Saturday, February 13, 2010

Turning the Pages has Moved

Turning the Pages has moved to Wordpress!

Come visit me at my new location where you can read my latest review of Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese, participate in polls, and leave your input on the hottest reads by Brichta Books.

You can also follow BrichtaBooks on Twitter for the latest updates on what I'm reading, book clubs I'm attending, and the latest poll results from readers like yourself.

On a personal note, I'd like to thank all my readers, both near and far, who've stuck with me during this initial phase of Brichta Books' growth. According to my analytics engine Turning the Pages has been viewed by readers as far away as Braga, Portugal, Lambeth, England, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and by web browsers all across the United States.

Reading and writing has always been my passion, which I can see now is shared by so many. I hope you will come with me to my new location, and continue follow my posts and recommendations.

Thank You as always,

Julie Brichta

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Love is a Mix Tape (Life and Loss, One Song at a Time)

Book: Love is a Mix Tape (Life and Loss, One Song at a Time)

Author: Rob Sheffield

Short Summary:
In this memoir, Rob Sheffield uses mix tapes he has made throughout the years to describe the different events and happenings of his life, starting from childhood, leading to the present day. The majority of his story revolves around a woman named Renee who he falls madly in love with. The two marry and live a happy life together until Renee’s sudden death. It was music that brought the two together, and music that Rob sometimes relies on and other times runs from while dealing with his new, unfamiliar role as a widower. Once thought of as one person, “Robin Renee”, Rob alone now uses his words as a tribute for his love for Renee and how music played such a significant role in their life together.

My Thoughts:
If you are a music lover, a mix tape maker, or someone who just appreciates a heartfelt, touching memoir, you will most likely enjoy this book. Rob’s story uses the perfect mix of music, heartfelt moments, and humor to tell the legend of Rob and Renee. If you are a pop culture junkie, you can relate to the music and important events that were taking place as Rob describes the passing years. This book was so packed with true emotion, that a tears were most definitely shed while listening to this book. More than anything else, I can say this book was honest, raw, and real. Rob describes Renee in such vivid and vibrant detail that I felt she was not just some person, but actually one of my friends when I finished the book.

The love between Rob and Renee, although not always perfect, was certainly one to envy. I absolutely loved listening to how they met, the music they shared, and the quirks that made them the couple they were. I also loved the way Rob described the fears he had about taking care of Renee and being a husband, and relating them to the lyrics of bands like Nirvana. Using lyrics from bands on the mix tapes gave this book a lot of its character.

Moving on after the death of a loved one is often described in memoirs or novels, but Rob does it in the most honest way I’ve ever encountered. His description of being a widower is heartbreaking yet he brings in just the right amount of humor as well to tell the reader about it. There is no false hope or cheesy “life goes on” moments in this book. There is no talk of, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” or other overused cliches. Instead, Rob believes, “What doesn’t kill you makes you more annoying.” And of course, music, sometimes helpful and other times painful, was always there with him through these dark days.

I listened to the audio version of this book, read by Rob Sheffield himself. Usually, I would not op to listen to an audio version of a book read by the author, for they are not actors. While their writing ability may be fantastic, their speaking/acting ability may be otherwise. For this book, however, I can’t think of anyone better to be telling the story than Rob, the person who actually lived it. It gave the book an even more intimate tone. It felt to me like I wasn’t just listening to some story on the stereo, but that I was in the same room with Rob, listening to his words.

I highly recommend this book. I think the only thing I could have liked more is if I knew more of the music that was talked about. This book makes me want to go seek those songs out.

My Rating: 4.5/5

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Help

Book: The Help

Author: Kathryn Stockett

Short Summary:

The year is 1962, and in Jackson, Mississippi segregation is still the way of life. Skeeter, a 22 year old aspiring writer, is a single woman, part of the Jackson Junior League, and friends with the same girls she grew up with. Her best friends have black maids to take care of their children and household chores, just as Skeeter's family had a maid, Constantine, who took care of her. Skeeter forms an unlikely alliance with one of her friend's maids, Aibileen, a black woman who has been taking care of other people's children for a large portion of her life. Aibileen's best friend, Minny, another maid in Jackson, soon joins the alliance and becomes part of a project that can put them all at risk. Told through three different points of view, The Help explores the relationships formed between these women and how it affects all the others in their lives.

My Thoughts:
I absolutely adored this book. I couldn't get enough. This is the kind of book that you don't want to end because of the relationships you, as a reader, have formed with the characters. I had very high expectations of this book since I had not read a single bad thing about it. Without hestitation, I can assure you that it delivered. The three distinct voices of Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny really helped to give the different perspectives of how decisions and choices made affected each woman as an individual. The relationships between the characters were also so well developed. This book explored what it meant to be a daughter, mother, friend, ally, and enemy.

The setting of Jackson, Mississippi also played an important role in the telling of this story. While reading this book I felt as if I were transported to this place and this time in history. I was not at all surprised to learn that Kathryn Stockett had grown up in this place during this time.

The Help would be a perfect choice for any book club, offering endless topics of discussion from segregation to mother/daughter relationships, to taking risks. Just the idea and theme of "help" and what it really means can be discussed at length. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys great literature!

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday "Faithful Place"

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at ‘Breaking The Spine’, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

The book thats release I am anticipating is Faithful Place by Tana French.

