2008 Review!

This has been a rough year for me and for awhile I wasn't reading much at all because I had no energy to do so. Now that I'm looking back, I'm surprised to see how much I have accomplished. It makes me feel better to know that I managed to get somewhere in most of my challenges and that I found several new favorite books! I'm looking forward to 2009 and hoping that I will read more than I did this past year and find some great books.

Challenges I participated in:
My Year of Reading Dangerously (finished 8 of 12)
2008 TBR Challenge (finished 8 of 12)
Chunkster Challenge (finished 3 of 4)
The Eponymous Challenge (finished 4 of 4)
Classics Challenge (finished 1 of 5)
My favorites (in the order I read them):The Bonesetter's Daughter by: Amy Tan
The Book Thief by: Markus Zusak
The Glass Castle by: Jeannette Walls
The Host by: Stephenie Meyer
Stardust by: Neil Gaiman
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by: Susanna Clarke
Rebecca by: Daphne du Maurier
# of books I read in 2008:48 (down from 81 in 2007!)

Least favorite:The Human Stain by: Philip Roth
Repeated authors:Stephenie Meyer (3)
Ted Dekker (2)
Gail Carson Levine (2)
Colleen Gleason (2)
Maria V. Snyder (3)
Neil Gaiman (2)
I hope you all have a very happy New Year! Let me know what you think about my list and what challenges you are participating in. I'm still signing up for some and working on my lists so I'm very interested to see what everyone else is doing!

The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath
by: John Steinbeck

Challenges: My Year of Reading Dangerously, Classics Challenge

# of pages: 455

Published: 1939

I'm so glad I was able to finish this before the new year! This is a book I've wanted to read for a long time, but never got around too. It's going to be the last book of 2008 that I finished. And it was worth reading!

This novel by Steinbeck is so famous that most people already know what it's about. The story takes place during the Depression and follows a family from Oklahoma - the Joads. The entire family leaves their home and moves to California to enjoy what they imagine will be prosperity and comfort. Grampa talks about eating grapes when he gets there. It's all he wants to do and the whole family takes that as an image of the future, what they have to look forward to in California. The family slowly starts to figure out that their dreams aren't going to come true and that the California they imagined is just a myth.

In between the chapters about the Joad family, Steinbeck entwines his own narrative about the Depression and life in general during those times. He discusses the corruption of the rich and the generousness of the poor. He gives the reader facts about the Depression and scenarios of how the people made their way through buying a car to take them out west, their journey to California, their arrival, and the ways of their nomadic camp life.

Much of these things I learned in my 1930s American History class I took in college, but I enjoyed the review because of how great that class was. We didn't read this book in class although we discussed many of the things like the burning of perfectly good crops by the government, the Weedpatch camp, the handbills that were passed out all over the Midwest advertising work in California, etc. In our class we read Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, another great way to learn more about life during the Depression.

Although there were times when I wished Steinbeck had left his chapters about general life and his own opinions out so that the story would move faster, I was still interested and wanted to keep reading to find out what happened next with the Joads. I liked all of the characters (except Casy). I did think that Steinbeck was occassionally harsh. Although I agree that the insanely rich should have shared land and food with the poor, I can't say I blame many of the middle class Californians for feeling threatened and not wanting to help out much. It's easy to look back and say, "People should have helped the immigrants out more and not whined about getting pay cuts so that others wouldn't starve," but I know that most of us would do that in the same situation.

I already hear people complaining about outsourcing and immigrants taking "our jobs." In the 30s, America was a big place and there wasn't much connection between the people of each region. I think that now the world isn't all that big of a place, we should all help each other out and understand that helping out the people of the world will eventually benefit us all. The Grapes of Wrath is a timeless novel and Steinbeck's ideas of men and women helping each other out, sticking together, and standing against corruption will never go out of date. Generosity and kindness in the midst of pain and suffering are always inspirational and I think that even in 100 years, people will still read and relate to this novel.

2009 Young Adult Book Challenge

Guidelines for 2009 Young Adult Book Challenge
1. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate.
2. Read 12 Young Adult novels. No need to list your books in advance. You may select books as you go. Even if you list them now, you can change the list if needed.
3. Challenge begins January thru December, 2009.
4. You can join anytime between now and December 31, 2009.

I'm going to go ahead and list all of the books now. I may end up changing a few as I go along, but I like to have a set goal in mind to start off with!

1. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by: John Boyne
2. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by: Ann Brashares
3. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by: E. Lockhart
4. The Truth-Teller's Tale by: Sharon Shinn (this was on my 2008 TBR Challenge List, but I never got around to it!)
5. Enna Burning by: Shannon Hale
6. Princess Academy by: Shannon Hale
7. The Golden Compass by: Philip Pullman (I read this whole series when I was in jr. high, but now I want to read them again since they have become so popular)
8. The Subtle Knife by: Philip Pullman
9. The Amber Spyglass by: Philip Pullman
10. Sabriel by: Garth Nix (I'm borrowing this series from my SIL)
11. Lirael by: Garth Nix
12. Abhorsen by: Garth Nix

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by: Neil Gaiman

Challenge: The Eponymous Challenge

Published: 2002

# of pages: 162

Quote: "On the first day Coraline's family moved in, Miss Spink and Miss Forcible made a point of telling Coraline how dangerous the well was, and they warned her to be sure she kept away from it. So Coraline set off to explore for it, so that she knew where it was, to keep away from it properly." -p. 5

This is the second Gaiman book I've read so far and I wasn't disappointed this time around either! I read Stardust back in June and loved it (and the movie!). I enjoyed this book in a different way. It's a children's book, but I thought it was a little dark and scary for kids. I actually found myself anxious and creeped out in some parts. I suppose I would have loved to read this in 4th-5th grade when I went through my ghost story phase, but I'm glad I didn't read it as a younger child because it would have scared me too much!

Coraline is a fun and adventurous little girl. As you can tell by my quote from page 5, I immediately related to her and was hopelessly entangled in the story right away. Reading the book made me remember when I was a kid exploring the woods around our neighborhood with my brother. As a matter of fact, once a neighbor warned us that there was a deep gully behind his house so not to go back there because we might fall in and hurt ourselves. As soon as he went back in his house we rushed back to that part of the woods to find the gully we had never seen before and probably never would have discovered if not for his "warning." I was definitely an explorer as a kid so Coraline's entire experience was not only interesting as far as stories go, it was also interesting because of how it reminded me of my childhood.

The illustrations encouraged the creepy vibe of the book. They even scare me a little! As Coraline explores her new home and finds the door that ends up leading her to an alternate reality and her "other parents" and "other flat," the pictures follow her adventure and get creepier and creepier as her surroundings become more sinister.

I liked Coraline's character and loved the cat she meets! Although the story is dark and too scary for children under 10 years old (in my opinion), it is entertaining and can transport children, young adults, and adults into an adventure. So save this book for a rainy day and when your kid complains of being bored, let him/her read about Coraline's rainy day adventure.

I was just reminded that this book is going to be a movie! I believe it's animated and you can go to the website under the picture to make your own button eyed picture.

Possession *UPDATED

by: A.S. Byatt

Published: 1990

# of pages: 555

Sooooo slow. I know I'm probably going to have a lot of people disagree with me on this, but this book was not good. I almost put it down several times. The only reason I didn't was because I thought it would get better and by the time I realized it wasn't better I had invested too much time and didn't want to waste it. The whole book could have been at least 150 pages shorter. I enjoyed the overall plot and would love to see it rewritten in a more readable manner.

I understand that Byatt did an amazing job with her research and creativity. The novel is very well written. I can't criticize her writing style and although it was wordy, I could keep up. I understood the literary and psychology references, so it wasn't like I was completely lost. However, I still think the book is too well written...it's superficial. As if Byatt was showing off her intelligence by including unnecessary references, words, and ideas. I don't understand who could truly enjoy the long letters and poems that are ingrained throughout the story, but maybe someone who is more learned and distinguished would. I appreciate these elements in novels, but I prefer them to be natural and a little more subtle.

The letters by the fictional Victorian poet, Randolph Henry Ash, were the worst. He is so boring and pompous sounding! Plus -- I couldn't stand -- the "--" every other -- word! I skipped most of his letters. His love interest, the poet Christabel, was better. I enjoyed her letters more because they seemed like real letters that someone would write and someone else would enjoy reading. Her poetry was also better, but towards the end I skipped hers too so that I could make my way to the end a little quicker. The letters I did read (all of the ones in the first half of the book and a few in the second) were pointless. They did nothing to further the plot and even less to further the sense of romance between the poets.

