Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Recently Finished (and Recommended)

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Obviously I'm on a young kids fairy tales sort of kick after seeing Alice in Wonderland. I still need to read the original book. But I think I'll wait until employee discount week. Until then, I satisfied myself with the world of Munchkins, witches, and silver shoes. This is one of the 9 books I ended up buying during a buy 2, get 1 free event with B&N Classics. That's right - 9. But it was fun and a really easy read. I had it finished in just a few hours. It's always neat to see how the book differs from the movie and there were plenty of differences. So many, in fact, if they were to remake the movie to follow the book more closely, I wouldn't be opposed at all. Not the way I felt before reading the book. Either way, indulge yourself. Be a kid again and see what Baum's world really is like.

Notes from the playlist: "Her Name is Alice" by Shinedown

Friday, April 23, 2010

Recommended for the Youth and Readers of Dystopia

The Giver by Lois Lowry

This is one of those stories that kind of bum you out and yet give you hope all at the same time. Meant for young readers and teens alike, The Giver is a tale set in the future where everything seems ideal. People don't lie. They all get along. They all have jobs. And yet as you learn through a young boy, things are slightly off. You soon realize there are many pieces missing from this future - things that most of us wouldn't ever dream living without. Lowry has an amazing ability to totally sit outside the present and look at things in a different perspective and deliver it that same way. This was a book I'd been meaning to read for years, and then once I did, I couldn't resist having it on my shelf for the rest of my days.

Notes from the playlist: "The Burdened" by Nobuo Uematsu

Monday, April 19, 2010

Recommended for the Period Piece Group

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

I'm surprised I actually haven't put this up already. It's a bit surprising to me how long it took before I read this novel. My sister even beat me to it. Obviously it's one of the first things that Jane Austen fans read and now there are movies people can enjoy that are actually quite faithful to the novel. But if you want the full effect and want to see Elizabeth and Darcy exactly how Austen wrote them, this is where you turn. It's a good book to enjoy on a relaxed day with the sun shining and a tall glass of tea at your side.

Notes from the playlist: "The Living Sculptures of Pemberly" by Dario Marianelli

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Recently Finished (and Recommended)

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

I finished Dracula relatively quickly (it was longer than I'd initially thought), so when pressed to read something else, my mother suggested Garden Spells, as she remembered I'd been meaning to read it for quite some time. Since it came out, in fact. Everyone kept talking about it, not to mention it became a B&N Recommended Book.

Now I know why. It is a really good book. Simple. Fun. Intriguing. Full of love and hurt, and even some magic - including a tree that throws apples. I often go into literary books wary because I admit, I often find them slow, full of characters whose pain knows no bounds, and generally not my style. But this book worked perfectly. In fact, I read it in a single day. Couldn't put it down. I loved all the fun magic things involved, all the herbs and food, how the whole town had a little something special even though the focus was on the Waverleys. Even though the magic was never explained, it actually worked here and you didn't need - or want - it to be. And of course it had what I like: a happy and satisfying ending.

Notes from the playlist: "The Bioluminescence of the Night" by James Horner

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Recommended for Kids and Teens

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Coraline was the first book I'd ever read by Neil Gaiman. And I loved it. Which is why I ought to read The Graveyard Book - especially since I wasn't all that jazzed by some of his adult work (though Good Omens was fun). Coraline is at once entertaining and creepy with a unique protagonist and a freaky antagonist. While you don't get any explanations about some things, that works out for me since some things just don't need to be (and probably ought not be) explained. Yes, this book was made into a movie, no I haven't seen it, but I recommend the book and like that it's both on the teen shelf and the young readers shelf. Frankly, when I made my purchase, I went with the young readers book because it's a little bigger and you get a better look at the pictures (drawn by Dave McKean. I love his work, by the way. One of the many reasons I think Mirrormask is such a great movie.).

Notes from the playlist: "Close to You" by Ian Ballamy

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Marley & Me - The World's Worst Dog (Or Is He?)

Pros: Heartwarming and hilarious goodies
Cons: Be prepared to tear up - especially if you own an old dog yourself.

