May 30, 2013

Book Review #10: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

From Indigo: Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children's imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn't stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an "excitement addict." Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever.

Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town-and the family-Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents' betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home.

If this is a book you haven't yet read, prepare to be angered. Several times during reading, I would stop and express my distaste of the book to Sean. Don't get me wrong, this book is.... amazing. The anger is towards the parents, Rex and Rose Mary Walls. My heart broke several times while reading this book, and it was absolutely astonishing to read Jeannette's caring and kind words of her parents. In the beginning of the book, she tells a story of how she burned herself, badly I might add, at the age of 3 while trying to cook a hot dog without any adult supervision. I immediately understood that these parents were no good. While continuing through the story, I didn't know how to feel. Rex and Rose Mary clearly have very good intentions for their children, they are trying to teach them the important values of life, it's just how they go about it that is baffling.

Reading about the Walls' children's horrible upbringing and poverty conditions, I have nothing left to complain about in my whole life. While people are aware that things could always be worse, some of the details in this book made me so angry, sad, heartbroken, disgusted, yet hopeful at the same time. It's amazing how these kids were stomped down so low, and still didn't complain. They still loved their parents, and while they may have been put off for a short period and seemed to completely give up, they always some how found the courage to start over again. Jeannette's stories of maggots in their meat that they had no choice but to eat anyways, rats in their kitchen, no indoor plumbing, sleeping on cardboard, bathing once a month in used and dirty water, it really put things into perspective. They would go days without eating, nearly always having literally no food in the house. Her father stealing money to go gambling, or drinking, while his children sat at home to starve was infuriating. Learning of the children's plan to escape and move far away gave me so much hope that they would be able to have a life of their own, and no longer have to live under their parents dysfunctional life views. Without sounding too cliche, this story is truly hopeful and inspirational. You feel so much for these poor children and are so proud of their high hopes that sometimes feel like a pipe dream. I would say this book is honestly a must read for everyone, if not to read a story of redemption, but simply to be so thankful for the minor luxuries you have.

May 27, 2013

Book Review #9 - Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk

From Indigo: "Haunted is a novel made up of twenty-three horrifying, hilarious, and stomach-churning stories. They're told by people who have answered an ad for a writer's retreat and unwittingly joined a "Survivor"-like scenario where the host withholds heat, power, and food. As the storytellers grow more desperate, their tales become more extreme, and they ruthlessly plot to make themselves the hero of the reality show that will surely be made from their plight. This is one of the most disturbing and outrageous books you'll ever read, one that could only come from the mind of Chuck Palahniuk"

I've read a few Palahniuk novels in the past, and he never disappoints. I do however find that I have wildly different opinions on the books I have read, and the amount of great things I've heard of his books, I figured I better read a few more of them.

As stated in a couple other posts, I find I'm more interested when the chapters go back and forth between multiple characters. Haunted does a great job of this. The book is about a group of people going to what they think is a 3 month writers retreat, but soon find out they are basically being held hostage to write their best and most creative work. The book switches back and forth between our main story, a short poem about a character, followed by a short story written by that character.

These stories are what keeps me going, the main story is great as well, but I find most times, I just keep going to get to the next short story. The very first one you read in the book is "Guts". A short story Palahniuk wrote that was printed in Playboy in 2004. I won't even go into what this story is about. You can read it here. Isn't that disturbing. I consider myself to have a fairly strong stomach, but while reading this, I found myself squirming, a lot. But I knew I had to bear through it. After getting a chunk of the book done, I read the back which says "As the storytellers grow more desperate, their tales become more extreme, and they ruthlessly plot to make themselves the hero of the reality show that will surely be made from their plight." More extreme? Considering "Guts" is the first one you read, I was very excited to see how much more extreme this book could get. And Chuck didn't let me down. We're taken through the stories of each character, as we follow them while living together, continually trying to upstage each other, for that when their story becomes a movie or TV show, they themselves can be the biggest victim of the story.

The short stories in the book are excellent. Some are disturbing, some are hilarious, some are just plain weird, and some actually are haunting. While reading through the main story of the book, you are left wondering a lot of things. What is wrong with all of these people, specifically those involved in the set up of this "retreat"? Will they ever get out of this place, and what will happen when/if they do? Chuck has always done a good job of keeping me reading though his books to finish in record time. There is never a dull moment in his stories -- so far, at least the ones I've read.

And I'm not sure who's idea this was, but it worked out brilliantly. I was reading this book before bed one night. I finished a really haunting story, I put my book on my bedside table, turned my light off to lay down, only to discover the cover of this book glows in the dark!

