Monday, October 31, 2011

Monthly Wrap-Up: October 2011

Where did October go?!? I can't believe that today is Halloween ... time has been flying by these past few months. I hope it slows down a little as we enter the holiday season. It's my favorite time of the year, so I hope I can appreciate it without feeling like it snuck  up on me. October was a great reading month for me. I don't know how I managed to read all these books, but I did! And the best thing? They were all pretty good books! Honestly, there isn't a book here that I didn't really like. Now, I'm way ahead on all of my reviews, so they will all be posted sometime in November (except for The Night Circus ... I felt like that was the perfect review to post on Halloween).

Number of Books Read: 11

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen
The Soldier's Wife by Margaret Leroy
Save Me by Lisa Scottoline
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Escape by Barbara Delinsky
The Girl In the Blue Beret by Bobbie Ann Mason
Becoming Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey
Always Something There to Remind Me by Beth Harbison
The Night Circus  by Erin Morgenstern
Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
Girls In White Dresses by Jennifer Close

Favorite Book of the Month: The Night Circus (this was a tough choice! I loved so many of these books, and all for different reasons)

Least Favorite Book of the Month: The Girl In the Blue Beret (not that it was bad, but it just wasn't my cup of tea)

Another productive reading month! I'm hoping that I can maintain this pace so that I can pass the 100 books read in a year goal that I set for myself. Also, now that it's November, it's time to start thinking about challenges for the new year. I only particiapted in a few challenges this year (Paris in July and Fall Into Reading), which only last for few months, but I am interested in joining a few challenges that are year long. Do you have a favorite that you like to participate in? Or are you hosting one? Please let me know! I would love to find some to join!

I hope that you had a wonderful October and here's looking to an even better November!

Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Published: September 13, 2011
Genre: fantasy
Hardcover: 387 pages
Source: purchased at Barnes & Noble

My Rating: 5 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des RĂªves, and it is only open at night. But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands. True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead. 

My Thoughts: I loved this book, but I don't know how to do a review on it. It was everything that I thought it would be: filled with magic, mystical, great characters, a wonderful love story, a duel. It was all there! I just don't know what to write about it! To try and describe or review this book just seems like something I can't do. I really did love it and it was a fantastic read. I couldn't put it down and found myself being swept up in the story. I typically don't like books that are filled with desciptions, but this book broke that notion for me. I couldn't get enough of the descriptions and wanted more! I became a reveur, just like those crazed fans in the book. I wanted to follow this story wherever it was going and was so sad to see it end.

The only way I can think to describe this book is to compare it to the best piece of cheesecake that you've ever had: wonderfully decadent, rich, and wanting more after the last bite. I don't know if that counts as a review, but that's the only way I can think to describe Erin Morgenstern's magnificent first novel.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Audiobook Review: The New Yorkers by Cathleen Schine

The New Yorkers
Author: Cathleen Schine
Published: May 1, 2007
Audiobook: 7 CDs
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 1.5 stars

Synopsis (from As anyone who has walked a dog in any city knows, dogs bring people together who would otherwise never meet. On one humble, rent-controlled block of Upper East Side Manhattan, neighbors become neighborly because of their dogs, and the canines are cupids for their sometimes lonely, often eccentric, and hopelessly romantic humans. Like Polly and Everett, who briefly distract each other from heartache—until Everett realizes he is more in love with Howdy, Polly's dog, than with Polly. And Jody, who ponders a marriage proposal from Simon while walking her dog, Beatrice. Simon doesn't have a dog, but he courts Jody by waiting along Beatrice's walking path and dining at the corner Korean restaurant that allows dogs. George (Polly's sister) is looking for life direction, not love, and Howdy (Polly's dog) leads him right to it. Doris hates dogs—until she gets one of her own. In The New Yorkers, as in life, dogs compel their masters to take part in the community, make friends, fall in love—and learn more about themselves and human nature.

