Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Beach Reads

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is: top ten perfect beach reads.  Here's my list:
1) Anything by Sarah Addison Allen...but if I'm just choosing one, I'll recommend Garden Spells. Southern fiction mixed with magical realism - just wonderful!
2) The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig (and sequels) - fun Regency adventures with a dash of romance!

3) Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See...one of my favorite books of all time!  A story about the bonds of female friendship set in historic China.

4) A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness.  Witches, daemons, vampires, wine, and scholarly pursuits - so much fun! 

5) The Rossetti Letter by Christi Phillips - murder mystery/historical fiction with a dash of romance!

6)  For a YA pick...how about the new dystopian novel on the scene - Divergent by Veronica Roth

7) The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton - this book has it all: whimsy, betrayal, romance, and a mystery spanning generations.

8) If you haven't read the Stieg Larsson series yet, I highly suggest you pick these up and get to know spunky heroine Lisbeth Salander (although, the 2nd book can get a bit tedious when detailing specifics of Swedish governance).

9) Cottage by the Sea by C.J. Ware is some fun Cornish historical fiction!

10) For all you fantasy folks out there, I highly recommend taking the chunkster The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss out to the beach with you.  It'll blow your socks (er, your flip-flops) off!

Review Catch-Up: Will Grayson, Will Grayson and Divergent

Doing a little catch-up on my back-log of reviews!  First up, Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Goodreads Summary:
One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens—both named Will Grayson—are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical.

Hilarious, poignant, and deeply insightful, John Green and David Levithan’s collaborative novel is brimming with a double helping of the heart and humor that have won both them legions of faithful fans.

Last week for my Teaser Tuesday I used the opening lines of the book (because you have to admit, they're quite awesome) and mentioned that thankfully, nose-picking was not a part of the book.  If I had managed to read through ALL of chapter 1 without interruption I would have discovered that the book does indeed involve picking friend's noses...and that, oddly enough, upon finishing the novel I'm quite glad that it does!

Anyways, this book is just wonderful.  The characters have depth and are so real.  The dialogue is fantastic (as is the inner monologue).  Basically the writing is just superb, both authors did a great job of portraying the two Will Graysons and their friends.  Oh and the musical bits...hilarious!  Gah, Tiny Cooper is such a fun character.  Okay, sorry...gush-time is over.   :)

While I am no longer a teen, I can easily relate to these characters.  Perhaps because music snobbery was just as integral to my High School experience (or at least to my circle of friends).  No, what makes the story and characters so relatable is the honesty of emotions and the slowly unfolding self-realization that occurs in the novel.  Anyways, I highly recommend this book to all readers (younger readers FYI - there's quite a bit of swearing).  It will make you laugh, leave you a little misty-eyed and very, very satisfied.  Now I need to go check out these authors' other books ASAP!

5/5 stars

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Goodreads Summary:
In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.

I'm gonna gush again - but, wow is this book amazing and totally deserving of the hype!  You know you've just read a good book when you are extremely disappointed when it ends...just wanting the world and its characters to continuously live on through endless amounts of pages.  You know it's an especially good book when you reach this conclusion after reading nearly 500 pages.  Luckily for me, and all you lovely readers, this is just the first installment of a trilogy.  Now, I know that some peeps are starting to complain about the current trilogy fad and that others are beginning to tire of dystopian books...but seriously do not skip this gem of a novel!

I really have no qualms with the book, it is magnificently executed.  The main characters are well-drawn and the pacing is perfect.  Also, the story is not a variant of something that is already out there - it's quite unique.  As usual, I'm not going to touch on the plot - but I will say that I can't wait to see what will happen!  Again...this is a must read :)

5/5 stars

Monday, May 30, 2011

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.

