Announcements!

First, a huge congratulations to Grace from Books Without Any Pictures who won my Anniversary Giveaway! She requested a copy of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

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Announcement part the second, I’ve officially signed up for RIP VIII hosted over at Stainless Steel Droppings and can’t wait to get started! I love creepy reads! Going to blow past 4 selections and hopefully fill most of the next two months with books that fit the following categories:

Mystery.
Suspense.
Thriller.
Dark Fantasy.
Gothic.
Horror.
Supernatural.

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You can see some of my choices in the picture above. It’s my first time participating. Let me know if you’ve signed up and what you hope to read!!

Sea Creatures by Susanna Daniel

Sea CreaturesSorry if this post seems rather scatterbrained. I have two excuses. First, I just got finished working a 12 hour day and my brain is fried. Second, I loved this book something fierce.

Sea Creatures is a character driven novel that follows thirty-something Georgia, her husband Graham, and son Frankie, as they move back to her hometown of MIami, Florida. All of the things have gone wrong in their life. They’re both out of jobs and their son has turned mute for seemingly no reason. Miami promises a fresh start even if they are living on a dilapidated houseboat. The year is 1992 and Hurricane Andrew is brewing in the Atlantic ominously foreshadowing even more terribly dramatic and sad traumas this small family will have to face.

I know – world’s worst synopsis ever. Reread first paragraph and forgive me. But honestly, you don’t need to know much more than Susanna is one of my new favoritest authors ever. I can’t believe I haven’t read her first novel, Stiltsville, yet. I could go on and on about how wonderful and well-developed her characters are, how her writing will squeeze your heart until you feel sure you’re going to die, and how alive and vibrant Miami shines guided by Daniel’s talent.

I was sucked in from the first page and didn’t let go until the last word. Sitting here writing this review, my heart continues to break for these characters. Daniel’s writing feels almost like coming home amid one of the worst familial disasters ever. All the sadface aside, you’ll also see an intricate and layered parental story that’s sure to genuinely impress any reader with or without children. She’s not painting the prettiest of pictures but she’s definitely highlighting some harsh truths that ultimately make the reader feel better for being human.

Her turns of phrase and sentence putting together mojo are SUPERB.

All of that gushing and I haven’t even mentioned my two favorite bits: Charlie the hermit and Stiltsville. Both are perfect and need no further commentary.

I would have given this book the coveted 5 star rating, but something about the ending just felt a little bit too destructive all at once. I get that the hurricane is also a metaphor for shit hitting the fan, but I think that Daniel could have worked the ‘less is more strategy’ just a smidge more and BOOM – 5 stars. Still a damn good read. Can’t wait for my book buying ban to end so I can go and purchase my very own finished copy!!

RATING: starstarstarstarrating_star_half-1cx8y5d

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Big hugs and sloppy kisses to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for having me on tour and providing me the advanced copy in exchange for my honest review. Go check out the other tour stops here!

About the Author:

Susanna DanielSusanna Daniel was born and raised in Miami, Florida.  Her first novel, Stiltsville, was awarded the PEN/Bingham Prize for outstanding debut fiction.  She currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with her husband and two sons.

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The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

13539044The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick had a lot to live up to. I know it’s blasphemous to prefer the movie to the book, but I adored this movie. And when I say I adored, what I mean is I was borderline obsessed. Okay, not even borderline. Unsurprisingly, The Litwits wanted to read the source material so I eagerly picked up a beautiful movie-cover edition (don’t hate me!) and got started.

You don’t need a synopsis. Because you’ve already seen the movie. Right? RIGHT? If not, pause your reading and go watch. Now. Yes, right now. Then come back – or don’t. Up to you.

Ultimately, I still enjoy the movie more but feel like as a whole they are highly complimentary. Certain characters are drawn far better in the book – Pat’s brother, Pat’s mom, while others I prefer the movie version – Pat’s Dad, Tiffany. The book allows some great insight into Pat’s thoughts and inner monologues and the movie excels at making me feel all the feels. Several Litwits members agreed that the movie was the more emotional medium in that they cried watching but not reading. What also interested me in the book was the ambiguity of the story. Pat’s never diagnosed in Quick’s story and the relationship between Pat and Tiffany is left a bit more open ended than the Hollywood version.

