Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Two Reviews: Make Lemonade and True Believer

Book: Make Lemonade
Book: True Believer
Author: Virginia Euwer Wolff
Genre: YA Fiction
Rating: A- for both of them.

These two books (and I think there's a third one too) star LaVaugnn. In Make Lemonade, she's a ninth grader who gets a job tending two kids of a teenage mom. She really helps them and manages to help the mom get back on her feet too. It's actually pretty amazing that a 9th grader could be so beneficial to this 17 year old girl and these two kids. In the meantime, LaVaugnn herself learns a lot about life.

In the 2nd book, we are focused more on LaVaugnn's character and some stresses she is having. A boy she was friends with years before moves back into the neighborhood and she stresses about him. She stresses about school, and her mom who has a new boyfriend, and about her friends who she is becoming less and less connected to. I think this book, True Believer, won several awards.

Both books are written in free verse, which makes for very easy and fast reading. I loved the descriptions and the uplifting "you go girl" kind of moments, though there are quite a few downers too.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Eva's Reading Meme

Here's a fun meme which originally started at The Striped Armchair, and where I've so far seen answers by Lisa at Books.Lists.Life and by Amy at The Sleepy Reader. I just had to try it!

Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews?

Middlesex. Everyone loves it, but I just don’t think I’d like it!

If you could bring three characters to life for a social event (afternoon tea, a night of clubbing, perhaps a world cruise), who would they be and what would the event be?

Let’s go on a girl cruise! I’ll take Elizabeth Bennett, Anne Shirley and Jo March.

(Borrowing shamelessly from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde): you are told you can’t die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for awhile, eventually you realise it’s past time to die. Which book would you expect to get you a nice grave?

The Old Man and the Sea. To me this sounds even worse than Moby-Dick!

Come on, we’ve all been there. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted, that you’ve read, when in fact you’ve been nowhere near it?

Hmmmmm.... I can’t remember ever pretending that I haven’t read something. I can see myself going the OTHER way. Maybe having read something and pretending that I haven’t!

As an addition to the last question, has there been a book that you really thought you had read, only to realise when you read a review about it/go to ‘reread’ it that you haven’t? Which book?

I can’t think of an answer for this either. There’s got to be one, but I don’t know what!

You’re interviewing for the post of Official Book Advisor to some VIP (who’s not a big reader). What’s the first book you’d recommend and why? (if you feel like you’d have to know the person, go ahead of personalise the VIP).

Wow, this one is harder than I thought it would be! Hmmmm.... since I’m on a Book Thief high right now... how about The Book Thief by Markus Zusak? I think either gender would like this one. It’s easy reading, it’s sad, but uplifting at the same time. Yeah, I think this would be a good one to recommend to a VIP!

A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: you will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with?

I think French. I came close in college being about to do this, but not close enough, and of course, I’ve totally lost it now.

A mischievious fairy comes and says that you must choose one book that you will reread once a year for the rest of your life (you can read other books as well). Which book would you pick?

Pride and Prejudice. I could handle this one once a year easy!

I know that the book blogging community, and its various challenges, have pushed my reading borders. What’s one bookish thing you ‘discovered’ from book blogging (maybe a new genre, or author, or new appreciation for cover art-anything)?

The challenges have made me realize that setting book goals can be on a whole new level than I’ve ever imagined before! Meeting other bloggers has made me see that I barely scratch the surface with my reading habits... and here I thought I was a "big" reader. Not. At least compared to some! I can’t think that I’ve discovered a new author or genre, but I’ve just discovered that I can read tons MORE than I can imagine!

That good fairy is back for one final visit. Now, she’s granting you your dream library! Describe it. Is everything leatherbound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few favourite authors have inscribed their works? Go ahead-let your imagination run free.

Wow. I dream about a library all the time! Mine would have wall to wall and floor to ceiling shelves. All kinds of books, nice ones, beat up ones, paperbacks, hardbacks, leather, and not. A huge variety, all organized like a real library by subject and author. A nice huge kids section too. Lots of extremely comfortable chairs, with lots of lamps nearby... no overhead lighting! A fireplace would be cool, and deep soft carpet. A couple of small tables with books strewn all over. My library is not spic and span... it’s going to be very very used and lived in!

I won't tag anyone in particular... but just DO IT! If you do, go back and tell Eva at A Striped Armchair and she'll enter you into a drawing!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Huh?

Booking Through Thursday

What’s your favorite book that nobody else has heard of? You know, not Little Women or Huckleberry Finn, not the latest best-seller . . . whether they’ve read them or not, everybody “knows” those books. I’m talking about the best book that, when you tell people that you love it, they go, “Huh? Never heard of it?”

