Thursday, October 15, 2009

BTT: Weeding 'em out

When’s the last time you weeded out your library? Do you regularly keep it pared down to your reading essentials? Or does it blossom into something out of control the minute you turn your back, like a garden after a Spring rain?
Or do you simply not get rid of books? At all? (This would have described me for most of my life, by the way.)
And–when you DO weed out books from your collection (assuming that you do) …what do you do with them? Throw them away (gasp)? Donate them to a charity or used bookstore? SELL them to a used bookstore? Trade them on Paperback Book Swap or some other exchange program?
I would say that the last time I really weeded down my library was when my mom moved out of the house I grew up in and all my stuff had to either fit in my and my husband's (then boyfriend's) 600 square foot apartment or a handful of bins in a storage unit. It was rough. Most of them ended up in a garage sale and some went to my sister (without my knowledge...ugh...don't even get me started. Her bookshelf full of MY books that she won't give back just makes my blood boil). So, for a couple years I really had to keep my book collection in check which was a little easier than it is now because I wasn't reading quite as much and space was an issue.
Once we moved into our house, a little over a year ago, I really got to enjoy having books again. I've now dug all my books out of storage and have collected new ones from library sales and other (more expensive) means. I still try to keep the collection in check though. I post ones that I'm not in love with on PaperBackSwap (so I can get new ones), pass others around to friends and family, and have sold some duplicates. I don't think that I've ever actually thrown a book away though...Even the horribly water damaged copy of Middlesex is still hanging around!

More Supernatural Reading

So I'm still going on this "It's October, which means Halloween, which means SPOOKY! VAMPS and WEREWOLVES and CREEPERS! Oh my!" kick so my reading choices have fallen under the supernatural realm as of late.

Dead and Gone
by Charlaine Harris
312 pages

The ninth Sookie Stackhouse book. Finally. Not much different with this one from the other 8...but it's still entertaining. And I still can't decide which of Sookie's many suitors I like best. For now, she's just stuck with Eric though so I have no choice! I do feel oh-so-bad for Quinn after this book though. Life is so not fair in the supernatural world.

7 out of 10 stars. Good, wholesome (yea, right) vamp-y fun.

Halfway to the Grave
by Jeaniene Frost
358 pages

So this is a new series that I picked up from PBS because it suggested that I would like it since I like the Sookie books. Plus, I wanted some fluffy summer reading (which of course kept getting pushed back in the TBR pile and is now fluffy fall reading). Cat is a half human, half vampire (her mother was raped) who now dedicates herself to killing vampires, since her mother bore into her that they are all evil and BAD. Then she meets Bones, a 200-some odd year old vampire who also kills vampires. Interesting...So hijinx ensue, Cat and Bones get it on, and the bad guys are killed. Oh and some secret government agency is now after Cat so they can use her abilities to help them out. It was entertaining, action packed, and had a little loving splashed in there for good measure. It gets a little smutty in a couple parts but at least the cover isn't TOO embarassing to have out in public!

7.5 out of 10 stars. I'm glad that I have the other 3 sitting on my shelf waiting.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Post in Which I Catch Up.

Well, interwebs, it's been a while. I have no real excuse for why I've been slacking majorly with the blogging! BUT, I have been reading some (whenever football season doesn't take me away) so here's my hopefully quick recap of the past three weeks.

A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving
617 pages
I originally picked this up at a library book sale because The Book Lady talks about it quite a bit! I enjoyed it for the most part and really loved Owen's character but the narrator, John Wheelwright, just felt not real enough for me I guess. Also, this book took me FOREVER to get through. I would think this book would have taken me 5-7 days to get through but it was more like 2 weeks. It was definitely worth a read though. 8 out of 10 stars.

Stealing Buddha's Dinner: A Memoir by Bich Minh Nguyen
253 pages
This was my book club's book for September. I found it funny in some parts and fairly relatable, even though it was about a Vietnam refugee trying to fit into American culture. I guess as kids we are all just trying to fit in with the "cool crowd" by having, eating, and doing the cool things, regardless of our ethnic background. We had a pretty interesting conversation about the book but I don't know that there was anyone who really LOVED it. I felt pretty "eh" about it by the end and barely skimmed the last 40 pages. 5 out of 10 stars.
The Last Summer (of You and Me) By Ann Brashares
306 pages
Eh, good summer chick lit. The characters left something to be desired, as did the ending, but I enjoyed it for what it was: total fluff. Not much else to say... 6 out of 10 stars.

Sin in the Second City by Karen Abbot
301 pages
I've had this on my shelf since last Christmas and just now FINALLY got too it! I don't know why, but I wasn't thinking that this book was pure non-fiction, I was thinking historical fiction, but still it was interesting! I had no idea that a lot of the stuff in it even happened. I really enjoyed this one. 8.5 out of 10 stars

From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris
312 pages
The 8th of the Sookie Stackhouse books. The usual Sookie getting in trouble because she's involved too deeply in the supernatural world. Entertaining and with the addition of vampires, Weres, and other supernatural creatures it's a great way to start out my October reading! 7 out of 10 stars.
So there you have it! My super-quick recap of the last few weeks. Hopefully I'll start keeping on top of this blog a little bit better now! *See* you all soon!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

BBAW: Reading Meme

Today's BBAW post topic is a fun little meme about reading habits. I love answering these kind of things :) and I'll try to do so in as few words as possible.

Q: Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack?
A: I try not to, but I do love salty, crunchy stuff.

Q: Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea ofwriting in books horrify you?
A: Only when reading for a class.

Q: How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears?
A: Bookmarks, the magnet style ones.

Q: Laying the book flat open?
A: Only for a couple minutes.

Q: Fiction, Non-fiction, or both?
A: 75%, 25% respectively.

Q: Hard copy or audiobooks?
A: Hard copy 99% of the time.

Q: Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are youable to put a book down at any point?
A: End of the chapter or after a page ending with a period.

Q: If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away?
A: Nope, I go on context.

Q: What are you currently reading?
A: Stealing Buddha's Dinner by Bich Minh Nguyen

Q: What is the last book you bought?
A: A book of short stories for my Grandma.

Q: Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can you read more than one at a time?
A: One at a time.

Q: Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read?
A: In bed, before going to sleep or on the back porch swing Saturday mornings.

Q: Do you prefer series books or stand alone books?
A: Either

Q: Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over?
A: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Q: How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?)
A: Hahahaha...I'm suppose to organize them? Really?? I don't even have the read seperated from the unread.

So, I'm trying my best to keep up with BBAW but man! It's tough! I feel like next year I'm going to have to take days off work to keep up!!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Musing Monday: Reading Trends

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about reading trends…

Do you find yourself forming trends in your reading? Is this a conscious act, influenced by either your own interests or current publishing fads?

I guess that sometimes I do end up in reading trends. It's definitely not on purpose, but sometimes I'm just not ready to give up a subject at the end of just one book. I guess the whole vampire-supernatural topic has been big on my list in the past year. The Twilight books and Sookie books are some of my favorite quick, fluff reads to pick up. I also have some other Charlaine Harris and vampire-related novels sitting on my bookshelves waiting to be read. I would say that this trend has a little something to do with current publishing fads, considering the popularity of the Twilight books, but it's also just something that I find interesting and action-packed to read. So maybe I'm just influenced by the trends because I already have an interest in the subject!

