Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Certain Slant of Light

I had seen several recommendations on the board for A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb. The premise sounded interesting and when I saw it on my most recent trip to the library I decided to give it a try.

"Someone was looking at me, a disturbing sensation if you're dead."

The first line lets you know that this is a ghost story. It's about Helen, a woman who died 130 years ago, but has existed as Light, a ghost, since then, roaming the world attached to a human host. When one host dies, she cleaves to another, which has brought her to the setting of the story. It begins in a high school classroom where her current host, Mr. Brown, teaches English. It seems like another day in her Light existence until she notices once of Mr. Brown's students looking at her. Not through her, at her.

She realizes that this student, Billy, has been possessed by a spirit like her. Billy was on the brink of death from a drug overdose, so this spirit, James, took possession of Billy's abandoned body. Soon James and Helen fall in love, her as a spirit and him in possession of this teenage body.

The resulting story is one of love that delves into some fascinating moral issues as well. How can these two lovers be together when they are both dead? How does James's inhabitation of Billy's body impact the people in Billy's world and the life he left behind? What are the ramifications of the Light interfering with the Quick? It also delves into the past and the reasons these two spirits are stuck wandering the Earth.

It's amazing that this is Whitcomb's first novel. Her writing is beautiful and poetic and the story is tight and full.

The only thing that is strange to me about this book is the fact that it is categorized as Young Adult. Yes, a lot of it takes place in a high school, and yes, there are high-school-aged characters, but Helen was 29 when she died, and James was in his 20's as well, so the characters are mature and much of the subject matter is mature as well. For those of you who are interested in this book, please don't be turned off by the YA categorization. Nothing about this story struck me as YA at all.

There have been some raves on the board as well about the audio book. That's something I would like to check out, as it was mentioned that the reader really captures Helen's essence in her storytelling.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

25 books in 2009

So many members on the board have decided that, while they don't think they can hit 50 books (or simply don't want to), they would still like to have a challenge. So they created the 25 books in 2009 challenge. So check out the board to see who all is doing it and feel free to post your updates here or on the board. And as always, feel free to add the icon to your siggy.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Update to the Harry Potter Read Along

So RevJen had the great idea to spread out the books a bit and read one a month between January and July when the next movie comes out. Along with the book we're thinking we can watch the movie for each book each month (well, up through book 5). So, we will start in January and read one book each month. Feel free to post on the board any thoughts or questions anytime throughout the month. Read the original post for more details on what we are doing.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

EW's Best and Worst of 2008

I know these lists are really popular so I thought I'd post it here for anyone who wants to have it handy. Check out the lists here. Happy reading!

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Harry Potter Series Read Along!

So a bunch of us are planning to read the Harry Potter series together, some for the first time others for the tenth. Please feel free to join in by reading all of the books or only some, whatever you want. We're starting with book 1 on January 5th and will read one book a month from then until July (which is when the new movie comes out). Then, after you read the book, watch the movie that goes with that book (there is a movie for each book through Order of the Phoenix). There will be frequent posts on the board about the books and what is going on. So please join us!

And just an fyi this is not an official nbc event, it's in addition to the regular book club pick. And if it's your first time reading these or just your first re-read you can count these toward the book challenges.

The book order:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Stephen King Group Reads

Just wanted to update everyone on what is happening on the Stephen King front.  

To make things clear: neither of these are 'official' Nest Book Club selections.  These discussions will take place in addition to the discussions about selected NBC books. 

We will be discussing the book The Stand on January 20th & 21st.  For LOST fans, this will be to gear up for the season premiere that night, but everyone is welcome to join in! 

To answer a couple of questions about this book:

The Stand is not a "scary" book with ghosts and vampires and things that go bump-in-the-night.  It is a story of an experiment that gets out of hand, killing a huge majority of the population.  The story focuses on the survivors and how they respond and what happens to them.  If you are scared of typical horror books, don't be scared of this.  

