Monday, May 31, 2010


I am super psyched because this weekend I obtained this beauty:

That's my new library card. It is sort of awesome, isn't it? Isn't all that Japanese all over it pretty?
And what's even more exciting - it's a lot of kanji, but I can ALMOST read all of it! YAY!

Anyhow, there aren't a LOT of English books in the library, but I think I want to read almost all of what they have, so at least their selection is awesome.

I don't know about you guys, but I haven't been a library person really since I was in middle school. I always TELL myself that I am going to check out books from the library, but then I never do. Given that I am in school almost full-time now, though, and I am supporting myself with a minimally paying paying time job, and I am living in a country where English books are EXPENSIVE (and to which publishers don't want to send), I think I'm going to HAVE to rediscover the library.
And frankly, I'm psyched about it!
I LOVE owning books, but everyone here has been telling me I'm a packrat (and I SO am), and, as sometime who loves to travel and regularly move around, it gets to the point where there is just too much (I am there now), and I just have to tell myself "It's OKAY to not own this awesome book."

And so the library. It will be awesome.

And you guys? What is your relationship with the library? Are you a library person or a compulsive buyer? Or somewhere in between?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Review: the Elf of Luxembourg by Tom Weston

Title: the Elf of Luxembourg

Author: Tom Weston

Rating: 1/2

Who Should Read It? Readers who are more interested in plot based stories than character based stories. This is a great book for those who love mysterious, magical stories that are full of history!

What I Have to Say:
The Elf of Luxembourg takes place in the present and the past simultaneously. In the present, we follow two very different, American sisters, as they visit their aunt and uncle in Luxembourg. They (very) slowly come to discover that there is quite a bit more to Luxembourg than they ever could have thought. In the past, we follow Cuchaquicha on his quest to refind his wife and give his message to the gods, after he has been taken into slavery by the Spanish and the vampires (aka the Germans).

What ensues is a story of magic, mythical creatures, mystery, and betrayal. And what's more: history. While I wouldn't go so far as to call this historical fiction, Tom Weston weaves historical fact after historical fact into his telling. He combined it with so much magic and folklore that I was left curious as to what was actually true and what wasn't - and as I always say, any book that makes me want to learn something can't be bad.

The best part of the book (in my humble opinion) was the story of Cuchaquicha. The things that he goes through to try to find his wife and get his message to the gods are exciting and mysterious and will have the reader turning page after page, wondering whatever is going to happen. The story of Alex and Jackie was also suspenseful and exciting - I spent the entire book wondering how the two stories were going to intertwine.

The writing style of this story was also very unique. The title "the Elf of Luxembourg: being a love story" really says it all. It's not outwardly a love story at all, except, through his style, it is obvious that the author loved his book and put a lot into it. It also has subtle undertones of love being something entirely different than what we think about on the surface, and through this new idea of love, it really is a love story. His style is poignant and to the point, and very thing descriptive. I think if you like the cover and the title, you will most likely enjoy the style.

Unfortunately, though, I found the characters lacking in development. I never really got to know any of the characters. Sure, I understood that Cuchaquicha was a good man, and I was able to see the kind of person that he was, but I never really got to know him. And Jackie and Alex, I felt like I knew them even less. They were two flaky, slightly annoying girls who supposedly loved to shop (though we never saw them shop), and that was all I ever felt that I knew. I never was able to get into their heads and see how they saw things. I have no idea how they reacted to the twist, and since I didn't really get a feeling for them, I couldn't even imagine. I also never really understood what made them special and unique. We were given just one word to explain it, and that word was never really explained. I found this frustrating.

Because of this, though the story was quite good and engaging, I felt as if it was lacking in a way. Because the characters could have been anyone, and I like to engage with the characters, to care about them.

Overall, though, I loved this book, and on the whole I had trouble putting it down. If you like magical, exciting stories and don't mind uninteresting (or, rather, slightly underdeveloped) characters, then this book is definitely for you. It's full of vampires and elves and and magic and even a mermaid. It takes an already exciting city and turns it into somewhere even more mysterious. Readers will enjoy his unique writing style and the massive amount of history thrown in!

Summary: What's an older sister to do? It's not all fun fairs and ice-cream. Well, it is - but that's beside the point. When one is in Luxembourg, there is a certain standard to maintain, and vacationing with Elves and Vampires is just so old school. But can Alex convince her younger sister, Jackie, of that? No, of course not, so she may as well get used to it. But deep beneath the ancient city of Luxembourg there lies a secret. The Vampires believe it is protected by the Elf. The Elf believes it is protected by a prophecy concerning Alex and Jackie. And the sisters? They believe shoes in Luxembourg are too expensive. Why are the Vampires going toe-to-toe with an Elf for the pleasure of the sisters' company? Why does the Elf think Alex and Jackie can sing? And just who let Sir Walter Raleigh and the Conquistadors into this story? To answer these questions will take all of the sisters' cunning, bravery and imagination, as well as some souvenir shopping. Because this is the Elf of Luxembourg and this is an Alex and Jackie Adventure.

