Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday: The Ten (only 10!?) Books I Hope Santa Brings Me!

I know I've been MIA for a while, but life has sorta swallowed me up the past few weeks. But I'm making an appearance for this special holiday Top Ten Tuesday! The top ten books I hope Santa brings me this year are:

1. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. I must say I have officially been bitten by the buzz from this book. I must have it-there will be no waiting for the paperback!

2. Room by Emma Donoghue. This sounds so original and engaging-I must have it.

3. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. This would take a Santa miracle because it hasn't been released yet in English translation, but Santa can do anything, right?

4. A Dance with Dragons by George RR Martin. While we're on the subject of miracles, could Santa get Martin to finally finish this book already? I've been waiting like 5 years. 

5. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. I read the review in Bookmarks magazine and am completely intrigued. 

6. World Without End by Ken Follett. If Santa brings it to me I just might get to this book.

7. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. Another book to feed my obsession with the court of King Henry VIII

8. Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay. Samurai and fantasy-ooo it sounds good!

9. The Egyptian by Mika Waltari.A richly written novel of 14 century BC Egypt. Right up my alley

10. The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Having them all together in one set will greatly increase my chances of reading these books, which have been recommended to me over and over.

So there they are! Please please please bring them Santa!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits by Les Standiford

I've kick started my holiday reading with a closer look at the classic tale which we all know and love, A Christmas Carol, and getting to know the man behind the story a little better. It turns out that Dickens was actually in a bit of a crisis at the time when inspiration struck him to write his "Little Carol". He was practically broke and had baby number 9 on the way (for a total of 10 children before he divorced his wife-nice.), plus a host of other family issues. Plus his popularity was dwindling, decreasing from the heights of The Pickwick papers with his current periodical, Martin Chuzzlewit. So because of that his publishers were thinking of docking his pay, not very good timing for everything to happen at once. But it took a speaking engagement in the factory swelled hovel that was Manchester for him to spark the idea that would become his greatest achievement: A Christmas Carol. He realized the need to say something on behalf of charity and goodwill toward men, and he certainly succeeded! This book has been called the most perfect case made for charity outside of the Bible. It has been retold in movies, plays, musicals, and been reformatted into hundreds of different editions. True enough, one can hardly have a Christmas without this classic Carol!

I really enjoyed this book because I love reading about the background and origin of things, and the writing style is charming and entertaining. You can tell the reverence the author has for Dickens, and he has really done his homework in getting the facts. And the chapters on the sheer impact of this novel are astounding! A big recommend from me for all fans of Christmas books, especially the Carol. Now I need to go re-read the novel!

About the author: Standiford is the author of the critically acclaimed Last Train to Paradise, Meet You in Hell, and Washington Burning, as well as ten novels. Recipient of the Frank O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, he is director of the Creative Writing Program at Florida International University in Miami, where he lives with his wife and three children.

Other Books to Consider: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom, Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I'd like to be friends with

Top Ten Tuesday again, the weekly meme from the Broke and the Bookish. This week we discover who our fictional best friends would be.

1. Anne Shirley. This Anne-girl manages to bring a smile to the face of anyone who encounters her. She warms hearts and is a terrific 'bosom friend' to Diana. And she always has something interesting to say!

2. Jo March. I have always looked up to Jo. Her strength of character is a perfect model for how I'd like to live my own life. True she makes mistakes, but she is human and determined to live her life in the fullest way possible.

3. Alanna of Trebond. She kicks some serious butt, but has a pure heart and a fierce loyalty to her friends. Someone I'd always want in my corner!

4. Jane Bennett. She is so sweet and a great sister to Lizzie. I wish she were my older sister too.

 5. Pippi Longstocking. There could never be a dull moment with Pippi around!

6. Dickon from The Secret Garden. He talks to animals and can make things grow-who wouldn't want a friend like that!

7. Eowyn from Lord of the Rings. A shieldmaiden of Rohan who fights to achieve her own destiny. I think she could teach me a thing or two about inner strength.

8. Lestat. He fascinates me, and would love to have many a deep conversation with him.

9. Elphaba from Wicked. Again, she seems like a great person for a conversation.

10. Bridget Jones. She is so scatterbrained and drama-prone that she makes my life seem dull in comparison! Plus we can gush over Colin Firth together.

so there it is-my top ten. How does your list compare?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Holiday Books!

Top Ten Tuesday again, a weekly meme from the Broke and the Bookish. This week it's favorite holiday books, just in time for Turkey Day!

1. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I have read the book and seen countless adaptations of this classic story. I'm also reading a little nonfiction book about how this book changed the way we think about Christmas forever. I don't doubt it. What book can boast that it reinvented Christmas cheer and good will towards all?

2. The Gift of the Magi by O.Henry. This book always brings me to tears, because no matter how bad things are for this couple financially, the love they have for each other keeps them warm.

3. The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Anderson. Another touch-me-to-the-point-of-tears book. And so beautifully written too.

4. The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore. My mom read this book to me every Christmas Eve when I was growing up. It will always have a special place in my heart.

5. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss. Love this book. My family used to call me Mindy Lou Who because I loved this book so much.

6. The Snowman by Raymond Briggs. The illustrations in this classic book are fantastic, and the story can warm any cold night.

7. The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewel. A bit religious but still very sweet, about a little angel who wants his star to shine the brightest.

8. Catmas Carols by Laurie Loughlin. A book of traditional Christmas Carols with a kitty twist. Classics include O Hold Me Right (O Holy Night), O Come All Ye Furful and O Little Town of Cat Mayhem.This book never fails to put a grin on my face!

9. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis. When "always Winter, but never Christmas" begins to melt away, I can't help but feel the touch of the Christmas spirit!

10. The Nutcracker. I don't remember who wrote the picture book version of this story I had when I was a kid, but I remember looking at the pictures an reading along and wishing I was Clara, so that I could be whisked away to an enchanted land by a handsome nutcracker prince too.

well, there's 10. I must say that I had to do some heavy digging through my memory banks for this week's list, but I'm glad I did. These books make me smile with fond memories.

How does your list compare?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Literary Blog Hop

Literary Blog Hop

It's Literary Blog Hop time-a new weekly hop from The Blue Bookcase.
This week's question is: Is there such a thing as literary non-fiction? If so, how do you define it? Examples?

I think there most definitely is such a thing as literary non-fiction. I define it as when an author paints a true event or experience with rich detail and literary prose that it reads like a novel. I wouldn't count your typical dry history book, full of facts which, while interesting, don't move a story along. I do however count many memoirs into this category. For example, I recently read Italo Calvino's Road to San Giovanni, which is a collection of five "memory exercises" about his past, written down in such vivid detail with a healthy smattering of philosophical waxing. While the heart of the book is non-fiction, the book is just as literary as his novels.

So how about you? Does literary non-fiction exist in your reading experiences?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

One Good Knight by Mercedes Lackey

I venture into the fantasy realm with this recent read. This book is the second volume in the 500 kingdoms series, focusing on Andromeda, princess of a small kingdom by the sea ruled by her mother who doesn't think much of her. Andi tries so hard to get her mother to realize that she is bright and intelligent, and can help her run the kingdom, but doesn't quite realize that her mother's attentions might not be the best thing for her well-being. In her eagerness to please, she stumbles upon some details that don't quite add up- for some reason the number of shipwrecks-which the crown profits from- are drastically increasing.

