Preview: Books for Breakfast - Book Reviews With a Twist
Books for Breakfast - Book Reviews With a Twist
Books for Breakfast - Book Reviews With a Twist:
A blog about books. And cocktails. Nothing is more literary than alcoholism.
Books for Breakfast is Back
Scorpion vodka drinks for dinner.
Nine months-ish left of 2013. One hundred books will be devoured, one hundred cocktails will be tossed back, and one hundred posts will be altered to a new format.
Ten word reviews on Twitter (KristinDodge) and Blogger with the option to read more. Absolutely no ebooks from Smashwords - sorry, y'all have been banned (please get editors). Notations to explain backstory on the books (free, submitted by author, friend of blogger, etc.).
Are you in? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
to pitch your book, or list recommendations in the comments.
And, along comes real life...
Stay tuned... books are being read for future reviews. Posting to resume in February.
Ode to my 600th Post
Cunning blog, bowl
for my thoughts and musk melon,
as well as rotten plums
and filmy kiwi. I would splatter
the walls with seeds,
slippery pith and flesh alike
melding into one stinky Monet,
but at least not a page was torn.
There have been clunkers, thrown books, and those XX given uppers. Thank you for sticking through them all with me!
P.S. I have been reading like mad, so there will be a sudden plethora of reviews. Many new ones to look forward to in 2012, everyone. Are you one of them? Let me know.
It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer. ~ Albert Einstein
I do this every year. Then, I am shocked and bewildered into tears when I fail... every damn year. Future Kristin, future participants, here is why NaNoWriMo may not be the best option for you.
Unless you are already writing, sitting in front of a computer or notebook for hours every day will give you the willies. You will begin talking to plants, dogs, or that fuzzy google-eyed end of your eraser. If you hate cats, you may find yourself outside talking to them, changing your voice inflection. "Hell-oh, ki-ttens." Suddenly, you have lost yourself, loving kittens, wanting to write about your newfound feeling for ki-tten rights. Then, when there are peers around, you get busted talking to plants, dogs, or that fuzzy google-eyed end of your eraser... or, the ki-ttens. There is no "method writing" excuse for us.
If you are writing, fantastic. Keep it up. You have a set schedule. You are, as I tell other writers, doing the main thing: keeping your ass in the chair. This is the hardest part of being a writer, especially when one wants to flit over to the coffee shop ("I'm a WRITER!") or a reading at a local college ("I'm a WRITER!) or just leave snarky messages about other books on BN.com or Amazon ("I'm a WRITER who goes by A1Author69!").
But, if you are writing, the email to join NaNoWriMo is like a siren's call: finish a book in a month. Dreams begin to fast-forward on the mental loop. This baby could be sold by Valentine's Day. My tour could fit with my summer sabbatical. And, the insanity begins.
What have you completed to perfection in one month's time? I figured out how to combine the ingredients for Dodge's cocoa, but I have not been able to make it perfectly since. I have written beautiful sentences that I re-read to remind me to keep writing, but there are also some clunkers to steer me toward a career in dog or ki-tten grooming.
Writing takes time. Writing takes a personal rhythm. Only you know the beat of the week, the earworm of the month. Guilt produces nothing but empty pages. Remember this.
XX. TO THE END OF THE LAND ~ David Grossman
Perhaps this is the first lyric novel, where every feeling and emotion of each character is expressed, analyzed, re-evaluated, and turned over again for moldy remnants. Or, perhaps, it is a metaphor for modern society's desire for analysis. My need to understand why I did not connect with this award-winning novel is an example.
I left it at page 186. I liked the roundness of those numbers, and I knew I cared about the characters. Just not enough to slump along with them for another 437 pages.
8. 10 MINDFUL MINUTES ~ Goldie Hawn
10 Mindful Minutes: Giving Our Children--and Ourselves--the Social and Emotional Skills to Reduce Stress and Anxiety for Healthier, Happy Lives
I can hear many of your thoughts. What. The. ? Why is she reviewing a self-help? For kids? Parents?
