Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday- Books to Re-read

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This meme was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

Each week we will post a new Top Ten list complete with one of our bloggers’ answers. Everyone is welcome to join. All we ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND post a comment on our post with a link to your Top Ten Tuesday post to share with us and all those who are participating. If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment.
If you can't come up with ten, don't worry about it---post as many as you can!
This week's topic:
Top Ten Books I want to Reread

1. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling- I've lost count how many times I have read this series, but it's never enough times to get tired of it. This is one of my two favorite series.

2. The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien- Did you guess that this is my other favorite series? Then you guessed right! I love the imagery, imagination, and action of the LOTR series.

3. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky- I first read Crime and Punishment in high school. From that point on, I was hooked on 19th Century Russian literature... which is why I took a class in college on the Masterpieces of 19th Century Russian literature. It was my favorite class during my undergraduate career, and I am not a literature/english major. And my love affair with Russian lit all started in high school with Crime and Punsihment. Every time I read it, I find some new way to look at Raskolnikov or discover a new aspect to the story. It's wonderful!

4. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell- I first read this in this past December. It now competes with Crime and Punishment as my favorite book and I definitely want to reread it soon.

5. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton- This is a beautifully written and tragic book that I fell in love with in high school and continue to read it every couple of years.

6. Little Women by Loisa May Alcott- I read this back in elementary school. I remember liking it but thinking it was a little boring. I've been feeling a strong urge recently to read it again and see what my adult self thinks of it.

7. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy- I read this during my Masterpieces of 19th Century Russian Literature course as well. It's a wonderful book and I highly recommend Tolstoy.

8. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy- I read this back in high school but I would love to read it again since I now have a much larger Russian history/fiction background to compare it to. I think I would get more from it than when I read it the first time.

9. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand- This is one of those books that people either love or hate. They may love or hate it because of its political stance or large size. I love it for both! I've read it twice now, once in high school and once rather recently, but I could always get right back into it again. Maybe I'll read it next year as we gear up for the Presidential elections, that seems a little fitting since we need to pick a great leader.

10. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot- I think this is a wonderfully written piece of work about the true story of Henrietta Lacks and her legacy to science. Since I am in the scientific, and soon to be, healthcare field, it's also a great cautionary tale about the importance of patient rights and privacy. I think it's something that anyone in the science field should read and be reminded about.

Let me know what you're 10 ten rereads are!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Book Review: Reign of Madness by Lynn Cullen

  • Reign of Madness

  • By: Lynn Cullen

  • Pub. Date: August 2011

  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)

  • Format: Hardcover , 400pp

  • ISBN-13: 9780399157097

  • ISBN: 0399157093

  • Source: Library

  • Synopsis:

    Juana of Castile, third child of the Spanish monarchs Isabel and Fernando, grows up with no hope of inheriting her parents' crowns, but as a princess knows her duty: to further her family's ambitions through marriage. Yet stories of courtly love, and of her parents' own legendary romance, surround her. When she weds the Duke of Burgundy, a young man so beautiful that he is known as Philippe the Handsome, she dares to hope that she might have both love and crowns. He is caring, charming, and attracted to her-seemingly a perfect husband.

    But what begins like a fairy tale ends quite differently.

    When Queen Isabel dies, the crowns of Spain unexpectedly pass down to Juana, leaving her husband and her father hungering for the throne. Rumors fly that the young Queen has gone mad, driven insane by possessiveness. Who is to be believed? The King, beloved by his subjects? Or the Queen, unseen and unknown by her people?

    One of the greatest cautionary tales in Spanish history comes to life as Lynn Cullen explores the controversial reign of Juana of Castile-also known as Juana the Mad. Sweeping, page-turning, and wholly entertaining, Reign of Madness is historical fiction at its richly satisfying best.

    My Review:

    Reign of Madness is an historical fiction book chronicling Juana of Castile's life. Juana was the third child of Ferdinand and Isabel, rulers of Spain. Juana had no hope of ever becoming Queen but she let her parents sends her off to the Netherlands to be married to Philippe the Handsome.