Kathleen finished reading the book and immediately watched the movie and felt that the movie did an amazing job capturing the essence of the story. I have to agree wholeheartedly. SLP is a great film adaptation. What both narrative forms have going for them is Pat. He’s the happiest, most joyful, and positive character Victoria believes she’s read in a long while. I think he’s the reason so many people love this story no matter how they come to it. His mantra from the book is ‘be kind, not right’ which is something we all need to remember from time to time.

The rest of our discussion centered around watching the Eagles chant on YouTube, state mental health institutions, and what an amazing job both Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence did in the film.

Now, not everyone was extremely pleased with the story and that’s okay! Some members didn’t think the characters were that likable and that some of the details were a bit far-fetched. I can see both these things as being very true – but the movie captured my heart in that special way where I ignore all the flaws, lol.  I was surprised how many Litwits enjoyed the book more (I shouldn’t have been surprised), but I’m sticking with the movie.

Have you seen the movie and read the book? Which did you prefer? 

Rating: starstarstarstar

The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood

13707579The Obituary Writer seemed like a good summertime read. I hadn’t really seen a bad review for it so I added it to my library holds list in eager anticipation.

Ann Hood follows a somewhat overused narrative format – a dual narrative following a woman in the past and a woman in present day. Vivien is our heroine of yesteryear. She’s an obituary writer and still struggling with the loss of her lover during the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. She’s convinced he’s still alive. Claire is our modern mother – a suburbanite feeling stifled by the conformity expected of her during the turbulent 1960s.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this book and a very pleasant read. I preferred Vivien’s timeline simply because she was the more interesting character, in my opinion. But Claire is worthy of her own story. I flew through this novel in a couple of days over a recent weekend and really had no complaints. However, I don’t have too much to say in its favor either. Before starting this review, I had to go jog my memory of the plot and character names. So this isn’t something meant to blow your mind, just to give you a brief moment of literary entertainment. I would say it’s a step above what most people term ‘chick-lit’.

Goodness. That whole last paragraph sounded a bit negative, huh? I really didn’t mean it that way as I did enjoy my time with The Obituary Writer. At the end of the day, though, I’m glad I borrowed from my library as I’ll likely never revisit this one again. If you need something suitable for vacation or just looking for a lighter reading moment, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this one! Plus, the cover is pretty.

Do you like dual narratives or do you think they are way overdone at the moment?

Sailor Twain by Mark Siegel

13538702Sailor Twain by Mark Siegel is an adult graphic novel. That’s all I really needed to know in order to pick up a copy from the library. Because I’m a total graphic novel lush these days. Throw in the words ‘fairy tale’ and ‘mermaid’ and there is no telling what I’ll do.

Sailor Twain tells the story of Captain Twain, a 19th Century riverboat captain working a ship on the Hudson River. The boat’s owner is a rather fancy Frenchman who is obsessed with taking seven lovers which baffles Twain. Then Twain finds a wounded mermaid and nurses her back to health. All of these things eventually connect and lead to some very strange happenings at the bottom of the sea.

What struck me first with Siegel’s novel is the artwork. The charcoal drawings are so atmospheric and gloomy. Considering it rains throughout the entire story, these drawings set the absolute perfect mood. At times, the human figures can look cartoon-ish, but this didn’t bother me since the book is part fairy tale. Do be warned, however, that the drawings can be quite graphic as there is full frontal nudity. Not a book for the kiddies.

As for the plot, it was mostly a quick, dark, fun little read. At times though, things just felt a bit confusing – like there was too much happening for anything to be super well done. I’m not sure how much that was a personal comprehension failure. I would find myself having to really study a page or so of panels to try and figure out what was going on. Those moments took the magic out of reading.

