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On My Wishlist – 38

Posted by on April 7, 2012 8:00 am in Book talk | 5 comments

On My Wishlist is a fun weekly event hosted by Cosy Books and runs every Saturday. It’s where we list all the books we desperately want but haven’t actually bought yet. They can be old, new or forthcoming. Click on the link to Book Chick City, sign the Mr. Linky and join the fun!

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These first two books are coming out this month, and I am so excited to read them, for two different reasons. The Immortal Rules  sounds a lot like something I was working on a few years ago, so it will be exciting to read what this author made of it, and the second is the sequel to The Gathering, which I really really enjoyed. Then there is Venom, coming this October, which has an intriguing setting.

The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

On Goodreads :

In a future world, Vampires reign. Humans are blood cattle. And one girl will search for the key to save humanity.

Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a vampire city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten.  Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them. The vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself is attacked—and given the ultimate choice. Die… or become one of the monsters.

Faced with her own mortality, Allie becomes what she despises most. To survive, she must learn the rules of being immortal, including the most important: go long enough without human blood, and you will go mad.  Then Allie is forced to flee into the unknown, outside her city walls. There she joins a ragged band of humans who are seeking a legend—a possible cure to the disease that killed off most of humankind and created the rabids, the mindless creatures who threaten humans and vampires alike.

But it isn’t easy to pass for human. Especially not around Zeke, who might see past the monster inside her. And Allie soon must decide what—and who—is worth dying for.

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The Calling by Kelley Armstrong

On Goodreads :

Maya and her friends–all of whom have supernatural powers–have been kidnapped after fleeing from a forest fire they suspect was deliberately set, and after a terrifying helicopter crash they find themselves pursued by evildoers in the Vancouver Island wilderness.

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Venom by Fiona Paul

On Goodreads :

Cassandra Caravello is one of Renaissance Venice’s lucky elite: with elegant gowns, sparkling jewels, access to the best balls, her own lady’s maid, and a wealthy fiancé, she has everything a girl could desire. Yet ever since her parents’ death, Cassandra has felt trapped, alone in a city of water, where the dark and labyrinthine canals whisper of escape.

But when Cass stumbles upon a murdered woman—practically in her own backyard—she’s drawn into a dangerous world of secret societies, courtesans, and killers. Soon, she finds herself falling for Falco, a mysterious artist with a mischievous grin… and a spectacular skill for trouble. Can Cassandra find the murderer, before he finds her? And will she stay true to her fiancé, or succumb to her uncontrollable feelings for Falco?

What is at the top of your wishlist right now?

Review : Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay

Posted by on April 4, 2012 1:50 am in 4 stars reads | 7 comments

Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay by Christopher Benfley
Pages : 270
Genre : Non-Fiction
Stand Alone
My Rating :

From the Book’s Jacket :

An unforgettable voyage across the reaches of America and the depths of memory, Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay tells the story of America’s artistic birth. Following his family back through the generations, renowned critic Christopher Benfey unearths an ancestry- and an aesthetic-that is quintessentially American. His mother descends from colonial craftsmen, such as the Quaker artist- explorer William Bartram. Benfey’s father-along with his aunt and uncle, the famed Bauhaus artists Josef and Anni Albers-escaped from Nazi Europe by fleeing to the American South. Struggling to find themselves in this new world, Benfey’s family found strength and salvation in the rich craft tradition grounded in America’s vast natural landscape.

Bricks form the backbone of life in the rural Piedmont of North Carolina, where Benfey’s mother was raised among centuries-old folk potteries, tobacco farms, and clay pits. Her father, like his father before him, believed in the deep honesty of brick, that men might build good lives with the bricks they laid. Nurtured in this red-clay world of ancient craft and Quaker radicalism, Benfey’s mother was poised to set out from home when a tragic romance cracked her young life in two. Salvaging the broken shards of his mother’s former life and exploring the revitalized folk arts resisting industrialization, Benfey discovers a world brimming with possibility and creativity.

