21 December 2012

Achievement Unlocked: 35 books read in a year!

Okay guys. I have to confess. When I finished Ice Cold I thought, "If I can get my hands on The Silent Girl, I will have my reading challenge finished in a matter of days!" I confess this to you because, well, it feels like cheating. The whole point of the 35 book challenge was just that--it was supposed to be a CHALLENGE. To me, starting a book I know I could finish in two days in order to complete my goal was NOT a challenge. 

But that didn't stop me. 

So maybe I'm only half sorry?

Whichever side you take with the issue, the fact of the matter is that I finished The Silent Girl in three days (well, maybe four) and it was the 35th book I read this year! So I will claim that as a "win" and just move on with my life. 

The Silent Girl by Tess Gerritsen
After the problems I had reading Ice Cold & Last to Die out of order, things felt right reading The Silent Girl. There wasn't too much of the story that was ruined for me from previous books so I didn't feel like it was old hat in any way.
After a rather gruesome murder in Chinatown, that is somehow tied to a 19 year old case, Jane and Maura do there best to get to the bottom of the mystery without ending up on the morgue slab themselves. Maura gets to spend some time with Rat, which is great especially after the last book where I finally met him and can now piece together their story. Anthony Sansone is kind enough to drive Rat from Evensong to Maura's house in Boston. Later, Rat alludes to an interesting conversation he has with Anthony about Maura...unfortunately Rat doesn't divulge the particulars.  Drat. It is of course, one thing to think Anthony likes Maura; it is another thing entirely to know that he has confessed it. Another mystery for another book, I suppose. 

One thing I really loved about this book is that it introduces the reader to Chinese myth and folklore as well as the culture of tradition and honor. After hearing Tess Gerritsen speak about her writing and reading the afterward in the book, it is really nice to see her use her history and her family's history to tell her story. 

And that makes 35 books! I must admit that for a second there, I didn't think I was going to make it! I mean, I didn't make most of the books off the list I started the year with, but I DO own those, so I figure I have all the time in the world for them.
I'm already working out a game plan for this year. Every time I talk to Rachel (who is doing the reading challenges with me) we come up with a different number for next year. Sometimes it is 45; sometimes it is 50. Whatever. We've just decided to read through Jane Austen together, so you can look forward to plenty of dreamy posts about Mr. Darcy and Col. Brandon. Le Sigh.
As I mentioned in November, 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the death of C. S. Lewis and my other friend and I talked about reading through his work this year too. So, that will be on the agenda. And if you give this mouse a Lewis cookie, she will probably ask for a side of J.R.R. Tolkien to go with it :)

Did you make reading goals for 2012? Did you complete them? Are you going to make a goal for 2013? I'd love to hear what you are planning on reading!

18 December 2012

Ice Cold by Tess Gerritsen

I was in such a rush to read a new Tess Gerritsen book before I got to see her in person (which I did. Update with pictures should be up later this month!) that I did something completely unlike me and rather rash: I read her books out of order. Gasp! 
To some, this really isn't a problem. I don't know that I've ever done it before and having tried it I can whole heartedly say that I do NOT like reading books out of order. It had been probably 3 years since I had last read a Gerritsen novel and was counting myself lucky that I could remember who Jane & Maura were, let alone that Jane was married with a daughter. And Maura & Daniel? Yeah I did not remember that. Anyway...
I read Last to Die and loved it, but needed to know what had happened in the two books before it. I had missed Ice Cold & The Silent Girl, in that order. And so, in that order, I picked up where I left off, many years ago. 

Maura Isles makes a very un-Maura choice when she decides to go skiing with an old friend from college, his teenage daughter and two friends. Everything goes pear shaped when they find themselves stuck in the snow near Kingdom Come, home to a cult known as The Gathering. It would not have been too bad(well, maybe not)...except the small town/development has been abandoned for no apparent reason. What would cause families to leave windows open, serve dinner and then just disappear?   

I'm not gonna lie. Something just felt "off" in Ice Cold. Maybe it was because the whole "will Maura survive??" mystery just wasn't a mystery for me. Last to Die relies heavily on a story line that started in Ice Cold. About midway through Ice Cold we meet 16 year old named Julian Perkins who prefers to be called Rat. However, he features as more of a main character in Last to Die...so I kind of felt like I knew him already. (SPOILER) I knew they both survived the snow bound mountains of Wyoming. 
It was good Gerritsen, like always, but I think I will read them in order for always...too much gets spoiled when you ignore the plot order! 

With a little over one week left to the month, I am almost done with my challenge! I just need one more book to make my goal of 35 books in a year. I am super excited about this and almost even more excited to get started on my reading goal for next year. But one thing at a time! What will be the last book on my list? I guess I'll find out soon! What about you? What's the last book YOU will read in 2012?

13 December 2012

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

"The story I am about to share with you takes place in 1931, under the roofs of Paris. Here you will meet a boy named Hugo Cabret, who once, long ago, discovered a mysterious drawing that changed his life forever."

So begins The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. In the author's own words, it is "a 550 page novel in words and pictures. But unlike most novels, the images in my new book don't just illustrate the story; they help tell it." He goes on to say that he has created "something that is not exactly a novel, not quite a picture book, not really a graphic novel, or a flip book or a movie, but a combination of all these things."

I've known about this book for a few years and was reminded of it again when I saw that my library owned the movie. I rented the movie and book on the same day and put both away. The book is a bit daunting looking and I was sure I would end up seeing the movie before reading the book. Yesterday I was talking to my friend Rachel about our Goodreads book challenge and mentioned that it was on my "to-read" list still. Having just finished Phantom on the Bookshelves, I was suffering a little bit of a book-hangover and wasn't quite sure what I wanted to read next. Nothing too emotionally demanding, nothing too scholarly. Young Adult book? Perfection. 
I took it to dinner with me and started it while I was waiting for my food to heat up in the microwave. I read the first page, where the quote above is from, while standing up. As soon as I got through the first page, it turned into about 40 pages of illustration that not only followed what was on that first page of text (the introduction of Hugo Cabret) but continued telling the story wordlessly. There's only so much you can take in when you are standing, waiting by the microwave as I was. So as soon as my timer beeped I was sitting at the table, warmed food mostly ignored, engrossed in the drawings that were telling me a story. I think I finally took a breath when I got to the next installment of text. 
I worked my way through over 300 pages in one sitting. I hazard a guess that at least 50% of those pages were illustrations, but that didn't matter. Black and white though they were, they were riveting and thought provoking. As I read it I thought, "I would love to buy this for my niece (who is just 13 weeks old) and my girls (that I babysit, 8 & 6) and their brother (2) and..." Seriously, this is a book that all ages can enjoy. 
I love that it does incorporate illustrations and pictures into the story. They aren't just to help the story (as in the case of "Why We Broke Up); rather, they are part OF the story. And I love that. 

And the movie? I can't WAIT to see it now!

