Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Top Ten Books I Think Would Make Great Book Club Picks

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

This week's topic is:  Top Ten Books I Think Would Make Great Book Club Picks

1.) Anything by Jen Lancaster
2.) 11/22/63 by Stephen King-It's a beast but my book club had such a blast discussing Under the Dome that I think this would be an interesting one to try.
3.) Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay-This book deals with so many different issues and I think it would be really neat to discuss in a group setting.
4.) Everything is Illuminated by Jonathon Safran Foer
5.) We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver-I still haven't worked out how I feel about this book so I wouldn't mind hearing what my fellow book clubbers would think of this.
6.) The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
7.) The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff
8.) The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams
  #7 and 8 are both about polygamy and would probably lead to a really good discussion
9.) The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
10.) Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
   We read both #9 and 10 in my book club and they were so good!

What books do you think would be good book club picks?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Review: "The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance" by Elna Baker

From Goodreads:  It's lonely being a Mormon in New York City. So once again, Elna Baker attends the New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance-a virgin in a room full of virgins doing the Macarena. Her Queen Bee costume, which involves a black funnel stuck to her butt for a stinger, isn't attracting the attention she'd anticipated. So once again, Elna is alone at the punch bowl, stocking up on generic Oreos, exactly where you'd expect to find a single Mormon who's also a Big Girl. But loneliness is nothing compared to what happens when she loses eighty pounds. . . . and falls in love with an atheist.

The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance is the memoir of a girl who distresses her family when she chooses NYU over BYU. A girl who's cultivating an oxymoronic identity as a bold, educated, modern, funny, proper, abstinent, religious stand-up comic, equal parts wholesome and hot. As Elna test-drives her identity, she finds herself in the strangest scenarios including selling creepy, overpriced dolls to petulant children at FAO Schwarz and dressing a head wound with a maxi pad while on a date.
My Thoughts:  I really didn't know what to expect when I started reading this book.  I actually bought it on accident and didn't even realize it was a memoir.  That being said, it was surprisingly cute.  At first it seemed like another memoir from a heavy girl who lost the weight and found love but it's not (I don't dislike those types of memoirs but I just wasn't in the mood for one).  She does talk about her weight loss but this is more a tale of her spiritual awakening.  It was funny to see a good Mormon girl, who is desperate to get married in the temple, swear and make out with any guy she can.  I loved the story where she made a fortune cookie costume for her church dance that wound up looking like part of a woman's anatomy, talk about hysterical.  I feel like Elna was almost a Mormon version of Jen Lancaster and I think that is why I enjoyed this book so much.  I lived in Utah for several years but I liked that Elna is not your typical Mormon woman that one would normally imagine.  She was smart and funny and looking for a partner just like anyone else.  I am also super jealous of the fact that she got to live all over the world because of her father's job.  I also liked that she discusses her feelings towards her religion and her questions about it but it never feels like she is trying to convert anyone (in case you were worried).  This book started off slow but keep going, it's well worth it.  4 stars.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

In My Mailbox (37)

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

This week I didn't plan to get anything.  I got braces on Tuesday and was feeling sorry for myself and wound up buying some discounted ebooks later in the week.  I have been reading more on my nook lately and I guess I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it.

Here is what I got:

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

The Midwife's Confession by Diane Chamberlain

Friday, January 27, 2012

Happy Friday (21)

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

This week's question is:  Which book genre do you avoid at all costs and why?

I will read just about anything but I don't read sci-fi and high fantasy.  I don't know why but I have never been able to get into those genres.  If I see a cover I like and then find out it is sci-fi or high fantasy, I kind of turn my nose up at it (SORRY).  It is very possible that I am missing out on some great books but so far, I am not sure.

What genre do you shy away from?  And if you are a high fantasy or sci-fi fan, try to talk me into it.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Review: "Mistress of the Monarchy" by Alison Weir

From Goodreads:  Acclaimed author Alison Weir brings to life the extraordinary tale of Katherine Swynford, a royal mistress who became one of the most crucial figures in the history of Great Britain. Born in the mid-fourteenth century, Katherine de Ro√ęt was only twelve when she married Hugh Swynford, an impoverished knight. But her story had truly begun two years earlier, when she was appointed governess to the household of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and fourth son of King Edward III. Widowed at twenty-one, Katherine became John's mistress and then, after many twists of fortune, his bride in a scandalous marriage. Mistress of the Monarchy reveals a woman ahead of her time—making her own choices, flouting convention, and taking control of her own destiny. Indeed, without Katherine Swynford, the course of English history, perhaps even the world, would have been very different.