And then a dragon comes to town to further complicate things, and to prevent it from destroying their country, the kingdom starts giving the dragon virgins to eat. The kingdom needs a champion to set things right, but that might be more difficult that originally thought. There is more to the story behind the dragon's sudden appearance and the shipwrecks, and as Andi digs deeper, the more likely she will be to end up as said dragon's latest sacrifice.

A delightful and very quick read-I finished it in a day. I love immersing myself in the world of fairy tales, and love reading about how the characters work with the Tradition, which keeps trying to put everyone on a fairy tale path, whether it be Cinderella or some other tale. It is so interesting hearing what they come up with to circumvent the Tradition and make it work for them instead of forcing them on the path of, say, the helpless princess who falls in love with her protector. Although the first book in the series is still my favorite thus far, this is a welcome addition to the series.

Other Books to Consider: The Fairy Godmother by Mercedes Lackey, Enchantment by Orson Scott Card, Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia C. Wrede

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Nastiest Villans!

It's top ten Tuesday again, brought to you by the Broke and the Bookish! This week we explore those nasty villains you just love to hate.

1. Jack Randall-Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. This guy is just despicable! He consistently abuses his power and will stop at nothing to not just capture his enemy, but to destroy him entirely-making his life a living hell. Death is easy compared to a fate like that.

2. Blaine the train from The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. What an amazing villain. He is super intelligent and incredibly evil. His set up and entrance into the story was wonderfully imaginative, and the rhyme associated with him is haunting.

3. William Hamleigh from Pillars of the Earth. Everything about this character I hated-as he is supposed to be. There wasn't one redeeming thing about him, and I waited the whole book to see him get his comeuppance.

4. Cathy from East of Eden. I loved Cathy because she was just so completely flawed. She is the perfect villain who shows no remorse at all when she is hurting those around her. She is not really human-something is missing from her soul.

5. Jean-Baptiste Grenouille from Perfume. A lover of beauty to such an extent that he loses touch with humanity. His path is interesting to read, but I certainly wouldn't want to meet him-creepy.

6. Faust-the original villain in my opinion. He sells his soul for youth and beauty, and never falters when he destroys the life of an innocent maiden unfortunate enough to have crossed his path. Some would say that 'the devil made him do it' but he could have refused. His weakness makes him the greater evil.

7. Simon Legree-Uncle Tom's Cabin. He takes pleasure in beating slaves. There is nothing likeable about this character. A true villain.

8. Abigail Williams from The Crucible. She convinces an entire town that she can tell who is a witch and who isn't-thereby destroying said town and turning neighbor against neighbor. A really nasty little girl.

9. Javert from Les Miserables. The villain, but a very dedicated man devoted to the point of mania. He will stop at nothing until he captures Jean Valjean. His heart is in the right place, but his obsession makes him a very dangerous person.

10. Iago from Otello. This guy is just evil to the core. He turns Otello from his wife out of petty jealousy, but he does it so cunningly that Otello doesn't even notice it. Very subtly the seed of doubt and hatred is placed between the once happily married couple.

well there's 10. I think I could have kept going really, but I'll leave it there. How does it compare to your list?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Literary Blog Hop

Literary Blog Hop

I just stumbled upon this new blog hop from the Blue Bookcase, and it hit me like a breath of fresh air. So first off, thank you blue bookcase! I can't wait to join you every week.

This blog hop is open to blogs that primarily feature book reviews of literary fiction, classic literature, and general literary discussion.
How do I know if my blog qualifies as "literary"? Literature has many definitions, but for our purposes your blog qualifies as "literary" if it focuses primarily on texts with aesthetic merit. In other words, texts that show quality not only in narrative but also in the effect of their language and structure.
This week's question comes from Debbie Nance at Readerbuzz
What is the most difficult literary work you've ever read? What made it so difficult?
I think one of the most difficult literary works I've read is Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, and this is because it is just so darn sad. All Lenny and George want out of life is the chance to have one that is worth living, and they are just so overwhelmingly denied that. It makes me angry and sad and somewhat disgusted every time I think of it. 
Another one that comes to mind is Notes from the Underground by Dostoyevsky. This is also incredibly depressing, so much so that I had to pause, read something else, and come back to it. Russian literature I can only take in small doses, so that the bleakness emanating from the book doesn't overwhelm me entirely.  

What about you? What were your difficult books?

Book Blog hop hop hop

Book Blogger Hop

Hi there! It's time for Friday's book blog hop. I can't wait to check out some new blogs.

This week's question is:
"If you find a book that looks interesting but is part of a series, do you always start with the first title?"

My answer: Yes, I always start with book one. This is something of a pain because I'll pick up a book 2 at a sale or something, and refuse to read it until I've found book one. I just can't stand not starting things from the beginning. I hate being lost, because more often than not the sequels build upon major elements from previous books-I don't want to miss anything!

What about you? Do you start in the middle and work your way out?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cicernos

This book, set in Chicago, portrays a family and a neighborhood of recent immigrants from Mexico. It is told in small vignettes from the point of view of Esperanza, a young girl who has moved to the House on Mango Street from a series of terrible apartments. Through the vignettes, which almost read like little poems, we learn of the people who make up her family and her neighborhood, who become a sort of extended family. The struggles with fitting in, being poor, and making a place for yourself in a new world are all laced within the pages of this short novel. It could really be set in any time, because the problems these immigrants face are the same as they were 50 years ago, only now there is even more scarcity of resources, particularly in Chicago. But the basic human aspiration to succeed is the strongest theme in the book, which had me hoping that Esperanza would not let the depression of her current status get her down- that she would rise above it. 

Living in Chicago makes this book even more real to me, because there are tons of neighborhoods just like Mango street all around me. There is that strange mingling of fear and hope, and a desire to provide for your family at all cost. Hispanic immigrants are very quickly becoming the major ethnicity in this town, as more and more flock to the city for the chance of a better life. But with that comes the enormous contingent of hate, crime, and depression which leads to violence. These also appear in this book, from Esperanza's perspective. There is no balance here. It's a sad reality, but reality it is.

About the Author: Sandra Cicernos' work experiments with literary forms and investigates emerging subject positions, which Cisneros herself attributes to growing up in a context of cultural hybridity and economic inequality that endowed her with unique stories to tell. She is the recipient of numerous awards including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and is regarded as a key figure in Chicana literature.

Cisneros's early life provided many experiences she would later draw on as a writer: she grew up as the only daughter in a family of six brothers, which often made her feel isolated, and the constant migration of her family between Mexico and the USA instilled in her the sense of "always straddling two countries... but not belonging to either culture." Cisneros's work deals with the formation of Chicana identity, exploring the challenges of being caught between Mexican and Anglo-American cultures, facing the misogynist attitudes present in both these cultures, and experiencing poverty. For her insightful social critique and powerful prose style, Cisneros has achieved recognition far beyond Chicano and Latino communities, to the extent that The House on Mango Street has been translated worldwide and is taught in American classrooms as a coming-of-age novel.

Cisneros has held a variety of professional positions, working as a teacher, a counselor, a college recruiter, a poet-in-the-schools, and an arts administrator, and has maintained a strong commitment to community and literary causes. In 1998 she established the Macondo Foundation, which provides socially conscious workshops for writers, and in 2000 she founded the Alfredo Cisneros Del Moral Foundation, which awards talented writers connected to Texas. Cisneros currently resides in San Antonio, Texas.

