Saturday, December 27, 2008

Review: Thirteen Reasons Why

A while ago, softdrink posted a review for this book. As always, she brought in a whole new innovative approach to the review and I loved the sound of the book right away. I even mentioned that in her comments. Being the sweetheart that she is, she sent me her copy of the book!:) Thank you so much softdrink! I totally appreciate your kind gesture!

And of course, no review can even match hers. So head over to her blog immediately and check out her awesome review before coming back here to see my thoughts.

The book was just what I expected it to be – different, interesting and thought provoking. It is not a friendly cheerful book – not when the title “Thirteen Reasons Why” refers to the reasons why a school girl eventually commits suicide. A couple of weeks after Hannah Baker commits suicide Clay Jensen returns from school to find a package addressed to him by his front door. It is a shoe box with 7 cassette tapes. The box is sent by Hannah to the first person on her list – Justin Foley – Cassette 1 – Side A. And then is passed on in order to the 13 people who figure on the list. The Baker’s Dozen. Clay realizes that he’s received the box because he is on the list and he cannot figure out why!

With a map of the city and Hannah’s voice as his tour guide, Clay sets out for what would turn out to be one of the most memorable nights of his life – not necessarily in the good sense. And just like Clay, who just cannot get himself to put the tape down, you won’t be able to put the book down. I can assure you that much!

Jay Asher is a fantastic writer and it is tough to believe that this is his debut novel. Though it is a YA novel, I think it has something for people of all ages and I am sure it will also appeal to people of all ages. I got this book on Saturday and I was stuck to it throughout the weekend. I couldn’t put it down until I had turned the last page.

One thing I must mention here is that though the book revolves around one word – suicide, it is not a gloomy, morose book. Jay even manages to make you laugh sometimes.

And another thing that I have to definitely mention is the fact that the book is incredibly perceptive. Jay describes the sequence of events that eventually lead Hannah to do what she did. Some of the events are pretty minor – a rumor, a snicker, a joke, a pat. And some are a little more serious – back-biting, deceiving, taking advantage of, etc… but as you can nothing out of the ordinary - Nothing that doesn’t happen to every one of us. And yet, some of us let it affect it, some don’t. Some of the affected choose not to do anything about it, while there are some, like Hannah, who take extreme steps.

I think that this book is extremely important in that, it makes us realize that it is totally necessary to pay attention to small details and help kids when we can. Personally, this book affected me more than I would have liked it to. Those who know me personally know what I am talking about. It is hard not to think about how the world would be so much better if any single person who decides to take his/her life, leaves behind a note (or even a series of tapes) telling you why they eventually decided to do such a thing. Suicide is a very painful thing to go through – for everyone involved. It is an end without a closure – with so many unanswered questions and unsaid words. Nobody should have to go through it and this book gives us hope. It brings the message that if you are attentive, you can help more than you think you can!

Read this book! (I cannot give a stronger recommendation!)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Review: I Choose to be Happy

