Friday, December 28, 2012

My First Ladies - Nancy Clarke

Kevin is always amazed when I finish a book in less than twenty-four hours, as I did with this one.  Yet, when several of those hours are spent on public transportation trying to make it into a city crowded with post-holiday shoppers and a few more of those hours are spent laying in bed blissfully knowing you have no where to be because you are on Christmas vacation...well, what does he expect?  If my iPod had not died on the train on the way home, I would have finished this fun, light-hearted memoir in less than twelve hours.

My First Ladies made its way onto my iPod at the last minute before we hit the road for the big city with Kevin's family.  I knew I would need something to read en route and when this popped up on our library's digital loan website, I went immediately for the download button.  You may remember from earlier this year that the goings on inside the White House are fascinating to me.  Ever since I did a project on that famous house in elementary school (for the record, the Styrofoam White House my mom I made was way better than the sugar cube White House my classmate made), I have been entranced by its history and the stories of those within its walls.  

I Am America (And So Can You!) - Stephen Colbert

I did it!  52 books in one year!  There will be several wrap up posts coming as well as some ideas about 2013 and the future.  For now, though, I am content to celebrate meeting (and surpassing!) my goal.  I knew Christmas break would come through for me, and it has.  

It seems oddly appropriate to have reached the finish line on this ridiculous little book with its nonsensical, feel-good title.  While preparing this post, I struggled to even qualify what genre label it deserved.  It is not fiction, but I hesitate to call it non-fiction as Stephen Colbert's outlandish statements should be taken with more than a grain of salt.  I finally settled on creating an entirely new blog label just for this book: satire.  Nothing else fit quite right and Colbert is nothing if not satirical.  For those unfamiliar with Colbert, he hosts a "news" show on Comedy Central.  He plays an uber-conservative, right-wing version of himself.  You can't really understand unless you watch some clips of his show.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Wench - Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Merry Christmas, everyone!  We are so grateful to work for a university and consequently get a little extra time off during the holidays.  It's always a great time to get a little extra reading in, and that's just what I have been doing.  At this point, I only have one book to go to finish my 2012 challenge.  From here, it's only a matter of deciding which of the 5 books I'm halfway through will be the one I finish - or if I should start a new one altogether.  Six days left and I am well within reach!  It feels good!

I stayed home sick two days last week and it gave me the opportunity to finish up this gem.  I really do not remember how this book presented itself to me.  It does not fall within the categories of what I normally read.  I love historical fiction as much as the next person and have read quite a bit of it over the years.  I have not, however, read an abundance of historical fiction revolving around slave stories.  Some way or another, Wench caught my attention.  Perkins-Valdez's novel does not reflect the typical plot set on a Southern plantation.  Rather, the story is that of a hotel resort where some Southern slave owners would vacation, often with their slave mistresses.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Thomas Jefferson's Crème Brûlée - Thomas J. Craughwell

If you have been around the blog long enough, you probably know that I enjoy food.  I enjoy eating it.  I enjoy making it.  I enjoy reading about it.  In fact, one of my favorite books that I have read this year was Blood, Bones, and Butter.  Three guesses what that one's about.  I also really love history and reading about it.  Conclusively, a book about the history of food should be about my favorite thing in the world, right?  That was my hope when I discovered this book.

Thomas J. Craughwell presents an interesting thesis.  His work describes Thomas Jefferson, along with one of his slaves, as the vehicles by which French cuisine came to America.  Between writing the Declaration of Independence and serving as the nation's third president, Jefferson served as an ambassador to pre-revolutionary France.  During this time, he took with him James Hemings, one of his slaves.  Jefferson made an agreement with Hemings.  Hemings would master French cuisine while overseas.  Upon their return, he would train another slave in the art; Jefferson would then free Hemings.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Casual Vacancy - J.K. Rowling

When J.K. Rowling announced she would write another book, Harry Potter fans everywhere rejoiced.  The Casual Vacancy, however, offers a side of Rowling unseen in her best-selling series.  Vacancy has been, from the start, a novel decidedly written for adults.  The content, language, and even, to an extent, the writing style have been vamped up in age appropriateness. Nevertheless, the basics of what makes Rowling a strong writer remain.