My Thoughts:  I have read a few books about the Wars of the Roses (fiction and non-fiction) and Katherine Swynford seems to be mentioned in all of them.  When I saw that Alison Weir had written a biography of her, I knew I had to check it out.  England's royals from the Tudor's to the present are related to Katherine Swynford and her lover (and later husband) John of Gaunt.  There is not a lot of documentation about Katherine's life so much is inferred in this book but she really was a fascinating woman.  She was the daughter of foreign knight in the service of Edward III and his consort, Phillipa of Hainault but she became the second lady in England through her marriage to John of Gaunt.  Her children and grandchildren would play pivotal roles on both sides of the Wars of the Roses:  her granddaughter was Cecily Neville, wife to Richard of York and mother to the Yorkist king, Edward IV while one of her great-granddaughters was Margaret Beaufort, mother to Henry VII.  It was really interesting to see how prominent her descendants were in English political life for hundreds of years after her death. 

This book was very detailed and at times, it was a little difficult to stay interested in the story.  Because there is a lot we don't know about this period in English history, Weir did a lot of research and made a lot of assumptions based on that research.  I don't know how much of what she wrote is true or just supposition and at times, that was kind of bothersome.  I like Alison Weir's books so I will read any of her books but this one was just okay in comparison to some of her other books.  3 stars.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Review: "Nefertiti" by Michelle Moran

From Goodreads:  Nefertiti and her younger sister, Mutnodjmet, have been raised in a powerful family that has provided wives to the rulers of Egypt for centuries. Ambitious, charismatic, and beautiful, Nefertiti is destined to marry Amunhotep, an unstable young pharaoh. It is hoped that her strong personality will temper the young ruler’s heretical desire to forsake Egypt’s ancient gods.

From the moment of her arrival in Thebes, Nefertiti is beloved by the people but fails to see that powerful priests are plotting against her husband’s rule. The only person brave enough to warn the queen is her younger sister, yet remaining loyal to Nefertiti will force Mutnodjmet into a dangerous political game; one that could cost her everything she holds dear.

My Thoughts:  The title of this book is slightly misleading.  The story is more about Nefertiti's sister, Mutnodjmet, then it is about Nefertiti.  Nefertiti is a main character but the story is told from Mutnodjmet's point of view and showcases how Nefertiti's actions affected her family and Egypt.  In all honesty, this book portrays Nefertiti as a hateful, selfish witch and I pretty much hated her as a character.  She was manipulative when it came to her sister and was not afraid to throw a guilt trip around to get what she wanted from Mutnodjmet.  Moran takes us through Nefertiti and Amunhotep's reign and all the changes they brought to Egypt as well as all of the bad decisions they made.  This is fiction; we don't really know all of these details about this period in Egyptian history but Moran sure made it look like a very contentious period in history.  Throughout the whole story I felt really bad for Mutnodjmet and all the stuff her family put her through as they tried to gain, and maintain, power.  They didn't treat her very well and weren't afraid to put her through hell if they thought it was necessary.  This really wasn't one of my favorite Moran books but I didn't dislikeit.  It was just very frustrating at times.  The story kept me interested and I really liked the character Mutnodjmet but unfortunately, I didn't like many of the other characters.  3 stars.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday-Free Week!

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

This week's topic is a freebie so I decided to make a list of my Top Ten Favorite Books About Russia.  As I am sure you noticed I am fascinated by all things Russian (I even have a master's degree in Russian Studies).  Some of these books are fiction and some are non-fiction but they are all excellent and very readable (I didn't include any scholarly works on the list).

1.) Kolyma Tales by Varlaam Shalamov-This is a book of short stories about life in the Gulag.  It is heart-breaking and eye-opening.
2.) War and Peace by Lev Tolstoy-This is Russian Literature at it's best.  Do not be intimidated by the length; the story is fantastic!
3.) The Romanovs by W. Bruce Lincoln -This book tells the story of the Romanov family from it's very beginnings in 1613 to the end in 1917.  It is a big book but it reads like fiction.
4.) Natasha's Dance by Orlando Figes-This is a cultural history of Russia.
5.) Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky-My all-time favorite work by Dostoevsky!
6.) Journey into the Whirlwind by Yevgenia Ginzburg-A memoir of life in the gulag that provides a woman's perspective on the camp system.
7.) Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie
8.) Gulag by Anne Applebaum - Everything you ever wanted to know (and didn't want to know) about the gulag (Russian concentration camps).
9.) The Unquiet Ghost by Adam Hoschild-This book is an interesting look at Stalin's legacy in modern day Russia.
10.) Kremlin Rising by Peter Baker and Sarah Glasser-A look at Russia under Putin.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Review: "Agent 6" by Tom Rob Smith