Cover Story: I am a HUGE fan of puzzles, and I therefore love this cover! It's super cool, and it fits with the book wonderfully, as I spent a lot of time trying to puzzle all of the different pieces together.

Disclosure: This book was sent to me by Pump Up Your Book! for review. This in no way affected my review.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Guest Post: Tom Weston, author of the Elf of Luxembourg

Today, I have a fabulous guest post from Tom Weston, who is presently on tour with Pump Up Your Books! Enjoy! And be sure to check back tomorrow for a review of his latest book, the Elf of Luxembourg!

Fact vs. Fiction.

If there is one thing that my fans and critics can agree on, it’s that there is a lot of history dotted throughout the pages of the Alex and Jackie Adventures; much more than one expects to find in a genre classified as Fantasy. I admit that this is a guilty pleasure for me, and I’ll apologize in advance if it is not for everyone, but that’s just the way it comes out.

This style dates back to my business days, where I always liked to breakdown complex business issues using storytelling and anecdotes. The history thing took full swing in a book I wrote about Business Continuity. Looking to liven up what can quickly become a dry and tedious subject, I opined on the complaint du jour, the outsourcing of American jobs to India, by telling the story of William Caxton and the introduction of the printing press into England. Well this led to a few heads being scratched – “We’re here to talk seriously about job loss and this idiot is going on about Richard III and the downfall of the Guild of Stationers,” they said.

So I bid a fond farewell to the real world and set up shop in the Land of Fantasy, but I did take the history lessons with me.

This raises some questions. How does one blend facts into a work of fiction? Where does one draw the line? I’m happy to say that, in the books, I completely obliterated the line; the facts and the fiction are there to complement each other, to feed off each other. I’ve said before that all the stuff about Boston, in First Night, and Luxembourg, in The Elf of Luxembourg, is there because one of the goals of the Alex and Jackie novels is to showcase these great cities. But in addition to this, I’ve taken the factual history, Cotton Mather and the Salem Witch Trials, the search for El Dorado by Sir Walter Raleigh, and the discovery of the Glozel Stones by Émile Fradin, to weave fictional narratives. I’m not the first to do this – Neal Stephenson did this to brilliant effect in his Baroque Cycle, and this was the inspiration for me to try it on a smaller scale – but I hope that my readers can see that without the facts there would be no fiction, at least not for me.

So Fact vs. Fiction is probably the wrong phrase, because in allowing the fictional Alex to talk to the factual Cotton Mather, or the fictional Cuchaquichá to become a servant to the factional Captain Sparrey, the books serve their second goal, of putting before the reader the notion that facts (and history) are not always what they seem.

ABOUT TOM: Originally from England, Tom Weston now resides in Boston, Massachusetts. Before becoming the full-time author of the Alex and Jackie Adventures, Tom headed a systems consulting company. His other works include non-fiction books, screenplays and audio/video. For further information, visit him at his web site,

Monday, May 24, 2010

Big Test!

I've got a big test on Wednesday, so I'm sorry to say that I'm going to disappear from the blogosphere for the next couple days. I've got a great review for the Queen of Palmyra that is ready to be typed up, but I unfortunately don't have the time to do it. Hopefully I'll be back Wednesday!


In the mean time, how much of the world have you visited?

visited 36 states (16%)
Create your own visited map of The World

Looks like I've got a TON of the world left to see! Better get started on that!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Nihon no Kinyoubi (2)

Nihon no Kinyoubi (Japanese Friday) is a new feature here at Brizmus Blogs Books inspired by French Friday, which is a weekly feature hosted by Charlotte at the Book on the Hill. Charlotte features French bookish things, and I plan on featuring Japanese bookish things, though I won't limit myself if I find something non-bookish that I think will interest you guys.

And this week, I thought I'd talk a little about my favorite Japanese author, Haruki Murakami.

Since he is so awesome, he has become popular outside of the United States as well, which means that you've probably heard of him. His most popular book is "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle," but my absolute favorite is "Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World." He has been praised by the Guardian as one of the world's "greatest living novelists," and frankly, I have to agree. His amazingness will never cease to amaze me. He was born in 1949, wrote his first fiction when he was 29, and has just been getting more and more amazing ever since.

His most recent book 1Q84, pronounced in Japanese the same way you would pronounce 1984, was published in Japan in 2009, and I am SO excited for it to be released in English. You should be, too! I don't know anything about it other than the 1984 reference, and since 1984 was such an AWESOME book, and Murakami is also the awesomest, I don't really need to know more.

My dream is to someday be able to read Murakami in Japanese, as I know that would be awesome.

If you are interested in seeing some of the French and American covers of these books, I point you to the French Friday I did on French Japanese covers.

