8.29.2013

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK - Matthew Quick



Pat Peoples knows that life doesn't always go according to plan, but he's determined to get his back on track. After a stint in a psychiatric hospital, Pat is staying with his parents and trying to live according to his new philosophy: get fit, be nice and always look for the silver lining. Most importantly, Pat is determined to be reconciled with his wife, Nikki.

Pat's parents just want to protect him so he can get back on his feet, but when Pat befriends the mysterious Tiffany, the secrets they've been keeping from him threaten to come out...

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I absolutely love this story. I broke that golden rule and watched the movie first, which has turned into one of my favourites of the year. But I didn't feel that way when I first watched it. I enjoyed it, but I didn't stop and go, "Wow." Not right away, anyway. But I found that over the next few days and weeks, scenes kept popping into my head and making me think about things they related to in my life. Before long I realized that I really loved it. I guess you could say it snuck up on me.

In this way, the book is very similar. It appears simple as you first begin to read. But whenever you put the book down after reading a few chapters, you mull over what you read, and it sinks in, much like a fine marinade. And then you start to see the subtleties.

What I loved about this book is the perspective of the world you experience through Pat's eyes. There is a lot he doesn't get - and a lot that his own mind has hidden from him. But just when you think he's hopelessly obtuse, he'll say or think something that is just so on the money that you have to stop reading for a minute and go, "Wow." There are rare characters you come across who hold up a mirror to some of the most basic realities of life and boil them down to the simple truth. Manageable. Life as it should be. Pat Peoples is one such character, though ironically his life feels anything but simple to him.

And while I love the movie, there are things the book does that the movie doesn't - or that the book just does better. The characters are developed in much more depth, giving you a real sense for each of them. The mother, trapped in an unhappy marriage but still hoping that her husband will change. The father, who can't (or won't) relate to his family. The best friend and his wife who mean well but sometimes can't quite take Pat and find him a bit scary. The brother who, in his own gentle way, is trying to make space in his life for the brother he loves. The therapist who also becomes a  friend. And finally Tiffany, the girl who has also lost her partner - and a part of her sanity with him.  Each of their relationships with Pat unravels a little more of the tangle that is Pat's mind, and shows another aspect of human interaction.

If you're a reader who enjoys getting into the mind of an intriguing character and examining the intricacies of human relationships, this is a book you should read. If you're someone who needs help finding the silver lining (even in situations where it's very hard to find one), this book will inspire you. If you're someone who hates Hollywood romance and wants something a little more real (read: fucked up), this book will make you go, "Awwwwww." In short, read this book.



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Book Title: The Silver Linings Playbook
Author: Matthew Quick
Edition: Paperback
Published by: Picador
Released: 2009 (UK)
Genre: Fiction, Romance, Mental Health, Psychology
Pages: 289
Date Read: July 10-August 18, 2013
Rating: 9/10

8.23.2013

It Must Have Been Something I Saw on the Internet: Bookshelfies, Books That Will Change Your Life.... etc.