There are 2 versions of The Stand.  The original one was published in 1978.  In 1990, Stephen King released a newer version, calling it the "uncut" edition.  It is about 300 pages longer, and most of the additions were character development related.  It will give you a little bit more back story to some characters, but really isn't essential to get the story.  For the group read, feel free to read whichever copy you have access to.  

Immediately following discussing The Stand, we will be reading The Dark Tower.  This is a series of 7 books written by Stephen King from the time he was 19 (in 1970) and completed in 2004.  We will start out, with the first 2 books, discussing every 2 weeks. After that, the books get longer and we will set discussion dates depending on the length of the book.  

All the books in order are:
1- The Gunslinger
2- The Drawing of the Three
3- The Waste Lands
4- Wizard and Glass
5- Wolves of the Calla
6- Songs of Susannah
7- The Dark Tower

This series has connections with many of King's other works and is considered by many (and by King himself) to be his greatest.

For more information about plot, visit the Dark Tower website

If you are also participating in the Winter Book Challenge, keep in mind that you can use The Stand as your 700+ book, The Drawing of the Three can be used as a book with a number in the title, If you have never read Stephen King you can count this as your book by an author you have never read, you could count the Dark Tower books as reading books in the same series. Just wanted to point these things out!

If you have any questions, feel free to ask me (jackiback) or MyJuneGirls.  We are the resident Stephen King fanatics and would love to get you reading him! 

**Updated: January 24th**
We have now set a schedule for reading these books. We switched up the reading time depending on the length of the books and here is what we came up with:

The Gunslinger: February 9th
Drawing of the Three: February 23rd
The Waste Lands: March 16th
Wizard and Glass: April 6th
Wolves of the Calla: May 4th
Song of Susannah: May 25th
The Dark Tower: June 22nd

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Marley & Me: Life and Love With the World's Worst Dog

Marley and Me is an incredibly cute book by John Grogan about a mischievous golden retriever that he and his wife brought into their home. They both had fond memories of dogs from their childhoods and were convinced that they would have the same experience with Marley. But they were in for a surprise. Marley was an incredibly hyper, curious, and playful dog who brought a lot to the life of the Grogans.

The book is full of funny and heartwarming stories about the dog and the family as they grew, from a tiny puppy and his newlywed owners to a full grown dog and an established family. Marley and Me is a touching story that even someone who doesn't like dogs will enjoy.

The book is also being turned into a movie starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston. The movie comes out Christmas Day.

Check out the page for the book and this page for the movie.

Just in Case

So with the rumors today about the nest possibly going down Woogie made us a backup so we can all still communicate. If the site goes down we'll simply move over to this site. She says it's really simple and you don't have to give a lot of information to make a profile. So just thought I'd post this here just in case.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

High School Reunion Part II

So, I wanted to read more of Sarah Dessen's books, but I didn't want to go out and buy them for full price. I usually get most of my books at the used bookstore or on, but shopping for specific books at the used bookstore never works out so well, and, in this case, I was way too impatient to wait for So...I broke down and got a library card. Then I ran upstairs to the YA section and grabbed three more of her books.

I ended up devouring these three books. I read two of them and started the third in one day, then I finished the third one the following evening.

That Summer was actually Dessen's first published novel. This is apparent when you compare the writing with the writing in This Lullaby or Just Listen, but it was still a great book. I really related with the main character Haven because she was going through her teen years as a nearly six foot tall girl, much like I did. (She also worked at the mall, much like I did for eight long years of my life. Haven and I had a lot in common.) That Summer is a "sister of the bride" story. Haven's sister getting married in the same summer as her father is getting re-married (to the woman he cheated on her mom with), so it's a traumatic summer for her. She copes by spending her time fixating on a summer from her past when her sister's ex-boyfriend, Sumner, shows back up in town.

I think we can all relate to romanticizing a time in the past when we thought things were perfect and fixating on it, and that's what Haven does in this book. The ending is very poignant, and it is a cute growing up story.