Imagine how creepy that would be to discover. I had no idea it glowed, until I stumbled upon it myself. Bravo Mr. Palahniuk, you've Haunted me.

May 13, 2013

Book Review #8

Review #8: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
From Indigo: The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald's third book, stands as the supreme achievement of his career. This exemplary novel of the Jazz Age has been acclaimed by generations of readers. The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when The New York Times noted "gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession," it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s. The Great Gatsby is one of the great classics of twentieth-century literature.

Believe it or not, I did not have to read this book in high-school. In fact, I didn't know it was even part of the curriculum until recently when people started saying "didn't we all have to read that in high-school?" I'm not sure what took me so long to finally read this book, I think it may have something to do with the fact that I'm not a fan of classic literature, although I should be. Even when I heard they were re-making a movie, I only thought "ya, maybe I'll read that." It wasn't until I saw the preview for it on TV that I actually got really excited. Forgive my ignorance for being such a late comer to this tale. It was great. I loved it. I'm now SUPER excited to see the movie. It was a short, quick read, and it definitely flew by. While not having read any of his other books, in this one at least, Fitzgerald does a great job of keeping the reader interested and wanting more. The tangled love web was interesting to say the least, and without spoiling anything for the few people who may not have read this yet, the climax blew me away. It was just one of those scenarios that to me, was just too funny, yet tragic and a tad bit revengeful without meaning to do so. All in all, I will be putting this book near the top of my favourites so far, and I can see it being a book I read over and over.

Book Review #7

Review #7: Tweak by Nic Sheff
From Indigo: Nic Sheff was drunk for the first time at age eleven. In the years that followed, he would regularly smoke pot, do cocaine and Ecstasy, and develop addictions to crystal meth and heroin. Even so, he felt like he would always be able to quit and put his life together whenever he needed to. It took a violent relapse one summer in California to convince him otherwise. In a voice that is raw and honest, Nic spares no detail in telling us the compelling, heartbreaking, and true story of his relapse and the road to recovery. As we watch Nic plunge the mental and physical depths of drug addiction, he paints a picture for us of a person at odds with his past, with his family, with his substances, and with himself. It's a harrowing portrait-but not one without hope.

As I've stated before, I have a strong fascination with drug addiction. This book has been on my to-read list for quite some time now, but I never managed to buy a copy. I have a kobo and download a lot of books online, but this one I was unable to find for free through any torrents, and they way I see it is, if I'm going to spend money on something, I'd prefer it to be a tangible object. I'm not a big fan of paying for digital files of any sort. So, like I've mentioned, my manager at work wanted all of us to pick a couple of teen titles for our staff picks, my first pick was 13 Reasons Why, and this was my second.

I really liked this book. If drug addiction is a topic you are interested in, or is in any way personal to you, this is a must read. This book is classified as a Teen Non-Fiction, but I was a little confused, as the story takes place while Nic is in the age range of 20-23. Although he does talk about things that started when he was young, most of the content is him at a more mature age, and even though this books is classified as teen, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone under the age of 16 or 17. It deals with very heavy topics, and mature subject matter, besides the bulk of the story being about his drug addiction, he does talk a great deal about sex as well, things even those with a strong stomach would become squeamish at.

This book definitely takes you on a roller coaster ride through addiction. Nic does a very good job of making you feel the same things he does while he is dealing with such trying issues. You grow with him very quickly and it is as if you are right next to him on this ride. You get a sense of hope when you can feel he has hope and is trying to turn things around, you also feel beaten down when he talks about going back to the drugs he's been clean of for so long, you can feel him giving up on himself, and though part of you wants to scream through the book "NO NIC BE STRONG!" another part of you can feel where he is coming from. It is not hard to imagine yourself in his shoes, and to think about the things you might do in the same situations as him. While it is easy for anyone who has never dealt with a strong addiction to sit back and throw advice at someone who is dealing with it, being put in the same situations as him, I can't imagine myself doing things much differently at all. Nic gets in the grittiness of an addiction, the moral dilemmas one faces while dealing with these issues, but you can't help but feel for our character and wish for him to pull through it all even in the midst of his psychological traumas coming to the surface. Well worth the read!

May 9, 2013

Book Review #5&6.

