Monday, September 13, 2010

Book Review: The Hunger Games

Title: The Hunger Games 
Author: Suzanne Collins
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Dystopian, Young Adult
Star Rating: 4.5/5
Network: Shelfari | Goodreads |
Buy: Amazon

My Summary: When Katniss Everdeen's little sister Primrose is selected to compete in the annual "Hunger Games," Katniss steps forward and volunteers to take Prim's place. She will have to compete against 23 other "players" to win the Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live television, broadcast throughout the country.

My Review: If you have been following my reviews for any length of time, you know that I don't give out half stars. I'm a tough grader, and in fact, most books don't get a four, let alone a five star rating. However, I made an exception in this case. The book is incredible and very much worth the read.

I've read that The Hunger Games Trilogy is geared toward Twilight readers. I would argue that Suzanne Collins takes a combination of a couple of Stephen King's Bachman Books (specifically The Running Man and The Long Walk) and builds them into her Hunger Games.

The only reason I don't give The Hunger Games a full five stars is because I feel that Suzanne Collins didn't pull off the present tense narrative. The first person was believable, but the present tense could be jarring, as she went back and forth between past and present and it was, at times, confusing, even for an experienced and wide reader like myself.

Excellent novel!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

On My Wishlist (#1)

I haven't done this meme before and I'm not entirely sure why. I think that it might have had something to do with not wanting to tempt myself to buy more books that would just take up space on my TBR shelf, which is already way out of hand.

Interestingly, this week my wishlist books are both young adult books. I never used to read so much young adult fiction, but with the advent of book blogs I find myself becoming increasingly interested in them. There is a third book which is also surprising to me, but I really do want to read it!

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

From Goodreads:

"What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all—looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12th should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it’s her last. The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. In fact, she re-lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she had ever imagined."

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins 

From Goodreads:

"Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with every one out to make sure you don't live to see the morning?

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love."

Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris

From Goodreads:

"Sookie Stackhouse has finally settled into a relationship with the Viking vampire Eric, and her errant brother Jason seems to have his life in order, too. But all the other people in Sookie’s life – Eric himself, her former lover Bill, her friend and boss Sam – are having family problems. Eric’s maker shows up with Eric’s ‘brother’ in tow, the ailing Bill can only be healed by a blood sibling, and Sam’s brother’s marriage is about to take place... or will it? The furor raised by the coming out of the two-natured has yet to settle; some people are just not ready to sit down to dinner with a man who turns into a dog. And Sookie herself is still recovering from her last ordeal. She’s definitely improving, physically and mentally, but she’s always going to have some dark moments now. The werewolves tell her that there have been strange and ominous passers-by in the Stackhouse woods; now Sookie is about to come face-to-face with one of her more distant relatives..."

Here I Am!

Well. I haven't written here in quite a while and I suppose that it is unfair to my readers to have simply jumped off the face of the planet and not returned to at least explain where I've been.

For starters, I've been gone because I was reading the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris. I enjoyed the series (I'm current through book 9) but I thought that the writing was incredibly sub-par. Though I could detect the myriad ways in which Stephenie Meyer had taken ideas (and even names!) from Harris, I felt that Meyer simply did it better. There are countless inconsistencies in the books, and I am infuriated that I couldn't go from one book into the next without reading an "anthology" between the books. I always felt as though I was behind, and I couldn't give my favorite of the books (Dead and Gone) more than a three star rating. I have never run into such a poorly put together series that was this popular.

At some point, probably after the final book has been written and then read by me, I will review the entire series as a whole. I simply found it tedious to try to do the books one book at a time, considering that sitting down to review them emphasized how poorly written they really were. Once I'm done with this series, I will definitely not be reading anything more by Charlaine Harris.

In addition, I recently began college. I am currently majoring only in English though I plan to add history. I am working on my own novel (much more slowly than I had planned) and trying to take care of a household. I've been busy, but that isn't enough for me to abandon all of you, and I'm sorry.

I will be back immediately doing memes and book reviews of novels that I am reading. I will update the "currently reading" as soon as I pick up a book for pleasure.

Thanks to all of you who have continued to follow in spite of my absence. I appreciate you!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Teaser Tuesday (5): Living Dead in Dallas

From Living Dead in Dallas, page 109.
Bill left the room in a flash. Stan's face grew even whiter, and his eyes blazed. I looked anywhere but directly at him. I didn't want to be the sight filling his eyes while he digested the fact that someone had planted a bug in his audience chamber. He had indeed been  betrayed, just not in the fashion he'd expected.
Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Book Review: Living Dead in Dallas

Pages: 291
Format: Paperback
Genre:Paranormal Romance/Mystery
Star Rating: 2/5
Buy: Amazon

My Summary: Sookie Stackhouse is called to Dallas with "her" vampire (Bill Compton) to help to solve the mystery of a missing vampire who is part of a nest there. In the meantime, Sookie meets new supernatural beings and tries to solve the mystery of a murdered friend.

My Review: I liked it. But, as you can see, I gave it two stars -- less even than Dead Until Dark. Before I go on, let me assure you that I'm enjoying this series enough to finish it. It's compelling and Charlaine Harris creates good, and mostly very believable, characters. I like her style, and the more I read the Southern Vampire Mysteries, the less I like Twilight.

So why the low rating? After all, when you like a book, don't you rate it high? I guess most people do, but I'm trying to be honest both with myself (for re-reading purposes) and with my audience (so you can decide whether or not to read this book).