The one that comes to mind first is The Long Walk by Slavomir Rawicz. Anyone heard of it? I'm not sure if it's a "known" book or not, so maybe you don't go "huh" when I mention it. This is a fascinating book about a guy who was in a POW camp in Siberia during WWII. He escaped and along with several others, made the trek to freedom in India.

I was just looking this up in Wikipedia to see if I remembered it all right and the article there says that this story is widely questioned.... that it's quite possible that it's not true at all. Well, dang about that! Oh well, true or not, the book is very good!

A couple of books that I remember loving as a kid is Mandy by Julie (Andrews) Edwards.... sort of a secret garden kind of story. And also The Enchanted Cup by Dorothoy Roberts , about Tristan and Isolde.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Review: Forever in Blue by Ann Brashares

Book: Forever in Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood by Ann Brashares

Rating: B+

Genre: YA Romance

I've loved this series. Especially the first book. But I'm quite glad the series is over (at least it appears that it is!) because the books keep taking a downward fall.

This book follows the girls in the fourth summer apart when they are about 19 or so I think. Most of them make majorly bad decisions which I guess can show the reality of life, but I wouldn't mind if this particular book get moved from the YA genre to the adult one! Ya know? But who am I? Oh, well.

Still, I like all these girls, and I hope that they all find what they're looking for one of these years!


Meanwhile, my all- round general reading slump seems to continue! In December I just couldn't get into anything. Now, I've been reading plently, but not getting really excited about any of it. (Except my re-read of The Book Thief of course!) I feel like dropping everything I'm into now and starting all over again with a fresh new crop! However, I will keep plugging along with War and Peace. I liked that one for the first section. Now the 2nd section is bogging a bit for me. But that's to be expected right? After all, it IS War and Peace! :)

Friday, January 18, 2008

A Couple of Reviews: The Mermaid Chair and The Writing Life

Book: The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
Genre: NF
Rating: B

So, never has a book so small taken me so long to read! I've been working on this for months, reading one page/chapter at a time every other week/month! Wow. I'm finally done!

I've heard tons of people like this book, but for me, I just didn't get it I guess. I like writing books that get you fired up to try writing, nice peppy pep talks. But this one waxed poetic and wandered here an there, and I guess it just went over my head.

Or maybe I just wasn't in the mood.

Book: The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd
Genre: general fiction
Rating: B+

My first "treadmill" book of the year! And what I have to say about it matches most everything I've heard everyone else say about it which is: yeah, it's okay, but not as good as The Secret Life of Bees... her first book.

I found that I wasn't very sympathetic toward the main character. She seemed quite whiney to me. She needed to find herself, and how does she do it? She has an affair. But whoops... I guess she changed her mind, and wonders if that was the right thing to do! But, I guess there's was other deeper stuff going on too.

Anyway, it was okay and a quick easy read, it just didn't wow me too much!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Let's Review

Booking Through Thursday

This week’s question is suggested by Puss Reboots:

How much do reviews (good and bad) affect your choice of reading? If you see a bad review of a book you wanted to read, do you still read it? If you see a good review of a book you’re sure you won’t like, do you change your mind and give the book a try?

It's hard to figure out how reviews affect me. Hmmm.... I think if I see a bad review about a book I really wanted to read, I'll probably still read it... unless I see an overwhelmingly amount of bad reviews on the same book. Then, I may change my mind. But just one or two? I probably would still go for it.

I imagine the same goes for the other way around. If I don't think I'd like it... but there's TONS of people talking about it and raving about it, I may go for it. However, there's been some that I still hold off on, even with the buzz, so I don't know...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

BOOK: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Rating: A+
Genre: YA Historical Fiction

So, I've read this book again! After only one year since I read it the first time, something quite not normal for me. ( I like to give books many years between re-readings... and I'm not a big re-reader anyway.)

But since this is what we're discussing at my house tomorrow for book club, and since I've been raving about to everyone for the past few months, I decided I'd read it again... and guess what? It's even BETTER the second time around! Yes. I loved it... again.

This is an amazing story about a girl who lives in Germany as World War II gets going. Her foster parents aren't too thrilled with Hitler, but have to supress that feeling. They end up hiding a Jew in their basement, who she becomes quite attached to. The girl gets through all the anxiety by reading, mostly books she's "stolen."

The writing is amazing, very poetic and descriptive. You can totally FEEL what's going on. This time through, I tried to write down some of the ways phrases he used to describe things, but a I gave up after awhile. There were too many! Too bad I don't have words to describe his writing! You'll just have to go read it for yourself, if you haven't already!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: May I Introduce?

