Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: The Trailer

Jonathan Safran Foer is really good at writing books people want to turn into movies. I didn't ever see Everything is Illuminated, but I did read it and liked it well enough. This next one though, I'm going to see for sure. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is in my top three of all-time favorite books and while I know the movie can't live up to the book's magic, I do hope it comes close. 


Banned Books Week and Some of My Favorite Banned Books

This week is Banned Books Week; a week that celebrates our freedom to read and began in 1982 in response to an increase in challenges to books across America's libraries, schools and bookstores. Everything from contemporary literature to the classics have been challenged, namely for exploring controversial topics.

In honor of banned books week, I have created a list of my favorite books that were banned or challenged in 2010/2011. Click here to see the full list of books banned in 2010/2011.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close/ Jonathan Safran Foer: This was my favorite read of 2010. It's a book about making sense of the world around you, coping with loss, and learning how to live. Banned because of it's "profanity, sex and descriptions of violence."

The Diary of a Young Girl/Anne Frank: I've read this one twice, once when I was a young girl and again in college. This is probably the most important diary to ever be published and was challenged because of "sexual material and homosexual themes."

Water for Elephants/Sarah Gruen: Gruen's story emphasizes the importance of empathy and understanding, toward both people and animals. It was banned because of "the novel's sexual content."

The Awakening/Kate Chopin: It's actually really sad to see this one banned this year. Published in 1899, this book emphasizes a departure from the typical 1890's family structure and celebrates a woman's desire for independence. Banned because the cover shows a picture of "a woman's bare chest."

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time/Mark Haddon: This is another one of my very favorite books, told from the pov of an autistic child, I think the novel promotes tolerance and understand of those with disabilities. Banned because of "foul language."

The best way to celebrate Banned Books Week is to read a banned book!

Other banned books I have reviewed:
Slaughterhouse-Five/Kurt Vonnegut


A few more birthday presents

I had my last of three parties last weekend for my birthday and lo and behold, I got two more books! Two more books that I am really excited about:

The Night Circus/Erin Morgenstern
The Art of Fielding/Chad Harbach

Thank you to my wonderful sister and her generous family. While we are on the subject of my sister, I have to show you the AMAZING birthday cake she made for me. A birthday cake to top all birthday cakes... the RAINBOW CAKE.

Butter cream frosting and six colorful layers, this is by far the best birthday cake I've ever had. Not only did it look awesome, but it was quite tasty. I'm thinking my sister is proooobably way cooler than your sister.

Anyway, the birthday is officially over and I've received so many good books to read I really don't need any new ones for quite awhile. Really.


The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

"Can you imagine how fine a drink the black ichor that collects in leaden coffins can be?"

As far books go, this one was a gem. I've had my eye on it since this time last year, when many bloggers were reading it for RIP. Then I received it as a birthday gift from my generous friend Ben and couldn't wait to read it. The Graveyard Book sucked me in immediately; set in a delightfully macabre atmosphere we follow Nobody Owens, Bod for short, a human boy raised by ghosts in a graveyard. Bod is taught all of the things that the dead know and learns how to move around the graveyard just as a ghost does. He is granted freedom of the graveyard, visits the world of the ghouls, and befriends a dead witch who lives on unconsecrated ground.

The story is a coming of age novel related in a unique and compelling way. Though the book incorporates the fantastical; ghouls and ghosts, mist walkers and high hunters, it also works didactically, highlighting the importance of seeing the world and living a fulfilled life. All in all, it turned out to be a really fun read, especially for this time of year. It was straightforward without feeling simple; fanciful without feeling contrived.

In Gaiman's acknowledgments that follow the novel, I found a particularly interesting tidbit: "Artist and author Audrey Niffenegger is also a graveyard guide, and she showed me around the ivy-colored marvel that is Highgate Cemetery West. A lot of what she told me crept into Chapters Seven and Eight." If you have read Her Fearful Symmetry, you know how vast and intriguing Niffenegger's descriptions of cemeteries can be. Even though the two novels are very different, I couldn't help but smile after learning each were influenced by the famed Highgate Cemetery.

Publisher: Harper Collins, 2008


Books I Feel Like Everyone Has Read Besides Me

Let's be honest, there are more than ten books I feel like almost everyone has read besides me. Those I-never-had-to-read-that-in-school so I never got around to picking it up, and the hyped books that I typically don't succumb to. Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.

1. The Help/Katheryn Stockett: Since the movie has come out, I feel like the last person who hasn't read this.

2. The Lord of the Rings/JRR Tolkien: The movie ruined me from ever wanting to read the book.

3. One Hundred Years of Solitude/Gabriel Garcia Marquez: I've had this one sitting on my TBR for over two years, I just haven't picked it up yet. After I finish it, someday, I'm sure I will kick myself for waiting so long to read it.