Keeping The Moon is another one of Dessen's earlier books, and is another coming of age story. I liked this one better than That Summer, mainly just because the writing was tighter and there was a little more romance (I am realizing I am a sucker for the teen romance. How sad). In this one there is the adorably dorky Norman, a talented artist, as the boy interest. (I don't know what it is about Sarah Dessen...she obviously loves the dorky boys as much as I do. It's so refreshing to see dorks getting some love. I think that's why I like her books so much.) Romance isn't the focus of this book, though, it's Colie and the journey of self-acceptance she goes through as she spends a summer at the beach with her aunt. She learns about friendship, beauty, and loving herself through her aunt, the two twenty-something girls next door, Isabel and Morgan, and the cutie-pie Norman who rents a room at her aunt's house. It all sounds very trite, but it's not, I promise. Dessen really has mastered telling these stories and teaching these lessons without sounding cliche.

The last one I read from the library was Dreamland. I don't want to say that Dessen's novels are formulaic, because they are not, but the ones I have read have followed a somewhat similar pattern of girl discovers herself and deals with family issues thanks to some dorky boy who helps her figure it all out. Dreamland is different. Yes, Caitlin has personal issues as well as major family issues that she needs to solve. However, in this book it isn't the boy who helps her solve them. In this book, the boy makes them worse.

I should have known something was different about this book when I didn't like Rogerson. I have loved all of her other guy characters, but I didn't like this one. Well, there's a good reason, because the relationship between Caitlin and Rogerson soon turns to abuse, so not only is Caitlin dealing with her mother's depression and the breakdown of her family after her sister runs away, but now she is trying to keep her absue at the hands of her mysterious boyfriend a secret from everyone. It's so fascinating the way Caitlin's life slowly breaks down and she beigins to lose every single piece of herself to this guy who hurts her over and over again.

This book is a lot heavier than the others. Obviously, the subject of abuse is a serious one. Plus, there is a lot of drinking and teenage drug use, as well as language. Rogerson is a drug dealer, and by the end of the book Caitlin is stoned pretty much the entire time. It's still one I would love to have my students read, though...hopefully to let the girls look at an abusive relationship from the outside and see what it looks like so they know what to avoid.

So, after reading five of her novels, I still have a major crush on Sarah Dessen. This Lullaby remains my favorite, but I still have a few more to read! I need to get my hands on Someone Like You, The Truth About Forever, and her newset book Lock and Key. Someone Like You is one of her older ones, but the other two are more recent and I have heard nothing but good things about them!

Looking at all of these books and reading reviews, it seems like people tend to agree that Dessen has a lock on writing characters that feel real. Like them or hate them (it seems like her girls irritate a lot of readers, but I think it may be because they relate to them more than they want to admit), they are so fleshed out that they feel like they could hop off of the page and have a cup of coffee with you (or smoke a bowl with you, in the case of Caitlin from Dreamland). The same with her secondary characters. Even though they are just there, in many cases, to move the plot along in some way or another, she never makes them flat. They are always just as interesting and complex as the main characters themselves.

Looks like I'll be stalking the YA section of the library until these come in. But, I guess by the time that happens I could have ordered them from, right? Oh long as I get to read them.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Challenge Spreadsheets

j*&*p made a link to the challenge spreadsheets for everyone. Here is the link.

If you want to save it to your computer as an excel file...
1. Click on File in the command bar
2. Chose Export and a new menu will pop up.
3. On the new menu that pops up choose .xls

If you want to save it as a google docs spreadsheet (you have to have a google docs account to do this)...
1. Click File
2. Choose Create a Copy
3. Rename it and save to your own google docs account.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Isabella Swan is a plain, clumsy girl who moves from sunny Phoenix, Arizona to cold, rainy Forks, Washington to live with her father. She is miserable in Forks, but quickly finds herself drawn to the beautiful and mysterious Edward Cullen, a student at the small town's high school who, along with his strange brothers and sisters, seems to be an outcast in the town despite his extreme beauty.