Vacancy tells the story of a small British town in which a member of the Parish Council dies suddenly.  His position, now open, is classified by law as a "casual vacancy," hence the book title.  The town has been long embroiled in a conflict with its larger, more urban neighbor for decades.  The town itself, Pagford, has citizens on both sides of the battle.  Simply put, some Pagford dwellers want to renegotiate the city limits so that the Fields, a rough neighborhood populated by the poor and a significant number of substance abusers, would no longer be under the jurisdiction of the town, therefore denying them their quality schools or financial resources.  Others in Pagford want to reach out to the Fields and continue supporting its residents through better schooling and the funding of an addiction center.  The Parish Council has found itself split evenly on the issue for years.  The death of Barry Fairbrother, however, leaves an opening for real change to be made.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Atonement - Ian McEwan

One of the movies in theaters right now that I am anxious to see is Anna Karenina.  Keira Knightly stars in the novel adaptation directed by Joe Wright.  This pairing of Knightly in front of the camera and Wright behind has already produced together two of what I believe to be the best films of the twenty-first century thus far.  The pair teamed up first on Pride and Prejudice and then Atonement.  The former is well known, particularly to anyone who has participated in a girls' night since its release in 2005.  The latter, though critically acclaimed, seems to have garnered less common knowledge notoriety since its 2007 debut, at least among my peers.  While nearly everyone has heard of Pride and Prejudice, when I mention Atonement, most people have no memory of it.  Despite my adoration for the film rendition of Ian McEwan's story, I must admit I had not read the book until now.  I was only vaguely aware that it had been based on a book, but was reminded when McEwan released his newest work, Sweet Tooth, earlier this month.  Before I allow myself to indulge in the newest McEwan work, I determined to visit the source of one of my favorite films.

For those unfamiliar with the story, I offer a brief recap.  Briony Tallis, younger sister to Cecilia, spends her childhood days fantasizing and writing.  One summer day, Briony witnesses a series of events which lead to a life changing accusation.  Atonement centers on just that: Briony's lifelong need to find atonement for her actions.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Anne of the Island - L.M. Montgomery

November has settled in nicely.  I find it hard to believe there are only six weeks remaining in the year.  And, after today, only five books remaining to reach my goal.  The reality of that amazes me.  For the first time, I can predict every remaining piece of the puzzle.  It is an exciting place to have reached!  I have plans for some exciting posts come the end of the year, so make sure you stay tuned to see what comes next.

In the mean time, I should not jump ahead so - one page at a time, as it were.  I have continued on with the Anne of Green Gables series.  If you remember, I read the first two books, Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea earlier this fall.  They are easy reads and take me back to my childhood.  As Anne Shirley's story continues in this third installation, we see her college years in Kingston and Anne's love life finally blooms.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Reading Lolita in Tehran - Azar Nafisi

As mentioned in a previous post, I recently came across a list of books for book lovers.  Reading Lolita in Tehran was referenced as a book that anyone in a book club has already read, but was still worth mentioning.  While under usual circumstances a statement like that would have turned me off to a book suggestion, something about Azar Nafisi's work intrigued me.  Reading Lolita tells the true story of Nafisi's time in  Iran as an English literature professor and as the organizer of a small women's book club.  The memoir covers Iranian history from a civilian viewpoint from the pre-revolutionary days to the mid-nineties.  Iran once again has become a popular topic of discussion in the foreign policy conversation and I did not know much about it.  This seemed like a wonderful opportunity to learn simultaneous to enjoying Nafisi's literary insight.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Son - Lois Lowry

Looking back, I can hardly believe I had not read The Giver until this year.  The Newberry Award winner captivates with its elegant simplicity and introspective message.  Upon completion, I immediately read sequels Gathering Blue and Messenger, which, though not to the level of The Giver, were also quite enjoyable.  The series reaches its conclusion in new release Son, which Lowry just published this year after a long gap between books.  Lowry had promised a book which would bring the first three to a cohesive conclusion.  While she did that, and her writing remains superior to so many others, I found myself somewhat unsatisfied by her conclusion.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

A few weeks back, I read a list of books for book lovers.  Basically, a selection of works which revolve around the written word and its importance.  Thus, my introduction to The Book Thief.  I had no real idea what the book was about; I simply knew that it was included on this list of books that people who love books should read.  Seeing as I am definitely a person who loves books, I gave it a shot.  

The first few chapters sent me into puzzle mode, as I attempted to discern from whose point of view the book was written.  It does not take long to realize that your narrator is Death.  Not Death in the Grim Reaper fashion you may think, but Death, who carries the souls away in his arms.  This offers an extremely unique perspective for story telling, particularly as it becomes apparent Zusak has set his book in WWII-era Germany.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

We're married!  It seems so crazy, but true.  We had a wonderful wedding last weekend and, despite the attempts of Hurricane Sandy and a 24-hour stomach virus, we really enjoyed Jamaica.  In fact, and here comes my shameless plug, we have started a new blog to document our life together.  If you have any interest in my life outside of what I read, you may want to check out Napp Time.  There is not much there yet, but I promise there will be soon.

Back to books.  I am assuming that if you are here, that is what you are actually interested in.  Jamaica delivered in full on one count - time to read!  I finished two and a half books while we were down there.  It was wonderful to lay by the pool or on the beach next to my husband and indulge in one of my favorite activities.  I even got Kevin in on the fun!

