Wordless Wednesday #21

>> Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Spring has arrived in my backyard



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Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

>> Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Genre: YA Fiction
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 563
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #11
Source: Library


The Short Version:
Southern gothic supernatural story that full of interesting characters, an old curse, complicated family trees, more secrets than you think and a dog named Boo Radley.

Why I Read It:
It was Galleysmith’s talking about it on Twitter that made me add it to my TBR list, but it was many other folks talking about how much they liked it made me go ahead and request it from the library.

The Book:
Ethan Wate is sixteen and counting the days until he can get out small town Gatlin, South Carolina. Nothing ever happens there. Well that’s what Ethan thought. Then he met the new girl at school and realized that she was the girl he’d been trying desperately to save in his recurring dreams. Lena Duchannes has moved to town to live with her uncle, the mysterious and reclusive Macon Ravenwood in what is popularly known as the local haunted mansion. For a change the paranormal teen love story is told from the male character’s viewpoint. Because so much of the story revolves around a series of secrets that are revealed I’m hesitant to say much more about the plot.

My Thoughts:
This was a fun and interesting book. Lena and her family (particularly her Uncle Macon) were great characters with a variety of ‘quirks’. Ethan was a likable enough character, confused by what’s happening, but still desperate to find out what really lies behind his connection to Lena. Ethan’s great aunts are hilarious comic relief and my favorite characters after Uncle Macon and Amma (Ethan’s family housekeeper and substitute mom/grandma). Oh and Marian the librarian – also a crackup.

The setting of a small southern town is what got me most interested in this book, but other than the cliques a the local high school and the town’s Civil War era history, it’s really not as much of a setting as I’d hoped it would become as I read the book. I ended up thinking it was plenty gothic, but not necessarily plenty southern. There was slight leaning toward writing in dialect that began to distract me partway through.

The story was interesting with plenty of twists and turns some expected some not. Yes, there were things that didn’t work for me, but there was plenty that did. I enjoyed the story and will probably read more by this team of authors.


Rating 3.5/5

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Audiobook - Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

>> Monday, February 22, 2010


Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling (Audio)

Genre: Fiction
Series: #2 in the Harry Potter series
Publication Date: 1998
Read by: Jim Dale
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #10, The Harry Potter Reading Challenge #2
Source: Library

The Short Version:
Still fun, still magical, still thrilling even though I know the end.

Why I Read It:
I’d always intended to listen to the series once I’d finished reading them. The Harry Potter Reading Challenge has prompted me to listen to them back to back which I rarely do for any series but for a re-read it’s great.

The Book:
I’m not going to bother with any kind of plot summary. By now you either know it or you don’t want to know.

My Thoughts:
I’m thoroughly enjoying listening to these books one right after the other. I only listen when I’m in the car by myself so my listening time is chopped up enough to spread the books out a bit. This one took me a little over three weeks to get through during my driving around time.

I’m constantly reminded of small details that become important once you’ve read or heard the entire series. Things that I missed the first time (or two) because until I knew the end of book 7, I didn’t realize were important.

My favorite parts of this one were Dobby, Fawkes the Phoenix, my absolute empathy for Ron’s fear of spiders, Gilderoy Lockhart (who reminds me of a couple of people I know), and the final battle far below Hogwarts.


Rating 5/5

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Wordless Wednesday #20

>> Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Everything is a cat toy



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The Maze Runner by James Dashner

>> Tuesday, February 16, 2010


The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Genre: YA Fiction/Dystopian
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 374
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #9
Source: Library


The Short Version:
Interesting story of teens in a controlled environment for reasons unknown, but with continually changing life threatening dangers.

Why I Read It:
I’ve been reading positive reviews about this book from bloggers I’ve come to trust since before it was even available. I knew it was the first of a planned trilogy so I was willing to wait on the long library waiting list.

The Book:
Thomas wakes up in a lift not remembering anything but his first name. When the doors open after the lift arrives at the top, he finds himself in an environment he knows is odd, even though he has no clear memories of his past. He’s in a glade surrounded by high stone walls. Everyone there is a teenage boy. Like Thomas, none of them remember their lives before their arrival in the glade via the same lift that brought Thomas. There are four doorways in the walls that close at night. Beyond those doors is a maze and being caught out in the maze after the doors close means probable death. The Gladers believe that if they can solve the maze, they can escape. In the meantime they have developed an organized society of sorts. Everyone has a role to play in their survival. What Thomas quickly decides is that he wants to be one of the Runners who explore the maze during the daylight hours in an effort to solve its secrets and perhaps determine why the creators of the maze have sent them all to this place.

My Thoughts:
This was an interesting story that I ended up describing as good but not spectacular. The glade, the maze, the dangers out in the maze and the society the boys have developed is a bit different than anything I’ve read and for that reason I enjoyed it. It was a bit violent and that increased along with the tension and dangers. I had several different guesses as I was reading as to how this would play out and what would happen at the end. Even though I knew ahead of time that it ended with a cliffhanger, I was surprised several times along the way.