I keep coming across awesome book-related images, posts and articles and I figure maybe I'll keep track of them and share them with you guys occasionally. Here are some of the things that caught my interest recently:
  • Bookshelfies Tumblr: The Newest Trend You NEED to Know About. You guys all know about "selfies," those horrible photos teens keep taking of themselves making a duckface, right? Well here's a new spin on it - people taking pics of themselves in front of their bookshelves. Now maybe I'm extraordinarily voyeuristic, or maybe I'm just a super nerd, but I LOVE seeing which books people have on their bookshelves. Even people I don't know. So I guess it's really more about the books and less about being a voyeur. At any rate, I find this amusing and fascinating.
  •  32 Books That Will Actually Change Your Life. This got my attention initially because I like knowing which books really mean something to people and comparing them to my own. But once I started reading I found the descriptions remarkably interesting and succinct. I now have added several books to my to-read list that I had previously discounted as being "not my thing." (White Oleander by Janet Finch, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion, Push by Sapphire, World War Z by Max Brooks.)
  • How and Why to Use "Whom" In A Sentence (The Oatmeal). I love The Oatmeal. Their guide to 10 Words You Need to Stop Misspelling was epic and I use it to dull the pain of telling people they're idiots when they make one of these common mistakes. But the whole who/whom thing is one I have a tenuous grasp on at best. I think I do a pretty good job of guessing, but really, who knows? (That one I'm pretty sure about.) If you want to make sure you get it, this is a great reference guide. It also has what appears to be a beaver in y-fronts.
  • 23 Signs You're A Secret Introvert. Okay, so I know it's not exactly about books, but I find that a lot of us booklovers at least have some elements of the introvert to us. I certainly found some things I related to!
  • Elmore Leonard passed away. I wasn't a huge fan of his books, but his rules for writers were fantastic. Here's the BBC article about him.
  • HarperCollins New Releases. Curious about upcoming books? Here are a few more you might want to add to the 'ole to-read list.
  • 11 Amazing Book-Song Pairings. If you're anything like me, you create soundtracks in your head as you read. So it's always interesting to see what other biblio/music fans match up as they're reading. Next time you crack open one of these, line up the song to listen to as you're reading and see if it makes the experience any better!
  • 16 Bookstores You Have to See Before You Die. *Swoon*
  • And my favourite: 17 Problems Only Book Lovers Will Understand. My friend Bia sent me this link and I have read it oh, just a bajillion times. And it make me giggle all over again each time.
  • Books on the Boob Tube: 10 New Fall Shows Based on Books. I love books. I love TV. So obviously when I hear about a new show based on a beloved and battered novel I have on my bookshelf, it makes me tingly. Some of these are a bit odd (About A Boy? We already have the movie. What do we need a whole show for?) but others (Dracula with Jonathan Rhys Meyers? Yes, please!) are pretty exciting!
What bookish links are you digging? Share in the comments!

8.14.2013

ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK: MY YEAR IN A WOMEN'S PRISON - Piper Kerman



"With a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles the reckless young woman who delivered a suitcase of drug money ten years before. But that past has caught up with her. Convicted and sentenced to fifteen months at the infamous federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut, the well-heeled Smith College alumna is now inmate #11187–424—one of the millions of people who disappear “down the rabbit hole” of the American penal system. From her first strip search to her final release, Kerman learns to navigate this strange world with its strictly enforced codes of behavior and arbitrary rules. She meets women from all walks of life, who surprise her with small tokens of generosity, hard words of wisdom, and simple acts of acceptance. Heartbreaking, hilarious, and at times enraging, Kerman’s story offers a rare look into the lives of women in prison—why it is we lock so many away and what happens to them when they’re there." 
- Goodreads Description


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If you feel like you've heard this title somewhere before, it's probably because you keep a close eye on TV shows that are making waves - and this is one of them. Adapted as a Netflix original, this show is one of my new faves. After devouring the first season - all 13 episodes of it - in a week, I found myself hopelessly addicted. I devoured articles about the show, I perused the Tumblr devoted to the books of Orange is the New Black (just one more reason to love the show) and I talked to everyone who'd listen about it. Luckily plenty of people out there are as obsessed as I am. Even (dare I say) more so.

After exhausting all these outlets, I was left with one obvious fix to tide me over until season two: read the original book. I tried to hold out for awhile so that the wait wouldn't be as long between finishing the book and the second season premiere. But I just couldn't do it - I had to have more. And I'm not ashamed to admit that once I delved in, it kept me up nights. Plural. I am now tired but satisfied. 

What struck me about the book was the relative peacefulness depicted in its pages. Don't get me wrong, it's still prison, and there are aspects to it that are beyond my imagining on the horror scale. The power dynamics between inmates and guards, the small private moments on full display, the lack of choice in diet (since I'm a vegetarian), the separation from loved ones, the shame and fear, being forced to confront the worst of what a failing system can do to people's lives. All of it, horrifying. But in Piper's narrative there is also a tone of self-discovery and inner searching that her prison term afforded. 

