Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Final Exam

Final Exam by Maggie Barbieri
Minotaur Books, 2009;
324 pages
Genre: Mystery; Contemporary
4th in Series

Summary: Dr. Alison Bergeron is on shaky ground after previously being involved in three other mysterious affairs on campus so when the dean says that she "can" take the place of a missing residence director, she cannot argue. Alas that means leaving her recently separated best friend in her house and also precludes private time with her hot cop boyfriend. Naturally she goes looking for that residence director, uncovering some secrets along the way.

Why I Read: It was featured on my library's shelves, tempting me for two weeks. Originally I resisted because I knew it wasn't the first book but eventually I caved.

Thoughts: I've been craving a book that focuses more on the mystery rather than "atmosphere" (I'm talking to you Ms. Alexander and Ms. Raybourn) and this fit the bill as well as being a lot of fun. The main character is Dr. Alison Bergeron, a professor at a Catholic school in New York. She has a great sense of humor and I'd think we'd get along (except for me being a student and more of a cat person while she has an adorable-sounding dog). But she seems very levelheaded and determined. I also really liked her boyfriend (although she feels too mature to use that term) Crawford. He just sounds really hot and generally very supportive of her (although she breaks the law at one point, which he obviously can't support).

One character I did not like was her best friend Max. Maybe Max is a lot of fun in earlier books but here she is incredibly annoying and whiny. I did not quite understand why they were friends. The other characters I mostly liked. As to the mystery, I was disappointed that there was not a murder (There's blood on the cover-someone ought to be dead!) and I did not manage to put everything together but I liked following it.

Overall: 4 out 5. Light and breezy. Luckily one does not have to read this series in order but I'm definitely planning to get the rest through the library when I have time.

Cover: Love it! Actually while I was reading I managed to get a paper cut on my left thumb and a deeper cut on my right pointer finger, meaning that my blood is left on a page. I didn't realize what had happened!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A People's History of the United States

A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn
HarperPerennial, 2003
688 pages
Genre: History; Non-fiction

Summary: "America's story from the point of view of--and in the words of--America's women, factory workers, African Americans, Native Americans, working poor, and immigrant laborers." (from back cover)

Why I Read It: Well my focus is American history for my major so one would expect that I would read this but this was assigned for a class because Zinn recently died and this is such an important book to the study of history.

Thoughts: This book starts right out saying how it is going to be different than the history you learned in high school. You know Christopher Columbus, that guy who get a day off for and who discovered America? Yeah, he basically started a genocide on the Indians living in the Americas. And that is never really mentioned; instead he is celebrated for his vision and will. So Zinn's purpose is to bring stories such as this to the forefront-those who are celebrated and maybe shouldn't be? For example, did you know about Andrew Jackson's brutal treatment of American Indians? (Well I did because I despise him and have a lot of problems with him but a lot of people don't). What about socialist movements in the 1920s? Obviously the word "socialist" is a trigger word for many people but what do you seriously know about them? Besides deconstructing some of the American myths, Zinn also highlights underreported movements such as various labor protests.

One flaw, which he acknowledges, is the lack of discussion regarding Latino/a and queer movements (I read this for a college course and this came up). Obviously he can't cover everything but this is called a people's history so by excluding some people, what does that say to them when they're already excluded from traditional narratives?

Overall: It may seem like I really loved the book but I really didn't: 3 out of 5. So long and dense and boring. Not my cup of tea. But most of the people in my class loved it and got a lot out of it.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (4)

This fantastic meme is now hosted by Sheila at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books.

Read this past week: (Reviews Forthcoming)

Final Exam by Maggie Barbieri
Boys, Girls, and Other Hazardous Materials by Rosalind Wiseman
Notorious Royal Marriages by Leslie Carroll
George Lucas's Blockbusting (will not review)
Civil War Soldiers by Reid Mitchell (for school)

Currently Reading:
The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L Sayers
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (Yes, still working on that)
Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery

To read this week:
I don't know.

What are you reading?

Climbing the Stairs

Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2008
247 pages
Genre: YA; Historical

Summary: Vidya is a young girl living in India circa 1941. Her father is beaten by police during a nonviolent protest and the family must move in with the strict paternal family. There the genders are separated and Vidya laments her former more liberal lifestyle. Then her brother enlists, violating family wishes and their father's example of nonviolence.

