Saturday, December 31, 2011

December/2011 Wrap Up

Oh my goodness, what a month this has been!  I hit my goal of reading 200 books and actually surpassed it by 2 (thanks to the Vampire Academy series).  I read 202 books in 2011 which is INSANE.  I am glad I can say I did it but I don't think I will be trying that again anytime soon. 

Throughout the year I kept track of all the books I read that I borrowed from the library, got for free from NetGalley, borrowed from friends, etc. (basically books I didn't pay for in 2011).  I then kept track of the lowest price I could find for a new copy of each book to find out how much money I would have spent had I purchased all of those books.  The grand total was $1,651.33!  It's crazy to think that's how much I could have spent this year...thank goodness for the library!! 

I finished the Henry VIII challenge I participated in which wound up being not nearly as fun as I expected.  I am getting kind of bored with nonstop Tudor novels.  There are some good ones out there but there are also a lot of really bad ones.
I also kept track of how many books I read that I own and this is a sad number.  Of the 202 books I read htis year, only 44 of them were books I own physical copies of.  Needless to say, I did not do a good job of cleaning up my TBR pile.  Hopefully, I can work on this next year and do better.  I will post my 2012 goals on Monday.

Here is what I read in December:

1.) Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead
2.) Spirit Bound by Richelle Mead
3.) Blood Promise by Richelle Mead
4.) Lover Avenged by J.R. Ward
5.) Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead
6.) The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams
7.) The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau
8.) By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan
9.) Plum Spooky by Janet Evanovich
10.) Zlata's Diary by Zlata Filopovic
11.) The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley
12.) Frostbite by Richelle Mead
13.) Life's a Beach by Claire Cook
14.) Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran
15.) Plum Lucky by Janet Evanovich
16.) City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare
17.) A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres
18.) Lover Enshrined by J.R. Ward
19.) Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

WHEW!! I am exhausted.  I hope everyone has a happy new year!  Let me know how you did with your 2011 goals.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2012

GAH.  I swore I was done with signing up for challenges but since I read so much historical fiction, I thought this one would be a lot of fun.  The Historical Fiction Reading Challenge is hosted by Historical Tapestry and you can check out the details here.

I have a TON of unread books on my shelf that are in this genre.  Since I am glutton for punishment AND one of my goals for 2012 is to read more of the books I own, I think I can do the highest level "Severe Bookaholism".  This means I plan to read to 20 books in the historical fiction genre next year which is good because I can knock out a good chunk of the books on my shelf.

Happy Friday!! (17)

Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee's View and Alison Can Read.

Question of the Week: The New Year is here -- and everyone wants to know your New Years Blogging Resolution! What are you going to try to revise, revamp and redo for 2012 on your blog?

1.) New Design:  I recently changed my blog design but it is still pretty blah.  I am planning on working on that this year.

2.) Comments:  I read a lot of blogs but for some reason, I rarely comment.  I have been trying to do better but I really want to work on commenting more.

3.) Better Reviews:  My reviews have become progressively worse in the past couple months.  Due to the fact that I was trying to hit my goal of 200 books, I was reading too fast and pumping out some really poorly written and not well thought out reviews.  This is part of the reason I don't plan to set such a high goal for myself next year.  I really want to improve the quality of my reviews in 2012.

4.) Technical Stuff:  Let me be honest, I am terrible with technology and html.  I have only had my blog since April and I feel like I still have a TON to learn.  Hopefully in the next year, I will learn some of this type of thing including how to make a button for my blog (yes, I am clueless as to how to do this).

5.) Requesting ARCs:  I have yet to do this because I am a scaredy cat.  I would like to get up the nerve to approach publishers.

I hope everyone has a safe and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

What I've Been Up To

The past week has been super busy with the holidays and what not so I thought I would share some pictures of what I have been up to.

 We had a great Christmas and Turbo had a lot of fun with all of his new toys!

 Dec. 26 was Turbo's 1st birthday and since 5 of his 9 siblings are owned by friends of ours, we decided to have a puppy party.
 I made 'pupcakes' and we took the dogs out to the country so they could run around.
 Turbo loved his treat, he practically swalowed it whole!

Hope you all are having a great week!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Review: "The Chosen One" by Carol Lynch Williams

From Goodreads:  Thirteen-year-old Kyra has grown up in an isolated community without questioning the fact that her father has three wives and she has twenty brothers and sisters, with two more on the way. That is, without questioning them much---if you don’t count her secret visits to the Mobile Library on Wheels to read forbidden books, or her meetings with Joshua, the boy she hopes to choose for herself instead of having a man chosen for her. But when the Prophet decrees that she must marry her sixty-year-old uncle---who already has six wives---Kyra must make a desperate choice in the face of violence and her own fears of losing her family forever.

My Thoughts:  This was such a sad book and even though it ended on a hopeful note, it still was heart-breaking.  The picture that the author paints of a religious compound run by crazy zealots is shocking even more so by the fact that the inhabitants of the compound were left so powerless to do anything to better their situation.  Kyra is an amazing character; she is tough, smart and curious.  Even though it is forbidden, she still visits the book mobile and reads in secret and the strength it took to do this was remarkable.  She survived beatings and other horrible events but still doesn't let it break her.  This book was suprising in that I never thought I would see a Young Adult book written about polygamy and fundamentalists but I have to say the story was well executed.  The writing is excellent:  there are times where you can almost feel the fear emanating from the characters as their lives are dictated by the 'Prophet' and his God squad.  This was a fascinating read.  4 stars.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Top Ten Favorite Books of 2011

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic:  Top Ten Favorite Books of 2011

These are my faves of the books I read this year.  Most were published prior to 2011.

