Friday, December 30, 2011

Top Ten Book Releases I'm Looking Forward to in 2012

There are always so many books that I look forward to reading.  I have about a zillion on my To-Read list and, honestly, the list continues to grow every single day.  Now, to add to that list, here are the ten books that are being released in 2012 that I am definitely looking forward to:

 Though this is NOT the book cover (it hasn't been released yet), I am definitely looking forward to Pittacus Lore's The Rise of Nine
Release:  August 2012

 Again, no book cover released, but here's a map of the town where the trilogy takes place.  Nora Roberts The Last Boyfriend is the second in the Inn Boonsboro trilogy.
Release:  May 2012

A retelling of Jane Eyre?  Sign me up!  Margot Livesey's The Flight of Gemma Hardy sounds awesome!
Release:  January 2012

This book sound fascinating and is set in my favorite era:  WWII.  Ramona Ausubel's No One is Here Except All of Us
Release:  February 2012

    Jenny Lawson's Let's Pretend This Never Happened sounds absolutely hilarious!
Release:  April 2012

 Though I've never read anything by Sophie Kinsella, I've Got your Number sounds good.
Release:  February 2012

I love the cover art on this one, plus it sounds really good.  Patrick DeWitt's The Sisters Brothers.
Release:  February 2012

 I tried to win an advance of this book in a drawing.  Still want to read it.  Bonnie Jo Campbell's Once Upon a River.
Release:  June 2012

 Another cover with a boat!  This one's a murder mystery though.  Sounds intriguing.  Camilla Lackberg's The Stone Cutter.
Release:  May 2012

 Alex George's The Good American sounds really, really good!  Definitely looking forward to this one.
Release:  February 2012

And there you have it, the top ten books I'm looking forward to seeing released.  Of course they'll just get added to my To-Read pile until I can get around to them.  But I will get around to them!!

Top Ten Book Villains of 2011

Now this is probably the easiest post in this week long event.  Counting down my top ten villains is a piece of cake!  In descending order:

10.  Solomon from Red Riding Hood.  He's pious and such a hypocrite.  I hated him from the moment he appeared in the book.

9.  Precious Jones's Father, and Mother for that matter, from Push.  Truly atrocious people.  I think allowing your husband to perform such acts, or turning a blind eye to the situation, is equally as punishable as the acts themselves.  Despicable.

8.  Kronos and the Titans from Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian.  Gods bent on destroying the World...those definitely count as villains in my book.

7.  Lestat from Interview with the Vampire.  He's a selfish non-living being.  Very selfish. 

6.  The entire town of Martirio, Texas from Vernon God Little.  Jumping to conclusions and accusing innocent children of crimes they had nothing to do with is pretty villainous.  Yes?

5.  Ruth from Never Let Me Go.  She could give lessons in egotism.  She's self-centered, narcissistic, and mean.  I couldn't even forgive her despite the fate she was destined to.

4.  The Mogadorian leader from The Power of Six.  He just seems like an ueber-villain!  Having already destroyed Lorien, he's now on a warpath to destroy Earth. 

3.  Irene Pollock from the 44 Scotland Street series.  Irene is so blind to the needs of her son.  She's intent on making his life miserable, though she doesn't see it that way.

2.  President Snow from The Hunger Games.  What a heartless leader!  How can someone in power subject innocent children to such measures?  Wow!

1.  Miss Hilly Holbrook from The Help.  She definitely takes my number one spot for evil villains.  She's a piece of work and I was so ecstatic when she ate that pie! 

Top Ten Book Boyfriends of 2011

This topic is hard for me because I haven't really fallen for many characters this year; at least characters that fit this category.  However, there are about five I can lump together to get something down on this list.  Here goes:

1.  Undoubtedly goes to Peeta from The Hunger Games.  He's amazing in all the right ways. 

2.  Joe Morelli from the Stephanie Plum series.  I love Joe so much more than Ranger.  He'd be my pick for sure :)

3.  Peter from Red Riding Hood.  He's dark, mysterious, and...broody. 

And that's pretty much it.  I feel like a failure in this post, but I've got nothing else.  It could possibly be due to the copious amounts of medication racing through my veins.  Damn you holiday cold!!!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Top Ten Covers of 2011

Day two of the Top Ten event is dedicated to the loved covers that have come out throughout the year.  Now, according to the rules, just because I've chosen a cover does not mean I've actually read the book.  However, I am planning on reading all of these books at some point in the near future. goes!

Ransom Riggs' Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Patrick DeWitt's The Sisters Brothers
Daisy Goodwin's The American Heiress
Alice Hoffman's The Dovekeepers
Beth Revis' Across the Universe
Karen Russell's Swamplandia!
Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus
Tina Fey's Bossypants
Haruki Murakami's IQ84
Alexi Zentner's Touch
And there you have it.  Look for tomorrow's installation of Top Ten Book Boyfriends!  Woohoo!

Teaser Tuesday...Spreading a Little Love over Scotland

It's Tuesday and that means it's time for a teaser!  Today's teaser comes from Alexander McCall Smith's Love Over Scotland, the third installation in the 44 Scotland Street series. 

"The pain from the scorpion sting seemed to have abated somewhat, and when she looked down at her left foot she saw that the swelling also seemed to have subsided.  She felt a strong surge of relief at this; obviously the scorpion was not too toxic, and she was not going to die, as she had feared earlier on" (218).

Oh the antics these characters manage to get themselves in to.  Good stuff.  Happy Tuesday everyone!

Top Ten Books of 2011

I find it so difficult to narrow books down into top 10 lists, but I've decided to participate in a wonderful event for this week which requires me to do just that.  Ugh!  Regardless, I will endeavor to be discerning and only list the ten that the post requires (though I could go on and on, I'm sure).    So, without further ado, here is my haggled-over list of the top ten books I've read in 2011.  Though not all of these books necessarily came out in 2011, I read each of them over the past year.

