Monday, February 28, 2011

February Recap

Here's what yours truly devoured over the past 28 days:

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
A Billion Reasons Why by Kristin Billerbeck
Julie & Julia by Julie Powell
Size 14 Is Not Fat Either by Meg Cabot
Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
The Apothecary's Daughter by Julie Klassen
Linger by Maggie Steifvater
A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
The Demon Girl by Penelope Fletcher
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Speed Dating by Nancy Warren
Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner
When Night Falls by Margaret Daley
Witch & Wizard by James Patterson
Fallen by Lauren Kate
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collines

Seventeen books!  How absolutely sinful that I was able to devote so much time this month to reading.  Unfortunately I have a feeling that March won't be as productive.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

I'm going to miss you, blog!

No, I'm not abandoning the blog, at least not on purpose.  I start a new job later this afternoon and while I don't know what the hours are going to be like, I do know it will cut into my reading time significantly.  Also, the latest book I've started, Stephen King's Lisey's Story, is long so it's going to take some time to get through that, too.  Stick with me in my absence!  When I'm done with Lisey's Story I'm going to start in on some Beverly Lewis novels that I picked up on the cheap at Books-A-Million yesterday.  Under four bucks each!  Anyway, those should go more quickly.

Friday, February 25, 2011


Suzanne Collins
288 pages
Publisher: Scholastic
Source: NookBook

You can read the Goodreads summary of this final Hunger Games novel here.

Fresh off her second run at The Hunger Games, Katniss finds herself trying to defend her family and the rebels of Panem against President Snow's war against them.  I was so excited to read this!  Though I didn't enjoy the first book too much, I loved the second book and thought the third book would be even better.  Ultimately, I didn't think it was as good as the second, but it was definitely interesting to see how things turned out for Panem.  In the Epilogue I found relief for Katniss and overall, I was mostly satisfied with the ending both of this novel and of the trilogy as a whole.  I'm glad I gave the trilogy a chance.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Witch & Wizard

Witch & Wizard
James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet
335 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Source: Kroger - on sale!

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

Okay, I love short chapters as much as the next guy, but these things are two pages each and end and start rather haphazardly.  The novel takes place between two different points of view, of Whit and Wisty, brother and sister, who are, incidentally, also a wizard and witch.  In some cases there are several chapters in one point of view in a row that could easily, and should have been, combined to make one regular length chapter.  Are kids today incapable of reading ten pages in a row?  I just didn't understand the point of such minuscule chapters.

Also, I'm not a fan of "text speak" in novels.  We should be encouraging our youth to remain true to the English language.  I rue the day that this kind of "language" becomes normal.  For example, on page 23: "My parents looked horrified -- but not actually surprised.  So WTH?"  For goodness sakes, spell out "What the hell!"

All that aside, this book had a lot of great things going for it.  It's geared towards younger readers and I can definitely see this book encouraging them to read, but this novel is definitely interesting for adults too and is sure to spark some interesting discussions.  The plot moves swiftly and there's never any boring down time.  It reminded me a lot of The Hunger Games and other "the world as we know it has ended and Big Government is Obese" kind of novels.  Overall, the plot was very interesting with lots of fun twists and turns.

I've never read anything by James Patterson before, and while this was a good book to kill an afternoon/evening with, I'm sure his books for adults must be better.


Lauren Kate
452 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Source: Bought for myself

You can view the Goodreads summary of this book here.

I wanted to love this book, I really did.  It looked like something I would really enjoy getting into, hoping for some romantic tension between two well-developed characters.  Unfortunately, that's not what I found.  Halfway through I was mostly underwhelmed.  I don't know if that's because I'm burned out on the YA Paranormal Romance genre, or if this book is just underwhelming on its own.  It seemed like the same old thing to me: angst-y teenage girl who is out of her element, mysterious teenage boy who intrigues the girl for some unknown reason, girl tries to be with boy, boy is hesitant, the un-probable truth comes out... well you know how it goes.  And how it ends before the book is even over.

