Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Finds: Eclectic Reading

Friday Finds is hosted by Should Be Reading and allows readers to showcase books they have discovered over the past week.  This week I've found quite an eclectic assortment of reads, check it out:

I've been looking around for books that touch on Buddhism and came across Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom by Rick Hanson and Richard Mendius

Goodreads Summary:
Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and other great teachers were born with brains built essentially like anyone else's. Then they used their minds to change their brains in ways that changed history.

With the new breakthroughs in neuroscience, combined with the insights from thousands of years of contemplative practice, you, too, can shape your own brain for greater happiness, love, and wisdom.

Buddha's Brain joins the forces of modern science with ancient teachings to show readers how to have greater emotional balance in turbulent times, as well as healthier relationships, more effective actions, and a deeper religious or spiritual practice.

Well-referenced and grounded in science, the book is full of practical tools and skills readers can use in daily life to tap the unused potential of the brain-and rewire it over time for greater peace and well-being.

Then I came across the fun YA steampunk novel called The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith

Goodreads Summary:
Sixteen-year-old Jack gets drunk and is in the wrong place at the wrong time. He is kidnapped. He escapes, narrowly. The only person he tells is his best friend, Conner. When they arrive in London as planned for summer break, a stranger hands Jack a pair of glasses. Through the lenses, he sees another world called Marbury.  There is war in Marbury. It is a desolate and murderous place where Jack is responsible for the survival of two younger boys. Conner is there, too. But he’s trying to kill them.  Meanwhile, Jack is falling in love with an English girl, and afraid he’s losing his mind.  Conner tells Jack it’s going to be okay. But it’s not.  Andrew Smith has written his most beautiful and personal novel yet, as he explores the nightmarish outer limits of what trauma can do to our bodies and our minds.

Lastly, I found this delightful little book that I thought would be fun to listen to on audio entitled How They Croaked by Georgia Bragg

Goodreads Summary:
Over the course of history men and women have lived and died. In fact, getting sick and dying can be a big, ugly mess-especially before the modern medical care that we all enjoy today. How They Croaked relays all the gory details of how nineteen world figures gave up the ghost. For example:
  • It is believed that Henry VIII's remains exploded within his coffin while lying in state.
  • Doctors "treated" George Washington by draining almost 80 ounces of blood before he finally kicked the bucket.
  • Right before Beethoven wrote his last notes, doctors drilled a hole in his stomach without any pain medication.
  • Readers will be interested well past the final curtain, and feel lucky to live in a world with painkillers, X-rays, soap, and 911.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Latest Review: Ill Wind

Goodreads Summary:
Joanne Baldwin is a Weather Warden. Usually, all it takes is a wave of her hand to tame the most violent weather. But now, she's trying to outrun another kind of storm: accusations of corruption and murder. So, she's resorting to the very human tactic of running for her life...

Her only hope is Lewis, the most powerful warden known. Unfortunately, he's stolen not one but three bottles of Djinn-making him the most wanted man on earth. Still, she's racing hard to find him-before the bad weather closes in fast.

My thoughts:
I thought Ill Wind was a really absorbing page-turner.  I've never read a weather-related fantasy novel nor a book with genies (the "Djinn") before so the subject matter was quite fresh.  Yet, I wasn't very emotionally invested in the characters and some of the relationships in the book progressed too quickly for me.  In the end, it wasn't the best book I've read in recent memory but it was a fun novel (perfect for a fantasy beach read).  I've also heard that as the series progresses more depth is added to the characters.  So, I think I'll have Rachel Caine's Weather Warden series in the back of my mind for books to read by the pool this summer.  Recommended to urban fantasy fans!

3.5/5 stars

Other Reviews:
Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Owned Books I'd Play Hooky With

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, this week's topic: Top Ten Books (On My Shelf) I'd Play Hooky With

1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline - I bought this book eagerly anticipating reading it ASAP, but then I thought the hubs would like it.  Unfortunately, after he borrowed and loved it, I just never got around to reading it!

2. Boy's Life by Robert McCammon - this one's a chunkster, perfect to play hooky with!

3. She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb

4. American Gods by Neil Gaiman - can you believe I've never read a Gaiman book??  I know, my nerd card is revoked!  Well, I take that back, I've read Good Omens but that doesn't really count since it's co-authored.  Anyways, it's time I read some Gaiman!

5. Looking for Alaska by John Green - I love his books and would most definitely play hooky for the chance to read another :)

6. Middlemarch by George Eliot - if I'm going to play hooky, might as well better myself by reading a classic, right?

7.  The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley - I think this is by far and away the longest book on my shelves...I could likely play hooky for a solid week with this sucker!

8. Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison - from the title alone, this sounds like a rip-roaring time!

9. A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe - another of my biggest books and one of my two Wolfe books that I have yet to read!

10. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry - another chunkster that I can't wait to read!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday Memes

Hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.  We share books that we've read over the past week and those we hope to read this week.  

Last Week:
I finished Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey and am almost completely through the delightful I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith.

This Week:
I plan to finish up I Capture the Castle and try to get to both Ill Wind and Life of Pi.  I need to start flying through some books - it's been a slow reading year for me!


Mailbox Monday is a touring meme where book bloggers share their bookish acquisitions from the week prior.  It is hosted this month by Anna at Diary of an Eccentric.