BBAW: Day 1

Today (what little is left of it) is the first day of my first Book Blogger Appreciation Week! The plan is to post something everyday and discuss the topic listed on the BBAW website. Today's topic is:

What book blogs mean something to you? Who are your most trusted sources for recommendations, your greatest help, the blogger you turn to for a laugh or to vent? Whose writing do you admire or who introduced you to a whole new genre you didn’t know about? We want to hear all about them…because we want to know them too! Please share about the blogs we haven’t had a chance to meet via BBAW and let the party begin!

Well, since I began this book blogging adventure back in January, there have been many bloggers that I have started to visit on a regular basis. Some are on the BBAW Award shortlists, and some are not but all I love reading!

For informational reviews and recommendations, I usually turn to the Book Lady's Blog and Hey Lady, Whatcha Readin'? They both have a tendency to add a TON of books to my TBR pile, which I'm sure that my husband really appreciates...haha :)

For a good laugh, I definitely head over to Books I Done Read and A Reader's Respite. I love Raych's hilarious commentary like CTRL-Z!!!!, the use of CAPITALS!, and exclamation points!!!! And the fact that her rating system of catepillars makes me giggle a little. Then Reader's Respite fulfills her tag line by presenting us with "Book Reviews, Author News, and Hot Reads with Sassy Commentary."

Other blogs I like to frequent include Just One More Page..., Book, Line and Sinker, Great Books and Fresh Coffee, It's All About Books, and Pop Culture Junkie. These are just the start of my day! Of course there are many, many more that I like to keep up on. And hopefully this week will fill my reader with even more great book blogs!

Friday, September 11, 2009

In which I return to the interwebs...

Hello everyone! My, it's been a while...apologies all around! My reading time has been lacking lately due to some fun things (the return of football tailgate Saturdays, an OAR concert, and spending time at the lake cottage) and some not so fun (painting around the house, chores, and the like). But I have managed to finish one book and hopefully will finish A Prayer for Owen Meany this weekend since it has taken me WAY longer than I anticipated and I must start the September book club book ASAP. Anyway, on to the review.

Gifts of War
by Mackenzie Ford
350 pages (in ARC)

Isn't the cover of this book beautiful? It's really what first drew me to request this ARC. Then, I read the book description and I knew that I would be hooked.

Hal Montgomery is a British soldier on the front during WWI and on Christmas in 1914, there was a truce between the British and German soldiers for a whole day. They came out of the trenches, shared cigarettes and stories of home, and buried their dead. It was there that Hal met Wilhelm, a German soldier who had a fiancee in England who he was not even able to say goodbye to, due to the war. Wilhelm gave Hal a picture of himself in uniform and asked him that if he ever had the opportunity to please find her and give her this picture. A few weeks later, Hal is shot and discharged from the military. Once recovered, he goes to find Wilhelm's fiancee, Sam, to tell her about Wilhelm but of course, he falls in love with her.

So, since Hal is in love with Sam, he decides not to tell her about Wilhelm and his picture that he's carrying around with him. Even though, she continues to talk about him and HAS HAD WILHELM'S BABY! Seriously, this whole I'm-going-to-keep-this-secret-and-hope-that-it-goes-away thing NEVER works. Didn't work for Bill with Sookie in Southern Vampire Mysteries series, and didn't really work for Marcus in the Jessica Darling series, so it is definitely not going to work for Hal. Sorry buddy, but secrets don't make friends! (or lovers for that matter!) But, regardless of how much I really wanted to grab Hal by the shoulders and shake the living ba-jesus out of him, he really made up for it in the end and it was just so sad and so beautiful and I literally had just one little tear fall as I closed it...and I loved it. I clutched the book to my chest and wiped away the lone tear and just said "wow."

So 8.5 out of 10 stars.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

BTT: Fluffy Reading

What’s the lightest, most “fluff” kind of book you’ve read recently?

Well, it's summertime which means that I've been reading things that can easily be enjoyed while either sitting up at the lake or on my back porch sipping an ice cold drink. This means LOTS of fluff! Most recently was the seventh book in the Southern Vampire Mysteries series by Charlaine Harris, All Together Dead.

I haven't even reviewed it on here because after reading the last 6 Sookie books, there isn't a whole lot that changes. Sookie's living her life partially in the real world where she's a waitress, but mostly in the supernatural world where she's used for her telepathic abilities by the vampires and were-animals. She of course gets herself into some big-time trouble but manages to escape. Such is the main storyline throughout these books, with mostly just the main love interest (that Sookie sure does get around!) and the deadly situation changing . But, they are fun, quick little reads and their mass market paperback size makes for convenient toting around. Perfect for summertime!

What was the last "fluffy" book you read?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Monday Musings: Serial book-ist

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about book series…
Do you prefer to read stand-alone books, or books in series? Do you stick with a series the whole way through or stop after the first instalment? Are there any particular series you enjoy?(question courtesy of Elena)

Lately, I've been reading a LOT of books in a series. I have been re-reading Harry Potter, finished Jessica Darling's, been slowly but surely taking in Outlander, and every once in a while taking down one of Charlaine Harris's Southern Vampire Mysteries. Out of the 53 books I have read so far this year, 35 of them are stand-alone books. I think that this is a fairly low number of stand-alones compared to most years simply because there are just so many great series out there right now! I guess that I should just put myself in the serial book-ist category.

All the series that I've picked up this year, I have every intention of finishing up (with the His Dark Materials being lowest on the TBR pile) because I enjoy them so much. Unless I really, REALLY dislike a first book in a series, I always eventually finish the series. Outlander is taking a little bit of time just because I like to get in a few shorter books in between the mammoth tomes that Diana Gabaldon writes, but I will definitely get there (hopefully before Echo in the Bone arrives on my doorstep!). The series that I'm really looking forward to starting, but haven't yet, is The Hunger Games. I've heard a lot of good things about it but at this point I haven't received it from PBS yet and I figure that I might as well wait until I own a copy (especially since I'm pretty high on the wishlist for the second book).

Are there any series out there that you really enjoy? Or are you not a fan of the series?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Review: August Book Club

The Soloist: A Lost Dream, An Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music

By Steve Lopez

286 pages

My book club this month read this book because it's this year's choice for the One Book, One Community Program. It's a really neat program that gives the community of East Lansing and the students of Michigan State University to read the same book then get together in different settings and discuss it. There's a week of events scheduled to begin August 30th with an evening with Steve Lopez and other seminars, showings of the movie, and workshops throughout the rest of the week. But enough about that; on to the book and what we thought of it!

The Soloist is Steve Lopez, a columnist for the LA Times who, while out looking for a story, came across a man in one of the tunnels of LA playing his heart out on an old violin with only two strings. Seeing that there's was obviously some musical ability in this man, he struck up a conversation with him. Steve discovered that his name was Nathaniel Ayers, he grew up in Cleveland where he learned to play the upright bass then was granted a scholarship to Julliard. During his time at Julliard, Nathaniel began doing odd things, acting out of the norm, yelling at others, randomly taking off his clothes, etc. and it was discovered (after he failed out) that he had schizophrenia. After years of forced treatment, drugs with terrible side effects, and his family not knowing what they could do for him, he ended up in the streets of LA, homeless and pushing around a shopping cart with his prized possessions.

