Monday, March 30, 2015

These Broken Stars - Amie Kaufman & Megan Spooner

These Broken Stars
Title: These Broken Stars
Author: Amie Kaufman & Megan Spooner
Publication Date: 12/10/13
Pages: 374
Genre: Science Fiction / Fantasy / RomanceYoung Adult / Fiction
How I Found It: On Reserve for a while
Date Completed: 2/27/15

Summary: Two space age teenagers land on a mysterious, seemingly uninhabited planet after their spaceship city crashes. As they work to survive and hope for rescue, they realize they may not be the only sentient beings on the planet. 

What I Thought: Though I read a decent amount of young adult fiction, I am incredibly picky about it. Whether my high standards are a reflection on my own tastes or on the perceived low standards within the genre, I'll leave that to your own determination.

I wanted to like this book. I really did. I didn't dislike it. Mostly, I just felt befuddled by it. 

The premise is pretty basic: rich, popular girl gets stranded with plebeian army guy. Their deserted island planet turns out to be hiding more than a few secrets. Lilac and Tarver (yeah, that's his name) slowly realize that there are other beings on the planet, beings nearly unimaginable to the human mind. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Mademoiselle Chanel - C. W. Gortner

Mademoiselle Chanel
Title: Mademoiselle Chanel
Author: C. W. Gortner
Publication Date: 3/17/15
Pages: 384
Genre: Historical / Fiction
How I Found It: TLC Book Tours
Date Completed: 3/21/15

Summary: A historical fiction look at the life of Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel. 

What I Thought: For the first third of this book, I could not shake the feeling I had read it before. Finally, I realized that my déjà vu stemmed from when I saw Coco Before Chanel a few years back. The story, obviously, was the same. In some ways, it was a nice reminder of Chanel's humble origins. In others, I was glad to move on to a part of her life about which I knew less. 

Gortner clearly did a lot of research for this book. I enjoyed the detailed, imaginative look into the life of the fashion icon. The structure, tone, and execution all reminded me tremendously of Z, which is another fictional biography-style book.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Take Tuesday: Catching Fire

Catching Fire
Some books are just so good, you have to read them again. And some books deserve a second chance. And some books I think about and change my opinion or have more to say. Take Tuesday is a chance to do just that. 

Title: Catching Fire
Author: Suzanne Collins
Publication Date: 9/1/09
Pages: 405
Previous Readings: 2010 / 3/10/12 
Date Completed This Time: 2/24/15

Summary: After winning the Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta spend the first half of the book on the Victory Tour, realizing the discontent stirring in the districts. The second half of the book sees them back in the arena, fighting other former victors and each trying to save the other. 

What I Thought Before: I whined about Collins's stream of thought writing being too casual. While I still maintain the books aren't the best written I have ever read, I now enjoy the perspective from which she writes. Other than that, I didn't have much to say back in 2012. Foolish me.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Movie Monday: The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner
When opportunity arises, I feature Movie Monday. I recognize few people have the time or desire to read the amount I do, especially when it comes to the 100 Best Novels list. Luckily, Hollywood loves adapting a classic and I love a good story in any form.

If, in the first 30 seconds, I say, "That's not in the book," it really is not a good sign for the movie.

I have to be honest: I did not have high hopes for this movie. Back when I read the book, I had great hopes. The book, after all, seems made for the big screen in a lot of ways. Yet, as the movie's release date got closer and closer, my anticipation dimmed. I'm not sure if it was the lack of big names, the lack of promotion, or watching the trailer. Somehow, I just knew this movie was getting the back burner from its studio and was not going to live up to expectations.

Before I complain, a few things I liked: I loved how big the Glade is. Comprehending the size of the area was something with which I really struggled when reading the book, so it helped me a lot to see it visualized. I also thought Chuck was perfect. Both the actor chosen for the role and how he portrayed the character hit the nail on the head for me. While I did not necessarily feel wrong about the other characters, Chuck was the only one who felt just right. He was the small bed to my Goldilocks. Everyone else felt slightly off in ways I can neither pinpoint nor articulate. In Thomas's case, I'm pretty sure the actor just reminded me a little too much of Zac Efron. I expected him to break into song and run around the Glade golf course any minute.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Sound of Music Story - Tom Santopietro

The Sound of Music Story
Title: The Sound of Music Story: How One Young Nun, One Handsome Austrian Captain, and Seven Singing Von Trapp Children Inspired the Most-Loved Film of All Time
Author: Tom Santopietro
Publication Date: 2/17/15
Pages: 336
Genre: Nonfiction
How I Found It: NetGalley
Date Completed: 2/20/15

Summary: Everything you could ever possibly want to know about the classic film, its origins, the people who brought it to life, and its legacy. Santopietro leaves no stone unturned. 