08 December 2012

Phantoms on the Bookshelves

As some of you know, I have trouble walking in to a public library to return something and then leaving with...nothing. It hardly ever happens. It is one of the hardest things in life that I have to do. As is becoming a habit with me, since I now work in a library (where I don't get fines) I try to limit my public library use (where I do get fines). It's hard for me to remember that even though I am reading every night and racing like a mad thing to get the book finished, the public library frankly doesn't care and if they can't renew it (even if there isn't a hold on it for ANYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD) will not renew it for me. No matter how much I beg. It's even gotten to the point where I will no longer ask for a renewal for my inter-library loan books but rather, call the lending library directly to ask for more time. Oddly enough, they renew the book without any trouble. Who knew. Well, I do. Now.
Anyway, I was either returning something or picking something up and this book caught my eye: Phantoms on the Bookshelves. The first praise on the back says "Bibliomaniac Jacques Bonnet welcomes us...into a delightful, idiosyncratic world created by his 'monstrous' obsession with books." (Peter Stothard, Daily Beast) With a boast like that, how could I refuse? I think I picked it up, glanced at it, put it down and turned away...only to turn back round and snag it off the shelves. It is a thin volume, 9 chapters and only 123 pages with an almost 10 page bibliography in the back. I am so glad I turned back for this book. It made me think of something Lewis says about friendship. We realize it in the instant we say to someone, "What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” (A quote from Mere Christianity...I think? Google wasn't very forthcoming with information and I haven't my book in front of me...anyway. Forgive the lack of source, Jack. I still think you are the man.)
Maybe it is a book lover thing. Maybe it is a book owner thing. Whatever it is, I think M. Bonnet and I are made from the same stuff. Some of what he writes, even in translation, is hilariously funny. Some of it, you've known all your life but find comforting to see in print. Like the fact that he too keeps lists: "lists of books to read or re-read, or of the few indispensable books I would take to a desert island." (67)
M. Bonnet begins a chapter entitled "Organizing the Bookshelves" like this: "Any person who owns several tens of thousands of books its faced with an inescapable problem: their classification." (32) Ah. A man after my own heart. He presents many ways of classifying books but ultimately ends with the solution: "combine several of these orders, allowing some latitude to one's own rules. A principle you could extend, of course, to life in general." (40)
Seriously, I want to buy this man a coffee and just sit and listen to him talk. My lack of French doesn't bother me. I'm more concerned about looking the fool, as I haven't heard of half of the books he mentions. 
If I could, I would buy a copy of this book for all of my book loving friends. In fact, the month is still young...I just might do that... 

What book would you, if you could, buy and share with all of your friends? 

07 December 2012

November Fails

I've called it quits on two books I was reading for this month. Er, last month. Whatever.
The first is, as I'm sure you are all surprised to discover, The Amber Wizard. I was just about 100 pages from the end of the novel, the great battle had just started...and I really couldn't muster up anything close to caring about the characters or the fate of the kingdom. Even now, having just called it quits, I can't remember the name of the kingdom or even the great amber wizard. A slightly forgettable book, which is very unfortunate because I think there is true promise to the story. The writing was tiresome and felt overdone or perhaps, just under edited. There were a lot of details that were fleshed out (as if describing set design) that might have aided the story if they were used in a more descriptive way. Perhaps, I will find the time in the future to finish it. I shall not, however, read the rest of the series. 

The second book I quit is called Secret Smile by Nicci French. I will confess that I first heard about this because of a miniseries where one, David Tennant, plays the main character Brendan. I rented both the DVD and the book from the public library, but returned both before I finished them. The miniseries was a bit haunting, but not in the good way. In the, "wow, that was really really creepy" kind of way. Brendan dates Miranda, or "dates" her, for a mere 14 days. She finds him in her home (uninvited) one day reading through her diary. She kicks him out, breaks up with him and thinks no more of him...until her sister introduces him as her new boyfriend. Miranda is confused when she finds that Brendan has told her sister that he (Brendan) had broken up with her (Miranda) and hoped that there would be no hard feelings between them. No matter how many times Miranda tries to correct this, Brendan always seems to "win" to the point where he is driving Miranda absolutely crazy. 
I only saw the first half of the miniseries and I was starting to stress out about it. I was completely unnerved by how much control Brendan had in the situation and how he was able to manipulate everyone around him, except of course Miranda, though no one would believe her. 

In other, happier news, I am almost to my Goodreads goal of 35 books! I hate to prematurely congratulate myself, but so far I think I've only had 4 really bad books this year. Two things: (1) the year isn't out, so that number could go up and (2) four really isn't huge in the scheme of things. Oh well. 
How I will finish those three AND season 5 of Mad Men? No idea. I'll think of something. I always do...

30 November 2012

November Reviews

I was ahead on my reading. 
I was actually 3 books ahead of my reading schedule at one point. It was great.  I was totally sure I was going to reach my goal for the year.
Then this book called "The Amber Wizard" put a stop to that. Guys, I want to read this book so bad. But honestly, I'm kind of bored. And I keep picking up all these other books I want to read. And then there is this whole thing about next year being the 50th anniversary of C. S. Lewis' death and my friends and I want to read through his published works. (Yes, we are nerds. More on that hopefully later.) And I'm watching all kinds of good movies...but I won't let myself start a new book until I finish The Amber Wizard. And it's starting to get on my nerves. I'm still deciding on if it is worth finishing. Until I do that, I've been avoiding the slightly boring book by watching a ton of movies.
Here, have some movie reviews. 

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
This is one of those movies that I've heard a lot about but had put off seeing. It's rather mind-bendy, but oh so good. Boy meets girl. Girl and boy start dating. All is well. Until the fight. Girl gets mad. Boy visits her at work the next day to apologize. Girl treats boy like a stranger. Girl also seems to be dating a new boy. Old boy is confused and vents to his friends about the situation. Old boy is so distressed that his friend shows him a piece of paper. It says: Clementine Kruczynski has had Joel Barish erased from her memory. Please never mention their relationship to her again. 
Upset and very confused, Joel visits the clinic that is listed on the note. He decided that if Clementine doesn't want any memories of him, he doesn't want any of her. As the process begins, Joel relives every memory before it is erased. Somewhere during the erasing, he remembers the joyful moments, the moments of pure bliss that he shared with Clementine. And he starts to think that even if they hurt, he wants to keep some of them. It's a race against the procedure to find a way to keep some of those moments with Clementine. 

I rented the collector's edition from my library and it includes a booklet with reviews from the original release as well as some stories from ordinary viewers like me. And you, if you've seen it. As I read through the reviews, I noticed the same thought woven through all of them: cherish life. Life will eventually end. Hang on to the memories, the good and the bad. All of them are worth having. They prove you lived.

War Horse
I won't lie. The only reason I wanted to see this movie was because Benedict Cumberbatch is in it. And then I learned that Tom Hiddleston was in it. He became reason number two. I don't care. Go ahead, judge me! 
And then I actually saw the movie. Wow. So good. 
The story is about a boy called Albert...but not really. It's mostly about his horse Joey.
Joey really was supposed to be a work horse. You can't really run a failing farm with a thoroughbred, though Albert does his best. However, when their best efforts fail, Albert's father is compelled to sell Joey to the British Cavalry. Albert unwilling says goodbye to his beloved horse and we then follow the story of the Captain who bough him. Enter Tom Hiddleston. Yay! Joey goes to the front, behind enemy lines, ends up on the wrong side of the war for a bit, and then ends up home again. The main character doesn't have any lines (I mean, come on. He's a horse.) but by the end of the film I found myself crying. I have no idea why and I'm almost ashamed to admit it. Well done film. I will add that some of the war scenes I didn't like. I don't like war movies at all. But on the whole, really great film.

I feel that I need to preface this by telling you I'm not a classic Bond fan. Actually, I've never seen any of the "old" classic Bond films. Daniel Craig is my Bond. And really, I'm okay with that. 
I loved Casino Royale. Really. Loved it. I was so excited to see Quantum of Solace in theaters in England (which I did) a few days before the rest of the world. And...was let down miserably. Did they forget to write a plot for that one? Anyway, I was very skeptical of Skyfall. They would have to do a much better job than QoS to get my vote. 
The trailers for Skyfall did an amazing job convincing me that all would be great. Adele singing the theme song? Amazing. It's my ringtone. 
The film...well, it is better the Quantum of Solace. Absolutely. Still not on par with Casino Royale. It had a plot (yay!) and a bit more M (!!) but...
Ok, I think this is my main beef with the film. You aren't properly introduced to your villain or your "Bond girl". I vividly remember Vesper Lynd being introduced in to Bond in the train. I remember meeting the baddie at the poker game. Good. Great. Clear characters. I don't remember much about Quantum of Solace, but I'm pretty sure a lot of the characters were continuations of characters from Casino. I don't feel as if the same care was put into introducing the new characters in this film. Maybe the only really good ones were Gareth Mallory and Q. 
So I guess I give it...maybe 3.5 stars out of 5? Decent film, but for me, still a bit lacking. 