From Goodreads:  Tom Rob Smith--the bestselling, award-winning author of Child 44, and one of the most critically-acclaimed new writers of our time--returns with a thrilling and provocative new novel: AGENT 6
How far would you go to solve a crime against your family? It is 1965. Leo Demidov, a former secret police agent, is forbidden to travel with his wife and daughters from Moscow to New York. They are part of a "Peace Tour," meant to foster closer relations between the two Cold War enemies. On the tour, Leo's family is caught up in a conspiracy and betrayal that ends in tragedy. In the horrible aftermath, Leo demands one thing: that he be allowed to investigate and find the attacker that struck at the heart of his family on foreign soil. From the highest levels of the Soviet government, he is told No, that is impossible. Leo is haunted by the question: what happened in New York?

In a surprising, epic story that spans decades and continents--from 1950s Moscow to 1960s America to the Soviet war in Afghanistan in the 1980s--Leo's long pursuit of justice will force him to confront everything he ever thought he knew about his country, his family, and himself.

My Thoughts:  I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  I read Child 44 a few years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I even enjoyed The Secret Speech.  Both were fast moving, action-packed thrillers with a historical twist.  That being said, Agent 6 is quite different than previous Leo Demidov books.  There seemed to be a lot happening in the beginning but then the story sort of faltered.  You don't even find out the significance of the title of the book until the last 50-60 pages.  I didn't dislike this book because I have always liked Leo as a character but I was surprised that the author let him become so weak in this book.  In the previous two books, he was smart, strong and had a strong moral compass whereas in this book, he gets lost for a good chunk of the story and succumbs to drugs and depression.  Another thing that bothered me about this book was how anticlimactic it was.  Throughout the story, Leo is seeking out the truth and looking for justice for a crime against his family but when he finds out what really happened, there weren't any great revelations or surprises.  In Smith's previous books there were big 'Holy Cow' moments and this one just didn't have it.  Overall, I am glad I read this book so I could find out more about Leo's life after leaving the secret police but it just doesn't compare to Smith's past works.  There were also a lot of loose ends left at the end of the story but I am kind of hoping that Smith doesn't try to write another Leo Demidov book.  3 stars.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

In My Mailbox (36)

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

For Review (from NetGalley):
Enchantments by Kathryn Harrison

Purchased ebooks:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

 The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez

What books did you get this week?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Happy Friday! (20)

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

Q: What's the craziest thing you've ever done to get your hands on any particular book?

As much as I love books, I don't think I have ever done anything crazy in order to get a particular book. I know that is so boring but I haven't ever had much trouble getting the books I want.  I wasn't into Harry Potter at all until after the 5th book came out so I never went and stood in line for it and I haven't stood in line to meet any authors or anything like that either.  Lame.

Do you have cool story about the crazy thing you did to get a book?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Review: "Bloodlines" by Richelle Mead

From Goodreads:  When alchemist Sydney is ordered into hiding to protect the life of Moroi princess Jill Dragomir, the last place she expects to be sent is a human private school in Palm Springs, California. But at their new school, the drama is only just beginning.

Populated with new faces as well as familiar ones, Bloodlines explores all the friendship, romance, battles and betrayals that made the #1 New York Times bestselling Vampire Academy series so addictive - this time in a part-vampire, part-human setting where the stakes are even higher and everyone's out for blood.

My Thoughts:  YAY!  I loved the Vampire Academy series and it was awesome to see all my favorite characters again in Bloodlines!  Though Rose makes a brief appearance, this is definitely Sydney's story and by the end of the book, I decided that Sydney is just as awesome a character as Rose.  She has a lot more self-control but is really just as much of a bad ass as Rose is.  We get to see a bit of how her life was before she met Rose and we get to see how helping Rose has impacted her position as an Alchemist.  Her family is kind of screwed up which was not what I expected from how she was described in the VA series.  I loved that this new series showcases characters that had minor roles in the Vampire Academy series, i.e. Sydney, Eddie and Jill.  It was also interesting to see Mead delve a little deeper into Adrian's demons and I think I understood him a lot better at the end of this story.  There are a ton of surprising things that happen in this story and the very end was a big shocker.  I normally don't enjoy spinoffs but if this book is any indication of how the rest of the series will go, then I think it's going to be fantastic.  I seriously can't wait to see what happens in The Golden Lily.  I am just not sure I can wait until June!  4 stars.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Review: "Three Maids for a Crown" by Ella March Chase

