Tuesday, January 24, 2012

One for the Money

One for the Money (Stephanie Plum, #1)One for the Money by Janet Evanovich
Source: Purchased
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In anticipation of the upcoming release of the movie One for the Money, I finally dug out my copies of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum novels. I actually read One for the Money a few years ago after finding a cache of the books at a local yard sale for 10¢ a piece. I liked the book, but was so busy at the time that it took me a long time to finish such a relatively short book and I didn't really get "into" it.  As a result, I never read any of the subsequent books. I did, however, lend them to my aunt and grandma who have been raving about them ever since.

Well, I decided to try again and finished One for the Money on a recent train ride (perfect train reading, by the way). When read at a quicker pace, I was happy to discover my relatives were right.  The first installment was entertaining and, at times, hilarious. Some of the situations newly minted bounty hunter Stephanie Plum gets herself into are downright ridiculous. There was just enough mystery and danger to make the story seem realistic, but the characters of Stephanie and Joe Morelli, a man with whom she has a complicated history, were the real gems in this book. Grandma Mazur also provides some familial comic relief.  I liked the cast of supporting characters as well. Needless to say, I promptly dove into the second novel Two for the Dough and look forward to reading the rest of the series.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Flying Changes

Flying Changes by Sara Gruen
Source: Purchased
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I just finished this sequel to
Riding Lessons and I have to say I loved both books equally.  I’ve been reading a lot of book reviews lately and I must say I am completely confounded.  In addition to the glowing reviews (which, let’s face it, every book has at least a few because a universally hated book is truly a rare thing), a lot of the other reviews tend to fall into two camps. The first is that the book is trite, silly, predictable, &/or unrealistic and the reader just couldn’t care less.  To these people, I ask: What’s wrong with a happy ending?  Sometimes, I like to just enjoy the ride even if I might guess how things will end up. The second camp is that a book is too realistic and “sure there are people out there like that, but why would I want to read about them?” So my question is, what the heck do people want to read? Realistic or unrealistic? Predictable or unpredictable? I know it’s all about personal preference, but I honestly find myself wondering why people pick up certain books in the first place that they seem destined not to enjoy? (And for goodness sake, if you thought it was so horrible a few chapters in, just stop reading!)

You may notice that most of my reviews are generally positive, ranging from “Liked It” to “Loved It” with a rare book that I really couldn’t stand. I try really hard to only read books that interest me and that I think I will enjoy. I don’t like to read the same stuff over and over again, but I think I have a pretty good radar for finding reading material I like. I also like to think I have a very open mind which helps me enjoy all different kinds of books.

All that being said, I read a ton of reviews for Flying Changes that ranged from ripping it to shreds to just tolerating it. I on the other hand, adored it. The book picks up where Riding Lessons left off and follows the story of Annemarie’s re-kindled relationship with Dan (a man from her past) and her relationship with her daughter Eva as she starts competitive horseback riding. Annemarie battles her lingering fears from a riding accident that almost left her paralyzed 20 years ago and some insecurities about the future of her relationship with Dan.  It is once again written from Annemarie’s point of view and, consequently, all the events of the book are seen through her eyes. Her struggles, fears, hang-ups, and mistakes are all par for the course.  At one point, Dan tells her she has done “eight million stupid things since I’ve known you,” and honestly, who hasn’t?  I love all the characters, including the horses, and found myself cheering them on and hoping everything will work out in the end. If you like books with any of the following things in them: horses, animals, struggling mother-daughter relationships, or romantic relationships in general, I would heartily recommend this book. Just don’t forget to read the first one first!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Riding Lessons

Riding Lessons by Sara Gruen
Source: Purchased
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After devouring 
Water for Elephants  and also enjoying  Ape House  I went ahead and started Ms. Gruen's first book, Riding Lessons.  I had heard mixed reviews about this one, so I wasn't exactly sure what to expect.  Let me start off by saying that the main character's life is a bona fide MESS. Everything that can possibly go wrong does.  Thankfully, the author does not waste a lot of time ruining her character's life, instead she sets the stage in the first chapter or two and then the story takes off from there.

Annemarie has been unhappy for 20 years and she never really knew it until her life spirals out of control: at 38 years old, her husband leaves her, she gets laid off, and her teenage daughter is on the brink of expulsion.  To top it all off, she already has a strained relationship with her parents (partly due to a riding accident that almost left her paralyzed years ago) and she finds out that her dad has ALS. What else can possibly go wrong? Not much, but things can get a whole lot better (eventually). What this book is really about is how Annemarie heals her past and fixes her present so she can look forward to the future. Along the way, she is helped by a long-lost love and a very special horse. At one point, I really thought Annemarie went off the deep end and I couldn't imagine how this book could possibly end well, but it most certainly does.  I can't wait to read the sequel: Flying Changes, so I'm off to get started!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Year of Reading Resolutions

Posting has not happened much this month.  With all the holiday festivities, I've been sorely behind on my reading, and if I don't read, I can't post!  Well, in the new year I am making a few book related resolutions. First of all, I'm starting fresh on my "Bookshelf Stats" page.  I figure a new year should be a fresh start.  I am going to make a sincere effort to curb my book acquisition, because at my last count, I have 300 books I have not yet read! (That does include a few eBook short stories as well as several books currently in my possession that have been lent to me, but for these purposes, I'll count them.)  Yes, I'm still going to get the new books published by my favorite authors, and yes, I'm still going to get books at the Bookworm (my favorite little used bookstore ever). I'm not going to cut that out altogether because I've found some real gems on those shelves - books and authors I've never even heard of, but ended up loving! But at the same time, I don't even want to think about the number of new books I added to my collection this year. So, what I DO need to do is cool it a little (OK, maybe a lot).  Especially because we're still living with Nick's parents and I'm going to have to move all those books out soon!  So, my main reading goals for 2012 are as follows:

1. Buy less books.  Basically, I want to be much more picky about the new books I purchase.  This does not stop me from discovering new books and authors from reviews, friends, or surfing Goodreads, but I need to just let them hang out on my "Wish-list" for a while or borrow them from the library...with 300 others in the queue...there will be a time for other books, it just doesn't need to be now! I honestly don't spend a lot of money on books because most of them I get used, bargain-priced, or on really good deals, but I still don't have the time or the space to keep us this craziness!

2. Set my 2012 Goodreads Challenge to 50.  Last year, I set a goal with Goodreads' 2011 Reading Challenge to read 30 new books and I succeeded! I actually read 33. So for 2012, I think I am going to challenge myself even further and set the goal for 50 books. I think I can do it, because this year I didn't read for almost 2 months straight due to packing, moving, and working an extremely stressful job.  This year, I need to find a job, but I doubt it will be as stressful as my old one and even when we move, we already have most of our stuff packed up (stuff that never got UNpacked) so when the time comes, it should not be as time consuming.

3. Read more of my series.I really want to read a lot of the series I have accumulated. So I want part of my 50 books to include some of the following:

Stephanie Plum series, by Janet Evanovich

Wolves of Mercy trilogy, by Maggie Stiefvater
Riding Lessons/Flying Changes, by Sara Gruen
Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull
Gemma Doyle trilogy, by Libba Bray
Septimus Heap series, by Angie Sage
Inkheart trilogy, by Cornelia Funke
Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
The Rizzoli & Isles books, by Tess Gerritsen
Pink Carnation, by Lauren Willig
The Summer series, by Jenny Han
The Scottish Prisoner & An Echo in the Bone (from the Outlander series), by Diana Gabaldon
The Inheritance Cycle, by Christopher Paolini
The Immortals series by Alyson Noel
Liberty Lane series by Caro Peacock

There are also lots of stand-alone books I want to read that I'll have to slip in between all these series! A couple titles in particular are:

The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern
The Help, by Kathryn Stockett
The Lantern, by Deborah Lawrenson
The Taker, by Alma Katsu
Angelology, by Danielle Trussoni
The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters
Graveminder, by Melissa Marr

4. Read only new books. I want to continue with the resolution to read only new books, instead of re-reading all my favorites.  As much as I love them, they take time away from my new books and I feel if I can hold out another year or so, I'll really, really enjoy them when I finally do re-read them. The one exception I'm going to make is to re-read One for the Money by Janet Evanovich because I don't remember it very well and I want to read the rest of the series.

So, a Happy and healthy New Year to all! Good luck to everyone with their resolutions! Do yourself a favor and make a few fun ones too, that way even if you stumble on some of your harder ones, you have some fun goals to work toward as well :) Oh, and never make just one...that's a sure-fire way to feel like a failure.  Every year I like to make a really long list of things I'd like to accomplish in the coming year.  In the past, it's been as long as 100! I never accomplish them all, but it feels really good to look back at the list and see how many things I actually have been able to do.