What did you think? Have you seen any of these movies? 
If not, what's the best movie you've seen recently? 

I'm sure I'll have a Christmas movie post in the next few weeks...get your favorites ready to share! 

29 October 2012

October Reviews

Wow! Three reviews ALREADY -- and I still have a week and a half left in October!
I recently got a new job (ack! like a month now!) and since then, I have been reading like crazy. Why?
(You ready?)
I work in a library.
Oh man, it is so nice to be working in a library again! Really. Not only am I surrounded by my books again (and get to read over my dinner every day) but I'm helping students and that, I think, is really what I love. Still working on figuring out exactly what I love, but being around books and students isn't such a bad gig. 
Anyway, I've been reading a ton over the last month. I actually have a drawer in my desk that is full of books that I've checked out to read next. It doesn't matter that I have about 10 books in my room to read. No. I have to have more! It has finally gotten to the point when I have to make myself (ha ha) read the public library books first...because they won't let me renew them any more! So I am still working on The Amber Wizard, the first book due back. And even though a dear friend tried to stop me, the last time I visited the public library I picked up another book. The newest DekKer--how could I not?! 
Ok enough excuses. Back to the reviews. 

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Where to start on this one?! It's been on my list for a while and was one of the first books I picked up at my new job. Back in 2006, two films were released about magic and a magician's life: The Prestige and The Illusionist. Two very different films but oh, so interesting. The Night Circus reminds me of these stories. Two master magician's have constructed a contest: two protege's are pitted against each other to discover which one is the best...and which one is dead.
I was going to write more but as I was reviewing the book, I came across a few reviewer's opinions of the book and a few of them caught my eye. 
Olivia Laing says that even if the book doesn't quite meet the mark, " it still functions as an eminently intriguing cabinet of curiosities." Her turn of phrase really caught my eye because she is right.
Laura Miller  likens the book to a beautiful piece of pottery...except it has been fired with the potter's thumb print on it. Craft without being art. She also says it is "an aesthetic fantasia with all the trimmings" but that the "plot is this novel’s flimsiest aspect."  And again, on both counts I must agree. It was a good and interesting read. I even got my mother to read it. Her images and scenes were beautiful, but the motivation was slightly lacking. 

Lenten lands by Douglas Gresham
I grabbed this book on a whim during my last bookstore trip. Well, not entirely on a whim. Hmm. Let me explain. 
The book is marketed as the story of Douglas's childhood with C. S. Lewis and Joy Gresham. I'm not sure that is completely accurate, but whatever. If you haven't figured by now, I'm a huge C. S. Lewis fan. I have a lot of his books, written more than a few papers on him and his work and even had the opportunity to visit his home in England. So even though I didn't plan on getting the book at the bookstore, I've been meaning to read it for awhile. So...there's that story.
The book was a bit of a let down. For me, anyway. I guess I was expecting there to be more personal stories with Douglas and Jack (Lewis's nickname). Instead, I found it to be more of a general autobiography, mentioning Jack a handful of times through the whole thing. Actually there were more stories with Warnie, Jack's brother, than with Jack. And perhaps, that was the case. Perhaps Jack, though he tried, was just not around enough for Douglas and his brother. 
Insult to injury is that the book is a bit discombobulated and meandering. It comes out sounding more conversational than narrative. I believe he said that he recorded his story and from the transcripts came the book. It is very to easy to believe that that is indeed how the book came about, and with little editing.
I'm rather glad I didn't try to read this in school as research for a paper. I would have been sorely disappointed with the underwhelming amount of new information. 

I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
I kind of fell in love with Zusak's The Book Thief the other year in Gettysburg and I was convinced that anything he touched would be gold. This book does not disappoint. When a book speaks to me in a certain way, I struggle to explain it to people. Kinda of like when I tried (and possibly failed) to tell you about If I loved you, I would tell you this by Robin Black. It's haunting and beautiful at the same time. Ed Kennedy is coasting through life when we meet him in line at the bank. We discover that he is an underage taxi driver and the least successful and least loved child in his family (No, seriously. This comes out later in the book.). His life keeps to the same boring pattern until that day in the bank I mentioned earlier. He helps the police catch a bank robber. He thinks things might be looking up...until he receives an ace in the mail. The card has three addresses & times on it. Ed learns that these are three opportunities for him to make a difference in the world around him. But it doesn't stop there. 
While Ed is striving to reach out to members in his community and spread a little bit of happiness, he ends up discovering more about himself than the people he helps. It reminds me of something C. S. Lewis said: if you want to see what’s really in your basement, surprise your basement. The playing cards that gave him the instructions turned the light on in the basement of Ed's life and showed him what he was and what he could become. See? I told you I had trouble explaining books like this.

26 October 2012

If I loved you, I would tell you this

I just finished (and by "just finished" I mean I finished this book maybe 10 minutes ago.) If I loved you, I would tell you this by Robin Black over dinner tonight. I don't think it quite took me a week. I have three other reviews on tap for this month already but figured, since I finished it and had time to write, I should get a review up pronto. 
I have been speaking to many people about this book over the last few days. I don't always do that, talk to people about what I'm reading, unless people ask me. There are few books that demand my attention and require me to spread their story to others around me. It's like when I started Hunger Games or Why We Broke Up. Those stories gave me no choice but to go to all of my friends and say, unasked and possibly unwanted, "Have you heard of this book? You NEED to read it." When I told my co-worker that I had finally finished the book, she asked what I thought. I replied simply and truthfully: My emotions hurt. 

If I loved you, I would tell you this is a collection of ten short stories that Robin Black says took her nearly 8 years to write. Before they were a book, she tells us in the Acknowledgements, they existed individually in various literary journals. On their own, they are beautiful; in a bound collection, they are haunting. That doesn't even  come close to describing the book, really. 
Perhaps this is a better way to describe the book: 
What makes this such an exquisite collection is the way Robin Black brings unpredictable elements into the emotional lives of her characters, creating that special kind of literary magic where a reader experiences everything right alongside them and it all feels new. -- Hanna Tinti
 I'm sitting here, typing and re-typing, erasing and re-writing the same sentence in an attempt to properly describe this book. It's the story of love and loss, of joy and deep hurt. It hits and resurfaces emotions you didn't remember you had or tried so hard to forget. It is story of a father and his blind daughter trying to overcome the boundaries caused by her blindness, only to find that they seem to communicate more with what is left unsaid rather than unseen. It is the unsent letter of a woman with cancer to her uncaring neighbor who is disputing property boundary lines at the worst of times. She is shocked not by his actions, but with the total and complete disregard of common sense manners. Had he been kinder, maybe she would have explained their situation; as it was, she kept the situation to herself and tried to politely argue the age old lines that had been honored for years before the young man moved in next door.  

I will tell you this: it put me in a funk. I have been in a weird place, emotionally, for the week and I think I will need to blame the book. Not a "shame one you!" kind of blame. Just a "huh, well at least there is an explanation" kind of blame. 
Don't let me talk you out of reading this book, though. I promise, it's worth it.