I found Living Dead in Dallas to be very confusing at times. There were entire pages that I had to read and re-read in order to understand what Harris was trying to say, and even then I finally accepted what happened next without fully grasping what had led up to it. The description and context was all over the place, and gave the impression of being poorly edited (probably because it's second in a series, and the fault may lie with an editor, not with Harris herself).

Moreover, this book included two mysteries, both of which were unsolvable from the point of view of the reader. While Sookie (and others) may have had enough information to solve the mystery in the context of the plot, there is no way that the reader could have, not having been given sufficient information in a timely manner. Personally I don't like that.

On the plus side, let me repeat that Harris' characterization is excellent, and makes up for the lack of good mystery writing. As I said, I will (happily) finish this series, consecutively. Hopefully Club Dead leaves a better impression.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Book Review: Dead Until Dark

Pages: 291
Format: Paperback
Genre:Paranormal Romance/Mystery
Star Rating: 3/5
Buy: Amazon

My Summary: Sookie Stackhouse is a cocktail waitress in a small town in Louisiana -- a Town where nothing happens. Vampires have recently been made legal, and the story that is being fed to the people via the media is that vampirism is caused by a virus that makes vampires allergic to sunlight, silver and garlic.

Sookie wants to meet a vampire, but once she does meet one in the form of Bill (a Civil War era vampire), bad things begin to happen to people in her small town. Working class women keep winding up dead, and the prime suspects are people very close to Sookie -- and she fears she may be the next target.

My Review: I really liked this book, just as I knew that I would. A good friend has been hounding me to read it for a while, and I must say that I found the story delightfully fulfilling.

Dead Until Dark took me a little while to get into. I was worried at first that I would find it impossible to get through the novel, but it was right about that time that things picked up quickly.

I loved this book, so why am I only giving it three stars? I can hear readers wondering this question, and I want to be absolutely honest with you: The combination of paranormal + romance + mystery was a little bit too much. There were moments where the book was pure paranormal, or where it was paranormal romance. At other times it was all mystery. I couldn't quite settle into the groove I need to really enjoy a good cozy mystery, and the mystery distracted me from the romantic elements of the story (which were, I must say, very well done).

If you enjoyed Twilight you will almost definitely enjoy Dead Until Dark. If you didn't enjoy Twilight, I still recommend this novel. You'll see why once you've read it!

ETA: Julie, have you read this yet? If not, I think you'd like it!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Update: Giving Up

My husband pointed out to me yesterday that I hadn't posted in my blog in a while. Of course, it's not as though I haven't been feeling guilty about that and not keeping up with all of you guys during this time period, but he thinks I've been distracted.

He's wrong. I've been embarrassed.

I didn't want to have to admit to you all that I was struggling with The Host and that I frankly didn't want to finish it right now. I know that I will enjoy the book at some point in the future, but this just isn't the right time for me, especially considering that I've been dying to get into the Sookie Stackhouse books.

So I've switched. My reading is down, but I'm going to be posting regularly again. I'm sorry for having disappeared, and I'll be more active now! Thanks!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Chatter: The Twilight Discussion

Here it is, as promised: The Twilight Discussion. I know I've been saying for a while that I was going to do this, but I was hoping to have the maximum amount of discussion going here (instead of one or two people pitching in a half-attentive opinion on the books).

Yes. For real. I want to talk about this.

Twilight is controversial among readers. As with many books I've read and either loved or hated, there seems to be a running theme of "smart people don't read Twilight" or "People who don't read Twilight are just snobs." People make fun of Stephenie Meyer. They make fun of her fans. They make fun of people who make fun of her. I've seen some people get downright angry about Twilight.

For a long time, I hid the fact that I was a fan. I'm sensitive to ridicule, and I am an intelligent reader (generally).

Here's what I want to know: If you liked Twilight and the books that followed: why? What drew you in? Was it the story, or the characters? Was there anything that you didn't like about the Twilight series?

If you didn't like Twilight, why didn't you like it? Did you stop after the first book or read through the entire series?

For those who haven't read the novels, I ask this: If you hate Twilight (but haven't read it/them), what makes you hate the books if you haven't read them?

I'd love to have a good discussion/debate about this subject, since so many people seem to feel so strongly about these books.

As for me, I'm a fan. I'll weigh in more later!

ETA: I thought it might help for me to point out that if you click the post title you can get to the comments. I'm looking into why the comment link isn't displaying right now. Thanks!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Book Review: A Respectable Trade

Pages: 488
Format: Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction
Star Rating: 4/5
Buy: Amazon

My Summary: Mehuru is a priest in the African nation of Yoruba who is captured by (black) African slavers and is sold to an English slave trader.

Frances is the niece of Lord Scott and is left orphaned and unmarried when her father dies. In desperation, she accepts the marriage proposal of a trader, Josiah Cole.

Circumstances bring Mehuru and Frances Cole together, for better or for worse. Philippa Gregory tells an amazing story of their relationship in this novel.

My Thoughts: I wept throughout the entire novel. When I say "wept" I'm not talking about the tears that often fall when I am touched by a story -- I'm talking about being moved so deeply by a book that I know that it will stay with me forever.

I've seen Amazing Grace and as much as the movie explored the depth of suffering on the slave ships, it didn't sink in fully until I had read about it, able to apply my own imagination to the story of Mehuru and his friends. And when Mehuru met Frances, it was all over for me.

This book would be very easy for me to spoil, and I want to be careful of what I say. I've been asked recently to give more detail in my reviews about what I enjoyed (or didn't enjoy) about a book -- specifically. In this book I have to say that what touched me the most was the relationships between the slaves, particularly Elizabeth (who's African name I don't know) and Mehuru. I also really liked the way that the author went out of her way to describe the way that black and white "saw" one another so differently from their own people, almost as though they were an entirely different species. As someone who is in her thirties in the 21st century, I find this so difficult to relate to, but it helped to bring me closer to real understanding of what it might have been like in the 18th century.