When Steve gets to know Nathaniel, he realizes how much he wants to help him to get better so he begins to try to send him to LAMP (Los Angeles Men's Project), set him up with an apartment and psychiatric help, give him instruments and music that people have donated, and try to get him off the streets. Unfortunately, Steve doesn't quite seem to understand the disease and needed to learn the hard way that Nathaniel's progress wasn't going to be immediate or easy. But, throughout their time together, Steve was able to learn from Nathaniel, just as Nathaniel was able to learn from Steve, and their friendship grew into something very special.

I had really mixed feelings when reading this book. Sometimes I was really touched and liked how Steve was helping Nathaniel, but sometimes I really disliked Steve because I felt like he was kind of using Nathaniel for next week's column or that he was helping him not because he wanted to, but because he felt obligated to since he had made Nathaniel somewhat famous. Steve just pushed and pushed for Nathaniel to do certain things, even leading to tricking him into things and I just wanted to yell "Let him be! He doesn't WANT to!" at him. I guess since I wasn't there and in that situation, then I can sit here all I want and say that we can't make people conform to what we (as society) deem as "normal" but I'm sure that Steve Lopez had good intentions.

One thing that a lot of people at book club said was that this book made them want to go out and help! Get involved! etc. And while I can definitely understand that, I just kept asking myself, Could I go up to some homeless stranger and be their friend? Could I dedicate myself to helping someone who was homeless with mental disabilities? I just don't know. The thought kind of frightens me because I just don't think that I would feel comfortable doing that. I mean, I have no training or experience with people with mental diseases and you really never know what they are going to do or how they are going to react to things. I do think that volunteering and doing something to help your community is a really rewarding thing to do, but I don't think that helping the homeless or mentally ill is up my alley. When I start volunteering again, I think that something at the library or at a school would be something I would be more comfortable doing.

Anyway, Steve Lopez will be coming to East Lansing on August 30th to give a lecture. I'm definitely going to try to make it out there for it because I think that it would be interesting to hear what he has to say about his experiences and what his opinions are about the movie version of the book (which I haven't seen but heard is not very good and very Hollywood-ized). I wonder if seeing him speak in person will affect the way that I feel about the book?

For right now, I give it 7.5 out of 10 stars. I wasn't as inspired as I thought I would be.

Have you read this or seen the movie? What are your thoughts? Do you volunteer on a regular basis? What do you do and what inspired you to do so?

BTT: The Best and the Worst

I didn't do last week's BTT, so I'm going to combine both last week's and this week's into one since they are so closely related.

8/13/09: What’s the worst book you’ve read recently? (I figure it’s easier than asking your all-time worst, because, well, it’s recent!)

This would probably have to be The Mist by Stephen King. It was cheesy and kind of dumb and really, just like any other lame "monsters are taking over the world!" story. It was way too predictable, the characters were the same ones that you expect in any story like this (the hero, the nonbeliever, the child, the "I told you so!" person...), and the ending didn't give any resolution. Not Mr. King's best and even the prospect of seeing Mark Wahlberg makes me want to see the movie.

8/20/09: What’s the best book you’ve read recently? (Tell me you didn’t see this one coming?)

Now this question is TOUGH. I feel like I've read a ton of really great books lately! Although, a lot of them are a part of a series. I finished the Jessica Darling series recently and that was witty and hilarious, especially the fifth book. And, I also just recently finished the fourth book in the Outlander series, Drums of Autumn which, of course, was wonderful. The only non-series book that sticks out to me lately would be Without You: a memoir of love, loss and the musical RENT by Anthony Rapp. That book just really struck my heartstrings, it was so well excuted. I know that that might by an odd way to describe a book, but the use of the lines and lyrics from Rent in relation to the different points in his life really made the book stick out to me.

What about you? What are your recent bests and worsts??

Monday, August 17, 2009

Musing Monday: Books into Movies

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about movies …
How do you react to movies made of your favourite books (or even not-so-favourite books)? Do you look forward to seeing them, or avoid them? Do you like to have read the book before seeing the movie?
I would say that most of the time, I really look forward to seeing a favorite book of mine turned into a movie. I always go into it knowing that they are definitely not going to be the same though! I also always try to read the book before seeing the movie, if I know that the movie is based on a book. Although there are a few times when I see a movie and later realize that it was based on a book and if I enjoyed the movie enough, I like to go back and read the two just to compare them.
I think that one of the most true-to-the-book movies out there is Fight Club. A lot of the lines from the movie are taken right from the book. It really transerred well from text to screen. The Harry Potter movies are overall pretty great but they really have to be taken in as a seperate entity from the books because quite a few things are changed or left out in the movies (especially the fifth one...ugh...that was the worst). A couple of movie that I'm looking forward to seeing are My Sister's Keeper (even though I'm nervous for the change of ending) and The Time Traveler's Wife. I really enjoyed both of those books. The one that I'm definitely not looking forward to seeing a movie of is The Road by Cormac McCarthy. *yawn* I think that it would make a pretty boring movie but apparently, it's being released in October.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Finishing up with Jessica Darling

I read Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings a couple weeks ago but, alas, had to wait for the library request to go through to get my mitts on the last three books in the saga of Jessica Darling. This was alright though because as much as I like Jessica and have enjoyed reliving my high school days through her journal entries, I just feel very hot and cold about Marcus Flutie. But, I still had to find out how the series ended. (There very well may be spoilers in this...)

Charmed Thirds
by Megan McCafferty
359 pages

In this book, the writing format starts to deviate from the first two books just slightly. Instead of this book being just one year in the life of Jessica Darling, it ends up being all of her college years at Columbia, while Marcus is in California being, well, Marcus. During their first year on opposite coasts everything seems to be going great...then the time apart starts to wear on them a bit (especially Jessica because who in the world knows what Marcus is thinking!?) and after a particularly stressful week of "Are we really ready to be this serious?" thoughts, Jessica gets drunk and ends up fooling around with a Republican (gasp! Oh noes!!!) co-ed. This brought back some raging memories from my I seriously did this same exact thing to MY high-school-into-college-boyfriend, so I can kind of relate (except we weren't soul mates by any stretch of the imagination, like Jessica and Marcus seem to be).
Anyways, when Marcus finds out, he takes a vow of silence then sends himself off to a completely secluded ranch for troubled men (or something like that) in the middle of the desert where he can have no contact with anyone, except by letters. He then begins sending one word postcards to Jessica each month, because leaving her to be alone in the desert without saying goodbye isn't hard enough on the girl. Ugh. Stupid Marcus. At this point, I hate him. But, in the end, he shows up at her door with a Barry Manilow decoupaged toilet seat cover and a box full of his journals that he wrote (mostly about Jessica) while in the desert. him again...even though I will never read those journals and desperately want to...