The Bottom Line: A cozy read no matter where you are. Just be ready for the end that has to come.

Even though Marley & Me came out a year or so ago, it wasn’t until recently that I noticed it, or at least Marley, was everywhere. As I work at a Barnes & Noble, it is likely that I never would have noticed it otherwise. I first spotted Marley in his artist-drawn form for the children’s book, Bad Dog Marley!. From there things snowballed. More books on the Pets shelf. Lovely hardcover bargain editions getting showcased. Then a week or so ago, at least 20 copies sitting on a table in the Pets section, getting a lot of airtime.

Being a dog lover, I was very curious about this book with an adorable Labrador sitting innocently on the front while the title proclaimed him “World’s Worst Dog.” I’ve heard horror stories about bad dogs and I wondered if Marley really did live up to them. That and I just decided to read the book. Haha.

Essentially, you get to read about the life of Marley as it relates to that of the author, John Grogan, and his family. It starts with the death of the plant and John’s new wife desiring to take care of a dog to prove to herself that she can actually take care of a child (after all, if she killed a plant, how can she be a fit mother, as she claims). From there Marley comes in and shows his neurosis, everything from acting like a horse galloping around the house to freaking out in a most destructive manner when a storm comes. You follow the family as they begin in Florida and end up in Pennsylvania (only 3 hours away from me!) and eventually the end everyone knows will be coming in this book.

It’s a lot of fun to read. Even someone else’s life, who may not be much different from yours in terms of every day occurrences, is very interesting. Add a little spice that is a wacky dog to the mix and it gets even better. There are plenty of giggle to laugh out loud moments. Marley as Clearance Dog when he was a puppy. The way Grogan describes Marley’s antics, such as when he has some foreign object in his mouth. You also get the “Awww” moments in life, like when a dog just knows that you’re sad and is there for you until you feel better. Then of course, the end – you’ll likely cry if you’ve gotten attached to Marley, used to have a dog of your own, or have a dog now (because we all know the inevitable thing that waits ahead due to a dog’s lifespan). I enjoyed this book a great deal and did indeed cry at the end, for both Marley and because my own dog is 13, and though she’s still surprisingly spunky at times, at others you can clearly see her age – a lot of which Grogan described that had me thinking, “Oh God, that sounds like my dog.”

In one way though, I found myself slightly disappointed. This is mostly due to my own fault and expectations I guess, but I felt like I wasn’t getting enough of Marley and his psychotic antics. There were a few times when Grogan would mention a past event at some length and I thought, “Why didn’t you just give that whole episode its own crazy chapter? After all, the title is Marley & Me.” Rather, at some times it felt more like a memoir for Grogan with a lot of Marley clowning added in. I guess I just wanted it to be the other way around; all about Marley with human actions added in. But again, that was probably my own fault to expect so much of Marley – after all, it is hard to make a book nothing but doggie wackiness while still having a coherent story that follows a timeline (as a string of incidents would end up being no more than, well, a string of incidents in short story form).

Grogan has a real knack for good description and you’ll have a good time reading this book, wrapping yourself up in the good times and the bad times the family goes through, and of course, all the crazy, drooling, barking, command-disobeying, playful, fun-loving, boundless ball of energy that is Marley.


Originally published on Epinions.com.

Notes from the playlist: "One Love/People Get Ready" by Bob Marley

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Recommended for Kids and Silly Adults Like Me

I Spy: A Book of Picture Riddles by Jean Marzollo and Walter Wick

That's right. Let's do another I Spy book! How can you not love these books? I was just thinking of opening one up this morning and looking through it. You really feel like a kid again, having fun and looking through all the cool pictures in this book. All the random little items, all the little hidden things. There's a very good chance that when my sister has kids and they get old enough, we're going to be looking at these books together - though I'll probably have to buy them their own at some point, because I love mine too much to give them up!

Notes from the playlist: "Hello Seattle (Remix)" by Owl City

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Whoops! I completely forgot to mention this. Last month I reviewed Stephanie Garber's amazing book Caraval for the web blog I curre...