Saturday, May 18, 2013

Bookshelf, Library Bag, or Donation Box

A Swift Pure Cry
Inspired by true events, A Swift Pure Cry, by Siobhan Dowd, takes place in Ireland in 1984 and is about a 15 year old girl named Michelle, aka Shell, who must take care of her two younger siblings after her mother dies. Their father’s downward spiral into alcoholism drives Shell to seek affection from others around her. Although she initially finds herself drawn to a new, young priest in town, she eventually ends up giving in to the consistent advances of a slightly older local boy named Declan, who is also the on-again off-again boyfriend of her best friend, Bridget. Shell uses her secret relationship with Declan for a physical and emotional connection that keeps her from dwelling on her mother’s death. When Shell ends up pregnant, and both Bridget and Declan disappear, Shell finds herself doing her best to hide her pregnancy from her father and the rest of the community, while also trying to prepare herself for the inevitable. As Shell’s pregnancy becomes apparent to the small town, suspicions grow as to who the father of the child may be, and the suspicions are just as surprising to Shell as they are to the reader. In addition, when a dead infant is found in a cave on the beach, the town turns to Shell as the possible offender. The twists and turns in the story are both surprising and tragic, which make this book difficult to put down.

In A Swift Pure Cry, I love how I truly feel like I’m in Shell’s head. I feel everything that Shell is feeling and struggle with her along the way. Siobhan Dowd, who, sadly, died in 2007 from breast cancer, used Irish dialects and colloquialisms to give an authentic feel to her writing. Not only that, but Dowd’s use of descriptive and poetic imagery makes for a beautiful setting, amazing character development, and a wonderful plot.

Like everything I’ve read by Siobhan Dowd, A Swift Pure Cry is beautifully written, heartbreaking, and filled with hope. This novel teaches us the importance of having positive parental figures in our lives and the adverse effects a mother’s absence can make on a young girl, especially when her father “checks out” emotionally from the family as well. A Swift Pure Cry also reminds us that, in real life, there aren’t always happy endings. Tragedy occurs, and we live through those moments, coming out different on the other side, but, hopefully, also stronger.


Bookshelf: If you are someone who reads YA literature or have teens at home, I highly recommend keeping a copy of this book. It is well-written and although has many tragic moments, has a twinge of hope at the end, which is what I love most.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Friday @ the Forums

Every Friday we check out our Goodreads forums and let you know what's going on. 

Source: Jared Fagan
Anna Karenina Quotes - We're halfway through the month and (hopefully!) halfway through our selection of Anna Karenina. Share your favorite quotes here.

Foreshadowing - Jessica noticed some massive foreshadowing in Anna Karenina and opened this thread for everyone to connect the events.

Wanted: Non Tragic Romances: Jessi wants some classic romances that don't end in tragedy. Any suggestions?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Wild @ Heart with YA Lit

Screwed by Laurie Plissner, is a young adult novel about a 17 year old girl named Grace, who in a moment of weakness, gets pregnant at the same time she loses her virginity. The tragedy of the pregnancy comes from the fact that she is an honor student, a self-proclaimed geek, and daughter to uber Christian parents who lead the local abstinence only chapter at their church. Grace’s parents have high expectations of her, including Ivy League college and saving herself for marriage. Although she is aware that her parents will not be happy with her pregnancy, she is unprepared when her parents not only try to force her into getting an abortion, but kick her out of the house when she decides not to go through with it. Lucky for Grace, she has a mega-rich, 80 year old heiress named Helen for a neighbor who likes trying to help outcasts of society, so takes it upon herself to invite Grace to live in her mansion while she decides what to do with the baby. And, even more amazingly, Helen has a good looking grandson, Charlie, who lives with her and is only slightly taken aback by her situation. A perfect gentleman, raised by his parents as they traveled around Europe, he speaks like he’s British, and falls deeply in love with Grace even before she starts to show. Sounds like life got really difficult for her...