I enjoy Philippa Gregory and look forward to reading more from her!

Teaser Tuesday (4): The Host

From The Host by Stephenie Meyer, page 37:

"'And eat something, please. I don't want your stomach to give us away.' He grins, and his eyes crinkle up, fanning lines out of the corners. My heart gives one hard thump, and I know I will wait here if it takes him all night."
 I have to confess that I am not particularly enjoying this book so far.I thought that I would, especially after reading Juju's review of the book. She was spot on in saying that this book is entirely different than Twilight -- the problem that I'm facing is that so far I don't feel that it has any of the good qualities of the author's previous books, leaving me a bit befuddled and agitated by the wordiness.

I'm getting into it, but the process is slow. Regardless of how I'm feeling, I will definitely be finishing, hopefully on a better note than I started. I've read so many good reviews I'd hate to be the first negative, especially as a Twilight fan!

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Teaser Tuesday (3): A Respectable Trade

From A Respectable Trade by Philippa Gregory, page 127:

"'I do hate niggers,' Honoria said quietly to Frances as the men talked across the table. 'I wonder how you can bear to teach them. I won't have them near me.'"
 From A Respectable Trade by Philippa Gregory, page 151:

"'I could just beat them, ma'am.' John offered. 'That's what we always did in Jamaica. Beat them till they were quiet.'"

There are so many great lines in this book, but none of them in isolation will really give you a feel for this novel. While I'd been looking forward to reading it, I didn't expect the overwhelming sense of sadness that reading this book gives me. I've watched movies about the slave trade and have been touched, but there is nothing to compare with the ability to use your own sense of indignation and imagination to pull together from the pages of a book. I weep nearly constantly reading this one and it's exhausting, but very much worth it.

I'd like to take this opportunity to let you know that I'm going to be going out of town from tomorrow until, I imagine, next Tuesday. I may be able to make posts, but it's unlikely that I will have time to do a lot of commenting during this upcoming week. Please don't be offended if I'm not around much, or miss me. I'll be back!

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

What a Sunday! ... Awards

Well, you can imagine my surprise when I received three awards in one day! My blog is still so new (you'll notice it's only been around since the beginning of April) and I was worried I'd have trouble finding followers. You can imagine me over here rolling my eyes at my own suppositions, because I've found a huge number of lovely bloggers out there in the book blogging world, and all of you are so supportive and creative and interesting. I'm embarrassed to say that I talk about you with my husband, who fortunately could never be bored by books or blogging. Otherwise I'd be in trouble.

The first award comes from Cat, at Tell me a Story. I was on my way to bed last night when I caught this one checking my e-mail for the last time. Cat is in NZ, so when I'm going to bed, she's starting her day!

I can't express enough how much I appreciate this, and your comments, Cat. I was grinning ear to ear when I told my husband that I'd gotten this award!

1. Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.
2. Pass the award to other blogs that you’ve newly discovered.
3. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

I had to skip last week's hop because my Internet was having so many problems. It seems like it's okay today, so I should be able to do some good commenting in the next day or so (though most likely later in the evenings, since I do have a toddler.

I'm passing this award on to blogs that I found during the Blog Hop the week before last. I don't have fifteen blogs to pass this one on to (yet) since I haven't been doing this all that long and only started following ten new blogs from the Hop the other week (and one of those was Cat :) ). So here's the nine!

1. Beth at Maybe Tomorrow
2. Emily at Emily's Reading Room
3. Book Quoter at A Thousand Books with Quotes
4. Elizabeth at Swords for Fighting
5. Jillian at Random Ramblings
6. Kris at Voracious YAppetite
7. Karen at For What it's Worth
8. Leanna at Daisy Chain Book Reviews
9. salarsenッ at Writer's Ally

I will choose another five people after next week's blog hop (I'll be out of town this week).

I literally laughed out loud when I read bibliophiliac's post about this award. I can certainly relate to receiving several awards in the space of a day, though in my case, they were all different. This is my second time on this one, so I'm going to try to choose different bloggers this time.

Once again, seven blogs.

1. Chelle at Time Out
2. Jen at The Introverted Reader
3. Mummazappa at The Book Nerd Club
4. Suko at Suko's Notebook
5. Yvonne at Socrates' Book Reviews
6. Julie at Reading Without Restraint
7. Cherry at Cherry Mischievous

This one comes from Miel Abeille at Bons Vivants.It's going to be tough not to pass it back to her, because frankly, she's been a wonderful supporter of my blog, and she's an all-round great person. I really appreciate this award, Melissa!

This one is meant to be passed on to twelve blogs. Please don't be surprised if I double-award this one, because many of the bloggers I am inclined to award with anything are some of the most faithful of followers. Thank you again, Melissa!

2. Mummazappa at The Book Nerd Club
3. Mel U at The Reading Life
4. bibliophiliac at bibliophiliac
5. Elle at Media Molly
6. Juju at Tales of Whimsy (sorry, I know Melissa got you too!)

I'm three short. I've already doubled a couple of people up and I know that Juju got this award from Melissa as well. I'm a tiny bit stuck with this one since I'm such a new blogger. I'll get around to the other four at some point in the future, I'm sure!

I'll be handing these out tonight, so look for some comments from me!