Anyhow, that's all I have to say about Murakami for now. If you've never read anything by him, I highly recommend you do so. NOW!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Review: Between Two Kingdoms by Joe Boyd

Title: Between Two Kingdoms

Author: Joe Boyd

Rating: 1/2

Who Should Read It? This book is a very obvious llegory for the constant war between Good and Evil, God and Satan, and yet, I still would recommend it to Non-Chrisians. Christians will enjoy this book through their ability to relate to the trials in faith of the characters, but non-Christians will also enjoy the story and find something to be gained from this book, if they keep an open mind!

What I Have to Say:
This was a beautifully written, endearing story. Tommy, along with his friends, all live in the Upper Kingdom with the Great King and the Good Prince. They are eternally 7 years old, and it shows through their adorable innocence. And yet, because they are eternally 7, they also have life experience which allows the reader to relate to them as if they are adults. And when they go into the Lower Kingdom, that is what they become.

The Lower Kingdom is populated by miserably, unhappy people who don't believe in the Upper Kindgom, most of whom need saving of some sort. They are headed by an evil king who has come up with an even more evil plot to retain control over all of his citizens and to never have to fear losing them to the joy and beauty and hope of the Upper Kingdom.

It is a very obvious allegory for heaven and hell and the eternal fight between Good and Evil, God and the Devil, and that's what it's supposed to be. Still, when Tommy and his friends are sent by the Great King into the Lower Kingdom to help build treehouses and open people's eyes to the magnificence of the Upper Kingdom, the reader will find themselvses drawn in despite themselves. For Christians and Non-Christians alike, it is impossible not to enjoy the adorable, action-filled story that follows. Most people will be able to relate in some way to the trials faced by Tommy and his friends as they battle their way through the non-believers to the castle and the king in the lower kingdom.

This story is told with such simple brilliance that, while reading, I had somewhat the feeling of sitting by a campfire, chewing sugar cane, and listening to my grandfather tell one of his crazy stories. Because more than anything, that's what this is, a story, a tale to be passed down through the ages, and Boyd communicates it to the reader in such a way to keep them curious, engaged, and turning page after page, wanting more.

My favorite thing about this book, though, was that it questioned. Each of the characters, after an extended period of time in the Lower Kingdom, was forced to question their faith and their belief in the Upper Kingdom and the Great King. They did not just blindly follow and blindly believe (well, one of the characters did), and their reasons for questioning were all valid things that I am sure are faced my most Christians. As such, in a way, if you are Christian, this book WILL make you question your faith, and it will also help you make decisions about your life and yoru faith accordingly. As someone who is a firm believer in constantly questioning everything (and then CHOOSING to believe, as opposed to just BELIEVING - I mean, heck, I believe in unicorns!), I think that this book was fabulous.

Between Two Kingdoms is a great story with a great message delivered by a brilliant writer. It is filled with well-developed, developing, likable characters, exciting plot twists, and a boatload of creativity. And, since it's such a quick, easy read, I feel like I can recommend it to everyone. Adults, young adults, Christians, and non-Christians alike will all find something to be gained from this book.

Summary: In this work of allegorical fantasy, author Joe Boyd takes us on a pilgrimage to a land of two kingdoms, but only one true King. An ancient land, where children never grow old. A living land, where foundations grow in trees and rivers sing and breathe. But also a dying land, where the darkness of a false prince threatens to swallow everything in its shadow.

Enter the adventure with Tommy, a child of the Great King, as he and his friends accept the challenge to live as grown men and women in the Lower Kingdom—where hope is hidden, vision is clouded, and pride twists truth into a beautiful yet deadly deception.

Cover Story: The cover is actually what attracted me to this book to begin with. I find it mysterious and fantastical, and I absolutely adore the font!

Disclosure: This book was sent to me for review by the publisher, which in no way affected my review.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday (9)

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Basically, I pick a book I'm excited about that's coming out sometime soon.

And this week's pick is:

Insatiable by Meg Cabot

Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: June 1, 2010

Summary: Sick of vampires? So is Meena Harper.

But her boss is making her write about them anyway, even though Meena doesn’t believe in them.

Not that Meena isn’t familiar with the supernatural. See, Meena Harper knows how you’re going to die (not that you’re going to believe her; no one ever does).

But not even Meena’s precognition can prepare her for what happens when she meets—then makes the mistake of falling in love with—Lucien Antonescu, a modern-day prince with a bit of a dark side . . . a dark side a lot of people, like an ancient society of vampire-hunters, would prefer to see him dead for.

The problem is, he already is dead. Maybe that’s why he’s the first guy Meena’s ever met that she could see herself having a future with. See, while Meena’s always been able to see everyone else’s future, she’s never been able look into her own.

And while Lucien seems like everything Meena has ever dreamed of in a boyfriend, he might turn out to be more like a nightmare.

Now might be a good time for Meena to start learning to predict her own future . . .

If she even has one.

I know we've been hearing about this book for ages, and I've been wanting to read this book for ages. But as the publication date comes closer and closer, I find myself getting more and more excited about it! I really can't wait!!!! Meg Cabot is one of my absolute FAVORITE authors, and I have to admit that I felt a little bit skeptical when I heard she would be doing paranormal. But frankly, as the publication date gets closer and closer, I find myself just feeling excited to read some new and different Meg Cabot. Man, I love her!