Cloud Atlas appeared first on my priority list.  In fact, on both the flight to Charlotte (our connecting point) and the flight to Montego Bay, I did not even pull out my electronics.  Instead, Cloud Atlas, and the entertaining people sitting around us, held my full attention.  Mitchell's work captivates.  His writing style exhibits skill and premeditation.  He clearly has selected each word with forethought.  As much as I read, which you know better than anyone, I found myself having to slow down and process each sentence.  I do not know that I can classify this as a "difficult read" but it certainly was not an "easy" one.  Mitchell gives so much detail, but in such a subtle way.  He demands the reader's attention, but then keeps it adeptly.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Anne of Avonlea - L.M. Montgomery

Any worry I might have had over falling behind in my personal challenge this year is quickly evaporating.  Months of planning have proven themselves worthwhile and now, three days before our wedding, I am finding myself with time to relax and enjoy the week (This is also due in part to my extremely helpful husband-to-be). Festivities start tomorrow, but tonight I have a quiet evening and took advantage of it to finish Anne of Avonlea.  What a refuge this book has been the past few weeks.  L.M. Montgomery's beautiful prose and the beautiful simplicity of her plot would lift any spirit, but especially that of a bride-to-be who is worn out from trying to balance all the aspects of her life.  Just as Anne of Green Gables did for me last month, Avonlea has proven itself a welcome refuge from the business of life.

The Most Important Year in a Man's/Woman's Life - Wolgemuth & DeVries

The Most Important Year in Man's/Woman's Life:
What Every Groom/Bride Needs to Know

As Kevin and I approach our wedding day (this Saturday!), we have spent a lot of time investing in our future marriage.  This is one of several books that we read (or are reading) together.  This particular one, written by two married couples - Robert & Bobbie Wulgemuth and Mark & Susan DeVries - was recommended by our pastor and his wife as part of our premarital counseling.  Really, it is two books in one.  As you have probably already deduced, one half speaks specifically to the groom, while the other half is meant for the bride-to-be.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Angels & Demons - Dan Brown

I certainly did not think I would be posting again this soon.  What a lucky day for anyone out there actually reading this blog.  Finishing books somehow always takes me by surprise, as if I was not aware the end was only a few pages away.  Kevin and I traveled a lot over the past month and wanted to pick up something to pass the hours in the car. If you remember, our last audio book adventure taught us about the world of legal drama.  Kevin tends to need something very action-packed to keep his attention, so when I saw this Dan Brown work on the shelf at our library, I knew it would be a good bet.  I have read Angels & Demons multiple times; I believe this was my third or fourth time experiencing Robert Langdon's first adventure.  Other than complaints about the length (we spent 18 hours with this book!), Kevin liked it and I have convinced him to let me read him other Dan Brown works post-wedding.

For anyone thinking they are unfamiliar with Dan Brown's work, I promise you are not. This is the author who gave the world the controversial The Da Vinci Code.  In that novel he tackles the theory that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene.  His most recent work (2009) titled The Last Symbol, he explores Freemasonry in America.  Angels & Demons, published in 2000, centers around the relationship between religion, science, and conspiracy as Vatican City is threatening by an antimatter bomb stolen from CERN by the ancient secret society, the Illuminati.  Brown maintains a fast pace throughout the entire book.  No one loves a plot twist more than Brown and he proves it time and again, even turning the story completely on its head in the very last pages of the book.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Plot Against America - Philip Roth

You should not expect a lot of blog posts between here and the end of the month.  In fact, it is very possible that this will be my only post for the month.  I am getting married on October 20 and, frankly, am a little busy.  However, I already have a list of books that will be joining me on the beach in Jamaica and I am practically giddy over the idea of having time to read again.  To not just read as a quick thirty minute break from life, but to spend whole hours at a time curled up with a book.  While I am dreadfully behind in my goal for the year, I have no doubt that I will conquer it.  

