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 goodreads.com)

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.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Top Ten Authors I'd Love To Have At My Thanksgiving Feast

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

This week's topic:  Top Ten Authors I'd Love to Have At My Thanksgiving Table

I LOVE Thanksgiving!  The hubs, Turbo and I are going to my mom's for the holiday and I can't wait to eat until I'm sick!  Here's who I would love to have over for Thanksgiving.

1.) Diana Gabaldon
2.) Paullina Simons
        These two ladies have written some AMAZING books that I absolutely love.  I cannot imagine not
inviting them!
3.) Stephen King-There has to some weirdness at Thanksgiving!
4.) J.K. Rowling-Need I say more?
5.) Alison Weir-I would love to pick her brain in regards to British history.
6.) Jen Lancaster-She would definitely bring the fun!
7.) J.R. Ward-I am  really obsessed with her books right now.  Anyone who can create such awesome stories is welcome at my house!
8.) Anne Rice-I just love her.  I have seen her interviewed a few times and I think she would be a great addition to Thanksgiving dinner.

That's all I have.  Who's coming to dinner at your house?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Review: "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad

From Goodreads:  Dark allegory describes the narrator’s journey up the Congo River and his meeting with, and fascination by, Mr. Kurtz, a mysterious personage who dominates the unruly inhabitants of the region. Masterly blend of adventure, character development, psychological penetration. Considered by many Conrad’s finest, most enigmatic story.
My Thoughts:  I never had to read this in high school or college so I have always thought that I was missing something.  After reading it, I see now that it wasn't that big of a deal.  Let me just put it out there, this is a weird book.  I understand that it is exploring man's inner darkness as well as the atrocities committed by imperialists in Africa but the story is hard to follow.  It is definitely well-written in that it reads as though you are hearing a story someone is telling you.  But because of the way it is written, it is difficult at times to follow.  The narrator's obsession with Kurtz was strange and the fact that it continued despite Kurtz's death was even more strange.  I think I may need to re-read this book because I don't know if I got it.  I felt let down because I kept waiting to really hear what Kurtz had to say and why he was so great and then he died.  My first thought was, 'wait, what?'  It was very anticlimactic.   I am glad to be able to say that I have read this book but I did not really enjoy it at all.  2 stars.

In My Mailbox (27)

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

From the Library:

The Betrayal  by Helen Dunmore
The Reckoning by Beverly Lewis
Finding Chandra by Scott Higham and Sari Horwitz

What's in your mailbox this week?

2012 TBR Pile Challenge

Since I have a ton of unread books on my shelves that need to be read, I decided to participate in the 2012 TBR Pile Challenge!

Here is how it works:

  1. This challenge will run from Jan 1, 2012 - Dec 31, 2012.
  2. As we would like to see quality reviews linked up to our monthly wrap-ups, only bloggers can enter. Sorry about that!
  3. Any genre, length or format of book counts, as long as it is a book that's been sitting on your shelf for some time now. Only books released in 2011 and earlier! NO ARCs and 2012 fresh-off-the-press releases allowed!
  4. You can list your books in advance or just put them in a wrap-up post. If you list them, feel free to change them as the mood takes you.
  5. When you sign up in the linky, put the direct link to your post about joining the 2012 TBR PILE Reading Challenge (You need to include the info + host list + challenge button. You can also grab the button code and add it to your sidebar!)
  6. You can move up levels, but no moving down.
  7. Sign-ups will be open until Dec 15, 2012, so feel free to join at any time throughout the year.
  8. At the end of each month one of the hosts will post a wrap-up. Every wrap-up will have it's unique theme, a mini-challenge, a giveaway and place for you to link up your reviews from this month. For each review you link up, you will get one entry in a drawing of one book of choice from Book Depository. It's open to INTERNATIONALS. For participating in the mini-challenge you will get +1 entry.
  9. If you miss a wrap-up post + giveaway, you can link up your reviews next month. Do not, however, try to link up one review twice - we will be checking ;)
  10. December is a wrap-up for the whole year. All the book reviews you linked up January-November + the ones you'll link up in December will be entered into a HUGE giveaway - 12 books, 12 winners, INTERNATIONAL. 
  11. You don't have to follow all the hosts to join the challenge, but you do have to follow all of us to be entered in giveaways!