What are you waiting on this week?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Music and Reading - do they go together?

So, I know that a lot of people can't listen to music while they read. And this is something that I absolutely don't understand. For me, music and reading go hand in hand. And, this may sound weird, but the music that I most like to listen to while I read is music to which I can sing along. I find that it really helps me get into a good book. And I think that whether or not I actually DO feel obliged to sing along while I am reading is a great measure of how great the book I am reading is.

I feel the need to sing along - the book is probably lacking.
I don't feel the need to sing along - the book is pure awesome.

Lately, though, I've only really had time to read at night right before I go to sleep (I've been reading the same book for over a week now - it's sort of ridiculous really. I'm going to have to start trying to find time to fit reading into my schedule again. I just have SO MUCH studying and kanji learning to do!). And because of that, I haven't been listening to music while I am reading, and I sort of miss it. They are so interlinked for me that it almost doesn't feel right to not listen to music while reading.

How do you guys feel about this? Do you always listen to music while reading, or just occasionally? Or maybe even never? Why? If you do, what kind of music do you consider reading music?

Some of my favorite bands to listen to while reading are:


So sugary and fabulous - this tends to be one of the bands on my YA books soundtrack! It goes along with the fast-paces excitement!


This is more for the slow-moving, intense, depressing books, like the one I am reading now.


Really, when don't you want to listen to the Glee soundtrack? There's a song on it for all books! Mostly, though, this is music to listen to while reading some chick lit!


MTX is what I like to call versatile. Though I like to put them on when I'm reading late at night, and I don't want to fall asleep, but I also don't want to over wake myself up, so that when I do decide to sleep, sleep comes.

So, I'd love to hear about your relationship with music and books together!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Blogging Around the World Feature

Just thought I would give you guys the heads up that I am being featured today at the Book on the Hill!!!! Charlotte has a weekly featured called "Book Blogging Around the World." It is super fun getting to read about different bloggers' relationships with books in different countries!

I started my blog in France, and now I am in Japan, so I talk a little bit about both of those places. It was an incredibly fun interview, so I hope you guys will head on over there to check it out!


Friday, May 14, 2010

Japanese Friday (1)

I've decided to start a feature here at Brizmus Blogs Books inspired by French Friday, whiche is a weekly feature hosted by Charlotte at the Book on the Hill. Now that I'm in Japan, I thought it would be fun to do the Japanese version of this. I haven't asked Charlotte if it's okay, but I vaguely remember her mentioning a while back that I should, so I don't think she'll mind (Charlotte! Please tell me if you do!)

Anyhow, for now it will be called Japanese Friday (it's a pity Japanese doesn't also start with an F!), but I'm going to try to think of something more catchy. Maybe Nihon no Kinyoubi, which is Japanese Friday in Japanese. Basically, I'll write about Japanese things. Most will be book related, but I've decided not to limit myself to just books, but other things you guys might find interesting as well.

To start with, I thought I'd share with you guys the Japanese covers of the Twilight books. They're really quite interesting.

It's like the same cover, but not. I quite like the font that they chose for the Japanese writing.
I also like how they have the front and the back looking so nicely together. It is practically BEGGING you to buy two of the book, the way it just fits together like that.

I would show you all the rest of the covers as well, but it's just more of the same cover separated in two like that, with the same font. And I'm sure we've ALL seen the American and the British covers.

I for some reason actually find this more appealing than the American covers.

Anyhow, I'm hoping I'll be able to come up with lots of fun ideas for this feature! If there are things you'd like to see, please don't hesitate to let me know!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Review: Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough

Title: Once A Witch

Author: Carolyn MacCullough

Rating: 1/2

Who Should Read It? This is a light, quick-to-read urban fantasy for those who like reading about witches.

What I Have to Say:
This was really a cute story. I think that reading about witches is so much fun because they are exactly the same as us. . .just magical. We can wish to be them and imagine being them and dream that maybe someday we will be them because they are so close to how we actually are.

Carolyn Macullough's version of a witch story was even more translatable to our daily lives because of Tamsin's status as an outcast, something slightly different, from her family. Okay, so maybe none of us are actually witches (sadness!), and maybe none of us feel outcast by our families, but I think we can all relate to feeling as if we don't fit in, feeling as if we are just ordinary compared to a group of wonderfuls.

It is for this that Tamsin's story sat so well with me. She was just so real, so someone that every teenage girl can look to as she is going through that difficult, awkward phase in life. This is why, even though the story sometimes became ludicrous, and even though she wasn't extremely well-developed as a character (none of the characters really were, actually), I still found Once A Witch to be refreshingly delicious, packed with suspense, romance, action, and, best of all, MAGIC!

