Sunday, November 20, 2011

My New Header!!

I finally have a lovely header for my blog! I'm so excited about it! It was created by the wonderful Katie of KD Designs. I think it's beautiful and I'm so happy with it.

So, what do you all think of it?

Let me know in the comments! :)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Re-Readathon Update

Jamie at The Perpetual Page-Turner has been hosting a
re-readathon this weekend, from November 18-20th.

When I first signed up for the re-readathon, I was hoping I could reread Armstrong's entire Darkest Powers trilogy and get through a book a day, but of course school got in the way. I had to cut down my goal to just the first book of the trilogy, The Summoning.

I wasn't able to start The Summoning until 5 o'clock on Friday because I had work, but I was still able to read over half the book that day. I now have a little less than a hundred pages left to read and I should be able to finish it tonight. That will leave my whole Sunday free for school work . Oh joy!!

I'm enjoying rereading the novel. I remember quite a bit of it from when I first read it over a year ago. There haven't been any surprising scenes or characters that I've forgotten about, but that's fine by me. I just love being able to revisit this cast of characters. I'm especially enjoying Chloe and Derek's interactions and their bantering, knowing what I know about where their relationship will end up.

The biggest different is that it's missing the scary factor from all of the ghosts that Chloe happens upon. This book was never actually scary, but there are no surprises anymore. That's keeping me from enjoying it quite as much as I did the first time, but it's still a five star read.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

2012 Challenges

So far, I found two challenges for next year that I'm excited about participating in.

The first one is The 2012 TBR Challenge hosted by Roof Beam Reader. This challenge is pretty much exactly the same as the yearly challenge I take part in for one of my groups on Goodreads. I pick 12 books and 2 alternates (totaling 14 books) that have been on my to-be-read shelf for at least a year (so the books cannot have been published after 2010) and I have from January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2012 to read them. The only difference with Roof Beam's challenge is that I am required to review the books on the list in order for them to count (and I can win a prize for completing the challenge!).

Here's my list:

1. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
2. Helen of Troy by Margaret George
3. The Shining by Stephen King
4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
5. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Peel Society by Mary Ann Schaffer
6. Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott (finished 1-08-2012)
7. The Host by Stephanie Meyer
8. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
9. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind
10. Looking for Alaska by John Green
11. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
12. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

13. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
14. Firelight by Sophie Jordan

The second challenge that I'll be participating in is the Back to the Classics Challenge 2012 hosted by Sarah Reads Too Much. The goal is to read nine classics during the year from different categories:

Any 19th Century Classic: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (alright, so I'm cheating a little here. Sue me. Besides, the rules of the challenge actually says overlaps are allowed, so there : )

Any 20th Century Classic: The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

Reread a classic of your choice: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

A Classic Play: A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

Classic Mystery/Horror/Crime Fiction: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Classic Romance: Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier

Read a classic that has been translated from its original language into your language: The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (yes, another overlap)

Classic Award Winner: The Reivers by William Faulkner

Read a classic set in a country that you (realistically speaking) will not visit during your lifetime: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Top Ten Books That Have Been Gathering Dust On My Shelves

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. You can find upcoming topics at their Top Ten Tuesday page.


Ada or Ardor


I know that some of the titles are really small and may be hard to read, so I'll list them all here:

One Hundred Years of Solitude
The Stand
Me Talk Pretty One Day
Watership Down
Oliver Twist
Ada, or Ardor
The Woman in White
Atlas Shrugged
The Count of Monte Cristo

As you can see, most of these titles are either classics or large books (or both). So, of course, I put off reading them in favor of lighter books. In fact, the only book that doesn't fit under either classification is David Sedaris' Me Talk Pretty One Day. I don't know why I haven't read this book yet other than the fact that I don't typically read humor books. But I'm sure I'll love it once I finally get to it (the reason why I became interested in it was because I had a slight speech problem in elementary school-I slurred my r's-so I thought I could relate while having a good laugh at the same time).

