Monday, January 31, 2011

Having Fun With Book Club - Unbearable Lightness

This was the first time I've ever read a "celebrity" book...and, in all likelihood, I would've never chosen to read it had it not been picked by my book club.  I'm not sure why, but I guess I'm prejudiced against celeb novels (maybe because I fear that they may employ a ghostwriter).  Anyways, I'm glad I did get a chance to read this book because it was well-written and extremely honest. 

As many of you probably know...this book is about Portia Degeneres' struggle with her eating disorder and her life in the closet.  I couldn't believe how honest she was...some of the things she admitted to doing to herself are pretty extreme (she also includes photos of herself at her skinniest...quite scary).  I can hardly imagine the strength it must have taken for her to admit to her own self-destruction...we all have our demons and she demonstrated a great amount of courage in fully revealing her own.  Overall, our book club really liked the book.  Our only complaint was that the middle of the novel got a bit redundant (and all of the self-harm can be a bit taxing to read about over and over again).  It was a good, enlightening, and fast read that made me cry at the end (mainly because I was so glad for her that she's finally reached a happy place in her life).

3.5/5 stars.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dance Moment - Oh Land Awesomeness

I hope everyone's having a lovely weekend!  I just wanted to pass on this little song nugget by Oh Land:

P.S. Love her dancing...very carefree, not unlike the lead singer of Friendly Fires!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Latest Read - Dragonfly in Amber...Tackling Gabaldon Part II

I have to say that I liked Outlander much better than Dragonfly in Amber.  That being said, there were some good aspects to the book.  Namely, the historical bits of the novel.  It was scandalizing to read about the debauchery of the French court (I mean, women with see-through tops and nipple rings...whoa)!  Also, it was fun to read the characterizations of historical figures such as "Bonnie Prince Charlie" and the "beloved" King Louis XV.  However, in my opinion, the bad aspects of the novel outweigh the good. 

To come right out with it, the book was wayyy to long (this from a person who loves big, chunky books).  I don't mind length as long as it is necessary, and in the case of Dragonfly in Amber it definitely was not.  My hardcover copy from the library was a whopping 743 least 200-300 of which was crap.  There's nothing I hate more than having my time wasted by an excessively and unnecessarily long book!  The story was compelling, but you had to wade through so much indulgent description and plot tangents that it was hard to stay interested.  Another issue I had with the novel is that some of the plot elements were becoming redundant, tired and a bit ridiculous...whaddya know, sex scenes, rape scenes, and the evil tortuous man comes after the good guys again, and again and AGAIN.  Lastly, I had to read garbage like this: [after some Scottish men were making deceptive plans]

"'I always thought there was some reason why 'Scot' rhymed with 'plot,'' I remarked"

Seriously, SERIOUSLY??  I about had a conniption after reading this ridiculous line.

Okay, phew!  Finished with my rant...overall, it was an okay book.  I did like it, I just wanted the book to be better.  It definitely convinced me that I will not be continuing with the series (despite the fact that my interest is peaked about a few loose ends).  I just can't handle wading through another mediocre tome simply to satisfy my curiosity.  I went looking around on the interwebs to see other reviews of this series or these books specifically.  It seems that for the most part, people love it or they are completely turned off by the sex and violence.   I did find one review that said if you like the first 2 novels...maybe you'll want to read the third...but after that it's utter crap.

I have to say I'm quite disappointed by these books.  It seems that so many people love them and the "genre" of historical fiction/romance/fantasy is utterly, I had high hopes.  Oh well,  I'm going to try a few other series (as I adore need to think about what to read next)!  First is George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series beginning with A Game of Thrones and then I'm going to try out Jean M. Auel's Earth Children series starting with The Clan of the Cave Bear.

3/5 stars.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Latest Read - Outlander...Tackling Gabaldon

For whatever reason, I have dreaded writing this review.  It must be due to the fact that I am still unsure about my opinion of  Outlander.  I know that this is a much beloved series...and I have only read the first two novels...yet, I can't agree with Galbadon's many followers.  I don't love the books thus far but I don't hate them either.  It's just that I have a few qualms with the novels.  First up, Outlander:

So as not to give too much of the story's about a woman who accidentally time travels from 1945 to 200 years earlier in Scotland and her subsequent adventures and struggles.  What I did like about this book is that it's an extremely quick read due to the fact that it's pretty jam-packed with action.  Also, the character of Jamie Fraser is just wonderfully yummy (bordering on too good to be true, but I'll let that slide).  What I didn't like about it was there was quite a bit of gratuitous sex and sadistic almost made me feel like I was reading a soap opera (I dunno, that's the best metaphor I can think up).  I could have done with a little bit less detailed description of both the multiple sex and torture scenes (especially the latter).  Did these aspects of the book put me completely off?  No.  In fact, the sex scenes were quite sexy ;)  Buuut, it did give the book a bit of a trashy feel...this would definitely fall into the guilty pleasure category.  Also, the writing was okay, not superb...just adequate.

In sum, if you want an entertaining read, you like romance and history, and don't mind quite a bit of sex and all means pick this book up!  However, I think all the rave reviews raised my expectations a bit too high for this series.  Thus, my warning is that (in my opinion) this series is yet another fun escapist bit of historical fiction...don't put it up on a pedestal. :)

I'll tackle book #2 of the series in my next post!

3.5/5 stars.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The "Urgent!" portion of my TBR list

In no particular order, I thought I'd share the titles of those that I'm just dying to read.  Hopefully this darn cold will be gone soon so my head can de-fuzzify and I can dwindle down this list!

  • Faithful Place by Tana French
  • The Passage by Justin Cronin
  • Room by Emma Donoghue
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
  • Wildfire at Midnight by Mary Stewart
  • A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
  • The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel
  • Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees
  • The Orphan's Tales by Catherynne M. Valente
  • The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris
  • Based Upon Availability by Alix Strauss
  • The Human Stain by Philip Roth
  • Sounds Like Crazy by Shana Mahaffrey
  • Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson
  • Matterhorn by Karl Marientes
  • Just Kids by Patti Smith (love her!  Even though I'm a bit memoir-ed out at the moment, I've heard so many great things about this book I just can't ignore it any longer)!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Southern Lit Reading Challenge!

Since it's the new year and I've vowed to try as many new things as possible this year...I've decided to take part in my very first reading challenge!  I was immediately drawn to The Introverted Reader's Southern Literature Challenge as I luuurve me some down South lit (I mean, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Prince of Tides...the list goes on)!  Here's my tentative list of what I'm hoping to read this year to fulfill this challenge...any 4 of the following:

  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (I know, I know...I don't know why I haven't read this yet either)
  • The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
  • Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy
  • With by Donald Harrington
  • Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison (I know...I'm a poor excuse of a reader for not having read this yet)
  • Also, plenty of long-neglected Faulkner on my shelves

What I love most about this challenge is it gives me the long-needed kick in the butt to read some of these great novels...can't wait!  If you have the time...join in the challenge!

Monday, January 24, 2011

No Page Left Behind...yup, it's the new name

So I changed my blog's a bit silly buuut I feel like it better reflects the content of this here lil' blogginz.  Since I primarily write about books (with a smattering of other life tidbits), I wanted the blog name to reflect the direction that the content has taken.  I hope it hasn't inconvenienced folks too much!

So, now that I've established that I am indeed primarily a book blog...onto what's coming soon:
  • Review of the newest Btown Booksters Club book (Portia de Rossi's Unbearable Lightness)
  • As well as my critique of the first two books in the Outlander series

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Recommended Reads from Past Years...

So, I realized that while I'm giving reviews of current reads that I enjoy...I haven't covered books that I've previously read that should definitely be on your "Must Read!" list (seriously...go run to your library and snatch these suckers up)!  A quick rundown of books that come to mind that cannot be missed:
Young Adult Books (I mean, people read Harry Potter so why not check these out too? Or, at least you know what to buy your kid/neice/grandchild for their birthday):
  • Anything by Robin McKinley (my favorite was The Blue Sword...gotta love strong female heroines)
  • Anything by Lloyd Alexander (especially The Chronicles of Prydain series)
  • Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials series (don't judge the books by The Golden Compass didn't come even close to matching the awesomeness of the fact, it sucked)
  • I always loved Madeleine L'Engle books (A Wrinkle in Time (and sequels) as well as any books featuring Vicky Austin)
  • Lois Lowry novels (especially The Giver)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Etsy - Taste Test

Has anyone tried the new "Taste Test" feature over at Etsy?  What a great way to find new items on the site!  I quite like it.  Here's a smattering of things chosen for me based on "my taste."

Monday, January 17, 2011

Latest Read - The Name of the Wind

Tolkien fan?  Lover of fairy-stories and valiant heroes?  If'll love the first novel by Patrick Rothfuss.

The story follows Kvothe the wonderfully arrogant and charming hero of the novel.  Some may say he's too good to be true, but I think he's an endearing and brilliant protagonist.  Speaking of what some say, this book got rave reviews from every direction (i.e. "this is the epic trilogy of our generation" etc.).  It's definitely deserving of great praise, but could easily be be warned, don't enter into this magical world with ridiculous expectations of a life-changing novel but be's a seriously (seriously) terrific book.  I say this because I read some snarky reviews of this book and thought "what?!  Did they read the same novel??"  And it seems that all the overzealous praise The Name of the Wind garnered may have caused people to be suspicious of the hype and underwhelmed with the book :(
I really don't want to give to much of the story, let's see...this is the first book in a series of three and is largely comprised of Kvothe's own telling of his young life to "the Chronicler."  Occasionally, the book slips back to present day revealing a troubled older Kvothe (I'm sure the reasons for this will be revealed in the subsequent books).  

The writing in this book is just...poetic.  I easily get bored with flowery descriptions and tend to skim over these so as not to lose interest.  This never occurred during my reading of The Name of the Wind...I savored every word AND it was quite the page turner (I've found that many times these two characteristics are mutually exclusive).  In sum, I heartily recommend!  Check out this video of the author himself discussing the novel:

~Also, the sequel comes out this March...can't wait to snatch that up!

5/5 stars.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

NPR Listeners?

So, do any of you folks listen to NPR?  I was completely ignorant of the channel until college when I would listen to it on Sirius radio.  One of my favorite programs on there (great to listen to on a Sunday morning with a coffee and breakfast) is called "Wait wait...don't tell me!"  It's a quiz show covering current events that occurred over the past week with comedians as the panelists (my favorite is Mo Rocca) and callers from all over the U.S. as contestants.  It's such a riot and I reeeeeally want to see a live taping the next time I go to Chicago.  I really recommend can get the podcasts for free on itunes...check it out!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Book Lust

As you can probably gather from my posts...I'm a total bookworm.  And even though I usually peruse the aisles of the local library for fictional works...I'm currently lusting after nonfiction craft books too!  Here's a listing of pages filled with projects:

  • Handmade Home
  • Stencil 101 Decor*
  • Little Birds:26 Handmade Projects to Sew
  • Crafting a Meaningful Home
  • Simply Sublime Gifts
  • Applique Your Way

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Amazing Technicolor Bookcase

So, the other day the hubs was making fun of my terribly disorganized bookshelves.  Thus, I decided to take action and organize my books by color on one of the bookshelves for a little visual interest.  Take a gander at the before and after!



Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Plucking Novels From Amazon's Best of the Month

Do you guys ever look at's "Best Books of the Month" for reading suggestions?  I like to glance over them to see if there's any that I'd like to add to my ever-expanding TBR list (seriously, it seems as though I spend more time cultivating my list than actually dwindling its numbers down).  I just perused January's list and there are a few gems I'd like to read.  First, there's The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown which looks like a funny read about a strange family:

Then, there's the intriguing Sci-fi novel Across the Universe by Beth Revis about a murderer of cryogenically frozen people...hmmm...

Lastly, there's a book that I'm sure my husband would love, The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos:

Monday, January 3, 2011

Latest Read - Peace Like a River

Hello folks!  I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and new year celebration!!  Through all the madness I finally managed to finish the book Peace Like a River by Leif Enger...what a beautiful piece of literature!

The best way that I can try to describe this novel is: a poetic, spiritual, modern-day western.  I know that sounds a bit strange but it is quite lovely.  The writing is superb and the characters are very feel as if you know them and they are such wonderful personalities.  The novel is narrated by an 11-year old asthmatic boy Reuben and  follows a family who embarks on a journey to save their outlaw brother/son.  

Now, if you're the type of reader who only enjoys a quick page-turner...this is not the book for you, the story and the characters develop slowly.  Also, there is much discussion of God, miracles, the Bible, etc.  This can be bothersome to some...however, I would not characterize this as a "Christian" book but rather a spiritual one.  Maybe that's due to my own upbringing or the fact that many of the main religions believe in the same God (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) and there's no evangelizing going on at any point.  Either way, if that's not your bag you may want to skip this book.  If neither the religious overtones nor the slowly unfolding storyline are a deterrent then I highly suggest this book.  I love the message, characters, and the wonderful story-within-a-story written by the sister Swede.

4.5/5 stars.

Next up...a little fantasy with The Name of the Wind!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

TBR List

Due to the new little addition to our family...I haven't been able to squeeze in as much reading time as I'd like :(  So...instead of reviewing a book that I would have likely finished by now (still in the midst of reading Peace Like a River) I thought I'd share my "books to be read" list!  Now, I couldn't share the entire list as it's about 430 books long...eek!!  Instead I'll share a few of the reads topping my list...

  • Bento Box in the Heartland: My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America - since I live in good ol' Indiana...I'm just dying to read this memoir!
  • Outlander (and the rest of the series) - who wouldn't want to read an epic Scottish historical fiction, meets romance, meets fantasy series??
  • American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee - As a native of the Chicago-area, I'm a sucker for depression-era tales of the Windy City...especially when focused on a character like Gypsy Rose Lee!
  • Before the Frost by Henning Mankell - Love me a good mystery!
And a few others:
  • The Twentieth Wife
  • World War Z
  • Ella Minnow Pea