Book Candy

I'm quite the avid reader as anyone who knows me would tell you. I try to mix classics with newer literature. I like to read all genres but I do stick to books that have been recommended in some way, be it through a friend, NPR, BookPage, Goodreads, etc... This will be an outlet for me to explore writing, something I've never thought I had the knack for. Writing reviews has been something I've been doing for 3-4 years now but all on goodreads. I'm hoping to delve a little deeper and maybe try to market myself to those who like my style.


Divergent - Veronica Roth

Shelf Notes Review

Dear Reader,

Here we go again, another dystopian young adult adventure novel. I'm pretty selective about which young adult books I pick to read since it's become a genre itself. Divergent has been out for awhile now and I've heard good things from by brother and friends. I decided this was one I would commit to (commit meaning read the entire series). The movie will be coming out soon and the 3rd book is in the works, so I thought this would be the perfect time, giving me just the right amount of time to read both the 1st and 2nd books before the movie and then finishing the 3rd after the movie comes out. From the hype I've heard from my loved ones, most enjoyed it just as much and if not more than The Hunger Games. I will try not to go straight to that comparison though since the books are different enough and it wouldn't be fair to Veronica Roth who has come up with her own very imaginative world and story.

The story follows Beatrice (nicknamed Tris) during her vastly important year of testing and training in a faction that she selects. This dystopian world is divided into factions, each one relying on a certain virtue. Candor is honesty, Abnegation is selfless (this is the faction Tris was brought up under), Dauntless is brave (this is the faction Tris picks to become), Amity is peaceful and Erudite is intelligence. Every sixteen year old goes through a test that determines which faction they would be good in (kind of like the sorting hat in Harry Potter) but this does not determine the faction they'll be in... No, they get to choose whichever one they want! After they choose, they might not even become part of that faction. They have to go through a series of tests and training to determine if they'll be a member, if they don't pass they become factionless (which is not an ideal outcome). What if the test is inconclusive and can't place someone in just ONE faction, they are called divergent (wink, wink... book title!).
My thoughts on all of this? I like the ideas of factions even though I think most people would be considered divergent, but maybe in this dystopia people are more linear? I know for a fact that most people in OUR world wouldn't be placed in just one virtue, but can I see this happening if forced upon us? What if we were brought up in a certain faction and this now brings up the nurture vs nature argument. Are we born with those virtues or is it something we learn through our experiences growing up. I really enjoyed the idea of this world but didn't quite fall in love with the aligning yourself with any one faction, it's too linear and simple for me. Also, looking at the age someone is forced to select a faction, this seems way too young for me. Almost like how we have to choose a major WAY to early to know what we want to do with our entire life! Teens are head-strung and rebellious by nature and I feel more of them would switch factions just to be get away and do something more adventurous. Why wouldn't Dauntless be more compelling than Abnegation?! Maybe that's just me though.

My biggest problem with this book had to do with Tris, the main character. She was infuriating throughout the entire freakin thing! She has all these people who seem to care about her (mother, friend, and potential boyfriend) who keep telling her to be careful and not tell anyone about her test results and how dangerous it could be. Does she listen to them? NOT AT ALL! She goes around like a dummy, extremely careless and you just know she'll be getting herself into deep doo doo at some point. I know this makes for good drama but I absolutely hate it when the Author does it at the main characters expense. We're suppose to like her, not hate every move she makes. Overall the book is exciting, action packed, suspenseful, and really original (even though everyone is comparing it to other dystopian books). I look forward to reading the next one and can only hope Tris has smartened up a bit and won't keep making dumb mistakes.

Happy Reading,




The World's Strongest Librarian

The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family - Josh Hanagarne

ShelfNotes Review - Click to visit my blog post!