Wow, What a Sunday! ... Giveaways

Well, it's been a very interesting day, and I have a lot of things to share with you folks today. I'm going to start with four interesting giveaways that I've found (no, I'm not giving anything away -- at least not yet. I will probably do a 100 follower giveaway though at some point in the future!).

The first is from Julie, at Reading Without Restraint.If I had to honestly choose a favorite genre of books, it would have to be thriller/suspense, provided that the books are well written and challenging. In other words, I like to be kept guessing! That being said, I have tended to read a lot of thrillers in the past. Almost anything I could get my hands on cheap, I read. So of course I'm interested in this giveaway!

Julie is giving away an ARC of Neighborhood Watch. The book sounds interesting, definitely like something I know I'd like to read. So please, head on over to her site and enter the giveaway!

Thanks for this one, Julie!

Muse in the Fog has two giveaways going on right now, both (of course!) historical fiction, which is fast becoming a favorite genre of mine (alright, is there any genre that I don't absolutely love? Yes, yes, Science Fiction, but other than that?).

The first book that is being given away is The Queen's Pawn.I know that I've been wanting to read this one for a while, so I wanted to mention it here for some more points and so that any of my followers who enjoy historical fiction can get in on the giveaway. It's a big one and it ends on the 10th. I wish I'd found it sooner (sorry!).

The second book that is being given away is Mistress of Rome. I love Roman history. 'Nuff said. Head on over and get in on this one now if you haven't already. It ends tomorrow.

I just ran into a fourth giveaway that I should have found yesterday but somehow missed! Jillian over at Random Ramblings is having a 165 follower giveaway. Please check it out!

That's it for giveaways, hopefully for the entire week! I don't enter a lot of these because I don't often find books that interest me this much, but best of luck to anybody who has already entered or who enters with me!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Book Review: Shutter Island

Title: Shutter Island 
Author: Dennis Lehane
Pages: 369
Format: Paperback
Genre: Thriller
Star Rating: 3/5
Network: Shelfari | Goodreads | Librarything
Buy: Amazon

My Summary: U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels and his new partner, Chuck Aule are called to Shutter Island, the home of Ashcliffe hospital for the criminally insane. A dangerous murderess has escaped and is loose on the island, having simply disappeared from her cell. There is no way that she can get off the island, and it is the job of Marshals Daniels and Aule to find her before it's too late.

My Thoughts: This was a very predictable book. It began slowly in the first two chapters, which seemed nearly interminable at first, but once the pace of the book began to pick up, I found it easy to determine the outcome of the novel before I had finished with Day 1 (or Part 1).

Dennis Lehane has talent: there is no question about that. He pulled me through the book skillfully and I finished it in a record day and a half (something I haven't done in years). My problem is that I felt as though the book was fairly typical for the genre, and didn't bring anything new to the party. I was hoping for something somewhat more original from Lehane, though I will probably try another of his books in the future.

Note to my Followers: If this book is on your TBR list, keep it there. It's worth the read. Don't let my 3 star rating discourage you in the least. I enjoyed the novel enough to rip through it in less than two days. It kept me going, regardless of my tendency to figure things out perhaps a bit too easily!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Book Beginnings On Friday: Shutter Island

"I haven't laid eyes on the island in several years."
Page 1, Sentence 1 of Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane.

Because I don't want to leave you there, I'd rather supply you with the entire first paragraph, which was certainly enough to get my attention and make me interested in reading more of the book. While not the strongest first paragraph of a book I've ever read, the imagery is quite nice.

"I haven't laid eyes on the island in several years. The last time was from a friend's boat that ventured into the outer harbor, and I could see it off in the distance, past the inner ring, shrouded in the summer haze a careless smudge of paint against the sky."
The first paragraph (of the prologue) gives you a definite feeling for the tone of the book, and the entire prologue really made me want to continue reading. A fairly good start, all in all.

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Becky at Page Turners. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading. If you like, share with everyone why you do, or do not, like the sentence.

Book Review: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

Author: Fannie Flagg
Pages: 416
Format: Paperback
Genre: Chick Lit
Star Rating: 4/5
Buy: Amazon

My Summary: A very character-driven book, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe follows the story of the people who live in Whistle Stop Alabama from the late 1920s all the way through to Birmingham in the 1980s. The story is told in second and third person, going back and forth between conservations between Evelyn Couch and Ninny Threadgood.

Themes: Racism and race relations before the civil rights movement and after; vague GLBT themes; small town life

My Thoughts: I loved it! This book is a new favorite of mine, which took me by surprise.

I really enjoyed reading about the various lives in Whistle Stop, Alabama and the stories that were threaded throughout the novel. I also felt that this was well-accomplished and neatly done by Fannie Flagg, though there are many others who disagree (see reviews on any of the networking sites listed above).

If you haven't seen the movie (and I hadn't, would you believe it?), please be aware that this book jumps around in time quite a bit, from the twenties to the thirties, to the eighties to the forties to the twenties and back again, over and over. Sometimes story lines drop off entirely only to be picked up again much later in the book. This worked for me, but I can see how others might have struggled with this.

I hear the movie is better than the book -- it's going to have to work hard to do that for me when I get a chance to see it!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

I got an Award! The Prolific Blogger Award!

I haven't been blogging at this site for especially long, so you can imagine my surprise when I checked my e-mail and found this! The award comes from Bethany at Words, Words, Words. I haven't been following her blog for all that long, but I'm really glad that I am. What roped me in was her love of Anna Karenina. This is a book I've read twice, and now want to fully absorb as an adult. I have to say that I really poured over her thoughts on this book.

She's intelligent (like all the bloggers I follow!), and I appreciate her taste and thoughts on the books that she reads, most especially because so much of her personality comes through.

