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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Thank you! And I apologize...

Gosh, I didn't know I was SOOO BEHIND with replying your comments!! Sorry :(

I LOVE reading your comments to my posts - I need to do a better job replying. I think I'm finally caught up! So *** THANK YOU *** for reading my posts and sharing your thoughts with me - I appreciate that!

I am also thinking of adding a few regular features to my blog since it's 98% book reviews now... need to give it some thought since it requires some commitments (I set up to do Booking Through Thursday regularly, but failed...)

Probably should also do a 6 months reviews on how I'm doing with the challenges at the end of June - some I have completed, some I haven't even started... some I am confident I will finish, some not so much. Since this is my first year blogging and doing challenges, I have much to learn. So far I found that I am picking books I want to read (which is not a bad thing), instead of picking books that'd fit a challenge... so for those I don't think I'd be able to complete (e.g. Bibliophilic, Global, and Take Another Chance), I may just keep on reading what I choose, and see how many of them will fall into those challenges.

I haven't started War Through the Generations (Vietnam) or Marple, Poirot and Holmes yet, but I really want to give these 2 challenges a try. I have 1 book for each challenge sitting my TBR pile (I have a TBR pile - books I own or have borrowed from the library already and TBR lists for Fiction, Non-fiction, and YA. Gosh they're growing so long already!)

Of course I am also joining the Crazy Book Tours for Adult Fiction and Non-Fiction! I am excited though since this is something new. I have to be careful not to sign up for too many! I think 3 books have or about to start so we'll see how that goes!

Book Review - The Maze Runner by James Dashner
















Title: The Maze Runner
Author: James Dashner
Year: 2009
Page: 374
Genre: Fiction - Young Adult, Dystopian

New to me author? Yes
Read this author again? Yes
Tearjerker? No
Where did it take place? US
FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

Summary (from goodreads.com):
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. He has no recollection of his parents, his home, or how he got where he is. His memory is black. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade, a large expanse enclosed by stone walls. Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning, for as long as they could remember, the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night, they’ve closed tight. Every thirty days a new boy is delivered in the lift. And no one wants to be stuck in the maze after dark. The Gladers were expecting Thomas’s arrival. But the next day, a girl springs up—the first girl ever to arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers. The Gladers have always been convinced that if they can solve the maze that surrounds the Glade, they might be able to find their way home . . . wherever that may be. But it’s looking more and more as if the maze is unsolvable.
And something about the girl’s arrival is starting to make Thomas feel different. Something is telling him that he just might have some answers—if he can only find a way to retrieve the dark secrets locked within his own mind.


First Sentence:
He began his new life standing up, surrounded by cold darkness and stale, dusty air.
 
Why did I pick this book?
Before this year, I have hardly read any dystopian / speculative novels, but once I started, I really enjoyed this genre. I like reading the different potential scenarios of what our world could be like. I have read a few reviews on The Maze Runner, and A Good Addiction's review persuaded me to read it!

My thoughts:
  • What, NOT ANOTHER SERIES! Yes this is Book 1 of 3, again... Book 2, The Scorch Trials, is coming out this October... Book 3 is called The Death Cure.
  • Having said that, I did like how this book ended. Yes it's a cliffhanger so you will have to wait until the next book to find out what happens next, but it sounded like it'd be a different journey than the one in the maze. So, while not all questions were answered, but it was a good hook that something bigger and worse (?) may happen.
  • I liked the premise of the book, and I liked the different twists, though everything fit a bit too nicely together - funny thing was, even some of the characters in the book thought so, that everything all had to do with Thomas.
  • I liked the significance of the names, Alby, Newt, Thomas, Chuck etc (I won't tell you why, but it was explained later in the book, and it was quite clever!)
  • Some compared this to The Lord of the Flies (I haven't read) and The Hunger Games. I still like the Hunger Games better - I think it was her writing. I also think a bit of editing would have helped with The Maze Runner, as some points were told repeatedly in the story that got a little annoying, and I am not so sure about the "gift" shared between Thomas and Teresa. Maybe it plays a more important role in Book 2, but now it just seemed a bit unnecessary.
  • The beginning of this book actually reminded me a bit of Incarceron by Catherine Fisher (which I couldn't finish - see review here)
  • Unlike The Hunger Games though, I don't feel as attached to the characters in this book. I want to see what happens next, to find out the plot twist, but not so much as to what happens to the characters...
  • I think the cover represents the book quite well. 
  • Interesting note - the author was an accountant before he turned into a full time writer! He set a goal to be a full time writer in 5 years, and he did, right on the dot. So good on him!

    Quote:

    "I remember remembering," she muttered, sitting down with a heavy sigh; she pulled her legs up to wrap her arms around her knees. "Feelings. Emotions. Like I have all these shelves in my head, labeled for memories and faces, but they're empty. As if everything before this is just on the other side of a white curtain. Including you." (p234)

     
    Rating: 4 Stars



     
    Have you read this book? 
    If you have, I would love to hear what you think! I'll link your review here if you wish!