Other Books to Consider: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Unfortunate Character Names

So it's Top Ten Tuesday again, from The Broke and The Bookish. Hooray!

I almost didn't participate this week, because I have a hard time remembering my own name let alone someone else's, but one character name in particular stood out so much for me that I decided ti jump in with my list.

1. Renesmee. WTH kind of name is that? It isn't cute, frankly it isn't even English. It is appalling and if I were named that I too would prefer being nicknamed after the Loch Ness Monster. Blech. (this character is from Breaking Dawn, btw.)

2.  Mochriadhemiach from the Nine Kingdoms Trilogy by Lynn Kurland. Talk about a mouthful. Thankfully they shorten his name to Miach for most of the book.

3. Boudica. I know she is a real person, but I have always hated the name. For those non history buffs, she was a Queen of old England who rebelled against the Roman invasion, and almost won.

4. Yum Yum from The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan. No it isn't a book but an operetta, but this name always makes me think of a candy bar. Who would want to be named after a candy bar?

5. Number 5 is just about every character in Where the Heart is by Billie Letts. Novalee Nation and her daughter Americus Nation, Lexie Coop and her children who actually are named after candy bars, and the drop dead jerk of a baby daddy Willie Jack Pickens. Wow what a collection.

6. Huckleberry Finn. This can't be his real name, can it? But we aren't given any others, so it must be so.

Well there's six. I'll keep thinking about this and update accordingly, so stop by again!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

This mystery thriller follows writer David Martin, a young man and writer full of 'great expectations' but always falling short of the mark. David makes a desperate pact with the mysterious publisher Andreas Corelli to write an unusual story. But what he doesn't know is that he has just set a string of events in motion that strangely, seem to have happened before years earlier. David must try to unravel the story of what happened to Corelli's last employee before he falls victim to their consequences.

This prequel to Shadow of the Wind is nothing short of fantastic. It may take place before Zafon's last novel, but don't expect it to be exactly the same, because it is very different. They simply share some similar characters and of course, the cemetery of lost books plays a role. The writing is so richly developed that you are pulled in every time you pick the book up, and the novel refuses to let you go until every page is consumed.

I loved how all of the characters, despite or maybe because of their many human flaws, are entirely three dimensional and real. My favorite character is Isabella, David's young assistant who more than once rescues David's sanity and humanity.The story is very tragic in many parts, so I would recommend having some tissues handy.

I loved this line from an Amazon reviewer so much that I had to quote it here. It so accurately conveys my feelings. "Most importantly, this novel details the power that books can have in our lives, the voids they fill within us, and the myriad methods by which they can mold us- for better or for worse." I'm sure all of us book lovers can agree to the power that the written word can have on us.

All in all, another masterpiece from Zafon. Looking forward to his next novel!

About the Author:
Carlos Ruiz Zafón (born Barcelona, 25 September 1964) is a Spanish novelist who has lived in Los Angeles since 1993, where he spent a few years writing scripts whilst developing his career as a writer.

His first novel, El príncipe de la niebla (The Prince of Mist, 1993), earned the Edebé literary prize for young adult fiction. He is also the author of three more young adult novels, El palacio de la medianoche (1994), Las luces de septiembre (1995) and Marina (1999).

In 2001 he published the novel La sombra del viento (The Shadow of the Wind), his first "adult" novel, which has sold millions of copies worldwide and more than a million copies in the UK alone. Since its publication, La sombra del viento has garnered critical acclaim around the world and has won many international awards. Ruiz Zafón's works have been published in 45 countries and have been translated into more than 30 languages. According to these figures, Ruiz Zafón is the most successful contemporary Spanish writer, along with Javier Sierra, whose works have been published in forty-two countries, and Juan Gómez-Jurado, whose works have been published in forty-one countries.

The English edition of Zafon's books have been translated by Lucia Graves, daughter of the poet Robert Graves. She has translated over 30 volumes.

Other Books to Consider: Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Friday, November 5, 2010

Hippity Hoppity Book Blog time!

Book Blogger Hop

Yay book blog hop time! Brought to you courtesy of Crazy for Books!

This week's question concerns what our feelings are on losing followers, or whether we have ever stopped following someone. I can say that I never have stopped following anyone. I choose to follow because I find a blog interesting or the books reviewed align closely to what I might be interested in picking up one day. The more choices of blogs I have to peruse, the more options I have of finding that new exciting read. So, unless I've been personally offended, I won't stop following anyone once I've joined.

I hope that no one has stopped following me. I try to bring as many thoughtful reviews as possible, but sometimes life intervenes and I'm not able to provide as many reviews as other blogs. But at the end of the day, this blog is simply to have fun and share my book loving experiences with other like minded book nerds. :-)

How about you-inquiring minds want to know! I look forward to your comments!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday: Books that made you cry

That's right, it's time for my favorite meme, Top Ten Tuesday, brought to you by the Broke and the Bookish.
This week we are examining the top ten books that made us cry. So lets give those tear ducts a jerk and dig right in.

1. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. This was inevitable-the book is setting you up for a bawl fest from page one.

2. Marley and Me by John Grogan. Pet book. Nuff said.

3. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I can't tell you why without giving the plot away.

4. Where the Heart is by Billie Letts. Sister Husband was one of the best characters in the whole book, is all I'm saying.

5. South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami. This book is just so tragically beautiful, I couldn't help shedding a tear or six.

6. The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman. A great end to a great series, but bittersweet as well.

7. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. "For never was there a tale of more woe, than this of Juliet, and her Romeo"

8. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. The end was nearly unbearably sad.

9. Lioness Rampant by Tamora Pierce. I return to the favorite series of my childhood. This is the last book in the series and Pierce is pretty ruthless with my heartstrings here. So many of my favorite minor characters didn't make it to the end of this book. I mourned them all.

10. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Anne Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Both sad and happy tears were shed during my time with this excellent little novel.

well there they are, my tissue clutching list. How does yours compare?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Book Blogs a Hoppin!

Book Blogger Hop

Yay! It's time for hopping Friday, where tons of book bloggers hop like mad all over the blogosphere. This week's question is:

"What is the one bookish thing you would love to have, no matter the cost?"

This is really tough, because I would love to have a great many bookish things that I can't afford. I think I would go with a house with a dedicated Library, just like the ones in old novels. It would have a fireplace, huge comfy armchairs, and of course, walls of bookshelves filled with all my own books. Literary bliss!!

Something like this would do nicely: 

So how about you? What is your bookish dream possession?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday: Scariest Books

Here it is again, the fabulous list crazy meme from The Broke and the Bookish! This week we are exploring the top ten scariest books, just in time for the day of ultimate spookiness-Halloween!

Now let me begin that I generally tend to shy away from scary books as a rule. I don't have much stomach for scary. My first scary movie was Nightmare on Elm Street at a slumber party, and I was so freaked out I had to call my mom to come get me because I was afraid to sleep. It has of course been downhill from there.

So here are my top ten scary books!

1. Dracula by Bram Stoker. This book is the grand daddy of scary books. This one book began a phenomenon that lingers today-our fascination with vampires. Without it we may never have had Twilight-- well don't blame him for that. It's still a great book.

2. The Witching Hour by Anne Rice. Powerful witches living in the heart of New Orleans. How cool is that? But there is a dark force that has connected generations of the Mayfair family, and now Rowan, who almost escaped when her mother moved her to California when she was little, is back to face that force head on. Is she strong enough to endure? Such an awesome book, and the sequels are equally fantastic.