A prolific blogger is one who is intellectually productive, keeping up an active blog with enjoyable content. After accepting this award, recipients are asked to pass it forward to seven other deserving blogs.

I had a really tough time deciding who to give this award to. I wanted to give it back to Bethany, but she'd already given it to fifteen people (which is a lot) and I didn't want to make her choose seven more people :)

So, without further ado... I chose eight of the blogs I follow! 
1. Juju at Tales of Whimsy
2. Chris and Jess Park Benches and Book Ends
3. Miel Abeille at Reminder List
4. Cat at Tell me a Story
5. Rosalind at The Vanishing Lake
6. Sarah at Loving Books

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Reader's Lens

Since finishing my review of Revolutionary Road yesterday, I've had some time to do some thinking, and of course some time to explore other reviews of the book (I've learned not to do this while I'm reading a novel or I will become distracted and sometimes find it affects my enjoyment of a book.

For the most part, I don't filter my reading. I read virtually every genre (though I prefer not to read sci-fi or books that are driven by a political agenda -- you'll see a few from me, but not a lot). However, I do tend, as I believe we all do, to read through the lens of my personal experiences with life and different situations.

So, for example, when I'm reading Revolutionary Road, I'm not looking for a hidden agenda. I'm not looking for a deep message and meaning that will alter my life as I know it. In this case, because the book is so character-driven, I allowed myself to connect to the characters, but I also went a step further: I allowed myself to, in theory, learn from the mistakes that they had made. That, I suppose, is my "lens." My lens said "possibility" and from reading reviews, others wore the lens of "futility."

I find this interesting. At this point I can't say what Yates' intentions were, but I know what I took away from the experience of reading this book. My lens makes it no less incredible, though I wonder if the opposing lens will reveal such a beautiful book.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Book Review: Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates

Title: Revolutionary Road
Author: Richard Yates
Pages: 463
Format: Paperback
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Star Rating: 5/5
Network: Goodreads | Shelfari | LibraryThing
Buy: Amazon

My Summary: April and Frank Wheeler, along with their two children, aren't really suited to suburban life in 1955 America. Frank has a job where he doesn't really have to do (much of) anything, and April was never really suited to the life of a house wife. They want something bigger, and something better. There's only one thing standing in their way....

My Review:  This book is amazing, and you should read it. This book challenged me to think about my preconceived ideas of what it must have been to live during the 1950s and I have been changed by a fascinating and skillful narrative that I will never forget. I know, finishing this story, that April and Frank Wheeler will stay with me.

Revolutionary Road is undeniably a sad book. You may feel horror, revulsion, disillusionment when reading this novel. I believe that is how Yates intended the story to be read. But if you let it, this is the kind of book that comes along so very rarely: it is a book that will take you along with it, based purely on the reality of the story and the people in it.

More after the jump! (May contain spoilers!)

Teaser Tuesday: Fried Green Tomatoes (4/27/2010)

From Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, by Fannie Flagg, page 61:

"She knew she couldn't go through any more days waiting for test results, and decided that she really did not want to know if anything was wrong, and preferred to drop dead in her tracks, never knowing."

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Internet Problems cause Blogger Frustrations

I'm having a lot of trouble with my Internet for the past few weeks. Although we had someone come by to fix it, the problem has not been resolved and as you may already have guessed, my husband and I are more than a bit furious. We're both bloggers (he has a political site) and the entire mess puts a huge strain on both of us. I've been doing less and less serious blogging.

While this means more time for books, it also means that I'm spending less time cultivating my writing (and lately, "cultivating" is almost all I do with my writing).

The good side of all this is that Revolutionary Road is getting all of my attention. I find that often I read in a distracted way, trying to figure out what is going to come next. What will I be reading next? What kind of review am I going to give this book? Will people judge me based on my opinion of this book? These are all regular concerns of mine when I'm reading for an audience (and isn't that what we do as book reviewers?).

A few things have happened: the first is that I have realized that I won't always be able to publish a review immediately upon having finished reading a book. If it is raining outside or Google is having a funk, I don't get a chance to publish diddlysquat. The other thing that has occurred to me is what a great bunch book bloggers are. It isn't always the same on Amazon, or any of the social networks, but YOU (my audience and fellow book bloggers) are amazing. A couple of you have really made me smile by commenting on my blog when I thought nobody was paying attention. I won't name names right now, but I can assure you that credit will come in due time. I appreciate you VERY much!

My review of Revolutionary Road should be up by Thursday. I am hoping to receive The Heart Mender in the mail on Wednesday, which will allow me to hopefully go right from one book into the next. If the book is late in the mail, I'm planning on picking up To Kill a Mockingbird. I haven't been able to get a hold of Anna Karenina yet.

One last thing: Earlier today Stay a Little Longer caught my eye. I wasn't in a position to purchase the book today, so was rather pleased and surprised that Yvonne at Socrates' Book Reviews is hosting a giveaway of this very book! Join me in entering the giveaway, if you like!

Thank you again to all you great followers. I thought I would leave you with this photo I captured the other day. Not the best in the world because I'm no photographer, but I thought it was cute!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Let's Discuss.... The Lovely Bones

I read The Lovely Bones back in January, and generally speaking, I rather enjoyed the book. I found it compelling, and as far as I was concerned, the book read in a way that drew me through the novel, teasing me at every turn with new words and patterns that I found interesting and which demanded my attention.

