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.