    Challenges:
    100+ Reading
    Young Adult

    Saturday, June 26, 2010

    Book Review - The Last Will of Moira Leahy: A Novel by Therese Walsh













    Title: The Last Will of Moira Leahy: A Novel
    Author: Therese Walsh
    Year: 2009 
    Page: 288 
    Genre: Fiction - Supernatural / Paranormal

    New to me author? Yes 
    Read this author again? Maybe 
    Tearjerker? No 
    Where did it take place? US and Rome, Italy
    FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

    Summary (from goodreads.com):
    This haunting debut novel explores the intense bond of sisterhood as a grieving twin searches for her own identity in the ruins of her sister’s past.


    First Sentence:
    I lost my tiwn to a harsh November nine years ago.  

    Why did I pick this book?
    I read The Book Book's review about this book, and she made it sounded so magical! She wrote, "Never in my life have I read a book so emotionally moving. The Last Will of Moira Leahy left me breathless. Speechless. And then crying in my shower later." Is that not a high compliment?

    My thoughts:
    • I enjoyed this book - even if I didn't like the main protagonist, Maeve, much. But I liked the supporting cast - Garrick, Noel, Kit, Maeve's dad... I'd love to go to Garrick's antique shop, Time After Time! Maeve wasn't very likable but she had her reasons, so at least that explained why she acted the way she did
    • You kinda needed to have an open mind when reading this book - there were some mystical elements in it. The clever thing was Maeve didn't really believe in them either so you could explore along with her. I definitely liked the back story about Maeve's childhood better than the present day happenings. The almost-ending in Rome was the part I liked the least, everything seemed to fit in too easily, and reducing it to a 3.5 instead of a 4 stars book for me
    • I always find  how twins communicate fascinating - so if you are into twin books, you'll like this!
    • Judging by the book title alone, it wouldn't have made me picked up this book. I could understand why they picked this title after reading it, but I thought it could have been better... something a bit more enticing?
    • Something I learned: eling = remember. Keris = daggers (google some images to see how cool they are! Not your typical daggers! Now I wish I have one :)
    • The chapters alternated between the past and the present. I don't think I'd read another book written in this format where the past was written in 3rd person, and the present was written in 1st person (Maeve). As I read the chapters about the past, I sometimes got Maeve and Moira confused, and I think the author did that on purpose (if I explain further it'd become spoilers!)
    • The cover is pretty!

      Quote:

           "I believe love is the purpose of all knowledge. Sometimes knowledge comes to us through books, but also it comes through suffering," he said. "I can see you have suffered, Maeve Leahy. Now you may live a better life."
           "Thank you, Empu Putra, for everything, " I said, stepping into the hall.
           "Open yourself to your loved ones and they will not have to resort to such measures to get your attention." (p263)

      Rating: 3.5 Stars 



       
      Have you read this book? 
      If you have, I would love to hear what you think! I'll link your review here if you wish!


      Challenges:
      100+ Reading

      Book Review - The Passage by Justin Cronin












      Title: The Passage 
      Author: Justin Cronin 
      Year: 2010 
      Page: 766 
      Genre: Fiction - Dystopian

      New to me author? Yes 
      Read this author again? Depends...
      Tearjerker? No 
      Where did it take place? US
      FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

      Summary (from goodreads.com):
      "It happened fast. Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be born." First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear—of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse. As civilization swiftly crumbles into a primal landscape of predators and prey, two people flee in search of sanctuary. FBI agent Brad Wolgast is a good man haunted by what he’s done in the line of duty. Six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte is a refugee from the doomed scientific project that has triggered apocalypse. He is determined to protect her from the horror set loose by her captors. But for Amy, escaping the bloody fallout is only the beginning of a much longer odyssey—spanning miles and decades—towards the time and place where she must finish what should never have begun. With The Passage, award-winning author Justin Cronin has written both a relentlessly suspenseful adventure and an epic chronicle of human endurance in the face of unprecedented catastrophe and unimaginable danger. Its inventive storytelling, masterful prose, and depth of human insight mark it as a crucial and transcendent work of modern fiction.

      First Sentence:
      Before she became the Girl from Nowhere -- the One Who Walked In, the First and Last and Only, who lived a thousand years -- she was just a little girl in Iowa, named Amy.
        
      Why did I pick this book?
      I first heard about this book from Boston Bibliophile's blog post - she said, "it's a showstopper. I'm 200 pages in (it's 700 pages long) and I can't put it down. It's like LOST in book form. When I'm reading it, I get so absorbed I can't hear my husband talking to me. Trust me- you want this book." LOST in book form? How could I not pick it up?! Of course, after that, there were numerous reviews on different blogs, and the majority of them were very, very positive. While I am not a big Stephen King fan (I have only read IT), but an endorsement from Stephen King still meant something!