I enjoyed the mystery between Ash and Christabel. I could understand why Roland and Maud wanted to find out about their lives so badly. I liked the contemporary romance that was portrayed and only wish that the book had spent a little less time on made up poems (sorry Byatt, if I'm going to read poetry, I'd rather read the authentic Victorian stuff) and more on their conversations and interactions. I also liked reading Sabine's and Ellen's journals. They were realistic and interesting. They had intelligent thoughts, but didn't sound stuck up and full of it.

A fellow book blogger pointed out the fairy tales that are told in the book! I completely forgot about this aspect of the book in my original review. I have to admit to enjoying the fairy tales that are in the book. Christabel is especially interested in fairy tales and her poetry reflects this. Fairy tales are randomly placed throughout the book (I only wish there were more!) and Christabel tells or discusses fairy tales. In one section Sabine retells one in her journal. They weren't tales I was familiar with which I'm very glad about. I love hearing new fairy tales. Was this book worth reading just to hear these tales? I still don't know.

I've also changed my conclusion to be a little less harsh. I find it hard to believe that so many people LOVE this book, but I suppose that most people take the time to review and rate books that they enjoy while the people who put a book down after reading half may not take the time to go and do that. So I didn't mean to be offensive, but I still stand by my comments that surely I'm not alone in disliking the book overall. And I still wonder if some people pretend to like it just because it's intellectual. So, I recommend this book if you have a lot of time on your hands and can get through/enjoy all of the academic references and poetry!

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Love it

I loved THIS and can't help posting it although you may have already seen it on another book blog. I found it on Kim's blog.

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The Eyes of the Dragon

The Eyes of the Dragon
by: Stephen King

Published: 1987

# of pages: 380

This is the second book I've read by King. The first is Cell. However, I hear this isn't his typical writing style. The Eyes of the Dragon is a fantasy, fairytale-like book. I really enjoyed it! It has a storybook narrative and even though it features the classic good vs. evil dilemma in an obvious way, it is still unique.

The story revolves around Peter, the oldest son of King Roland and his wife, Sasha. Peter is the perfect son and the perfect prince. He's responsible, studious but outgoing, accomplished, but most of all - polite. Peter's younger brother, Thomas, was born 5 years after Peter. Sasha dies giving birth so Thomas wasn't able to get to know his mother. The two boys grow up and the difference between the two is notable. Thomas is jealous of Peter for receiving more of their father's attention. He's alone and miserable. So when Peter is unjustly accused of a terrible crime that Thomas knows he didn't commit, Thomas just stands silently by. Now he's in line to be king and receive all of the attention he's never had before.

The character of Peter is perfect. Sometimes I find perfect characters annoying, but Peter was still human and just because he's such a good person doesn't mean that good things always happen to him. Plus, the story doesn't concentrate solely on him.

Then there's the evil character of Flagg, the king's magician. He's the exact opposite of Peter. I also find purely evil characters annoying sometimes, but like the perfect character of Peter, the evil character of Flagg fits with the novel. Even though they are sterotypical storybook characters, the book was still interesting for me and it wasn't annoying at all.

I found it interesting that all of the main characters are men. There are only a few women mentioned in the book. The only woman who plays a real role, Naomi, is more masculine. Sasha is mentioned some at first, but the narrator doesn't go into many details and we don't hear much of her dialogue except one of her conversations with Peter. Throughout the country's history all of these men are in charge. But women are the ones who really save it from the evil that Flagg tries to spread over hundreds of years. A back story mentions the queen Kyla the Good, who saves the country 400 years before Peter and Thomas are born. And although the male characters are trying to save the country in the present time of the story, Sasha works through Peter, otherwise he wouldn't have been able to resist Flagg. It's also interesting that King wrote this book for his daughter. At least that's what I heard and he does dedicate the book to her. Her name is Naomi, so he names the major woman character after her. I think it's great that he shows women as such strong characters that have huge influences, but it does make me curious about his decision not to feature them more prominently.

My copy of this novel had beautiful illustrations! I loved them! They weren't in color, but I wonder if some editions are in color. Now I want to go to the bookstore and see if I can find a copy with colored pictures.

I recommend this book to lovers of fantasy, fairytales, Stephen King, and people who just like a good book. I think it's appropriate for young adults and adults. It could possibly be read out loud to kids with perhaps a few sentences here and there left out depending on your preferences.

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The Good Thief

The Good Thief
by: Hannah Tinti

Published: 2008

# of pages: 327

Quote: "'I think we should all say a prayer for William,' he said.
'He doesn't need one,' said Ichy.
'We all need prayers,' said Brother Joseph. 'Especially when something good happens to us.' He sighed. 'Bad luck follows anything that's good. And bad things always happen in threes.'
The boys contemplated this as they continued with their work. And more than a few were secretly glad." -pg. 12

The Good Thief reminded me of a tall tale. Like Big Fish by Daniel Wallace. The story is full of adventure. Thieves, orphans, traveling, a little dwarf with a big attitude, a gentle giant (well, I'm not so sure how gentle he was to people other than the main character), an evil factory owner, a dashing thief and con artist who tells magnificent tales, men "rising from the dead," and lots of graveyards.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was well written and once I started I couldn't put it down. I read it in about 24 hours because instead of helping my husband in the yard I spent the day inside (wrapped in blankets laying on the couch) reading this book.

It's about a 12 year old boy named Ren who has spent his entire life in an orphanage. One day he is picked for adoption out of all the boys by a man who claims to be his brother. It isn't long before Ren discovers that Benjamin Nab isn't his brother although the two are similar in many ways. How can you not love Ren? He's a great kid and everyone he meets likes him, which makes him valuable to Benjamin and his friend Tom, who are thieves. Ren gives them some credibility, people trust him and therefore begin to trust his caretakers...who are robbing them.

The trio meets many interesting people on their journey to making money by stealing, conning, and robbing graves. All of these people are fascinating and it was interesting that they all had something "wrong" with them. But they all fit right in with Ren, who is missing his hand. I loved all of the characters and how they struggle through life.

Benjamin, Tom, and Ren fight evil in a town ruled by a tyrant factory owner. Mysteries are solved and everything turns out (almost) okay. The story is somewhat dark with all of the descriptions of grave robbing, amputations, suicides, orphans, and people being mistreated by those with more power. If you read this book you have to understand that it does have that tall tale feeling. Don't expect it to be really realistic.

I am giving this 4 stars here, but I really give it 4 and a half. It doesn't get a 5 because it didn't really draw me into the story. Stories that center around young children usually don't (it's missing the romance). This almost seems like a book that would be good for children, but it is a little too graphic with the dark descriptions and the minor sexual subjects. I do recommend it to young adults and adults, especially if you enjoy historical fiction and tales that are similar to Daniel Wallace's novel and Charles Dickens' novels (the orphans, thieves, factory girls, urban environment, etc reminded me of him as well).

I would love to hear what you thought of this book!

The Human Stain

The Human Stain
by: Philip Roth

Challenges: My Year of Reading Dangerously

Published: 2000

# of pages: 361

What a deep book. Honestly, I didn't really like it much. The language was crude and so was the subject matter. Sure, it gives the reader an unedited glimpse of human nature. And I appreciated that there's at least one person out there addressing how out of control the concept of being "politically correct" has become.

The Human Stain uses the character of Coleman Silk, the former dean at a small town college and professor of ancient literature, as an example of what mob mentality can do to an individual person. And an example of what happens to someone who loses everything for a reason that is unexplainable. One word changes Silk's life forever and the injustice is hard to read about. The reader wants to step into the book and yell at these people, "How can you do this to someone!? How can you sacrifice a good man who has accomplished so much and helped each of you out?"

I don't enjoy reading about war and depression and sexual misconduct and death and deceit. It's bad enough reading the news everyday. The subjects in the book made it hard to pick it up and read about them happening to fictional characters. I think there are things to be learned from this book, but a lot of it we already know about. Unfortunately, most people already know about the stains humans leave behind.

There is a plot twist to the book. I liked the part that told of Coleman's childhood. I was also interested in the memories of Les Farley, the Vietnam veteran who struggles with post traumatic stress disorder. It's one thing to read about that in history books, but another to get into the mind of a character who experienced all of that and returned home to find everything changed with no understanding or support available.