Last Week:
I finally had some more free time last week and gladly got quite a bit of reading accomplished (thank goodness for long weekends, eh?).
  • The Ladies of Missalonghi by Colleen McCullough (meh)
  • City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (fun)
  • Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion (uniquely awesome)
  • Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan (fantabulous!)
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth (amazing)
  • One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus (great historical fiction)
This Week:

A lot of my holds at the library have gone through recently...so I have quite the little stack piled up.  Thus, I'll need to get those suckers out of the way first.  My reading plans:

Mailbox Monday is a touring meme where book bloggers share their bookish acquisitions from the week prior.  It is hosted this month by MariReads.

This week I acquired a hardcover copy of The Upright Piano Player courtesy of Doubleday

I also purchased two favorite books of mine: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Latest Read: Warm Bodies

Publisher Summary:
R is a young man with an existential crisis--he is a zombie. He shuffles through an America destroyed by war, social collapse, and the mindless hunger of his undead comrades, but he craves something more than blood and brains. He can speak just a few grunted syllables, but his inner life is deep, full of wonder and longing. He has no memories, no identity, and no pulse, but he has dreams.

After experiencing a teenage boy's memories while consuming his brain, R makes an unexpected choice that begins a tense, awkward, and strangely sweet relationship with the victim's human girlfriend. Julie is a blast of color in the otherwise dreary and gray landscape that surrounds R. His decision to protect her will transform not only R, but his fellow Dead, and perhaps their whole lifeless world. 

Scary, funny, and surprisingly poignant, Warm Bodies is about being alive, being dead, and the blurry line in between.

My thoughts:
This oddly poetic story about a dystopian world filled with zombies was such a unique book.  I know that neither dystopian novels nor tales of zombies are new to the literary scene...but this book does something different than others that have come before it.  I don't want to go into too much detail about that because I'm afraid I'd spoil the novel.  Let me just say that the book allows you to strongly empathize with a zombie (and even care for him).  Also, the message of the book is quite beautiful.  Check out this little passage:

"'Everything dies eventually.  We all know that.  People, cities, whole civilizations.  Nothing lasts.  So if existence was just binary, dead or alive, here or not here, what would be the f*ing point in anything?'  She looks up at some falling leaves and puts out her hand to catch one, a flaming red maple.  'My mom used to say that's why we have memory.  And the opposite of memory--hope.  So that things that are gone can still matter.  So we can build off our pasts and make futures.'" -pg. 115

My only qualm (if I'm being super-persnickity) is that the ending seems to be a bit oversimplified or, um, vague.  I wouldn't have minded a bit more explanation of the conclusion (I can't say about what without spoiling...so I'll just leave it at that).  Really though, this barely bothered me...I'm just nit-picking.  I've read several rave reviews on the blogosphere about this book - which is the reason why I picked it up (I'll add links to their reviews at the bottom of this post).  I think that most people will find that they really enjoy this book.  As I said, it's not a typical read and even those that don't like zombie books will find themselves recommending it to others.  So, final word...go check out this book!

4.5/5 stars

Jenn's Bookshelves
Missy's Reads and Reviews

Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday Finds: Eclectic

Friday Finds is hosted by Should Be Reading and allows readers to showcase books they have discovered over the past week.  This week my finds are a bit eclectic, one non-fiction goodie and one lovely graphic novel!

First up, No More Dirty Looks by Siobhan O’Connor and Alexandra Spunt:

Publisher Summary:
It started with a harmless quest for perfect wash-and-go hair. Every girl wants it, and Siobhan O’Connor and Alexandra Spunt finally found it in a fancy salon treatment. They were thrilled—until they discovered that the magic ingredient was formaldehyde.

Shocked, O’Connor and Spunt left no bottle unturned. If it went on their body (and thus, was absorbed into their skin and bloodstream), they researched it. As it turns out, many of those unpronounceable ingredients in your self-tanner and leave-in conditioner are not regulated and the “natural” on your face wash doesn’t mean what you think it does.

Now, with the help of top scientists, dermatologists, and makeup artists, the authors share their compelling findings and the easy way to detoxify your beauty regimen. No More Dirty Looks also reveals the safest, most effective products on the market and time-tested home recipes. Finally, you don’t need to sacrifice health for beauty—because coming clean is the best look yet.

I also found out about Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol:

Publisher Summary:
Of all the things Anya expected to find at the bottom of an old well, a new friend was not one of them. Especially not a new friend who’s been dead for a century. 

Falling down a well is bad enough, but Anya’s normal life might actually be worse. She’s embarrassed by her family, self-conscious about her body, and she’s pretty much given up on fitting in at school. A new friend—even a ghost—is just what she needs.

But her new BFF isn’t kidding about the “Forever” part . . . 

Spooky, sardonic, and secretly sincere, Anya’s Ghost is a wonderfully entertaining debut from author/artist Vera Brosgol.


Book Blogger Hop

First up, the Book Blogger Hop hosted by Crazy-For-Books.com.  Click on the icon above to be taken to a list of book blogs...it's enjoyable to peruse and you may just find a couple of fun blogs to follow!

"What book-to-movie adaption have you most liked?  Which have you disliked?"
Hmm...it's really hard to think of a book-to-movie adaptation that I've actually liked.  If I give myself enough time between when I read a book and when I watch the movie adaptation I tend to like the movies a bit better.  This is probably because details of the book have faded - so what Hollywood has left out is not as glaringly obvious.

Most liked: I suppose it would be the Lord of the Rings movies and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.  The movie was very well done and kept closely to the spirit of the book - great acting too.

Most disliked: The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman.  I knew this one was going to be bad before it even came out...but, it was even worse than I thought it would be!

Also, Happy Follow Friday!  Again click on the pic to be taken to a whole slew of new book blogs.  The question of the day:

Q. How many books do you read in a week? And in what format do you read them, or listen to them?

 Welp, it really depends on how much free time I have in a week.  Generally, I average about 3 books per week.  I'm not a big audio book person.  I never drive anywhere so I don't know when I would get the chance to listen to them!  Mostly, I read in print format but I do also read ebooks here and there (probably 1 ebook for every 3 print books).

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Booking Through Thursday: Rut

btt button

Do you ever feel like you’re in a reading rut? That you don’t read enough variety? That you need to branch out, spread your literary wings and explore other genres, flavors, styles?

Actually, I was just thinking that very thing this morning.  I decided I need to take a little break from the paranormal/supernatural stuff.  I just finished City of Bones and while I enjoyed it immensely...I thought I would like it a bit more.  After pondering that for a minute I realized that the reason for any dissatisfaction with the book is that I'm just burned out on the whole vampire, demon, werewolf thing.  I've read a number of books this year with these supernatural elements and it's become rather tired for me.  I read a variety of books from all sorts of genres so ignoring the supernatural bit for awhile will be no problem.  Has anyone else read to much of a certain genre and grown tired of it?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Library Loot: May 25-31

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Marg (Reading Adventures) and Claire (The Captive Reader) that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

This week I have four little lovelies that I snatched from the local lib:

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion...I heard so many great things about this one on the blogosphere that I just had to check it out!

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn...this one's been sitting on my TBR for awhile and when I saw there was no wait (there's a lot of readers in my community) I decided to snatch it up while I had the chance.

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare...since Mortal Instruments is the big-time YA trilogy of the moment I thought I'd check it out :)

The Ladies of Missalonghi by Colleen McCullough...I already finished this one earlier this week and my thoughts were...meh.  Not a big fan.  I checked this one out because I heard it was based on The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery which I enjoyed as a cozy little read.  Unfortunately, this one was nowhere near as good.  Oh well!

Waiting on Wednesday: The Night Circus

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that showcases upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week I find myself yearning for the release of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

How neat is this book cover?!

Publisher Summary:
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des RĂªves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart. 

Sounds like the Hunger Games meets The Prestige, no?  Can't wait for this sucker to come out in September!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Splash Into Summer Giveaway Hop

I'm taking part in the Splash Into Summer Giveaway Hop hosted by I am a Reader, Not a Writer and Page Turners.  Here on No Page Left Behind, the prize at stake is a Penguin Classics hardcover edition of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass - a gorgeous addition to any home library!  To enter this giveaway the only requirement is to fill out the form with your name, address and email.  If you follow this blog another way: twitter, facebook, or via a GFC/email/RSS subscription you will get another (+1) extra entry for each way you follow.  Up to 3 extra entries!
 Winner will be chosen at random using random.org (must live in the US) - good luck!  I will announce the winner on June 1st.  For a chance to win other goodies check out the blogs listed on the linky at the bottom of the post.


Teaser Tuesday: Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by Should Be Reading where you share a random snippet of your latest book.

This week, my teaser is from Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan:

"When I was little, my dad used to tell me 'Will, you can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can't pick your friend's nose.'  This seemed like a reasonably astute observation to me when I was eight, but it turns out to be incorrect on a few levels." -- pg. 3

I just had to share the opening bit because it's so much fun (although the book thus far has also been exceedingly fun).  Don't you want to find out why this maxim doesn't hold true for the narrator? You hope it has nothing to do with nose-picking - and thankfully, it does not.    

Happy reading folks!

Monday, May 23, 2011

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. 

Last week:
Again, I didn't accomplish as much reading as I'd like - sometimes life just gets in the way!  I squeezed in some time for:
  • Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward (so funny)
  • Attachments by Rainbow Rowell (such a cute lil' rom-com)
This week: 
 I'm hoping I'll read around 4 books or so...especially since I'll be spending the holiday weekend at home!  I'd like to finish:

  • Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
  • The Soldier's Wife by Margaret Leroy
  • The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti
  • Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Mailbox Monday is a touring meme where book bloggers share their bookish acquisitions from the week prior.  It is hosted this month by MariReads.

This week I acquired two lovely book series:

First up, I decided I really needed to own Mary Stewart's Merlin series.  I now have The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, The Last Enchantment, and The Wicked Day sitting pretty on my shelves!

I also figured that I really should have one of my most favorite YA series on hand for rereading...so I bought the paperback boxset of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy!
So pretty, right?!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Hop Alongs and Follows :)

Book Blogger Hop

First up, the Book Blogger Hop hosted by Crazy-For-Books.com.  Click on the icon above to be taken to a list of book blogs...it's enjoyable to peruse and you may just find a couple of fun blogs to follow!

"If you were given the chance to spend one day in a fictional world (from a book), which book would it be from and what would that place be?"
Wow, what a question!  I'm not sure I can choose just one.  My initial thought is to go with a fantasy pick...why stay in the regular ol' world, right? :)

An obvious choice would be to spend a day in Narnia.  Who wouldn't love that?  But maybe I'll choose Philip Pullman's Dark Materials series so I could see what kind of daemon I would have!  No, actually, I think I would pick to live in Sarah Addison Allen's enchanting The Girl Who Chased the Moon  - Mullaby, NC.  I can see the quaint Southern streets in my mind's eye and taste the humid air laced with magic!  Yes, I would love to spend a day there (especially to stop and see the miraculously changing wallpaper and taste one of Julia's sweet confections).

Also, Happy Follow Friday!  Again click on the pic to be taken to a whole slew of new book blogs.  The question of the day:

Q. It's circle time. Time for us to open up and share. Can you tell us FIVE quirky habits or things about you? We all have them...

 Hmmm...okay, here's my five:
  1. I hate orange juice, ketchup, BBQ sauce and I don’t really like brownies, chocolate cake or chocolate chip cookies…weird, I know.
  2. I cry in movies all the time.  Once, I even cried during the previews.
  3. My feet are ridiculously accident-prone. A piece of wood floor splintered into my foot while I was sliding across the floor (let this be a cautionary tale to all you floor-sliders). I have also stepped on a thorn, a nail, and a sewing needle.
  4. Halloween is my ultimate favorite holiday. I love coming up with and wearing costumes – in recent years I have been Ace Ventura, a Freudian slip, Peg Bundy, and a garden gnome.
  5. When I was growing up there were these little moths that covered the fields by my house, I discovered that if you smashed them between your hands they turned into gold shimmery glitter. I thought this was fairy dust and chased these poor moths around so I could use their magic to help me fly – the flying thing never did happen for me  :) 