It is so simple. Otherwise, you may end up reducing your stress with a cocktail instead of - I don't know - playing Goth Barbies for the millionth time.
Actually, my sister showed me the book while we were, um, "visiting" at another relative's house (trying to protect the innocent here). With all of my imbibing, I finished reading it during trips to the loo.
I despise stars using ghost writers to push personal agendas, but this seems to have Goldie Hawn's sticky sweetness all over it. Is it the new wave of parenting or psychology? No, but it is a smart way to provide kids with the language to express their feelings. Eventually, it will help both the parent and child develop strategies to deal with those feelings in a zen-Buddhist reminiscent manner.
There are many other books that will help those with teens or to assist in the understanding of human brain development (as in, teenagers do not have functioning pre-frontal cortexes, so they just cannot help text-driving). This book lands on this like a butterfly sipping nectar but prefers to spread its showy wings to spread calm and beauty.
Hey, it might work.
3.5 out of 5.0 Healthy 2% Milks.
Flippin' Freebies - Flash It
Congratulations to Sandy M., who will be receiving a free book for her beautiful prose about autumn:
"... moldy cedar similes/sweep the leaves past/the memories of death."
*sniffle* After a brief pause for a cough-ffee break, I would like to announce the Flippin' Freebies event for November/December.
Visit the Facebook Books for Breakfast page or email booksforbreakfastblog at gmail with your mini-bits about the upcoming holidays. Keep it flash, y'all, at under 200 words.
Two winners will receive free books for the new year. Or the last year, according to the Mayan calendar and Nostradamus. Either/or, let's not quibble unless it is over something important, like comma splices or how Twilight is Twideath. Oh, I can feel a a reader's mail post coming soon...
Deadline: December 20, 2011. Because this is a tax write-off for me, so let's get crackin'.
And, yes, I am tweeting now. Blogger did not allow me to use my preferred language for it.
7. THE MATCHMAKER OF KENMARE ~ Frank Delaney
The Matchmaker of Kenmare: A Novel of Ireland
A toast to excellent publicists because Frank Delaney has become one of my new favorites. His dedication to Irish history and the descriptions of its scenery are akin to Maeve Binchy's use of Ireland as a backdrop in her romance writing. The difference is Frank Delaney's epic plotting.
In this wonder, the focus in upon Kate Begley, the local matchmaker. Ben McCarthy, who is gathering stories for the Irish Folklore Commission, finds her and observes Kate using a mix of compliments, style tips, and scolding to set up the right couples.
Unknown to Kate at the time, her biggest challenge is yet to come: finding Ben's missing wife, as well as her own love story.
Set during World War II, the author is smart enough to stay away from too much about the war (been there, done that). However, each tangled knot is unraveled long enough to reach the next plot point with many surprises and some reliefs. Reading this reminded me of "frogging" a poorly crocheted hat with all of its snags, and how wondrous one thread can hold it all together beautifully.
4.0 out of 5.0 Dodge Cocoas.
Dodge Cocoa: Make your favorite hot chocolate with milk. Then, use whipped cream vodka instead of peppermind schnaaps. On second thought, use both. Garnish with shaved chocolate and peppermint.
"Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital." ~Aaron Levenstein
I hit 300,000 unique viewers sometime over the weekend. I allowed myself some time to imagine why... the changes to the blog, my new goals to read 300-350 books in a year.
|I told myself I could grow up to just drink and read books!|
After pouring a celebratory shot of Bailey's and Godiva into my coffee, I looked at the stats.
Okay, who is doing a project on Number the Stars
by Lois Lowry? First, students, you never, ever, use a blog as an informational source. Especially a blog by a delusional drunkard wannabe. Second, if you are semi-smart enough to quote from the blog, your teacher will put it into the google machine and find THIS. I am a quasi-English professor, so I know. Last of all, if you do quote this blog and cite it, no instructor would believe it as a reliable resource. See also: Wikipedia, Sparknotes, Yahoo Questions.