Why I Read: I realized that I had started my other challenges but not this one so I jumped right in with a book from my list.

Thoughts: I found Vidya very engaging and it was easy to agree with her viewpoint and dislike her traditional aunts and uncles. Her ambition is to go to college and I also find that admirable. The story also has romance in the form of someone I think is her cousin (but might not be) who is going to MIT and will be away from the war. Vidya is very isolated after the move, no friends at school, no friends at home but she has books. That's why she climbs the stairs in fact, to enter the family's library. In the Author's Note, Venkatraman explains how her own family was an inspiration for the book, which I thought was really interesting.

Overall: 4 out of 5. Not too sure about the ending, it seemed a little too pat.

Cover: I like the colors and the pattern on the top but it's a little boring.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Shakespeare's Landlord

Shakespeare's Landlord by Charlaine Harris
218 pages
1st in Lily Bard Series
Genre: Mystery; Contemporary; Southern

Summary: Lily Bard cleans in the small town of Shakespeare, content to be a nonentity after a brutal experience in the past. But then she finds a corpse and sets out to discover who the murderer.

Why I Read: I was intrigued by the title and I know Harris's vampire series is popular but I don't really like vampires so I wanted to try a different work by her.

Thoughts: I mostly liked this. Lily was very enjoyable; she works, keeps her head down, and mostly wants to be left alone. But then she finds the body and begins to step out and try to solve it. Unlike other amateur detectives I've seen, she didn't seem to bother the police that much which I liked. I also liked the police officer Claude Friedrich, who was quite sexy although alas she does not seem to notice (I've read summaries of the next books so I know what happens between them.)

Overall: 4 out of 5. Pretty good start. I plan to finish the series at some point.

For people who have read Charlaine Harris, which series do you like best? Lily Bard, Sookie Stackhouse, Aurora Teagarden, or Harper Connelly?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Silent in the Grave

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn
Mira, 2007
509 pages
1st in Lady Julia series
Genre: Mystery; Historical

Summary: Lady Julia Grey's husband has died. While he has always had weakness, it is suggested by an inspector he had hired that it is murder. A year later, Julia agrees with him and hires Brisbane to investigate and solve it.

Why Read: I had heard many good things about this.

Thoughts: I was SO excited for this book because I had heard so many things including that it was much better than the Tamera Alexander book I enjoyed. Well I don't know why people like this book more because I thought it was pretty bad.

Lady Julia is rather annoying-at times, I felt she was a little too stupid to live. She confides in far too many people and takes unnecessary risks. I felt for her-she blamed herself for their childlessness when it was her husband and she does end stand up for herself against a snobby doctor. I loved her family though. She has nine siblings and while we don't meet them all in this book, the fact that they are in others is encouraging me to continue to read the series.

One reason I think the series is popular is because people like Brisbane. I didn't. He was a jerk, didn't seem sexy at all, and *SPOILER* Brisbane has the sight?! What a stupid thing to add! I was mostly enjoying the book until this was revealed! I'm not averse to paranormal but I was expecting realism. *END SPOILER*

I also thought the Victorian aspects were lacking in this book. There were references to Queen Victoria and obviously there weren't TVs or computers but it seemed very generic.

Overall: 3.5 out of 5 due in large part to the spoiler. Maybe I expected too much?

Cover: I don't really like the cover but I love the way the title is decorated and placed.

Recommendation: Similar to Tasha Alexander's mystery series which I have also started (and preferred).

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Crocodile on the Sandbank

Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters
Warner Books, 1975;
262 pages
1st Amelia Peabody book
Genre: Mystery; Historical

Summary: Amelia Peabody is recently orphaned and inherited a small fortune, enabling her to travel to Egypt as she has always desired. In Italy she meets Evelyn, a disgraced Englishwoman, who she hires as her lady's maid. In Egypt they meet the brothers Radcliffe and Walter Emerson, interact with Evelyn's former lover as well as her cousin who wants to marry her, and struggle to uncover a mystery.

Why I Read: I had read the second and fourth books in the series so I wanted to read the original. I also enjoy the tone and find the books very funny.

Thoughts: I love Amelia Peabody-she's so smart and funny and interesting and determined, maybe somewhat lacking in perceptiveness...She pushes Evelyn along on her path to love but originally overlooks the perfect guy for her. I loved all of the characters even the villain(s) and I actually figured out part of the villainous plot! One sort of problem is that the mystery is secondary to the atmosphere and characters. I don't mind but I do want some Agatha Christie now where the mystery is of the most importance.