My Thoughts: This book was just a jumble. That's the only work I can think of to sum it up. There were so many characters, so much going on, and there was no real plot. It seems like everything is just thrown together and the author hoped for the best. Unfortunately, it doesn't work at all (at least for me). First off, Cathleen Schine's writing style made it very difficult to get through. About halfway through listening to the book, I realized it might be a bit easier if I was reading it, but I continued on, hoping it would grow on me. The sentences will start with talking about one character, then end with another character who isn't having an interaction with the first character, or even in the same location. Everyone's stories just became a big knot because I didn't know who was where and with whom! Then there were the characters; there were a lot of them, and between them all, there was no personality. They were all stereotypical people. Jodi (who I guess is the main character) is a middle-age music teacher who is single and wants to buy a cat, but ends up with a dog. Polly is young, so she is airheaded and talks like a Valley Girl. Everett is older and entering the grumpy-old-man stage of his life. I mean, it was just all too predictable.

Between the writing style and the characters, I just found this book to be a hot mess (yes, I just called a book a hot mess). It sounds like a cute little story from the description and cover, but it is not. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Book Blog Hop and Follow Friday (10-28-11)

Happy Friday everybody! Are you all ready for the Halloween weekend? As for me, I plan on staying at home and doing nothing. I'm not that big on Halloween and the thought of being crowded in a bar with a bunch of drunk people dressed in costumes isn't all that appealling to me (I hate crowded bars. Little factoid about me). I hope that if you are going out that you have a great weekend with lots of treats! Now, onto the Friday fun!

Jen at Crazy For Books asks:

“What is your favorite Halloween costume?
Even if you don’t celebrate, what kinds of costumes do you like?”

I don't know if I have a favorite costume! The more creative, the better. One year, I saw a guy dressed as astronaut Neil Armstrong. It was super detailed, and he wore moon shoes and everything! Remember those? Yeah, he walked around in those. Pretty cool.

Parajunkee asks:

If you could have dinner with your favorite book character, who would you eat with and what would you serve?

That's a tough question. I don't know if I could choose just one character. If it's only one, I guess I would invite Severus Snape. I would just love to learn a little more about him. And if I'm the one cooking, then I would make grilled cheese sandwiches. That's the extent of my cooking abilities ... and I think he would like them!

So who's your favorite character? Let me know ... and have a wonderful Halloween weekend!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fall Into Reading Challenge: Question #5

Katrina at Callpidder Days is hosting the Fall Into Reading Challenge. Each week, she posts a different question, and this week's question is:

Do you skim? Or are you faithful to every word?

Great question! For me, I'm faithful to every word ... most of the time. To really understand a book, I feel like you need to actually read it and not just try to pick up the main points. Now, there are times when I skim: if I feel like the author is being repetitive with information, if it's a very lengthy description about something, or if I'm just not into a book that much. I do try to finish every book that I read, but sometimes skimming is the only way to make it through.

So what about you? Do you skim? Or are you faithful to every word?

Waiting On Wednesday (10-26-11)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. Each week, you highlight an upcoming release that you are eagerly awaiting. This week, my pick is: Home Front by Kristin Hannah (expected publication date: January 31, 2012).

From a distance, Michael and Joleen Zarkades seem to have it all: a solid marriage, two exciting careers, and children they adore.  But after twelve years together, the couple has lost their way; they are unhappy and edging toward divorce.  Then the Iraq war starts.  An unexpected deployment will tear their already fragile family apart, sending one of them deep into harm’s way and leaving the other at home, waiting for news.   When the worst happens, each must face their darkest fear and fight for the future of their family.  An intimate look at the inner landscape of a disintegrating marriage and a dramatic exploration of the price of war on a single American family, HOME FRONT is a provocative and timely portrait of hope, honor, loss, forgiveness, and the elusive nature of love.

I love Kristin Hannah's novels and cannot wait for this one! What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday (10-25-11)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Each week, they post a different topic, and you get to create your own top ten list. This week's topic:

Books to Read During Halloween

1) The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe - everytime I read this story, I get chills! One of the creepiest stories I have ever read.

2) Goosebumps series by RL Stine - I loved these books when I was younger. They always scared me.

3) Mice by Gordon Reece - I read this book over the summer and couldn't put it down at times because it was so thrilling! I just wish that I had waited to read it until October, but oh well.

4) Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier - the gothic setting, the dead first wife ... such a good, creepy book!

5) In Malice, Quite Close by Brandi Lynn Ryder - a house with secret passageways, a girl kidnapped as a young teenager, the battle between certainty and doubt. A great read.

6) The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe - no explanation needed.

7) The Birds by Rebecca du Maurier - after reading this book, I feared huge flocks of birds. Still happens to this day. That's how good this book is.

That's all I can think of for this week. I'm not into thrilling/scary books all that much, so it was hard to think of a lot. What about you? What books are your favorite to read around Halloween?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Review: A Race to Splendor by Ciji Ware

A Race to Splendor
Author: Ciji Ware
Published: April 1, 2011
Genre: Historical Romance
Paperback: 526 pages
Source: borrowed from library

My Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from Early in 1906, the ground in San Francisco shook buildings and lives from their comfortable foundations. Amidst rubble, corruption, and deceit, two women-young architects in a city and field ruled by men-find themselves racing the clock and each other during the rebuilding of competing hotels in the City by the Bay. Based on meticulous research, A Race to Splendor tells the story of the audacious people of one of the world's great cities rebuilding and reinventing themselves after immense human tragedy. Filled with courage, passion, and conflict, Amelia Bradshaw's spirit will capture your imagination as she strives to redraft her life amidst the ruins with both help and hindrance from a wayward son of privilege who pulls her into worlds she'd never have known.

My Thoughts: As misleading as this title and description is, Ciji Ware's novel is a riveting tale set in San Francisco at the turn of the century. As seen through the eyes of Amelia Bradshaw, a young woman who is a trained architect and determined to succeed in a man's world. The earthquake of 1906 turns the entire city of San Francisco upside down and Ware takes you into the corruption, heartache, and rebirth of a city. When I read the description of the book, I thought it would be a great story of two women competing to rebuild two of the city's finest hotels. However, there was little rivalry and no competition. Instead, the book focuses on Amelia's work and relationship with JD Thayer. 

While not quite the story that is described, it is still an enjoyable book. I found Amelia to be an interesting character and the plot to be intriguing. I do wish that there was more of a focus on the rivalry of these two women architect's, but it was still a good book. It's something light and easy while still demonstrating how awful the earthquake was on San Francisco. I didn't know much about the earthquake, but as Ware described the disaster, I felt like I was there and learned more about this event in history.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Review: The Man Who Couldn't Eat by Jon Reiner

The Man Who Couldn't Eat: A Memoir
Author: Jon Reiner
Publisher: Gallery
Published: September 6, 2011
Hardcover: 320 pages
Source: won from GoodReads

My Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from Jon Reiner was middle-aged, happily married with two children, living on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, and acclimating to his role as primary parent-caregiver when he suffered a near-fatal collapse due to complications from his chronic battle with Crohn’s disease. From that point, he was forbidden from eating food, fed intravenously, and denied the pleasures of taste, which, as an award-winning food writer, had been a central part of his life. In The Man Who Couldn't Eat, Reiner reinvents the foodoir, recounting what happens when a man obsessed with food cannot eat, and what happened to his family as a result. Coping with illness, unemployment, and financial ruin spun him into a deep depression, straining his relationship with his wife and children. It was this deprivation, ironically, that forced Jon to recognize what he’d been taking for granted. Eloquent and powerful, this is one man’s journey from deprivation and despair to ultimately acceptance and appreciation of what is truly important.

My Thoughts: Being completely honest here, I know very little about Crohn's disease. It's not an illness that gets a lot of publicity (like breast cancer), and while I knew it had something to do with digesting food, I didn't really know anything else. So, when I heard about this book, I was interested to learn a little more about the disease and Jon Reiner's experience of dealing with this disease. Reiner chronicles one year of living with this illness, following an awful episode where his insides burst (literally). He writes with clarity and ease, where his words are organic and not some romantic version of his illness. He is honest in saying how horrible it is, how difficult it is to maintain stability in his sons' lives but still wanting to be a part of the family, how it's not the food, but the act of eating, that he misses the most. His book is insightful and interesting.

