Thursday, April 28, 2011

April Book List

A new series on Travelmoon has arrived: monthly book reviews.  This month my book tastes run from the Young Adult to the Best Seller List.

Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later.  For anyone that devoured the Sweet Valley Books in their childhood, it is fun to spend a few more hours with everyone's favorite fictional twins: Jessica and Elizabeth.  If only for pure nostalgia.  Jessica and Elizabeth are now 28 and not on speaking terms due to of course Jessica's antics, her being the "bad" twin and all.  The book in general was lackluster.  The twin's lives in Sweet Valley were pretty fantastical and the escapism of this fictional town was often part of the enticement.  The majority of the book took place in New York City, which didn't translate, and I spent most of the time waiting for the twins inevitable reunion in Sweet Valley.  The book did manage to keep me up into the wee hours of the night to finish it all in one sitting.  Yet, it left me feeling unsettled and a little confused as to why I was drawn to the series in the first place. As you can see there are three young adult titles on this month's book list so it can't be that my tastes have evolved, I just have to conclude that the Sweet Valley books were just plain better.

Water for Elephants.  After one failed attempt to get into the book, I decided to give it another try upon seeing the movie trailer.  This Depression era fairy tale unwrapped slowly, focusing on the main character's life traveling with the circus as a veterinarian, interspersed with his current existence in an assisted living home, and the unrequited love he feels for the horse dancer in the circus.  I understood the hype and eventually become engrossed in the story, but ultimately, it came up short for me.  Nonetheless, I still saw the movie last weekend when it opened.

The Help.  I kept waiting for this book to come out in paperback, and now it's arrived.  I have been hearing rave reviews for quite some time and was intrigued.  I though the dialect would be distracting, but I was enraptured after the first few pages.  In fact, this is one of the best books I can remember reading in a long while.  If you read one book on this list: this is my most highly recommended.  I get engrossed in books but usually am not moved to tears, and this one had me wiping away a few.  The portrait it painted of Mississippi during the 1960's was eye opening and the characters were so well developed, I was sad to say good-bye to them at the book's close.

The Hunger Games.  I am a Twilight fan, so caveat emptor if a fantasy young Adult series is not your taste.  The first book in this trilogy was decidedly more realistic--no vampires to be found.  The main character, Katniss Everdeen takes the place of her sister in the Hunger Games, a fight until death reminiscent of Roman times where a gladiator and lion duked it out to the finish.  In this case, those fighting until death are children picked at random from districts of what was once the USA, and it's televised in a twisted reality TV show.  While it's fantasy, it is hard not to reflect on our voyeuristic culture, indoctrination and propaganda from regimes that led to killing of innocents, and think that this book is not at all farfetched.  Both haunting and riveting the other two books in the series are heading my way via Amazon as we speak.

The Carrie Diaries.  I have read all of Candace Bushnell's books, so I figured I would jump on the bandwagon and read her first foray into young adult writing.  This book introduces us to the character of Carrie from the beloved Sex and the City when she was in high school and becoming a famous author was only a far off dream.   It documents the travails of high school and her family life (which was markedly absent from the series) giving insight into her motivations and latent experiences that dictate the course of the rest of her life. The book ends with Carrie in New York City, setting the stage for when Carrie meets the other characters from the Sex and the City book (and TV series).  The second book: Summer in the City was just released on April 26.

Marriage Bureau For Rich People.  Written in simple prose and filled with descriptive imagery of modern day India in the southern coastal town of Vizag, Zama weaves a story about the intricacies of arranged marriage and the surrounding customs.  The first thing I did when I finished the book was look for images of the seaside town of Vizag and dream of booking a flight there.  Mr. Ali is bored in retirement so he decides to open up a business arranging marriages in their town.  The matches, the characters, and the relationships formed make this an enchanting read.  When one of the central characters finds a potential love match of her own against all odds, you will find yourself rooting for her happy ending.

Have you read any of these books?  Do you have any book recommendations?  I would love to hear your opinions...


  1. Talk about blast from the past! I acutally forgot all about the Sweet Valley books (and *cringe* the tv series I was addicted to). Good to hear that the books from way-back-when were better as I probably would have read that! I am starting The Help this weekend, at least people won't look at me funny for crying on the train!!

  2. These look great! I wish I was a "book a month" reader. I used to read so often and now I've slowed down. Something I said I would NEVER do. I think I have a short attention span because I read, but instead of focusing on one book I dabble in 3-4.

  3. Thanks for sharing !! I really need to start reading again.


  4. So excited for your book reviews! I'm a big reader and always love new recommendations :) Reading Water for Elephants now and loving it!

  5. I love to talk about books. I'm reading "Marco Polo Didn't Go There: Stories and Revelations from One Decade as a Postmodern Travel Writer". I like it a lot.

  6. Thanks for the reviews!
    I just finished Water for Elephants and really enjoyed it, I've heard about Hunger Games and now i'm totally excited to read it :)

  7. Meghan-You will love The Help!

    Hannah-I often get stuck in a book I'm not into and make myself finish it, but it takes me forever, so I don't end up reading at all!

    Ashley- Thanks! Glad you like my book reviews :)

    Design Elements-that book sounds very interesting-I will have to pick it up!

    Travelbug-I'm on the last book (3) now, and I'm riveted!

  8. Love this new series on Travelmoon :) So, I haven't read them yet, but my mom brought these books to me based on suggestions from others: Room (Emma Donoghue), Cutting for Stone (Abraham Verghese) and The Heretic's Daughter (Kathleen Kent). I like the sound of The Marriage Bureau for Rich People (what is with us liking all the Indian novles?! Come on Jhumpa, it's time for your next release...)

  9. I'm so behind on my reading!! I've been dying to read the Hunger Games for a while now...but lately I've been on a classics kick...I'm currently engrossed in the Hound of the Baskervilles...nothing like the original CSI, Sherlock Holmes! (c:

  10. I totally feel the same about Water...I swear so much hype and in the end, I think just not my style...Lots of great vivid storytelling, but I think the bulk of the book happened in the first chapter....Boooo, hope the movie makes up for it tho! Thanks for the write-up sweets, hope you're having a fab Thursday so far!


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  11. I'm interested to read the Sweet Valley books. Such a childhood memory! Have you read Little Bee? That's the next one on my list!

  12. I've been thinking about reading Water For Elephants... maybe I should just go for it!

  13. Erin-I know-I am so eagerly anticipating Jhumpa's next novel! Going to check out a few on that list-I have heard good things about Cutting For Stone.

    Aubrey-I want to get back into reading the classics...but for an easy escape I'm telling you Hunger Games is great!

    Julie-I'm glad you agree!

    Bradley- I read Little Bee, and I would highly recommend it, I just wasn't a big fan of the ending, but people have mixed reviews about it-I won't say anything else to not spoil anything :)

    Christine-I think it's worth the read even though it wasn't my favorite!

  14. I think we're reading kindred spirits. I've read, or am currently reading, all of the books on your list except for The Marriage Bureau for Rich People. I'll have to check that one out!

  15. I LOVE reading and can't wait to read some of your suggestions :-) great blog - I look forward to following your posts!!


  16. I have read Water for Elephants and The Help and enjoyed both. I am going to try The Marriage Bureau so thanks!