Monday, February 28, 2011

Oliver Twist, Wrap-Up

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
Barnes & Noble Classics, 2003
Originally published 1839
466 pages
Classic; FITG
4/5 stars

Source: Own

This ends the month readalong of Oliver Twist, hosted by Allie at A Literary Odyssey.  All of the threads introduced by Dickens are wrapped up and a very happy ending ensues.  Oliver discovers his family, Rose and Harry can marry, friendship abounds, bad is punished.  I do wonder if Oliver will get to meet children his own age; while the adults love him, it's not the same thing. Or is that idea a contemporary conception? I expect he'll be pretty happy just to be fed and loved rather than starved and driven through a life of crime.

Fagin, Sikes, and Dodger are all punished; the first two with death and the latter with transportation.  At least I think that's Dodger's fate.  It seems like that will be his ending but I didn't see it definitively stated (Did I skip over that part?)

The part I had been anticipating for the entire story was Nancy's death, the aftermath of which is particularly well-described.  Sikes sat all night in the same room as her dead body until the sun starts pouring in and he comes to with the realization of what he's done. I found the description fantastic and this was one part where I didn't mind that Dickens was so verbose.

In conclusion, I'm very glad for this push to read this classic novel.  I think it could definitely be recommended to Dickens newbies as it's very accessible, fairly fast-moving, and not filled with zillions of coincidences.

Post 1
Post 2

Read for FITG Challenge.

Covers: The Vespertine

I was interested to follow the changing covers for The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell.  The first two are the initial designs while the bottom is the actual cover.  I think I like the second one the most because the girl's face in the final looks odd; like everything else about her looks realistic but then her face looks more cartoonish. What do you think about the covers?

Review of The Vespertine coming next week!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Happy Oscars/The Social Network (Film)

The Social Network, 2010
Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, and Rooney Mara
Directed by David Fincher
Written by Aaron Sorkin

Summary: The creation of popular social networking site Facebook.

The good: First, Andrew Garfield is really hot in this! I had been seeing pictures of him on the awards circuit and I didn't quite get it but now I do and it makes me that much more excited about his performance in the new Spiderman.
Jesse Eisenberg is also good in an unsympathetic role; Zuckerberg seems to be fueled by spite and has little to no compassion for other people.
Rooney Mara, the American Lisbeth Salander, is also good in her handful of scenes as the girlfriend who dumps Zuckerberg and who he wants to prove himself to.
The script is also fantastic as you might have guessed from seeing that Sorkin wrote it.  It's very entertaining.

The bad: Justin Timberlake. I'm fine with JT in the music business but I do not want him in movies because he's awful.

While I mostly liked The Social Network, I definitely preferred The King's Speech and I'm rooting for it to win big tonight! What about you? Do you follow the Oscars? Will you be watching tonight?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Ramayana

The Ramayana by R. K. Narayan
Penguin, 1972
157 pages
Epic; Mythic
5/5 stars

Source: Bought and read for school

Summary: The epic of Rama, the god Vishnu in human form, and his quest to rid the world of Ravana.

I loved this book.  I thought that I was vaguely familiar with the story as I read it and I think I may have seen parts of a filmed adaptation at some point.  This is a shortened prose version so it has lost some of its embellishments; I imagine that this would be a very fun story to hear as the storyteller would add little bits of color and points of interest, tailored to fit the audience.  However as a book, I think it works in the shortened version.

It moves along fairly quickly but with side stories and diversions as might be expected in an epic.  Rama's eventual quest to destroy Ravana comes about because his beloved wife Sita is kidnapped by Ravana.  However before he can finish the task, he meets many other creatures and has many other adventures that burnish his reputation.

Overall: A fantastic story that I highly recommend for Westerners as we're probably not familiar with the story.

Cover: Rama is apparently always represented as blue although I'm not entirely sure why.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Disney Princess Profile: Jasmine

Hosted by Irena at This Miss Loves to Read.

Name: Jasmine
Film: Aladdin
Princess: Born and bred
Hair: Black and big
Outfit: Teal
Best Friend: Rajah
Species: Tiger
Home: Agrabah
Longs: To be free
Parents: The Sultan
Voice: Douglas Seale
Love Interest: Aladdin
Prince: No; Street rat
Voice: Scott Weinger
Sidekicks: Abu and Carpet
Also: Genie
Voice: Robin Williams
Villain: Jafar
Voice: Jonathan Freeman
Sidekick: Iago
Species: Parrot
Voice: Gilbert Gottfried
Songs: "Arabian Nights"
"One Jump Ahead"
"Street Urchins"
"Friend Like Me"
"Prince Ali"
"A Whole New World"
"Prince Ali (Reprise)"

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Follow Friday & Book Hop

Share your current fav television show! Tell us a bit about it...

I'm a sitcom girl because I love to laugh.  Current faves are Community and Parks and Recreation NBC, Thursdays, The Middle on ABC, Wednesdays, and my longtime standard The Simpsons, FOX, Sundays, a show that I have literally grown up with.  Except for The Middle, all of these shows are on hulu so US residents should give them a shot when they're looking for a laugh!

Book Blogger Hop
Do you ever wish you would have named your blog something different?
 No, I'm pretty happy with my title.  Sometimes I wish it had been Bookworm1858's Shelf or Bookworm1858 Reviews YA or something more specific but I'm overall pleased with it.

Edited to Add: Many have asked about the 1858; it's the birth year of Theodore Roosevelt, one of the most inspirational people to me and a voracious reader (he'd read one to three books a day in addition to his physical activities, time with family, and presidential work).

A Fatal Waltz

A Fatal Waltz by Tasha Alexander
William Morrow, 2008
294 pages
Mystery; Historical; Romance
Third book in the Lady Emily Ashton Series
3.5/5 series

See my reviews of And Only to Deceive and A Poisoned Season.

Source: Library

I've never found the Lady Emily series to have excellent mysteries however I've enjoyed the historical and romantic elements; this book continues that trend.  While I was emotionally invested in the mystery being unraveled, I did not think much of it.  Lord Fortescue, the most powerful man in Queen Victoria's government is found shot and Robert Brandon, husband to Lady Emily's best friend, is accused of the crime.  I like Robert; There is plenty of menace, probably the most that's appeared in the novels yet with a man called Mr. Harrison, deeply involved in the government and immensely threatening to Emily.  I also think this book has the most deaths so far.

The historical elements were my favorite part as Emily travels to Vienna, meeting Empress Elisabeth or Sisi, grieving over the death of her son Rudolf in the Mayerling Incident.  Additionally tensions are growing in Europe, tensions that will eventually explode in to World War I twenty years later.  Besides the political atmosphere, Emily spends a lot of time in the apparently thriving coffee shop scene of Vienna and meets the artist Gustav Klimt.

The romance between Emily and her fiance Colin continues to sizzle but with the complication of a former lover of his, Kristiana, who desires Colin no matter his engagement or her own marriage.  She makes Emily feel young and naive.  While I understand Emily's jealousy, I thought she dwelt on it to much and I wanted her to trust Colin and move forward with her life.

Overall: Another enjoyable outing with Lady Emily; do not read for an outstanding mystery puzzle.

Cover: I don't like that dress although I sort of like the color and I like the separation of title and picture.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2007
331 pages
Fiction; Historical
3.5/5 stars

Source: My mom has been trying to get me to read this book for years and I finally broke down and read it after one of my IRL friends recommended it.

The book is split between Jacob Jankowski's life as a ninety or ninety-three year old man and his reminisces about his life as a twenty-three year old traveling with a circus during the Great Depression.  He falls in love, sees an entirely different kind of life, and survives.

I was most impressed by the circus anecdotes, most of which are revealed to have been true by Gruen in the author's note.  The animals and other performers were very interesting.  Jacob, for me, was very boring with little about him that surprised me.  Marlena didn't have much of a personality.  She was just pretty with grace and a love of horses.

Overall, I was left with a feeling of "so what?"  I can see why my mom liked this; it's just the kind of book she would like and if I had read it first, I would totally have recommended it to her.  But I didn't love it as so many seemed to have and like I wanted to love it.

This has been made into a movie; I'm not sold on Robert Pattinson as Jacob (a redheaded Pole) but I'm okay with Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon as the brunette Marlena and very intrigued by Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz as her violent husband August.  I don't know if I'll see the film in theaters but I know my mom will and she'll tell me about it.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Deadly Vows

Deadly Vows by Brenda Joyce
Harlequin, 2010
379 pages
Historical Mystery Romance
3/5 stars

Source: Received a free egalley via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:  It is Francesca Cahill's wedding day, where she will finally marry Calder Hart after clearing his name in the murder of his mistress in the previous book.  Unfortunately she receives a note calling her to a gallery to recover the stolen nude portrait of herself that would destroy her reputation if shown; when she arrives, she is locked in and thus misses the ceremony.  Calder instead of attempting to understand breaks the engagement and shoves her toward his half-brother and her friend Police Commissioner Rick Bragg as they attempt to recover the painting and figure out who wanted to ruin Francesca.

I did not realize this was the ninth book in the series when I requested it from Netgalley but it looked so good that I couldn't wait until I'd read some of the earlier books before I started it.  I struggled a bit with the relationships but I think I had a pretty solid grasp on them by the conclusion.  As there are strong elements of three genres, I found it useful to divide my review along those lines.

1. Mystery: This was the strongest element for me; Francesca has investigated and solved cases in eight previous books, leading up to her entanglement in a case as the victim this time.  Someone had earlier stolen a nude portrait of her and seemed to be waiting to use it to blackmail her.  They also lured her away on her wedding day and locked her up, causing her to miss the ceremony.  She has three main suspects, all previously antagonists to her, and I thought the mystery unfolded at a good, logical pace.

2. Historical: Set in 1902 (each chapter opens with date and time), there are mentions of cars, telephones, and the high society of Old New York.  I would have liked some mentions of President Theodore Roosevelt but that's just obsessive me.  At first, I thought much of the language was stilted and formal but I realized that it was actually very time-appropriate. However she sometimes called her parents Julia and Andrew, which seemed wrong to me.  Francesca's general personality is more modern and she doesn't generally feel limited to the norms of the time, as shown by her investigations and her willingness to pose for a nude portrait.

3. Romance: This is where most of my problems were.  Now it's a Harlequin so I was expecting a fairly clear-cut romance where there's a heroine and a hero.  Francesca is obviously the heroine and Calder Hart is positioned as the hero but I don't find him to be one.  He's selfish, cruel, insanely jealous, violent, and in full of anger and guilt.  About the only positives are his richness, singleness, and recognition of the heroine as too good for him (too true!)  In fact the worst part of her, in my opinion, was her unfailing belief in him; every time she thought about how much she loved him and how she believe in him made me categorize her as an idiot.  I hated that Calder commissioned a nude portrait of her even before their engagement (is that historically probable? no one knew that it was nude except for those two, the painter, and then more as the tidbit leaks out), I hated his cruelty when she shows up bruised and with a tattered dress after the missed wedding, and I hated his bitterness.  The man I like for hero is Rick Bragg, Calder's half-brother (this is were jealousy and Hart's self-martyrdom comes in) who is unhappily married but who also knows that Francesca is too good for Calder.  Alas the ending! SPOILER: Francesca marries Calder thus spoiling a satisfying HEA and leaving me greatly displeased.  Perhaps if I'd read the previous books I'd be more sympathetic but other reviews haven't like Calder's behavior either so probably not.

Overall: I mostly like the characters but Calder's general suckiness spoiled the book for me.

Read for Ebook challenge

Monday, February 21, 2011

Miracles of the American Revolution

Miracles of the American Revolution by Larkin Spivey
God and Country press, 2010
174 pages
Non-fiction; Christian; History
3.5/5 stars

Source: Received a free copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Summary: Spivey makes the argument that God has had an intimate hand in the history of the United States, specifically to make America an independent country and prepare it for future greatness.

Part of his argument seemed to be that because the Founders believed that God was causing the so-called miraculous events, then that means He was. That's not an argument that I agree with.  The other part is that events that could have ended one way ended in the specific way they did because of God.  The British choosing not to pursue, the Americans not being defeated right away, the Americans losing, were all part of God's plan to create the nation of the United States of America to provide a different

I also liked the brief biographies of the important men on each side.  John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and George Washington are the obvious ones included but so is John Witherspoon, notable preacher and influencer of Madison.  I felt his inclusion was less justified.  Also receiving brief biographies are the main men on the side of the British, which I appreciated because I didn't really learn their names beyond King George III in school.

His overall point is that the greatness of America stems from its freedom of religion.  God offers everyone the opportunity to come to Him and perhaps He is bringing about a spiritual revival during these difficult times.

Overall: I'm still skeptical.

Read for Ebook challenge

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Enchantress of Florence

The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie
Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2008
349 pages
Literary Fiction; Historical; Magical
3.5/5 stars

Source: Bought and read for school

Read the summary on its Goodreads page.

This was my first experience with Rushdie and it definitely left me intrigued for more.  I read it for a history class and thus was most interested in the real-life figure Akbar the Great, Mughal Emperor, and in my opinion, the most interesting character in the book.  His musings on life and philosophy were some of the most entertaining passages.  Otherwise the sections in Italy confused me, mostly because of characters with several names.

The role of women was also something that caught my eye.  Although they are subordinate to men, they are still able to exercise some power, usually through their sexual powers and their ability to enchant entire populations.  This is also the time of Elizabeth I so one women even has the power of a monarch.  Yet overall I found the female characters lacking in the depth and personality that most of the male characters received.  While this disappointed me, it did not altogether surprise me given that Rushdie is male and that literary fiction often skimps on women.

I did not like the many obscenities and the preoccupation with sex evidenced by many of the characters.  I found those instances unnecessary and I think that most of the information could have been conveyed in a different way.

Overall: Left me wanting more Rushdie, particularly to try his highly acclaimed Midnight's Children

Cover: Very striking with its combination of reds and yellows.

Read for British Books Challenge

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Daughter of Time

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
Touchstone, 1951
206 pages
Historical; Mystery
4/5 stars

Source: Bough

Summary: Everyone's heard of the Princes in the Tower and their murder by their cruel uncle Richard III as immortalized by the Bard.  However when Inspector Alan Grant is laid up in bed due to a broken leg, he begins to reinvestigate the case and makes for himself a surprising discovery.

Apparently this book helped spur reevaluations of Richard III's character and whether or not he could have committed the murders.  Personally I was swayed by the motivations of Henry VII as the driving force behind the murders as opposed to Richard.  Henry's claim to the throne was so shady and tenuous, something I was not aware of.

However I'm not entirely sure I'm convinced by the research methodology employed and what might have been left out of the story. I would prefer to read an actual historian's take on this mystery, preferably one for Richard as the murderer and one against.

Additionally I felt that the non-Richard parts were somewhat repetitive as Alan interacted with his nurses in a most impatient and somewhat condescending manner.  I always looked forward to the research parts but not the present-day information.  Plus Alan's abilities caused skepticism in me; he can tell the general good or badness of a person just by looking at the face, which prompts his investigation.  There has to be a more scientific explanation, right?

I am interested to read more of Tey's work as the book touts her as "one of the greatest mystery writers of all time."  A completely fictional novel is what I want to read from her.

Read for British Books Challenge

Friday, February 18, 2011

Disney Princess Profile: Belle

Hosted by Irena at This Miss Loves to Read.

Name: Belle
Princess: No
Hair: Brown, partly tied back
Outfit: Blue or yellow
Best Friend: Books
Home: A poor provincial town
Special Powers: Can tame the beast; Reads
Parent: Maurice
Voice: Rex Everhart
Profession: Inventor
Love Interest: The Beast
Prince: Yes
Villain: Gaston
Voice: Richard White
Henchman: LeFou
Songs: "Belle"
"Be Our Guest"
"Something There"
"Human Again"
"Beauty and the Beast"
"The Mob Song"

Thoughts: Who doesn't love Beauty and the Beast? And I think Belle, the bookish princess, holds a special place in the hearts of most book bloggers.  She's also the only princess with brown hair (three with black, three blondes, and a red-head) so I appreciate that.  Besides her love of reading, Belle is loyal to her family which of course gets her stuck with the Beast.  She's also perhaps a bit too curious for her own good, incurring further wrath of the Beast.  But she has a good heart, patience, and bravery leading to her own happily ever after.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Oliver Twist, Post 2

This is from the 2007 Oliver Twist mini-series (It's quite good; I have it on DVD with the 2008 Little Dorrit.)

Part 2 of Oliver Twist Readalong as hosted by Allie at A Literary Odyssey

This part was weird and seemed divided into roughly two sections.  The first section was boring to me as it talked about everyone but Oliver, suggesting that the boy was left dead in a ditch as Bill Sikes ran for his life. I knew of course that Oliver wasn't dead although that would have been a very interesting twist!  For me, I found these chapters to be more stereotypically Dickens with many long sentences and description.

I much preferred the second section where Oliver meets good people who love him and want to take care of him, helping to turn him into a healthy little boy.  The only problem is that there didn't seem to be much plot.  I know that Oliver has to return at least once more to Fagin and the gang before achieving a happy ending for himself but there were just chapters of Rose being ill and then recovering (how did she even get sick?) and the aftermath.  I did feel like it could have been shortened though.

I'm very excited for the last third which will a. explain who Monks is; b. give Oliver's history; c. probably make me cry, re. Nancy; and d. wrap everything up.  It's about 160 pages (including illustrations) which would be enough for most people but as Dickens is, ahem, long-winded, I hope I don't feel cheated or rushed too fast to a false-feeling conclusion.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Rise and Fall of the Bible

The Rise and Fall of the Bible by Timothy Beal
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011
196 pages*
Non-fiction; Christian
5/5 stars

Source: Received a free review copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

I wasn't sure what to expect with this book but it looked interesting so I requested it.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Beal wants us to revise and rexamine our notions about the Bible and our interactions with it.  The prevalent way of viewing the Bible seems to be that it is God's Word and that it contains the answers to every question in life.  But that view is only about 150 years old and comes from the American evangelicalism of the time period.

But Beal finds that belief incomplete.  Instead he challenges us to view the books of the Bible as retellings and reinterpretations of earlier Scripture.  He wants us to bring ambiguity back in to our relationship with the words.  One definitive answer is not necessarily what we should take away from our reading of the Bible.  He further decries the outpouring of Bibles with value-content added.  Meaning added sections that provide one interpretation as if it is the only one and are sometimes more read than the actual Scripture thus giving people a false sense of their understanding.

The production of so many different types of Bibles is also describing the sacred capital that has been accrued, something Beal applauds as it will help readers acquire their own thoughts and feelings instead of having them imposed on them by history.

Overall: Fascinating read; highly recommended!

*The first page of each chapter was missing so I didn't quite read the complete book but I read enough to know.

Challenges: Ebook

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton
HarperCollins, 2011
290 pages
YA; Fantasy
3/5 stars

Source: Received a free copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Ellie is the Preliator, a unique being whose purpose is to defeat reapers, vicious creatures who eat people in order to send their souls to hell in preparation for a war between hell and heaven.  Will is her guardian, the one who looks out for her and searches her out after every death and reincarnation.

I was intrigued by the concept of her reincarnation and how that affects her life as centuries pass.  On the one hand, a woman now has more options and is accustomed to more independence, probably resulting in a bolder and more active woman.  However she has to struggle to balance school with her responsibility as well as her desire for a "normal" life including college and boyfriends, etc.  Ellie's grades, never that great, suffer tremendously from this responsibility. In fact, I thought she wanted the "normal" life too much and that soured me on her.

Now it's probably no surprise that there is a romance between Ellie and Will.  His sole object in life is to protect and serve her and he's been looking out for her soul for five hundred years.  However I was very swayed by the angel Michael who informs them that the romance is wrong because SPOILER Ellie is the archangel Gabriel.  I cannot in good conscience support a relationship so obviously displeasing to God.  I do like that the trend of angel books is bringing up questions of God though.  It was confusing though as Ellie's essential soul is apparently reincarnated, which is not a Christian concept and seemed out of line with the other theology.

I was intrigued by the obvious socio-economic class of Ellie; while she talks about wealthier friends, she herself comes from a pretty wealthy family.  Her parents buy her a $30,000 car for her seventeenth birthday as well as a Badgley Mischka dress (probably around $300 which is still far more than I've ever spent on any article of clothing including my glasses!) I've never really noticed how much wealth a YA paranormal main character has so that was surprising.  Now I'm quite fortunate in that respect but I think her mentioning that she wasn't that wealthy when she obviously was rankled me.  I don't that's fair of me but it's how I feel.

I was disturbed by Ellie's blithe dismissal of her underage (she had just turned 17) drinking.  She justifies it because she didn't drive anywhere, no one got hurt, and hey she'd done it before.  While I think the law does allow for underage drinking in private settings, providing the underage person did not purchase the alcohol, I was very uncomfortable with her blase attitude.  In fact, in general I did not like Ellie as a person finding her far too flippant for such a serious position and much too concerned with having "fun" instead of with performing her duty.

KIND OF SPOILER: I thought her father, who's a big jerk to her, would turn out to have been a reaper because he was so mean but that didn't happen; it still could though.

Overall: Unlikable and immature main character but intriguing premise.  While it's the beginning of a trilogy, the story as a whole was more self-contained and I feel comfortable with the knowledge that I will have read it as a standalone.

Cover: At first I really liked it and then I thought her face looked really weird and I feel like some indication of Will should be there.

Challenges: YA Debut; Ebook

Monday, February 14, 2011

Emma and Mr. Knightley

So I don't really like Valentine's Day because it's not a real holiday (do we still have school/work and do we still get mail? Then it's not a holiday; a notable exception being Easter.) But it is an opportunity to celebrate love stories and while I could choose any Austen couple that I like, Emma and Mr. Knightley have a special place in my heart.

Now that's not to say that I'd want to marry Mr. Knightley if he treated me like he treated Emma and the whole age difference thing is kind of gross.  I appreciate being corrected but I could see his method being annoying.  Regardless, I still swoon over him because he's so perfectly perfect for Emma.  He cares about her so much and unlike a certain other Austen hero coughdarcycough he really is a perfect gentleman, conversing with anyone (even a farmer like Robert Martin) and treating everybody without an ounce of condescension.  The only person he does not like is Frank Churchill because of jealousy and then the fear that he might have hurt Emma (totally legit reasons) and he is still able to be civil.

I know that some people don't like Emma and that's fine because I adore her plenty and I love reading about her and seeing the different adaptations of her story.

Who's your favorite Austen couple and favorite literary couple if *gasp* an Austen couple is not your favorite?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Ruby in the Smoke

The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman
Laurel-Leaf, 1985
230 pages
YA; Mystery; Historical
First in Series
3.5/5 stars

Source: Library

Why Read: Forever Young Adult and I saw that JJ Feild (aka Mr Tilney) was in an adaptation.

I really expected to love this book.  Sally is not a typical nineteenth century lady, knowing not how to sew, read, or entertain visitors but quite proficient in shooting and bookkeeping.  She is used to having her own independence, which is useful as her father dies at the beginning of the book leaving her an orphan.

Unfortunately her father's death as part of a sunk ship in his trading business also opens a long secret mystery involving opium, Asia, and a ruby.  Sally sets out to unravel the mystery, acquiring an enemy and allies.  The enemy is a woman named Mrs. Holland who has set her plan in motion and is a most determined and frightening foe.

The allies are delightful fun.  First is Frederick Garland, a brilliant photographer but hopeless businessman who thus appreciates Sally's talents in that area (as well as admiring her person).  His actress sister Rosa and assistant Trembler complete their bohemian household.  Another ally is Jim, a delivery boy at her father's firm, with a big heart and even bigger ambitions.  The group joins together to help Sally find the ruby and to protect her against the evil machinations of Mrs. Holland.

While I appreciated the brevity of Pullman (I believe some authors would have stuffed this with never-ending subplots to make the story much longer), something was missing.  Perhaps I would have preferred a more historically correct heroine-it is acknowledged that Sally is vastly different from the typical lady.  Perhaps I just don't like his writing style (I read The Golden Compass but didn't like it much).  Perhaps my expectations were too high.

Regardless, I am still considering reading the second book and I will definitely watch the adaptation to see Mr. Feild.

Cover: This isn't my cover but I thought that it was prettier. I love the font and the sparkling ruby.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

William's Princess

William's Princess by Robert Jobson
John Blake Publishing Ltd, 2006
254 pages
Non-fiction; Royalty
3.5/5 stars

Despite the title, the focus of this book is not so much Catherine Middleton and her relationship with Prince William as it is about the future of the monarchy in particular the rather unpopular Prince Charles and how Will and Kate's relationship will affect the monarchy.

While I was disappointed because I do want to learn about the future Princess William, I thought that the broader focus helped the book.  Instead of just giving a biography of their relationship (and this was published in 2006 so it misses a lot), the book examines Diana, Charles, and how Queen Elizabeth is slowly but surely cutting back on her engagements to give her self some breathing space as she ages and to help prepare for the transition to Charles.  Jobson writes continually of the unpopularity of Charles, especially in comparison to his mother and son.  I wonder if that is still the case now, five years later.  I suspect he is still less popular than them but that the division is not as extreme as it was.

I also enjoyed Jobson's intrusions in the story; unlike Nicholl's work, the entire book was framed that way and did not jar me whenever he appeared to explain his own involvement.  Occasionally he elucidates on the story he broke and emphasizes the credibility of his anonymous sources.  I am also pretty sure I've seen Jobson on television, which made him feel more familiar and endeared him to me.

Overall: Misleading title but solid writing.

Read for British Books Challenge.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Disney Princess Profile: Tiana

Hosted by Irena at This Miss Loves to Read.

Name: Tiana
Princess: No
Hair: Black and tied back
Outfit: Usually green
Best Friend: Lottie
Species: Human
Voice: Jennifer Cody
Home: New Orleans, Louisiana
Special Powers: Makes a mean gumbo
Parents: James and Eudora
Voices: Terrence Howard and Oprah
Love Interest: Naveen
Prince: Yes
Villain: Dr Facilier
Voice: Keith David
Profession: Voodoo Doctor
Songs: "Down in New Orleans"
"Almost There"
"Friends on the Other Side"
"When We're Human"
"Gonna Take You There"
"Ma Belle Evangeline"
"Dig a Little Deeper"

Thoughts: I loved "The Princess and the Frog" and was so psyched for Disney's return to 2D animation and princess stories.  I enjoyed the songs, I think Naveen is a dreamy prince, and the secondary characters are a lot of fun.  One warning is that the villain has some pretty scary sequences, which may be frightening for young children.  Otherwise super appropriate as you'd expect from a Disney flick!

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Click Edited by Courtney E. Martin and J. Courtney Sullivan
Seal Press, 2010
226 pages
Non-fiction; Feminism
3/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: A collection of essays from some well-known feminists describing the "click" that made them know they were feminists.

Thoughts: I saw several reviews of this and I was really looking forward to it.  While all of the essays were readable, none of them worked for me.

I saw many commonalities across the essays: women who rebelled against gender constraints, women supported by other women in the feminist movement, women proud of being a feminist, women who are outspoken and confident.

But I didn't feel any connection to the stories.  I didn't see my "click" moment represented.  Now that's partly because I'm not entirely sure when that was and I know that I would be unable to write something as well as these feminists.  But I think I wanted to find someone very similar to me with whom I could identify and I didn't.

Overall: Some good stories, all well-written, but none that "clicked" with me.

Cover: I really like the colors but it's nothing exceptional.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Not That Kind of Girl

Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian
Push, 2010
322 pages
YA; Contemporary; Romance
4/5 stars

Source: Library

Natalie Sterling is not that kind of girl. She is the kind of girl who's class president, who will go to a fantastic college, who won't be distracted from her goals, not even by a tempting quarterback.  She is not the kind of girl who begs for male attention, the kind of girl who might be labeled a slut.   Until one day Natalie is that kind of girl, the one who people gossip about and who disappoints her favorite teacher.  What's she going to do about it?

I simultaneously identified with and wanted to shake Natalie throughout the book.  She certainly has her good points: ambitious, loyalty, controlled, honest, good daughter, loves classic films.  Additionally I agreed with many of her points warning girls not to take naked pictures of themselves (in general, a very bad idea especially in high school. I've seen multiple news stories about the consequences that can occur and yet nobody seems to learn.)

But she also has a frustrating side: wanting her best friend to have no other friends but her, bossy, wanting to keep a relationship with a good guy quiet and just focus on the physical, an outsize hatred for most if not all high school boys.  I wanted to stop her so many times and tell her what she should do because she was going about the situation in completely the wrong way.

Despite those flaws, she's a very likable character and she seemed very real to me.  I saw a lot of myself in her and I really wanted her to hit rock bottom so that she could pull herself up and out of trouble and continue fighting for what she believes in.

Besides Natalie, there is also a VERY cute boy named Connor; now he's no Will but he's not bad.

For a hilarious review of this book, check out Forever Young Adult's review.

Overall: Cute story with some good scenes between Natalie and Connor-some very good scenes!

Cover: So fun story: The librarian teased me as he checked my book out, not that it ought to matter to him what I read so I have a bit of a hate on for this cover.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Oliver Twist, Post 1

Oliver Twist Readalong, hosted by Allie at A Literary Odyssey

I'm actually quite familiar with the basics of Oliver Twist thanks to the films Oliver!, Oliver and Company, Oliver Twist, and Oliver Twist. But obviously they truncate and change parts wholesale so it's always good to return to the text itself.

However I have found those adaptations to be fairly faithful to the text so far; while there were some changes, from what I can remember most plot points and characters remain the same. I only have a couple of immediate thoughts:
  • The "Please sir I want some more" scene.  This seems to translate wholesale on screen.  Of course there's the irony of the fat wealthy men and their presumed "goodness" in maintaining Oliver and the orphans in such style.  I really like the confrontation scene between the men and Oliver on screen because the visual irony is fantastic.  These plump men surrounded by mountains of food and poor Oliver who only wants a bit more gruel.  The inequities are depressing.
  • I'm also struck by Oliver's innocence and basic goodness; he wants to do right and would probably be content earning a simple honest day's wage if he could only have the opportunity.  Instead he's forced in with a band of criminals and away from good people who worried about him.
  • I've always heard of this book as particularly anti-Semitic and Fagin is almost constantly mentioned as "the Jew" rather than by his name. I'm not entirely sure why that decision was made; this is something I'd like to know more about and to discuss later. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Dangerous Secrets

Dangerous Secrets by Katie Reus
Carina, 2011
153 pages
Romantic Suspense
4/5 stars

Source: Received a free copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I have really been enjoying Carina's romantic novellas and I think this was my favorite so far.  I don't read too much suspense, usually preferring a nice cozy, but I enjoyed this a lot.

The story kicks off right away with Izzy, a bartender escaping from her rich overprotective father, and Adam, secretly hired by Izzy's father to protect her and convince her to move back home, feeling tremendous sparks between them.  Adam is trying to fight his attraction for her but when she proves more than willing, their romance starts.  They fall for each other very quickly, spurred by a criminal terrorizing the area.

That criminal provides the suspense as he has been kidnapping women and molesting/abusing them until Izzy interferes between him and a prospective victim.  Then he sets his sights on killing Izzy while Adam and Izzy have every intention of staying alive and together.  The criminal is absolutely despicable, especially once you know his "reasoning" behind the choice of his victims.  While the focus is on the romantic leads, I felt that one police officer was given some personality that helped him stand out.

I was worried about Adam concealing his identity from Izzy because that lie always explodes in one's face as it did here.  I think she should have made him grovel more but I also felt his pain and I knew that he was an upstanding guy.

Overall: Strong mix of romance and suspense but nothing surprising.

Cover: Not a big fan-I'm not sure what's so off-putting to me but I would not have chosen this book based on the cover.

Read as part of Ebook challenge

Sunday, February 6, 2011

William and Harry

William and Harry: Behind the Palace Walls by Katie Nicholl
Weinstein Books, 2010
308 pages
British Books Challenge
3/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: An insider's look at Princes William and Harry as written by royal reporter for the Mail on Sunday Katie Nicholl.

I know I'm an American but I've been fascinated with the modern British royals, partly due to my mom's love of Diana and I'm so excited for the royal wedding which incidentally automatically dates this book.  When Nicholl's published it, the engagement had not yet been announced although she was fairly confident the wedding would take place in 2011 (side note: cannot wait to see the dress-Catheirne's so tall and pretty that she can wear almost anything).

But as to the book.  The beginning was good, providing information on the childhoods of the princes which may be familiar to some but not to me, given that I am a bit younger than they are.  In fact, I enjoyed the book up to about the time that they started acting out, partying and drinking all the time.  This was mostly because I find that behavior absolutely reprehensible.  They are part of the highest rank of privilege and they wasted it with their drunken parties; that was also the part that made me glad to be an American with a republic!

Another part I didn't like was the several chapters describing in detail Harry and William's military service.  I have no interest in that and it also raises another point about sources.  I recognize that Nicholl wants to protect her sources and that they want anonymity but how truthful are we to believe the sources are.  And frequently she writes about how the prince might be feeling which she has no power to do unless they, for some inexplicable reason, talked with her and shared exactly how they felt at the time.  Nicholl also inserted herself into several sections, talking about when she reported a story and that took me out of the story.

One little peeve was inconsistency in terms: she used feet and miles for distance but pounds for the money.  I would have preferred to see kilometers and pounds or feet/miles and dollars.  I think this book was written for an American audience so conversion of the pounds into dollars, even just in parentheses, would have been helpful.

Overall: Some interesting bits-perhaps check out of your library, like I did, and skim for new information.

Cover: I think this might be Buckingham Palace and of course the boys are cute, although I would prefer them smiling.  Probably these were the only ones authorized.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Dangerous Neighbors

Dangerous Neighbors by Beth Kephart
Egmont, 2010
166 pages
YA; Historical
3/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: Ever since Katherine's twin sister Anna died, she has felt alone and guilty of causing the death.  In 1876, during the Centennial fair in Philadelphia, Katherine goes to the fairgrounds to end her own life.

Thoughts: As I had enjoyed one of Kephart's other books and had seen this title around the blogosphere, I decided to pick this book up.  I was especially excited to see that it was set in Philadelphia in 1876 around the centennial.  That is not a time period I'm very familiar with but I would like to learn more.  Unfortunately I felt that the time period was not well utilized.  The story could almost be set in any time period as the language and the few events that occur were generic.

Additionally because of the short length, I felt no connection to any of the characters.  The main focus was Katherine and her now deceased twin sister Anna; other characters include Anna's secret beau Bennett, their parents, and maid.  Anna, from what I read, was improper, rude, and insensitive to Katherine's concerns about her secret affair, an affair that could have ruined their family if discovered, I presume.  Katherine, though, was somewhat controlling and needy toward Anna.  No other character had a chance to develop a personality.

Admittedly this is a beautifully written book and if that's enjoyable for you, then give this a try.  But it's not at all the kind of book I like.

Cover: I love the font of the title and while I didn't understand the shells, the explanation is revealed through the story.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Disney Princess Profile: Rapunzel

Hosted by Irena at This Miss Loves to Read.

Name: Rapunzel
Film: Tangled
Princess: Born but not bred
Hair: Crazy long blonde
Outfit: Pink and Purple
Sidekick: Pascal
Species: Chameleon
Home: In a hidden tower
Special Powers: Healing hair
Parents: King and Queen
Love Interest: Flynn Rider
Prince: No-thief
Villain: Mother Gothel
Songs: "When Will My Life Begin"
"Mother Knows Best"
"I've Got a Dream"
"I See the Light"
"Healing Incantation"

Thoughts: I LOVED "Tangled." I wasn't sure about it being computer animation and I was mad at Disney for its pandering to a male audience and just expecting the females to come but I still saw it and I adored it-I am dying for it to come out on DVD (March 29-why won't you come already?!)  Rapunzel and Flynn have some hysterical moments (some involving a frying pan); Pascal is adorable (I picked up my own stuffed Pascal at the Disney store-he is blue and sparkly); the songs are cute; and Mother Gothel is a good villain.  There's a good mix of romance, adventure, and comedy that should be pleasing to all!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Library Thursday Blog Hop

 Hosted by LazyGirlReads

So I am super lucky because while my college's library is kind of lame (being an academic library, it doesn't really have any YA, except for Revolution by Jennifer Connelly and Lauren Conrad's books, nor does it have much fun genre fiction; it does however have loads of useful research material) BUT I can request books from loads of other libraries which is how I get most of my reading material. 

Currently I have these books checked out:
Freefall by Mindi Scott
Kate by Claudia Joseph
Fixing Delilah by Sarah Ockler
Girl, Stolen by April Henry
Ransome's Honor by Kaye Dacus

Not pictured:
Tempestuous by Lesley Livingston
XVI by Julia Karr
Prisoners in the Palace by Michaela MacColl
Academy 7 by Anne Osterlund

Now that is a pretty good list of fairly recent titles plus some older ones that I missed.  I also get the books for three weeks with the option to renew if necessary.  It is a good system and I estimate that at least one-third of the books I've read while in college come through this system.

What did you get from the library this week?

Across the Universe

Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Razorbill, 2011
398 pages
YA; Science-Fiction
Read for YA Debut Challenge
4/5 stars

Source: Library (Picked up only 5 days after it came out!)

Summary from goodreads: "A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder. Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.
Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.
Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming."

What I Liked:
-The characters especially Amy, Elder, and Harley.  Their personalities popped and I felt for each of them.  Less prominent characters like Steela and Orion still caught my attention in the times that they appeared but the first three mentioned were among the most important.  Amy is a fish out of water, Elder is struggling with the knowledge that he will be leader, and Harley is trying to survive.  I loved all of them.
-The writing-very strong, especially for a debut.
-The rewritten history learned by students on the ship, as in Hitler was a great leader because he unified his people along monoethnic lines and Lincoln ended the Civil War by sending all of the black people to Africa.  The first made me gasp a bit but as I realized what had been done, I enjoyed it and wished there were more tidbits of the new history.
-The optimistic ending.  Nothing definite is set but the future could turn out well for the surviving people.
-The cover: very striking and appealing.

What I Didn't Like:
-The dystopian elements all felt really familiar.  Dystopian isn't the main genre I read so I was surprised that none of those parts surprised me.  As each piece was revealed, I thought "Of course; why didn't Amy or Elder figure this out sooner?"
-The descriptions, while good and necessary, sometimes ran too long.  At times, I just wanted something to happen.

-Amy's parents are the reason she is on the ship.  They both wanted to be a part of creating a new world (mom's a geneticist; dad's a tactician) but they were willing to part with their daughter in order to do so.  She had the choice to remain on earth and die before they ever reached their destination or to come with them.  She obviously chose the latter but may never see them again.

Overall: A great debut, especially for those who love science-fiction and dystopian.

Cover: Gorgeous cover!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Women of the Bible

Women of the Bible by Carol Smith, Rachael Phillips, and Ellyn Sanna
Barbour, 2011
267 pages
Non-fiction; Christian; Reference
Read for ebook challenge
4/5 stars

Source: Received a free review copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I wasn't entirely sure what this book would be like based on the brief description online.  It seems like it is part of a series and that it is supposed to be very accessible, which it definitely is.

I was disappointed because my own expectations were looking for a more in-depth scholarly approach.  Instead the book does just what is outlined on the cover touching on the minutiae of how women in the Bible might have lived their lives.  Some things we know: the economic status of women, their chores, expectations about children and family while some aspects we aren't sure about.  At best we're piecing together information about women who lived millennia ago but whose concerns then mirror ours now.

Family, friendship, religion, survival, and love are among the similarities between then and now.  Connections are drawn and nice pictures illustrate almost every page.  I especially appreciated the gorgeous artwork, mainly from Renaissance it seemed.  I did not know most of those pictures and they were fascinating to see.

Also included is a list of every woman in the Bible whether or not she has a name.  The more prominent women such as Eve, Sarah, and Mary receive multiple mentions and more space devoted to them.

Layout: I don't usually talk about layout because in most of the ebooks I've read, it hasn't mattered.  But this one had a fantastic layout, probably the closest to the actual book as can get.  It made me so glad that I have a nook color!  One fault was that it didn't have chapter links like many ebooks that I've read so navigating wasn't as smooth as it could be.

Overall: Interesting reference and perspective.

Cover: I like the woman and the colors but I don't like the other pictures.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Harper, 2011
303 pages
Ebook Challenge
3.5/5 stars

Source: Uncorrected eproof from Netgalley

Summary: People used to think that love was a good thing, not realizing that their headaches, knee pains, strokes, etc were usually caused by love.  Now the situation is better because there's a cure, administered at the age of eighteen.  Lena cannot wait for the cure.  Her mother suffered from love all her life before dying and Lena wants the cure in order to become normal, calm, and dignified.  But just weeks before her scheduled treatment, her best friend starts acting oddly and she meets a boy with whom she actually falls in love.

Thoughts: There's been a lot of buzz in the blogosphere about this book and it's obvious why.  Oliver's first book Before I Fall was a critical smash and she continues her beautiful writing in Delirium.  However I was much less pleased with this book.

First it turns out that it is supposed to serve as the first book in a trilogy; I had thought it would be a standalone like Before I Fall.  Thus Oliver spends a lot of time creating the world and it is boring.  I kept waiting for something to happen and interest me in the story.  Then things do happen but I was pretty annoyed with Lena by that point.  I did not want to read about how good looking she found Alex, how nervous she was about what she was doing, and my personal breaking point was about halfway through when she sneaked out of the house, supposedly to go warn her friend out about regulators seeking the uncured after curfew.  I didn't believe Lena's rationale that she had to leave and I thought she was a complete idiot for doing so.

As the story progresses, it unfolds like many dystopians that I've read with the main character slowly coming to the realization that the government is manipulating people, is doing wrong, etc, etc.  I may be a bit tired of dystopians and am plunging into some more mysteries and contemporary in the foreseeable future.

However I do still like Oliver's writing, it's absolutely beautiful, and the ending was very shocking to me.

1. Super sad part: Lena comes across a dog that was shot by the regulators and is dying in the street-the saddest part of the book as far as I'm concerned.
2. Ending: Alex dies and I'm not sure I want to read the sequels without him in them, even though I did get tired of Lena gushing about his stupid eye color.

Someone else who reviewed this book with similar feelings to me (but who wrote about it better) is Small Review.

Overall: A very slow dystopian that some people might find more rewarding than I did.

Cover: I don't like this cover very much; I do think the blue is pretty and the basic concept could be used for all three books but it's not attractive to me.  If I hadn't read Before I Fall or hadn't been a part of the YA blogosphere, I probably would not have read it.

Out today in stores! Links for more info:
Barnes and Noble

January Stats

I changed how I present my statistics each month so this will be a very long post but it's something I'm very interested in tracking.  I had a fantastic month-namely I read 41 books which is crazy.  I was shooting for 31 and I can't believe I managed to exceed that.  I think this was a combination of being on break from school, reading some really good books, and reading some really short books.  As I look back, I count 9 books under 200 pages.
I'm also thankful to my nookcolor for helping me increase my reading stats for ebooks.  I was worried about it being backlit but my eyes haven't hurt at all.  I've only read one book where color mattered but I have some others queued that will help me take full advantage of its color capabilities.
In February, I will continue reviewing books including some South Asian literature that I'm reading for a class, perhaps some movies, and I'm also participating in Allie at A Literary Odyssey's Oliver Twist readalong-I think there's still time to sign up if you want to join us!

Monthly Stats:
Books Read This Month: 41
Pages Read This Month: 10,609
Average Length of Book: 265
Average Rating of Book: 3.72
Favorite Book: The Ramayana translated by R.K. Narayan
Least Favorite Book: Promise by Kristie Cook (too Twilight)
Longest Book: Insatiable by Meg Cabot at 451 pages.
Shortest Book: The Mysterious Lady Law by Robert Appleton at 104 pages

Year Stats:
Total Books Read: 41
Total Pages Read: 10,609
Average Length of Book: 265
Average Rating of Book: 3.72

By Genre:
Science Fiction/Fantasy-1
Historical Fiction-1
Short Stories-0
Challenge Updates
Contemps: 1 read, 3 total
Cozy: 1 read, 1 total
British Books: 12 read, 12 total
YA Debut: 3 read, 3 total
Ebook: 13 read, 13 total

Home Library-11
School Library-6
Free ebook-2

Read for school: 4
Read for pleasure: 37

Books read (If they've been reviewed, link)
1. After the Funeral by Agatha Christie
2. The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney
3. Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
4. Fasting by Scot McKnight
5. The Sittaford Mystery by Agatha Christie
6. Firelight by Sophie Jordan
7. Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
8. Bed of Roses by Nora Roberts
9. Savor the Moment by Nora Roberts
10. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
11. Insatiable by Meg Cabot
12. The Mysterious Mr. Quin by Agatha Christie
13. Once Upon a Scandal by Delilah Marvelle
14. The Mysterious Lady Law by Robert Appleton
15. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
16. The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson
17. Jane by April Lindner
18. Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots by Abby McDonald
19. The Deeds of the Disturber by Elizabeth Peters
20. The Jesus Inquest by Charles Foster
21. Promise by Kristie Cook
22. Love Remains by Kaye Dacus
23. Across the Universe by Beth Revis
24. Dangerous Neighbors by Beth Kephart
25. Delirium by Lauren Oliver (check back later today for my review)
26. William and Harry by Katie Nicholl
27. The Bible by John Riches
28. Feminism by Margaret Walters
29. Women of the Bible by Carol Smith, Rachael Phillips, and Ellyn Sanna
30. Click edited by Courtney E. Martin and J. Courtney Sullivan
31. Dangerous Secrets by Katie Reus
32. Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian
33. Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie
34. The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman
35. Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton
36. The Rise and Fall of the Bible by Timothy K. Beal
37. The Ramayana translated by N.K. Narayan
38. Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
39. A Fatal Waltz by Tasha Alexander
40. Miracles of the American Revolution by Larkin Spivey
41. William's Princess by Robert Jobson
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