    At first, Juana is taken away by her new husband. He is caring and loving... and handsome. Over time, though, he begins to change. Neither Philippe or Juana originally wanted power but Philippe seems to be persuaded by his grandmother to begin to seek the throne back in Spain.

    Juana grows more distant to her husband as he becomes more power hungry. Eventually, after some family misfortunes and misunderstandings, Juana is in a place to take her mother's throne. However, Philippe does not want to be a consort King, so he arranges for Juana to appear crazy to the public. Juana becomes a pawn to her husband, father, and son, as they all want her power. Meanwhile, Juana is locked up waiting for her adolescent love to save her, Diego, son of Christopher Columbus.

    Juana's story is, without a doubt, interesting and has the right amounts of green and corruption. However, many times I was just bored or confused.

    Juana's relationship to her mother is like that of a modern adolescent, not a girl raised to become at all powerful in her own right, like her mother did. I kept waiting for Juana to grow up and drop the petty drama.

    As for being bored, Christopher Columbus enters the story several times with his exploits to the Americas. I'm not sure why he was included though. My guess is that his presence adds some historical context that everyone knows about, but he isn't relevant to Juana's story and just served to distract the reader. Even her relationship to his son, Diego, was a little boring. There were just small moments when they stood and talked to each other and then nothing came of it. Boring and unnecessary.

    Also, as Juana's relationship to her husband changed, her feelings and knowledge of what was going on seemed to be only superficially explained. I kept wanting more. I wanted to know how Juana did not guess what her husband was doing to her sooner, especially since the reader could guess right away. There was a lot of foreshadowing throughout the novel, so I knew all of what was going to happen long before it did.

    I normally love historical fiction for the richness of detail and learning about important figures. I think Reign of Madness lacked a lot in the details that makes historical fiction so enchanting and escapist. I never really felt myself pulled into Juana's world. I did learn more about Juana the Mad/of Castile, but I'm sure I still have a long way to go before I feel like I knew her.

    Overall, it was an okay/good read but not great. I guess it's a good introductory story to one theory on the life of Juana the Mad.

    My Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

    Sunday, September 18, 2011

    Book Review: The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

  • The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

  • By: Stieg Larsson

  • Pub. Date: November 2010

  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

  • Format: Hardcover, 563 pages 

  • Series: Millennium Trilogy Series

  • ISBN-13: 9780307595577

  • ISBN: 0307595579

  • Source: Personal Copy

  • Synopsis:

    This novel not only puts the cap on the most eagerly read trilogy in years; the sequel to The Girl Who Played With Fire marks the completion of its Swedish author's career; Stieg Larsson died at the age of fifty in 2004. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is, however, too exciting and too adept to be read simply as a major author's memorial. From its onset, with "avenging angel" protagonist Lisbeth Salander lying in intensive care, this fiction pulses forward. One British critic called it "intricately plotted, lavishly detailed but written with a breakneck pace and verve...a tantalizing double finale;first idyllic, then frenetic."

    My Review:

    I can't decide if I like The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo more from Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy. They were two different novels. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo had more action and suspense whereas The Girl who kicked the Hornet's Nest was more political intrigue and character-focused. The middle book, The Girl who Played with Fire, was a good book but really just set everything up for the third installment.

    In The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, we find Lisbeth Salander, an anti-social girl with a horrible past that is coming back to haunt her, is in the hospital in critical condition- she's suffering from three gun shot wounds, one to her head. While Salander is locked in her hospital room, government and law enforcement officials and the media are scrambling to discover the truth about Salander. The people from Salander's past, meanwhile, are busy covering everything up... again.

    Mikael Blomkvist, a top journalist and one of Salander's few friends, does everything he can to learn more about Salander and help her out- including figuring out how to get Salander to be able to help herself even while she's in a locked and guarded room.

