Thursday, August 21, 2014

Bout of Books 11: Update #1

This week has been much busier than I anticipated when I signed up for Bout of Books, so I'm off to a bit of a slow start. As much as I love reading, life happens and I'm totally OK with that. I'm still enjoying my Harry Potter re-read very much and I'm plugging away at my audiobook mostly while going for walks since the weather has been so nice. 

Monday-Wednesday Progress
Finished Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
157 print pages read
10% further along on my audiobook
Scavenger Hunt challenge completed

Also, I LOVE creating spine poetry, but just didn't have time to enter Alysia's challenge yesterday. I'm sharing my spine poem anyway even though it's too late to enter officially :)

I am forbidden 
to enter
the City of Lost Dreams
under shadow of night

There are
back roads
dark places
the unseen

Don't breathe a word

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Bout of Books 11: Sign-Up & Goals

It's Bout of Books time again! This is only my second time participating, but I had so much fun my first round that I have been looking forward to giving it a second go. If you're not familiar with this read-a-thon, here's the info:

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 18th and runs through Sunday, August 24th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 11 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

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Regular readers of this blog might remember that my first Bout of Books helped me start some better habits to fit more reading into my day. Overall, I'd say a lot of it stuck in the weeks and months after, but definitely not all! I'm hoping this week will be a nice little reboot and my goals are pretty simple:

  1. Read every day, even if it's only a little bit.
  2. Whenever possible, read in the mornings before work, on my lunch breaks, and before bed. (These are my usual reading times, but far too often I get distracted by unimportant nonsense, so I want to work on breaking those time-wasting habits!)
  3. Finish current audiobook & start a new one
  4. Finish/read 3 print books -- most weeks I only read one book, so I'm going for two bonus books (plus I don't have a whole lot left in my current book that I will be starting off the week by finishing!)
  5. Participate in at least one mini challenge

Some reading options:

I'm currently re-reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and don't think I will quite finish it before the read-a-thon begins at midnight. I should be able to cross that off my list pretty early on. Then there is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to continue with my re-read of the series. I also have The Maze Runner and The Painted Girls which are upcoming book club selections I'd like to get started on. (I'm also toying with the idea of listening to that last one on audio instead, but I'll see how things go.)

So far I've also only read one of the books from our fancy-schmancy new Harry Potter Page-to-Screen collector set and may throw a couple of those in there as well (they are heavy on the pictures & definitely fast reads, not that I want to rush through them!) I'm thinking this week might be a good week to explore a few more if I need a break or want to mix things up.

Lastly, the audiobook I want to finish is Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma which I am already halfway through. I think I will then move onto his most recent book Cooked. I've been on a foodie-audiobook kick lately because I find them informative and interesting without confusing whatever other fiction print book I have going. I've listened to a lot of audiobook fiction this summer, but I do get distracted if I am reading more than one fiction book at a time.

If you're participating in Bout of Books, good luck! And if not, happy reading anyway :)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Re-Reading Harry Potter: The Sorcerer's Stone

I'm so glad I decided to re-read this series! This is at least the fourth time I have read the first book -- there was the first time, the time I re-read it for a college class, and the time I re-read it right before my wedding (comfort reading to escape the wedding-planning-craziness? Yes, I do think so.) There may have been an extra time or two I don't specifically recall though, it's gotten hard to keep track!

I've read a lot more widely since I first discovered these books, so I'm always a bit afraid they won't live up to my memory of them. But I'm happy to report those fears were completely unfounded. The first book was just as magical and wonderful as I remember even as more years have passed and I've gotten older. For me, when a story stands up to so many re-reads, that is the mark of a great book and a true favorite. There's not too much else I can say that hasn't been said before, so I thought I would share a few of my favorite quotes.

* * * * *

The line that started it all...
“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” 

The wisdom of Albus Dumbledore...
“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”
“To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.”
“The truth." Dumbledore sighed. "It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution.”
“As much money and life as you could want! The two things most human beings would choose above all - the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.” 
“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” 

And a couple of bookish quotes from my girl Hermione...
“Oh, HONESTLY, don't you two read?”
She was dashing back, an enormous old book in her arms. “I never thought to look in here!” she whispered excitedly. “I got this out of the library weeks ago for a bit of light reading.” “Light?” said Ron.”

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday (#26): To Read or Not to Read?

I recently did a mini-purge and collected up one (really heavy) bag of books to trade-in at the used bookstore. As I was doing this, there were three series I was really on the fence about keeping, so I'm loving today's Top Ten Tuesday topic! I'm either way under ten or way over ten depending on how you look at this, but I would really appreciate input so I can figure out if it's time to let these go or give them a shot:

Series #1
The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy by Maggie Stiefvater
Bought these before I knew a whole lot about YA and the wide range of books available in the genre. Not sure if these would be a good fit anymore.

* * * * * * * * * *

Series #2
The Immortals by Alyson Noel
Same issue as above. Also, I've tried another series by this author and a few chapters into book #2, it was a DNF, so I am no longer confident these will work for me.

* * * * * * * * * *

Series #3
Rizzoli & Isles mysteries by Tess Gerritsen
Binge bought these from after discovering the Rizzoli & Isles TV show (which I love!) is based on them. But heard from another fan of the show that she couldn't get into the books, so I haven't tried them yet.

* * * * * * * * * *

So, if you've read any of these and can help me decide, please let me know what you think!

Monday, August 11, 2014

My First Classics Club Spin: What I'm Reading!

So the random number has been chosen (#17), which means I will be reading Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith from my spin list!

A friend of mine has been recommending A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for as long as I've known her since it's one of her favorite books. When I finally went to pick up a copy, I also snagged Joy in the Morning because the description on the jacket caught my attention. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is so beloved, that I'm almost afraid her other books couldn't live up to it, so I'm glad to be starting with this one instead. And, assuming this goes well, I'm sure the other won't be far behind it!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

My First Classics Club Spin

So the challenge is to choose 20 books from my Classics Club List and then read the book that corresponds with the randomly selected number by Oct. 6th. You're supposed to mix up your list and include some really tough classics or ones you're dreading, but to be perfectly honest, if I am dreading reading it, it's not on my list! So I'm using this more as an opportunity to pick my next classic without my usual indecisiveness.

I'm currently stuck at 6/50 read for The Classics Club and five of those six have been re-reads, mostly for my Required Re-Reading Project. I'm perfectly happy with that, but for the purposes of this spin, I'm not giving myself any re-reading options -- so that will be my version of a *challenge*. Check back on Monday to see which book I will be reading :)

Modern Classics
1. Atonement, by Ian McEwan
2. Chronicle of a Death Foretold, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
3. Memories of My Melancholy Whores, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
4. Eva Luna, by Isabel Allende

Classic Mysteries
5. Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie
6. And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie
7. A Study in Scarlet, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
8. The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson

Children's Classics
9. The Enchanted Castle, by E. Nesbit
10. Five Children and It, by E. Nesbit
11. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum

Short Stories/Collections
12. Aesop's Fables
13. Selected Stories of Guy De Maupassant

The Rest
14. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
15. Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton
16. Summer, by Edith Wharton
17. Joy in the Morning, by Betty Smith
18. Lolita, by Vladimir Nabakov
19. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
20. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

And the Winner Is...

Harry Potter!

Thank you everyone who threw in their two cents last week about which reading project I should dive into first! There were quite a lot of votes for Harry, including one from my husband who cast his vote in person. I also had a conversation with my best friend Christy that made me realize I haven't reread any of them in over five years which all of a sudden seemed far too long!

I'm not sure I'm going to read all 7 straight through without any breaks, particularly once I get to the really chunky ones, but so far I am feeling like I definitely made the right decision. I'm only a third of the way into Sorcerer's Stone, but it is every bit as magical and fantastic as I remember. And I know Harry will be waiting for me even if I end up sneaking a few other books in between. There are still almost two weeks left before Bout of Books starts, so I'll see where I'm at and decide if I'm plunging forward or switching it up for the readathon -- heaven knows I have plenty of options!

P.S. I'm reading our old hardcover copies, not those shiny new paperbacks -- the hubby is a bit protective of the new set! But I will definitely be perusing the new copies as I read to check out the new artwork :)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Near Impossible Choice -- Help Me Decide!

As I mentioned in my Harry Potter fangirl post this past weekend, I'm really itching to re-read the series. The only *problem* is this isn't the only big reading project I've been itching to start. And once I commit, I know it's going to be a while before I move onto anything else, so I'm being very indecisive about the whole thing and sticking to lower commitment reading at the moment. Looking ahead to Bout of Books 11 though, I'm thinking that might be the perfect week to jumpstart one of these *projects*. I'm very much a mood reader, so ultimately that will be a big factor in my decision, but I'm really curious to hear input/suggestions from my lovely readers, if you would be so kind. The potential options, in no particular order:

1. Re-read the Harry Potter series

2. FINALLY read the Game of Thrones series (My goal is to do this sometime before season 5 airs on HBO in the spring of 2015)

3. Re-read Diana Gabaldon's Outlander #1-6 + Lord John #1-3 so I can read Outlander #7 & #8 + Lord John & the Scottish Prisoner for the first time

All these books & there's still one missing!

4. Read Deborah Harkness' All Souls Trilogy now that the final book has been published

My knee-jerk reaction is to lean toward the All Souls Trilogy simply because it is the least number of books and I know it won't take as long before I can move onto other things. However, all the books on this list (particularly the ones I've read before) are definitely worth savoring, so the time any of these *projects* would take isn't really an issue, it's just a bad habit to reach for whatever I can finish the quickest. Seems I like both quality AND quantity which has left me in quite a conundrum.

So, given these options, what would you choose first? There is always the option of choosing none of these and pulling a stack of shorter stand-alones I've been meaning to read, but I think I'm ready for something BIG. Something EXCITING. And if nothing else, all of these options are both of those things :)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Release Day Review: The Major's Daughter

The Major's Daughter, by J.P. Francis
Series? No
Publisher: Plume
Date: August 29, 2014
How did I get this book? free from the publisher for my honest review
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
GoodReads | Publisher

In three words: Conflicted. Romantic. Tragic.

I'm not much of a romance-novel reader, but I am still a sucker for a story about star-crossed love. And what could be more star-crossed than a young American (the titular Major's Daughter) falling for a German prisoner of war?

Inspired by a real little-known POW camp in New Hampshire, I was at first taken aback to realize just how close to home this camp was. WWII novels taking place in New England tend to be about those who've been left behind and don't typically feature German soldiers on American soil. While it is believed that the German prisoners were treated humanely, the author notes in her Afterword that prison life was much more difficult than she portrayed in this book. Her main focus was on the characters, so those aspects were intentionally softened. If you are looking for a gritty, 100% realistic portrayal of the time period, this may not be the book for you. But if you are looking for a literary tale about forbidden wartime love, than this definitely is a book I would recommend.

I read this while away on vacation and it was a perfect beach book -- I felt completely transported to a bygone era. The story is very character-driven and the main characters as well as the supporting characters felt very real to me. For better or worse, they are a product of their time and more than once I wanted to throttle a few of them. They are real and flawed and far from perfect, but I think that makes for very interesting reading. I didn't like everything that happened or agree with every decision, but felt the story was very fleshed out and the relationships and consequences were realistic. There's no neat little bow tying this one up, but I think I would have felt cheated if there was.

Reading Challenges:
New to Me
Historical Fiction
Review Pile

Saturday, July 26, 2014

In Which My Inner Harry Potter Fangirl Emerges

I don't usually do book haul posts mainly because I have a love-hate relationship with the acquisition of new books. I'm always excited for a new book (or two, or three, or well, you get the idea...), but my TBR pile is pretty out of control so I can't help also feeling a bit guilty when I add to it. HOWEVER, I am unabashedly excited for what the UPS man delivered to our house yesterday (in a massively heavy box, by the way):


Over the years, I've had a rocky relationship with the Harry Potter movies. When the first movie first came to theaters, I refused to watch it because I knew no film representation could ever come close to the magic I felt reading (and re-reading...) the books. I finally caved when a high school friend invited me to her birthday celebration which was dinner and a showing of, you guessed it, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Well, I wasn't so vehemently opposed that I would blow off a friend for her birthday, so off to see the movie I went. I had to admit the movie was good even though nothing will ever replace the novels in this bookish heart of mine.

As we ran out of new books in the series, there were still movies to be released, so the movies were something Harry Potter-related to get excited about. My husband and I saw several of them at midnight showings with friends and we always had complaints about the adaptations, but we've (mostly) learned to enjoy the movies separate from the books. My husband is still a bigger fan than I am -- he wore out his original copies of #1 and #2 and they are the only movies he has purchased duplicates of in both DVD and Blu-Ray.

I tease my husband quite a bit for being addicted to Twitter, but his habit came in handy last week when he spotted a tweet from MuggleNet alerting fans to an Amazon Lightning Deal on the Collector's Edition Harry Potter Page to Screen: The Complete Filmmaking Journey -- List Price $1000, Amazon Price $600, Lightning Deal Price $129.99!!

Neither of us could resist that kind of a deal on a Harry Potter collector's set even if the main focus is the movies rather than the books. It is now proudly displayed in what has affectionately been dubbed our *Library Room* along with all our other HP goodies including our Collector's Edition Tales of Beedle the Bard and our box-set of the gorgeous new paperback editions.

The set itself is gorgeous and includes clothbound and (faux?) leatherbound copies of:

Movie Magic: Practical Props and Exciting Effects

A Guide to the Graphic Arts Department: Posters, Prints, and Publications from the Harry Potter Films 

Ten Years Later: Life on Set with the Harry Potter Cast and Crew 

The Paintings of Hogwarts: Masterpieces from the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry Sets 

Harry Potter: Page to Screen

Wizard Wear and Muggle Attire: Costuming the World of Harry Potter 

The Creature Shop Compendium: Flora and Fauna from the Harry Potter Films 

Environments Envisioned: Building Fantastic Sets and Scouting Dramatic Locations 

There is also a replica of The Monster Book of Monsters film prop and a set of prints we'd really like to frame if we can find a place to hang them. I've only peeked inside the new books, but I am so excited to dive in and read them all. I've been doing quite a bit of reading poolside this summer though and these beauties will NOT be leaving our house or going anywhere near water.

A side effect of the excitement over this new set is that I am now really itching for a re-read of the whole series. Julie over at Smiling Shelves recently did a marathon re-read which already had me thinking about it, so I just might have to carve out some time for it soon :)