3. Pet Sematary by Stephen King. I haven't actually read this book-I saw the movie. And this is why I will never read the book. The premise alone gives me the willies.

4. Lisey's Story by Stephen King. This one is considered to be more benign than his straight up horror books, and this is why I read it. But it creeped me out like only King can. I was only able to read this one in daylight.

5. The Nanny Diaries by two chicks whose names I don't remember. It is scary that a book can be this bad. I cower at the very thought.

6. The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe. The king of twisted and his masterpiece. The ominous repetition always has me shaking in my boots.

7. Macbeth by William Shakespeare. Even in print this thing is scary, but mostly because it shows us that there is a dark side to ambition, which is present in each and every one of us, just waiting to manifest itself.

8. Sphere by Michael Crichton. The scariest creatures in this book are located in the minds of the main characters. No one is safe from their own mind when it turns on you. Scary!

9. Flowers in the Attic by VC Andrews. When your own mom decides you are cramping her style, look out and watch what goes into your food. This book is very sad and scary at the same time. 

well there they are, my top ten (well 9. I'm tapped out) scary books in all their glory. How does it shape up to your list?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Stone's Fall by Iain Pears

This is a brilliantly intricate historical novel, which centers on the death of a successful British businessman, and is separated into three parts. In part one, after John Stone falls to his death from a window in his London mansion in 1909, Stone's young widow, Elizabeth, hires journalist Matthew Braddock to trace a child of her late husband's she never knew existed until the child is named in his will. Braddock, a novice in the world of finance, uncovers evidence that Stone's actual net worth was far less than commonly believed, even as he finds himself falling for his client. In part two, set in 1890 Paris, Henry Cort, a shadowy spy, provides another perspective on the bewitching Elizabeth. The third part is told from Stone's own point of view, as he reminiscences of his time in Venice in 1867.

I found it really intriguing how each part of the novel ventured further in the past than the one before it. They all involve the same group of people, but at different points in their lives. All the pieces of the full picture don't really come together until the very very end, but each section has its own small mystery that is solved in that section. It is splendidly written-Pear's writing style makes the book very compelling to read, and I was never bored once throughout the 600+ pages. A great book, filled with mystery, love, betrayal, and a whole lot regarding the world of British finance in the early 1900s, which would normally go over my head but with Pears I was able to keep up. Highly recommended for mystery fans.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Book Hop!

Book Blogger Hop

It's Blog hop time again-something I always look forward to on Fridays. This blog hop is brought to you by Crazy for Books-thanks Jennifer for such a great meme!

This week's question is: "Where is your favorite place to read?"

I actually have a couple of favorite places. My absolute favorite is in my sun room. My apartment has a little room with windows on three sides. I keep my bookshelves there and have some IKEA chairs, some end tables and a stereo. It is my happy place to relax with a mug of tea and read away.

I also love to read in bed. It is a nightly ritual for me to take in a few pages every night before I head off to sleep. But I have to be careful with what I read here-if it is scary or really sad it will keep me up shaking or bawling!

So how about you? Where is your book reading happy place?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Description from Publisher:
Julia and Valentina Poole are twenty-year-old sisters with an intense attachment to each other. One morning the mailman delivers a thick envelope to their house in the suburbs of Chicago. Their English aunt Elspeth Noblin has died of cancer and left them her London apartment. There are two conditions for this inheritance: that they live in the flat for a year before they sell it and that their parents not enter it. Julia and Valentina are twins. So were the girls' aunt Elspeth and their mother, Edie.

The girls move to Elspeth's flat, which borders the vast Highgate Cemetery, where Christina Rossetti, George Eliot, Stella Gibbons, and other luminaries are buried. Julia and Valentina become involved with their living neighbors: Martin, a composer of crossword puzzles who suffers from crippling OCD, and Robert, Elspeth's elusive lover, a scholar of the cemetery. They also discover that much is still alive in Highgate, including—perhaps—their aunt.

I chose to use the publisher's description of this book because I didn't think I could objectively describe it. This book is all about twins, really. Two adult twins are separated by mysterious circumstances, and then one, Elspeth, dies. She leaves her estate to her twin's two twin daughters who come to live in her flat overlooking London's Highgate cemetery. But Elspeth isn't really gone. She is stuck as a ghost in her flat, haunting the young twins amidst their backdrop of ever growing discord with each other. This can't end well.

And it doesn't. I stayed up until midnight reading the last 100 pages in a desperate need to see this book rescued from itself. I was very disappointed. The book isn't beautiful, dark and gothic, which is what I think the author was trying for. It is just distasteful. I loved Niffinegger's first book, The Time Traveler's Wife, so I think the fact that this one doesn't fall even close to the same level was the biggest disappointment for me. So sad to say, this book can't get a positive review. I wonder where her magic went. Will I still pick up any forthcoming novels by her? Probably, because I know she has it in her. But this one is a big miss.

A bit about Highgate Cemetery:  Highgate is a huge sprawling Victorian era cemetery, which was opened in 1839. Just over three and a half thousand pounds was paid for seventeen acres of land that had been the grounds of the Ashurst Estate, descending the steep hillside from Highgate Village. Over the next three years the cemetery was landscaped to brilliant effect by Ramsey with exotic formal planting which was complimented by stunning and unique architecture by Geary and Bunning. It was this combination that was to secure Highgate as the capital’s principal cemetery.

The unparalleled elevation overlooking London, with its highest point being 375’ above sea level, along with unique architecture, meant that the wealthy were encouraged to invest.

Two Tudor style chapels were built, topped with wooden turrets and a central bell tower. In the very heart of the grounds was created the grandest and most eccentric structure, an avenue of vaults on either side of a passageway entered through a great arch. It was created in the Egyptian style which was so in vogue following the discovery of the Valley of the Kings. These vaults were fitted with shelves for 12 coffins. The avenue led into the Circle of Lebanon, built in the same style. This circle was created by earth being excavated around an ancient Cedar of Lebanon, a legacy of the Ashurst Estate and used to great effect by the cemetery’s designers. Above this, catacombs in the gothic style, with an impressive 80 yard frontage, with room for a total of 825 people, were completed in 1842.

Many famous people are buried there, most notably Karl Marz, father of Marxism. Other famous residents include Douglas Adams, author of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Charles Dickens' parents, and Adam Worth the possible inspiration for Sherlock Holmes' nemesis, Professor Moriarty.

It has recieved numerous references in pop culture, such as a burial place for Dracula's victims in Braham Stoker's novel and the setting inspiration for Neil Gaiman's Graveyard Book. It has also been the backdrop for some scary movies.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Fictional Crushes

Here it is again. Top Ten Tuesday, brought to you compliments of The Broke and the Bookish. This week we explore those fictional characters you can't help but fantasize about.

1. Mr. Darcy. Whenever I think of the ultimate perfect man, I think of Colin Firth as this character in the wet shirt scene. I can't help it. And every time I read this book I imagine Colin Firth in that role. There will never be another for me.

2. Jaime from the Outlander series. If I had this guy waiting for me, I'd find a way to get back to 1700s Scotland too. In a heartbeat. While I didn't enjoy book 2 as much as book one, Jaime still tops the charts on hotness alone.