30 September 2012

Rizzoli & Isles: Last to Die

We called him Icarus.
It was not his real name, of course. My childhood on the farm taught me that you must never give a name to an animal marked for slaughter. Instead you refer to it as Pig Number One or Pig Number Two, and you always avoided looking it in the eye, to sheild yourself from any glimpse of self awareness or personality or affection. When a beast trusts you, it takes far more resolve to slit its throat.

So begins Tess Gerritsen's latest novel Rizzoli & Isles: Last to Die. I couldn't tell you how I found Gerritsen's work or how old I was when I fell in love with her writing. It might have been a public library find or one of those $1 hardcover sales that the library does every year. However it happened, bottom line is that it happend. I ended up bringing my dad along for the ride too, so now Tess is on our common list of authors, joining Clive Cussler, Michael Perry, and Robert Ludlum, that we talk about.

Tess Gerritsen is a retired medical doctor who started writing while on maternity leave, according to her bio. As you saw in the title, she is also the creator of that dynamic duo Jane Rizzoli & Maura Isles. Yes, that Rizzoli & Isles TNT hit TV show Rizzolie & Isles. I've only seen clips from the show so don't leave comments like "Wasn't that scene where Jane and Frost caught the bad guy who was really the neighborhood pizza delivery guy who baked his murder victims' organs into the pizza epic?!?" because I won't have an answer for you. But thanks for ruining that episode, mate.

Just like when I read Ted DekKer, I find the most recent book from Gerritsen better than her last novel. Not that her books need improvement--not at all! Maybe she is just crafting her words in different ways that seem new and wonderful. Maybe it is just that her books are more artfully crafted than other books on the market right now and it just seems they get better. They are a breath of fresh air to the writer in me, no matter how many dead bodies Tess writes about!

The story is about a boy (well, two boys and a girl) who has been orphaned twice the the span of two years: his parents and siblings were killed on the family yacht during vacation and his foster family was gunned down one night in their home. An odd case on its own, but when two other similar stories crop up, Detective Jane Rizzoli of the Boston PD starts seeing a pattern. She teams up with long-time friend Maura Isles, even though their relationship has been a bit difficult. The saftey of three orphans depends on Rizzoli and Isles patching up their friendship and working together to stop a killer.

(Guys. Guess what? Tess Gerritsen is coming to town October 15th and I get to hear her speak about creativity and why the writing process is so hard. I cannot tell you how excited I am to get to meet her!!! Look for pictures later next month!!)

26 September 2012

A Wizard of Earthsea

I finally FINALLY finished A Wizard of Earthsea today! I've only been working on it like all summer! It was totally worth it, too. 
As I think I explained earlier, as soon as I started this book I knew it was different. It wasn't like any of the "modern" fantasy books I've read recently. There was something in the language and the sentence structure that said,"Whoa. Hold on. You can't just read this fast like you do every other new book. This is epic, like Tolkien epic. Take time to actually read the words, digest the sentence." The book was only 183 pages, but it was so so dense and rich in subject. 
It is the story of Ged who is, according to the back of the book, is the greatest sorcerer in all Earthsea. This is the story of his beginning, his youth, and how he came to that power. However, as it often happens, Ged is proud, reckless and power-hungry in his quest for knowledge. As I was reading and Ged kept asking questions about the fundamentals of magic, spells and the true nature of things, I kept seeing Tom Riddle asking his professors at Hogwarts about the Dark Arts and information about a horcrux. Because of that, I felt things were destined to go down hill...and I wasn't disappointed. 
But unlike Tom, once Ged reaches the point of no return, he is remorseful and strove to right the wrong he created. He goes to great lengths to fix the problem he created. That is what makes a good wizard (or sorcerer) a great one. 
There is magic, spells, and dragons (so hi, I'm in!) and a wonderfully woven story. 
Sometimes I like books, but would never read anything else by the author or another book in the series. (Like how I said I won't read any more of the 13th reality books.) I haven't decided where that leaves Ursula Le Guin. Love the style, love the story. Can't decide if I want to dedicate to another series. Silly? Maybe. I am just starting to get to the point in my life (har har. I feel old. Sue me.) where I don't want to just read books to read books and say I've read them. I want to like them, to enjoy them and want to read them because they are good, not just because I have to finish the series. 
I do recommend this book, though. Whole-heartedly. 
Did I mention there are dragons in it? Dragons that talk?! 

20 September 2012

Why We Broke Up

No, this isn't a personal break-up post.

I just finished a brilliant book called Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler. Most people know him from his fame as Lemony Snicket, the author of A Series of Unfortunate Events. The moment I made that connection, I knew this book was the next thing I NEEDED to read. 

It is a young adult read, but (as I said in my Goodreads review) if you have ever been, almost been, or wanted to be in a relationship, you will understand this book. All of the emotions of relationships (any relationships really) --heartache, love, comfort and confusion -- are represented in this story. 

Min Green is a high school student (sorry, I can't remember how old she is meant to be) in love with movies. From the very first pages she talks in scenes from old movies ("Lately, I've been like Aimee Rondele in The Sky Cries Too, a movie, French, you haven't seen it. She plays an assassin and dress designer, and she only smiles twice in the whole film.") She is sending her ex-boyfriend, Ed, the co-captain of the basketball team, a box of treasures from their relationship along with a letter that lists every single item, why it was important to her and why they are breaking up. 

This story feels so unique. There is artwork littered throughout the book. Not unusual, exactly, but the way the art is used feels so easy, effortless maybe, and so right. Sometimes its a drawing of whatever item she is describing to Ed. Sometimes it is a simple pale blue page to punctuate the end of the story. It's subtle and I like it. 

The writing style is interesting as well. In A Series of Unfortunate Events, Snicket was always hilariously morbid to me. I loved laughing as his melancholy turn of phrase for something so incredibly simple. That style is missing from this book. You have the same melancholy feel (in fact, if there is one word I would use to sum up the beauty in this book, I think that word would be "melancholy") in the style, but the sentences are run-ons, but not in the annoying, ungrammatically correct way. The sentences, they are a girl talking, trying to explain exactly what she is feeling without giving too much of herself away, trying to be strong and show Ed he doesn't matter, but man, how do you hide how much you really loved someone? (Actually they are rather like that last sentence I wrote.) And I loved it. I love that Min writes in a way that makes sense to me.  It is hard to understand at first. I wasn't really expecting it. But once I saw what Handler was doing, I relished every long sentence, even the ones that I needed to go back and read twice. 

I could really go on and on about this book. I finished it in what, just a few days? That ought to tell you something about how much I loved this book. 

And, like with Kill Order, I am still mulling it all over. What does it mean to love someone? Can you love someone and never want to see them again? Can two people so different ever make a relationship work? What makes people stop loving each other? 
Before you start saying, "Come on, they were in high school! It wasn't going to be forever!" I know. I know that. But still. Saying they were "just in high school" says to me "Their relationship didn't count." And I don't believe that it didn't count. It was real and it happened.
Yes, I know. They are fictional. 
Stop raining on my book. 

Why We Broke Up. Go read it. Seriously. This book is for everyone. 

18 September 2012


I finished Kill Order last night over dinner. Whoa. 

Ok, some thing I feel still aren't clear. Maybe I'm expecting too much from the series. Maybe it's been too long since I read the first three for everything to make sense. Maybe he has more in the works. I don't know. 

Final word? I wasn't disappointed. 

Before the Maze, before Thomas, before the elevator from nowhere, the world was plunged into a chaos when solar flares sent scorching heat around the world, melted the ice caps and released radiation that killed millions. Settlements were set up in an attempt to live -- or at least simply survive -- in this new world. Those barely-surving settlements along with what little peace they are able to find are destroyed when Bergs come into the area and begin shooting people with no warning and no explanation. There is something odd about their method though. The darts sometimes kill instantly. And that is a mercy. But sometimes it takes days...