      My thoughts:
      • My first thought after finishing the book - wow there were a lot of characters! A lot happening! Those who called it an epic were right... it took a while to remember who-is-who, especially since the beginning of the book happened "B.V." (Before Virals) and the rest of the book happened 90 years or so later during "A.V." (After Virals),
      • My second thought - this book could be shorter...
      • My third thought - I probably would have liked this story better if it was a movie, as I could vividly see the images in my head, but part of the book (especially the middle part) was very long and slow... Typically I much prefer books to their movie adaptions, but LOTR was one of the few exceptions, and I think the same applies to this book here. I am more interested in Stephen King's movies than his books for some reasons. Sure enough, the movie rights of The Passage had been sold before the book was even published! 
      • You may have heard about "vampires" being associated with this book. They didn't seem like vampires to me in the true sense (think Interview in the Vampires). Actually, they reminded me more of the zoombies from The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan (my review here). I think, the explanation given about the vampires/virals in The Passage was quite plausible. I wish the book talked more about Dr Lear and his quest, as that part of the book sounded very interesting but was only briefly mentioned
      • Some parts of the book weren't quite as realistic to me (e.g. dreams) but who knew what the future would be like? I thought a critical element in dystopian novels was how plausible the story was, and if it was too farfetch, then it lost its credibility
      • There were some characters from the first part of the book that I wished had a bigger role in the remaining of the book - FBI agent Wolgast (probably one of the best developed, aka realistic, character in the book, but not a main character), Dr Lear, Lacey, Carter
      • The main protagonist was probably Amy (see 1st sentence posted above), but I didn't think we really got to know her. I read somewhere that the author wrote this book based on a conversation he had with his young daughter, so he decided to write a book about a young female protagonist, which was sweet. However, there were some questions about Amy that were never answered... now of course there is a 2nd and a 3rd book coming out in the next few years, so we may get to know her better yet
      • By the way, what is it with all the series coming out?! How come a lot of these new books are trilogies? I don't know if I'd rush out to buy Book 2 of this series when it comes out. I'd probably wait to read the reviews... and then google spoilers (I did that after reading Twilight... googled Book 2-4). I am curious to know what happens next, but not enough to read another 800 pages book (if Book 2 is anything like Book 1)
      • I like the significance of the name Peter - that was a nice touch
      • I like the scene between Peter and Alicia - after she had decided on her path. It was rather touching and not so predictable
      • I don't really connect with any of the characters. I like them fine, and don't hate them, but don't love them either. One character that intrigued me, and yet again didn't have a lot of development, was the Colonel. Alicia was also a character with a strong personality compared to the rest
      • Some people compared it to Stephen King's The Stand. I haven't read it or watched the movie, so can't comment on that
      • Overall, it was just an okay read to me. It wasn't an emotional read, even though it'd be quite scary if our world would turn out the way it was described in the book. It wasn't a I-cannot-put-this-down for me either. It took me about 6 days to read, which is about average speed for me given its length. The premise wasn't entirely new, so I definitely expected more. For a dystopian novel, I still prefer The Hunger Games
      • After I was done reading the book, I searched for other reviews - could I be there only one not liking it that much? There were TONES  of positive reviews on blogsphere. It was rather rare to find some "meh" - but I did find two and if you read their reviews, we definitely thought alike! Here are Rhapsody in Books' review and  Devourer of Books' review. Guess at least I am not alone, or think I missed something while reading the book
      • I'd let you be your own judge! :)

        Quote:

             "I guess he drew all these so he wouldn't forget them," Greer said.

             Peter felt suddenly self-conscious -- whatever these images had meant to the general, Peter knew they were private. "If you don't mind my asking, Major, why are you showing these to me?"

             Greer gathered them carefully together in a cardboard folder and placed them in the trunk at his feet. "Someone once told me that part of you lives on so long as somebody remembers you. Now you remember them, too." (p670)
         
        Rating: 3 Stars



         
        Have you read this book? 
        If you have, I would love to hear what you think! I'll link your review here if you wish!


        Challenges:
        100+ Reading

        Tuesday, June 22, 2010

        Book Review - The Minority Report by Philip K. Dick


















        Title: The Minority Report  
        Author: Philip K. Dick
        Year: 2002 
        Page: 112 
        Genre: Fiction - Sci Fi

        New to me author? Yes 
        Read this author again? Yes 
        Tearjerker? No 
        Where did it take place? US
        FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

        Summary (from amazon.com):
        Police Commissioner John Anderton finds himself at the mercy of his own crime-prevention system when the prescient precogs he's hired to stop crime before it starts peg him as a soon-to-be murderer in Philip K. Dick's masterful short story The Minority Report. This slim volume is top-bound like an office account and perfectly timedthe movie version, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Cruise, is due out this summerbut whether fans will shell out the dough for a single short story that's available in various collections remains to be seen.


        First Sentence:
        The first thought Anderton had when he saw the young man was: I'm getting bald.
         
        Why did I pick this book?
        I came upon this book while browsing the library shelves. This book has a different format - it opens vertically. It is also a very slim book. I have heard of the movie Minority Report with Tom Cruise, and had heard good things about it but never watched it. I was intrigued by the different format of the book, and since most books are better than the movies, I thought I'd give it a try since it won't take that long to finish it anyway. It'll also expand my genre since I don't read a lot of sci-fi.