Now we go on to my one major complaint. I was totally loving this book up until the third chapter, when the main character became a smoker. Totally unnecessarily. It didn't fit with her at all, it didn't move the plot along, and all it did was annoy me. Especially later on when she was going between chain smoking and pacing when she could have just as easily paced all the time. I have trouble with books that portray people that I am supposed to like as smokers. If anyone has to be a smoker, it should only be the bad guys.

Given that that has very little to do with the story, though, I feel like I shouldn't really even be mentioning it. Tamsin is, in general, a typical teenage girl and a totally likable character. Her extended family is hilarious and fun, her relationship with Gabriel is awkward and expected, and the messes into which she gets herself are just ridiculous. This is one of those books, though, that it's easy to pick up, read in one or two sittings, enjoy while you're reading, and then immediately forget about. It's enjoyable and fluff, but it has no real staying power.

Summary: Tamsin Greene comes from a long line of witches, and she was supposed to be one of the most Talented among them. But Tamsin's magic never showed up. Now seventeen, Tamsin attends boarding school in Manhattan, far from her family. But when a handsome young professor mistakes her for her very Talented sister, Tamsin agrees to find a lost family heirloom for him. The search—and the stranger—will prove to be more sinister than they first appeared, ultimately sending Tamsin on a treasure hunt through time that will unlock the secret of her true identity, unearth the sins of her family, and unleash a power so vengeful that it could destroy them all. This is a spellbinding display of storytelling that will exhilarate, enthrall, and thoroughly enchant.

Cover Story: This cover, for some reason, doesn't really speak to me. I like the colors, and I like the idea of the old book, but there's something about it that seems lacking to me.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday (8)

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Basically, I pick a book I'm excited about that's coming out sometime soon.

This week I am excited about:

Mini Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

Publisher: The Dial Press
Publication Date: September 2010

Summary: I can't find a summary of this ANYWHERE, other than "This is the much-anticipated new Shopaholic novel. Becky Bloomwood is back - with a mini shopaholic!" But really, no summary is needed. It's just going to be awesome, period.

I am a HUGE Sophie Kinsella fan!!!! I loved all of the Shopaholic books, and I have been dying for AGES for another one! Her other books are all equally fabulous! So, needless to say, I am RIDICULOUSLY excited about this upcoming release! It really can't come soon enough!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Review: The Swimming Pool by Holly LeCraw

Title: The Swimming Pool

Author: Holly LeCraw

Rating: 1/2

Who Should Read It? This is a book for people who are willing to take time TRYING to relate to characters, knowing that when they finally do, they will be relating to their misery. If not, it can also be an enjoyable light read for most middle-aged women.

What I Have to Say:
It's really hard for me to know what to say about this book. On the one hand, I quite liked it. The story was fresh and interesting, the writing style was slightly poetic and beautiful, and the characters were complex and, well, not likable, but enjoyable. It was easily read, easily enjoyed, and and the time passed by nicely while I was reading.

Which makes me want to call this a fluff read. While I was reading, I felt like it jumped out at me and screamed "AVERAGE!" On the surface, it seemed as if there was nothing special about this book; just another book for a 20 or 30 (or even 40) something woman to read while taking a leisurely break from life.

It doesn't draw you in, you probably won't be thinking about the characters for a long time after it's over, and in my case, I was actually trying to think of what books I'd read recently that I could review today, and it didn't come to mind until I looked at my shelf (for the record, I finished it three days ago). I mean, there was nothing about it that made it stick out in my thoughts.

And yet, there is SOMETHING about it, though I can't really place my finger on what. The characters are just a little bit more complex than you except them to be, the plot line takes a few more twists and turns than you expect it to, and there are quite a few subtleties and intricacies to the plot that aren't immediately apparent. The characters go through a lot over the course of the book, and thinking back now, I'm feeling like I wasn't being an active enough reader. I passively let the book go by, never feeling a connection with any of the characters, but if I had been more invested in it, I believe that I could have felt the true depth of the characters misery, of what they had suffered.

Of course, the fact that I am only realizing that now, after having finished the book, makes me feel like I must have missed something, and I'm intrigued enough to think about going back and reading it again sometime soon. I think that anyone who chooses to read this book will enjoy it, as I did, but I highly recommend putting forth a little bit of energy into the reading process in order to get all that Holly LeCraw has to offer with the Swimming Pool.

Summary: A heartbreaking affair, an unsolved murder, an explosive romance: welcome to summer on the Cape in this powerful debut.

Seven summers ago, Marcella Atkinson fell in love with Cecil McClatchey, a married father of two. But on the same night their romance abruptly ended, Cecil's wife was found murdered—and their lives changed forever. The case was never solved, and Cecil died soon after, an uncharged suspect.

Now divorced and estranged from her only daughter, Marcella lives alone, mired in grief and guilt. Meanwhile, Cecil's grown son, Jed, returns to the Cape with his sister for the first time in years. One day he finds a woman's bathing suit buried in a closet—a relic, unbeknownst to him, of his father's affair—and, on a hunch, confronts Marcella. When they fall into an affair of their own, their passion temporarily masks the pain of the past, but also leads to crises and revelations they never could have imagined.