Well, it has been a while! The weather has been so beautiful here, that I've somewhat forgotten about my computer. My time has consisted of work, trying to be outside as much as I can, and reading. And boy have I read. It's been about a month and a half since my last post, and now I have 4 more books to review. I'm also quickly on my way to finishing my current 9th book of my challenge, so that review will be popping up in the next week or so as well. So let's get started:

Review # 5: just wait.....
I have a bit of a back story to this one. When I was a teenager, I read Go Ask Alice for an English essay. I wasn't much of a reader believe it or not, and my best friend chose to do this book and told me about it after the guy at the book store had recommended it. Somehow, our teacher let us both cover the same book, so I bought myself a copy as well. At this point I had already had a strange fascination with drug addiction, and this book took me even further. I then tried to soak up as much as I could on the subject, and after some research, came across Junky by William S. Burroughs. After finishing his book, I became enthralled. I wanted more, I needed to know all about his life and anyone he knew. I came across Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe and that looked really exciting, but I never ended up finding a copy and sort of forgot about my search. A couple of years back when I started dating my boyfriend, one of the things that first captivated me about him was that not only did he love to read (with the guys I meet, this is rare) but he also loved the same type of books as me. He told me all about Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and how it revolved around Ken Kesey (the author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) and his band of Merry Pranksters as they go on a journey across the country in their school bus named Further, while doing LSD and other psychedelic drugs. Kesey and his Pranksters were "too young to be beatniks, and too old to be a hippies" in Kesey's own words, but they definitely looked up to the beatniks. William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and none other then the famous Neal Cassady.  Cassady actually travels with the Prankster's, driving the bus Further across country from L.A. to New York, where they meet up with Kerouac and Ginsberg. My boyfriend at the end of his high-school career, was so inspired by this story, that he actually went out and bought his own school bus to drive from Ontario to BC. That's a story I may talk about another time, we'll see. But the point is, this era captured him. I decided before I should get too into this world, I should go back a little in time and read On The Road. And if you've been paying attention, I did mention my next book review had a movie coming out, toward the end of May, which now I am really excited about.

On The Road by Jack Kerouac
I would definitely say this is my boyfriends favourite book. On a side note, I actually found this really cool site Out of Print Clothing, which is exactly what it sounds like. They sell t-shirts, tote bags, notebooks, coasters, greeting cards, iPhone cases, e-reader cases - all with out of print book covers printed on them. They are SO cool. Every time you buy, they donate a book to a community in need in Africa, which makes me even more excited. So through browsing, I found a t-shirt of On The Road, with a cover I have NEVER seen, obviously - it's out of print. But it was also the coolest thing I have seen. I had to buy it for Sean. His birthday was a few days ago and he LOVED it. He shows everyone and is so proud of his neat gift.
So figuring not only was this my boyfriends favourite book, but that I had for quite some time now, wanted to get back into these books like Junky, which I loved so much, and that there is a movie coming out, how could I go wrong?
^^This is the book cover shirt they sell on Out of Print.

From Indigo:On the Road chronicles Jack Kerouac's years traveling the North American continent with his friend Neal Cassady, "a sideburned hero of the snowy West." As "Sal Paradise" and "Dean Moriarty," the two roam the country in a quest for self-knowledge and experience. Kerouac's love of America, his compassion for humanity, and his sense of language as jazz combine to make On the Road an inspirational work of lasting importance.
Kerouac's classic novel of freedom and longing defined what it meant to be "Beat" and has inspired every generation since its initial publication more than forty years ago.

A quote I've always loved is, “It's not the destination, but the journey, that matters”. This describes On The Road perfectly. While we know Sal's destination is to make it to San Fransisco, the stuff that really matters is the journey. At first I didn't much care for our character, and when first being introduced to Dean, he seems very all over the place. I learned quickly to love Sal, but at times felt like the protective older sister I am, when he seems to get in trouble with Dean, just out of simple carelessness. He lets Dean lead the way too much, and you definitely get the feeling that not many people care for him either. Sal is very much a go with the flow person, and Dean takes advantage of that. This book covers so much, that it's hard to even begin to talk about it. You must read it for yourself. His journey is well worth the ride and I can not wait for the movie. Although...... they put Kristen Stewart, Amy Adams and Kirsten Dunst in it. I've never heard of any of the men, but that's because I'm out of touch with pop culture. I was hoping for no name actors, I guess I can deal with Amy Adams, and Kirsten Dunst in a role like this probably won't be that annoying, but Kristen Stewart? Really?! Jack would be rolling in his grave.....

Review #6: The Dinner by Herman Koch
I've tried to not mention the name of my employer, but as this blog is about mostly my reviews on books, and not work itself, I don't see the harm. So I work for Indigo. Indigo has started this new feature a bit over a year ago called Indigo Spotlight. I hadn't read any of the titles on the list, but my boss said that I should. She mentioned that she had read The Dinner, and that it REALLY disturbed her. Perfect! I love disturbing! So I gave it a shot.

