Monday, September 26, 2011

My Ramblings on We're Not Leaving by Benjamin J. Luft, M.D.

We're Not Leaving: 9/11 Responders Tell Their Stories of Courage, Sacrifice, and Renewal.
By: Benjamin J. Luft, M.D.
Release Date: September 6, 2011

"We're Not Leaving" is a compilation of powerful first-person narratives told from the vantage point of World Trade Center disaster workers-police officers, firefighters, construction workers, and other volunteers at the site.

While the effects of 9/11 on these everyday heroes and heroines are indelible, and in some cases have been devastating, at the heart of their deeply personal stories-their harrowing escapes from the falling Towers, the egregious environment they worked in for months, the alarming health effects they continue to deal with-is their witness to their personal strength and renewal in the ten years since.

These stories, shared by ordinary people who responded to disaster and devastation in extraordinary ways, remind us of America's strength and inspire us to recognize and ultimately believe in our shared values of courage, duty, patriotism, self-sacrifice, and devotion, which guide us in dark times. (from

My Ramblings:
I think it's fair to say that most of us remember where we were when we first heard about the events of 9/11. I was in a morning class at college, Biology, half asleep in the back of the room when someone got a text from someone. No seemed to take it really think anything big was happening, class continued and we all walked back to the dorms. Then, with the TV on and calls flooding in from family and friends, it all began to sink in. A lot of my friends were from the Northeast. We all  knew people in the city. We were 1000+ miles away from NYC and we were trying to track down loved ones and friends. Thankfully, everyone we knew was not in the area at the time of the attack. Not everyone had that experience, not everyone was as lucky. This book tells the stories of those who were there during the aftermath. 

I won't lie, this is a tough book to read. I had to set it down several times and take a break. I imagine it is even harder on those who were in NYC on that day or who lost loved ones. A range of people share their stories in this book, everyone from firefighters and EMT's who were at Ground Zero and survived to those who came later to offer their support and help. They don't pull punches and some of the descriptions of what they saw are hard to take in. Still, I think we have to. These are the people who ran towards danger to help those who needed them. The reality of the situation should not be sugar coated. The honesty of the contributors is part of what makes this book so powerful. The fact that many of these people, who did what they could to save others, are now suffering from various medical issues, both physical and emotional is a testament to the cost of their actions in the days that followed the attacks. 

This is a great book to read if you want a different, more personal, perspective on the events of 9/11 and the days, weeks and month following. There will be moments you want to stop reading, but it's important to finish.  I think we've all heard people say that "we will never forget", this book provides one way to remember what happened and the sacrifices that were made by those who were there. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

My Ramblings on Vacation Reads

This happens every year- I take a little vacation, but before I go (or in this case, while I'm there) I stock up on books I've been dying to read. This time I was gone for a week, I read four books, which is wonderful. Only problem is that it makes it really hard to review them all because I read them back to back (sometimes multiples in one day). My solution? One big post. So here's the quick and dirty rundown of my vacation reads!

By: Robison Wells
Release Date: October 4, 2011
Author Website


Benson Fisher thought that a scholarship to Maxfield Academy would be the ticket out of his dead-end life.

He was wrong.

Now he’s trapped in a school that’s surrounded by a razor-wire fence. A school where video cameras monitor his every move. Where there are no adults. Where the kids have split into groups in order to survive.

Where breaking the rules equals death.

But when Benson stumbles upon the school’s real secret, he realizes that playing by the rules could spell a fate worse than death, and that escape—his only real hope for survival—may be impossible. (

My Ramblings:
I received this book from Teen Book Scene as part of a blog tour for the other blog I write for (Eve's Fan Garden) and I will be doing a full review in the next few weeks for that site, so here I will keep it short and sweet. This was a very, very good book. I was all in from the word go, and then I was a little hesitant in the middle and wasn't sure what was going on, and then, in the end it all made sense and made no sense at all and it was awesome. I can't wait for the sequel, which is unfortunate what with the sequel not being due for release until next fall. At any rate, stay tuned for my EFG review and come October go grab this book up!