Teachers? Do not assign this book at the same time.
It is almost noon. Time to switch to vodka sevens and never trust the stat spikes again.
6. HOW TO BE A MOVIE STAR ~ William J. Mann
How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood
Sidenote: I adore my nook, and I love my library. Otherwise, I would be pretty ticked off about the deals going on at the bookstores regarding recent reads.
After reading Cleopatra
, it only made sense to look at America's closest woman. Elizabeth Taylor even played the part, though I doubt the real Cleo was as voluptuous.
While this isn't the typical biography of Elizabeth Taylor (it covers her golden years in Hollywood - that's it), it does show how the public relations and marketing machines cranked out stars during that era. It also demonstrates why so many of them crashed or have caught the attention bug fiercely enough to tap-dance on Jenny Craig commercials today.
Mann sets up each chapter as an example of how to handle a situation in Hollywood to one's advantage. His point is to argue there will never be another movie star, throwing all of the Jennifer Anistons and Angelina Jolies back into the ocean.
I like how he used new information previously unreleased, including some of Elizabeth Taylor's handwritten records, but his sources tell the stories. Elizabeth Taylor is too big of a star, even posthumously, to let someone else write for her in this book, and her voice is the strongest. It convinced me to start with Blue Velvet
and rediscover her work.
3.0 out of 5.0 Creme de Violettes
5. CLEOPATRA: A LIFE ~ Stacy Schiff
Cleopatra: A Life
|No, she did not dissolve a pearl in wine,|
but, damn, what a great story!
Do you know what I hate? Reading a fantastic book with nothing to show for it. While I adore my nook and dig the library system, my husband build a custom library for me. I can sit and look at my books in the winter sun with huge, fluffy white dogs purring and snoring around me, candles lit to mask their odorous farts.
It is my heaven, referring back to The Lovely Bones
However, the book is on sale, so this is one of my must-buys of the year: Cleopatra: A Life.
Why? Did you think you knew everything about her from Elizabeth Taylor's movie? Or, *shudder*, Shakespeare? From this book alone, you will discover that Shakespeare cribbed most of his words from historians who wrote about Cleopatra 200 years after she died.
And, what about the infamous asp that killed her? I will let you have even more surprises, but there are far too many legends dispelled in this wonderful historical biopic.
Even if you do not have any interest in Cleopatra or are tired of her appeal, it is important to read to understand why people were so ready for the coming of a savior (Jesus Christ) during these tumultous Roman civil wars. It is a time when people were questioned for not being Jewish enough
, as Cleopatra was not Egyptian, but Greek. And the roles (i.e., "expected roles") of the Roman women are remarkably similar to Tea Party statements today.
Although the prose is repetitive at times, it is so thick with details, it has to be. Not everyone gets to read a book cover to cover in a few sittings. Fanatic in her meticulous historical comparisons and specificity, Schiff is someone I will refer to in future writing.
4.5 out of 5.0 Cleopatras
4. THE HOUSE AT RIVERTON ~ Kate Morton
(image) The House at Riverton: A Novel
Oh, to be Grace Bradley. First, she lives 98 years - imagine the change in daily life. Her grandson is a famous author, but Grace is suddenly thrust into the spotlight because she is the only living reminder of Riverton Manor, as well as what happened there during a summer party.
A film director wants information and "truth" from Grace, and validation that she recreated the scenes correctly. Grace, who had been a maid for the Hartford family, is the only one who knows why the poet was found shot, and why the two Hartford sisters, Emme and Hannah were distraught and separated in their grief. However, Grace shares her memories and observations through tapes to her grandson, to be played only after she passes away.
For those who have read my reviews, you know how this would appeal to me as a lover of historical work. However, the details of servant life in early 1900s Great Britain, especially when tipped against the wealth at Riverton, is confounding and admirable.