In what is sure to be the debut of the season, The Swimming Pool delivers a sensuous narrative of such force and depth that you won't be able to put it down.

Cover Story: It's a lovely cover, and it fits the book to a t.

Disclosure: This book was sent to me for review by the publisher, which in no way affected my review.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Review: Looking for Alaska by John Green

Title: Looking for Alaska

Author: John Green

Rating: 1/2

Who Should Read It? Teenagers of all shapes and sizes and adults who remember being teenagers!

What I Have to Say: This book begins with a boy who goes off to boarding school and starts smoking; I really thought there was no way I could like it. It was so immensely real and powerful, though, that disliking it was just an impossibility. Even with all the high school smoking.

before: Boarding school. If you've ever wondered what it's like to attend a merit-based boarding school, read this book. This is it. This is what my junior and senior years of high school would have been like if we had had as much freedom at my boarding school as they had at Culver Creek. The bond so immediately formed between Pudge, Alaska, and the Colonel is something that can only exist between high schoolers living in such close proximity; who spend all of their time together by default, by circumstance. It doesn't matter if they have anything in common. They are basically obliged to grow to know everything about each other so that their lives are literally cemented together. What happens to one happens to all; what matters to one grows to matter to all.

I was shocked and impressed by just how right on John Green's descriptions of their boarding schools lives and their relationships were. Reading, I almost felt like I was in boarding school all over again. Pudge, the Colonel, Takumi, Alaska, and Lara were all just so right, so real, so emotional and deel and intense and screwed up and wonderful. Discovering them and their lives and the bond they formed was like making friends. Alaska is practically bipolar, and it's exciting to guess what she might do next. Pudge, with his obsession with last words; the Colonel with his no BS attitude, Takumi with his raps - they all brought something to the group which, in a way, was more important than the individuals themselves.

after: I sobbed. And most likely, you will, too. Like it says in the summary "nothing will ever be the same." It won't. Not just in the book, but in your life. Because what happens and the way of dealing with it WILL affect you in a deep and profound way. It's edgy and gritty, and from it you'll learn a new way of coping, which in one sense is universal and in another sense is something that could only exist in a boarding school setting. After, the individual becomes key while still stressing the importance of the group.

Days after reading this book, I once again find myself crying while writing and re-thinking about what happened. I think it moved me so deeply because of my boarding school experiences, but I don't want to downplay the power of this book. I think if it doesn't move you in some way, you must be unmovable.

This was my first experience reading John Green, and let me assure you, it won't be my last. Read this book. Now!

Summary: Sixteen-year-old Miles Halter's adolescence has been one long nonevent - no challenge, no girls, no mischief, and no real friends. Seeking what Rabelais called the "Great Perhaps," he leaves Florida for a boarding school in Birmingham, AL. His roommate, Chip, is a dirt-poor genius scholarship student with a Napoleon complex who lives to one-up the school's rich preppies. Chip's best friend is Alaska Young, with whom Miles and every other male in her orbit falls instantly in love. She is literate, articulate, and beautiful, and she exhibits a reckless combination of adventurous and self-destructive behavior. She and Chip teach Miles to drink, smoke, and plot elaborate pranks. Alaska's story unfolds in all-night bull sessions, and the depth of her unhappiness becomes obvious. Green's dialogue is crisp, especially between Miles and Chip. His descriptions and Miles's inner monologues can be philosophically dense, but are well within the comprehension of sensitive teen readers. The chapters of the novel are headed by a number of days "before" and "after" what readers surmise is Alaska's suicide. These placeholders sustain the mood of possibility and foreboding, and the story moves methodically to its ambiguous climax. The language and sexual situations are aptly and realistically drawn, but sophisticated in nature. Miles's narration is alive with sweet, self-deprecating humor, and his obvious struggle to tell the story truthfully adds to his believability. Like Phineas in John Knowles's A Separate Peace(S & S, 1960), Green draws Alaska so lovingly, in self-loathing darkness as well as energetic light, that readers mourn her loss along with her friends. - Johanna Lewis, New York Public Library

Cover Story: I find this cover intriguing and slightly beautiful, and it actually took me a little while to figure out how it tied in with the book, which of course made me love it even more.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

IMM (13): A Vlog

In My Mailbox awesomeness is brought to you by Kristi at the Story Siren!!!!

For this week, I decided I would do a vlog. Enjoy!

(Sorry if it's oddly sized; once again blogger is not working for uploads, and I'm trying to make it work through photobucket, and I therefore had to size it myself. grrr!)