1.  Chris Bohjalian's Trans-Sister Radio...I loved this book from the moment I opened it.  It's provocative, thoughtful, and oh so controversial.  Great read!

2.  Julia Glass' Three Junes...This book stayed with me for months after I finished it.  Glass does a beautiful job at portraying each character and fully developing everything.  Brilliant.

3.  Kathryn Stockett's The Help...Um...HIGH-LARIOUS and heart-warming!  That's all.  I loved, loved, loved this book so much.  It's a must-read!

4.  Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games trilogy...That's right!  Three in one.  Booyah!  I simply fell in love with this series the moment I cracked the spine of the first book.  They are magical and definitely pull you into another world.  So good!

5.  Alexander McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street...I think I loved this book so much because it took me back to living in Europe.  Oh how I miss it.  A lovely read.

6.  Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go...Seriously thought-provoking and surreal.  This book really makes you question what you would do when presented with life-altering decisions.

7.  Pittacus Lore's The Power of Six...I was so excited for this book to come out!  It was so much better than the first book in the Lorien Legacies series and I can't wait for the next one!

8.  Rick Riodan's The Last Olympian...Ah the final installment of the Percy Jackson series.  It was great and I loved every minute of it!

9.  Nigel Farndale's The Blasphemer...An interesting read that spanned decades.  I really enjoyed this novel of redemption and self-discovery.

10.  Sapphire's Push...Whoa!  This book/memoir was a punch to the gut.  So heartbreaking and raw.  It's an emotional read but definitely worth it.

And there you have it, my top ten choices of 2011.  There are undoubtedly more that I could add to this list, but I was able to limit myself (though it took days to come up with a succinct list).  Happy holidays everyone!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Life on the Equator Sounds Not So Awesome...

This book sounded so promising.  Again, borrowed from a friend, I was looking forward to reading it.  However, I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would.  Yes, there are some entertaining events and some funny instances (I actually laughed out loud a few times), but overall it was a disappointment...for several reasons.

Sex Lives follows the South Pacific adventures of J. Maarten Troost and his girlfriend, Paige.  Paige gets a job working for the Kiribati government and Troost decides to hang onto Paige's coattails when she goes.  What follows is a historical analysis of the people of Tarawa and the island nations of Kiribati, in addition to Troost's adventures and misadventures of island life.  That's about it.

I think the main reason I disliked this book was because of the author.  Yeah.  He comes off as a complete pretentious ass.  Oh so you don't have to work.  Good for you.  Oh, you can turn your nose up at student loans and credit card bills.  Have a cookie.  Ugh.  It was almost as if Troost purposely wrote in such a way as to alienate his reader by making himself sound important and carefree.  His sentences are convoluted, meandering, and meaningless.  I've read much better travel literature and I think I'll stick with that.

Tip of the week:  don't read this one.

I Like My Coffee Black (Book #19)

Book number 19 in my ever-occurring, never-ending A-Z Reading Challenge is Alexander McCall Smith's Espresso Tales.  This is the second book in the 44 Scotland Street series and I have to say, though enjoyable, I didn't like it as much as the first in the series.

Espresso finds us back on Scotland Street with all of the previous characters, plus a few that are featured more prominently than in the previous book.  Most of the characters are still who they were in the first book, though some of them have had a few mishaps and setbacks.  Bruce is just as egotistical as ever, but there were instances in this book that knocked him down a peg or four.  I liked that fact (perhaps that's mean of me).  Pat is finally making a decision about her future and starting to voice her opinions and ideas to those she's surrounded by (Bruce mainly).  She also meets someone...kind of.  Domenica is still the voice of intuition and stories that prevails over the entire story.  Bertie is a year older and going to a primary school that he isn't thrilled about in the beginning.  Irene is still cuh-razy, but she does have a little development toward the end of the novel.  Cue Stewart, Irene's husband, who manages to finally stand up to his overbearing wife and assert some authority.  Bravo!  Matthew, Pat's boss, must come to terms with the actions of his father and embrace the fact that he might be good at owning a gallery.  Then we have the Dunbarton's.  They're incredibly boring.  That's all.  While I did like this installation, I'm looking forward to reading the next one. 

Take me back to the bagpipe filled streets, please!!

Explosive Eighteen is Lacking a Spark

Oh Janet Evanovich...perhaps you should wrap up Stephanie's story OR finally make a few decisions about her character development (or lack thereof as of now).  I really wanted to like Explosive Eighteen.  I really did!  Unfortunately, it's more of the same ole shtick with a ho-hum plot.  We left Stephanie in a great place in the last book in the series:  going on a Hawaiian vacation with a mystery man.  Now, my hope was that the mystery man would be Morelli.  I wasn't let down in this case...kind of.  There was a really weird turnout to poor Stephanie's tropical vacation and she was hesitant to talk about why it was cut short and why there was a distinctive tan on her ring finger.  Say what?!  I won't give anything else away.

This installation of the Stephanie Plum series involves our heroine in an international jewel heist, a case of mistaken identity, and lending a hand to mortal enemies.  It also finds Stephanie, like always, trying to choose between Ranger and Morelli.  Blah blah blah blah.  Yeah.  It was okay.

Why I Love...Trans-Sister Radio

It's that time of the week again when I go on and on about why I love something.  This week's post is about my favorite book read during 2011.  Now I could definitely dedicate this entire post to The Hunger Games because I absolutely loved that trilogy...a lot, but I think that I am going to go for something off the beaten path.  Because of that, my favorite book read in 2011 was Chris Bohjalian's Trans-Sister Radio.  This book was so amazing, heart-wrenching, and provocative.   