1-10 - A Firm Handshake
11-20 - A Friendly Hug
21-30 - A Sweet Kiss
31-40 - Love At First Sight
41-50 - Married With Children

Evie from Bookish - http://www.evie-bookish.blogspot.com @SeoEvie
Nicole from All I Ever Read - http://www.nicoleabouttown.com/ @Nicoleabouttown
Bonnie from Hands and Home - http://www.handsandhome.ca/ @HandsHomeBlog
Donna from Book Passion For Life - http://bookpassionforlife.blogspot.com/ @BookPforLife
Caitlin from WatchYA Reading - http://whatchyareading.net @caitlingss
Rie from Mission To Read - http://missiontoread.com/ @missiontoread
Vicky from Books, Biscuits & Tea -http://booksbiscuitsandtea.blogspot.com/ @alouetteuette
Christa from Hooked On Books - http://christashookedonbooks.blogspot.com @ChristasBooks
Jenna from Fans Of Fiction - http://fansoffiction.blogspot.com/ @fansoffiction
Angel from Mermaids Vision - http://mermaidvision.wordpress.com @mermaidvisions

I plan to do the "Firm Handshake" level.  I have a lot of BIG books on my shelf that need to get read and since I am already participating in 'Back to the Classics', I don't want to overdo it.

Here is what I plan to read:

1.) The Whisperers by Orlando Figes
2.) Ada or Ardor by Vladimir Nabokov
3.) The Terror by David Andress 
4.) Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
5.) When Christs and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman
6.) The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King
7.) A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
8.) The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
9.) The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
10.) The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance  by Elna Baker

I know it's not very many books but it will be nice to have a few less unread books on my shelf!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Review: "Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings" by Alison Weir

From Goodreads:  Mary Boleyn (c.1500-1543) was no less fascinating than her ill-fated queen consort sister Anne. In fact, her own claims to fame are numerous: She was not only an influential member of King Henry VIII's court circle; she was one of his mistresses and perhaps the mother of two of his children. In addition, the apparently prolific Mary was rumored to have been also a mistress of the King's rival, Francis I of France. Alison Weir's Mary Boleyn substantially redeems her subject's reputation by disputing her scandalous portrayal in Philippa Gregory's novel The Other Boleyn Girl. Our most detailed view yet of a power behind the throne.
My Thoughts:  I love Alison Weir and will read just about anything she writes.  She definitely didn't disappoint this time.  I was thoroughly impressed by the extent of her research for this book; it appeared that there just isn't a lot of clear cut documentation regarding Mary Boleyn's life and she had to wade through a bunch of material to be able to write this book.  Much of what Weir discusses is conjecture; she makes assumptions based on her knowledge of the time and where Mary's sister, Anne, was.  I got the impression that Mary Boleyn was the black sheep of the family but she definitely was the luckiest of her siblings in that she got to keep her head.  Weir did a great job of organizing her information in such a way that the book was really engaging; there are a lot of facts and explanations of her research that could have been very dry but she managed to keep the book moving at a good pace.  I also loved how she made it a point to emphasize how inaccurate The Other Boleyn Girl is and used her research to back this claim up.  If you are a fan of Alison Weir, or if you are just interested in Tudor era England, you will enjoy this book.  3 1/2 stars.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Happy Friday!! (12)

This has been the longest, slowest week ever!  I am so happy for Friday to finally be here!

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

This week's question is:  Letter to Santa: Tell Santa what books you want for Christmas!

