Friday, August 31, 2012

August Wrapup

August was such a crazy month!  We moved and work was insanely busy and I did not read much at all.  I am hoping life starts to slow down a bit because I am exhausted!

I only read 7 books this month for a total of 85 for the year.  I am making really good progress on my challenges; I only have 5 more challenge books to read so I should be able to get to them this year.  I am planning to start Les Miserables next month and need to come up with a reading schedule for it so I don't get burned out on it.

I am hoping to be able to run another 1/2 marathon in October but am having a lot of pain in my right knee.  I am crossing my fingers it gets better and I can still run.  I also am super excited for it to be fall!  I can't wait for football, hoodies, Halloween and Thanksgiving!! 

Though I didn't read many books in August, I did enjoy all of them.  Here is what I read:

1.) To Tame a Highland Warrior by Karen Marie Moning
2.) The King's Daughter by Sandra Worth
3.) What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
4.) Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
5.) The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska Orzcy
6.) The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
7.) Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell

How many books did you read in August?  Was it a good reading month for you?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Review:: "The Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett

From Goodreads:   This book tells the tale of a twelfth-century monk driven to do the seemingly impossible: build the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has ever known.

Everything readers expect from Follett is here: intrigue, fast-paced action, and passionate romance. But what makes The Pillars of the Earth extraordinary is the time—the twelfth century; the place—feudal England; and the subject—the building of a glorious cathedral. Follett has re-created the crude, flamboyant England of the Middle Ages in every detail. The vast forests, the walled towns, the castles, and the monasteries become a familiar landscape. Against this richly imagined and intricately interwoven backdrop, filled with the ravages of war and the rhythms of daily life, the master storyteller draws the reader irresistibly into the intertwined lives of his characters—into their dreams, their labors, and their loves: Tom, the master builder; Aliena, the ravishingly beautiful noblewoman; Philip, the prior of Kingsbridge; Jack, the artist in stone; and Ellen, the woman of the forest who casts a terrifying curse. From humble stonemason to imperious monarch, each character is brought vividly to life.

The building of the cathedral, with the almost eerie artistry of the unschooled stonemasons, is the center of the drama. Around the site of the construction, Follett weaves a story of betrayal, revenge, and love, which begins with the public hanging of an innocent man and ends with the humiliation of a king.

My Thoughts:  I have been wanting to read this book for several years and I finally got to it!  The Pillars of the Earth is an incredibly intimidating book but once I started reading it, the story and characters sucked me in.  It actually read pretty quick for such a huge book!

The descriptions of the buidlings and the process of building the cathedral were extensive and very interesting.  At times it seemed a little long winded but for the most part I enjoyed reading about all of the work that went into building in 12th century.  The characters are all well-developed and Follett created one of the most awful villains I have ever read.  William Hamleigh will forever be on my list of super villains after reading this book.  He was such an evil character!   Most of the rest of the characters were likable and I definitely felt connected to Tom Builder and his family.  I liked that the story followed the family for so many years and I could watch his children grow up and flourish.

I don't know much about this period in history so I have no idea how historically accurate the story is.  That being said, it is still a wonderful work of historical fiction that I highly recommend. 4 stars.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Top Ten Bookish Confessions

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.
This week's topic:  Top Ten Bookish Confessions
I don't really have any confessions.  Most of the 'confessions' on my list are more like bookish idiosyncracies.
1.) I always return library books on time.-I know this doesn't sound like a confession but I am kind of crazy about making sure I turn them in on time.  I will go way out of my way to make sure that they aren't late.
2.) I don't like Sarah Dessen's books.-I'm sorry, I tried but I just don't get the appeal.  I always feel bad because so many bloggers love Dessen's books.
3.) I can't read more than one book at a time.-It stresses me out!
4.) I HATE dust jackets.-They look pretty on the shelf but I they really get on my nerves.  I have to take them off before I read a book.
5.) I do judge a book by its cover.-Sometimes I can't help it!
6.) There have been a few times where I have taken a long lunch just to finish a book.-Shh!  Don't tell my boss.
7.) Sometimes I would rather read a book than be around actual people.-Sad to say but so true.
8.) I don't like to dog ear pages but I'll do it in a pinch.-I try to find something to use as a book mark (sticky notes, receipts, etc) but sometimes I just have to dog ear a page.
9.) I judge peoples' reading preferences.-Usually I am just happy that people read no matter what genre they prefer.  However there have been times where I have seen people bad mouth a book I love and if they only read chick lit, for example, I tend to give them the side eye.

That's all I can think of right now.  What are some of your bookish confessions? 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (13)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly feature hosted by Tynga's Reviews.
This week I went a little crazy at the library.  I had some extra time and just wandered around waiting for something to catch my eye.  Life has been so crazy busy lately that I have no idea when I will get to all these but I am excited to read them.
(sorry for the picture quality)
From the Library:
Have you read any of these?  What books did you pick up this week?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Review: "The Scarlet Pimpernel" by Emmuska Orzcy

From Goodreads:  In the year 1792, Sir Percy and Lady Marguerite Blakeney are the darlings of British society—he is known as one of the wealthiest men in England and a dimwit;she is French, a stunning former actress, and �the cleverest woman in Europe”—and they find themselves at the center of a deadly political intrigue. The Reign of Terror controls France, and every day aristocrats in Paris fall victim to Madame la Guillotine. Only one man can rescue them—the Scarlet Pimpernel—a master of disguises who leaves a calling card bearing only a signature red flower. As the fascinating connection between the Blakeneys and this mysterious hero is revealed, they are forced to choose between love and loyalty in order to avoid the French agent Chauvelin, who relentlessly hunts the Scarlet Pimpernel.

My Thoughts:  This was a surprisingly good book.  I usually expect a 'classic' to be a little difficult to read but this wasn't the case at all.  The Scarlet Pimpernel was an quick, easy and fun read.  I had a pretty good idea from the beginning who the Scarlet Pimpernel was but it still was pretty intriguing.  I loved watching Marguerite and Percy fall back in love with each other and I also loved all the little twists in the story.  The Blakeneys were such a cute couple and you could just see how much they loved each other and how much they managed to hurt each other by pretending they didn't.  The character Chauvelin was such a good villain and so full of himself and it was fun to see the Scarlet Pimpernel outsmart him every time. 

One of the main themes of the story is the idea that people where masks in order to hide who they truly are.  I found that be a really interesting idea and I thought Orzcy blended it into the story really well.  Marguerite pretended to dislike her husband to hide the fact that she felt rejected by him, Percy always played the fool and the Scarlet Pimpernel had everyone tricked as to his actual identity.  I liked that the author took this theme beyond the fact that the Scarlet Pimpernel was hiding who he was and pulled in the other characters and their issues. 

If you are looking for a light, exciting classic, I would highly recommend this one.  3 1/2 stars.

I read this book as part of the Classics Bribe.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Review: "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn

From Goodreads:   On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?
As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

My Thoughts (This will be brief because I don't want to give ANY spoilers): All I can say is WTF? This was one of the craziest books I have ever read.  I have never read a book that made me want to keep reading like this one did despite the fact that I didn't love the story.  I honestly was bored for about the first hundred pages and was about ready to give up when things start to get crazy.  After that, there were just enough twists and turns to make me want to plow through despite hating the characters.  I thoroughly disliked both Nick and Amy; they were two of the most messed up characters I have ever come across.  When I finished this book, all I could think was that Gone Girl was one of the most completely effed up stories I have ever read.  I didn't hate this book; it was incredibly smart and well-written but it just kind of felt like I had my mind screwed with for several hundred pages.  If you are looking for something entirely unique and don't mind a lot of craziness, you should check this book out.  3 stars.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Top Ten Favorite Books You've Read During The Lifespan Of Your Blog

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

This week's topic: Top Ten Favorite Books You've Read During the Lifespan of Your Blog

Most of these are books that I gave a 5 star rating to.  Others are books that I absolutely loved but for some reason or another, they didn't quite earn a 5 star rating from me.

1.) East of Eden by John Steinbeck
2.) A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
3.) Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch
4.) You Know When the Men are Gone by Siobhan Fallon
5.) Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
6.) Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
7.) Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
8.) Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
9.) The Summer Garden by Paullina Simons
10) Dark Lover by J.R. Ward

What are some of your favorite books you've read since you started blogging?  Leave me a link so I can check out your lists!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Review: "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running" by Haruki Murakami

From Goodreads:  In 1982, having sold his jazz bar to devote himself to writing, Murakami began running to keep fit. A year later, he’d completed a solo course from Athens to Marathon, and now, after dozens of such races, not to mention triathlons and a dozen critically acclaimed books, he reflects upon the influence the sport has had on his life and—even more important—on his writing.

Equal parts training log, travelogue, and reminiscence, this revealing memoir covers his four-month preparation for the 2005 New York City Marathon and takes us to places ranging from Tokyo’s Jingu Gaien gardens, where he once shared the course with an Olympian, to the Charles River in Boston among young women who outpace him. Through this marvelous lens of sport emerges a panorama of memories and insights: the eureka moment when he decided to become a writer, his greatest triumphs and disappointments, his passion for vintage LPs, and the experience, after fifty, of seeing his race times improve and then fall back.

My Thoughts:  I have not read any of Murakami's books before but after reading this memoir, I will definitely be checking out his other works.  This book is basically a running journal but it also tells how Murakami became a writer.  There are several chapters that walk you through races he completed and how he felt at different points during the race.  I am nowhere near Murakami's level as a runner but I found his book to be inspirational.  It really made me want to get up off my butt and go for a run.  It even made me want to run a marathon which is craziness.  What I really enjoyed was that he talked a lot about how hard he works to be a long distance runner and how at times he has had bad races and not met his running goals.  It definitely made him more relatable and like an average guy instead of a world famous writer.  If you like running or have any interest in running, I highly recommend this book.  4 stars.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Top Ten Book Romances That You Think Would Make It In The Real World

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

This week's topic:  Top Ten Book Romances That You Think Would Make It In The Real World

1.) Rose and Dmitri from the Vampire Academy series-Despite how rash Rose can be, her and Dmitri seem to have a pretty loving and stable relationship.
2.) Tatiana and Alexander from The Bronze Horseman-Tatia and Shura survived everything that could be thrown at a couple, of course they can make it in the real world!
3.) Tris and Four from Divergent-After reading Insurgent, it was plain to see how much love and respect these two have for each other.  They could definitely survive in the real world.
4.) Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice-These two don't have the traditional storybook romance, they grew to love each other instead of falling head over heels.  It makes me think they have a chance in the real world.
5.) Anna and St. Clair from Anna and the French Kiss-Anna and St. Clair are just so cute as a couple and they seem to have a very realistic relationship.
6.) Sam and Grace from Shiver-I don't know why I think a relationship between two werewolves could make it but I just do.
7.) Jamie and Claire from Outlander-There relationship spanned two hundred years, how could it not make it in the real world?
8.) Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables-Gilbert and Anne seem to have one of the most 'normal' book romances which leads me to believe that they could make it in the real world.

I only have 8 this week.  Which book romances are on your list?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Review: "The King's Daughter" by Sandra Worth

From Goodreads:  Seventeen-year-old Elizabeth of York trusts that her beloved father's dying wish has left England in the hands of a just and deserving ruler. But upon the rise of Richard of Gloucester, Elizabeth's family experiences one devastation after another: her late father is exposed as a bigamist, she and her siblings are branded bastards, and her brothers are taken into the new king's custody, then reportedly killed.

But one fateful night leads Elizabeth to question her prejudices. Through the eyes of Richard's ailing queen she sees a man worthy of respect and undying adoration. His dedication to his people inspires a forbidden love and ultimately gives her the courage to accept her destiny, marry Henry Tudor, and become Queen. While her soul may secretly belong to another, her heart belongs to England.

My Thoughts:  I like that The King's Daughter is a Tudor era novel without having the usual played out story and characters.  This book focuses on Elizabeth of York who married the first Tudor king, Henry VII.  It follows her life as child all the way through to her death.  We get to see her life while her father was king, while Richard III was king and while she was queen and married to Henry VII.  Sandra Worth made Elizabeth into an incredibly strong, loving character who gave up all personal happiness in the hopes that she could bring peace to England.  Elizabeth's character is extremely admirable and I was very sympathetic to her.  This was one of those books where I knew how the overall story ended, but I was still completely enthralled by the story itself as well as the character's lives and feelings.

I did find Worth's portrayal of some characters to be really interesting.  Elizabeth's of York's mother, Elizabeth Woodville, is portrayed as this horrible, greedy, power mad woman while Richard III was portrayed in a much more sympathetic light.  I don't know how these people really were but I always find it interesting to see how authors portray controversial characters.  I also was fascinated with how the 'Princes in the Tower' were included in the story; it was a good addition to the story to show how Elizabeth had loyalties to both her brothers and her son and how she dealt with those conflicting loyalites.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  It was nice to read about a completely new and different character and her life.  Sandra Worth created a compelling story that made me want to keep reading.  4 stars.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (12)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

I can't believe it's Sunday already!  Time is flying right now.  I picked up a couple books from the library this week and bought a couple as well.  My orthodontist (yes, I am an adult who has to go to the orthodontist) gives out tokens for every visit and after so many tokens, you can get a Hastings gift card and I finally got one after my last visit. I guess it's supposed to be a treat after all the suckiness of having braces.

Here is what I picked up this week:


From the Library:
Have you read any of these?  What books did you get this week?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Review: "The Last Queen" by C.W. Gortner

From Goodreads:  Juana of Castile, the last queen of Spanish blood to inherit her country’s throne, has been for centuries an enigmatic figure shrouded in lurid myth. Was she the bereft widow of legend who was driven mad by her loss, or has history misjudged a woman who was ahead of her time? In his stunning new novel, C. W. Gortner challenges the myths about Queen Juana, unraveling the mystery surrounding her to reveal a brave, determined woman we can only now begin to fully understand.

The third child of Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand of Spain, Juana is born amid her parents’ ruthless struggle to unify their kingdom, bearing witness to the fall of Granada and Columbus’s discoveries. At the age of sixteen, she is sent to wed Philip, the archduke of Flanders, as part of her parents’ strategy to strengthen Spain, just as her youngest sister, Catherine of Aragon, is sent to England to become the first wife of Henry VIII.

Juana finds unexpected love and passion with her handsome young husband, the sole heir to the Habsburg Empire. At first she is content with her children and her life in Flanders. But when tragedy strikes and she inherits the Spanish throne, Juana finds herself plunged into a battle for power against her husband that grows to involve the major monarchs of Europe. Besieged by foes on all sides, her intelligence and pride used as weapons against her, Juana vows to secure her crown and save Spain from ruin, even if it could cost her everything.

 My Thoughts:  I have to say this is probably my most favorite of C.W. Gortner's books.  Juana of Castile is such an interesting historical figure and this book really brings her to life.  Gortner portrays Juana not as someone suffering from mental illness but as a woman with strong convictions who was manipulated and used by the men in her life.  She wasn't someone who would easily sit back and let people walk all over her and her husband tried to use that against her and claim she was crazy.  There was one scene where Juana attacked her husband's mistress who had stolen her clothes and jewelry and I know that back then, that was not acceptable but by today's standards, it wouldn't be unheard of.  We'll probably never know if Juana really was suffering from a mental illness or if she just didn't follow the status quo.  Either way, her story is very sad.

I think the story also tries to make a point about the status of women during that era.  The story looks at Juana and briefly at her sister, Catherine of Aragon, and shows how powerless women could be and how easily they could become pawns of the men in their lives.  It really makes think that it would have been very easy for Juana's father, husband and son made up the story about her being insane in order to capitalize on her position as heir to the throne of Castile.  Honestly, I thought her husband and father seemed like insecure jerks who couldn't deal with the fact that a woman had more power than they did.