The characters were also sort of uninteresting. I would liked to have cared more for them. Captain Twain did earn my sympathy at parts, but the way he treated his wife ruined it all. I did enjoy the not-so-delight mermaid. She was an odd-duck until shit hit the fan and then I liked her crazy ass. The ending was extremely ambiguous and left up to your own personal interpretation. That wouldn’t have bothered me too much if the rest of the story had been more decipherable, but alas…

So not my favorite thing ever, but still worthy of giving a shot if it sounds like something you’d enjoy. Go find it in the library and breeze through it in an hour or two. I’d love to see what others think about Sailor Twain – especially the end.

So, tell me – what was your least favorite graphic novel and why?

Dog Days of Summer Wrap-Up! (#ddsummer)

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Best. Readathon. Ever.

Thanks so much to Heather and Andi for all their work in organizing this event. Check out the official event wrap-up post over at The Estella Society.

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I decided to concentrate my reading around books and authors that got me super excited to read in the 4th and 5th grades. First up, I had to grab something by Christopher PIke. The book I most remembered was The Midnight Club which is about a bunch of kids with cancer who are in a hospice and meet at midnight to tell stories. What struck me most about my adult re-read was how poignant this story was, how well written, and how un-scandalous. I seemed to remember loving Pike because he felt naughty – sex, drugs, and other provocative things forbidden to pre-teens.

My second choice was Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar. I read a lot of Sachar as a child, but these little stories in particular really stood out. Reading them now was still an absolute pleasure. They were so clever and completely enjoyable as an older person.

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Next up, I grabbed the first Fear Street novel, The New Girl, by R.L. Stine. Yet again, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the writing and story held up after all these years. The book was genuinely creepy, much more so than most YA I read now. What did bug me was that the book had been edited and updated for the 21st century. Current musicians and iPods where mentioned throughout. I wanted my dated Walkman and music, dammit.

Today I focused on two final books. No nostalgic readathon would have felt right without some Judy Blume. I went with Blubber as my selection and adored it. Blume does not sugarcoat people or social issues. Bullying is handled rather well here and every single event just felt so realistic even in its ugliness.

Finally, I just wrapped up Kristy’s Great Idea by Ann M. Martin, the first book in the baby-sitters club series. This book more than the rest really worried me. I for sure thought I would be annoyed by how juvenile the whole thing might be, but not at all!! Loved this book and felt a great urge to continue reading the series. The only thing it lacked was the original cover.

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So glad I participated and can’t wait for another weekend of nostalgia reading. I actually almost entirely ignored all social media because I was so absorbed. What a great way to spend a couple of days.

The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin

13547234The 2013 Man Booker Prize longlist was recently announced and bookish people (myself included) tend to love book lists. I mentally make a note to read all of them every year and never succeed. Don’t even really come close actually, but my intentions are pure. When I stumbled upon The Testament of Mary on my local library’s new fiction shelf, I grabbed and conquered this novella rather quickly.

Colm Toibin is becoming quite the prolific author. He’s already become comfortable with being a Man Booker regular. My bookclub and I read Brooklyn a couple of years ago to a fairly mixed reception. I wasn’t the biggest of fans plot-wise, but loved Toibin’s writing. The Testament of Mary is 81 pages focusing on an elderly Mary after Jesus has been crucified. It’s just a short little character study of one of the most famous women of all time. And a Saint, no less.

What worked for me was Mary’s characterization. I liked that Toibin made her a real, elderly woman filled with bittersweet memories, anger, and many mixed emotions about her son and herself. Unfortunately, 81 pages is just not enough time to flesh out such an important biblical figure. With twice as many pages, Toibin could have written a deeply moving masterpiece. Instead, Mary’s contrary characterization comes off as a quick talking point to attract readers rather than a fleshed out analysis of the kind of woman Mary might have been – particularly in light of her life’s tragedies and joys.

I’m beginning to think Mr. Toibin and I just aren’t likely to have a long lasting relationship. I’ve given him two fair tries and nothing has really impressed me. Maybe his genius is just something I can’t see. Or maybe these award lists are full of shit. What do you think? Either way, I’m glad I read it – only took a couple of hours – but I’m even more thankful that I didn’t spend any of my own dollars.