    One thing I loved most about The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest was the political intrigue. It was very interesting to learn more about the structure of the Swedish government. One aspect that I noted about my reaction to the political corruption though, was that because this was happening in a foreign country that I'm not familiar with, it was kind of like reading a fantasy book. Things can happen in fantasy but not in books about our real lives because as readers, we're a step removed from the location, and therefore the characters. I think if The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest took place in the U.S., or even a country that I know more about, I would have had a stronger reaction to Lisbeth's treatment because that would have meant that it could happen here... not just in a place that I will probably never visit. (I hope my connection to the fantasy genre and my reaction analysis made sense. I'm not sure if I explained myself well enough though).  However, regardless of where this took place, I was intrigued by the government/police scandals and investigations.

    Another aspect that I liked from this book was that we learned a lot more about Lisbeth Salander. The reader learns all about her childhood and why she behaves the way she does and why she makes some of the decisions that she does.

    On the other hand, while we learn a lot about Salander's past, she doesn't do much in her present. True, she is recovering from severe wounds, but I kept expecting her to get better, leave the hospital, and take things into her own hands... which happens, but not until about the last 50 pages of the book. Before then, it's Blomkvist who does all the running around and work to save Salander. Since the titles are based on Salander's character, I wanted her to do more, and yes, she is very interesting, but I do think that Blomkvist is the main character of the series (and especially thing final book), not Salander.

    Overall, I really enjoyed this book... enough that I stayed up reading it last night and only got 5 hours of sleep. I would change a few things but I do recommend it.

    My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

    Wednesday, September 14, 2011

    Book Review: The Girl who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

  • The Girl who Played with Fire

  • By: Stieg Larsson

  • Pub. Date: November 2010

  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

  • Format: Hardcover, 503 pages 

  • Series: Millennium Trilogy Series

  • ISBN-13: 9780307595577

  • ISBN: 0307595579

  • Source: Personal Copy

  • Synopsis:

    Part blistering espionage thriller, part riveting police procedural, and part piercing exposeé on social injustice, The Girl Who Played with Fire is a masterful, endlessly satisfying novel. Mikael Blomkvist, crusading publisher of the magazine Millennium, has decided to run a story that will expose an extensive sex trafficking operation. On the eve of its publication, the two reporters responsible for the article are murdered, and the fingerprints found on the murder weapon belong to his friend, the troubled genius hacker Lisbeth Salander. Blomkvist, convinced of Salander's innocence, plunges into an investigation. Meanwhile, Salander herself is drawn into a murderous game of cat and mouse, which forces her to face her dark past.

    My Review:

    Blomkvist returns from Hedstad, where he spent most of the first book in this series, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (which I reviewed here), and tries to return to his normal life as a journalist at a small but mighty monthly journal. However, he can't find the girl he worked with in Hedstad, Lisbeth Salander.

    Salander has left the country, and especially Blomkvist. The point of her trip surprised me buts I guess it made her seem more like a real person who maybe didn't want to stay as anti-social as she had been before. The rest of her adventure out of the country was interesting, but did not play a role in the main action of the book.

    Blomkvist begins working with an investigative journalist who is writing a piece on the sex trade in Sweden. Right before Blomkvist's journal is ready to publish the piece, the journalist and his girlfriend are murdered and Salander becomes the prime suspect.

    Media chaos ensues. The media circus surrounding the murders and search for Salander sounded like what could, and probably does, happen here in America. The media takes little bits given from the police and jumps to conclusions and sensationalizes the 'facts' based on little evidence.

    Blomkvist, while still grieving for his lost friends and scrambling to change the journal issue before going for publication, becomes convinced that Salander is innocent and begins his search for her. Salander is incredibly difficult to track. Along the way, we learn more about Lisbeth's past.

    I found the beginning of The Girl who Played with Fire to be really slow and many things to be rather irrelevant to the plot. However, the second half of the book was exciting and suspenseful. I recommend this book for a very good story, as long as you are willing to drag through some of the slower parts. Plus, the book ends right in the middle of action which makes you want to start the third book right away. I don't know if that is a good thing or a bad thing, but it certainly creates a lot of suspense!