I posted a review of this book when I read it in March and have continued to think about it since then.  Bohjalian's gentle dealings with gender ideals and identity are handled so beautifully in this book that they, at times, leave the reader a little speechless.  The story-telling by each of the characters lends a gorgeous layering to the novel.  I honestly couldn't recommend this book more...or anything by Bohjalian for that matter.

Runners Up
~Kathryn Stockett's The Help
~Julia Glass' Three Junes (my original choice for this post but, after contemplation, is definitely a runner up)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Why I Love...TV and Movies

I'm notorious for believing that books are far superior to their TV and movie counterparts.  This is a known fact and, undoubtedly, true in nearly every single instance.  However, there are those rare occasions when TV shows and movies do a damn fine job at portraying the original print version; that's why this post is dedicated to my favorite show from a book and my favorite movie from a book (I couldn't pick just one).

It seems that there is a definite trend in today's newly developed shows.  That trend is taking popular books (mainly those geared toward young adults) and creating popular television shows from them.  Case in point:  The Vampire Diaries, Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and so on.  I can honestly say that I have heard great things about all of these shows, but I have yet to watch a single episode of any or read a single book.  On the other hand, there are three shows developed from books that I absolutely love (in descending order):

HBO's True Blood.  This is a tremendously brilliant show.  If you love vampires, sex, blood, shape shifters, sex, witches, and did I mention sex, then this is the show for you!  That's right.  Based on Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire series, True Blood has managed to capture the hearts of nearly everyone who's caught an episode of it.  It also doesn't hurt that the actors are incredibly good looking (for the most part).  Now there is a negative...the books are atrocious!  Terrible!  Awful!  I started to read the first in the series, Dead Until Dark, and couldn't even get through the first chapter.  That's pretty bad because I am the type of reader who tends to plow through despite how awful a book might be (I always seem to think that it might turn around if I keep reading).  Despite that, I will still watch the show.  Good stuff.

Showtime's Dexter.  I absolutely LOVE Dexter.  I love that he's a blood spatter analyst.  I love that he's quirky.  I love that he's damaged.  And I love that he kills people (only bad people...for the most part) in hygienic ways.  This show is dark, broody, bloody, and oh so good.  I will forever thank my roommate, Courtney, who "forced" me to watch this show one scorching summer (we only had one room with air-conditioning...her bedroom) and I've never looked back.  Dexter was adapted from Jeff Lindsay's Darkly Dreaming Dexter, which I've never read.  I have a sneaking suspicion that the books wouldn't be nearly as good as the series so, in this instance, I'll stick with the show.  

The number one slot for favorite TV adaptation of a book has to go to AMC's The Walking Dead.  Only in its second season, this show is fantastically amazing.  Based on the comic books, The Walking Dead, by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard, the series follows a group of people who have been thrown together in truly cataclysmic circumstances:  a zombie apocalypse!  Say what?!  They have to continually fight for their survival against nearly impossible odds.  Sometimes having to kill one of their own.  It's heart-wrenching.  In addition, the make-up department is phenomenal!  They are true artistic geniuses.  I haven't read the comics, as I'm not really a comic book reader, but I'd probably enjoy them.  I definitely recommend this series if you haven't seen it.

Now movies are a completely different story...literally.  I tend to find that when books are adapted into full-length films, they're done to the detriment of the actual novel.  There are always sacrifices that are made and scenes that end up on the cutting room floor and, inevitably, the fans of the book are disappointed.  Nowhere is this more true than in the Harry Potter franchise.  Don't get me wrong, I still love the movies, but they don't even hold a candle to the original novels.  However, there are those brief gems that manage to do justice to the books they were based on.  Again, in descending order:

JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Brilliant.  Absolutely brilliant.  Tolkien's novels are rich with detail and layered with complex descriptions (sometimes daunting to the reader) and Jackson did his job when he envisioned the world of Middle Earth.  He was able to capture the mood, the characters, and the elements that are present throughout each novel.  They are a great escape whether literary or visually.  The movies are simply amazing. 

There are few authors that can match Chuck Palahnuik's commercial satire.  He's biting and witty and spot on.  Nowhere is this more evident than in Fight Club.  I loved this book when I read it for an undergrad fiction course (after the movie had come out) and still love it.  I also loved the movie more.  That's saying something.  It's brilliantly acted by the truly awesome Edward Norton...and Brad Pitt wasn't too shabby either (hello beat up Brad and a truly gorgeous ab shot).  The movie was able to portray, perhaps more vividly, the true satirical genius of the novel.  It reaches out and grabs the viewer, forcing them to scrutinize their own lives.  Epic.

I don't think that anyone or anything can top Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice; at least not in my book.  Both the BBC version and the Hollywood version are beautifully shot, wonderfully acted, and heartwarming in their entirety.  I love both and will watch either whenever I get the chance (though I have to set aside a good chunk of time for the BBC version).  Austen's critique and portrayal of class systems and relationships are relevant to today's society, though perhaps not as rigid as they used to be.  It's definitely a novel and movie(s) that can and will stand the test of time.  I love anything and everything to do with Pride & Prejudice and can not recommend it more.

And there you have it.  My top picks for adaptations of books.  The ranking order for movies could definitely change by March...I am so incredibly excited for The Hunger Games!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Movies that are infinitely better than the original books:
~Anything written by Nicholas Sparks (A Walk to Remember, The Last Song, The Notebook)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Teaser Tuesday...Balzac Reminds Me of Van Wilder

So I realize that I was a complete slacker last week and didn't post a "Why I Love...Wednesday" or a book review (and I did finish two books!).  I'm going to remedy that this week...haha.  Regardless, it is Tuesday and it's times for a teaser.  This week's teaser comes from Dai Sijie's Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, which I am starting for one of my book clubs.

"Lou broke the silence. 'I expect they're books,' he said.  'The way you keep your suitcase locked up and hidden away is enough to betray your secret:  you've got a stash of forbidden books.'" (49).