I had one moment where I thought, "Grace, why didn't you...?" and readers will know it. But that wasn't the focus of this novel. It is about the beauty and glamour of the Hartford's and their multiple tragedies. Beautifully written, though a big slow toward the end.
4.2 out of 5.0 Fog Cutters
3. HER FEARFUL SYMMETRY ~ Audrey Niffenegger
Her Fearful Symmetry
|Hmm, who is this? One of the twins?|
This book had people scratching their own eyes out or creating alters made from their own ear wax. So, I knew I would either pitch it into the fire or take the Ciroc out of the freezer.
Strangely, I did neither.
How does one describe one of the oddest though fascinating literary experiences? The basic plot involves twin sisters inheriting their aunt's flat in London, on the strict ground that their mother, the aunt's twin, not be allowed there. From there, Elsbeth, the deceased, gains strength in her post-death form, and attempts to communicate with the twins. This book is an example of too much communication can sour a relationship. Go to the nearest pub instead.
However, the descriptions of the after-death experiences were curious and odd enough to make them fresh to my bitter taste buds. Living across from a graveyard did stretch the symmetry of the novel a bit, until I almost felt a bruise on the noggin'. "Do you get it? Don't you get it?" A-ha, graveyard, death, life, symmetry, twins, yes, you have quite a bit going on here that I cannot share without upsetting my readers.
For the win, my favorite character was Martin. Bravo.
2.75 out of 5.0 Peppermint Schnaaps and Cocoas.
2. AUSCHWITZ - Miklos Nyiszli
Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account
This was one of the most horrible, gritty books that I have read in a long time, not due to the writing style or the subject matter. The title lets anyone over the age of ten know it is not a sunshine and june bug book. AUSCHWITZ. *Shudder.*
But when I read this in the sun with beautiful golden leaves falling from the oak tree above me, the woods around me a cacophony of autumn music, I shivered at the descriptions of men - Jewish men - jumping ahead of others to volunteer to work the ovens. To ignore the faces of their peers, their friends, their family as they took bodies out of the showers then pulled out gold and silver teeth.
Nyiszli, the doctor/author, never explains his purpose in sharing this information. To show the horrible aspects of humanity? To ease some of his own guilt? I call bullshit. So, he drank and smoked a lot to shut out what was going on around him. He did not do enough. Period. He said, "No," instead of trying to help others. Yes, he saved his wife and daughter. Yes, I was not there. Then, enlighten me, tell me of the guilt you feel - or should feel, you snobby prig - every damned day.
2.5 out of 5.0 Smirnoff Lemonade Marmalade Mule
1. THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS ~ Vanessa Diffenbaugh
|Thorns = Go to hell - who knew?|
The Language of Flowers: A Novel
Whomever suggested this novel for my first foray into the 2012 challenge deserves a free book, so email me. Not only did I chew off the inside of my lower lip, my eyes were swollen and sore at the end.
As always, I am jumping ahead.
Victoria Jones earned the general last name through the bland child welfare system. She never knew her parents or their circumstances and only remembered disliking touch and her foster families. Until she met Elizabeth, a oak tree against Victoria's hurricanes of hate. Elizabeth began to teach Victoria about the old language of flowers, when gentlemen dared not send red roses to a lady friend.
This is where I will shoot a test tube of some purply vodka mix to avoid giving away the entire story. It is not happily ever after with Elizabeth. And, I wanted to take a horsewhip from my barn to Victoria. The characters behave how they should, however, based on their experiences.
Kudos to a beautiful debut from Vanessa Diffenbaugh, and I look forward to her next work.
4.25 out 5.0 Captain Morgan Silver Sodas
Challenge: Oct. 5-Nov. 10 2012
There have been some very insane book projects during my time with Books for Breakfast. Mainly, the first year
would be an excellent example of nearly losing my head inside too many pages of divorces and adulterers.
