Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February Wrap Up

I can't believe February is over!  It definitely had it's ups and downs and I am still not sure whether I think it was a good month or not.  I didn't read a ton this month but overall, I think I did fine.  I have made progress on all 5 challenges I am participating in and of the 10 books I read this month, 4 are books I own.  So that's decent! 

Here is what I read this month:
1.) The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez
2.) March by Geraldine Brooks
3.) Lover Mine by J.R. Ward
4.) Enchantments by Kathryn Harrison
5.) The Little Russian by Susan Sherman
6.) A Handful of Earth by Larisa Walk
7.) Education of a Princess by Grand Duchess Marie of Russia
8.) East of Eden by John Steinbeck
9.) When Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman
10.) The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice

Regarding my personal goals, I have done pretty good.  I have really gotten into following my training schedule and, except for last week, I have been pretty diligent with it.  I did register for the Half Marathon so I have to keep up the hard work!  I am really excited about it but still a little nervous.  We did get approved for a duplex so the hubs and I are signing a lease tomorrow and will be moving this summer.  It will be nice to have an extra bedroom and bathroom.  There were some other not so fun things that went on this month but I am trying not to dwell on that and keep a positive attitude.

How was February for you?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Top Ten Books I'd Give a Theme Song To

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

This week's topic:  Top Ten Books I'd Give a Theme Song To

1.) The Hunger Games-'Eye of the Tiger' by Survivor-I love this song and I think the lyrics go well with the story of the games.
2.) Twilight-'Endless Love' by Lionel Ritchie and Diana Ross-A super cheesy love song for a super cheesy book.
3.) Lover Unbound by J.R. Ward-'Hurts So Good' by John Mellencamp-I am not going to explain this one.  If you've read the book, you know what I mean.
4.) Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher-'How Do You Get That Lonely' by Blaine Larsen-I don't know if this book needs a theme song but when I read it, this song came to mind.
5.) Tatiana and Alexander and The Summer Garden by Paullina Simons-'I Just Got Back From Hell' by Gary Allan-This isn't so much a theme song for these books as it is a theme song for Alexander and what he went through in these stories

This was reallly hard so I only have five this week.  What books do you think need a theme song?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Review: "When Christ and His Slepts" by Sharon Kay Penman

From Goodreads:  A.D. 1135. As church bells tolled for the death of England's King Henry I, his barons faced the unwelcome prospect of being ruled by a woman: Henry's beautiful daughter Maude, Countess of Anjou. But before Maude could claim her throne, her cousin Stephen seized it. In their long and bitter struggle, all of England bled and burned.

Sharon Kay Penman's magnificent fifth novel summons to life a spectacular medieval tragedy whose unfolding breaks the heart even as it prepares the way for splendors to come—the glorious age of Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Plantagenets that would soon illumine the world.

My Thoughts:  This book was so LONG.  I normally don't mind big books but this one felt really long.  It took me a week to finish and I was pretty happy when I was done with it.  Don't get me wrong, it wasn't a bad book at all.  It was incredibly well-researched and well-written and had a lot of potential.  The thing that bothered me is it felt like I was reading a work of non-fiction.  Penman covered every skirmish and seige over the 18 year battle between Stephen and Maude and it just felt like too much.  It was complete information overload.  After a while, I didn't care who won as long as the war was over.  I liked that she didn't try to make one side of the war more likeable than the other but really I didn't feel much sympathy for either Stephan or Maude and I actually really did not care about them.  I didn't really like most of the characters or feel sympathetic towards them and that is what made reading this book so difficult.  I really only liked Ranulf and Rhiannon.  I want to read a whole book about those two.  They felt real and three-dimensional and the rest of the characters were just so flat.  I feel  bad for not loving this book because Penman is supposed to be an amazing historical fiction author.  I still plan to read The Sunne in Splendour and I own another of her books so this didn't deter me from reading her books.  3 stars.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

In My Mailbox (41)

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

I picked up two books from the library this week; one is for the 'Back to the Classics' challenge and the other I saw Jenn Lancaster rave about on facebook so hopefully it's as good as it sounds.