At one point she is discussing a fellow inmate who is a drug addict, and who is eagerly anticipating her release so she can "get laid and score." Piper is concerned for her safety, knowing that she has no intention of staying clean - and this leads her to the realization that her actions, however small to her at the time, had helped contribute to the damage drugs had caused in the lives around her in prison. She finally understands the reason (if not agreeing with the methods - most of which are dismal failures) behind the "war on drugs."

Though the TV show (predictably) adds a lot of drama and violence, the book contained more subtle events and relationships. Piper writes of her fellow inmates, bringing them to life on the page. Some are damaged, some are driven slightly outside of normal by long prison terms. But all are rendered real and human in a way that prison dramas rarely do. She finds friends, sisters, stand-in mothers and role models in those around her. She also learns that her network of friends and family on the "outside" is strong and supportive, and really comes to understand, through seeing how many of her fellow inmates don't have such a network, how valuable those connections are. 

I enjoyed this book - much more than I expected to. I expected it to be entertaining, at times scary, and a relatively quick read. What I didn't expect was the quiet power of the experience Piper shares. It has a delicacy that will stick with you long after you put it down, coming to mind at odd moments - when you see a beautiful lake, take a yoga class, or even when a household appliance conks out because of an electrical problem - all moments you'll get when you read the book. It also draws a sad picture of the failure of the penal system to create any positive or long-lasting change in the lives of its inmates - the majority of whom will either return to the behaviours that landed them in jail the first place (out of necessity or addiction), return to prison once released, or spend the rest of their lives behind bars. 

[SORT OF SPOILER] My only criticism (if it can be called that) of the book is the abrupt end when Piper is released. She had talked of spending time in a halfway house before being allowed to return home, but the book ends before this part of the story. I also wanted to know what life was like for her once she did return home - particularly since it's to an apartment Larry chose for them while she was in prison. Did she like it? What was it like to sleep in her own bed for the first time in a year? Was it hard for her and Larry to return to their lives together? Did she keep in touch with any of the women she met while serving time? These are all questions that I would have loved to be given answers to. A couple more chapters or an epilogue would have sufficed. [END SORT OF SPOILER]

I can certainly see why this book (and the TV adaptation) are taking the world by storm, and I highly recommend spending a few hours in prison with Piper. 

Further reading on OITNB, Piper Kerman and Larry Smith:

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Book Title: Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison
Author: Piper Kerman
Edition: Paperback
Published by: Random House Publishing Group
Released: March 8, 2011
Genre: Non-Fiction, True Crime, Prison, Memoir, Autobiography
Pages: 352
Date Read: August 7-12, 2013
Rating: 8/10 

8.13.2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Set at the Beach/Near the Sea


This week's Top Ten Tuesday with The Broke and the Bookish is up: Books Set at the Beach/Near the Sea. Oh man. It's like these ladies are just trying to test my faint memories of books gone by! Seriously doubting I'll make it to ten on this one, guys, but I'll give it a try!

1. This Is What Happy Looks Like - Jennifer E. Smith. I read this relatively recently, so the setting is still fresh in my mind - it's set in a seaside town in Maine. It even has a boat in it.

2. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome. I read this book as a kid and the story has stuck with me. It's about a troupe of kids who learn to sail and fend for themselves in the outdoors. They then take small boats to an island near their house and proceed to take it over and live there during the summer.

3. For the Love - Kelly Slater. Of course it's set at the beach. The guy's a surfer. Amazing photos, entertaining story. Don't remember much else.

4. Pirate Latitudes - Michael Crichton. Straight up - I haven't finished this yet. But I remember it being set in a port town, and it's about pirates, so.....

