Thursday, November 17, 2011

Book Review: The Sharp Time by Mary O'Connell

The Sharp Time by Mary O'Connell
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publish Date: November 8, 2011
Hardcover, 240 pages 
Fiction, Young Adult
 ISBN: 978-0385740487

My Review:
Love.  That pretty much sums up how I feel about this book overall.  I loved it.  I loved the book, loved the plot, loved Sandinista, loved The Pale Circus and loved the writing.  It's an amazing and overwhelming book.  When it's done I just sat there and thought, "well, that's over" and then thought about it some more and I have to say even a month later I still think about this book and the characters.  It was just that good to me.

But first you need to know this is not fluff.  This is not your happy-go-lucky feel-good novel.  Sandinista has lost her mother.  She is alone and now she feels let down by the one thing she had left to count on, the school system.  She turns to work, a job she gets at a great store called The Pale Circus and a friendship with Bradley who works there and is pretty screwed up as well.  As she and Bradley explore the world inside and outside The Pale Circus the reader is taken along for the ride.  We are there for all the bumps and wrong turns along the way.  And each wrong turn is important, everything that Bradley and Sandinista do or don't do will eventually shape the main decision that Sandinista makes.

Watching this was mesmerizing.  The book is almost impossible to put down.  It feels so raw and gritty and true to life that it is amazing.  I think Ms. O'Connell has a real grip on the teenager in this novel.  Sandinista is an amazing character and watching her through the novel is nothing short of amazing.  I also love the musical references and the great clothing mentioned in the book, which was perfect since The Pale Circus is a vintage clothing store.

Everything about The Sharp Time just comes together to make it one of those reads that really stands out.  If you can't tell I thought this book was really great and I am sure it will make it to the top of one of my lists for the year.  It's so different from anything I have read that I just can't explain it more than to say go out, buy it and read it.  That's it.  Read it, get to know Sandinista and she'll be stuck in your head too.

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

About the Book:
Sandinista Jones is a high school senior with a punk rock name and a broken heart. The death of her single mother has left Sandinista alone in the world, subject to the random vulnerability of everyday life. When the school system lets her down, her grief and instability intensify, and she ponders a violent act of revenge.

Still, in the midst of her crisis, she gets a job at The Pale Circus, a funky vintage clothing shop, and finds friendship and camaraderie with her coworker, a boy struggling with his own secrets.

Even as Sandinista sees the failures of those with power and authority, she's offered the chance to survive through the redemptive power of friendship. Now she must choose between faith and forgiveness or violence and vengeance.

About the Author: 
Mary O'Connell is a graduate of the University of Kansas and the Iowa's Writer's Workshop. Her stories have been published in literary magazines including The Sun and Mid-American Review. She teaches at the Lawrence Arts Center and lives in Lawrence, Kansas, with her husband and two children. 


FTC Information: I received this book through Teen Book Scene for an honest review. 

Book Review: The Man Who Couldn't Eat by Jon Reiner

The Man Who Couldn't Eat by Jon Reiner
Publish Date: September 6, 2011
Hardcover, 320 pages 
Non-Fiction, Memoir
 ISBN: 978-1439192467

My Review:
I found The Man Who Couldn't Eat to be a raw and heartfelt look at what it feels like to deal with chronic illness and more specifically to deal with an incident that changes your life such as the one that Jon Reiner had in 2009.  Though the book is not all about that one time, it's really built more into a stream of consciousness of his life to this point and then after that point as well.  That was  probably my one complaint.  The jumping back and forth in time confused me in the beginning, but the more I got use to the rhythm of his writing the more I came to expect how he wrote and dealt with the back and forth and found it an interesting way to keep the readers attention.  So what I thought was a a complaint in the beginning, turned into something that held my interest through the book. 

