Fan Ambassador – Oh Yes!!!

Fan Ambassador

Do I look happy in this photo?? That is because I am!! I am so freakin’ happy because I was chosen to be a fan ambassador for Murakami’s new book, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. You may remember that the quote card contest did not go well for me. Ahem. Right after that, I entered this other contest to be a fan ambassador and I got word yesterday that I’d been chosen! They didn’t really define what an ambassador was but I am interpreting it as “super fan” and I am most definitely that (and then some).

Colorless Tsukuru and his Years of Pilgrimage

I won a signed copy of the new book and I get four copies of Norwegian Wood to hand out. As so many of you know, I love this author and I was so sad when I wasn’t chosen to receive a review copy but this makes up for it! I am about 20% into the Kindle version and I am completely absorbed by the story.

Anyway, thanks so much for all of your quote card contest votes and putting up with my daily blathering on Facebook, Twitter and everywhere else. Once I get the books, I will host a giveaway.

Happy Friday!

Review: Never Fall Down

Never Fall Down
Never Fall Down
By Patricia McCormick
(Balzer + Bray, Hardcover, 9780061730931, May 2012, 224pp.)

The Short of It:

McCormick delivers a heartbreaking account of survival.

The Rest of It:

Never Fall Down is about Arn Chorn-Pond and how he survived the Cambodian Genocide under the Khmer Rouge. I know many of you have read about the Cambodian Genocide before. There are lots of books on the subject, but what struck me about this one is that it’s tied to music and it’s told in novel form, but based on true events.

Arn and his family are forced to leave their home with thousands of others, to march along the road with just a few possessions and very little food. Their journey goes on for a very long time. Their only order is to keep walking. As the people around them die of dehydration and lack of food, Arn, eleven at the time, is forced to witness the countless killings of those too weak to continue. When Arn is chosen by the Khmer Rouge to play an instrument, he feels as if his life depends on it, and it does. He learns to play the khim, a rather difficult instrument to pick up, and as a result, falls in favor with some of the Khmer soldiers.

However, this brief respite (if you can even call it that) does not shield him from the horrors of war. Every day, someone is killed. Kids he’s come to know, or music teachers or other educated people. His slow starvation and the effects of malnutrition begin to take their toll. But through it all, Arn remains positive, hopeful even. When given a tiny bit of food, he opts to give it to those who need it more. But when forced to take up arms and fight alongside the Khmer Rouge, he becomes what he calls “a tiger” which is something he regrets and probably one of the hardest things he has to work through once he makes it to the States.

Arn’s story is truly amazing. His strong-willed personality and his love of music is what sets him apart. This was a tough read because of the subject matter, but McCormick’s decision to tell it in novel form gives the reader the distance he/she needs to experience the horrors but from a few paces back. Also, this isn’t a one-sided retelling of what we’ve all read before. This book touches on members of the Khmer Rouge and one soldier in particular that helps Arn survive his horrible ordeal.

The other thing to point out, is that this book was initially geared towards younger readers. Because of this, the material is very easy to read but at the same time, gives you a lot to consider and discuss. My book club discussed the book last night and we had the opportunity to do a teleconference with a survivor, which really added to the discussion. The book gives you a very realistic account of what went on during that time. There is also some humor and a lot of heartbreak. I listened to a portion on audio and it was a very emotional experience. I highly recommend the book and audio. It was a National Book Award finalist in 2012.

If you are interested in Arn’s story, I suggest you check out this video to get a good sense of the author’s purpose as well as Arn’s message to “never fall down” to always rise up.

 

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

It’s Finally Here!

Colorless Tsukuru and his Years of Pilgrimage

It’s here! It’s here! Well, not really. I have yet to buy the hard copy but the library surprised me by sending me the eBook last night at 9pm! I bet you know what I was doing before bed. Yes!! I read a chapter or two for sure and then this morning I read a bit more.

Early thoughts:

Tame
Slightly different writing style (could be the translation)
Characters are starting off strong

I actually prefer paperback versions but the first edition hard covers have a sticker sheet so you can design your own cover. Think I can snag one? We’ll see. There is even a sticker competition! Click that link if you want to see the cover up close and personal. By the way, if you are using Chrome, that video may not play. I can’t get it to play on my end but it works in the other browsers. Just thought I’d mention it in case you are unable to open it.