Sometimes, when you least expect it, a book takes you by surprise and just squeezes your heart out. “I Choose to be Happy” is one such book.
Missy Jenkins is the survivor of a school shooting in 1997 in Paducah, Kentucky. The school – Heath High School. The Date – December 1, 1997. A seemingly normal (and slightly nerdy) boy, Michael Carneal walked into school one morning and randomly started shooting a prayer group. Three girls were killed on the spot and 5 were injured. Missy Jenkins was one of the 5 injured. The shooting left her paralyzed from chest down. She was 15 years old. The incident happened less than a month before her 16th birthday. Tragic, I know. Her birthday is today, December 24, 2008 and I thought that this would be the perfect day to post my review of this book. Happy Birthday, Missy!
What makes the book special is Missy’s attitude. Hours after the shooting, right after she got to know that she was going to be paralyzed chest down and was probably going to be wheel chair ridden for the rest of her life, Missy made the biggest decision of her life. A decision that made her the person she is today. A decision that we would all like to think was easy, but we know deep down that we wouldn’t have done it. She decided to forgive Michael and get on with her life. At the tender age of 15, a girl in the hospital reasoned that forgiving the guy who shot her and paralyzed her chest down would be the only way to get over the incident and get on with her life. Isn’t that amazing? That one line changed the way I looked at life. What is the point in harboring ill feelings towards anyone? It is so easy to take umbrage and feed the fire of hatred forever. What Missy did on December 1, 1997 is something that every one of us should take inspiration from. A line that we should think about when faced with adversity.
From that point, there was no looking back for Missy. The book describes her efforts to resume normalcy in life. Being paralyzed from chest down is not easy. Missy had to practically learn everything again from scratch – right from “how to sit down”. The difficulties she went through break your heart but at the same time, you can’t help but admire her perseverance, determination and best of all – her positive attitude. She was always thankful for having survived the incident and never once complained about being paraplegic for the rest of her life.
In addition to Missy’s own tremendous efforts, what really helped her get to where she is now are a loving family and a very supportive community. Her parents and siblings practically gave up their lives to be with Missy and never leave her alone even for a single waking moment. The Paducah community came together to help the Jenkins family, and all other families that were victims of this incident. Letters and cards from all over the world did make a difference to Missy. Her mom read out every card that came for her. The donations that came in went into a fund that helped Missy for all her therapy sessions. The book reaffirms our faith in humanity.
Missy’s story is one that is filled with hope, determination, love and any other positive attitude you can think of. There is nothing but a happy ending for such a story. Missy is still paralyzed from chest down today. But she has a life. She is married and has a very very cute son. She works as a school counselor. She hopes to help children like Michael at the time they need help and wait until they show up at school with a gun in hand.
I could go on and on about her and the book but I think the better alternative would be for you to get hold of your own copy. Missy Jenkins is a very admirable person and this is a book that every one of us has to read – without exception. This is a book you can turn to in hard times for inspiration. Seriously!
Visit Missy's website here.
Thanks to Langmarc Publishing for sending me a review copy of this book. 

Friday, December 19, 2008

Review: Jack with a Twist

Jack with a Twist is the second book by Brenda Janowitz. Her first book, Scot on the Rocks was published in 2007 and describes the misadventures of Brooke Miller, a Manhattan attorney, who attends her ex-boyfriend’s wedding.
In Jack with a Twist, we meet Brooke Miller again and this time, it is for her own wedding! Let me first tell you this. You don’t have to read Scot on the Rocks before you read Jack with a Twist. I had no idea about Scot on the Rocks when I read Jack with a Twist and it was a super read. There are references to the previous book in here at all!
Anyways, getting back to the book, Brooke is all caught up with planning her own wedding. Just when she finds the perfect gown that she loves (and it doesn’t make her look fat!), she also lands the biggest case of her life at work! How much better can things get? Perfect, right? Hmm… wrong! Unfortunately for Brooke, the opposing attorney is proving to be quite a handful. He doesn’t hesitate to pull all the dirty tricks in the law books and is hell bent on overloading her with work – so much so that she doesn’t even have time to finish planning her own wedding! But wait a minute, is there even going to be a wedding? Highly improbable considering that the attorney from hell is none other than Brooke’s fiancĂ© and the love of her life – Jack!
Jack with a Twist is hilarious and a perfect light read. Brooke is a lovable character and of course, completely relatable to (I am sure you’re mom’s nagged you about buying dresses with sleeves that hide your fat arms, right??). I really enjoyed reading this book… and who wouldn’t? Didn’t you find the premise of this book interesting?? I highly recommend this book if you are looking for a light read.
I have to thank Brenda Janowitz and her publicist for sending me a review copy of this book!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Review: Professors' Wives' Club

I won a copy of this book at a giveaway in Dar’s blog and after some issues with the mail, it finally arrived last week. I couldn’t wait to start reading it. After reading so many rave reviews for it all over the blog-o-sphere, I was kinda sure I would surely like the book. And I did. Thank you so much Dar!

If you still don’t know what this book is about, here’s a short description. The book is about 4 ladies – wives of professors who live at the faculty housing at the fictional Manhattan U. The 4 women are very different. Mary is the author of a Pulitzer Prize winning novel. Hannah is a former model. Sophia gave up a successful career as an agent in LA to become a stay at home mom in New York. Ashleigh is a lawyer. They get to know each other and start bonding because of one reason – a little private garden near the faculty housing. The garden is the sanctuary for each one of them. It is the place where they go when they need to deal with their issues and boy do they have issues. One of them is dealing with an abusive, dominating husband.