1. How did you come across your favorite author(s)? Recommended by a friend? Stumbled across at a bookstore? A book given to you as a gift?

2. Was it love at first sight? Or did the love affair evolve over a long acquaintance?

Some of my favorite authors I learned about and read for the first time in school: Austen, Hardy, Dickens, the Brontes, etc. Many of them were NOT love at first sight, but ones I had to warm up to.

I learned about Shannon Hale when she came to our library and I loved her book The Goose Girl, instantly!

I learned about Stephenie Meyer from a newspaper article and I fell in love with her books instantly too.

Markus Zusak was one I learned about from book clubs and blogs and all the Book Thief talk last year. Afte reading a couple other books of his, I fell in love.

I discovered Orson Scott Card when I was newly married and I just read book after book after book of his from the library. Same with Anya Seton.

Wilkie Collins I just stumbled upon, picking up A Woman in White somewhere, sometime. After that, we just kept adding him to our library.

I'm thinking I could go on and on with the author thing here. But I'll stop now!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

My Shelf

See... it still doesn't look too great, 'cause there's too many! In the bottom left corner you can see my "current" night stand books, though I finished Dragonhaven the other day. The second in the stack, the upside down one, is The Book Thief, which I'm re-reading for book club this month. Aw... it's so good!!! .... even better the second go around!

My Award Challenge books are stacked up to the left on the middle-ish shelf, and my new books on the right. The TBR's are way at the top where you can't even see much. The others? Just still waiting a turn... or simply there because there's no where else to go!

The very very bottom shelf that you can't see at all in this picture is filled with magazines that I need to decide what to do with. I love magazines, but they sure do accumulate and I hate throwing them away! What if I needed something from them some day? :)

Monday, January 7, 2008

Review: Dragonhaven by Robin McKinley

Book: Dragonhaven by Robin McKinley

Genre: YA (ish) Fantasy

Rating: B

I've really been looking forward to reading this book, however, it wasn't as "blow-me-away" as I expected, and as other Robin McKinley books have been. I enjoyed the story which is about this boy who finds a baby dragon and all the struggles he has keeping it alive and all the consequences he and his family face because of his choice. The details about dragons are amazing! But after awhile, they got a little tedious or something and it just kind of went on and on. I don't know. So, I enjoyed it, but not even close to Beauty, or Sunshine, or some of her others.

Friday, January 4, 2008

It's Official....

.... I need more book shelves!

I had a great time yesterday afternoon reorganizing my bedroom shelf where all my TBR books are housed. I took a HUGE pile to the downstairs shelves... the ones that are now read books. Then I stacked different piles here and there all over the space that was left. I even found room for the new books! But the pile I took downstairs...there's not much room for them there. Maybe one day I can turn a corner of the family room into a sort of real library. Maybe. Yeah, right.

I'm still trying to catch up with everyone's blogs after not reading much over the holdiay. Sheesh, you guys write a lot! And read a lot! But that's good.

Well, I'm avoiding going to bed, so I guess I should get over that and just go already. 'Till later then!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Anticipation

Last week we talked about the books you liked best from 2007. So this week, what with it being a new year, and all, we’re looking forward….

What new books are you looking forward to most in 2008? Something new being published this year? Something you got as a gift for the holidays? Anything in particular that you’re planning to read in 2008 that you’re looking forward to? A classic, or maybe a best-seller from 2007 that you’re waiting to appear in paperback?

Last year there was a ton I was anxious for, but this year I can only think of one I'm really excited about and that's Stephenie Meyer's new series which starts with The Host and will be coming out in May I think. I'm quite sure that it's her writing I like and not just her characters from Twilight, so I'm ready to put that to the test this year.

I'm looking forward to reading War and Peace with a bunch of you. Something I've always wanted to do, so why not this year?

Oh, I just thought of another book I'm excited about.... the next book after Eldest by Christopher Paolini, which still has no name, is supposed to come out in the fall. And it won't be the last yet, because now it's not a trilogoy any more, but a series, since he says there will be a fourth.

Hello?!! Wait a minute, what am I thinking? The next in the Twilight series comes out this year too! Breaking Dawn, this August! Of course I'm looking forward to that too!

Then of course, there's my TBR 2008 list.

Okay.... so there's more than one! And there's probably more I'll think of as soon as I hit "publish" but for now... I'm done!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Challenge Wrap Ups

Two challenges that I've been participating in, recently concluded with the end of the year. Here's how I did:

The TBR Challenge: my first challenge, the one that brought me to this world of blogging about books and where I learned that many many other book challenges exist!

