Friday, November 28, 2014

Books I Didn't Blog About: The Good Stuff

Well, I thought 4 stars was a very common rating for me, but I think I was forgetting about all the 3-star books I've been reading lately! I give a book this rating when it's not a favorite I absolutely loved (5 stars), nor is it a book I really liked (4 stars), but is definitely a step above just OK (2 stars). These are all books I liked -- ones I enjoyed reading, but I'm not that likely to re-read (there are exceptions, of course!) Here goes nothing...

Liked it (3 star reads)

ADULT FICTION

Gone Girl
by Gillian Flynn
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook

A dark, twisty psychological thriller as promised, but the ending was SO unsatisfying.

* * * * *

Sharp Objects
by Gillian Flynn
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook

I liked this one a bit better than Gone Girl. It may have even been darker & twistier (with a far better ending), but it just wasn't as creepy as it should have been as an audiobook. I'm planning to read Flynn's third book Dark Places in print to see how I like her stories not on audio.

* * * * *

Bird Box
by Josh Mallerman
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook

Creepy for sure, but not actually as scary as I thought it would be. More a tale of survival, strength, and determination than anything else.

* * * * *

Heat Wave
by Richard Castle
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook

A fun read if you're a fan of Castle. Nothing particularly special though. Not sure if I will read the others or not.

* * * * *

CLASSICS


The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook / Classics Club
Goodreads

The basic jist of this story is such common knowledge at this point that I found the reading experience somewhat lacking. I imagine it was a very shocking tale at the time it was published though. If you are somehow a modern reader that is not familiar with the storyline, definitely give it a go!

* * * * *

YOUNG ADULT FICTION

Panic
by Lauren Oliver
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook

Basically a book of high school hijinks. Hard to relate to as an adult, I must admit (not that I was the targeted audience!) I really only picked this one up because I liked Oliver's Delirium series, but this didn't live up to expectations for me.

* * * * *

Where She Went
by Gayle Forman
Purchased / Paperback
Goodreads

I was interested to find out what happened to the characters after If I Stay, but this sequel didn't quite live up to the first for me.

* * * * *

Grave Mercy
by Robin LeFevers
Won from Giveaway / Paperback
Goodreads

I had majorly high expectations for this one and was so excited it was a book club pick, but it just was not as good as I had hoped it would be. It took me a long time to get into and I wasn't all that invested in the main character. It also seemed much longer than it needed to be. I will continue the series though because the sequels focus on other characters and I have heard they get better from others who were also so-so about the first book.

* * * * *

Icons
by Margaret Stohl
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook / Re-Read
Goodreads

I re-read this one in preparation for the sequel, Idols. I really enjoyed it as an audiobook and should not have switched back to print for Idols (which you'll notice did not make the cut for this 3-star post!)

* * * * *

CHILDREN'S / MIDDLE GRADE

Instructions
by Neil Gaiman
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook + Hardcover
Goodreads

Just lovely! A short, illustrated book giving the reader "instructions" for how to make their way through a fairy tale. Also tried as a (super-short!) audio, but the illustrated book is much better.

* * * * *

The Wolves in the Walls
by Neil Gaiman
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook + Hardcover
Goodreads

An interesting, imaginative story. I am definitely a fan of Gaiman's books for younger readers. I tend to give them 3 stars which reflects my own level of enjoyment of the books, but I think they are even better when read by (or to) readers of the intended age range.

* * * * *

Fortunately, the Milk
by Neil Gaiman
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook + Hardcover
Goodreads

A fun, imaginative book with great illustrations -- I had tried it on audio first, but then also read the print book after I found out it was illustrated. Perfect for younger readers.

* * * * *

The Riverman
by Aaron Starmer
From publisher for review / Print Advanced Reading Copy

A unique story with interesting characters, but it took an odd turn at one point that really didn't sit right with me. I also didn't realize this is the first in a series which I wasn't too thrilled about. I don't plan to continue with the rest of the trilogy.

* * * * *

NON-FICTION

Cooked
by Michael Pollan
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook
Goodreads

My least favorite of Pollan's so far, but there is still a lot to learn about the history of food and cooking.

* * * * *

Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery
by Robert Kolker
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook
Goodreads

I was intrigued by this title because I grew up on Long Island, but didn't really know much about the Craigslist murders. The book is very interesting, but it certainly has its limitations considering the case remains unsolved. I appreciated the author's approach of telling the story of the victims' lives rather than just their deaths, but I also had a very hard time keeping all the different stories and people straight.