The story is about Luce who is scented to a reform school (out of her element) after a mysterious fire kills her almost-boyfriend.  She can't remember what happened.  At her new school she meets Daniel (mysterious boy) who goes hot and cold towards here until the truth comes out... (SPOILER) he's a fallen angel, so are most the students at the school, and they're about to embark on an epic battle... which doesn't come until book two.

And when the book was over, nothing was resolved.  Can I just say that I dislike authors who end books, not merely on a cliffhanger, but with nothing resolved to the point where you feel like you have to read the next book?  I feel like it's a scam to sell more books.  Why can't anyone put their whole story into one book?  This book was four hundred pages, but if it had been published in a normal sized font and format, I bet more a conclusion would have fit.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Good in Bed

Good in Bed
Jennifer Weiner
375 pages
Publisher: Washington Square Press

You can read the Goodreads summary of Good in Bed here.

It took me a few months to get around to reading this one; I kept passing by it on the shelf thinking it was a lighter read, some chick-lit that would be good to read after I read something heavier.  So I finished The Help and decided the time had come for me to finally read Good in Bed.  And this book is definitely chick-lit, but it wasn't all light and fluffy like I thought it would be; instead it got pretty deep towards the end, tackling some serious issues.  I wish I could tell you what those issues are, but that would seriously spoil the whole thing for you should you decide to read it.

Cannie Shapiro is an overweight journalist struggling to get over her ex-boyfriend.  Along the way she joins a weight loss study, meets celebrities (as part of her job), travels to Hollywood to sell a manuscript, still struggles to get over the ex-boyfriend, tries to make sense of her father's abandonment, and then some bigger things happen.  Remember the issues I can't tell you about?  Well, it's big and serious, and executed excellently.

Weiner is a great writer.  And I don't just mean in the "good descriptions and character development" way, though she does that well, too.  More importantly, Weiner knows how to write a humorous novel while simultaneously tackling a serious woman's issue and have the ending wrap up in a satisfying, not cliché way.  In case you haven't guessed, I was very impressed with the way Weiner took a traditional chick-lit topic and used it to tackle a more serious plot.

The book is almost ten years old (omg, where did this last decade go!?) so the references are outdated, but it was fun to look back at them.  Overall, I'm glad to have finally read this!

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Help

The Help
Kathryn Stockett
444 pages
Publisher: Putnam/Penguin
Source: gift

You can read the Goodreads summary of The Help here.

I've been wanting to read The Help for awhile, but my aversion to buying hardcover books (because the expense mostly) kept me from doing so.  Meanwhile, the wait list for the novel on was hefty, so I was very happy to see it in a Valentine's Day package from my mother-in-law.  Three days after receiving that package, I've read the book and I can tell it's going to be on my list of top books read in 2011.  I actually think this novel might be considered something more than just a "good" or "great read."  I think it might be a legitimate piece of literature.

I majored in history in college and one of my more favorite eras to study was the Civil Rights Movement, something this novel is unequivocally about.  Set in 1963 and 1964 Jackson, Mississippi, the novel takes on three different perspectives: that of Aibileen, a black maid to a wealthy white family, Minny, another maid, and Skeeter, a recent college graduate who lives with her parents and is quickly becoming fed up with the way the maids are being treated.  That, combined with her desire to have a career in journalism, sparks Skeeter to write a book from the maid's perspectives.

The vernacular took a few chapters to get used to, but after that flowed easily.  The book is wonderfully written.  Historic details are interspersed throughout, including references to Kennedy's assassination, putting a man on the moon, and the hippie counterculture in California.  As I read I found the novel to be historically accurate, which is always a plus.  Stockett was born and raised in Mississippi, so she knows what she's talking about and she knows how to use the vernacular correctly.  On top of that, the book had some humor, and I was laughing out loud on more than one occasion.

This book has been on the bestseller list for who knows how long and there's a lot of hype surrounding it.  It's definitely warranted and I can't recommend this book enough.  A movie version is set to be released late this summer and I'm definitely excited to see how it compares to the book.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Northern Light

A Northern Light
Jennifer Donnelly
380 pages
Publisher: Harcourt

You can read the summary of this novel at Goodreads by clicking here.