Dear Reader,

I was extremely lucky to attend a Q&A and signing by Josh Hanagarne at the Hartford Public Library. The book itself had been on my to read list for awhile and when I saw the chance, I grabbed it. Josh is extremely tall, which normally would have people intimidated but his presence was inviting and his lovable sense of humor had me sold. I wanted to dive into the book after seeing him. He spoke of his love of Stephen King, who by chance was doing his own Q&A at the Mark Twain House the next day (Josh was able to grab a position as his bodyguard for that event and arm wrestled Stephen King which you can read about by clicking here or you can read about his Hartford trip by clicking here). The picture I've attached below is one I took from the event:

Getting back to the book, I loved it right from the beginning. If you're at all like me, you'll like this book. It has fond childhood memories of the library, youthful adoration of Stephen King, struggling with the pressure of religious beliefs, finding our what you want to do with your life, and so much more. His experience with King mirrored my own, reading his books at TOO young an age to be appropriate. I'll leave all the hilarious stories about doing so for when you read it, but they're great. I related so much to his childhood memories of the library that it brought me right back. My Aunt used to take me to the library and create fun treasure hunts for me and a friend, magical times I will never forget. Reading his library experiences brought me right back to those moments.


So why did I give this 4 stars? Maybe this book does deserve 5, it probably does BUT a major part of this book didn't really speak to me. He goes into quite a bit of detail on his strength training with kettle balls, something that had little interest to me but I now have a clearer understanding because of it. I'm sure there is someone out there that will love these parts of his book, but it wasn't for me. I also understand why they're in there... it IS his life after all. I don't think you should be weary to read this because you're not interested in this, the parts of the book that go into it are still very interesting. The Tourette's played a large part of the book and will speak to many with the same problems. The book is very inspiring, one part will stay with me forever; "Learning was a reward. And when I came home from school, instead of asking, 'How was school today?' they'd ask, 'What did you ask today?' " I can only hope to someday use this with my own children, it really is the perfect question.

Happy Reading,



The Element

The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything - Ken Robinson, Lou Aronica

Shelf Notes Review


Dear Reader,

The Element made for an interesting listen, since I audio-booked this. The Audio version had many pros and cons. I'm not a huge fan of self-help books but when I do read one, I prefer to listen to the audio book. This particular book had an excellent narrator and was really easy to follow along (without getting lost if you miss a sentence or two). 

Robinson starts off the book using bullet points of everything he was planning on getting to (which I found slightly college term paper-esque). Each section has vignettes of personal experiences (many from famous/successful people). Each chapter ends with questions and exercises to help you work out your Element. This was what didn't really work for me since I listen to my audio books in the car. I tried to participate in my mind while driving home from work but I found myself needing the physical pen and paper to complete the exercises successfully. When I got home, I had every intention of picking up the pen and paper but it never really happened. Not sure if this is a failure on my part or the inconvenience of having the subject brought up to me during an inopportune time. 

Even though I didn't complete the work the way the book was intended, I still felt I started recognizing my strengths. I've always known I'm a bookaholic, and I know that I would be extremely happy to have a job surrounding books. Now that I recognize my element... I'm suppose to work towards utilizing it. Many of the successful stories happened because of luck, money and accessibility... which is all well and good for someone who comes across this but not everyone has this chance. My circumstances have me up against the wall when it comes to education and as far as money goes, fat chance. I'm left with pure luck and hard work and I only control one of those aspects. I believe what he tells us in the book is very helpful to most people, I just might not be one of them. I respect all that Robinson shows us through The Element but haven't been convinced that it'll save your life. 


Mrs. Poe

Mrs. Poe - Lynn Cullen

ShelfNotes Review


Dear Reader,


I absolutely loved everything about this book, starting with the literary references right down to the forbidden romance. Cullen took all the pieces, fact and rumors, about Edgar Allen Poe and the characters around him and wrote a beautiful story that delves into feminism, technological progress, NYC literary society, and so much more. Right away Cullen gives us the setting perfectly, telling us of the NYC smells as horse manure, garbage and urine. This gives us a picture of what NYC was, pushing us into the past. I love when historical fiction adds quaint and factual details such as this.


The characters, based on real life, are strong, opinionated and made me want to jump into a time machine to attend one of their conversaziones. Frances Osgood, the struggling poet that has chosen the wrong man to marry and struggles with this throughout the book. Samuel Osgood, the husband of Frances, who is the master charmer portrait artist, one we would call a player in our time. Virginia Poe, the wife of Edgar Poe, sick and fragile but has a dark side. Edgar Allen Poe, the famous poet/writer, creepy yet extremely intelligent and charming (in his own way). Cullen wrote Edgar with finesse, he comes across with dry humor which he even admits, "I do not joke... I never joke". That spoke to me because I'm a believer that the truth is what makes something so funny. As Dane Cook (I believe it was him) says, "It's funny because it's so true". Poe's personality is so dark with macabre retorts that had me enamored, I think I fell in love with him right along with Frances.


