Monday, September 8, 2014

Mini Reviews: Bittersweet + The Heiresses

Well, it looks like it's been pretty quiet around here in terms of book reviews. It seems this summer I mostly blogged about various bookish events and challenges, so I'm long overdue to share some thoughts on the books I've been reading these past few months. Here's the first of (hopefully) several catch-up posts.

Bittersweet, by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
Series? No
Publisher: Crown
Date: May 2014
How did I get this book? Advanced Reader's Copy from the publisher for review
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Goodreads | Author | Publisher

I really loved this book! It is dark, twisty, and full of family secrets -- which is pretty close to my ideal novel. There is a summer estate where the members of a rich and prominent family vacation each year and there is no shortage of intrigue and drama amongst the various relatives. The addition of a newcomer (who is our narrator) promises the unearthing of the family's long-buried history. I would say it's a bit more on the literary side for a suspense novel. I was compelled to keep reading and there was no shortage of shocking twists and turns as this one came to a close. I went ahead and ordered used copies of both of this author's previous (now out-of-print) novels and would definitely pick up anything new she writes in the future.

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The Heiresses, by Sara Shepard
Series? yes (The Heiresses #1)
Publisher: Harper
Date: May 2014
How did I get this book? won an Advanced Reader's Copy from a Goodreads First Reads giveaway
My Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Goodreads | Author | Publisher

Truthfully, it was not the best idea to read this one right after Bittersweet. There are a lot of similarities in the storylines -- rich family, dark secrets, buried history -- but with the added element of murder (and the threat that the first will not be the last). The fact that I still enjoyed both of them very much despite their proximity to one another definitely says something. The style and tone of this one is definitely less literary and more soap opera-y, for lack of a better word. It was a real page-turner, guilty-pleasure-type book so it made for a great beach read while on vacation.

_____________
Reading Challenges:
New to Me
Review Pile
My Kind of Mystery

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Bout of Books 11: Update #2 / Wrap-Up

As I mentioned in my first update, the beginning days of Bout of Books were very busy and that did not change as the week went on. All things considered, I'm still happy with how the week went, but if I had known in advance how hectic life would be, I honestly would not have joined up this time -- oh well! I still got some reading in and participated in two fun challenges:

Thursday-Sunday Progress
Finished The Omnivore's Dilemma audiobook (last 40%)
Started Cooked audiobook (5% or so)
Started The Painted Girls for book club
75 print pages read

Book Chain Challenge completed:

Recreate a Book Cover Challenge completed:

I feel like I cheated a bit by choosing such an easy cover with books on it, but it was still fun! And for the record, the books I chose are not my personal "ideal bookshelf," just ones I thought were visually similar to the original -- and even though the color is all wrong, I had to use one of my own clothbound classics for the yellow clothbound in the original illustration :) 

Cumulative progress for the week:
Finished 1 print book + 1 audiobook
Started 2 print books + 1 audiobook
Read 232 print pages
Listened to audiobooks for approx. 8 hrs. 45 minutes 

Looking at the number of hours instead of just my percentage of progress on the audiobooks makes me realize I fit in a lot more reading time than I thought I did! It definitely helped that the weather was cooler so I wasn't swimming as much for exercise and going for walks instead (in addition to my usual listening while cooking and doing chores.) My goals for the week may have been a bit too ambitious (3 books? really, Christine?!), but the read-a-thon was still a success. Hope everyone had a great week, Bout-of-Books or not :)

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
Started Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
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 Half.com 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 :)