        My thoughts:
        • I'd call it a novella (or even a short story!) instead of a novel. But regardless what it is called, I enjoyed it! 
        • It is definitely a plot-based story. Fast-paced. I wish it was written a little longer just so the characters could be developed more - I think that's why I don't usually like reading short stories because you don't really get to know the characters - and if you do care about them, you really want a longer story so they can hang around longer!
        • It has a good plot twist, I didn't guess it. 
        • However, I think if Anderton and his wife's relationship are developed more, it'd make a better story because it would explain more about the thoughts or decisions the characters make - why they acted the way they did. 
        • I don't like sci-fi that's too out there, but this one is plausible so I think easier for me to read 
        • I may borrow the movie at some point. I google the differences between the book and the movies, and there are some. Why do they do that? Why can't the movies just be true to the book? I mean, they bought the right because they like the book right, so why change?? Anyone watched the movie - is it worth watching?

           
          Rating: 4 Stars



           
          Have you read this book? 
          If you have, I would love to hear what you think! I'll link your review here if you wish!


          Challenges:
          100+ Reading

          Book Review - House Lust: America's Obsession With Our Homes by Daniel McGinn



















          Title: House Lust: America's Obsession With Our Homes
          Author: Daniel McGinnx  
          Year: 2008 
          Page: 272 
          Genre: Non-Fiction

          New to me author? Yes 
          Read this author again? Maybe 
          Tearjerker? No 
          Where did it take place? US
          FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

          Summary (from amazon.com):
          Despite the current downturn in the housing market, the country's mania for homes that exploded during the last half-decade is still alive and well, according to Newsweek writer McGinn. The fascination with homes—talking about, valuing, scheming over, envying, shopping for, refinancing, or just plain ogling homes—has continued even after the market has cooled, McGinn argues, and can be seen in the ongoing popularity of HGTV, the 24-7 real estate and home improvement cable channel and its flagship show, House Hunters. To prove his thesis, McGinn entertainingly explores the gamut of housing obsessions, from buying personally designed and oversized trophy homes, attempting large-scale renovations and spending obscene amounts of time on real estate Web sites such as Zillow and PropertyShark to actually going out and getting a real estate license, which McGinn himself does after only minimal training. It is this ability to get inside the actual lives of the housing-obsessed rather that relying purely on statistics to prove his point that makes this book as enjoyable as an episode of Flip This House, another popular housing reality show that McGinn cites in a book that is, at heart, all about behavior, not economics.


          First Sentence:
          Rachel Brownell is a financial analyst with three kids, but every so often she and some friends get together for a girls' night out.
           
          Why did I pick this book?
          I am interested in houses and watching shows on HGTV. I need to finish painting the houses and unpacking the boxes (we only moved in 3 years ago you know...) so thought I'd read this to motivate myself to work on house stuff. I found this while browsing at the library.

          My thoughts:
          • Well, I didn't finish the book. It wasn't bad, but it was just a bit... flat. The writing just didn't grip me.
          • The author interviewed a lot of different families on different topics about home ownership, but some stories got repetitive... or sometimes, the author would start with 1 family, then went on to state other facts from research or insert his own opinion, then went back with that family... so the flow was a bit disjoint. 
          • I think if I had nothing else to read in the house, I'd finish it. Nevertheless, there are too many other books I want to read more, so I decide to drop this one. When the mood strike again then maybe I'd borrow it again. 
          • If anyone is interested in reading a memoir on remodeling an old house (which is a totally different book from this one as House Lust is NOT a memoir) - try All the Way Home: Building a Family in a Falling-Down House by David Giffels. It was a fun read, and I was amazed with what they had done! I love old houses (1920's or older), but we are so not handy that I don't feel comfortable buying something we have to restore or fix... our house is over 40 years old but still in good shape luckily... but definitely doesn't have the same characters as the older homes!


             
            Rating: 0 Stars - Did Not Finish

             
            Have you read this book? 
            If you have, I would love to hear what you think! I'll link your review here if you wish!

            Book Review - Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes



















            Title: Flowers for Algernon
            Author: Daniel Keye
            Year: 1966
            Page: 274 
            Genre: Fiction - Young Adult

            New to me author?
            Yes 
            Read this author again?
            Yes 
            Tearjerker?
            No 
            Where did it take place? US
            FTC Disclosure:
            Borrowed from the library

            Summary (from amazon.com):
            Charlie Gordon is about to embark upon an unprecedented journey. Born with an unusually low IQ, he has been chosen as the perfect subject for an experimental surgery that researchers hope will increase his intelligence-a procedure that has already been highly successful when tested on a lab mouse named Algernon. As the treatment takes effect, Charlie's intelligence expands until it surpasses that of the doctors who engineered his metamorphosis. The experiment appears to be a scientific breakthrough of paramount importance, until Algernon suddenly deteriorates. Will the same happen to Charlie?


            First Sentence:
            Dr Strauss says I shoud rite down waht I think and remembir and every thing that happins to me from now on.
             
            Why did I pick this book? 