* * * * *

Frozen In Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II
by Mitchell Zuckoff
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook / For Book Club
Goodreads

An unbelieveable true story. I cannot even imagine what it was like for these men in the frigid wasteland of Greenland -- it is truly remarkable any of them were able to survive!

* * * * *


Bad Feminist
by Roxane Gay
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook
Goodreads

I have heard nothing but praise for this book and I did find it quite thought-provoking, but it just didn't speak to me in quite the same way it has to others. I wholeheartedly agree that it is better to be an imperfect feminist than to abandon the movement altogether (because feminism IS important -- for both men & women). However, for someone who says she is an imperfect feminist I found Gay to be critical in the extreme of some things I think have room for gray areas. The essays run a wide gamut though and I think there is a little something here for just about everyone.

* * * * *

Not Becoming My Mother and Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way
by Ruth Reichl
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook
Goodreads

A quick read that was nice to listen to around Mother's Day.

* * * * *


Letter to My Daughter
by Maya Angelou
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook
Goodreads

Lovely narration by the author herself whom I've been meaning to read more of, especially since learning of her passing. Angelou never had a daughter, but writes this book to all women. In sharing her own experiences, Angelou imparts the wisdom and lessons she has learned over the years. I think I might need to give this another read to fully appreciate all it has to offer.

* * * * *

Congratulations, By the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness
by George Saunders
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook

Short & sweet with a good message for graduates -- or anyone!

* * * * *

Phew! That was a lot of books. There is a light at the end of the tunnel now though -- I haven't read many 1-star, 2-star, or DNF books so when I share those, it will be a short post that finally catches me up on all of my recent reading. Hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving!

_____________
Reading Challenges:
New to Me
Audiobook
Book to Movie
Prequel & Sequel
Foodies Read
My Kind of Mystery
Rewind
Nonfiction
Back to the Classics
The Classics Club (Review #7)
Scotland
Review Pile
Re-Reading
Chunkster
Lucky No. 14
Diversity on the Shelf
Historical Fiction

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: My Winter TBR List


It's been a really long time since I did a Top Ten Tuesday and I wasn't going to join in today either until I started seeing everyone else's lists! I'm going to fudge "winter" a bit and call this the 10 books I'd like to read before baby is due in April. I'm not going to beat myself up if I don't end up reading them all. But I thought this would be a good opportunity to pick out a few I'd really like to get to soon since things will be very up in the air come spring. I tend to be a mood reader, so my current mood is definitely reflected in this list and it may change -- but don't worry, I will never have a lack of choices when it comes to reading material if I change my mind!



Outlander series #2-#4, by Diana Gabaldon
I want to read all eight, but I'm trying to be realistic here. I've slowed down since finishing my re-read of the first book because I am also reading other things. I would be extremely happy if I got through the next three over the next few months.

* * * * *

by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling)
I CANNOT believe I haven't read these two yet!

* * * * *


Night Film, by Marisha Pessl
I'm ashamed to admit I have a looooong overdue ARC of this one which is crazy because I've been wanting to read it since the moment I first heard about it.

* * * * *

The Rehearsal, by Eleanor Catton
I've been wanting to read this one ever since all the hubbub over The Luminaries. I went to an all-girls Catholic school, but have never read a book set in one, so I am very intrigued.

* * * * *


The Secret History, by Donna Tartt
Another author where I feel I don't want to start with the massively long, award-winning book. And I've heard nothing but praise for this earlier book of Tartt's.

* * * * *

At least one YA book
I haven't been gravitating toward YA quite as much lately, but I have SO many I want to read I'm having a hard time choosing!

* * * * *

At least 1 Classic
At the moment, I can't decide on a title, but I have been neglecting my classics reading and would like to read at least one Classics Club book soon.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Books I Didn't Blog About: The Really Good Stuff

The other day, I started off my reading catch-up with a round-up of my 5-star reads. Today I have the books I really enjoyed, but didn't quite make "favorite" status. Apparently 4-stars is a pretty common rating for me -- I have a dozen for you today!

