Archive | January, 2012

The Night Train: Review

29 Jan

Dwayne Hallston loves music. At the age of seventeen, Dwayne and his band – the Amazing Rumblers – study the music of James Brown, hoping to recreate the sound of Brown’s album Live at the Apollo. After hours of practice, the Rumblers earn a spot on The Bobby Lee Reese Show and have a chance to perform on television.  At the same time, Dwayne’s friend Larry Lime is studying the music of Thelonius Monk. Under the tutelage of a jazz musician known as the Bleeder, Larry Lime learns to play the piano. Though Dwayne and Larry’s love for music binds them together, their friendship is unacceptable in their small southern town in 1963. Dwayne is white; Larry is black. In a community where people are divided by racial boundaries, music has the potential to bring people together.

While I appreciated Edgerton’s depiction of how music can heal our differences, I found The Night Train difficult to finish. I couldn’t connect with Dwayne or Larry. I had to push myself to finish the novel – a sign that I wasn’t truly engaged. I read this book as part of a “community reads” event promoted by my local library. Although this wasn’t my favorite book, I am grateful that our library provides opportunities for the community to experience literacy together. Like music in The Night Train, sharing a book can truly bring people together!

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WWW Wednesdays: January 25

25 Jan

It’s Wednesday, which means it’s time to share what you’re reading!

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

  • I am currently reading The Night Train by Clyde Edgerton. I’m not very excited about the book so far – it just hasn’t grabbed my interest – but I’m reading it for a book club, so I feel obligated to finish. I’m hoping that the ending will make it all worthwhile …
  • I recently finished reading Divergent by Veronica Roth. I loved it! You can read my review here. This was my second selection for the Mount TBR reading challenge.
  • What am I going to read next? Hmmmm… I really don’t know. I plan to read another novel from my ever-growing Mount TBR pile. Perhaps Jane Eyre?

Divergent: Review

25 Jan

In her dystopian novel Divergent, Veronica Roth tells the story of Beatrice Prior, a young woman living in futuristic Chicago. Before the novel begins, Chicago experiences some sort of catastrophic war, dividing its inhabitants into five different factions. Beatrice grows up in Abnegation, a faction that believes selfishness led to war. To prevent future uprisings, members of Abnegation resolve to live as selflessly as possible. The other factions attribute the war to different causes: Dauntless believe the war was the result of cowardice and resolve to live courageously; Erudite believe intelligence and logic will prevent future wars; Amity rely upon kindness and friendship to avoid conflict; and Candor promote peace with honesty. When they turn sixteen, members of each faction take an aptitude test to determine which faction they will join for their adult life. The results of Beatrice’s aptitude test are inconclusive, and she is given the label “Divergent.” Instructed by the test proctor to keep her results secret, Beatrice is faced with the difficult task of choosing which faction she will join. Will she remain in Abnegation to stay with her parents, even though she has never felt like she belonged? Or will she surrender the familiarity of Abnegation to join a new faction?

I read this book based upon the recommendation of a coworker who compared the novel to The Hunger Games. I LOVED The Hunger Games. Seriously. I couldn’t put it down. So I was a bit skeptical about my coworker’s comparison. While The Hunger Games remains one of my favorite dystopian novels, Divergent was a very enjoyable read! Like Katniss, Tris (Beatrice) is tough. When she joins Dauntless, Tris must prove that she has the courage and physical strength needed to survive in the faction. In addition to the physical challenges Tris faces throughout the fierce initiation process, she also grapples with the label “Divergent” throughout the novel. Divergent can be categorized as a coming of age novel in that Tris learns about her own strengths and weaknesses while also uncovering the truth behind her society.

This is the second novel I read for the 2012 Mount TBR reading challenge.

WWW Wednesdays: January 18

18 Jan

  • What are you currently reading? I’m in the middle of Divergent by Veronica Roth, and I’m really enjoying it! This will be my second novel for the Mount TBR Challenge.
  • What did you recently finish reading? I recently finished I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak – you can read my review here. This was the first book I read for the Mount TBR Challenge.  
  • What do you think you’ll read next? I’m planning to read The Night Train by Clyde Edgerton as soon as I finish Divergent. The public library near my house hosts regular book discussion groups, and The Night Train is the reading selection for January.

I Am the Messenger: Review

12 Jan

The Book Thief is one of my favorite books. Ever. In fact, it’s one of the few books that I reread almost every year. Because of my enthusiasm for Zusak’s Holocaust-era novel, I was really looking forward to reading I Am the Messenger. While this was certainly an enjoyable read, I must admit that I was a little disappointed.

I Am the Messenger focuses on the ordinary life of Ed Kennedy, a nineteen year old cabdriver whose days are filled with work and card games. After foiling an attempted bank robbery, Ed receives a playing card in the mail. While the card itself is an unusual delivery, Ed is even more surprised by the three addresses written on it. Soon, Ed’s world is turned upside down as he delivers messages to the addresses written on the card. Although he is unsure why he has been selected to carry out this task, one thing is clear: Ed is the messenger.

The premise of I Am the Messenger is interesting. I enjoyed reading about how Ed, whose life has been unexceptional and mundane, is given the task of reaching out to others. The plot, though interesting, was often difficult for me to believe, especially at the end. In addition, I lost interest in some passages because Zusak relied heavily upon telling rather than showing. Overall, I Am the Messenger was an enjoyable read, but it was certainly not as gripping as The Book Thief.

This is the first book I completed for the Mount TBR reading challenge. Only 11 more to go …

Friday Finds

6 Jan

This week’s Friday Finds are from the recommendation list Goodreads created for me based on my bookshelf and ratings. I love that feature! It’s a great way to discover interesting new books like:

  • Girl Land by Caitlin Flanagan – Flanagan’s book sounds like an interesting exploration of the transition from girlhood to womanhood.
  • These Is My Words by Nancy E. Turner – This is the story of Sarah Prine, an iron-willed woman living in the Arizona Territory in the  late 1800s. I don’t usually choose novels about life on the frontier, but I think I might like Turner’s passionate, determined heroine.  
  • Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson – In Chains, Laurie Halse Anderson tells the story of thirteen-year-old Isabel, a young girl who becomes the “property” of a wealthy New York couple during the Revolutionary War. This book has been in my TBR pile for quite a while, but I had forgotten about it until I checked my Goodreads recommendations. I might try to read this one as part of the Mount TBR reading challenge I am committing to complete this year.

2012 Reading Challenge

5 Jan

2012 is underway and promises to be even busier than last year! Between work and home obligations, it’s going to be more important than ever that I intentionally set aside time to do some reading.

Last year, I signed up for one reading challenge … and failed miserably! Early in the year, I decided to try Dana Huff’s “Books I Should’ve Read in High School, but Didn’t” challenge. I committed to the most basic level of the challenge – completing 4 books. I only finished two. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVED this challenge! I read The Grapes of Wrath for the first time and thought it was beautiful! I also read Catcher in the Rye … and hated it (gasp)! All in all, I’m glad I read the books I did. I think my problem was that I got distracted by several new releases last year that took my attention away from the challenge.

This year, I am committing to one challenge – the Mount TBR reading challenge. Once again, I’m going to commit to the most basic level – Pike’s Peak – and try to read 12 books from my ever-growing stack of TBR novels. The first book on my list is I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak. I’m looking forward to diving into this novel, and I can’t wait to check off some books from my TBR list!