Another just cheated on her husband with her professor and is swallowed by guilt. Yet another is a lesbian and cannot figure out the right away to inform her strict senator dad. And the fourth cannot figure out if she should have actually given up a career to stay at home and wait, was her husband cheating on her??
The four women decide to join forces when Dean Havemeyer suddenly decides to demolish the garden to build a parking garage instead. Coming together for a common cause, they eventually find strength to deal with the issues that they are each battling against.

It is hard to believe that this is Joanne Rendell’s first book. It is very well written. Each of the four women has her own faults but overall, they are all very likeable. There is a light element to the whole book but at the same time, Joanne doesn’t shy away from dealing with topics like physical abuse. She puts across the point that physical abuse is not something that is prevalent in only lower classes of society. Sometimes rich and educated me also tend to be physically abusive and it is something that shouldn’t be tolerated!
I loved this book. It was a page turner and I had a very tough time putting the book down until I had turned the very last page.

This would have been enough to make the book a roaring success. But Joanne doesn’t stop here. She brings in a tough of suspense and mystery to this as well… in the form of a literary character… can it get any better? I loved the references to Edgar Allen Poe and I shouldn’t be saying anything more than this, coz I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag.

You still haven’t read this book? I think you should get a copy of this right away and trust me, you won’t regret it!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Review: Lady Susan

In an effort to complete the Classics Challenge, I read Lady Susan by Jane Austen as my fifth and final book. I must say that it has been quite an ordeal and I did manage to abandon a couple of books in the middle. I made the mistake of picking 5 heavy books for the challenge. I really should have had a few light ones in the middle. Anyways, shall follow my own piece of advice next year (Trish, hope you are planning to host the Challenge again. There’s no way I am reading Classics without a challenge!).
Lady Susan was one of Jane Austen’s first few novels (if you could even call that one).According to Wikipedia, the book was written sometime around 1794, but it was not published until 1871. The major part of this short novel is in letter format. The central character of the novel is Lady Susan. Lady Susan is far from being charming and nice like the central characters of other Austen novels. She is, in fact, selfish, flirtatious, imposing and rather manipulative. In less than a few months of her husband’s demise, she starts her quest for the next possible “victim”. Martial status doesn’t deter her in anyway.
I loved the letter-style of the book. We get to know of Lady Susan’s activities through her own letters to her friend (whose husband greatly disapproves of her friendship with Lady Susan) and the letter exchange between her brother-in-law’s wife and her mother. Lady Susan invites herself to her husband’s brother place in spite of being less than friendly with them in the past. His wife, Mrs. Vernon, writes to her mother about the atrocities of Lady Susan and her uncaring behavior towards her own daughter. The book gets eve more hilarious when Mrs. Vernon’s brother visits them while Lady Susan is in residence and lands up falling hopelessly in love with her.
Lady Susan is short and amusing. In spite of just being a collection of letters, Austen manages to convey the essence of the novel without actually making the letters sound too descriptive.
Do you know of any other book in epistolary form? (Well, the only one I have even come close to is Bridget Jones Diary (if you can consider diary entries as letters)). I would definitely like to read other books in this style. Let me know!
With Lady Susan, I have officially completed the Classics Challenge and all my challenges for this year. I can’t wait to start on books for next year’s challenges.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Review: Keeping Hannah Waiting

I loved the concept of this book enough to put down everything else I was reading and pick this up as soon as it came in the mail on Friday last week. Thank you Nanci Mora (from Hologram Publishing) for sending me a review copy of this book!

In this book, Kate's mom dies leaving behind a house full of books. Books that she has "rescued" over the years from various places. And better still, all kinds of books. User manuals, log books, novels, etc. Kate needs to sell the house and has no idea about what to do with all the books around the house. While poking around the attic one day, she comes across a log book with a hidden painting. After meeting with experts, she finds out that the painting was a never-publicized work of a renowned artist Marc Chagall. Even before she realizes it, she becomes a millionaire after selling the painting at an art auction.