The quote card contest didn’t pan out for me but I did apply to be a book ambassador. I have high hopes that I will be chosen. Crossing fingers.

Are you reading it today too?

Review & Tour: The Home Place

The Home PlaceThe Home Place 
By Carrie La Seur
(William Morrow & Company, Hardcover, 9780062323446, July 2014, 304pp.)

The Short of It:

Home is a place but it’s also something that resides within us.

The Rest of It:

Alma Terrebonne left Montana behind her when she accepted a position as a lawyer and made the city her home. But when her sister is found dead, she’s forced to return to the home place that she left behind.

Everyone knows how it is when you return home. If you left for a reason, then going back is not easy and that is very much the case here. The bleak winters, the isolation and the poor condition of the home place itself leave a lot to be desired, but at the same time, it’s home and there’s always a place for it within your heart. As I read this book, the conflict within Alma is obvious. There is a definite love/hate thing going on with being home, but at the same time, she is the “responsible” one and with her sister dead and her niece without a mother, she feels obligated to step in.

This tug of the heart, would have been enough to explore on its own but La Seur throws in some nasty dealings with mining folk making plays for the land, the ugliness of her sister’s death and some confusion over who she should be with romantically, the guy she left behind in Montana or her new love interest back in the city.

All in all, I think La Seur tried to give us too much at once. The result? Thin characters with very little substance. However, it read well for me. The flow of the writing was quite good which made it an easy and quick read. I’ve not read many books set in Montana and La Seur’s sense of place is strong in this one.  This is one of those books where I find myself scratching my head a little because it was enjoyable to read, and yet, I felt it could have been so much more.

If you enjoy novels that explore home and what it means and you don’t mind some nasty dealings messing up your perfect picture of biscuits and gravy and fried pork chops, then I say give it a try.

Carrie La Seur

For more information on the author, click here.

TLC Book Tours

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher via TLC Book Tours.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

The Sunday Salon: School? What?

Sunday Salon

I am coming to you so late today. Why? No real reason. I just couldn’t get myself going this morning. We went to Concerts at the Park last night with friends. It was a very nice time but when I got home, I could not sleep a wink.

This morning I was groggy but got myself to church after a few cups of coffee. The Girl didn’t want to go but she came, grudgingly, and the service ended up being just what I needed. I’m glad we got to go because school starts this week and let’s face it, we all need a little bit of calm before the craziness of school begins.

I just can’t believe that summer is technically over for us.

What am I reading?

I started Desperation for my the Summer of King, but then it fell off my Kindle. I’m not sure what happened to it but I noticed last night that it’s back. CREEPY! When it disappeared, I started The Painter by Peter Heller. Very good. I also started Going Somewhere (a bicycle journey) which is starting off very strong.

This Tuesday, I will be reading the new Murakami book, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. FINALLY!! I tried to get a review copy. Failed. Tried to win the quote card contest, but could not compete with cheaters. Just the other day, I applied to be an ambassador for the book, still no word on that but no matter what, I will be reading it come Tuesday. It’s about freakin’ time!

What am I cooking?

Food has not been all that appealing to me lately. I didn’t do any cooking this weekend, except the strawberry shortcake I put together for the concert the other night. Tonight, we hit Chipotle for a quick meal.

What am I watching?

I watched a little of the Twilight Zone this weekend. The Girl and I also watched It’s Complicated and we all sat down to watch The Grand Budapest Hotel which was very good but The Girl was not impressed.

Right now, I am watching Huell Howser. Huell was well-known for showcasing California towns and parks. He passed away a few years ago but his shows are still on KCET and PBS so I love to watch them when they are on. California is such a large state. Even after living here all these years, there is still so much to see and experience so I love to watch his show for that reason.

What’s your week look like?

Review: The Martian

The Martian

The Martian
By Andy Weir
(Crown, Hardcover, 9780804139021, February 2014, 384pp.)

The Short of It:

After being left for dead, an astronaut battles failed equipment and a dwindling food supply in what appears to be a hopeless situation.