From Goodreads:  In the second novel from Ella March Chase, we meet sixteen-year-old Jane Grey, a quiet and obedient young lady destined to become the shortest reigning English monarch. Her beautiful middle sister Katherine Grey charms all the right people--until loyalties shift. And finally Lady Mary Grey, a dwarf with a twisted spine whose goal is simply to protect people she loves--but at a terrible cost.

In an age in which begetting sons was all that mattered and queens rose and fell on the sex of their child, these three girls with royal Tudor blood lived under the dangerous whims of parents with a passion for gambling. The stakes they would wager: their daughters' lives against rampant ambition.

My Thoughts: If you are looking for a book about Lady Jane Grey's life, this may not be the one for you.  Jane is featured in the story but is dead before the story is half over.  I honestly expected there to be more about her and her interaction with her sisters and family but Lady/Queen Jane is more of minor character in the book.  This story is really about how the ambitions of the Grey sisters' parents affected the lives of Katherine and Mary Grey during the reigns of Queens Mary and Elizabeth.  The book was basically one giant family drama; cousins pitted against each other, crazy parents and sisters who didn't always get along.  It was also extremely sad; all of the sisters had really difficult lives and the whole time I felt so incredibly bad for the youngest sister, Mary.  She seemed to be the sister with the most common sense and yet everyone, her sisters included, treated her so badly.  She actually was my favorite character; despite her disability, she was so tough and smart and I just really admired her tenacity.  I was really surprised by how Queen Elizabeth was portrayed in this book.  Usually she is a sympathetic character but the author made her into a hateful witch.  I don't know if this is accurate or not but it was something I hadn't seen before.

 It was hard for me to imagine that these sisters really lived and dealt with some of the hardships that were showcased in the story.  I can't begin to think how difficult their lives must have been just because they were related to the Tudors and I really tried to just keep telling myself that it was fiction.  The story moved pretty well but was definitely depressing.  For those of you interested in historical fiction set in Tudor England and are interested in a different take on the family, you should like this book but don't expect it to be on par with Alison Weir's Innocent Traitor. 3 stars.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Top Ten Books I'd Recommend to Someone Who Doesn't Read Historical Fiction

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

This week's topic is:  Top Ten Books I'd Recommend to Someone Who Doesn't Read Historical Fiction (the genre was up to me)

I think these books would make someone who doesn't care for historical fiction change their mind about the genre.

1.) Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
2.) The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons
3.) Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir-
4.) By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan
5.) Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
6.) Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran
7.) The Traitor's Wife by Susan Higginbotham
8.) The Jewel of St. Petersburg by Kate Furnivall
9.) Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
10.) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

That's all I have!  Are they any you think I missed?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Review: "The Master and Margarita" by Mikhail Bulgakov

From Goodreads:  One of the greatest novels ever to come out of the Soviet Union. A parable on power and its corruption, on good and evil and on human frailty and the strength of love. Equal parts fable, fantasy, political satire and slapstick.

My Thoughts:  Just a heads up, this is a really difficult book to review so I apologize if it's kind of vague.  It has been many years since I last read this and I didn't realize how much I had forgotten.  I had originally read it in a 20th Century Russian Lit course while I was in college and I absolutely loved it.  This is a satire that at times is funny and others kind of creepy.  I actually didn't remember being creepy but it kind of was.  It's definitely a dark story but there is an odd sense of hope at the end.  The premise is that the devil and his entourage visit Moscow during Stalin's reign and, while there, wreak havoc on most anyone they come into contact with.  People die strange deaths and disappear into thin air much like people did at that time though in Bulgakov's story it is the work of the devil, not the state.  What's really interesting is that while the story takes place in Stalin's Moscow, there is no mention of him at all.  The crazy things that happen are the work of the devil rather than the insane person in power.  There is also a second story about 'the master' who is writing a book about Pontius Pilate, his muse Margarita, and their encounters with the devil and his gang.  There are a ton of characters in this book and I had keep referring to a list of them I found online so that I didn't get mixed up.  Despite that, the characters are all well-written and the devil and his entourage are really a funny group.  Actually, all the characters are quite eccentric which just makes the story even better.  The story does jump around a bit so I really had to take my time reading so I could follow the story and all the characters.  Overall, I still really love this book and if you have any Russian literature, or classics in general, I highly recommend this book.  5 stars.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