1.) The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons-I know I rave about this book all the time but seriously it was one of the best books I read this year.
2.) Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson-My favorite Laurie Halse Anderson book.
3.) Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay-This was a heart-breaking look at a lesser known part of the Holocaust.
4.) Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning-A great ending to a fun series!
5.) Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson-A haunting book about eating disorders.
6.) Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch-The book lover in my adored this one!
7.) Columbine by Dave Cullen-This book explains what really happened during the massacre at Columbine.
8.) By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan-Historical fiction plus great writing equals a fantastic read.
9.) A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness-Harkness created an awesome world of witches and vampires!
10.) Dark Lover by J.R. Ward-This book got me hooked on the Black Dagger Brotherhood!

What books made your Top Ten of 2011 list??

Monday, December 26, 2011

In My Mailbox (32)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.  I know this is a day late but yesterday was craziness and I wasn't able to post anything.  I hope everyone had a good holiday!  I had a great Christmas and got all the books I asked for.

Christmas gifts:
Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie
11/22/63 by Stephen King
The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon
City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
Not pictured:  Gift cards to Half Price Books and Barnes and Noble (YAY!)

From the Library:
Spirit Bound by Richelle Mead
Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead

From NetGalley: 

Agent 6 by Tom Rob Smith (I have read the first two books in this trilogy and cannot wait to read this!!)

Have a great week!!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Friday!! (16)

Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee's View.
It's Friday, almost Christmas and I don't have go back to work until January 3!!! Yippee!!

Here is today's question:  If you had to spend eternity inside the pages of a book which book would you choose and why?

This is a really hard one.  I would probably choose Outlander or Little House on the Prairie.  I would love to hang out in Scotland with Jamie Fraser or go live in a log cabin with Laura.  I also wouldn't mind spending eternity inside the pages of any of the Black Dagger Brotherhood books. 

Hope everyone has a happy holiday season!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Review: "By Fire, By Water" by Mitchell James Kaplan

From Goodreads:  Luis de Santángel, chancellor to the court and longtime friend of the lusty King Ferdinand, has had enough of the Spanish Inquisition. As the power of Inquisitor General Tomás de Torquemada grows, so does the brutality of the Spanish church and the suspicion and paranoia it inspires. When a dear friend’s demise brings the violence close to home, Santángel is enraged and takes retribution into his own hands. But he is from a family of conversos, and his Jewish heritage makes him an easy target. As Santángel witnesses the horrific persecution of his loved ones, he begins slowly to reconnect with the Jewish faith his family left behind. Feeding his curiosity about his past is his growing love for Judith Migdal, a clever and beautiful Jewish woman navigating the mounting tensions in Granada. While he struggles to decide what his reputation is worth and what he can sacrifice, one man offers him a chance he thought he’d lost…the chance to hope for a better world. Christopher Columbus has plans to discover a route to paradise, and only Luis de Santángel can help him.
Within the dramatic story lies a subtle, insightful examination of the crisis of faith at the heart of the Spanish Inquisition. Irresolvable conflict rages within the conversos in By Fire, By Water, torn between the religion they left behind and the conversion meant to ensure their safety. In this story of love, God, faith, and torture, fifteenth-century Spain comes to dazzling, engrossing life.

My Thoughts:  I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.  That being said, this really is one of the best books I have read this year.  The writing was absolutely beautiful; Kaplan's descriptions are amazing and he makes it seem as though you can hear and see what is going on in the story.  The story sucked me in immediately and I just could not wait to find out what would happen next.  I know very little about this period in history but this book made me want to learn more.  The characters were fascinating and I really felt for Luis de Santangel; he had to sacrifice everything he loved and he lost so much.  I was so shocked by the behavior of the clergy in the story; most of them, Torquemada, Rodriguez, etc, were such evil characters who claimed to be so holy.  I loved the character of Judith; she was a strong resilient character and she definitely made the story that much better.  I have read a lot of bad historical fiction in recent months and have kind of stepped away from the genre.  This book made me want to go back to it.  I didn't know what to expect from this book but it was excellent.  I would highly recommend it and I will definitely be looking forward to Kaplan's next book.  4 1/2 stars.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Review: "Zlata's Diary" by Zlata Filopovic

From Goodreads:  When Zlata's Diary was first published at the height of the Bosnian conflict, it became an international bestseller and was compared to The Diary of Anne Frank, both for the freshness of its voice and the grimness of the world it describes. It begins as the day-today record of the life of a typical eleven-year-old girl, preoccupied by piano lessons and birthday parties. But as war engulfs Sarajevo, Zlata Filipovi´c becomes a witness to food shortages and the deaths of friends and learns to wait out bombardments in a neighbor's cellar. Yet throughout she remains courageous and observant. The result is a book that has the power to move and instruct readers a world away.