Monday, November 14, 2011

Review: The Handmaid's Tale

Title: The Handmaid's Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
Publisher: Anchor
Pages: 311
How I Got This Book: Own
Rating: 4 Stars

Goodreads: Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining fertility, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now...

Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, The Handmaid's Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force.

My Thoughts: For the first two-thirds of this book, I was pretty sure I was going to give it a three, which is what I rated the other Atwood books I had read in the past.  I really love the stories she has to tell, but I don't like the way she tells them.  She opens every one of her books in an unknown place that makes you ask yourself a billion questions about what's going on.  Then she very slowly reveals the answers, little by little, throughout the 300 pages or so of the book.  It's so frustrating!  I hate feeling lost and confused when I'm reading.  It sucks the fun out of it. 

Luckily, most of the more pressing questions I had about Gilead in this book were answered in the first half and I was able to really enjoy the last 100 pages or so, of which I would give 5 stars.  I love how she ended it with The Historical Notes.  I thought that was so creative and it made me think over the entire story of The Handmaid's Tale in a whole other way.  I actually felt more connected to the narrator, which I didn't feel so much while I was actually reading her story.  I don't know why I couldn't feel much for her in the beginning.  Maybe I distanced myself in preparation for the horror story I knew was coming when I opened to the first page.

One thing that disappointed about this novel was how easy Atwood had this society come into creation.  You take out the President and you take out the Congress and bing-bang-boom, you have a nation now ruled by a fanatic religious group and a society of oppressed women.  What really ticked me off was that there was hardly a struggle among the citizens to prevent this from happening!  At first, I thought that Atwood had cheated the story by writing it this way, but after some reflection I realized how plausible it all was.  People can be shamefully apathetic, especially during times when we most need to stand up and fight.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Top Ten Books I Read Outside of My Comfort Zone

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. You can find upcoming topics at their Top Ten Tuesday page.

Usually when I pick up a non-fiction book, it's a memoir. This is the first non-fiction history book I can remember reading. I liked it alright, but there were sections I really had to drudge through. I thought I would be most interested in Holmes and not so much the construction and planning of the fair, but surprisingly, the chapters on the fair would surpass the Holmes' chapters at times.

I had to read this for a literature class last year. Parts of it were pretty insane and very disturbing. I don't think I would have ever picked up this book if it wasn't assigned reading (I had never even heard of it before), but I'm glad I read it. It really captured my attention, and I may even end up rereading it one day.

This is another book I had to read for that same class, and this one I did not enjoy. Apparently, I'm in the minority, though, because if you check the ratings on Goodreads, you'll see that I'm only 1 of 2 people who gave it 1 star. I just couldn't get into the experimental writing. The second story, Ill Seen Ill Said, had very beautiful imagery, but that is the only good thing I can say about this volume. The other two stories went completely over my head.

I was really into Lois Duncan in middle school, but for years after I never read a mystery or thriller (for whatever reason). I believe Zig Zag is the first adult thriller I've read and I loved it. It is a truly amazing novel. I think one of the reasons why I enjoyed it so much was all of the science in it. It had a lot to do with quantum physics, which the author introduced into the story in a nice, simple way. Now I'm excited to read a science book (perhaps Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe?).

My very first audiobook. I enjoyed listening to a book much more than I thought I would (I space out a lot, so I didn't think an audiobook could hold my attention). I admit, though, that I could have enjoyed this audiobook much better if there was some soft music playing in the background as Tina Fey was reading. I like listening to music in the car too much to opt for an audiobook that often.

Historical fiction is not my favorite genre by any means. I think a lot of the books in that genre are boring. When I first read about this book, all I thought was Ugh, Victorian England. No way. I was much more interested in Michel Faber's sci-fi novel Under the Skin. However, when I came across this book at a campus bookstore, I decided to read a couple pages to see how it was. It was amazing and I instantly bought it. I'm so glad I decided to give this book a try. It is now my favorite book of all-time.