While this storyline initially sounded entertaining to me, it quickly, like in the first two chapters, became clear that I was not going to enjoy this novel. First of all, I could not stand the point of view. Plissner presents this novel in 3rd person omniscient, not limited omniscient. Therefore, at times there were up to three different character’s perspectives on the same event happening on the same page. It was too much, and therefore, tiring. I felt as though I was being forced to read a screenplay being presented as a novel. A limited omniscient POV would have been much easier to read.

In addition, every character, and I mean every, was a walking cliche, which led to a very predictable plot line. Let me give you an idea of what I mean:  

  1. Absolutely perfect, but so smart she is unpopular, daughter of uber right wing Christians gets pregnant.
  2. Said parents kick her out.
  3. “Sperm donor” is mega hot and a complete jerkface who just wants to screw as many girls as he can before he graduates.
  4. Ultra rich holocaust survivor heiress for a neighbor.
  5. Grandson of said neighbor that is so freaking polite it is sickening.
  6. Best friend, who is still proud to be a virgin and a geek, but is also very outspoken and supportive of her best friend.

You really don’t need more than that. Other than knowing her decision to give up her daughter for adoption, the story is all there.

Even more than the POV and the character cliches, there were a couple other bigger issues I had with this novel. I truly feel that this book is written with an agenda. The characters, on more than one occasion, make the claim that condoms are only 90% effective, which, first of all makes it sound like that is bad, but secondly, isn’t true. Condoms only have a 90% effective rate when they are used incorrectly. On the contrary, when used correctly condoms have a 98% effective rate (World Health Organization). Why would the author continuously press this statistic? Unless she is trying to scare teens from using condoms, thereby pressing abstinence. Not only that, but Grace, more than once, while perusing through books of couples wishing to adopt a baby, states that she will not give her child up to any dual working family - the mother must be a stay-at-home mom. Are you kidding me? So, now, Plissner is making a claim that working mothers are ineffective? Or aren’t worthy of adopting? Why wouldn’t a couple that is willing to work their butts off to take care of their new child be an acceptable family? I find this agenda ridiculous and offensive.

Donation Box:  Rather than reading this poorly written, insulting novel, watch Juno. That movie has almost the same plot line but is hilarious, well-written, and heart wrenching. If you want to read an amazing book about a young girl that must deal with her unplanned pregnancy, read A Swift Pure Cry by Siobhan Dowd. That book is
fantastic and tragic. There are so many more well-written novels out there dealing with teen pregnancy, I wouldn’t waste my time with this one.

**ARC provided by

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Book Association

For this week's Book Association, we're linking Anna Karenina with other novels written in 19th century Russia, otherwise known as the "Golden Era" of Russian literature.

Also a monster read, Dostoyevsky's novel set in St. Petersburg is about murder, suffering and redemption. 

This controversial novel uses the events of one house to illustrate the changes that were coming across all of Russia at the time. 

Puskin is credited with both solidifying the literary Russian language and introducing a new level of artistry to Russian literature. 

Which ones have you read? Are there other examples of the Golden Era that you enjoyed?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tator Tuesdays

Every week we interview our Tators and ask them bookish questions. This week's question:

What was the best book you read last year?



The Last Resort: A Memoir of Mischief and Mayhem on a Family Farm in Africa. My upstairs neighbor lent it to me -- he’s from South Africa and said it was a good representation of what it’s like there. The author chronicles the struggle his family faces as the country plunges deeper into political unrest after Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe orders the “reclamation” of white-owned farms. This puts a target directly on Drifters, the travel lodge that Rogers’ parents own and operate.





What was the best book you read last year?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Literary Loot

Source: Karena Fagan

This is the Steinbeck edition of Literary Loot as along with my fellow podcasters, Jeane, Jared and I visited the Steinbeck House as well as the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California last week. We'll talk about our visit more on next week's podcast, but I thought I'd share my goodies.

I picked up Tortilla Flat from the Steinbeck House Gift Shop. There were a few to chose from that I didn't own, but this one looked interesting. They also embossed the inside for me with a seal saying it's from the House. Not in the picture is actually a collector's spoon from the House as well that I bought for my mother who collects them (spoons that is, not houses). From the NSC down the street, I bought the t-shirt (which names all of Steinbeck's works on the back as well) and The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights which was unfinished at the time of his death in 1968.