What I Thought: Oh. my. gosh. I just want to watch The Sound of Music. That's all I could think through this whole book. I have not seen the film in years and this book, plus all the other 50th anniversary hullabaloo going on has piqued my interest again. 

As a kid (ok, and as an adult), I was a huge musical theatre nerd. As an adult, my tastes run more toward The Last Five Years and anything starring Idina Menzel. Growing up, however, nothing made me happier than the old school. My mom sat me down in front of plenty of Rodgers and Hammerstein film adaptations knowing I'd be content for hours. I had cassette tapes of the Oklahoma! and Sound of Music soundtracks and I listened to them over and over and over. While I technically cited Singin' in the Rain as my favorite movie, I would be lying if I said I had any feelings but love for Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, and their cast of singing children.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Bon Appétempt - Amelia Morris

Bon Appétempt:
A Coming of Age Story (with Recipes!)
Title: Bon Appétempt: A Coming of Age Story (with Recipes!)
Author: Amelia Morris
Publication Date: 2/3/15
Pages: 320
Genre: Memoir / Food / Nonfiction
How I Found It: Bon Appetempt blog!
Date Completed: 2/15/15

Summary: Amelia Morris, writer and founder of the Bon Appétempt blog, shares her coming of age story. She covers everything from her parents' divorce to her own marriage and foray into parenthood. Along the way, she shares how she came to love her time in the kitchen and some recipes she holds close to her heart. 

What I Thought: I have been reading the Bon Appétempt blog for, well, ages now. It was probably one of the first blogs I started following regularly. When I blogger you enjoy writes a book, it feels weirdly personal. As if the author is a friend or, at least, periphery acquaintance. When Amelia started prompting her book on the blog, I knew I wanted to read it. Thanks to NetGalley, I had that chance much sooner than expected.

The book was really enjoyable. The subtitle captures it exactly: "A Coming of Age Story (with Recipes!)." Morris shares everything from her early childhood days to her current life as a new mom. I expected there to be more about food in the early parts, but Morris didn't really come to her love of cooking until later in life. I could definitely relate to that.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Go Tell It on the Mountain - James Baldwin

Go Tell It on the Mountain
Title: Go Tell It on the Mountain
Author: James Baldwin
Publication Date: 1953
Pages: 256
How I Found It: 100 Best Novels list
Date Completed: 2/9/15

Summary: John Grimes is a teenage boy in 1930s Harlem being raised in a strict Pentecostal family. His moment of conversion is punctuated by the backstories of his aunt, step-father, and mother, each of whom have a hidden past. 

What I Thought: At the beginning, I struggled with this book. Reading a book which centers largely around the hypocrisy of believers is not the easiest thing to do as a believer. Don't get me wrong. I think Christians have a tendency to be some of the most hypocritical people on the planet. But it's still hard to look the downfallings of my own people head on. 

Once the story transitioned away from John, the young boy struggling with his own spiritual identity, and into the stories of his elders, I became much more engaged. Suddenly, the story seemed less about hypocrisy and more about human fallibility. The strict parental figures now seemed to be desperately trying to protect the young people from making the same mistakes they did. Of course, they go about it in the wrong way, but that's about as accurate a portrayal for which anyone could ask.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Half the Sky - Nicholas D. Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn

Half the Sky:
Turning Oppression into Opportunity
for Women Worldwide
Title: Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
Author: Nicholas D. Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn
Publication Date: 9/8/08
Pages: 294
How I Found It: Recommended by multiple people/sources
Date Completed: 2/8/15

Summary: "A passionate call to arms against our era's most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women and girls in the developing world." 

What I Thought: Where do I start? You must read this book. You must. I cannot recommend it strongly enough or coerce you shamelessly enough. It's not an easy read. Some parts, some realities are difficult to digest and make you want to look away. But Kristof and WuDunn are covering one of the most overlooked, yet most important issues of our time. 

The writing is not perfect and the book is not intended for scholarly research. Rather, it is meant to raise awareness to the atrocities being perpetrated against women around the world. Included in the discussion is sex slavery, maternal mortality, and economic disparities. Like I said, not easy topics, but so important.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Movie Monday: A Room With a View

A Room With a View
When opportunity arises, I feature Movie Monday. I recognize few people have the time or desire to read the amount I do, especially when it comes to the 100 Best Novels list. Luckily, Hollywood loves adapting a classic and I love a good story in any form.

When I read A Room With a View last spring, I found it "quite charming." Not surprising, really. We all know how I love stories set in the Edwardian era. 

There are two adaptations of the story, that I know of. One is a movie version from a ways back. This one, however, is a Masterpiece adaptation from 2007. And, being the Masterpiece fan that I am, I knew I had to start here.

You can go back to my review of the book to read more of the story. Today, I am going to focus on the tv movie adaptation itself. 

I really liked the opening speech from Masterpiece. This is an aspect of their programming that I always enjoy. I think having some poignant remarks about the program before it begins helps the viewer understand that what they are about to see is not meant as strictly entertainment, but art as well. As someone who spends her days teaching students the difference between fine art and entertainment, this is important to me. I think we miss out on a lot of good potential discussion about art on tv. To me, the little Masterpiece speech is an addition to that conversation. I'll never turn that down.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Daughter - Jane Shemilt

Title: Daughter
Author: Jane Shemilt
Publication Date: 8/28/14
Pages: 392
Genre: Thriller / Fiction
How I Found It: TLC Book Tours
Date Completed: 2/19/15

Summary: Dr. Jenny Malcolm lives in Bristol with her neurosurgeon husband and three teenage children. Life seems to be going quite smoothly until her daughter Naomi suddenly disappears. As the investigation into her disappearance begins, Jenny learns that no one in her family is quite what they have seemed to be.

What I Thought: I enjoyed the way Shemilt bounced back and forth between Jenny's present day (one year after Naomi's disappearance) and the days immediately surrounding the event. It kept the story vibrant and mysterious, offering many more opportunities for shocking moments or tantalizing details left unresolved for a while. 

For a psychological thriller, I did not actually find the book that thrilling. I mean, in a scary sort of way. The nature of the plot lends itself to mystery and concern for the missing teenage girl. Yet, at its core, the book is barely about that. Instead, Daughter is really about the mother. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

February 2015 Chapter

Welcome to the Read.Write.Repeat. monthly wrap-up.  Every month, I give a quick overview of what books I read, the progress made on the 100 Best Novels goal, a few book-related links, and general blog news.  

February News 

Hard to believe, but this is my 300th post on this blog! Thanks for being here and reading. I appreciate you!

After the whirlwind of the holiday months and the kickoff to 2015, things have finally settled back to normal around here. I'll be honest, I'm glad. I love doing all the end of the year, start of a new one posts, but they can be exhausting. Especially while I'm still trying to finish up this crazy thing called grad school.

In case you missed it, I did announce (that word seems too formal) my thesis topic, for those interested. I am writing on the symbolism of food in literature and film, specifically The Hunger Games series. I'm about knee-deep in research at this point and still really excited about the topic. I'll keep you posted on how it goes. Right now, I'm really focusing on how food fosters relationships in the book and how food is used as manipulation. More to come...

While I'm talking about Hunger Games, it seems a good time to mention I introduced a new series this month. Take Tuesday (gosh, is that name cheesy or what?) is going to focus on books I have recently reread. It's hard to believe that in the 3+ years I have had this blog, I have not reread anything. Time for that to change and this is the avenue.

This was a book-busiest February I have had since starting the blog in 2012. I read 11 books, which I think is more a testament to my increased schedule flexibility than anything else. Well, that and the literature courses I'm taking this spring. Movie Monday covered The Giver and Carrie.

Though my husband cites it as his least favorite month, I have always had a soft spot for February. I like the symmetry of it (no other month fits so perfectly onto the calendar), the small things to celebrate (V-Day, President's Day, my half-birthday). and the last excuses of winter to stop everything and curl up with a book.