The first chapter started a little slowly for me, but it picked up after that. Reiner's story is chronological, starting with the event that led to his year of no food. There are times where he flashes back to his childhood, describing the food of his youth. The family trips to New York City, Thanksgiving with his large Jewish family, exploring the restaurants of the city with his wife. I never realized how much food plays a role in our lives until reading about Reiner's year of doing without. The only thing that I didn't like about this book were that there were a few times where he went on these politcal tirades for a page or so. It really turned me off to his story. For me, if I want to read about politics, I will get a book about it. Just a pet peeve of mine. Other than that, it was an eye-opening book into a disease that many people suffer from but I knew so little about.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Book Blog Hop and Follow Friday (10-21-11)

Happy Friday everybody! I hope that you are enjoying the cool weather ... I know I am! I always love this time of year. It's cool enough to wear cute boots and jackets, but not so cold that it takes you 20 minutes to bundle up to head outside. I have had a pretty hectic week and I feel like I have been slacking blog-wise. Hopefully, I can catch up Monday and Tuesday (my weekend) and get back into the swing of things. Now, onto the Friday fun!

Jen at Crazy For Books asks:

“What is your favorite type of candy?”

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. No contest ... seriously, if you give me a peanut butter cup, I will do just about anything. They are my drug of choice, haha!

Parajunkee asks:

"What superhero is your alter-ego?"

I don't know if I can identify with anyone superhero. I would probably say Spiderman, even though he's a boy. I always loved that he wasn't from a superhero family, that he was just a normal guy. That, and it would be pretty cool to swing around the city like he does.

So, what's your favorite candy? And who is your alter-ego? Let me know and have a great weekend!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday (10-18-11)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Each week, they post a different topic, and you get to create your own top ten list. This week's topic:

Top Ten Books That Whose Titles Or Covers Made Me Buy It

1) Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin - I love simple covers, and all  of Giffin's novels are like this. Simple and not giving anything away. Love them!

2) A Fierce Radiance by Lauren Belfer - it's still waiting for me in my TBR pile, but I just love this picture. Hopefully I will get to it soon!

3) Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum - I don't know what it is about this cover, but I just had to read it. Something about that little girl in her red coat just had me hooked (and it was a great book!)

4) An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor - this cover was just so calming, I thought it would be a nice, simple book to enjoy. Turns out, it is ... and so are all the other books in this series!

5) The Things We Cherished by Pam Jenoff - I love the 1940s, and this cover, with the black and white background and the characters in color ... just gorgeous.

6) The Paris Wife by Paula McLain - it perfectly captures Parisian life without beturing the Seine, Eiffel Tower, or anything else that reminds you of Paris.

7) Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris - once I saw this cover, I had to read the book. Just looking at it makes me laugh! And while it wasn't my favorite Sedaris book, this cover can always bring a smile to my face.

8) Forever by Pete Hamill - this is one of the most beautiful pictures of New York City that I have every seen. It makes it seem like a mystical place that isn't relly real. 

9) Rescue by Anita Shreve - I just had to know what this girl was looking back at. What was there? I had to buy the book to know what was happening!

10) Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan - just a gorgeous cover. Once I saw it, I had to have it and read it immediately.

So, what covers made you buy the book? Let me know ... maybe I will find a few new ones that I just have to have!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Audiobook Review: Say When by Elizabeth Berg

Say When
Author: Elizabeth Berg
Publisher: Atria
Published: June 1, 2003
Audiobook: 7 discs
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 1.5 stars

Synopsis (from Griffin is a happy man. Settled comfortably in a Chicago suburb, he adores his eight-year-old daughter, Zoe, and his wife, Ellen - shy, bookish Ellen, who is as dependable as she is dependent on him for his stability and his talent for gently controlling the world they inhabit. But when he wakes one morning to hear of his wife's love affair with another man and her request for a divorce, Griffin's view of life is irrevocably altered. Overnight he goes from being Ellen's husband to being her roommate, from a lover to a man denied passion and companionship. Now he must either move on or fight for his marriage, forgive his wife or condemn her for her betrayal, deny or face up to his part in the sudden undoing of his seemingly perfect life. 