My Thoughts:  I remember when this book came out and how popular it was but for some reason, I never got around to reading it.  Upon finishing it, I am glad that I read this book as an adult when I can appreciate the maturity of this young girl.  I was completely blown away by this book.  Zlata begins writing this diary when she is 11 and it starts out as your average child's diary.  When war comes to Sarajevo, she makes the decision to record what is going on in her life as a result of the war.  It was amazing to see how the war affected this young girl's life and the times when she raged against the war and how it was stealing her childhood, I just wanted to hug her.  She writes about how people compared to Anne Frank and how scary that was because she did not want to share Anne's fate.  She writes "That's why I have to try to get through all this, with your support, Mimmy (her diary), and to hope that it will pass and that I will not suffer the fate of Anne Frank.  That I will be a child again, living my childhood in peace" (pg. 193).  This quote completely broke my heart; this poor girl was wise beyond her years and I just can't believe how maturely she dealt with what was going on in her country.  It is strange to think of what I was doing between 1991-1993 and how completely different that was than what Zlata was going through.  I can't say enough good things and I highly recommend this book! 4 1/2 stars.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Top Ten Books I Hope Santa Brings

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.

This week's topic:  Top Ten Books I Hope Santa Brings

I asked for a few books for Christmas and then some gift cards to book stores.  This list contains some books I asked for and some that I plan to buy if I get gift cards.

2.) 11/22/63 by Stephen King

(I am really hoping I get both of these!!!)

4.) City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

5.) Lover Unleashed by J.R. Ward

6.) Jamie's Food Revolution by Jamie Oliver

7.) City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare

8.) Linger by Maggie Stiefvater-I have already read this but I really want to add it to my collection!

 9.) Where Men Win Glory by John Krakauer

10.) Lionheart by Sharon Kay Penman

What books are you hoping Santa will bring?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Review: "The Orchid House" by Lucinda Riley

From Goodreads:  As a child Julia Forrester spent many idyllic hours in the hothouse of Wharton Park, the great house where her grandfather tended exotic orchids. Years later, while struggling with overwhelming grief over the death of her husband and young child, she returns to the tranquility of the estate. There she reunites with Kit Crawford, heir to the estate and her possible salvation.

When they discover an old diary, Julia seeks out her grandmother to learn the truth behind a love affair that almost destroyed Wharton Park. Their search takes them back to the 1930s when a former heir to Wharton Park married his young society bride on the eve of World War II. When the two lovers are cruelly separated, the impact will be felt on generations to come.

My Thoughts: I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.  The Orchid House was a fascinating read.  It contained characters functioning in the present as well as ones functioning in the past.  The author handled the transition really well.  Rather than constantly flipping back and forth between time periods, there were big chunks of the story taking place in one period or another.  She also did a good job of drawing me into the story; there was some really important information about the main character, Julia, that was alluded to for a few chapters which peaked my interest and made me want to keep reading to find out what exactly had happened to her.  I really liked Julia as a character and I definitely sympathized with her situation.  I felt like the author did a good job of shuttling her through the stages of grief and it was nice to see her come out of her situation without being completely destroyed.

I did feel like the story was somewhat far-fetched.  While being engaging, the story had several moments where I was like ‘What? That would never happen’.  There were also a lot of layers to the story and every time I felt like one issue was resolved, another weird issue would rear its head.  And while I did think the characters deserved a happy ending, the story wrapped itself up a little too nicely.  I guess I was expecting a story that was a little more plausible than this one was. 3 stars.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

In My Mailbox (31)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

This week I picked up MORE books.  I don't know why but when I went to the library, I couldn't help grabbing more books.  GAH.  I am currently reading book # 194 and will need to read 6 more to hit my goal for the year.  I am sure I can do it, but after that my plan was to slow down a bit on reading.  Instead I keep grabbing more books to add to the pile.  Here is what I go this week....

From the Libary:

Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead
Blood Promise by Richelle Mead
Mistress of the Monarchy by Alison Weir
Nefertiti by Michelle Moran

From NetGalley: 
Ripper by Amy Carol Reeves

What books did you pick up this week?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Review: "Frostbite" by Richelle Mead

From Goodreads:  Rose loves Dimitri, Dimitri might love Tasha, and Mason would die to be with Rose…
It's winter break at St. Vladimir's, but Rose is feeling anything but festive. A massive Strigoi attack has put the school on high alert, and now the Academy's crawling with Guardians—including Rose's hard-hitting mother, Janine Hathaway. And if hand-to-hand combat with her mom wasn't bad enough, Rose's tutor Dimitri has his eye on someone else, her friend Mason's got a huge crush on her, and Rose keeps getting stuck in Lissa's head while she's making out with her boyfriend, Christian! The Strigoi are closing in, and the Academy's not taking any risks… This year, St. Vlad's annual holiday ski trip is mandatory.
But the glittering winter landscape and the posh Idaho resort only create the illusion of safety. When three friends run away in an offensive move against the deadly Strigoi, Rose must join forces with Christian to rescue them. But heroism rarely comes without a price…

My Thoughts:  Gah!  These books are addicting.  I was planning on waiting until the New Year to go further in the series but now I have the third book waiting for me to pick up from the library.  There was a lot more Rose in this book and less focus on Lissa and Rose's character becomes more developed throughout the story.  I like her a lot more after this book and more is revealed about her 'bond' with Lissa.  We also got to meet Rose's mother and Adrian Ivashkov, a royal Moroi, who latches on to Rose.  I disliked both characters when they were first introduced but grew to like them as the story progressed.  The ending was extremely surprising; some awful things happen that I never expected and as a result of some of these occurrences, I started to kind of like Mia (just a little).  The plot of this book was not super fast paced but it wasn't boring either and I felt like there was more focus on small aspects of the plot until I got to the end.  The last 50 pages flew by!  Overall, this was a fun book with great characters and  I can't wait to read the next in the series. 4 stars.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Happy Friday! (15)

Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee's View and Alison Can Read.

This week's question:  When you've read a book, what do you do with it? (Keep it, give it away, donate it, sell it, swap it..?)
If it's a book I have purchased, I simply keep it and loan it to friends if I think they will enjoy it.  In the past, I didn't have much trouble getting rid of books that I didn't love but lately I am having a hard time convincing myself to get rid of books.  Lately, I have been reading a ton of library books so I obviously just return them to the library when I am done.

What you do with books when you are done with them?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Review: "Life's a Beach" by Claire Cook

From Goodreads:  Cook returns with another sparkling romantic comedy that's reminiscent of Must Love Dogs in all the right ways, but very much its own animal—about a relationship-challenged single woman, her quirky-to-put-it-mildly extended family, and the summer the shark movie came to town.
Life's a bit of a beach these days for Ginger Walsh, who's single at forty-one and living back home in the family FROG (Finished Room Over Garage). She's hoping for a more fulfilling life as a sea glass artist, but instead is babysitting her sister's kids and sharing overnights with Noah, her sexy artist boyfriend with commitment issues and a dog Ginger's cat isn't too crazy about. Geri, her BlackBerry-obsessed sister, is also nearly over the deep end about her pending fiftieth birthday (and might just drag Ginger with her). Toss in a dumpster-picking father, a Kama Sutra T-shirt-wearing mother, a movie crew come to town with a very cute gaffer, an on-again-off-again glassblower boyfriend, plus a couple of Red Hat realtors, and hilarity ensues. The perfect summer read, Life's a Beach is a warm, witty, and wise look at what it takes to move forward at any stage in life.

My Thoughts:  I mainly picked this book up because it is by the author of Must Love DogsMust Love Dogs is one of my all time favorite chick flicks so I figured I might like this book (also it was free nook download so that was added encouragement to read this book).  Unfortunately it kind of fell flat.  It follows a formula similar to Must Love Dogs:  a forties woman looking for love and direction.  I thought Ginger was super immature, needed to get over herself and was overly dramatic.  Her father and her nephew were the saving grace of the book.  I kept hoping that she would reach an 'aha' moment regarding her career but not a lot happens in that area.  The father character was ridiculously funny and scatterbrained and Riley, her nephew was adorable and precocious.  The book was short and super easy to read but if you are looking for something new and exciting, this isn't it.  3 stars.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Review: "Cleopatra's Daughter" by Michelle Moran

From Goodreads:  The marriage of Marc Antony and Cleopatra is one of the greatest love stories of all time, a tale of unbridled passion with earth-shaking political consequences. Feared and hunted by the powers in Rome, the lovers choose to die by their own hands as the triumphant armies of Antony’s revengeful rival, Octavian, sweep into Egypt. Their three orphaned children are taken in chains to Rome; only two– the ten-year-old twins Selene and Alexander–survive the journey. Delivered to the household of Octavian’s sister, the siblings cling to each other and to the hope that they will return one day to their rightful place on the throne of Egypt. As they come of age, they are buffeted by the personal ambitions of Octavian’s family and court, by the ever-present threat of slave rebellion, and by the longings and desires deep within their own hearts.

My Thoughts:  I really enjoyed Moran's book, The Heretic Queen, but after reading Madame Tussaud, I wasn't sure if I would like this book or not.  Madame Tussaud wasn't my cup of tea and I was worried that this book would be the same.  It was not.  Cleopatra's Daughter was incredibly engaging, had a great story line and Moran really made me care about her characters.  I LOVED this book and could not put it down. The story is unbelievably sad and there seemed to be this constant sense that bad things were going to happen to Selene and her brother.  Moran really showed the reader how Selene grew up from an angry child to an intelligent, caring adult.  I did kind of get tired of seeing her make eyes at Marcellus when she knew she couldn't have him; I felt like that crush was drawn out a little longer than it needed to be.  The ending also seemed rather abrupt but at the same time it was a great ending.  I don't know anything about Cleopatra and Marc Antony's daughter but after reading this book, I definitely want to learn more.  4 stars.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Top Ten Books I Want To Give As Gifts

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic:  Top Ten Books I Want to Give As Gifts

I have already bought almost all of my Christmas gifts and few of them are books.  If I had to go back and buy books for everyone, here is what I get.

1.) Dark Lover by J.R. Ward-This would be for my best friend, Sam.  She loves romance books and I think she would really enjoy this.
2.) The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons-I would buy this for my mom and aunt.  We read the Outlander series together and I think they would love this trilogy.
3.) Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich-My grandma is a big Stephanie Plum fan so this would be for her.
4.) 11/22/63 by Stephen King-For my step-dad who is not a big Stephen King fan but wants to read this.
5.) The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald-I bought this for my 8 year old brother because I loved the series when I was a kid.
6.) Generation Kill by Evan Wright-For my dad since he basically only reads about war.
7.)  Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern-I would give this to the hubs because I know it would make him laugh.

That's all I can think of for now.  What books do you want to give as gifts?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Review: "City of Ashes" by Cassandra Clare

From Goodreads:  Clary Fray just wishes that her life would go back to normal. But what's normal when you're a demon-slaying Shadowhunter, your mother is in a magically induced coma, and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, and faeries? If Clary left the world of the Shadowhunters behind, it would mean more time with her best friend, Simon, who's becoming more than a friend. But the Shadowhunting world isn't ready to let her go — especially her handsome, infuriating, newfound brother, Jace. And Clary's only chance to help her mother is to track down rogue Shadowhunter Valentine, who is probably insane, certainly evil — and also her father.

To complicate matters, someone in New York City is murdering Downworlder children. Is Valentine behind the killings — and if he is, what is he trying to do? When the second of the Mortal Instruments, the Soul-Sword, is stolen, the terrifying Inquisitor arrives to investigate and zooms right in on Jace. How can Clary stop Valentine if Jace is willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father?
My Thoughts:  I can't believe I waited over two months to read the second book in the Mortal Instruments series.  I definitely love the story and the characters but this book was definitely not as good as the first.  It took several chapters for me to get over being annoyed with Clary, Jace and Simon for being so whiny.  As much as I love these characters, they got on my nerves for about the first half of the book.  I did enjoy getting to know Luke a lot better in this book; he is a really neat character who wasn't showcased as much in the first book.  Clary's mom was kind of forgotten about though which I thought was strange because they were supposed to be trying to find a way to wake her up.  I am hoping that with the way this book ended, that will be the focus of the next book.  The second half of the book was definitely better than the first half.  The big battle scene at the end was really cool and there was a moment where I felt like some really important information was about to be announced and then wasn't.  So, we will see what kind of shocking revelations come out in City of Glass.  I am definitely looking forward to the next book.  3 stars.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

In My Mailbox (30)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

I am really trying to hit my goal of 200 books so this week I went to the library and grabbed a ton of books.  I only have 11 more books to read so I am hoping I will be able to make it.

From NetGalley:
The Last Romanov by Dora Levy Mossanen

From the Library:
Frostbite by Richelle Mead
Plum Spooky by Janet Evanovich
Lover Unleashed by J.R. Ward
Lover Mine by J.R. Ward
The Dress Lodger by Sheri Holman
Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks

What did books did you get this week?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Review: "A Thousand Lives" by Julia Scheeres

From Goodreads:  In 1954, a pastor named Jim Jones opened a church in Indianapolis called Peoples Temple Full Gospel Church. He was a charismatic preacher with idealistic beliefs, and he quickly filled his pews with an audience eager to hear his sermons on social justice. After Jones moved his church to Northern California in 1965, he became a major player in Northern California politics; he provided vital support in electing friendly political candidates to office, and they in turn offered him a protective shield that kept stories of abuse and fraud out of the papers. Even as Jones’s behavior became erratic and his message more ominous, his followers found it increasingly difficult to pull away from the church. By the time Jones relocated the Peoples Temple a final time to a remote jungle in Guyana and the U.S. Government decided to investigate allegations of abuse and false imprisonment in Jonestown, it was too late.

A Thousand Lives follows the experiences of five Peoples Temple members who went to Jonestown: a middle-class English teacher from Colorado, an elderly African American woman raised in Jim Crow Alabama, a troubled young black man from Oakland, and a working-class father and his teenage son. These people joined Jones’s church for vastly different reasons. Some, such as eighteen-year-old Stanley Clayton, appreciated Jones’s message of racial equality and empowering the dispossessed. Others, like Hyacinth Thrash and her sister Zipporah, were dazzled by his claims of being a faith healer—Hyacinth believed Jones had healed a cancerous tumor in her breast. Edith Roller, a well-educated white progressive, joined Peoples Temple because she wanted to help the less fortunate. Tommy Bogue, a teen, hated Jones’s church, but was forced to attend services—and move to Jonestown—because his parents were members..... (For the full synopsis, click here)

My Thoughts:  This book was so different than what I expected in a good way.  I was expecting it to be a more broad discussion of Jim Jones, the People's Temple and the events at Jonestown but it really was a more personal look at the individual members of the Jones' church and their feelings about him and the direction the church went in after the move to Guyana.  Scheeres used papers and tapes found at Jonestown after the mass suicide for her book and these papers really shined light on the way things really were down there.  Jones was confiscating letters from relatives in the States so that his followers would think their families didn't care, he sold most of the food produced in the camp while his followers were starving and he spent most of his time in a drug induced haze which resulted in hour long sermons (aka crazed rants).  It was strange to see his descent into madness throughout the book.  I also found it interesting how many people seemed to become incredibly disillusioned with Jones and his beliefs upon arrival in Jonestown.  I have always thought that the vast majority of his people believed in what he told them and willingly killed themselves but this book made me question that.  Between the discussion of the people showcased in the book (not all of whom survived) and the tapes and papers Scheeres looked through, it seems to me that there were a lot of people down there who weren't keen on the idea of 'revolutionary suicide'.  I liked how Scheeres tried to dispel the myth that the people of Jonestown were mindless sheep who did whatever Jones told them; she sees that these were people who were betrayed by someone they believed to be infallible and wound up with no other choice.  This book was incredibly well written and easy to read for non-ficition.  4 stars.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Happy Friday! (14)

Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee's View and Alison Can Read.
This week's question is: 

 Keeping with the Spirit of Giving this season, what book do you think EVERYONE should read and if you could, you would buy it for all of your family and friends?

Of the books I read this year, I would have to say Tolstoy and the Purple Chair.  It is about how the joy of reading, how great books are and how they can impact one's life in ways you can't even imagine.
Overall, my favorite book is Fahrenheit 451 and this is one I would definitely buy for everyone I know.  It is about a dystopian world where books are outlawed (the horror!) and I just love it.

What books do you think everyone should read?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

2012 Support Your Local Library Challenge

I have decided to participate in the 'Support Your Local Libary Challenge' hosted by The Eclectic Bookshelf.  I love the library in my town!  The collection is amazing and it's very rare that they don't have or can't get a book I want.  My budget doesn't allow to buy every book I read nor do I want to own every single book I have read so I am huge library user.

The Rules are:
-Anyone can join.

-You don't need a blog to participate. If you are a Non-blogger please leave a comment with a link (if you review elsewhere) to your review or with the book(s) you read.

-Audio, ebooks (some libraries allow ebooks to be checked out), bound books are ok.

-No re-reads

-Create a sign up post and post the link in the linky below.

-Challenge goes from January 1, 2012 - December 31, 2012


Level 1 - Read 12 library books

Level 2 - Read 24 library books

Level 3 - Read 36 library books

Level 4 - Read 37+ library books

I think I am going to do Level 2-Read 24 library books.  I am pretty sure I have read way more library books than that this year but I am trying to set my goals a little lower for 2012.  I am also really trying to read some of the many books I already own and are collecting dust on my shelf.  This will probably be the last challenge I sign up for unless I see another one that I simply can't stay away from.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Review: "Lola and the Boy Next Door" by Stephanie Perkins

From Goodreads:  Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit -- more sparkly, more fun, more wild -- the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket -- a gifted inventor -- steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

My Thoughts:  I feel terrible for saying this but I didn't enjoy this book as much as I expected to.  It is definitely not as good as Anna and the French Kiss.  It was kind of slow moving, not very compelling and I found myself not really caring about the characters.  At times I liked Lola but at other times I thought she was kind of a brat.  For much of the book she seemed to only care about herself and it wasn't until the end of the book that she redeemed herself in my eyes.  I loved that Anna and St. Clair were woven into the story; I had forgotten how great those two characters are!  The character of Cricket Bell was probably the saving grace for this book.  Cricket is a quirky, sweet and lovable character and I thought the story was much better during the parts where he was featured.  I don't care if I don't see Lola in one of Perkins' future books but I would like to see more of Cricket.  In the end, I didn't hate this book.  I just don't think it lived up to the hype.  3 stars.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Top Ten Childhood Faves

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.

This week's topic is:  Top Ten Childhood Faves

When I was in elementary school, I loved these:

1.) The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
2.) The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
3.) The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
4.) A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
5.) Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery

When I was very young, I loved these:
1.) Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Suess
2.) Anything by Don and Audrey Wood (Heckedy Peg, Elbert's Bad Word, King Bidgood's in the Bathtub, etc)
3.) Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
4.) Anything by Beatrix Potter (Peter Rabbit, etc)
5.) Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

Monday, December 5, 2011

Review: "The Wedding Gift" by Kathleen McKenna

From Goodreads:  17 year old Leeann Worthier is the perfect girl in town - or so she says.

George Willets is the heir to a booming petroleum business.

When they announce their engagement, George's controlling mother is unimpressed and Leeann absolutely refuses to live with her mother-in-law. So George gives his new wife a house as a wedding gift.

Thirty years before, the same house had hosted a grisly scene: George's uncle and cousins had all been slaughtered, his aunt Robina accused of both murder and suicide.

The house is a gorgeous, well-maintained mansion but has stood empty since the tragedy. It's intimidating, but who is Leeann to turn down a free house? When the ghost of Robina begins to haunt Leeann, she realizes she's made a huge mistake ...

 My Thoughts:  Wow, talk about "My Big Fat Redneck Wedding".  This book was slightly ridiculous.  I felt like I was inside some white trash girl's head the entire time which was incredibly obnoxious but at the same time means the author is a good writer.  Leeann was trashy and I just didn't feel sorry for her at all.  I really didn't like any of the characters except Leeann's best friend, Jessie.  She was smart and sassy and a really fun character.  I didn't care much for the whole teenage girl gets knocked up and marries a jerk aspect of the story (it was kind of lame) but the ghost story was super creepy.  I would have loved for there to have been more of that story and less of Leeann.  The whole book would have been a lot better with more of the haunted house story and different characters.  There was this huge secret revealed at the end but no real resolution; I felt like I was still left asking 'why' and I really wanted to get into certain characters heads to find out what they were thinking.  I don't want to say much more than that because I would hate to give the end away.  By the time the book was over and everyone lived happily ever after (literally), I couldn't decide if the book was supposed to be a satire or just seemed like one.  This book definitely had good parts but overall, it just didn't do it for me. 2 1/2 stars.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

In My Mailbox (29)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

For Review (Thank you Other Press!):

By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan

What was in your mailbox this week?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Review: "In A Treacherous Court" by Michelle Diener

From Goodreads:  An unconventional woman. A deadly enemy. A clash of intrigue, deception, and desire. . . . 1525: Artist Susanna Horenbout is sent from Belgium to be Henry VIII’s personal illuminator inside the royal palace. But her new homeland greets her with an attempt on her life, and the King’s most lethal courtier, John Parker, is charged with keeping her safe. As further attacks are made, Susanna and Parker realize that she unknowingly carries the key to a bloody plot against the throne. For while Richard de la Pole amasses troops in France for a Yorkist invasion, a traitor prepares to trample the kingdom from within.Who is the mastermind? Why are men vying to kill the woman Parker protects with his life? With a motley gang of urchins, Susanna’s wits, and Parker’s fierce instincts, honed on the streets and in palace chambers, the two slash through deadly layers of deceit in a race against time. For in the court of Henry VIII, secrets are the last to die. . . .

My Thoughts:  This book was so not my cup of tea.  There is very little character development and entire story consists of the two main characters getting attacked every other page.  It was to the point of being ridiculous.  It also felt like the story began right in the middle, there was no introduction to what was going on, you were just dropped into the middle of some action and forced to figure it out from there.  The romance was extremely predictable and the ending was in complete opposition to the whole 'uncover the plot and save the king' aspect to the story.  I picked up this book a couple of times at the library before finally reading it and I really should have listened to my initial instincts.  As a huge fan of historical fiction, I was very disappointed in this book.  2 stars.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Happy Friday!! (14)

Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee's View and Alison Can Read.

This week's question is: 

Question: What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to books? Maybe you don't like love triangles or thin plots? Tell us about it!

Honestly, I am getting really sick of series books.  I just want to read a stand alone novel with a good plot, fun characters and an ending with no loose ends.

I also really hate weak female lead characters.  I get tired of the whole "oh I need a man to be happy and to take care of me" story. 

What are your book pet peeves?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

November Wrap Up

Oh my goodness.  I can't believe it's December already!  I am starting to get a little burned out on reading but am pretty determined to hit my goal of 200 for the year.  Next year, I don't I will set my sights so high.  I read 20 books in November which is awesome and am at 183 books total for the year.  Luckily I am off work from Dec. 22-Jan. 2 so if necessary, I can spend some extra time reading.  I also met my 2011 New Year's Resolution in November so I am super happy about that.  I had some major crises happen while I was in grad school and had to charge a lot of stuff to a credit card.  I have been trying for 3 years (!) to get it paid off and every time I have been close, another crisis would occur.  But as of last week, I am out of credit card debt and am so happy about it!  Anyway, here is what I read in November:

1.) Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
2.) The Shunning by Beverly Lewis
3.) In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
4.) Visions of Sugar Plums by Janet Evanovich
5.) Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
6.) Maybe Baby by Lori Leibovich
7.) Finger Lickin' Fifteen by Janet Evanovich
8.) A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
9.) The Confession by Beverly Lewis
10.) Lover Unbound by J.R. Ward
11.) Mary Boleyn:  The Mistress of Kings by Alison Weir
12.) Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich
13.) Finding Chandra by Scott Higham
14.) The Reckoning by Beverly Lewis
15.) The Betrayal by Helen Dunmore
16.) The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges
17.) Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
18.) Smokin' Seventeen by Janet Evanovich
19.) In A Treacherous Court by Michelle Diener
20.) The Wedding Gift by Kathleen McKenna
What did you read in November?

Top Ten Books on My TBR List this Winter

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.

This week's topic:  Top Ten Books on My To Be Read List for Winter
(All titles are linked to

1.) Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
2.) Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran
3.) Three Maids for a Crown by Ella March Chase
4.) Lover Enshrined by J.R. Ward
5.) Lover Avenged by J.R. Ward
6.) Frostbite by Richelle Mead
7.) Tully by Paullina Simons
8.) City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare
9.) 11/22/63 by Stephen King (If I get it for Christmas!)
10.) Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie (also on the Christmas list!)

What's on your TBR list for the winter months?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: "Vampire Academy" by Richelle Mead

From Goodreads:  St. Vladimir’s Academy isn’t just any boarding school—it’s a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They’ve been on the run, but now they’re being dragged back to St. Vladimir’s—the very place where they’re most in danger. . . .
Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy’s ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi—the world’s fiercest and most dangerous vampires—make Lissa one of them forever...

My Thoughts:  I have never really been interested in reading this series and I am still not really sure what possessed me to pick this book up.  I guess I figured it would be similar to Twilight and I am kind of over all that.  Vampire Academy really surprised me in that the story was good, the characters were deep and believable and it wasn't another super cheesy vampire romance book.  Rose and Lissa are fantastic characters and I love that Ms. Mead made them so normal (despite the whole Moroi/dhampir aspect).  They both struggle with bullying, one struggles with depression and they both have their crushes.  I love that Rose is so tough and yet so caring and attentive toward Lissa, she was kind of a pain in the butt but I could really relate to her.  I also loved the surprise at the end regarding who was causing so much trouble at the end; I love when I don't figure out who the bad guy is before it's revealed!  I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to the next in the series. 4 stars.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Review: "The Gathering Storm" by Robin Bridges

From Goodreads:  St. Petersburg, Russia, 1888. As she attends a whirl of glittering balls, royal debutante Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, tries to hide a dark secret: she can raise the dead. No one knows. Not her family. Not the girls at her finishing school. Not the tsar or anyone in her aristocratic circle. Katerina considers her talent a curse, not a gift. But when she uses her special skill to protect a member of the Imperial Family, she finds herself caught in a web of intrigue.

An evil presence is growing within Europe's royal bloodlines—and those aligned with the darkness threaten to topple the tsar. Suddenly Katerina's strength as a necromancer attracts attention from unwelcome sources . . . including two young men—George Alexandrovich, the tsar's standoffish middle son, who needs Katerina's help to safeguard Russia, even if he's repelled by her secret, and the dashing Prince Danilo, heir to the throne of Montenegro, to whom Katerina feels inexplicably drawn.

The time has come for Katerina to embrace her power, but which side will she choose—and to whom will she give her heart?

My Thoughts:  I received this book from NetGalley (Random House Children's Books) in exchange for a fair review.  I am fascinated by tsarist Russia so when I saw a book that combined paranormal aspects with late Imperial Russia, I knew I had to read it.  The Gathering Storm combines historical figures with vampires, zombies and necromancers in a battle to protect Tsar Alexander III and Russia from the forces of evil.  Katerina is a great character; a strong girl with her own mind who wants to study medicine in a country where it is forbidden.  She is definitely a character that a young girl could look up to despite the fact that she is able to raise the dead.  I also loved the character that Ms. Bridges created out of Grand Duke Georgi Alexandrovich; he is tough but caring.  He is not a common figure in books about the Romanovs mainly because he died young.  I am curious as to how Ms. Bridges will address this in future books but I am sure it will tie into some great battle between good and evil.  I also think it will be interesting to see how Ms. Bridges will continue the story of Princess Alix (Empress Alexandra) in future books because she alludes to the fact that there is something not right about here.  At times the story bordered on silly but overall, the it was entertaining and fun, definitely a great mix between historical fiction and paranormal genres.  4 stars.

In My Mailbox (28)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

From the Library:
In a Treacherous Court by Michelle Diener
A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres

From NetGalley:

The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley

What books did you recieve this week?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Review: "The Betrayal" by Helen Dunmore

From Goodreads:  Leningrad in 1952: a city recovering from war, where Andrei, a young hospital doctor and Anna, a nursery school teacher, are forging a life together. Summers at the dacha, preparations for the hospital ball, work and the care of sixteen year old Kolya fill their minds. They try hard to avoid coming to the attention of the authorities, but even so their private happiness is precarious. Stalin is still in power, and the Ministry for State Security has new targets in its sights. When Andrei has to treat the seriously ill child of a senior secret police officer, Volkov, he finds himself and his family caught in an impossible game of life and death - for in a land ruled by whispers and watchfulness, betrayal can come from those closest to you.

My Thoughts:  This book is the sequel to The Siege which I read a few months ago.  I feel like I haven't read much historical fiction lately and this book made me see how I much I have missed it.  The Betrayal picks up 10 years after The Siege and continues to follow Anna, Andrei and Kolya as they try to survive and thrive in Stalinist Russia.  I think Ms. Dunmore did an amazing job of portraying what life was like for the average person during this time and the book is very well-written.  I was pretty sure going into this book how it would end and I was right but I'm not upset about it.  Rather than create the perfect happy ending, Dunmore's ending was real.  That's not to say that the ending was bad but it was realistic and showed what happened to people during that era.  I never cease to be shocked by how incredibly messed up life in Stalinist Russia was and reading this book made me excited to get back to reading books about this era.  4 stars.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Friday!! (13)

Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee's View and Alison Can Read.

This week's question is:   It's Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. so we want to know what you are Thankful for - blogging related of course! Who has helped you out along the way? What books are you thankful for reading?

I am thankful for how welcoming the blogging community is.  I learn so much from all the blogs I read and I am super thankful for all of my followers.  I am also really thankful for NetGalley; it is so awesome that they allow me to read and review newer books. 

What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Review: "Finding Chandra" by Scott Higham and Sari Horowitz

From Goodreads:   In the Fall of 2000 a Young Woman from an upper-middle-class California family left the West Coast for Washington, D.C., to begin an internship at the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Chandra Ann Levy was not unlike the thousands of college and graduate students who arrive in Washington as interns each year. She wanted to leave the familiar surroundings of her home in the San Joaquin Valley and find her own way in the nation's epicenter of politics and power. Seven months after arriving in Washington, Chandra signed off her computer inside her Dupont Circle apartment on a warm spring day and went for a walk in her gym clothes. She was never heard from again. Six years later, two investigative reporters revisited Washington's most famous murder mystery.
My Thoughts:  Wow.  I really had no idea how botched the Chandra Levy case was until I read this book.  It was shocking to read how the simple fact that Chandra had an affair with a congressman could totally misdirect an investigation.  This book begins with the disappearance of Chandra Levy and ends with the conviction of her murderer.  I remember seeing all of the reports of her disappearance and the scandal surrounding her affair with Condit but it appears that the police failed to do their job properly in this case.  From reading this book, one can see that the police moved all their manpower to one lead rather than looking deeper into the disappearance.  Her body might have been found sooner and her murderer prosecuted sooner if the sole focus of the investigation hadn't been on Condit.  I kind of felt bad for him; don't get me wrong, he is sleazy but he didn't deserve to have his career destroyed to the extent that it was.  It was a pretty frustrating read and I could not believe how long it took the police to find and convict Chandra's killer.  This was an easy read that kept my interest; if you like true crime books, you will like this book.  3 stars.
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