3. Chang An Lo from The Russian Concubine. He kicks butt for the woman he loves, and he is so mannered and chivalrous. A true knight in shining armor amidst the backdrop of the budding Chinese Revolution.

4. Jack Builder from Pillars of the Earth. What's not to like? He is extremely intelligent, has a deep passion for the woman he loves, and he has red hair. All major plus points.

5. Laurie from Little Women. When I was younger I used to imagine that I was Jo, and that I had given Laurie a much different answer than she did in the book.

6. Peter Pan. Another little girl crush. I wanted to fly off to Neverland with him instead of Wendy.

7. Wesley from the Princess Bride. Oh man of few words and awesome fighting skills. If he asked, I would answer "As you wish".

8. Aragorn from Lord of the Rings. This crush was hugely maximized after the movies came out. Wow.

9. John Rimer from Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia C. Wrede. One of the princes from this retold fairytale. But this version makes him much more three dimensional that the original story. He isn't the one turned into a bear-he's the bear's brother. I imagine him to be very cute.

10. Lestat from Anne Rice's Vampire series. He is self proclaimed despicable, but his character is so endearing despite being a vampire, that you can't help but adore him just a little.

so there they are! How does your list compare?

Friday, October 15, 2010


Book Blogger Hop

It's Friday again, wow this week has simply crawled by. But finally the weekend is almost upon us. Crazy for Books has this awesome blog hop, and I love to participate-another reason to love Friday!

The question this week is:  
"When you read a book that you just can't get into, do you stick it out and keep reading or move to your next title?"

This is a really good question. The answer for me is sometimes. I try not to spend time on books I don't like, but sometimes feel a compulsive need to see it through to the end. It's a commitment thing I guess, telling me that I have committed myself to this book and the commitment only ends when I finish. Also, I've come across books where I actually got into them later on, or when the ending redeemed the book, so I also consider this when deciding whether to go on. But if the book is throw across the room horrible, then I have to stop. Life is too short to read bad books.

So what do you think?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I'll Never Read

Its time again for top ten Tuesday, brought to you by the Broke and the Bookish! This week I list the books I'll never read, whether for personal hatred reasons or just because I'll never be quite that bored.

Again, in no particular order.

10. War and Peace. As much as I've heard this book is a classic and whatnot, the sheer size scares me to death. And I really don't think it would be my cup of tea anyway. Let's save the frustration and eyestrain.

9. Moby Dick. I've heard that there are about a hundred pages devoted to the art of fishing, and other lobs of detail for other seafaring topics. I've never been a nautical person so I don't think I would find this interesting. It has that classic compulsion again, but again, I don't think it would be worth the headache.

8. Any more books by Rosalind Miles. I read Guenevere-Queen of the Summer Country and was expecting a strong heroine who could stand on her own and wield power in her own right. What I got was a simpering, needy wet blanket of a main character that I was thoroughly disgusted with because of her extreme weakness and need to lean on Arthur. For that reason I've been completely ruined on Miles' entire body of work.

7. Any more books in the Redwall series by Brian Jaques. This series was pretty highly acclaimed from fellow book lovers. I just couldn't get into it. Oh well.

6. Cujo by Stephen King. This book gives me the shivers just thinking about it. I don't like horror as a rule, and this one for me is a perfect example of the super scary. Must stay away.

5. Gossip Girl books. What can I say? I just don't care.

4. J.D. Robb's In Death series. Murder and romance together? I'd prefer to skip the suspense part in my romance novels. Not for me.

3. Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella. The movie version of this was probably the stupidest thing I've seen in a long time. Will definitely be skipping the book in an effort to retain some brain cells.

2. Anything by John Grisham. Not into court drama, although I did see a couple movie adaptations and they were ok. But 2 hours is really all I can take-not the multiple hours needed to read the book.

1. Anna Karenina. This is more despair talking. For years I've told myself I should read this, but something always gets in the way and puts a wrench in my plans. Maybe there is still hope. But if the current trend continues, maybe not.

So there's my list. What do you think? Agree or disagree? I can't wait to read your lists!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

The second book in what is shaping up to be a fabulous trilogy. Lisbeth Salander, the series' heroine, is in trouble-a couple investigating and attempting to expose the Swedish sex trade is murdered, and Lisbeth's fingerprints are found on the murder weapon. Her friend Mikael Blomkvist believes in her innocence, but will his help be enough to help her before either the Police or the mysterious thugs also looking for her grab her first?

Another fast paced thoroughly enjoyable mystery with a disarmingly likable main character. It is Lisbeth against the world, and I for one and rooting for her all the way. The cliffhanger ending left me dizzy with anticipation for the next part of the series, so my advice is don't finish this book until you have the next book ready to go!

It is simply a shame that Larsson never got to realize the international success his books have become. It has been the most visible series of novels coming from Sweden since Pippi Longstocking, and the buzz it generates never seems to cease. And now with the movies, both the already made Swedish ones and the upcoming US version, Lisbeth has taken the world by storm. I look forward to the last book in the series with both eager anticipation and a growing sense of melancholy, because I know there will be no more to follow.

Other Books to Consider: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, The Raphael Affair by Iain Pears, Beautiful Lies by Lisa Unger

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Authors!

It's time for Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme from The Broke and the Bookish. I love this series because I love to make lists. This week is top ten favorite authors. Here I go!

(in no particular order)

1. Haruki Murakami- a brilliant novelist who paints amazing surreal worlds but are at the same time heartfelt and deeply engaging. I cannot recommend him enough.

2. Italo Calvino- If on a Winter's Night a Traveler is a masterpiece. I think everyone who loves books should read it, and read it through to the end! If you throw the book in frustration, dust it off and pick it back up again.

3. Alison Weir- by far the best historian on British royalty that I've read. She not only covers the facts, but makes the writing interesting and engaging-not an easy task when working with nonfiction.

4. LM Montgomery- The Anne series has been a cherished set of novels for me for a long time. They never fail to put a smile on my face.

5. Anne Rice- I've read just about everything she has written, and in some cases more than once. Her level of detail pulls the reader into the story, so that they are walking that beautiful New Orleans street with Lestat by their side. Absolutely wonderful books.

6. Tamora Pierce- her Alanna series got me through a good portion of young adulthood. She gave me a heroine I could go on adventures with, could cry with and could celebrate victory with. I can't even remember how many times I've reread them. And they are still fantastic every time I do.

7. John Steinbeck- I was blown away when I read East of Eden. While I haven't yet swallowed his collective works, he still remains very high in my esteem.

8. George R. R. Martin- probably the best fantasy series of all time is the Song of Fire and Ice. It is a constant source of frustration for me that he hasn't finished it yet.

9. Jane Austen- the pioneer of woman's literature. Her books remain timeless, with lessons that everyone can relate to, regardless of where they are or when.

10. Philippa Gregory- The Other Boleyn girl inspired a love of British historical fiction in me. While I haven't loved all her books, I do intend to read them all.

So there's my list! How does it compare to yours?

Friday, September 24, 2010

It's Blog Hop TIme!

Time for another fun blog hop from Crazy for Books! I always look forward to these because it introduces me to so many awesome blogs out there. If you like what you see here, please consider becoming a follower! I'd really appreciate it.

This week's companion question is:

When you write reviews, do you write them as you are reading or wait until you have read the entire book?