Macbeth by William Shakespeare
You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon

That's all I've got.  What books did you pick up this week?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Happy Friday (24)

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

Question of the week:  Take a picture or describe where you like to read the most...

I like to read in my living room on our comfy couches.  Usually Turbo is running around and playing while I am reading but sometimes he likes to come curl up with me.

Where do you like to read? 

FYI...You can now follow me in several ways:  twitter, goodreads, GFC, RSS or via email!  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Review: "East of Eden" by John Steinbeck

From Goodreads:  The masterpiece of Steinbeck's later years--a vastly ambitious novel that is at once a family saga and a modern retelling of the Book of Genesis.

In his journal, John Steinbeck called East of Eden "the first book," and indeed it has the primordial power and simplicity of myth. Set in the rich farmland of California's Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel follows the intertwined destinies of two families--the Trasks and the Hamiltons--whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel. Here is a work in which Steinbeck created his most mesmerizing characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity, the inexplicability of love, and the murderous consequences of love's abscence.

My Thoughts:  This review might be a little gushy but East of Eden was a huge surprise to me.  I was expecting a really long, dry book and I could not have been more wrong.  This was actually the best book I have read this year.  The writing is like nothing else; beautiful and descriptive without being too much.  Steinbeck's descriptions are amazing but he seemed to know when to stop before the descriptions became excessive.  The characters are wonderful; Adam Trask, Sam Hamilton and Lee are so three dimensional that it was almost as though they jumped off the pages.  I also thought it was interesting how he described Cathy Ames.  She was obviously a sociopath and he made her into a really scary character.

There are definitely a lot of biblical references and the emphasis on free will made for an interesting story.  There is a whole section devoted to the idea of 'thou mayest' emphasizing that one had a choice in everything.  I loved how Steinbeck continously pointed out that just because your parents were a certain way didn't mean that you had to be that way.  Cal fought with himself because he believed he was evil like his mother but in the end, with the help of his family, he realized that he had the choice to be his own person and not turn out like Cathy.

I normally don't include quotes in my reviews but here are two that really stood out to me:

-"'Thou mayest'-that gives a choice.  It might bet he most important word in the world.  That says the way is open.  That throws it right back on a man.  For if 'Thou mayest'-it is also true that 'Thou mayest not.' " pg. 301

-"At such a time it seems natural and good to me to ask myself these questions.  What do I believe in?  What must I fight for and what must I fight against?" pg. 131

Seriously, if you haven't read this book, do it now.  I can't believe I have put it off for so many years and I am so glad that I finally got to experience such a great story.  5 stars

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Review: "Education of a Princess" by Grand Duchess Marie of Russia