From Indigo:
It's a summer's evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. Between mouthfuls of food and over the polite scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse -- the banality of work, the triviality of the holidays. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened.
     Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. The two boys are united by their accountability for a single horrific act; an act that has triggered a police investigation and shattered the comfortable, insulated worlds of their families. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children. As civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple show just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.
     Tautly written, incredibly gripping, and told by an unforgettable narrator, The Dinner promises to be the topic of countless dinner party debates. Skewering everything from parenting values to pretentious menus to political convictions, this novel reveals the dark side of genteel society and asks what each of us would do in the face of unimaginable tragedy.

As mentioned, this book takes place over the course of one night, with 4 adults out to dinner, whom we learn quickly are two brothers, and their wives. The two 15 year old boys being cousins.  My first thought was, how could one write an entire book only taking place over the course of one meal? Once you get into this book, the answer to that question is the least of your worries. It is very intense. Of course the author wanders on his thoughts to other times, and the main focus of the story. It seems at times that he is rambling for filler, but every line is as interesting as the last. I flew through this book, reading half of it in one sitting. It was SO good. It's not often that I am so interested that I literally will not put it down. It's hard to even get into talking about this book without giving anything away. I'll just say this: it definitely keeps you reading. Especially if you know something disturbing is coming and you just want to get there to find out what it is. I will also be completely honest: the disturbing thing that happened, in my opinion, wasn't all that disturbing. Clearly my boss and myself have very different opinions on what disturbing is. As if disturbing to her would be a little boy pulling the legs off of a spider, and disturbing to me is any of the Saw movies. To me, it was just sort of messed up. But still good. That was a bit of a disappointment, and the only other thing that bothered me was the unanswered questions. They weren't that important to the story line, but I don't like closing a book and not knowing small details, which the author obviously left out. Let's just say this: one or more of the characters has some sort of psychological disorder, but the author doesn't tell you what they are. Putting a name on something like that isn't really all that important to me, but if there were a name put on it, it would be a lot easier to understand all the ins and outs. You leave the story knowing some people are messed up in the head, but that is all. You don't know why they are messed up, or how messed up. I've never closed a book so frustrated. At first I thought it was just something small I was obsessing over for no reason. I then thought maybe I missed it at some point. I then spoke to other people who had read it, and they agreed that it was annoying not to know. So I didn't miss it, and I wasn't obsessing over something small, it bothered them too. Unless it was something subtle that I just didn't pick up on, prepare to be a bit irked if you decided to pick this one up. Other then the small annoyances, it is WELL worth the read.

March 25, 2013

Books Books Books!

Being the avid Pinterester that I am, I have a large book album full of books I've loved, books I have yet to love, beautiful libraries and any book related things. I came across a small book challenge: 12 Books, 12 Months, 2012. I didn't come across this though until around November 2012, so I decided to start for 2013. This was the perfect book challenge for me. If you read my blog you know, I work in a book store, and have for 5 years now, during this time, I've met and made several friends who are huge book lovers as well. I generally try not to compare myself to other people, but I see my friends zip through book after book like it's their job - sometimes it literally is - while it took me 6 months to finish A Clockwork Orange, which is just slightly over 100 pages. In my defence, that book is written in a language of it's own and I found myself re-reading pages over and over to fully understand them. I would then give up and put the book down for 2 months and read something else. I'm generally not the type of person to set challenges for myself, as I lack motivation for small mundane things, but this challenge, I thought, was going to be something I would do, and I've been meaning to write about it for a while now.

So here goes, my first book was:
#1 Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay
I never officially wrote a review for this one having read it before I started my blog, so I will give you a mini-review now. I LOVED this book. If you do read my blog, you know I have a strong fascination for anything regarding WWII, more specifically, the Holocaust. I've read The Diary of Anne Frank, and Night by Elie Wiesel, both great books. Anne Frank's diary focuses more on hiding from the Nazi's during Amsterdam's German Occupation, it doesn't talk about the holocaust, because they were not very aware of what was happening. The book does contain a prologue as to what happened to the family after they were captured. Night however, is only about the holocaust. It is a first hand account from victim and survivor Elie Wiesel. He and his family were taken to Auschwitz, he then had to participate in the death march to Buchenwald. Sarah's Key was right on track to what I like to read. After reading it, I honestly can not believe it took me so long to do so, I had heard about it for some time, and came across a great condition copy at Value Village one day and did not even hesitate to buy it. Usually books sit on my shelves for a long time before I pick them up, having a very large stack to get through. But Sarah's Key only sat for a couple weeks before I grabbed it. It is a fiction novel, but it centers around the Vel' d'Hiv roundup in Paris in 1942. I vaguely remember hearing the words "Vel' d'Hiv" before, but it wasn't something I was very aware of at all. Generally during and after reading a book, I like to do research on any of the true things talked about, so this book opened my eyes to a new aspect of the war that I was not familiar with. Sarah and her parents are round up to the Vel' d'Hiv and taken to Auschwitz. Before they are taken, Sarah hides her little brother in a secret cupboard in their shared room and takes the key with her. During the whole trip her only concern is to get back and save her brother. Simultaneously we are switched back and forth to chapters of an American journalist living in Paris, Julia, who is given the task of writing of the anniversary of the Vel' d'Hiv. She discovers the apartment that her and her husband have inherited from her husbands grandmother, belonged to none other then Sarah's family before they were roundup. Julia then embarks on a journey to find out anything she can of Sarah and her family, and if they are still alive.