Friday Finds: YA goodies

Friday Finds is hosted by Should Be Reading and allows readers to showcase books they have discovered over the past week.  This week, both of my finds are YA novels:

Sabriel (and the rest of the Abhorsen trilogy) by Garth Nix

Publishers Weekly blurb:
Sabriel is her last year at Wyverley College, a private school in Ancelstierre, where Magic does not work, but near the Border with the Old Kingdom, where it does. She and her father are also highly skilled necromancers, who fight the dead who seek to return to Life. But when her father is somehow trapped in Death, she must journey into the Old Kingdom to find him. She does not know that it is wracked by struggle (like that in Ursula LeGuin's The Farthest Shore)-a magician has brought chaos by refusing to die and hopes to use Sabriel and her father to further consolidate his power. Sabriel goes on a long journey throughout a densely imagined world, learning as she goes, and meeting such strange characters as Mogget, a raging natural force contained in the shape of a cat. She also develops a relationship with Touchstone, a young man who turns out to be as crucially involved as she is. 

Although Sabriel is possessed of much heavy knowledge ("A year ago, I turned the final page of The Book of the Dead. I don't feel young any more"), she is still a teenager and vulnerable where her father and love for Touchstone are concerned, making her a sympathetic heroine. Rich, complex, involving, hard to put down, this first novel, an Australian import, is excellent high fantasy. The suitably climactic ending leaves no loose ends, but readers will hope for a sequel.

The Other Side of the Island by Allegra Goodman

Goodreads summary:
From New York Times bestselling author Allegra Goodman comes a post apocalyptic novel about love, loss, and the power of human choice. 

Honor and her parents have been reassigned to live on Island 365 in the Tranquil Sea. Life is peaceful there—the color of the sky is regulated by Earth Mother, a corporation that controls New Weather, and it almost never rains. Everyone fits into their rightful and predictable place. . . .

Except Honor. She doesn’t fit in, but then she meets Helix, a boy with a big heart and a keen sense for the world around them. Slowly, Honor and Helix begin to uncover a terrible truth about life on the Island: Sooner or later, those who are unpredictable disappear . . . and they don’t ever come back.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Latest Read: Heads You Lose

Publisher Summary:
Meet Paul and Lacey Hansen: orphaned, pot-growing twentysomething siblings eking out a living in rural Northern California. When a headless corpse appears on their property, they can't exactly dial 911, so they move the body and wait for the police to find it. Instead, the corpse reappears, a few days riper . . . and an amateur sleuth is born. Make that two.

When collaborators Lutz and Hayward (former romantic partners) start to disagree about how the story should unfold, the body count rises, victims and suspects alike develop surprising characteristics (meet Brandy Chester, the stripper with the Mensa IQ), and sibling rivalry reaches homicidal intensity. Think
Adaptation crossed with Weeds. Will the authors solve the mystery without killing each other first?

What a unique little gem of a book!  This novel was extremely playful with its language and it seriously augmented my vocabulary.  I didn't even know some of these words existed before reading them (mostly in David Hayward's chapters) - for example: caliginous (misty, dim; obscure, dark) and asperous (rough; uneven).  There were hilarious messages between the authors separating the chapters.  They were honestly my favorite parts of the book...personal anecdotes that eventually erode into bitter (and funny) banter.  After Lisa's many complaints over David's pretentious vocabulary choices he cleverly disrespects her in Chapter 14...I literally laughed out loud. Also, there are footnotes throughout the story (inserted by the other co-author) that kept me snorting with amusement. Such a fun and quirky book!  To get an idea of the authors' relationship check out this fun little interview:

4.5/5 stars

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Library Loot: May 18-24

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Marg (Reading Adventures) and Claire (The Captive Reader) that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

This week I have three little lovelies that I snatched from the local lib:

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell (a quirky modern rom-com),

A bit of magic with The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti,

and some steampunk fun with the second installment of the Parasol Protectorate - Changeless by Gail Carriger