I have spent years devoted to challenged books, banned books, and "top books." Now, I am going to fill in the blanks and look toward the future of literature: post-papel
literature. The first embers of a dying publishing industries are beginning to glow, my friends, and we are watching it happen. Therefore, I want to see new means in publishing, PDF files or nook contributions, as well as books.
300 Spartans to battle? Pu-shaw! In the span of 395 days (give or take - my master's is in English, not math), I will read 300 books, occasionally assisted by Books for Breakfast Teen with "sick" milkshake recipes.
In fact, I will not just read 300 books. I will aim for 350 books, and I will finish one novel for online print, as well as write another novel to set free for its unknown purpose.
Crazy? Snarky? You have no idea.
Here's to you, darlin' readers...
What does Kristin Dodge have in common with:
1. WHEN ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST?
2. I NEVER PROMISED YOU A ROSE GARDEN?
3. THE BELL JAR?
This gives a clue for what she has planned until November 10, 2012. Because, you know, all of her life dreams must be completed before the 2012 apocolypse in December.
Post your ideas in the comment section. Formal announcement to follow next week.
Meanwhile, Kristin is still accepting recommendations for ebooks and paper books, while Ann is accepting advertising space at: booksforbreakfastblog at gmail dot com.
Authors, readers, lend me your ears (eyes)!
Books for Breakfast - Book Reviews with a Twist, is undergoing a major revamp for an October 1 launch (beta). This is to prepare for the crazy, knock your olive out of the martini announcement on November 10, 2011.
You think you have read snark? Oh, no, my friends.
You think you have read descriptions of books thrown across the room? Well, perhaps that will be limited more...
Because I want new/old/published e-books, ARCs, and suggestions from readers. Loan a .pdf of your book to my nook. Email me about your recent publication. Tell me about the book that held you riveted on the flight home from Japan.Rules:1. Email Kristin Dodge at booksforbreakfastblog at gmail dot com.
2. If you spam me, I will hunt you down and kill you by reading Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus
using my George W. voice.
3. Know this blog. Know that I do not do interviews unless I am Lady Ga-Ga over an author or book. Know that I like to give away free books to my readers. Know other things about me than I am a reviewer who may or may not read your material based on how well you know this blog persona.
I am not afraid to quiz you over email, either.
4. I do not accept very few things. However, find a similar book that I have read to get a better shot. For example, if you have vampire poetry, you could refer to how much I despise Twilight and it inspired you (see, I also accept flagrant displays of fawning and lying).
5. Consider an ad space. It is cheaper than any other place online, and this blog reaches far fingers. Plus, there is the future fun... erpp, I am dying to tell y'all!
Tell your marketers, tell your moms. Let's do this.
So, *cough* what's new?
It is dusty in here. I think someone left a few dirty martini glasses, too... and are those wrinkled knobs olives or cherries? Stinky.
It's about time to make some changes. Check back soon!
9. CHASING ALLIECAT - Rebecca Fjelland Davis
Sadie, after being pawned off to her aunt and uncle's for the summer, cannot imagine a worse way to spend her time off. Then, she meets Allie, a pierced, spiky haired COW (chica on wheels) who begins training Sadie how to really kick ass when mountain biking.
Then, as a summer schedule develops - with Sadie's crush on new roomie, Joe - the trio takes it off trail and find a priest beaten within a rosary of death. Sadie's life takes an abrupt twist from hero to huntress, as she and Joe begin chasing the secretive Allie around the Minnesota town. Why is Allie afraid? And, who would do this to a priest?
This young adult novel, like Harry Potter, easily tricks readers into thinking they are reading adult fiction. The beautiful imagery and gorgeous language brings my back yard (west side southern MN - legit, yo!) to life.
However, what is best about this novel is the dialogue. These are not your typical teens, but they do not speak like adults. Each brings such unique lingo that one could read the novel and know the character without looking at the tags. Only amazing writing like this could make me want to get off my keister and try biking and chasing AllieCat.