5. The Rum Diary - Hunter S. Thompson. One of Thompson's early works - and only novel - is about a reporter who ends up in Puerto Rico for awhile. Lots of beach and water, if memory serves.

6. Juliet, Naked - Nick Hornby. Okay, so I'm not entirely sure, but I think this is at least partly set in a seaside town in the UK. Isn't it?

7. City of Glass - Douglas Coupland. It's about Vancouver's iconic spots, so it's bound to mention the water a few times. At the very least it'll have Wreck Beach.

8. In A Sunburned Country - Bill Bryson. Bryson writes travel memoirs infused with historical and geographical info that are highly entertaining as well as educational. This one is about Australia. Granted a lot of it has nothing to do with water, but there are some parts that involve water - like the chapter when he learns to boogie board. So I'm counting it.

9. The Size of the World - Jeff Greenwald. It's another travel memoir about a guy who travels around the world without leaving it - aka no airplanes. So obviously there are boats in it from time to time.

10. Moby Dick - Herman Melville. Okay, so I've never read it. But it's about a whale, right? So I'm guessing there must be ocean in it somewhere. Hey, desperate times...


Yeah, I know, some of those are really stretching the theme. But at least I tried. Wow me with how much better you can do and link up with The Broke and the Bookish here!

8.09.2013

Let's Talk: Most Anticipated Fall/Winter Books


This week's topic on I Swim for Oceans' weekly "Let's Talk" link up is: Most Anticipated Fall/Winter Books. Since I stopped reviewing books for an established website, I haven't been keeping up with upcoming catalogues, so I only have a limited knowledge of what's coming up in the next 4 months. But that's not to say I don't have a few good ones for you.

1. Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding. It's been 14 years since we left Bridget, her love life finally on track, at the end of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. The third book in the Bridge Jones saga is finally nearly here, and I for one am on the edge of my seat waiting to find out what happens next!

"With her hotly anticipated third installment, Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, Fielding introduces us to a whole new enticing phase of Bridget's life set in contemporary London, including the challenges of maintaining sex appeal as the years roll by and the nightmare of drunken texting, the skinny jean, the disastrous e-mail cc, total lack of twitter followers, and TVs that need 90 buttons and three remotes to simply turn on. An uproariously funny novel of modern life, Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy is a triumphant return of our favorite Everywoman."

Coming out October 10th. 

2. Command and Control by Eric Schlosser. Yes, that Eric Schlosser, the one who wrote Fast Food Nation and Reefer Madness. This time he takes on America's nuclear weapons program:  

"A groundbreaking account of accidents, near misses, extraordinary heroism, and technological breakthroughs, Command and Control explores the dilemma that has existed since the dawn of the nuclear age: How do you deploy weapons of mass destruction without being destroyed by them?"

Coming out on September 17th.

3. Doctor Sleep by Stephen King. I've never read The Shining, but I'm intrigued by the idea of returning to such a notorious character after so much time has passed. Plus, though I can't always handle the horror factor, I've never known King's books to disappoint.

"Stephen King returns to the character and territory of one of his most popular novels ever, The Shining, in this instantly riveting novel about the now middle-aged Dan Torrance and the very special twelve-year-old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals."

Coming out on September 24th.

4. Longbourn by Jo Baker. This is Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice from a perspective you may never have considered:

"The servants at Longbourn estate--only glancingly mentioned in Jane Austen's classic--take center stage in Jo Baker's lively, cunning new novel. Here are the Bennets as we have never known them: seen through the eyes of those scrubbing the floors, cooking the meals, emptying the chamber pots."

Coming out on October 8th.

5. The Goldfinch' by Donna Tartt. I haven't read any of her books, but I know that for many fellow book enthusiasts, The Secret History is an all-time favourite. Plus this is a book about a misfit. I can relate.