I really want:  Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie
                        11/22/63  by Stephen King
                        Lover Mine by J.R. Ward

What's on your Christmas list?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Review: "The Confession" by Beverly Lewis

From Goodreads:  Katie Lapp, a young Amish woman who questioned the strict rules of her upbringing and even her own identity, has been shunned from her Amish community. Katie--now known as Katherine Mayfield--sets out to find her birth mother--and a life--she has never known. Her birth mother is seriously ill and Katie must struggle to find her--and prove her own identity--before it's too late. But in the world of electric lights, telephones, and "fancy" things, Katie stumbles into a web of greed and betrayal where the garb of the Amish is misused to disguise an evil conspiracy. Meanwhile, unknown to Katherine, her long-lost love, Daniel, has returned to the Amish community to find her. Can they ever be together again? Find out in The Confession.

My Thoughts:  I was kind of disappointed in this book.  The Shunning was a decent book but this one was way more religious than I like and was kind of boring.  The writing is a too simple for my taste a wnd the story was also just a little too perfect.  The way everything just fell into place at the end was kind of annoying and Katie's character development in this book was so shallow.  She just seemed very two dimensional and I didn't like her nearly as much in this book.  I found myself caring much more about what was going on in Hickory Hollow and how Katie's family was handling her shunning.  This is the 2nd book in a trilogy and I will probably read the 3rd just to see how it all ends up.  Overall, this was a pretty cheesy story that just didn't do it for me. 2 stars.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Review: "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" by Betty Smith

From Goodreads:  The beloved American classic about a young girl's coming-of-age at the turn of the century, Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a poignant and moving tale filled with compassion and cruelty, laughter and heartache, crowded with life and people and incident. The story of young, sensitive, and idealistic Francie Nolan and her bittersweet formative years in the slums of Williamsburg has enchanted and inspired millions of readers for more than sixty years. By turns overwhelming, sublime, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the daily experiences of the unforgettable Nolans are raw with honesty and tenderly threaded with family connectedness -- in a work of literary art that brilliantly captures a unique time and place as well as incredibly rich moments of universal experience.
My Thoughts:  This is another book that I can not believe I have put off reading for so long.  Talk about a great book.  The story itself is sad and depressing but at the same time it is really hopeful.  Francie's character was so believable and I really felt for her.  The extreme poverty she and her family lived in was unbelievably bad but there still managed to be bright spots along the way.  Her family was a fairly loving one and I think that is what helped them survive all of the things they had to deal with.  I loved all the characters and how Smith wrote each of them so vividly; I could easily imagine them individually and not just as a mass of random people.  The one thing that I didn't love about this book was how fast the last few chapters went.  It felt like Smith tried to hurry and wrap up the story with a happy ending so it felt really rushed.  Otherwise, this was such a good book!  4 stars.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Top Ten Unread Books on My Shelf

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

This week's Top Ten is:  Top Ten Books that have been on My Shelf the Longest but I haven't Read

A lot of these are books I really should have read by now but because they kind of intimidate me, I have put them on the back burner. Several are memoirs or non-fiction works that center around Russian history

1.) The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King
2.) The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
3.) The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
4.) Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
5.) Ada or Ardor by Vladimir Nabokov
6.) The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
7.) When Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman
8.) The Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
9.) The Whisperers by Orlando Figes
10.) Hope Against Hope by Nadezhda Mandelstam

What's on your list?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

In My Mailbox (26)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.  It's a great way to check out all the books that other bloggers picked up this week.

I didn't realize it until last week but I got a lot of books this past week!  Here is what I received:

From the library:

Blood Brothers by Nora Roberts
The Confession by Beverly Lewis
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich
Smokin' Seventeen by Janet Evanovich
Mary Boleyn:  Mistress of Kings by Alison Weir

Purchased books (I am having major issues with the picture):

Lover Revealed by J.R. Ward
Lover Unbound by J.R. Ward
Lover Enshrined by J.R. Ward
Lover Avenged by J.R. Ward

From NetGalley:

The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau

And...so you don't think I just read ALL the time.  This is what I did yesterday.  It's definitely not my best work but it was pretty fun. 