The Rest of It:

This is a novel with a super simple premise and yet, there is so much to ponder. Mark Watney is like the MacGyver of space. His area of specialty is botany and mechanical engineering, which helps with the food situation as he’s able to cultivate potatoes out of basically, very little. Getting the soil just right and taking into account the limited water and oxygen supply, it’s a challenge to say the least. As a reader, you can’t help but marvel at his resourcefulness.

His crew left him behind because of a fatal tear to his suit during a rather severe windstorm, but when he patches himself up and somehow figures out a way to communicate with NASA, his crew, residing offsite over 400 days away, learn of his existence. As you can imagine, this has all sorts of consequences to their original mission. One, leaving a crew mate behind was never what they had planned to do and the regret over the decision weighs heavily with them. Two, they quickly decide, with the help of NASA that they must go back for Watney. This forces NASA  to come up with a way to extend his lifespan and therefore increase his chances for survival.

While all of this is going on, Watney has to figure out ways to keep himself busy. Days and nights are spent watching TV shows from the past (yes, he has access to shows) or listening to the Disco music collection left behind by another crew member. He also spends hours figuring out how to turn vapor into drinkable water and well, blowing himself up. A chemist, he is not.

There is a lot of humor contained between these pages but there is also a serious amount of math. Not a problem if you can read over it and not feel the need to work stuff out in your head. But for much of the book, especially the first 60 pages or so, I found myself double-checking the numbers to see if the numbers matched up. At one point, I got on Facebook and asked other readers if the entire book was that way. Thankfully, no but you should be aware of it in case you are a math hater and cannot deal with numbers.

I love science and there is just something magical about space exploration and Watney is an interesting character. He’s vulnerable, yet tough. Positive, yet realistic. As a reader, you will find yourself totally absorbed by the rescue mission itself. Can he endure a year of waiting? Will the equipment hold up? Will there be enough food? Water? Will he freeze to death? These are the questions that you will ask yourself over and over again because with each step forward, there is one step back and it’s heartbreaking to see that forward/back thing when it happens.

It’s a good book to get lost in. I mean, you really feel as if you are out there stranded with Watney and that’s saying a lot. Last I read, Ridley Scott was in negotiations to direct Matt Damon in the movie version. I love Scott and Damon. That is a winning combination to me but how will it differ from Gravity? The isolation and the fight to survive and return home won’t be new. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Have you read The Martian? Will you see the movie?

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: The Three

The Three

The Three
By Sarah Lotz
(Little, Brown and Company, Hardcover, 9780316242905, May 2014, 480pp.)

The Short of It:

Three strange children, four plane crashes and a media frenzy gives this a ripped from the headlines feel.

The Rest of It:

Four commercial airlines crash within minutes of each other. There are only three survivors, all of them children. Their families don’t know what to make of it, when their personalities prove to be different from how they were before the crash. Religious fanatics think they are the devil or that they are a sign that the end days have begun. The media, ever-present, want answers to all of the numerous questions being asked. Why these three? Are they the chosen ones?

With the Malaysian flight disappearing and then the other Malaysian flight getting shot down, commercial airlines have been in the headlines for quite a while and I happen to read this book between the two events, which gave it a surreal feel, to say the least. But based on the reviews I’ve read, I expected a more horrific read. One blogger said it was “terrifying” and another said it was worthy of nightmares. Really? I thought it was pretty mild as far as plot.

Much of it takes place after the event and with the media presence and the journalistic format of the novel itself, I felt a little detached from what was taking place between its pages. You know how it is. After a major disaster, the TV channels are overrun by footage and first hand accounts. At some point, there is no new info and you just can’t take it anymore. That is how I felt with this novel. About 3/4 of the way through, I got tired of it and moved on to another book. I only decided to finish it just to see if there was any resolution and even that is debatable.

As a quick summer read, it’s entertaining and a page turner but I would have liked the format to be a little more varied. It had too much of a newsy feel to me but I know a lot of readers that really liked that aspect of the book so obviously, it’s my own personal opinion.

Have you read The Three? Want to discuss the ending? If so, leave a non-spoilery comment and I will send you an email.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

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