27. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

A wallflower is a shy, unpopular person who stands or sits apart from other people at a party.  Charlie is a wallflower.  He’s the most observant, sensitive, and highly intelligent character in this book.  He recounts all the trials and tribulations of family life and being an adolescent through letters which are written to Dear friend (that’s you).  The epistolary format of the book allows the reader to be privy to the most intricate feelings of Charlie and the people he’s the closest too.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower reads smoothly and quickly but the ambiance is melancholic and heavy at times to say the least.  It made me think about the unfavorable things about being an adolescent. You name it it’s all in this book – sex, drugs, rock-n-roll, death, literature…and much more.  It’s unbelievable what teenagers can get up to or is it?

I suggest reading this little, coming of age book before venturing out to see the film adaptation which will be out in September starring Logan Lorman and Emma Watson .  Apparently Stephen Chbosky is the screenwriter and director of the film so hopefully it will retain its emotional and sorrowful air.  The Perks of Being a Wallflower was first published in 1999 by MTV Books.  It became an immediate success among teenagers and sold 700,000 copies by 2007.  Unfortunately, it has been banned in several schools in the US because of the sexual content and drug use.  For that reason, I would suggest the appropriate reading age to be 16 and above, maybe 15 if they a very mature.  It was also listed as one of the ten most challenged books by the American Library Association (promotes libraries and library eduction internationally and is a non-profit organization) in 2006 and 2008.  I don’t think banning is the right way to go about books like this.  Kids will find it and read it.  These books are a great platform for forums, discussion, and debate in schools and at home.  Parents should read what their kids read and talk about these things openly, then there wouldn’t be any need to ban anything. I give this book 4 stars because it is well written and is very well constructed although it made me a little sad.  Now I’m starting to sound like Charlie with that last sentence.  Happy reading…

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26. The Aspen 2-Million Winner-Take-All

Blog Tour: 

The Aspen 2-Million Winner-Take-All by John Morris for Tribute Books

Morgan thought he had it made after inheriting his roommate Sepp’s house.  It’s in the fashionable West End neighborhood of Aspen, but is a dilapidated money pit.  Morgan has lots of friends, loves to play golf and has a great job.  He also happens to throw some of the best parties in town.  All goes well until Risa buys the other half of the house and his and her troubles begin.  When Risa’s “yappy” pooch, a bichon frise called Tyson goes missing, she blames Morgan for killing her dog and intends to sue him for a million dollars.  He feels he has only two options: 1. win a 2 million dollar unofficial golf tournament to pay off Risa or 2.  find out her deep dark secret and blackmail her to stop the suit.  He thought those were his only solutions until Justin, his best friend and lawyer, suggests option: 3. get her to fall in love with him.

I must be honest I was intrigued by the story line of this book.  I thought it would be comical and entertaining to read, but in fact I was a little distracted by the many events that took place.  The story became a little too complex, not to mention it is highly unlikely that someone would be sued for one million dollars for killing someone’s dog, even in the US.  I also found the writing style a bit repetitive.  There were too many hyphenated phrases and it lacked real descriptions of the characters.  The author just used names of famous people instead of describing what the characters looked like.  Honestly, I had to go and google them to see who they were.  (I guess I’ve been living in France too long.)  Risa was one of the most annoying characters in the book.  She was definitely diva gone mad.  I also couldn’t figure out how or when they started to have a romance because it happened so quickly and out of nowhere, which was totally unbelievable.  As for the good parts, there were some very hilarious scenes that made me laugh out loud.  I liked reading about the town of Aspen and loved some of the crazy characters in this book too.  It is what kept me reading.  John Morris has potential but it would have been better if he drew up a better plan for his story and didn’t distract the reader with too many minor characters and subplots.  You can’t put all the interesting characters you develop in the same story.  Save some of them for your next book.  I rate this book two and a half stars.  I didn’t rate it very much but I think you should check it out for its crazy story and its comical ambiance.  There were scenes that I could even see being put into a film.  Happy reading…..

John Morris’ Bio:

John Morris lives in Aspen, Colorado, with his loving wife and two wonderful children.  Having worked many of the same cowboy / construction / bartender / ski-patrol jobs as his fictional counterpart Morgan, he can vouch for how easy it is for a good-looking guy to get in trouble there.
The book’s blog tour site is:
eBook price: $6.99
Pages: 281
Release: May 10, 2012
Buy the book at the following links:
Kindle
Nook 
iBookstore 
Also available through Kobo, Sony, ebooks.com and http://search.overdrive.com/classic/retail/

John Morris’ Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/John-Morris/392376524117530

The Aspen 2-Million Winner-Take-All Blog Tour Site:
http://the-aspen.blogspot.com/

Tribute Books Blog Tours Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tribute-Books-Blog-Tours/242431245775186

25. Fifty Shades of Grey

I got so sick of hearing about this book that I had to read it to see what all the hype was about.  It’s everywhere – You Tube, television shows, book reviews, etc  I’m living in France and Fifty Shades of Grey hasn’t come out here yet, but I’m sure when it does it will probably make just as much hoopla.  As always books that contain sex in small or large doses no matter what kind, in this case BDSM, always seems to make it to popularity.  Of course popularity leads to the New York Times bestseller list – combined print & e-book fiction and the paperback trade fiction and probably some others too.  Fifty Shades of Grey is number 1 and has been for 20 weeks, Fifty Shades Darker is number 2 and has been for 20 weeks, and Fifty Shades Freed is number 3 and has been for 19 weeks.