I always wait until I've finished a book before I write a review, because so often what happens at the end affects my overall view and experience of the book. I don't think it is fair to judge something until you've listened to everything it has to say. So I always try to reserve judgment until the very end. Unless I hate the book, then I just quit reading it. That is a bit of a jump judgment, but life is too short to waste time on books that rub me the wrong way.

What about you? Agree/disagree?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

The first word that comes to mind when I think of this book was WOW. This is an amazing coming of age story set in Detroit. It follows three generations of a Greek family who was just a little different than other 'traditional' families, but definitely had their fill of family drama and angst. The story is narrated by third generation family member Cal, formerly Calliope, who is the result of the 'close' ties within the family. It is a story of strength in adversity, and of personal discovery with a backdrop of turbulent Detroit as it goes through a Genesis of its own, from motor city to motown to the riots and finally to decrepitude. Cal's narration is witty and delves into the many layers of the family members he focuses upon, which includes for a large portion him/herself and all of the difficulties he faced in learning about who he was. The story moves at a good pace and is compelling throughout-there were no 'lag moments' for me. I can see why this book is on the 1001 books to read before you die list, and I look forward to reading more by Eugenides. What a wonderful author!

About the author: Jeffrey Kent Eugenides (born March 8, 1960) is an American Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and short story writer. Eugenides has written two acclaimed novels, The Virgin Suicides (1993) and Middlesex (2002). Middlesex, written in 2002, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the Ambassador Book Award. Eugenides currently teaches at Princeton University's Program in Creative Writing.

History time:
The book touches upon many important historical events in the background of the character's lives, but there were two that affected the characters the most-the burning of Smyrna in Greece, and the Detroit riots.

The Great Fire of Smyrna was a fire that destroyed much of the port city of Smyrna in September 1922. Eye-witness reports state that the fire began on 13 September 1922 and lasted for several days. It occurred four days after the Turkish forces regained control of the city on 9 September 1922; thus, effectively ending the Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922) in the field, more than three years after the Greek army had landed troops at Smyrna on 15 May 1919.

According to one witness, the Greek army withdrew troops one day ahead of the Turks' arrival, having had advanced warning. The city was completely destroyed, and thousands perished. Refugees topped 400,000.

The 1967 Detroit Riots began in the early morning hours of Sunday, July 23, 1967. The precipitating event was a police raid of an unlicensed, after-hours bar then known as a blind pig, on the corner of 12th and Clairmount streets on the city's Near West Side. Police confrontations with patrons and observers on the street evolved into one of the deadliest and most destructive riots in American history, lasting five days and surpassing the violence and property destruction of Detroit's 1943 race riot.

To help end the disturbance, Governor George Romney ordered the Michigan National Guard into Detroit, and President Lyndon B. Johnson sent in Army troops. The result was forty-three dead, 467 injured, over 7200 arrests, and more than 2000 buildings destroyed. The scale of the riot was eclipsed only by the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

Other Books to Consider:
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Quotes

Hi all, I know I've been away for a little while, but I just got back from China! I spent some time in glorious Shanghai, Suzhou and Hangzhou. It was amazing, let me tell you. I am currently debating on whether or not to post some pictures and travel commentary here, because I know this is a book blog. Let me know your thoughts- are you interested at all or shall I keep my blog purely book related?

Ok, on to the quotes. I must say I found this difficult, as I'm not a quote underliner. So I had to go back and remember books which really spoke to me, and the passages that moved me the most. Here goes.

1. How many Sundays-how many hundreds of Sundays like this-lay ahead of me? "Quiet, peaceful and lonely," I said aloud to myself. On Sundays, I didn't wind my spring. -Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

2. I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one. . . . Humans are caught—in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too—in a net of good and evil. . . . There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well—or ill?
- John Steinbeck, East of Eden

3. Lord, what fools these mortals be!
- William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream

4. Everyone struggles against despair, but it always wins in the end. It has to. It's the thing that lets us say goodbye.
- Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex

5. You deserve to need me, not to have me.
-Augusten Burroughs, Running with Scissors

6. In the shop window you have promptly identified the cover with the title you were looking for. Following this visual trail, you have forced your way through the shop past the thick barricade of Books You Haven't Read, which are frowning at you from the tables and shelves, trying to cow you...And thus you pass the outer girdle of ramparts, but then you are attacked by the infantry of Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered. With a rapid maneuver you bypass them and move into the phalanxes of the Books You Mean To Read But There Are Others You Must Read First, the Books Too Expensive Now And You'll Wait Till They're Remaindered, the Books ditto When They Come Out in Paperback, Books You Can Borrow From Somebody, Books That Everybody's Read So It's As If You Had Read Them, Too.
— Italo Calvino, If on a Winter's Night a Traveler

7. Memories are what warm you up from the inside. But they're also what tear you apart.
— Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

8. None of us really changes over time. We only become more fully what we are.
— Anne Rice, The Vampire Lestat

9. Give me a man or woman who has read a thousand books and you give me an interesting companion. Give me a man or woman who has read perhaps three and you give me a very dangerous enemy indeed.
— Anne Rice, The Witching Hour

10. You're only the fairest when your fairest to yourself.
-Gail Carson Levine, Fairest

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

Let me say first off that I am a huge fan of Shannon Hale's ever since I read The Goose Girl a while back. I thought it was such a wonderful retelling of a classic fairy tale that I vowed then and there to read every novel Hale has ever written. This is the next stop on my journey-a delightful YA novel called Princess Academy.

This story follows Miri and all the 'eligible' girls in her town as they are pressed into the service of learning etiquette and country history because some priests have prophesied that the next princess of the realm shall come from their town. Miri is skeptical and headstrong, but strives to achieve highest marks at her school, but does that make her want to be a princess? The stone quarry and the mountain are all she has ever known--would she have to leave all that behind?

A very heartwarming tale about loving your home and family coupled with a desire for adventure. This was a very quick read, and Hale's prose pulls you in completely from start to finish. The characters are pretty young-13/14, so there isn't a great deal of love going on, but there is a smattering of really cute affection in there that makes the book even more endearing. Another fabulous read from Shannon Hale.

About the author:
Shannon Hale is the author of ten novels, including the best-selling Newbery Honor book Princess Academy, the "Books of Bayern" series, two adult novels, and two graphic novels that she and her husband are co-writing. They live with their two small children in South Jordan, Utah.

Before writing professionally, she wrote while pursuing acting in television, stage and improv comedy, as well as studying in Mexico and the United Kingdom. She spent a year and a half as an unpaid missionary in Paraguay, then returned to the United States to earn her bachelor's degree in English from the University of Utah and a master's in creative writing from the University of Montana.

Her first published book, The Goose Girl, was an American Library Association Top Ten Book for Young Adults and Josette Frank Award winner. Princess Academy is a Newbery Honor Book and a New York Times Best Seller.

Other Books to Consider: The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale, Enchantment by Orson Scott Card, and Fairest by Gail Carson Levine.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday: My Top Heroines

It's time for another venture into Top Ten Tuesday, brought to you courtesy of The Broke and the Bookish! This week's topic is:

My Top Ten Literary Heroines!

Here goes, again in no particular order.

1. Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice. I am certain that she will be a frequent character on these lists because, let's face it, she is just that great. She is strong where others around her are weak, intelligent in spite of a silly, grasping mother and even sillier sisters, and able to make the world's most unattainable man fall at her feet. She is witty and charming and is always able to think of just the right thing to say to convey her feelings. I admire that and wish it was a trait I was blessed with as well. Most of the time I turn into a bumbling idiot when I am placed in a stressful position where one would need to tread carefully in the words department.