This weekend I was super-excited because not only did I have tix to The Hunger Games movie, buuut it was also my local library's bi-annual book sale!  Holy guacamole did I make out like a bandit this year - check out my awesome finds:

  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  • The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Angels on Toast by Dawn Powell
  • Nightingale Wood by Stella Gibbons
  • Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok (Yay!  I started this book at one point but had to give it back to the library before I could finish it.)
  • The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  • The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff
  • Mythology by Edith Hamilton
  • Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik
  • The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart 
  • Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
  • A Poisoned Season by Tasha Alexander
  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (such a great book!)
  • Here on Earth by Alice Hoffman
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklin by Betty Smith
I actually went back a second day and got even MORE books (for 25 cents apiece) but haven't taken a picture of those goodies.  Seriously, I am completely out of shelf space!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Latest Review: Kushiel's Dart

The land of Terre d'Ange is a place of unsurpassing beauty and grace. It is said that angels found the land and saw it was good...and the ensuing race that rose from the seed of angels and men live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt.

Phèdre nó Delaunay is a young woman who was born with a scarlet mote in her left eye. Sold into indentured servitude as a child, her bond is purchased by Anafiel Delaunay, a nobleman with very a special mission...and the first one to recognize who and what she is: one pricked by Kushiel's Dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one.

Phèdre is trained equally in the courtly arts and the talents of the bedchamber, but, above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze. Almost as talented a spy as she is courtesan, Phèdre stumbles upon a plot that threatens the very foundations of her homeland. Treachery sets her on her path; love and honor goad her further. And in the doing, it will take her to the edge of despair...and beyond. Hateful friend, loving enemy, beloved assassin; they can all wear the same glittering mask in this world, and Phèdre will get but one chance to save all that she holds dear.

Set in a world of cunning poets, deadly courtiers, heroic traitors, and a truly Machiavellian villainess, this is a novel of grandeur, luxuriance, sacrifice, betrayal, and deeply laid conspiracies. Not since Dune has there been an epic on the scale of Kushiel's Dart-a massive tale about the violent death of an old age, and the birth of a new.

So, this is one of the best epic fantasy novels I've read in awhile.  I put it up there almost with Patrick Rothfuss status - so you know that I really liked this book!

What I didn't like:
  • It was sooo long!  I'm normally okay with this, but there are so many names to keep track of and so much action that takes place...I almost feel as if I read three books within the space of one.  Then, to top it all off, the ending makes it obvious that there is more story to tell.  I knew this beforehand, but after going through so much with Phedre I just felt too exhausted to embark on the next novel!
What I looooved (which is pretty much everything else):
  • The  Seriously you guys, the world building is absolutely top-notch in Kushiel's Dart!  I was completely immersed in this strange Europe-like polytheistic world with its various dens of iniquity.  
  • Also, the characters were just so fully-fleshed and amazing!  I loved Phedre, Hyacinthe, Delaunay, Alcuin, Joscelin (he's my fave), and pretty much every single character she produced - they were all so real.
  • Armchair reading (fantasy-style)!  You travel to so many lands, meet so many different people/entities, and witness such daring feats...that before you know it, you've chewed off all of your fingernails!
  • Lastly, it was such an emotional roller-coaster - you never stop being interested.  It is such a multifaceted story: friendships, families, romance, betrayal, survival, and above all - hope!
What might bother others but didn't bother me:
  • Um, the world in which Phedre exists is one where there is a very casual attitude towards sex and Phedre herself is a courtesan with special tastes.  The god Kushiel (her patron god) is the god of, uh, to sum it up she's into S&M.  For some folks this is an automatic turn-off, but hear me out!  While the book does let you know about episodes of er, pain and doesn't go into detail.  There are no explicit sex scenes - just a slight description of events without going into too much detail.  I thought it was tastefully done, considering the taboo subject matter.
So, there ya go folks!  I really really recommend this to fantasy fans and to those who love strong female protagonists.

4.5/5 stars

Other reviews:
The Introverted Reader 

Spring Cleaning Giveaway Winners!

Drum-roll chosen by the winners are:


Meg @ A Bookish Affair!

Judy Cox!

Ricki @ Reading Challenged!

Carol Wong!

April Gradowski!

Congrats folks!  You have 48 hours to respond to my email otherwise your prize will go to the next runner up!  Thanks to all my followers who entered and stay tuned for upcoming follower appreciation giveaways!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Spring TBR

 Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, this week's topic: Top Ten Books I Want to Read This Spring!

2012 Releases:
1. Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness - a favorite of 2011 was The Discovery of Witches and I'm can't wait to see what happens next.

2. Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver - I've already been hearing great things!

3.  There is No Dog by Meg Rosoff - I love the premise of this book and can't wait to read it. 

4.  Strindberg's Star by Jan Wallentin - as I said yesterday, this looks like a super-fun read!

5.  Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore - I really loved Graceling so I'm really excited for the chance to enter this world again.
Older Releases:
6.  I Capture the Castle by Dodi Smith - I've been wanting to read this book forever!

7.  Life of Pi by Yann Martel - this is another one of those "I can't believe I haven't read this yet!" books.

8.  The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson - I've only heard great things about this book and it has been sitting on my shelves for far too long.

9.  Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys - everyone was raving about this book last year!

10.  Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie - I feel like I need a short but worthy book thrown in the mix (that way I'll be ready to tackle some more chunksters).

Monday, March 19, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? & Mailbox Monday

Hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.  We share books that we've read over the past week and those we hope to read this week.