anyways, Natasha over at Maw Books is giving away ALL of Stephenie Meyer’s books, and there will be more than one winner.  Unfortunately, today is the LAST DAY to enter… so go on over and check it out ASAP!  I’ve never read any of Meyer’s books yet, but I’ve been meaning to forever, so it’d be great if I won something!

Also, Trish at Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’? is hosting a giveaway of FOURTEEN books… for up to FIVE people… that’s a lot of free books!  Stop by and leave a comment to win, and make sure you do so by July 12.

Best of all, these ladies are two of my favorite bloggers, so definitely scroll through some of their reviews if you haven’t gotten a chance to check out their blogs yet.  They both write really insightful, thorough reviews of interesting books (that usually end up being pretty popular, so they both have good taste!).

Review – We Don’t Need Another Wave

We Don’t Need Another Wave: Dispatches from the Next Generation of Feminists  edited by Melody Berger

From Publisher’s Weekly -

The contemporary essays collected by Berger, an activist and creator of The F-Word, a feminist zine for teens, demonstrate loudly and clearly that feminism is alive, well and pursuing a wide variety of concerns. Sexuality, empowerment, violence, body image, reproductive rights, child sexual abuse, the gynecologist, the morning-after pill, the “Seventh-Grade Slut” and “Sex, Drugs, and the Department of Homeland Security” are all explored, as are the roles of government, religion, and the media. The result is a mixed bag that zeros in on the experience of contemporary women who face a multitude of slippery issues; according to Berger, “the connecting theme is this: ‘I’m a young feminist and I’m going to work it!’” For her, the key is to fire up a movement-not a “wave”-and the 30 voices here, including Lisa Jervis, Alix Olson, Dean Spade and Jessica Valenti, provide many fine starting points. Especially rousing are the endcap entries, Valenti’s short, blunt rebuke of “self-hating feminists” and Jennifer L. Pozner’s plan to reclaim the media for a progressive feminist future.

My thoughts -

I thought this was a pretty decent collection of feminist thought, mostly in the form of essays.  I was entertained by many of the pieces here, and I was definitely given some food for thought by some of the authors in terms of issues I don’t typically think about on a regular basis.  Overall, I’m glad I read this book, but nothing really stood out to me TOO much as being a really inspiring, amazing piece of writing.  There were many different styles of writing and many different faces of feminism present in this collection, which was nice to read, getting different perspectives and everything.  A worthwile feminist read, but not my favorite thing I’ve ever read in the area of feminist and gender thinking.

Fun challenge alert!

I’ve decided to join Kristi’s What an Animal! reading challenge.  Here are the rules:

The rules are simple:
1. Read at least 6 books that have any of these requirements:
a. an animal in the title of the book
b. an animal on the cover of the book
c. an animal that plays a major role in the book
d. a main character that is or turns into an animal (define that however you’d like ;>)).

2. The animal can be any type of animal (real or fictitious)–dog, cat, monkey, wolf, snake, insect, hedgehog, aardvark…dragons, mermaids, centaurs, fairies, vampires…you get the idea…

3. Challenge runs from July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2009. You can still sign up after July 1st as long as you can get 6 books read by June 30th ;>).
4. Books can be fiction or nonfiction.
5. You may make a list of books at the beginning of the challenge or just list them as you find them.
6. Books may be swapped out at anytime (assuming you made a list to begin with).
7. Crossover books with other challenges is permitted and encouraged.
8. You don’t have to blog or write a review, but you can if you want to.
9. Sign up with Mr. Linky below. Please sign up with the specific post announcing the challenge if you are a blogger. If you do not blog, sign up with your name and leave the URL field blank. Thanks!
10. Have fun!!

And here is my list:

1. The Chronicles of Chrestomanci Volume 1 by Diana Wynne Jones (cat on the cover)

2. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke (lizard on the cover)

3. The Boys in the Trees by Mary Swan (birds on the cover)

4.  The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle (horse on the cover)

5.  And Sometimes Why by Rebecca Johnson (beetle on the cover)

6.  God’s Politics by Jim Wallis (elephant and donkey on the cover)

My challenge shelf is definitely explanding at a rapid rate… hopefully I can actually complete the majority of these that I’ve been signing up for!

