Thursday, September 29, 2011

Blog Tour Stop: The Book Addict Interviews Ursala Nordstrom from Love At Absolute Zero

After finishing Love At Absolute Zero, I feel in love with Ursala Nordstrom.  I wanted to meet with her and have a conversation to find out how she really felt during all the twists and turns in the story.  And Christopher Meeks was kind enough to give me that opportunity.  I hope you enjoy learning more about Ursala.

Book Addict: Tell us about your memories of Gunnar from school. Was he a
friend? Did you know him well? Do you wish you had known him better

Ursula: I knew Gunnar from elementary school, sixth grade with Mr. Prahoda. That year
the school was experimenting with having sixth graders change teachers-and-classes
four times a day, but we were the control group and had Mr. Prahoda all day long.
That was great because Mr. Prahoda was such a funny teacher, always told us stories.
I remember one ghost story that made me scream. I don’t know if we learned anything
that year, but it was fun.

Gunnar sat right behind me in that class, so I could turn to him and tell him things.
I don’t remember doing that much, but you could tell Gunnar a secret and know he
wouldn’t tell anyone else. I didn’t pay much attention to him then, though. He was kind
of quiet, and his dad always cut his hair short. He didn’t look good in short hair.

Then in seventh grade, we switched to middle school. I don’t remember him much then
at all. We had biology together, but he wasn’t my lab partner or anything. Frankly, the
seventh grade boys were all dull and dorky. I was taller than most of them, so I had my
eyes on a ninth grade boy from my street. He was great—my first kiss. Brad Stockmeyer.
But then Brad started going with an eighth-grade girl, and he was just a shit.

One thing I remember from seventh grade biology. Our teacher was explaining
reproduction, the part where the semen meets the egg, and once the first semen hits pay
dirt as it were and fertilizes the egg, the egg somehow sends off some kind of Star Trek
force field and shoves the rest of the semen away. Gunnar raised his hand and asked—I
couldn’t believe it—he asked how did the semen get into the girl in the first place?

It was kind of funny. Of course then I thought a guy just had to touch your naked breast
and somehow semen would find its way in. Actually, I wasn’t far off considering the first
few guys who got to touch my breasts in high school were suddenly embarrassed and
had to leave—but by then I knew about sex.

Frankly, the one thing I really remember about Gunnar was in the first day of eighth
grade Spanish class. I saw him staring at me—staring hard and smiling at me like he
wanted to talk with me. I really liked him for that, I did. We talked on the phone a few
times after school after that, and we were supposed to go to the movies, but something
happened, I don’t remember what. I don’t think my girlfriends liked him. Girls can be
cruel at that age.

I ended up going to a private school after that, and I lost track of Gunnar until I came back to the public school my senior year. Gunnar had a girlfriend then, and so, well
that was that. I was attracted to him, though. He was so smart, I could tell. I wished I’d
known him more then, but we were just in different groups.

BA:  What was your favorite subject in school? What did you want to do when
you "grew up"?

U: English was my favorite subject, and I read a lot in high school. I like the Brontes. I liked
Jane Austen. I think I wanted to be a writer then. Maybe a poet. I didn’t really think
much about what I’d do, but I had a vague notion I might like to write.

In college, I became an English major, but my first job after college was working for Mr.
Speedy Print in Madison. Then I worked for another printing company, and I realized
that sucked, so I started working at restaurants. I liked that, and by the time I met
Gunnar again at the baby shower, I was managing a restaurant in Madison.

BA: We all got to read what Gunnar thought when he saw you at the baby
shower. What thoughts were going through your head then? Were you
instantly attracted to him?

U: Yeah, I was was instantly attracted, but then he went off and was talking to those two
girls at the bar. From where I sat, he looked like he was flirting, and one was touching
his hair. That’s being personal. When Gunnar came back and we started talking, I
couldn’t tell where his head was at. Plus I was late for work, and I’d just met a guy
speed-dating. Well, I figured Gunnar was out of my league. He was a professor and
smart and clearly handsome, and who was I? I was just some restaurant manager trying
to go to nursing school at the same time.

BA: What did you think of his makeover when you saw him at the restaurant for
the speed dating event?