On to the matter at hand: The Plot Against America.  I love the idea of this book.  Philip Roth has written what could be described as a fictional memoir.  He writes in first person as though he is recalling his childhood spent during the WWII years in Newark, NJ.  The twist, though, is that Roth's history is far from accurate.  He presents an imagined scenario in which fascist aviator Charles Lindbergh wins the presidency and keep America from entering the war.  As a history buff, the concept interested me enough to pick up the book.  Unfortunately, as engaging as the idea was, the execution was not.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The List - Siobhan Vivian

I picked up this book because Veronica Roth recommended it on her blog.  Now, I am not in the habit of taking recommendations from just any blog (and, yet, apparently I expect you to take recommendations from me?  Hmmm...), but this is Veronica Roth.  She wrote one of my surprise favorite series of the year.  So, I had to at least give it a shot.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Testament of Jessie Lamb - Jane Rogers

Fall is officially here.  There is a definite chill in the air and leaves are starting to turn.  As much as I love summer and wish it could last endlessly, I relish the return of flannel shirts, cardigans, scarves, and music that has a deeper feel than summer bubblegum pop.  Adele has been on my turntable all week.  In that same vein, The Testament of Jessie Lamb seemed to fit perfectly as a transition novel into the colder months.  This is no beach read.  Jessie Lamb is heavy and a bit dark; yet its young central characters still bring an innocence that cannot be ignored in the face of such morbidity.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Anne of Green Gables - L.M. Montgomery

I am not exactly sure what it was that prompted me to return to Green Gables.  For the last several months, I have had an urge to read through L.M. Montgomery's beloved series again.  Because I believe firmly in indulging such inexplicable compulsions, I finally took the time to reread this story.  As a child, I owned the box set of all eight Anne books and, I believe, only read through them once in completion.  In addition to the books, I remember countless viewings of the 1980s movie version starring Megan Follows.  What little girl growing up in the 1990s didn't watch it and the sequel, Anne of Avonlea, over and over?  Obviously, rereading the book stirred a lot of those memories; however, I think that, even more than memories, Anne herself creates a stronger pull to childhood.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Fountainhead - Ayn Rand

Yes, I did finish two books in one day.  After being totally unable to put Gone Girl down last night and this morning, the afternoon brought a close to Ayn Rand's literary classic.  Now, most people have either never heard of this book or it is one of those ones that sits on the shelf for years without ever actually being read.  It was Mark Twain who once defined a classic as "A book which people praise and don't read."  I, however, do read them and am attempting to bring more into my literary diet.  I am ashamed to call this book, which by some would not even classify as classic to begin with, my first classic novel of the challenge.  I guess you have to start somewhere.  I promise another is on its way shortly.

I started this book back around the end of July - long before Paul Ryan decided to announce that he was an Ayn Rand fan.  Honestly, when there was all the media attention given to that story, I was slightly irritated that now anyone reading this blog may think I picked up The Fountainhead at the suggestion of the Republican Vice Presidential candidate.  Take heart, Democratic readers; I did no such thing.  Actually, I read Atlas Shrugged last year and found that I enjoy Rand's style.  I have read Anthem multiple times and find it a lovely, bite-sized, and much more palatable dose of her celebration of egotism.  Though they give ultimately the same message, Atlas is very political while Fountainhead is more more personal.

Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn

I feel the need to use the overused statements that you would expect: I couldn't put it down; Flynn keeps you guessing; This book is brilliant; etc., etc.  While those things are true, I also feel that this book deserves more that that.  Flynn has written - and written well - a delightful thriller that is evil to its core, as well as completely addicting.  While the book is not perfect by any means, it is very good.  The twisted plot is matched only be the characters.  To me, it is the epitome of an indulgent summer beach read.  (Warning: Spoilers Ahead)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Common Sense - Thomas Paine

It feels as though lately every post begins with an apology for the length of time which has passed since the previous post.  We are just beginning to come through the busy season at work and we're down to 8 weeks until the wedding.  Also, I have moved into the house that Kevin and I will be living in after the wedding.  It has been a crazy month, and I have yet to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I hate that I have only one post so far in August.  My blog silence, however, should not be taken as a sign that I am not reading.  I am, in fact, in the midst of four good-sized volumes and have no doubt that there will be a barrage of blog posts in September as I begin to wrap them up.  You can look forward to some classic literature, the continuation of a series, and a return to some high school required reading.  Oh, and I am picking up one of summer's best sellers at the library this weekend.  Obviously, I don't really know how to slow down.

Thanks to a lovely little website called DailyLit, I will not leave Jenny Lawson standing alone as the only author whose work I completed in August.  (I must have unconsciously gone in search of the most extreme opposite to her memoir as I could find.  I find it very hard to imagine Thomas Paine and the Bloggess would run in the same social circles.)  For those of you who are unfamiliar with their service, DailyLit is a website that helps busy people like me read more.  In a world where checking email is the first thing most of us do in the morning - or any time we have a free moment - DailyLit is helping to make reading a part of that routine. You sign up, choose your book, and set up when and how often you would like installments emailed to you.  You can also make them part of an RSS feed.  They have a wide range of work on their website.  There isn't a lot of current stuff; it is mostly public domain works and poetry.  However, if you want to tackle a big classic novel you have always meant to read but never quite find the time to pick up, DailyLit will be happy to deliver it to you one manageable bite at a time.  Best part: it's free.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Let's Pretend This Never Happened - Jenny Lawson

First off, let me apologize for my absence.  It's the Olympics, folks.  They suck me in and I can't do anything but watch them.  So, while two weeks ago when I wrote my last post, I was a week ahead of schedule in my 52 Book Challenge.  However, then the London 2012 Olympics started and I forgot about books and reading and anything that does not involve gold medals or crying gymnasts who apparently bathe in glitter.  What makes these Games of the XXX Olympiad even better (if that is even possible), is that some of my favourite (note the British spelling) people keep popping up: British royals.