I enjoyed the story and characters throughout the majority of the novel, and discovered that I wanted to know more and more about Susie Salmon, her family and her killer. In the long run, however, the information that I really craved, those little details that make a book memorable to the point that it lives as a piece of you long after you've finished reading it... Those details never came. In the end I sense that Ms. Sebold didn't know her characters any better than I did by the time that the novel was finished.

The book itself wasn't "bad" by any means. While there have been some intensely critical reviews of this novel on various bookish networking sites, I am inclined to disagree with the general (negative) sentiment regarding The Lovely Bones. There is a point in the novel where it begins to drag, and where even I (who gave the book four stars) felt as though I was having to force myself to read it. The ending gave the impression that the author was simply done writing, having reached the required word count and was ready to wrap the book up (I've seen this before in other first novels).

I'm interested to hear what my readers thought of The Lovely Bones. Did you read it? Do you plan to read it? What did you think of the story itself? All opinions are welcome!

I'm including a link here to a book club discussion guide if you would like to consider that, but I would like to get some discussion going of some of the various books that I've read. If you haven't read the book in question, please feel free to simply skip over it.

I've included a Mr. Linky so that you can post your reviews of The Lovely Bones here for others to view your reviews as well as mine. Let's discuss!

(Mr. Linky is after the jump to conserve space!)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Book Review: Glenn Beck's Common Sense, by Glenn Beck

Title: Glenn Beck's Common Sense: The Case Against an Out-of-Control Government, Inspired by Thomas Paine
Author: Glenn Beck
Pages: 174
Format: Paperback
Genre: Government/Politics
Star Rating: 5/5
Network: Goodreads | Shelfari | Librarything
Buy: Amazon

My Summary: Glenn Beck's Common Sense is a straightforward look at the policies of the American Government. Based on the original document penned by Thomas Paine, Glenn Beck offers Americans an opportunity to return to our common sense roots while illustrating the faults in the current logic being used by politicians in Washington.

My Thoughts: I am generally a fan of Glenn Beck and try to take time out every day to watch his program on Fox News. I agree with his conservative viewpoints and his assertions. Regardless, this book wasn't quite what I expected from him.

In Glenn Beck's Common Sense, Beck doesn't attack one political party or the other: instead, he makes a case against the out-of-control spending currently going on in Washington. Although he is a libertarian, Glenn Beck evenhandedly attacks both political parties, including George W. Bush and Barack Obama. 

While I don't agree with everything that he said in this book (for example, a three party system would likely fail in the United States), I believe that he has done well to bring common sense back to the masses, if they are willing to read his book with an open mind.

Every American should read this book, including the second half, which is the original writing by Thomas Paine.

Just Had to Throw Out Five Books

My husband has spent today reorganizing our book shelves. This hasn't been done in far too long, and the four shelves that we use for books have been straining to hold them all up. This, of course, doesn't include my TBR and recently read shelves, or the small shelf that I keep with a few devotionals. It also doesn't include my husband's shelf of books on writing well. Or the books in my dresser or on the nightstand. We are probably going to find the need to purchase a fifth six foot high book shelf to house what is left over, and that will only work for as long as we cease to purchase more books.

The problem with this process is the discovery of damaged books. Books that our little one has gotten her hands on, or worse, the books that our cats have gotten into.

I remember years ago when a dog chewed up the book I was reading. I remember it so well that I can tell you that it was an old copy of James Herbert's The Fog. I cried. I wanted to find another home for that dog, immediately. Books are a BIG DEAL in my life, and damage to them makes me suffer in a very basic and very humiliating way.

These five books were damaged some time before our cats were neutered last year. I'm ashamed to say that it's been that long since I've gotten them out, but they are the consequence of unneutered male cats marking their territory. They are the collateral damage.

Fortunately four out of the five were copies of romance novels I had purchased second hand and had already read more than once (yes! I don't do this often, but in this case these books have been read to death). They weren't on their way out, but I probably wasn't going to read them again. They would, however, have been great books for a swap.

I'm furious, of course. Any time that I have to do something with books other than sell them or swap them hurts my heart and I really feel as though a little piece of my soul dies. I know that things happen -- damage happens. My husband is a collector of vintage books and he lost many in hurricane Fran. I didn't even know him at the time and the very thought makes me weep.

My heart hurts in many ways I will probably buy more copies, and read again. I will probably do the author the benefit of purchasing them brand new, if I can convince my husband that it is necessary for me to do so.

Friday, April 23, 2010

My First Blog Hop! April 23-29th 2010

This is my first blog hop! I have no question that it's going to take me longer than just today to get through everybody who has participated this week, since I have a toddler and of course I have some reading to accomplish (I hope to publish my next review -- Glenn Beck's Common Sense tomorrow). I will get through everybody this week though! I swear! :D

It might help if I told you where to go to join in the fun! Click on the image above or go over to Crazy for Books to find out how to join!

Book Beginnings Friday: Revolutionary Road

"The final dying sounds of their dress rehearsal left the Laurel players with nothing to do but stand there, silent and helpless, blinking out over the footlights of an empty auditorium." 

Page 1, Sentence 1 of Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates. 

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Becky at Page Turners. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading. If you like, share with everyone why you do, or do not, like the sentence.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Book Review: Wild at Heart by John Eldredge

Title: Wild at Heart
Author: John Eldredge
Pages: 256
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Christian Living
Star Rating: 4/5

My Summary: Wild at Heart is a book about finding the authentic heart of a man. It is about the spiritual wound that all men suffer and which must be healed.

Wild at Heart gives men the tools which are necessary in order to begin searching for their own hearts, but it is written in a way that is inviting to the women as well (if not more so).