I couldn't have predicted the ending. Well, maybe if I had tried I could have done. But I wanted to see where Dashner would take me and not try to figure out on my own. His trilogy was really great at surprising me as a I read and I wanted to give Kill Order the same respect. 

Like I said, I almost feel that I have more questions now than I did before I read Kill Order. But that's not a bad thing, is it? Because a day later, I am still thinking about it, mulling it over, thinking of "what if's" and trying to make things connect in my head. And isn't that the whole point of stories? Yes to help you escape, introduce you to a new world. But when that new world can keep you past the story, isn't that the mark of a good story teller? 

Do you think about books and characters after you've finished reading a story? What do you think makes -- or breaks -- a story? 

10 September 2012

Check In

Sometime after my last trip to the library I remembered that I had a pretty hefty reading list at the beginning of January. I wanted to check in with that to see how many books off the list I read. 
I checked this morning. 
I read two off that list. 

What in the world? 

Anyway, I finished Everyone Worth Knowing and was not too pleased with the "climax" and resolution of the story. Honestly, it felt far too rushed and cliched. You find out toward the end that Bette actually loves to write (even though there had been no indication of that ANYWHERE up until the last part of the book...) and eventually takes up writing. Of course, she gets the handsome hunk, even though it looks like she won't. In my opinion, it ended with far too many neatly tied bows around half-problems. She's rather selfish too and if my friends ever let me get away with half of that crap, I need new friends. 

Moving on...I am borrowing the NEW JAMES DASHNER BOOK!!!!
But because I went to the library, I feel I need to finish those books first...so Kill Order has been languishing on my desk for the last week while I work on What the Dickens and The Amber Wizard. I better get a move on because according to Goodreads, I am 2 books behind and I seem to be reading slower with every new book I read. 

I am sure my new found obsession with Mad Men hasn't helped my reading. It has been on my list for at least a year and last week on a whim I started season one. Wow! I was totally blown away! The costumes, the sets, the content, the smoking, the drinking, the business end of things...just everything! Look for more thoughts on the show in the future. Right now I am still just loving the look of the show and how everything in the character's lives is connected --even when it doesn't look like it. Fascinating stuff. 

Do you watch Mad Men? What do you love best about it? Or, if you hate it, what is it that makes you not love it? 
If you don't watch Mad Men, what is your show of choice? That one thing that keeps you from reading or doing whatever it is you really want to be doing? 

03 September 2012

I went to the library...again

Ah, September. 

Back to school, leaves starting to get crisp, cool breezes, and afternoons made for curling up with a blanket, a cuppa and a good book. I love fall. 

I was just getting back into the swing of my reading thing and was really getting into A Wizard of Earthsea...when I went to the library. Again. Oops. 
Seriously, I don't mean to sabotage my own reading plan but that seems to be what happens. 

I was talking to a friend of mine who recommend a good fluffy summer read called "Everyone Worth Knowing" by Lauren Weisberger. Lauren also wrote "The Devil Wears Prada" which was hilarious and cringe-worth at the same time, and I think this book is following the same course. Not that it is bad, of course. I can very easily sympathize with the rather average Bette Robinson who is stuck in a horrible bank job with a horrible boss who won't even let his employees leave the building for lunch. But I struggle with the almost too easy transition she makes into her new high profile job at Kelly & Company, a PR and event planning firm for every known person (and even the new faces) in the celebrity world. She goes from bumming around her apartment every night to going to a different club every night of the week. Coming in late to work is ok, because she's been out with her co-workers checking out the latest cool place for the next big party they are throwing. 
I usually like the stories of a nobody turning into a somebody, via a new found confidence in themselves, but I don't quite get that vibe from this story. I'm not halfway through this book, so there is hope for a turn around. Stay tuned...

I also picked up on whim "What the Dickens" by Gregory Maguire. It's a fairy tale about a rouge tooth fairy...and with a tag line like that, how can you refuse?! 

I picked up another fantasy book called "The Amber Wizard" by David Forbes. I know practically nothing about the book or the author except that the back of the book says that he is living about 1.5 hours from where I currently live. That's pretty cool, right? 

I am going to get a bit of reading done today--thank God for days off and Labor Day! But...I'll probably spend most of it hanging with my friends doing nothing. Which, really, is always more important that reaching a reading goal for the year. 

25 August 2012

The Journal of Curious Letters

I finally finished The Journal of Curious Letters! 
It only took two renewals from the library and a very long phone conversation last Saturday for a third renewal but I finished it! 

I wasn't as fresh off The Maze Runner as I would have liked to be, but one of the first things I noticed was that the writing was very different. The Maze Runner, if I had to categorize, is a mid-teen young adult books. That would place The Journal of Curious Letters somewhere in pre-teen/early teenworld. What does that even mean any more? In my head, I'm thinking maybe 8-12. 
I am basing that on the style of writing, the themes present in the book and the over all progression of events. 

It is a story that starts with our main character, Atticus (nicknamed Tick) Higginbottom, receiving a "curious" letter telling him that the world is in danger but that he can help! What a crazy thing for a kid that gets picked on all the time to hear! And of course, like any good hero, he has a choice: to help or to ignore the letter.  And, as a good storyteller would do, James Dashner has Tick accept the challenge and we start on an adventure into the Realities. 

Tick receives letters in the mail from a mysterious MG, each one a clue to when, where and how they will meet and further discuss saving the world. A nice twist to the story is that Tick isn't the only one receiving letters. He meets up with a few other kids and together they figure out the clues and talk about the interesting things that happen to them. 

I will be honest: I wasn't terribly riveted by this book. What I found most interesting is the completely different way James Dashner told this story. It was evident in both the writing and story line that this was not going to be a watered down Maze Runner book. 
Some authors can seamlessly write a book for children that adults find wonderful. Harry Potter is case in point. The story, the characters, the writing--it wasn't dumbed down so only children could understand. I had more talks with adults. come to think of it, about the books than I ever had with children. We talked about our favorite characters and plot twists, as well as the moments that made us cry. 
But J.K. only really wrote the one series. Sure. OK. The Chronicles of Narnia. C. S. Lewis wrote children's books as well as academic books and "adult" books. There was a bit of a difference, but the quality was the same. 

It almost seemed like there was a fire missing from The Journal of Curious Letters that was always present in the Maze Runner. As I was reading I kept thinking that this book would be good for pre-preteens. It gives them a character their age (that gets the be the hero and is a rather "normal" even boring kind of kid), introduces them into a fantasy that seem possible, and puts them in harrowing adventures. For my taste, too much focus was put on the letters and the events leading up to the harrowing adventure rather than on saving the world. (Very reminiscent of the last Twilight book where we spent the whole book on the verge of an epic battle...that never took place. Major letdown.)

I will not be pursing the rest of the series, but will keep it in mind for kids who aren't sure they like to read, are feeling kind of left out in life, or are interested in trying a new genre. I might recommend it for boys (as Tick is a boy...) and I seem to have trouble finding books to recommend to young men that don't have girls as the star of the show. But as a girl who is really into fantasy, I have gotten used to boys running the show (Harry, Frodo, etc.). [ Ok so they don't always run the show. There is Buffy and Katniss, too. Just...oh never mind!] 
Next up: The Wizard of Earthsea? That would be nice. My friend just gave me Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and I am itching to try that. I also got Pilgrim's Regress and The Children of Hurin out of the library at church...this past May. And I haven't gotten to those either... 