Ok, I am completely sidetracked.  But, I kind of did that intentionally in honor of Jenny Lawson, author of my latest read.  Lawson, known online as The Bloggess writes a, you guessed it, blog about her life and all the crazy things that happen to her.  Forewarning: her blog, like her book, will be viewed as highly inappropriate to anyone with an aversion to profanity or socially awkward situations.  If you can get past those things, though, I promise you will find Lawson genuinely hilarious.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Big Fall Books Preview

For those of you out there who are looking for recommendations from a more official source than my blog, your day has come.  Amazon has released their annual list of the biggest books for fall.  The Big Fall Books Preview includes selections from every genre, so you are sure to find something that will catch your interest.  I've added a few things to my On Reserve list, mostly novels, but there truly is something for everyone.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Company - K.J. Parker

I read this book by accident.  I thought I was picking up the novel about the CIA, also titled The Company; but I wasn't paying attention to the author name and I grabbed this one instead.  Once I realized my mistake, I was already far enough into the book that I was intrigued by where it was heading.  

The story is about 5 men who served together as "linebreakers" in war and are now setting off to start their own colony.  It is set in a fictional world that somehow simultaneously gives the feel of the modern era, while the details include farms and Greek-era warfare.  The narrative bounces back and forth from the present time to stories of their wartime heroics.  

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus

I just turned the final page of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and feel a bit as though I have woken from a dream.  The book is nothing short of, well, magical.  

Celia and Marco are unwittingly bound together in a mysterious competition while both very young.  They each are trained, Celia by her magician father and Marco by a phlegmatic man in a gray suit.  As the grow older, each becomes intricately involved with Le Cirque des Rêves.  The Circus of Dreams, which begins as the eccentric dream of a wealthy dreamer, becomes the stage for their contest.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake - Aimee Bender

Not even a month ago, I read an article suggesting written word replacements for cancelled television shows.  In addition to being an avid reader, I have to admit that I love a good television show as well.  At least, one that has the same qualities of the books I enjoy: an unpredictable plot and multi-dimensional characters.  One such show, Pushing Daisies, fell victim to the writer's strike a few years back.  This show was a brilliant, colorful fantasy about a pie baker with a supernatural gift.  The characters were delightful, the writing was witty, the visuals were stunning.  Seriously, if you have not seen it, find a copy immediately.

My child-like adoration of Pushing Daisies of course meant that when the article suggested The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender as a fix for those missing Daisies, I had a library copy of the book in my possession within a week.  I read it in one day.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Four Kitchens - Lauren Shockey

It has been a while since I have revisited one of my favorite genres: chef memoirs.  Back in February, I read Gabrielle Hamilton's masterpiece Blood, Bones, and Butter. I have serious doubts that anyone else could reach the standard Hamilton set, at least by my observation.  In her attempt, Lauren Shockey adds an international element and the young voice of someone eager to learn and still unsure about her path.

Monday, June 25, 2012

First Families - Bonnie Angelo

Remember how much I love the royals? In some ways, this book selection should come as no surprise. The families of our presidents are often viewed as a type of American royalty.  They are, after all, the closest we are going to get; and they are fascinating.  Maybe it's the mystical crossing of politics and celebrity that capture my attention.  Whatever it is, I cannot turn down a read about the personal details of a public figure - even when the book is badly written.  Case in point: First Families.

Friday, June 22, 2012


At the start of 2012, I set out to read 52 books this year.  I just finished book #26, marking the halfway point.  At this point, I am about one week ahead of schedule, which feels good.  I wanted to take a few moments and reflect on the journey thus far.

