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Bookworm Blurbs

I absolutely adore reading - my love for books has had a huge impact on my life! I'm going to grad school to be a children's/YA librarian.


The Hours

The Hours - Michael Cunningham

Passionate, profound, and deeply moving, The Hours is the story of three women: Clarissa Vaughan, who one New York morning goes about planning a party in honor of a beloved friend; Laura Brown, who in a 1950s Los Angeles suburb slowly begins to feel the constraints of a perfect family and home; and Virginia Woolf, recuperating with her husband in a London suburb, and beginning to write Mrs. Dalloway. By the end of the novel, the stories have intertwined, and finally come together in an act of subtle and haunting grace, demonstrating Michael Cunningham's deep empathy for his characters as well as the extraordinary resonance of his prose (back cover blurb). 

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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake

Willy Wonka's famous chocolate factory is opening at last!

But only five lucky children will be allowed inside. And the winners are: Augustus Gloop, an enormously fat boy whose hobby is eating; Veruca Salt, a spoiled-rotten brat whose parents are wrapped around her little finger; Violet Beauregarde, a dim-witted gum-chewer with the fastest jaws around; Mike Teavee, a toy pistol-toting gangster-in-training who is obsessed with television; and Charlie Bucket, Our Hero, a boy who is honest and kind, brave and true, and good and ready for the wildest time of his life! (source)


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"What do I look like?" Challenge

Saw a few people posting picture of themselves and thought I'd join in! Also started following Paul, who started the trend - I'm always excited to find someone new to follow :) 


I seriously considered including a picture with me and Miss O together, but I'm not ready to post her picture on here just yet, since she's only a few months old. So, sorry, we're left with just me - if you want to see my husband, take a peek at my profile picture, though it's admittedly a bit dated (taken around 2013). 



I took this one a few weeks ago on my way home from my first trip to the library with O! One of the local libraries has a Babies & Books program, where little ones under the age of 2 can sing nursery rhymes, read board books, and interact with other babies. O was quite a bit younger than most of the other babies, but she still had a great time, as did I! 


Thanks to Paul for starting this challenge - it's nice to be able to put a face to some of the people whose reviews I love to read :) 

The Wilderness of Ruin

The Wilderness of Ruin: A Tale of Madness, Fire, and the Hunt for America's Youngest Serial Killer - Roseanne Montillo

In late nineteenth-century Boston, home to Herman Melville and Oliver Wendell Holmes, a serial killer preying on children is running loose in the city--a wilderness of ruin caused by the Great Fire of 1872--in this literary historical crime thriller reminiscent of The Devil in the White City.

In the early 1870s, local children begin disappearing from the working-class neighborhoods of Boston. Several return home bloody and bruised after being tortured, while others never come back.

With the city on edge, authorities believe the abductions are the handiwork of a psychopath, until they discover that their killer--fourteen-year-old Jesse Pomeroy--is barely older than his victims. The criminal investigation that follows sparks a debate among the world's most revered medical minds, and will have a decades-long impact on the judicial system and medical consciousness.

The Wilderness of Ruin is a riveting tale of gruesome murder and depravity. At its heart is a great American city divided by class--a chasm that widens in the aftermath of the Great Fire of 1872. Roseanne Montillo brings Gilded Age Boston to glorious life--from the genteel cobblestone streets of Beacon Hill to the squalid, overcrowded tenements of Southie. Here, too, is the writer Herman Melville. Enthralled by the child killer's case, he enlists physician Oliver Wendell Holmes to help him understand how it might relate to his own mental instability.

With verve and historical detail, Roseanne Montillo explores this case that reverberated through all of Boston society in order to help us understand our modern hunger for the prurient and sensational. (source)


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Next up... Wilderness of Ruin!

The Wilderness of Ruin: A Tale of Madness, Fire, and the Hunt for America's Youngest Serial Killer - Roseanne Montillo

A few days ago, I asked the Booklikes community to select my next book out of a few books that I was contemplating reading. The one you chose for me (unanimously!) was The Wilderness of Ruin, so I'm starting that now! 