#2 13 Reasons Why - my review here.

#3 A Tale For The Time Being - my review here.

#4 The Story of The SS by Nigel Cawthorne
This book is exactly what the titles states. After reading so much about Jewish people and the Holocaust, I decided to learn a bit more about the people behind it, and we had a copy of this book on sale at work. While there are interesting parts of the book, one chapter devoted to the Holocaust itself, for the most part I felt as though I was sitting in high school history class again. WWII wasn't something I found particularly interesting in high school, and while I did very much pay attention to the video I remember my teacher showing, on holocaust survivor stories, most of the WWII part, and the entire semester was not something I looked forward to. This book has a lot of names and dates, that no one other then a history major, could remember. I found my mind wandering, and I'd have to pull myself back in to pay attention, other parts did get interesting, but for the most part, I found it dull. It is though, just a history collection on the SS itself. If names and dates are something that spark your interests, this book would be a great read, that being said there were several stories inside that I had never heard about before, so that made it worth the read to me. This book probably doesn't contain anything you couldn't find by doing some google searches of your own. I'm the type that googles EVERYTHING I find interesting, so next time, I may take that route instead.

So that's where I'm at right now, almost to the end of our 3rd month, I've finished 4 of my books, and I'm well into my 5th. I think that's pretty good so far. This 5th book is quite interesting, but you'll have to wait until I'm finished to find out what it is, a hint though: it has a movie coming out.

Book Journal #2 - A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

From Indigo:
"A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be."

In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there's only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates' bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao first plans to document the life of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun who's lived more than a century. A diary is Nao's only solace-and will touch lives in ways she can scarcely imagine.

Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox-possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao's drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future.

Full of Ozeki's signature humor and deeply engaged with the relationship between writer and reader, past and present, fact and fiction, quantum physics, history, and myth, A Tale for the Time Being is a brilliantly inventive, beguiling story of our shared humanity and the search for home."

First let me state, that I have never read a Ruth Ozeki novel before. Having worked in a book store for the past 5 years, I don't recall ever even seeing her books on our shelves. I took a gamble with this one. The Manager at my store reads a LOT. She always gets to books before anyone else can, and I feel sometimes, that it's hard for my co-workers and myself, to read these books after her and claim them as good as she does. When I saw this book come in, the cover caught my eye. While you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover, being a Graphic Designer myself, I know that book designers out there are doing a much better job on the cover designs. So I decided to give it a shot, hoping that if it was excellent, I would have found the next great book before my manager did. So there was a bit of an underlying scheme I had other then reading a good book.

The novel starts out with one of our main characters, Ruth, whom I feel may be an alter-ego to our author, finding an object in a large plastic bag on the beach. Ruth lives on a very remote island off the coast of BC - Whaletown. Thinking it is garbage washed up from the ocean, she brings it home to throw away. Her husband, Oliver, being the curious person he is, decides to open it. The contents of the bag are a Hello Kitty lunchbox, inside the diary of a young Japanese teenager, Nao, and the french diary of her great uncle, Haruki #1, who was a kamikaze pilot in the Second World War. Ruth begins her journey of reading Nao's diary and trying to figure out the fate of Nao, as her diary was written in 2001. Nao, without directly saying the words, is suicidal while writing her diary, and with the tsunami of 2011, Ruth does not now what may have happened to Nao.

With alternating chapters between Ruth, and Nao, we learn the story of Nao's Great-Grandmother Jiko, who became a Buddhist Nun after the second world war when her only son Haruki #1 was killed. Nao gives us some insight into her being bullied in school, having been raised in California in an American school. Her father is let go from his great job in the tech industry, and the family must move back to Japan. Having let his family down, Haruki #2, Nao's father, feels great shame and is also suicidal. Ruth embarks on a journey to track down Nao and her family anyway she can. After multiple Internet searches, she continues to come up empty handed on any information of the family. She decides to reach out to an old friend of a colleague, whom she figures must have known Nao's father while they were living in the United States. Ruth tries searches for tsunami victims with no results. She has Haruki #1's french diary translated to better learn of the family.

