Thursday, September 30, 2010

Everlasting

Everlasting by Angie Frazier
Scholastic Press, 2010
329 pages
YA; Historical
3.5/5 stars

Source: Bought

Summary: Camille is engaged to a fine upstanding man but all she wants is to be at sea with her father.  On what will be their last journey, secrets and a storm destroy everything Camille knows.  All that remains is Oscar, steady, dependable Oscar who is definitely not her fiance but who may just be the answer.

Some spoilers!

Thoughts: A much delayed review from the readathon which means it will be short as I can't remember much. I didn't think the historical setting (1855 San Francisco) was utilized enough except to highlight Camille's status as a bargaining chip to maintain her family's prosperity and to impose a certain set of expectations on her.

I appreciated that there was a strong father/daughter relationship because a lot of YA parents suck.  Although it turns out that her father has done some bad stuff too.

Then there is a "curse" unleashed by saying a name; this is the paranormal aspect that completely blindsided me.  It seemed unnecessary-why couldn't it have been just a normal treasure?  I definitely wanted less of that.

Oddly I preferred her fiance Randall to Oscar.  Oscar didn't seem to be that great of a guy although he was the one she had sparks with.  Randall seemed a nice enough guy, unless I'm forgetting that he had some deep dark secret.

Overall: Lovely historical fiction, marred by paranormal aspects.

Cover: I love the cover-probably one of my favorites from this year!  The colors, the font, the picture, I love it all!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bleak House, Chapters 33-38

Hosted by Amanda at the Zen Leaf, who just moved to Wordpress!

Some dreary chapters this week.

Chapter 33: The aftermath of Krook's death.  It turns out that Grandmother Smallweed was his sister.  Mr Guppy visits Lady Dedlock and tells her that papers are gone; Mr Tulkinghorn is creepy.

Chapter 34: Mr George's debt is going to be called in and the nice Bagnets will be ruined.  Except that Mr George will provide the handwriting sample to Mr Tulkinghorn in order to protect the Bagnets.

Chapter 35: Sickening how Esther goes on and on about Ada.  Richard is a jerk to Mr Jarndyce.  Miss Flite comes to visit Esther.  Mr Woodcourt (a doctor) has won acclaim abroad, which causes Esther to ponder what if he had loved her as she had hoped.

Chapter 36: Esther and Charley go to stay at Boythorn's house in order to help their health.  While there Esther meets with Lady Dedlock who confesses she is her mother but begs her to say nothing in order to protect Sir Leicester.  Esther talks more about how her beauty is ruined and no man could look past it (why does she assume all men are so shallow? Just because Dickens was)

Chapter 37: Richard comes back and he now thinks Mr Skimpole is a jolly good chap which I think shows you very plainly how awful he's become.  He is pretty much obsessed with the case and has employed a Mr Vholes for assistance.

Chapter 38: Esther goes to London under the pretense of visiting Caddy, who is quite happy in her new married life.  They visit Mr Guppy in a (rather funny) scene where he wants her to promise that he is under no obligation to her due to his earlier proposals.  It seems as if he is as shallow as Esther thinks men are.

Christian Book Club: Havah

Hosted by Joy at Edgy Inspirational Romance.
This month we read Havah by Tosca Lee (I will be posting a review later in October) and we're discussing some of the questions provided by the author about the book.  We can answer a few or all.
A brief summary: basically a look at Eve's life, from her creation to her death.

1. Before the Fall, how free was Havah to do as she pleased? After the Fall, how did Havah's freedoms become more limited?   Originally Havah was pretty much able to do whatever she wanted (except for eat of the fruit of one tree).  She seemed to have a pretty idyllic lifestyle.  After the Fall, she and Adam had a lot more responsibilities: they had to find food and shelter, protect themselves from predators and bugs, and raise their children.

3. How does Adam view his children? How does that differ from Havah? Why?    Havah seemed to feel that Adam valued the children (especially Kayin) less than she did.  She mentions several times that Adam should have praised them more and that he should protect them more from dangers.  Havah places great faith in the idea that Kayin will be able to bring them back to the Garden and consequently loves him the most (although she seems careful to try not to express this preference).

6. Why did God seem so distant from Havah?    As a Christian, the simple straightforward answer is that only through Christ the Son can we know God the Father.  But well Christ hadn't come yet so I guess that doesn't work.  So seriously I'm  not sure.

7. Why was Kayin's sacrifice not accepted by God? Did that mean Kayin was likewise rejected?    I think his sacrifice wasn't accepted because he went with the wrong attitude.  Hevel went in a posture of subjection and wanting to serve God while Kayin went for his parents and believing that he was the one and seeking approval.  Earlier, it is shown how Hevel gives freely while Kayin gives in a more quid pro quo fashion. But I don't believe God rejected Kayin; the sacrifice and the person can be separated.

10. Did Havah ever make it back to to the Garden?  I hope this makes sense: I don't think she returned to the Garden, the place that she knew in her youth, but she ended in a place like the Garden due to the presence of God.

Did you read Havah?  What did you think?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Britney on Glee!



So as you can see from the title, I'm super excited about Britney Spears being on Glee and having some of her songs being covered.  In order to celebrate, I'm sharing a video that I just discovered basically now.  It's for "Circus" which is not being covered but I really like some of the faces Britney makes; she really looks like she's having fun and is happy.  I've also really been liking "Toxic," which is being covered and "If You Seek Amy, " which is not being covered for obvious reasons.  In the latter case, it's largely because of those rose shoes.  I know I'm super late to the party of adoring those shoes but man, they're great!

And one last video, my favorite of early Britney, the under-appreciated "(You Drive Me) Crazy":

The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Fawcett Crest, 1985
395 pages
Dystopian; Feminist; Classic
4/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: Offred is a Handmaid in a dystopian nation formed out of the US.  As a Handmaid, her sole preoccupation is to become pregnant by the Commander; any child produced will then go to the Commander and his wife.  In this society, people are sharply divided in to different ranks, with little interaction.  Offred can remember some of the time before when she had a husband and a child but those memories are fading.

Thoughts: I had tried to read this once before but failed due to my workload and I think it also had something to do with the writing.  It's written in stream of consciousness style which works with the story but is not at all my preference.  It is also less plot driven and more about Offred thinking about her past, what the future might hold, and how she feels without her doing anything.  Not that she could do anything in the very hierarchical and patriarchal society in which she lives.  I think I just found it too depressing and terrifying.

Overall: I can see why this is such an acclaimed story and it is well-written but it's not quite my taste.

Cover: I find the cover very striking.  Long before I read this, I noticed it and thought it looked really weird.

Has anyone seen the movie? It seems like a hard book to adapt.

Read as part of my FITG challenge.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Case for Love

A Case for Love by Kaye Dacus
Barbour, 2010
317 pages
Inspirational; Romance; Contemporary
Third in Brides of Bonneterre Trilogy
4.5/5 stars

My reviews of Stand-In Groom and Menu For Romance.

Source: Netgalley

Summary: Forbes Guidry has been the bachelor of the year three times in a row and he's sick of it.  Although he's dated before, those women called him a control freak.  So for now he's alone.  Alaine Delacroix is a host of a television show who wants to move up to anchor.  When they become entangled in a case that pits her family against his, sparks fly!

Thoughts: Now that's more like it!  This was a fantastic book with a strong hero and heroine.  Forbes, while definitely a control freak, really does care about his family and I would say he's the best hero of the trilogy.  Funnily enough, his favorite book is Bleak House because he is interested in the law case.  His one flaw seems to be a lack of appreciation for old movies because I can see how his controlling natures stems from being the oldest child and how it reflects his deep love for his family.

Alaine is a television show host who was introduced in the second book.  After seeing Meredith's (Forbes' sister and heroine of Menu for Romance) happiness, she even more longs for a romantic relationship.  But she is conflicted because the possible love interest Forbes is connected to the family that is bent on destroying a set of small businesses including the one that provides her family's livelihood.  She is also grappling with appearances and the inner self, which she is able to settle.