In My Mailbox (35)

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

I only picked up one book this week and it was one that I had put a hold on at the library months ago.  I am super excited to read it because I have heard really good things about it.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
What books did you pick up this week?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Week in Review 01/7-01/14/12

Happy weekend everyone!  Work has been miserable lately so I am really looking forward to having a 3 day weekend.  Since I set so many goals for myself this year, I felt like I should write an update post here and there to let you know how I am doing.

-I have read 4 books so far this year.  That's right I said 4.  Last January I read 20 books but this year, not so much.  I am completely okay with that because it's nice not to feel pressured to read every second of the day.  Instead, I have spent a lot of time watching The Big Bang Theory or some other random tv shows.

-Of the 4 books I have read, 3 count towards the read challenges I decided to try to complete this year.  I hope to get at least 4 of the 5 challenges started this month.

-I am two weeks into training for a half marathon and I am scared sh*tless.  I have been really good at making myself get up in the morning and running but I am worried that I am going to falter or I just won't be able to hack it.  Ugh.  We'll see how I feel at the end of the month.  On a better note, I may only have been training for 2 weeks but I have been trying to work out regularly and eat better for about 2 months and I am starting to see some results.  I can fit into jeans I haven't been able to wear since summer!

-Unfortunately, I have not read a single book I own.  Epic fail.  I put a bunch of books on reserve at the library a few months ago and they all have come in since the beginning of the month.  Between that and the galleys I still need to read, I don't know how much of a dent I am going to put in my TBR pile this month.

-I also haven't done any work on my blog.  My job kind of gets in the way of reading and blogging.

That's about all that's been going on lately!  I hope you all have a great weekend!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Happy Friday! (19)

It's Friday and I have a 3 day weekend!!

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

This week's question is:  Many readers/bloggers are also big music fans. Tell us about a few of your favorite bands/singers that we should listen to in 2012.
I listen to a wide variety of music but I do listen to a lot of country.  Right now I am really loving Eric Church, The Band Perry and Chris Young.  They each are great musicians and I absolutely love Chris Young's voice.

What are you listening to?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Review: "The Crown" by Nancy Bilyeau

From Goodreads:  Joanna Stafford, a Dominican nun, learns that her favorite cousin has been condemned by Henry VIII to be burned at the stake. Defying the sacred rule of enclosure, Joanna leaves the priory to stand at her cousin’s side. Arrested for interfering with the king’s justice, Joanna, along with her father, is sent to the Tower of London.
The ruthless Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, takes terrifying steps to force Joanna to agree to spy for him: to save her father’s life she must find an ancient relic—a crown so powerful, it may hold the ability to end the Reformation. Accompanied by two monks, Joanna returns home to Dartford Priory and searches in secret for this long-lost piece of history worn by the Saxon King Athelstan in 937 during the historic battle that first united Britain.
But Dartford Priory has become a dangerous place, and when more than one dead body is uncovered, Joanna departs with a sensitive young monk, Brother Edmund, to search elsewhere for the legendary crown. From royal castles with tapestry-filled rooms to Stonehenge to Malmesbury Abbey, the final resting place of King Athelstan, Joanna and Brother Edmund must hurry to find the crown if they want to keep Joanna’s father alive. At Malmesbury, secrets of the crown are revealed that bring to light the fates of the Black Prince, Richard the Lionhearted, and Katherine of Aragon’s first husband, Arthur. The crown’s intensity and strength are beyond the earthly realm and it must not fall into the wrong hands.
With Cromwell’s troops threatening to shutter her priory, bright and bold Joanna must now decide who she can trust with the secret of the crown so that she may save herself, her family, and her sacred way of life. This provocative story melds heart-stopping suspense with historical detail and brings to life the poignant dramas of women and men at a fascinating and critical moment in England’s past.

My Thoughts:  I received this book from NetGalley for review.  This was a busy book.  There were a lot of little back stories put together to make one story; first you have the Stafford/Tudor issues, then the Reformation/Dissolution of the Monasteries and then the story of the mythical crown of Athelstan.  There were so many people popping in and out of the story that at times it was difficult to keep track of who was who and who had what agenda. 