From Goodreads:  To clarify the confusing Romanov family: this Marie was the granddaughter of Czar Alexander II, the daughter of Grand Duke Paul, and the cousin of Tsar Nicholas. Her brother, Prince Dmitri, was one of the plotters against Rasputin. He was exiled for that, to the Persian frontier, which saved his life when the roundup of the Imperial family began. These are the memoirs of her childhood, a glittering version of solitary confinement, and young adult life. Her father was banished for marrying without the Czar's permission, which left Marie and her brother to be brought up by her uncle, the military governor of Moscow. After her uncle's assassination in 1905, her aunt arranged a marriage with a Swedish prince whom Marie saw a few times before the wedding. The marriage was disastrous, and a divorce was arranged, quickly and quietly. Marie's young son stayed in Sweden. Charity was an acceptable occupation for the women of the aristocracy, but Marie became a qualified nurse and spent much of the early part of WWI in field hospitals. The last part of the book contains her account of the final tense days of the Romanovs, her second marriage, and her escape through the Ukraine.
My Thoughts:  This book has been on my shelf FOREVER.  I bought it for a quarter at a library sale when I still lived in California (5+ years ago) and finally got around to reading it.  As far as memoirs go, this was a pretty sad one.  Marie didn't have an easy life; her mother died when she was young and her father was banished from Russia and she was raised by relatives in a strict, regimented environment.  The one person she was really close to was her brother and it was devastating to her to be separated from him when she moved to Sweden and then when he was exiled to Persia for killing Rasputin.  It is interesting to see how she is very conscious of the fact that while she had tutors and schooling, she wasn't educated in such a way that she was prepared to enter the real world.  I also thought it was fascinating to see the Romanov dynasty and the Russian empire crumble from as told from the  point of view of a member of the Romanov family.  There were a few things that bothered me about this book though.  While Marie was married to the a Swedish prince, she had a son but she hardly mentions and after she divorces the prince, she doesn't mention him at all.  I don't know if this is because it was painful for her or because she didn't care but I kept wondering what was going on with her son and why she acted in such an ambivalent manner when it came to him.  I also was bothered by the fact that her memoirs ended so abruptly.  I would have liked to have to read more about what happened after she escaped and her relationships with her brother and Romanov relatives after the revolution.  Overall, a pretty interesting look at the Russian imperial as their world slowly imploded.  3 stars.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Top Ten Books I'd Quickly Save If My House Was Going To Be Abducted By Aliens

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

This week's topic:  Top Ten Books I'd Quickly Save If My House Was Going To Be Abducted By Aliens

This is going to such a hard list to make!  I have a ton of books that are no longer in print and while I would want to save all of those books as well all of the other books I own, I don't think that would be possible.  Here is what I would try to grab:

1.) The Gulag Archipelago Vol 1-3 by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn-These are first edition English translations that my mom and step-dad gave me for Christmas a few years ago.  I would definitely not want anything to happen to it.
2.) Hope Against Hope and Hope Abandoned by Nadezhda Mandelstam-First editions also given to me by my mom and step-dad.
3.) Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak and War and Peace by Lev Tolstoy (Russian editions)-I took two classes in grad school where we read these books in the original Russian.  My professor gave the class really nice copies of these books and they are full of my notes.  I would hate to lose them.
4.) Kolyma Tales by Varlaam Shalamov-I have written many papers on this book including my thesis.  My copy is full of annotations and marked sections and even though I can easily get a new copy, I can't replace all of those notes.
5.) Russian Dictionary-I have a really awesome Russian dictionary (not Russian to English, but Russian word with definition in Russian) that a professor gave me.  I rarely use it anymore but it's a pretty cool book that I would want to save.
6.) My Nook-I love my nook!  It doesn't have a ton of books on it but I still would want to grab it.

What books would you save if a disaster was imminent?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Review: "Enchantments" by Kathryn Harrison

From Goodreads:  St. Petersburg, 1917. After Rasputin’s body is pulled from the icy waters of the Neva River, his eighteen-year-old daughter, Masha, is sent to live at the imperial palace with Tsar Nikolay and his family—including the headstrong Prince Alyosha. Desperately hoping that Masha has inherited Rasputin’s miraculous healing powers, Tsarina Alexandra asks her to tend to Aloysha, who suffers from hemophilia, a blood disease that keeps the boy confined to his sickbed, lest a simple scrape or bump prove fatal.

Two months after Masha arrives at the palace, the tsar is forced to abdicate, and Bolsheviks place the royal family under house arrest. As Russia descends into civil war, Masha and Alyosha grieve the loss of their former lives, finding solace in each other’s company. To escape the confinement of the palace, they tell stories—some embellished and some entirely imagined—about Nikolay and Alexandra’s courtship, Rasputin’s many exploits, and the wild and wonderful country on the brink of an irrevocable transformation. In the worlds of their imagination, the weak become strong, legend becomes fact, and a future that will never come to pass feels close at hand.