U: Actually, he looked kind of confused, and that was the moment I realized he wasn’t out
of my league after all. I felt for him. Then again, things were heating up with Jeff at that
time, and as attracted as I was to Gunnar—Gunnar was charming and funny—I knew I
had to follow through with Jeff. Now that I think of it, I was getting confused. I really
liked Gunnar. I don’t think I noticed his braces right then. He just looked good is what I

BA: What happened with Jeff?

U: That didn’t last long, actually. Sometime after that night I saw Gunner, I broke it off
with Jeff. It might have been because of Gunnar, actually. I really felt bad for Gunnar
when I saw him out there barfing on the sidewalk. I realized that I didn’t like Jeff if I
could be attracted to Gunnar. After I left Jeff, I starting thinking maybe I should call

Gunnar, if I could only get his number. Then he called me. Perfect.

BA: After the date at the sushi restaurant, what did you do?

I fucking cried. I couldn’t believe Gunnar had toyed with me like that. He was so gentle
and concerned when I got to that restaurant and-- shit shit shit (sorry). I just had
hoped so much that magic was going to happen. Sometimes I think we, women, are
brainwashed somehow—that we’re programmed to think Mr. Right is going to come
along and make everything work. Mr. Right will remember my birthday and help
complete my sentences. Maybe I see too many damned movies.

Anyway, things had happened before that night—my breaking up with Jeff, my Dad
having a heart attack, and then getting my finger stuck in a pay phone that night. I had
this strange feeling that Fate or God or whatever was pointing me toward Gunnar. I
can’t tell you how the evening at the sushi place was so great, when, wham, he told me
about Kara and going to Denmark. Life sometimes sucks, you know?

Shit, I probably sound like some seventeen-year-old talking about love, but when you
fall for someone hard, it’s just like those intense feelings you have as a teenager. I’m not
embarrassed saying it. It felt right.

BA: When you saw him in the hospital, what did you think? How did you feel?

Gunnar had broken my heart. Everything in me said, “Warning, warning. Beware.” If he
hurt me once, he could do it again. Still, another part of me was thinking that I felt this
way because he had really touched me—my heart, my soul—in a way that no one else

Man, I was so mixed up inside. Still, I could see how worried about his mother he’d
been. He’d flown all the way back from Denmark. For a guy to do that… I loved him
again for that. His mother, Audrey, is just an amazing woman.

BA: We know that Gunnar is very much driven by science and the scientific
method, what drives you? What guides your life?

U: Women are different. I was never very conscious about where I was going until two
things happened. One was deciding to go to nursing school. There’s a lot of pressure
running a restaurant and not for a lot of pay. You work late nights, which isn’t really
prime for dating. Did I want kids? I kind of thought so, but it wasn’t the biggest factor
of anything then, at least consciously. I really had to consider what would be a better
career, and nursing was it.

The second thing was that becoming attracted to Gunnar made me realize what I wanted
for love. It was someone like Gunnar: smart, sensitive in key ways, focused, easy to talk to, not pretentious. After he went to Denmark, that was it, right? I had to get over it.

BA: What are your plans for the future? Where do you want to be in 5 or 10

U: Kids? (laughs). You know, most people don’t plan out their lives, do they? We’re always
under a kind of pressure from friends, families, and ourselves. As teenagers, we’re
worrying about college—hoping for college, wanting to go to a good one. Then you’re
thinking two things in college: about meeting the right guy and about finding the right
major that might get you somewhere eventually.

Then you meet the right guy and everyone wants to know when you’ll get married. If
you get married, they want to know if you’ll have kids. If you have kids, what’s the next
question? When you’ll die? Will you get cremated or buried? (laughs)

I just feel lucky, and I want that feeling to last a while.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Book Addict Reviews: Love At Absolute Zero by Christopher Meeks (Blog Tour Stop)

Genre: Romance
Order Online:
Author Info: Website | Goodreads
Rating: 3 stars
Book provided by author for an honest review.