I am hopelessly behind on my Steinbeck bibliography as I've only read The Grapes of Wrath so I think I might start one of these soon. Next weekend my library is having a huge sale and you know I'm going to bring home a great number of them. Stay tuned!

Did you pick up any literary loot this weekend? Share it with us! 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Book It: Events for Bibliophiles

This week - May 13th through 19th -- is Children's Book Week! Join us in the nationwide celebration of reading and books. Learn more about this special week and discover events in your area by clicking here

If you would like to see your city or event posted in an upcoming post, please email me: heather[dot]varanini[at]gmail[dot]com.

Monday May 13th

A Niece of Miss Austen: Catherine Hubback's Journey from Hampshire to California. A Talk by Zoë Klippert.

Event: Freelance editor Zoë Klippert will be discussing Hubback's unusual journey from the East Coast to the West Coast.

Learn more about the event by clicking here.

Time: 5pm - 7pm
Location: The Book Club of California
312 Sutter Street, Suite 500
San Francisco, CA
Cost: Free

Jessie Oleson Moore -- The Secret Lives of Baked Goods: Sweet Stories and Recipes for America's Favorite Desserts 

Event: Learn all about the history behind America's favorite sweets with Jessie Oleson Moore's new book, The Secret Lives of Baked Goods

Click here to learn more about this event. 

Time: 6pm - 7pm
Location: Omnivore Books
3885a Cesar Chavez Street
San Francisco, CA 
Cost: Free

Tuesday May 14th 

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival

Event: Join authors Jenni Holm and James Kennedy as they screen the very best of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival.

Click here for more information. 

Time: 6pm - 8pm
Location: San Francisco Public Library -- Main
100 Larkin Street
San Francisco, CA
Cost: Free

Arturo Mantecon, Translator of Leopoldo Maria Panero

Event: Green Apple Books and co-sponsor Asymptote bring translator Arturo Mantecon to San Francisco for a reading. Mantecon is famous for his translations of Leopold Maria Panero's writings.

Click here to learn more about the event.

Time: 7pm
Location: Green Apple Books
506 Clement Street
San Francisco, CA
Cost: Free

Wednesday May 15th

Never. Say. Die Book Release Party

Event: Join Green Apple Books, author Brian Murphy, and photographer Brad Mangin discuss their new book NEVER. SAY. DIE and share experiences from the excitement of the San Francisco Giants winning their second championship in three years.

For more information, click here.

Time: 7pm
Location: 540 Club
540 Clement Street & 7th Avenue
San Francisco, CA
Cost: Free

Joe Hill/NOS4ATU

Event: The son of Stephen and Tabitha King, Joe Hill will be discussing his new book, NOS4AU.

Learn more about the event by clicking here.

Time: 7:30pm
Location: The Booksmith
1644 Haight Street
San Francisco, CA
Cost: Free

Thursday May 16th 

John Gray: Men and Women in Business

Event: John Gray, author of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, and co-author of Work With Me: The Blind Spots Between Men and Women in Business comes to share his insights into the misconceptions that can plague the workplace between the two genders.

To purchase tickets and learn more about the program, click here.

Time: 5:30pm reception/6pm program/7pm book signing
Location: Commonwealth Club of California
595 Market Street, 2nd Floor
San Francisco, CA
Cost: $12 member/$20 non-member/$7 student

JCCSF Presents Jaron Lanier

Event: Jaron Lanier, author of Who Owns the Future, and father of virtual reality, comes to share his vision of the future of technology. He will also be brining a special user interface in which he will be providing a demonstration.

Click here to learn more about the event and purchase tickets. 

Time: 7pm
Location: Jewish Community Center of San Francisco
3200 California Street
Kanbar Hall
San Francisco, CA
Cost: $10

Friday May 17th

Be Kind Festival -- Michael Chase 

Event: Michael Chase, author of Am I Being Kind? and The Radical Practice of Loving Everyone: A Four-Legged Approach to Enlightenment, will be speaking at the festival. Chase is also the founder of The Kindness Center. This talk is part of the Be Kind Festival happening in Mount Washington Valley from May 17th through May 19th.