Really liked it - 4 star reads

 

Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History +
Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began
by Art Spiegelman
Borrowed from Library / Paperback

Classic, must-read graphic novels. Not an easy subject matter by any means, but an important part of history. There are many Holocaust memoirs, but these have a very unique perspective and format.

* * * * *

If I Stay
by Gayle Forman
Won from Giveaway / Paperback / For Book Club
Goodreads

A quick, emotional read. The little brother and the grandpa in this book pretty much slayed my heart. I saw the movie with book club shortly after I found out I was pregnant and the waterworks were definitely running. I'm not so sure I can really use the hormones excuse though, I think I would have been a total sap either way.

* * * * *

The Maze Runner
by James Dashner
Purchased / Paperback / For Book Club
Goodreads

A super-fast read I really enjoyed. There was some (made-up) slang language that was a little jarring, especially at first, but I really loved the characters and am looking forward to the rest of the series. (Now if only we could pick a few less first-in-a-series for book club, I might not be so far behind on sequels!)

* * * * *

The Paintings of Hogwarts: Masterpieces from the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry Sets
by Jody Revenson & Moira Squier
Purchased / Hardcover
Goodreads

This is the first book I read from our fancy-dancy collector set which reminds me I really must read the others! I will always favor the books over the movies, but it was really cool to get a close-up look at the paintings used on set.

* * * * *

Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef
by Gabrielle Hamilton
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook

As both a reader and a food/cookbook-lover, I was long overdue to check out this acclaimed memoir. Hamilton has certainly led an interesting life and I loved hearing about her unique perspective in her own voice. For anyone into cookbooks, her first Prune with recipes from her NY restaurant has just recently been published.

* * * * *

The Commitment: Love Sex, Marriage, and My Family
by Dan Savage
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook

I couple of things rubbed me the wrong way (like a comment about the stay-at-home parent being "off" all the time), but overall this was a really excellent memoir and an interesting look into the life of the author and his family as they navigate the decision about whether or not to get married.

* * * * *

Coraline
by Neil Gaiman
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook
Goodreads

I've been meaning to try Gaiman for the longest time and decided to finally give his younger stuff a go. I absolutely LOVED his narration of this story and actually listened to it twice -- first on my own and then again in the car with my husband. Now I want to watch the movie!

* * * * *

The Neil Gaiman Audio Collection
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook
Goodreads

Once again, stellar narration by the author. These four short stories were just lovely and I also listened to this collection twice.

* * * * *

Where'd You Go Bernadette
by Maria Semple
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook

I debated between print and audio for this one and ended up with the audio. It was a fun, light read and I can see why it has gotten so popular. Note for Gilmore Girls fans: the narrator is the actress who plays Luke's sister Liz. I recognized her voice right away and thought it was interesting to discover how many audiobooks are recorded by actors and actresses.

* * * * *

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
by Michael Pollan
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook
A fascinating look at where our food comes from and the different food systems in this country. I missed out on this one when it was first super-popular and have been meaning to read it ever since. I'm glad I finally got around to it and really enjoyed it as an audiobook.

* * * * *

In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto
by Michael Pollan
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook
Goodreads

If I had to choose, I would say I liked this one even a little bit better than The Omnivore's Dilemma. Practical, down-to-earth advice and information about food choices and eating. Food has gotten far too complicated and I really loved Pollan's approach in this book. Also great as an audio.

_____________
Reading Challenges:
New to Me
Banned Books
Audiobook
Book to Movie
Prequel & Sequel
Foodies Read
My Kind of Mystery
Rewind
Nonfiction

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Books I Didn't Blog About: The Really, Really Good Stuff

It's probably become a bit obvious by now, but the very last thing I want to do is write reviews lately. I tried with two mini reviews in September, but I keep looking at the list of all the other books I've read and not reviewed this year and I Just. Don't. Want. To. Do. It. So guess, what? I'm not going to! I do still want to share these books though, so I'm trying something new for me and doing a series of round-ups with just a few thoughts on each title. Since there are so many neglected books on my list, I'm planning on one post per star rating. I'm still on the fence about whether or not to share my 1- and 2-star reads, but let's start with the really, really good stuff, shall we?

Loved it! - 5 star reads

Graceling
by Kristin Cashore 
Purchased / Paperback / For Book Club

I probably wouldn't have picked this one up if it wasn't scheduled for book club, so I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I haven't read the companion books yet, but really want to. It's quite chunky, but I didn't want to put it down!