Overall: 4.5 out of 5. A good start to the series, definitely recommended!

Cover: Eh. I love the title though which refers to an Egyptian poem referencing obstacles to lovers mirroring the situation in the book.

Other: Definitely want to pick up this series again! I've only read three and I think there are 19 books so I have a lot of reading to go!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Fire by Kristin Cashore
461 pages
Genre: YA, fantasy
Companion novel to "Graceling"

Summary: Fire is a monster. Her father used his manipulative powers for gain, pushing their country to the brink of disaster and she is determined that she will never be like that. But how does she square her conscience as she sees was coming and deals with the consequences of her father's actions?

Why I Read: I was enjoying reading Graceling and I saw this at the library so I figured I would pick it up.

Thoughts: This book is sort of a prequel to Graceling and introduces an important character seen in that book; it takes place on the other side of the mountains. I found the first chapter less engaging than Graceling's but I continued and mostly enjoyed it. Fire is a monster which means she has fire-red hair, can read and manipulate minds, and is alternately feared and lusted after by humans. Her father destroyed their country through his control of the king and so she avoids the political intrigue. She is pretty cool although sometimes too timid; I appreciated once she became more active. One devastating scene to me was *SPOILER* when she gets frostbite and loses two fingers meaning she can't play the violin anymore (I play viola and sympathize) *END SPOILER* She also falls in love and I think I like Brigan even more than I like Po. Not entirely sure why...
Also there is a lot of sex in this book. I'm not naive, I know that happens but there's an especially promiscuous character who ends up fathering two children and just in general a lot of bed-hopping, of which I very much disapprove. That should not dissuade anyone from reading this but fair warning.

Overall: 4 out of 5. Less enjoyable than Graceling.

Cover: I like the red more than Graceling's cover but it is still not my favorite.

Other: There is a planned third book set in this world following Bitterblue from Graceling, tentatively due April 2011. I hope there will be even more but keep an eye out for updates!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Graceling by Kristin Cashore
471 pages
Genre: YA, fantasy

Summary (from Amazon): Graceling takes readers inside the world of Katsa, a warrior-girl in her late teens with one blue eye and one green eye. This gives her haunting beauty, but also marks her as a Graceling. Gracelings are beings with special talents—swimming, storytelling, dancing. Katsa's Grace is considered more useful: her ability to fight (and kill, if she wanted to) is unequaled in the seven kingdoms. Forced to act as a henchman for a manipulative king, Katsa channels her guilt by forming a secret council of like-minded citizens who carry out secret missions to promote justice over cruelty and abuses of power.

Why I Read: This has been a very popular book in the blogsphere so I wanted to read it.

Thoughts: I fell in love with this book very quickly; after only one chapter, I knew I loved the world and wanted to find out everything. Katsa is awesome-she has such amazing power and she grows and becomes more confident of herself. I am in awe of some of the things she does in this book, although most of it is possible due to her magical power. Then there is Po, her love interest (not a spoiler-it's very obvious). He is very cool and supportive of her. He believes in her and gives her additional strength-I love him! I thought the villains were lacking-I prefer one to be confronted at the end whereas this has closer to two who are dealt with separately. There are also many pages where not much seems to happen but I found it all so enjoyable that I did not mind.

Overall: 4.5 out of 5. Great story and very engaging although I would have liked a slightly different ending.

Note: There were a few serious grammatical errors but it did not detract from my enjoyment of it.

Cover: I think the cover is very stunning although I don't know if I would have picked it based on the cover alone.

Coming tomorrow: Review of Fire, a companion novel!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Happy 80th, Mr Sondheim!

I happen to love musical theater and today is the 80th birthday of a giant in the industry, Stephen Sondheim. A protege of Oscar Hammerstein, he has pushed the musical further and created a wealth of extraordinary music. In honor of him, I decided to post my list of my favorite musicals from him, keeping in mind that I still haven't heard all of them!

My top 10 Sondheim musicals
10. Company
9. A Little Night Music
8. Follies
7. Sunday in the Park with George
6. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
5. West Side Story (Music by Leonard Bernstein)
4. Into the Woods
3. Sweeney Todd
2. Gypsy (Music by Jule Styne)
1. Assassins

So maybe give a Sondheim song a listen today in celebration of this very talented man!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (3)

This fantastic meme is now hosted by Sheila at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books.