4. The Kite Runner/Khaled Hosseini: I actually am interested to read this one, just haven't ever picked it up at a bookstore.

5. The Hunger Games/Suzanne Collins: I've heard really good things about this series and I'm hoping to read it sooner than later.

6.Atlas Shrugged/ Ayn Rand: Honestly I simply have no interest for this book, no matter how many people tell me I have to read it.

7. Freedom/Jonathan Franzen: This one got a ton of hype last year, but I didn't succumb. Maybe someday.

8. Tinkers/Paul Harding: Everyone scrambled for this one after it won the Pulitzer in 2010.

9. Little Bee/Chris Cleave: Another one that I'm interested it but never picked up.

10. Never Let Me Go/Kazou Ishiguro: I have The Remains of the Day sitting on my TBR and I want to read that before I pick up any of his later works.
photo via Book Lover


Thoughts on The Marriage Plot

I was pretty excited about this one. I don't think I have been this excited about a book since I was 13 and the second Harry Potter book was published and I know that many of you share my enthusiasm for this one.

In lieu of a traditional review that will be posted the week of October 11th, I wanted to share a few non-spoiler thoughts on Eugenides' latest novel, The Marriage Plot.
  • This novel was everything I hoped it would be and reminded me why I love reading so much.
  • Whenever I read Eudenides I have an urge to cancel all plans so I can stay at home and read all day; he has got a serious gift for sucking me into his plots.
  • There are many passages throughout the novel that I underlined thinking to myself, "exactly!"
  • I hope it doesn't take another 10 years for Eugenides to write another book.
  • It would be interesting if Cal Stephanides met Leonard Bankhead.
  • The ending of this book is probably the most satisfying ending I've read all year.

A big thanks to Melissa Rochelle from Life:Merging who sent me her ARC. You can preorder The Marriage Plot, or go buy it October 11th.


Birthday Books!

Remember last week when I created this list of books I would like for my birthday? Well, the big day has came and went and I'm happy to say I received a few of them! A big thanks to my mom and my friend Ben, for their generosity. You guys are the best!

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Windows on the World by Frederic Beigbeder
The Submission by Amy Waldman
In The Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

I'm so excited about all the great new books on my TBR pile. I'm thinking it will be awhile before I have the need to buy more books. Seriously.


Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris: Audiobook

I won this audiobook in a giveaway over at The Avid Reader's Musings a month or so ago. I normally don't buy myself audiobooks unless I am going on a long, solo road trip, so this was a treat for me and it certainly made my drive to and from work more enjoyable.

Classified as a collection of "fables," Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk features absurd and clever short stories that include an array of animals that each offers a moral of sorts, emphasis on "of sorts". He highlights the amoral behavior of the animals to allow the reader to consider their own morality, or lack there of. I've heard that David Sedaris is a fantastic narrator to his audio books, and this held true throughout Suqirrel Seeks Chipmunk. However, to my disappointment there were only a handful of stories that were narrated by Sedaris. Of course some stories are more obscene and more entertaining than others, but I especially enjoyed the chapters that Sedaris narrates himself.

This is my second Sedaris, and I have to say I enjoyed Me Talk Pretty One Day over this one, though it's hard to compare the two because they are so different. But, if you do get a chance to listen to this one on audio I wouldn't pass it up. It's definitely one-of-a-kind. I enjoyed this one more on audio than I think I would have had if I read the print version, simply because Sedaris' narration adds a lot to the stories.

Publisher: Little, Brown, 2010


New Goods

I swung by the Half Price Books Labor Day Sale on Monday and picked up a few titles that will help satisfy some fall reading.

The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson (1952): "An underground classic since its publication, The Killer Inside Me is the book that made Jim Thompson's name synonymous with the roman noir."

We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families by Philip Gourevitch(1998): "Philip Gourevitch's haunting work is an anatomy of the war in Rwanda, a vivid history of the tragedy's background, and an unforgettable account of its aftermath. One of the most acclaimed books of the year, this account will endure as a chilling document of our time."

The Collector by John Fowles (1963): "Hailed as the first modern psychological thriller. The Collector is the internationally bestselling novel that captured John Fowles into the front rank of contemporary novelist. This tale of obsessive love- the story of a lonely clerk who collects butterflies and of the beautiful young art student who is his ultimate quarry- remains unparalleled in it's power to startle and mesmerize."