            I forgot how I came to know about this book, probably saw it mentioned somewhere. I have never heard of it before, didn't know it's a classic. Didn't know there was a movie about it. But the premise sounded interesting to me and my ex-office mate said it was one of her favorite books, so I'd been looking forward to reading it!
             

            My thoughts:

            • Finally, I think I found a character-study book that I like. But I think this book has more of a plot than other character study books. It was fascinating to see Charlie's transition from the beginning till the end. Written as a diary ("progress report") format, you felt like you were right there with Charlie through his journey. 
            • With the way the book was set up,  you also got to see how the others thought of Charlie through his change, and that might differ form how Charlie saw himself. I thought this added a dimension to Charlie's character - you got to see him from both 1st and 3rd person perspectives.
            • I wish the part about Charlie and his father could have been explored a little more
            • One sad part was how some people whom Charlie thought weren't his friends, really weren't, but he didn't realize it. Probably very realistic.
            • I like the ending and thought it was appropriate
            • I like the name Kinnian (Charlie's teacher's last name)
            • If I had read it in high school, I probably wouldn't appreciate it as much as I do now. This is labeled as a young adult book, but I think it is more a book for adults. I probably would have found it boring if I read it back then... plus all those questions the teachers made you answered for each book, it'd just have put me off :)
            • While I like this book, I don't love it thus 4 stars only. It made me think - what if there was such a technology - to make you smart? Would I have gone for this kind of experiment?
            • The author also has written another book - Algernon, Charlie, and I: A Writer's Journey - about how and why he wrote the story (and supposedly how he came up with the name "Algernon") - I have borrowed it from the library and couldn't wait to hear what he had to say! I love reading about authors' thought processes. It also included the original short story Flowers for Algernon was based on, so it'd be interesting to compare the short and long versions.


              Quote:

              "All the levels, Charlie, like steps on a giant ladder. And you'll climb higher and higher to see more and more of the world around you." (p72)


              Strange about learning; the farther I go the more I see that i never knew even existed. (p137)

               
              Rating: 4 Stars

               

               

              Have you read this book? 
              If you have, I would love to hear what you think! I'll link your review here if you wish!


              Challenges:
              100+ Reading
              Young Adult
                

              Saturday, June 19, 2010

              CSN Stores

              I kept seeing CSN Stores reviews or giveaway on other book blogs, so I was pleasantly surprised when CSN contacted me to see if I want to do a review!

              I wish I had known about their site earlier - last year we were doing bathroom remodels, while the bathrooms were not totally gutted, it'd have been nice to have a site to browse for vanity, or faucets! I particularly like this Stein World 40" Vanity Desk and Stool Set in Soft Green:




















              If you have a chance, go to their website to take a look!

              Gosh they have so many items on their site, I really need to spend some time to decide what to chose to review. Will definitely post an update once I have decided on the product and post the review!

              Delicious Book Blog Directory












              Callista from SMS Book Reviews has created something amazing The Delicious Book Blog Directory!

              I have always wondered if there is such a directory where we can easy find blogs similar to our reading interests (especially since not many bloggers review non-fiction!) so THANK YOU Callista for taking the time and effort to get this started!

              On on, go add your listing! See this post for more info on how to join!

              The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Movie?

              I was reading this article, Lit Takes a Hit in Hollywood, and learned that:


              HBO got the book world's attention with its recent acquisition of Rebecca Skloot's nonfiction bestseller "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks," for Alan Ball and Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Films to produce as an HBO tele-pic. The book's reps, UTA and Writer's House, were aggressive in shopping the tome to film and TV buyers months before it hit bookstores in February.

              Interesting!

              After reading the book, it didn't immediately entered my mind that it's book-to-movie material, but what do I know about the movie industry! I wonder if the story will focus on Henrietta, or the author Rebecca Skloot's quest to track down Henrietta's story?

              Saturday, June 12, 2010

              Book Review - The Accidental Tourist: A Novel by Anne Tyler



















              Title: The Accidental Tourist: A Novel
              Author: Anne Tylerx  
              Year: 1985 
              Page: 342 
              Genre: Fiction


              New to me author? Yes 
              Read this author again? No 
              Tearjerker? No 
              Where did it take place? US
              FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library (inter-library loan)

              Summary (from amazon.com):
              Scarred by grief after their 12-year-old son's senseless murder (he was shot by a holdup man in a Burger Bonanza), Macon and Sarah Leary are losing their marriage too. Macon is unable to cope when she leaves him, so he settles down ``safe among the people he'd started out with,'' moving back home with two divorced brothers and spinster sister Rose. Author of a series of guidebooks called ``Accidental Tourist'' for businessmen who hate to travel, Macon is Tyler's focus here, as she gently chronicles his journey from lonely self-absorption to an ``accidental'' new life with brassy Muriel, a dog trainer from the Meow Bow Animal Hospital, who renews and claims his heart. Not a character, including Macon's dog Edward, is untouched by delightful eccentricity in this charming story, full of surprises and wisdom. All of Tyler's novels are wonderful; thisher tenthis the best yet.


              First Sentence:
              They were supposed to stay at the beach a week, but neither of them had the heart for it and they decided to come back early.  

