Saturday, May 31, 2014

Clean Sweep ARC Challenge Wrap-Up


I still have a lot more catch-up to do, but this month-long challenge was a great jumpstart to get me back on track with my review copies. Even with a Bout of Books week when I read mostly non-review books, I still managed to knock four off my stack. I couldn't decide between focusing on "current" ARCs or the long overdue ones, so I ended up reading two of each:


Goodnight June (review to post soon)

I still have quite a backlog of review books, but right now my biggest problem is figuring out which one to read next -- they all look so good! And then there are all my purchased books... I am quite certain I will never run out of reading material :)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Dark Tide

Dark Tide, by Elizabeth Haynes
Series? No
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
Date: March 12, 2013 (first published March 2012 in the UK as Revenge of the Tide)
How did I get this book? free Advanced Reader's Copy from the publisher via Shelf Awareness for my honest review
My Rating: 3 of 5 stars
GoodReads | AuthorPublisher

Having heard such great things about Elizabeth Haynes, I was so excited when I won an ARC of this book from a Shelf Awareness giveaway last year. Yet, for some inexplicable reason, I repeatedly passed it over and only finally got around to reading it during Bout of Books. I love a good thriller, but must admit I don't read them all that frequently. A desire to find out what happens and solve the mystery kept me flipping the pages, but unfortunately the book as a whole didn't quite live up to expectations.

My main gripe is that the main character Genevieve came across as one big cliche. There was a Bout of Books challenge where I had to re-title my current read and my entry was "Regular gal/pole dancer gets in over her head in thriller Dark Tide & reminds me of every crime show in existence." The idea of a woman with a *normal* job and a mostly *normal* life trying to make some extra cash on the side and getting caught in the middle of something she never bargained for sounds a bit like an episode of Castle to me. I love Castle and all, but I guess I was expecting something more original.

The story flips back and forth between the present and when Genevieve was first working at an exclusive gentlemen's club. It was interesting to see how past events led up to and contributed to the mystery, but after a while it started to get a bit annoying. Genevieve (who is narrating) already has a lot of information about what has happened and is only slowly revealing it to the reader. I find a story much more suspenseful when the reader discovers things at the same time as the narrator, apparently. Obviously she doesn't know everything, but a lot of the mystery is finding out what happened in the past and Genevieve already knows that part of the story -- the reader just has to get it out of her. There is also a bit of a love story thrown in that I didn't find very believeable which was unfortunate. I don't object to mixing romance with my thrillers, but this one didn't seem to have much of a foundation.

Despite these complaints, I really don't think this is a bad book. This was Haynes' second novel, and I've heard nothing but good things about her first Into the Darkest Corner, so I'm hoping this was just a bit of a sophomore slump. Into the Darkest Corner is supposedly a very intense read and I think that was definitely lacking here.

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Reading Challenges:
New to Me
Review Pile
My Kind of Mystery
Lucky No. 14
Clean Sweep ARC

Friday, May 23, 2014

My Big Bookish Regret

Dear readers, I have a confession to make. You see, I've been looking back on my reading history and feeling like my shelves are missing some of my old friends. I keep asking myself why on earth I ever got rid of them, but that's a rhetorical question because I know damn well what the answer is. You see, as a kid and a teenager, I loved getting rid of books. Don't worry, I never threw a book in the trash, but I was big on "growing out of" books and rounding up big piles to take to the used bookstores so I could replace them with newer books, non-school-related books, more "grown-up" books or whatever else was striking my fancy at the time. Granted, it would have made our multiple moves over the years even more difficult, but I look back and am so sad I don't have any of my Nancy Drew or Babysitter's Club books. I don't have any of the Mary Higgins Clarks I inhaled during my first "adult" mystery phase. I can count on one hand the number of books from my school days I have the same physical copy of:


Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury -- I thought this one was gone as well until I found it recently at my parents' house. Lucky for me we held onto it for my brother who didn't mind in the slightest if added it back to my collection.