13 August 2012

The Apocalypse has never been funnier -- Clive Barker

I finished Good Omens! Yes! 
So, okay it took me WAY longer than I really wanted it to, but I will again blame it on crazy normal life schedule, work schedule and season one of Game of Thrones. Only important stuff, I promise :) 

I wrote the following review over on Goodreads.com (which, by the way says I'm only 1 book behind of my goal now. Cue The Journal of Curious Letters. With any luck I"ll be back on track in no time!) which I decided to share with you. I'm still working on how I do reviews. I struggle with telling too much or telling too little. I have trouble with this when I tell friends about the books I am reading in face-to-face conversations. 

When you see the name "Neil Gaiman" on the cover of a book, you not only buy the book but you also clear your calendar for the foreseeable and forget about everything else that is going on in your life. 
Good Omens was no exception. 
When my friend's ask me about the book I tell them that it's about the the end of the world & the Apocalypse, hilarious and sacrilegious but in all the right ways. If I ever get around to reading The Screwtape Letters (which after this, I really want to do) I imagine it would be a modern take on that. The main characters are Aziraphale, (an angel with an obsession with books and considers the used bookstore he runs as his own personal library), Crowley (a demon with a love for good food and fast cars) and the antichrist, a young boy of 11 who runs a bit of a gang in Tadfield. 

There is more than that, obviously. But honestly, if that isn't enough to make you laugh or make you interested at least a little bit, well then, I'm not sure you deserve Neil Gaiman. 

But really, do any of us deserve Neil? He is, I believe, a common grace--something we don't deserve but something we need to be thankful for. 

11 August 2012

Game of Thrones, FTW!



I just finished season one of Game of Thrones. 


Excuse me for yelling, but seriously, I mean seriously. This show was done so well. Top marks. 

The settings, the costumes, the map, the script--everything was fantastically done. And adapting a 900 odd page book into a miniseries? Probably the BEST choice they could have made. It would not have done well as a movie. It would have needed to be a 5 hour movie. Longer. 

It made me wonder what would have happened if Peter Jackson had done the same with Lord of the Rings. That way instead of three hours, we could have gotten (if they held to GoT series) 10 hours and LOTS more details. Don't get me wrong, I love Lord of the Rings and am SO EXCITED to see The Hobbit. But it makes ya think, doesn't it? 

I am now motivated to get back to reading Clash of Kings. I am already about 200 pages in, but that was...months ago. Also, so excited to see season 2! 

If you haven't seen it, or read Game of Thrones, do it! I promise you won't be sorry! 

08 August 2012

Six+ month review

Anyone want to explain to me how it is already August?! 

I have been reading a lot (ok and watching Game of Thrones, too. Have you seen series one?? So good!) but I am still struggling with finishing books. I have so many things going on and sometimes my books end up on the back burner. It doesn't mean I'm reading boring books, or that I don't want to read. Promise. Sometimes stuff gets in the way, life gets in the way, or I just choose to read slowly. 
However, I've just learned a very important lesson: apparently, I can finish a fairly long book if I just put my mind to it and choose to do it.

I check out a book called I am forbidden by Anouk Markovits sometime at the end of June...and didn't get around to reading it until about 4 days before it was due. I was busy reading Good Omens, trying to get through The Wizard of Earthsea and starting a new book was not in my plans. And then I got hooked on Eureka and lost about two weeks of my life.  Not that that is a bad thing...never! It just well...anyway. Back to the book.
I read two nights hardcore. I mean I went to bed early and propped myself up with pillows and just read. During coffee the next morning, I read. I would get comfy and read after work, get ready for bed and read some more. I put such a hurting on that book! I will confess that I was more in a hurry to finish the book than I was to understand the book at times. I did lose my place a few times in the narrative, but I was able to pick it back up. 

I first heard about the book from Goodreads (which tells me that though I am at 54% of my reading goal, at my current pace I am 2 books behind schedule. Thanks guys.). Actually, the Goodreads monthly newsletter accounts for most of my "new" finds these days. I love it. 
At first, the book seemed to be about a couple of Jewish kids during and after the war.  Not quite. It tracks the beginning of a Jewish family who takes in an orphaned Jewish girl, Mila, after the war. She becomes the oldest in the family, embracing and learning the ways of faith while the families natural daughter, Atara, questions the faith in a way that is only acceptable for men in the faith. She is repeatedly told that the questions she asks could be answered if she were a boy learning to be a rabbi. At the time and in culture, girls were raised with "enough" knowledge of the faith in order to raise a family in the proper Jewish way. 
Mila and Atara take different paths once they grow up and the book chronicles more of Mila's choices and legacy than her sister's. One reason I think this really works for the books is because even though Mila is supposedly the "better" daughter in keeping the Torah and the proper ways she is taught in order to raise a family, her choices aren't easy. How often are the stories we read about the rebel daughter picking her way through the tough of life because it is more interesting than the "perfect daughter" doing what is expected and having everything turn out ok? I think "I Am Forbidden" shows us that even the path that is considered right and proper has plenty of trouble and heartache of it's own. No one is safe. 

It was a bit of a juvenile read, but not to the point of being immature. There is a whole post I could write about the way Mila interprets the Torah when she is looking for answers, but I won't. If you do pick it up, let me tell you that there IS a glossary at the back of the book. I wish I had known that while I was wading through the many Hebrew & Yiddish words throughout the book.

I forgot to tell you that when it was all said and done, I was a few days late returning I am Forbidden. Oops. I am absolutely rubbish at library due dates. And when I just wasn't making progress on Good Omens, I broke down and headed over to my local used books store. One of the many benefits of Gently Used Books is that they have a search & reserve feature. So I emailed to see if they had Good Omens and The Wizard of Earthsea. They had both and reserved them for me to pick up later in the week. I own both now and was able to return my almost overdue library books without too much of a fuss. I'm trying to grow here, people. Really. 
I am almost done with Good Omens and when I'm done with that, I HAVE to pick up The Journal of Curious Letters...because it is due in 10 days. And I don't want another 3 days of intense reading with the purpose of "just getting through" a book. I want to enjoy and relish in the new adventures and characters without feeling rushed. 

Sorry the updates have been few and far between. I just have been behind on my reading. Though now I know that Goodreads is not-so-silently judging me about reaching my goal, I might just be a little more on top of my goals. 

16 July 2012

First Loves

San Diego ComiCon was this weekend. I was not there, but I watched my Twitter stream update every second with pictures and panel updates that made the geek girl in my just about cry with joy. (And, of course, a bit of pain was mixed in there as well. Come on! 10 year anniversary panel for Firefly? Why could I not be there?? Geek girl flail!!!)
But it got me thinking about what first got me into the things I love now. I first started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer because it was such an iconic show that practically everyone had seen. That was my entry drug to the Joss Whedon universe. I think what I love most about Joss and his work is his ability to create characters that feel real, put them in real life situations and then kill them off without mercy. BUT he does it all for the good of the show. It is something I've noticed other directors and writers shy away from, and I have since learned to love the fact that Joss does not. From Buffy, I turned to Angel, Firefly, Serenity, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along-Blog, and Dollhouse. 
You can also trace my Felicia Day love back to Joss. And, thanks to my exposure to Geek & Sundry, I am now in love with Eureka and Colin Ferguson...right before the series finale. I have perfect timing. 