I think I am going to ask you all to pick a new book for me each month - that was fun! I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for September's choices :) 


Amethyst - Lauren Royal

London, 1666


Amethyst Goldsmith makes dazzling jewelry, but her future isn’t nearly as bright as the pieces she creates. Though custom dictates she wed her father’s apprentice, her heart rebels against the match. In mere days Amy will be condemned to a stifling, loveless marriage, and she sees no way out—until the devastating fire of 1666 sweeps through London, and tragedy lands her in the arms of a dashing nobleman who knows a diamond in the rough when he sees it…


Colin Chase, the Earl of Greystone, has his future all figured out. He’s restoring his crumbling castle and estate to its former glory, and the key to its completion is his rich bride-to-be. But the Great Fire lays waste to his plans, saddling him with trouble—in the form of a lowly shopkeeper’s daughter with whom he’s most inconveniently falling in love... (source)


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What should I read next?

I, Robot - Isaac Asimov The Wilderness of Ruin: A Tale of Madness, Fire, and the Hunt for America's Youngest Serial Killer - Roseanne Montillo Go Set a Watchman - Harper Lee

So, my time at school is officially done and stay-at-home-mommyhood has begun! This means that my time to read has increased hugely (though not quite back to where it once was - O keeps me busy!), and I am faced with the wonderful dilemma of not knowing which book to read first. Since you've all been reading much more than I have lately, I thought it might be fun to put it to a vote on here! This might become a monthly thing for me, we'll see :) 


So - here are my options: 


I, Robot by Isaac Asimov - this was gifted to me by my friend Tina Rae (the reading chronicles - follow her, she's awesome!) during our book club's Christmas book exchange... and because I've been so horribly, terribly busy, I have yet to read it! If you aren't familiar this book, here's what the blurb on the back says: 



1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. 

2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. 

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law. 


Isaac Asimov changed our perception of robots forever when he formulated the classicl laws governing their behavior. In I, Robot Asimov chronicles the development of the robot from its primitive origins in the present to its ultimate perfection in the not-so-distant future - a future in which humanity itself may be rendered obsolete. 


Here are stories of robots gone mad, mind-reading robots, robots with a sense of humor, robot politicians, and robots who secretly run the world, all told with the dramatic blend of science fact and science fiction that has become Asimov's trademark. 


The Wilderness of Ruin by Roseanne Montillo - I got this through the Book of the Month club in May (or June? It's all a blur) and, again, have yet to read it. It looks really interesting though! Here's what the inside cover says: 


In 1871, young children were disappearing from Boston's working-class neighborhoods. The few who returned told desperate tales of being taken to the woods and tortured by a boy not much older than themselves. The police were skeptical - these children were from poor families, so their testimony was easily discounted. And after the Great Boston Fire of 1872 reduced much of downtown to rubble, the city had more pressing concerns. Finally, when the police apprehended Jesse Pomeroy for the crimes, he, like any twelve-year-old, was sent off to reform school. Little thought was given to the danger he might pose to society, despite victims' chilling reports of this affectless Boy Torturer. 

Sixteen months later, Jesse was released in the care of his mother, and within months a ten-year-old girl and a four-year-old boy went missing, their mutilated bodies later discovered by the police. This set off a frantic hunt for Pomeroy, who was now proclaimed America's youngest serial killer. When he was captured and brought to trial, his case transfixed the nation, and two public figures - Herman Melville and Oliver Wendell Holmes - each probed the depths of Pomeroy's character in a search for the meaning behind his madness. 

Roseanne Montillo, author of the acclaimed The Lady and Her Monsters, takes us inside those harrowing years, as a city reeling from great disaster reckoned with the moral quandaries posed by Pomeroy's spree. What makes a person good or evil? How do we develop as moral beings? At what age do we hold someone responsible for violating society's moral code? And what does our fascination with such ghastly deeds reveal about us? 

The Wilderness of Ruin is a dazzling combination of true-crime thrills, a fresh perspective on mental illness, and a fascinating look at American class turmoil that captures the spirit of a turbulent age. 


Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee - This is one that I preordered and, again, didn't have time to read right away. My husband is getting frustrated about that, haha - he keeps asking me why I'd spend the money on it if I wasn't planning to read it ASAP. My answer - 1) I got it for less than $10 because I preordered it from Amazon and they gave me the lowest price during the time when I preordered it and 2) I just had a baby and finished grad school, no time to read! Well, now my reading time is back and I'm really excited to see what To Kill a Mockingbird evolved from. And even though I'm sure that you've all heard what this is about, here's the synopsis: 


MAYCOMB, ALABAMA. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch - "Scout" - returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise's homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town, and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past - a journey that can only be guided by one's own conscience.


Well, those are my options! Looking forward to seeing what everyone thinks. I've got quite a variety to choose from and I think each of these will be good for different reasons. I'll start whichever has the most votes on Friday! 