Review – Madras on Rainy Days

Madras on Rainy Days  by Samina Ali

From the back cover -

“A lyrical debut” (Asian Week) exploring the dilemma confronting Layla, a second generation Indian-American Muslim.  As a dutiful Muslim daughter and an independent young American, Layla is torn between clashing identities.  Reluctantly agreeing to her parents’ wish for her to leave America and submit to an arranged marriage, Layla enters into the closed world of tradition and ritual as the wedding preparations get under way in Hyderabad.  Set against a background of rising Hindu-Muslim violence, and taboo questions of sexuality, Samina Ali presents the complexities of life between the chador, and the story of a marriage where no one is what they seem.  In the words of the San Francisco Chronicle, Madras on Rainy Days introduces an “abundantly talented” new voice.

My thoughts -

This book sounded really interesting to me when I originally heard about it and mooched it.  I have loved pretty much every novel I’ve read that centers around Indian culture (A Fine Balance, The Namesake, The Space Between Us, etc.), so I assumed I would enjoy this one too.  Unfortunately, it simply did not live up to my expectations.  The plot was interesting enough – in fact, I think that’s what kept me reading, the plot that kept having drama after drama, I was always interested to find out what would happen next.  But I didn’t particularly enjoy any of the characters, they all fell a little flat for me.  Even Layla, the main character and narrator, I didn’t feel like I really knew her or cared about her situation at all.  I also think that Ali’s writing style didn’t quite do it for me… I hate when that happens, because I do not have a good explanation as to what I didn’t like about it, but I just didn’t connect with the story in the way that I expected to.  I think other people might still enjoy this book, though, because the plot was really interesting and very good, so I’d still recommend giving this book a try, even though it wasn’t my favorite.

5 stars.

Major Jodi Picoult giveaway!

I said before that I was planning to give away a few different Jodi Picoult books in the near future… well, folks, the time is now. :)  I am giving away five, yes, FIVE, Picoult books.  All of the books are used, in varying conditions (mostly really good  condition, but one of the jacket flaps is imperfect), and have been read by myself and at least one other person.  Here are the books I’ll be giving away:

Second Glance

Nineteen Minutes

Plain Truth

The Pact

Keeping Faith

Simply leave me a comment telling me which book(s) you’d like to win to enter the drawing.  You may enter for as many books as you want, but each person will only be allowed to win one book (I’d like to share the Picoult love as much as possible).  Post about this giveaway in your blog, and you get one additional entry for every book you’re interested in winning.  I’ll draw the winners on Monday, June 30, so be sure to enter by the 29th.

Simple enough?  I think so.  Good luck!

Review – Dispatches from the Edge

Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival  by Anderson Cooper

From the book jacket -

Few people have witnessed more scenes of chaos and conflict around the world than Anderson Cooper, whose groundbreaking coverage on CNN has changed the way we watch the news.  In this gripping, candid, and remarkably powerful memoir, he offers an unstinting, up-close view of the most harrowing crises of our time, and the profound impact they had on his life.

After growing up on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Cooper felt a magnetic pull toward the unknown, an attraction to the far corners of the earth.  If he could keep moving, and keep exploring, he felt he could stay one step ahead of his past, including the fame surrounding his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, and the tragic early deaths of his father and older brother.  As a reporter, the frenetic pace of filing dispatches from war-torn countries, and the danger that came with it, helped him avoid having to look too closely at the pain and loss that was right in front of him.

But recently, during the course of one extraordinary, tumultuous year, it became impossible for him to continue to separate his work from his life, his family’s troubled history from the suffering people he met all over the world.  From the tsunami in Sri Lanka to the war in Iraq to the starvation in Niger and ultimately to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and Mississippi, Cooper gives us a firsthand glimpse of the devastation that takes place, both physically and emotionally, when the normal order of things is violently ruptured on such a massive scale.  Cooper had been in his share of life-threatening situations before – ducking fire on the streets of war-torn Sarajevo, traveling on his own to famine-stricken Somalia, witnessing firsthand the genocide in Rwanda – but he had never seen human misery quite like this.  Writing with vivid memories of his childhood and early career as a roving correspondent, Cooper reveals for the first time how deeply affected he has been by the wars, disasters, and tragedies he has witnessed, and why he continues to be drawn to some of the most perilous places on earth.

My thoughts -

I have always been a fan of Anderson Cooper, and I’d been excited about reading his memoir ever since it came out sometime last year.  I definitely enjoyed reading it, even though 90% of the book is some really heartbreaking, depressing stuff.  Cooper alternates between talking about his childhood/early adulthood experiences with his family (including his dad’s early death and brother’s suicide), his early experiences as a journalist in places like Sarajevo and Somalia, and his more recent experiences as a journalist in places like Nigeria, Iraq, and New Orleans.  In my opinion, this style worked really well for his memoir because he was able to tie his childhood in with different experience he had as an adult, and also tie in how some places he went to and disasters he experienced were similiar to and/or different from others he saw later in his career (for example, he compared the famine in Somalia to the famine in Nigeria, and the war in Sarajevo to the war in Iraq).  He also spent a good amount of the book tying in his personal life to his work; basically he was going through a process of self-discovery where he was learning why he feels such an incredible desire to be at the scene of every single disaster, and why he feels the need to keep moving and hates staying in one place for too long.  It is obvious that writing this memoir was very theraputic for Cooper, and he comes to some conclusions toward the end about why he is the way he is, and he begins to come to terms with his personality and the way he feels compelled to live his life.  I really appreciated reading Cooper’s memoir, and even though this is a really sad book, it is a worthwile read.

9 stars.

 

Review – Interpreter of Maladies

Interpreter of Maladies  by Jhumpa Lahiri

From the back cover -

Winner of the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, this stunning debut collection unerringly charts the emotional journey of characters seeking love beyond the barrier of nations and generations.  “A writer of uncommon sensitivity and restraint… Ms. Lahiri expertly captures the out-of-context lives of immigrants, expatriates, and first-generation Americans” (Wall Street Journal).  In stories that travel from India to America and back again, Lahiri speaks with universal eloquence to everyone who has ever felt like a foreigner.  Honored as “Debut of the Year” by The New Yorker and winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award, Interpreter of Maladies introduces a young writer of astonishing maturity and insight who “breathes unpredictable life into the page” (New York Times).

My thoughts -

I typically do not go for short story collections, but I picked this one up because I absolutely fell in love with Lahiri’s novel, The Namesake (read this book, people… it’s really good).  I was pleasantly surprised at how much I truly enjoyed (most of) the stories in this little book.  Lahiri truly writes characters that a person can care about… even in a 15-page story, I found myself becoming so immersed in these characters’ lives, and really caring about the issues they were dealing with.  Some of my favorite stories in this collection were “A Temporary Matter”, in which a young Indian-American couple is dealing with the heartbreaking aftermath of a stillborn baby and the deterioration of their relationship because of that, “Sexy”, which reminded me of an Indian version of the book Shopgirl by Steve Martin, and “This Blessed House”, in which an Indian-American couple, married for only four months and just getting to know each other as their union was the result of an arranged marriage, entertaines some friends for a housewarming party.  Some of the other stories I didn’t enjoy as much, but I was still able to appreciate the characters in every one.  I highly recommend this collection, and am looking forward to reading Lahiri’s latest book, Unaccustomed Earth.

9 stars.

Also reviewed by: A Devoted Reader, Raych at books i done read, Nymeth at Things Mean A Lot, and Lisa at Books on the Brain

 

Review – Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God  by Zora Neale Hurston

 From the book jacket -

Their Eyes Were Watching God, an American classic, is a luminous and haunting novel about Janie Crawford, a Southern black woman in the 1930s whose journey from a free-spirited girl to a woman of independence and substance has inspired writers and readers for close to seventy years.

This poetic, graceful love story, rooted in black folk traditions and steeped in mythic realism, celebrates, boldly and brilliantly, African-American culture and heritage.  And in a powerful, mesmerizing narrative, it pays quiet tribute to a black woman, who, though constricted by the times, still demanded to be heard.

My thoughts -

To be completely honest, I just do not see what all the fuss is about with this book.  I liked the character of Janie, and parts of the storyline intrigued me, but overall I found it to be a pretty simple story where not much happened until the very end, when a lot happened.  Janie was a really great character, you could really see her progression throughout the book, and she obviously grew up a lot and changed in positive ways, especially toward the end, but the rest of the characters were extremely bland.  Nobody stood out to me – in fact, the only other character’s name I can recall is Tea Cake, probably because he was the most significant besides Janie herself.  The ending was pretty well done … just when you thought you knew exactly how it was going to end, something different happened that made the ending really work for the book and for Janie’s story (even though it was definitely a sad ending, in my opinion it was perfect).  But the majority of the story just felt like it was plodding along, nothing special was really happening, and I was kind of bored actually.  I think the only reason I stuck with it is because of how short it is (like 215 pages) and I had committed to reading it for the Novella Challenge.  If not for that, I’m pretty sure I would have put it down after 50 pages and given up.

I’m glad I read Their Eyes Were Watching God, because it is one of those timeless classics that I always feel like I SHOULD read, but I still wouldn’t really recommend it.  I think it just didn’t click with me in any sort of significant way.

6 stars.

Also reviewed by: Becky at Becky’s Book Reviews and Kristen at Book Club Classics. (any others?)