Anyway, I recommend this book to fans of Roth and people who enjoy intellectual books that explore the minds and thoughts of all different types of people, from war vets to college deans. Like I've mentioned several times, it has a lot of bad language and sexual descriptions so avoid it if that bothers you.

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Twilight Movie

If you've seen the movie, what did you think?

I thought it was good, but not great. In that aspect it was very disappointing. They could have made it like Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. Awesome cinematography and special effects. Great casting and acting. Cool and inspiring music. It could have been a film that made people who hadn't already read the books go buy them to read and discover even more of the story. But Twilight was an average movie. I can't imagine anyone who hadn't read the books enjoying it enough to read the books or even see the next movie (if there is going to be a next movie).

However, the movie was better than I expected. I had heard horrible reviews about the acting/makeup/special effects and was scared, but the only acting I thought was forced and bad was the actor who played Edward. And yes, that's one of the main characters! Edward should be smooth and eloquent when he speaks, not forced and choppy. I think that book Edward might sound like movie Edward every once in awhile when he's really trying to control himself around Bella, but he doesn't sound like that all the time! Movie Edward reminded me of Anakin Skywalker in the new Star Wars movies (ugg). Completely fake and forced. Very disappointing.

The movie didn't spend enough time on the love between Edward and Bella. You don't really get why they like each other. Edward wasn't protective enough. He lets Bella climb around in trees hundreds of feet in the air. No way book Edward would let Bella do that! He knows how clumsy she is.

I also hated the way they had the vampires fly. Vampires can jump really far because they have more strength than humans. But they still follow the laws of gravity. I never imagined them flying like they do in martial arts movies. But that's how it looks in the movie.

Okay, so there were so many little things that bothered me. I don't understand why the movie was like that when it had the potential to be so much better.

Things I did like about the movie: Jacob. Alice. Rosalie. Emmett. Charlie & Billy. Bella. They were a lot like how I imagined them to be from reading the books. And I liked the baseball scene in the movie. And the part where the apple falls and Edward kicks it up and catches it. I also liked that there were several humorous parts. They weren't super obvious or stupid, but just enough to make you laugh or smile. And I liked Bella's clumsy moments in the movie. The movie stayed really close to the book. Of course there were some changes, but so much was taken directly from the book.

So there you have it! I'd watch the movie again, but it isn't one of my favorites and I definitely won't pay to see it in theatres again. And I love the book, so if I ever want a Twilight fix fast I can just go rent the movie.

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Top Selling Books

USA Today's Top Selling Books of the last 15 years Meme!

I got this from Maggie's blog
Here are the rules: Bold what you've read, italicize what you own, star* books on your TBR list!

1 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - J.K. Rowling
2 Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution - Robert C. Atkins
3 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
4 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J.K. Rowling
5 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - J.K. Rowling
6 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J.K. Rowling
7 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - J.K. Rowling
8 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J.K. Rowling
9 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - J.K. Rowling
10 Who Moved My Cheese? - Spencer Johnson
11 The South Beach Diet - Arthur Agatston
12 Tuesdays With Morrie - Mitch Albom
13 Angels & Demons - Dan Brown
14 *What to Expect When You're Expecting - Murkoff, etal.
15 The Purpose-Driven Life - Rick Warren
16 The Five People You Meet in Heaven - Mitch Albom
17 The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Stephen R. Covey
18 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
19 Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus - John Gray
20 The Secret - Rhonda Byrne
21 Rich Dad, Poor Dad - Robert T. Kiyosaki
22 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
23 Don't Sweat the Small Stuff - and It's All Small Stuff - Richard Carlson
24 *The Secret Life of Bees - Sue Monk Kidd
25 Eat, Pray, Love - Elizabeth Gilbert
26 Twilight - Stephenie Meyer
27 The Notebook - Nicholas Sparks
28 *The Memory Keeper's Daughter - Kim Edwards
29 The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
30 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
31 A New Earth - Eckhart Tolle
32 Oh, the Places You'll Go! - Dr. Seuss
33 The Four Agreements - Don Miguel Ruiz
34 Angela's Ashes - Frank McCourt
35 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
36 Body-for-Life - Bill Phillips, Michael D’Orso
37 New Moon - Stephenie Meyer
38 Night - Elie Wiesel
39 Chicken Soup for the Soul - Jack Canfield, etal.
40 The Greatest Generation - Tom Brokaw
41 Breaking Dawn - Stephenie Meyer
42 The Celestine Prophecy - James Redfield
43 Wicked - Gregory Maguire
44 Good to Great - Jim Collins
45 Eclipse - Stephenie Meyer
46 Eragon - Christopher Paolini
47 Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood - Rebecca Wells
48 Your Best Life Now - Joel Osteen
49 In the Kitchen With Rosie - Rosie Daley
50 Simple Abundance - Sarah Ban Breathnach
51 A Child Called It - Dave Pelzer
52 A Million Little Pieces - James Frey
53 The Testament - John Grisham
54 Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul - Jack Canfield, etal.
55 Deception Point - Dan Brown
56 The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho
57 Marley & Me - John Grogan
58 Dr. Atkins' New Carbohydrate Gram Counter - Robert C. Atkins
59 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
60 The Brethren - John Grisham
61 The South Beach Diet Good Fats Good Carbs Guide - Arthur Agatston
62 The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town - John Grisham
63 For One More Day - Mitch Albom
64 The Polar Express - Chris Van Allsburg
65 *The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
66 The Last Lecture - Randy Pausch, Jeffrey Zaslow
67 What to Expect the First Year - Arlene Eisenberg, etal.
68 Love You Forever - Robert Munsch
69 Green Eggs and Ham - Dr. Seuss
70 A Painted House - John Grisham
71 The Rainmaker - John Grisham
72 Skipping Christmas - John Grisham
73 Cold Mountain - Charles Frazier
74 The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-Time - Mark Haddon
75 Life Strategies - Phillip C. McGraw
76 Seabiscuit: An American Legend - Laura Hillenbrand
77 The Summons - John Grisham
78 Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil - John Berendt
79 The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien
80 The Runaway Jury - John Grisham
81 Goodnight Moon - Margaret Wise Brown
82 The Perfect Storm - Sebastian Junger
83 Snow Falling on Cedars - David Guterson
84 The Giver - Lois Lowry
85 Embraced by the Light - Betty J. Eadie
86 *The Chamber - John Grisham
87 You: On A Diet - Michael F. Roizen, Mehmet C. Oz
88 The Prayer of Jabez - Bruce Wilkinson
89 Holes - Louis Sachar
90 Digital Fortress - Dan Brown
91 The Shack - William P. Young
92 The Devil Wears Prada - Lauren Weisberger
93 Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen
94 A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini
95 The Seat of the Soul - Gary Zukav
96 Chicken Soup for the Woman's Soul - Jack Canfield, etal.
97 The Partner - John Grisham
98 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
99 Eldest: Inheritance, Book II - Christopher Paolini
100 The Broker - John Grisham
101 The Street Lawyer - John Grisham
102 A Series of Unfortunate Events - Lemony Snicket
103 *The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver
104 Into the Wild - Jon Krakauer
105 *The King of Torts - John Grisham
106 The Tipping Point - Malcolm Gladwell
107 The Horse Whisperer - Nicholas Evans
108 Hannibal - Thomas Harris
109 The Audacity of Hope - Barack Obama
110 Running With Scissors - Augusten Burroughs
111 The Glass Castle: A Memoir - Jeannette Walls
112 My Sister's Keeper - Jodi Picoult
113 The Last Juror - John Grisham
114 The Devil in the White City - Erik Larson
115 Left Behind - Tim LaHaye, Jerry B. Jenkins
116 America (The Book) - Jon Stewart
117 The Red Tent - Anita Diamant
118 John Adams - David McCullough
119 The Christmas Box - Richard Paul Evans
120 The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants - Ann Brashares
121 Sugar Busters! - Leighton Steward, etal.
122 Blink - Malcolm Gladwell
123 The Power of Now - Eckhart Tolle
124 90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death and Life - Don Piper
125 The Fellowship of the Ring - J.R.R. Tolkien
126 1776 - David McCullough
127 The Bridges of Madison County - Robert James Waller
128 Where the Heart Is - Billie Letts
129 The Ultimate Weight Solution - Phillip C. McGraw
130 Protein Power - Mr. & Mra. Michael R. Eades
131 Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul - Jack Canfield, etal.
132 Into Thin Air - Jon Krakauer
133 Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides
134 Three Cups of Tea - Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin
135 You: The Owner's Manual - Michael F. Roizen, Mehmet C. Oz
136 1,000 Places to See Before You Die: A Traveler’s Life List - Patricia Schultz
137 Self Matters - Phillip C. McGraw
138 She's Come Undone - Wally Lamb
139 1984 - George Orwell
140 The Chronicles of Narnia - C.S. Lewis
141 The Millionaire Next Door - Thomas J. Stanley
142 The Other Boleyn Girl - Philippa Gregory
143 The Zone - Barry Sears, Bill Lawren
144 The Pilot's Wife - Anita Shreve
145 The Lost World - Michael Crichton
146 Atonement - Ian McEwan
147 He's Just Not That Into You - Greg Behrendt, Liz Tuccillo
148 Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
149 The World Is Flat - Thomas L. Friedman
150 Cross - James Patterson

To sum it up: I've read 39 of these and I have 7 on my TBR list.