Cross-posted on both Booklikes and Tumblr. 

Alice in Wonderland

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass - Lewis Carroll

One day, a young girl named Alice is sitting on the riverbank with her sister, when she sees a curious looking white rabbit. She soon after falls into the magical world of Wonderland, where she meets a series of strange creatures. (source)


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Reading progress update: I've read 76%.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass - Lewis Carroll

Because I'm *such* a good student, I decided to put off writing my last paper of grad school (aka LAST PAPER EVER!!!) by re-reading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. I know I've read this before, but I don't remember when, and I also remember that I wasn't very fond of it. I felt that it was just way too bizarre and honestly I think I just didn't get the humor in it. This time around, I'm loving it. To make myself feel less guilty about reading this when I really should be getting schoolwork done, I read it aloud to the baby while I'm nursing her. Way to multitask, right?!


... well, now I guess I should get this paper written. After all, the sooner I write it, the sooner this will all be over! Wish me luck!

Bookworm Blurbs' Rating System

I noticed that a lot of people are posting their ratings systems and decided that this would probably be a good idea for me to do, since I've been away for a while and need a bit of a refresher on my system, myself! My ratings system can always be found here, but here it is again: 


5 stars - I hardly ever give 5 stars, so if you're an author and you've received 5 stars from me, you should REALLY be proud of yourself, haha! Basically, I only give 5 stars to books that I consider to be a favorite of mine, so in order to receive five stars, a book must have the same effect on me as books such as Gone with the Wind and the Harry Potter series did - not an easy feat. 


4.5 stars - I give 4.5 stars to books that I loved, but don't consider to be my all-time favorite. I would definitely re-read these books and I would probably recommend them to most people, but they aren't quite on "favorite" level, at least for me. 


4 stars - I give 4 stars to books that I really liked. I would probably re-read these books. They maintain my attention while reading them and I would recommend them to fans of their genre. In order to receive 4 stars from me, books must be well-written. 


3.5 stars - I give 3.5 stars to books that I liked, but probably would not re-read, at least for a while. These books may be part of a genre that I liked but perhaps did not reach my expectations, or they're not really my taste but are still well-written enough to get a good rating (I consider anything above 3 stars to be a good rating). I would probably recommend these books to people, but with reservations. 


3 stars - I give 3 stars to books that are OK. Books that receive 3 stars probably have a good premise that was not executed as well as I would have liked it to be, or, again, they were well-written but not really my taste. I probably would not re-read these books and I recommend them with reservations. 


2.5 stars - these are books that are OK, but not to my taste. I probably did not enjoy reading these books but recognize that they have redeeming qualities. My reviews of these books will probably be mostly negative, but may point out some good factors or areas that, if improved, could increase the book's rating (this specifically refers to ARCs that may not be in their final state). 


2 stars - If I give a book two stars, I disliked it. It either was poorly written or not to my taste. If the book is not to my taste, I will specify that in the review and emphasize that other readers may have better luck than I did. 


1.5 stars - I strongly dislike these books. They may contain material that I found to be offensive or are very poorly written. In my opinion, there are very few redeeming qualities and I would not recommend these books to anyone, unless I know for a fact that they read a very similar book and enjoyed it. 


1 star - If I gave a book only 1 star, then it's safe to say that I hated it. More likely than not, I simply didn't like the storyline at ALL, or the book is just terribly written. An example of a book that I gave 1 star to was The Lord of the Flies - in that case, I do recognize that it's a classic, but I absolutely despised the story and thus could not in good conscience give it a good rating. As with 5 star reviews, 1 star reviews are extremely rare from me and I only give them to books that I found to be truly torturous to read. 


As you can see, my ratings system is mainly based on my opinion/experience with the book at hand, rather than based on how I feel the target audience will react to the book. I feel that I can only speak with any real authority about how I feel about a book, not how others may or may not feel. 

I'm back! (for good this time!!)

Well, I have reached the last week of my summer semester of grad school. All that stands between me and graduation is telling a story for my Storytelling course and writing a paper for my History of Children's Literature course! I'm almost done - my freetime is (mostly) back, which means that once my assignments are done, I can read again and actually have time to blog on here! Woohoo!


My summer has been fantastic, so far. On June 1, my husband Dan and I became the parents of a beautiful little girl, Olivia May! She's basically the best baby ever - already sleeping through the night on a fairly regular basis, and because she's so content during the day I've been able to get my schoolwork done on time! I love being a mom and I can't wait until school's done and I'm able to completely devote my attention to taking care of her. I've actually found a few mom-and-baby groups in my area and I plan to join them when school's done. 