This book did pull me in right away. I find I'm more interested when the chapters go back and forth between multiple characters, and I also enjoy reading diary-style novels, so this one hit 2 birds with one stone for me. While the story became in-depth and we discovered more, throughout most of the book I felt as though there wasn't a whole lot happening. Until I got to the end. Everything unfolds and we catch up to Nao and her family. The book finishes with some unanswered questions, but I felt very content with the way it left off. There's nothing I dislike more then when a book leaves so many loose ends, with no indication of a sequel. So when this one ended I felt very at peace with the story just told to me.

To me, this book hit everything I like. Ruth's mother died of Alzheimer's, while it doesn't go into it much, it's still there. Alzheimer's is close to me, so I liked that aspect. Nao's great uncle fought in WWII, in which I have a strong interest. Her great-grandmother is a Buddhist nun, Buddhism is always something I've found fascinating. Like I said, I enjoy multiple person narrative and journal entry novels. Her father is a great mind in the Internet and tech industry, and in the end, we are even thrown into quantum physics and alternate universes, which is oddly, something I think about quite often. I really enjoyed this story, and definitely will be looking into Ozeki's other novels.

February 28, 2013


After finishing Thirteen Reasons Why, I discover Jay Asher has written another book: The Future Of Us. Having seen this book in my store several times, I've always ignored it and never thought to take a second look. The cover is blue with a red outline of a heart, and that's all I've noticed. After re-finding out about this book, if that makes sense, I went online to do some research. The red heart is actually made of a cable wire, with frayed wires on one end, and a phone jack connection on the other. Right off the bat, this got me interested way more then I ever had been, I assumed the book was some lame love story, like most teen books are, and that's not my cup of tea. Upon further inspection, I learn The Future Of Us is about two young teens, best friends and neighbours in 1996, whom install the latest version of AOL on their computers... only to discover facebook pop-up, which hasn't been invented yet. A bit confused, it seems the facebook they discover, is their own from the future. There is an excerpt for this book in the back of Thirteen Reasons Why, that I of course, had to read. How cool would that be to go into the future, through facebook, and see what you're life will be like. I have had several talks in the past with close friends, about how facebook is setting new precedence for the way we may story tell in the future. I always imagine being in my 40s, with my kids old enough to use the computer, and have their own facebook account, if it's still around. I imagine them sitting on the computer, going through MY facebook profile, looking back at photos of me from my early 20s on, watching me grow up on the internet. They'll be able to see what was going on in my life, generally, at any given point in time. Depending on status updates, or links I shared, they'll be able to see what was relevant in my life, hot trends and topics. Now I'm not saying this is the way it will go, already the pictures uploaded of me have drastically slowed, and I rarely post anything anymore unless it's a funny picture. So that may not happen, but it's neat to think about. And although this book isn't exactly that, it's cool to think about how much you can learn from anyone, especially yourself, from facebook.

So, ya, I'm excited to read this one. I hope to post a book journal on it as well, and I hope it's as good as his last.

Book Journal #1 - 13 Reasons Why

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

"Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker - his classmate and crush - who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah's voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out why. Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah's pain, and learns the truth about himself - a truth he never wanted to face."

From the first page, I'm captivated. Clay brings a package to a post office to send to the next person on Hannah's list. I need to know what the package contains. What does he know?

Nearly one third of the way through the book, I can't put it down. I went to work this morning excited to get home and keep reading. Most teen books have wide spacing, margins and typeface, and this book is no exception. With that being said, I still can't believe how quickly I'm turning pages. Usually I have a hard time reading in any room with noise unless it's very quiet. Last night I sat reading with Sean watching the TV at a normal volume and I had no problem tuning it out. I generally don't read teen novels, but this I had heard was good. My manager has also decided she wants all staff to pick a couple teen novels for our staff picks, to help sales in our teen section - which I thought were doing well. So I went with this one. And I'm glad I did.

Hannah's story has gotten dark and somewhat twisted, at times, creepy. I generally do not read quickly, I can count on one hand how many books I've devoured, and this one will be added to that hand. It's not even so much the subject matter, but the author has a great way of telling stories from multiple character view points, both genders. The story is so intriguing. Hannah's story on the tapes is so well told, she really sucks you in and makes you stay. I feel connected to her, and Clay while listening to her story, wondering how this is going to tie together, and filling in the blanks for the reader along the way. I can not get enough of this book so far.

