Saturday, December 22, 2012

My Reading (and Posting) Slump

Hopefully, you've missed me. I've missed being on here.

I haven't written since I haven't been reading much, and I have been reading much since I got pregnant. Baby brain (or the lack of a brain) and being sick made my life a matter of going to work and hiding in bed for months. I'm feeling better. I'm now 21 weeks along and life feels do-able again. Hopefully reading and blogging will too.

I did manage to get through some books since August so hopefully I'll get some reviews up soon.

Friday, August 10, 2012

NPR's top 100 YA books

Always a sucker for a book list, here's what I've read off NPR's Best Young Adult Novels list.

Bold means I've read it. Blue means I have it to eventually read.

1. Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
2. The Hunger Games (series), by Suzanne Collins only the first in the series
3. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
4. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
5. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
6. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
7. The Lord of the Rings (series), by J.R.R. Tolkien
8. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
9. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
10. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
11. The Giver (series), by Lois Lowry only the first in the series
12. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (series), by Douglas Adams
13. The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton
14. Anne of Green Gables (series), by Lucy Maud Montgomery
15. His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman
16. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
17. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
18. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
19. Divergent (series), by Veronica Roth
20. Paper Towns, by John Green
21. The Mortal Instruments (series), by Cassandra Clare
22. An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green
23. Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes
24. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher
25. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
26. Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson
27. Twilight (series), by Stephenie Meyer
28. Uglies (series), by Scott Westerfeld
29. The Infernal Devices (series), by Cassandra Clare
30. Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt
31. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
32. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (series), by Anne Brashares only the first in the series
33. The Call of the Wild, by Jack London
34. Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by John Green, David Levithan
35. Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous
36. Howl's Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones
37. Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli
38. A Separate Peace, by John Knowles
39. Vampire Academy (series), by Richelle Mead
40. Abhorsen Trilogy / Old Kingdom Trilogy (series), by Garth Nix
41. Dune, by Frank Herbert
42. Discworld / Tiffany Aching (series, by Terry Pratchett
43. My Sister's Keeper, by Jodi Picoult
44. The Dark is Rising (series), by Susan Cooper only the first in the series
45. Graceling (series), Kristin Cashore
46. Forever..., by Judy Blume
47. Earthsea (series), by Ursula K. Le Guin
48. Inheritance Cycle (series), by Christopher Paolini
49. The Princess Diaries (series), by Meg Cabot
50. The Song of the Lioness (series), by Tamora Pierce
51. Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson
52. Delirium (series), by Lauren Oliver
53. Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins
54. Hush, Hush Saga (series), by Stephanie Perkins
55. 13 Little Blue Envelopes, by Maureen Johnson
56. It's Kind of a Funny Story, by Ned Vizzini
57. The Gemma Doyle Trilogy (series), by Libba Bray
58. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs
59. The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros
60. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
61. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
62. Just Listen, by Sarah Dessen
63. A Ring of Endless Light, by Madeleine L'Engle
64. The Truth About Forever, by Sarah Dessen
65. The Bartimaeus Trilogy (series), by Jonathan Stroud
66. Bloodlines (series), by Richelle Mead
67. Fallen (series), by Lauren Kate
68. House of Night (series), by P.C. Cast, Kristin Cast
69. I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith
70. Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, by Rachel Cohn, David Levithan
71. Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver
72. Unwind, by Neal Shusterman
73. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle
74. The Maze Runner Trilogy (series), by James Dashner
75. If I Stay, by Gayle Forman
76. The Blue Sword, by Robin McKinley
77. Crank (series), by Ellen Hopkins
78. Matched (series), by Allie Condie
79. Gallagher Girls (series), by Ally Carter
80. The Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale
81. Daughter of the Lioness / Tricksters (series), by Tamora Pierce
82. I Am the Messenger, by Markus Zusak
83. The Immortals (series), by Tamora Pierce
84. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles (series), by Patricia C. Wrede
85. Chaos Walking (series), by Patrick Ness
86. Circle of Magic (series), by Tamora Pierce
87. Daughter of Smoke & Bone, by Laini Taylor
88. Feed, by M.T. Anderson
89. Weetzie Bat (series), by Francesca Lia Block
90. Along for the Ride, by Sarah Dessen
91. Confessions of Georgia Nicolson (series), by Louise Rennison only the first in the series
92. Leviathan (series), by Scott Westerfeld
93. The House of the Scorpion, by Scott Westerfeld
94. The Chronicles of Chrestomanci (series), by Diana Wynne Jones
95. The Lullaby, by Sarah Dessen
96. Gone (series), by Michael Grant
97. The Shiver Trilogy (series), by Maggie Stiefvater
98. The Hero and the Crown, by Robin McKinley
99. Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse Anderson
100. Betsy-Tacy Books (series), by Maud Hart Lovelace only the first in the series

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Seriously...I'm Kidding

I have had an overflow of audible credits so I was looking for some funny quick listens and picked out Seriously...I'm Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres. At just over three hours, it was very quick.

It's really very fluffy and hilarious. I laughed out loud at several things. There were a couple serious topics that offered some food for thought, especially after not getting a job I really wanted.

Overall, it's a worth the time as long as you understand what it is going in. Ellen narrates the book, which added to my enjoyment of it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Back When You Were Easier to Love

Back When You Were Easier to Love is an cute Mormon YA romance. I didn't realize it was Mormon until a few pages in. I generally don't read Christian fiction, so I probably wouldn't have picked it off the library shelf had I realized. However, it was fun.

Joy, the main character, dated Zan until he dropped off the face of the earth, without a word of goodbye. She was having agreat difficulty in getting over him, so she decided to drive to his college to get closure. Noah, Zan's friend, tags along. Joy viewed Noah as a "Soccer Lovin' Kid" who was too stereotypical Mormon. On the trip, Joy realized how Zan was something she never had and how Noah has many more dimensions than she gave him credit for. 

Back When You Were Easier to Love is a very very G rated book. Joy even reflects on how kissing among the Mormon kids at her school was a really big deal. The book's cover seems too forward for the romance in the story. In any case, it was an enjoyable read.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking

My name is kenpen and I am an introvert.

My book club read Quiet a few months ago. While I missed the meeting, I'm glad that I read the book. It rook me quite a while to get in to Quiet. I probably would have put it down had I not spent $13 on the kindle edition. I didn't have much else on my kindle I felt like reading, so I kept at it. By the midway point (almost exactly) I really began to enjoy the book.

Introverts are those people who recharge by being alone. They aren't necessarily shy, but it's a common trait. At times in my life, I think I've been more introverted than others. I went to a boarding school in high school so I was never alone then and was fine, but since I've become an adult I've become more introverted. In the past year or two, I feel like I've moved a bit more to the middle of the spectrum. However, I still HAVE to be alone frequently.

The night Evan and I got engaged, he'd been out at a party while I stayed home by myself. I remember thinking that he was going to break up with me since I rarely wanted to go to parties and be around people I didn't know. And then he proposed. Ha. We recently took an online quiz to see how introverted/extroverted we are. He's 89% extroverted. I'm 78% introverted. I think the main thing is knowing how the other functions and what they need.

Quiet helped me understand myself a little bit better and it gave insight on how society views introverts. It gave me some ideas on how to fit into the social world a bit better, even considering how to (this sounds faker and ickier than it is, but I don't know how to word it better) create an extroverted persona when you need one.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Rising from the Plains

I think it's easy to love books set in a place where you live. You can relate to the places in the books and in the case of non-fiction, may have a connection to the people. Rising from the Plains is set in Wyoming and covers the state's geology. It's a book that had been suggested to me as a Wyoming must-read.

At times the science got a little heavy for me, but other than that the book was fabulous. It was a very quick read.

I loved David Love, the geologist who McPhee traveled with. His family story was such a Wyoming story. It sounded a bit familiar to me. I realized I'd read about it in Lady's Choice by Barbara Love about ten years ago. If anything, Rising from the Plains is worth reading because of the Love family history. 

Wyoming's geology is fascinating. We've got really really old stuff. Vedauwoo (pronounced vee-da-voo) which is just east of Laramie, is approximately 1.4 billion years old. Evan and I rock climb and hike there. Vedauwoo is known for it's rock climbing. Wyoming also has lots of dinosaur bones. Love and McPhee had a wealth of material to share.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History

My book club chose this for one of our reads. We have several pregnant women in the group and a number of them were really interested in the info on breastfeeding.

I really enjoyed the book. One of the topics I found most interesting was the section on the chemical levels in our bodies. Williams and her daughter had urine tests done to determine those levels.  After the tests, Williams had a short detox period where she avoided things (plastics) that raise levels. Within a few days, her chemical levels dropped significantly. I wish that she had included a follow up on how to lower these levels in real life. She didn't drive, didn't eat anything that had been in plastic, and other non-realistic methods of avoiding plastic. The more I read about chemicals in our environment, the scarier the situation seems.

The section on breastfeeding wasn't anything earth shattering for me. I already knew that breast milk offers a baby valuable nutrients and is immune boosting. I also knew that the US has a very short maternity leave while other Western countries offer a more generous leave. These other countries have breast feeding rates that far surpass American ones. 

Another interesting section was the one on implants. Williams visited a plastic surgery center in Texas and had a pretend consultation. She spoke with women who were getting implants. One woman talked about how all her friends had them. Very odd to me.

I'm sure this is a book that most women would be interested in reading. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Marriage Plot

Hmmm. I really didn't like The Marriage Plot.

My book club read it and even though I wasn't planning on reading it, I bought it. I read it quickly because I wanted to know what was going to happen to the characters, but the whole thing was pretty unsatisfying. I don't really seem to like literary fiction and this book was a perfect example of why.

The Marriage Plot is a romantic triangle between three Brown University graduates in the 1980s.

I couldn't connect with the characters in any meaningful way, and Madeleine drove me crazy.

I wasn't an English major and was so lost by all the semiotics stuff which felt like the book was telling me I wasn't quite smart enough to be reading it.

I saw The Virgin Suicides movie ages ago and really enjoyed it, so I am going to try it and give Eugenides a chance at redemption. Hopefully I'll have more favorable things to report on it.

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I adored The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It was one of several YA books I wish I'd read when I was a teenager. (Sadly, when I was a teenager I just read a lot of trashy romance novels.) The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a coming of age story where the main character has to come to terms with the past.

I listened to the audio book and it was one of those that I kept exercising so I could hear more of the story.

Charlie, the main character, is a socially awkward teenager who becomes friends with some other misfits. I loved Charlie. He's a sensitive kid who is so thoughtful. At Christmas, he and his friends exchange gifts. I was almost overwhelmed with the beauty of the gifts Charlie picked out.

The ending was a bit of a surprise for me. In some ways I really didn't like it as I thought it was kinda out of left field. The more I've thought about it, though, the more it makes sense. It's a book I've been rolling over in my brain since I finished it a few months ago.

Great YA read. It's frequently on banned book lists, so even more of a reason to pick it up!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Laughing Without an Accent

I've used Firoozeh Dumas's Funny in Farsi in class before. It's wonderful. Dumas writes hilarious stories about her Iranian family. Her family moved to the United States when Dumas was in elementary school.

Her books cover many topics. Laughing Without an Accent includes a wonderful story about her uncle's funeral and life. It's so full of love. If you need something funny, but with some weight, you should pick up Dumas's books. I listened to this audio book and kept exercising to keep listening! High praise that a book makes up for the torture that is running.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Wildflower Hill

Wildflower Hill by Kimberley Freeman was a total stay up late reading book. I stayed up til 3:30am because I was so enthralled.

Wildflower Hill is the story of a woman and her grandmother. The book alternates between the two main characters as the younger woman moves from London to the sheep station she inherited from her grandmother in rural Australia.

One complaint that I had was that it seemed so similar to Kate Morton's novels. If it had been one of her books, I wouldn't have been surprised. Being like a Kate Morton novel certainly isn't a bad thing-- I loved The House at Riverton and The Forgotten Garden, just that it was kind of strange that the books seemed so similar.

In any case, I gave Wildflower Hill five stars on goodreads. I loved it. If you like historical fiction or Kate Morton's books, you should definitely pick this up.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

I was pretty disappointed by The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. I read some really great reviews from people whose reading tastes are similar to mine. The premise sounded fun, and I adore non-paranormal, romancey YA. However, this book just didn't do it for me.

The novel is about a teenager traveling to England for her father's second marriage. Along the way, she meets a love interest in a young Brit. In the book Hadley, the main character, falls in love, she also grows up about her father's relationship with a new woman and comes to terms with her family situation.

I never connected to Hadley or her love interest, Oliver. I never felt any spark in their relationship. to me, the whole thing was just, "eh." I wish I hadn't bought this book, but you can't win them all.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Eiger Dreams

When Eiger Dreams was on sale for my kindle, I grabbed it. (Incidentally, my husband said, "Don't we already have that book?" after I finished it. We did. I just wanted to read it on my kindle since I was going to read it in bed after he turned his light off.) I've loved Krakauer's other books: Under the Banner of Heaven, Into the Wild, Three Cups of Deceit, and Where Men Win Glory. I have not read Into Thin Air yet.

Eiger Dreams is a number of articles that Krakauer wrote, primarily for Outside and Smithsonian magazines, in the 1980s. The stories felt a little dated, especially one where Krakauer mentioned the upcoming 1989 mountaineering season. The subject matter doesn't necessarily need to be brand new, but it seemed distracting to read about what might happen in 1989, 23 years ago.

I've become more active lately, mostly in terms of running, but in general being outdoors. I consider myself reasonably willing to hike and rock climb. Eiger Dreams was about crazy stuff I would never do: climbing K2 for example. One year on K2, approximately one person died on the mountain for each five who reached the top. Krakauer told the story of that year and how the people died. It was horrible material, but so interesting. I can't imagine the frame of mind people are in when they decide to do such risky activities.

The articles covered different topics. There's one on calculating mountain height and the thought that Mount Everest might not be the tallest mountain the world. While really interesting, this one felt dated when you think about today's GPS system. Another that I really enjoyed was about Alaskan bush pilots. Those guys do some amazing flying.

One of the stories profiled a mountain climber who grew up in the south, but moved to the west. His comment about that move felt dead-on to my similar move: "I grew up the Deep South, where you're surrounded by thick, soft trees, and it's hard to see the sky barbecue of the humidity. the landscape, by and large is flat. Nature doesn't confront you there. It was a tremendous transition for me to come out West for the first time. I was overwhelmed by the rocks, by the scale, by the wide-open space."The first time I came to Wyoming, my dad and I drove. In western Nebraska I-76 branches southwest toward Denver while I-80 continues west into Wyoming. At this point the sky opens up and you feel like you can see forever.

There's some great stuff in Eiger Dreams.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Surely you remember Ken Jennings? The guy who won about 500 consecutive episodes of Jeopardy? (Shockingly, that was back in 2004.) He wrote a book about trivia entitled Braniac in 2006. Last year he wrote another book called Maphead

Maphead is about geography. There's all kinds of wonderful stuff in it. Jennings talks about vintage maps, the National Geographic Geography Bee, and geocaching. 

Map collecting is a common hobby. People like pretty maps even if they aren't too into geography. Evan and I have a map of the US that we had mounted on foam board so we can track our travels. (We use push pins. I love adding a new pin.) The Library of Congress has thousands of old maps. It has so many it doesn't even know what it has. Archivists are still cataloging the collection. Recently Congress purchased a map for $10 million. It is the oldest map that uses the term America.

As someone who knows a lot of random trivia, even Jennings was stumped by some questions at the National Geographic Geography Bee. The Bee began in response to numerous stories of people not knowing even basic geography. The kids, in fourth to eighth grade, mostly boys, many with an Asian background, compete each year in a competition that includes information about bauxite exports from Mozambique and other who-in-the-hell-knows-that type questions.  These questions were seriously crazy.

I've heard the term geocaching before, but in passing and it was never anything I was interested in. However, it sounds really cool. Jennings gave a bit of history of it and of GPS. I use GPS on my phone when I run to keep track of distance and the discussion in the book made me realize just how new this technology really is--and how cool.

There's tons more other geography related information in Maphead: google maps, travelers who have visited 100+ countries, map projections, and on and on.

Overall, I loved this book. If you are a travel, geography, history nerd such as myself, I think you'd like it too. Despite Jennings apparent nerdiness for winning on Jeopardy so much, he seems like a really cool guy.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Black Like Me

This is a book everyone should read. The more I learn about the civil rights era and the time before it, the more horrified I am. This book is the memoirs of John Howard Griffin and the time he spent passing as a black man in the South. Griffin, a white man, dyed his skin and was able to fool people in to thinking he was black to see how blacks were really treated.


The treatment he received from whites was horrible. He was treated as if he were a child. He was asked all kinds of sexual questions from whites' beliefs that blacks were hyper sexual. He felt that he was in danger on many instances. He wasn't welcome in white stores and waiting rooms, even though he was paying the same amount for a ticket or wanted to purchase the same goods as whites. Griffin could never stop moving. A black man standing or sitting could easily attract unwanted police attention.

A telling incident happened when Griffin was riding a bus. The bus driver refused to stop where Griffin asked to be let out. Griffin spoke of his helplessness of not being able to do anything, even get mad, much less get off the bus, while the driver acted like such a jerk. 

One of the things I found really interesting was how the blacks Griffin interacted with felt such a connection with each other. I do suppose, though, that if the color of your skin is all anyone can see, it also strongly connects you with others who look like you. The people Griffin met talked about their status in society quite a bit.

Not surprisingly, the treatment he received after this book was published wasn't much better. He and his family became virtual outcasts in their hometown. People were horrified by a white man telling such a story.

It's quite a different book from The Help. But if you liked The Help and want to know more about how blacks were treated during that time period, you should definitely pick this up. This was a quick and powerful read.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston was a really fun book. It's meant to be fictional character Frankie Pratt's actual scrapbook. The book has all sorts of items you might find in a scrapbook: photos, letters, tickets, etc. 

I really liked the premise of this book. The reader follows Frankie for several years while she graduates high school, attends college, and experiences the world. Frankie grew up in a small town and was excited to see the world. She attended Vassar with scholarships and a small windfall from an interesting source. She travels and lives in Paris.

For a young woman in the 1920s, Frankie has some unusual experiences. I was a little skeptical of them--I couldn't quite picture Frankie being a real person in the 1920s with all the events she goes through and where she ends up. Sometimes I wonder if women in historical fiction novels are written more with modern sensibilities and attitudes than the real women might have had during that time period.

Because of the format, it's a really fast read. If you like historical fiction novels, give this a try even if you aren't too sure about the format. Looking through Frankie's personal items makes the book feel more like reading a friend's story than that of a random character in a novel.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

King Leopold's Ghost

King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hochschild is the story of the Belgian Congo. In the second half of the 1800s, King Leopold of Belgium decided that Belgium needed colonies like other European countries had.

I have an impression of Belgium being a pretty forward thinking place, so the horrors that took place in the Congo under Belgians seem even worse than they already are. Experts estimate that 8-10 million natives died during the Belgian occupation. The Belgians were brutal. Leopold basically used slave labor to enrich himself while fooling the world into thinking his role in the Congo was a humanitarian one.

King Leopold's Ghost was pretty eye-opening. The Belgian Congo wasn't something I knew much about, though I know a little bit more about the region at a later date. It is the setting of The Poisonwood Bible, one of my favorite books. 

Another favorite of mine is The Heart of Darkness, which was written by Joseph Conrad who visited the area. If you've read it you might think that Conrad exaggerated how bad things were. Not really. There were Belgian soldiers with heads on spikes.

King Leopold's Ghost isn't one of those non-fiction books that I'd suggest to anyone. It's not that easy of a read , but it covers some really incredible stuff that you might not know.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Love at First Bark

Love at First Bark by Julie Klam is a memoir of working with dog rescues. My husband and I have been volunteering as a foster family through a basset hound rescue for almost three years. I was interested in reading someone else's thoughts on these experiences.

One thing that really seemed crazy was Klam's own dogs--dogs that had accidents all over the house all the time. This horrified me. She talked about how potty training dogs in NYC is difficult, especially if you live on the fifth or sixth floor of a walk-up like she did. I think that would be extremely hard, but I really can't imagine my dogs shitting all over my house all the time. (Incidentally, potty training is a great reason to get a rescue, you can pick a dog that's already trained!)

Overall, the book was interesting, but nothing special. I'm sure there's a better book about being a dog rescuer out there. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Future of Us

I loved the premise of The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler. In The Future of Us, two teenagers in 1996 stumble upon their facebook pages fifteen years in the future.

Being very close to the age of the book's two main characters, it really made me think about what my 15 year old self in 1996 would have thought about my current facebook page. I think my mind would have been blown by the fact that I live in Wyoming (not sure I really even knew Wyoming was a state in 1996), but I would have been thrilled with the pictures of my dogs.

Sadly, I thought the execution of the book's plot felt short of what I'd hoped it would be. I had a hard time liking Emma. My reflections on my life-past and present were really what made this book for me. My facebook page would have told my 15 year old self that I was supposed to be in Wyoming, married to Evan, and what I was doing, but not what had gotten me here. As Emma and Josh found out, even the tiniest things in 1996 changed their grown up lives.

(One of those tiny changes that I think about that could have changed my life dramatically was when I first came to Wyoming. It was part of a college exchange program. Prior to arriving here, UW sent me a letter telling me my dorm information. After my dad and I had left to come out, another letter came with different dorm information. My mom who was still at home, told us the change so I moved into the new dorm. A couple weeks after I got there, I called my would have been roommate who was wondering what the heck happened to me. As far as she and her RA knew, I had just never shown up--they didn't know my info had been changed. I met some great friends including Evan on my floor in the dorm. I'm sure I wouldn't have met them if I hadn't lived there. What if my mom had come with us and wouldn't have been there to get the mail? What is it'd taken another couple days to show up--after I'd moved into the first dorm? How different would things look today? And really, how many of these thousands of little things got us to exactly where we are?)

Overall, I thought it was a great book for self-reflection, but the story was merely ok.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska by John Green is a young adult novel set at a boarding school in Alabama.

As a former boarding school student, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with books set in boarding school. I loved boarding school and think it was a really great thing for me so I like reading books that remind me of it. On the other hand, I get frustrated at how life in a boarding school is portrayed. Looking for Alaska was no different that other boarding school books in this aspect. While there were parts of the plot that I found realistic, there were parts that really annoyed me because of the unlikelihood they would ever happen.

Looking for Alaska definitely had some of these gimme-a-break moments, including how the main event of the novel happened, but at the same time, something similar could have happened with actual adult supervision around. (But really, where were the adults in this book?!)

I really loved Miles's desire to go to boarding school: to seek the great perhaps. I think my desire to go to boarding school and to Wyoming come out of this idea. What great adventure would I find?

I enjoyed Looking for Alaska, but it was more of a downer than I expected. For a happier Green book, I really enjoyed An Abundance of Katherines.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Taft 2012

Taft 2012 by Jason Heller is the story of William Howard Taft reappearing on the political scene for this year's presidential election. Somehow Taft had fallen asleep in 1913 on the way to Woodrow Wilson's Inauguration and then awoke in 2012.

Taft is shot by the Secret Service for walking around the White House grounds when we awoke from his 100 year sleep. Shortly after, they discover that he really is President Taft so he's given Secret Service protection and allowed to explore modern day America. He meets his great granddaughter, Rachel, who is serving in Congress as an Independent Representative from Ohio.

Taft 2012 is a pretty funny indictment of our modern political system. It's also the story of a man who has suddenly experienced life with everyone he knew gone. Taft feels grief for his long dead wife and he comes to terms with his relationship with teddy Roosevelt. This is a good election year book with an interesting premise.

Friday, January 27, 2012

War and Peace

I feel like I've climbed Mt. Everest or run a marathon with finishing War and Peace. I might have done a victory dance.

War and Peace follows Pierre, the illegitimate son of a wealthy count, Prince Andrew and his sister Princess Mary, and the Rostov family, who has lost all their wealth, in Russia during the Napoleonic Wars. It's an epic, full of love and death.

It was surprisingly easier to read than I expected. There were some philosophical history sections, reflections on history by Tolstoy, that were a bit intense. I also had a cheat sheet of the characters that I referred to frequently in the beginning as I was having trouble keeping track of all the characters. Despite those issues, it wasn't as intimidating as its reputation. It is very long though. Very very long.

One little section that I laughed over:

"I don't know why you think I am cross, "said Nicholas, replying to the question he knew was in his wife's mind.
I always ask Evan why he's upset and he always tells me the same thing.

Another few of quotes I liked:

"Where there's law there's injustice," put in the little man.

He read, and read everything that came to hand.

But Helene, like a really great man who can do whatever he pleases, at once assumed her own position to be correct, as she sincerely believed it to be, and that everyone else was to blame.  (We certainly all know people like this.)

"Russia and summer weather are not bound together," he thought.  (Wyoming, what?)

I'm really glad I read War and Peace, but don't imagine I'll ever do it again.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Cindy Ella

Cindy Ella by Robin Palmer is a modern YA take on the Cinderella story. The main character, Cindy, has the requisite mean step-mom and sisters. Cindy writes a letter to the student newspaper about how stupid prom is and becomes an outcast within her school. Prince Charming (or is that in Sleeping Beauty?) shows up as a popular senior who appears to be interested in Cindy.

It was a cute story, but could have used a better editor. barebecue (barbecue), AP English as a freshman?, Tiffani Amber-Theissen instead of Tiffani-Amber, wearing white ok after Memorial Day (uh, it's Easter...). I know it's little stuff, but it really detracted from my enjoyment of the book. I don't know the process of book editing, but I was really surprised by the errors I saw in this book. (It's an actual book published by Puffin, not a self published kindle book.)

I would read another book by Palmer because I did enjoy the plot, but I hope she's found a better editor.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

2011 Favorites

How is it 2012? Does anyone remember watching Conan O'Brien before 2000 when he first started his "In the year 2000" skits? And now it's 2012? Geez.

Anyhow, being that time of the year, here's my list for favorites of 2011 in no particular order. The links go to my review of the book.

The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart (YA)

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (dystopian)

Shine by Lauren Myracle (YA, mystery)

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (classic, mystery)

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton (historical fiction, mystery)

A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres  (history, religion)

Spark by John Ratey (science, exercise)

The rest of my 5 star (on GR) books:

I'm Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley
Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman
Wildflower Hill by Kimberley Freeman
Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller
Scat by Carl Hiaasen
Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
Bossypants by Tina Fey
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut (reread)
What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen (reread)
The Gulag Archipelago by Solheitzen
Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty (reread)
Perfect Fifths by Megan McCafferty (reread)
Nine Parts of Desire by Geraldine Brooks
The Girl Who Played with Fire by Steig Larsson
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Virginian

The Virginian was one of those novels that ugh, you just cannot get into until all of sudden you can't put it down. I'd picked it up a few times and couldn't get anywhere in it. Since it's one of those WYOMING (caps for a reason) books, I knew I really should read it. I finally sat down and said I was going to finish it. Almost exactly halfway through the book, it got really good. Thanks goodness! From that point on, I really enjoyed it.

The Virginian is the story of a man from Virginia who moves to Wyoming and lives the cowboy lifestyle. It's one of the first books in the western genre. It shows the cowboy way of life, the lawlessness of the frontier, and an outsider's view of it all.

A few Wyoming related lines:

"What world am I in?" I said aloud. "Does this same planet hold Fifth Avenue?"

" I could not live without it now," he said. "This has got into my system." He swept his hand out at the vast space of world.

"No lotus land ever cast its spell upon man's heart more than Wyoming had enchanted mine."

The book also has a bit of a romance. The Virginian to his beloved, "And I think I could give you a pretty good sort of love." Swoon.

After I finished the book, I felt like doing a victory lap. I was very proud that I finally got it read. And, I was really glad I ended up enjoying it as much as I did.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

My 2011 Goal

In 2009, I read 202 books while in 2010 I read 167. I set my 2011 goal for 175 and met it, with 176 books.

I'm not sure what my goal will be in 2012. I think I'm going to set it for 175 again, but my real goal should be to read the books I own and not get more. I have so many books and I just keep buying more. I say this every year, but maybe this time I can accomplish that.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Cat's Cradle

A little bit ago, Amazon was having a sale on Vonnegut books so I purchased Cat's Cradle. I'd only ever read Slaughterhouse Five by Vonnegut, which I really liked. I first read in my 10th grade American lit English class. I reread it earlier this year and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Going in to Cat's Cradle, I was expecting to enjoy it because of my feelings on Slaughterhouse Five, but it was a bit hard to get into. I'm not a science fiction kind of reader, so I had to force myself to read it. In the end, I'm really glad I did.

Cat's Cradle is the story of a creator of the atom bomb and his next project, Ice 9. Ice 9 was suggested by a Marine who didn't want to tromp through mud. The mixture will freeze water. Through a comedy of errors, Ice 9 threatens civilization. Whoops.

I really enjoyed Cat's Cradle. It's got the same WhatTheHellness as Slaughterhouse Five. Perhaps I should pick up some more Vonnegut.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Moonstone

Wilkie Collins is a mystery writer from the mid 1800s. The Moonstone is on the 1001 Book You Must Read list. (Link goes to my progress on the list.)The Moonstone is on the longer side, but I read it in just a couple days. I couldn't put it down. I didn't figure out the answer to the mystery ahead of time. It had great twists and turns.

The Moonstone is about the theft of a diamond known as the Moonstone. The novel is set up as personal reflections and remembrances of many characters in the book. Each person's story adds a bit to the mystery. It was a fun way of getting different characters' impressions and views.

Since The Moonstone was published prior to 1923, it's in the public domain and the ebook is free. If you are fan of mysteries, I highly recommend it. Collins has many other books, one of which, The Woman in White, is already on my kindle.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

My Top 10 Favorite Authors

No particular order:

1) Bill Bryson
2) George Orwell
3) Sarah Dessen
4) Jane Austen
5) Agatha Christie
6) Jon Krakauer
7) Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
8) Tony Horwitz
9) Jacqueline Winspear
Tied for 10) Carl Hiaasen, Kerry Greenwood, Sue Grafton, Janet Evanovich

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure

Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure by Matthew Algeo is the story of a road trip that Harry and Bess Truman took shortly after leaving the White House in the early 1950s.

Truman's trip was the last of its kind. Afterwards, subsequent ex-presidents have had much closer Secret Service detail that wouldn't allow the flexibility and freedom the Trumans experienced.

The Trumans drove from Missouri to DC and then to New York City, where their daughter Margaret lived. Along the way they stopped at roadside restaurants delighting the unsuspecting public. They also surprised police officers-can you imagine the shock of the officer who pulled the President over? It seemed that the Trumans would have preferred more anonymity, but were good sports and kind to those they met along the way. The book also highlights some of the differences between life in the 1950s and today. The places at which the Trumans stayed, purchased gas, and ate were mom and pop establishments, and they drove on pre-Interstate highways.

Not only was the book about the trip itself, it was also a bit of a biography of Truman. As Truman was the last of the presidents without a secret service detail, he also was one without a pension from his days as president. He needed money because the only retirement he had was from his days as a soldier in WWI. Truman didn't want to sully the role of the president by working so he relied on others in many ways.

This was a fairly short book and it wasn't a deep look into Truman, but it covered a lot of information I didn't know about him and the presidency.