Wolves, Boys and Other Things that Might Kill Me
By: Kristen Chandler
Release Date:
Author Website

It's K.J.'s junior year in the small town of West End, Montana, and whether she likes it or not, things are different this year. Over the summer, she turned from the blah daughter of a hunting and fishing guide into a noticeably cuter version of the outdoor loner. Normally, K.J. wouldn't care less, but then she meets Virgil, whose mom is studying the controversial wolf packs in nearby Yellowstone Park. And from the moment Virgil casts a glance at her from under his shaggy blond hair, K.J. is uncharacteristically smitten. Soon, both K.J. and Virgil are spending a lot of their time watching the wolves (and each other), and K.J. begins to see herself and her town in a whole new light. (from

My Ramblings:
I don't read a ton of contemporary YA fiction- a lot of times I want the escape that comes with paranormal and fantasy, but every once in a while I will scoop up something more realistic. The quickest way to get me to grab your book? Yellowstone. It's as easy as that. So this book, set just outside the park in Montana and focusing on the controversy that came with the reintroduction of wolves in 1997, was a no brainer. I've done reports on the subject and spent countless hours sitting on the hill in Lamar Valley watching the Druid Peak pack go about their lives. I've sat on a carcass (not really sat on- I've sat in pull offs and watched a carcass) in the hopes that I will glimpse a wolf or grizzly coming in for a meal. I've said it before, and will say it again I'm sure, Yellowstone, for me is home. So any chance to visit I'll take. I live a four DAYS drive away, so a lot of times that visit comes through a book or tv show. Needless to say I was excited to read this one. So how did it do as far as visits go?

Simply put, it was excellent. I could see everything KJ and Virgil saw and was totally invested in their journey as they tried to figure out who they are and what they believe in. KJ, a lifer in her small town has grown up with one point of view, that the wolves are both bad for business (as far as the ranchers are concerned) and good for tourism (as far as her fathers guide business is concerned), but she doesn't feel passionately one way or the other. Other people in town do though, they want the wolves gone, and fast. Virgil on the other hand, blows into town with his mother, who studies wolves for a living and is sqaurely on the opposing side. For her, and by extension Virgil, the wolves are a great thing. When Virgil and KJ and partnered up on a column for the school paper on the wolves they find themselves confronting their own beliefs, the beliefs of the town and trying to find a way for everyone to live together. 

I'm going to talk for one quick minute about KJ's come to Jesus moments regarding the wolves. It was good, and for me it was also funny. Here's why. Shortly after the wolves were released from their reintroduction pens in the Lamar Valley my family visited the park (as we did every couple years). Of course we were hoping to catch a glimpse of the wolves. There is a road in valley that goes back to a trailhead, camping area and a nice spot to fish called Slough Creek. We were stopped in there scanning for animals when I looked behind me and saw, up on a huge boulder, a black wolf. I looked at him, he stared at me, and then he backed off away from the ledge and was gone. It was my first connection to the wolves and it really does change you. I had no opinion before that moment besides "it's cool", afterwards I was certain of why the reintroduction was good and why we now had to protect the wolves. KJ's moment seemed to mirror mine. Everything she saw and felt made absolute sense to me. It was pretty awesome. 

One thing that I feel the need to mention is that I wonder if people who do not travel to Yellowstone and the area often feel lost in the descriptions of where Virgil and KJ go with Virgil's mom in the park. To me it's as familiar as walking through my house, but I worry that others might not visualize it as I do, and mabye additional descriptions of what the area looks like might help. I'd be interested to know what others thought if they are not at home in the park. 

Overall though, this was a phenomenal book. Chandler nailed it as far as I'm concerned. Not only did she bring me back to Yellowstone, but she created believable characters who are dealing with an issue that happens all the time around the park. I thought it was all really well done. 

White Cat
By: Holly Black
Release Date:
Author Website


Cassel comes from a family of curse workers — people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they're all mobsters, or con artists. Except for Cassel. He hasn't got the magic touch, so he's an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail — he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.

Ever since, Cassel has carefully built up a façade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his façade starts crumbling when he starts sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He's noticing other disturbing things, too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him, caught up in a mysterious plot. As Cassel begins to suspect he's part of a huge con game, he also wonders what really happened to Lila. Could she still be alive? To find that out, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen.