There were some interesting characters; I liked Joanna as she was a strong female lead.  I also liked Brother Edmund and Geoffrey Scovill but I wish that Geoffrey hadn't been such a pop in and out character.  I would have liked to see him more because he seemed like a decent person whose goal was to help people and make sure people were treated justly. 

There were some things I didn't like about the story though.  The weird pseudo romance between Geoffrey and Joanna bothered me and I really didn't like all the incest and molestation issues that popped up toward the end of the story.  It seemed like all of a sudden all kinds of things were being revealed and my thought was 'Whoa! Is that necessary?' in regards to some of the situations discussed.  I also am interested in the fact that George Boleyn was made out to be a rapist; this is the second book I have read this month that included George Boleyn molesting or raping someone and it really surprised me because I have never seen this assertion before.  The ending to the story was not what I was expecting but up until that point the story definitely moved along well.  Overall, this was a unique story with some annoying flaws.  3 stars.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Top Ten Authors I Wish Would Write Another Book

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

This week's topic is:  Top Ten Authors I Wish Would Write Another Book (debut authors, authors who seem to have taken a hiatus, OR for those who read classics authors you wish would have written another book before they passed)

1.) Anne Rice-I know she is still writing but I would love if she write another vampire or Mayfair witches book!
2.) Ann M. Martin-I was a huge Babysitter's Club fan when I was a kid and wouldn't mind seeing a current book with the old characters.  There's a new Sweet Valley book, why can't the BSC come back too?
3.) R.L. Stine-It would be so fun to read an adult Fear Street book.
4.) Elizabeth Kostova-I loved The Historian and The Swan Thieves was pretty good.  I definitely wouldn't mind seeing a new book from her.
5.) Tracey Chevalier-I have read Girl with a Pearl Earring 2 or 3 times and I enjoyed all of her other books but it's been a few years since she has written something.
6.) Mitchell James Kaplan-I read By Fire, By Water a month or two ago and it was such a good book.  I am really hoping to see another book by him soon.
7.) Paullina Simons-I know she has written a lot of books besides The Bronze Horseman trilogy but I would love it if she would write another historical fiction novel set in Russia.
8.) Suzanne Collins-Who wouldn't want to read a new book by the author of The Hunger Games?
9.) Kathryn Stockett-The Help was such a hit that I hope to see something new from her.
10.) Diana Gabaldon-I know she just had a new book come out but I sure wish she would hurry the heck up and finish the next Outlander book!!!

What authors are on your list?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Review: "Explosive Eighteen" by Janet Evanovich

From Goodreads:  Before Stephanie can even step foot off Flight 127 from Hawaii to Newark, she’s knee deep in trouble. Her dream vacation turned into a nightmare, she’s flying back to New Jersey solo, and someone who sounds like Sasquatch is snoring in row 22. Worse still, her seatmate never returned to the plane after the L.A. layover. Now he’s dead, in a garbage can, waiting for curbside pickup. His killer could be anyone. The FBI, the fake FBI, and guns-for-hire are all looking for a photograph the dead man was supposed to be carrying.

Only one other person has seen the missing photograph—Stephanie Plum. Now she’s the target, and she doesn’t intend to end up in a garbage can. With the help of an FBI sketch artist Stephanie re-creates the person in the photo. Unfortunately the first sketch turns out to look like Tom Cruise, and the second sketch like Ashton Kutcher. Until Stephanie can improve her descriptive skills, she’ll need to watch her back.

Over at the Bail Bonds Agency it’s business as usual—until the bonds bus serving as Vinnie’s temporary HQ goes up in smoke, Stephanie’s wheelman, Lula, falls in love with their “largest” FTA yet, lifetime arch nemesis Joyce Barnhardt moves into Stephanie’s apartment, and everyone wants to know what happened in Hawaii?!

orelli, Trenton’s hottest cop, isn’t talking about Hawaii. Ranger, the man of mystery, isn’t talking about Hawaii.  And all Stephanie is willing to say about her Hawaiian vacation is . . . It’s complicated.

My Thoughts:  Ugh.  I used to really enjoy the Stephanie Plum series.  The first 6 or 7 books were hysterical and I couldn't get enough.  That is no longer the case.  The stories are getting less and less original and more and more stupid.  They're formulaic and it's not funny anymore to see Stephanie make a fool of herself while trying to be a bounty hunter.  Lula, who I have always loved, is starting to get on my nerves and Grandma Mazur is just not nearly as sassy as in past books.  I am also getting tired of the love triangle between Stephanie, Morelli and Ranger.  In the beginning, it didn't seem so bad but now Stephanie is starting to be a brat and I don't think it's cute or funny to have a main character who uses the men in her life.  I know that these are big money makers for Evanovich but I am hoping she finishes the series soon because the story is getting old and I am not liking who her characters are becoming.  It's so sad to watch such a great series slowly go down the toilet.  2 stars.  (This is book #1 for the Support Your Local Library Challenge).