Wait Till Helen Comes, by Mary Downing Hahn -- This wasn't a school book, but I read it SO many times. I also read every other Mary Downing Hahn book my hometown library had in circulation. I can't even really remember what they were about anymore, but I absolutely loved them back then.


Mrs. Frisby & the Rats of Nimh, by Robert C. O'Brien -- a grammar school summer reading assignment that I enjoyed and miraculously held onto for all these years. Why this one and not others is a bit of a mystery to me!

And that's it. Those are the only ones that have survived to adulthood. There is a box of (mostly) picture books at my parents' house that my mom kept, but so many of the ones I remember most fondly now, I passed on with barely a second thought. I'm not upset I got rid of the ones I didn't like the first time around, but I actually liked reading Romeo & Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Dream. I liked Cold Sassy Tree so much I actually sought out the (unfinished) sequel. They may not have all been absolute favorites, but I distinctly remember liking The House on Mango Street, The Giver, Number the Stars, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Last Unicorn, The Poisonwood Bible, Catcher in the Rye, The Importance of Being Earnest, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, A Christmas Carol, and The Crystal Cave -- all of which were either part of the curriculum or summer reading options. Strange & Unexpected Love was an incredible memoir written by a Holocaust survivor who came to speak at my high school -- why on earth did I not keep that book?!?!

So this, my friends, is my Big Bookish Regret. This adult bookworm really wishes she had held onto more of her childhood and teenage books. 14-year-old me couldn't possibly imagine the nostalgia 28-year-old me would be feeling all these years later. I've replaced a few over the years, but in my excitement over my new Required Re-Reading Project, I've been doing it a lot more lately. Starting fresh with new, shiny copies of books I didn't like when I read them for school is one thing, but I do wish I had my original copies of some books I did like. There's not much to be done about it now, unfortunately. I think I've found a bit of a loophole in my Golden Rule of Book Buying, but I really don't feel too guilty about it :)

What about you? Do you ever regret getting rid of books? Or have other bookish regrets? I'd love to know!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

1,000 Feelings For Which There Are No Names

Now that Bout of Books is finished, boy do I have a lot of reviews to catch up on! One book at a time, right? Here's the first of many you'll see here over the next few weeks.

1,000 Feelings for Which There Are No Names
written by Mario Giordano, 
translated by Isabel Fargo Cole,
& illustrated by Ray Fenwick
Series? No
Publisher: Penguin
Date: May 6, 2014
How did I get this book? free from the publisher for my honest review
My Rating: 3 of 5 stars
GoodReads | Publisher

The title pretty much explains what this one is all about. It's not the kind of book to sit down and read in one sitting, but would be a lovely gift or coffee table book. It's the kind of book that is nice to dip in and out of. Many of the 1,000 feelings could be used as jumping off points for journaling, other writing, or even just discussion among friends. I could relate to (almost) all of the 1,000 feelings listed and many of them conjured up vivid memories. This is a fun book I would definitely recommend.

I'll end with just a few of my favorites from the book (my commentary in parentheses.)

127. The misgiving that the Catholic Church might turn out to be right about everything after all. (I know Christy will understand this one!)
296. The joy when the UPS guy rings. (He brings books!)
316. The yearning for the world to stop turning and this perfect summer afternoon to last forever.
389. The relief that it was just a dream.
452. The indignation of finding typos in books and magazines.
497. The wicked glee when know-it-alls screw up. (I'm married to one...)
592. The glee that you don't have to leave the house today and freeze your butt off out there. (By far the single greatest thing about working from home -- I'm spoiled, I know!)
693. The hope at the sight of teenagers reading.
929. The anticipation of a package you ordered online. (Um, yea, those are books, too...)
957. The elation of having this day all to yourself. (To read!)


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Reading Challenges:
Translated
New to Me
Review Pile

Monday, May 19, 2014

Bout of Books Days 5, 6, 7 + Wrap-Up

Friday

Time spent reading:  1 hr. 15 min.
Pages read: 195
Books completed: 1 (Everything On It)
Challenges: Cover Scavenger Hunt & Rainbow of Books


Saturday

Time spent reading: 2 1/2 hours
Pages read: 161
Books completed: 1 (Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History)

Sunday

Time spent reading: 2 hr. 45 min.
Pages read: 136 + 1/2 hr. audio
Books completed: 1 (Maus II: And Here My Trouble Begins)

Wrap-Up

Total books completed: 7
Total time read: 17 hours
Total pages read: 1009 + 3 hrs. 45 min. audio

The finished stack

I never in a million years would have set a goal to read 1000 pages in a week and can't believe I actually did anyway! The majority of those pages were graphic novels and children's poetry, but that number is still pretty mind-blowing to me. I'm a slow reader who usually reads about a book a week, if I'm lucky. This event has made me more conscious of the extra time I have in a day to read if I really want to. I'm really hoping to carry over new habits I started during Bout of Books into regular life. All I really did differently this week was take advantage of an extra half an hour here or there to read -- first thing in the morning, on my lunch break, etc. It has completely amazed me how much the time adds up when I am not just reading at bedtime. It's been a revelation!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Bout of Books Days 3 & 4

I must say I'm enjoying my first Bout of Books very much! In addition to my usual bedtime reading, I've been reading for a half hour in the morning before I start my day and also on my breaks from work. Since I work from home and choose my own hours, you'd think I would already be in the habit of doing this, but far too often I flip on Netflix or get lost online on my breaks instead. I was actually much better at reading in the mornings and on breaks when I worked at my old job with a much more rigid schedule, which I find rather ironic. I'm loving this new routine so much though that I hope to continue it going forward, read-a-thon or not!

Wednesday

Time spent reading: 3 hours
Pages read: 135
Books completed: 1 (Dark Tide)
Challenge: 'This' Made Me Think of 'That'



Thursday

Time spent reading: 3 1/2 hours
Pages read: 256 (graphic novel) + 2 hrs. 15 min. audio
Books completed: 2 (Noah & Beowulf)
Challenge: Spell It Out


Total books completed: 4
Total time read: 10 1/2 hours
Total pages read: 517 + 3 hrs. 15 min. audio

While I'm a firm believer that all books "count," about half of my total pages read are from a graphic novel -- I didn't gain super-human speed-reading powers overnight :)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Bout of Books Days 1 & 2

I have never in the history of this blog posted on a daily basis, so I didn't think Bout of Books (when I'm trying to read more than usual!) was the time to start. Updates every other day are much more my speed, giving me more time for the actual reading :)

Monday

Time spent reading: 1 1/2 hours
Pages read: 63
Challenge: If you like X, Try Y



Tuesday

Time spent reading: 2 1/2 hours
Pages read: 63 + 1 hour audio
Books completed: 1 (Team Human)

Total books completed: 1
Total time read: 4 hours
Total pages read: 126 + 1 hr. audio

When I tallied up the pages, I thought it was quite funny to realize I read the exact same number each day so far without intending to. I've always known I'm a slow reader, but it was a bit of a reality check to look at those numbers and realize just how slow compared to most everyone else. I know reading is not about speed, but I always wish I could read more! I can't increase my pace without ruining the experience though, so I'll continue to plod along...

I'm still working on Dark Tide which was one of the books that spilled over from last week. I'm in the homestretch now and hope to finish it later today. On Tuesday, I finished the audiobook of Team Human for next month's book club. I must say it feels really good to be ahead of schedule for once! I also took a trip to the library because two of my holds became available. I'm adding these two to the pile of options for the rest of the week:


Since one is a graphic novel and the other is a short audio book for my Required Re-Reading project, they are definitely good candidates!

How's Bout of Books going for you so far (if you're participating)?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Bout of Books Sign-up & Goals

Bout of Books
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, May 12th and runs through Sunday, May 18th 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 10 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

* * * * *

I'm finally taking the plunge! I've enjoyed year-long challenges and occasionally month-long challenges, but I was always afraid read-a-thons would be too much pressure. It's pretty normal for me to take a week to read a book, so I wasn't exactly sure what benefit an event like this could have for me. But after reading everyone's posts for Dewey's 24-hour Read-a-Thon recently, I found myself composing lists of books in my head and itching to jump on the bandwagon. Just 24 hours still seems very intense to me, but I think a week long event might be just the thing. There is definitely more time in my days for reading if I could get myself a bit better organized and prioritized. So this week is a welcome opportunity to have an "excuse" to read whenever I am not doing essential activities such as working, sleeping, etc. So, onto my game plan...