Mesmerizing, haunting, and told in Kathryn Harrison’s signature crystalline prose, Enchantments is a love story about two people who come together as everything around them is falling apart.
My Thoughts:  I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  Enchantments was a very strange book.  The narrator of the story is Rasputin's older daughter, Masha, and most of the book is made up of stories told by Masha to the Tsarevich Aleksei (Alyosha).  She tells him stories about her childhood and events that happened during the reign of his parents but they are extremely fantastical and kind of misplaced.  The author had Masha tell Alyosha the story of the tragedy at Khodynka Field on the day of Tsar Nikolai's coronation but with this weird Master and Margarita twist.  I kind of had this 'wait, what?' moment when I saw how the author alluded to M & M and for some reason it really bothered me.  The Master and Margarita was written in the 1930s so it didn't exist in 1917 when Enchantments takes place so it doesn't make sense that Masha would include that in a story.  Also, there is this weird point where Behemoth (the cat who follows the devil in M & M) says "Am I not the shit?".  Umm, for one, this sounds like a modern saying and for two, what well-educated girl in 1917 would have incorporated this statement into a story?  I know it's stupid but that really got under my skin because the book seemed completely unrealistic.  I know it's fiction but it's 'historical fiction' so I expect some of it to be realistic.

The book as a whole was well-written and very descriptive but at the same time seemed long winded and very slow moving.  It took me a lot longer to get through the book than I would have expected.  I did like the way Alyosha was portrayed; normally he is sickly and kind of sad but Harrison portrayed him as a tough, pragmatic young man and it was nice to see that.  I also liked the part at the end where you are reading about the tsar's family being imprisoned in the Ipatiev house.  This was told from Alyosha's perspective and was actually the best part of the book.  Otherwise, I really just did not enjoy this book.  As much as I love Russian history, and especially the fall of the Russian empire, I could not get into this book at all. 2 stars.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

This thing called Twitter

Sooo, I finally broke down and got a Twitter account.  I am still not really sure how it works but I am mainly going to try to use it for the blog. 

Any tips or tricks I should know?

In My Mailbox (40)

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

My IMMs have been pretty light lately because I am really trying to read what I own and utilize the library and NetGalley right now.  I really need to be putting money aside rather than spending money on books (no matter how much I want to!) so I may only post IMMs sporadically over the next couple weeks.  I did pick up one book this week though and I am pretty excited to read it!

From the Library:

What books did you pick up this week?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Happy Friday! (23)

This has been such a weird week so I am really happy to have a few days away from the office!

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

This week's question:  I like unique names for characters and am looking forward to coming up with some when I start writing. What’s the most unique character name you’ve come across?

Oh my goodness, there are so many books with unique names in them and I am struggling to think of all of them.  I do have to say that one of my favorites is 'Elphaba' from Wicked.  It's one of a kind but it fits that character so well.

I alos always think of Cricket and Calliope from Lola and the Boy Next Door and there is also Katniss and Peeta from The Hunger Games.  The Black Dagger Brotherhood books are definitely chock full of unique names as are Twilight (Renesmee anyone?) and Harry Potter. 

Anyway, what are some unique character names you have come across?

Also, the Book Blog Hop is back!  Jen at Crazy for Books is hosting it on a monthly basis now so head on over there and check it out!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Review: "A Handful of Earth" by Larisa Walk

From Goodreads:  As the Mongol Horde draws near her tiny Russian principality, a spinster princess YAROSLAVA fears the worst. Her father is too old and ill to organize the defense. Yet her people would not follow her because she is a woman. The princes from the neighboring city-states and principalities won’t come to help because of the old feuds. Worse yet, Yaroslava receives a foretelling that she will betray her people.

Yelnik, the principality’s throne town, falls. Most of its defenders perish. Attractive women and craftsmen are taken into slavery. Yaroslava herself becomes a slave, destined to serve the Mongol khan as his concubine. In captivity she faces many enemies. Among them are: a Russian slave with a grudge; a fellow concubine that can kill with the power of the evil eye; her uncle whom Yaroslava mistakenly thinks she can trust. To survive and regain freedom for herself and the other slaves from Yelnik, she will break a religious taboo against using magic, commit treason and defeat vodyanoy, an elemental being that wishes to imprison her soul in its river for eternity.