I've had this book on my To-Read list for ages and am so glad that it was chosen for our selection this month.  Yay!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Teaser Tuesday...A Short History Lesson

And I'm finally home from proctoring my last final of the term AND participating in a massive Writing 115 grading session.  My brain is mush and I am in rare form.  It's a wonder I can even write a coherent sentence, let alone an entire post.  But, since it's Tuesday, a teaser is a must!  Today's blurb comes from Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything.  Thank you Wallace Books for this literary gem!!

"Perhaps nothing speaks more clearly of our psychological remoteness from the ocean depths than that the main expressed goal for oceanographers during International Geophysical Year, 1957/8, was to study 'the use of ocean depths for the dumping of radioactive wastes'.  This wasn't a secret assignment, you understand, but a proud public boast.  In fact, though it wasn't much publicized, by 1957/8 the dumping of radioactive wastes had already been going on, with a certain appalling vigour, for over a decade.  Since 1946, the United States had been ferrying 55-gallon drums of radioactive gunk out to the Fallarone Islands, some 50 kilometres off the California coast near San Fransisco, where it simply threw them overboard" (342).

SAY WHAT!!!!  This book is truly fascinating!  Thank you, Bill Bryson!  And now I am abstaining from reading anything for a bit...maybe...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Why I Love...Stand Alone Novels

It was a beautiful, sunny day here in the PNW, though I forgot to take a picture of it (I even thought to myself while I was driving home from work: "take a picture of the sky because it's an amazingly nice November day.  That doesn't often happen here").  However, that has absolutely nothing to do with today's post.  I just thought I'd share :)

Instead, it's time for "Why I Love".  This week's topic is....series or stand alone novels.  Intriguing and important!  While both have their positive and negative attributes, I have to give the honor to those novels that can stand alone.  Those that don't depend on anything else to make them complete.  Those that come full circle within the given pages.  It's so satisfying in that respect.

Don't get me wrong, I love a series just as much as the next girl (Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, The Hunger Games, and Stephanie Plum to name a few), but there's something about a stand alone novel that pulls you in and keeps you there while satisfying you completely by the time you've finished.  There is a sense of completion and a feeling of...zen...for lack of a better word.  I like the fact that you don't have to wait impatiently (in my case) for the next portion to come out and there are no real cliffhangers, besides between chapters. 

In fact, when I list out a few of my all-time favorite books, all of them are stand alone novels:   
Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind...I first read this in the 8th grade and, soon after, became obsessed with anything and everything having to do with the Civil War.
W.G. Sebald's Austerlitz ...I read this novel in an undergrad course taught by a great instructor (and mentor) named Kit Andrews.  It's a brilliant novel with rare paragraph breaks and photographs throughout.
Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children...Again, I read this book in a senior course in undergrad taught by the great Gavin Keulks.  This was the ONLY book we read the entire term.  It's dense and awesome!  Rushdie had a magical complexity that he weaves throughout this novel.
Italo Calvino's The Baron in the Trees...Another course taught by Kit Andrews introduced me to this writer.  This was the first book I ever read by Calvino and it is among my favorites.  Nearly all of us have spent time climbing trees as children, Cosimo (the lead character) just takes this childhood pastime to new heights.
 ...and I could go on and on into infinity...seriously. 

Every single one is not part of a series.  They're all epic in their own way and every single one has fully developed, complex characters that could easily fill a series but doesn't need to.  So...three cheers for the stand alone novel!!!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Teaser Tuesday...Evidently Cannibals are Sexy...

Today's teaser comes from a book lent to me by a friend, J. Maarten Troost's The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific.  It's a travelogue, and we all know how much I enjoy travel and people who write about travel.  However, I don't think that the island of Tarawa, where Troost heads, would necessarily be my destination.  But who knows, it could be intriguing! 

"But we had a few illusions and no one, certainly not Kate, a walking spout of bilious bile, was going to deprive us of what we wanted to see.  We had traveled far, uprooted our lives, moved to the end of the world, and there was no way we were going to concede that we had made a mistake." (35)

Sounds fascinating...and comical!!!

Tarawa, a remote South Pacific island in the Republic of Kiribati

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Top Ten of 2011 Event

Yet another great thing to participate in!!!  

The Low-Down
Monday 12/26 – Top 10 Books I’ve read in 2011
Tuesday 12/27 – Top 10 Book Covers of 2011
Wednesday 12/28 – Top 10 Book Boyfriends in 2011
Thursday 12/29 – Top 10 Characters in 2011 (This can be anything you’d like to make it for characters. You can post your favorite Villains, etc. Just be sure that this post is character based.)
Friday 12/30 – Top 10 Books I’m looking forward to in 2012 (Also on this day, we’ll each be adding some kind of a recap of the total number of books read, pages read, etc. This part of the post is optional. Feel free to add any stats you’d like to share with everyone. So, if you’d like to also include some end of year stats, feel free to join us!)

I came across this on a site that hosts a few meme's that I participate in and thought it sounded like a great idea, so I decided to join in.  It's hosted by a few other blogs and there's a complete explanation at the link that follows.  Sounds like fun to me!  Here's the link to participate if anyone is interested!

An Encounter with the Jersey Devil...Among Others

I just finished a Stephanie Plum between-the-number novel, Plum Spooky, and have to say that I enjoyed it for the quick read that it was.  I've read a few of the in between novels and have always been a little disappointed in them.  I think this stems from the fact that Morelli and Ranger are not prominently present.  Such a tragedy.  However, I did find this one entertaining, even without those two, and despite the fact that there was a certain amount of the paranormal/science fiction aspect to it.  Not too shabby.