It has been a very exciting year for me.  New job, engagement, planning a wedding, finding our first home.  I will not pretend that those things have not been the highlight; they have. Yet, in the moments when I catch my breath and have time to indulge, even just for a moment, I have found myself reaching for a book.  I have always loved to read, but as any student will tell you, the required reading of high school and college courses leaves you with little desire to read in your free time.  I still read an adequate amount during those years, but when I was in the mood, I knew that it was better to pick up that textbook.  Now, two years out from the completion of my undergraduate, the sheer pleasure of reading has returned.  This challenge began with me spending time with books because I was motivated to meet my goal for the week; it has become so much more.  I spend time thinking and analyzing each work I read.  I have rediscovered my love for writing.  My worldview is ever expanding and maturing thanks to the variety of literature I engage. As I mentioned in a previous post, my TV time fallen markedly since the start of the year.  I love that reading is a hobby that doesn't just take my time - it gives back to me in a plethora of ways.  As Henry David Thoreau said, 
"A truly good book reaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting."  
I could extoll the virtues of reading for ages.  I know, however, that at the end of the day, what will convince you most is to pick up a book for yourself.  I truly believe that there is a niche out there for everyone.  Just because you have not found yours yet does not mean you should dismiss reading as unenjoyable.  Keep searching and you will be rewarded.  For those who are already as passionate as I am about reading, please send me your suggestions.  You can see my "to-read" list here.  Any genre is fair game.  I am "always looking for the book it is necessary to read next." (Saul Bellow) 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Lightning Thief - Rick Riordan

I feel as though I have been neglecting you terribly.  I have missed writing in this blog with the consistency that I did earlier in the year.  Take heart in knowing that I am still reading avidly.  I have hit another point in this challenge where I am immersed in several thick volumes; therefore, I am not finishing things quickly.  It is a frustrating point in regard to the blog, but know that I am enjoying what I am reading and cannot wait to tell you all about it.

The Lightning Thief was an easy, quick diversion from the tomes weighing down my nightstand.  It was not anything spectacular or particularly original, but it was not unenjoyable either.  Apparently the book sprung from the bedtime stories that Rick Riordan would tell his son about the characters of Greek mythology.  When he ran out of classic tales, he made up Percy Jackson and told his son about Percy's modern-day interactions with the Greek myths.  After prodding from his enamored child, Riordan turned his bedtime tales first into this novel, and then into a series. (Warning: Spoilers Ahead)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Litigators - John Grisham

The Litigators

If you read my last post, you already know that Kevin and I listened to this book together during our dual Michigan trips.  It's proven difficult to finish it up since, when not traveling, most of the time we spend in the car is short trips.  With the help of a multitude of wedding errands, though, we brought this case to a close. (Yes, that was a terrible law pun.  Please forgive me.)  I had never read a whole Grisham novel before, despite my former roommate's penchant for them, so this was a new experience for me.  It was also really interesting for Kevin and I to "read" a book together and be able to observe how we think about and react differently to the story.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cinder - Marissa Meyer

A couple of weeks ago, Kevin and I were gearing up for two subsequent weekend road trips to see the future-in-laws.  Over the course of eleven days, we spent over twenty hours in the car...yuck.  To ease some of the pain, I jumped onto our library's digital database and began the search for some audiobooks.  I selected a wide variety of options, not knowing what we would be in the mood for.  Together, we ended up listening to John Grisham's 2011 legal thriller The Litigators.  We're not quite finished with it, but you can look forward to a post on that soon.  Meanwhile, this book caught my eye.  I had seen it on several "if-you-love-The-Hunger-Games-read-this" type lists, but hadn't really been interested.  Yet, when it showed up yet again and was available for immediate download, I decided to give it a shot.  (Warning: Spoilers Ahead)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Insurgent - Veronica Roth

I have been raving about Divergent to everyone I meet for months now.  Mid-Hunger Games pandemonium, I kept recommending Veronica Roth's dystopian novel to those who enjoyed Suzanne Collins' series.  The first book captured my captured my attention and, honestly, is what ignited this whole dystopian kick I have been on lately.  I do not think I had even finished Divergent before I was questioning Google about the existence of a sequel.  Luckily for me, book two was released at the start of May.  Despite a valiant, though futile, effort to wait for my fiancé to catch up, I succumbed to my need to read this weekend and tore through Insurgent in a matter of a few (very busy) days.  I read at Kevin's softball game; I carried the book around with me during my sister-in-law's college graduation festivities (Congrats, Kristen!) and read at every moment it wasn't rude; I even read 200 pages in the car, a reading location I tend to avoid for fear of nausea.  (Warning: Spoilers Ahead)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Feast for Crows - George R.R. Martin

And here we are with Book Four of A Song of Ice and Fire.  It's taken me long enough to get through this monster.  Over three months have past since I completed A Storm of Swords, but it feels like it could have been three years. I feel like I've been reading this book forever.  Granted, I was warned.  At long last I have made it through and am eagerly looking forward to Book Five, which has been touted by my cousins as the best one of the series.  First, though, a review of Crows. I promise to make my thoughts on the book shorter and less painful than the book itself. (Warning: Spoilers ahead)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

Oftentimes, when I sit down to start one of these posts, I struggle finding a place to start.  I struggle to find the words to express the journey I have just traveled at the hands of an author.  It is, in a fractional way, what the author themselves must have faced in writing the work.  Another personal benefit of this blog to be noted: if I ever do get around to writing/finishing that novel I have tucked away, I will have this experience on the battlefield of writer's block to assist me at least a little.  