2. Alanna of Trebond from the Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce.
This quartet of YA novels have stuck with me for nearly 20 years because of the wonderful character of Alanna. She defies all conventions and disguises herself as a boy in order to obtain her knighthood, and she won't let anyone push her around. She is strong, smart, braver than most men, and I have always delighted in reading her adventures, even now that I'm older.

3. Mehrunnisa from The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan. This is actually a real person, and was the aunt of the woman to whom the great Taj Mahal was built for. She was the source of power behind the Indian throne, climbing there through great adversity and much struggle both in the world and 'behind the veil'. I admire her greatly.

4. Aliena from Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. Talk about struggling to get by in a man's world. This woman is completely shattered more than once and manages to keep her wits about her and rebuild from scratch while keeping her dignity, her pride and her core of inner strength intact.

5. Jo March from Little Women by Louis May Alcott. I love Jo. She is warm and caring, and also has a quest for learning which knows no bounds. A wonderful character to read about.

6. Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables.
She could warm anyone's heart, and she certainly does mine. One of the most charming literary heroines ever written.

7. Sayuri from Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden.
She stops at nothing to achieve her goals, even if that means stepping on a few toes on her way there. But she manages to make everything work with poise and dignity.

8. Morgaine from Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. A beautiful, mysterious and magical heroine who is a delight to read about.

9. Rowan Mayfair from The Witching Hour by Anne Rice. She is a brilliant doctor and the most powerful witch of her age-what's not to love?

10. Vida Winter from The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield.
Just an amazing character, full of all the virtues and vices that make a great story.

so those are mine, how about you? Agree? Disagree?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Hop to it!

Welcome fellow lovers of the Book Hop from Crazy for Books! Thanks for hopping by. Pull up a chair, sip some lovely frozen margaritas, and enjoy life. Hey it's 5pm somewhere, right?

This week's question is:

Do you use a rating system for your reviews and if so, what is it and why?

I used to use a ratings system with up to 5 stars, but I stopped doing it because I didn't want to pin my review to a specific numeral. I'm of the camp that feels the reviews should speak for themselves, and readers of my reviews can interpret the content in whatever way they wish.

Which leads me to my question for you: Do you prefer reading reviews that have star ratings, or does it matter that much to you?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday: The Top Ten Books I Can't Believe I've Never Read

Here it is again, because I'm a listaholic: Top 10 Tuesday brought to you courtesy of The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is

The Top Ten Books I Can't Believe I've Never Read

I feel some major shame for having to record these, thinking about how I haven't brought myself to read these has given me pause on whether I consider myself an avid reader, which I am of course but they still make me blush. I blame it all on a deprived childhood. Yeah, that'll work.

Ok, enough excuses. Here's the list:

10. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. I love the movie and have watched it maybe a hundred times. But sadly this is one of the only Austen books I haven't yet read. I want to, I really do. But I keep getting distracted...

9. The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald. This is a huge hole in my high school education. I cannot believe that this wasn't required reading. But alas because of that it lingers on the shame list.

8. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. Everyone keeps telling me how awesome this book is. I see a review every now and again and think to myself that I should pick that book up, but never have.

7. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. Another potential literary gem left by the wayside.

6. Schindler's List/Ark by Thomas Keneally. I even bought this book thinking I should definitely read it. But I couldn't bring myself to do it-Holocaust books creep me out and give me nightmares. So I had to take a pass and eventually gave the book away.

5. The Illiad- I know the story from the Cliff's notes version provided by Edith Hamilton's Mythology, but never shouldered the epic poem. A major lapse in judgment I think.

4. Beowulf- Speaking of epic poems, I hate to admit that I never read this one. When I talk to friends about books we read in school, the almost always mention Beowulf with a groan. I am saddened that I cannot share their strife. But knowing me I'd probably be among that 1% that actually enjoyed the book.

3. Lord of the Flies – William Golding.
Sad to say I don't even know what the book is about. I just know everyone has read it except for me and that it is constantly popping up on those 'must read' lists.

2.The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway.
I lived in Oak Park for 2 years( Hemingway's birthplace) and still have yet to pick up a single Hemingway book. I've been inside his childhood home and never cracked his book. What the heck is wrong with me?

1. And this one is the worst: The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. I am actually, albeit distantly, related to H.G.Wells from my mom's side. He was my great grandfather's first cousin, and they were pretty close. But has that compelled me to read any of his books? Of course not. I can't believe I haven't gotten to it yet.

So those are my 10 biggest literary embarrassments. What do you think? Any literary skeletons in your closet? I do hope to get to all of these at some point in my life. Hopefully they will just stop coming out with great new books for a bit so I can catch up. Then again, what fun would that be?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George

This epic (epic meaning really freaking long here) book tells the story of the great Queen Cleopatra, last Pharaoh of Egypt from beginning to end. It tells of her relationship with the two great loves of her life-Julius Caesar and Marc Antony, her struggle to keep Egypt independent in a world that is being dominated by Rome, and her determination to rule an Empire and make it one of the World's greatest powers. The story begins with her birth and follows her through her ascension, her failed attempt to fight against Rome, and her memorable death by asp bite.

This book was about 300 pages too long. I understand how George felt the need to create a complete portrait of Cleopatra, but I also believe that her editors should have been a little more strict. But yet still only a couple characters feel more than ancillary. Even Caesar felt a little two-dimensional. It goes on and on about feasts and battle strategy, and often inserts exclamations like "My heart stopped cold" or "The aching need for him was killing me", when Cleopatra is nervous about the safety of someone, or worried about some outcome or another, or longing for her man. Would the real Cleopatra shown such tender weakness? Who knows? It doesn't make her less of a political genius. Still, I do feel like I know a great deal more of the history of that time period, and for that I am grateful.

History time: Cleopatra VII, last Pharaoh of Egypt, (Late 69 BC – August 12, 30 BC)
A descendant of Alexander the Great and member of the Ptolemy line of Greek kings and queens of Egypt, Cleopatra was able to unite both the native Egyptians and the ruling Greeks by accepting both Egyptian and Greek gods and goddesses, and by learning the Egyptian language. By doing this, she earned the respect and loyalty of her entire nation, something most of her ancestors failed to achieve.

When her right to the throne was threatened by her brother, Julius Caesar stepped in to help her ascend to her rightful place. Her alliance with Rome solidified her hold on her empire, while also keeping Egypt safe as an independent nation.

After Caesar was assassinated, Cleopatra allied with a member of the rising Triumvirate, Marc Antony, in an effort to preserve Egypt and become the most powerful nation in the East. But as Antony lost support from Rome due to his alliance with Cleopatra, the campaign failed. Cleopatra was painted as a wicked seductress who led Romans astray, a view heralded by Caesar's nephew Octavian (Or Caesar Augustus as he was later called). Her failed campaign led to the overthrow of Egypt, and the end of the country's independence. As Rome invaded her beloved country, the legend goes that she killed herself with the bite of an asp. She was the last Pharaoh of Egypt-her children never inherited her country.

Other books to consider:
Queen Isabella by Alison Weir, The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan, and The Royal Road to Fotheringhay by Jean Plaidy

Friday, August 20, 2010

Book Hop!