Have a great week everyone!  What books did you pick up this week?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Review: "Maybe Baby" by Lori Leibovich

From Goodreads:  A few years ago, Salon.com touched a primal chord when it hosted a series of personal essays about "to breed or not to breed question." In this expanded collection, more than two dozen writers weigh in on the fears, hopes, and uncertainty of the Big Baby Decision. Contributors include Anne Lamott, Mary Roach, Dani Shapiro, Michelle Goldberg, Laura Miller, Amy Reiter, and Cary Tennis.
My Thoughts:  I read about this book on another blog and since I am getting to the age where I am thinking about kids, I thought I would check this out.  It's a collection of essays by people who chose not to have kids, those that did and those that are still on the fence.  I think the mix of view points on kids made this book pretty interesting and it definitely gave me some food for thought.  I liked that no one essay tried to get the reader to agree with their outlook on whether or not to reproduce.  I think my favorite essay was about an Indian woman who felt that raising children in America was significantly more difficult than in India because of the lack of support system.  She chose to wait until her and her husband moved back to India to start a family.  There is also an essay by Lionel Shriver who wrote We Need to Talk About Kevin, a book that made me second-guess whether or not I should ever having children.  Her essay explained why she chose to remain childless and I found it to be thought provoking.  This book doesn't offer any answers to the big questions but I think it was well worth reading.  3 stars.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Happy Friday! (11)

It's Friday again and it's Veteran's Day, a holiday that is very close to my heart.  Take the time to thank a veteran today; they have a tough, thankless job.

It's also time for Follow Friday!

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

Today's question:  In light of 11.11.11 and Veteran's Day, tell us about your favorite soldier and how he or she is saving the world, fiction or real life.

My brother has been in the army for 7 years.  He is on his third deployment to Iraq (a 12 month tour, a 15 month tour and this one will be 6 months) and should be home in December.  Thank goodness!  He was also deployed to Haiti after the earthquake to help rebuild and maintain order.  He is only 26 years old and instead of doing what normal guys in their early twenties do, he has been out risking his life and serving his country.  He is also an amazing husband and father.  We are super close and I am so proud of all of his accomplishments and for his service to our country. 

Who is your favorite soldier?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Review: "The Shunning" by Beverly Lewis

From Goodreads:  Katie Lapp only knew the Amish ways, but when she discovers a satin infant gown in her parents' attic, her hidden past devastates the community she has always called home. Heritage of Lancaster County book 1.
My Thoughts:  I had a heard a lot of good things about this book from the hubs' aunt and grandma but I was never very interested in it until I saw the tv movie.  I was also kind of afraid of reading this book because I am not really into Christian fiction but I am glad I did.  It was not overtly religious, it had an engaging story and it was an easy read.  I felt like I really got to know who Katie was but I feel like some of the other characters lacked depth.  I would have liked to get to know her mother better and some of the other characters.  It was also shocking to read about how strict Amish rules are.  I couldn't believe the whole process of shunning a person, I cannot imagine what it would be like to be in that position.  The Shunning is the first book in a trilogy and I was not planning on reading the next book until the author threw a HUGE twist into the story at the very end.  Now I have to know what will happen next.  Hopefully, the next two books will be as light a read as the first.  3 stars.

Back to the Classics Challenge 2012

So I know it's a little early to be thinking about my reading goal for next year but I have decided to participate in the Back to the Classics Challenge 2012 hosted by Sarah Reads Too Much.  I am really excited for this challenge because I was already considering how I could incorporate some classics into my reading goals for next year.  Below are the categories and which books I plan to read for them.

  • Any 19th Century ClassicThe Three Musketeers
  • Any 20th Century ClassicEast of Eden
  • Reread a classic of your choice The Master and Margarita
  • A Classic Play -Macbeth
  • Classic Mystery/Horror/Crime Fiction-Frankenstein
  • Classic Romance The Scarlet Pimpernel
  • Read a Classic that has been translated from its original language to your language  
           - Les Miserables
  • Classic Award Winner  - The Age of Innocence
  • Read a Classic set in a Country that you (realistically speaking) will not visit during your lifetime  - To Clarify, this does not have to be a country that you hope to visit either.  Countries that no longer exist or have never existed count. –The Lord of the Rings:  The Fellowship of the Rings
 Some of these books are intimidating but I think it will be a great experience!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ten Books I Read that were Out of My Comfort Zone