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Dragon's Lair

Dragon's Lair
by: Sharon Kay Penman

Challenges: TBR

Published: 2003

# of pages: 317

I wasn't really impressed with this one. I read The Queen's Man by Penman several years ago and remember enjoying that. I think that if I had read Dragon's Lair just after the first book I would enjoy it more. Apparently Penman also wrote another medieval mystery in between these two. I'm not sure if it's a part of the series, but I think so. If I had read them all together in order I think I may have been more interested in this novel.

It is a historical fiction/medieval mystery. The story is about Justin, the Queen Eleanor's man. He works directly for her spying and solving mysteries. Eleanor supports her son Richard while John is constantly trying to undermine both of them to get the throne. Justin is caught up in the middle.

The character Justin is a hard one to understand. He's sweet and sympathetic and protects women, but at the same time he sleeps around and doesn't learn his lesson after getting one woman pregnant and ruining her life. I suppose that's how a man would act in those times, but it was frustrating that he seems to be so much better than the average man during that time, but at the same time he isn't. So I didn't know what to think about him or even if I liked him or not. I didn't connect to him or really care what happened to him, which made it harder to enjoy the book.

However, I think historical fiction novels are great ways to learn history lessons. Penman stays close to actual historical events and writes about any changes she made in an author's note at the back of the book. I love it when authors do this because sometimes I will read a historical fiction novel and wonder how much of it is true. At the end of this book I found myself interested in her character of Llewelyn, who is an actual historical figure, a prince of Wales. She said she wrote more about him in her novel Here Be Dragons, so I think I may check that one out to read more about him and his life.

Anyway, the writing is good, but not great, just like the storyline. I recommend this to adults who enjoy historical fiction or the medieval time period. There were some adult situations which is why I don't recommend it to young adults.

Movies based off books

I watched "Rebecca" and it was great! I definitely recommend watching it, even if you haven't read the book. It was a great representation of the story and while there were changes made to fit it into the 2 hour movie, they didn't disrupt the story at all. The only changes I was disappointed in were the details of Rebecca's death. The movie version made it less creepy and less romantic. In the book the main character loves Maxim through all of the horrors at Manderley. It wasn't as difficult for her to love him in the movie. Also, the movie has the main character starting to stick up for herself before she does in the book. Sure, it was great to see her sticking up for herself and I thought she should have sooner in the book, but it made Rebecca's presense in the movie more mellow. However, it was overall a great movie and I was actually surprised at how close the dialogue and scenes were to the book.

Here's a list of movies coming out this season that are based on books (I copied it from Jessica).

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist
City of Ember
The Secret Life of Bees
The Time Traveler’s Wife
Quantum of Solace
The Road
The Tale of Despereaux
The Day the Earth Stood Still
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marley & Me
Revolutionary Road

I've read Ember, Twilight, and The Time Traveler's Wife. The Secret Life of Bees and Coraline have been on my TBR list since January. They are both listed under my challenges too. I picked a horrible time to read TSLOB because now I'm #100 in the reserve list at my library. I had no clue they were making a movie of it until it came out! I was also surprised to see "City of Ember" in the previews.

I'm most looking forward to seeing "Twilight" and "The Time Traveler's Wife." I can't wait!!

I know that Inkheart by Cornelia Funke is also going to be made into a movie, but I can't remember the release date. That's another book I've read and it's one of my favorites, so I can't wait to see the movie.

I think the most exciting things about movies being made from books is that then I can get my husband to share the joy of the stories. I would love for him to read all of these books, but since he won't he'll just have to watch the movies with me! Although he did read and love the Twilight books and he's taking me to see the movie (which is coming out on my birthday, Nov 21!).

Which of these have you read and which are you most excited about seeing at the movies? Are there any other movies that are being released that are from books that aren't on this list?

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by: Daphne du Maurier

Published: 1938 (Harper 2006)

# of pages: 386

Quote: "And time will melow it, make it a moment for laughter. But now it was not funny, now I did not laugh. It was not the future, it was the present. It was too vivid and too real." -p. 222

I started reading this on Halloween. It's a Gothic suspense, I think just perfect for being creeped out, but not too scared. And it's true, this was a great suspense novel that kept me on my toes. Apparently this is a very well known book, but I'm ashamed to admit that I've never heard of it before. Have you? There's even an Alfred Hitchcock film based on the novel that I'm going to check out from the library tonight. I'll let you know if it's good!

The story follows a young lady who falls in love with a wealthy estate owner, Maxim. She hears rumors about how he's been married before and although he admits it, he stays pretty quiet about the subject. He asks her to marry him and takes her back to his house, Manderley. The novel follows her as she adjusts to a new environment and the fact that Maxim had a beautiful and vibrant wife named Rebecca, who is still revered and respected by the household and their neighbors.

Mrs. Danvers is in charge of the household staff and is the creepy antagonist in the novel. The reader is constantly wondering what she's really up to. Maxim is slightly oblivious to household affairs and so the narrator is left to herself to discover how deep Rebecca's influence over Manderley is.

I had an idea of the big plot twist towards the beginning of the novel but then second guessed it. I think all readers will always be a step ahead of the narrator when it comes to some of the surprises she receives, but I think it's safe to say that when the big plot twist occurs you will be surprised. And even after the big surprise the reader is still left wondering what will happen. There's always a sense of dread throughout the book, even when things seem to be going well.

The narrator is sweet and timid with an overactive imagination. In some ways she reminds me of myself, especially how she makes up scenarios in her mind of what could happen. I'm glad to say that I'm not nearly so timid as she is. She's painfully shy and there were times I wanted to go in the book and just encourage her to step out a little and not be so scared of upsetting people. However, I think her character was realistic and am glad du Maurier chose her personality type for a main character.

I recommend this book to everyone. It's a well written classic that may be a little too serious for some young adults, but is great for high schoolers and adults.

The Gravedigger's Daughter

The Gravedigger's Daughter
by: Joyce Carol Oates

Published: 2007

# of pages: 582

Quote: "Yet she was drawn to gaze into the display windows. So much! So many things! And a girl's wan, ghostly face reflection super-imposed upon them, magically." -p. 179

This book is hard for me to review. It changes so much from beginning to end. The first part of the book is horrible. It's about a girl, Rebecca, who is living with her (crazy) family in a graveyard in New York after they flee Nazi Germany. She's abused in many different ways. There's a lot of bad language and it really bogged me down. I didn't want to read it because it was so disgusting and dreary. However, I didn't have any other books from the library so this was it. Plus, I hate not finishing a book. There's been a handful of books that I've put away without finishing.

Thankfully the middle of the book starts lightening up even though poor Rebecca's life doesn't really lighten up. What gave me that impression was the bad language tapering off and the fact that Rebecca has some hope. Whereas before she was in a bad situation and had no hope, now she's in a bad situation with hope.

The last part of the book is the best. Rebecca starts a new life and shows strength by forging ahead and breaking away from her past. The bad language is very rare in the last part of the book and everything seems more light hearted. Obviously she still struggles with everyday situations that get everyone down, and she still has to worry about her past catching up with her, but overall her life is much improved.

