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Showing posts from September, 2010

Breaking Night by Liz Murray

I would highly recommend this book to anyone. There. I said it and now that I've totally gotten rid of the anticipation of what I recommend, let me tell you about this book. Liz Murray was born in 1980 addicted to crack (because her mom used consistently throughout her pregnancy), but otherwise healthy and lived in the Bronx, New York. During her time growing up, she watched her parents struggle with drug addiction and struggling to provide for her and her older sister, Lisa.  Liz also dealt with the HIV/AIDS epidemic in a way that most of us may never, ever know about. At 15, Liz became homeless. She had no place to live and, for a long period of time, did not go to school. However, Liz did manage to get into an alternative school - the Humanities Prepatory Academy in Manhattan, where she managed to complete all of her assignments in the subway stations that she slept in. She earned enough credits to graduate in two years and was eventually accepted into Harvard University.

This…

Skippy Dies by Paul Murray

This is Paul Murray's second novel. It takes place at an all boy's Catholic school in Ireland and focuses on Daniel "Skippy" Juster. Skippy got his nickname because he bore an uncanny resemblance to a children's kangaroo character of the same name. He is a boarder at Seabrook College, a Catholic school, at a time in most young boys' life when they're undergoing certain, shal we say, changes. Skippy's best friend and roomate is Ruprecht, a portly boy that is a genius. The novel opens with Skippy and Ruprecht having a donut eating contest at a local eatery that is popular with the Seabrook boys. Ruprecht looks on in shock as Skippy collapses, falls off his chair and dies, while writing "Tell Lori" on the floor in jelly, even though he doesn't seem to be choking. So yes, Skppy dies in the first few pages.  But this satire of contemporary Irish society doesn't just end there. It proceeds for about 650 more pages, in which we meet the mys…

Anthropology of an America Girl by Hilary Thayer Hamann

I heard about this book on NPR. This book first came out in 2003 when Hilary Thayer Hamann self-published it.  Then, recently, it really took off and hit the mainstream press. It is 620 some odd pages and covers some years in the life of Eveline Auerbach, a girl that lives in East Hampton, NY and New York City in the late 70's and early 80's. She is raised by her divorcee, professor mother and sometimes, her father takes part in her upbringing - he lives in New York city after all. During her junior year in high school, she meets and falls in love with Jack. Jack is a rebel in every sense of the word, and is, in particular rebelling against his father, a wealthy man who seems to ruin everything that he touches. When that relationship ends, Evie meets and falls in love with Harrison Rourke during her senior year in high school. Harrison is a substitute drama teacher at her high school who also boxes professionally and has ties to the New Jersey mafia. After spending a magical s…

The Passage by Justin Cronin

This was another of of those book blogger cult favorites that I just barely got around to reading. It's a 784 page monster of a book (no pun intended) about vampires, but it's not like Twilight or Bram Stoker or Anne Rice type of vampire novel. In fact, these vampires are highly trained killing machines created by the US government from people that were on death row after committing capital offenses in their home states.  The recruits are found and signed up by FBI agents after the ranks of death row inmates were culled. They have no mercy and nothing to tell them what is right or wrong, but they do often wonder who they are. 12 death row inmates (a Biblical reference I wonder?) are the original test targets and a six year old orphan is also found, to be a potential test subject. The 12 become jumpers, who eat the animals thrown into their cells until they escape and begin to prey on humans, who become vampires in their own right once attacked.


There are humans that somehow …

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I think that I'm the last blogger to have read and reviewed this book but I finally got around to it.  This is technically classified as young adult science fiction but there were some themes that were pretty mature in it and which adults could relate to, perhaps for different reasons.

The setting is the country of Panem. Panem is a fictional country that rises out of what once was the United States, Canada and Mexico.  It seems to be almost a post apocalyptic society in the same way that The Handmaid's Tale was.  The country consists of a wealthy Capitol district in the Rocky Mountains and twelve poorer districts who are known for certain types of industry.  The main character comes from the 12th district - Appalachia - known for its coal mining. There is a 13th district that was torn apart and literally wiped off the map by the Capitol due to a rebellion - it no longer has residents or industry and exists in name only, literally. The story takes place sometime in the futur…

Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mantel

Ms. St. John Mantel's first novel is about Lilia Albert. At seven, Lilia Albert is visted by her father, a man that she hasn't seen in about one year, and taken by him from her rural Canadian home in the middle of the night. As a result, she never sees her mother or brother, with whom she already lives, again. Instead her father, who has his own money, moves her from one American city to another, sometimes not spending more than a few hours or a night in one place. Along the way, he provides for Lilia's education - she mostly learns languages while he's driving, upon which she is quizzed later on.

At the beginning of the novel, though, we know none of this. We meet Lilia as a twenty something dishwasher who is living in New York City - Brooklyn to be exact - and she is dating a young graduated student named Eli. Eli is in love with her so when Lilia leaves him somewhat unceremoniously as only she can, his spirit is utterly ravaged and he is left devastated. As Eli be…

Scout, Atticus and Boo by Mary McDonagh Murphy

I remember reading To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee for the first time in ninth grade Honors English class. It was one of the few books where our English teachers also showed us the move, which is also one of my favorite movies. I liked it then and I liked it now, albeit for different reasons.  For me, Atticus was the main figure, where for others it may have been Scout or Boo Radley.

Anyways, this book by Mary Murphy is based upon a video documentary that she is working on, in book form. The first of two sections is written aby Murphy's own personal experiences with the book. She discusses her feelings, thoughts and reactions to the book version and the movie version and why she was inspired to compose her own documentary and accompanying book. The second section is composed of essays written by famous people, including Oprah Winfrey, Tom Brokaw and Mary Badham (who played Scout in the movie) and which includes their own impressions of the book.

I generally enjoyed the first se…