To learn more, click here

Time: 6:30pm - 8pm
Location: Kennett High School
409 Eagle Way, Loynd Auditorium
North Conway, New Hampshire
Cost: Free

Anne Nesbet at Books Inc. in Berkeley

Event: Author Anne Nesbet will be celebrating the launch of her new book, Box of Gargoyles. It is the sequel to The Cabinet of Earths. The celebration will be complete with tasty drinks and treats.

Click here for more information.

Time: 7pm
Location: Books Inc. Berkeley
1760 4th Street
Berkeley, CA
Cost: Free

Saturday May 18th

Marion Nestle -- Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health

Event: Marion Nestle shares from her new book, Food Politics, on how nutrition and health in the United States are influenced by the food industry.

Click here for more information.

Time: 3pm - 4pm
Location: Omnivore Books
3885a Cesar Chavez Street
San Francisco, CA
Cost: Free

Big Wow! ComicFest

Event: The Big Wow! ComicFest will be held over the course of two days -- Saturday the 18th and Sunday the 19th. Stan Lee will be making an appearance on Sunday! Other distinguished guests include Brian Azzarello, J. Scott Campbell, and Neal Adams.

Click here to learn more about the event.

Time: All day
Location: McEnery Convention Center
150 West San Carlos Street
San Jose, CA
Cost: $20 adult/$10 child/under 8 are free -- box office pricing. Check the website for early bird tickets.

Sunday May 19th

Eduardo Galeano

Event: Author Eduardo Galeano, one of the most distinguished writers in Latin America, will be reading from his book, Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History

To learn more about the event, please click here.

Time: 5pm
Location: City Lights Bookstore
261 Columbus Avenue at Broadway
San Francisco, CA
Cost: Free

Claire Messud -- The Woman Upstairs

Messud will be sharing from her new book, The Woman Upstairs.

Click here to learn more about this event.

Time: 7pm
Location: Bookshop West Portal
80 West Portal Avenue
San Francisco, CA
Cost: Free

Bookshelf, Library Bag or Donation Box

In Bookshelf, Library Bag or Donation Box, our Tators give their verdict on the books they read, whether they're keepers for the shelves, one you borrow from your local library, or just give to your local used bookstore. 

Hello, everyone and thank you for stopping by again to read my take on my next literary adventure. This month, in honor of Mother's Day I review Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou. Of her many autobiographies, this one chronicles her relationship with her mother, Vivian Baxter, who she simply referred to as "Lady."

Her mother, unable to properly care for Maya and her brother when they were 3 and 5 years old, respectively, sent her children to live with their grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. When she finally met and came to live with her mother at age 13, Vivian Baxter was a virtual stranger to Maya. This is partially why she chose to call her mother "Lady" instead of mom. The other reason was because Vivian did not look like a mother to her, but instead looked like a glamorous woman, which is what Maya imagined a lady should look like.

With time, Maya overcame that rejection she felt from her mother by being sent away at such a young age and forgave her. It was both interesting and sad reading about a daughter becoming acquainted with her mother at age 13, afraid of being cast aside once again. As a reader, I found it more difficult to forgive Vivian Baxter, but I eventually did as well. 

In this story of forgiveness and redemption, the reader sees their relationship unfold and how Lady came to have such a positive impact on her daughter's life despite stepping into it at a later age.

Not every mother and daughter relationship is positive. In fact, many are tumultuous, faulty, and have their highs and lows. I believe many children that come from strained parental relationships have a deep seated desire, whether conscious or unconscious, to one day heal the hurt and have a more ideal relationship. And, if the parent passes away before the relationship can be redeemed, it makes grieving more difficult because the possibility of repairing the relationship is gone. The fact that Maya had the opportunity to forgive her mother and develop a complete relationship with her before she passed away in her nineties was a miracle.

Bookshelf: This is a touching and honest narrative of a relationship between a mother and a daughter that was at one point non-existent, then strained, and then finally healed.

*Mrs. Hoffman was provided with a free copy of this book from*