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...