"The Goldfinch is the story of a thirteen year old boy, Theo Decker, who survives an accident that kills his mother and is then adopted by a friend's wealthy family. He has trouble interacting with others and becomes obsessed with a painting that reminds him of his mother. Ultimately, as an adult, he lives in the world of art and antiques, still trying to relate and find love."

Coming out October 22nd.

6. The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. This kind of reminds me of that Tim Roth show, Lie to Me. Crossed with X-Men.

"Seventeen-year-old Cassie is a natural at reading people. Piecing together the tiniest details, she can tell you who you are and what you want. But, it's not a skill that she's ever taken seriously. That is, until the FBI come knocking: they've begun a classified program that uses exceptional teenagers to crack infamous cold cases, and they need Cassie.

What Cassie doesn't realize is that there's more at risk than a few unsolved homicides-especially when she's sent to live with a group of teens whose gifts are as unusual as her own. Soon, it becomes clear that no one in the Naturals program is what they seem. And when a new killer strikes, danger looms close. Caught in a lethal game of cat and mouse with a killer, the Naturals are going to have to use all of their gifts just to survive." 


Coming out November 5th.

Bonus: Escape from the Children’s Hospital by Jonathan Safran Foer. I enjoyed the overall concept of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, though I have to admit that once I saw the movie, I didn't get around to finishing the book. All the same, I'm looking forward to giving this one a try.

Coming out in 2014, so doesn't technically fit into this post... but I figured I'd add it anyway!

Head over and add your link of books you're looking forward to curling up with this winter at I Swim for Oceans

8.08.2013

GOING BOVINE - Libba Bray



This is the story of a totally normal teenaged boy called Cameron. Cameron has a sister, two parents, enjoys quirky music and smoking up and eating pizza. Like most teenaged boys, Cameron's biggest problems are not doing well in school, not getting along with (and frequently disappointing) his parents, not being able to find a girlfriend and hating his part-time job at a burger joint. That is, until things start to go wrong in his brain and he's diagnosed with Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (better known as mad cow - see what she did there?). All of a sudden he's got about the same amount of time left as your average carton of milk and his brain is being turned into Swiss cheese, causing uncontrollable muscle spasms, problems with his body's essential functions, and some vivid and terrifying hallucinations.

As he lies in his hospital bed, he is visited by Dulcie, a punk rock angel, who tells him he needs to save the world - and take Gonzo (the dwarf in the next bed) with him.

Thus begins an epic adventure.

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If you've noticed that I've been posting less lately, this book is why. I got stuck in it and it took me awhile to extricate myself.

When I started this book it was a breath of YA fresh air. As much as I've enjoyed all the YA I've been reading lately, I've found one of the marked differences between it and adult fiction to be the tone with which "adult" situations are written. If there is any drug use or alcohol consumption, it's accompanied by a not-so-subtle message that it was a bad idea. Sex is either glossed over, skipped entirely or accompanied by some sort of moral lesson. Swearing is also usually verboten.

So I was impressed when this book opens with a teenager who acts and thinks like real teens - one who swears, smokes pot in the bathroom with his friends, mouths off to his dad, gets a shameful hard on from a vapid yet attractive cheerleader, sleeps through his chores, and doesn't have anything nice to say about the sister who tries too hard to be perfect and won't eat anything that might make her gain half a pound.

And all in sarcastic, witty, amusing narrative. This is a teenage voice I can relate to.

But in just a few chapters it all changes. With his diagnosis the tone of the book shifts. There's not so much swearing. No more resentful devil-may-care teenaged antics. He's on a mission to save the world - and himself. Which would be fine, but the book takes a sharp detour into a sustained yet completely illogical dream/nightmare with no apparent goal, and a ton of details that come out of nowhere and are just... a bit odd. Not to mention incongruous.