Holly Black has created a gripping tale of mobsters and dark magic where a single touch can bring love — or death — and your dreams might be more real than your memories. (From

My Ramblings:
So as far as reading goes I jump from Wolves... to this in a matter of hours, and I'm not going to lie, it took me a little bit to switch gears and really get into White Cat. It was no fault of Black though, this book has a little bit of everything, but what really drew me in was the mystery surrounding Cassel and Lila and what really is going on. 

I loved the character of Cassel, he was a perfect outsider who was trying really hard to fit in. He's afraid of himself and what he is capable of and is confused and scared about what is happening to him. To be honest this book is really hard to review because I feel like every time I go to write something I realize it's a bit of a spoiler. So instead I'll keep it simple. Black creates a believable world in which magic holds the ultimate power. Cassel, who comes from a family of curse workers, has resigned himself to simply being a conman with no magical abilities. Suddenly he finds himself in the middle of a plot that is not only the ultimate con, but laced with magic and deception. Figuring out who is playing who and to what end is enough to keep Cassel busy for the majority of the book, and his play to flip to power to his side is a great climax to the story. 

As much as I loved Cassel and his family, there is one character I really want to know more about and that is Philip's wife Maura. I would love to not only know more about her life with Philip and what she has gone through, but also what her life is like now. 

Of course I can't wait to get my hands on Red Glove (already on reserve at the library!) to see what happens next!

I also read Bumped by Megan McCafferty and that review is here. I couldn't wait to review it because, well, I was so befuddled by that book that I had to get my thoughts out ASAP. 

Until next time,
Happy reading!

Friday, September 9, 2011

My Ramblings on Bumped by Megan McCafferty

By: Megan McCafferty
Release Date: April 2011
Author Website

When a virus makes everyone over the age of eighteen infertile, would-be parents pay teen girls to conceive and give birth to their children, making teens the most prized members of society. Girls sport fake baby bumps and the school cafeteria stocks folic-acid-infused food.

Sixteen-year-old identical twins Melody and Harmony were separated at birth and have never met until the day Harmony shows up on Melody’s doorstep. Up to now, the twins have followed completely opposite paths. Melody has scored an enviable conception contract with a couple called the Jaydens. While they are searching for the perfect partner for Melody to bump with, she is fighting her attraction to her best friend, Zen, who is way too short for the job.

Harmony has spent her whole life in Goodside, a religious community, preparing to be a wife and mother. She believes her calling is to convince Melody that pregging for profit is a sin. But Harmony has secrets of her own that she is running from. 

When Melody is finally matched with the world-famous, genetically flawless Jondoe, both girls’ lives are changed forever. A case of mistaken identity takes them on a journey neither could have ever imagined, one that makes Melody and Harmony realize they have so much more than just DNA in common. 

My Ramblings:
Well, this is going to be one of those rare moments when I don't have a whole heck of a lot of nice stuff to  say about a book. This book, while it has received several great reviews and I heard good things about it from others, just really didn't do it for me. 

It started off bad when during the first several chapters I kept getting confused as to which sister was which. I was constantly checking back to the beginning of the chapter and even then I couldn't remember which one was Harmony- the Bible thumper or the professional humper? (bad joke) This was an issue that carried over to other parts of the story, I felt like everything was on the surface without a lot of explanation and therefore I didn't connect with the characters or plot. Both Melody and Harmony seemed like stereotypes instead of fully formed individuals and I just couldn't get invested in their journey or their struggles. Even the world around them seemed to suffer from a lack of explanation. Acronyms were thrown out without definition, slang was tossed out in conversation left and right and without any context and it was hard to follow. The intentional spelling changes were irritating instead of lending insight into the world these girls live in. For instance- seeing the word really repeatedly spelled "rilly" was frankly really annoying. 

I suspect that the author was trying to show the superficial world these girls are living in. That they have been reduced to breeding for profit and how horrifying that is, but I found myself unable to envision a world where this could be the reality, and therefore it wasn't horrifying at all, just laughable. I wish that there had been more context to it all. Where had the virus come from, what had been done to try and stop it, how did it get to the point where girls were treated like breeding stock? Without that background to back up the story I felt a bit lost. 