Fourth Comings
309 pages

Now the book format changes again. It's still in journal entries, but it's intended to be read by Marcus. It begins with Jessica explaining why she is getting drunk at 3 in the afternoon at a Princeton college bar. "I'm breaking up with my boyfriend today."
What?!?! But you and Marcus just got back together! Noooo!!!
Okay, well it comes out that Marcus applied to Princeton (without telling Jessica) and got accepted which means he's a 23 year old freshman living in the dorms. And I totally understand what she means when she tells him that she can't handle that because he's going to be the mysterious older guy who gets nicknames (there was a guy in my dorm who was a grad student and looked like D'Angelo so that was his nickname) and girls will throw themselves at him (yup they did). So, when Jessica returns to his dorm from the bar to break up with him, he ends up getting down on one knee and proposing. Everyone say "awwww!!!" Yup, I was excited for them at first too. I really liked Marcus (again) at this point! Jessica is of course shocked, somewhat appalled, yet can't find it in herself to say yes (or no). So she takes the next seven days to write in her journal to Marcus all her thoughts and what leads her to her ultimate decision. At the end of this book, it was my favorite of the series.
Perfect Fifths
255 pages

Then I opened this book and realized that THIS was my favorite of the series. It's written in third person (which completely makes sense when you read the book) so you get to read both Jessica's AND Marcus' thoughts! YAY! Finally! A little insight into Marcus.
So it's three years after Jessica and Marcus ended their relationship (she said no) and they haven't spoken since. Of course neither has gotten over the other, but they can't be the one to make the first contact. Jessica is at the airport, running to catch her flight when she literally runs right into Marcus. She ends up missing her flight and the rest of the book is the 18 hours that follows and how they reconnect and rediscover who the other is and who they can be together. It's all incredibly sweet and I absolutely (FINALLY!) love Marcus because I finally can be in his head a little and he's grown up a bit and doesn't seem to do things just for a reaction so much any more. Seriously, this was the perfect ending to the series and it's worth reading the other four books just to get to this one.

The ratings for Thirds, Fourths, and Fifths, respectively are: 7.5, 8.5, and 9.5 out of 10 stars. I would definitely recommend this series.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Review: Drums of Autumn

Drums of Autumn
by Diana Gabaldon
880 pages

4th book in the Outlander series

First off, if you haven't read this series yet then read my initial review of the first book in this series, Outlander, and then GO READ IT. NOW! I really can't say enough good things about these books. They are action packed and romantic and funny...I just really enjoy them (and they are LONG so at least you know that the fun will last for a while!).

In DoA, Jamie (*drool*) and Claire are in the 1770's, living in the colonies. Jamie gets a land grant and begins building the Fraser's Ridge community. Claire is with him, of course, and spending her time healing, mid-wifing, ect. Meanwhile, back in USA circa 1970's, Claire and Jamie's daughter is developing a plan to head back to the stones in Iverness to meet her real dad. Roger (the Scotsman who helped Claire find Jamie again) figures this out after the fact and goes after her. They both cross the ocean from Scotland to the colonies (separately), Roger finds her, they separate again, HUGE mistakes are made and a LOT of drama ensues. And it's all very exciting and I could sit here and tell you all about it, but really, you should just go read it.

9 out of 10 stars. I just love me some James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser. Oh, and reading about the interaction between Jamie and Brianna just warms my heart (or makes me crack up laughing!)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

BTT: Serious Reading

What’s the most serious book you’ve read recently?
This is kind of a tough one for me because all the "serious" books that I read, while they have serious themes and stories, actually have a lot of humor in them. The two books that come to mind are Without You: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and the Musical RENT by Anthony Rapp and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. Without You focuses on Anthony's life and how he deals with his mother's cancer, diagnosis to death. Persepolis is about Marjane's life in wartown Iran where people were dying or disappearing was just an everyday occurance.
But, while both these memoirs are about very serious things, they both have enough sarcasm, wit, and humor to make them just a bit funny too. That helps because when you get done reading them, you can think "wow what a moving book!" rather than "wow, I could use some Prozac now..." I guess that I just need my serious with a good dose of humor!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Musing Mondays: Library Meme

This week we have a library meme courtesy of MizB:

Library Habits meme:

1) If you don't frequent your local library, why not? I used to go to my actual local library (right down the street about a mile) but the selection was pretty lacking and it doesn't use the MelCat system (explained later) anymore so it's less convenient to request books from other libraries, so I now go to the township library (10 minutes away) especially since I am in a book club there anyway.

2) If you do visit the library, how often do you go? about once every two weeks. Once to grab books I requested and once for book club.

3) Do you have a favorite section that you always head to first, or do you just randomly peruse the shelves? sometimes I randomly peruse but usually I check the New Release shelves first or just head straight to the request pick-up shelves to grab the pouch with my name on it.

4) How many books are you allowed to check out at one time? Do you take advantage of this? I'm really not sure how many we're allowed to check out at a time...I usually only take out one or two at a time and maybe one for Hubs. Right now I have out 4 because three are the last of the Jessica Darling Series.

5) How long are you allowed to have the books checked out? 2 weeks but you can renew online

6) How many times are you allowed to renew your check-outs, if at all? not sure. I think two? This hasn't really come up for me yet.

7) What do you love best about your particular library? it's beautiful and cozy. The people who work there are really nice and they have a lot of evening and summer programs for all age ranges, which is cool. Like Thursday nights they have teenage bands play in one of the extra rooms as a weekly Battle of the Bands. So you don't go on Thursday if you want quiet, but at least they are getting the teens in there because they end up wandering around and checking out books.

8) What is one thing you wish your library did differently? Hmmm...I don't have any complaints as of right now. I do wish that they had a larger audio selection.

9) Do you request your books via an online catalogue, or through the librarian at your branch? I usually request books online, especially if my library doesn't have them. My library is a part of the Michigan Electronical Library Catalogue (MelCat) system where you can request a book through the system and they will deliver it to your home library for no cost.

10) Have you ever chosen a book on impulse (from the online catalogue OR the shelves) and had it turn out to be totally amazing? If so, what book was it, and why did you love it? I'm sure that I have before but not recently. I have way too big of a TBR pile right now so I always have my books already picked out or requested before I go.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Review: Memoir of Anthony Rapp

Without You: A memoir of love, loss, and the musical RENT
by Anthony Rapp
306 pages

I love the musical Rent. LOVE it. Seriously, it's so great and moving and beautiful and the music just sticks with you. I've seen it a few times live, one of which was at the Barn Theatre in Augusta, MI where Jonathon Larson (the writer of Rent) spent a couple summers earning his equity card prior to moving to NYC and writing Rent. That performance was probably the most moving one that I've seen since a lot of the people there had know Jonathon. Wow. I was left speechless.

If you haven't heard the story of Jonathon Larson and how Rent came to be, then you should read this or rent the DVD of the movie version (which features most of the original Broadway cast including Anthony Rapp) and watch the documentary on the second disk. Look out for the picture of my beloved Barn Theatre (that I've been going to with my parents since I was young).

But, this book really isn't about Jonathan Larson or the making of Rent. It's about Anthony Rapp's experiences with playing the character Mark Cohen for years (from the workshop production to Broadway), living as a homosexual, relationships, and dealing with the loss of him mother to cancer, along with other things that came around. Rent just happened to his backbone through years of strife and heartache in his life. The lyrics to the songs and the core of his character Mark just resonated throughout his real life to make this a very moving memoir. But I think that my favorite thing about reading this was I could distinctly hear Anthony Rapp's voice (as Mark Cohen) while I was reading it. It had a little bit of everything I look for in a memoir: realness, challenges, some hilarity, some heartache, and a good dose of hope at the end.

9 out of 10. Such a good book.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

BTT: What's so funny?

What’s the funniest book you’ve read recently?