Bella's first encounter with the gorgeous Edward is a strange one, as he seems to hate her upon first sight. From there, she is drawn into his mysterious world of cryptic answers, impossible acts of strength, and inexplicable behavior. What Bella doesn't realize is that Edward is a vampire, and the more time they spend together, the more they are moving toward an impossible relationship.

Twilight explores the most forbidden love of all. Can a vampire and a human girl truly be together, if his lust for her body always runs the chance of being overcome by his lust for her blood?

This book is one part vampire (although Stephenie Meyer's vampires do not follow traditional vampire canon at fangs here), three parts angsty teen love. It's a guilty pleasure read, chock full of brooding glances and cheesy dialouge, and it is heavily recommended that you stock up on all the books in the series once you get started. Once most people get going, they don't want to stop.

The Twilight Saga
#1 - Twilight
#2 - New Moon

#3 - Eclipse

#4 - Breaking Dawn

As a bonus for Twilight fans, you can also read the first 12 chapters of Midnight Sun on Stephenie Meyer's website. Midnight Sun is the Twilight story from Edward's perspective. It was supposed to be Meyer's next project after Breaking Dawn, but in late August '08, the first 12 chapters were leaked onto the internet. Meyer was upset that her rough work was spread around without her permission or knowledge, released a statement saying the project was on hold indefinitely, and posted those leaked chapters for her fans on her website. You can read them, along with her statement, here.


English nurse Claire Randall and her husband take a second honeymoon to reconnect with one another in the Scottish Highlands in 1945 (they have been separated by 8 years of war). Claire is on a walk alone on an nearby hill when she walks through a cleft stone and is transported to 1743. She is saved from an evil English dragoon by a Highland clan, and befriends one of the Highlanders. What follows is a tale of adventure, espionage, romance, and a woman torn between fidelity and desire, and her torn conscience about returning to her own time and her newfound love in the 18th century.
There are currently six (very long) books, a seventh in the works, a graphic novel based on the first, and a spin off series based on one of the characters who first appears in book two. ~Woogie

The books are (in order):
Dragonfly in Amber
Drums of Autumn
The Fiery Cross
A Breath of Snow and Ashes
An Echo in the Bone (to be released in 2009)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

High School Reunion

So, as a high school teacher I have become pretty interested in Young Adult (YA) lit lately. I started reading it when I said, "I want to know what my students are reading so I can talk to them about it," but then, after a book or two, I found myself hooked on the genre. It wasn't just about reading what they read, it was about getting into their heads and living their lives for a little bit, albeit vicariously.

And, I'm not going to lie, I have always had a thing about high school. I guess that's why I ended up as a teacher...I guess I could never really move on.

On Thursday I randomly picked up a book called This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen. I didn't even realize it was YA when I bought it at the thrift store a few weeks ago, I figured it was chick lit (which I am not a big fan of, to tell you the truth), and threw it in my TBR pile, figuring it would be a good book for a day I was looking for a quick read, and then I would donate it to my classroom library for my students. Well, Thursday was the day I was looking for that quick read, so this book got tossed into my purse and I dove into it on my lunch break.

I was interested as soon as I started reading because the main character, Remy, was not like the typical female main character in a YA novel. She wasn't a cheerleader, but she also wasn't the shy nerd. She drank, she partied, she slept around, she was a total bitch, but, somehow she was not "the bitch." She was still a likable character. I loved following her as she was revealed to me, all of these interesting facets of her personality unfolding in layers. I found myself really liking Remy, wishing she was actually sitting across from me at lunch, and not stuck on the page.

Then there was the guy. Dexter. Oh holy lord, it was like Sarah Dessen could see into my soul and created the exact guy I would fall head-over-heels in love with. Tall. Gangly. Dorky as hell. Singer in a band. Somewhat awkward. Sex hair. OMG. I. Love. Dexter. (It should come as no surprise to most everyone reading this blog that I crush on fictional characters and I crush hard. It's not just fictional characters, though. I crush on anything and anyone appealing that crosses my path. It's a sickness, really.) Dexter was after Remy. Remy was hesitant. Jessica shouted at the book, "Good LORD, Remy! Hit that and hit it NOW or I will find a way to do it for you!"