I liked the story but I had issues with the made up slang the author used throughout the book. It just became a bit ‘Klunky’ (if you’ve read the book you’ll know why I’m apologizing for saying that but I couldn’t help myself). It was a bit distracting. Despite that I found the world that the author created quite interesting and unique.

All in all I was intrigued by the story and despite the violence found it entertaining and different. I didn’t love it as much as some of my book blogger friends did, but I enjoyed it enough to be looking forward to continuing with the series when the second book comes out this fall.


Rating 3.5/5

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East of Eden by John Steinbeck

>> Thursday, February 11, 2010



East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 1952
Pages: 601
Challenges: None
Source: Purchased New

The Short Version:
An epic multi-generational saga that is completely worth the length and is a book you’ll want to discuss with others who have read it.

Why I Read It:
I’ve had this one on my mental “I really should read that someday” list for a long time. A few months ago I was involved in a conversation on Twitter in which Trish and Jen both talked about how much they loved this book. Before long it was the first book chosen for the Classic Reads Book Club. We’re discussing it there and it’s not too late to join in. I only had to be through section 2 this week, but I got to a point where I couldn’t put it down until I finished.

The Book:
It’s a big sprawling multi-genarational saga set primarily in California’s Salinas Valley. The story centers around two families; the Hamiltons and the Trasks. The time frame spans post Civil War through World War 1. The Hamiltons are a family of Irish immigrants full of dreamers and opportunists. Two generations of Trasks test the theory of good vs. evil as well as recreating the story of Cain and Abel and so very much more. It’s full of good people, possibly evil people, dreamers, practical survivors, thinkers and families who love and don’t know how to love all at the same time

My Thoughts:
What a wonderful book! Steinbeck was a genius with words. His descriptions are perfect. Within the first few pages I was hypnotized by his perfect description of the color of a California Poppy. Although the book is populated with characters of all kinds, you still get a sense of place. His characters are incredibly complex, even the ones who are clearly good or bad often question their own motivations and nature.

I hit so many different emotions while reading this book. At times I was appalled at what characters did. I rooted for characters that seemed lost in their own uncertainties. There were parts that made me very sad. There were parts that I found heartwarming. All of it was good reading.

I cannot possibly explain just how much and why I adored this book. If you haven’t thought of reading it, I strongly encourage you to give it a try. If (like me) you’ve been thinking of reading it but haven’t yet go get it and read it sooner rather than later. It’s not too late to join in the discussion at the Classic Reads Book site. We’ll be discussing it for a while.


Rating 5/5

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Wordless Wednesday #19

>> Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dew on Hosta leaf




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Confessions of a Serial Reader – Step 1: admitting it

>> Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I’m in the middle of reading East of Eden and absolutely loving it, but it’ll be a few days yet before I finish it and post something here.

In the meantime it’s time to debut a new occasional feature I'm calling "Confessions of a Serial Reader". I’ve known for years that I love reading series books, but I didn’t realize just how many series I was currently reading until I started looking at my 2009 reading. 57 of the books I read last year were part of a series. I read at least one book from 44 different series, 12 of those were the first book in a new series for me so clearly I’m not showing any signs of slowing that down soon.

Now I don’t see my apparent series addiction as a problem any more than I see my book and reading addiction as a problem. I don’t read exclusively series. Those 57 books last year were just a wee bit over half of my reading. I plan to use this “Confessions of a Serial Reader” topic to periodically highlight a series, author or some other discussion of reading series books. I’m not committing to a posting schedule, just whenever the whimpulse strikes.

Some of my earliest reading memories include series books. Once I got old enough to choose my own books from the public or school library I read many series. I remember loving the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series and of course, Beverly Cleary’s books, as well as the Little House books.

These days, most of the series I read are mysteries. That genre lends itself well to series with a main character or small group of recurring characters I get to know over several books while the particular story is different with every book. OK, with some authors even the story is pretty much the same book to book, but if it’s a fun or enjoyable series I don’t really care. Not all my current series are mysteries, though. I’ve got a few that are just nice reading with a place or characters that become like old friends after a few books.

How do I approach series? I have a few ‘rules’
1. I never ever read a series out of order unless it’s by mistake. I know that many times it doesn’t matter, but it matters to me. The Hubster will tell you that I also read the newspaper in order. I have to read section A, then section B, and so on. I’m not OCD about very many things but when it comes to book series and the newspaper I am.

2. Book or audio; pick one and stick with it. I rarely mix media when it comes to series. If I start it on audio, I’ll stick with audio (unless I can’t get a particular one from the library). It works the same the other way too. Once I start reading a series I’m unlikely to switch to audio. I don’t like to get the voices as my brain creates them mixed up with the voices as the reader creates them. Even the Harry Potter series I had to finish reading as books before I started re-reading the series as audio last month.

3. Back to back doesn’t work well for me. I’ve learned over the years that I don’t like to read books in any one series back to back. I like to jump around genres, styles and moods too much with my reading. It seems that when I’ve tried reading more than two books in a series back to back, I’ve ended up abandoning the series. Because of this I tend to read just a few books in any series within a span of a year. The Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge is an exception but even that is at a less than a book a month pace.

That’s probably enough babbling for one day from me. What about you? Do you like series books or not? What are your favorite series? Are you a read them all at once or space them out series reader? Are you a "read in order person" or a "it doesn't matter person"?

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The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

>> Friday, February 5, 2010


The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 1983
Pages: 160
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #8
Source: Library

The Short Version:
Gothic ghost story with all the necessary pieces including huge isolated house, burial grounds, townfolk who won’t talk, foggy marshes, and a young lawyer who doesn’t believe in ghosts.

Why I Read It:
I found out about this book when Raych at Books I Done Read reviewed it and mentioned that not many libraries had it. Of course, I immediately checked, discovered that my library had a copy and placed a request. I read and enjoyed the first of Susan Hill’s Simon Serrailler detective series, but had no idea she’d written so many earlier books including this Victorian tale that was in my library’s young adult section.

The Book:
This is a fairly short book that is a quick read. It opens on Christmas Eve. Arthur Kipps is at home with his second wife and stepchildren and grandchildren. As they start sharing their traditional ghost stories, Arthur listens but refuses to participate despite insistent encouragement from the boys. Later, after the holidays, Arthur shares with the reader his own ghost story as he finally writes the it down. Many years ago as a young lawyer, Arthur was sent to settle the estate of a longtime client of his firm. The woman’s isolated house is in a marshy area that can only be reached by a causeway at low tide. When Arthur arrives in the nearby town, he finds the locals reluctant to talk about the woman. At her funeral Arthur sees a young woman who intrigues him, but when he mentions this to the local land agent he’s shocked to see the man appear frightened.

My Thoughts:
This is a quick read, and although I wasn’t able to read it in one sitting, it could easily be done. Hill does an excellent job of gradually building the tension and creating an atmosphere. It’s a wonderful little gothic tale that would be perfect for a Halloween type of seasonal read. The Victorian era setting along with the slowly revealed secrets and the damp, foggy isolated setting are perfect elements in this spooky, but not scary little tale. I really think the only reason it’s in the young adult section of my library is that it’s the perfect slumber party ghost story.


Rating 4.5/5

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Wordless Wednesday #18

>> Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Moon Jellyfish
Oregon Coast Aquarium





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The Queen's Secret by Jean Plaidy

>> Tuesday, February 2, 2010


The Queen's Secret by Jean Plaidy
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: 1989
Pages: 306
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #7, What's in a Name 3 #1 (title)
Source: Library

The Short Version:
Historical Fiction from one of the Grand Dames of the Genre who wrote prolifically under several pseudonyms from from the 1950s into the 1990s.

Why I Read It:
As a fan of historical fiction I’ve wanted to read one of her books for ages, but kept putting it off. The What’s in a Name 3 Challenge provided the perfect opportunity. I needed a book with a ‘title’ in the title and since many of Jean Plaidy’s books were about royalty, I knew I could find one.

The Book:
This is a fictionalized memoir of Katherine of Valois. Born a French princess, she was married to Henry V of England as part of the treaty signed when her father agreed to let Henry take the crown of France. She adopted her new homeland and gave Henry an heir. After Henry’s death, her son was taken away from her to be raised as a young king was expected to be. Lonely in her adopted country, desperately missing her son, Katherine found herself involved in a relationship with a former soldier of her late husband’s army. This relationship was clearly inappropriate for the Queen Mother and the secret marriage brought Katherine the true love of her life. The soldier’s name? Owen Tudor. Yes, the daughter of the King of France, who became the Queen of England is also the link by which the Tudors later claimed the throne.

My Thoughts:
It was an interesting, but fairly dry fictional memoir. Katherine tells her story, but it’s in a somewhat distanced way. Her emotions are reported, but don’t really let the reader get emotionally involved with her. The history is well researched. Katherine’s life, and the backdrop of her story is the Hundred Years War, the conflicts between France and England as well as Joan of Arc. There’s a lot that happens during Katherine’s life, but it reads too much like a well researched history text to truly draw in the reader.

The first part of the book about the war and eventual surrender of France did get me thinking about one of my favorite movies of all time. Because of reading this we ended up watching Kenneth Branagh's Henry V over the weekend. I think it's one of the best film versions of a Shakespeare play. Coincidentally, that movie was released the same year as this book.


2.5 stars Rating 2.5/5

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