              Why did I pick this book?
              Book club read for May. Definitely wouldn't pick this on my own. But that's part of the reason I join the book club, so I'll read books I won't even know about otherwise!

              My thoughts:
              • Argh, can I have my 3 days back please?
              • I almost gave up after a few chapters. If it weren't for the book club, I wouldn't have stuck to it. Now, it's not required that we finish the book for the meeting (I didn't finish one before), but it is easier to discuss the book when you do finish it, so I kept on reading... hoping for the best...
              • While the characters were a bit different to your average everyday people, I didn't care for them at all. The only character I was slightly interested in was Muriel's young son Alex, and I was glad that Macon (the protagonist) at least was a somewhat positive influence on him
              • I thought the story could have been a bit more interesting - I mean, Macon had an interesting job! He got to travel and try out hotels and restaurants! But the book really had no plot... it definitely was a character study and nothing really happened. You could sum up the plot in a couple of sentence. 
              • The ending also ended quite abruptly that made you think, where did that come from? How did he come up with that decision? It wasn't explained, unlike the rest of the book which was quite descriptive of everything else...
              • The cover isn't very attractive. But the quote I put below explain why there were wings on an armchair... 
              • Apparently there is a movie based on the book too. This is not a book I would've picked to make a movie on. Won't be watching it... I will be bored.
              • But there are lots of other good views online. So judge for yourself! You know I don't like slow books with no plot though :) Will be interesting to hear what the others say at the book club!

                Quote:

                "While armchair travelers dream of going places," Julian said. "traveling armchairs dream of staying put. I thought we'd use this on the cover." (p89)

                 
                Rating: 1 Star



                 
                Have you read this book? 
                If you have, I would love to hear what you think! I'll link your review here if you wish!


                Challenges:
                100+ Reading

                Book Review - Hannah's Gift: Lessons from a Life Fully Lived by Maria Housden



















                Title: Hannah's Gift: Lessons from a Life Fully Lived
                Author: Maria Housden
                Year: 2003 
                Page: 240 
                Genre: Non-Fiction

                New to me author? Yes 
                Read this author again? Maybe 
                Tearjerker? Yes 
                Where did it take place? US
                FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

                Summary (from amazon.com): 
                In Hannah's Gift: Lessons from a Life Fully Lived, Maria Housden delivers a lyrical, heartbreaking and heartwarming account of her three-year-old daughter's illness and death. Among the values she learns from her extraordinary child's experience are joy, a Buddha-like stillness, candor and openness. When Hannah's seven-year-old brother asks the author questions about death, Hannah is fascinated and declares that she wants to be a butterfly when her body dies. When their church has a special service to honor and pray for Hannah, she's delighted. Housden, too, offers readers a gift, particularly those seeking to help a loved one through the process of dying and themselves through the grieving process. 


                First Sentence:
                Looking back, I realize that my whole life pivots silently around this single moment: I was standing in a Stride-Rite children shoe store, wondering which pair of shoes to buy.
                  
                Why did I pick this book?
                I don't remember how I come across this book, most likely by browsing through the library catalog? I know this is going to be a sad book, but I mentioned previously in My Reading Taste post - I also enjoy books that are inspiring, like The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch and Jeffrey Zaslow)

                My thoughts:
                • This is a quick read. I enjoy the author's writing style. This is more like a collection of Hannah's stories (tidbits of her life) rather than one continuous story. Some of them were amusing, some showed little Hannah was wise beyond her years. I also really loved the stories between Hannah and her older brother, Will (who was still very young at the time). Such adorable children. Will was very protective of Hannah and was very insightful. Very mature as well. You could definitely tell the author loved her children and appreciate them
                •  There were some religious reference in the book, but it wasn't preachy. (I don't have a religion, so sometimes religious reference in a book could get a bit too preachy for me personally)
                • I wish there were pictures of the little girl! But I understood the family may want some privacy, but I think it may have been more powerful to put a face to the story. Now if I see red shoes I will think of Hannah
                • With fiction, I HATE to know the ending ahead of time. I want to be surprise. But before I read this book, I knew what the ending would be, and yet it was worthwhile to get to know Hannah
                • Actually the book didn't quite end where I thought it would. It went on a little bit longer about the author and her life after... those chapters were the ones I liked the least in the whole book - I guess the author wanted to share what lessons she took from Hannah and how they changed her life... but I felt it didn't quite fit with the rest of the book, and not as touching... and thus my 3.5 Stars instead of a higher rating.  I have read similar books before - the most recent being Note Left Behind back in January this year. Note Left Behind was a more emotional read for me, probably because it was based on a blog so the emotion may have been a bit more raw. Note Left Behind included pictures of Elena and I definitely still remember them.
                • The author had a 2nd book, not sure if I would read it yet or not. I looked at the description but it didn't really make me want to go out and get it - to elaborate would be spoilers though (part of it was revealed at the end of the first book also)
                • If I only learn one thing from the book, it was (as quoted below): Make the best decision you can with the information you have at that time.

