Tuesday, December 31, 2013

December 2013 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.  

December News

What started out as a slow month, quickly accelerated. I hope the holiday season has brought you as much joy as it has to our families. I also hope you got to enjoy some great time reading. I always start with the greatest of intentions, but there is so many seasonal activities, that somehow my books get pushed aside. I am anxious to start the new year and some new books!

If you are still searching for a belated holiday gift for a book lover, make sure you see the list I posted before Christmas. Just think, you could get started on next year's shopping already! I promised I would share with you if I got any books. Shockingly, I just got one this year - Radical by David Platt. Kevin and I both received copies and are anxious to read it together sometime in the next year.

If you missed out on Movie Monday this month, you will definitely want to go back and read my thoughts on Catching Fire. It was, after all, one of the biggest movies this season. I also reviewed 1946 version of The Postman Always Rings Twice, starring Lana Turner. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Top Books of 2013

Welcome back to regularly scheduled programming! I hope you had a delightful holiday week last week. Kevin and I had the whole week off and spent it traveling around to our families. Delightful to see everyone, but we are exhausted and very glad to be home. 

As we wrap up 2013 and start 2014, I have a full week planned for Read.Write.Repeat. Make sure you check in every day this week for a new post!

To kick things off today, I'm covering some literary highlights of 2013.  I have so much fun doing this post each year. It reminds me of all the things I read this year, good and bad. If you just started reading the blog in the last year, I really recommend going back and checking out the 2012 version of this post. You will find some good stuff there as well!

I have brought back a few "awards" from last year, as well as created some new ones. If there's something I missed, just leave a comment and I'll be happy to let you know what book would have topped your category. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

From my family to yours, I wish you a very Merry Christmas today! 

I hope that you are blessed with a relaxing day with family and friends. May the season truly be merry and bright for you.

I hope you find some great books under the tree with your name on them. I can usually count on my parents for one or two, so I'll have to let you know if I get lucky.

I hope that you are warm, well-fed, and safe this Christmas. It's easy to get caught up in our own celebrations and forget the less fortunate. Take time to remember them in some way this year.

Most of all, I hope that this Christmas will be full of love for you. Not only the love of those around you, but also the love of God. After all, that's what Christmas really is all about. God loved us so much that He sent the most precious gift we could ever dream of: redemption through His Son.

Merry Christmas to all!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Movie Monday: The Postman Always Rings Twice

The Postman Always Rings Twice
On the second and fourth Monday of every month, I feature Movie Monday. I recognize that few people have the time or desire to read the amount that I do, especially when it comes to the 100 Best Novels list. Luckily, Hollywood loves adapting a classic and I love a good movie almost as much as a good book.

Just a quick post today! I hope you are all out celebrating the holidays with your loved ones. In between cookies and carols this week, make sure you swing by the blog. I have posts planned for the whole week and you won't want to miss them!

I read The Postman Always Rings Twice back in July. I found the little thriller delightful, albeit dark. While I Stanley Tucci could have starred in an adaptation (he read the audio book I listened to), I had no such luck. Instead, I found this classic version from 1946 starring Lana Turner and John Garfield.

There is a more recent adaptation from 1981 starring Jack Nicholson. It, however, is decidedly more graphic. Just like Lolita, I have opted to steer clear of that one. I am sticking with this classic rendition on this one.

Friday, December 20, 2013

10 Gifts for Book Lovers

It's the most wonderful time of the year! Also known as the time of year to stress out trying to find the perfect gift for each person on your list. Thankfully, the good ol' Internet helps an awful lot these days when you are trying to find just the right thing. 

I have no doubt you have seen countless lists out there lately for all sorts of people. Outdoorsmen, dads, tech-lovers, pet-lovers, cooks, girlfriends...the list goes on.  These are always fun to peruse, especially when you are trying to avoid buying everyone on your list sweaters (a crime Kevin and I nearly achieve most years). Unique gifts are fun, for the giver and the recipient. They are often high risk, but they can be very high reward as well.  

In the spirit of the season, I though I would provide ten gift ideas for the book lover in your life. I've included links to a few lists from other websites, but also some of my own ideas. If you have not finished your shopping yet, you still have a (very) few days! Finish up now, or put some last minute items on your own wish list!

Have a fun-filled, festive weekend, no matter what you are celebrating!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Allegiant - Veronica Roth

Yesterday, I mapped out all my posts for the rest of the year. This will be the last formal review of 2013, but I have a lot of other exciting things planned! Make sure you are subscribed in some form so you don't miss anything! I promise it will be worth it.

~      ~      ~

Do you remember way back when I discovered Divergent? It has been almost two years now. Veronica Roth's debut novel was one of the very first books I blogged about. 

If you go back and read the post, you'll have to forgive, well, just about everything. I was very new to this game. I've come so far and still have so far to go...

A few months after I wrote about Divergent, I covered its sequel, Insurgent. Feel free to go read that post. It's lengthy, but I it sums up a lot of things I feel about the series as a whole.

After reading Book Two, I waited over a year for the release of Book Three: Allegiant. Roth, as all series authors, understands the value of a good cliff hanger. The end of Insurgent was no exception. Thousands of fans subsided on movie news alone for months while we waited for this release in October of this year.

I bought the book in early November and have been picking away at it since.  The fact that it took me over a month to finish....that fact alone should say as much as the words in this review. (WARNING: Spoilers Ahead)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The End of Your Life Book Club - Will Schwalbe

The End of Your Life Book Club
This book has been On Reserve for a long time. If memory serves, I found it on a list of books for book lovers not long after starting the blog.  

I finally picked it up a few weeks ago. I needed something to read as my family sat vigil around my dying grandmother. It seemed both the best and worst time to venture into a book entitled The End of Your Life Book Club.

Will Schwalbe's memoir chronicles the last years of his mother's life. After a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer rocked their family, Will spent many hours accompanying his mother to doctor's appointments, chemotherapy sessions, etc. In those waiting rooms, the mother-son duo turned their shared love of books into the world's smallest book club. Together, they shared dozens of literary works before Mary Ann's eventual passing.

While at times the book slips into a list like rehashing of what they read, its driving force is the journey this family took alongside Mary Ann in her final years. It is more a story of family and faith and hope. In some ways, it's a story of survival.

Schwalbe writes through the lens of the books he read with his mother. Each chapter is titled after a book they read. He recounts the passage of time by recalling what they were reading then and how it affected their conversations and their outlook.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Movie Monday: Catching Fire

Catching Fire
On the second and fourth Monday of every month, I feature Movie Monday. I recognize that few people have the time or desire to read the amount that I do, especially when it comes to the 100 Best Novels list. Luckily, Hollywood loves adapting a classic and I love a good movie almost as much as a good book.

Ok, I think I have given you sufficient time to see this movie. It's been out a few weeks now. If you haven't gotten around to it yet and don't want any spoilers, bookmark this page, run to your nearest theater, see the movie, then come back and read this post.

Another, perhaps less obvious, prerequisite for reading this post is the Movie Monday installation for the end of November. I took the opportunity to write about the first Hunger Games movie. A lot of my thoughts about the Catching Fire adaptation align with my thoughts about the first movie. I highly recommend reading that one before you read the following.

To begin, I really cannot express how much we enjoyed this movie. Kevin and I went to see it with four of our very closest, most Hunger Games-loving friends. Afterward, we went out to dinner and had a great discussion about the film and the books. I cannot take credit for all of the thoughts in this post. Some of them originated in the minds of others and were reaped from that conversation.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Quiet - Susan Cain

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a
World That Can't Stop Talking
A lot of the nonfiction I read is memoir or biography. At the base, it's about someone's story. Very rarely do I pick up a nonfiction that is more informational than story-driven.

What can I say? I am obsessed with story, real or fictional. It takes a special book to break that barrier. This book did so with ease.

When I first saw Susan Cain's Quiet advertised, it caught my interest. I find this kind of thing terribly interesting. Cain's premise is that introverts are undervalued. She studies how the trait develops and how it manifests in schools, workplaces, and even whole areas of the globe.

If you are unfamiliar with the idea of introverts and extroverts, Cain briefly touches on definitions at the beginning of the book. As she describes them,
"Introverts are drawn to the inner world of thought and feeling...extroverts to the external life of people and activities. Introverts focus on the meaning they make of the events swirling around them; extroverts plunge into the events themselves. Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone; extroverts needs to recharge when they don't socialize enough....Introverts, in contrast, may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussion."

Of course, throughout the book, Cain recognizes that there are no solid line between introvert and extrovert. Personality is nuanced and most people exhibit traits from both sides of that line. She reiterates this in every section. Yes, most people follow general rules, but, just like the English language, there are always exceptions.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Down to the Wire - David Rosenfelt

Down to the Wire

In the past month, Kevin and I have spent almost 50 hours in the car. A series of family crises have had us driving all over the Midwest. We've caught up on all of our podcasts (we're avid podcast listeners) and argued about the best Christmas music.  Per usual, I also snagged a book at the last minute before one of the trips.

I've talked about this before. Audiobooks we listen to together really have one requirement: be riveting enough to keep Kevin's attention. At this point, I just go straight for the most popular, currently available thrillers on our library's website. 

Thus, the story of how we listened to David Rosenfelt's Down to the Wire

I have never read anything by Rosenfelt before, so I was definitely flying blind. The publisher's description made it seem exciting enough to keep my dear husband interested:

Friday, November 29, 2013

November 2013 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.  

November News

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday! It has always been my absolute favorite holiday. This year, I am especially thankful for family and good friends, however typical that may sound.  I am also thankful for you and the fact that you are reading this right now. This year has held a lot of growth for Read.Write.Repeat. and I could not be more thrilled.

In that vein, a few exciting things happened this month.  For one, the Facebook page surpassed 100 likes - this week, actually! If you haven't already liked the page, head over there and due so now. It's a great way to keep up with what's going on and I occasionally post some things I don't here. It's worth checking out!

Also on Facebook, I got a special shout out from author Michael Hurley there after I reviewed his book, The Prodigal for TLC Book Tours. Hurley posted the following on his Facebook page along with a link to the blog:
"This, coming today from the blog "Read, Write, Repeat," may be the best line yet from all the reviews of The Prodigal: "It's a book for people who like people, not people who like explosions." This reviewer correctly observes what is sometimes lost on lovers of explosion-literature (God bless them), which is that The Prodigal is driven by characters, not plot. It is a long walk on the beach at sunrise, not a quick ride on the Tilt-a-Whirl at the fair. Check out the full review here:"
Thanks so much to Michael Hurley for those kind words!

If you missed out on Movie Monday this month, I talked about Orson Welles's adaptation of The Magnificent Ambersons. At the start of this week, I gave you my thoughts on the first Hunger Games movie. For those of you who went and saw "Catching Fire" this past week, you can look forward to discussing that in less than two weeks!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

Brave New World
My progress through Modern Library's 100 Best Novels list marches on. Though I am not reading the books in any strict order, I am loosely working from the top down. Today, I bring you number five.

In a timely, though unplanned, move, I finished Aldous Huxley's Brave New World earlier this month. If you did not know, the 50th anniversary of Huxley's death was last Friday. Yes, that's the same day as JFK and C.S. Lewis. What a day of intellectual loss.

Huxley published his famous work in 1932. Keeping that date in mind while reading really adds perspective. Huxley wrote from a world that had yet to see Hitler or the mass consumption of visual media (the television did not begin to gain traction until later that decade).

Huxley gave us one of the original dystopian novels. There is a strong chance you read this in high school.  If, however, your education mirrored mine and it was somehow sidelined, let me offer a quick recap.

Based in London, Huxley writes about a "utopian" world. Humans are all produced in a factory, rather than through human intercourse. While in their faux utero state, the babies are conditioned for their future. The government literally is creating classes of humans from their genes up. Humans are produced en masse and only the elite few are destined for the highest caste, "Alpha."

Free love takes on a new meaning as traditional partnerships are eschewed for sexual exploration. The majority of the population self-medicates with a drug called soma. It's calming effects are also used to control the people and keep them happy. Happiness is the ultimate goal. No one deals with reality. The whole society is based on an extrapolation of Henry Ford's invention of the assembly line.  Mass production and homogeneity are valued above all else.  

A few outlying areas remain on the globe in which the world government has not overtaken. This areas apparently proved less than profitable to settle and therefore have been left alone.  The real adventure begins when a "savage" from the reservation is brought back to London.

Movie Monday: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games
On the second and fourth Monday of every month, I feature Movie Monday. I recognize that few people have the time or desire to read the amount that I do, especially when it comes to the 100 Best Novels list. Luckily, Hollywood loves adapting a classic and I love a good movie almost as much as a good book.

Despite having a full queue of
classics ready and waiting for their turn to be featured on Movie Monday, I thought you all might enjoy something a bit more current today. 

Unless you live under a rock, you know that the second Hunger Games movie came out this weekend! We went with some friends on Saturday (to a matinee, even, like the old, cheap people we are). I plan to share my thoughts about it in a few weeks. I need some time to digest and discuss. Plus, I want to give you all a chance to see it!

Don't despair, however; we're still in the Hunger Games spirit around here today!  In anticipation of Saturday, Kevin and I watched the original movie last week. 

I have to admit, I had forgotten just how good it is. I think when it originally came out, I was hyperaware of any differences between it and the book, so I did not fully enjoy it as the great movie it was.  Besides, as far as film adaptations go, it does a pretty kick ass job. 

A few things it does beautifully:

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Lunch in Paris - Elizabeth Bard

Lunch in Paris:
A Love Story, with Recipes
As Midwestern weather turns dreary and cold, I appreciate books like Lunch in Paris more than ever. An American in Paris meets food memoir. A perfect escape from drizzly days and the barrenness of local, seasonal produce.

Elizabeth Bard was born and raised on the East Coast of the USA. She fell in love in Paris, eventually marrying her Frenchman and settling down to life as an expatriate. Her memoir spans from meeting Gwendal (Gwen-DAL) to present day. The pages are filled with her story of acclimating to a new culture, a new family, and new culinary experiences.

I resonated with Elizabeth right from the start.  She described her sense of adventure thus: "It's not that there's no free spirit in me. But it's a free spirit with a five-year plan." I hear that loud and clear. Understanding her personality in that way, I think, gave me a unique perspective on her story.

As a newlywed with an appreciative palate and an intense wanderlust, this book spoke straight to my heart. Bard is basically living out one of my dreams: move to Europe, fall in love with dashing foreigner, eat their luscious cuisine. Side note: I'm totally thankful for my amazing, American husband who eats whatever I'm experimenting with in the kitchen. Of course, I wouldn't complain if he had an accent and moved me across the Atlantic.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Age of Innocence - Edith Wharton

The Age of Innocence
Remember how much I love turn of the century settings? While L.M. Montgomery has been my go-to for ages, I discovered this summer that the 100 Best Novels list could provide some new options. The Magnificent Ambersons became the first from the list to fit the bill.  The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton is the second.

Until recently, this novel had given me no cause to promote its place in line. It ranked no higher than many others on Modern Library's list. I knew virtually nothing about it. My only connection was a vague understanding that I would be reading it sometime in the next few years.

Then, I started listening to The History Chicks. If you are not already listening to their delightful podcast, you definitely you should. These two awesome ladies tackle a different female, historical figure each episode. They are entertaining and educational. Seriously, go check them out.

Anyway, they did a series of episodes on the Gilded Age. I was in heaven. Seriously, guys, I think this is the next historical era I'm going to obsess over. During the series, the had a whole episode dedicated to talking about Martin Scorsese's acclaimed film adaptation of this book. I figured out early on that the movie they were discussing was based on one of the Modern Library books. As soon as I did, I skipped the episode. I didn't want any part of the plot ruined for me.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Prodigal - Michael Hurley

The Prodigal
Today, I am excited to be a part of my third tour with TLC Book Tours. Previously, they brought Visiting Tom and Fiesta of Smoke to my bookshelf and your screens. I love how book tours bring variety to what I'm reading. The Prodigal by Michael Hurley was no exception.

There's that old adage that you cannot judge a book by its cover. When joining a book tour, the cover is all you really have to go by. The cover art and the blurb that lands on the back cover. You make your decision based on that. That and the reviews and ratings of other Goodreads readers. 

I think it's only fair that you see what drew me in, so here is the blurb that I saw about The Prodigal:
Pride, betrayal, forgiveness . . . and the eternal sea.  The Prodigal tells the mystical tale of four people on Ocracoke Island whose destiny is tied to an abandoned schooner, thought to have been lost at sea more than a century ago, that one day drifts ashore.  Marcus O'Reilly, a renegade Catholic priest, must confront his inner demons.  Ibrahim Joseph, a Bahamian fugitive, must face his past.  Aidan Sharpe, a fallen lawyer, struggles with self-doubt and his growing affection for Molly McGregor, a fearless towboat captain who cannot find the courage to love.  They will all be drawn into a 2,000-year-old mystery that unfolds with the reappearance of the ship.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Ready Player One - Ernest Cline

Ready Player One
I'm a nerd.

I will admit it. My husband reminds me all the time when I reference anything, well, nerdy. I like to think, however, that I am a casual nerd. I enjoy pretty mainstream nerd activity. Harry Potter, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, etc. The deepest I've ventured into nerd territory is either when I watched through the reboot of Battlestar Galactica a few years back or the years I knew about Comic Con events (only because of the LOST panels, I swear!). Anything beyond that, I claim "normalcy."

My biggest justification of my normalcy is the fact that I've never gotten into video games. Sure, I liked playing The Sims and Zoo Tycoon in my early teenage years, but who didn't? We never had a game console growing up and the only time my fingers perform with true dexterity and skill is on a keyboard, not a controller.

How I ended up with a book in hand that drew so extensively from the gamer world, I don't quite know. How I ended up enjoying it - well, that's less of a mystery. But, I'm getting there.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Movie Monday: The Magnificent Ambersons

The Magnificent Ambersons
On the second and fourth Monday of every month, I feature Movie Monday. I recognize that few people have the time or desire to read the amount that I do, especially when it comes to the 100 Best Novels list. Luckily, Hollywood loves adapting a classic and I love a good movie almost as much as a good book.

First off, let me apologize for only one post last week - and a late one at that!  It's been a little crazy in our personal life lately. My mother-in-law is having major surgery today and we are with them.  It's put me a little behind in getting posts up, but I hope you understand. Family comes first. Always.

Today, for Movie Monday, I'm covering Orson Welles' adaptation of The Magnificent Ambersons. Booth Tarkington's novel just barley makes it onto Modern Library's prestigious list at #100. If you remember from my original post on the book back in August, I am very happy it scraped by. 

Because I enjoyed the book so much, I had high hopes for the film adaptation. After all, it has Orson Welles' name right in the title. He wrote, directed, and narrated the film. The film premiered in 1942. No surprise, then, that is is in black and white.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov

I realize this post is a day late. I apologize for that! Work has been crazy and Kevin is out of town and, while you think that would lead to more punctual blogging, I've been either too exhausted or too busy being productive around the house.  C'est la vie.

I cannot say this particular entry on the 100 Best Novels list was one I was highly anticipating. In fact, basically the opposite was true.

I knew the basic gist of the story: stepfather of orphaned child becomes lover of orphaned child. Stepfather, Humbert Humbert, is narrator, so he portrays himself in the best light possible, but it's not hard to read between the lines here. Lolita is a story of child abuse.

You can talk all day long about how modern society has made us desensitized to important issues like violence and sexuality. I tend to agree; I brush all kinds of things off that I probably shouldn't. This issue, however, is one that simply cannot be brushed aside. It's hard to swallow in any form, even told from the abuser's perspective.

Of course, Vladimir Nabokov had no illusions of Humbert's heroism. The whole book is an exercise in truth.  As the discussion questions in the back of my copy said, "What is in doubt is how much of Humbert's version of these events - and how much of Humbert himself - we can believe."

Friday, November 1, 2013

October 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.  

October News

As the weather turns cold, I am burrowing down with my books. My list of books below is proof of that. October saw my first tour with Novel Publicity. Congrats to Ashleigh, who commented on that post and won a $50 gift card to Amazon because of it!  I'm so proud that the winner came from here!

Also in October, I launched Movie Mondays. If you have missed out on those posts, I definitely recommend going back and reading them. This month I reviewed adaptations of "The Great Gatsby" and "A Passage to India." Movie Mondays will make an appearance on the second and fourth Mondays of each month. If you have a special request of a movie, let me know and I'll happily schedule it. Just keep in mind it needs to be an adaptation of something I've actually read.

Finally, I'm excited to announce that this month we hit both 50 followers on Facebook and 10,000 page views. Considering I think I got less than 1,000 page views my entire first year of blogging, I could not be happier. It's been a big year and I'm hoping 2014 proves even bigger!

Oh, and on one last note... in case you didn't know, the third book in Veronica Roth's Divergent series came out on October 22.  I haven't been able to get my hands on a copy yet, but expect a review as soon as I do! In the mean time, take a look over at the side bar and notice that my review of Insurgent has shot to the top of the "What's Popular Lately" list. I'd say quite a few people are looking to get a refresher before picking up the closing book. I'm happy to be providing that!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Heads in Beds - Jacob Tomsky

Heads in Beds:
A Reckless Memoir of Hotels,
Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality
I have had this book On Reserve for quite a while. It came out just under a year ago and caught my attention then. My weakness for behind-the-scenes information met my love for travel and I could not resist.

Jacob Tomsky has worked in the hospitality business for over a decade. He spent some time in low-level management, but most of his years were logged at the front desk of luxury hotels.

As anyone who has worked in any form of customer service, Tomsky has quite a few stories to tell. Much of the book is filled with these anecdotes about interactions between guests and hotel staff.

The rest of the pages are filled with that behind-the-scenes info promised in the book's promotional materials. Tomsky definitely has some interesting insight into a world that is mostly hidden from the traveler's eyes.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Movie Monday: A Passage to India

A Passage to India
On the second and fourth Monday of every month, I feature Movie Monday. I recognize that few people have the time or desire to read the amount that I do, especially when it comes to the 100 Best Novels list. Luckily, Hollywood loves adapting a classic and I love a good movie almost as much as a good book.

I curled up with a blanket and the 1984 adaptation of E.M. Forster's A Passage to India a few weeks back when Kevin was out of town. Clocking in at nearly three hours in length, I figured this was a choice best enjoyed alone.  My sweet husband does not gravitate toward lengthy, old movies based on classic literature.

I firmly believe that film adaptations should always be preceding by the viewer reading the original work. Rarely does a movie do a better job explaining the nuances of the plot than the written text.  Typically, a book enhances the movie, not the other way around. The only exception I have previously experienced to that rule is Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

You may recall that, after reading A Passage to India, I was not overly impressed with Forster's classic.  Not bad, but not great. For only the second time in my life, I found that the movie version clarified the book for me and made me appreciate the story in a much deeper way.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Animal Farm - George Orwell

Animal Farm: A Fairy Story
I cannot believe it took me 26 years to read this book.

Didn't ever other person read this in high school?  How did it slip by in my educational process?

Thanks to Modern Library, I have finally read the Orwellian classic.  Had I known it was this short, I would have picked it up on a slow weekend in college.

Reaching only just over 100 pages, the little book is a satirical take on the Russian Revolution and the spread of communism in general.  Considering that most of you have probably read it, I am not going to bother with much of a plot summary.  This is all you are going to get: Animals take over a farm from the humans and attempt to run it on their own. Eventually, the pigs take the place of the humans and become indistinguishable from them.

Orwell obviously was not a proponent for the spread of communism.  Animal Farm exemplifies the satirical genre perfectly. Through the actions of the animals, he shows the progression of communism into socialism and how power corrupts.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Fiesta of Smoke - Suzan Still

Fiesta of Smoke
I can hardly believe it is already the end of October. Winter comes quickly here in the Midwest and the air is chily with anticipation. Perfect weather for curling up and reading. 

Winter, it has always seemed to me, is the perfect time to pick up the heavier tomes from your bookshelf and plow through them. They often carry a weight not only expressed in their girth but also on their pages. Books like these are best enjoyed by a fireplace with a blanket and a glass of something delicious.  

Thankfully for you, I picked up one such book this summer.  Now, I can fully recommend it to you for the winter months ahead.  I know; so thoughtful of me.

Actually, all thanks should go to TLC Book Tours. They recruited me for this blog tour, just as they did when I reviewed Visiting Tom. You all remember what a delightful surprised Michael Perry's book turned out to be.  I was definitely game for another selection from TLC.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Long Walk - Stephen King

The Long Walk
Whenever Kevin and I head up to Michigan to visit his family, I try to pick out an audio book for us.  We have a few standard podcasts that we intersperse with the book, but it helps to have something longer than an hour to entertain us for the 10-hour round trip.

A key element of choosing a book is finding one to which my dear husband will actually want to listen.  As I've mentioned before, he needs there to be plenty of action to keep him engaged.

Unfortunately for me, few of the books I have On Reserve or that Modern Library classified as top 100 fall into this category in his mind.  The Call of the Wild has been our only real successful compromise in this area.

I'm not picky on content.  You know me - I'll read about anything.  I just need to be able to stand listening to the reader's voice for hours on end.  Seriously - how do some of these people get hired to read aloud?

Usually, I completely forget about getting a book until the afternoon we leave or the night before.  At that point, I frantically search our library's digital offerings for something that meets all necessary qualifications.

I usually do end up with something acceptable and off we head with some author's sweat and blood pouring from our mediocre car stereo. With this method, we've experienced the thrills of ambulance chasing, cult killings, and Vatican bomb threats.  Now, we've added Stephen King and his gory imagination to our list.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Movie Monday: The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby (2013)
Today, I am so excited to introduce a new type of post: Movie Mondays!

I recognize that few people have the time or desire to read the amount that I do, especially when it comes to the 100 Best Novels list.  Luckily for you, Hollywood loves adapting a classic and I love a good movie almost as much as a good book.

You can expect two movie reviews per month, appearing on the second and fourth Mondays.  These posts will stay brief.  I am mainly interested in comparing the film with the novel - this is a blog about books, after all!

I recognize that there are multiple adaptations of many books.  I plan to take them all one at a time.

I thought a good place to start would be the big hit from this summer, Baz Luhrmann's adaptation of The Great Gatsby.  You did not have to be very attuned to pop culture to notice the buzz around this movie. When it came out at the beginning of May, news of it was all over the place.

The film stars several big names, including Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby himself.  Toby McGuire played Nick and Carey Mulligan starred as Daisy. The cast definitely contributed to the hype around the film.  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Beautiful Ruins - Jess Walter

Beautiful Ruins
Each summer, along with the super hero blockbusters hitting the theaters, there seems to be a book or two dominating the shelves.  As with any part of pop culture, your own circle of influence dictates what you hear about.  Last summer, all I heard about was Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl.  Rightful so, it seems, as the adaptation will hit theaters starring some pretty big names.  

This summer, this book kept popping up all over: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter.

I have had my eye on this book since the first or second time it came across my radar this summer.  The cover art is gorgeous and, I'll admit, sometimes I judge a book by its cover.  Not the ones I've read, of course, but the ones I'm thinking about reading.  I'm awful.  That's like cardinal rule number one of reading and I break it all the time.  I mean, it takes more than a good cover for me to read something.  I have other criteria.  It's just that a bad cover can turn me off before I even get to the blurb on the back or another reader's review.

I digress.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Anne's House of Dreams - L.M. Montgomery

Anne's House of Dreams
To say that life has been a bit stressful lately is an understatement. Consequently, I am struggling to get through the heavy tomes of the 100 Best Novels list.  Right now, in my life, I need reading to be an escape and require little thought.  It could not be a better time for a return to Prince Edward Island.

Last fall, in my effort to read a book a week, I indulged in the first three books of the series: Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, and Anne of the Island.  This trio captures Anne's teenage years.  Here, we meet the imaginative, passionate character that we all treasure in her rawest form.  This winter, I read Anne of Windy Poplars. As I mentioned then, L.M. Montgomery uses the fourth book of the series to transition Anne to her adult years.  The same girl is still there, but she is becoming a woman.

Anne's House of Dreams completes the transition.  The book opens as Anne and Gilbert Blythe are married.  Their three year engagement is over.  They leave Avonlea to settle in Four Winds, where Gilbert will start his career as a doctor. In Four Winds, they settle into their "house of dreams."  Its little garden and sweet history charm Anne instantly.  It proves to be the perfect place for them to begin life together.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Angry Woman Suite - Lee Fullbright

The Angry Woman Suite
I'm back on the book tour train.  Today, I'm taking a look at The Angry Woman Suite by Lee Fullbright.  I am participating in this tour through Novel Publicity. Check out the official tour page to see what other bloggers thought and to read an excerpt of the book.
Full disclosure: they did send me a free copy of the book. Never fear: I will only ever give my honest opinion. 

I will get to my review in a moment.  I want to make sure, though, that you do not miss your chance to win at the end of this post.  Novel Publicity is graciously giving away two $50 Amazon gift cards and an autographed copy of The Angry Woman Suite.  Here's what you need to do:

Option 1: Use the Rafflecopter at the end of this post to enter.  One gift card and the autographed book will be given out through the Rafflecopter.

Option 2: Leave a comment on this post. One random commenter during this tour will win the first gift card. Visit more blogs for more chances to win.

Ok, down to business.

With book tours, I feel that it's only fair to explain to you why the book caught my attention in the first place.  When first contacted about this tour, here's the description I was given:
"'Every family has skeletons, but the Grayson family has more than its share of secrets–and of portraits. Mystery portraits that incite and obscure. Portraits to die for. An unsolved celebrity double murder in Pennsylvania. A girl looking for autonomy. A young man in search of an identity. An older man’s quest for justice. A plot that pulls and twists. Get The Angry Woman Suite through Amazon."
At first glance, perhaps nothing special; enough to make me investigate a little further and not immediately dismiss the offer, as I do with many.  It took only a few clicks for me to discover that The Angry Woman Suite has been busy getting some attention from critics and winning several awards (more info in the author bio below).

Monday, September 30, 2013

September 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.  

September News

I kicked off September with my first review for a book tour.  I had a great experience partnering with TLC Tours.  I really enjoyed Visiting Tom by Michael Perry.  I am excited about future book tours.  You can look forward to my first partnership with Novel Publicity later this week.  I also have two more TLC Tours lined up for later this fall.  I'm excited about each one! You can always count on my honest opinion.  That's a promise.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Ulysses - James Joyce

I finally did it.  I triumphed over James Joyce!

Ok, I'm not actually sure I can say that.  After all, I think I understand about 10% of this so-called masterpiece.  I can honestly say that I have never read a more confusing book in my life.  Anyone who claims to understand this work completely is lying.  There is nothing else to it.  Joyce himself predicted that it would talk generations to get to the bottom of Ulysses's layers.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Someday, Someday, Maybe - Lauren Graham

I have a confession to make.

I never would have picked up this book had it not been written by the incomparable Lauren Graham.  Recently, you may know her from the show Parenthood, but more than likely you, like I, see her forever as Lorelei Gilmore.

Yeah.  That Lorelei.  The one with wild jungle brain and the most perfect daughter ever known to television.  She wrote a book.  Ok, technically the actress who played Lorelei wrote the book, but that seems a small detail to note.  Obviously, I was going to read it.  It really didn't even matter what it was about.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Dinner - Herman Koch

Are you as happy as I am that it is Friday?  Probably not.  I'm pretty happy.  I live for weekends these days.  Weekends mean hanging out with Kevin, reading, writing blogs for the next week, and general relaxation.  Far better than being at the office.

Weekends sometimes mean dinners out.  Kevin and I love good food.  We realized this year that we are actually a bit snobby sometimes about our food, though only at restaurants.  We love a good fancy dinner. We really need no occasion to go; it's a bad habit for our bank account.  With all our expensive taste, though, we have yet to visit a restaurant like the one in Herman Koch's The Dinner. This unnamed restaurant, which serves as the setting for the book, would far exceed our budget, even for a special occasion.  

Koch, a Dutch author, breaks the book into sections, each named after a dinner course.  The entirety of the novel takes place in one evening at the restaurant. Though Koch employs a series of memories to fill in more details, the main event is one dinner. Two brothers and their wives dine together. Paul, the main character, resents his sibling, Serge, who is expected to be the next prime minster.  

At first, the book seems to just be about an unpleasant evening born out of the necessity of familial relations.  As more is revealed, however, it becomes obvious that this is no ordinary dinner.  These couples are together to discuss the actions of their sons and how to handle them.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut

As I mentioned on Monday, my posting schedule is a bit off this week.  Rather than the typical Tuesday/Thursday posts, I am spacing out three posts this week.  Hopefully you stopped by on Monday to read about The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.  Today, I am once again touching on a book from the 100 Best Novels list.  Before you raise your hand and complain that I am not delivering the variety I promised for this week, take heart in the fact that Slaughterhouse-Five is about as far from Brodie as one can get.

Back in high school, I remember being given a list of books to choose from for a project. Slaughterhouse-Five had made the list and one of my classmates chose it.  I remember having only a vague impression of Kurt Vonnegut's work; it was out there.  Don't ask what I picked; I'm sure it was something far from controversial.

Had I read Slaughterhouse-Five as a high school sophomore, I undoubtedly would have had a much different opinion of it than I do now.  The book is a bit "out there."  It is a satirical look at WWII and alien abduction.  Yes, both of those things. The aliens are what take it a bit off the rails for me.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie - Muriel Spark

Surprise!  Here I am on a Monday!  

I have been reading at such a voracious rate lately, I figured I should squeeze in three books this week, rather than the typical two.  Considering that I have four books finished and waiting in the wings, another two started, and a whole collection waiting On Reserve, I felt the need to increase the pace a bit.  So, this week, rather than the typical Tuesday/Thursday routine, you can expect new posts today, Wednesday, and Friday.  You can also expect quite a range of genre this week.  I have been hopping all over the place lately.

Today, we continue with the 100 Best Novels challenge.  I am very slowly making progress on the list, a fact which excites me.  Over on my personal blog, I made the goal of completing this list by my 30th birthday.  This means reading about two books a month from the list.  The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie marked my second such book for the month of August.  

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Sweet Tooth - Ian McEwan

It's no secret that Atonement by Ian McEwan ranks as one of both my favorite books and my favorite movies.  After all, you know me - nothing thrills me like an unhappy ending.  Side bar: What is wrong with me?

Last year, when McEwan released his latest work, Sweet Tooth, I immediately added it to my On Reserve list.  I had never read another book by the British author.  I figured myself long overdue.  I had to find out if the remainder of his work lived up to Atonement.  As with many books on the list, it took me about a year to finally work my way around to the book.  So was it worth the wait?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Visiting Tom - Michael Perry

As I have mentioned, I am actively seeking ways to improve Read.Write.Repeat.  I want to appeal to a wider audience and increase the variety of posts.  As always, I am open to and eager for your suggestions.

One of the biggest steps I am taking now is to start participating in book tours.  For those of you who do not know, book tours are designed to help authors promote their work.  In the real world, this means a literal tour of book stores and promotional events across the country.  In the virtual world, this means scheduling your book for review on a series of blogs like this one.  

There are a variety of companies out there who organize these events.  Today, I am proud to be joining TLC Book Tours as a host.  I hope this will be the start of a long and profitable relationship. TLC does not require positive reviews; instead, they allow bloggers to speak honestly about what we have read.  They also tour a wide variety of genres.  Both of these things make me excited to work with them.

As I start my journey as a tour host, I commit to retaining quality in my book choices.  I do not want to spend my time reading a bad book any more than you want to read about one.  When TLC contacted me about Visiting Tom, I launched into my standard research on a new book.  Turns out, this book has been receiving stellar reviews around the Internet and even hit the New York Times bestseller list.  Despite it being solidly outside my typical genres of choice, I was sold.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Living History - Hillary Rodham Clinton

Way back at Christmas, I picked up a stack of books from the second-hand store where my mother-in-law works.  Their inexpensive prices convinced me to a grab a few for which I normally would not have paid.  While I get most of my new reads from the library, it can be so nice to own a book and not ever have to worry about when it's due.  That applies especially in cases like this, where the book is one I won't be tearing through in under a week.

Living History chronicles Hillary Rodham Clinton's life up through her years as First Lady.  The memoir is a bit dated now; it was published in 2003.  Clinton has been and continues to be a polarizing figure in American politics.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Matched - Ally Condie

What is it exactly that has so captured the world about futuristic, dystopian novels lately?  Does anyone have a good answer to that?  Because here I am with another one.

You would think after books like The Hunger Games or Divergent or most definitely Wool, I would quit while ahead.  I already know there are far more duds in this genre than delights.  Still, I soldier on, hoping for another winner.

I wanted to like Ally Condie's Matched.  I really, truly did.  It has enjoyed a level of popularity that falls just under that of books which make it to the silver screen.