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Eastern European Reading Challenge 2012

I am officially insane.  I said I wouldn't commit to any more reading challenges but this was one I could NOT refuse.  The Eastern European Reading Challenge 2012 is being hosted by The Black Sheep Dances.  Half of the 81 books I own and need to read are about Russia or Eastern Europe so I figured that this challenge would only encourage me to read books I already own and need to read.  I am only planning to complete the 'tourist' level which is 4 books about Russia/Eastern Europe.  These can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, basically any genre.  There are already 2 Russian related books on my list of books for the TBR challenge but I am trying to not overlap books for challenges so I will read 4 additional books.

Here is what I plan to read:

1.) Education of a Princess by Grand Duchess Marie of Russia
2.) Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie
3.) The Death of Ivan Ilyich and other stories by Lev Tolstoy
4.) The Voices of the Dead by HIroaki Kuromiya

I think this is very doable.  I had already planned to read these books this year and now I have to.  With all of my challenges I have committed to read 67 books this year which is extremely manageable compared to last year.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

In My Mailbox (34)

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

From the Library:

Three Maids for a Crown by Ella March Chase
Faithful Place by Tana French

Purchased with Xmas gift cards:

Lover Unleashed by J.R. Ward
Prophet's Prey by Sam Brower

What's in your mailbox this week?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Happy Friday!!! (18)

It's Friday!  This week has been rough; going back to work after 10 days off was brutal!

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

Question of the Week: Go count the number of unread books sitting on your shelf. How many?

I counted last week and I have 81 unread books on my shelves.  GAH.  I keep going to the library to get more books when I own enough books to keep me busy for the whole year!  I am so hoping I can get my act together and get a good chunk of these read this year. 

How many unread books are currently on your shelves?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Review: "Last Sacrifice" by Richelle Mead

From Goodreads:  Rose Hathaway has always played by her own rules. She broke the law when she ran away from St. Vladimir's Academy with her best friend and last surviving Dragomir princess, Lissa. She broke the law when she fell in love with her gorgeous, off-limits instructor, Dimitri. And she dared to defy Queen Tatiana, leader of the Moroi world, risking her life and reputation to protect generations of dhampir guardians to come.
Now the law has finally caught up with Rose--for a crime she didn't even commit. She's in prison for the highest offense imaginable: the assassination of a monarch. She'll need help from both Dimitri and Adrian to find the one living person who can stall her execution and force the Moroi elite to acknowledge a shocking new candidate for the royal throne: Vasilisa Dragomir.
But the clock on Rose's life is running out. Rose knows in her heart the world of the dead wants her back . . . and this time she is truly out of second chances. The big question is, when your whole life is about saving others, who will save you?

My Thoughts:  This series was awesome and Last Sacrifice is a great finish to the series.  This installment of the Vampire Academy series is action packed and solidifies Rose as one of my favorite female characters.  I am hesitant to say too much because there are a lot of things that can be given away.  Needless to say, we find out who killed the Queen (and what a shocker that was!) and some characters from past books make appearances to help out and/or wreak havoc (some do both).  We also see Rose deal with some really dark issues that result from her dealing with the effects of spirit which was really interesting and I thought the author handled these situations really well.  I also really liked the conversations that Rose had with Dimitri and others about forgiving yourself and others for past misdeeds; it was pretty deep for a YA novel.  I was really mad at Dimitri in the last book because of his unwillingness to deal with his past but he definitely redeemed himself in this book by helping Rose through some pretty rough times. 