                  Quote:
                  "Make the best decision you can with the information you have at that time." He leaned back and ran his fingers through his hair.
                  "'At that time' is the critical part. You'll see what i mean. You can drive yourself crazy saying, "If only we had known this, if only we had known that.' The pint is, you didn't know, so just keep telling yourselves, 'We did the best we could with what we knew. We did the best we could with what we knew.'" (p30)

                   
                  Rating: 3.5 Stars



                   
                  Have you read this book? 
                  If you have, I would love to hear what you think! I'll link your review here if you wish!


                  Challenges:
                  100+ Reading
                  Non-Fiction Five

                  Sunday, June 6, 2010

                  Book Review - House of Dark Shadows (Dreamhouse Kings) by Robert Liparulo


















                  Title: House of Dark Shadows (Dreamhouse Kings)  
                  Author: Robert Liparulo
                  Year: 2008 
                  Page: 304 
                  Genre: Fiction - Young Adult

                  New to me author? Yes 
                  Read this author again? Maybe...
                  Tearjerker? No 
                  Where did it take place? US
                  FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

                  Summary (from amazon.com):
                  Dream house . . . or bad dream? When the Kings move from L.A. to a secluded small town, fifteen-year-old Xander is beyond disappointed. He and his friends loved to create amateur films . . . but the tiny town of Pinedale is the last place a movie buff and future filmmaker wants to land. But he, David, and Toria are captivated by the many rooms in the old Victorian fixer-upper they moved into--as well as the heavy woods surrounding the house. They soon discover there's something odd about the house. Sounds come from the wrong directions. Prints of giant, bare feet appear in the dust. And when David tries to hide in the linen closet, he winds up in locker 119 at his new school. Then the really weird stuff kicks in: they find a hidden hallway with portals leading off to far-off places--in long-ago times. Xander is starting to wonder if this kind of travel is a teen's dream come true . . . or his worst nightmare.


                  First Sentence:
                  The walls of the house absorbed the woman's screams, until they felt to her as muffled and pointless as yelling underwater.  

                  Why did I pick this book?
                  Browsing the new YA book shelves at the library. Creep house? Sounds interesting! 

                  My thoughts:
                  • I think I'd have enjoyed it a lot more if I were a teenager (especially if I was a boy). I didn't find it particularly creepy or scary or adventurous.
                  • There were lots of unsolved questions - but this is just Book 1 and I think so far there are 6 books in the series? But I didn't care about the characters enough to read the next one. The book did answer one question (why the dad decided to move his family to this town) which was a nice little twist.
                  • I did the protagonist's little sister's name, Toria. 
                  • I am reviewing this YA book as an adult, and it's just not for me...

                    Quote:

                    He lowered his eyes to his Dad's face. There was fear there. Fear. When your dad was frightened, there was something to be frightened about.  (p251)
                     
                    Rating: 2 Stars

                     
                    Have you read this book? 
                    If you have, I would love to hear what you think! I'll link your review here if you wish!


                    Challenges:
                    100+ Reading
                    Young Adult

                    Your Reading Taste

                    When I read Kals @ Pemberley's blog the other day, she posted a fun yet different challenge started by Simon from Stuck In A Book :

                    Can you post a picture which sums up your reading taste, or a section of it? I'm looking for a picture which doesn't include a book in it, or a character from an adaptation, or anything like that. It can be a photograph you've taken, or a painting you've seen, or anything... have fun with it!

                    It really got me thinking!

                    I read so many different type of books it's hard to "summarize" it:
                    • Non-fiction - mostly memoir, medicine, education, psychology, business, science, lifestyle, decoration, food, cooking, art, writing... 
                    • Fiction - mostly murder/mystery/thrillers, realistic fiction, contemporary fiction, dystopian, some young adults, some historical...
                    • A little graphic novels...
                    • Hardly any chick-lit, urban fantasy/paranormal, science fiction, fantasy, western


                    So how can I really find a picture that represent all that?!

                    Then I thought about the books I really like - do they have anything in common? Here are some I really like in the past 3 years (not in order):

                    • A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah
                    • The Emergency Teacher: The Inspirational Story of a New Teacher in an Inner City School by Christina Asquith
                    • Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiza
                    • Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
                    • The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls
                    • The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch and Jeffrey Zaslow
                    • Three Little Words: A Memoir by Ashley Rhodes-Courter 
                    • A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg
                    • Josie's Story - A Mother's Inspiring Crusade to Make Medical Care Safe by Sorrel King
                    • Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, In Afghanistan and Pakistan by Greg Mortenson
                    • Joker One: A Marine Platoon's Story of Courage, Leadership, and Brotherhood by Donovan Campbell
                    • Still Alice by Lisa Genova 
                    • The Help by Kathryn Stockett
                    • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot 
                    • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
                    • Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins 


                    The common theme, of these books that really made an impression on me, were, SAD BUT INSPIRATIONAL. Usually there were some type of struggles, but the authors/characters somehow kept going and turned their lives around to make it better for themselves, or others.

                    But, what of picture represents that?

                    Google image is my friend :) I type SAD INSPIRATIONAL into the search bar, and this picture is just perfect when I saw it.
