    My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

    Tuesday, September 13, 2011

    Library Visit

    Have I ever said how much I love the library system in Pittsburgh, PA?

    I LOVE to buy books! I love to gaze at my book shelves and ponder all the beautiful stories contained within their covers. But I don't have unlimited resources, either in money or space. Therefore, I've increased my borrowing habits from the library.

    I use to live in Oakland, the neighborhood in Pittsburgh where the University of Pittsburgh is located. Oakland is also home of the main library for Pittsburgh. It's a massive, beautiful building that is also connected to the Pittsburgh Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Art.

    Since I've graduated, my husband and I have moved out of Oakland but still live in Pittsburgh. There is a very small branch just up the hill from where we live now. It may be up a steep hill and it may be closed two days a week, but the service is just as great. I requested two books online mid-day last Friday. The library was closed Sunday and Monday and my books were still in bright and early this morning!

    While I was in there, I glanced at the display of new books and there was another book I wanted to read! Even at the little branch campus!

    The books I picked up today are:

    The Friday Night Knitting Club by Katie Jacobs
    Blood, Bones, & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
    Reign of Madness by Lynn Cullen

    Any suggestions on which book I should start first?

    Book Review: Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

  • Sarah's Key

  • By: Tatiana de Rosnay

  • Pub. Date: September 2008

  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press

  • Format: Paperback , 320pp  

  • ISBN-13: 9780312370848

  • ISBN: 0312370849

  • Source: Library copy

  • Synopsis:

    A New York Times bestseller. Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family's apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours.
    Paris, May 2002: On Vel’ d’Hiv’s 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France's past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl's ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d'Hiv', to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah's past, she begins to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life.
    Tatiana de Rosnay offers us a brilliantly subtle, compelling portrait of France under occupation and reveals the taboos and silence that surround this painful episode.

    My Review:

    I had to stay up late last night in order to finish this book. I was so drawn into the story that I knew there was no way I could fall asleep before finding out how it all ended. I was also so uncomfortable almost the whole time through Sarah's Key.

    There are two plot lines running throughout the novel and both were sad and tragic. I wanted to know more (mostly, I wanted to know how it would end for the characters) while I also didn't want to read anymore because the characters were in such terrible positions.
    Sarah, a young Jewish girl in Paris of 1942 is torn from her home, along with her family and Jewish neighbors, in the middle of the night by the French police. In what become known as the Vel' d'Hiv', Sarah and the others Jews were placed in a large building for days without any sanitary precautions and extremely little food. They are not told what will happen to them. During the raid, Sarah hid her younger brother in a small, locked cabinet in their apartment since she assumed they'd be home soon. Grief and disbelief struck her when she realized she was not going home and her brother was locked in a cabinet, and that she and her parents were going to be led to their deaths by the hands of her fellow Frenchmen.

    Julie Jarmond, an American, is married to a Parisian man and has a daughter in Paris 2002. She loves Paris but lately she feels distant from her husband and Parisian life. As a journalist, she begins investigating the Vel' d'Hiv'. As her investigation deepens, she finds a connection between her and Sarah, leading to a wild goose chase for her Sarah.

    I was horrified by Sarah's story. I had never heard of the events of the Vel' d'Hiv' or the actions of the French against the Jews in their own country. Sarah's story was incredibly tragic. Julie's story, though, also made me uncomfortable and sad. Along the way, she discovers that she is pregnant and expects her husband to be happy... he is not. He is going through a mid-life crisis and wants her to get an abortion. Julie's situation, while not a matter of life and death over a whole group of people, still deals with the possible death of her unborn baby or the death of her marriage. I could not imagine ever needing to make that choice.

    Sarah's Key is enthralling and tragic, poignant and grievous. I recommend it for those ready to deal with many emotions while reading it. It's a quick read, but it definitely drained me emotionally.