I must say if you have not read this book or this series, do not read a synopsis of Mead's book, Bloodlines.  There is a secret revealed in Last Sacrifice and if you read a synopsis of Bloodlines it will be spoiled.  I got really excited about another Vampire Academy series and ruined the big unveiling for myself.  Most of the loose ends are tied up at the end of htis book but there is just enough left open to leave room for the Bloodlines series.  Overall, I was very surprised at how good this series was.  I never planned to read it, let alone love it, but I am so glad I did.  4 1/2 stars.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Top Ten Books I am Excited to Read in 2012

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

This week's topic:  Top Ten Books I am Excited to Read in 2012

Books coming out in 2012
1.) Lover Reborn by J.R. Ward-I have been waiting for Tohr's story since I read Dark Lover!
2.) The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead-I haven't read Bloodlines yet but I am happy that Richelle Mead is continuing the series.
3.) Written with My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon-The next installment in the Outlander series is supposed to come out in 2012.  It has been almost 3 years since the last book and I am so anxious to see what happens next for Jamie and Claire.
4.) Insurgent by Veronica Roth
5.) Spellbound by Rachel Hawkins

Books published before 2012 that I am Excited to Read this year
1.) Bloodlines by Richelle Mead
2.) Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie
3.) 11/22/63 by Stephen King
4.) The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon
5.) City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

What books are you excited to read in 2012?

Monday, January 2, 2012

2012 Goals

I am super excited for 2012!  2011 was kind of a sucky year so I am looking forward to good things this year.  I have lots of goals for the blog and for books I plan to read.  I also have some personal goals for the year that I hope I will be able to achieve.

Goals for the Blog:

-Comment more-I get lazy and don't always comment on reviews I read nor do I usually reply to comments on my blog.  I feel really bad about this and want to try to comment more.
-Work on layout
-Technical Stuff-I really need to figure out how to create a button!  I also need to get some working knowledge of html and need to learn how reconfigure things so that when GFC goes away there won't be too many issues.
-Better Reviews-As I said on Friday, my reviews have been pretty crappy lately.  I plan to work on that this year.
-Hosting a giveaway-I have great followers and I really want to host a giveaway to show my appreciation.
-Get more comfortable with social media-A lot of blogs are tied to twitter and facebook pages so I need to explore this option.
-Include more personal posts-This is always going to be a book blog but I don't think it would hurt if I included some non book related posts.

Goals for Reading:

-I have signed up for 4 challenges (more info can be found here):
    -Historical Fiction challenge
    -Back to the Classics challenge
    -Support your Local Library challenge
    -TBR Pile Challenge
With these four challenges, I have committed to reading 63 books this year.  That's pretty doable.  I am not setting a reading goal for the year because I don't want the added pressure.
-Focus on reading books I already own -  There are currently 81 books on my shelf that I have not read.  I know that I won't be able to get through all of them this year as many are HUGE but I would like to make a significant dent in this pile.
-Read at least one non-fiction book a month-This won't be hard as several of the books I included in the TBR Pile Challenge are non-fiction and many of the books I own and haven't read are non-fiction.
-Read two books in Russian-My Russian language skills are in the toilet right now and I know that if I don't start working on them again, I will be in big trouble.  I have read the first two Harry Potter books in Russian so I will probably pick up the third.  I also own a Russian copy of Twilight so I might pick that up too.

Personal Goals:

-Run a 1/2 Marathon in April-I cannot believe I am actually putting this out there but I have wanted to run a 1/2 marathon for a long time.  I used to be an avid runner but have kind of tapered off in the past year.  I'm turning 29 in a few weeks and I guess I just want to do something cool before I turn 30.  I started training for one a few years ago but a bad case of the stomach flu knocked me off track and I never got back on it.  I am so scared that I won't be able to cut it but I have set up a training schedule that I plan to implement this week so wish me luck.
-Eat Better-I will be honest, I don't eat anywhere near enough fruits and veggies.  I would like to slowly add more of them into my diet this year.
-Set up some savings-We are moving to a bigger place this summer and moving is expensive!  I would like to have a fund set up so that the move isn't traumatic financially.  I got some major credit card debt paid off in 2011 so I think I should be able to save some money.
-Reevaluate my work situation-I changed jobs over the summer thinking I would be moving to a better position.  Despite the pay being better, my new job is suckier than the old one.  I really need to be thinking about what I want to do in regards to my career (or lack thereof).

So that's it.  I know a lot of these goals are ambitious and I may not achieve them but I will try.  What are your goals for 2012?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

In My Mailbox (33)

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

Happy New Year everyone!!  It's the first IMM of 2012.  I am so glad that 2011 is over and can't wait to see what 2012 will bring!

Christmas Gift:

Purchased with Christmas gift card:

Starvation Heights by Gregg Olsen (I have never heard of this book but it piqued my interest.)
Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks (I got this from the library recently but didn't have time to get to it.)

From the Library:

Bloodlines by Richelle Mead
Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich

What books did you pick up this week?

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