Books Mentioned:

*The Girl Made of Cool - Alan Fox
*The Seeker in Forever - Alan Fox
*Pippi Longstocking - Astrid Lindgren
*In the Garden of Men - John Kupferschmidt
*Hex Hall - Rachel Hawkins
*When I Was Joe
*The Elf of Luxembourg - Tom Weston
*Lucas Manson - Thomas Hauck
*Captain Bonny Morgan: The Cassandra Prophesy - Robert "Doc" Gowdy

Blog(ger)s Mentioned:
Becky from the Bookette

Friday, May 7, 2010

Doing the Blog-Hop (2)

Last week, I participated in the Book Blogger Hop hosted at Crazy-for-Books. I had so much fun hopping around checking out new (to me), fabulous blogs, that I just couldn't help myself, and I decided to participate again this week!

You can get all of the information here, but the gist of it is - you hop around the blogosphere and discover and support some new (to you) blogs.

So far this week, some of the cool blogs I've check out are:

**Book Sanctuary - it has Sanctuary in the title, and for some reason this appeals to me enormously.

**BookAddict4Real - I can't really tell, but seems like there might be a lot of giveaways going on here!

**Love Is. . . - this is not a 100% books blog, but it looks great fun!

**Park Benches and Bookends - looks like there's a lot of contemporary fiction here, and I've been looking for more blogs along those lines. Yay!

Be sure to leave a comment if you hop on by, and I'll definitely stop by and check out your blog! :-)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Golden Week and ohhh, evil account thieves

Some of you might have noticed that Brizmus Blogs Books disappeared for a little while yesterday. And a couple days ago. And I am sorry if some of you received a very inappropriate e-mail from my e-mail address.
My gmail account was apparently hacked, but supposedly things are under control now, and I have my blogs back (YAY! I was actually quite afraid of losing them forever since I couldn't really remember any of my account details). And no more random e-mails will be sent.
My apologies to everyone that potentially suffered from this.

Now, some of you might also have noticed that I disappeared for a little while. Very unexpectedly, actually. It was GOLDEN WEEK here in Japan, and that meant VACATION! I had Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday off, and a friend came in to town, and we went to Osaka and Nara and Nagoya and just had a fabulous time. And I was internetless.

I had a FABULOUS time, though, I found my way into my first bookstore with English books (they were SO expensive, though, so I didn't buy anything - but just LOOK at all of those English books!), and very soon you should be able to read about it in my personal blog if you are so inclined. I plan on posting lots of pictures! :-) It is absolutely FABULOUS here!

Again, I am sorry about the evil hacking of my account, and I am sorry about my sudden disappearance for a few days, if you even noticed. But now I am back, and I've got lots of exciting reviews coming up, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday (7)

I haven't done Waiting on Wednesday in AGES!, and I'm really not planning on making it a regular feature. But Wednesdays when there is a book that I am SUPER excited about, I will participate. So, logistics.
Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Basically, I pick a book I'm excited about that's coming out sometime soon.

And this week's pick is:

The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno by Ellen Bryson

Publication Date: June 22, 2010
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.

Summary:Water for Elephants meets Geek Love in this riveting first novel, an enchanting love story set in P. T. Barnum's American Museum in 1865 New York City

Bartholomew Fortuno, the World's Thinnest Man, believes that his unusual body is a gift. Hired by none other than P. T. Barnum to work at his spectacular American Museum—a modern marvel of macabre displays, breathtaking theatrical performances, and live shows by Barnum's cast of freaks and oddities—Fortuno has reached the pinnacle of his career. But after a decade of constant work, he finds his sense of self, and his contentment within the walls of the museum, flagging. When a carriage pulls up outside the museum in the dead of night, bearing Barnum and a mysterious veiled woman—rumored to be a new performer—Fortuno's curiosity is piqued. And when Barnum asks Fortuno to follow her and report back on her whereabouts, his world is turned upside down. Why is Barnum so obsessed with this woman? Who is she, really? And why has she taken such a hold on the hearts of those around her?

Set in the New York of 1865, a time when carriages rattled down cobblestone streets, raucous bordellos near the docks thrived, and the country was mourning the death of President Lincoln, The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno is a moving novel about human appetites and longings. With pitch-perfect prose, Ellen Bryson explores what it means to be profoundly unique—and how the power of love can transcend even the greatest divisions.

I haven't read Geek Love, but I actually loved Water for Elephants, and there's something about the world's thinnest man that I find absolutely intriguing. I am super psyched about this book! :-)

You can check out the author's website to read more.

What are you waiting for this week?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Review: The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt

Title: The Children's Book

Author: A.S. Byatt


Who Should Read It? If you're a patient reader and you like beautiful language, this book could be for you! It's a long book that will make you think, and you need to treat it as such, taking the time to really understand what's underneath the surface of the families involved.

What I Have to Say:
Those of you that have been following my reviews for a long time know that I have a very interesting relationship with the Man Booker Prize. Occasionally I read something TOTALLY awesome that won this award, but in general, I find I'm just disappointed. Man Booker and I don't get along.

I had heard, though, that the books that are short-listed for the Man Booker prize have a tendency to be awesome, almost as if they choose the worst of the bunch to win. I was therefore able to overlook the words "Man Booker Shortlisted" on the cover of the Children's Book when I started it. It looked awesome, and that was enough for me.