Hey all you lovely hoppers-welcome back for another fun and exciting journey on the blog hop. Please click the logo to the right to continue your hop, but if you enjoy what you see, please follow-I'm really appreciate it!

This week's question is:

How many blogs do you follow?

Well at this point I follow 25 blogs. I am fairly selective about the blogs that I follow because I enjoy taking the time to read the posts. This number grows every blog hop though, so eventually it may get overwhelming to read them all. But I just love seeing all the wonderful creative things people do with their blogs, and of course reading all the great reviews! I expect this number to increase very quickly-there are so many great blogs out there!

So how about you? What does you dashboard look like?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday

This is a feature that I really latched onto from a great blog called The Broke and the Bookish. I didn't get a chance to answer last week's topic, and I really want to, so I'm going to.

The topic is/was: Top Ten Most Dislikable Characters. Here goes! (In no particular order, and watch out for spoilers!)

10. Cathy from Wuthering Heights. I love him! I don't love him! I'm not sure what I want! Basically this is the primary whinings of Cathy throughout this book. She is incredibly selfish and in my opinion really doesn't have any redeeming qualities. As the "heroine" in the book she was just annoying.

9. Uriah Heap from David Copperfield. Every time I came across a passage with him in it, the only thing I could think was "eew". His slippery sliminess just made me feel dirty-almost to the point where I would rather skip those passages altogether.

8. Frances Brandon from Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir. I am so glad that this woman isn't my mother. Her blatant lack of caring for her eldest daughter was just appalling. While I know that this book is a fictionalized version of real events, I believe that Weir probably didn't stray too far from the truth. The woman is despicable and should not have been allowed to procreate.

7. William Hamleigh from Pillars of the Earth. I know he is the bad guy and we aren't supposed to like him much, but there are few villains I've read that have incited me to such levels of pure, white-hot hatred. Just a horrible horrible person. I'm so glad he's fictional.

6. Felicity Worthington from A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray. Can anyone say uber bitch? She wants nothing more than to boss everyone around and for people to think she is the queen bee. Yes her character expands a little bit by the end of book 3 (The Sweet Far Thing), but in my opinion it is never enough to save her from being the annoying bitch character. She always has to have her way, she must not listen to others, she has to make life difficult for everyone. There isn't an eye roll strong enough to suffice.

5. Emma from Emma by Jane Austen. Spoiled little rich girl gets bored and amuses herself with meddling in everyone else's lives. This is the only Austen book I didn't like. All the other characters were lovely, but Emma was just unpalatable. She got on my nerves far too often to redeem the book.

4. Estella from Great Expectations. Here is another one that wins the total bitch award. Throughout the book she is only the puppet of a bitter and vindictive woman. She never actually thinks for herself and is just plain despicable from start to finish. I wonder what Pip ever saw in her.

3. George from Of Mice and Men. Great way to look out for your only friend. Fabulous job you did there. Jerk.

2. Wilbur from Charlotte's Web. Another big fat whiner. Oh what'll I do? Bail me out again Charlotte! She died from exhaustion from constantly having to pull the pig out of danger.

1. Beatrice Lacy from Wideacre by Philippa Gregory. This woman would do anything, and does, to keep her hold on her father's land. The book is full of her disgusting, despicable and just downright dirty doings to everyone who has the misfortune to know her. Probably the biggest literary bitch of all time. Seriously.

So there's my list! What do you think? Have I left off the one character that rubs you the wrong way the most? Do you disagree with my choices? I want to know!

Friday, August 13, 2010

To Hop or Not to Hop

Stupid question: let's hop again!

This week's question:
How many books do you have on your 'to be read shelf’?

Oh my, my TBR shelf is a mile high. I probably have nearly 100 books on my physical shelf that I have yet to read. And the accumulation never ends. I just can't resist buying new books. Ever. But at least I have the comfort that I will never run out of things to read!

How about you? What are your TBR skeletons?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

What a brilliant memoir. Shattered by a crippling divorce and a very unhealthy rebound relationship, Liz Gilbert strikes out to find herself through a year divided between pleasure (Italy), prayer (India) and the balance between the two (Indonesia).

Through her journey she eats a lot of pasta and ingrains herself with the wonderful decadence that is Rome, she spends four months at an Ashram in India communing with God and getting in touch with herself, and spends time with an ancient medicine man in Bali, learning his secrets about how to live life to the fullest.

She meets the most wonderful characters, that jump off the page and come to life under her excellent narration. I especially loved Richard from Texas, a crass and down to earth man whom Liz meets in India. He is so fully in tune with himself and has accepted who he is so completely--I admire him so much. And he makes me laugh.

Throughout the book I really felt like a part of her journey, and rejoiced with her at the end when everything came into balance for her. She finally was able to come to terms with herself and to let go of the worry and the pain that had consumed her. I admire that very much, and hope someday to begin my own spiritual journey to aspire to the same balance. This book does inspire you to reach beyond yourself in order to see the better, more complete you. I highly recommend this book to anyone who needs this inspiration, or to those who would just like to read an entertaining story full of colorful characters and beautiful backdrops. I think all could get something different out of this book and still be entirely satisfied.

A bit about the locations in this book:
Home to one of the oldest civilizations in history. Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated municipality (central area), with over 2.7 million residents. The city has been a focal point for arts and culture since the dark ages, and was of the central cities of the Italian Renaissance, which sparked a rebirth of culture for all of Western civilization.

Rome's influence on western Civilization can hardly be overestimated. Due to this influence,[Rome has been nicknamed "Caput Mundi" (Latin for "Capital of the World")and "The Eternal City". In 2007 Rome was the 11th-most-visited city in the world, 3rd most visited in the EU, and the most popular tourist attraction in Italy.

Don't even get me started on the cuisine influence-the entire first third of this book had me craving pasta big time!

India: Instead of an overview on the country as a whole, which would take too much time, I decided instead to shed some light on the Ashram, one of which Liz lived in.

Traditionally, an ashram is a religious hermitage. Additionally, today the term ashram often denotes a locus of Indian cultural activity such as yoga, music study or religious instruction, the moral equivalent of a studio or dojo.

An ashram would typically, but not always, be located far from human habitation, in forests or mountainous regions, amidst refreshing natural surroundings conducive to spiritual instruction and meditation. The residents of an ashram regularly performed spiritual and physical exercises, such as the various forms of Yoga. Other sacrifices and penances, such as Yajnas were also performed. Many ashrams also served as Gurukuls or residential schools for children.

Ashrams have been a powerful symbol throughout Hindu history and theology. Most Hindu kings, until the medieval ages, are known to have had a sage who would advise the royal family in spiritual matters, or in times of crisis, who was called the rajguru, which literally translates to royal teacher. A world-weary emperor going to this guru's ashram, and finding solace and tranquility, is a recurring motif in many folktales and legends of ancient India.

Bali: is an Indonesian island located in the westernmost end of the Lesser Sunda Islands, lying between Java to the west and Lombok to the east. It is one of the country's 33 provinces with the provincial capital at Denpasar towards the south of the island.

With a population recorded as 3,551,000 in 2009, the island is home to the vast majority of Indonesia's small Hindu minority. About 93.2% of Bali's population adheres to Balinese Hinduism, while most of the remainder follow Islam. It is also the largest tourist destination in the country and is renowned for its highly developed arts, including dance, sculpture, painting, leather, metalworking and music.

If you like this book, check out: Persepolis, Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi, Don't Lets Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller, and Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakuruni