Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

The HistorianThe Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

My rating: 2 of 5 roses

I finally finished The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova and it took WAY too long! While the story was interesting and Kostova's descriptions of European cities were often lovely, I found the book unnecessarily wordy and not as gripping as I would have liked. And the ending? No idea what that was all about.... but I didn't like it at all. Unfortunate considering it took me 900 pages to get there *sigh*.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Currently Reading

I've been away from the blog for a while, but I'm still participating in the Goodreads Seasonal Reading Challenge. I'm currently reading:

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova -- Reading this one for a task that required a book over 700 pages. This one's been sitting on my bookshelf forever, so it finally got chosen. Oh. My. God. It's slow going... but, I only have  300 (!) more pages to go. Look for a review, soon(ish).

Beloved by Toni Morrison -- Listening to this one on my iPod when I go to the gym and while cross stitching. Really like it, so far (need to go to the gym more so I can listen more, too ;o)). Sarah Addison Allen's books have reminded me how much I enjoy magical realism (with the exception of the Gabriel García Márquez's books I've read so far. Don't like those at all). Now I'm seeking other books like hers. Have any recommendations?

Ten Beach Road by Wendy Wax -- Also enjoying the heck out of this one. Once I finish The Historian, I'll get back to it.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Trust Me on This by Jennifer Crusie

Trust Me on ThisTrust Me on This by Jennifer Crusie

My rating: 3 of 5 roses

I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. It's a cute, light romance.

From the Publisher:
Dennie Banks is an investigative reporter chasing down the biggest story of her career. Alec Prentice is a government agent working undercover to catch an elusive grifter. When they meet by accident, it’s a case of mistaken identities at first sight. What they don’t mistake is the instant attraction they have for each other, an attraction they’ll do everything in their power to resist—because Dennie thinks that Alec is running interference for her interview subject, and Alec suspects that Dennie is linked to his swindler. As the confusion grows, so do their feelings for each other, and what begins as a romantic comedy of errors may just end in the love affair of a lifetime. 

If you're looking for a quick, fun read you might really enjoy this one.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney

Bright Lights, Big City was published in 1984. It's about a young man's struggle to make sense of his life in the Big Apple. New York City isn't quite the same today as it was in the 1980s, but it's certainly still recognizable. The use of second person to tell the story was strange at first, but as I read I found myself liking it more and more. I certainly liked it better than The Bonfire of the Vanities. This is another book read from the Entertainment Weekly's New Classics list. I'm working on reading all 100.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

The Color of Magic is the first Discworld book. I've heard about this series for years, but fantasy isn't normally my thing. I probably wouldn't have picked it up now if it were not for one of the tasks for the Seasonal Reading Challenge. The task required us to put a favorite author into the Literature Map and choose two male authors we'd never read before. Most of my favorite authors are romance authors. There weren't a lot of men to choose from ;o). So, I went with J.K. Rowling as my favorite author instead and chose Terry Pratchett and Isacc Asimov as the two new-to-me male authors.

I didn't love The Color of Magic, but I enjoyed it well enough. It was funny -- my favorite was the Luggage that ran around on hundreds of little legs -- and had some great adventure scenes in it. And, while fantasy isn't destined to become my genre of choice, I liked it well enough that I'll probably check out the next book in the series, The Light Fantastic.

Anyone else read the Discworld books? What did you think?

Monday, April 4, 2011

March 2011 Round Up

Currently Reading: The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

Read in March:

  1. One Day by David Nicholls -- 5 roses -- a wonderful love story told over a twenty year span revealed through snapshots of the same day—July 15th—of every year.
  2. The Accidental Bestseller by Wendy Wax -- 5 roses -- awesome story of four writing friends who decide to write a book together and the unintended consequences that threaten their friendship. 
  3. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver -- 4 roses -- a great story of a woefully unprepared missionary, his wife, and his four daughters in Africa. 
  4. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley -- 4 roses -- charming little mystery starring an 11-year-old chemistry-obsessed detective.
  5. Fool Moon by Jim Butcher -- 4 roses -- second book in the Dresden Files. In this one, Harry, wizard PI is up against a pack of werewolves, or two.
  6. Bloodfever by Karen Marie Moning -- 4 roses -- second book in Moning's Fever series. MacKayla continues to get stronger and learn about the Fae.
  7. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov -- 4 roses -- very enjoyable linked series of short stories based on the three laws of robotics. I'd like to see the movie someday. 
  8. The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling -- 4 roses -- a cute addition to the world of Harry Potter.
  9. My Reading Life by Pat Conroy -- 3 roses -- Interesting and written in Conroy's trademark smooth, Southern style.
  10. Murder at the ABA: A puzzle in four days and sixty scenes by Isaac Asimov -- 3 roses -- one of Asimov's few mysteries. I liked it, but I see why he's better known for his sci-fi.
  11. Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern -- 3 roses -- this short book was loaned to me by a friend. Very cute and often laugh-out-loud funny. Very, very fast read.
That's it for me. What about you? Read anything good lately? 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2011 Reading Goals

The first of the year is always a time of reflection for me. I look back at what I've accomplished in the past year and decide what I'd like to work toward in the next year. This year I'm doing it again but I won't bore you with all my goals for this year, just the reading ones ;o).

Last year, I joined the Reading Resolutions challenge hosted by Jenny Loves to Read. And, though I didn't finish all the resolutions I set for myself, I did finish several and felt that listing my reading goals gave me something to shoot for. So, once again, I'm making a list of what I'd like to accomplish as far as reading goes this year.

In 2010, I read 130 books. I'm not going to try to beat that. It was all I could do to get that many read ;o). In fact, I'm going to lower that number just slightly to 125.

2011 Number of Books To Be Read Goal: 125

The rest of my 2011 goals relate to particular perpetual challenges I'm trying to finish (or at least get further along) or to the physical books on my bookshelves.

1. Read 125 books -- 0/125
2. At least 50 of those 125 books should come from my physical bookshelves -- 0/50
3. Read 3 books in 5 different series I’ve already started -- 0/15
4. Read 12 books on my Filling in the Gaps list -- 0/12
5. Read 12 books on the New Classics list -- 0/12
6. Read 10 category romances that have been sitting on my shelf forever! -- 0/10
7. Read 10 books for Around the World in 80 Books -- 0/10
8. Read 1 book in each Dewey Decimal classification -- 0/10
9. Read 10 1001 Books -- 0/10
10. Read 5 hardbacks on my shelves -- 0/5
11. Read 5 books for Booking Around the States -- 0/5
12. Read 5 books from my Trade Paperback shelf -- 0/5

And, of course, all these books will have to be fit into Goodread's Seasonal Reading Challenge. If you're looking for the ultimate reading challenge, check it out. It's a doozy ;o).

That's it for me. What about you? Do you have particular reading goals you plan to concentrate on for 2011? If so, tell me about them!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Excuse the Dust...

No, I'm not gone for good, but I thought about it. This summer was a bit overwhelming and, as it turns out, that bled over into fall as well. I thought about just letting Passion for the Page go, but I'm starting to feel like I'm getting my feet back under me ;o). So, my plan is to get the blog back up and running for the beginning of 2011. 

I'm still actively involved in The Seasonal Reading Challenge over on Goodreads and it's likely see many more posts about the books I've read for different tasks. But for now, I'm going to concentrate on cleaning up, reorganizing, and wrapping up 2010.  

Hope everyone else is merrily reading, blogging, and holiday-preparing! Enjoy!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I picked this book for the following Seasonal Reading Challenge task:
Read one of the group read selections. The Hunger Games was the sci-fi/fantasy pick.  

About the book (from the publisher):
Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with every one out to make sure you don't live to see the morning?

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

This is a great YA dystopian novel. Very, very disturbing (but, isn't that what you want in a dystopian novel?). I was constantly thinking about the reality television shows so popular today. Not much of a stretch...

What book would you have chosen to complete this task? Tell me about it.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

I picked this book for the following Seasonal Reading Challenge task:
Read a fiction book with a food or beverage in the title.

About the book (from the publisher):
In this irresistible novel, Sarah Addison Allen, author of the New York Times bestselling debut, Garden Spells, tells the tale of a young woman whose family secrets—and secret passions—are about to change her life forever.

Josey Cirrini is sure of three things: winter is her favorite season, she’s a sorry excuse for a Southern belle, and sweets are best eaten in the privacy of her closet. For while Josey has settled into an uneventful life in her mother’s house, her one consolation is the stockpile of sugary treats and paperback romances she escapes to each night…. Until she finds her closet harboring Della Lee Baker, a local waitress who is one part nemesis—and two parts fairy godmother. With Della Lee’s tough love, Josey’s narrow existence quickly expands. She even bonds with Chloe Finley, a young woman who is hounded by books that inexplicably appear when she needs them—and who has a close connection to Josey’s longtime crush. Soon Josey is living in a world where the color red has startling powers, and passion can make eggs fry in their cartons. And that’s just for starters.

Brimming with warmth, wit, and a sprinkling of magic, here is a spellbinding tale of friendship, love—and the enchanting possibilities of every new day.

As I said in my last post, I love Sarah Addison Allen's books and this one is my favorite of all. Each book has just a touch of magic. Nothing big, but I find that the magical elements are the things that stick with me. In Garden Spells, there's a magical apple tree. In The Girl Who Chased the Moon, the wallpaper changes with the main character's mood. And in The Sugar Queen it's the books. If you like Sarah Addison Allen, or if you just love books, you have to read this one for the magical books. They're really, really funny.

I also have to point out the covers of these books. Aren't they gorgeous? I know you're not supposed to judge a book by it's cover, but in this case you can ;o).

What book would you have chosen to complete this task? Tell me about it.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

I picked this book for the following Seasonal Reading Challenge task:
Read a book whose title follows the formula "The (insert noun here) Who (insert verb here)...".

About the book (from the publisher):
In her latest enchanting novel, New York Times bestselling author Sarah Addison Allen invites you to a quirky little Southern town with more magic than a full Carolina moon. Here two very different women discover how to find their place in the world…no matter how out of place they feel.

Emily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother’s life. For instance, why did Dulcie Shelby leave her hometown so suddenly? Why did she vow never to return? But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew—a reclusive, real-life gentle giant—she realizes that mysteries aren’t solved in Mullaby, they’re a way of life.

Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbor bakes hope in the form of cakes.
Everyone in Mullaby adores Julia Winterson’s cakes. She offers them to satisfy the town’s sweet tooth and in the hope of bringing back the love she fears she’s lost forever. In Julia, Emily may have found a link to her mother’s past. But why is everyone trying to discourage Emily’s growing relationship with the handsome and mysterious son of Mullaby’s most prominent family? Emily came to Mullaby to get answers, but all she’s found so far are more questions.

Is there really a ghost dancing in her backyard? Can a cake really bring back a lost love? In this town of lovable misfits, maybe the right answer is the one that just feels…different.

I love Sarah Addison Allen's books. They all have a touch of magic, a sweet love story, and sigh-worthy satisfying endings.

What book would you have chosen to complete this task? Tell us about it.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Food Rules by Michael Pollan

Why I Picked It Up:
After watching Food, Inc. the other night, I decided to pick up Food Rules by Michael Pollan for a Season Reading Challenge task that required us to read a nonfiction, non-cookbook, food-related book. 

From the Publisher:
A pocket compendium of food wisdom-from the author of The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food 
Michael Pollan, our nation's most trusted resource for food-related issues, offers this indispensible guide for anyone concerned about health and food. Simple, sensible, and easy to use, 
Food Rules is a set of memorable rules for eating wisely, many drawn from a variety of ethnic or cultural traditions. Whether at the supermarket or an all-you-can-eat-buffet, this handy, pocket-size resource is the perfect guide for anyone who would like to become more mindful of the food we eat.

My Thoughts:
This is a great book to pick up if you're interested in staying away from processed food and you just want to know the best ways to pick what you eat. Each of the 64 "chapters," or rules is about a page to a page-and-a-half long and includes tips like 
Avoid foods you see advertised on television.
Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself. 
Some may seem a bit simplistic, such as don't eat anything with ingredients a fourth grader can't pronounce or eat when you're hungry not when you're bored, but, in general, it's a good guide to help you eat better. From what I understand, many of these tips are taken from his In Defense of Food. I haven't read that one yet, but I plan to. I like to read about the research behind the rules, but if you just want the lowdown on how to choose your food for a healthier diet Food Rules might be your best bet. It's short, at times funny, and always to the point.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Why I Picked It Up:
I chose to read The Help by Kathryn Stockett to complete a task in The Seasonal Reading Challenge that asked participants to read a book that had won the Indies Choice Book Award and watch a movie that had won (or was nominated for) an Independent Spirit Award. My face-to-face book club also picked this book as it's June book. We had a wonderful discussion about it.

From the Publisher:
Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step. Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger.

Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women — mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends — view one another.

A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, 
The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.

My Thoughts:
I loved this book. I liked the characters (Minny was my favorite), I enjoyed the writing, and I found the issues and setting to be very authentic. I would highly recommend this book to book clubs. Lots to discuss. This is one of the best books I've read so far this year.

For the film part of this task, I couldn't make up my mind so I watched Hairspray which was a 1988 nominee for best picture and Food, Inc. which was a 2010 nominee for best documentary. The racial discrimination themes in Hairspray mirrored the themes in the book nicely and it was just fun and uplifting to watch. I had seen the Broadway play of Hairspray, but I'd never watched the movie. Food, Inc., on the other hand, was neither fun nor uplifting (not that I expected it to be) since it's about how our food supply has gotten more and more processed and industrialized. Both Eric Schlosser (author of Fast Food Nation) and Michael Pollan (author of The Omnivore's Dilemma) were involved with the film. If you're at all familar with either of their books, you probably have a pretty good idea as to what to expect out of the movie. Disturbing, really.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Lost City of Z by David Grann

Why I Picked It Up:
I needed a nonfiction book about South America to complete one of The Seasonal Reading Challenge tasks and my library had this one in ebook form.

From the Publisher:
In 1925, Percy Fawcett ventured into the Amazon to find an ancient civilization, vowing to make one of the most important archeological discoveries in history. For centuries Europeans believed the world's largest jungle concealed the glittering kingdom of El Dorado. Thousands died looking for it. Over time many scientists came to view the Amazon as a deathtrap that could never support a complex society. But Fawcett, whose daring expeditions helped inspire Conan Doyle's The Lost World, had spent years building his scientific case. Captivating the imagination of millions around the globe, Fawcett embarked with his 21-year-old son & his son's best friend, determined to prove that this ancient civilization, dubbed Z, existed. Then he & his expedition vanished. Fawcett's fate & the tantalizing clues he left behind became an obsession for hundreds who followed him into the uncharted wilderness. For decades scientists & adventurers have searched for evidence of Fawcett's party & the lost city. Countless have perished, been captured by tribes or gone mad. As David Grann delved ever deeper into the mystery surrounding Fawcett's quest & the greater mystery of what lies within the Amazon, he found himself, like the generations who preceded him, drawn into the jungle's green hell. His quest for the truth & his discoveries about Fawcett's fate & Z, form the heart of this narrative.

My Thoughts:
This is a fascinating story of an explorer I'd heard of, but didn't really know much about. The author was given access to some of Fawcett's notes and letters that had been passed down through the Fawcett family. These primary sources (and many others) allowed him to reconstruct Fawcett's amazing Amazon explorations. But Grann goes beyond retracing Fawcett's steps by adding history and his own trip to the Amazon to the mix. Amazing story. Great book. And I loved the ending! I'd highly recommend it.   

Monday, June 14, 2010

Finishing up the Sookie Stackhouse Challenge

I've finished the Sookie Stackhouse Challenge by reading From Dead to Worse and Dead and Gone. There's one more book in the series, Dead in the Family, that was released in May. It's not part of the challenge, but I'm already on my library's waiting list for it.

Why Did I Pick Them Up:
Because I'm a challenge addict, finishing this challenge wasn't enough to make me pick up the last two books in the series (at least not as fast as I did). Oh no, I needed another push. I got it from The Seasonal Reading Challenge group at Goodreads. To complete one of the tasks for the challenge, I had to check out what other Goodreads members, who were online at the same time I was, were reading and choose one of those books to read. After checking the list a time or two, I found another member reading From Dead to Worse. 

Dead and Gone was read as part of the swimsuit task. For this task, you have to choose a swimsuit style that fit your reading type. The bathing suit styles included: Tank Suit (read 1 book that has at least 850 pages), Bikini (read 2 books totaling at least 850 pages and first published in 1946 (date of first named bikini) or later), Tankini (read 850 pages of book(s) published in last 5  years) or Victorian (the kind with sleeves, skirt & bloomers - read 850 pages of book(s) published between 1834 and 1901). I chose Tankini and Dead and Gone is one of the books for that task. To complete the task, I've picked two other books from my TBR pile that will help me fulfill the page requirement.

What Are They About?
From Dead to Worse -- From the publisher:
The supernatural community in Bon Temps, Louisiana, is reeling from two hard blows - the natural disaster of Hurricane Katrina and the man-made horror of the explosion at the vampire summit the month before in the up-north city of Rhodes. Sookie Stackhouse is safe but dazed, yearning for things to get back to normal. But that's just not happening. Too many vampires - some friends, some not - were killed or injured, and her weretiger boyfriend, Quinn, is among the missing.

It's clear that things are changing, whether the Weres and vamps of her corner of Louisiana like it or not. And Sookie - friend of the pack and blood-bonded to Eric Northman, the leader of the local vampire community - is caught up in the changes. In the ensuing battles, Sookie faces danger, death... and, once more, betrayal by someone she loves. And when the fur has finished flying and the cold blood flowing, her world will be forever altered.

Dead and Gone -- From the publisher:
Except for Sookie Stackhouse, folks in Bon Temps, Louisiana, know little about vamps-and nothing about weres.

Until now. The weres and shifters have finally decided to reveal their existence to the ordinary world. At first all goes well. Then the mutilated body of a were-panther is found near the bar where Sookie works-and she feels compelled to discover who, human or otherwise, did it.

But there's a far greater danger threatening Bon Temps. A race of unhuman beings-older, more powerful, and more secretive than vampires or werewolves-is preparing for war. And Sookie finds herself an all-too human pawn in their battle.

My Thoughts:
I'm surprised by how much I've enjoyed this series. Generally speaking, the whole vampire thing does absolutely nothing for me. But there is something about the characters, particularly Sookie, that keep me coming back for more. However, the series is pretty uneven for me. Some books didn't inspire me to continue reading the series as much as others. If I'd not been involved in a challenge I'm not sure I would have made it this far into the series.

One of these days, I need to try Charlaine Harris's Aurora Teagarden series. They're cozy mysteries with a librarian as the amateur sleuth. These books sound like they'd be even more to my liking. The first book in the series is Real Murders. I'll have to see if I can fit that one into the next seasonal challenge.