My Thoughts: I had really high expectations for this book since I just listened to another Elizabeth Berg novel and enjoyed it. Unfortunately, this book was one of the worst that I have ever read (or listened to, in this case). The characters were flat and boring, there wasn't much of a plot, and the whole thing just dragged from beginning to end. If I was reading this book, I probably would have stopped, but kept listening to it, hoping that it would pick up. The narrator is Griffin, who just discovered that his wife, Ellen, wants to divorce him. While it would seem like a fresh take on a married couple separating, Griffin isn't much of a narrator. He tells you what is going on, but there isn't much that he offers to move the story along. His wife, Ellen, is just annoying. She's constantly whining and I wanted to scream, "Grow up!" She is not a well-written character. Their daughter, Zoe, is eight years old, but talks like a 32 year old. It just became too much. All of these characters together made it a big sap fest and left me thinking, "You all need to grow up." While I enjoyed Berg's other books, this book makes me leary of reading anything else of hers for awhile.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Review: In Malice, Quite Close by Brandi Lynn Ryder

In Malice, Quite Close
Author: Brandi Lynn Ryder
Publisher: Penguin
Published: August 4, 2011
Hardcover: 400 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from French ex-pat Tristan Mourault is the wealthy, urbane heir to a world- renowned collection of art-and an insatiable voyeur enamored with Karen Miller, a fifteen-year-old girl from a working-class family in San Francisco. Deciding he must "rescue" Karen from her unhappy circumstances, Tristan kidnaps her and stages her death to mask his true crime. 
Years later, Karen is now "Gisele" and the pair lead an opulent life in idyllic and rarefied Devon, Washington. But when Nicola, Gisele's young daughter, stumbles upon a secret cache of paintings-all nudes of Gisele-Tristan's carefully constructed world begins to crumble. As Nicola grapples with the tragedy that follows, she crosses paths with Amanda Miller, who comes to Devon to investigate the portraits' uncanny resemblance to her long-lost sister. Set against a byzantine backdrop of greed, artifice, and dangerous manipulations, In Malice, Quite Close is an intoxicating debut that keeps its darkest secrets until the very last page.

My Thoughts: When reading the description of this book, I wasn't quite sure what it was about. And while the plot isn't easy to describe, it's an amazing story of beauty, truth, certainty, and identity. There are a lot of characters in this book and a few of them serve as narrators. The narrators change through out the chapters, but each proves how one person's certainty on an issue differs so much from another person's. Following Gisele's death, each character is certain who killed her and what their motives were for the crime. The characters range in age from 11 up to mid-50s and each is distinct. Brandi Lynn Ryder develops each character fully and you see the growth in Luke, in Gisele, in Amanda, and Nicola. Other characters stay stagnant, but in the end, that is what leads to their downfall.

The most interesting part of this novel wasn't the characters, the plot, or the setting (although it is quite beautiful). It's the themes. Ryder brings up a slew of topics and presents them through the plot. Some characters are grappling with truth, some with certainty, some with doubt, some with identity. With each narrator, you get a different take on these themes. Ryder presents the same issue from many sides and leaves the reader guessing as to what actually lead to Gisele's murder. You start to think it was one person who murdered her, but when another character starts narrating and presents their side, you doubt what you thought. As a reader, you start to see how much of our own lives is based on certainty and doubt. 

This was a gripping novel and one that I found difficult to put down. It's a mystery, contemporary fiction, a thriller. It's so many things, but no matter how you classify it, this book will leave you thinking. This would be a great book club read and one that would also make a great autumn read.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Book Blog Hop and Follow Friday (10-14-11)

Happy Friday, everyone! I hope that you had a great week and have something fun planned for the weekend ... me, I'm working. But, I am off today, so I plan on getting some errands done and a little reading too. Now, onto the Friday fun ...

Jen at Crazy For Books asks:

“What is your favorite spooky book (i.e. mystery/suspense, thriller, ghost story, etc.)?”

Well, I'm not really a scary book kind of person. I was really into Mary Higgins Clark in my teens, but don't read many mysteries anymore. A few weeks ago, I read In Malice, Quite Close by Brandi Lynn Rivers (my review will be posted tomorrrow, on the 15th). It was a really interesting look at the art world and a mystery. 