In A Nutshell:
I had some reservations when I first read the blurb of this book--absolute zero? scientific method? How can that be romantic?  How am I going to get it when the last time I took a physics class was high school.  But it worked because Christopher Meeks did a wonderful job writing it.  He created likeable characters that we can cheer for.  He made me appreciate science in a way I have never done before. 

Even when talking about very scientific principles or ideas, Christopher Meeks balances a fine line between making his characters believable as scientists and accessible to those of us with limited science background.  He makes the scientific ideas as they relate to his story clear, easy to read, and fun.  Christopher Meeks peaked my interest and made me wish I was in Gunnar Gunderson's physics class (maybe I would have studied science if I had had a teacher like him?). 

Gunnar Gunderson is an easy character to like.  I smiled and laughed as Gunnar bumbled through trying to figure out speed dating and love using the thing that has always worked for him: the Scientific Method. His insistence that he needed to find love in three days because that is when it will best fit into his research schedule still makes me laugh.  Although I kept hoping someone in his life would tell him outright that love does not usually come when it is most convenient or most desired.  Maybe that would have saved Gunnar some heartache?

Or maybe Gunnar needed to experience everything in Love At Absolute Zero so that he would learn and grow.  At the beginning of the book, Gunnar does seem a little sheltered and naive.  Over the course of the book he learns a lot about himself, about what he wants, about love, about hurt, and about the scientific method. 

This was my first experience with Christopher Meeks' work, but I now want to read many of his other books:

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Book Addict Reviews: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Order Online:
Author Info: Website | Goodreads
Rating: 4 stars
Borrowed from the library.

In A Nutshell:
I cannot remember who told me about this book, and I wish I did because I would love to give that person credit.  This book is one of the best I books I have read--probably ever.  I have a new favorite author and I have not been able to stop talking about this book since I started it.  And now that I am done, I want to crank up the Beethoven while reading more about the French Revolution--I am not ready to let go my connection to these characters yet!

Andy's life has been overwhelmed by a tragedy.  A tragedy that has sent her mom hiding within herself.  A tragedy that has sent her father away to his dream job in another state.  A tragedy that has sent her to a shrink who has prescribed some pretty powerful drugs.  And yet on a daily basis Andy is still fighting with the demon inside herself--the one that threatens to take over, the one that tells her that it would all be easier if she took one more step off the rooftop and ended all of her pain.

I admit it is deep, it is depressing, but it is Andy's life.  From page one, Jennifer Donnelly has the reader living Andy's life.  It is not easy, but it is real.  And in the end it has a lasting effect, I wanted to remember Andy; I wanted her to make a lasting impression on me.  

But Jennifer Donnelly's magic was not limited to her griping portray of Andy, in Revolution Jennifer Donnelly weaves in the story of Alex, a young girl living in France during the French Revolution.    She makes a big mistake that ends up hurting her charge, a boy she had grown to love like a little brother, and by the time she realizes her mistake she cannot fix it.  But that does not stop her from trying.  She does the only thing she could think of to make a stand--try to bring the boy a little joy while he is living in captivity.

I remember studying the French Revolution in history class.  The terror expressed in the number of deaths.  The chaos expressed in drawings and illustrations.  But the way Jennifer Donnelly presents the story stuck with me--the way she shows the reader what it may have been like for one common person during the Revolution.  I cared about Alex and what happened to her.  I cared about what happened to France because of her.  And I was hungry to learn more, to do more research on the topic.  Jennifer Donnelly sparked an interest in me that I had never experienced about the French Revolution from any of my history classes.

I also loved learning about music--seeing the power of music through Andy's eyes (or maybe ears would be more accurate?).  I played instruments through high school--I know how hard it is to describe music in words.  Jennifer Donnelly does it in such a way that I got it and I think other people could get it too.  They could understand Andy's passion, her talent, and her desire to make her passion for music her profession.  As I was listening to the book I wished that there were samples of the music referenced because I found myself appreciating the classics (for instance, Bach and Beethoven) in ways I had never appreciated them before.  Jennifer Donnelly was able to get me interested in a way that many of my past music teachers were never able to do.   