As for Dan, he's still working on his CPA. He took the third of four parts of the exam yesterday. We should find out how he did in about two weeks. He's not totally optimistic because he had a lot of distractions from studying this time around (I mean, we did just have a baby), but hopefully he passed, and then he'll be one step closer to being certified!


I hope you're all having a great summer filled with lots of fun outside and great books! Once I'm done with my school work, I'll make a post about what I'll be reading next - if you've read anything lately that really stood out at you, please pass the title along so I can check it out! Looking forward to catching up with you all! :) 

The Piano Lesson

The Piano Lesson - August Wilson

At the heart of the play stands the ornately carved upright piano which, as the Charles family's prized, hard-won possession, has been gathering dust in the parlor of Berniece Charles's Pittsburgh home. When Boy Willie, Berniece's exuberant brother, bursts into her life with his dream of buying the same Mississippi land that his family had worked as slaves, he plans to sell their antique piano for the hard cash he needs to stake his future. But Berniece refuses to sell, clinging to the piano as a reminder of the history that is their family legacy. This dilemma is the real "piano lesson," reminding us that blacks are often deprived both of the symbols of their past and of opportunity in the present. (source)

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A Tale Dark and Grimm

A Tale Dark and Grimm - Adam Gidwitz, Khairi Rumantati, Lala Bohang

In this mischievous and utterly original debut, Hansel and Gretel walk out of their own story and into eight other classic Grimm-inspired tales. As readers follow the siblings through a forest brimming with menacing foes, they learn the true story behind (and beyond) the bread crumbs, edible houses, and outwitted witches.

Fairy tales have never been more irreverent or subversive as Hansel and Gretel learn to take charge of their destinies and become the clever architects of their own happily ever after. (source)

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Little House in the Big Woods

Little House in the Big Woods - Garth Williams, Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura Ingalls and her family live deep in the Big Woods of Wisconsin. Their log cabin is surrounded by miles of trees, and their closest neighbors are bears, wolves, and panthers. Daily chores keep Laura and her sister Mary busy, but they still find time to go exploring with their dog, Jack. (source)


I remember reading all of the Little House books as a kid - as well as watching the TV series - and adoring them. I seriously wanted to be Laura Ingalls - I even had a bonnet that I used to wear everywhere, complete with braids in my hair. For my internship, I host an intergenerational book club for elementary aged girls and their favorite adults (worked out to be a mother-daughter group, but I loosely defined the role of the adult in an effort to include every family situation), and the girls decided that they wanted to read Little House in the Big Woods for our meeting in May. I was really excited about the opportunity to revisit one of my childhood favorites. 


To be completely honest, this just didn't live up to my memories. I actually found it to be quite dull. Wilder describes her childhood, but she does so without much storytelling style at all. Her tone is preachy at times, which is something that I had forgotten. I think that this book is very representative of the mindset held by authors of children's literature at the time when this was published. It's still a sweet book, but if I'm being honest, it just doesn't hold up to so many other children's books that are out there. I appreciate the historical value of this text... but I also think there are other books that are more likely to ignite a passion for learning about history. 


The Little House series still holds a special place in my heart. I still look forward to the day when I'll read these books with my own daughter -- but I'm far more excited to introduce her to the TV series, which manages to entertain while still delivering a wholesome message. I'm also more excited to read books like Beezus and Ramona and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to her - books that, again, have a wholesome message but are still fun to read. It makes me sad that my experience reading this book this time around wasn't what I'd remembered, but I guess that's just how things work out sometimes. Are there any books that you read and loved as a child, but were disappointed by as an adult?

Delirium - Lauren Oliver

Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing.

They didn’t understand that once love -- the deliria -- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the government demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love. (source)

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See How Small

See How Small: A Novel - Scott Blackwood

One late autumn evening in a Texas town, two strangers walk into an ice cream shop shortly before closing time. They bind up the three teenage girls who are working the counter, set fire to the shop, and disappear. See How Small tells the stories of the survivors--family, witnesses, and suspects--who must endure in the wake of atrocity. Justice remains elusive in their world, human connection tenuous.

Hovering above the aftermath of their deaths are the three girls. They watch over the town and make occasional visitations, trying to connect with and prod to life those they left behind. "See how small a thing it is that keeps us apart," they say. A master of compression and lyrical precision, Scott Blackwood has surpassed himself with this haunting, beautiful, and enormously powerful new novel. (source)

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