Read this past week: (Reviews Forthcoming)

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Fire by Kristin Cashore
Token of Darkness by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn
Crocodile in the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters
Shakespeare's Landlord by Charlaine Harris
A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn

Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman

Currently Reading:
Info about Andrew Johnson
Theodore Rex by Edward Morris

To read this week:
I am going to try to read Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte for the third time. I also checked out Final Exam by Maggie Barbieri (mystery set on a college campus).

Bought this week (!): I hardly ever buy books (I was raised in a family where we went to the library every week, which I still do, and thus we bought them very rarely)
Passion by Jude Morgan
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens

What are you reading?

Token of Darkness

Token of Darkness by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
197 pages
Genre: YA

Summary: Cooper can see ghosts. Actually he can see one, Samantha, ever since his car accident which has left him feeling depressed and isolated. When he meets Brent and Delilah, they notice the paranormal around him and work to free him from their influence.

Why I Read: I enjoyed other books by this author and saw it recommended on another blog.

My Thoughts: This story was a very fast read (less than 200 pages). I was interested that the main character was male, I mostly read books with female main characters, and the fact that it would focus on four people with shifting perspectives. I guess due to that I never really connected with any of them. Cooper seemed nice enough and honorable in his desire to help Samantha, which I liked. Brent had an interesting power and Delilah was ambitious in a bad way but she was able to help. It's not a complicated story. I guess I don't have that much to describe about it.

Overall: 4 out of 5 for a fine story, a quick read but nothing spectacular.

Cover: I think the cover fits with the story really well but I don't find it very engaging on its own.

Other: I would definitely recommend Hawksong by this author; it is a Romeo and Juliet story between hawks and snakes. Also apparently she finished her first novel at 13! Wow, that makes me feel like a loser...hehe

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Top Ten Books I Want to Reread

Meme from About Books Blog:
10 Books I Want to Reread
1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
2. Emma by Jane Austen
3. Persuasion by Jane Austen
4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling
5. Indiscretion by Jude Morgan
6. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
7. A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson
8. Going Postal by Terry Pratchett
9. Making Money by Terry Pratchett
10. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

The first three are on my list and in my dorm room; I shall be starting them shortly! The others will be read again at some point probably...

Gerard Butler Double-Feature

The Ugly Truth, 2009
Starring Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler
Rating: 3.5/5
Summary: At imdb
I remember when this movie came out and it was brutally crushed by the critics but grossed a decent amount showing that the people were interested in it. I did not see it at the time because it came out after I had left for my study abroad program. When I returned I was unsure if I wanted to see it because I do not like films with a lot of swearing (in general I don't watch many R films) but it was on TV so I figured I would watch it. It was not that bad! I realize that seems like faint praise but I thought it would be absolutely awful and instead there were some okay moments. I liked Heigl's clothes and some scenes. The doctor was cute. Not fantabulous but I would probably watch it again although I would not buy it.
The Bounty Hunter, 2010
Starring Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler
Rating: 4/5
Summary: At imdb
So I really like Jen and I want to support her burgeoning movie career (although she should totally do Cougar Town with Courtney!) but she's been in a lot of crappy movies. Consequently I did not have high expectations for this film. But I ended up having a lot of fun! It was very predictable (and you know I usually cannot telegraph even the most obvious plot twists of books!) but I enjoyed saying "this is what will happen next" and then elbowing my sister in triumph when it came to pass. I don't think Gerard Butler was as good looking in this as he was in The Ugly Truth but he's still hot. Jen is very pretty although too tan for my taste. Christine Baranski is good as her mom; Jason Sudeikis is funny as Jen's overzealous suitor; but the highlight for me was Siobhan Fallon who was very good. Again I probably won't buy this on DVD but I would watch it again!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Spring Break!

So it's my spring break starting today and continuing to the 21st (cos I don't have Friday class) and I will not be very involved during that time. My grandparents are visiting, I have two research papers, one other paper, and a ton of reading, plus I'm hoping to do some reading for fun because I had midterms this week and did too much studying. So I will most likely not be posting nor reading the blogs I follow :-( but I will be back the 22nd with a It's Monday! What Are You Reading Post? Have a great weekend and a great spring break to anyone else!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


I just wanted to do mini-reviews of two books I read for school last week:

The Impending Crisis by David M Potter: This is a book about the United States from 1848-1861 looking at exactly how we came to civil war. It is VERY detailed, very involved with Congress, and concerned almost entirely with old white men (Harriet Beecher Stowe and Dred Scott are briefly mentioned). Personally I felt it was a little pro-southern (um they lost! get over it!) but it is still considered the definitive history of this period. As a standalone book, I would say 3.5 but as a useful history of the period, I would have to give it a 5.

My German Question by Peter Gay: This is a memoir of noted historian Peter Gay who lived under Hitler as a designated Jew. He wrestles with his ambivalent feelings toward Germany. It's a very angry book and could be difficult to read for some. He is also a big fan of Freud and psychoanalyzes himself, which I very much disliked. I would also give this one 3.5.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

And Only to Deceive

And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander
HarperCollins, 2005;
310 pages

Summary: Lady Emily Ashton did not love her husband when she married him and did not mourn him when he died. Toward the end of her mourning period, she discovers his journals where he revealed an interest in antiquities and a love for her. She seeks to learn more about him, uncovering an antiquity scam along the way and maybe just maybe falling in love for real.

Why I Read: I had heard good things about this novel and I wanted to try some different mysteries and give Agatha Christie a break.

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed the characters of this, especially Lady Emily who was a lot of fun as well as her friends, Ivy and Cecile. I also enjoyed her suitors Andrew and Colin. I even liked the villain(s) of the piece. But I was expecting more of a mystery and this falls far short in that department. I felt like at least half of the book had no suspense and the mystery was not particularly engaging (and I kind of figured it out so you know it can't have been very hard!) Regardless I still enjoyed immersing myself in this Victorian novel and look forward to the rest of the books in the series.

Overall: 4/5 for a pretty lame mystery but thoroughly enjoyable main character and her companions. I look forward to the rest of the series.

Cover: I don't really like this cover; the version I checked out from the library is purple with a horse and carriage and I'm not really a fan of it either.

Recommendations: I also have Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn which I've heard is similar but better (although I didn't know that when I was reading this). Have you read both? Or other similar series that you would recommend

Sunday, March 7, 2010

OSCARS! Best Dressed and Other Thoughts

So my favorite dress was worn by Penelope Cruz and you can see it in this picture.
Other dresses I liked:
Sandra Bullock-also great hair and makeup
Kathryn Bigelow
Kristen Stewart-and her posture didn't completely suck
Meryl Streep-duh
Mo'Nique, Gabourey Sidibe, Mariah Carey, and Oprah-all in gorgeous blue dresses. Do you think they coordinated?
Helen Mirren-double duh

Worst dressed:
Zoe Saldana-it's pretty from about the torso and then it's awful
Jennifer Lopez-it looks like she's wearing 1 1/2 dresses
Diane Kruger-I LOVED her SAG dress but am not a fan of this

Also did anyone else think Rachel McAdams and Elizabeth Banks looked somewhat similar with their blond hair and similar shaded dresses? I thought so.

My main thought from the Oscars though is YAY for the Ladies! Mo'Nique, Sandra, and Kathryn all triumphed with strong performances for the first two and in very tough categories for the latter. Congratulations on being the first female director to win an Oscar! I can't wait to see The Hurt Locker (hopefully before the end of March)

Also congratulations to The Cove for winning best documentary. One of my friends actually knows someone involved with this and said it was amazing! And congratulations to Logorama for best animated short-the clip shown looked really good!

I'm also very pleased that The Young Victoria and Star Trek won for best costumes and makeup respectively. I enjoyed both a lot and am glad they were recognized.

I loved seeing Neil Patrick Harris appear on stage (I actually guess that he would based on Ryan Seacrest's comment that someone else we'd seen at awards shows would be there). I mostly enjoyed Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin's banter. I loved Tina Fey and Robert Downey Jr (who looked really hot except for the tinted glasses; if they'd been normal glasses, it would have been perfect) arguing about actor vs writer. I enjoyed the dance to best score. I did not miss the performance of best original song. Good show all in all!

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (2)

This fantastic meme is now hosted by Sheila at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books. This is my first time participating-yay me!

Read this past week:

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
L'Assommoir by Emile Zola
A Truth Universally Acknowledged ed. Susannah Carson
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
Eyes Like Stars, Act I by Lisa Mantchev
The Impending Crisis by David M Potter
And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander (review forthcoming)
My German Question by Peter Gay

Currently Reading:
Gwenhyfar by Mercedes Lackey
Various books about the Civil War

To read this week:
Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens

What are you reading?

Disney Movie

Last night some friends and I decided to watch some Disney movies. My one friend had been listening to the Lion King soundtrack so we decided to watch that and Hercules is my favorite Disney animated film featuring my favorite Disney heroine and my favorite Disney song ("I Won't Say I'm in Love") so we decided to watch that too.

Hercules was AWESOME as usual. I was quite proud of myself in that I was able to refrain from quoting practically every line. Well I mouthed the words but no sound emerged so I didn't disturb anyone. I also watched the teenage years of Herc which I usually skip. I've seen the film so many times (it's been out for thirteen years so I would say close to one hundred times) that normally I just watch my favorite parts (all the songs) over and over again. It was a good experience watching the film as a whole.

And then we watched The Lion King which I haven't seen in a while because I was traumatized by the stampede as a little kid (Disney has quite a few similar scenes in other films: Hunchback, Pocahontas, Finding Nemo). But rewatching it, I find it so enjoyable; no wonder it was so popular at its release and of course onward. My favorite songs are I Just Can't Wait to Be King and Scar's Be Prepared. And except for Mufasa's death, an overall fun experience.

So all in all, some good times! Oscars tonight-woot!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Eyes Like Stars

Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev
Feiwel and Friends, 2009;
352 pages

Summary: Beatrice Shakespeare Smith lives in a theater with the characters of every play. It is the only life she knows but she is about to be kicked out if she can't contribute something invaluable. And can she figure out who her parents are?

Why I Read: I had seen it in my recommendations from amazon and I thought the summary looked interesting. I love theater although I am not a performer myself.

Thoughts: This was really weird. So some human little girl lives in a theater and can interact with all of these characters (and it's almost only Shakespeare characters mentioned but there are thousands of plays; is it only plays in English? How do all of these characters fit? Does she actually know EVERY single one of them? I know it's a magical theater and it's a fantasy world but I had trouble with these questions.) Then Bertie has interactions with Ariel (from The Tempest) which are just bizarre. SPOILER: She does eventually find her mother and I guess the sequel is where she goes to look for her father but I don't know if I want to read it (I may try to find spoilers that tell who her father is anyway).

Overall: 3/5 Very disappointing

Cover: While it is accurate (Bertie has blue hair and hangs out with tiny fairies although there should be 4), I don't really like it.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Redeeming Love

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
Alabaster, 1997
Originally published 1991
464 pages

Summary: A retelling of the Book of Hosea. Angel was sold into prostitution and has little hope of another life. Michael Hosea is a godly man who can't believe God wants him to marry Angel. But he obeys and she has to grapple with his unconditional love and the truth of God...

Why I Read: My Bible study had looked at a few passages from Hosea and some friends had raved about this book so I wanted to check it out too. I was a little uncertain about the setting (1850s California) because I tend to prefer Regency romance novels.

Thoughts: This was such a powerful book. I cried basically from halfway through the book to the end (in a good way!) My favorite scene (not a spoiler if you know the Bible book) is when Michael goes and fights for Angel which of course makes me imagine God fighting for me against all of my sin. I may not be a prostitute in the accepted sense but I sometimes worship TV and other things and ignore God. It is also a good lesson in forgiveness. As I was reading, I was thinking mean things about the character Paul (because he's a BIG jerk) and at first I didn't want to forgive him but then I realized that's SO stupid and completely against this book and THE book (that would be the Bible)

Overall: 5/5 I loved this book! I used to read secular romance novels but lately they have not held much appeal. I would definitely recommend this to new Christians who like the romance genre. I would not give it to non-Christians as I think they would find it overwhelming.

Cover: This is the cover my copy from the library had and I think it looks very eighties; I much prefer the red dress cover that it has now.

Recommendations: Has anyone read any other Francine Rivers? What would you recommend? Or any other retellings of Biblical stories?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Truth Universally Acknowledged

A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Great Writers on Why We Read Jane Austen ed. Susannah Carson
Random House, 2009; 277 pages

Summary: Collections of essays by writers on why we read Jane Austen.

Why I Read This: "I am a Jane Austenite, and therefore slightly imbecile about Jane Austen."