And of course, all of that love got me thinking: what was the first book that really got me into reading? To start with, when I was in kindergarten I was  anti-reading. I gave my mother so much stress about that! Oddly enough, I remember nothing of that experience. However, I do have early childhood memories of asking my mother, after being told I could take a couple of books to bed, "Is a "couple" one or two books? Or is it two or more books?" I've always had problems with math...
But what I think of when I remember the book that made me love reading is something that happened when I was in 6th or 7th grade. By 4th grade, I was checking out books above my reading level and hiding them in my desk. And reading during class. Oops. By 6th grade, I was reading Gone with the Wind (a book of almost a thousand pages), when others were still reading chapter books that didn't go over 100 pages. But somewhere in there, I discovered a book called Beauty. 
I read it. 
I loved it. 
And promptly forgot about it. Until a year later, when I found it again and fell in love with the magic of it all over again. Beauty is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley. I found it to be ten times more magical than the Disney movie. There was something about how blatant but mysterious the magic was, almost as if it could have happened exactly that way. 
It is the story of a father with three daughters who all move out of the city to a small village on the edge of an ancient wood. While her older sisters get married and start having babies, Beauty continues to find more pleasure in books and nature than she does in men. As it happens in every story, a dark and stormy night finds Beauty's father far from home, relying on the mysterious stranger in a dark castle. However, the stranger's help comes with a price--Beauty's father must come and live with him. Unattached to anyone except her father, Beauty volunteers to take her father's place. She finds herself treated like a princess and forced into beautiful gowns, which she tries to tear off her body. She struggles, at first, as she finds that living in a magical castle is more difficult than she ever imagined. Eventually, of course and as all the stories go, she learns to live at peace with herself and the Beast, even counting him a friend. It ends the way you hope it ends, full of magic and love. 
There are some complaints my friends have launched against this book, and to an extent, I agree with them. For instance, some say Beauty whines a lot and is selfish. Eh, sorta. Sure, to the whine. But I think she needs some of the selfishness to surface because without it she would be too perfect a protagonist. 

This book has another special place in my heart. It got my little sister into reading, too! My sister will never be the reader I am; she doesn't crave it or care for it quite the way I do. And that is totally fine. But we share a love for this book and I honestly love the book a little bit more for bringing us together in that way.

What about you? Can you pinpoint a book, movie, TV show or video game or a specific event that was your "entry drug" into something you absolutely love doing today?

10 July 2012

An ode to Felicia Day...

I think the first time I saw Felicia Day was in Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along-Blog, starring the ever wonderful Neil Patrick Harris and Nathan Fillion. (And if you haven't seen Dr. Horrible, go do that right now! It's on Netflix...and YouTube...I think.) Dr. Horrible was Joss Whedon's response to the writer's strike way back when. He said, See? I don't need you! I have the internet and my friends and we make magic!
Well, he didn't say that exactly, but you get the point.
Since then, I've seen Felicia in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dollhouse (Yes, I'm a Joss Whendon addict. Got a problem with that?).
Then, this spring/summer, Felicia started her own website company extravaganza called Geek & Sundry. It is the reason I finally got into The Guild (Felicia's web series about gaming) and the reason I now want to game, even though I'll suck. On G&S, you will also find Wil Wheaton's show TableTop, where he plays table top games (like Settlers of Catan, Munchkin, Gloom, Castle Panic, & tons of others...) with a bunch of his friends. I will suck at those games too, but I really want to play! If that is the point of the show, well done sir. Well done.

Ok, now that you know the cool geek stuff, the reason for this post was to tell you about an online comic Felicia recommended in the Fave Five segment of her show. It is called The Dreamer and it is about a 17 year old named Beatrice Whaley who lives a modern life...except in her dreams. When she falls asleep in our world, she wakes up in 1776 during the Revolutionary War. In fact, when we meet her, she is snogging the face off a handsome soldier named Alan Warren. It is such a well done piece, and honestly, I'm not sure what I did for the last week...except read the comic. It is updated only twice a week, but it is totally worth it.

This whole live-in-one-world-but-wake-up-in-another is not a new thing for me. Ted DekKer does it in his Circle Trilogy (which is really not a trilogy anymore, but whatever...). If the wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey story line appeals to you, do check out DekKer's book "Black." You won't be sorry. 

29 June 2012

June kicked my butt

Guys. How is it almost July already? What is up with this year? 
I have no remorse for the following: I hardly read at all this month. 
I mean seriously. 
Like I said last post, I am loving A Wizard of Earthsea. Really. But...Ok you know how there are those books that are so great and well loved that you are just too intimidated to actually read them? Like Lord of the Rings. I feel like there is a special energy you need to read those books. I love them and have read them before, but when I go to re-read them, I am filled with this sense of "epic-ness" and I just don't have enough mental space to read "deep literature."  All in my head and I'm a little crazy? Maybe. Probably. Ok, yes. 
Anyway, that is how I look at WoE. I can tell from the first few chapters that it is going to be amazing. Really. But...I feel I can't dedicate the proper amount of time to it right now. And because of that, I haven't really read much of it. 
Also, my baby sister got married this month. So, yeah. I am using that as an excuse. 

In addition to the WoE, I have the following books checked out of the library and I am really excited to get to them:
  • Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett
  • I am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits
  • The Journal of Curious Letters by James Dashner

30 May 2012

may reviews

So as I said last post, I hit James Dashner's Maze Runner series hard this month. (As a help to those who might be interested, I think it is a mix between Hunger Games, Lord of the Flies, and Ender's Game. I approve of Hunger Games & Ender's Game, so go read those. You can skip Lord of the Flies. I wish I had.)  But I did have time to squeeze in two other books. 

Love and Other Impossible Pursuits by Ayelet Waldman. 
I picked this one up on a whim. I was perusing the DVD collection at the library and saw a movie called "The Other Woman." Right on the cover it says that it is based on the book "Love and Other Impossible Pursuits" so like any good English major, I check to see if the book is in. Why see the movie if the book is utter rubbish? 
I did have trouble starting the book. Emilia, the main character, was a little bratty to me at the beginning. In hindsight, it was only because you didn't know her motivation. As the book progressed, you find out more about her life, the choices she made that turned her into a sudden step-mom having to pick up William, the most precocious 5 year old ever, at his very elite daycare, and why she hates it so much.

Heat Rises by Richard Castle
This next book I'm not too proud of, but I read it during May so you get to hear about it. I love ABC's Castle. Love it. So when they started publishing "Richard Castle" novels, I had to check it out. And, because I'm such a sucker for Castle and Nathan Fillion, I picked up book three of the Nikki Heat series. I read book one a year or so ago and wasn't thrilled then; book three doesn't disappoint. Heat Rises is a book that I call a 'guilty indulgence.' There is nothing about the forced cop lingo and the vague attempts at being clever that could ever be mistaken as a guilty pleasure. The characters in the book mirror their TV show counterparts, and even the plot to a certain extent mirrors series three of the show. The only good thing I have to say about this book is that Nathan Fillion's picture is on the back of it. 

I am still working on the Wizard of Earthsea and loving it. A little sad I didn't get into this a little bit sooner!

28 May 2012

Tribute to Maze Runner

I was perfectly content to live in a post-Hunger Game world. Well, as content as you can be when your heart is ripped out of your chest, stomped on and returned to you in a pile. I had gotten my friends addicted to the series, so at least I had a few people to commiserate with after the series ended. And then of course the film came out, prolonging the true end of the series. I am a bit of a minority, but I loved the film. I thought it was done well, even with bits of the story twisted up and tweaked. It had me on the edge of me seat during key moments, like the tribute parade and the entrance to the arena--even though I KNEW how things would end! Lovely. 
So there I was, minding my own business, when my friend says, "Oh, have you read 'The Maze Runner'?"

I guess that was his payback to me for getting him addicted to The Hunger Games. 
I proceed to loose about 3 weeks in this series. When I finally finished book 2, The Scorch Trials, I put 2 copies of The Death Cure on hold at the library. I needed to find out what happened next, and right now!

I've asked my friend to type up a little blurb about the books for ya'll so that is in the works. I really had time to only read one other book this month. More on that a little later. The last two months of reviews will be up shortly. 