    My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

    Monday, September 12, 2011

    Book Review: Eromenos by Melanie McDonald

  • Eromenos

  • By: Melanie McDonald

  • Pub. Date: March 2011

  • Publisher: Seriously Good Books LLC

  • Format: Paperback , 176pp  

  • ISBN-13: 9780983155409

  • ISBN: 0983155402

  • Source: Received through Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

  • Synopsis:
    Eros and Thanatos converge in the story of a glorious youth, an untimely death, and an imperial love affair that gives rise to the last pagan god of antiquity. In this coming-of-age novel set in the second century AD, Antinous of Bithynia, a Greek youth from Asia Minor, recounts his seven-year affair with Hadrian, fourteenth emperor of Rome. In a partnership more intimate than Hadrian's sanctioned political marriage to Sabina, Antinous captivates the most powerful ruler on earth both in life and after death.
    This version of the affair between the emperor and his beloved ephebe vindicates the youth scorned by early Christian church fathers as a "shameless and scandalous boy" and "sordid and loathsome instrument of his master's lust." EROMENOS envisions the personal history of the young man who achieved apotheosis as a pagan god of antiquity, whose cult of worship lasted for hundreds of years—far longer than the cult of the emperor Hadrian.
    In EROMENOS, the young man Antinous, whose beautiful image still may be found in works of art in museums around the world, finds a voice of his own at last.

    My Review:
    Though slim, this novel is surprisingly thorough in the story of Antinous. Set in the second century A.D., Eromenos recounts Antinous' short life from a young boy living in rural Bithynia to his untimely death.

    I loved the richness of the details in this book right from the beginning. Eromenos describes all of the scenery of Antinous' home and travels. I knew very little about this time period or Hadrian's rule. However, without knowing much beforehand, I fell into the story and felt like I knew Antinous personally.
    Antinous meets Emperor Hadrian on one of Hadrian's tours through his empire. Shortly thereafter, Antinous is invited to study at Hadrian's school in Rome. Antinous excells in his studies, causing Hadrian to notice him once again. As Antinous deals with the social stratification that exists within Rome and especially Hadrian's court, Hadrian begins to pay more attention to Antinous. Antinous learns that Hadrian's current favorite young boy is getting too old to be considered a favorite anymore.

    After some time, Hadrian invites Antinous on a trip. Antinous learns on that trip what it means to be one of Hadrian's eromenos. From then on Antinous works to figure out what his role is in Hadrian's court. He doesn't want to abuse any power he may be given and he works to stay as Hadrian's favorite while maintaining his own self-respect
    When Antinous starts to grow too old to stay in the same position in Hadrian's court, he must decide what the rest of his life will be like. How will he take care of himself and who will stay on his side. Antinous' decision is poignant and beautifully written.
    While I highly enjoyed Eromenos, I want to know more about the people surrounding Antinous, especially Hadrian. The story is told only through Antinous, who has to spend most of the time figuring out life at court by himself. I want the whole story and what the other characters thought and how they viewed Antinous. Therefore, I enjoyed this novel as a microcosm on Antinous' life but it did leave me wanting more because I felt there was more to the story.

    My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

    I received one copy of Eromenos for free to review. This did not affect my review in any way and I did not receive any other compensation for my review.

    To see the other reviews on tour, go here
    Melanie McDonald's website
    Twitter Event Hashtag = #EromenosVirtualBookTour
    Facebook page

    Friday, September 9, 2011

    Book Review: Claude & Camille by Stephanie Cowell

  • Claude & Camille

  • By: Stephanie Cowell

  • Pub. Date: April 2011

  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group

  • Format: Paperback, 330pp  

  • ISBN-13: 9780307463227

  • ISBN: 0307463222

  • Source: Library copy

  • Synopsis:

    Sometimes he dreamt he held her; that he would turn in bed and she would be there. But she was gone and he was old. Nearly seventy. Only cool paint met his fingers. “Ma très chère . . .” Darkness started to fall, dimming the paintings. He felt the crumpled letter in his pocket. “I loved you so,” he said. “I never would have had it turn out as it did. You were with all of us when we began, you gave us courage. These gardens at Giverny are for you but I’m old and you’re forever young and will never see them. . . .”

    In the mid-nineteenth century, a young man named Claude Monet decided that he would rather endure a difficult life painting landscapes than take over his father’s nautical supplies business in a French seaside town. Against his father’s will, and with nothing but a dream and an insatiable urge to create a new style of art that repudiated the Classical Realism of the time, he set off for Paris.

    But once there he is confronted with obstacles: an art world that refused to validate his style, extreme poverty, and a war that led him away from his home and friends. But there were bright spots as well: his deep, enduring friendships with men named Renoir, Cézanne, Pissarro, Manet – a group that together would come to be known as the Impressionists, and that supported each other through the difficult years. But even more illuminating was his lifelong love, Camille Doncieux, a beautiful, upper-class Parisian girl who threw away her privileged life to be by the side of the defiant painter and embrace the lively Bohemian life of their time.

    His muse, his best friend, his passionate lover, and the mother to his two children, Camille stayed with Monet—and believed in his work—even as they lived in wretched rooms, were sometimes kicked out of those, and often suffered the indignities of destitution. She comforted him during his frequent emotional torments, even when he would leave her for long periods to go off on his own to paint in the countryside.

    But Camille had her own demons – secrets that Monet could never penetrate, including one that when eventually revealed would pain him so deeply that he would never fully recover from its impact. For though Camille never once stopped loving the painter with her entire being, she was not immune to the loneliness that often came with being his partner.

    A vividly-rendered portrait of both the rise of Impressionism and of the artist at the center of the movement, Claude and Camille is above all a love story of the highest romantic order. (Image and synopsis from goodreads.com)

    My Review:

    Claude & Camille is the story of young Claude Monet, the famous impressionist painter. First, I'd like to say that while I would not consider myself that knowledgeable about art, Monet is my favorite artist and Impressionism my favorite style. I love the Impressionist gallery in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

    Monet, along with his friends Bazille, Renoir, Degas, Manet, Pissarro, and Cezanne, are poor starving artists. They believe in their artistic vision even though no one else is the least bit interested in their work. They are considered too modern and are often turned down at the yearly Salon art exhibit in Paris. Many of them have left their families and potentially stable futures in pursuit of the ever unstable world of art.

    Along the way, Claude Monet meets Camille Doncieux, a privileged girl already expecting a proposal from a  well-to do gentleman. Claude and Camille throw caution to the wind and fall in love with each other and move in together. This book shows their relationship and how two people who truly care for each other can still go through both good times and bad times. Their bad times are often compounded by their continual lack of money, Claude's artistic depressive episodes, and Camille's manic-depressive disorder (although never diagnosed, this book makes it clear that she has MDD).

    I think Cowell's best aspect in this book was accurately portraying life. As I've grown up, I've realized that life is not easy and there will always be hard times and hard decisions but there will also be good times that make life worth living. Cowell portrays that through Claude and Camille. They have their own very hard times and they make mistakes but they also have their great times in life. They also have their days where they are just living and going through life.

    I enjoyed all the aspects of Money's life and I particularly enjoyed learning more about my favorite artist. I hadn't realized how close he had been to his fellow contemporary artists. It was fun to see all of them interact and grow up.

    My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

    Friday, September 2, 2011

    Book Review: Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch

  • Tolstoy and the Purple Chair

  • By: Nina Sankovitch

  • Pub. Date: June 2011

  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

  • Format: Hardcover , 256pp  

  • ISBN-13: 9780061999840

  • ISBN: 0061999849

  • Source: Borrowed from the library

  • Synopsis:

    Nina Sankovitch has always been a reader. As a child, she discovered that a trip to the local bookmobile with her sisters was more exhilarating than a ride at the carnival. Books were the glue that held her immigrant family together. When Nina's eldest sister died at the age of forty-six, Nina turned to books for comfort, escape, and introspection. In her beloved purple chair, she rediscovered the magic of such writers as Toni Morrison, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ian McEwan, Edith Wharton, and, of course, Leo Tolstoy. Through the connections Nina made with books and authors (and even other readers), her life changed profoundly, and in unexpected ways. Reading, it turns out, can be the ultimate therapy.

    Tolstoy and the Purple Chair also tells the story of the Sankovitch family: Nina's father, who barely escaped death in Belarus during World War II; her four rambunctious children, who offer up their own book recommendations while helping out with the cooking and cleaning; and Anne-Marie, her oldest sister and idol, with whom Nina shared the pleasure of books, even in her last moments of life. In our lightning-paced culture that encourages us to seek more, bigger, and better things, Nina's daring journey shows how we can deepen the quality of our everyday lives—if we only find the time.

    My Review:

    Nina Sankovitch's Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is a wonderful memoir on her year of reading one book every day for a year. Following the death of her sister, Nina felt her life becoming a downward spiral as she tried to cram everything in to live for both herself and her sister. She tried giving everything that she could to support all of her family around her but it was too much.

    Finally, she realized that she needed to slow down and give herself time to reflect and accept life as it is... leading her to start her mission of making reading book her work for a year. With a lot of planning and support from her family, Nina did just that and a lot more on the way.

    Blending her love of books with her own life's journey, Nina's story is a great reminder that life is both great and terrible and sometimes you just need to stop, calm down, and reflect on it all. I loved how Nina brought in the stories that she was reading and specific quotes that she found inspiring. I especially liked the final chapter where she relates her year's journey to her father's time off in life and how important the past year had been to her.

    Tolstoy and the Purple Chair has completely reaffirmed my love of books and the importance that I place on them. I also made a list of books that I want to read now because of how they were described in Purple Chair. I found Nina's story to be very relatable and I hope that when tragedy and grief strike my family, which is inevitable at some point, that I remember her story and find my own comfort from the pages of beloved books.

    My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

    Want to learn more? Check out Nina Sankovitch's website!

    Book Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo by Stieg Larsson

  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

  • By: Stieg Larsson

  • Pub. Date: November 2010

  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

  • Format: Hardcover, 465 pages 

  • Series: Millennium Trilogy Series

  • ISBN-13: 9780307595577

  • ISBN: 0307595579

  • Source: Personal Copy

  • Synopsis:

    Once you start The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, there's no turning back. This debut thriller--the first in a trilogy from the late Stieg Larsson--is a serious page-turner rivaling the best of Charlie Huston and Michael Connelly. Mikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, watches his professional life rapidly crumble around him. Prospects appear bleak until an unexpected (and unsettling) offer to resurrect his name is extended by an old-school titan of Swedish industry. The catch--and there's always a catch--is that Blomkvist must first spend a year researching a mysterious disappearance that has remained unsolved for nearly four decades. With few other options, he accepts and enlists the help of investigator Lisbeth Salander, a misunderstood genius with a cache of authority issues. Little is as it seems in Larsson's novel, but there is at least one constant: you really don't want to mess with the girl with the dragon tattoo.

    My Review:

    Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a thrilling novel set in Sweden (it is a Swedish book that has been translated into English). The original title of the book was Men Who Hate Women. In many ways I like the original title a lot more because it makes a lot of the points in the book even stronger. There are many instances of violence and force used against women throughout the novel, including Swedish crime statistics of violence against women that are found in the beginning of every chapter. However, the new title definitely fits in better with the series as a whole.

    The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is about a disgraced journalist who ends up leaving Stockholm for a remote area of Sweden to write a biography of and investigate the family of Henrik Vanger. Vanger is the head of a once very prominent business family. Although their business is now slowing down they still remain a large corporation. As Blomkvist, the journalist, begins the biography he slowly learns more about an unsolved mystery in the family.

    Ultimately, Blomkvist needs more help, which leads him to bring in Lisbeth Salander, the girl with the dragon tattoo.  As they unfurl the family mystery, danger creeps closer to them.

    Stieg Larsson is an excellent story-teller. I was entertained the whole time, even if I was also disturbed by the actions of some of the characters. I still always wanted to know more. I look forward to the second installment in the trilogy, The Girl who Played with Fire.

    My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars