Friday, January 30, 2015

Stardust: 5 Stars

 Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Guys....I think I am in love!  I am also a wee bit upset at all of you for not telling me about Neil Gaiman sooner! 

In all seriousness though, I am officially captivated by Gaiman.  I read Good Omens a couple months back and absolutely loved it. But since he co-wrote that with Terry Pratchett, I wasn't sure if that meant I would like both writers or just one of them.  But after reading Stardust and getting halfway through The Graveyard Book, it's obvious that Gaiman is a magnificent, magical author. I am definitely going to try more of his work.

In Stardust, we join Tristan Thorn on a quest for his true love, or at least who he naively thinks is his true love. Victoria clearly has no interest in Tristan and jokingly tells him that if he goes and gets a falling star, that she will marry him. Little did she know, twitterpated Tristan was going to do just that. But when Tristan discovers the star is a girl, the journey only becomes more interesting.

This story is magical and hysterical. Gaiman masters the art of storytelling with excellent, quirky characters and captivating scenes. He masterfully writes his own fairy tale for adults, but that obviously would appeal to children as well (except maybe when the unicorn dies). Even his antagonists are bewitching, despite their lack of morals. It makes them easy to hate, but still so enjoyable to read about.

I simply cannot recommend this book enough. It was entertaining and fun.  I love that Gaiman is a writer who likes to try new things and experiment with his work. I listened to the audiobook (read by the author and was magnificent) and it was followed by an interview with Gaiman. He tells of how the story came about. Considering his intentions and first release of this story involved a specific illustrator and lots of pictures, I now want to own that version of the book!  I guess that is another book to add to my wish list!

Can anyone recommend some more Gaiman book to me?  As a newbie, I am ready to soak him in!

Rating: PG

Recommended for those who enjoy: fairy tales, adventure, and quirky writing.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Ten Books I'd Love to Read With My Book Club

It's time again for The Broke and The Bookish's Top Ten Tuesday. This week's theme is: Ten Books I'd Love to Read With My Book Club.

I have been going to the same book club for about two and a half years now. It was my sister's book club that I joined when I moved to town. While I love the group and really enjoy going, I am by far the youngest and the only one that is not a mom (although that will change in a few months).  They are much more conservative than I am, so I hold back on some of my recommendations, simply because any language and whatnot will make most of them put the book down. So my list consists of books I would love to read with them, but know they wouldn't like just because of the language or length (because trying to read a 1000 page book in a month is a lot to ask).

1. Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon:

This is one of my favorite books of all time. It's such a fun and fascinating read. However, there is a little too much language for my book club.

2. John Adams by David McCullough:

This one is just a very long book and I couldn't expect anyone to finish it in time.

3. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee:

This one would be perfect for my book club, which is probably why they already read it before I joined.

4. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro:

This book would spark a lively conversation for sure, but again, a little too heavy for my particular book club.

5. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas:

This one is definitely way too long for a monthly book club!

6. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis:

I love this book and book club actually did read it last year!

7. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson:

The context of this book, while fascinating, it very dark. I don;t think most in my book club would enjoy it.

8. The Help by Kathryn Stockett:

Again, I missed out on this one since they read the book before I joined the club.

9. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn:

This one is definitely too heavy and full of way too much language for my book club. 

10. Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick:

Again, way too much language in this one. Tiffany has quite the mouth.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Making Up For Monday: Let's Get Physical

It's time for Making Up For Monday! This is a weekly meme hosted by me that asks some fun literary questions. Feel free to play along!

This week's question:
  How many physical books do you own?

Oh boy is this a tough question. I have so many books, that they do not fit into one room. Right now, they are kept in six different places around the house.  One of those places is in the basement in boxes because I have literally no room to put more books.  So I will tell you how many books I have outside of those books, because digging through boxes does not sound like fun.

The other fun thing is that we are currently undergoing a remodel of our kitchen. The reading nook I have is right next to the kitchen, so all those book migrated up on a shelf to make room for all the kitchen stuff that needed to be moved. So they are really crammed up there.

And that leads to a grand total of......


I think I might have a problem. 

What about you?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Wee Free Men: 4 Stars

Wee Free Men (A Discworld Novel) by Terry Pratchett

Tiffany Aching is a 9-year-old girl who wants to be a witch. This isn't a particularly surprising career avenue since Tiffany has always been a bit peculiar. Besides reading the dictionary like a novel, Tiffany can also see things that others cannot. This includes the Nac Mac Feegles, which are small blue fairies with Scottish accents who like to fight. They also have odd names like Rob Anybody, Daft Wullie, and No'-As-Big-As-Medium-Sized-Jock-But-Bigger-than-Wee-Jock Jock.  

After attempting to meet a witch and being left with only a talking toad, Tiffany's baby brother is kidnapped by an evil queen and Tiffany must save him. With the help of the Nac Mac Feegles, Tiffany sets off on an adventure, entering realms of the world she never new existed. 

This is one of the weirdest novels I have ever read, but considering that I learned that Terry Pratchett was a little odd after reading Good Omens, I was not surprised. This book is one of his many Discworld novels, but the first that included Tiffany Aching and was aimed for a younger audience. 

Tiffany is a wonderful character with a unique and bold personality. Being only 9, she knows that she has a lot to learn about the world, but when she thinks she is right, she doesn't hold back.  Armed with only a frying pan, she is compelled to complete her journey no matter the risks to make her granny proud. She was funny and quirky and happy to be different. I think she is an excellent role model for any young girl that might read this book. 

The book was filled with clever jokes and silliness. While I can see why some may find this too weird, I loved it. The Nac Mac Feegles add a huge helping of humor that just makes you want to giggle. I would recommend this book to anyone with an open mind. 

Rating: G 

Recommended for those who enjoy: quirky writing, fantasy, sassy female protagonists.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Things Fall Apart: 3 Stars

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Okonkwo is a respected man in his tribe in Africa, but fears that he may some day end up like his father, who he felt was lazy. Due to a horrible crime, Okonkwo adopts a young boy who he loves dearly and treats with greater respect and love than his own son.  But when the tribe decides that the boy must die, Okonkwo even helps carry out the murder. He shows no emotion, afraid of appearing like his father, and bottles his emotions. This causes him to be increasingly violent and abusive to his wives, children, and others.

When Okonkwo accidentally kills a young boy, he his exiled from his tribe and forced to go live in his mother's homeland. There he learns about the impending arrival of white, Christian missionaries. When the missionaries arrive, the tribe soon becomes divided. Some men have converted but mostly due to being outcasts in the tribe. Others refuse, too afraid to anger the many gods they believe in. But when Okonkwo's only son decides to convert, the anger that Okonkwo has held inside can no longer be contained and his world soon falls apart.

This book was an interesting read in that it villainized neither party. I expected the Christians to be either looked at as villains or heroes, yet the author took neither approach. The Christians clearly had a misunderstanding of African culture and the difference in tribes, but were not horrific people. On the other hand, the Africans were not written as silly people with silly cultures that should be dropped or needed to change.

The main character of the book, Okonkwo, was also neither a villain or a hero.  He was man who struggled with who he was and how he was perceived. Okonkwo faced many of the problems that we as Americans face, but in a very different setting. He struggled with the concept of success and what that meant as well as being accepted and what he had to sacrifice to make that happen.

I found that one of the strongest characters in the book was Ezinma, Okonkwo's daughter and favorite child. She was very beautiful and could have married any man she wanted and lived a life of respect and wealth. Instead, she chose to stay with her mother, a woman who was very mistreated by her husband. Eventually, despite her father being viewed negatively, she sticks by his side and returns to his original tribe with him to find a suitor.

The downside to the book, is that is gets a little dull in the middle. It's not until nearly the end of the book that the Christians arrive and the action really picks up. While the rest of the book is thought-provoking, it's a little dry and dull.

Rating: PG

Recommended for those who enjoy: cultural differences, moral dilemmas, and family drama.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Top Ten Books That Made an Impact on Me

On this week's edition of Top Ten Tuesday, we are given free reign on our topic!

A few months ago, I was tagged into a Facebook game about books. Usually I avoid those weird Facebook status games, but this one was about books!

Here are the rules:  Ten books (or series) that made an impact on me. No deep thought, just what comes to mind.

I thought it would be fun to re-post my list, but on here!

1. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

2. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

3. Silver Linings Playbooks by Matthew Quick

4. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

5. John Adams by David McCullough

6. The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

7. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

8. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

9. Animal Farm by George Orwell

10. The Innocent Man by John Grisham

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Making Up For Monday: Sucker Punch

It's time for Making Up For Monday! This is a weekly meme hosted by me that asks some fun literary questions. Feel free to play along!

This week's question:
What character in a book would you like to sucker punch in the face?

Even in books that I really like, there are often characters that drive me a bit crazy (and sometimes are meant to drive you crazy).  I decided to list three characters that were horrible in my opinion, but that I don't think were the author's intention.  Here we go:

#3: Becky Bloomwood in Confessions of a Shopoholic:

Ok, ok, so saying I would sucker punch her is a bit much, but I might slap her on occasion. She is ditzy, self-centered, stuck up, and all around annoying. She also never grows in this book. She just keeps going down the path of materialism with no end in sight.  Ick!

#2: Annie Altman in This is Where I Leave You:

Her character ruined this entire book for me. While she was barely in the book, the parts she were in were so irritating and disgusting that I was shocked.  She does something rather despicable and passes it off like it's nothing, or worse, that there was nothing wrong with it.  Her I might actually punch.  

#1: Rabbit Angstrom in Rabbit is Rich:

Last but not least....ok, least.  By far my least favorite character of all time is Rabbit Angstrom. Ugh!  He's a perverted, disgusting, cheating, self-centered man.  Yet somehow Updike wrote like four books about him AND two won Pulitzer Prizes!  How?  How is that possible?  Clearly I must have missed the point, but I was too busy loathing everything about this character. 

What about you?  What characters made you want to wind up and let loose on their face? 

Also, what other topics would you like to see in this meme.  I am running out of ideas!  Feel free to comment below!  I'd love some fresh ideas!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Road: 4 Stars

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Imagine the world has gone to hell. It could be after an epic World War that wiped out most of civilization.  It could be after a zombie apocalypse. It doesn't really matter.  All that matters now is survival. Kids don't get to be kids anymore. They get to learn how to survive or they die. That's it.

One man faces this world alone with his young son. He regrets the life his child will never get to have, but at the same time knows that if he doesn't teach his son properly, it might cost him his life.

McCarthy paints a very dark picture in the post-apocalyptic world. There is no hope and no future.  There is only surviving. The description of the man's internal struggle between wanting his son to enjoy an innocent childhood and learning to live in the chaotic and deadly real world is heart breaking. The agony that he feels every time his son asks questions about the past or is faced with horrific scenarios is felt on every page. You understand the man's battle, and know that there is no way this story will end happily.

The book was wonderfully written and filled with emotion. McCarthy doesn't sugarcoat the man's tragic dilemma and horrific life. Rather than focusing on what happened to get the world to this point, McCarthy deals with the aftermath of such an event. It was a unique, although devastating, read.

After reading this book, I was in great need of something light-hearted and happy.  I highly recommend that you keep a happy book nearby as you read this one.

Rating: R 

Recommended for those who enjoy: post-apocalyptic tales, moral dilemmas, and difficult parenting choices.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Dirty Chick: 4 Stars

Dirty Chick: Adventures of an Unlikely Farmer by Antonia Murphy

After living most of her life in San Francisco, Antonia and husband Peter move to New Zealand to escape into a quiet life of farming. Antonia had some experience with chickens (although, it wasn't the *best* experience) and she felt like she could tackle a life of farming quite easily. But it turns out it wasn't everything she thought it would be.

Dead chickens, escaping cows, spitting alpacas, and cute lambs that grow into ugly sheep were only the tip of the iceberg of all the problems Antonia had to face in her new life. By far the most challenging was becoming a mother of a son with disabilities and a very frolicsome daughter.

Antonia Murphy holds nothing back and she explains everything that happened to her in her first year as a farmer. This book is not for the faint of heart, as she describes in vivid detail what goes into raising animals and children. With a raw sense of humor and sarcasm pouring out of every page, she is sure to get you laughing and crying out in disgust all at once. Her wit and personality draw you into the story and make you feel like she is an old friend telling you stories around a fireplace as you sit around drinking hot cocoa. By the end of the book, you feel like you have a new friend.

The story reminded me of different experiences I had in my life, despite never having lived on a farm nor having raised children. My parents had chickens when I was a kid, which somehow made me think we were farmers. I remember watching Sesame Street one day with my brother and laughing at a clip of young kids reacting to a baby chick. I told my brother "City kids are so funny!" and my mom laughed and laughed thinking "Aw honey, you are a city kid!".

If you are looking for a light-hearted tale of one woman's journey from city kid to farmer, look no further than Dirty Chick.  You won't be disappointed.

Rating: PG-13

Recommended for those who enjoy: sarcasm, sassy female protagonists, and child rearing tales.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Top Ten 2013/2014 Releases I Meant To Read But Didn't Get To

It's time for Top Ten Tuesday again, hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.  This week they ask us to list: Top Ten 2014 Releases I Meant To Read But Didn't Get To.

I am terrible about keeping up with new releases (since there are so many books already out that I haven't had time to even come close to reading), so I only had 4 books for 2014.  So I decided to list my 2013 books as well since that list together made up 10. And these list just make me feel like I need to read faster! 


Gulp by Mary Roach: I first heard of Mary Roach when a friend of mine asked me to come with her to a book signing for the book Bonk. She had read and loved Stiff and wanted to meet the author. I was so impressed by the author, I bought both Stiff and Bonk that night and have read both.  I also read a few others, but haven't had the time to get to this one yet. Lucky for me, my secret Santa sent it to me for Christmas! 

Pretenders by Lisi Harrison: My niece loved this book and asked me to read it so she could talk to someone about it. I haven't gotten around to it yet.  Sorry Dora!

Game by Barry Lyga: I read and enjoyed I Hunt Killers and would like to continue the series, but am waiting on my local library to get a copy.

All The Light There Was by Nancy Kricorian: I own this book and everything, but considering it takes place in Nazi Germany, I know it's going to be a heavy read and I have been reluctant to undertake that.

The World's Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne: This books looks so fascinating, but I just haven't picked it up yet. Sigh, so many books; so little time.

The Goldfinch by David Tartt: This is a Pulitzer Prize winner, so I will be reading it this year or next.


Blood of my Blood by Barry Lyga:  Much like the second book in the series, I am waiting on my library to get this book.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell:  I hear such wonderful things about this author and have read two of her books. Sadly, I was not a big fan of either one.  But I wonder if I just read some books that aren't my type and perhaps this one will be more up my alley.  I don't know, hence why I haven't read it yet.

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: My book club read this book and it looks really good, but I got it from the library right before I got really sick for two months, so I never read it and had to return it before I was ready to read it again.

The Most Dangerous Animal by Gary Stewart: I got this for my birthday and want to read it so bad, but there is a long list ahead of it (for blogging, book club, and Arc copies), so it just sits on my shelf.  Sigh.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Making Up For Monday: Movie Mayhem

It's time for Making Up For Monday!

This week's question:
What was the worst movie adaptation of a book that you have seen?

This is a difficult questions, because to truly answer it well, I feel I should have both seen the movie AND read the book. Usually, if I have read the book, I don't see the movie. A couple of examples of this are The Scarlet Letter and The Great Gatsby. I have read both the books and have heard the movies were terrible in comparison, but I have chosen not to see either one.

I also think that the movie had to be terrible on its own. If the movie was changed from the book, but translated decently on screen, then I let it slide. Two examples of this are Silver Linings Playbook and The Count of Monte Cristo. Both changed from the book rather drastically, but I liked them both as movies. Besides, I don't think a movie that actually ended like The Count of Monte Cristo would do well in theaters, which is probably why one has never been made.

So I picked two movies based on the same authors work; an author I think movies should just stay away from: Dr. Suess.

The Cat in The Hat:  Don't even get me started on this one. It was like having your childhood just ruined in one sitting. Awful, awful movie!

The Grinch: I think Jim Carrey can be really funny, but he was so far off of what the Grinch was supposed to be that I was just dumbfounded as to how Ron Howard thought that making this movie was okay.  Bad Ron Howard!

What about you?   What movies ruined our favorite books?


Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Light Between Oceans: 3 Stars

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman

Tom and Isabel live a quiet, isolated life on an island in a lighthouse. While they are typically very happy, Isabel has been unable to carry a child to full term, losing three babies during pregnancy. Two weeks after her third miscarriage, a miracle happens. A boat washes ashore with a dead man and a crying infant. Isabel is convinced that this is God giving her a child. Tom isn't so sure, but can't bear to watch his wife lose another child. But the "miracle" isn't all Isabel thought it would be.

Heading to shore two years later, Tom hears of a woman who's husband and child disappeared two years earlier. Still heartbroken, the woman is constantly looking for her missing daughter. Tom knows that his daughter is really her daughter, but what can he do?  To confess the truth would be to lose his own daughter and break his wife's heart.

From the start, you knew there was no way this was going to end happily for anyone involved. It was a tragic story and you knew it was going to end in a heap of heartache and tears. The author did a great job of showing the pain that each character was feeling from Tom's guilt, Isabel's longing, and the birth mother's heartache.

While I thought the story was well told and ended the only way it could have, I felt the author was often long-winded and gave far more details than were necessary. We learn so much about things that just don't relate to the story or add to it. There were more than a few parts that I felt could have been left out or reduced in text. They were just boring and delayed the story, which took away from the emotional journey.

Rating: PG

Recommended for those who enjoy: family drama, moral dilemmas, thought-provoking books.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Top Ten Most Anticipated Debut Novels For 2015

 It's time for another rendition of Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This week's topic is: Top Ten Most Anticipated Debut Novels For 2015

I feel like we recently did this one, but I only have 8 books that I am looking forward to that are being released in 2015.  Here they are:

1. Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard by Rick Riordan, October 2015: So is Magnus Chase related to Annabeth?  I am guessing yes! And now we get to dive into Norse mythology.  Does this mean Thor and Loki will be there?

2. Love May Fail by Matthew Quick, June 2015: Matthew Quick is hit or miss with me, but I hope this one is a hit.

3. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough, May 2015: He is such a fascinating writer with wonderfully fun topics!

4. Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella, June 2015: This will be her first YA novel and it'll be interesting to see how she she will do with the new MO.

5. The Racket by John Green, December 2015: That is a working title and there is literally no other information about the book, but its on the list! 

6.  Mr. Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas, January 2015: I can't wait for this one!  I love Veronica Mars! And in this one, Logan won't be a world away, I hope!

7. Dexter is Dead by Jeff Lindsey, July 2015: This is the long awited series finale!  Whoo hoo!

8. Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson, March 2015: This book will debut around the 100th anniversary of the ship sinking. How cool is that? Ok, so I don't know how cool it is because I have never even heard of the Lusitania, but he makes his books so fun, that I can't wait to learn about it!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Making Up For Monday: Reading Goals

It's time for Making Up For Monday!

This week's question:
What are your reading goals for the New Year?

My goals for this year are some of the same goals I had for last year, but with slight tweaks in them:

1. Starting last year, I wanted to read 50 classics in five years. Here is the list. Last year I read 14, making really good progress. This year, I want to read at least 10.

2. I am starting working on the Pulitzer Prize Winners last year, that I wanted to read in two years.  Here's that list. Considering there are over 60, that was a hefty goal that I changed it to completing in three years.  Last year, I read 17.  I would like to increase that, and read at least 20.

3. I also would like to read 75 books this year. This is a much smaller goal than the last two years, but since I will be having a baby this year, I decided to take it easy on the reading goals. I'll be a first time mom and I am not sure yet how much reading I'll be accomplishing with the wee one. But until it gets here, I am going to be reading away!

What about you?  Did you set some reading goals for the year?