Mr. Reiner has a great sense of humor to have been through all that he has been through, but then again sometimes your sense of humor is the only thing that can keep you going.  His sense of humor comes through in the book, not in a laugh-out-loud way, but in a dry, understated way that I like that doesn't take away from the seriousness of the subject matter.  He did face a life-or-death situation, though I think I would have preferred death if I would have had some of his roommates after surgery (I'm joking, though read about the roommates and you'll understand).  As he explores the life after the surgery and life without food, life adding food back in and then also life with chronic illness and balancing a family, you get a sense for what life is truly like for him.  And in seeing this I think you can get a glimpse into what life is like for a lot of people with chronic illness and this is where I think his book does the most good.  Maybe I say that because I have a chronic illness.  But I really felt it reading the book.  Jon's chronic illness did not just affect him, thought it did affect him the most.  It also affected his wife, his children, his parents and his extended family.  It made it hard for him to keep a job.  It really affected all areas of his life, but he never gave up.  And that is the amazing and wonderful thing.

I think this book is educational, entertaining and inspirational whether you have a chronic illness or not.  I'm sure you know someone who does.  I should probably spout off a statistic here, but I'm lazy and in the middle of my own flare up so I won't. But as you know from drug ads on TV that there are plenty of chronic illnesses to go around.  Not all will land someone in the hospital for surgery, but all will make someone suffer in silence (or as my husband will tell you I don't suffer in silence).  Jon Reiner speaks out about his suffering and in doing so I think he empowers millions of sufferers to say I suffer too, but I will get up today and move forward and make the most of my life.  That is all we can do.  That is all anyone, sick or healthy can do.

Read the book, it has great entertaining anecdotes throughout.  I loved the little stories throughout - the glimpses of childhood, the glimpses of other hospitalizations, the glimpses of his own children and his fears for them.  It all adds up to a book that's about an ordinary man with a horrible disease who chose to write his story and put it out there for us to read about.

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Make sure to stop back by on Tuesday, November 22nd for an interview with author Jon Reiner.

About the Book:
Imagine a life without food. Not being able to eat or drink a single thing. No hot dog at the ballpark; no ice cold drink on a hot summer day; no birthday cake; nothing.

For three months, James Beard Foundation Award-winning writer, Jon Reiner went without food and drink and chronicled his struggle in, The Man Who Couldn't Eat (September 2011). We're helping Jon prepare a blog tour for October and November and would like to invite you to be part of it.

Based on Reiner's acclaimed Esquire magazine article by the same name, Reiner writes in his book about his obsession with food and what happened when he was denied the taste of it. He'd just returned home with the week's groceries- one of the tasks he enjoyed as a stay-at-home dad- when a near-fatal complication from his chronic battle with Chron's disease left him writhing in pain on the floor. After emergency surgery, Reiner was "sentenced" to receive his nourishment intravenously.

Already struggling with his relationship with his wife and children as a result of coping with his chronic illness, he was also unemployed and facing financial ruin. It was this food deprivation that forced Reiner to reevaluate everything.  A beautifully written chronicle of one man's journey from plenty to deprivation and back again, The Man Who Couldn't Eat will change the way you think about more than just your next meal.

Where to Find the Author: 

Where to Find the Book:

FTC Information: I received this book from Book Sparks PR for an honest review.

Gratitude Giveaway

Welcome to the Gratitude Giveaway Hop sponsored by I Am A Reader, Not a Writer and All Consuming Books.  This hop is to thank our readers and to do that, we're supposed to keep it simple and simple it will be.  Up for grabs is a book of the winners choice at The Book Depository up to a $15 value.  It's open international (if The Book Depository ships to your country).  Just fill out your name and email so I can contact the winner in the Rafflecopter below and you are entered. 

If you feel like it, let me know in the comments what you are thankful for this year (this is not required or an additional entry). 

I am thankful for another year with my family since 2 1/2 years ago I wasn't sure I would have another month with them, so each Thanksgiving I am thankful for that additional year :)  I would also be thankful if my boys could spend just one day without arguing with each other, but that probably won't happen, they are 10 and 6 and very rarely agree on anything at least when I am in the same room with them ;-)

Note:  If you see the wrong Rafflecopter Entry (it should say Gratitude Giveaway Hop), click on this post, sometimes if you scroll through the blog to get to this post it screws up the Rafflecopter, but if you come directly to the post it works fine.  Email me (crystalfulcher(at) if you have any problems.