The book is said to be a love story and begins with Anastasia Steele taking her roommate’s place to interview mysterious, billionaire entrepreneur Christian Grey for her college newspaper.  There is an immediate attraction between the two, an explosive “lust” at first sight.  Christian is extremely attractive, arrogant, controlling, and has a dark side.  He’s a dominant.  Anastasia however is 21 years old, naive, shy, and a virgin.  Together they explore and experience each other through Christian’s love of BDSM and the romance begins…

Now I’m not sure this book is for everyone and of course I’m talking about those of you over the age of 18.  There were things that annoyed me.  Firstly the writing wasn’t brilliant but I actually suspected that.  I don’t think I’ve ever read an erotic novel that was well written (not that I’ve read a lot of them). Suggest some below if you know any.  Another thing that bothered me were the constant repetition of the following words and phrases:  my inner goddess, eyeball rolling which everybody seemed to be doing in the book, Anastasia’s mother included and she was a minor character, he’s hot, he looks like a god, he’s so perfect, pants hanging off his hips, running fingers through his hair, biting her lip, I blushed/I blush/she blushes.  I had enough of those phrases because they were constantly repeated.  When Anastasia compares Christian to a god it reminded me a lot of Bella in Twilight, which apparently EL James read over and over and loved.  That’s what gave her the inspiration to finally put pen to paper.  There were also a few things that didn’t make sense to me.  For example I didn’t understand how Christian didn’t suspect that Anastasia was a virgin, since she was blushing all over the place and he hadn’t even touched her yet.  Not to mention, when he shows her his red room and how she doesn’t bolt for the door.  There are problems with realism although she seemed to do her research on the BDSM culture.  There’s a full list of  sex acts and toys to educate us all.

The good thing about this book is that it can play up to some people’s fantasies.  The sex is hot as Anastasia would say.  The story moves along and reads quite quickly and you do want to know how this unlikely duo will fair in the future.  For that you’ll have to read books two and tree.  The character analysis is a little minimal but the intensity of the relationship is well described.  The story takes place in Seattle which is not the sexiest city in the US but who knows with the success of the book it might get some attention.  I give this book 2 stars which means if you’re curious read it and if you could care less don’t.  It also depends on what you feel like reading.  In essence it’s a light fast read or even a beach read if you can avoid blushing in public. Oops I said that word again, as I roll my eyeballs…Arrghhh!  Otherwise don’t bother and wait for the movie.

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24. Embroideries

I  couldn’t wait to get my hands on another Marjane Satrapi graphic novel.  So while browsing Amazon.fr looking for EFL books for a class I ran across Embroideries.  I pressed add and in my basket it went.  When I received the book, the quote on the back cover that struck me was “By turns bawdy and heartbreaking…Of all Satrapi’s books, Embroideries most effectively tears down the divide between Iranian and American culture, showing how women everywhere are similar.”  –  The Capital Times (Madison)  I had the same feeling while reading Persepolis.

Initially on the book’s arrival I was disappointed to see how short it was.  I remembered how much I had enjoyed Persepolis and how I didn’t want it to end.  Well, Embroideries is so short that I read it in less than an hour and I was trying to make it last.  I read it the same day it arrived in the mail.  After dinner, I got comfy in my armchair in the living room near the window and read it in 45 minutes.  How did I find it?  The graphic style is the same as Persepolis and the ambiance of the storytelling too.  Marjane Satrapi’s recalcitrant, comical, sarky, tell-it-like-it-is grandmother makes a reappearance.  It definitely wouldn’t be as humorous without her.  Embroideries, is essentially a short story about ladies getting together for afternoon tea to engage in discussion, which leads them to talk about the sexual habits of Iranian women.  “The tea that we prepared at these times had a completely different function.  Everyone gathered around the drink in order to devote themselves to their favorite activity : DISCUSSION.  This discussion had its own purpose:  To speak behind others’ backs is the ventilator of the heart…” (Embroideries)  The samovar or tea is just the opportunity for these women to get together.  This is not any different from any other part of the world.  Women getting together can lead to all kinds of different discussions, including sex, contrary to popular belief.  Each woman tells an awkward tale involving a relationship with a man, about sex, or both.  Some of the stories are really quite funny.  Through these accounts you understand better about the way the women feel about sex, men, and marriage and also how the men don’t seem to be controlling as much as think they are.

I’m giving Embroideries three and a half stars.  I can’t give it more because it seems to have opened Pandora’s box but doesn’t go deep enough.   Although, I’m not disappointed I read it I was hoping for so much more.  In spite of everything, Marjane Satrapi is a brilliant graphic artist and has introduced the culture of Iran and Iranian people’s everyday lives through her works to her readers.  Most importantly, she succeeds at doing this with a universal approach.