Just over half way through the book, still a page turner. The story is getting more in-depth and interesting, as it should. At first, I found it confusing to be constantly tossed back and forth between Hannah and Clay, but it's amazing how quickly I got used to that. The author does an excellent job. We are only about half way through Hannah's story and the pieces are slowly starting to come together, although there are still a lot of unanswered questions. At times I feel really bad for these characters she talks about in her tapes, but ultimately in the end, you can definitely see her anger towards them, even if it does seem like petty teenage problems. While I usually try not to analyze the loss of a life too much, Hannah's story is a complex one, one which you have no choice but to really think about while reading this book. "But school hadn't been a safe haven of mine for a long time. And after your photo escapades, Tyler, my home was no longer secure. Now, suddenly, even my own thoughts were being offered up for ridicule." Many of Hannah's problems may seem like small, petty things, and I suppose on their own they would be. Things that most teenagers may laugh off and get over in a few days. But to Hannah, it seems as though she feels she's being attacked, from every angle. She can't escape anything from anyone, she doesn't even want to think to herself anymore, and it feels her whole life is on display for everyone to watch crumble. Although, they don't understand it's crumbling. Or maybe they don't care.

About 60 pages left to go and it feels as though I have hit the climax of the book. I've just discovered Clays part in the story and I feel... relieved. I image that's how he feels too, a long with a mix of other emotions. The author does a good job of really making you feel for Clay, and after finding out his role in Hannah's list of suicide reasons, you feel grateful that his part isn't horrible. But at the same time, it's almost as though it was predictable for the author to not make you hate our main character. It seems too cliche that he remains the good guy. But, on the other hand, what if he did something awful and my whole view of him changed? I'm not sure which idea I like better, but I'm happy with how it turned out. I feel so sad though, you can feel Hannah giving up on herself, on the people around her.

FINISHED! Great book. Would highly recommend to anyone and everyone. Very captivating, definitely a page turner. Suspenseful and mysterious. You grow with Clay's character over one night while his life changes. You grow with Hannah's story and watch as she becomes at peace with her decision. This is definitely a book that is going to stay with me for a very long time.

When I first began the book, Sean had mentioned he hoped the book didn't make suicide look appealing. Those were not his exact words, but his point was that it might influence young people to take their life, like this book was glamorizing suicide. At the time, I didn't know if I should agree or disagree. I would certainly hope and imagine that the author in no way intended for suicide to look like a good idea. But I could see what Sean meant by what he said. Now, I think the authors intent was to show that everyone has issues to deal with. And I don't mean for that too sound like a brush off. It reminds me of the quote, to walk a mile in someones shoes, or to always be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle. I've read reviews of people saying this book changed their life, and I've read that people say since reading it they try to treat other people with more kindness and understanding. I not only think, but am very certain that the point of this book is to make people aware. In the book during a peer interaction class, the teacher states that suicide often goes unpublished in the news, unless it happens in front of others. You hear about teen suicide in the media now, especially in the days since Amanda Todd, who wasn't the first or last. Amanda had made a video on YouTube confessing her trauma to the world, she then took her own life. Regardless of your views on the matter, I can't help but feel as if it wouldn't have mattered had she not made that video. Like Hannah, if she was just another girl at another school in another city, and didn't make that cry for help, would we have ever heard about it? Suicide is something the media tries to steer away from, if it's just some random person no one knows of. But Amanda Todd? Her story went differently. A year or so ago, a friend told me about a guy who lived in his building, who had jumped off his balcony, on the 12th or 13th floor, front of the building, landing in front of the main doors around 7am one morning, in the middle of the week. Obviously an ambulance came, and cops, the building managers shut down that entrance and re-directed everyone to the side exit of the building to leave for work. I never did ask my friend about that after, but I can assume the building managers certainly did not post anything about it in their main office or lobby. I tried to search online for anything about it, I looked deep into the local newspaper. I could never find anything, who it was, why or anything, and I never will.

Suicide is just one of those topics people don't want to talk about. To report on it the news without that person already making - and I use this world in the most innocent of ways - a production out of it, is for some reason taboo. I think that's what Mr. Asher is trying to get across in this story. It's not to glorify suicide or make light of a situation, it's to hit home how serious it is, regardless of any reason what-so-ever, it's something that should never be taken lightly. We all need to be careful of how we treat others around us. Even the simplest most innocent things can dramatically affect someones life.