It was fascinating to see how the main character changes and have that change manifested in the language and wording of the narrative. The reader also changes their opinions and emotions while reading farther into the book. The importance of the past...and the future, is woven into the storyline. The subjects of identity and labels are also a large part of the story.

I recommend this book to adults who like "deep" books and aren't afraid of emotional stories. I think this book would also be an interesting study of feminism, so if that is a subject that interests you, this book may be worth reading.

Not about books

Another post that isn't about books! I'm reading a book now that is taking me forever to get through. I'm halfway through it though so I don't want to give up on it now. It just makes it harder to get motivated enough to read.

So here's something else I'm doing...watching TV.

My regular shows:
True Blood
Lost (when it finally comes back on!)

I also like watching re-runs of Friends and King of the Hill.

My favorite shows of all time:
Gilmore Girls

Shows I'm planning on watching in the future on DVD:
Grey's Anatomy

What about you? What shows are you watching now and what are your favorites? Any recommendations?

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What I've been busy with...

My reading time has been limited the past few weeks because I've started my own graphic design business. I design blog/Etsy banners, invitation/announcement designs, greeting card designs, business card designs, etc. I can create all sorts of graphics for webpages and postcard/notecard designs. I accept custom orders or you can buy one of my premade graphics!

Here's my webpage: http://octoberbutterfly.etsy.com
I also have a blog: http://octoberbutterflydesigns.blogspot.com

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by: Joanne Harris

Published: 1999

# of pages: 306

Quote: "'It sounds stupid, but I used to think that there must have been a mistake somewhere, that one day someone was going to come and tell me that it wasn't happening, that this was all some other woman's dream and that none of it could ever have happened to me --'" -Josephine pp. 175-176

What an enjoyable book! It was short but had a lot of depth. I love reading books that really make you think every once in awhile. This book may be considered by some to be "anti-Christian," but I think that if anything it would be anti-Catholic. Even so, I don't think it has to be about religion versus paganism. My mom read this before I did and said she felt it was more pleasure versus legalism and I agree. The Catholic church and paganism (magic) are used as examples, but the underlying battle is between legalism and pleasure. Also, it is a typical battle of good versus evil.

The story is told by Vianne Rocher, a wandering single mother who decides to open a chocolate shop in a small French town. She works hard to open the shop and make new friends. She quickly has an impact on the town, especially the "outcasts" such as an old witch, gypsies, an abused woman, and a man whose best friend is his dog. She helps all of these people and accepts them as they are. The other parts of the book are told by Reynauld, the curate of the village church. He immediately hates Vianna and her daughter and does everything he can to keep people from visiting her shop. He preaches against indulging in chocolates during Lent, and creates friction and sees every move she makes as a battle he has to retaliate against.

These two characters are completely opposites, one is good, loving, and accepting while the other is evil, filled with hate, and manipulative. However, it was interesting to see what the two have in common as well. Both have strong pasts that they continue to remember as the story progresses. They both had parental figures that influenced the people they turned out to be. They are both passionate and have strong desires.

Overall this was a very well written as well as fascinating book. The descriptions were intricate and delicious (they really are!). You should definitely keep some chocolate nearby while you read! I also enjoyed the fact that Harris bases parts of the book after her own life and family members. The book does have some bad language, but I definitely recommend it to adults who are looking for a good read or who enjoy the magic realism genre.


by: Robin McKinley

Published: 1993

# of pages: 309

Robin McKinley is one of my all time favorite authors. As a matter of fact, her book The Blue Sword is what introduced me to my love of fantasy. Fantasy is my favorite genre (can you tell?) but before reading McKinley's books I had only started to read a couple of fantasy books that I didn't enjoy enough to finish. McKinley opened up my world and once I realized I loved escaping to another world through a book I was able to give so many other great fantasy books a chance.

I hadn't read Deerskin before now because I had heard hints of what happens in the story and I was a little nervous to read it. However, although some of the content was disturbing, it wasn't as graphic as I thought it would be. This is definitely an "adult fairytale" as I've heard it described many times, but it isn't crude. I actually think it was great that McKinley chose this fairytale (the original fairytale's name is "Donkeyskin") as one to rewrite in more detail for the modern age. Horrible things happen in the book, but they are overcome and good prevails.

The story is about Lissar, a princess and daughter of the most beautiful woman in seven kingdoms. Lissar spends her life in solitude being overshadowed by her beautiful mother and her majestic father. Her dog, Ash, becomes one of her only companions and sticks with her when she is finally singled out for a terrible disaster. Lissar and Ash keep each other alive and stay together in the months and years after they are forced to flee from their home.

The story is very emotional. The narrative describes everything that Lissar and Ash feel and we don't read much dialogue. The narrative also describes who said what, etc. Normally I find this very frustrating, but I discovered that it didn't annoy me at all in this book. I think one reason is because it does allow us to step back and not become too involved. It might have been overwhelming otherwise. The style fits with Lissar's personality and how she lives her life. It's interesting that it is told this way. It makes me want to go back and re-read my favorite books by McKinley to see if they are in a similar style that I didn't notice before.

I was also wary of reading this book because of the dog. I sometimes get bogged down in stories that feature animals as prominent characters. There was a part in the middle of this story that was a little long for me because of all the dogs. However, it didn't bore me and it wasn't too much of a chore to read through it. Just when I started getting tired of all the puppies/dogs the story shifted and the dogs weren't the main priority.

I was pleasantly surprised by the book and admire McKinley for choosing this tale to explore furthur in a very well written manner. I recommend this book to adults who enjoy fantasy and fairytales. Very sensitive people may not enjoy the book, but I still think you should give it a try. If you are interested in any of McKinley's other books I recommend The Blue Sword/The Hero and the Crown, and Beauty...these are my favorites by her and out of all the books I've read. Enjoy!

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Do you have a shelfari account? If so, add me as your friend! Here's my page: http://www.shelfari.com/o1517955039

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The Eyre Affair

The Eyre Affair
by: Jasper Fforde

Series: Thursday Next Series, Book 1

Challenges: TBR Challenge

Published: 2001

# of pages: 374

Quote: "'There is nothing for me after Jane leaves with that slimy and pathetic excuse for a vertebrate, St. John Rivers." -Rochester p. 331

This is a book I've been meaning to read for several months now. Jane Eyre is my favorite book of all time. I discovered it in high school and have read it 3 times now. It's been years since I've read it so I think I'll be reading it again someday soon, especially after reading The Eyre Affair.

This is a literature lover's dream book! Thursday Next is a woman living in 1980s England, but it isn't the 1980s or the England that we know. Time traveling, cloning, and vampires are just a few of the fantastic things that exist in Thursday's world. Another amazing aspect of her world is how popular literature is. Instead of TV everyone watches classic plays and reads classic books. People take literature very seriously, many of them even change their names to reflect their favorite poet or author! But because literature is such a big interest, it also creates interesting crimes.

Thursday works for a devision of the police called LiteraTec, which handles all literature related crimes such as forging, illegal revising, and thefts. When the original manuscript of Dickens' Martin Chuzzlewit are stolen, she becomes involved and what follows is a crazy adventure. She takes part in every major event anyone of that time could wish to experience. She's like a futuristic Nancy Drew. She just can't seem to stay out of trouble.

While this isn't the most well-written novel, it is definitely worth reading. I'm assuming that if you are reading this blog you are a book lover, so I think you will enjoy The Eyre Affair. And if you are a Jane Eyre fan you will definitely enjoy seeing another side of Mr. Rochester and Bronte's novel. There is some bad language, but it isn't overwhelming, so I recommend this book to literature lovers and adults who are fans of sci-fi/fantasy.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
by: Susanna Clarke

Published: 2004

# of pages: 1,006

Quote: "'Soldiers, I am sorry to say, steal everything.' He thought for a moment and then added, 'Or at least ours do.'" -Lord Liverpool p. 366

I loved this book! After reading the first few pages I thought it would be a drag, or at least somewhat of a struggle to continue picking up to read. The footnotes threw me off, I thought the book was going to be like a boring textbook. It did take me awhile to finish, but not because I wanted to put the book down! It is long, but it didn't help that other things kept coming up that forced me to put the book away.

I think that Clarke did a brilliant job writing this book. It's witty, humorous, clever... I could go on and on. I loved the fact that she mixed history, fantasy, and fairytales together. It was a little confusing at first because I wasn't sure if this was a historical fiction or a fantasy and was somewhat baffled when I read about famous historical figures and magicians in the same paragraph, but I soon figured out that it is a mixture of both of these genres.