Overall, this is an excellent book.  I highly recommend it for historical fiction lovers looking for a compelling story about a lesser known historical figure.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (11)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

Oh my, this week has been insane.  We moved on Tuesday and it has been a huge ordeal.  It is going to take a lot of time to get situated and comfortable again.  I didn't get any reading done after about Monday so I am going to have to catch up on that while trying to get the new place in order.

I did get one book this week.  I actually broke my book buying ban and purchased an ebook (after moving 5 huge boxes of books, I am struggling with the idea of buying physical books right now).

Purchased ebook:

(I have heard good things about this book AND it was under $6.  You can't beat that!)

What books did you pick up this week?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Review: "The Second Empress" by Michelle Moran

From Goodreads:  After the bloody French Revolution, Emperor Napoleon’s power is absolute. When Marie-Louise, the eighteen year old daughter of the King of Austria, is told that the Emperor has demanded her hand in marriage, her father presents her with a terrible choice: marry the cruel, capricious Napoleon, leaving the man she loves and her home forever, or say no, and plunge her country into war.

Marie-Louise knows what she must do, and she travels to France, determined to be a good wife despite Napoleon’s reputation. But lavish parties greet her in Paris, and at the extravagant French court, she finds many rivals for her husband’s affection, including Napoleon’s first wife, Jos├ęphine, and his sister Pauline, the only woman as ambitious as the emperor himself. Beloved by some and infamous to many, Pauline is fiercely loyal to her brother. She is also convinced that Napoleon is destined to become the modern Pharaoh of Egypt. Indeed, her greatest hope is to rule alongside him as his queen—a brother-sister marriage just as the ancient Egyptian royals practiced. Determined to see this dream come to pass, Pauline embarks on a campaign to undermine the new empress and convince Napoleon to divorce Marie-Louise.

As Pauline's insightful Haitian servant, Paul, watches these two women clash, he is torn between his love for Pauline and his sympathy for Marie-Louise. But there are greater concerns than Pauline's jealousy plaguing the court of France. While Napoleon becomes increasingly desperate for an heir, the empire's peace looks increasingly unstable. When war once again sweeps the continent and bloodshed threatens Marie-Louise’s family in Austria, the second Empress is forced to make choices that will determine her place in history—and change the course of her life.

My Thoughts:  I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  Michelle Moran did it again!  I really like her Egypt books and The Second Empress is just as good.  It was an incredibly well-written and very engaging story.  I loved that she picked a lesser known historical figure to showcase in this book.  Despite the fact that Marie-Louise was married to Napoleon, I know very little about her which made this book a great read.  I didn't even know that Marie-Louise was Marie Antoinette's niece which, considering some of their similarities, was pretty interesting.  I also liked that the reader to gets to watch the story unfold from the perspective of several different characters as well as through the letters between Napoleon and Josephine.

The characters were very well-developed in this book though some were a little strange.  Napoleon seemed like such an odd person and his sister, Pauline, was slightly crazy (okay, more than slightly).  There was definitely some creepy incestuous inuendos made about those two in this book which made them both seem a little crazier. Marie-Louise was a great character; she was tough, smart and kind.  She was perfectly capable of ruling France while Napoleon was off trying to take over the world.  I was very sympathetic to Marie-Louise's position, she was forced to marry someone who she didn't even like and who had dishonored her family, but I really felt bad for Paul, Pauline's servant.  Paul was not your average servant, he was educated and was pretty close to both Napoleon and his sister.  He loved Pauline despite the fact that she was not right in the head and he truly believed that he could go back to Haiti and make a difference there.  Throughout the book all he wants is to go back and help rebuild his country.  It made him a very admirable character.

The story follows Marie-Louise from the beginning of her marriage to Napoleon to the end and showed the reader the world of Napoleon's France.  I haven't seen many works of historical fiction set during this time so I loved the uniqueness of it.  Whether you are a fan of Michelle Moran or just historical fiction in general, I highly recommend this book.  4 stars. 

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