February 26, 2013

The World of Tattoos


I have several tattoos, including a full sleeve on my left arm. My tattoo artist is a close friend whom I went to college with. Most of my friends have tattoos. My boyfriend also has a full left sleeve (we both had them when we met - they drew us together), he also has a gigantic rib piece on his right side, and a new one started on the left side of his back. My brother has a full right sleeve, a giant rib piece on his right, and a chest piece. Our parents... accept them. Our father just shakes his head and asks why. Our mom definitely seems more into them. My brother also has huge stretched ears. When we go out in public with our mom she calls us her "freak children" and seems to get a kick out of it. She's really down to earth about them. My self adopted brother (my real brothers best friend) has a full right sleeve, a chest piece and probably several others. My point is I love tattoos. The people I love, love tattoos. My friends and family alike all support my love of tattoos. My co-workers enjoy my tattoos. My boss has said she will never ask me to cover my tattoos, unless someone complains, because they are a great conversation starter. She says she only ever hears people ask me questions and give me compliments on them. Which is true. Until today.

While I understand that tattoos aren't for everyone, and not everyone enjoys them, I don't feel I should have to make exceptions, changes, or excuses to those people. The world is becoming more acceptable of tattoos, but they still aren't quite where tattoo lovers alike hope for them to be. Granted, most tattooed people don't care whether people like them or not, myself included. Even the once in a blue moon when I meet someone who does not approve, I still don't care.

Today was a bit different. I don't think it was so much what the woman said but how she said it. I work in customer service. I might add this is not my long term choice of work. I am a Graphic Designer in training, and I think pretty much any artist can get away with tattoos. Graphic Designers especially. I do understand that tattoos aren't accepted in every work environment, but I also am aware of doctors, lawyers, police officers and any other "professional" line that are covered in tattoos. So today I was at work. I was helping this older woman, by older I mean at least 70s or 80s. Right off the bat she seemed like one of these miserable seniors that think society and the world has done them wrong. It really didn't matter that I'm tattooed, she was probably going to be a bitch anyway. We charge for plastic bags at my work place, which was the first thing she wanted to complain about "I don't understand at all why I should have to pay for a bag." Without going into this argument too far, I'll just point out her choice of words "why *I* should have to pay", as if she's the only person that ever gets charged. I mentioned to her that since we've started charging, we've seen a significant decrease in consumption of plastic - "ya but it doesn't seem right that the government charges, it's just a bag, they make so much money off of me already"... OK lady, here's your book (now get out!)

But before she walks away she does a double take at my arm "ohhhh.... I was wondering what was wrong with your arm and then I saw that!" Might I add again, that I had already been talking to this woman for at least a couple of minutes before this came out of her mouth. Now, either she is so self absorbed that she really didn't notice, OR she did and decided to continue with her bitchiness and point it out. Regardless of which, I just smiled, as I usually do. She then follows with "Oh it's just not nice, here we all are trying to take care of our skin and then you people go and do things like that, it's just awful!" You people?! I can finally understand how people feel when that's directed racially. Wow. She kept going though "it's just... it.... I just don't understand it!" I only replied with "well that doesn't make it wrong." I usually respond to people of these sorts with "I didn't have your opinion in mind when I got it done" or "well I like it", and generally I don't bother to get upset over people like this, I'm not even really upset, just annoyed. It may surprise you to hear, the people I get negative comments from the most are women in their 40s-50s. Anyone under 40 I usually find accepting, even older seniors I don't hear many negative comments. It's funny how many little old ladies want to look and touch and ask so many questions, they're just curious and I'm OK with that. Even older men, I don't know if it's because of war times, but they seem to be interested. Men of all ages actually, I find are pretty accepting. It seems to be the stuck up snooty women in their middle ages that are "disgusted". This woman seemed to be in a league of her own. I've never, in the years I've had tattoos, met someone that was SO put off by my life choices. I suppose I should feel bad for her, for being that close minded, and upset with the world for not following her rules.

What I'm getting at, is I really don't understand how one can be so negative and upset with the world around them. I'm surprised people live as long as they do being so unhappy and pissed off about everything. I certainly would not be the person I am, especially tattooed, having kept my mind that closed. I don't make my life decisions based on what others might think of me, and I certainly don't let those opinions stop me from making future decisions. I don't need to justify to anyone that I enjoy my life, but I do. I'm happy with every decision I've made and the way I live my life. To anyone who is tattooed, keep doing what you're doing and love every moment of it. To anyone who isn't, accept that people who are tattooed, are so because they love it, it's something they enjoy and they don't care for your opinion on the matter. To everyone, be humble, don't walk around with your head in the clouds and expect everything to go your way, if you feel the need to belittle others and be rude for no reason: keep your mouth shut.