I think there are two ways for me personally to get the most of Bout of Books and enjoy myself in the process -- a bunch of short and/or "easy" books or 1-2 really long books (think Outlander or Game of Thrones). 90% of the time I read one average length book per week -- say 300-400-ish pages. This week won't feel any different if I just stick with my usual though. So for this first Bout of Books, I'm going with graphic novels, poetry, and shorter YA (after I finish the adult thriller Dark Tide which has spilled over from last week.) I don't think I will read all of these, but it's good to have options. I've taken my bookish buddy Charleen's advice to heart and chosen books I'm really excited to read, not just excited to cross off my list. Except for the Silverstein one, these are all for my Banned Books challenge and I LOVE reading banned books.


I've also been trying to get outside in the nice weather before it gets too hot and muggy and I don't want to hole myself up inside for the entire week. So I'll listen to audiobooks when I go for walks and if it's really nice, maybe I'll even head to the park just to read at some point. I'll start with the end of Team Human which is for next month's book club meeting and then I'll see what else is available to borrow from my library's digital collection. The audiobooks will also be good for when I'm doing boring household chores like washing dishes, laundry, etc.

So, I am officially setting my goal at 7 books -- which could include finishing the two I already have started (1 audio + 1 print). Wish me luck!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (#25): First Impressions


I absolutely adored The Bookman's Tale when I read it last year, so I was SO excited to hear Charlie Lovett has a new book coming out this fall!

Expected Publication: Oct. 16, 2014

It's another literary mystery -- my very favorite kind of mystery -- and this time it's about Jane Austen. I love books-about-books so this one has my name ALL over it. Is it October yet?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday (#24): Frame-Worthy Cover Art


I am such a sucker for cover art, so this week's topic is right up my alley! I've divided up today's list quite a bit to go along with my varied interests (and I definitely chose way more than 10!) Since there are already actual books everywhere you turn in my house, I probably will not be acting on these ideas any time soon. BUT, I do have a bookish decorating project in the works to share with you soon -- stay tuned!

In the Kitchen

I love to cook & bake and cookbooks are a big weakness of mine. These are a few favorites from my shelves that would also be right at home on my kitchen walls:


In My French Kitchen, by Joanne Harris & Fran Warde
Falling Cloudberries, by Tessa Kiros
Lemon Zest, by Lori Longbotham
Luscious Chocolate Desserts, by Lori Longbotham


Significant Topic/Theme

These are the covers that portray places, subjects, activities, etc. that interest me. I haven't necessarily read all of these, but I like the images & ideas they evoke.


The Bookstore, by Deborah Meyler
The Cookbook Collector, by Allegra Goodman
The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield


The Sea House, by Elisabeth Gifford
Sweet Salt Air, by Barbara Delinsky
A Half Forgotten Song, by Katherine Webb


A Hundred Summers, by Beatriz Williams
Barefoot Summers, by Faith Andrews Bedford
Swimming at Night, by Lucy Clarke


The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss
Letters from Home, by Kristina McMorris
Letters from Skye, by Jessica Brockmole


Pure Design

These are book covers I could frame based on their design alone. It wouldn't matter that I haven't read them or that they don't have any other personal significance -- though I do want to read them all. My bookish eye candy:


The Lantern, by Deborah Lawrenson
The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker
The House of the Spirits, by Isabelle Allende
This House is Haunted, by John Boyle
The River of No Return, by Bee Ridgway
The Dark, by Claire Mulligan


The Nostalgia Factor

If I am 100% honest, the most likely book covers to actually make their way onto my walls would probably only be books I've read & loved. Their covers may not be the most artistic (though they are certainly not bad!), but they are more realistic possibilities.


Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon
Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen
Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
The Help, by Kathryn Stockett
The Forgotten Garden, by Kate Morton

Friday, May 2, 2014

Required Re-Reading: The Joy Luck Club (a new feature + a giveaway!)

I've been wanting to re-read books I read for school for quite some time now. In particular, I'm interested in revisiting those books I had to read but didn't like (or in some cases, hated!). This all started when I was looking over some of my old GoodReads ratings and was struck by how low I rated most of my required reading. There were a handful of school assignments I loved, but the number is appallingly low. Looking at the titles now, I know most of them are highly respected and loved by many. I'm convinced that despite my teachers' best efforts, their significance was lost on my teenage self. I think many of them deserve a second chance now that I am older and can choose to read them of my own free will. So when Penguin contacted me about sponsoring a giveaway to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the publication of The Joy Luck Club, I figured why not start with this one? So I give you the inaugural edition of my new Required Re-Reading project, hopefully it is the first of many!

* * * * *

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
Series? No
Publisher: Penguin
Date: 1989
How did I get this book? giveaway is sponsored by Penguin Books, but I purchased my own copy to read & review
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
GoodReads | Author | Publisher

When I originally read this book for my sophomore Global Literature class, it was a 2-star read for me. It is so unfair to blame the teacher, but the teacher I had that year really did not inspire any kind of love for the books she was teaching. It seemed as if they were homework for her as much as they were homework for her students. Maybe that's unfair, but when I look back on my high school years, all three of my other English teachers seemed a lot more passionate about their subject and really wanted us to love the books as much as they did. Even when I didn't love the books, those other teachers' love of literature was a noticeable thing I respected and admired.

Anyway, back to the book! From the moment I started reading The Joy Luck Club for the second time, I knew my 2-star rating was going to disappear. The writing is just beautiful and the intertwining stories are a fascinating exploration of the dynamics between mothers and daughters. Add to that the differences and misunderstandings between one generation born in China and the next generation born in the United States, and you have quite a compelling read. With alternating chapters telling the individual stories of eight different main characters, I sometimes had a little bit of trouble keeping everyone's story straight, but this didn't interfere with my enjoyment of the book as a whole -- I just flipped back to check on a name or a detail and continued on.

I found the Chinese culture portrayed in this book very interesting, but the search for understanding, meaning, identity, and a better life for one's children feels very universal as well. This book has become a modern classic and I can now see why. If, like me, you read this one for school and didn't like it, I highly recommend giving it a second chance!

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Thanks to the publisher, I am running a giveaway! One winner will receive a copy of the Penguin Classic Edition + a copy of the (gorgeous!) new Drop Cap Edition. Since the books will be shipped by the publisher, this giveaway is restricted to US and Canadian addresses only. (Sorry international readers!) To ship to Canada, the publisher will need the winner to provide a phone number. Personal information will only be used for the purposes of this giveaway and will be kept private. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Reading Challenges:
The Classics Club (Review #4)
Diversity on the Shelf
Re-Reading
Book to Movie
Banned or Challenged

Thursday, May 1, 2014

May 2014 Clean Sweep ARC Challenge

I was in dire need of a break from ARCs these past few weeks, but it's time to jump back in the game! I had been reading a lot of discussion posts, advice, and comments from more seasoned bloggers (like here and here) about how we should never take advantage of the system, but it's also OK to cut ourselves some slack when it comes to review copies. I've taken it all to heart and I think a heavy dose of reason combined with the much-needed break has reinvigorated the reviewer in me. And what better way to tackle my pile than a challenge! I am hereby joining:


I've debated quite a bit if I want to focus on my "current" ARCs or my "neglected" ARCs. I am guilty of continually pushing aside my "neglected" ARCs because I'm embarrassed by how long ago the release date was for some of them -- but I'm adopting the philosophy of "better late than never" and also taking to heart feedback from some of my regular followers. So I'm going to mix things up and read whichever of my ARCs strike my fancy and I'm going to try really hard to let go of the guilt -- wish me luck!