I've picked up "The Wizards of Earthsea" finally, so I'm currently working on that. 
After Hunger Games & the Maze Runner books (which will soon have a prequel! So excited!), I have no idea what I'm going to read next!

05 April 2012

a review or two: water for elephants

I read Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen sometime last year when I was working & living in Gettysburg. If I've said it once, I've said it a million times-- it pays to work in libraries and I will always need to work in one. You get first pick of new books, first pick of returned books, the opportunities to browse bookshelves when you are re-shelving and, the pièce de résistance, no fines! Seriously, it's the best. 
Anyway, I found it in the library, finally made time to read it and loved it. I told all my friends about it and eagerly awaited her next novel. It took me ages to finally see the movie. But it was totally worth the wait! I was hesitant, I must admit, to see Rob Pattinson play the lead. I was not thrilled with his role in Twilight and I had little hope for him. However, I am glad to admit that I was dead wrong. 
With the time that had passed between my original reading and viewing of the film, I can't say how close the two were. I was pleased with the film and ,based on what I remember, was quite close to the book.  
As always, I recommend reading the book first. However, seeing the movie will not ruin the beauty of the story. And maybe it will renew your faith in Robert Pattinson, too!

03 April 2012

Imitation/Flattery etc.

My dear friend Rachel started a book review blog too! Hop over there to check out her thoughts and ramblings about books & such. 

 Much Ado About Stuff

PS. She updates her blog more often than I do. For now, anyway :)

29 March 2012

march reviews

April already? How in the world did that happen? 
I will admit that March has been a bit of a blur for me. I'm not sure I can tell you what happened last month except work. I worked a lot. I watched a lot of TV. I didn't sleep as much as I needed to sleep. And I didn't read as much as I wanted to. 

I finally got around to reading Dear John by Nicholas Sparks. (What? No, not just because Channing Tatum is in the movie! Well...)
I read this book after finishing the awful book Juliette. It is how I discovered that written dialouge is very important in a book and will, in fact, make or break my interest in a story. Moving right along... I had mixed feelings about the book. In part, I hated it. Building up a romance, sending boy across oceans to a war, girl breaking up with him in a letter (so wrong!)--and so many other things-- I just couldn't handle it. But part of me thought, as I wiped the tear from my eye, "Love doesn't always work out the way we want it to, and sometimes that is for the best." So I guess that is the moral of that story. 
(Also, Channing Tatum is hot. The end.)

Another book I picked up to read because I want to eventually see the movie is One Day by David Nicholls. I suppose I didn't learn my "love doesn't always work out the way we want it to" lesson, because this book was like Dear John on that level, times 1,000. I cried at this book. It is the well known story of two imperfect people (Dexter & Emma) who are perfect for each other...but can't get their life together long enough to actually be together. Except for those few moments when all is right in the world, and tho moments are so few and so far between.The book is called "One Day" because each chapter tracks their events on July 15th St. Swithun's Day, from graduation day from university and for the next 20 years. 
**Update** I did get to see the movie too. Love it. I cried at the book, but I sobbed and wept at the film. 
My vote is a whole-hearted "yes" to both the reading of the book and the viewing of the film. You need to see this. Yes, even though Ann Hathaway is in it and fakes an accent. It doesn't suck as much as I thought it would. 

And let's not forget the much anticipated movie of the month: The Hunger Games! This was another Gettysburg find for me. Again, I told everyone and all my friends got hooked as well. I know it is long over due, but make sure you see this. I think it was beautifully done and I loved it. I mean, as much as you can love seeing a bunch of teens running around killing each other because of a corrupt government...but I think the adaptation was beautiful.

TV Series, Mini-series & film stuff (aka David Tennant Month)

As I said, I watched a lot of TV in March. Well I did not lie. I started re-watching Doctor Who when I got a friend of mine hooked and so I just kept going. I love David Tennant's Doctor. Love love love. I loved Christopher Eccleston too...but I double loved David's. So there was lots of Doctor Who happening. 

I also saw the BBC's Casanova. Also with David Tennant. Also with Russel T. Davies of Doctor Who fame. It was chock full of other brilliant British actors, too. All in all, a great miniseries. My little sister, who sometimes has trouble with all of the BBC I watch, even loved it. I mean really, it's just great. 

The Chatterley Affair
During my year at Gettysburg, I read Lady Chatterley's Lover and watched the mini-series by Ken Russel. I loved parts of the film (Sean Bean? Yes please!) and parts of the books. Well, lots of parts of the book. I couldn't tell you all of the parts, but I know I have a bookmark full of quotes. I feel it's a very honest look at what relationships are, the emotions that are involved and, like we learned in When Harry Met Sally..., how sex (whether you have it or not) gets in the way. 
This film, The Chatterley Affair, is about the trial of the book in England in 1960. Parts of the story are fictional, but many of the witnesses and their testimony for the book are true. This was a very publicized event and the main purpose was to decide if D. H. Laurence was just publishing smut, or if his book actually contained any literary value. Some of the perspectives of the people who testified were really interesting, especially Richard Hoggart's view of Laurence's purpose of using the F-word (sorry). The fact that David Tennant played the character Richard Hoggart, well...that was just for fun :) 

14 February 2012

february reveiws

I finished January with the real romance The Vow. I shifted right into novelized romance for almost the entire month of February. Bad idea? Perhaps. But ya know, a little too late to make a change.

The first book I labored over was Juliette by Anne Fortier. No, no. Don't write that title down. Don't make a note. Just listen. I want to save you time and energy.
I found the book, you remember, one Saturday while I was at the library with my dad. It looked interesting and after Beauty (by Robin McKinley) I am afraid I am a sucker for any "re-told" classics. I'm also a sucker for Shakespeare fiction. What can I say? It must be the English Major in me!
The story is about Romeo and Juliet, but with the twist that it actually happened in Siena, Italy.  Over the years the story got distorted, retold and eventually, good ol' Billy Shakespeare picked it up.
The beginning was slow, but sometimes books are like that. I kept expecting it to pick up and get good. I remember thinking, "Well, I'll give it the ol' Nancy Pearl 50 page try," only to find out that the next time I took a whack at it, I WAS on page 50. And still nothing. But something in me really kept thinking, "Maybe it gets better. The whole book can't be THIS bad."
Well, let me help you. It can be. 
It wasn't until I finished it and picked up other books that I realized what was missing: good dialogue. Instead of moving the book along by informative dialogue coupled with some necessary descriptive passages, I found thoroughly wordy paragraphs describing conversations and events with a smattering of actual rote and cliched conversations thrown in. (Not to mention the two dimensional characters she created that, frankly, I had no interest in.)
I was very disappointed but I didn't even have enough in me to summon a "meh" about the whole book. I would say skip it.

I think this is also when I picked up a few Sarah Addison Allen books. She is such a beautiful guilty pleasure of mine that I'm not even sorry to admit it. I read Sugar Queen and The Peach Keeper. Everything she writes is so infused with magic that, even though you know there is no magic in food to attract men, family or love in general, for the duration of the book you actually entertain the possibility that baking that pie you've been thinking about might change your life.  Even if it doesn't, you'll have a yummy treat to eat while you read her books. It's a win-win no matter how you spin it. 

And then, my friend Rachel told me about The Mortal Instrument Series by Cassandra Clare. And then, she let me borrow them on my Kindle. Needless to say, I tore through those four books in a matter of weeks. I think two, max. Maybe two and a half.  There was a little sprinkling of Harry Potter (and making fun of Harry Potter) in there, and a little something else that smells highly of magic. I will see what I can do about getting her to do a review, since they were her find.