My one and only non-fiction war novel. I liked it much better than I thought I would (I gave it 3 stars). I can't remember much about it other than that I thought it read like a fiction novel and there weren't nearly as many long, drawn-out battle scenes as I was expecting. It was much more personal. It changed how I thought about war stories.

When I bought this book online, I thought it was a volume of essays by different woman surgeons. It turned out to be a collection of anthropological essays by a scientist (anthropologist Dr. Joan Cassell). I was worried about starting this book-I thought I would be bored to tears-but I found it very interesting. And, I admit, I liked how smart I felt while reading these very intelligently written essays.

This is the first play I read for pleasure, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. The ending was absolutely amazing. I have a long list of Shakespeare plays I want to get to now, with a reread of A Midsummer Night's Dream at the top of the list.

Persepolis was the first graphic novel I've read, but despite really enjoying it I didn't pick up another graphic novel for years. I read Anya's Ghost for Dewey's Read-a-thon a couple of weeks ago and it was one of the best reads of the year. Now I know I really have to look more into graphic novels from now on.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Review: What I Did for Love

Title: What I Did for Love (Wynette, Texas #5)
Author: Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 401
How I Got This Book: Own
Rating: 3 Stars

Goodreads Summary: How did this happen? Georgie York, once the costar of America's favorite television sitcom, has been publicly abandoned by her famous husband, her film career has tanked, her father is driving her crazy, and her public image as a spunky heroine is taking a serious beating.

What should a down-on-her-luck actress do? Not go to Vegas . . . not run into her detestable former costar, dreamboat-from-hell Bramwell Shepard . . . and not get caught up in an ugly incident that leads to a calamitous elopement. Before she knows it, Georgie has a fake marriage, a fake husband, and maybe (or not) a fake sex life.

It's a paparazzi free-for-all, and Georgie's nonsupporting cast doesn't help. There's Bram's punk-nightmare housekeeper, Georgie's own pushy parent, a suck-up agent, an icy studio head with a private agenda, and her ex-husband's new wife, who can't get enough of doing good deeds and saving the world—the bitch. As for Georgie's leading man, Bram's giving the performance of his life, but he's never cared about anyone except himself, and it's not exactly clear why.

Two enemies find themselves working without a script in a town where the spotlight shines bright . . . and where the strongest emotions can wear startling disguises.

My Thoughts: Sometimes I need a romance fix. Usually, I turn to past favorites that I've read about a dozen times. I very rarely start a new romance novel, mainly because they just don't hold that much appeal to me anymore. My old favorites more than satisfy me when I'm in the mood for an adult romance. However, I always make an exception for Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I fell in love with her Chicago Stars series years ago and she's remained one of my favorite authors ever since.

One of the more interesting aspects of this novel was the similarities between the storyline and the Jennifer Aniston/Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie love triangle. Georgie became famous for being in one of America's favorite sitcoms and quickly became America's Sweetheart, moving on to mediocre romantic comedies (Aniston). Georgie is trying to get over her awful, very public divorce with her much more famous movie star husband Lance (Pitt) who left her for a do-gooder exotic actress (Jolie) who he fell in love with while filming a movie with her. Georgie's first plan was to serial date a bunch of cute men to show she was having fun and wasn't destroyed by her divorce, but things go sour on her trip to Vegas and she ends up married to her former costar, Bram, an egotistical selfish jerk that Georgie despises.

I always liked the romantic stories when the couple gets married first (due to some kind of calamity or necessity) and then procede to fall in love. Or, at least, they supposedly fall in love after they're already married but, in actuality, the couple had loved each other all along and their confessions at the end are the most romantic scenes ever. This book doesn't follow that scheme and Georgie and Bram do, in fact, hate each other in the beginning and then suddenly find themselves falling for one another after a couple of months.

I think that is why I gave this book a 3 star rating instead of my usual 5 stars for SEP books. Their love for each other just seemed to come out of nowhere. I couldn't even understand why Georgie fell for Bram, who was only out for his own gain until the very end. I suppose I could believe that their love for one another was sincere, but it wasn't as endearing and heartstopping like it usually is in the romance novels I read. I thought the climactic scene when they both confess their love for each fell flat. It lacked spark.

Not even the side characters interested me that much. I thought Georgie's father's love story was way too rushed for me to care about it (especially since nothing started happening until over halfway through the book), and though I thought Chaz was a really interesting character I couldn't get on board with her and Adam as a couple. They make better friends, and not even close friends at that seeing as how Chaz only ever seemed to talk to Adam when she was calling him fat and lazy.


From what I said in the beginning of my review, you know that you can expect some more reviews of adult romances in the future. Here is my list of favorites that I will definitely be rereading again someday soon:

Heaven, Texas (Chicago Stars #2) by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Nobody's Baby But Mine (Chicago Stars #3) by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
This Heart of Mine (Chicago Stars #5) by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
The Rana Look by Sandra Brown
Tiger Prince by Sandra Brown
Thursday's Child by Sandra Brown
Love's Encore by Sandra Brown
Riley in the Morning by Sandra Brown
Birthright by Nora Roberts
Tears of the Moon (Gallaghers of Ardmore #2) by Nora Roberts
Dance Upon the Air (Three Sisters Island #1) by Nora Roberts
Irish Hearts by Nora Roberts
Time and Again by Nora Roberts
Holding the Dream (Dream #2) by Nora Roberts
Forsaking All Others by Lavyrle Spencer

And that's just part of the list.Can you see why I don't feel the need to read any recently published romance novels? : )

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Top Ten Books I Had Strong Emotions Over

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. You can find upcoming topics at their Top Ten Tuesday page.

1. Shadowland by Alyson Noel
I was so frustrated by the time I got to the end. I wanted to scream at Ever for being so stupid. I really wanted tear the book up but it was a library book (at least I didn't waste any money on it).

2. If On a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino
This book was such a mind f***. It messed with my head and confused me to no end, but I loved it. It's one of my favorite reads of the year.

3. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Spoiler: The scene when the villagers are singing their made-up, creepy  nursery-type rhyme about the Blackwell murders while they vandalize and burn down Merricat and Connie's home sent shivers down my spine. One of the most haunting moments ever.

4. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
There are times when I really connect with a character and can feel all of her emotions. I connected in this way with the narrator, Mrs. de Winter. I felt for her during her embarassing moments and the times she felt so lost and out of place. The mystery of Rebecca also really took hold of me. I had never been so caught up and so invested in a mystery plot line before. I just had to know what was up with the former Mrs. de Winter.

5. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
This book had my emotions going haywire. I really felt for the characters and the hardship and tragedy they were going through, and I was so angry at the officers who were putting them through all of that.

6. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
This book was like some kind of crazy, paranormal soap opera. I was literally yelling out loud at the characters, wanting to guide them away from their misguided choices.

7. Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham
I HATED Mildred, more than any other character in all of the books I've read. She was so selfish and evil. I hated her so much that I couldn't even finish the book, despite the fact that I was reading it for a research paper in my English class. I still ended up making an A on that paper though--I just used Sparknotes to learn what happened in the last 1/4 of the book. :)

8. The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore
This book was so funny! I laughed out loud through the whole thing. I really, really love Molly. Her scenes were the best, particularly the one where she greets her husband at the door completely naked and wielding a huge sword because she thinks she's a warrior princess.

9. Viy by Nikolai Gogol
This is actually a short story in The Collected Tales of Nikolai Gogol. It gave me nightmares for days.

10. The Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella
I am very susceptible to a character's embarrassment and I feel just as mortified as the character when she finds herself in a humiliating situation. Well, Becky Bloomwood found herself in many, many embarrassing situations, and my face was red with empathy for her the entire time I was reading this series (at least up until book four--Shopaholic and Sister was disappointing for me and I decided that I'd had enough of Bloomwood's antics).