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

This week's topic is:  Ten Books I Read that Were Out of My Comfort Zone

1.) Harry Potter-I was so not into the whole Harry Potter excitement for years.  I only read the books because people kept bugging me about them.  I wound up loving them but it was a huge thing for me to even read them.
2.) Black Dagger Brotherhood
3.) The Fever series
     Both of these are paranormal romance which I swore I would never read.  The idea of reading about sexy demons, fairies and vampires was so outside my comfort zone despite the fact that I was a huge fan of Anne Rice.
4.) The Stephanie Plum series-I used to make fun of people who enjoyed these books.  Now I am one of those people.
5.) Helter Skelter-I have always been interested in the Manson Family but seriously, I am super afraid of Charles Manson.  Even Pictures of him freak me out and I was very uncomfortable while reading this book even though it was really good.  As I have mentioned before, I had to keep this book at work and only read it at lunch because it freaked me out to have it in my house.
6.) Atlas Shrugged-I started this book 3 or 4 times before I actually got through it.  I don't know if it was the length or what I thought might be in the book but it really made me nervous.  I wound up really disliking this book but I am glad I can say that I finished it.
7.) The Gunslinger (Dark Tower #1)-Even though I love Stephen King, this book was so different than what I am used to.
8.) Oryx and Crake-I have a tough time with Margaret Atwood in general and this book was so not my style and so far removed from what I normally read.
9.) Lolita-Nabokov creates the ultimate textbook pedophile and reading this book definitely made me squirm.
That's all I have this week.  What books have been outside your comfort zone?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Review: "In Cold Blood" by Truman Capote

From Goodreads:  On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues.

As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence.

My Thoughts:  This was the November pick for my book club and I feel like I can't live in Kansas without having read this book.  It was definitely well worth the read.  In Cold Blood reads like a novel but tells the story of an brutal murder that took place in the 1950s.  I had to keep reminding myself that this was non-fiction because it read like your average mystery novel.  Capote did an amazing job of showcasing the victims as well as the killers and created an amazing story.  I felt like I was supposed to feel sorry for the killers, especially Perry Smith, but I just couldn't.  They were both so apathetic and basically killed 4 innocent peopel for no reason.  A lot of focus was put on Smith's dysfunctional childhood and how that it negatively impacted his adult life  but to me he still seemed to be your average sociopath and I had trouble feeling anything but anger towards him.  Otherwise, I really enjoyed this book to be a thoroughly engaging story.  4 stars.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

In My Mailbox (25)

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

From Netgalley:

The Wedding Gift by Kathleen McKenna

The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges
 I am so excited for this book!! Paranormal story set in 19th century Russia, YES!

What's in your mailbox this week?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Review: "Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser

From Goodreads:  Fast food has become a veritable American institution, with restaurants serving a quick bite in every strip mall and roadside rest area across the country. But, according to Fast Food Nation, the fast food establishment has been serving up much more than just cheap hamburgers and greasy fries. In compelling fashion, author Eric Schlosser traces the growth of fast food chains after World War II and condemns the industry for giving rise to such cultural maladies as obesity, classism, American global imperialism, and environmental devastation.
My Thoughts:  This book was completely different than I expected.  For one, it was as much about the meat packing industry as it was about the fast food industry.  For two, I didn't realize it was published 10 years ago (where have I been??) so some of the information in the book seemed outdated.  Basically this book discussed the history of the fast food industry in America and how it has impacted everything it touches, i.e. employees, farmers, cattle industry, etc.  It definitely made hamburger meat incredibly unappealing, much like reading The Jungle made me want to go vegetarian.  It also brought to my attention how little control the government has over the food industry.  I thought the FDA and USDA were paying a lot more attention to the mass production of foodstuffs than they really are.  It was definitely eye opening in that respect.  Overall, it was a really interesting read but I would really like to read an updated version that discusses what's happened in the fast food industry over the past 10 years.  Not because the industry is any better but because it has definitely undergone some unique changes over the years.  3 stars.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Happy Friday! (10)

Happy Friday everyone!  Can you believe it's November?  The Book Blog Hop is on hiatus for a while but we still have Follow Friday this week!

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

This week's question:

Today's Question is something new, an activity. We want to see what you look like! Take a pic with you and your current read! Too shy? Boo! Just post a fun pic you want to share.

I hate having my picture taken and since I am sitting her with wet hair and no makeup, I am just going to post a fun picture (please excuse the giant pile of laundry in the background).

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Review: "Dirty Sexy Politics" by Meghan McCain

From Goodreads:  Meghan McCain came to prominence as the straight-talking, progressive daughter of the 2008 Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain. And her profile has only risen since the election ended in favor of the other guy. What makes Meghan so appealing? As a new role model for young, creative, and vocal members of the GOP, she's unafraid to mix it up and speak her mind. In Dirty Sexy Politics she takes a hard look at the future of her party. She doesn't shy away from serious issues and her raucous humor and down-to-earth style keep her positions accessible.
In this witty, candid, and boisterous book, Meghan takes us deep behind the scenes of the campaign trail. She steals campaign signs in New Hampshire, tastes the nightlife in Nashville, and has a strange encounter with Laura and Jenna Bush at the White House. Along the way, she falls in love with America--while seeing how far the Republican Party has veered from its core values of freedom, honesty, and individuality. In Dirty Sexy Politics, Meghan McCain gives us a true insider's account of life on a campaign trail.

My Thoughts:  While Meghan McCain and I do not have the same political beliefs, I found her to be pretty relatable.  This book explains what life was like on the campaign trail in 2008 and how she was considered a liability to her dad's campaign.  I think what I liked most about this book was how real it seemed.  Meghan seems like a normal person who just happens to be the daughter of a well-known politician.  She's funny, irreverent and pretty down to earth and I really liked that.  She didn't outwardly bash people in her book though she was not afraid to poke fun at some people who worked for her dad.  I found myself feeling bad for her; I can't imagine how hard it would be to have your every word and move scrutinized.  Overall, this was a really good book that anyone would enjoy regardless of their political beliefs.  3 stars.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

October Wrap Up

October was a pretty good month for reading.  I read 18 books and have hit 163 books for the year.  I am kind of nervous that I won't hit 200 for the year but I am going to keep trying.

Here is what I read in October:

Fearless Fourteen
Everyone Worth Knowing
Dirty Sexy Politics
The Favored Queen
Angel of Vengeance
Lover Revealed
The Red Tent
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Lover Awakened
Madame Tussaud
Thirteen Reasons Why
Lover Eternal
The Winter Palace
Dark Lover
The Siege
The Emancipator's Wife

How did you do in October?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Top Ten Books I Had Very Strong Emotions About

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

This week's topic is:  Top Ten Books I Had VERY Strong Emotions About

This was a very tough topic as I am kind of an emotional person and get emotional about books easily.

1.)    The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons-This book was an emotional rollercoaster.  I laughed, cried and almost threw the book across the room. 
2.)    My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult-This book made me sob uncontrollably while also being extremely pissed off at the author. 
3.)    Devil’s Knot:  The True Story of the West Memphis Three by Mara Leveritt-This book made me so angry! 
4.)    Bright Lights, Big Ass by Jen Lancaster-My husband thought I was nuts when I read this because I couldn’t stop laughing.
5.)    Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi-Charles Manson scares the crap out of me.  I had to keep this book in my office at work and read it over lunch because having it in the house freaked me out.
6.)    All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque-I read this after my brother deployed to Iraq the first time and it evoked every emotion possible in me. 
7.)    Night by Elie Wiesel
8.)    Kolyma Tales by Varlaam Shalamov
7, 8 and 9 are a packaged deal.  Genocide infuriates me and when I read books like these where it’s obvious that things could have been done to prevent senseless deaths, I get so very angry.
10.) Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson-This book completely broke my heart.

What books are on your list?
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