As their relationship deepened, they both come to important conclusions about their careers that I think will lead them to great happiness.  They had a lot in common and they seemed to make each other laugh.  They also have strong relationships with their families and develop a good rapport with the other's family.  As always, they have relationships with God and the prayers they pray were very consoling to me.

Two problems were I felt that a. their attractiveness was emphasized too much and b. the ending was wrapped up too quickly. Of course, I don't want to read about a law case that drags on for decades so it's probably for the best!  I liked all the descriptions of food in this book even though as a very picky eater, I can't imagine eating any of it (for example I hate seafood).

Overall: The best of the trilogy and a satisfying conclusion to the Brides of Bonneterre trilogy!

Cover: While I have mentioned that I don't like the cut off heads, I really like this guy's suit and the blue on the cover.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Contest Craze #1

Princess Bookie is hosting her Contest Craze and the first challenge is to list our top 5 most wanted books for 2011; this is kind of hard for me because I don't really follow release dates but I have found 5 that I'm super excited about!

[Links go to goodreads page]

1. Between Here and Forever by Elizabeth Scott: all of Scott's books are automatic reads for me and this is apparently due May 2011.  I don't know anything about it other than that it's part of the Contemps Challenge but it's my number 1 pick.

2. Wither by Lauren DeStefano: Has one of the most gorgeous covers I've ever seen and that's my main reason for wanting to read it. Yes, I judge books by their covers! (Due March 2011)

3. Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore: The third book in the Seven Kingdoms series; I loved Graceling and mostly liked Fire so I have high hopes for this.  This focuses on Bitterblue, a character in Graceling. (Due April 2011)

4. Forever by Maggie Stiefvater: The third book in the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy.  After the cliffhanger in Linger, I'm dying for this (and rooting for a lavender cover as the color that would look best with the other two books). (Due July 2011)

5. Shift by Jeri Smith-Ready: The second book in the Shade series; I thought it had an interesting mythology and I can't wait to see how she expands the universe. (Due May 2011)

So I have to stop now but there are so many appealing sounding books coming.  I realized that most of my picks are in series but I'm also looking forward to discovering new series/authors!  If you didn't know about these books, I hope you keep them on your radar and check them out when they arrive.

My Cousin Rachel (film)

My Cousin Rachel, 1952
Starring Olivia de Havilland and Richard Burton
based on a novel by Daphne du Maurier (author of Rebecca)

Summary: Philip Ashley (Burton) receives two letters from his cousin/guardian Ambrose that describe a man being tormented by his new wife Rachel (de Havilland).  When Rachel comes to visit though, Philip falls in love and eventually wills his estate to her.  Shortly thereafter she becomes distant and he falls ill with similar symptoms to Ambrose.  Is Rachel trying to kill him?

Thoughts: I didn't realize that Richard Burton was in this, at first.  It appears that it was his first big American role (although he was nominated for best SUPPORTING actor despite most definitely being the star).  It was after Ms de Havilland had already won two Oscars and she's the title character so it makes sense that the promotion centers around her.  I found it on hulu (expires October 1 which is why I finally watched it) and while I hate their commercial breaks, they weren't too intrusive here.

It's very suspenseful as the audience never knows if Rachel has good honest intentions or if she's masquerading for her personal gain.  Additionally there's romance as Philip is head over heels in love with Rachel (much to the disappointment of his childhood sweetheart Louise).  The ending is not resolved her; no clearcut answers here.

I also really want to read the book now.  I liked Rebecca and I've been wanting to read more of du Maurier's work.  This seems like a good starting point although I don't know when I'll have a chance.

Harry Potter Should Have Died

Harry Potter Should Have Died by Emerson Spartz and Ben Schoen
Ulysses Press, 2009
187 pages
Non-fiction; Harry Potter
2.5/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: Short essays arguing various points of HP fandom: such as best book, should Harry have died, viewpoints on Snape as well as more frivolous topics such as would you rather make-out with Voldemort or a dementor?

Thoughts: I like the title because I kind of did want Harry to die AND it would have spared us that awful epilogue (sorry I hate H/G and H/R)

They describe Polyjuice Potion as easy to make because Hermione was able to make it in her second year.  Um, that's because she's brilliant and even then it takes months of being particularly vigilant in order to successfully create the potion.

I had a big problem with one of their verdicts-GOF as the best HP book.  That only works if you define "best" as a book that tries to bridge between the first three and the last three but is instead disorienting, confusing, and unenjoyable.  I hate GOF-it does not function as a great middle book (although generally the middle book of trilogies sucks and that is applicable here).  Plus only PoA, GOF, and DH are debated.  What about the fantastic introduction to the magic world in SS/PS?  How about the intriguing mystery in CoS?  The general epicness of OotP?  And I personally love all of the Tom Riddle backstory in HBP.  And they end up declaring OotP as the worst book! Inconceivable!

Not well written-I think it would have worked in online format but as a book, I expect more.

Overall: Poorly written with some shaky conclusions drawn. Not recommended.

Cover: It's okay-not outstanding.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Old Maid (Film)

The Old Maid, 1939
Starring Bette Davis as the titular old maid Charlotte, Miriam Davis as her cousin Delia, and George Brent as the man they both love Clem.
2.5/5, which is mostly for the awesomeness that is Bette Davis

Spoilers

Summary: Based on Edith Wharton's short story (which I've read) and a Pulitzer Prize winning play by Zoƫ Akins. Charlotte secretly has a child who she cannot raise due to the strict moral codes of the 1860s so Delia takes them both in and adopts the child. Over the years, the child calls Delia "Mummy," basically driving a stake in to Charlotte's heart.

Thoughts: Miriam Hopkins's character is a *word that I do not want on my blog* and I very much wanted to slap her, which my friends on facebook got to read multiple times while I watched the film. She loved Clem but couldn't handle marrying a poor man. So Charlotte got to be with him. Then Charlotte was going to marry a man who would accept her loving of the ward Tina (short for Clementina), who was actually her daughter but no one knew. Once Delia knew it was Clem's, she ruins the chances for marriage. After Delia is widowed, she gets Charlotte and Tina to move in with her and gets Tina to call her mother. When Tina is an adult, Delia officially adopts her and thus gets Clem's child all to herself. After Charlotte confronts her, Delia realizes somewhat that she was a *word that I do not want on my blog* and has Tina give Charlotte her last kiss before leaving with her new husband.

I don't know if that explanation makes sense but this plot made me so angry. It was a little different in the short story (Delia doesn't ruin Charlotte's chance at marriage) but it provoked similar feelings. It is not helped by the fact that I LOVE Bette Davis and wanted her to claw out Miriam Hopkins's eyes but was sadly disappointed.

Overall: NOT RECOMMENDED!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cinderellis and the Glass Hill

Visit Irena at This Miss Loves to Read for details about this meme!

Cinderellis and the Glass Hill

This is one of my favorites-obviously it's a Cinderella story although more in the vein of Grimm than Perrault.  Princess Marigold is very lonely as her father constantly goes on quests.  Then he has the brilliant idea that he will build a glass hill and whoever can climb it shall win her hand.  Meanwhile Cinderellis is lonely as his brothers are best friends who ignore him.  He just wants someone to appreciate his inventions.  With some magic, he is climbs the hill three separate times and receives the three apples that the princess has.  They end up getting married and he helps improve their country with his inventions and he never leaves Marigold by herself.

So I actually left out my favorite part which involves three horses and Cinderellis's inventions but that is because you'll just have to read it for yourself!

Glee-Cap 2x01

My Glee Thoughts: (Note I don't provide a summary but instead give my various thoughts and then highlight the songs)
  •  I can't say I'm very impressed with Charice.  I understand that her appeal is her youth, tiny stature, and big voice but it doesn't seem new.
  • Chord Overstreet has a huge mouth, a Bieber haircut, and a stupid name.  I liked the callback to when Will heard Finn singing in the showers.
  • I thought Coach Beiste was pretty cool but then she punished the kids who aren't involved in the jealous disputes of teachers. She also assumed they were mean to her because she was a female football coach rather than that she's taking money from their budgets. And aren't there any other clubs beside Cheerios and Glee that could be cut?
  • Cheyenne Jackson was woefully underused on 30 Rock so hopefully he will be treated better here.
  • Sue; I liked her mirth when she was plotting with Will
  • Quinn's back on top although not enough Britney and why, Santana, why?
  • Mike Chang's abs; nice for Tina and Mike to be able to dance together but how heartbreaking for Artie; bye, bye poor Matt
  • Not enough Kurt and Mercedes
  • Poor Finn-life really seems to suck for him; he 1. has a control freak girlfriend; 2. had a massive loss of popularity; 3. was caught in the crossfires of teachers' petty fights; 4.was kicked off the football team for trying to help his friend; and 5. he's about as dumb as a bag of hair.
  • I still don't understand why people wouldn't want to join Glee; they always look like they're having fun and you'd have 11 automatic friends even if everyone else dropped you. I know I'd be afraid of singing live but I could certainly stand in the back and sway while Rachel sang.
Songs:
1. Empire State of Mind-New Directions: Well any song that has the opportunity to trash the Yankees and yet doesn't is an obvious fail; plus the Glee guys should really stop trying to rap.
2. Telephone-Rachel and Sunshine: loved Rachel's faces and think she is far superior.
3. Billionaire-Chord, Artie, and Puck: Such a straightforward song: "I wanna be a billionaire."
4. Listen-Sunshine: didn't like Beyonce's version, didn't like this one; I just plan don't like this song-the original Dreamgirls songs are so much better-check them out if you're not familiar with them.
5. What I Did For Love-Rachel: Hmm the only non-contemporary song/Broadway song was the best.  However the context is wrong; In A Chorus Line, this is song as the dancers recognize the limited amount of time they have to perform while Rachel's performance is based on her fundamental selfishness regarding the spotlight.

Next week: Britney! The 10-year old in me still thinks she and Justin were the perfect couple and I still root for Britney through all of her many problems.  Although I'm not sure that I like the idea of exactly copying her videos-why not something new?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My Double Life

My Double Life by Janette Rallison
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2010
265 pages
YA; Contemporary
4/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: Alexia lives with her mother and abuela in a small town.  When pictures of her appear on the internet, she is contacted by a celebirty with an unimaginable offer that will change her life and help her meet her father.

Thoughts: I've read most of Rallison's works so when I saw this, I knew I'd want to read it.  I expected something funny with maybe a bit of a crazy plot plus judging from the cover, some Hollywood shenanigans, which I love.

I was pretty satisfied; Rallison is a funny author. Alexia was adorably awkward as she tried to flirt at home and then as she adjusts to her new life as rock star Kari's double.  Kari was also very sympathetic.  She has a lot of problems (gambling and shopping addictions) and is not articulate in the press but she is mostly sweet and seems determined to continue to produce quality music for her fans.  The whole plot is crazy!  But I sped through this book and accepted it.

The worst aspect was Alexia's relationship with Grant which was basically only described in terms of his looks.  Practically every time they were together she rhapsodized about how good looking he was without elaborating on any other qualities he might possess. Oh and for his singing voice because he's a rock star.

The other aspect I didn't like is that Alexia's father is supposed to be such an upstanding guy but he basically had a one-night stand with her mother because she looked like his dead wife despite her being a not-quite high school graduate.  Ew!  He was also kind of a jerk to Alexia when he first met her.

Overall: Wildly implausible but contains some sweetness and funny bits.

Cover: I don't really the picture but I like the spacing and styling of the words.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Enquiring Minds Want to Know

I've been meaning to participate in this for the last couple of weeks but never quite had the time.  So this is my first opportunity.  Link to the questions at Dollycas.

1. What do you see when you look out your bedroom window?
     Being that I am currently in a dorm room, I see a parking lot AND a parking structure when I look out my window.  Luckily the rest of the college is very beautiful (seriously we're included on the best looking campus list) so I just don't look out my window very much.

2. Are you watching DWTS?
    After being disgusted watching essentially a professional dancer win last season (she studied dance in college and the PCD are certainly not singers no matter what she claims), I have given up DWTS.  This means that I have a bit more free time which I will invest in supporting scripted shows (mostly sitcoms but also returning faves Glee and Fringe and new hopefully good shows like Lonestar and Undercovers.

3. Are you a football fan?
    Yes-I am a huge Eagles fan although I'm a bit worried about this season as it's our first in a while without McNabb.  I'm trying to think of it as a rebuilding season, to help ease the sting of losses (although we're currently 1-1 and the Cowpies are 0-2 so there is also cause for celebration).

Bleak House, Chapters 26-32

This is the halfway point for our Bleak House readalong hosted by Amanda at The Zen Leaf.

Overall: While there is a lot of plot, much of it confused me (mostly their motives for their actions).  I also think many bloggers will be sad because there isn't much Esther and her chapters seem preferred to the third person narrator.  I like both narrators just fine.

Chapter 26: This opens at Mr George's shooting gallery with his faithful servant Phil Squod.  Grandfather and Judy Smallweed come to visit for nefarious purposes (I think).  He suggests that Captain Hawdon is not dead and desires a sample of his handwriting (which would prove?)

Chapter 27: This group goes to Mr Tulkinghorn.  It turns out that Mr George served under Hawdon and refuses to help.  He leaves and goes to Mrs. Bagnet whose husband also served (it's kind of weird how so many men depend on their wives in such obvious ways when Dickens also seems to not like that dynamic)  George then returns to Mr Tulkinghorn's rooms, basically to reiterate that he won't tell anything. I'm not sure why.

Chapter 28: We are at Chesney Wold with the Dedlocks.  It turns out that Mrs Rouncewell's grandson is in love with Lady Dedlock's maid Rosa.  Mr Rouncewell comes to speak on his son's behalf (he is apparently an upstart to Sir Leicester and is compared to John Thornton in the notes of my edition which may have sent me off to a lovely daydream about Richard Armitage...ahem where was I?)  Lady Dedlock asks Rosa if she is in love and then elicits a promise from her to remain with them.

Chapter 29: Now Mr Guppy comes to call and reveals that Esther's real last name is Hawdon which results in Lady Dedlock's bawling and uttering references to her child.  So Esther is Lady Dedlock's daughter. That's interesting.

Chapter 30: Mrs Woodcourt comes to stay at Bleak House and makes Esther her confidante.  It is also almost Caddy Jellyby's wedding day so Esther is going to help out.  I was really annoyed with Mr Jellyby's patheticness in this section; if Mrs Jellyby is so odious, why did he marry her?  Is this somewhat like Mr Bennet and Mrs Bennet?  I especially liked a note in my (Barnes and Noble) edition where John Stuart Mill called out Dickens and his vulgar put downs of women's rights.  Because it's soooo crazy to think that women are equal to men, right? Grr Dickens.  Anyway Caddy gets married-blah blah blah.

Chapter 31: We meet (again?) Jenny and Liz who have a sick Jo with them.  Esther brings Jo back to the house where Mr Skimpole is *surprise* a jerk!  Then Charley gets sick and Esther nurses her while also making sure that her "angel" (puke) doesn't catch sick too.  Then as Charley recovers, Esther is found to be sick and goes blind (not sure if it's permanent or not) which really sucks for her.

Chapter 32: There is a lot of description in this chapter which made it confusing.  But it seems like Mr Weevle (aka Jobling) and Mr Guppy are preparing to receive papers written by Hawdon from Krook. Except, it's the part I've been anxiously anticipating, Krook spontaneously combusts.  And that is how that serial ends.  With a freaking spontaneous combustion! Crazy!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Glee Songs/Recap Season 1

To get psyched for the start of the new season tonight (8pm EST/ 7pm CST), I wanted to highlight my favorite songs from the first season.  I'm not going to bother with plot points because they don't really matter but here are my 10 favorite songs (note: my favorite does not equal the best or the essential songs of Glee).

10. Say a Little Prayer-I've loved this song ever since I heard Rupert Everett's rendition in My Best Friend's Wedding so of course I love this version even though it's significantly shortened.

9. Bad Romance-I almost didn't include this just because I adore the Gaga version so much but I really appreciate that this one changed the swear words so I can shout the lyrics with abandon.

8. Total Eclipse of the Heart-there's not much for me to say about this other than it's great with Lea and cycling among Mark Salling, Cory Monteith, and Jonathan Groff.

7. Fire/Alone-totally cheating here by including two Kristin songs that weren't even in the same episode but since she sings both with Will and it's my list, I'm doing it.

6. Any Way You Want It/Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin'-so high energy and awesome Journey goodness
5. It's My Life/Confessions Part II-The first part is probably my favorite Bon Jovi song (and one of my favorite songs of all time) but I don't like the second part as much.

4. Halo/Walking on Sunshine-obviously I love the mashups and I love this sped up version of Halo. If only I didn't get Walking on Sunshine stuck in my head after listening to this!

3. Bohemian Rhapsody-my favorite part is when Jonathan Groff says "nobody loves me" which just makes me want to say, yes we do because you're Jonathan Groff and you're so cute.

2. Somebody to Love-Queen songs have been well-served by Glee IMO and this is my favorite (so far!) I love remembering Lea Michele popping out from behind Cory Monteith to kick it off.

1. Like a Prayer-I am very unfamiliar with Madonna songs but I fell in love with this one after hearing it and it gets the coveted top spot.

I realized that it is mostly part II that made it on the list and I think that is because I grew tired of most of the part I songs. Of course I'm super excited for tonight's episode but next week's is supposed to be the Britney one so I'm much more excited for that (I LOVE Britney!)

[Hope these fonts are readable; I'm experimenting and while they work for me, they may not work for you.]

Monday, September 20, 2010

My Name is Mary Sutter

My Name Is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira
Viking, 2010
364 pages
Historical Fiction; Civil War; Literary Fiction
3.5/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: Mary Sutter is a very talented midwife who would like to be a surgeon.  But that isn't going to happen in 1860.  Yet the outbreak of war (and a personal heartbreak) inspire Mary to leave for the front and pursue her dream.

Thoughts: First it was really nice to see a Civil War story that focuses on the Union side; I feel like I see a lot more of the Rebels.  Also nice to have a female protagonist, relatively rare in war stories.

Characters: There are several portrayals of real-life figures including Dorothea Dix, John Hay, and Abraham Lincoln.  I found the latter to be absolutely vivid and plausible.  I was less enthused about the fictional characters.

Mary is okay although she and her mother can be brutal with each other.  She also has a twin sister Jenny who does basically the worst thing a sister can do (and which oddly seems to happen a lot in sister fiction).  Then there is Christian, their brother who goes off to fight.  Thomas is Jenny's husband and he also goes off to fight; he is quite stupid, you'll see.  Then there are two surgeons who Mary appeals to for assistance in her dream and they grow to admire her strength very much.  Lastly there are Jake and Bonnie Miles who were odd characters; it's not that they acted odd but they didn't serve much purpose and I wouldn't have missed them.

Warning: Oliveira does not shy away from killing characters so be prepared.

Descriptions: There are some amazing descriptions here as Oliveira does not shy away from the chaos and blood of a hospital swarmed with casualties.  In fact they're not even really hospitals but barns, houses, open fields where the medical officers set up and struggle to save what they can without even a fraction of helpful supplies.  Amputations were very common and are described.  While many were disgusting to me, it's a truthful aspect of the story and I didn't find it gratuitous.  In fact I generally preferred the narrative to the dialogue which is basically the opposite of what I usually prefer.
Ending: Did not much like the end.  My favorite part (no it's not a spoiler) is the realization of some scientists that if the doctors/surgeons/nurses had washed their hands in between patients, more might have survived.

Overall: While the characters did not appeal to me, the story is still important as it reveals an under-reported aspect in Civil War fiction.

Cover: I think it reflects the determination of Mary as she stands straight and grips her bag.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Wildthorn

Wildthorn by Jane Eagland
Houghton Mifflin, 2010
350 pages
YA; Historical Fiction
3.5/5 stars

Source: Received from netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Summary: Louisa Cosgrove is being sent off by her family to be a companion to another young lady.  But instead she ends up a Wildthorn, an asylum for the mentally insane, where she is called Lucy Childs. She knows she's not insane and that she must get out but she doesn't know how or why she was placed her.

Thoughts: I felt a little unsituated in time and place.  I knew it was England with Queen Victoria on the throne but that covers a huge time period.  I also think it was somewhat close to London as she manages to travel there a few times but I would have preferred it to have been described more.

Lou's dream is to be a doctor, like her father.  Of course, she has a lot going against her as a properly brought up young lady; very few people consider it appropriate.  And the all of the time she spends reading and studying is used as an example of her madness (that would be bad for us bloggers!)  And she has very little control as her brother is ultimately the head of the household as well as other interfering family members.

While not enjoying myself in the asylum, I thought it was very interesting and I preferred it to the end, where it gets kind of boring although Lou also gets some answers.  Inside the asylum, we get a glimpse at power hierarchies and just overall the awful conditions and lack of care.  I thought the writing was better there, which is another reason I preferred it to the end.

SPOILER: My preferred end would have left Louisa in the asylum where she really does go mad despite the attempts of her family to rescue her.  I guess I was in a bit of a dark mood while reading it.  This is a spoiler because that's not what happens.

You may have heard that there's a lesbian love story in here; I had.  What I didn't hear was that Lou was in love with her cousin!  That would be a FIRST cousin which is illegal nowadays although I know it wasn't back then.

Similarities: Definitely similar to Fingersmith by Sarah Waters which was a DNF for me (so long).   It also reminded me of The Snake Pit starring Olivia de Havilland as both feature the cruelties of asylums.  And of course I thought of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, especially as there is a nurse who is a bit like Nurse Ratched although not quite as bad.

Overall: Interesting themes of women's rights and place but marred by simplistic writing.

Cover: While appropriate, it really freaks me to see her shift (?) busting out over the corset.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Demon's Lexicon

The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan
Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2009
322 pages
YA; Paranormal
1st in series
3.5/5 stars

Source: Bought

Summary: Alan and Nick are brothers and Nick would do anything to protect Alan.  So when Jamie and Mae show up, the former with demon marks and the latter similarly protective of her brother, Nick wants them gone.  But Alan reaches out to the confused and scared siblings and now Nick has new complications in his life.

Thoughts: I had a lot of trouble with this review so I put it aside to come back to after I read the second book.  Part of my problem was expectations; having read some of Brennan's blog posts, I thought this would be a really funny book.  Obviously I wasn't looking closely at the cover as this is rather dark and not very funny.

I liked some of the characters some of the time but not as much as I wanted to.  Nick and Alan obviously have deep dark secrets that are only mostly revealed at the end.  I loved their relationship because while I am a sucker for sister stories, brothers are less common but still almost enjoyable and Nick is fiercely loyal to Alan.

I'm not sure about the universe of demons and magicians created so I will reserve judgment.  There is also a lot of fighting which is not my thing but is pretty much advertised on the cover so don't be surprised.

Overall: Not what I was expecting but I am planning to read the second and see where Brennan takes me.

Cover: Dark but the angle at which he is holding the sword seems really awkward.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep

Check out Irena at This Miss Loves to Read for details!

Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep

As you can probably guess, this is a Sleeping Beauty story.  When the fairies come to give gifts to the young princess, one bestows her with extreme intelligence which leads her to be somewhat reviled by the people around her.  Sonora reads everything and has the answers for everything and it causes her to be distinctly separate from everyone.  Of course she ends up pricking her finger on a needle and be sent in to a deep sleep for 100 years.  During that time the practice of inviting to fairies to christenings ends and a young prince Christopher is born.  He is filled with endless curiosity and in response to his questions, he is told "Princess Sonora knows."  One day he discovers that Princess Sonora still lives and goes to the castle to awaken her.  He does and they make perfect mates as she finally has someone who is grateful for her knowledge and he has someone who will answer all of his questions.

Although not my favorite Biddle story, I really like it.  It breaks my heart to see how Sonora and Christopher are isolated due to their respective knowledge and curiosity but then they get to be together and rule justly and fairly.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.

Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. by Sam Wasson
Harper, 2010
204 pages
Non-fiction; celebrity
3/5 stars

Source: School library

Summary: A look at the making of 'Breakfast at Tiffany's:' how the producers, director, writer, and stars came to make it and how it impacted cinema and American life.

Thoughts: I think I saw a review of this in People magazine and I put it on my list because it seemed like a breezy read with links to the classic movies I love (actually don't really like BaT but I also need to watch it again).  This was a very quick and easy read. I'm not particularly familiar with any of it although I've seen BaT and I don't not like Audrey Hepburn (she's not in my top 10, but maybe the top 20).  Reading the backstories was interesting-tracing Hepburn's path to this role and looking at the backstage people is always interesting as they're too often neglected.

But Wasson's argument about how groundbreaking this film was in its depiction of female sexuality is  not well argued.  Just repeating that it pushed boundaries and was remarkable does not equal a well-reasoned and well-supported argument.  It also seemed quite shallow and I kept feeling like there should be more to the story although I wasn't sure what.

Overall: Definitely recommended for the diehard fans of BaT; otherwise don't bother.

Cover: I love the cover-Audrey in the iconic dress with Tiffany blue in the subtitle is perfect!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bleak House, Chapters 20-25

Thanks to Amanda at The Zen Leaf for hosting this readalong!

Serials Summary:WOW-a lot happens!  First 4/6 chapters are told in third person, which I think is displeasing to many of the other participants because they like Esther's style much more.  I'm enjoying the omniscient narrator a lot more now that he's toned down the descriptive passages more.  We meet a few new characters but for the most part focus on those we already know.  I'm still confused how everything connects but I'm starting to see some characters interact with characters they hadn't met before.

Ch 20: Mr Guppy meets up with his friends Mr Smallweed and Mr Jobling (what kind of names are those?!)  Jobling lost quite a sum on a horse and is in need of a job so Mr Guppy suggests that he could be hired as a law writer replacing Nemo as well as take his old room.  Mr Krook accepts the new tenant.

Ch 21: This chapter describes Bart Smallweed's family with his grandparents and a twin sister Judy.  They are a stingy lot who underpay Charley (remember how she's supporting her younger brother and sister?).  A man called Mr. George apparently owes Grandfather Smallweed money-that scene was very confusing and also features Grandfather throwing a pillow at crazy Grandmother in a scene that I think was supposed to be funny but most certainly was not.

Ch 22: Mr Tulkinghorn enjoys port while pondering the secrets he knows.  Mr Snagsby is to help Inspector Bucket track down Jo in order to find out more about his story about the lady.  More commentary revealing the disgusting hygienic conditions of the poor part of town where typhoid is rampant.  Jo comes with the men and sees a lady in the same clothes as THE lady but who is not.  The second lady is Hortense, Lady Dedlock's French maid.

Ch 23: Shift back to Esther's perspective-Esther senses a condition between herself and Lady Dedlock.  The French maid shows up and begs to be Esther's maid; is rejected.  Richard continues to be shifty and improvident (He's probably my least favorite character at the moment).  Esther goes in to town to help Caddy and Prince tell their respective parental units.  Mr Turveydrop deigns to allow them to marry provided they continue to support him.  Mrs Jellyby is most disappointed but does not forbid it.  When Esther returns, she finds out that Charley will be her maid now.  (There's a disgusting amount of fawning over Esther in this chapter.  I could swallow it if I thought it was deserved but I don't.)

Ch 24: So Richard will be joining the army and he and Ada are encouraged by Mr Jarndyce to break off their engagement.  They agree but Richard holds a grudge against Mr Jarndyce for making such a sensible suggestion.  Then Mr George pops up as the owner of a shooting gallery where Richard visits.  On Richard's last day, he and Esther go to court where Esther has a run-in with Mrs Chadband.  Then Mr George shows up to ask Miss Flite to accompany him to Mr Gridley's deathbed.  Esther and Richard come along where Inspector Bucket is masquerading as a doctor in order to arrest Gridley but he dies.

Ch 25: Mr Snagsby is vexed by the events of Ch 22 as he has promised not to tell his wife anything.  Mrs Snagsby is suspicious and eventually decides that Mr Snagsby is the father of Jo (!)  Jo is brought in to the house and is preached at by Mr. Chadband, in a scene where I think Dickens is making fun of something but I'm not sure what.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Winter's Passage

Winter's Passage by Julie Kagawa
Harlequin, 2010
59 pages
YA; Paranormal romance; Faeries
3/5 stars
The Iron Fey #1.5

Review of The Iron King.

Source: Downloaded free from author or publisher's website (can't remember)

Summary: A brief novella between the first book of the series and the second.  Meghan and Ash are going to the Winter Court to fulfill the contract they made in the first book.  As they travel, they are chased by the Hunter.

Thoughts: There wasn't much to this.  It was divided in to four chapters but much of the first two is repeating what happened in the first book.  And since I read this immediately after finishing the first book, I didn't need the recap.  Then it continues with a visit to Puck and brief appearances of my two favorite characters cat Grim and the Elder Dryad.  After that it is Meghan and Ash traveling, fighting for survival, and continuing their remarkably undeveloped relationship-seriously, I have no idea what she sees in him!  It seems a bit like a Romeo and Juliet kind of thing and Meghan also still seems very naive. The climax is when the Hunter (or wolf as you can tell by the cover) catches them has some good suspenseful parts but then collapses as Meghan uses her words to settle the conflict.

Overall: Maybe good if you are absolutely in love with Kagawa's Faerie world but otherwise skippable.

Cover: I like the colors but I don't like the wolf especially when the covers for the actual books are so gorgeous.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Iron King

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
Harlequin Teen, 2010
363 pages
YA; Paranormal; Faeries
4/5 stars
The Iron Fey #1

Source: Bought

Summary: Meghan Chase lives on a farm on the outskirts of town; a boring ordinary existence.  But that's about to change as her younger brother is kidnapped and she sets off to faerie world to rescue him and learn the truth about her heritage.

Thoughts: I'm currently cursing myself for not writing up this review immediately after I finished because already I don't remember everything.

It reminded me of Labyrinth as there is a young girl who travels to another world (was it a faerie world in the movie?) in order to rescue her baby brother [I think I prefer Labyrinth.]  Meghan however travels because her brother was stolen and a changeling was left in his place.  And when she travels she meets her father, king of the faeries, and discovers that she is a valuable asset to the ever feuding faeries.

Unfortunately they're dying as humans believe less in magic and more in technology.  And there are also creatures made of iron who are threatening the faeries so there is plenty of conflict.  Meghan is rather stupid much of the time but I suppose it would be a very overwhelming experience to travel through faerie world when you're only sixteen.

Team: There are apparently teams for either Ash or Puck.  It's pretty obvious that Meghan prefers Ash but I don't know why.  I am Team Puck, her best friend who knows her inside and out and is also funny, although I know it is futile.  Ash is pretty much a jerk and I don't think he laughs very much.

Overall: Intriguing beginning to the Iron series with appealing descriptions. I want to read the other books.

Cover: This is a gorgeous cover! The colors are striking and there's a mix of flora and more metal looking decorations.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Daddy's Delight

Daddy's Delight by Karia Bunting
Moody Publishers, 2010
223 pages
Inspirational; Non-fiction
3.5/5 stars

Source: Received a free ebook via Netgalley

Summary: Guidance on how to embrace God's design for you as a woman.  Includes insight into singlehood, married life, friendships, and ministry.

Thoughts: I requested this back in May so I can't remember what specifically about it attracted me.  I think the title is interesting because I only call my earthly father "daddy." But why wouldn't I?  He loves me far beyond what any human can.  I think I was held back by the fact that Father seems more respectful and I want to be respectful to the Lord.  I'm rethinking that position now but it still makes me feel a little rude to think of Him as my daddy.

On to the actual content: my favorite part of these kinds of books is always the personal content and I wish this had contained more.  She does provide several examples and they're well-balanced with scripture and analysis.  I just prefer more stories from real-life.

My favorite part was Bunting's rejection of women being blamed for sin.  Yes, Eve sinned in the garden by listening to the snake but Mary carried and gave birth to Jesus, our Savior thus wiping out that sin.  I also liked how she didn't just say women should be in the house but recognized the valuable contributions we can make to the economy and our family's finances.

Overall: Nothing new or groundbreaking but useful guidance and very readable.

Cover: It's always hard for me to evaluate netgalley covers because covers can look different online than in person but this one is okay.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

9/11


So this is the ninth anniversary of 9/11.  I was quite young when it happened although I do have some memories of that day.  I was in Pennsylvania, some ways away from NYC but also from where Flight 93 crashed.  I didn't know anyone who died.  And I didn't know why somebody would do something like that.  I still don't really understand how people can kill each other like that.  I just want to offer prayers for those who lost loved ones and for the whole country as a whole.  I don't feel very talkative today but I'll be back tomorrow with a book review and through the rest of the week and onward.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Princess Test

Visit Irena at This Miss Loves to Read for more information about Friday is for Fairytales.

The Princess Test by Gail Carson Levine

This was the first Biddle tale I read and I loved it immediately.  It is a retelling of The Princess and the Pea with Lorelei as the pickiest person ever.  Her companion grows tired of her and decides to lose her.  After wondering through the forest, Lorelei arrives wet and shivering at a palace where Prince Nicholas lives.  By luck, they had already met and begun to fall in love.  By further luck, his parents are conducting a series of princess tests whereby they will determine who is a real princess and should marry Nicholas.  And with more luck, she pretends to be a princess.  The tests are crazy stuff but they culminated in a stack of mattresses on top of a tiny pea.  Of course Lorelei feels it (although she's not sure what it is) and wins the prince's hand!

Just a really funny take on the story with a bit more background for the princess.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs the World

Scott Pilgrim vs the World, 2010
Based on the graphic novels by
Starring Michael Cera as Scott Pilgrim, Anna Kendrick as Stacey Pilgrim, Kieran Culkin as Wallace, and Jason Schwartzman as Gideon
4/5 stars

Summary: Scott Pilgrim plays bass in a band and dates a high-school girl.  Then he meets Ramona Flowers and immediately tries to woo her.  Along the way, he has to fight and defeat her seven evil exes.

Warning: I believe this movie skews younger: my parents who were quite interested in the concept and actors, did not enjoy it very much. My sister and I quite liked it.

After seeing The Other Guys recently, I was very excited about seeing some women even if they weren't the stars.  I LOVE Anna Kendrick and cannot wait for her to star in a movie (not to be mean and off-topic but why does Kristen Stewart get so much love? Is sullen and withdrawn really that hard to do? I think sparkling and peppy is harder but Anna does it!)  She plays Scott's sister and there's not nearly enough of her but I was happy every time she appeared.  Then Aubrey Plaza (from Parks and Recreations) plays Julie, a foul-mouthed woman who works many jobs and is able to give Scott lots of advice. Ellen Wong as Knives, Scott's high-school girlfriend, is great as the dumped girl who ends up growing a lot.  Mae Whitman plays one of the exes and I've really liked her ever since "State of Grace;" nice to see her reunited with Arrested Development costar Michael Cera.  Two other ex-girlfriends of Scott's, Alison Pill as drummer Kim and Brie Larson as newly famous Envy Adams are also quite funny.  I also liked Kieran Culkin as Scott's roommate/best friend who says SO many funny things and just generally seems to be having fun.

Unfortunately Michael Cera as Scott and Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Ramona were somewhat blah for me.  What do they see in each other?  They were so flat compared to those around them.  And I really wanted him to get a haircut (this is addressed in the film).

Looking over what I've written, I clearly preferred Scott's everyday life to his battles with the exes although they provided some good moments and some comic bits.  By the end they were just too long and I kept hoping for more of the real-life stuff.  I also would also call this a pretty nerdy movie-not in a judgemental way because I really liked it and I consider myself a nerd but because of the style and the characters.  I would definitely recommend Scott Pilgrim vs the World.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bleak House, Chapters 14-19

Check out the other posts at The Zen Leaf.

Sum Up: I'm growing to appreciate Esther's talents as a narrator a lot more.  There are a lot of occurrences in this section although I'm not entirely sure how they will all tie together or if they're important to the main narrative (which seems to me to revolve around Esther rather than the court case).

Chapter 14: So Richard leaves them in London; Ada and Esther meet up again with Miss Jellyby who is determined to separate herself from her mother and the imminent bankruptcy of their household.  She now has a fiance, Prince Turveydrop (what a stupid name) who she met while learning how to dance as well as his father Mr Turveydrop who has Deportment.  We also return to Miss Flite and Krook.

Chapter 15: Ugh-Skimpole rears his ugly head with more debts and money schemes.  I'm afraid I don't remember hearing about the Coavinses before but I was uncomfortable with Dickens's portrayal of the eldest Charley who's taking care of her younger siblings as very womanly and brave of her.  There is also Mr. Gridley who is in a similar position as Mr Jarndyce in regards to the court system.

Chapter 16: Then back to Lady Dedlock who disguises herself and pays Jo, the illiterate boy, to help her go over the circumstances of Nemo's death.

Chapter 17: Mr and Mrs Badger come back! Once I remembered who they were (seriously there are so many characters), I was laughing-I really like them.  They express concerns about Richard pursuing the study of medicine (I don't think he'd be really good at any profession as he seems to lack perseverance and ambition).  Esther is concerned.  Mr Jarndyce is able to reveal a bit more about Esther's life.  And Mr Woodcourt takes his leave (not sure if he will be important later on).

Chapter 18: Richard continues to be stupid with his bizarre theories about spending money.  Ugh-Mr Skimpole is back.  I'm not sure if he's meant to be a comic character (maybe Victorians would have found him funny?  I certainly don't) or what purpose he will fulfill.  Sir Leicester and Lady Dedlock are seen by our main characters with Lady Dedlock making quite an impression on Esther.  There is an odd instance as a French maid walks without shoes through the wet grass-do any other readers know the significance of that?  It just seems weird to me.

Chapter 19: So much description in this chapter (zzz) before a portrait of an Evangelical Mr Chadband who with his wife are visiting the Snagsbys.  Jo is caught with the leftovers of the money received from Lady Dedlock (although of course he doesn't know it's her).  Mr Guppy also returns (seriously he's probably my favorite character at this point; followed by the Badgers)!  And it turns out that Mrs Chadband used to be in charge of Esther, not sure how or why she no longer is.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Forget You

Forget You by Jennifer Echols
Gallery Books/MTV Books, 2010
292 pages
YA; Contemporary; Romantic Drama
3/5 stars

Source: Bought

Summary: Zoey thought she was going to meet Brendan.  But then she wakes up from a crash with Doug.  And now Doug is acting like he's her boyfriend and Zoey can't remember anything about that night.

Some spoilers-don't think it will ruin the book but...

Thoughts: This was a real mixed bag for me.  The things I liked, I really liked but the things I didn't like, I hated.

Liked: Echols writes steamy scenes very well so even when I didn't really like the characters (see below), I enjoyed those passages.  They were probably the most engaging part and I could see them as a couple then.

While Zoey's dad is a huge jerk (he cheated on her mom and knocked up his 24 year old coworker; they elope to HI after Zoey's accident), he was interesting.  He's very selfish, is a poor excuse for a father and I would hate to meet a real-life him but in the context of a book, I liked it.

Didn't Like: Let's start small: the timeline seemed a bit confused to me.  It seemed like more time should have passed than apparently did.

Then this is more of a quibble but Doug has been to juvie.  In many books, he would be the alluring bad boy who fascinates most of the girls but in this one he's a dangerous outcast. That just seems weird to me although I very rarely cheer for the bad boy when I'm reading (and he's not so bad anyway).

And biggest: Zoey is an idiot. She spent all summer listening to Brandon tell about the different girls he slept with (it seems like at least a new one every week) but then he sleeps with her, so she thinks they're a couple.  And it's not like they talked about it, she just assumed because they had been friends so long.  Plus he was obviously avoiding her and hanging out with Stephanie (why does Stephanie have to be a ho?  We're really not like that).  Zoey is justifiably protective of her mom (who was hospitalized after a suicide attempt) but how did she think such a thing was going to be contained?  And finally it takes Zoey way too long to admit that she has no memory of that night and start really digging for answers.

Overall: Some well-written passages but the story as a whole lacks.

Cover: It's okay from a distance but up close, Doug's stubble is heading in to perv territory.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Ivy

The Ivy by Lauren Kunze with Rina Onur
Greenwillow Books, 2010
312 pages
YA; Contemporary
1st in series
3/5 stars

Source: Won from Goodreads Firstread program

Summary: Callie Andrews has finally arrived at Harvard where she meets her three very different roommates, cute boys, new enemies, and struggles with course work, peer pressure, and money troubles.

Thoughts: I was really excited about the premise of this book as I'm not familiar with many YA books set in college and like many of those raised on the East Coast, I have a fascination with the Ivies.

I didn't really like Callie; she's supposed to be so great and has four potential romantic partners but I don't know what they see in her.  I mean, she's blonde and from CA but is that really enough?

Of those guys, I did not like Gregory (at first-wait till you see why I do) because he WAS a jerk and his hotness did not compensate enough.  Plus I really hate when the idea that a guy who is mean to you actually likes you is promoted-so wrong! And he's a total whore with a revolving bedmate each night (it seems-this wasn't detailed every night but it could fit). But then it turns out that he loves to read, especially Jane Austen, especially Persuasion, and that almost redeems him except that the book ends with a cliffhanger and without him around.  I did not like Evan, her ex-boyfriend still in CA, nor did I like Clint but I did like Michael, who seemed like a really nice guy.

The other characters include Callie's three roommates who are French girl, NYC Prep girl, and Fundamentalist Christian girl.  They develop a bit more personality but not as much as they should have. The final other character is Callie's enemy as she is Clint's ex-girlfriend and is in a position to make Callie miserable.

While I can't say much of this aligns with my college experience at all (I'm not at an Ivy), I can see how some people at a college near me have a similar work hard, party harder mentality.  The social analysis of Harvard's chauvinistic instances and the realities of money were probably the most interesting part.  I actually go to a women's school so I deal with a whole different set of issues and I'm quite fortunate in the financial department although I am still working and will graduate with debt.  Plus I have no interest in paying thousands of dollars for exclusive parties; I like to read which is free when I get books from the library/my new love Netgalley. There is a focus on the "compromises" women make in order to be successful and Callie desires much more money in order to be able to compete with her peers.

The other thing I didn't like was that this was a collection of vignettes more than one coherent story and while it usually focused on Callie's POV, it also randomly shifted to some of the other people.  It was a bit disorienting.

Warning: Language, underage drinking, and some sexual content.

Overall: Intriguing beginning with a cliffhanger that left me curious for more. Not in love with the series.

Cover: I don't really like the cover-the red is overwhelming for me but that is very much a personal preference.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Linger

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic Press, 2010
360 pages
YA; Paranormal Romance
2nd in trilogy
4/5 stars

See my review of first book Shiver here.

Source: Won

Spoilers from first book

Summary: Now Sam is a human and should be staying that way and everything should be great for Grace and Sam.  Instead there are new threats, from the newly turned wolves, from an angry hunter, from Grace's parents, from Grace's body itself.

Thoughts: I saw mixed reviews of this: either people loved it or they didn't see the need of a sequel and thought the four narrators muddied it were the prevailing thoughts.  I was excited about the sequel as I really enjoyed the first book and thought it was beautifully written.

I enjoyed the shifting perspectives and I liked that we didn't spend too long with any of them; I feel like that helps me read faster.  What I didn't like about the four narrators was lack of Grace.  I didn't track how long her sections were but it felt like there was a lot more Sam and Cole than Grace, who is my favorite character.  I do like Sam, who is wonderfully earnest and such a good guy, in comparison to a lot of other YA males.  But I felt like Grace should have been more of a focus and she wasn't.  I enjoyed meeting Cole, a musician and scientific genius who wants to forget himself entirely and be just a wolf.  He was such a jerk but if he can help, I want that.  Isabel also returns and has some chapters to herself.  She's in a very difficult position as she is struggling with parental problems of her own plus has her dad wanting to kill all of the wolves.

Beck is still a wolf as in the first book but his presence is heavily featured in the boys' chapters and as I loved him in the first book, I appreciated that.  I also liked Grace's friend Rachel who was just a funny character throughout.

I didn't like Grace's parents who have a lot to answer for in my book.  They spent years basically acting like Grace didn't exist or didn't need them for anything but all of a sudden, they interfere?!  And they get mad at Sam when it seems like he's in it for the long haul, and not just for sex.  Most parents I know at least try to get to know the person their child is dating.  I'm not sure what it is about him that they don't like.  And instead of trying to slow their relationship down, maybe by insisting that he spends more time with the parents so he can demonstrate his honorable intentions or by requesting that they spend more time in a group, they outright ban him.  Furthermore, it doesn't sound like Grace's grades have suffered or that she was acting disrespectfully toward her parents while dating Sam.  When they start ordering her around, that's when the disrespect starts and quite frankly they haven't earned her respect.  Because while one should respect one's parents, it's earned, not just taken or demanded.  They suck as parents.

Plotwise, the main thread is Cole adjusting to life as a shifter and then Grace's ill health which seems to be due to her earlier bite from a wolf.  That last one ends on a cliffhanger that has me frantic for Forever.

Overall: Interesting new characters and further development of characters from first book result in a good book.

Cover: Love the green and how it connects to the blue; personally I would love purple for the next book.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson
Translated Reg Keeland
Alfred A. Knopf, 2010
Originally published 2007
563 pages
Thriller; Mystery
Third book in Millennium Trilogy
4.5/5 stars

See my reviews of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire

Source: Bought

Summary: Lisbeth Salander is finally found and will be going on trial shortly.  Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist and her loyal friend, is out to clear her name and uncover a scandal that will rock Sweden's government.  These are the two main threads of Larsson's massive tome, the conclusion to the Millennium trilogy.

Thoughts: I was super excited to get this because I thought I would have to wait until it was in paperback.  But my mom started reading the books, she bought the third one.  My sister read it first (very slowly because she wanted to spite me!) and then I got it.  Like the previous books, it had a slowish start but picked up toward the end.  This time the end is centered around Lisbeth's trial, where she is being examined over multiple counts. I won't go too much in detail because I want you to read it for yourself.

There is also a good short summary of what the books are about: women who are abused and the men who enable that.  I was frequently brought up short by the awful things done by men toward women, specifically because the abusers were men and the victims were women and how the system which should have protected them looked the other way or actively worked to cover it up.

I actually thought this book had a lot less of the content I found distasteful in the first two books: the drinking, swearing, and sexual content all stood out much less.

Overall: A good conclusion to the Millennium trilogy.

Cover: I do like the silver a lot but the hornets freak me out.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Fairy's Mistake


Friday is for Fairytales, hosted by Irena at This Miss Loves to Read
I'm beginning my journey through GCL's fairy tale retellings.  This is the first one and I'll review the other five over the next five weeks.  This is not my favorite but it introduces the world of Biddle where they all take place.

Basically there are two sisters, Rosella and Myrtle.  The former is sweet and the latter is mean.  When Rosella goes to fetch water, she offers some to a fairy and is rewarded with jewels falling from her mouth whenever she speaks. A prince sees the jewels and decides he will marry Rosella. Myrtle goes to do the same thing but when she rejects the fairy, she is punished with bugs coming out of her mouth.

However it turns out that Rosella is unhappy in the palace with that greedy prince who wants her to produce jewels so he can build a new palace.  Myrtle is happy as she threatens people with the fearsome bugs unless they do what she writes on her slate.  The fairy is devastated but she comes up with a plan to right matters.

I think I've been baffled by the mechanics of what comes out of their mouths.  It sounds awful either way.  Can you imagine?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

One Day

One Day by David Nicholls
Vintage Contemporaries, 2009
435 pages
Contemporary; Romantic
4/5 stars

Source: Bought

Summary: Tracing the relationship of Emma and Dexter over a period of twenty years, checking in on them on July 15 of every year.  Following their various relationships, falling-outs, making-ups, and everything in-between.  A huge hit in England, where it came out last year before crossing the pond to us this year.

Thoughts: I had basically only heard raves of this book; then I saw some negative feedback but by then I had already gotten the book so I decided that I would take it with me on a trip where I had ample reading time.  I ended up finishing it while I was waiting at the airport to go home which meant I had nothing to read on the plane :-(

I was conflicted about this as it has some of the things I don't like in books: casual sexual relationships, smoking (seriously Europe why do you smoke so much? OK that's really only based on this book and Larsson's books but still), and a lot of drinking.  I also went through periods where I really didn't like the characters.  First I didn't like Dex who's a womanizing alcoholic for much of the book.  I understood how Emma could like him because he had this charm and I totally get it but I don't like it.  In many ways, they're absolutely awful people, which is understandable as we're just getting snapshots of their life and people have bad days.

I liked the "hook"-it worked pretty well and while sometimes there were huge changes in between years, it was not difficult to follow those changes.  Nicholls is a very good writer and created a pretty believable story for these two characters.

I hated the end.  Don't want to spoil it but if you know what I generally like in books, you will understand when you read it for yourself.  Also note that it is being turned in to a film starring Anne Hathaway (love her! although why not an English actress-I love Emily Blunt personally) and Jim Sturgess.  My advice is to read the book first so you can tell everyone about it once the film arrives.

Overall: An intriguing love story with a lot of things I don't like in books.

Cover: I really love that it's kind of like that optical illusion so I think it's quite cool; my friend liked that the title is raised.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Hunger Games Book Club

Awhile ago, I signed up to be part of a Hunger Games book club for the month of September at The Book Junkie's Bookshelf.  Every week the participants will address a question posted and it will be a great way for us all to go back to the beginning after rushing through Mockingjay!

I've already read and reviewed The Hunger Games pretty recently but I wanted to reread it before trying to share its awesomeness with some of my friends.  The question for today is:

For those of us who have read The Hunger Games before what is it about the book that you decided to pick it back up and discuss it as part of a group? Those of us who haven't read The Hunger Games yet what are your pre-conceived notions about the book, what are your hopes for the book? Has anyone read other books by Ms. Collins outside of The Hunger Games trilogy? What are your thoughts on her other works? 

Last part first, I've never read any other books by Ms. Collins although I'm intrigued by the fact that she wrote for television; I think some parts of HG would work exceptionally well visually, even moreso than in text.

And I wanted to have the group experience of reading HG because I picked it up after feeling like I was the last book blogger to read it (I know I'm not but of the ones I follow, it sure felt like it!)  Now I can experience almost like the first time and bounce ideas and thoughts of off other people whose first time it actually is.  Plus I only had the chance to read it once so I wanted to give it a slow close read instead of the speeding through I did before.  Now that I know what happens next, I should be able to go slower.

Bleak House Ch. 8-13

Welcome to Part II. This week we read Chapter 8 to 13.  See The Zen Leaf for other links.

Link to last week's thoughts.

Overall: we continue to meet a lot of new characters.  Esther is much less annoying to me and she receives a marriage proposal!  Mr Tulkinghorn continues to be rather creepy.  I am still confused about how everything might tie together but I see some possibilities.  I'm enjoying Dickens a lot more this time but I still find my eyes glazing over at some of the descriptive passages.

Chapter 8: Mrs Pardiggle and her sons made me laugh; she is somewhat like Mrs Jellyby.  This chapter also shows Dickens' reform-mindedness as he criticizes the quality of living, indicating support for water and santitation reform.

Chapter 9: Mr Boythorn-very vibrant although possibly has some anger issues.  I thought the marriage proposal from Mr Guppy was very nice.  If Esther were Charlotte Lucas, she would have said yes because he has solid prospects and being Mrs Guppy would totally be better than being Mrs Collins (do you agree?)

Chapter 10: WOW-ends on a cliffhanger because that was the end of serial 3.  It would definitely get me to pick it up.  We meet Mr and Mrs Snagsby who were humorous and more of Mr Tulkinghorn who goes to meet someone in his room and it seems as if that person is dead but we don't know!

Chapter 11: Now we do know that the man is dead of an opium overdose (accidental or intentional cannot be determined).  Later there is an inquest with the very annoying Mrs Piper who it seems likes to make up words.  I can find that funny in TV or movies where I can hear the pronunciation but I find it annoying in books.

Chapter 12: We return to the Dedlocks where it seems as if there is some mysterious communication occurring between Lady Dedlock and Mr Tulkinghorn revolving around the dead man.

Chapter 13: Returns to Esther who is annoying over Ada again.  But Ada and Richard have confessed their love to each other and it seems like everyone is in favor of it.  Mr Guppy also returns to gaze forlornly at Esther; I know it makes her uncomfortable but I actually really like Mr Guppy so I like seeing him return.  I hope he doesn't decide to do something desperate to win her.

August Stats

Sum Up
This was a remarkably productive month as I read through my romance books very quickly and then completed seven books for the readathon.  I'm still a bit behind on those reviews but I will get to them.  In all I have reviews prepared through the middle of September and I keep reading and writing more!  I'm super happy and I've got really cool books in the queue.

Books Read This Month: 28 *does a happy dance* Best month yet this year!
Favorite Book: The only book I gave a five this month was Half the Sky by Nicholas D Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn but I think my favorite is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.
Least Favorite Book: I had quite a few I didn't like but I will choose Ten Things I Love about You by Julia Quinn because I had the highest expectations and I usually love Quinn's works but I had several problems with it.
Longest Book: In most months, The Book Thief at 550 pages would easily win but this is also the month I read the Millennium Trilogy with The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson being the longst at 630 pages.
Shortest Book: Technically it's not a full book but Winter's Passage by Julie Kagawa was a mere 59 pages
Most Read Genre: YA with 11, and thanks to my Romance Week, I had a total of 7 romance reads. 

Total Pages Read This Year: 59,414
Total Books Read: 183 (!)

Challenges Update: I read The Book Thief which is on my FITG list which I had totally forgotten.  I am also working on Bleak House which goes with the FITG.  I still have one book for Pratchett and two for South Asian authors to read.  I will be choosing books for those soon because I want to complete my challenges this year (giving that I've already completed two and only have these two left, that shouldn't be difficult).

September Plans: I've written out a schedule: I have those readathon YA books that are really good so that's upcoming; I'm exploring some different memes to help me fill my month; I'm starting classes again including an American Lit course so I will hopefully be reviewing some of that.
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