My Thoughts:  I liked this book a lot. Not only did Eldredge illustrate God in a way that was new and enlightening for me, but I felt as though this book showed me how to pray for my husband in a way that was more meaningful than simply paying lip service to our marriage. Whether this was Eldredge's intention or not, I am not sure.

I did, however, have some misgivings. Eldredge consistently uses feats of daring or the "wilderness" as a means of defining the wildness of a man, and yet focuses perhaps too little on the man who's dream was to become a musician, or another who dreamed of becoming a doctor. The man who finds a cure for cancer will not have lived any less adventure than the man who brings down the biggest buck. My concern here is that some men (and women) will be discouraged by the feeling that manhood is defined by a certain kind of wildness.

All in all this is an excellent book, and I recommend it for everyone, male and female alike. I'm definitely looking forward to reading more from John and Stasi Eldredge!

I received my copy of Wild at Heart free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I have not been paid to give a glowing review of this book. All opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Teaser Tuesday: Revolutionary Road

From Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates, page 33:

"'I said yes. All right, Frank! Could you please just stop talking now, before you drive me crazy?'"

(Sorry, I know that was three sentences, but part of the meaning is lost with only two of them!)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Monday, April 19, 2010

New Poll: Do you prefer longer or shorter book reviews? Why?

I just posted a new poll on the right-hand sidebar, but I wanted to expand on the question so that I could link to here for comments.

I would like to know whether or not you, as a blog reader, prefer to read very short, medium-length, or in-depth book reviews. I ask in particular because book reviews are drastically different from product reviews (which are often best when they have serious depth).

I know that I tend to write what I consider medium-length book reviews. There are enough words to snag Google spiders, but not so much depth that I'm spoiling the books for other readers. After all, people aren't likely to read a spoiled book and then neither the author, the publisher nor I benefit at all from my having reviewed the book.

Book Sneeze is asking me to submit short, 200 word reviews of the books that I receive from them. This is below the word count threshold for Google as I understand it, and, which is more, I'm not sure that I can review a book in 100 words (since they want 100 words to go to a synopsis of the book).

What do you think? What do you prefer to read? Is a short review enough to convince you to purchase a book, or do you prefer a more in depth review?


It Came Today!

About a week ago I joined Book Sneeze and requested a copy of Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. While the book is written for men, in Eldredge's words to give them "permission" (to me men) I thought that it would be an interesting read, since I've always been fascinated by how men see themselves as part of YHWH's overall plan. This is a subject that really gets me excited, and I'm really looking forward to plunging into this book.

I joined Book Sneeze so that I would be able to request books, which would be sent to me free of charge in exchange for a review on this site and on other sites that I frequent (such as Shelfari and Goodreads). I am, as the title of this blog might suggest, a serious lover of books, and I tend to read anything I can get my hands on (including cereal boxes and the like). This is a very exciting opportunity because it puts a large number of books at my disposal -- for free!

I cracked Wild at Heart open today. I'd already read the introduction in PDF format, and that had me anxious to read the rest of it. Now, having read half of the first chapter, I must say that Eldredge is an incredible writer, and I am not only interested in reading the rest of Wild at Heart but am very eager to get into Captivating which I got my hands on today (and will also be reviewing at some point in the future).

I hope that I will have my review up within the next several days. Very eager to see how this book turns out!

Thanks Book Sneeze!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Book Review: Wicked by Gregory Maguire

Wicked, by Gregory Maguire, is the book that caused me to abandon my commitment to read 52 books in 2010. I've been reading it since February, and only just finished reading the novel tonight, April 18th, 2010.

Wicked is the story of the Wizard of Oz, as told from the point of view of the Wicked Witch of the West. Like the original novel by Frank L. Baum, Wicked is an allegory and is laced through with political story lines.

This novel allows us to see the Witch from a different perspective, and those who are accustomed to seeing her only through Dorothy's lenses may be surprised, whether pleasantly or unpleasantly, by what they discover of the villain of the classic novel.

I have to confess that at first I didn't particularly enjoy Wicked. While the story started out very strong, I found quite early on that I struggled to get through more than ten, or maybe twenty, pages at a time. I was reading and re-reading sentences in an effort to put the book into context with The Wizard of Oz (The Frank L. Baum classic) and indeed with itself (Wicked).

Maguire is wordy, and in my opinion unnecessarily so. Some pieces of plot appear to be unrelated to the rest of the story as a whole, and there were many times that I found myself flipping back and forth from one chapter to a previous chapter to find out what I "missed" only to discover that I had missed nothing and that the failure was instead on the part of the author.

Indeed, as I mentioned in a previous post, Maguire uses many words to say little, while in the mean time failing to give us an accurate accounting of how friendships have formed. For some readers, it seems that this gives the appearance of the characters being "flat." While I disagree with the "flat" sentiment, I was frustrated and found the book unmanageable until I decided upon one thing: Maguire had to have intended for his readers to use their imaginations to fill in the blanks (no! the gaping holes!) that he had left in the narrative.

Please understand that if you can't make it through the first fifty pages of this book, you aren't alone: many of us who have done so have read on at great personal risk of wasting our much-coveted reading time. Failure to enjoy Wicked has nothing to do with your intelligence or your experience as a reader: it comes down to personal taste in books. Some of us have an ability to push through a book to the end and others prefer to move on to juicier reads. There were times, in this case, when I wished that I was the latter type of person.

Personally, I recommend this book. I say that in spite of the fact that I would once have rated this book a single star and labeled it "abandoned." I say that because the three stars I am giving this novel are the average of the one star it started at and the five stars where it concluded.