Lastly, this book falls into the trap that a lot of books seem to fall into- that of the cliff hanger ending. They are written and set up for sequels and trilogies and there is the risk of the book not being able to stand on it's own. That is how I felt when I hit the last page. There is no resolution. A spectacularly written first book in the series will do two things in my opinion: 

1. Come to a conclusion of some sort. It will have a satisfying ending that is enough all on it's own without needing the next book to finish the story. Of course there will be some loose ends to tie up, a promise of a next adventure, or some greater story that is waiting (for example- Harry Potter). 

2. That anticipation of what could possibly happen next will leave the reader wanting more. 

Bumped did neither of these things for me. There was no satisfaction to be found in the final pages of this book, it's all left for the sequel (or trilogy), Worse then that, I didn't even care about what was going to happen next. I have suspicions as to what choices Melody and Harmony will make next, but I'm not invested in their journeys in a way that when I closed the book I was instantly wanting more. 

Is there a possibility that I've totally missed the entire point of this book? Absolutely. Maybe there is some greater message that I missed out on, or maybe I'm trying to read too much into a book that is just supposed to be fun. Either one of those scenarios could be spot on. So if you've read Bumped and you are reading my ramblings on it and thinking "WTF? Did we even read the same book? This girl is crazy!" let me hear it in the comments. 

Until next time~ Happy reading!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

My Ramblings on A Clash of Kings by George RR Martin

So I kept feeling like I had forgotten to review a book somewhere in there. It seemed like I read more Fantasy & Magic books and then I realized that I never reviewed A Clash of Kings. I meant to, but it was just such a hefty book that I thought to myself "I've got to sit on this one for a little bit" and then it just slipped through the cracks. So here we go...

A Clash of Kings
By: George RR Martin
Author Website


A comet the color of blood and flame cuts across the sky. Two great leaders—Lord Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon—who hold sway over an age of enforced peace are dead, victims of royal treachery. Now, from the ancient citadel of Dragonstone to the forbidding shores of Winterfell, chaos reigns. Six factions struggle for control of a divided land and the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms, preparing to stake their claims through tempest, turmoil, and war. It is a tale in which brother plots against brother and the dead rise to walk in the night. Here a princess masquerades as an orphan boy; a knight of the mind prepares a poison for a treacherous sorceress; and wild men descend from the Mountains of the Moon to ravage the countryside. Against a backdrop of incest and fratricide, alchemy and murder, victory may go to the men and women possessed of the coldest steel...and the coldest hearts. For when kings clash, the whole land trembles. (from

My Ramblings:

For me these books are so hard to review because there are so many people and stories swirling around and I struggle with how to talk about it without giving anything away. Martin has created a incredibly rich world and characters that are well rounded. I care about these characters, and I want to visit Westeros, and unfortunately for someone like me who gets attached to characters in books, nothing is sacred. Which is precisely the issue. At the end of the first book, Game of Thrones, Martin went ahead and killed off someone who should have been untouchable. With the drop of the sword nobody was safe, and I felt it all the way through A Clash of Kings. Again, because there are so many twists and turns to the story I'm only going to give a broad overview so that I don't ruin anything for anyone!

This books picks up where Game of Thrones ended and we follow our main players as the battle for the throne comes to a head. Robb in the North, Renly and Stannis and then Joffrey at Kings Landing (with his mother pulling the strings). Of course, we also have Dany and her Dragons still trying to find their way back into the seven kingdoms. In other words, there are a lot of people to keep track of, and those are just the people hoping to be King!

For me I found that there was a bit of a disconnect in this book that I didn't necessarily feel in the first book. There were some characters that I simply didn't care for, so I would skim their chapters in order to get to the chapters on the ones I did. I stressed over the fates of Arya and Sansa. Would she make it home to Winterfell and what would she find if she did? Would Sansa find her own voice and somehow find her freedom? I'm always entertained by Tyrion Lannister regardless of what he's up to, so I of course I loved his chapters and looked forward to them. As in Game of Thrones Tyrion did not disappoint! Even the characters who took a back seat to my favorites, Like Theon Greyjoy, still managed to be interesting (although the initial scenes with his sister were rather painful). 

Overall, I learned more about Westeros, saw some of the old heroes come up short and witnessed the emergence of new powerhouse characters. So, basically, a good time was had by all! I can't wait to see how A Clash of Kings plays out on HBO.