Parajunkee asks:

If you could have characters from a book meet and form an epic storyline with characters from a TV series, which characters would you choose and why?

Wow, I don't even know where to begin with this question! He's not a character, but I would love to add David Sedaris to The Office. I think he would be able to make that show funnier than it already is.

What's your fave spooky book? Let me know ... unless it's too spooky! Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (10-12-11)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. Each week, you highlight an upcoming release that you are eagerly awaiting. This week, my pick is: The Spirit of Noral: A Novel by Lyle Scott Lee (expected publication date: November 4, 2011).

Synopsis (from Stretched across a backdrop of bustling New York, romantic Paris, and rural Russia in the early twentieth century, The Spirit of Nora vividly portrays the emergence of a young Minnesota woman into a fiercely independent spirit. Leaving her home on the farm with her childhood friend Ella for nursing training in New York, Nora enters a changing world. After befriending two doctors on the train east, Nora and Ella spend many evenings with Tristan and Soren. But a terrible tragedy pulls Ella from Nora, who eventually travels farther east, searching for redemption for failing her friend. Nora becomes wrapped up in the permissive lifestyle of French artists, embracing relationships with the lively Cassandra and talented Auguste. While in France, she is confronted with physical temptations and spiritual uncertainty until she learns of the communal setting established on the estate of the Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy. The Spirit of Nora needs further nourishment for her wavering faith, and she continues yet farther east to Yasnaya Polyana to work with Tolstoy's translator. Through the following years Nora learns of hardship, love, war, and the difficulties in finding balance between right and wrong. Ultimately, she must come face to face with the legacy of her lost friend.

So, what are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday (10-11-11)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weely feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Each week, a different topic is posted and you get to create your own top ten list! This week's topic:

Top Ten Books I Wish I Could Read Again For The First Time

1) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling - I love this series, but I wish I could go back in time to when I didn't know how everything ended.

2) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - reading this book for the first time is magical. I have read it since, but always wish I could go back to that first time, when I didn't know what was going to happen.

3) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - I LOVE this story (who doesn't love reading about Mr. Darcy?!?) but always wish I could go back in time, before I know that Elizabeth and Darcy end up together.

4) Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah - a sweeping story of friendship that had me rying at multiple points. Such a great novel!

5) Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand - an amazing piece of narrative nonfiction telling the story of a U.S. serviceman during World War II. It would great to go back and read it again for the first time.

6) Testimony by Anita Shreve - I was so swept up in this story that I read it in one sitting. I would love to be able to go back and read it again without knowing how everything ends.

7) Betsy-Tacy stories by Maud Hart Lovelace - I would just like to be able to go and and experience the books as I did as a child.

That's all I was able to come up with for this week. What books do you want to go back and read for the first time? Let me know!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Authors: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Publisher: The Dial Press
Published: November 2007
Hardcover: 274 pages
Source: borrowed from library

My Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from “ I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.”January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb…. As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all. Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

My Thoughts: After reading so many rave reviews of this book on various blogs, I decided that it was time I read it, too. After all, I love WWII fiction, so this was something that would be right up my alley. And let me just say, I LOVED it!!! This was such a great book. Short, sweet, insightful, well-written ... there were just so many good things going on in this book! The book's format is letters (and some telegrams) between Juliet Ashton, her editor, her best friend, her boyfriend, and the various inhabitants of Guernsey. The letters bring each character to life since you are reading their point of view on different things. I love books with multiple narrators but had never read one in this format of letters. It made for a quick read and a great way to learn about all the characters.

I had no idea about Guernsey's role in the war. I knew they were one of the channel islands, but that was about it. I had no idea about their German occupation. The inhabitants of Guernsey tell of their experience during the war, and it was heartbreaking at times, frustrating at others, and depressing at other times. It was eye opening and I feel bad that I didn't know anything about this island and their involvement during WWII.