The story follows two magicians in England during the early 1800s. Once, magicians were everywhere and magic was strong in England, but it fizzled out until it was almost extinct except for a few "magicians" who studied the history of magic, but couldn't actually perform any. That is until Mr Norrell appears. He is very protective of his magical abilities and so it is a surprise when he allows Jonathan Strange to be his student. The two magicians do amazing things with magic, but their opinions about it widely differ and they start to drift apart. The story follows the magicians and their separate (and joined) quests to bring magic back to England.

I recommend this book to teens and adults who enjoy fantasy and historical fiction. It will probably help you enjoy this book more if you know the basics about the poet Byron's life (he is mentioned several times and I found her interpretation of his life very entertaining since I studied him in college) and some of the basics about the Napoleonic Wars. However, even if you don't know a lot about historical figures and events, you will still enjoy this.

I also saw on IMDB that they are going to be making a movie based off the novel! It doesn't say when it will be finished, but that's something to look forward to.


I've added the followers application on my sidebar just to let everyone know!

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Daylight by: Elizabeth Knox

Published: 2003

# of pages: 368

I like the idea of vampire stories, but I don't like most vampire books. With the exception of the Twilight sage, Sunshine by Robin McKinley, and Dracula, I have yet to read a vampire book that I really like. Unfortunately Daylight has joined the ranks of bad vampire books.

The story is about a man named Bad, a caver and policeman, who is caught up in a complicated web of relationships after he helps retrieve a body from the ocean that is floating below a cliff. All of the characters in this book are related in some way. It's actually neat how Knox ties them all together. I was fascinated by the characters of Father Daniel Octave, Ila, and Martine. Other than that, I didn't like many of the other characters. I think my favorite character was Martine even though she doesn't play a big part in the book. She was a good person and didn't fall into the disgusting habits that her friends were engaged in. That's another reason I liked Ila, he was trying to follow Martine's example. I did not like Dawn whatsoever. She had no self control and I felt like she was really selfish.

The entire story is very vague and there isn't much dialogue. Knox narrates the dialogue. I personally don't like this method of writing. I like to hear things "firsthand" and decide for myself if a character is angry, sarcastic, mysterious, etc. I don't like being told all of that without any evidence. I'm not sure if I'm making myself clear, but I felt like it was hard to really get into the story and understand the characters because they don't have much of a personality, mainly because the reader doesn't "see" them speaking much.

However, I did like the idea of the story. I only wish it had been told a little better. I almost gave this 3 stars because I liked the way vampires and saints were placed side by side, but the narration and vague timeline gave the book an uncomfortable feel which outweighed the story's potential. Overall, I only recommend this book to vampire lovers and people who don't mind bad language and sex scenes. Also, I think people who appreciate and enjoy unconventional writing styles would also appreciate this book.

The 5-Minute Face

The 5-Minute Face by: Carmindy

Published: 2007

# of pages: 208

I feel so silly for reviewing a makeup book of all things! Ya'll will think I'm so girly, but the truth is I'm actually not. And that's why I need help...from Carmindy. Some of you may recognize her name from the TV show "What Not to Wear." She is always demonstrating her 5 minute face on the show and when I did a search for it online to find out more details I was happy to come across this book.

This is a great book for those who enjoy the beautification process and for those who don't. I hardly ever wear makeup, but one reason is because I used to feel like I didn't know how to put it on correctly. When I wore it I was constantly wondering if I looked ridiculous or if other people could see that I didn't know what I was doing. This book simplifies things and you can pick and choose what you want to do. She has a product guide for different skin types, she recommends colors for different shades of skin, and then gives a guide on what types of makeup to wear for different age groups. All of this complements her 5 minute face plan.

I still don't wear a whole lot of makeup unless it's a special occasion, but now I feel more confident when I do wear it. Also, I discovered an awesome product called mattifying gel that I love. So I just wanted to recommend this book because there may very well be women like me out there who could use some help. And who knows, you just may discover the perfect product that will make your life easier.

Coming Soon

I'm hoping to have a new layout soon! It's taking me awhile to figure out how to load the layout that I want, so I made a new blog just to experiment. But hopefully you will be seeing a new look sometime in the near future!

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Breaking Dawn

Breaking Dawn by: Stephenie Meyer

Series: The Twilight Saga, Book 4

Published: 2008

# of pages: 768

Series: Twilight Saga

I've been putting off discussing this book because I didn't review Twilight, New Moon, or Eclipse. However, these books are some of my all time favorites and since I read this one after starting my book blog, I'll go ahead and sort of review it. I don't want to give anything away for those of you who haven't read these books, so don't worry!

Anyway, I was just a little disappointed with Breaking Dawn. Part of it was because of where I am in my personal life, it definitely influenced my reaction to one of the biggest surprises in this book. So I can't say that it really wasn't as good as the others because my personal reaction was the main reason I didn't enjoy the book as much. However, there were many parts that I was pleased with and I overall think it was a good ending to Edward's and Bella's story. There wasn't as much intense "I can't put the book down" type of situations, but that actually fit with the mood of the book. Part of me was purposely dragging it out because I didn't want to finish it. I was sad when it was over and am just happy that now I'm looking forward to the movie (which is coming out on my birthday!).

My husband (who is also a big fan of these books...they aren't just for girls!) read that the cover is a symbol of Bella's transformation. Don't worry, I won't go into any more details, but Bella is a strong character. I've admired her throughout the series and love the way she handles all types of situations. My favorite part of these books is what great role models Bella and Edward are. They save themselves for the perfect person and even after they meet each other they keep their love pure. In a day and age when young teens are sleeping around and most people are confused about what love really is, these books can teach a lot of lessons about true love. Love is selfless and takes a lot of work. Sometimes it can hurt, but you have to be able to forgive each other. I feel that the Cullens are all great role models. They've lived for so long that they've had time to see all sides of humanity and choose to live the best way they can. They also have self control and set up boundaries for themselves, something that everyone can learn from.

I can't recommend these books enough to teens and adults, women and men alike. Even though the issue of sex comes up (it is not graphic at all), it is handled with great values. The language is very mild which makes these books appropriate for young adults as well as adults.


Ever by: Gail Carson Levine

Published: 2008

# of pages: 244

Ever is another unique fantasy written by Levine, who also wrote Ella Enchanted. I have to say though, I was disappointed in this book. I enjoyed Ella Enchanted and Fairest, but Ever felt rushed and incomplete. However, this book is placed in the juvenile section at the library and I believe the other books by her that I've read have been in the young adult section. So this book may have felt so sparse because it was written for children.

It is very basic. The sentences are brief and the dialogue is simple so it is easy for children to keep up with the story. However, it wasn't enough for an adult reader to really enjoy. The story is interesting, so I wish it had been written for young adults or adults! So although I was frustrated at the dialogue and blunt writing style, I think it is great for children to read.

Levine's other books are based off of fairy tales, but Ever is based off of myths. Olus is the god of the winds in Akka. He is only 17 years old, but he will live forever. Kezi is the daughter of a couple in Hyte who loves to dance and make rugs. Olus discovers Kezi as he travels the world looking for happiness. He encourages her to change her fate and she follows him to another land where she begins her adventure to become a heroine so she can ascend to the top of the rock where the gods reside.

I enjoyed the fact that the story revolves around mythology and recommend it for children (although there is some kissing in the book, but it is fairytale-like kissing if you know what I mean, not detailed or inappropriate) and even young adults. I also recommend it to adults if you enjoy Levine's other books and don't mind reading children's/young adult books.


My brother built me this beautiful bookshelf!




I only have my adult books on this shelf. I organized them alphabetically by author. I have a feeling I may still be missing a box of books somewhere in the mess from our move, but this might be it. I'm still working on unpacking and organizing my young adult and children's book on my other bookshelf.

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Magic Study

Magic Study by: Maria V. Snyder

Series: Study Series - Book 2

Published: 2006

# of pages: 392

This is the second book in Synder's Study series. This is also my second time reading this book. I loved the first book, Poison Study, the first time I read it. It was one of my favorite books I read that year! The second time I read that I didn't like it quite as much, but it was still original and enjoyable. The first time I read Magic Study I didn't like it as much. I didn't like the setting as much and I didn't like Yelena's study of magic as much as her poison studies! However, the second time I read this book I enjoyed it more. I suppose that knowing what to expect helped out this time around.