The novel centers around Stephanie (obviously) and her rather inept attempts at capturing a high-bond skip:  Martin Munch.  There are a couple lesser skips that she runs down during this long search, Gordo Bollo is a rather comical one who enjoys throwing fruits at Stephanie to escape, but the majority of the time is spent trying to ferret out Munch.  Munch has fallen in with a scary guy, Wulf, who is busy eluding Diesel, a guy who randomly appears in Stephanie's apartment on occasion before disappearing just as quickly.  Diesel and Stephani, along with a rather entertaining monkey named Carl who likes to flip everyone the bird and is entrusted into Stephanie's care, work together to track Munch and Wulf down and get into many scrapes along the way.  Some of the highlights of these events are getting lost in the Barren Pines woods, falling into swamps, being in the cross hairs of a tomato fight, traveling with a guy who farts fire, being kidnapped and threatened about becoming a sex slave, and blowing up a mine.  It's an entertaining jaunt.

Ultimately, I did enjoy this between-the-numbers selection.  And even if I hadn't, it only cost me a dollar to purchase.  Thank you Dollar Tree!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Why I Love...W.P.B.!

Well, hello Wednesday.  It's nice to see you again!  I'm getting a little bit of a late start on my "Why I Love" post this week because it's so hard to come up with one favorite book family, which is this week's topic.  Now, because I couldn't narrow it down enough to not include these three families, I simply ranked them in order!

The Weasleys

This should be a given for anyone who knows me (and for anyone who's read some of my past posts) because I always manage to weave in a little Harry Potter reference somewhere in my discussion.  However, this one is completely applicable.  Every single Weasley family member is so fully developed, even those who don't show up often.  The dynamics between the members are beautifully portrayed and each character is lovable in their own way (even Percy at times).  The Weasley family is one that makes the most of their situation, doesn't begrudge anyone who might have more in a monetary sense, and loves each other unconditionally.  It's such a wonderful display of family and all the intricacies that come with it.  They're amazing.

The Plums
Though not your typical lovey-dovey family, the Plums from the popular Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich is hilarious enough to land them among my favorites.  There's Stephanie, the divorced pseudo-bounty hunter, her mom, the full-fledged Italian peacemaker who cooks a mean roast and mashed potatoes, Stephanie's dad, a retired postman who uses his car as a taxi service and watches a lot of baseball, and Grandma Mazur, Stephanie's mom's mom who is crazy as all get out and brassy as hell.  I think she's my favorite.  The dynamics in this family are almost the complete opposite of the Weasleys.  They argue, fight, and bicker almost continuously, but the underlying love is apparent.  They're an entertaining bunch.

The Bennets
It's no surprise that Jane Austin's Bennets are counted among some of my favorite book families.  Although there are times when I dislike some of the members, as a whole I have to say that they are wonderful.  There is an undying love that is displayed between the children and the elder Bennets and this love is tried several times throughout the novel.  Despite the drawbacks and hurdles, the Bennets stay true to each other regardless of their circumstances.  What a lovely bunch (of coconuts).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I'd Rather Murder this Book on the Eiffel Tower than Read It Again

Claude Izner's Murder on the Eiffel Tower is TERRIBLE!!!  If you pass one book over during this holiday season, make sure it's this one.  Oh man.  So bad!

I borrowed this book from a friend last week and it sounded promising.  She said it was different, had an odd voice to it, and that she was waiting to make up her mind about it.  That should have been a sign.  Alas, I read the whole thing...and feel like I've lost a few braincells while doing so.

The novel follows a group of middle to high class individuals through Paris during the 1889 World Exposition Fair (the one where the Eiffel Tower was unveiled).  What follows is a case of whodunnit.  There is a murder...and then another...and another...and another...yet they are all chalked up to the work of killer bees by the police.  What?!  Unless you are a character from NBC's Grimm, this is simply not plausible.  Victor Legris, a bookseller, is present at the first murder and soon embarks on his own personal investigation when another body shows up.  He begins to suspect nearly everyone he comes into contact with; namely Kenji, his adoptive father for all intensive purposes, Tasha, an artist/reporter and Victor's love interest, Danilo, Tasha's opera singing neighbor, and a few others.  Eventually the reader does find out who the killer actually is and why they chose to murder the people that they did.

Sounds promising, right?  Not so.  None of the characters have any redeeming qualities.  Victor is a bumbling, jumpy idiot, Kenji is a stoic, reserved ass, Tasha is a flat character who offers nothing to the reader.  In fact, as a reader you almost dislike every single character; at least I did.  In addition to that, the entire storyline was jumbled and confusing.  Once the murderer is revealed, the knowledge doesn't make any sense.  I honestly didn't even remember who the person was when they was revealed.  Awful.  Supposedly this is the first in a series and, if that's true, shoot me now!

Please...don't waste your time.  Instead, watch Grimm on NBC Friday night's at 9pm.  It's awesome and, even more awesome, it's set in Portland!!!  Go Oregon!!!! (not the Ducks).

Teaser Tuesday...Bring Me Some Coffee!

It's a rainy, windy, out of control day here in the Pacific Northwest (seriously...I feel like the roof is going to be ripped off the top of the house right now), but I am a dedicated Teaser Tuesday poster and, fear not, I will not let you down!  Today's teaser comes from a book that I am two pages into as I started it this morning and then got distracted by shopping (whoops).  My selection is from Alexander McCall Smith's second installation in the 44 Scotland Street series and is called Espresso Tales.

"Stuart looked frantically about the room.  It would be possible to make a run for it now, he thought.  Lard would be unable to run after them, with that bulk of his, but he had heard sounds out in the hall and he had assumed that there were other men, apart from Gerry, in the house.  These gangsters rarely had just one side-kick, he remembered." (177)

And now I want some coffee...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Shining Knight is Kind of Dim in my Opinion...(Book #18)

Finally knocked out another book in the A-Z challenge; it's been a while since I've selected a book that will work for the challenge.  I originally had a different novel chosen for the letter "K", but I decided to choose something that I knew I could get through quickly in an effort to finish up the challenge.  Thank you Jude Deveraux for providing me with such a choice in A Knight in Shining Armor (one of my 50 centers from the Friends of the Library sale).

Reading the synopsis of this novel really presented me with not much to go on.  I thought it was going to be a historical novel, but I was mistaken...kind of.  

Knight follows Dougless along her journey to love and self-acceptance in 1988.  She is on vacation in England with her significant other (a self-centered ass) and his spoiled brat of a daughter.  Trouble ensues and she's left to fend for herself without anything to her name.  Cue the entrance of Nicholas Stafford, an earl from the sixteenth century.  Yeah...the sixteenth century.  Both Dougless and Nicholas need something from the other, though neither of them truly discovers what that is until much later in the book.  And that's the premise of the novel.

Now, I tend to like historical romance novels.  However, I do not really enjoy historical romances with contemporary characters who travel through time and dimensions.  Especially when both characters do so more than once.  Deveraux, in the "Dear Reader" section (yes, I read those), explains that Knight is her favorite novel and lists several reasons why this is so.  That's great and all, but I have to disagree.  I was actually disappointed in this book.  Yeah, it was okay and it moved along (at times), however I did not like the end and I really didn't like the characters very much.  Dougless wasn't a character that I could feel for.  I was angry with her because of how weak she was and how she wasn't very self-sufficient.  Also, Nicholas wasn't the ideal leading man and I couldn't bring myself to believe their love.  To top it off, the end of the book was a let down...for me, at least.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Why I Love...Draco Malfoy

It's hard to find a specific character in a book that you hate but love at the same time.  Most of the time you hate them with a passion, feel indifferent, or, in rare cases, love them despite their many shortcomings.  Because of that, this week's "Why I Love" is dedicated to my favorite villain; one that I love despite his MANY shortcomings.

Draco Malfoy.  The poor kid!  I know, I know.  Many people absolutely hate the white-blonde snot, but for some reason I felt sorry for him more than I hated him.  For me, Draco was a victim of circumstance.  He grew up with parents who demonstrated a hate for the "other" and didn't really know a different view of the world.  In many ways, he is like Harry.  Whoa...did I just say that?  Yes, I did!  Though Draco had parents, who loved him in their own way, he was also brought up in an environment that did not encourage outward displays of affection or acceptance.  He was stunted in his development at a young age and this definitely effected how he interacted with people and creatures who he did not understand.  Growing up in a "superior" household, and constantly being taught that you are better than other people, really does wonders for your psyche.  Also, due to his privileged upbringing, Draco was not accustomed to being questioned about his actions or thoughts.  This led him to embrace his "God" complex and, when confronted by his peers and whatnot, he acts out (though he does question his motives at times).  You especially see this in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.  Draco has such a wonderful development as the books go on and, despite the fact that he never really moves away from his thoughts of superiority, you do see that he is ashamed of his father at the end of the books.  This is a HUGE step for him and one of the many reasons he is my favorite villain.

I could have included many other characters in this post, namely villains that I absolutely hate (Lord Voldemort, Bellatrix, Moriarty, The Voltari, Alec d'Urberville, Sauron, Claudius, and so on), but I contained myself.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Teaser Tuesday...Traveling Back in Time (Kind Of...Sort Of)

Today's teaser is brought to you by the letter K!  I am still trying to get through my A-Z Book Challenge (I keep reading books starting with letters that I've already read), so I grabbed one that will count toward that specific challenge.  Though it wasn't the original intention for the letter, I felt like I was so far behind that I grabbed one I knew I could get through quickly.  So, because of that, this teaser comes from Jude Deveraux's A Knight in Shining Armor; it's one of my Friends of the Library purchases!

"As she hung up, Dougless realized she wasn't surprised by the coincidence.  It seemed that some kind of wish therapy was at work.  Every time she wished for something, she got it.  She wished for a Knight in Shining Armor and he had appeared (a crazy one who thought he was from the sixteenth century, but a man in armor no less); she wished for money and he had a bag of coins worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.  Now she needed reservations to an exclusive hotel and of course they had a vacancy." (60)

I don't normally go for the supernatural type of books, but this sounded interesting (the synopsis didn't mention anything about traveling through time).  It's been okay so far.  Just waiting for something really exciting to happen.  Happy Tuesday!

Monday, November 14, 2011

But Who's the Wolf??????

Just finished Sarah Blakley-Cartwright's Red Riding Hood and I am not amused!  I had, I guess unreasonably, high hopes for this adaptation of the classic fairytale.  Alas, I was let down.  The story was interesting and kept me involved, however I felt completely let down by so much of the book.

Hood follows the experience of Valerie and the village she lives in.  Every full moon a family must sacrifice one piece of their livestock to appease the werewolf who haunts their village.  One fateful harvest there is the rarely occurring blood moon.  This is where all the action starts.  There is a vicious killing of one of the villagers and, literally, all hell breaks loose.  The one killing leads to broken loyalties, paranoia, questions of faith, and more deaths.  Of course there is also a love triangle between Valerie, Henry, and Peter that plays into the action of the story, but the reader doesn't have to think hard to know who Valerie will end up with.  It's a decent storyline, right?

But then things go all wonky.  There are loose ends that are never tied up.  The identity of the werewolf is never truly revealed.  The ending leaves a ton of questions for the reader.  There were incongruities with some of the plot lines and some sequences of action did not add up.  That's what disappointed me so much.  Overall, it was a quick read and, though it left me a little frustrated, it wasn't absolutely atrocious.  Meh.