My Thoughts:  I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This was a fun little story that was short and easy to read.  I enjoyed the mix of historical fiction and paranormal and Yaroslava was a neat character.  She was tough and strong-willed while at the same time vulnerable because of her upbringing.  I also appreciated the fact that the author wrote about a period of Russian history not usually tackled in historical fiction.  The paranormal aspect did get a little weird with all of the river spirits; it seemed to go from simple pagan magic to a creepy river spirit (vodyanoy) attacking her while she was running from the Mongols.  There were a few moments where it got confusing because there were two battles going on at once-one with the vodyanoy and one with the Mongols.  I didn't love the ending of this book as it felt like the author tried to wrap things up too quickly.  Yaroslava went from being depressed and suicidal to warrior princess in the blink of an eye and then the story was over.  Overall, a pretty enjoyable book.  3 stars.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Review: "The Little Russian" by Susan Sherman

From Goodreads:  The Little Russian spotlights an exciting new voice in historical fiction, an assured debut that should appeal to readers of Away by Amy Bloom or Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. Based on the experiences of the author’s grandmother, the novel tells the story of Berta Alshonsky, who revels in childhood memories of her time spent with a wealthy family in Moscow –a life filled with salons, balls and all the trappings of the upper class — very different from her current life as a grocer’s daughter in the Jewish townlet of Mosny. When a mysterious and cultured wheat merchant walks into the grocery, Berta’s life is forever altered. She falls in love, unaware that he is a member of the Bund, The Jewish Worker’s League, smuggling arms to the shtetls to defend them against the pogroms sweeping the Little Russian countryside.

Married and established in the wheat center of Cherkast, Berta has recaptured the life she once had in Moscow. So when a smuggling operation goes awry and her husband must flee the country, Berta makes the vain and foolish choice to stay behind with her children and her finery. As Russia plunges into war, Berta eventually loses everything and must find a new way to sustain the lives and safety of her children. Filled with heart-stopping action, richly drawn characters, and a world seeped in war and violence; The Little Russian is poised to capture readers as a highly regarded gem of the season.

My Thoughts:  I saw this book highlighted in People magazine and it piqued my interest.  I now think I am going to have to look to People magazine for more books because I really enjoyed in this book.  I have read a lot of really not so great books lately and it was refreshing to read something as good as The Little Russian.  It was a beautifully written story that takes place in Ukraine at the turn of the century.  The author writes of the contrasts between the extremely rich and extremely poor in such a way that you can almost see the shtetl and all of the people living in it.  She also escribes the horrors of the pogroms and the indignities heaped on the Jews in the Pale in great detail and her characters were incredibly well-rounded.  Berta is a great character; I thought she was a spoiled brat in the beginning but through her struggles and suffering she grows into this three-dimensional character who realized how bad her choices had been and fought as hard as possible to make things right.  I went from disliking her to admiring her and that was one of the things I liked best about the book.  Also, The story was engaging and sucked me in immediately.  I actually read this book in one day without meaning to; I just kept reading until it was done.  This was definitely an excellent piece of historical fiction and I loved that it tackled a subject that one usually doesn't see in the historical fiction genre.  4 stars.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Top Ten Books That Broke My Heart A Little