23. Silver Sparrow

   “My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist.  He was already married   ten years when he first clamped eyes on my mother.” (Silver Sparrow, p. 3) Wow! What an incredibly powerful way to start this novel.  This story is set in the 80s in Atlanta in a middle class African-American neighborhood.  James Witherspoon has two wives and two daughters.  They live in different neighborhoods and have no knowledge of each other, until one day Dana becomes aware that she is the secret.  She is her father’s second daughter.  The story develops when a forbidden friendship between the two daughters leads to the truth and unfortunately destruction.

The story is recounted from the first person. Part 1 is Dana Lynn Yarboro’s story and the second part is Bunny Chaurisse Witherspoon’s story.  They were about the same length in pages but I found the voice of Dana more impressionable and endearing.  The writing was delicate, powerful, and at times I felt as if I was eavesdropping on the characters.  The scenes are edifying and depict the emotions and characters deeply.  I enjoyed reading the story and it flowed delicately each page I turned.  Although, I found the ending a little frustrating, I anticipated it and was anxious about it.  Actually, there was something about the writing style that reminded me a little of Toni Morrison.  It ‘s the sentimental way that emotions and situations are described.

I gave this book four stars because it was a very interesting read from an African-American woman writer that many people may have not heard of before.  I happened upon this book while browsing a blog called black girl lost in a book.  You can check out her blog at http://naysue.wordpress.com/.  Silver Sparrow was on her notable release list and I thought I’d give it a go.  I’m glad I did.  Tayari Jones is an intelligent storyteller and has a bright writing future ahead.  She is a native of Atlanta and studied at Spellman College, Arizona State University, and the University of Iowa.  She was also a winner of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Debut Fiction in 2003. While Silver Sparrow was her third novel, she also wrote Leaving Atlanta her first novel, which tells a fictionalized story of the Atlanta child murders that happened from 1979 to 1981.  Her second novel was called The Untelling and it recounts the story of a woman trying to overcome her difficult past.  I urge you all to take a look at Tayari Jones because we will surely be hearing more about her as well as reading more from her in the future.

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2. Summer reading…..

Well summer is here and I’m sure you’re all reading a little bit of your humongous TBR pile.  If you’ve not started yet and are still looking for something different. Check out Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and her daughter Samantha Van Leer.  It’s a YA fantasy novel about a teenage girl who loves stories with happy endings.

Check out A Game of Thrones!!  I feel a little behind on this one because it seems as if everybody is so far ahead on this one.  It’s an epic fantasy series – seven books.  This is the first in the series and it’s a whopping 807 pages.  I’m definitely going to crack this big nut to see what everybody is raving about next month.  If you’ve read any of this series please write below and tell me what you think about it.  Does it bring you memories of Lord of the Rings?

Here are just some other books that you may want to read this summer, have already read, or are not interested at all in reading….

Ok I could go on and on…. There are so many good books at the moment that I’m not sure I’ll have enough time this summer to read everything I want to.  I’m going to give it a good try.  Tell me below what you’re reading this summer.  Happy reading…..

22. Persepolis

A while back I watched a snippet of Persepolis with my family.  I immediately stopped when I realized it was written originally as a graphic novel.  I always prefer reading the book before seeing the movie.  This is a first for me reading a graphic novel and I got lucky and picked it up at WH Smith’s in Paris for only 9€.  I don’t usually read manga or comics but I found Persepolis a real pleasure.  So glad I read it!  So much so, I began reading at a slower pace to savor it longer.

This version is the complete version and has two books – The Story of a Childhood and The Story of a Return.  In essence Persepolis is the story of the Islamic revolution in Iran told by a precocious and free-speaking little Iranian girl.  It’s touching, shocking, humorous, surprising, and melancholy.  This amazing story shows that among all the extraordinary changes that happened during the revolution the Iranians were trying and fighting to live their lives as normally as possible, in spite of all the new laws and oppression.  People were falling in love, trying to study, getting married, working, surviving…….

Satrapi has written what she calls a fictionalized memoir.  She details the difficulties of life under the regime and life as a young Iranian living in Europe and being misunderstood, insulted, and mostly alone.  I think most people have their opinions about Iran but they would need to read this book to comprehend how these changes altered Iranians everyday lives forever; not to mention how their past culture has been thrown away and replaced by repression and fear.  What I took away from this book is, everybody wants to be happy and live life freely.   I give Persepolis 5 golden stars and strongly urge you all to read it.  You just might learn something.

Marjane Satrapi is an Iranian born French national.  She is a graphic novelist, illustrator, and animated film director.  She is multilingual and although her maternal language is Persian she additionally speaks German, Spanish, Swedish, French, and Italian.  She won the Jury Prize for Persepolis at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007.  Unfortunately, Persepolis was not in contention for the Oscar of Best Foreign film which frankly was an injustice.  It remained in the running for the Best Animated Feature Film at the Oscars where it lost to Ratatouille.  She has written other novels such as Chicken with Plums (film released in October 2011) and Embroideries.

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