The last page in the book tells you to go to a website to see if this is truly the end of Valerie's story, so, naturally, I visited the website.  It offered another chapter that was very abrupt (didn't match up to how the book actually ended) and then reveals who the werewolf is.  I still didn't find it convincing. 

  I still want to see the movie even though I heard it wasn't very good.  I do know, based on the Preface, that the book was writing solely based on the screenplay and that the finished movie veers away from that.  So...

44 Scotland Street Makes Me Teary-Eyed

That's right!  Alexander McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street makes me teary-eyed.  Not because of the plot or characters or anything like that, but because of the fact that I can close my eyes and see exactly what the characters are seeing.  I can walk and ride along with them in every aspect.  Sad and teary-eyed because I miss it so much.  Ugh.  Now I don't even want to write this.  My dreary day (though fantastic weather-wise with it's overcast skies, slight mist, and chilly breeze) is now reflected with a dreary mood :(

A view of the lovely sky from my backyard today.
Anywho...moving on to the book.  LOVED IT!  I like the fact that McCall Smith originally created this as a serial and ran it in The Scotsman every week and I can only image how fans reacted.  Personally, I would have found it nearly impossible to wait for the next installment to come out.  Oh the pins and needles!  However, since there are currently five books in the series, I think I'm good for the moment.

44 Scotland Street follows the inhabitants of a recommissioned row house located, fittingly, at 44 Scotland Street (it's a real place, too) and boy are they an eccentric bunch.  There's Bruce, the egotistical, chauvinist who makes absolutely no effort to make himself likeable and who thinks the world revolves around him.  There's Pat, Bruce's recently moved in roommate who is on her second gap year while trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life and failing miserably.  Next is Domenica, the older, single neighbor of Bruce and Pat who has the best stories and adventures to tell to anyone.  She is also the character who calls it like she sees it.  Then there's Bertie who is five and lives below the other three characters.  He's a little boy with entirely too much on his plate, pushed onto him by his overbearing mother, and all he wants to do is go to the school of his choice, play rugby, have a friend, and learn about trains.  Bertie's mother, Irene, is his arch-nemesis.  She's overprotective, judgmental, and completely delusional when it comes to her son and to life.  There are other characters who are integral parts to the story as well, but none of whom live at 44 Scotland Street.  Notable mentions are:  Matthew, Pat's boss at the art gallery; Big Lou, the proprietress of the cafe that Matthew frequents; Todd and Sasha, Bruce's boss and his wife; and Angus Lordie, a painter and friend of Domenica's.  

Throughout the story there are many misconceptions that the characters have about each other.  There is also a psychotherapist, a break in and attempted robbery, a lost painting, unrequited love, and an encounter with Ian Rankin to round things out.  It's a frolicking, entertaining, and at times angering read, but well worth it.  I can't wait to start the second book in the series to see where the characters are at now.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Why I Love...A Multitude of Authors

As someone who has made books and reading their profession, it is very difficult for me to choose a favorite author.  But there are several who stand out in my eyes and that's why this week's "Why I Love" is dedicated to my favorite author...or authors in my case :)

First, and foremost, I have to include Italo Calvino who is a notable Cuban-Italian writer.  I first encountered the brilliance that is Calvino's writing in an undergrad English course and have since sought out everything he's written, even going so far as to take a grad course dedicated to him.  The first book I read of his was The Baron in the Trees.  Pure magical brilliance!  He's also written a lot of literary theory and critiques on the notion of time as it's represented in literature.  I have to say that my absolute favorite novel by Calvino is If on a winter's night a traveler... which is a unique piece of work in that it doesn't follow the traditional formula of novels at all.  The reader is heavily involved and constantly stunted right when they're getting into the story.  It's absolute literary genius!  I highly recommend it.  In addition to these works, Calvino was also involved with a group of writers and mathematicians in a society called Oulipo whose goal was to write stories and novels using mathematical principles and techniques.  He's a genius.  READ HIS STUFF!

Recently, I have come across a contemporary American author (not normal for me as I tend to gravitate toward European authors) who has completely captured my heart and attention.  The first novel I read by Chris Bohjalian was Skeletons at the Feast.  This was a selection for my Edinburgh book club, which I will be forever grateful to for introducing his writing into my life, and I loved it for several reason.  First, it is set during my favorite era, WWII, and it's a fascinating story.  So good.  Since that fateful time I have sought and read everything written by him, including his blog where he discusses just about everything in a very engaging way.  What I love about his writing is that, in every book that I've read so far, he tells the story from several different people's perspectives.  All of his books deal with heavy, interesting, and oftentimes controversial issues and Bohjalian does a brilliant job at making these issues accessible to the reader while simultaneously treating them with the sensitivity that each requires.  Ever single time I walk into a bookstore now, I always look to see if they have one of his books that I don't already own.  He's amazing.

And, finally, how can I have a post about favorite authors and not include JK Rowling?!?  She's absolutely brilliant.  I think that I will continue to reread HP for the rest of my life.  No joke.  The atmosphere that Rowling was able to create in those books is absolutely astounding and I love getting lost in that world.  They're so intricate and well done.  It was love at first word the moment I opened the first book.  Sigh.  I also loved that, while I was living in Edinburgh, I was able to haunt her writing spots throughout the city (The Elephant House, The Balmoral Hotel, and other less known places).  Yes!  On a happy note though, the last installment of the films comes out this Friday!!

Others who should be on the list (but I had to limit myself):
~Paul Celan
~Jane Austen
~Elizabeth Gaskell
~Jorge Luis Borges
~Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
~Nora Roberts

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Books Galore!

This past weekend was the annual Friends of the Albany Library book sale at the fairgrounds and I picked all of these lovely, wonderful, heartwarming books up for a mere 23 bucks!  I love this sale and always mark it in my calendar.  Also, I could have bought a lot more and spent even longer perusing the tables, but my Powell's tote was full :(  Next year I'm bringing two bags!  Now I just have to wait for the Friends of the Corvallis Library sale to add to my continually growing selection.

Teaser Tuesday...Beware the Big, Bad Wolf!

This week's teaser comes from one of my finds from the Dollar Tree that cost me, you guessed it, a whole dollar!  Whew...almost broke the bank there!  So, without further ado, I give you Sarah Blakley-Cartwright's Red Riding Hood (adapted from the screenplay written by David Leslie Johnson):

"Suzette was thinking she'd rather the visitors begin to leave, but hearing steps ascending the ladder, she still opened the door, moving onto the porch in anticipation and closing the door behind her against the snow.  But when she saw the dark head come into view, she wished she hadn't.  She recognized him even after all these years." (111)

I haven't yet started the book as I'm finishing up another one, trying to finish up grading for the end of the term, applying to a PhD program, and participating in National Novel Writing Month.  Needless to say my plate's kind of full, but I have every intention of starting this book by this weekend.  Yay for Veteran's Day and a day off to catch up on all of the above!!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Why I Love...A Book in my Hands

I've been known to read anywhere and everywhere.  True statement.  There are very few places that I am unable to read; namely cars and double decker buses (found both out the hard way).  When I was little, I was able to read in cars, no problem.  However, as I've grown older, I find that I tend to get a little motion sickness if I don't watch the road the entire time.  Either that, or I have to close my eyes for the duration of the trip.  Regardless, I've discovered that I can read just about anywhere aside from those two places.  So, because of this, I dedicate this week's "Why I Love" to my favorite reading spot...THE WORLD as long as I have a book in my hands!

I'm quite comfortable hunkering down in any given spot, cracking open whatever book is in my bag, and losing myself in the world it provides.  This ability has provided me with many escapes from the everyday world and helped to pass hours and hours.  I find this incredibly true when confronted with a seven hour plane ride to Europe...or a fourteen hour one to Japan.  Either way, reading on a plane is, honestly, one of my favorite places to read.  I don't know why; the seats are uncomfortable; some of the people smell; it's stuffy.  But...they bring you drinks, snacks, and food (if the flight's long enough).  You never have to get up and get them yourself.  I find this awesome (and lazy, but oh well).  I also like that I can just pop my iPod in and ignore just about everything around me.  It's rare to get that much uninterrupted reading time in.  I think that's why I like it so much.

The same concept can apply to train rides as well.  I traveled a lot by train when I was living in Austria, and Scotland too, so having a book to occupy my time was always something that I counted on.  Though the majority of the rides tended to be fairly short (usually no more than 30 minutes), there were those occasions when my roommate, Lindsey, and I would decide to get out of town for the weekend and hop on a train to a destination anywhere from three to eight hours away.  We took one twelve hour train ride (to Venice), but that was an overnighter, so we slept...kind of.  I loved sitting by the window in a rushing train traveling through unknown countrysides with a book in my hands and my iPod blasting some great music.  It was so relaxing and a wonderful way to while away the hours.

On the train to Glasgow (or North Berwick) from Edinburgh.   
Lastly, anywhere that offers a nice, cozy place to plop myself down and read is, naturally, on my list.  I like to curl up with a blanket, some coffee (or tea), and a great book.  I'm good to go sitting on a couch, in a comfy chair, in bed, or at a coffee shop.  As long as I have my trusty book, I don't complain.  

My nest at Binks and Shelly's flat in Edinburgh.
I guess you could basically say that I will read anywhere and everywhere.  I don't really care where I'm at.  I'll pull a book out and just lose myself whenever the mood strikes me.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Portland's a Crazy Little Bitch!

"I wonder how people think of Portland from the outside.  Is it a hippie haven where everyone reads Ken Kesey and hangs out at open mike night?  Is it the gray, grungy, junkie-riddled streets of early Gus Van Sant movies?  A cheap, trendy town full of myopic record labels and zinesters?  Sex worker paradise?  Bookstore heaven?  A place where New Yorkers come to feel important and/or relaxed?  Some wet old logging town that somehow became "one of the best cities in America"?

Yeah, it's all that and a fancy coffee spilled on your Gore-Tex jacket (the same one you soiled with microbrew last night)." 
~Kevin Sampsell

What a lovely...and TRUE...introduction to Portland Noir, a wonderful collection of seedy stories set throughout Portland, written by local authors.  The collection really does showcase the different sections of the city (Burnside, St. Johns, Mount Tabor, Powell, Oaks Bottom, etc.) and the sub-culture that is inherently threaded through its identity.  I really enjoyed reading the dark portrayals and the fact that, in nearly every story, the city functions as a prominent character.  A wonderful little read and find in, where else, a Portland used bookstore.  Yes!

It's difficult to review a compilation, so I'll just say this:  every single story in this collection is wonderful.  Yes, some are better than others, but for the most part I enjoyed everything that was included.  Some standouts were:  Luciana Lopez's "Julia Now," Jonathan Selwood's "The Wrong House," and Gigi Little's "Shanghaied."  Great stuff.

"Me, I love good lore.  Lore is my favorite kind of story.  Because it's not only historical, it's a lie everyone knows is a lie but tells anyway."
~Gigi Little

Teaser Tuesday...Reminiscing about Edinburgh

It's that time of the week where I put forth a little gem of lovely from whatever book I'm reading (at least the one closest to me at the time).  For this week's edition, I've just started Alexander McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street, the first in the series.  Yay for Scotland (I miss you)!!  And the teaser...

"'Psychotherapy," said Bertie, gazing down at the floor.  'I set fire to Daddy's Guardian.'  He paused, and looked up at Domenica.  'While he was reading it.'" (222)

A view of the back of 44 Scotland Street in Edinburgh, Scotland

I'm really enjoying this book so far...for several reasons.