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.