I absolutely, positively loved and adored this book!  It takes place in the early twentieth century where a young woman, Mattie Gokey, is torn between helping her struggling family after her mother's death and her brother's abandonment, and following her own dreams of going to college and becoming a writer.

The characters in this novel were fleshed out and very realistic.  The plot was great and Donnelly's writing style is excellent.  Despite the fact that the plot wasn't "action packed," Donnelly's writing style, plot, and vivid descriptions made this book a page turner for me.

The novel is geared towards young adults, but the author doesn't talk down to the reader at all.  She introduces the reader to new words throughout the story.  Mattie has a tradition of picking a new word from her mother's old dictionary every day, learning it and trying to use it in a sentence.  You might think this would come off as forced, but not at all.  It flows very well with the rest of the book.  Donnelly also doesn't shy away from adult situations.  I don't mean there are graphic sex scenes, instead Donnelly tackles a scene of childbirth and nursing that are not toned down and I think that was a positive part of the novel.

The main theme in the novel is girl-power and for a character from 1906 that is a big deal.  Should Mattie get married, settle at sixteen, and help her family through their rough times?  Or should Mattie go to college and become a writer and possibly never get married?  These different aspects are explored throughout the novel and by the end, we have an answer that was not entirely predictable.  There is also talk throughout the novel of "banned books" and books that Mattie's teacher lets her borrow that others deem inappropriate for young ladies.  Today these books are classics and a major part of literature.

Overall, a great novel and I'm looking forward to reading more by Jennifer Donnelly.

The Demon Girl

The Demon Girl
Penelope Fletcher
191 pages
Publisher: Smashwords
Source: Free NookBook

Awful, awful, awful.  This is the first real negative review I've ever had to write about a book because, honestly, it was a horrible excuse for a novel.  There was no character development, the plot very rushed and skipped around leaving me a little confused at points, nothing was fleshed out like it should have been, there wasn't enough description and, worst of all, the editing seemed to have been non-existent.  At the time I acquired this book it was only available on NookBook.  It's riddled with grammatical and spelling errors and paragraphs that start mid-sentence.  At least a few times there were references to things in this fantasy world with no description as to what those things actually were.  It was released last month in paperback and I can only hope that an editor looked it over before it was published.  It says first in a series and I guarantee you I will not be reading any subsequent books.

I have to admit, I seriously considered not finishing this one and I only skimmed the ending.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Maggie Stiefvater
360 pages
Publisher: Scholastic
Source: Bought for myself

As you know, I don't generally say much in my reviews of books that are second or more in a series.  On the other hand, I can't remember reviewing Shiver on either of my blogs, though I remember reviewing it in some capacity.  Sorry, I guess my mind is getting old and feeble.  Anyway, I read Shiver in June and mailed it off to some lucky PaperBackSwap wish-lister, so I don't have it to flip through in front of me, but I do remember thinking it was a pretty good story, though I was not impressed with those who brag about reading it all in one day because it's published by Scholastic.  I mumbled something or another like that.  Don't worry, I have since gotten over myself and as you can tell I throughly enjoy YA fiction now.

Now here I am finished with the second novel, Linger, and anticipating the third and final novel, Forever, because I thought Linger was better than Shiver.  Grace and Sam are in love, but I think their love is ridiculous.  Who loves in that "I love you more, no I love you more" way in reality?  Maybe it's just been too long for me to remember what it was like to be "in love" when I was seventeen.

Anyway, aside from youthful kind of love, Shiver has a lot of offer.  Foremost, I love how the characters have depth. Sam is unbelieving in what he has become; Cole is so tortured that he never wants to be human again; Grace is going through some strange changes;  Isabel is struggling to come to terms with her brother's death.  It's all good stuff.  One of the great things Stiefvater does to convey the depth of her characters is to switch the point of view of the story between her characters.  Even sometimes in the same chapter the point of view will flip flop between Isabel and Cole for example, so we're getting both points of view on one situation at the same time.

Second, the plot.  Oh, the plot.  I don't want to spoil, but I love how things came full circle in this book, which ended on a cliffhanger.  But I have to wait until at least July to find out how it ends.  It was good read for sure, except for the font color.  The next book's cover is read and I hope the font won't also be red - that won't be fun to read.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Apothecary's Daughter

The Apothecary's Daughter
Julie Klassen
387 pages
Bethany House Publishers
Source: NookBook

Happy Valentine's Day, readers!  In honor of today's holiday (or, more accurately, by pure coincidence) I will be reviewing a romance novel, The Apothecary's Daughter by Julie Klassen.  Finally, I found a romance novel that wasn't totally predictable and held some sort of actual plot!

There were so, so many things to love about this novel.  First, there was an actual plot to this romance novel besides the typical "I love him does he love me?" plot.  Lilly was raised by her father, an apothecary, after her mother left the family.  During the novel Lilly embarks on a journey to discover where her mother left to and why.  In the end she must come to terms with her mother's abandonment.  In addition to that, Lilly's aunt and uncle take her from her small town of Bedsley Priors (which sounds a lot to me like Bedford Falls!) to London, where she learns to be high society and where her aunt hopes she will find a proper husband.  Though Lilly loves her new life in London, when her father falls ill she must go back to her small town to help him with his business and to help him heal.

I think what I enjoyed most about this novel was that even by the last couple chapters I still had no idea who Lilly was going to end up with.  At points during the novel Lilly had up to three potential suitors at one time.  For the longest time I thought she would end up with one man, though in the end she ended up with another and I felt as though she had made the right choice.  

In reading other reviews of the novel I was surprised to read that some readers felt like there was too much Christianity in the story that, they claimed, snuck up on you in the second half.  I didn't notice any such thing.  The main character is a Christian and prays on occasion, but I didn't feel the novel was overly preachy like some Christian novels can be.  In fact, I wouldn't even classify this as a Christian romance novel, but simply a historical romance novel.

The only downside to this novel was that I read the eBook version, which was riddled with typos, especially towards the end of novel.  Extra letters at the beginnings of words, misplaces quotation marks, etc.  It didn't ruin the novel too much and I'm sure a hard copy of the book wouldn't contain such errors.  Overall it was a great read.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Hex Hall

Hex Hall
Rachel Hawkins
323 pages
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Source: Bought for myself because I couldn't wait for

You can read the Goodreads summary of this novel here.

I think this is the first time I've read a YA novel about witches since I was a YA myself.  Sure I've done vampires (Twilight) and werewolves (Shiver) and fallen angels (Hush, Hush) and immortals (Evermore) - but witches?  Not since I read The Witch of Blackbird Pond in fifth grade.  I discovered this one through that trusty message board I frequent and it seems it's all the rage, despite the fact that when I started I (a) still didn't know it was about witches and (b) could never remember if it was called Hex Hall or Hex Hail.  I think Hex Hail would be a badass title for some sort of novel about extreme weather.

Sophie Mercer was born a witch and came into her powers, as all witches do, at age twelve.  By the time she reached the age of sixteen she had screwed up one times too many and was forced by the Council to attend a boarding school for witches until she turned eighteen.  Mystery and danger ensue and so does a little romance.

I particularly enjoyed the theme of "frienemies" forced by a greater cause to come together, work together.  It was great to see Sophie work together with Elodie until the plot twist of the century at the end of the novel.  I really don't want to give this one away, but trust me - when you get to the last few chapters, everything you thought you knew is actually something different.