Yelena is still learning in the second book of the series. She goes from studying poisons in Ixia to studying magic in Sitia. Everything is new for her, just like in the first book. However, now things are even more confusing because of the new surroundings and customs of Sitia. Yelena definitely has strong magical abilities and now she just has to learn to control them. And of course there's bad guys! Yelena is caught up in another evil plot and tries to help save the day. Will she?

This book is also quite original as far as fantasy series go. Unexpected plot twists kept me interested and there are new interesting characters to spice things up and keep the series from getting repetitive. Like I already said, I didn't quite enjoy the magic as much, but if you enjoy reading stories with magic I think you will enjoy this. Snyder once again has an entire history of the magic world and all of the "rules" that go along with magic.

I'm already thinking about reading the third book again, even though I just read it a couple of months ago! But now that I can remember everything that happened in the first two, I think I would like to re-read the third to get the appropriate "flow" of the entire story. I recommend this to lovers of fantasy, magic, adults, and teenagers. There are some "intimate" moments and some mild bad language use, but I wouldn't call it inappropriate for adults or mature teens.

The Chocolate War

The Chocolate War by: Robert Cormier

Challenges: My Year of Reading Dangerously

Published: 1974

# of pages: 263

My Children's Lit professor once discussed this book in the course I took a couple of years ago. So I knew the basic outline, but I was still surprised while reading the book. I have wanted to read it all of these years, but I find myself feeling really let down. I think this book is a little bit too realistic. Or is it?

Jerry Renault doesn't want to sell chocolates for the school fund raiser. You wouldn't think that would be such a big deal, but it turns the whole school upside down. I admired Jerry for sticking up for himself and wanting to be different than everyone else. He has a poster in his locker that says "Do I dare disturb the universe?" from T.S. Eliot's poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." And Jerry does dare to disturb the universe and I think everyone who reads this has to admire that.

**Possible Spoiler**

I was disappointed because this doesn't have a typical happy ending. Normally I also admire books that don't follow the rules, but after reading through all of the evil people and things going on in Jerry's school, I was tired of it and wanted something good to happen. I almost felt like it was unrealistic how evil the school was. Like Goober says, "There's something rotten in that school. More than rotten . . . Evil (159)."

I still find it hard to believe that there could be a whole school filled with boys who acted like that. Even then ones who weren't mean were still disgusting. I guess teenage boys have sexual thoughts and feelings that they have to express somehow, but seeing it written out made it seem really crude. I read a webpage about school systems who have challenged this book for various reasons. Most of them included sexual content, torture, bad language, and denigration of women.

I found the fact that there are no women in this book except a few seen from the viewpoint of the boys interesting. That viewpoint is demeaning, but I suppose it is also accurate. I think that if there had been some girls in the book they would have helped uplift it. I guess I was just left with the feeling that all boys are pigs. Violent and disgusting and only seeing girls as sexual objects.

And how could that many parents allow their boys to turn out so badly right under their noses? The parents aren't disciplining the children, the teachers aren't disciplining the children. It's like Lord of the Flies in a private school! They run everything themselves and things get out of control. However, it would be interesting if this book was set in an all girls school. Girls can be just as mean as boys, just in a less physical way. I think the book would have been a little less crude and would have had a less violent ending, but it still could have changed into a "Mean Girls" type of situation.

It is a unique view of anarchy and what happens when an attempt to manipulate a volatile situation is made. And it does leave the reader asking, should you dare disturb the universe? Can you form your own belief and stick up for it? Jerry thought he failed when he becomes just like the other boys, "not disturbing the universe, but damaging it (254)." I think he could have continued to stay separate from the other boys and not join in their violent ways, but he would have remained an outcast. Maybe sometimes you have to join in to survive.

Thankfully, I've never been faced with such an extreme situation. I've always been able to walk away and resist joining in things that I knew would hurt me or other people if I wanted to. But this book does make you wonder what you would do in this situation. And if it was even right of Jerry to refuse to sell the chocolates...or if it was admirable. All in all, a depressing but thought provoking book. I recommend this to readers who enjoy realistic stories, stories that involve pyschological dilemmas and touchy situations, and those who want to know what the big deal about this book is. If you are considering letting your child read it, know that it does contain sexual content, violence, and bad language.

Book of a Thousand Days

Book of a Thousand Days by: Shannon Hale

Published: 2007

# of pages: 306

Quote: "A cat can make you feel well rested when you're tired or turn a rage into a calm just by sitting on your lap. His very nearness is a healing song." -Dashti p. 206

I'm sad that I'm already finished with Book of a Thousand Days, but I'm ready to read some more of Hale's novels! I read Goose Girl a long time ago and plan on reading it again as well as the other books in the Bayern series.

Book of a Thousand Days is a novel written from the point of view of Dashti, a girl who grew up as a nomad on the steppes and ended up being a lady's maid for Saren. They are shut up in a tower for seven years. Dashti struggles to discover more about the timid Saren and wonders if seven years will ever be long enough to understand the young lady she serves.

I loved the character of Dashti. She felt very natural. I especially enjoyed her feelings for the animals she comes into contact with. She has such a loving nature, but still gets annoyed and frustrated with people so she doesn't seem too loving. And of course I loved the world that Hale created for the novel. She has such a great imagination to be able to think of an entire world and that world's customs, religion, and history.

The book was loosely based on the fairy tale "Maid Maleen" which was recorded by the Grimm brothers. I've never read that tale, but I also think it's neat that Hale picked a lesser known fairy tale to base her story on. She also included some settings and customs from medieval Mongolia. All in all, I think this is a great book for young adults and adults alike, especially lovers of fantasy and fairy tales.

Classics Challenge

I may be crazy, but I'm signing up for another challenge! However, I'm about to finish 2 of the challenges I'm signed up for, so I think it's ok to replace them with one.

The Rules:

  • OPTION 1: Read FIVE classics.
  • OPTION 2: Read FIVE classics from at least TWO different countries
  • OPTION 3: Read FIVE classics with any combination of at least TWO different countries and TWO different genres (see above for genres).
    Cross-posting with other challenges is allowed (and encouraged!); Audiobooks are fine; books must be finished after July 1st to count for the challenge although re-reads are acceptable.

    Lists don't have to be set in stone; you can change your selections at any time.
    Have Fun. Oh ya...there will be a drawing for a prize or two. To be entered you must complete any one of the above options. You do NOT need a blog to participate.
    Am I going to define what a classic is? Nope! There are lots of definitions offered on the Internet, but essentially we all have different opinions so don't stress too much--and see the bonus below.

    BONUS!! (optional)
    As you can see, I'm requiring FIVE classics for six months. For the sixth book, I would like the participants to offer suggestions for books that may not be considered classics but that you think should be or books that you think will be a classic one day. Leave your suggestions in the comments below. I'll compile a list of the suggestions and you choose a book from the list and make that your sixth read. I realize this means you may have to wait to make your list if you choose to participate in the bonus round, but I'm hoping this is a modern twist on the old classics challenge.

My list:

The Idiot by: Fyodor Dostoyevsky (I own this and am in the process of reading it)
The Grapes of Wrath by: John Steinbeck (It's December's book for My Year of Reading Dangerously)
Madame Bovary by: Gustave Flaubert (I started reading this for a course I took in school and didn't finish it)
The Great Gatsby by: F. Scott Fitzgerald (I know several people who love it and have always been curious)
Emma by: Jane Austen (I read this when I was in high school and want to read it again)


The Poisonwood Bible by: Barbara Kingsolver (I chose this from the list because it's one I've been meaning to read for a long time)

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Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina by: Leo Tolstoy

Challenges: My Year of Reading Dangerously, TBR Challenge, Eponymous Challenge

Published: 1873

# of pages: 853

Quote: "As the reading proceeded, especially at the frequent and rapid repetitions of the same words, 'Lord, have mercy upon us!' which sounded like 'Lordavmercpons!', Levin felt that his mind was closed and sealed . . . 'Well, it will soon be over now,' he thought. 'No, I believe he's going back to the beginning again,' he thought, listening to the prayers." -Levin pp. 464-465

I substituted Anna Karenina for Lolita in the Reading Dangerously's June challenge. I went to the library to get Lolita and couldn't find it so I grabbed this instead since I needed it for other challenges.