* * * * *

One Man Guy
by Michael Barakiva
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook

Fantastic narration! This was SO excellent as an audiobook and broke a string of 3-star reads. Contemporary YA is not usually my thing, but this was just a really, really great book. Funny and sweet -- I absolutely loved it.

* * * * *

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
by JK Rowling
Purchased / Hardcover / Re-Read
Goodreads

Before the entire series was published, this was my least favorite Harry Potter book. (Though let's be honest, least favorite is a relative thing when it comes to a favorite series -- it was always a good book for me, I just liked other installments better). After I knew the whole story, I had a much greater appreciation for the events of this second book and thoroughly enjoyed my re-read. This was at least the third time I read this one, if not the fourth -- I've lost track!

* * * * *


Outlander
by Diana Gabaldon
Purchased / Paperback / Re-Read
Goodreads

An all-time favorite adult book series of mine. After the mid-season finale of the Starz show, I just couldn't leave the story hanging, so I started a re-read. I'm on the 2nd book now and am hoping (wishing? dreaming?) I will finish all 8 before baby arrives in April. We shall see.

* * * * *

With the volume of books I've been reading/listening to, I think this format will work better for me going forward without totally closing up shop around here. After I play catch-up, I'd like to do monthly round-ups. Hopefully I will continue to read more than one book in a month to make that possible though! Not a problem at the moment, but once the spring rolls around it may be a different story. But like I said before, I'm going with the flow :)

_____________
Reading Challenges:
New to Me
Banned Books
Scotland
Audiobook
Book to Movie
Prequel & Sequel
Re-Reading
Chunkster
Lucky No. 14
Diversity on the Shelf
Historical Fiction

Saturday, November 8, 2014

What I've Been Up to Lately + Some News!

Anyone who has been gracious enough to read this blog regularly has probably noticed I've been a bit MIA lately. I was never one to stick to a schedule or post every day, but one post each for the months of September and October is pretty light, even for me. I've missed blogging, but I also must admit I've really liked the freedom not blogging has given my reading (re-reading! chunksters! no review books!) And as much as I like writing, I don't particularly like how much time it takes me to write posts I am proud of and willing to share. Being on a bit of an unplanned, unofficial hiatus has helped me read more books this year than ever before in my life (unless you count my middle school years when I could inhale several Nancy Drew mysteries in a weekend, but I wasn't keeping track then!)

I know that most of the pressures associated with blogging are self-imposed and I can let go of those pressures and still blog if I want to, but I'm honestly not sure if I do want to. That is something I am still thinking about, so this isn't actually a goodbye post -- not yet anyway! There have a been a lot of things happening in my personal life that have bumped blogging to the bottom of my priority list and I am happy to say these have all been good things, they've just given me a different perspective and changed my focus -- #1 on the list being:


Yep, we're having a baby! I'm due in April and have so far been one of those lucky b*tches who hasn't been nauseous or throwing up for the first trimester. We've been telling people in stages and I must say, it's been the best part of this whole experience so far. For both sides of the family, this will be the first grandchild and also the third great-grandchild for each of our grandmothers so there has been a lot of excitement and distraction these past few weeks (months actually!)

If I really look at my life lately, trying to maintain the healthier habits I started before getting pregnant, sleeping more because I've been so damn tired, and also carving out more reading time have been taking up the time I used to spend blogging -- I can't say I regret any of that even one tiny bit though. I have to enjoy the sleep while I still can, right?

I know many moms continue blogging as their creative outlet, I'm just not sure yet if that will be the right thing for me. I love the community and I've still been reading many of my favorite blogs, but quite a few of the bookish gals who started around the same time as me have also cut back or gone on breaks, so it's been easier to let go than I ever imagined it would. I plan to keep this space open and post if and when the mood strikes, but I'm not going to make any grand promises. Inspiration hasn't been striking lately, but can't say for sure that it's gone for good. I'd love to do a round-up post of the bazillion books I've been reading over the past few months, but the list keeps growing so it does feel a bit daunting. I will most definitely still be around on GoodReads though no matter what happens here!

I am grateful for all the lovely people who've visited this space over the past few years and the bookish internet friends I've made -- it was hard to keep this news a secret for so long (especially when a few people were wondering where the heck I disappeared to!), but I'm glad I am now able to share it. I hope you have all been well in my absence and thanks for listening to my rambling today :)