I noticed some small parallels between Hex Hall and Harry Potter and even Sabrina the Teenage Witch, but overall it was a new story to experience.  The more I read on, the more I learned about Sophie, the world she was somewhat forced to live in, and the danger she was in.  Overall, it was pretty fascinating and, dare I say, original.  While I read the first half of the novel I didn't think this series was something I would be able to get into, but as the plot thickened in the second half I found myself thoroughly enjoying the novel and now that I'm done, I'm looking forward to reading the sequel, Demonglass, when it's released in a few weeks.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Size 14 Is Not Fat Either

Size 14 Is Not Fat Either
Meg Cabot
344 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins

Being that I've already reviewed the first book in this trilogy, I'm not going to spend much time reviewing the second.  In this second novel about Heather Wells, former pop star turned resident hall assistant turned amateur sleuth, Heather and her residence hall are faced with yet another murder, just months after the murders that took place in the first novel, Size 12 Is Not Fat.  As usual, her landlord/psuedo-boyfriend, Cooper, is telling her to stay out of it - but let's face it, Heather cannot let the investigation of the murder of an innocent cheerleader lay solely in the hands of the cops, who we all know from book one are not as competent at their jobs as they would like Heather to believe.

Who doesn't love a saucy, overweight, former teen pop sensation turned amateur detective?  Meg Cabot has done it again with a clever plot, laugh out loud narrative and dialogue, as well as surprises along the way.  Five stars!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Julie & Julia

Julie & Julia
Julie Powell
307 pages
Publisher: Back Bay Books, Little, Brown and Company

Who doesn't know what this book is?  It's a memoir of a young woman who decided to find herself by cooking every single recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking (that's over five hundred recipes!) in just one year.  Her story was made into a major motion picture starring two of the greatest actresses of our time - Meryl Streep and Amy Adams.  You'd have to live under a rock to have not heard of this by now.  Quite frankly, after watching and loving the film, I'd been wanting to read the book for quite some time.

It was great to go through the memoir and consider along with Julie each thing she was cooking.  She'd never eaten an egg before this experiment, which gets you wondering, how does that even happen?  And to be honest, I couldn't identify with Julie's disgust with bone marrow.  Have you ever eaten marrow?  In my family we practically fight over the bone in the ham steak so we can suck out the marrow.  It's creamy and delicious!  I don't see why the marrow from a cow would be that much different from that of a pig.  Anyway, I was happy to read that Julie enjoyed the marrow when it finally came down to eating it.

One of the more interesting themes for me was the relation between food and sex.  As a pre-teen Julie got a thrill by secretly sneaking peaks of her parent's copy of The Joy of Sex and later found flipping through her mother's copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking gave her the same thrill.  When Julie and Eric started dating she used food to keep him around and to get in his pants, just as Julia used cooking to help establish a relationship with her husband, Paul.  Not just in the memoir, but I think frequently in life, there is this connection between food and sex.  It's hard to explain, but it makes sense - they're both delicious, delectable things to indulge in.  They kind of go hand in hand somehow.

Watching the movie makes me want to get up and cook something spectacular.  Maybe not aspic because, let's face it, that's kind of gross.  But maybe something good like Boeuf Bourguignon.  At the very least it makes me think I'll bone a duck before I die, though maybe not anytime soon.  The book did not inspire me the way the movie did, but it was still a fantastic read.  Julie has a gift for quirky writing and the memoir made me giggle at the right points.  Props to her for blogging and then making a career out of it.  I would definitely recommend this to anyone who likes to cook.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Diana Gabaldon
734 nook pages
Publisher: Dell
Source:  Nookbook ebook

You can read the Goodreads summary of the novel here.

I'd heard about this book on the message boards on but, not knowing what it was really about, never thought to read it until it came up as a free Nookbook one week last year.  I "purchased" it right away hoping for a good book to read, considering all the positive reviews I'd seen about it.  What I didn't realize when I started the book is that it's almost 800 pages and it involved time travel.  Great, a long book about something that normally doesn't interest me - yet my compulsion to finish every book I started kept me reading.

The book starts with former WWII nurse Claire and her husband Frank exploring the English countryside.  Through a series of events they eventually come to discover a very old rock formation that, upon her investigating, sucks Claire back in time to the mid-eighteenth century Highlands.  I don't want to give the whole plot away, but eventually she marries a man named Jamie and various adventures ensue.

