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?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Review: Someone Like You audio book

Someone Like You
by Sarah Dessen
272 pages (paperback)
6 hours and 10 minutes on 6 CDs (audio)

I was scoping out the selection of audio books at my local library (which was not as large as I expected) and I came across this Sarah Dessen book. Since I had never before listened to an audio book (*GASP!*) I decided that I didn't want something really long because I didn't know if I would really like it and I don't have a very long commute or rides in the car in general. I decided this one would be perfect. I've been hearing good things about Sarah Dessen from the YA readers I know plus, at just over 6 hours, it wouldn't take me weeks to finish.

The book is about a girl named Halley who is an angst-filled, not so good with the self-esteem teenager who is *shocker* not getting along with her therapist mother. On top of all these 'growing into a young woman' changes and family issues, her best friend Scarlett's summer boyfriend slash love-of-her-life dies in a motorcycle accident. A few weeks later, Scarlett discovers that she's pregnant with said love-of-her-life's baby. Yikes. While helping her friend deal, Halley meets bad-boy Macon Faulkner who begins to corrupt her into sneaking out, skipping school, etc. He's pretty much every guy I dated in high school when I wanted to upset my parents all rolled into one. Yikes again. So, throughout the book, Halley has to figure out who she really is and wants to be, how to help her friend through this hard time in her life, and how to get along with her mother again.

When I started this audio book, I couldn't decide if I liked it or not. Then, I realized that I was thinking about the storyline throughout the day so it wasn't that I didn't like the characters and plot, I just didn't really like the reader! Her voice was just kind of annoying. She would try to change it for the male characters, but she had such a feminine voice, that it would just end up sounding like Urkle, you know...kind of nasal-y and high pitched for a guy? Not exactly pleasant to listen too. Also, I had to look up what Macon's name was online because at first I thought she was saying 'Nathan' and then I thought it was 'Mathan' and then I thought maybe 'Macon'? but what a weird name! so I had to look it up to be sure. That was annoying. And really, the only thing that really bothered me in the book itself was that one of Halley's pet peeves was how SO many people messed up her name, but I don't see Halley as that odd of a name? I mean, Halley's comet. I get it, so I guess I didn't understand why everyone in the book had such a hard time with it and thought that it was SUCH a strange name. Macon is definitely a lot stranger!

I think that I could really like audio books, as long as I find ones with good readers. Also, I went through this book a lot quicker than a thought I would. I guess the 30-40 minutes round trip to work plus time spent running errands, plus a weekend trip to Kalamazoo (just over an hour) really adds up more than I thought that it would.

Okay, now for the points:
8 out of 10 for the book. Entertaining storyline, fun characters, pretty realistic view of high school drama.
3 out of 10 for the reader. She put forth the effort in trying to do other voices, but it just didn't work for me.
9 out of 10 for audio books in general. I think that I will be trying out another one! Any recommendations??

Monday, June 8, 2009

Monday Musings: Reading Time

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about reading time…

Do you have a set reading time (before bed, perhaps)? Do you read more at night or during the day? Is there a day of the week, perhaps, that you set aside to catch up on reading?
I'm have certain times during the day when I usually read. On weekdays I read during lunch, at some point during the evening (after dinner), and definitely before bed. Sometimes, if I'm REALLY into the book I'm reading, I'll even get up a little early and read before I start getting ready for work. On weekends, I would absolutely love to be able to have a day to just sit around and read. Unfortunately, our weekends are usually pretty busy with house maintenance, errands, parties/weddings/showers/etc. I just try to fit in as much reading as possible!
When do you like to read? Are you one of the lucky ones who can set aside a whole day to dedicate to reading?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

BTT: 15 in 15

I saw this over at Shelley’s, and thought it sounded like a great question for all of you:
“This can be a quick one. Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.”

Okay, so 15 books that will always stick with me...I guess it doesn't matter WHY they stick with me huh? Some are just good memories of times spent reading them or they might be just a really great book that I will always remember and recommend to others. So here goes!
  1. Frederick by Leo Lionni. My very favorite book as a child.
  2. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. I've read this countless times.
  3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  4. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. This one get such mixed reviews, I think that I just read it at the right time in my life.
  5. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. I was very imaginative as a child and I think that this one really fed that.
  6. The Diary of Anne Frank
  7. all the Harry Potter books by JK Rowling. Such a great story.
  8. The Wind in the Willows.
  9. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. LOVE it.
  10. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.
  11. Night by Elie Weisel
  12. They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky
  13. Marley and Me by John Grogan
  14. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  15. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. I haven't finished this one yet (about 50 pages left) but it's such a great memoir and it's in graphic novel form so I know that it will stick with me for a while.

So there it is! What are some books that will always stick with you?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Review times two: Dexter and Choke

Yes, today is yet another two-fer. It's just been so busy in my world, it's hard to keep on track with the reviews! Hopefully June will be a little less busy for me so I can catch up on some extra reading! Anyways, on to the reviews!

Darkly Dreaming Dexter

by Jeff Lindsay

288 pages

My husband is actually the one who brought this little gem of a book into our house. We have been watching Dexter for a while now (and anxiously awaiting the next season to start!) and he wanted to compare the book to the show. Needless to say, he only got maybe halfway through it before he said "It's pretty much just like the show" and moved on to the next MMA-UFC related non-fiction book he could get his hands on. So, I picked it up.

It really is a lot like the show. And, I could really picture Michael C. Hall as Dexter. He really is perfect for that role.

It's full of witty, kind of dry, yet creepy humor and you really want to not like Dexter because, well, he's a MURDERER. But, since he only kills the bad guys...you just can't help but like him. Despite the look of the shiny-knife-with-bloody-happy-face cover, it's really not all that gory. Definitely nothing that will enter into your dreams and make you not be able to sleep or anything.

Oh, and the ending? Not really at all like the show. It's kind of a combination of the first two seasons of the show in this one book, but it's not really the same. For this reason, I'm really interested in reading the next two books of the series that are out because they are bound to be incredibly different from the show!

9 out of 10 stars. I love me some Dexter.


by Chuck Palahniuk

293 pages

I followed the oddly lovable Dexter book with another book featuring an odd, yet kind of likable main character. Of course, when you pick up a Palahniuk book, you KNOW that it's going to be kind of odd. "Kind of" maybe being an understatement...

So, in Choke, we follow Victor Mancini who has dropped out from medical school and is working at a colonial town setup circa 1734. He seeks sex from women at sex addicts' meeting and, to pay for his mother's assisted living facility bills, he pretends to choke at a restaurant every night so someone will save him then feel somehow obligated to send him money to help with bills (that he makes up). He keeps a detailed list of everyone who has saved him, their name, address, where, etc. All the while, his mother's health is deteriorating and he can't seem to find the reasons to care.

While the book follows Victor's present day life, there are also flashbacks of his childhood, his mother being deemed unfit to care for him and spending her time in and out of jail. Each time he ends up in a foster home, only to have his mother get out of jail and come back to kidnap him. Then she goes on about all sorts of conspiracy theories that she has. No wonder he turned out so messed up!

Everyone in the novel seemed to have really lost touch with reality, but by the end, they all kind of accept the hand they've been dealt. The whole book is centered on Victor going out, choking, then making someone feel like they're a hero, like they have something in their life to be proud of, while he's been lacking that his entire life.

8 out of 10 stars. If you like Palahniuk, I think that this is one of his better novels. And, it's on the 1001 list.