With the newly obtained money, she decides to take a vacation in Europe. By chance she comes up on a photograph that will eventually lead her to the rightful owner of the painting and the story behind the lady in the painting.. Fascinating premise, right??

The book was well written and a light and easy read. It was fairly captivating and I didn't really put it down once I started reading it. Luckily, it didn't take me too long to get done with it or else I would have done nothing else the whole weekend!

There are a couple of things that I could complain about though. First, the cover art. I am a sucker for interesting looking covers. This cover of this book, though interesting, wasn't really what I would have expected for the book. The art in the cover is supposed to be "The Lady with the Flowers" or the painting that Kate discovers in the book. Sadly, the cover lacks all the magic that the painting is supposed to have. Considering that the painting is the central theme of this book, I would have preferred to see a better representation in the cover. For example, the painting's background is the parlor in Hannah's house. Secondly, Hannah eyes are supposed to be open! All through the  book you read about the captivating blue eyes and the cover doesn't do any justice to the description. In fact, I think that the cover was a distraction.

Anyways, the second thing that I wasn't particularly thrilled about was the fact that Hannah's story reminded me a great deal of the movie - Titanic. Take a look at this:
Rich girl meets poor boy while traveling. Poor boy is an artist. Rich girl is already engaged to boring rich boy. Later, poor boy takes rich girl from stuffy rich people's party to a high energy poor people's folk dance party. Rich girl even manages to show off some of her trained dancing in the party. Finally, poor artist boy paints rich girl in the nude. You tell me.. don't you see the similarities??

In spite of these 2 shortcomings, I would still like to recommend the book. The book gives us a peep into the lives of eastern European Jewish life before the advent of Hitler. From Hannah's story we can see how the rich and influential Jews hardly expected what eventually happened to them. In spite of dealing with a subject like the holocaust, Dave Clarke manages to keep the mood of the book light and makes it an enjoyable read.

Here's another interesting tidbit that I got to know. Dave Clarke is the child of two holocaust survivors.. and the proceeds from the sale of every book will be donated to the Survivor Mitzvah Project to support aging Holocaust survivors in need around the world. Now, that gives you an incentive to buy this book, right?

I definitely enjoyed the read. It was well written and easy to read.. and definitely entertaining.

Let me know your thoughts!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Review: Perfect on Paper

The (mis) adventures of Waverly Bryson..

Thanks to Tracee Gleichner @ Pump up your book promotion for sending me this book.

I have to start by mentioning this - The best part of the whole experience was the letter I received along with the book. Unlike the usual letter from the publisher, this book included a nice letter from Maria's dad thanking me for agreeing to review his lil' girl's book! Isn't that adorable??

First, Here's a little description of the book:

Anything can look perfect…on paper
When her fiancĂ© calls off their wedding at the last minute, Waverly Bryson wonders if her life will ever turn out the way she thought it would…or should. Her high-powered job in sports PR? Not so perfect. Her relationship with her dad? Far from it. Her perfect marriage? Enough said.
Perfect on Paper is a humorous tale of Waverly's efforts to cobble the pieces of a broken yesterday into a brand new tomorrow. What does the future have in store for her? Will she finally find what she's looking for?
Her dates? Cringe-inducing at times, definitely entertaining 
Her friends? Often amused, definitely supportive
Her new crush? Possibly intrigued, definitely a catch
The results? Hardly perfect, definitely just right

My thoughts:

As promised, the book turned out to be light, comical and entertaining.

 I liked the simple yet interesting cover of the book. There was something appealing about the simple design.

 I liked the goofy protagonist.Waverly is so adorable. I enjoyed her clumsy acts, her nonsensical observations, her insecurities, etc. She chokes on milky way bars before cute guys, she gets way too drunk, she falls at baseball games (with food and drinks in her hand, of course!), she breaks her ankle before new year's parties.. she's hilarious!

 I loved the quirky "Honey" notes idea. It was innovative and I think that gave the book a whole new dimension.

"Perfect on Paper" is a perfect light read. When all that you want is to settle down with a light book, be sure to have Perfect on Paper within reaching distance.