The book wasn't just about them, though. There was so much more. Remy's family issues. Her personal issues. The things she had to get over internally. The things she had to figure out about her mom and her brother. I loved getting into her head and seeing all of this through her eyes.

I devoured this book and was really impressed. It wasn't at all what I expected from a YA novel. The characters are very well developed and actually three dimensional, which I don't often see in this genre. Plus I realized the typical YA cliches weren't there, which was a refreshing surprise. The only cliche element, to me, anyway, was the I-hate-you-no-wait-I-love-you nature of Remy and Dexter's relationship, but even that was done in a way that didn't make it seem tired and worn out.

But what really impressed me was Dessen's writing. Accessible for teenagers, but polished and solid. I enjoyed it so much. And, as someone who just spent November attempting to write a YA novel, it was very inspiring. As I was reading This Lullaby I was thinking," This is EXACTLY the book I was trying to write. The characters. The story. The development. This is what I wanted to do." So, I was jealous. So jealous. Jealous, but inspired. I want to be Sarah Dessen.

However, I figured I should read more of her books before I jump to this wild conclusion, so I grabbed Just Listen from the shelf of my classroom library and brought it home for the weekend. I read the whole thing today.

It took me a little longer to get into Just Listen, but I still enjoyed it and I was still impressed with Dessen's characters, story, and writing.

I was coming off of my Dexter high and Owen, while cool and an interesting character, just didn't do it for me the way Dexter did. (However, in a very fun surprise, Dexter some of the characters from This Lulaby actually make a cameo appearance in this book! I was so excited, it was like running into an old friend at the mall. Well, maybe not, because when I see people at the mall, even old friends, I end up hiding behind the sale rack until they are gone. I passionately hate small talk. So, bad comparison, I guess.) Plus, the focus of this book is less on the relationship and more on Annabel as a person and her relationship with her family, so that romance piece was a little bit missing for me. It was still a great book, though, and one that I would totally recommend. The dynamic between Annabel and her sisters Whitney and Kirsten is such a fascinating one and even though I thought I wouldn't be able to relate because I don't have sisters myself, I found myself shedding several tears over the relationship between these three.

I'm sitting on my couch now, eyeballing my bookshelf just FULL of books I haven't yet read, but all I want to do is read another one of Dessen's books. And, honestly, if I had it with me, I wouldn't even mind reading This Lullaby again. I suppose I can wait until tomorrow to scour the local thrift stores looking for another book of hers (she has about four or five other ones, all of them look interesting), but for now I figure blogging about the two I've read will be good enough to distract me, and then thinking about how I can get my NaNo story from where it is (vapid pile of crap) to where I want it to be (This Lullaby status) will push me on once I have read everything of hers that I can, which I will inevitably do in a very short time.

My YA obsession lives on. But I had a long conversation about This Lullaby with my 2nd period class on Friday morning, so I guess it really is a good thing.


Friday, December 5, 2008

50 Books in 2009

A bunch of us are doing a challenge next year where we plan to read at least 50 books over the course of the year. Everyone is invited to join us. Post in the comments and let us know if you plan to play along. We'll do check ins throughout the year to see how everyone is doing. And there's a graphic you can put in your siggy or blog.

Mini Nano

Don't forget we've got the mini Nano challenge that Jen started going on from today through the end of the month. The challenge is to hit 30,000 words (or finish your story for those who are that far). We'll run it like we did with the original Nano with check ins on the board but feel free to post any updates or anything here. And there's a graphic you can put in your siggy or blog if you want.

The Book Challenge

Angelashly is awesome and put together an awesome book challenge for us all to participate in and now she's made a blog for it. Check it out here.


Welcome to The Book Nest! This is a place for the members of the nest book club to continue our conversations, post challenges, and share book reviews and blogs. All members are invited to contribute to this blog and take part in all the challenges. Let me know if you'd like an invite to be a blogger on here. Also feel free to comment and let us know what you want to see. Happy reading everyone!