For this challenge, I choose 12 books that had been sitting on my shelf forever (the rule is at least 6 months, many of mine had been years!) and read them throughout the year. I did REALLY well with this until it fell apart just this last month when I couldn't find my last book and couldn't get interested in any of my alternate books, so... I fell short ONE BOOK! Oh, well. Here's what I did finish:

  • Nights of Rain and Stars by Maeve Binchy
  • Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Green
  • The Stand by Stephen King
  • Giliad by Marilynn Robinson
  • The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier
  • The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks
  • Sea Glass by Anita Shreeve
  • The Netherworld by George Gissing
  • The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
  • The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope
  • Zorro by Isabel Allende
And book I couldn't find: The Hostile Hospital by Lemony Snicket!

The Something About Me Challenge: this one was where we all suggested 5 books that we thought said something about us... then we choose, from all that HUGE list, some that we'd like to read. Of course, back in the summer, I was very optomistic, and made my list too long. I did read a bunch before the challenge officially started, so if you include that, I did okay!

From the official list I read:
  • Evening Class by Maeve Binchy (Raidergirl)
  • Ida Mae Tutweiler and the Traveling Tea Party by Ginnie Siena Bivona (Lynne)
  • Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (Maryanne)
  • The Stand by Stephen King (A Book in the Life)
  • Sea Glass by Anita Shreeve (Beachreader and Library Lady)
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (Diane)
  • The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishigiro (Lucca)

Ones I read before the official start of the challenge:

  • Papa Married a Mormon by John D. Fitzgerald
  • The Quilter's Apprentice by Jennifer Chiaverini
  • The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud
  • I Am Legend by Richard Matheson (Stephanie)
  • So Many Books, So Little Time by Sara Nelson (BookInLife)
  • Sixpence House by Paul Collins (Nattie)
  • I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak (Jill)

Ones I didn't get to that I'll still be working on:
  • Tracon by Paul McElroy (Lisa)
  • The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards (3M)
  • The Writing Life by Annie Dillard (Megan)
  • Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin (Stephanie)
  • The March by E.L. Doctorow (Jill)
  • The Petit Prince by Antoine De Saint Exupery (Soleil)
  • Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See (Juli)

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

2007 Review: By The Numbers

One of my favorite things about doing a "reading journal", which I started back in 2002, is crunching the numbers at the end of the year. Why do I find this so fascinating? Well, hopefully, many of you will just understand this fettish, because it's too hard to explain!

Total Books Read: 100
(wow! I've NEVER come close to this before! I think it's because of the craziness I had for YA books recently and because I started reading while walking on the treadmill...that's 17 books right there!)

NF: 4
Classic: 6
General Fiction: 33
YA: 57

Men: 37
Women: 63

Borrowed from library: 58
Owned: 40
Borrowed from other: 2

Book Clubs and Challenges (some crossover here):
Read for book clubs (online and f2f): 18
Read for challenges: 29
Read on own for the fun of it: 47

Total Pages: 33,402

And with that I end the year and complete a notebook! On to 2008!

December Recap

I did a pretty lousy job of reviewing my December books, so here's a quick overview of what I managed to read this past month:

The Underwood Sea by Michael Lawrence: The third in this YA science-fictiony series which started with A Crack in the Line. I loved it. Very mind-boggling and space-bending and thought-pondering stuff. Rating: A

Skipping Christmas by John Grisham: Read for my f2f club for a fun Christmasy read. I enjoyed the comedy and light heartedness of it. Rating: A

The Nether World by George Gissing: One of my last TBR books, on my list because it was read years ago by an online group and I missed it then and have always wanted to go back to it. This was a first by this author for me. He reminded me of Charles Dickens, but not quite as good. It was pretty slow moving, though I did find myself caught up with the characters in the end. Rating: B+

Caroline by Neil Gaimain: Because so many of you have talked about this one, then I saw it at the library, so picked it up and read it! It was nice and creepy and thought-provoking too. But still strange enough that I only rated it a B+.

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro: On two challenge lists for me... Something About Me and The Awards Challenge. It was a little slow going for me, and the ending was not what I wanted! Dang! Rating: B+

Rules by Cynthia Lord: A book I grabbed at the book fair a few months ago. I've felt I've been in a bit of a reading slump this month, and everything seemed slow, so I picked this one up to just read something fast and fun. And it sure was! I read it in an evening and loved it! It's about how a girl copes with her autistic brother. Rating: A

Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman: One of the new books we just got... recommended on the front by Stephenie Meyer! Fun YA teen romance! Another book that ties in to Pride and Prejudice! Rating: A

Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock: Another fun YA teen romance that we just got for Christmas and I sat down and read the other day. This one all about football! Rating: A

And that's it for this month. Even though I have a nice list... it was a very sluggish month, so I hope to get over that here in January!


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