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

This week's topic:  Top Ten Books that Broke My Heart a Little

1.) My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult-I have ranted about this book many times so all I am going to say is that this book broke my heart A LOT.  A LOT meaning I sat sobbing on my couch after finishing it.
2.) In the Woods by Tana French-I so wanted this book to have a happy ending.  I loved Rob as a character and I wanted things to end up better for him then they did.
3.) Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon-Jamie and Claire saying goodbye for what I thought was the last time equals extreme heartbreak.
4.) Lover Eternal by J.R. Ward-This book broke my heart but in a good way.  The kindness shown to Mary by the Scribe Virgin was just WOW.
5.) The Summer Garden by Paullina Simons-As much as I loved this trilogy, there was a point in this book where Tatiana and Alexander had both done dumb things and I just wanted to yell WHY?  How could you do that?
6.) We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families by Philip Gourevitch-Rwandan genocide, enough said.
7.) Push by Sapphire-Another book that needs no explanation as to why it broke my heart.
8.) We the Living by Ayn Rand-I love this book and I know it ended the way it needed to but I would have loved for it to have ended differently for Kira.
9.) P.S I Love You by Cecilia Ahern-Super sad book and movie.

That's all I have.  What books broke your heart a little?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Review: "Lover Mine" by J.R. Ward

From Goodreads:  John Matthew has come a long way since he was found living among humans, his vampire nature unknown. Taken in by The Brotherhood, no one could guess what his true history was-or his true identity.

Xhex has long steeled herself against the attraction to John Matthew. Until fate intervenes and she discovers that love, like destiny, is inevitable.
My Thoughts:  I love this series!  Lover Mine finally gives more background on Xhex, a character we have been seeing throughout most of the series.  I honestly didn't like her much in past books but she really surprised me.  We learn about her past and why she is the way she is and I liked that she actually was a little vulnerable in this book as opposed to being a full time bad ass.  Lover Mine is a cool book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series because there is so much going on it.  Not only is there the John and Xhex story but there is more about the Blay and Quinn situation, Tohr and some of his background and Payne comes to stay at the mansion.  Tohr is my favorite brother and I loved getting to see how he got started in the brotherhood and how him and Darius became friends.  It was actually nice to see Darius again since he only made a brief appearance in the first book.  It definitely showcased the potential of the next couple books in the series.  If you haven't started this series, you should!  4 stars. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

In My Mailbox (39)

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

I didn't get very much this week which is good because I am completely bogged down in books!  I had a bunch of NetGalley requests come through last week and I am still trying to read books I own.  So here is what I got this week:

From NetGalley: 

From the Library:

What did you get this week?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Happy Friday! (22)

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

Q: What would your prefer: reading your favorite book over and over again until you got sick of it OR reading 100s of mediocre books? And why?

Ugh!  I can't imagine reading hundreds of mediocre books.  I would rather never read again!  I would definitely prefer to read a favorite book over and over...there have been times that I have gotten into a reading rut due to reading mediocre books and it makes me not want to read at all.  At least if I was rereading a story I loved, I would be enjoying it and remember how and why the story captured my interest in the first place.

What about you?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Review: "March" by Geraldine Brooks

From Goodreads:  From Louisa May Alcott's beloved classic Little Women, Geraldine Brooks has animated the character of the absent father, March, and crafted a story filled with the ache of love and marriage and with the power of war upon the mind and heart of one unforgettable man (Sue Monk Kidd). With "pitch-perfect writing" (USA Today), Brooks follows March as he leaves behind his family to aid the Union cause in the Civil War. His experiences will utterly change his marriage and challenge his most ardently held beliefs. A lushly written, wholly original tale steeped in the details of another time, March secures Geraldine Brooks's place as a renowned author of historical fiction. My Thoughts:  I really wanted to like this book, I swear.  I thought it would be neat to see a different take on Little Women which is why I picked this up.  Ugh, it wasn't neat at all.  I know that March is a Pulitzer Prize winner but it just didn't do it for me.  The story is beautifully written but I really didn't like the character of Mr. March.  He was kind of a sad, annoying, pathetic man and I got really tired of being inside of his head.  The story is mostly told from Mr. March's point of view and that made the story even harder to deal with; I couldn't get away from him!  I know he meant well but he seemed to screw up everything he touched and had absolutely no business being involved in the war.  He seemed to be glory-seeking and extremely self-righteous in the beginning but wound up completely broken both mentally and physically in the end.  The characters in the story were great and I would have liked to get to know them more and have less of Mr. March.  This is a really short book but it took me way too long to get through and I really didn't want to keep going.  I feel kind of bad because I loved The People of the Book (also by Brooks) but this one was just not for me.  2 stars.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Review: "The Pregnancy Project" by Gaby Rodriguez

From Goodreads:  Growing up, Gaby Rodriguez was often told she would end up a teen mom. After all, her mother and her older sisters had gotten pregnant as teenagers; from an outsider’s perspective, it was practically a family tradition. Gaby had ambitions that didn’t include teen motherhood. But she wondered: how would she be treated if she “lived down” to others' expectations? Would everyone ignore the years she put into being a good student and see her as just another pregnant teen statistic with no future? These questions sparked Gaby’s school project: faking her own pregnancy as a high school senior to see how her family, friends, and community would react. What she learned changed her life forever, and made international headlines in the process.

In The Pregnancy Project, Gaby details how she was able to fake her own pregnancy—hiding the truth from even her siblings and boyfriend’s parents—and reveals all that she learned from the experience. But more than that, Gaby’s story is about fighting stereotypes, and how one girl found the strength to come out from the shadow of low expectations to forge a bright future for herself.

My Thoughts:  This was a unique tale of misplaced stereotypes and how a teenage girl tried to combat them by faking her own pregnancy.  The first half of the book is Gaby talking about her family and their background and I have to give her a lot of credit for being as strong and resilient as she is considering where she came from.  The rest of the book is how she created and implemented her senior project which was to fake a pregnancy and record peoples' reaction to it.  It was kind of sad to see how people treated her and what they said behind her back when they thought she was going to be a teen mom.  She must be a very mature to young woman to come up with, and stick to, such a difficult project and I really commend her courage.  It was so surprising a story that I would expect it to be a fictional tale.

This book is pretty hard for me to review because it is very straight-forward.  There isn't any fancy language or elaborate storytelling.  It is basically Gaby laying out the who/what/when/where/how of her senior project.  It's a pretty easy, quick read and was pretty interesting.  I hear there is a Lifetime movie of this book so I will probably check that out to see how the story is portrayed on screen.  3 stars.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Top Ten Books I'd Give to Someone Who Doesn't Like to Read

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

This week's topic is:  Top Ten Books I'd Give to Someone Who Doesn't Like to Read

I picked all of these books because they have great stories and characters and are not difficult to read.

1.) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
2.) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K.Rowling
3.) Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
4.) Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning
5.) Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster
6.) Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
7.) One for the Money by Janet Evanovich
8.) The Giver by Lois Lowry
9.) Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir
10.) The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Any books I missed?  What books are on your list?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Review: "Between Shades of Gray" by Ruta Sepetys

From Goodreads:  Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously - and at great risk - documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

My Thoughts:  I am really glad that these historical events are getting some attention and I hope that it will lead to further discussion of these events among young people.  I wrote my master's thesis on gulag (Soviet labor camp) literature and as part of my research I had to study Stalin and his atrocities extensively.  Most young people know about the Holocaust but few know about the horrors inflicted by Stalin upon his own people as well as the peoples he tried to incorporate into the USSR.  This book discusses the forced deportations of the Lithuanian people and how it impacted a young girl and her family.  I thought the story was beautifully written and Lina was a great character.  I loved how she used art as a way to deal with, and document, the events happening to her and around her.  All of the characters were very vividly written and I could easily picture each one with their different personalities. I did think that the story might have needed a little more background given to the reader, it started abruptly and seemed to end that way as well.  I got the feeling that this book was meant to be incorporated into a larger lesson.  It would definitely be a great book for teenagers to read in school but they would more than likely need some sort of background information about Stalin and the politics of the USSR in the late 1930s and early 1940s.  This was a very good book and I am really glad that it has become as popular as it has.  4 stars.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Happy Friday! (21)

Whew!  I am so glad it's Friday!  This week has been crazy (I turned 29 on Monday!)  and there is so much going on this weekend.  I am actually ready for it to be next Friday when all of the craziness will have died down.