I was afraid of reading this book and was amazed that it was easier to read and I enjoyed it more than I had imagined. My only complaint is that the eighth and last section could have been reduced to a couple of pages! At that point I just wanted to know what happened to the remaining characters and while Tolstoy does give us that information, I felt like he was really cramming in a lot of other stuff that should have been dispersed throughout the book (of course, he is the worldwide famous author who has gone down in history and I couldn't write a book if I tried!).

Anna Karenina is, of course, about a woman named Anna. However, I was interested to discover that it also closely follows the Alexandrovna sisters and their familys. There's 3 sisters: Natalie, Dolly, and Kitty. Dolly and Kitty are main characters as well as Dolly's husband and Kitty's love interests. Anna gets mixed in as a result of falling in love with one of Kitty's favorite young men, Vronsky, and Levin is pulled in to the story because he falls in love with Kitty. Karenin is Anna's husband and so is featured in many chapters. Confused yet? The only other main characters are Koznyshev and Nikolai, Levin's brothers.

The novel has a timeline that spans over a couple of years. A lot of things happen in these years, people fall in love, marry, die, have babies, learn important life lessons. I was mainly interested in the stories, especially Kitty's. I liked her character. I didn't always like Levin, although I have heard that Tolstoy based this character off of himself. Levin is full of thoughts and loves to ponder these thoughts. He's always changing his views and learning new things. Some of it is interesting, but I couldn't force myself to care too much about the peasants and how they affected agriculture. I'm sure that at the time this novel was published that must have been an issue, but it tainted my pleasure of reading the parts that followed Levin. Also, he kind of annoyed me because of how moody he was. Everytime he was around people he was angry and frustrated. However, his love for Kitty was really sweet and I liked how he (mostly) was happy with her.

I also had to dislike Anna's character at most times. At first I wanted to judge her and say that she shouldn't have been so selfish as to leave her husband (especially after he forgave her after she gave birth). But after that the reader learns a little about her background with her husband. We already know that she no longer loves Karenin, but it turns out he is 20 years older than she is and that her aunt tricked them into getting married. It must have been terrible to be forced into marriage with someone you don't love. However, I could never really get past the fact that she abandoned her son for a lover. I think she couldn't really get past that either though. She tried to forget it and it haunted her throughout the years she was separated from the boy.

I felt bad for Karenin at times, especially when he is looked down upon for forgiving his wife instead of dueling Vronsky. Society didn't respect forgiveness. They assumed he was a coward and didn't realize that sometimes it takes more strength to forgive and show love. However, after he becomes self righteous and meets Countess Lydia I thought he was less sincere than he was before he started outwardly proclaiming his Christian faith.

Dolly was an interesting character and I enjoyed her thoughts. At one point she is traveling to visit Anna and contemplates her life as a mother and a wife to a man who pays no attention to his family. She wants to be like Anna, but quickly realizes that she would be unhappy with that lifestyle and from then on appreciates her life and children more. I liked her honesty because I think that's how I would feel in her position, and I think I would arrive at the same conclusion she did. Dolly is the opposite of Anna. Sure, she doesn't love her husband and is even mistreated by him just like Anna was by Karenin, but instead of abandoning them she sees the good in her life and sticks with her children and her friends.

The end of the novel reminded me of Voltaire's Candide. At the end of Candide, Candide comes to the conclusion that the meaning of life and the way to be satisfied is to tend to his garden. A peasant farmer tells him that and he embraces that lifestyle. At the end of Anna Karenina, Levin is wondering the same thing, what is the meaning of life and how can he know that he is living the way he should? A peasant farmer tells him to live rightly in God's way. And Levin is struck by that and realizes that is the key to being fulfilled.

I recommend this book to lovers of Russian literature and lovers of classics. After reading it, I don't think I've ever read any references to it, but it was interesting to compare it to other novels such as Madame Bovary and Candide. It will be interesting to see if I start to discover more references now that I'm familiar with the storyline and characters. This was a good (but long) read that took me a week and a half to finish. I think others will also be pleasantly surprised that this is easier to read than it looks!

Book Giveaway

Trish at Hey Lady! Whatcha Reading? is giving away 14 books from Hachette Books. Check it out HERE.

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EW's 100 New Classics

It's interesting how many of these have been made into movies. I wonder if that's the only reason they are on the list, or if the books themselves are worth being classics. Some of these I definitely agree with and some I wonder if it's just the fact that they have movie recognition. As far as the ones I've read, the only one I'm not sure about being a "classic" is The Ruins. It was a good book, but I wouldn't have thought about putting it on a New Classics list myself.

I've read 11 out of 100:

Harry Potter
The Handmaid's Tale
Love in the Time of Cholera
His Dark Materials
The Glass Castle
The Giver
The Kite Runner
The Remains of the Day
The Ruins
The Da Vinci Code

How many and which ones have you read?

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Poison Study

Poison Study by: Maria V. Snyder

Published: 2005

# of pages: 361

Series: Book #1

Quote: "'What could you possibly offer me? I have a job, color-coordinated uniforms and a boss to die for. What more could I need?'" -Yelena p. 137

This is the second time I've read this book. The first time I read it I fell in love with it. Then I immediately read the second book in the series, Magic Study. While I didn't enjoy that book as much, Poison Study has remained one of my favorite books and was even included in my Favorite Books of 2007. The reason I read it again was because I just read Fire Study, the third and final book in the series. It pulled me back into Yelena's world and made me really want to read the first two books again.

The second time of reading this wasn't the same, but I still found myself staying up late to read and having a hard time putting the book down. This is still my favorite book in the series. It's unique and who could not love the characters Yelena, Valek, Ari, and Janco?

The story begins with Yelena being let out of the Commander's dungeons where she is being held until execution and given a second chance at life....as a food taster for the Commander of Ixia. If that isn't enough stress for a young woman whose life has been turned upside down, all kinds of other trouble follow her everywhere.

Yelena perseveres through her study of poisons, being exposed to political intrigues, and having to be constantly on guard as she expects soldiers, assassins, and magicians to kill her at any moment. She also struggles to accept her past and move on with life, as hard as that is. Yelena is a neat character, she's graceful, flexible, strong, can kick butt, and is smart to top it all off.

People of the Book

People of the Book by: Geraldine Brooks

Published: 2008

# of pages: 372

Quote: "'It was here to test us, to see if there were people who could see that what united us was more than what divided us. That to be a human being matters more than to be a Jew or a Muslim, Catholic or Orthodox.'" -Ozren p. 361

This is Brooks' third novel, written after Year of Wonders and March. I liked People of the Book more than March, but not as much as Year of Wonders. Her latest novel is rich in history and culture. It's fascinating how much information Brooks was able to convey throughout the novel without overloading the reader.

The story is anchored by Hanna, a modern bookbinder/conservator. She is offered a job to work on an ancient Hebrew book, a job that changes her life when she accepts. Hanna finds several clues on the pages of the book which she then investigates to learn more about where and when the book has traveled. She unfolds many stories for the reader, although she is often left in the dark about the details. Stories are told about Jews, Christians, and Muslims who have all had an impact on the priceless book.

The Hebrew manuscript, the Sarajevo Haggadah, is a real book, but Brooks does an amazing job filling in the gaps with fictional details. I enjoyed learning about the true historical events that took place during the book's lifetime and the fictional characters and their lives kept me even more interested. The book was very fast paced, switching from Hanna's life to the lives of historical characters. In a way, this enabled me to stay interested, but it also prevented me from truly caring about the characters. I found that I wasn't hooked into any of the stories, but I still enjoyed reading them.

I found it very interesting that all of the characters had similar qualities through sins. Obviously everyone sins, but I wonder why Brooks concentrated so much on pointing that out when she only had a limited time to tell each character's story. It made me respect the characters even more, because even though they were hiding their sins, they still cared enough about a religious document to protect it. Also, perhaps hiding their sins allowed them to be able to hide the book. It did link all of the characters. No matter what religion each character was associated with, they were all the same underneath.

I recommend this book to all adults who enjoy history, a mystery, science investigations, or a good read. There were adult situations in this book so I don't recommend it to young adults.

Other Reviews:
Have you reviewed this? Let me know and I'd be happy to post yours as well.

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This is a place where you can read book reviews, discover links, and learn about the reading challenges in which I'm taking part.


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