All of that to say, when I come across a novel such as this one, I cannot help but to be astounded by the skill the author sets forth.  It is difficult enough for me on some days to attempt a blog post; I cannot imagine how long it will take to write a novel.  And even then, it will be nowhere close to the writing level of Margaret Atwood.  In The Handmaid's Tale, she has crafted a terrifying story of a country ruled by a legalistic theocracy.  As with many of these types of books (which, I realize, I have been reading a lot of lately.  I swear, I am going to move past this phase eventually), it takes the reader a while to truly understand what is going on.  When you do, you are struck with the horror of it. (SPOILERS AHEAD)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Queen Jade - Yxta Maya Murray

The Queen Jade: A New World Novel of Adventure

The Queen Jade is properly billed as a New World adventure novel.  The story is an Indiana Jones-type, following the cast through the Guatemalan jungles to rescue the heroine's mother and find The Queen Jade, an ancient Mayan treasure.  The book is exactly what you would expect, but not in a bad way.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Erasing Hell - Francis Chan & Preston Sprinkle

I have been waiting to form an opinion about Rob Bell's controversial Love Wins, which I read last year, until I read this response.  Neither book has gone without buzz in the Christian community.  Erasing Hell has garnered particular attention in my circle of friends because Preston Sprinkle taught at the university I attended and now work at.  In fact, a lot of my friends had class with him.  His bike kept getting stolen, leading to a campus wide joke.  In this book, it is Sprinkle's research combined with Francis Chan's story-telling that argues for the existence of hell.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the controversy surrounding this and Bell's work, let me give you an abbreviated version before I share my thoughts.  Last year, Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill Baptist Church in Michigan, wrote a book entitled Love Wins.  The general concept of the book is that God will, in the end, love people enough that He will offer those who have rejected Him in this life a second (or endless) chance to accept His gift of love.  In simpler terms, Bell suggests that there is no place of eternal suffering which we call hell.  Chan and Sprinkle, in response to Bell's book, wrote Erasing Hell, an exploratory study into what Scripture has to say about hell.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - Jonathan Safran Foer

It should be no surprise that I choose this book because of the recent Oscar-nominated film of the same title.  I am both a Sandra Bullock fan and a Tom Hanks fan and knew that any project they both chose to work on would be a good one.  As a book lover, though, I was strongly encouraged by a friend to read the story before watching it - always a good suggestion.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Messenger - Lois Lowry

I have absolutely flown through this series.  It was just over a week ago that I savored the words of The Giver for the first time.  It's been only days since I read of Kira and her drastically different village in Gathering Blue.  It is here in Messenger that the stories converge.  Sequel does not seem to be the correct word to describe the two follow-up novels to The Giver.  This is where the term "companion" novel is perfect.  (Warning: Spoilers Ahead)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Gathering Blue - Lois Lowry

Gathering Blue

Clearly, after finishing The Giver last weekend, I immediately requested the next book in the series, Gathering Blue.  I was thrilled when I received notification mid-week that the Kindle version was available for me to check out.  I was expecting a sequel to the story of Jonas in The Giver.  However, Gathering Blue is as story all its own.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Giver - Lois Lowry

It should come as no surprise to anyone who has read this book that Lowry's classic won the 1994  Newberry Medal.  In  retrospect, I'm quite surprised that it took me until age 25 to read this novel.  The name has been familiar to me for some time, but I've never actually read it.  However, it's been showing up on quite a few lists of books recommended to those who have enjoyed The Hunger Games, so I thought I'd give it a shot.  I am so glad that I did.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins

The final book of the series.  Reading through this series again, particularly at a time which coincides with the pandemonium the movie is creating, has been truly enjoyable.  That said, I'll put it right out there: the finale of this great series is always sort of a let down to me.

Friday, March 23, 2012

11/22/63 - Stephen King


This is the second Stephen King novel I have ever read, Carrie being the first.  I honestly did not know what to expect from him.  I have always thought of King as one of those novelists who churns out a new novel like clockwork and, while great at the start, has probably allowed the quality of his work to diminish.  Granted, I had no basis for that, as 11/22/63 has delightfully proved.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins

I know that it has been a little while since I've written. There are 2 good reasons for that. First of all, I hit a point about a week ago where I finished all of the books I was reading and launched into 3 new ones at once. So, you should expect several new posts in the coming week or so. The second reason has nothing at all to do with books. Life has been more than a little crazy. First and foremost, Kevin and I got engaged at the start of the month! Needless to say, having a big shiny rock on my finger has distracted me a bit from the written word. Instead, I've been perusing wedding magazines and worrying about finding a venue. I also started a new job today.  On top of all of that, Kevin moved into what will be our first home together last week. Like I said, things have been crazy.