Total: $12.99


The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

Sisters can be great. I've got one and she's one of my favorite people; generous, understanding and exceedingly caring. One of the reasons I picked up The Weird Sisters is because I'm always interested in further understanding the special relationship that exists between sisters. Then I read about all the Shakespeare references the novel included and I didn't think I would be disappointed. Unfortunately, I was wrong. This book didn't do it for me, for a few reasons. Most importantly, I wasn't invested or engaged. Almost every time I picked up the book, it was with the intention to finish it, not to enjoy it. I felt disconnected from the characters and their struggles. I thought there would be more Shakespearean allusions, but it seemed Brown just threw in quotes that worked within the story line, but didn't add anything to it. I suppose the plot was decent enough since I finished the book instead of abandoning it completely, but, to be honest I wasn't even happy I finished it because the ending wrapped up much too neatly for my taste.

Secondly, the first person plural point of view just did not work. I'm not against it if done correctly (ie Then We Came to the End) but there were too many instances where Brown's sentences made me cringe. It's hard to join the collective "we" with an individual third person who also belongs in the first person plural in a way that works. There were many instances when the voice felt odd and it threw off the consistency and overall flow of the novel. Overall, a disappointing read. I'd skip it.

Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books, 2011


Fah La La La La, La La La La

Christmas came early, you guys. All thanks to the lovely librarian Melissa Rochelle over at Life:Merging. I could not be more excited. I'll be finishing up The Weird Sisters today and moving right into this.

Books I Would Like for My Birthday

My birthday is one week from today and I created a small wishlist of books that I'd love to get for my birthday. Even if it's just one or two, I'd still be happy :)

1. The Illumination by Kevin Brockmeier: This novel has been praised for it's use of artistry and imagination and I've wanted to read it since March.

2. Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine: A look at the "delusions" concerning gender differences.

3. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaimen: I've had this one on my TBR since last year and I still haven't found it. I think it would be great for the RIP challenge.

4. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: This one actually comes out on my birthday so most likely I'll end up buying it afterwards, but I can't help but put it on this list.

5. In The Garden of Beasts by Eric Larson: Narrative non-fiction that takes place during WWII - I've heard many great things about this book.

6. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach: Everyone is talking about this debut novel and I'm interested to check it out.

7. The Submission by Amy Waldman: "Ten years after 9/11, a dazzling, kaleidoscopic novel reimagines it's aftermath ."

8. I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive by Steve Earle: I've heard this isn't for the faint of heart, but if you can pull through it, it's worth it.

9. Windows on the World by Frederic Beigbeder: I've had this book on my radar for awhile and I think it would be an eye-opening read in light of the 10 year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

10. His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman: I have heard marvelous things about this trilogy from many book bloggers so I'm thinking it's a must-read.


Iran Awakening by Shirin Ebadi

"I wanted to write a book that would help correct Western stereotypes of Islam, especially the image of Muslim women as docile, forlorn creatures."

I've long been interested in Middle Eastern perspectives on the West, Western perspectives on the Middle East and the Muslim experience. I think it started with Persepolis and grew from there. In any case, I think it's important to learn about, or at least expose oneself to the ideas of Middle Eastern culture, history - modern and otherwise - and religion. With that in mind I picked up Shirin Ebadi's Iran Awakening; One Women's Journey to Reclaim Her Life and Country.

Ebadi won the Nobel Prize in 2003 "for her efforts for democracy and human rights. She has focused especially on the struggle for the rights of women and children." Iran Awakening is Ebadi's memoir, with a focus on her struggles with political prosecution during the Iranian Revolution. Ebadi's persepctive is a unique one; she grew up in Tehran and prior to the Islamic Revolution, became the first female judge in Iran. Four years later, as a result of the 1979 Isalmic Revolution, Iran's view of women changed and Ebadi was demoted to a clerk and eventually "retired" early. Ebadi stayed in Iran as she watched her many of her friends flee. She managed to eventually earn herself a professional and political role in the emerging theocracy and worked to promote equality and human rights, going above and beyond to help and defend those in need.

Iran Awakening is less a political or historical memoir and more an account of one women's struggles and ability to overcome persecution. Ebadi's prose is smart and fluid, welcoming and eloquent. Her story is one of brutality and triumph, of faith and hardship.
When the gravity of death first touched me, I'd found preoccupation with the minutiae of daily life meaningless. If we ultimately die, and turn to dust in the ground, should it ever truly upset us if the floor hasn't been swept quite recently enough?
Edabi's story speaks to the power of one voice to make a difference. While Ebadi hopes for a free and democratic future for Iran, she still speaks of her country with loyalty and admiration. If you are interested to learn more about Iran's modern history and its struggle for democracy and equality from a unique and relevant perspective, I urge you to read this book.

Publisher: Random House, 2006

Tom Sawyer is a nice kid... Huckleberry Finn is a dirty little homeless white trash creep.

Happy Friday, kids. Because of the holiday weekend, I thought I would share something mildly book-related that I find hilarious. Enter Louis CK. Enjoy.