Benfey’s father had no such foundation in his young life, nor did his aunt and uncle. Exiled artists from Berlin’s Bauhaus school, Josef and Anni Albers were offered sanctuary not far from the red Piedmont at Black Mountain College. A radical experiment in unifying education and art, Black Mountain made a monumental impact on American culture under Josef’s leadership, counting Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage, and Buckminster Fuller among its influential students and teachers. Focusing on the natural world, innovative craftsmanship, and the physical reality of materials, Black Mountain became a home and symbol for an emerging vision of American art.

My Thoughts :

When TLC Book Tours offered me the opportunity to review this book, I felt both excited and a little unsure. After all, even though I do study art history, American art, pottery and related topics are far from my expertise. I did worry I would have a hard time to get into it, but I shouldn’t have; Benfey’s writing pulled me in from the start.

Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay is a book that defies genre classification. It’s a memoir, a story of family, a book about art, history, nations… It is all of this and a little more, all of it coming together in one single narrative. Benley retraces his own origin through his parents and grand-parents’ story while narrating the historic and cultural background of each, and this is what I mostly enjoyed about his book : the intimate point-of-view. It makes history sound a lot more personal and a lot less clinical, all while sticking to the facts.

The book is divided in three parts, and I found them almost all equally interesting. I did enjoy reading about Wedgwood and the Cherokee in the last part, since I am curious about both but haven’t read a lot about either in the past. But, if I am honest, I do wish I could have read even more about the author’s uncle and aunt, Josef and Anni Albers. Maybe because I had heard a little of them before, of maybe because they felt closer to my field of study, I was the most intrigued by their part of the story, and I could have read a complete book about them. However, with a book so full of stories, it was clear the author had included just enough of them.

On a final note, I really liked Benfey’s writing. At times it was a bit unclear which point he was trying to make; he would mention an event, which related to someone specific, which then ended up being a story about someone else, sometimes coming back to the original idea, and sometimes not. It wasn’t a negative point for me; on the contrary, it is precisely what made this non-fiction book more personal and different from a traditional, dry history book.

I am so glad I got the chance to read this book; I’ll be honest and say that it isn’t something I would have picked by myself, but it was certainly a great experience. Benfey made me travel through time and space, gave me a lot to think about on history, family and artists, all of this wrapped in pleasant writing.

For more information or to read more reviews on this book, visit its page on the TLC Book Tours website.

Filling the Shelf – 55

Posted by on April 2, 2012 11:00 am in Book talk | 8 comments

Filling the Shelf is basically Mailbox Monday (this month hosted by Cindy’s Love of Books) or In my Mailbox (created by The Story Siren ), but with a title that suits my blog :D If you’re interested in joining the fun or seeing what other bloggers added to their shelves, I invite you to visit those two awesome features!

Happy Monday all!

A bigger mailbox this week, especially since I forgot to post it last week. I want to read them all NOW and I’m not sure where to begin!

How to Eat a Cupcake by Meg Donohue : This looks like a cute, light novel, about cupcakes and relationships.

Paris, My Sweet : A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate) by Amy Thomas : You all know how much I love Paris, and desserts, so to have the two in one non-fiction book sounds just like heaven!

Where it Began by Ann Redisch Stampler : This one for my debs-2012 challenge. Looking forward to reading this contemporary YA novel.

Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard : Already, this one has received many glowing reviews. Road trip! Yippee!

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys : Historical fiction taking place during World War II ; a nice change from the usual YA settings. Again, I read many positive reviews of this one, so I’m excited to read it!

The Summer of Skinny Dipping by Amanda Howells : I have been wanting to read this one since last year, I’m glad to finally have it!

What did you add to your shelves recently? Have you read one of these two books?

Review : Mockingjay

Posted by on April 1, 2012 12:21 pm in 4.5 stars reads | 53 comments

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Pages : 390
Genre : YA, Speculative fiction
Series : The Hunger Games, Book 3
My Rating :

(review may contain spoilers on the series)

I first read Mockingjay when it was published back in 2010. After a year of waiting, I was too excited to wait anymore and read it almost in one sitting. Reading the last few pages, I was left both satisfied and dissatisfied, but mostly confused about whether I had enjoyed it or hated it. There was just too much information, too many events and twists and turns, for me to process in what had been a few hours.

Despite not writing my review of it, I went online and read tons of them, hoping something would click and that I would finally understand my feelings about it. As it turned out, some people absolutely loved it, others hated it, and I could relate to most of their arguments. A book has rarely left me so confused, and a year and a half later, all I could remember, except for Prim’s death, was that Katniss spent most of the book drugged and sleeping.

A little over a week ago, I decided to reread The Hunger Games to be prepared for the movie. After watching it, I really felt like rereading the following two books, as I had never read them all as a whole before. So here we are!

I am pleased to say that, reading it just after the two previous books, in a calmer state of mind, I truly enjoyed Mockingjay. It was fast, heartbreaking, horrifying, intriguing, and even though I had read it and knew where it lead, I kept being surprised and the emotion from the scenes still got to me (I had forgotten a lot of what happened to Peeta, apparently!)

I related a lot more to Katniss this time around. Knowing in parts what was coming in the story, I was able to focus on her character and her interior battles much more. My first reaction : how can this girl still get up in the morning after all that’s happened to her? I was also pleased to see that, though she does spend a lot of time sleeping and healing, she also participates in many events. In fact, I found it refreshing to have a main character who isn’t always standing in the middle of every  important scene happening in her world. It was realistic, because no matter how important she is to the cause, I don’t believe adults would happily handle all of their very important business to a 16, 17 years old girl. While as a reader I found this frustrating the first time around, I ended up appreciating this aspect of the book. There’s enough action in Mockingjay, and adding more would probably have taken away from Katniss’ personal story.

Speaking of Katniss, I appreciated her state of mind more after a second reading. Reading the three books in a row, it made it easier for me to understand what she had lost, lived through, suffered in less than a couple of years. I feel that P.T.S.D. isn’t even enough to describe what she was going through. Katniss isn’t strong in every scene because she is, in many way, just a regular girl who wants to be left alone. But she doesn’t get a break, with all sides using her, and though I enjoy strong characters, it is extremely refreshing to have one who seems human in her reactions and decisions. Katniss is a complex character, just like I love them, with flaws that become strengths and strengths that become flaws. Like the world she lives in, Katniss isn’t black or white but somewhere in between, which is very true to life.

If there is one thing though that hasn’t changed since my first reading, it’s my opinion on the epilogue. Now, I do appreciate knowing what goes on in her life, many years later. It’s nice to know that life goes on, even though she’ll forever live with that dark cloud over her head. The problem is, I found this epilogue to be so weak after the book’s conclusion! The last sentences of Mockingjay, before the epilogue, are some of the strongest I have read for a series’ last words. They are perfect for the characters, the story, they have a strength and an emotional weight that the epilogue doesn’t. So for me, the book’s last word will forever be, “Real”.

Before concluding, I also want to give huge props to the author for making what has been, I am sure, some very difficult decisions. There’s a lot of heartbreak in Mockingjay, even more than in the previous books. I am sure some readers found it gratuitous, but for me, it was realistic : we don’t choose who goes first, nor do we choose how or why. And so it is in the world of Panem.

I am so glad that I reread not only Mockingjay, but the complete series. It is clear to me now why The Hunger Games is always the book I compare other YA novels of dystopia. Even though I often find them thrilling and entertaining, there isn’t one that has captured both my imagination and my heart like The Hunger Games.

Series Reading Order :

  1. The Hunger Games
  2. Catching Fire
  3. Mockingjay