Well, let's just say, I can see why it was nominated. It was full of quite a few of the things I have come to associate with winners of the Man Booker prize: flowery language that is sometimes beautiful but sometimes seems as if it is there just to confuse you, so many redundancies and repetitions that you often feel as if you must be having deja vu, and an incredible lack of any semblance of a plot.

That said, if those are things that indicate a Man Booker WINNER, I can also see why this book didn't win. The language is incredibly complicated and flowery, but it's also so beautifully written that, if ever you feel confused, it doesn't really matter. It's just so nice to be reading her fluid, gorgeous prose. And then there is the fact that, coupled with this is the occasional portion of a children's story, written in a completely different but equally magnificent style. I think it is a testimony to Byatt's talent as a writer that she is able to write skillfully in two completely different ways and have them mesh together so seamlessly and fluidly.

As for the lack of a plot, while it sometimes made the book a bit difficult to read, as I didn't always care about what was going to be happening, it wasn't important. Because "the Children's Book" wasn't so much the telling of a story, but the telling of a family, an intricate look at their relationships, their lives, and children growing up. Their story itself is the plot, and it spans over almost a lifetime. Following the characters, especially the children, as they grow up and react to the things that happen in their lives and the lies and truths that their parents tell them, can be intriguing and engaging for any reader. I think there is at least one story line for everyone.

But then there are too many story lines. I feel like Byatt tried to do more with this book than was possible in just one book. There were so many characters and so many subplots, and it left me feeling overwhelmed. Especially because, while most of these subplots were interesting, there were some that left me completely indifferent. They weren't well-developed, they were slightly uninteresting, and I often forgot about them when they weren't being told, which made it hard for me to follow. In the end, some of my favorite story lines weren't concluded, loose strings were left untied, and it was almost as if Byatt herself forgot about some of the story lines.

Because of this, the redundancies and repetitions were, in a way, actually a good thing. Because SO MUCH was going on that it was sometimes hard to remember what had happened or who was who, that having it occasionally repeated was helpful. But the redundancies also occurred on a smaller level. Sometimes I felt like there were three sentences in a row saying the same thing, and it just seemed totally unnecessary.

Then there were the setups. First, politics. I feel like maybe I was missing out on something, like there was something I should be getting that I just didn't because of some sort of political ignorance. I mean, in the 1800s, did anarchists and socialists get along? I tend to think of anarchy and socialism as being on two totally opposite ends of the political spectrum, and I feel like Byatt referred to them so easily and nonchalantly in the same sentence that it made it seem as if they're almost the same thing. Other than that, I feel like she spent SO MUCH time setting up background information, giving us an idea of what was happening at the time so that we could understand the characters and how they were and their reactions to things. It was good in that it did help me to have a better understanding of WHO all of the characters were and why they were that way, but it was also too much. So much of the story got lost in the endless backstory that had very little to do with the actual story, and it was hard to filter out what was necessary and what was only there to seem interesting. Her detailed summaries of British history were fascinating and well-written, but they did sometimes seem out of place.

Overall, this was a beautifully well-written book, but I wouldn't say it is for your average reader. It's a challenge to read, and it will make you sit up and think just when you were thinking you could stop thinking. In the end, I would say that I did enjoy this book (though I would have liked for more things to be tied up and for the overwhelming sadness I felt at the end to have SOME compensation), and I'm glad that I took the time to really savour it as opposed to trying to rush through it. If you're planning on reading it, I advise you to do the same.

Summary: A spellbinding novel, at once sweeping and intimate, from the Booker Prize–winning author of Possession, that spans the Victorian era through the World War I years, and centers around a famous children’s book author and the passions, betrayals, and secrets that tear apart the people she loves.

When Olive Wellwood’s oldest son discovers a runaway named Philip sketching in the basement of the new Victoria and Albert Museum—a talented working-class boy who could be a character out of one of Olive’s magical tales—she takes him into the storybook world of her family and friends.

But the joyful bacchanals Olive hosts at her rambling country house—and the separate, private books she writes for each of her seven children—conceal more treachery and darkness than Philip has ever imagined. As these lives—of adults and children alike—unfold, lies are revealed, hearts are broken, and the damaging truth about the Wellwoods slowly emerges. But their personal struggles, their hidden desires, will soon be eclipsed by far greater forces, as the tides turn across Europe and a golden era comes to an end.

Taking us from the cliff-lined shores of England to Paris, Munich, and the trenches of the Somme, The Children’s Book is a deeply affecting story of a singular family, played out against the great, rippling tides of the day. It is a masterly literary achievement by one of our most essential writers.

Cover Story: This cover is one of the most beautiful covers that I have seen in a long while, and if the aspect of the book from which the cover was taken has been more of a major plot line, I think I would have ADORED this book.

Disclosure: This book was sent to me for review by the publisher, which in no way affected my review.


My Contests

None for now!