I realize that none of that had anything to do with Catching Fire. To those of you who don't care at all about my personal life and just want to read about books, I apologize. On to the book... (spoilers ahead)

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins

I'll admit that I feel a bit cliche posting about The Hunger Games in the midst of the pre-movie fury.  Yet, I feel secure in my love for the series because I read them over a year ago, long before the craze began reaching those a decade younger than me.  Of course, one of the great things about this series is that, while it is technically classified as Young Adult literature, it can appeal to those of all ages.  I actually head about the books from my 30-year old co-worker.  I suppose I should thank that guy because I love this serious, and have from the first chapter of the first book.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


I haven't finished another book since the brilliant one I finished over lunch break today.  In fact, I just picked up the next one to start.  All I've done is crack the cover. That was enough to send me running here, brimming over with how much I love books.  This blog has been such a great exercise for me.  Not only taking the 52-week challenge, but forcing myself to log my thoughts on those books has been great.  I've put a lot more thought into the literature as I am reading it.  I'm excited to be at the end of February and actually a week ahead in the challenge!  And, now that I'm finally getting around to re-reading the Hunger Games set I got for Christmas, I'm sure I'll pick up the pace even more.  However, while so far this post has been a great update on my status in this challenge and how much I'm enjoying blogging, those aren't the reasons I logged on to write this.

Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef - Gabrielle Hamilton

Garbrielle Hamilton brings a unique voice to the genre of chef memoirs.  Having read two of Anthony Bourdain's books last year, I was expecting something more along those lines: graphic descriptions of the underworld of cooking.  Hamilton took me by surprise with an entirely different route and one that I found altogether more pleasant than Bourdain's approach.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Captivating:Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul - John & Stasi Eldredge

Kevin and I are diligently trying to prepare for pre-martial counseling by reading a few books together.  This was the latest in that line-up.  I had read this book in high school, so it was a re-read for me.  John & Stasi Eldredge are a husband and wife team who teamed up to write this book as a follow up to John's best-seller Wild At Heart.  The book is an examination of what it means to be a woman, from the Christian perspective.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin - Erik Larson

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin 
As promised, I finished up my next historical read.  This one, just like The Devil in the White City, is written by Erik Larson.  This work focuses on the story of American Ambassador Dodd and his family.  They were posted to Berlin in the years during Hitler's rise to power.  If you like Nazi history, this book is a fascinating read with lots of "behind-the-scenes" facts regarding how prominent Nazis were in the years before WWII.  

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Divergent - Veronica Roth


I know that I said my next adventure into fiction would be Hunger Games.  However, I had put this book on reserve through the library and it became available, so Hunger Games got reshuffled again.  Do not get me wrong; I love the Hunger Games series.  It's phenomenal.  But so is this book.  In fact, it remind me quite a bit of Hunger Games, but still was different enough not be called a copy cat.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America - Erik Larson

I really didn't think I was going to stay on track with the book-a-week goal this week.  It's a crazy week at work and the evenings have been filled with French homework (another endeavor to better myself this year).  Thankfully, my wonderful little small town library offers eBooks which I can check out on my iPad. Due to that avenue alone, I was able to finish Erik Larson's historic thriller.  And it's only Thursday night.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Storm of Swords - George R.R. Martin

Wow.  So good.  I definitely see now why my cousins said this one was their favorite (at least until the fifth book).  If the fifth book is better than this, I cannot wait to get to it!  A Storm of Swords picked up where #2, A Clash of Kings, left off.  After Kings, I had been feeling a little unsure.  The series is great, of course, but I thought that maybe Martin's sophomore slump would continue into Swords.  I could not have been more wrong.  He picked up the story with the same fervor and excitement that I loved in the first book.  Before you head over the break, here is your official SPOILER ALERT! 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Duchess of Windsor: The Uncommon Life of Wallis Simpson - Greg King

I've long been fascinated with British royal history.  I was up at 4:30am on April 28, 2011, parked on the couch with fresh chocolate chip scones and glued to the telly as the heir to the throne married the charming commoner.  I wrote a research paper on Princess Diana's childhood in middle school.  I wrote another one on Anne Boleyn in high school.  One of my favorite blogs is What Kate Wore.  I have an old VHS recording of a 4 hour documentary on the wives of Henry VIII that I taped off PBS and have watched more times than I care to admit.  I just finished watching through both series of David Starkey's Monarchy on Netflix. Then I watched the through the docu-drama The Queen. I read books like this one.