One of my other favorite characters was Mrs. Fuller, even if she was only a minor part. She loves stirring the pot, has definitive views on feminism and is fantastic at defending her fellow females. Feminism plays a large part in this book, the idea of "free love" is brought up a few times and the conversations that play out around that theme are really interesting. One of the central ideas to "free love" is how "marital relations without the consent of the wife amount to rape." How complicated things were back then, suffocating in a marriage that wasn't right. The inequality of it all, something that is really hard to fathom in present times. The Author actually uses the doomed love of Edgar and Frances to show the injustice of the way things used to be. Shouldn't we be able to be with the one you love? Even now, with such changes in marriage, we suffer with the ideas of adultery and bad relationships. Should you stay with someone out of loyalty even if it means we'd be miserable? Doesn't that just make the person we're with suffer just as much if not more? A great quote from the book sums this up beautifully, "Why must women always deny their desires? Why must most men always deny theirs? It is completely unnatural to do so."


This book might seem like a romance, but to me it was so much more. I'd normally run for the hills at the first mushy paragraph... However, this book spoke to my geeky side. Mrs. Poe is chock full of technological progress, like having a fun history lesson; how roads started, NYC indoor plumbing bringing the rats, daggeotypes, the first x-mas trees, etc. I really loved the argument brought up around daggeotypes (develops a portrait by exposing chemicals to light.. Ahem, photography anyone?) this brought up the argument of Fine Art vs. Photography, which interested me quite a bit, being an artist myself. Samuel Osgood, the artist, believed that daggeotypes were a fad that would pass with time. Poe, on the other hand, felt it was a fantastic technology that was truest to the subject. How I would have likes to be a part of these discussions. I really would recommend this book to anyone who loves literature combined with history. Cullen gives us so many literary figures (mentioned or cameo); Walt Whitman, Mr. Audobon, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, even Charles Dickens. It left me star struck and wanting more. I can't wait to pick up another of her books, it left me wanting more.


Happy Reading,




P.S. - Check out Arianna's review of this book... Lynn Cullen commented on her post commending her for understanding where she was coming from, you have to read it!


Locke & Key Volume 1

Locke & Key, Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft  - Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodríguez

Dear Reader,

I'm not an avid comic book reader, only ocasionally and I'm usually late to the game if I decide to pick one up. This caught my attention because the creator is Joe Hill and I've become a fan after reading "NOS4A2", which I loved. The apple hasn't fallen far from the tree, Stephen King birthed his legacy and Joe Hill has taken the cup. The imagination he has is fantastic, the story is very compelling and I can't wait to read what happens next. 

The comic starts tragically and the story starts to unfold backward. Each comic will reveal a little bit more of the secrets and it's really very creepy. The comic isn't for the weak of heart, it definitely has some disturbing scenes and might make an unseasoned horror reader queasy. But, for those of us who can handle the grotesque, this will be quite entertaining. I haven't been this enamored with a comic in a long time. Stay tuned for my review on volume 2... 

Happy Reading, 



Invisible - Paul Auster

Dear Reader,


I selected to read this in Audio book format. Paul Auster reads his books beautifully (in my opinion) and I can never resist the chance to listen to his hypnotizing voice. I was under the impression that everyone would enjoy his narration just as much, however, I found out that not everyone feels the same as me. I listen to my audio books in my car and every now and then, my boyfriend gets to listen too (when we decide to take my car.) He was blessed one day to ride with me while I was just starting Invisible, I was actually quite excited thinking that he'd find Auster as wonderful as me. No, he did not. I didn't even have to ask him what he thought of Auster's glorious voice, he told me right away, "How can you STAND it? His voice is so monotone!" That's when I realized what he said was true! I still didn't care, monotone or not, I loved every syllable. I wanted to tell this story because I think it taught me a lesson and really needs to be said for readers asking if they should Audio this book or just read it. I would jump up and down and say you'd be crazy not to want to hear Auster sex up his own writing... but on the other hand, maybe you would be like my boyfriend and wonder why he doesn't use any inflection or change his voice for each character. To each their own!


With that said, on to the book itself. This book is chock full of crazy stuff. If you know Auster, you'll know to expect this. If this is a first time Auster read? I would suggest picking up one of his earlier books first (or audio booking Winter Journal - my favorite). The story is told in seasons, each one a chapter of the book the main character has written of his life. I always love books about books, this one lacked a little of that charm though. The charm the story held was within the development of Adam and the whimsical characters he interacted with. Whimsical may be the wrong word for that if you start thinking of Disney characters but that was the first word that came to mind. You see Adam throughout his life; traveling, getting into trouble, struggling writer, wanting to know the meaning of everything. Auster always does this so well (again, in my opinion). The shocking moments of the book really took me for surprise, they come at times you don't expect them. I would recommend this book to anyone who has already experienced Auster and enjoyed his work.


Happy Reading,



The Last Winter of Dani Lancing

The Last Winter of Dani Lancing - P.D. Viner


Dear Reader,




This particular psychological thriller caught my eye from the "Before I Go to Sleep" reference in the blurb, a book which I really enjoyed. I find this genre can be very redundant and predictable which is why you don't find me running out to grab the "latest". I do however, LOVE a really good thriller and sometimes will take chances on them. This one was a bit of a letdown, the story itself was original but the ending left much to be desired. The main characters (Dani, Jim Lancing, Patty Lancing & Detective Tom Bevans) all had serious faults, which really elevated this book for me. The characters alone have saved this book from a lower rating.




The story follows these characters backward and forward through time. This is slightly hard to follow but the Author helps us by giving dates with every chapter. I noticed that some chapters moved through time as well, and this was where things started getting harder to follow. Once you got into the feel of things though, it was smooth sailing. I could see someone giving up on this book much too early because of that. Luckily, I'm used to time jumping stories and this didn't bother me enough to put the book down. As the story unravels, we see the characters start to fall apart, giving us multiple layers of personality. This made it hard to predict what was going to happen and even predict what had happened.




The ending, without giving it away... all I'll say is that it had the twists you'd expect a psychological thriller to have but it seemed rushed. I'm not a huge fan of mysteries and thrillers that give this HUGE reveal at the end (this always seems so rushed to me). I like when you get clues along the way and when the reveal happens, it'll bring up all those points along the way. This gives you the right as a reader to predict the ending, one of the most satisfying or shocking feelings to an excellent thriller. However, this was one story that wasn't predictable... and not in the good way. The ending was enough to keep you satiated but the Author went in a direction that took the fun out of reading this genre. I'll look forward to read something else by this Author in the future to see if this has changed. Phil Viner can write, and he can develop superb characters but the story falls a little short here.




So, reader... are you looking for a unique mystery/thriller? This is certainly unique.




Happy Reading,





What is HAPPENING?!?

The Dream Maker - Steve Scott

Strange read, real bizarre. I really like books that can shock me, Scott does this all too well. The story itself starts out very mundane, a normal guy working a normal job. As the layers get unpeeled you start feeling the anxiety and unease. The relate-ability of the character starts to crumble as you realize that this world can't/shouldn't exist. By the end, I was like a frog with my eyes bulging out... "WHAT IS HAPPENING?!?" So yes, if you want a bizarre read, you've found it here... but STICK with the book, the first few chapters are there to make you feel comfortable until BANG it hits you upside the face. Enjoy!


Also... This book is available on Kindle devices for a steal - get it now, read it later?!

50 Shades of Liberace

Behind the Candelabra - Scott Thorson

The name Liberace brings to mind a beloved piano player behind the bright Vegas lights. I'm not sure if this is the image that comes to mind for everyone else but it did to me. I was too young to be caught up in all the controversy behind Liberace, his sexual preference and Scott Thorson. My image of Liberace came from my Grandparents rather than the hoopla of media surrounding Thorson's confession. After reading this, I've learned quite a bit about Vegas show-business, Liberace and his lover(s). Not sure if I needed to know all of this but it was definitely a very compelling story. The book is in the eyes of Thorson, Liberace's lover and since Liberace is no longer with us... the story is very one sided. I always have a problem taking everything at face value when this is the case. Apparently there are articles after they broke up that tell Liberace's side of things but since he could never come out of the closet (which he was MOST DEFINITELY in) again, the retaliations toward Thorson weren't very credible.



I think the beauty behind a story like this one is the ability to look into the life of a celebrity and realize how much CRAZY surrounds them. They don't live like us, no way. Especially in this case, Liberace was able to coax Thorson into his bed using his money and fame. This isn't to say that Thorson didn't willingly oblige, however, this would be the case for many faced with the riches and fame dangled in front of their eyes. I can't wait to watch the HBO version now, starring Matt Damon and Michael Douglas:


Max Barry - Society Fortune Teller?

Lexicon - Max Barry

Action packed, techy, and mind trippy... everything I love in a Max Barry book.

What would happen if you had the ability to control people with words? Wait, what?!? This happens??!? How creepy! Well, Barry takes it to the next degree by showing us the possibility of mind control and how our future is heading full speed towards JUST that. 

Everything about this topic scares the shit out of me even though I'm always one of the first to want to try a new techy product. Why is society getting so comfortable with revealing every bit of data about themselves? Barry shows us that all it takes is a few pieces of information to categorize someone then "compromise" them. I even loved the survey right before the acknowledgements, send a small shiver down my spine. How simple yet utterly terrifying to think that we log on everyday and share things we would've hidden from our parents growing up. The craziest part? We're probably friends with our parents on social sites (ex. Facebook). Somebody wants to find you? No problem! We're willingly giving it out, and yet we still ignore the warnings of where this information can be used against us in the future. 

I hope that Barry is dead wrong and this is all just sci-fi fun.... BUT how many times have Authors been right about the future? The list of authors who have predicted some similar future is long: Orwell, Huxley, Arthur C. Clarke, H.G. Wells, Verne and SO many more. It makes you think, who're the next Authors to get it right? Is Max Barry one of these, I think so... and this is why I'll never take a new idea for granted. It all happened before and will happen again.

Talking Tattoos

The Illustrated Man (Grand Master Editions) Publisher: Spectra - Ray Bradbury

The Illustrated Man contains science fiction short stories. Bradbury reminds me of Aesop in this book, with each story having deep morals attached to them. The first story warns us what will happen is we let technology run our life and raise our children, the outcome is chilling. The second story delves into the fear of knowing death. The third story brings us to Mars and shows us what would happen if we didn't learn the lesson of equality. Each story continues with the same unique ideas and compels you to read the next. I would recommend this to anyone who loves Bradbury and anyone who wants a non-committed reading relationship with him.

Bring it on ZOMBIES!

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War - Max Brooks

This book was construed to be something different for anyone who saw the movie. SO DIFFERENT. I saw this funny chart from The Oatmeal showing the similarities between the book and the movie, they nailed it.

So yes, the book and the movie had NOTHING to do with each other. Some people read this book with a misunderstanding for what it was. This wasn't a plot driven, action novel... oh no! This was small blurbs all over the world, of how they're coping after this horrific event. If you read this book with that in mind, you should actually enjoy the extremely thorough details Brooks has compiled. Every single detail or thing you could ever ask... is answered. Brooks has a gift, maybe not for storytelling, but he sure is the go-to guru for the zombie apocalypse.


Life in Jail - Not Fun

Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison - Piper Kerman

Piper Kerman tells her story of unfortunate circumstances and her time in prison. Her story will make you shake your fist at the legal system and demand reform. It was quite the eye opener for certain things... for example, you probably know that in prison before someone is released they go to classes to properly "learn" to re-enter society. What you probably don't know is that the classes are mostly a joke and most are taught by inmates themselves. That is just one of many issues Piper raises that makes you want to protest the injustice and lack of quality programs most jails have.


The story isn't just a factual account of life in jail, Piper also delves into the reality of her situation and comes to grip with the fact that he crime was a catalyst for others (drug running provides drugs to the unfortunately addicted, which in turn brings trouble to these people ultimately landing them in jail.) Piper started feeling slightly responsible for some of her jail mates and this created a learning experience unlike any other. Piper Kerman is a special woman and only someone like her could turn a bad experience into something that will make a difference (be it someone's personal life or changes within the legal system itself).


I listened to this as an audio book and although the narrator has done many audio books that I've loved, this was an unfortunate fit. She didn't fit for Piper Kerman, bottom line. When Piper told some of her stories, there was a hint of humor which didn't come across at all. I picked up on it and because I did, this annoyed me. However, the book was extremely interesting and I'm excited to see what Jenji Kohan (creator of Weeds) does with the story.


*For all my Connecticut local friends... this story takes place in the Danbury prison - another reason this book interested me*

Compelling Mystery About a Dysfunctional Family? Count Me In!

Mother, Mother - Koren Zailckas

"Mother, Mother" is a mystery novel, a very unique one. It tells this elaborate family mystery through the eyes of two very different but equally tortured teens. The daughter is the typical rebellious girl who feels unloved and misunderstood. The character that really got me hooked was the son, the beloved slightly autistic child who can't cope without his mother’s love?!? (The word love is debatable). 

Part of what made this a unique mystery is a big mish mash; young teen characters, broken family and psychological disorders all thrown into a giant blender with a huge dash of mystery and puzzle solving, this concoction makes for a fantastic story. I’m not an avid reader of either the YA or mystery genre, mostly because I feel like you have to sift through so much to get something unique. However, this is something unique and I believe it’s mostly due to the Author, a girl who herself has personal experience with teenage struggles. I haven’t read her other books but I plan to, especially now. 

Sorry Koren, but I never had an interest to read another tortured teen telling her life story…. BUT one who writes, and does it with passion… yes, I will. Thankfully you had a booth at BEA this year and with a successful book already behind you… I was more inclined to check out this fictional one. I’m ever so glad I did! If you’re like me (sifting through dozens of upcoming YA or mystery Authors just feels exhausting and not worth the time) you’ll want to give THIS one a chance, it’ll be worth the time.

Anthony Marra is a Clever Devil

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena: A Novel - Anthony Marra

This is a book about a war that essentially has very little war related content. The Author tells a story interwoven with richly developed characters set in Chechnya during a complex, conflicted time of war. Knowing hardly anything about the conflict in that region, I was grateful for the brief clarified scenes that connected me to the story. The Author didn't overly describe the trials of the war but grazed them just enough for the story he was trying to tell. 

The characters of the book broke my heart, each one stuck in the life they were given (never easy to face that). The internal struggles of freedom, betrayal, survival, love and loss are blanketed within all the different characters who're connected in the large web of life. It's hard to break away from this novel, I found myself researching and delving deeper into Chechnya and it's history. Anthony Marra may not have thrown down the entire history by pen but he definitely seems to have peaked this interest within his readers to find out for themselves. What a clever little devil he is, intentional or not.

Beastly Love on Ok Cupid? Gross...

Beasts - Joyce Carol Oates

This was a short novella of JCO’s that follows college girls and their lust for a poetry professor. Simple enough plot, this was a little hard to get into at first but the ending was where Oates shined. I would recommend it, especially since it’s such a short read… however, not if it’s your first encounter with Oates (or even your 2nd or 3rd). I would wait until you start to understand Oates a little more, giving you more empathy towards her point of view.


The following is just a funny observation I made after reading the book, might only pertain to someone who has read the book.


After I finish reading a book, I like to research the book/Author on google, just one of my many quirky habits. Sometimes this can reveal very interesting things and sometimes it can be a waste of time. With “Beasts” the former is true, extremely true. I've read quite my fair share of Joyce Carol Oates, so after reading this book I was looking for something SHE had written about this book. After meeting JCO at a book reading/signing I really came to appreciate HER explanation of her own work and the process she goes through. I couldn't find anything close to this (however, if you come across it… please share with me).

What I did come across was disturbingly funny. My search was simple, “joyce carol oates beats” right into google search. If you’d like to recreate this search, the result I’ll be writing about comes from page three. I’m sure everyone knows of the site OKCupid, right? My search resulted in this result:


After reading this book, come back to this review and tell me how disturbing and funny this seems? Let’s just say that I wouldn't want to be promoting my interest in a book that had dysfunctional love as the main theme!

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