Now, the characters. There is a slew of people in this book and it would be easy to get them all confused, but the authors do a great job of making everyone their own person. Even without seeing who wrote the letter, each person has a distinct voice. It's a short book but each character is fully developed and well-written. This was a great little book, one that I was sad to see end. If you haven't read this book, then go out and read it! It's a quick read, something that you will find hard to put down.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Audiobook Review: Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner

Best Friends Forever
Author: Jennifer Weiner
Narrators: Kate Baldwin and Rick Holmes
Publisher: Simon & Schuester Audio
Published: July 14, 2009
Audiobook: 5 discs
Source: borrowed from library

My Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from Some bonds can never be broken... Addie Downs and Valerie Adler will be best friends forever. That's what Addie believes after Valerie moves across the street when they're both nine years old. But in the wake of betrayal during their teenage years, Val is swept into the popular crowd, while mousy, sullen Addie becomes her school's scapegoat.
Flash-forward fifteen years. Valerie Adler has found a measure of fame and fortune working as the weathergirl at the local TV station. Addie Downs lives alone in her parents' house in their small hometown of La Prairie, Illinois, caring for a troubled brother and trying to meet Prince Charming on the Internet. She's just returned from Bad Date #6, when she opens her door to find her long-gone best friend standing there, with a terrified look on her face and blood on the sleeve of her coat. "Something horrible has happened," Val tells Addie, "and you're the only one who can help."
Best Friends Forever is a grand, hilarious, edge-of-your-seat adventure; a story about betrayal and loyalty, family history and small-town secrets. It's about living through tragedy, finding love where you least expect it, and the ties that keep best friends together.

My Thoughts: A story about two best friends reunited after a betrayal in high school is something that really appealed to me. No, I never had my best friend betray me (in high school or at any point), but I love stories about best friends. Val and Addie grew up across the street from one another, sharing everything with one another, but start to drift apart in high school. After one high school party, they don't talk to one another until Val shows up on Addie's door step late one nite, following their high school reunion. What happens next is comical and dramatic. Very much a modern-day Thelma and Louise story. It's a typical chick-lit book, Jennifer Weiner's strong suit, but still highly enjoyable.

I loved the characters in this book. Each has their own issues that they are dealing with. Addie has had the world on her shoulders since the age of 18, when she lost both of her parents. She has struggled with self-image issues since she was a teenager and still continues with them. Jordan Novick is hurting from his divorce and how he wants so badly to have a family of his own. The only character who is a bit lacking is Val. There isn't much background there, and no growth through the story. She was one-sided, offering comedic relief when the story needed it.

I enjoyed listening to this book; both narrators did a great job, changing their voices quickly. Each character had a distinct voice and diction. Each narrator would narrate a chapter, then it would switch to the other narrator. It made for an enjoyable listening experience.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Book Blog Hop and Follow Friday (10-7-11)

Happy Friday, everyone! I hope that everyone is enjoying the October weather ... here in Pittsburgh, the rain has finally gone away and brought back sun and wonderful temperatures! The leaves are gorgeous, the air crisp, and it's absolutely wonderful. Now onto the Friday fun ...

Jen at Crazy For Books asks:

“It’s time to spread some love beyond the borders of the Book Blogger Hop! This week, we aren’t answering a question. We are spotlighting our fellow bloggers. Find your favorite(s) author interview(s), guest post(s), book review(s), or bookish article(s) that ANOTHER BOOK BLOGGER featured on their site recently and tell us why you love it/them! As an additional challenge, find your favorite one of EACH of the categories above and spotlight all 4 (interview, guest post, review, article).”

Well, I definitely won't be able to get all four (my brain is just about done for the week), but I will say that Jessica Lawlor's review of Always Something There to Remind Me had me going to my library's website to request it immediately! Like me, she just discovered audiobooks, so reading her review made me want to try it out. 

Parajunkee asks:

If you could pick one character in a book, movie, or television show to swap places with, who would it be?

From a book, hands down, it would be Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice. I love who she is as a person, and she ends up Mr. Darcy. From a TV show, it would be Blair Waldorf from Gossip Girl. I LOVE her clothes, shoes, handbags, make-up ... her whole life, really. I would love to be Blair!

So, what have you seen around the blogosphere that you liked? And who would you swap places with? Let me know ... and have a great weekend!