Release Date: July 13, 2010

I read In The Woods by Tana French and except for its ending, really liked it. I read The Likeness and enjoyed that one even more. I got very caught up in the characters and mystery and quickly realized Tana French is an author whose books I will continue to read. In July, A Faithful Place will be released, which will give me the opportunity of getting caught up in Dublin's world of unsolved mysteries once again. Here is the description from Amazon:

The course of Frank Mackey's life was set by one defining moment when he was nineteen. The moment his girlfriend, Rosie Daly, failed to turn up for their rendezvous in Faithful Place, failed to run away with him to London as they had planned. Frank never heard from her again. Twenty years on, Frank is still in Dublin, working as an undercover cop. He's cut all ties with his dysfunctional family. Until his sister calls to say that Rosie's suitcase has been found. Frank embarks on a journey into his past that demands he reevaluate everything he believes to be true.

I'm definitely looking forward to this one.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

January In Review

January has been a great month to start off my book blog. I technically started in December just to get the hang of it, but it really took off during this month. The books I read this month included:

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver
A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I've never been a particularly fast reader and like to take my time with my books, so five in one month is actually quite a lot for me. I realized all my books were fiction, which is the genre I enjoy the most, but I'm hoping to put a few more non-fiction choices in my list in the upcoming months.

My favorite books this month were The Post-Birthday World and The Help. I think I might be the last book blogger out there to read The Help, but I'm so glad I finally got to it. Expect a review soon!

My February picks will include:
Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese- This book was highly recommended by several friends.
Love is a Mix Tape (Life and Loss One Song at a Time)(audio version) by Rob Sheffield- Another book blogger, although I can't remember who, made me aware of this book and it combines reading and music, my two favorite things. I was able to download this for free from my public library.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Anne Shaffer and Annie Barrows- This is my Book Club's February pick
There will be more, I just haven't decided what yet.

This month, today actually, I won my first book giveaway. I am going to receive Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult from Nadia at A Bookish Way of Life. I am glad she is feeling better and off of her medications! Congrats Nadia and thanks for the book!

I am really enjoying my book blogging experience and am looking forward to continuing!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Book: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Author: Junot Diaz

Short Summary:

This book is about a boy named Oscar who, despite his very early success at the age of seven, was not a boy who was lucky in love. Oscar was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to New Jersey with his mother and sister early in life. As a teenager he was overweight and seen as very uncool for his awkwardness and love of all things science fiction. The book not only describes Oscar's trials and tribulations in love throughout his short life, but also those of his family's. It is believed his family's streak of bad luck is due to the fuku, a Dominican curse said to be brought on by the dictator Trujillo.

My Thoughts:
When I finished this book I could only ask myself one question, "What am I missing?" This book one the Pulitzer Prize and earned itself much critical acclaim. I feel I must have missed something because to me it was just a story, and a mediocre one at best.

Diaz did incorporate a few original concepts in the book. For example, much of the book was written in English and Spanish, many times using both languages in the same sentence. At first I was intrigued by this and was excited to test my Spanish knowledge. However, the novelty soon wore off and I found the Spanish slang to be highly annoying. Another part of the book I was excited about at first was the use of foot notes. These were included throughout the book to help give background about the history of the Dominican Republic. I honestly knew next to nothing about the country and thought these notes would give me deeper insight. Like the Spanglish, however, I soon found these to be annoying and distracting and by the end I pretty much skipped them altogether.

I found I enjoyed the parts of the book that focused more on Oscar's mother, sister, and grandmother than I did on the parts he was in. I related a little bit more to the female characters of Beli, Lola, and La Inca then I did to the male characters of Oscar, Yunior, and Ablelard. I somewhat enjoyed hearing the history of the women in the family, but still didn't totally connect with their characters.

I found the narration in this book strange. I'm still not quite sure why Yunior, who was the ever cheating love interest to Lola and roommate to Oscar, narrated the story. He knew Oscar and Lola well, but had little or no interaction with the other main characters of the book. I found it to be somewhat odd.

This book wasn't horrible, but I closed it feeling very little. I was hoping for a great epic novel but was left uninspired. I found little in the pages I could really relate to and characters I felt no emotion for. Again, I ask, "What am I missing?"

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday "Stuff"

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at ‘Breaking The Spine’, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

The book whose release I am anticipating is Stuff by Randy Frost.

Release Date: April 20, 2010

I have recently become slightly obsessed with the show "Hoarders" on A&E. This show looks into the lives of people who are hoarders. Some are just on the verge of having a serious problem while others are so far gone they can barely walk in their own homes. On the last episode I saw, a woman was confined to one bedroom where she brought up a mini fridge and microwave because there was no place else to move. She had stuff occupying every other room in the five bedroom house.

The hoarders work with psychologists to discover why they are hoarding and organizers to attempt to remove some of their things so that their homes are once again livable.

Why does this fascinate me? Really, I'm not sure. Everyone has their quirks and weird things about them. Everyone has things they don't want to give up. I know I do. I'm sure there are plenty of book hoarders out in the blogosphere.

I want to read this book to get into the minds of some of these people and get a better understanding of why throwing an empty plastic bottle or a rolled up ball of paper away is so difficult. I've been on a big fiction book kick, so a non-fiction choice could be a good change of pace.

Anyone else out there watch Hoarders?