They get flagged as terrorists and are chased... by a snow globe company. They get stranded and are rescued by a cult of happiness that has a happiness swat team who repel down from the ceiling whenever you're feeling blue.... to force-feed you a milkshake. They search for an epic trumpet-player in New Orleans whose big contribution to their mission is to send them to a cemetary.... to bury a pair of sunglasses. And throughout we return to a band called the Copenhagen Interpretation, who magically disappeared during a performance and are somehow tied into the whereabouts of Dr. X who holds the cure for Cameron's disease and is responsible for bringing something dark into the world that is trying to destroy it. I mean, come on. It's not even a very good fictional band name. (Don't even get me started on how the happiness cult's acronym is CESSNAB, the letters of which don't even correspond to their full name - Church of Everlasting Satisfaction and Snack 'n' Bowl.)

I read the first half of the book just hoping that some of the weird clues and hints would end up meaning something. Which occasionally they did - but usually in a disappointing way that left me thinking, "Really? That's it?" The rest of the time I was just scratching my head and going, "Huh? Where did this obsession with snow globes come from? And why did we really need to encounter that wish tree and pick up a magic screw for a tangential storyline that no one cares about?"

I am fine with the concept of a hallucinatory journey and a mission that ends up not being real. But it has to be done carefully. Make it a subtle transition so I'm not sure if it's real or not until the end. Or make the mission a bit more linear and a little less throwing-random-stuff-together. Or create some sort of theme I can follow, like mission parameters that state that one day they say "Yes" to everything and the next they say "No," which leads them to all kinds of crazy adventures. And make the adventures a bit more interesting and a little less I-have-no-idea-what-is-happening-and-I-don't-really-care.

Throughout I also kept waiting for the characters to develop. For Cameron and Gonzo to have some good talks in which we find out what they're thinking and feeling and experience some of their conflicted emotions (they're teenagers, for God's sake. We know they have them). For Dulcie to explain how she became an angel, or what her role in this all is, or why she's been assigned to him, or what she does when she's not around. But really, by the end, she just seemed to have been written in so that Cameron could find a girlfriend who really "got" him. *Yawn.* Even when Gonzo makes a huge discovery about who the "real" him is, it's skimmed over so quickly that I had to go back and re-read to see if I was interpreting that right.

What I had hoped for going into this was a quirky adventure with some heart-warming characters and a few tearful moments (because, you know, dying kid). What I got was more straight up acid trip. Don't get me wrong, that ain't all bad either (witness Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), I even enjoyed some parts of this one. It just wasn't the show I bought a ticket to see. By the end I was only vaguely sad about Cameron's predicament, and while I liked Gonzo and wished him well, I wasn't too sad to say goodbye to him either. I didn't care at all about Dulcie, and quite frankly I just wanted that last hundred pages to be over so I could move on to another book.

I hate writing negative reviews, because I know the author put their heart and soul into creating the book I'm criticizing... but I have to be honest, and this book just isn't a win for me - as much as I wanted it to be. And based on those first few chapters, man did I want it to be. If it hadn't been for them, I wouldn't have finished the book, but they won my (somewhat begrudging by the end) commitment. I'm planning to try some of Libba Bray's other books because the beginning of the book was totally awesome before we took a wrong turn and ended up in crazy-land, and perhaps some of her less hallucinatory books will have better character development and more purpose. Cos that's where her writing excels. But in the meantime this one is going on the won't-read-again shelf. Which makes me really sad, because I started off raving about it.

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Book Title: Going Bovine
Author: Libba Bray
Edition: Paperback
Published by: Ember
Released: September 28, 2010 (re-issue)
Genre: Young Adult, Illness, Magical Realism, Fiction
Pages: 496
Date Read: July 21-August 5, 2013
Rating: 6/10 

8.06.2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Wish Had Sequels


This week's Top Ten Tuesday with The Broke and the Bookish is up: Books I Wish Had Sequels.This is an excellent topic - I just hope I can do it justice! I warn you there are a few cheats in here. But they're honest cheats. So bear with me.

1. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling. I know this is a bit silly, but I would love to read about Harry, Ron and Hermione when they're grown up. Or even a series that follows their kids as they head of to Hogwarts. Basically I'd read anything that took place in this world, because it was so superbly written, so excellently crafted, that it can do no wrong.

2. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. Or more accurately, a prequel. I want more Augustus. Even the same story from his perspective would be great. And I know that, given the end of this particular book the story can't continue - but I just loved these characters so much that I would take any more of them that I could get.

3. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. Another set of characters I want more of. I would love a book that has them meet again as adults - even if the romantic element is no longer part of the story, I'd just love to see where they are now.

4. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. This one isn't so much that I want a sequel to a particular book or series of books as that I want to re-experience this pairing of writers. I have enjoyed Gaiman's solo work, but not as much as this book. And I haven't ever made it through a solo Pratchett. There's just something about this duo that created something totally magical and hilarious. Please, guys, take two?

5. Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination by Helen Fielding. I don't remember this book very well, granted, but I do remember wondering if there were going to be more books to follow. There haven't. (I'd also like to note that if this question had been posed to me a few months sooner, Bridget Jones would have been on my list - thank goodness that particular wish has been granted - a new book in that series comes out in the fall!)

6. The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson. I enjoyed the protagonist, and I felt like his potential for hijinks was ongoing, and when I finished the book I was a little miffed that he was heading off to have more adventures that I wouldn't get to read about.

7. Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff. I'm hoping this is actually first in a series, but I'm not entirely sure if it is or not. And since I haven't a hope of getting to 10, I figured I'd throw it in for good measure.

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And because I haven't a hope of finding 10 stand-alone novels, here are a few series I loved so much I want even more:

8. The Bean Trees and Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver. Again, I don't really remember these all that well, but I do remember absolutely loving them. Pretty sure I could use another book in this series.

9. James Herriot's country vet series. He wrote a whole series of books about being a small-town English vet that, though they sound boring, completely stole my heart. Though I've read every one of his books (there are over 10 of them), his is the sort of world that I never tire of.

10. Peter Mayle's Provence series. Similarly this series, about a British ex-pat and his wife who move to France, is already a series but I want more of them. I enjoyed learning about French country life, meeting the quirky village characters and struggling along with them as they learned to live in a new country. Plus, you know, FRANCE.

That's it (and I made it to ten!). Head over to The Broke and the Bookish to share your own list!

8.01.2013

GOOD OMENS - Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman


This book holds the dubious honour of being my all-time favourite. I generally hesitate to make such intense statements, fearing disappointment on the reader's part if they find that the expectations I built up don't measure up to the experience. In this case, I have no such reservations.

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It is the story of the end of the world, which is set to go down next Saturday. Crawley (a devil) and Aziraphale (an angel) have long been inhabitants of Earth, each working at pulling the world closer to their respective sides of the whole good vs. evil divide. And, for the most part, keeping it pretty much balanced. So long have they been engaged in their efforts, that they've both grown quite fond of Earth. Crawley loves his fancy, super fast car, and Aziraphale is quite happy to drink a delicious cup of tea while reading a good book in his bookshop.

So when word comes down the pipe that the Antichrist has been born, thus heralding the apocalypse, neither of them is overly thrilled at the prospect. And so a grudging alliance is formed. The two, along with an unlikely and, at times, ludicrous cast of characters (including a gang of child bikers, a trenchcoated and not so nicely-scented witch hunter and the four motorcycle-men of the apocalypse) embark on an exciting, hilarious and thrilling ride as they attempt to divert the inevitable.

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The book is possibly the funniest work of fiction I have had the enjoyment of reading (twice). Even the footnotes made me giggle maniacally in my seat - quite alarming innocent bystanders on several occasions. Whenever I'm feeling particularly blue and life is getting me down, I reach for this familiar, battered paperback. It's never far from my fingertips.

If you haven't yet enjoyed this work of comedic brilliance, you're in for a real treat.

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