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this. It definitely encourages me to reread Emma which I was already planning to do, having been inspired by the recent miniseries (which was meh but I'm always happy that people want to continue to read and reinterpret Austen so I don't mind too much; the main thing that stuck out to me was that there was a lot of Frank Churchill and I want to see if I get that feeling from the book too.) My favorite point was the delightful pleasure we get from rereading Austen. Any book that can be reread like that is something worth cherishing. My main complaint is repitition as in some essays repeat the same couple of quotes about or from her which got old fast.

Overall: 4/5 Good for people who love Austen's works

Question: What is your favorite Austen? And what did you think of the 2009 Emma miniseries, if you saw it? My answers are Pride and Prejudice and meh.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


L'Assommoir by Emile Zola
Translated Margaret Mauldon
Oxford University Press, 2009;
Originally published 1877
440 pages

Summary: "The first novel about the common people that does not lie." Part of Zola's story cycle this is the story of a woman in working-class Paris and her life with her lover and husband, their children, and her eventually downfall through pride and drink.

Why I Read: It was for class as we were studying the Second Empire of France. I had also read "Therese Raquin" in my hated English class in high school.

My thoughts: I had enjoyed "Therese Raquin" until about the halfway point and that also occurred in this book. It seems I like the story until the inevitable downfall of the main character. Here Gervaise is a successful laundress whose husband Coupeau is also an industrious member of society. But after he is injured on the job, he slowly recuperates and then spends most of his days drinking. She takes longer to fall but eventually does so too. I found the characters very unsympathetic. There are vivid descriptions of husband to wife and father to daughter beatings and overall I found it very disgusting. I hope it doesn't make me a snob if I say that if this is truly accurate, then I'm glad I'm not working class French in the Second Empire.

Overall: 3/5 I think I only finished it because it was for class.

Random Question: My professor called Zola the greatest French writer. The class disagreed suggesting Flaubert, Hugo, and Dumas instead. Personally I've found Dumas the most enjoyable. What do you think?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Shades of Grey

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
Viking, 2009; 388 pages
1st of what I think is supposed to be a trilogy.

Summary: Eddie Russett lives in a Colorotocracy-he is almost at the bottom with his red perception just above those who cannot see anything. He is planning to marry up when he meets Jane Grey who opens his eyes to the oppressive regime and changes his life

Why I Read: I loved the Next books, not so much the Nursery books but I saw some good reviews so I thought I would check this out.

My thoughts: I loved this book! I was fascinated with trying to figure out everything (why no spoons?) and then just trying to figure out what color I would want to be (probably blue or violet). Jane is awesome (Kind of weird that Edward and Jane are the main characters-Jane Eyre anyone?); she's so smart and funny and brave. Eddie, while somewhat dumb, is very inquisitive and has exciting things to say about queueing systems. I really enjoyed meeting all of the characters even when I didn't really like them (such as Violet deMauve). Basically I highly recommend this book! Go read it!

Overall: 4.5/5 It is killing me that the next book isn't due until 2012!

Monday, March 1, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This fantastic meme is now hosted by Sheila at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books. This is my first time participating-yay me!

Read this past week:
The Return of Martin Guerre by Natalie Zemon Davis (for class)
Cybele's Secret by Juliet Marillier
What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell
Panorama of Paris ed by Jeremy Popkin (for class and DNF)
Becoming Jane Eyre by Sheila Kohler

Currently Reading:
Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
L'Assommoir by Emile Zola (for class-plan to finish for Tuesday)
A Truth Universally Acknowledged ed. Susannah Carson

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
Gwenhwyfar by Mercedes Lackey
Eyes Like Stars, Act I by Lisa Mantchev
Pride and Prejudice and/or Emma by Jane Austen

What are you reading?

February Stats

Summary of what I've read in February:

Books for the Month: 19
Pages for the Month: 6420
Favorite Book: What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell (Love his books)
Least Favorite: The Ivory Tower and Harry Potter ed. Lana A Whited (Just didn't work for me)
How Many DNF: 2 (both school assignments)

Total Books for Year: 44
Total Pages for Year: 14,729

I also read one book for the Brontë challenge and 5 for my personal Agatha Christie challenge.

Overall I'm pretty pleased although I had hoped to read a bit more but February was tough regarding my computer being gone and just the kinds of things I was reading. I'm currently reading two books and I also have a stack which should take me through to spring break (March 12th-woot!) where I'm planning to read my own books!
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