The author does a spectacular job with imagery that leaves the reader with a clear picture of what each setting looks like.  From fields to forests to castles, I could picture the scene clearly.  In addition to that, her descriptive skills are powerful.  Descriptions of Jamie caught in fights for his life were graphic to the point where I was a little bit nauseous to think about it, though that can be considered a good thing.

I found the novel to be pretty historically accurate overall.  Several other readers have complained about the violence Jamie expresses to Claire both in and outside of the bedroom, but that was a socially acceptable way for men to treat women at that time period.  It's not something we can fault Jamie for, or the author for, now.

Diana Gabaldon is obviously a wonderful writer that deserves five stars, but I only gave this book three stars because the plot was just not for me.

A Billion Reasons Why

A Billion Reasons Why
Kristin Billerbeck
299 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Source: Won on Goodreads!

The first chapter of A Billion Reasons Why finds our heroine, Katie, at work when suddenly her millionaire ex, Luc, shows up begging her to attend her brother's wedding to which she has already RSVP'd no.  Why does Luc want her to attend?  It seems he wants her to attend because the wedding is 1940's themed and Katie knows to how swing dance very well and his mother would approve of her on his arm as opposed to his other floozy LA girlfriends.  To be blunt, it absolutely appalled me that Luc wanted to use Katie.  Quite frankly, I began to worry that Katie would give in and allow herself to be used, but, thankfully, by the second chapter, she was defending herself pretty well.  Still, Luc is not a character I found myself liking in the beginning.  As the book wore on, his redeeming qualities came out and I didn't feel quite so resentful that Katie ended up agreeing to attend the wedding.

As the novel moves along it becomes obvious that Katie must make a choice - stay with her current boyfriend, who is safe and stable though not very romantic or passionate, or choose her ex, Luc, who is portrayed as a little bit dangerous, spontaneous and definitely passionate - not passionate in a sexual way, but passionate for life, for his work, and for Katie.  It's a traditional plot line in chick-lit novels, but this one had some interesting twists along the way.

There was an underlying and forced Christian theme that permeated throughout the novel, like so many Christian romance novels.  For example, Katie kept a "courtship diary" for herself and her boyfriend, Dex.  She also tried to explain to her roommate why her singing 1940s love ballads in a nightclub made her feel closer to God - something I couldn't quite wrap my head around.  Don't get me wrong, I'm a Lutheran and I have my own relationship with God, but I find these themes in Chick-Lit to be forced to a fault.

Aside from the forced theme and the all too convenient ending (I can't give it away!) I ended up really enjoying this book.  The writing style of the author is smooth and descriptive and I enjoyed the recent pop culture references she used, such as Glee and Kindle.  The story overall is very sweet and it was a light, enjoyable read.

ETA:  Though this book was given to me through a giveaway by the publisher, it has not affected my review.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

No, I haven't forgotten ye.

In the past month I've been posting book reviews as fast I can read them, so you might have expected me to have posted a new review by now.  And I'm working on it, it's just that I'm still trudging through Outlander and it's an 800 page book.  Aside from that, it's not holding my attention very well.  It's like Eat, Pray, Love to me: I don't care if I ever finish, but I have this neurosis that says I have to finish.  It's why I'm not reading two books at one time like I normally do, because I have to force myself to read this one.  I want to like the book, I really do, but I'm halfway through it and I'm not in love with it.  Here's some thoughts about the novel so far: 

  • I don't mind a steamy sex scene.  In fact, I like them as much as the next romance reading gal, but really?  Get off each other and do something productive!
  • I hate to have to admit I'm thinking this, but.... what's the plot?  I get what's happened and I get they're traveling around, but what's really going on?  Are they in search of something?  Is there a mystery going on?  I have no idea.
  • Will she ever get back to Frank?  Please, oh please?
So, if all goes according to plan, I'll be done with this novel in a couple days.  Though, the weekend is coming up and my husband has off Friday afternoon and Saturday, which is precious time and then the Superbowl is Sunday.  On top of that I've been sick, so who knows how much reading I can squeeze in!