Hmmm...this is kind of a tough question for me! I don't really read many books that are flat-out funny. Sure there are plenty that have me giggling at certain parts, but none that I can think of where I'm just laughing out loud the whole time. But I guess the ones that have made my husband look at me like I'm crazy because I'm sitting on the couch, book in my lap, giggling to myself would be the first two books of the Jessica Darling series by Megan McCafferty and the fourth Outlander book (which I'm currently reading) called Drums of Autumn. While there are some serious and some sweet and some HOT things going on in DoA, I have been finding myself giggling a bit at some of the descriptions and reactions of the characters. Of course when you put a 20 year old girl from the late 1960's into the 18th century there have got to be at least a few funny moments huh!?

What's the funniest book you've read as of late? Any good recommendations for a laugh-a-minute book? (fiction or not)

Review: Girl With A Pearl Earring

Girl With A Pearl Earring
by Tracy Chevalier
233 pages

I read this book back when I was in high school (for pleasure) so when it came up as the July book club book, I decided that I might as well read it again especially since I remember liking it well enough the first time. The one thing that I kept hearing people say about this book is that it's a little slow, but if you like art, art history, historical fiction and the like then you should enjoy it. I would definitely agree with that!

This book is Tracy Chevalier's (fictional) thoughts on who the girl in Vermeer's painting "Girl With A Pearl Earring" was (16 year old Greit, who worked as a maid for the Dutch painter) and how Vermeer came to paint her. While the plot summary sounds like it is about Vermeer, the painter, it's really more of a tale of Greit. She is forced by her family to become a maid for this painter because her father (a tiler) was blinded in a kiln explosion and she must begin helping her family. She must learn to become a servant, deal with Vermeer's jealous wife and mischievous (and evil) daughter, and sneak around to help Vermeer with his painting. Very little is actually known about the life of Vermeer, so it worked that Chevalier made him a very mysterious character. He rarely speaks aloud and allows his mother-in-law to pretty much run the household, which seems in contrast to most men of the 17th century.

The book club discussion was pretty good for this book. I found that we mostly just discussed the characters and what choices they really had in that time, and also found that most of us had characters that we really liked and some that we love to hate. It was definitely different discussing a very character-driven novel versus the plot driven ones that we have read in the past. It was a nice change up from some of the more action packed adventures I've been reading as of late!

7.5 out of 10 stars. Historical fiction and art lovers need only apply.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Reviews: Next in Series

So I'm trying to catch up on all my reviews and these next two are both from series and are both Young Adult, so I'm just going to put them together :)

Second Helpings
by Megan McCafferty
349 pages

2nd book in the Jessica Darling Series.

So Jessica is moving on to her senior year of high school and trying to forget all things Marcus Flutie related as much as possible. She has a new goal for the next year (go to Columbia U! even though her parents have already vetoed all colleges in large cities), is still dealing with her best friend living far away, and has to come to terms with her grandmother aging and being put into a nursing home. All the while, there's the normal high school angst and drama lurking around every corner between Jessica and her friends/non-friends and new used-to-be-a-nerd-but-now-is-cute boyfriend. And of course, Marcus is there firing off mixed signals and keeping tabs on Jessica by befriending her grandmother because he happens to work at the nursing home.

I love Jessica. But I have a love/hate relationship with Marcus. One minute I'm thinking that he's just leading her on, and then I'm like "Oh my gosh, he's so SWEET! He wrote her a song!!" (which P.S. I had a boyfriend in high school who wrote me a song and it made me swoon, even though the song really wasn't that good...I think that I may possibly have a cassette tape of it somewhere in the "remnants of high school" storage bin...definitely have to find that...) but then I'm all "Ugh! He's leading her on again!!" So now I must continue the series since I would love to hear more from Jessica and I just have to know whether I like Marcus or not. I've already requested 3, 4, and 5 from the library. They should be in any day now...

8 out of 10 stars. This series is PERFECT for summer!

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
by J.K. Rowling
652 pages

I've been rereading this series in preparation for the release of the 6th movie (which is based on this book). I just love Harry Potter. It's going to sit on my bookshelf forever so one day my kids then my grandkids can read it, I swear!!!

I had only read this one once, when it first came out so there was plenty of stuff that I had forgotten. Harry has mostly gotten past his angsty stage that occurred during all of the fifth book, so I was back to really enjoying his character. And Dumbledore was back to being involved in Harry's life and giving him lessons, which were really just preparing Harry for what he must do to defeat Voldemort in the end. There is just so much foreshadowing in these books, I can hardly believe it. I think that that is what makes them so interesting to reread. You can pick up on things that you know hint to things ahead (since you know what happens in the future) but of course, you didn't see it the first time around. So great. JK Rowling is a purty smart lady.

I'm not going to bore you all with a synopsis since I'm sure most people have read it and if you haven't then READ THIS SERIES! I highly doubt that anyone would regret reading HP. But, here are a few of my favorite parts:
  • Hearing about the early memories of Tom Riddle.
  • Harry taking the Liquid Luck and getting the memory from Slughorn.
  • Harry realizing that he likes Ginny and Ron and Hermione finally figuring out that they like eachother!
  • Hermione getting huffy about Harry doing better than her in potions.
  • Hermione losing a bit of the goody-goody-ness and Confunding Cormac! LOL
  • The Tonks/Lupin thing...LOVE!
  • Draco not being able to do it...there's hope for him, really!
  • and the end...oh Dumbledore...sooooo sad.

Then I went and saw the movie...and I really think that they did a pretty good job! Especially after the suckfest that was the fifth movie. I still don't know why they don't mention that Ron and Hermione are prefects and that Harry is Quidditch Captain, but I guess that isn't TOO important really. There were some really hilarious parts and while I was nervous that they would focus too much on the teenage love fest, it really was smoothly put in (except the beginning with the Underground coffee shop girl? what was that?). The fight in the end wasn't what I expected either, and the Tonks/Lupin story was pretty much entirely left out so I don't know exactly how they will deal with that story line during Bill and Fleur's wedding (oh and Fleur wasn't in the movie, so how will that work?). I wish that the fight scene would have been more dramatic and had more of the Order involved (like in the book) and I wish that they would have actually shown some of the funeral scene with the white tomb because that really could have been beautiful, but overall not bad for a movie adaptation.

10 out of 10 stars for the book. 8 out of 10 for movie.

BTT: Locating Mt. TBR

Do you keep all your unread books together, like books in a waiting room? Or are they scattered throughout your shelves, mingling like party-goers waiting for the host to come along?
I definitely do not keep all my unread books together, although it would probably be a good idea! Right now, they are scattered all over the place. I have a good chunk on my nightstand, some in the office on both bookshelves and some on the office floor in a bag (yet to be put away since uh, the beginng of June...), and yet a couple more on the bookshelf in the living room. Not to mention, the couple that I've gotten in the mail this past week that still haven't left their coveted spot on the dining room table... But, I kind of like the disorder of it all. I'm not really good at "scheduled" reading so when I finish a book, I like to meander around the house, picking up a book here and there and THEN decided which one I'm in the mood for. The only drawback right now is that I think that I might have too many books laying-in-wait and making the decision of which one to read next is getting tougher!

Review: Sweeping Up Glass

Sweeping Up Glass
By Carolyn Wall
319 pages

I got a copy of this book a while back as an ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) from Random House Publishing Group. It was described as "a mystery, a love story, and a haunting rumination on secrets" and it's definitely all of that and more!