I have read some reviews that were critical of the way Jennifer Donnelly handled the father/daughter relationship, but I did not see the relationship between Andy and her father as the central theme in this book.  It felt that her relationship with Alex was more important.  However as I thought about it, I do think that Jennifer Donnelly handled the father/daughter relationship well based on the constraints of this story.  There was not going to be a happily ever after resolution for Andy and her father.  There had been too much pain, too many hurt feelings.  But at the end, I felt they understood themselves and each other better than they had before.  Maybe with more time they will be closer--or maybe not.  But either way, they are both in a better place emotionally and mentally than they were at the beginning of the book.  They were on the road to healing.

I cannot wait to read and/or listen to another one of Jennifer Donnelly's books. 
A Northern Light
This book also reminded me of a book I remember reading in college and want to read again as soon as I can.
The Daughter Of Time

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Series in Review: Fallen Angel and Eternity by Heather Terrell

Series are a tricky thing. I have series that I love as a whole, but an individual book within the series did not impress me.  So I am not always sure that reviewing the individual books is fair to the author's vision. However, I do not want to postpone all of my reviews of the books within a series until the end. With those thoughts in mind I decided to start Series In Review. In these postings, I will be looking at more than one book in the series or if possible the entire series at one time.
**This review may contain spoilers for some of the books in the series**

Fallen AngelEternity: A Fallen Angel Novel
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Books Released in Series: Fallen Angel and Eternity

Author Info: Website | Goodreads
Rating: 3 Stars
Picked Fallen Angel in a Paperbackswap game and Bought Eternity.

In A Nutshell:
Fallen Angel captured my attention.  I was excited to continue the series, but Eternity kind of disappointed me.  The pacing seemed rushed, like it was a race to finish the story.  I was glad I read it, but I wanted more.

Ellie’s eyes fix on Michael almost from the first moment she sees him at her school. She is drawn to him. She feels a connection to him that she has never felt to a boy in her high school. It is more than his good looks, but she cannot piece together what it is.

And as the series progresses, I started to wonder what the attraction was myself. In Ellie, Heather Terrell created a character that is intelligent, compassionate, and fights for what she wants and what she believes in. Michael does not seem to be her equal. Yes, he is more physically adept than Ellie, but he repeatedly falls for lies and deceit because he succumbs to the needs of his pride. I understand that he is young and that he has lessons to learn, but he does not seem to learn with each encounter. And by comparison, Ellie does seem to learn, grow, and change with her encounters. She seems far less likely to make the same mistake repeatedly.

I enjoyed reading both of the books in the series, but I felt like there was a little bit of a problem with the pacing within the series. Fallen Angel deals primarily with their discovery of their natures and then their fight with the first Dark Fallen they meet. Eternity deals with them continuing to learn about their abilities and then their encounters with all of the rest of the Dark Fallen. There is a lot of action packed into the end of Eternity, which is exciting but overwhelming. The pacing of the series up to that point does not really prepare the reader for to have everything resolved in such a quick manner.

Fallen Angel was Heather Terrell's first young adult novel, and I would like to read some of her adult books.
Brigid of Kildare: A NovelThe Chrysalis: A Novel

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Book Addict Reviews: Tricks by Ellen Hopkins

Genre: Young Adult, Poetry, Family Life
Order Online:
Author Info: Website | Goodreads
Rating: 4 stars
Picked this book up in a Paperbackswap game.

In A Nutshell:
As I closed Tricks, I literally cried for these characters. I was so taken with the loss of hope they each expressed. The loss of hope that led them to prostitution, gambling, and drugs was overwhelming. I kept coming back to the thought that we as a society have to figure out how to ensure that everyone has hope. Everyone has a chance. Everyone has choices. And everyone has value.

The more I read Ellen Hopkins, the more I gain a love and appreciation for poetry. Her poems allow her to express the thoughts and emotions of her characters in a way that I have not seen in traditionally written stories. When something happens in my own life, when I have to think through my feelings or emotions; I do not always think in complete sentences. A lot of times it is fragments, images, or just words tumbling out. I get that feeling about Ellen Hopkins’ characters from her poetry. It feels very authentic and allows me to connect to her characters in a way that I don’t see myself connecting to characters in other stories.

Tricks is not an easy story to read. Her characters are struggling with their sexual identity, the relationships with family members, death of a parental figure, abuse, and misguided affections. In many ways, they feel like they have lost their hope that things can be better or different, and that can be hard to read. But I learn from it. I learn a lot about how teens think. As an adult, I could see the flaws in their thinking and in the decisions they made that led them to prostitution, gambling, and/or drug abuse. But I could see how the teens in Tricks could feel as though they had no other choice. And I think we as a society owe it to our teens (to everyone really) to ensure that they do not lose their hope.

After my review of Identical by Ellen Hopkins, I told you all that I wanted to read more of her books.  Tricks increased my desire to read all of her books.  Next on my list:

Friday, September 9, 2011

Friday Follow (6) and Book Blogger Hop (2)

Q. Have you ever wanted a villain to win at the end of a story? If so, which one?

I have been racking my brain to think of an answer to this question--but alas I cannot think of a specific example.  I know I have read books where I did not necessarily want the villain to win as much as I really wanted the villain to redeem him/herself so that the villain and the hero can find a harmony together.  Or I have had instances where the villain character was better described or more interesting to read about.  I did not necessarily want the villain to win--but I really wanted the hero to have something interesting that drew me to him/her. 

Book Blogger Hop
“Many of us primarily read one genre of books, with others sprinkled in. If authors stopped writing that genre, what genre would you start reading? Or would you give up reading completely if you couldn’t read that genre anymore?”

I could not imagine giving up on reading completely.  I have had times in my life where I did not have as much time to read--and I always miss it so much.  I am so much more stressed when I do not find time to read.  So I know that I would not give up on reading.

Right now I read a lot of YA--and I would be heartbroken if author's stopped writing in that genre.  I think it is so important in inspiring a new generation of readers!  However, if YA were no more, I think I would read more contemporary fiction and more historical fiction.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Book Addict Reviews: I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak

I am the Messenger
Genre: Young Adult, Social Situations, Mystery and Thrillers
Order Online:
Author Info:  Website | Goodreads
Rating: 4 stars
Bought this book.

In A Nutshell:
I bought this book on a whim.  I saw it at the store, I needed a new audiobook to listen to, I had heard so many wonderful things about Markus Zusak, so I decided to buy it.  And I am so glad that I did.  As soon as I was done, I wanted to read it again. 

This book is a little bit of a deviation from my normal reading material.  Ed Kennedy is 19 years old who has decided that living in a shack and working as a underaged cabbie is the most he will aspire to.  He is comfortable with his life, until cards with clues to people in the city who need help start arriving in the mail.  Then Ed finds he is the messenger--the person who needs to give these people the help they need.

Ed's voice is much more gritty than the books I usually read.  At the beginning of the story I struggled with Ed.  He had no drive to do anything more, to be anything more.  But Ed matures, he changes over the course of the book.  He makes an impact on the people the cards send him to, but those people also make an impact on him.  They need him. 

And Ed's family had never made that impact on him.  They have never needed him like that.  I think the person I struggled with the most was Ed's mother.  She was bordering on emotionally cruel to him, which was made all the more apparent when compared to how much she praised his brother and sisters.  I understand she was frustrated by his lack of ambition to leave or that he was like his father, but did she honestly think that berating him would help?  Did she really think it was fair to blame him for the broken promises his father made?

However, this book did not seem to be focused on fairness or equity.  This book seemed to be focused on making a positive impact on your life and the lives of those around you, regardless of your circumstances.  Sometimes, all a person needs to make their day a little better is a scoop of ice cream or a person to read Wuthering Heights with them.  And by being that person, Ed created a group of people who valued him, appreciated him, and wanted to have him around.  He found a family.

He also learned to better observe and notice what the people around him needed to be happy.  He began to look beyond the obvious to what people were hiding just below the surface.  And in looking deeper, he connected with even his oldest and closest friends in new and better ways.  He became a better friend. 

After reading this book, I had two distinct thoughts.  First, I have to sit down and read The Book Thief.  I have put that book off way too long!
The Book Thief 
Second, I had an uncontrollable desire to re-watch Pay It Forward, because the ideas in that movie compliment many of the ideas in this book. 
Pay It Forward