4.75 out of 5.0 Green and Gold Bloodys
8. THE LACUNA - Barbara Kingsolver
I have been an on-again, off-again fan of Barbara Kingsolver. The Poisonwood Bible
showed me a new way to write multiple points of view. However, this book may have turned me off again, like the smell of rancid milk when you are craving cornflakes.
Nana, I know you will ask for a summary of this book. It is next to impossible. In one sentence: a boy grows up learning to cook, and this task brings him into unattainable and unbelievable situations.
Harrison Shepherd tries to remember his exploits through his own writing. His time with Frida Kahlo as her cook in Mexico, the strange legends of the lacuna near his home, the assassination of Trotsky when Shepherd was his secretary, the history of the Incas and the Spaniards and the indiginous tribes...
Stop. I adore history, but this is simply too much. Pack in the communism trials during the Great War, and I can no longer find the beauty in the beginning, the aqua depths of the lacuna with bones, gold, and teeth.
Recommended if flying New York to Australia with multiple layovers.
2.75 out of 5.0 Mexican Prairie Fires
7. HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET - Jamie Ford
On the streets dipping down to the Pacific in Seattle, two friends - a Chinese-American boy named Henry and a Japanese-American girl named Keiko - forged a bond that will last from the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the 1980s.
Due to Henry's father's racism toward all things Japanese, Henry often walked Keiko home to Japantown, a few blocks from his own home in Chinatown. They were the only two Asian faces in school, bright enough to earn scholarships in return for their work during lunch and after school.
Later, Keiko's family is interred in a concentration camp in Idaho, one of the big atrocities of the war. Still, Henry manages to see her and writes letters every week. Eventually, they are unanswered or returned.
As Henry tells this story to his son, Marty, the book takes a new twist. Is this a father-son relationship theme or a gritty look at the dark moments in U.S. history? Or, is the underlying love of jazz a riff to dance no matter what is happening in life? I know the amazing characterization and strong plot made this a fast read for me. When I learn something while in bliss, it is just an added bonus.
3.5 out of 5.0 Bitter Sweets
5. FINNY - Justin Kramon vs. 6. ONE DAY - David Nicholls
To our left, relatively new welter weight, FINNY. Sent to me personally by the author, wrapped sentimentally with a brown feather tucked in the ribbon. Sold.
To our right, New York Times best-seller ONE DAY. Given to me for Christmas from my sister, whom I love dearly and hope never reads my blog.
Let the battle begin.
Both stories follow the lifetimes of love interests. In FINNY, the heroine (yes, Finny) and Earl live based on the thread of stolen kisses when Finny was a young teen. Finny goes to college, Earl travels to France. Each maintains contact through letters and short visits to Earl's father.
However, ONE DAY has the unique aspect of looking at one particular day each year in the lives of Emma and Dexter, British chums who cannot decide if they despise or adore each other. I would have kicked Dex to the curb by chapter four, but some girls always like the bad boy.
Ding, ding. The bell rings. A decision must be made. The round goes to FINNY. It's lovely descriptions and elegant prose make this a novel to savor, like the espresso the pair drink in Paris. While I absolutely loved the 1980s flashbacks in ONE DAY - and is a concept many writers are knocking their heads over - it just did not stick with me longer than... one day. Also, purposeful manipulation of my tears makes Beelzebub earn another flogger.
I look forward to reading more from Justin Kramon in the future.
4.0 out of 5.0 Horse Feathers
2.4 out of 5.0 Night and Days
4. WORLD WAR Z - Max Brooks
Oh. I'm. Sorry.
Obviously, "an oral history of the zombie war" is not a book I would typically read. However, my son loved Brooks's other novel, so I thought I would be a responsible parent. Once a year is enough.
In the not-so-distant future, the world goes to war against the living dead. The story is told through the recollections of different people who are being interviewed for posterity.
At first, it was silly fun. Then, I thought, "Wow, I never would have thought of that." Now, I'm buying guns and practicing daily. Kidding!
2.75 out of 5.0 for fun/vacation Zombies
who dance on tables.