Sweeping Up Glass begins with the grown main character, Olivia Harker Cross, living in the house that she grew up in in Pope County, Kentucky with her crazy mother and beloved grandson, Will'm. The wolves that her ancestors had brought to their land are being killed as a warning and she needs to get to the bottom of it before the hunters come after her and Will'm. In order to find out the reason behind the killing of the wolves, Olivia must delve into her troubled past (living with her bootlegger father while her mother is in an asylum, understanding segregation, the return of her mother, a terrible accident, the loss of her love, the birth of her daughter, and the pain of her daughter running away and leaving her infant grandson there for her to raise, etc!). As Olivia looks back, she thought then that she was so smart and understood what was going on around her when really, things occurred that she didn't see at all. Once she figures it out, it changes her life completely.

There were great twists in this book that I really enjoyed. The writing style really brought me into the story by using just enough dialect from the time and location. The only thing that was slightly confusing to me was the time period. It seems like between her childhood and the present time (in the story) there was about a 40 year lapse putting the years of her childhood around 1910-1920s maybe? then her present time around 1950-1960's? But that just didn't seem right to me since things around her didn't change very much technology-wise and there was no mention of the World Wars or any events of the time. I guess maybe things don't change too much when you are in the country...but I think that some time references that the beginning of the chapters or putting the book into sections based on years would have been helpful while reading. Other than that, I really liked it and would recommend it to others if you're looking for a fast-paced, interesting read.

7.5 out of 10 stars.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Review: Sloppy Firsts

Sloppy Firsts
by Megan McCafferty

304 pages
First in Jessica Darling series.

I've been hearing a lot of great things about this book (the entire series really) lately. I figured that it would be a book that would be just perfect to read while laying in the sun...light read, not needing a lot of thought, if I drift off, no big deal I pick it up later...and I was definitely right. I read this entire book on the 4th of July while laying out on the pontoon boat at my in-laws' lake cottage! It was perfect.

The novel is about Jessica Darling. It follows her through the second half of her sophomore year of high school until the middle of her junior year. The actual dates? January 2000 through December 31st 2000. And ya know what? That's the exact same years that I was a sophomore and junior in high school. Hmmmm...this could be interesting! The novel is also told in monthly letters to her best friend, Hope, who was forced to move away after her older brother had dies of a drug overdose and Jessica's journal entries. Guess what? When I was in high school, at this exact age, I kept journals too. Yup. Sure did. And, they sounded a lot like some of Jessica's entries dealing with the cliques, being a brainiac, nerdy type, captain of a sports team, trying to not be defined by the super jock who may like all hits close to home. And makes me kind of want to read those old journals again (except I can't because I shredded all that incriminating evidence long ago!) All this just shows that Jessica Darling is REAL. and funny. and refreshing. She's not the typical popular high school girl that everyone LOVES but secretly hates. She's friendly but not overly so, sometimes angsty, argues with her parents, and ends up having a pseudo non-relationship with a guy that she probably shouldn't.

Anyways, for this review, I don't think that the plot matters so much. I mean, we've all been to high school and remember what it was like. A lot of Jessica's experiences are ones that we've all had or heard about or were there watching. So far, I'm really enjoying looking back at the high school experience through Jessica's eyes. Just so long as I don't ACTUALLY have to relive it! Oh, and everyone I know LOVES Marcus, except I kinda don' I going to start liking him? when?? I know in high school, I probably would have had a huge crush on him least that shows that I've grown up a bit right?? hahaha :)

8.5 out of 10. great for the beach/lake/pool. Now on the Second Helpings!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

BTT: Celebrity memoirs

Suggested by Callista83:
Do you read celebrity memoirs? Which ones have you read or do you want to read? Which nonexistent celebrity memoirs would you like to see?

I'm not a huge reader of celebrity memoirs. Right now, the only one that I can think of that I've read is Tito Ortiz's...and that's only because my husband has it (and many other memoirs of UFC fighters) and I was looking for something light and easy to read. It definitely fit the bill! Other than that, I have Annie Duke's memoir sitting on the bookshelf (picked the hardcover up at a garage sale for 50 cents) and I'm kind of looking forward to reading Forrest Griffin's new (ish) book since I think that he's hilarious and adorable (in an I-punch-people-in-the-face kind of way I suppose). Also, if I find Chelsea Handler's books somewhere on the cheap, then I'd probably pick up those...but other than that, I'm just not too motivated to read a celebrity memoir. I just like novels too much!

As for a non-existent celebrity memoir that I'd like to see? Hmm...well...I don't know! I get all my celebrity juice cravings satisfied by Perez!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Summer Book Challenge List!

I'm pretty excited for this one. Hopefully I'll be able to do a little better this time around. And I'd like to actually complete one sometime! We'll see though. For now, here's the list! I've put in a couple ideas or books that I'll definitely read, but I'm planning on leaving a lot open since some of the books I want to read will fit into several of the categories.

5 Point Tasks:
1. IHO the Beautiful weather read a book while enjoying the outdoors.
· Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty
2. Take 10 books you want to read and put the titles in a hat, pick one at random and read that book.
3. Read a book with a Summer word in the title (sun, heat, sand, hot, etc).
4. Read a book considered a beach read (Chick lit, etc.).
5. IHO Friendship day (August 2nd) read a book about friends or siblings.
6. Read a book with a food or drink in the title.
7. Post a poll on NBC of 5 books of your choice and let the nesties pick your next book (leave up for at least a day)
· Perfect Fifths by Megan McCafferty
8. Read a book that takes place at a beach, ocean, lake, or resort.
9. Christmas in July, Read a book about/set during Christmas
10. IHO Dog days of Summer read a book with the word dog in the title or about a dog.
10 Point Tasks:
1. IHO summer blockbusters read a book of your choice and then choose your cast, then share with NBC
2. IHO Fourth of July read a book about the revolutionary war or any other important time in your Country’s history.
3. IHO Women’s equality day (August 26th) read a book with a woman as the main character or about a woman you admire.
· Sweeping Up Glass by Carolyn Wall
4. Read a book set in a place you have, will, or would like to travel to.
5. Read a book about a Summer romance or a romance book.
6. Read a book about a library, librarian, book store, or anything else book related.
· The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
7. Read a book about getting married, weddings, being married.
8. Read a book with a verb in the title (Walk, run, talk, etc).
9. Read a book you first heard about on NBC.
· Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
10. Read a book with a teenager as the main character or set in a high school.
· Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty
15 Point Tasks:

1. Read a book that an author you enjoy has read or suggested.
· All Together Dead by Charlaine Harris, rec by D. Gabaldon
2. IHO back to school in August read a book off your high school’s summer reading list.
· A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
3. Read a book by an author born in July, August, September.
· Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by JK Rowling
4. Read a book about a disaster or tragedy (Tornado, hurricane, 9/11, plane crash, personal, etc.)
· The Soloist by Steve Lopez
5. Judge a book by its cover, read a book based solely on the cover or title.
· Gifts of War by Mackenzie Ford
6. Read a book about Royalty (Tudors, Princess Diaries, etc)
7. Read July, August, or September’s NBC book and participate in the discussions.
8. Read the first and second (or 3rd and 4th) book in a series
· Charmed Thirds and Fourth Comings by Megan McCafferty
9. Read a book that is at least 500 pages.
· The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon or Harry Potter 7
10. Second chances- Read a book by an author you didn’t enjoy the first time around.
25 Point Tasks:
1. Read a book then do an activity that the people in the book did (swim, bike, run, picnic, etc.)
2. Read a book and cook a meal inspired by it.
3. Read a book with 700+ pages
· Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon
4. Read a book recommended by the staff at your local library or bookstore. Complete the task by posting a review of the book with no spoilers so we can all learn your opinion of the book.
· Girl With A Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
5. Read a book that you've never read before because it has always intimidated you. Afterward, make a non-spoiler WIJFR post about how you feel about the book now that you've finally read it, and if you feel the original intimidation was justified.
6. Read a book written by or about a famous person (living or dead) that you would like to meet. Post a list of questions you would like to ask them, based on what you read in the book.
· Without You: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and the Musical Rent by Anthony Rapp

Spring Book Challenge Wrap Up

So the Spring Book Challenge has officially ended. I didn't feel like I did as well with this challenge as I did for the winter one. I read a couple of books that didn't fit in anywhere and some books took longer for me to finish than I anticipated. But I still managed to read 7,4, and 8 books in April, May, and June, respectively. Not too shabby! Although, May was a little rough. With those numbers, I'm officially on my 40th book of the year! So I've upped my Total Books In 2009 challenge up to 75. Hopefully I can keep going at this pace, or even up it for the rest of the year.

So my favorites from the past three months? Hmm...I guess I'll go with a top 3:
  1. They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky by Benson Deng, Alephonsion Deng, and Benjamin Ajak
  2. Voyager by Diana Gabaldon
  3. The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Interesting that my three favorites were all from extremely different genres. I also really enjoyed Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay but didn't finish the nonfiction book on the Vel d'Hiv in time for the end of the challenge in order to count it. I will hopefully finish it soon and post of review of Sarah's Key and the nonfiction book within the next week or two!

My goals for the next challenge (Summer Book Challenge, which I'll be posting next) are to be able to fit more of my books on the TBR pile in and to keep up with the book bloggin' a little better! My poor blog has been a little neglected the past couple months.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Review: Harry Potter 5

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

by J.K. Rowling

870 pages

I was taking a nice long break from rereading the HarryPotter series in preparation for the release of the 6th movie. But, I realized that July 15th is fast approaching so I had better get on it! The Order of the Phoenix is probably my least favorite of the Potter series. Before now, I had only read it once all the way through and only made it about halfway before the movie came out (I found my bookmark still in there). I actually made it through it this time and I have to say that I enjoyed it a little more this time around, although Harry still bothered me.

Okay, if you haven't read this book/series...well do it now. I'm going to skip the summary since so many already know what it's about.

This is the first of the series where Harry is REALLY stepping into his teenage years. He's full of angst, hurt, anger and, of course, confusion about girls. I can understand some of his hurt and anger. I mean, he's not being told ANYTHING about what's going on and the Ministry along with that horrible Umbridge woman are making it nearly impossible for anyone to believe him or take him seriously. Then, Dumbledore, his beloved mentor and friend, is avoiding him like the plague. On to top it all off, he's having dreams and experiencing emotions of Voldemort's. I'm sure that's not fun but seriously Harry. Quit with the angstiness and the "You don't understand!"-s. I mean, maybe they would get it if you just TALKED about it! Jeez. Keeping it all bottled in will just make it worse, as Sirius can probably tell him since he's locked up in an old creepy house full of his family's dark, nasty stuff.

The times spend with the secret Dumbledore's Army group doing Defense Against the Dark Arts lessons are probably my favorite parts. Harry is much less angst-ridden then because he's teaching others that actually believe him and doing something that he really enjoys. Plus, all that training really comes in handy at the end. Oh and the prophecy! I love that JK Rowling came up with this. "either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives" Ahh, what a great foreshadowing for the last two books. I'm just gearing up for that epic battle that I know will take place!*

8 out of 10 stars. I really liked it once I got past the angst, plus there's a ton of important back story and foreshadowing in this one.

THEN, I watched the movie again. I hadn't seen it since it was released in theaters TWO years ago! And truthfully, I didn't remember a whole lot about it, just bits and pieces.

Since rewatching it, I remember now why I wasn't really impressed with this movie. So much was left out!!! Nothing about Ron and Hermione being Prefects, or the feud between the Weasley family and Percy, or the cleaning of the Black house, and NO QUIDDITCH! None at all!!! So you didn't get to see Ron become the goal keeper and the twins and Harry never beat up on Draco so no lifelong ban! Ridiculous. Also, they didn't put Firenze in there at all so the angry centaurs weren't 100% explained. Oh and the battle at the end wasn't the same either. I mean, they didn't show any of the students that came to help Harry get hurt and they didn't show the different rooms within the Department of Mysteries. Oh oh oh! AND, Dumbledore didn't tell Harry WHY he needs to stay at the Dursley's! Dude! That is important.

I don't really understand how they are going to work all the left out stuff from the 5th movie into the 6th. I hope that they don't keep getting further and further away from the books because that'd be really disappointing. We'll see though! Only a couple more weeks until Half Blood Prince is released!

6 out of 10 on movie #5. I think that I would like it more if I had never read the book though. too much left out!

*Take notes Stephenie Meyer! This is how epic battles are done!!!!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Book Review: Persepolis

The Complete Persepolis

by Marjane Satrapi

352 pages

This was my first venture into the world of graphic novels. I've been interested in reading one for a few months now (probably since The Watchmen movie came out and became popular) but I just didn't take the initiative to find one and read it. I was so unsure on if I would like it or not. Well, I got to find out when the book club pick for June was The Complete Persepolis*.

Marjane Satrapi wrote Persepolis as her memoir. It begins by telling stories of her childhood in Iran and the beginning of the Islamic Revolution, when people became oppressed, women were forced to wear head scarves and men to have beards and no one could speak out against the government. As a child, Marjane was incredibly outspoken, perhaps because her parents were very liberal, and had taken her to rallies against the revolution and told her stories of her relatives or friends that had spoken out against the revolution and had died because of it. Even her schooling changes to one where she must praise the martyrs, wear a headscarf, and not play with any boys.

The story continues on into her teen years and early adulthood where Marjane continues to question authority by buying illegal cassette tapes and sporting a Michael Jackson button on her "inappropriate" jean jacket. She never fully comes to terms with having to wear the head scarf (veil) and draping clothing. For example:

While I found that extremely funny when reading this, it was really a serious action to speak out at an official like that. But, it seems like Marjane was always toeing the line. When she was 14, her parents sent her off to a French school in Austria. Especially there, without her parents, Marjane always questioned authority and ran with the wrong crowd, even ending up being homeless for a few weeks.

This was such an interesting, heart-wrenching, hilarious, and informative story. I really didn't know a lot of things about life in Iran before this. I mean, you get a certain stereotype in your head, especially living in America, and it's hard to remember that there are a lot of people there fighting against the Islamic Revolution and against war and oppression. The graphics are just amazing. They are simple since they are all black and white, yet some are really complex and show a wide range of emotions and situations that I didn't think would be so great to be able to see along with the text. This book really worked so well as a graphic novel. I enjoyed it quite a bit and would definitely like to read another one! Maybe Maus next...