If you can finish this book in spite of the ramblings and the allusions to pedophilia, I believe that you will agree with me. I finished glad that I had taken the time to read the book, with speculation about whether or not I will make the effort to read Son of a Witch, book 2 of The Wicked Years.

Thank you to everyone who recommended that I see it through. I'm glad I did!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Committed to Finishing

I have committed myself now to finishing Wicked, in part because I believe that Gregory Maguire used literary devices in his book that I simply didn't understand before, and in part because the story has actually managed to capture my interest. Something is happening, the story is moving, and all in all I feel better being a part of it all.

The problem is that this is one of those books that you can't "speed read." You really do need to take your time and read through the novel slowly enough that you catch everything that the author is trying to tell you, because some bits and pieces from early in the book are becoming important now, a little bit more than halfway through the novel.

The problem that is continually leaving me frustrated is the fact that this book is a very slow read. I can manage about 10 pages at a time before I begin to become frustrated by my overall lack of progress (and the fact that it certainly seems as though Maguire is taking a lot of time to say very little).

This is the kind of book that I have to read in small chunks, and which ultimately destroys my overall love of reading and learning, since it is easier to abandon myself to the Young Adult genre (which is fine, I might add) than to continue to explore literature.

I'd be lying if I said that understanding Wicked is making me love the book: I don't love it, and I an honestly say that as much as it is probably a 4/5 star book, it just isn't for me. This makes me incredibly sad.

I'm committed to finishing though, and I suppose that's what matters.

I would love to hear what other people think about Wicked.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Two Books Coming my Way!

I am very excited: I have requested two books for review which should be coming my way within the next few days (or as much as a week, given where they are shipping from). This is the first time that I've done this, giving myself the opportunity to review brand new books or recently revised books. I am really looking forward to reading both of these books, but I wanted to give an advance explanation of one of them, since I will have a limited number of words in which to review the book.

I requested Wild at Heart from The book is written by John Eldridge, who I already respect a great deal and who's mailings I receive both in e-mail and in the post. The book is written for men. Since I am a woman, I thought that I might owe some of my readers some explanation.

The first point I would like to make is that there are as of right now no reviews of this book, presumably because most of the book bloggers on the Internet are female, but it does give me the sense that this book ought to be reviewed, if for no other reason than it is available for review. I also want to do what I can to help John and Stasi, since I appreciate their ministry so very much.

The other reason that I want to read and review this book is because of the fact that God's plan for men fascinates me. I am a Christian woman, and I mostly understand His design for my life. But for the past two years I have struggled to understand what is the "real" role of a man?

I've spent most of my life being taught that Christian men are humble and quiet of spirit. That they are meek and sensitive. For this very reason I've had difficulty in connecting with my Savior Himself because I could only see him from this perspective.

I am hoping not only to be able to read Wild at Heart to learn more about the way that God designed men, but also to learn more about Him generally. I'm the type of believer who drinks it all in, and greedily, too. I am hoping to be able to get a copy of  Captivating when I am done with Wild at Heart but if not I will surely buy it and review it!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

I've Gone Back to Oz -- And I Don't Regret It!

Last night I made the rather strange decision to go back and continue to read Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.  If you've been following me either on Facebook or on Twitter, you probably know that I have not been particularly enjoying Gregory Maguire's book. I've spent a lot of time pouring over reviews of this book in an effort to determine what has made it so popular and so successful, as I often do when I like an unpopular book or dislike a book that seems to be a fan favorite. The negative reviews of this book have helped me to know that I'm not alone, while the positive reviews made me feel a bit stupid.  I felt very confident when I put down Wicked and chose to read another book instead. 

Now here's the problem: I don't like to feel stupid. I am fairly certain that this is the purpose of writing a review that is designed to make the dissenting reader feel sub-standard -- If the reader is aggravated and frustrated enough, he or she will be much more likely to reconsider their position on the book in question. For this reason, I couldn't get Wicked out of my mind.
Last night I picked Wicked up again and began to read. I found myself initially surprised that I was enjoying the reading (however slow it was). Nothing about the writing or the sense of story had changed (meaning that something about me had changed). Somehow I was beginning to see the book in a different light.

This isn't a book review, since I'm not finished with the book, and I don't even consider it a mini-review, but I do have some things to say about Gregory Maguire's writing that had escaped me (and therefore probably others) in the past.
The first thing is that for a long time I've noticed that there was something missing in the story line. It was uncomfortable the way that friendships felt like they were developing over night and far more quickly than is realistic in the real world. The story jumped from one plot point to another without the connective tissue that really holds a story together, and I found the book difficult to follow for this reason.

When a meeting between two characters occurs several years following their last encounter, I found it uncomfortable that they seemed so familiar, when a relationship between the characters had never previously been established. 
Then, suddenly, it dawned on me. I got it, like a light bulb going off in my head!

Gregory Maguire writes is story as though we are school children in our early days of learning to love reading. He is writing his story as though we still have the beautiful and often forgiving imagination of a child, before grown-ups tell us that magic isn't possible. He is trusting the reader to fill in the gaps, to give the character personality that he doesn't write into the story, and to use their imaginations to see what happened when characters were apart from one another.

With this in mind, I find that I like Elphaba/Elphie/Fae, in large part because I am able to make her what I want her to be. If I want her to be the evil, wicked witch, I can do that. If I want to be sympathetic toward her plight, I can do that, too. I can make her cause my own or I can fight against her at every step because Maguire doesn't tell me which way I'm supposed to go.

I sense that in the end I am going to wind up enjoying this book for what it is worth, now that I have accepted that rather than being either "excellent" or "terrible" this book is merely "different."