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

This week's question:   Define what characteristics your favorite books share. Do they all have a kickass heroine or is the hot love interest the Alpha Male?

I read such a wide variety of books that it is hard to see which characteristics they have in common.  I do know that my most favorite books tend to have amazing well-written stories that suck me into them and make me never want to leave.  I love being so completely immersed in a story that it feels like you literally have to pull yourself out of the book and back into the real world.   Books like The Hunger Games, Outlander, Vampire Academy and The Bronze Horseman had such complex, wonderful storylines with fantastic characters that I felt like I became part of that particular book's setting while I was reading them. 

What about you?  What characteristics are dominate your favorite books?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Review: "Faithful Place" by Tana French

From Goodreads:  The past haunts in Tana French novels. That which was buried is brought to light and wreaks hell--on no one moreso than Frank Mackey, beloved undercover guru and burly hero first mentioned in French's second book about the Undercover Squad, The Likeness. Faithful Place is Frank's old neighborhood, the town he fled twenty-two years ago, abandoning an abusive alcoholic father, harpy mother, and two brothers and sisters who never made it out. They say going home is never easy, but for Frank, investigating the cold case of the just-discovered body of his teenage girlfriend, it is a tangled, dangerous journey, fraught with mean motivations, black secrets, and tenuous alliances. Because he is too close to the case, and because the Place (including his family) harbors a deep-rooted distrust of cops, Frank must undergo his investigation furtively, using all the skills picked up from years of undercover work to trace the killer and the events of the night that changed his life. Faithful Place is Tana French's best book yet (readers familiar with In the Woods and The Likeness will recognize this as an incredible feat), a compelling and cutting mystery with the hardscrabble, savage Mackey clan at its heart.

My Thoughts:  This is the third Tana French book I have read and it is by far my favorite.  Frank Mackey is a believable and likable character and the story is just incredibly well-written.  The family drama he deals with is rough but not unrealistic. French's descriptions of everyday life in Ireland are fantastic and the dysfunctional Mackey family is very well-developed.  Their dysfunction is over the top without seeming phony and they made for a very interesting group of characters. 

In her past two books, French's main characters have kind of lost themselves in their work and ended up worse off than they started but Frank stayed pretty steady.  He had to deal with some awful situations but he didn't lose sight of what was most important in his life.  Like usual there wasn't a nice happy ending but I wasn't as depressed at the end of this book as I was when I finished French's last two books.  When I finished  In the Woods, I wanted to throw the book across the room but this one just left feeling sad for Frank.  It definitely ended with a 'what might have been' moment.  Overall, this was a great book and I highly recommend it.  4 stars. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

January Wrap Up

Can you believe that January is already over?  The month completely flew by.  I managed to read 12 books (see below) and I got started on 4 of the 5 challenges I signed up for this year.  That being said, I did even make a tiny dent in my TBR pile.  I read one (!) book that I has been sitting around for a while and that is it.  I had a bunch of galleys to catch up and all the library books I requested in November became available this month.  So hopefully in February, the majority of what I read will be books I already own.

Regarding personal goals, I am struggling to stay on my training schedule for the half marathon.  I was doing really good and then I had a rough week and last week was just okay.  If I can't get my butt back on track this week, I am not sure that I will be ready enough to participate.  I want to do it, I am just being kind of lazy.  Hopefully next month I will have better news about that.

Anyway, here is what I read I in January:

1.) The Last Romanov by Dora Levy Mossanen
2.) Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich
3.) The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
4.) Three Maids for a Crown by Ella Chase Brown
5.) Bloodlines by Richelle Mead
6.) Agent 6 by Tom Rob Smith
7.) Nefertiti by Michelle Moran
8.) Mistress of the Monarchy by Alison Weir
9.) Ripper by Amy Carol Reeves
10.) The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance by Elna Baker
11.) Faithful Place by Tana French
12.) Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

How did January go for you?
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