9 out of 10 stars. I would highly recommend this as an excellent graphic novel to dip your toes into the genre.

I also read Chicken With Plums by Marjane Satrapi. It's quite a bit shorter at 84 pages, and only

took maybe 45 minutes to read but it was also a really great story. Not quite as serious as Persepolis though. It's about a relative of Marjane's who was a great musician. One day his wife breaks his instrument so he lays down and decides to die. This graphic novel shows the last 8 days of his life. It's funny and sad with a couple of good morals thrown in. If you aren't sure if you would enjoy a graphic novel or not, this would be an excellent place to start. It's short enough that it's not too much of a waste if you don't like it, but it really does have a great story line.

9 out of 10 stars as well.

* Persepolis was originally published in two volumes. It's now available all in one book, which is why the copy show is called The Complete Persepolis.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Monday Musing: Library Limits

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about library borrowing…

Do you restrict yourself on how many books you take out from the library at a time? Do you borrow books if you already have some out? Do you always reborrow books you don’t get to?
I do restrict myself on the number of books I take out from the library to usually 2 or 3, depending on what they are for (a challenge, book club, or pleasure) and how long they are. Right now I have two books out and two that I am waiting on from another library. One is a short graphic novel that will take me no time at all to read and the other is next month's book club pick. The two I'm waiting on are non-fiction that have to do with the Holocaust and the events mentioned in the book Sarah's Key, which I just finished. The only time I take out more books when I already have some out is if something I'm waitlisted on comes in. And, I really try not to take more than 2-4 out at a time because then I have to hear my husband go "But you have SO many books around here that you haven't read yet!!!" He just doesn't understand.
I don't renew everything if I'm not finished. If i know that I'm going to end up not wanting to pick it up, I just return it. If I do think that I'm going to get to it at some point, renewing at my library is really easy. I just have to log in online and click renew, no big deal.

Book Reviews: a couple of Mass Market PB's

Okay, so, I've been a very bad book blogger. It's been busy around my household (wedding-related events, family gatherings, painting rooms, water leaks in basements...) and around work (stuff not working right and having to be completely redone, ah, such is life in a lab) so I haven't been able to post in a while. Luckily, I have had some time to read! So you all will be getting a handful of reviews this week, starting with a couple of fun, summertime mass market paperbacks.

Angels and Demons
by Dan Brown
569 pages

I've been wanting to read this (and The DaVinci Code) for a while now and finally picked it when I realized that the movie was coming out soon. Since A&D is technically the prequel, I decided to read it first fully expecting not very much from the book. I seem to hear a lot of good reviews from a more non-literary crowd and a lot of bad "but it's not literature" kind of reviews elsewhere. I get both sides now that I've read it but I thought, for summer and wanting something action packed and not too difficult to read, this was perfect and I really enjoyed it.

So Robert Langdon is a religious symbology professor from Harvard. He's called in to help investigate a super-top-secret murder at a research science place (CERN) in Geneva. (PS they had a crazy fast airplane pick him up and take him from the US to Switzerland in an HOUR! how awesome would that be?!) Anyways, the murder is kept secret because there's a brand on the victim's chest that says "Illuminati" which was a group of scientists that were against the catholic church because well, science and religion don't normally mix well. But they're suppose to be EXTINCT! Since Langdon is an expert on the Illuminati legends and can't believe that they could be back, he sets out to find out who did this exactly, if the Illuminati are back and what their plan is because oh yea, they stole something that could seriously destroy a whole city.

The rest of the book is full of action, people being murdered, a secret scavenger hunt, and a guessing game of Who is the Bad Guy? but it's exciting and as long as you can get past some of the not-so-great writing style, it's worth a read. Just be prepared to be told that you will need to remember something later as in, "so-and-so says that X amount of wind resistance will slow your body enough to reduce the force of impact by X amount. Little did I know that I (Langdon) would find this information useful within the next 24 hours" or something like that. I mean does Dan Brown seriously think that I don't comprehend what I am reading on page 100 enough to remember it when I'm on page 400? I hate when authors give away what's going to happen like that. I mean, couldn't he have just waited until the big fall, have Langdon remember that info and then say something like "man, I'll have to remember to thank so-and-so for telling me about wind resistance!"

So, 7 out of 10. I really like the blend of science and religion and it was action packed but the writing was eeehhhh....

The Mist
by Stephen King
230 pages

I'm not a big Stephen King reader. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure the only other book of his that I've read is The Green Mile, but I had to read something because it's worth a whopping 25 points for the Spring Book Challenge. My best friend just happened to have this one on her shelf so I stole, er borrowed, it when I returned her copy of The Historian to her (which I had had for at least two years...)

Anyways, on to the story complete with scary-movie-style commentary in italics. There's a big storm one night and the next morning an eerie looking mist is coming across the lake. "Oh, it'll just burn off later with the sun," says the main guy. Uh huh, yeah right. A few hours later, the mist is still coming. Main guy and his son (who's like 8?) head to the store while wife stays behind. Bad move, wife. Once in the store, the mist comes faster and soon you can't see more than a few feet in front of the store windows. Some people decide to leave but never come back and their screams are heard so everyone else is terrified. At one point a bag boy opens a loading dock door and gets taken by something huge with tentacles. good one, dude. Then a few more people decide sitting around is ridiculous and they decide to leave. Because it worked out so well for the last people... Anyways, they all die and the crazy lady in the store keeps spouting off about how it's the end of the world. There always has to be a crazy lady doesn't there? Main guy finally develops a plan to get out but doesn't know how far the mist goes or if anyone else is alive out there. The ending is one of those non-ending endings, where nothing is resolved and you don't really know what's out there but ya know, there's hope still. But, you're probably going to run out of gas before you get out of the mist, buddy.

5 out of 10 stars. I like my endings to actually explain something. But I might see the movie because Marky Mark = Yum.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

BTT: My Book Niche

There are certain types of books that I more or less assume all readers read. (Novels, for example.)

But then there are books that only YOU read. Instructional manuals for fly-fishing. How-to books for spinning yarn. How to cook the perfect souffle. Rebuilding car engines in three easy steps. Dog training for dummies. Rewiring your house without electrocuting yourself. Tips on how to build a NASCAR course in your backyard. Stuff like that.

What niche books do YOU read?

I'm definitely a science nerd at heart. While I love reading all kinds of fiction, sometimes I really enjoy a good science-based nonfiction book. Books that stick out are The American Plague about the Yellow Fever epidemic and I have The Best American Science Writing of 2008 sitting on my nightstand just begging to be read. One of my favorite science related reads is my Getting a Grip on Genetics book that I received from my 8th grade science teacher when I graduated high school.

It's awesome. It's well written and has tons of information and explanations, as well as pictures and diagrams explaining the principles. It's a little elementary for me at this point, but it's still fun to pick up and flip through every once in a while. Also, this is part of a whole series! They cover tons of topics from astronomy and physics, to philosphy and evolution. I highly recommend them!

The other niche of books that occupies my house is my husband's obsession. Any and all books about MMA, the UFC, and fighters' memoirs. So far he's read about the rise of the UFC, Chuck Liddel, Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz, Matt Hughes, etc. etc. I don't get the appeal but, hey, at least he's reading!

What niche of books do you really enjoy?