Monday, June 18, 2012

Books I Read 6/11-6/18

I was so busy pampering my husband for being such a great father I didn't get a chance to post a weekly round-up yesterday - pampering is hard work! So here are the books I read last week! Pretty light week.

The Storm Makers by Jennifer E. Smith - 7/10

A solid middle grade read, about twins who discover a secret society of people who can control the weather. The villain was not quite as fleshed-out or believable as I would have liked, but if there are future books in the series I expect that will be remedied.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery - 10/10

I'm not entirely sure how I didn't read this as a girl - I mean literally, my older sister Sara was obsessed with the series and had at least 3 copies of this book around the house. And I read everything back then, including my mom's mysteries and my brothers' high fantasy, so you'd think I'd have picked up a copy, but apparently not.

And I wish I had! I absolutely LOVED this book, it gave me that floaty, giddy feeling that only the very best books give you. I literally hugged it when I was finished. *sigh*

The Last Boyfriend by Nora Roberts - 6/10

Nora Roberts books are like comfort food in book format for me. Nothing surprising or unexpected generally happens, but they are reliably enjoyable. This one was slightly lower than normal, this series has a rather overwhelming focus on architectural and interior design porn, with the actual romance feeling a bit like an afterthought. Ah well. I'll still finish out the series - listened to this one on playaway, great narrator.

Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery - 8/10

Not quite as transcendent as the first, and a little more preachy. Also, Paul Irving occasionally got on my nerves. Still enamored, though, and will definitely continue on with the series. Yes, that was the hideous cover I was reading - I'm never ashamed to rock a J or YA book in public, but I'll admit to being slightly glad I finished this one in the safety of my own home. So cheesy.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Running Notes

- Last night as I was jogging up the street, I saw a rabbit, startled by a car at the corner, sprinting towards me. It got within 5 or 6 feet before it noticed me, and veered up into someone's yard. I love how many bunnies we have around the neighborhood (when they're not nibbling my spinach or peas) but this is the best close encounter yet.

- I know most people have fancy-pants smart phones to do this sort of thing on, but I'm a bit of a tech holdout in this case, because I have kind of an addictive personality and don't want to be one of those people that can't hold a conversation because they're constantly checking their phone. SO. I've been using the site RunningMap to plan out my runs and calculate my mileage. Fun!

- I think I'm going to buy this pitcher - I've cut down on sodas but sometimes I have a hard time making myself drink enough water - more important than ever now that I'm running in the sun! Looks delicious, I'm loving some of the combos on this site.

-I'm still loving going for runs, and after a little experimentation I've decided I really prefer an evening run to a morning run. I like putting the kids to bed and then heading out on my own to clear my head (while listening to NPR podcasts - mostly these two.)

Monday, June 11, 2012

My personal book kink

I haven't been paying super close attention to the news out of BEA (Book Expo America) this year. I've been working on spreading my focus and enjoying life beyond the books (which is hard for me!) so I merrily skimmed past most of the posts.

But I happened to follow a link to an article by Publisher's Weekly that discussed some of the biggest books that got the BEA buzz, and was immediately giddy about a book - Crewel by Gennifer Albin. The article didn't even give a blurb about the story - just the amazing story of the author having written it while on food stamps, which is all well and good, but from the moment I saw the title I was in a tizzy of anticipation. I didn't even finish reading the article - I was off to amazon to find the summary. Could it be? Was another book that featured my very favorite book feature coming out?

Ooh, yes. The book features a craft - in this case, working the looms of fate, it seems. Just like the knitting and embroidery that drew me to Jessica Day George's work - The Princess of the Midnight Ball and Dragon Slippers, respectively. Even though I was already crafty before I read these books, they always left me inspired anew and eager to find new projects to stretch my skills - and I hope that in teens or adults that read them, they inspire readers to give something new a try.

Crewel embroidery, in particular, is quick to do, has minor and inexpensive equipment available for beginners, and is endlessly flexible. You can create absolutely anything - a traditional pattern on a pillowcase or tea towel, or a quirky saying or design to be displayed.
The sky is the limit!

So next time you come across a craft in a book, give it a try yourself! Creating something with your own hands is one of the best feelings on earth, and challenging yourself to learn new skills keeps you young. Go crafts! ;)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Books I Read 6/4-6/10

Blackout by Mira Grant

I already posted about my reaction to the series as a whole - to sum up, YOU SHOULD READ THIS! But, about the book in particular I was sometimes frustrated by the alternating narrators, since we sometimes left characters in storylines I was dying to get back to. Obviously, that was meant to build suspense, but it bugged. The ending fell a little short, I think it could have used a bit more of an epilogue-type view of the new world, instead of the 'BAM!' - The End style. But, seriously, these are just nit-picks. Loved it.

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

A week of finales! I loved Graceling and Fire, and I loved Bitterblue as well, but I found myself a bit frustrated for a lot of the middle of the book. I was mostly annoyed with the characters from Graceling, who seemed to have utterly abandoned Bitterblue as a 10-year-old queen with way too little guidance. I truly enjoyed the book, though, and will absolutely read anything Kristin Cashore puts out next.

Storybound by Marissa Burt

This one did not work for me - a bummer, the cover art is gorgeous, but I just found the writing to stilted and the storyline too generic and full of cliches. The start of a middle-grade series, I may or may not pick up the next...

The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White

A classic I somehow missed! I love the old Disney movie based on this book, I watched it countless times growing up. The book was great, I appreciated the greater depths given to all the side characters and the loving depictions of the world at that time. Amazing stuff.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Newsflesh Trilogy by Mira Grant

It is always difficult to review a single book in a series, and most difficult of all to try and review the finale. So, I'm not going to. This is a basically review of the whole series, because there is no way to separate my opinions of and reactions to Blackout from the other 2 books.

The Newsflesh Trilogy (I... don't love the name.) is an amazing look at the world POST zombie apocalypse. Even if you don't love zombies (I am generally hugely opposed, being kinda squeamish.) these are not truly zombie books. The zombies are not the story - they're just in the background. Moaning and shambling, yes, but the real story is about truth, justice, fear and journalism.

Georgia Mason is a great Mira Grant/Seanan McGuire heroine - cynical, loyal, and always willing to do the right thing, even if it leads to her own death. I have seem some reviews that didn't like the romantic angle taken, but I did not mind it.

The books are tense, powerful and suspenseful. I was very frustrated today, as I tried to finish the last 40 pages or so and the world (and my adorable kiddos) kept getting in the way. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Books This Week

A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (8/10)

I've been attempting to read more adult fiction and non-fiction, and this was the Pulitzer winner for fiction last year so I grabbed it. When I started it I thought I was going to hate it, but I loved it by the end. A series of interconnected vignettes that packs a punch and keeps you guessing - not your standard plot or structure, but I ended up liking it.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (9/10)

I love the Bloggess! She is hilariously amazing! I can giggle for ages if the phrases "Knock knock, motherfucker!" or "The motherfucking souffle is ruined!" pop into my head. Thanks to Jenny Lawson, that happens way more than it should. Vulgar, yes, disturbing, yes, (there were WAY TOO MANY dead animals in her childhood!) but completely real and hilarious as well. 

Deadline by Mira Grant (7/10)

Not as amazing as Feed, but really there was pretty much no chance it could be. My hold for Blackout came in today (very speedy, LexPub!) and it might kill me to wait until Tuesday, which is the only reasonable time for me to make it to the library. Oh, how I want to be unreasonable! Not talking about the book here on purpose to avoid spoilers, but you should read this series.

Run Like a Mother by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea (7/10)

While the writers were WAY more hardcore than I am, with my whole 2 weeks of running (minus 2 days that I was sick) it was still a good resource for information about running and how to balance it against life with a family. Really enjoyed reading it.

Cat Girl's Day Off by Kimberly Pauley (6/10)

A cute, fluffy book - some people have powers, and while Nat Ng's family all have impressive, useful powers Nat... can talk to cats. She is desperate to keep her lame power a secret, but of course events spiral out of control and Nat ends up saving the day with her cat powers. Like I said, cute, but pretty shallow. Loved having a minority MC, and a gay BF who gets a little angst-free romance, and it did its duty in being a light break from all the WWII and zombie action I had going down.

Castle of Shadows by Ellen Renner (7/10)

Middle-grade adventure - Princess Charlie's mother disappeared 6 years ago, and when she randomly discovers a clue to the disappearance, Charlie must decide who to trust and how to deal with a castle in turmoil. A fast and enjoyable read, although I found the villains a bit one-dimensional and boring, and some of the characters were frustrating. Not bad for a debut novel, though.

Friday, June 1, 2012

June is Audiobook Month, you say?

That's the scuttlebutt, at least. I have a love/hate relationship with audiobooks. As a librarian with a 40 minute commute, they're a great way to fit EVEN MORE books into my busy life.

However, as someone who is... kind of picky about the narration of audiobooks, I'd say I'm less than 50% on being able to actually finish an audiobook. There are a few reasons for this.

A) A voice that grates. Obviously, this is different for everyone, but there are definitely narrators that, as soon as the first chapter starts, I know without a doubt I will not be able to listen to hours of this voice. Frustrating, but at least it's something I realize quickly.

B) Weird reading styles - again, completely personal. Sometimes, I'll be listening to a book, and the way words in the sentences are stressed just seems completely WRONG to me - like the narrator is giving no thought to the context of the sentence, and it drives me nuts.

C) Or, the book is too intense. I know, this seems ridiculous, but books that are especially suspenseful or gross I just cannot handle in audiobook format. The Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey - amazing book, but I could not handle listening to it. I need to be able to focus enough to drive, and the audiobook made me want to hide my eyes and shiver. Not good on the road.

My absolute favorite audiobook of all time? Howl's Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones, read by Jenny Sterlin. Perfect, amazing, wonderful. If you ever have a long car ride, or a long but monotonous craft project, it will carry you away and leave you absolutely in love.