                    Wouldn't you agree?

                    How about you? What's your image? Please post a link if you do decide to find one that represents your reading taste! :) I LOVE reading others' posts!

                    Crazy Book Tours!





                    When I read other blogs, I often see "book tours" and didn't quite know what that means... when Jennifer from Crazy for Books cleared that up for me as she has just started one, Crazy Book Tours, for adult fiction and non-fiction (most other book tours seem to be for YA)!

                    Now I have never done it before, and can be a little challenging (you have a week to read it and then have to mail it to the next person) - but I am willing to give it a try to see if it's something for me. I have to limit myself to read those that I really want to read, and not get too overwhelm by the whole thing! I definitely want to give the book justice, but still be honest about how I feel. I don't get a lot of ARC so it'd be fun to get to read those!

                    My parents-in-law used to own a bookstore (sad that they don't anymore!) and I had been tot he book convention with them a couple of times - gosh do I miss that!! I remember all those free books we used to get (and some of them were ARC!) - one of them was Peace Like a River, which I know many of you liked it, but it's still sitting on my shelf...

                    Anyway, here are the 3 I have signed up so far!
                    Come join us if you are interested! You can sign up here!

                    Book Review - The Housekeeper and the Professor: A Novel by Yoko Ogawa


















                    Title: The Housekeeper and the Professor: A Novel
                    Author: Yoko Ogawa
                    Year: 2009 
                    Page: 192 
                    Genre: Fiction

                    New to me author? Yes 
                    Read this author again? Maybe 
                    Tearjerker? No 
                    Where did it take place? Japan
                    FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

                    Summary (from amazon.com):
                    He is a brilliant math Professor with a peculiar problem--ever since a traumatic head injury, he has lived with only eighty minutes of short-term memory. She is an astute young Housekeeper, with a ten-year-old son, who is hired to care for him. And every morning, as the Professor and the Housekeeper are introduced to each other anew, a strange and beautiful relationship blossoms between them. Though he cannot hold memories for long (his brain is like a tape that begins to erase itself every eighty minutes), the Professor’s mind is still alive with elegant equations from the past. And the numbers, in all of their articulate order, reveal a sheltering and poetic world to both the Housekeeper and her young son. The Professor is capable of discovering connections between the simplest of quantities--like the Housekeeper’s shoe size--and the universe at large, drawing their lives ever closer and more profoundly together, even as his memory slips away. The Housekeeper and the Professor is an enchanting story about what it means to live in the present, and about the curious equations that can create a family.


                    First Sentence:
                    We called him the professor.
                     
                    Why did I pick this book?
                    I've heard of this book before and saw some reviews, but Kals @ Pemberley's review really made me want to read this!

                    My thoughts:
                    • I love the cover, and the book has deckle pages! :) I don't know why but I like books with deckle pages - just one of those little things that made you exclaimed "Oh! I like that!" without a reason
                    • For some reasons, when I read this book, the thought "this is a quiet little book" kept popping into my head. I don't know what "a quiet book" means, but I just keep thinking it. Almost felt like one of those association games - you know, you are shown a picture or a word, and you have to respond with a word as quickly as possible without giving it much thought? 
                    • I like the characters fine, they are distinctive from other characters I'd read about, and they are believable and likable. I especially like the relationship between the Professor and the Housekeeper's son, Root (the Professor named him Root because he has a flat hair style and resembled the square root sign in math.) I wish she had elaborated on the Sister-In-Law character a little more, there is some mystery about her that wasn't fully explained. I can guess what had happened from the Professor's side, but not from her side of the story. I also didn't really understand the significance of the Euler's formula [e (to the power of pi * i) + 1 = 0] - the one the Professor scribbled to the Sister-In-Law, and why she behaved the way she did when she saw it?
                    • While I do not love math, I don't hate it either. I found it fun to learn some new math facts from this book! You may not look at numbers the same way after that!
                    • It also makes you think - what would happen if I can only remember for 80 minutes, then my memory from the previous 80 minutes just disappeared, just wiped out without I even knowing it? 
                    • Would have given it 4 stars, but the ending was a bit anti-climatic for me so deduct 1/2 star for it (I love a good shocking ending!) Since this is yet another book with "A Novel" in the title, maybe I shouldn't expect a surprise ending?


                      Quote:

                      He had a special feeling for what he called the "correct miscalculation," for he believed that mistakes were often as revealing as the right answers. (p2)

                      "I feel empty when Root isn't here," I said.
                      I hadn't really been speaking to him, but the Professor murmured in reply, "So, you're saying that there's a zero in you?" (P140)


                       
                      Rating: 3.5 Stars



                       
                      Have you read this book? 
                      If you have, I would love to hear what you think! I'll link your review here if you wish!


                      Challenges:
                      100+ Reading
                      Global

                      Book Review - The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting



















                      Title: The Body Finder  
                      Author: Kimberly Derting  
                      Year: 2010 
                      Page: 332 
                      Genre: Fiction - Young Adult

                      New to me author? Yes 
                      Read this author again? Maybe
                      Tearjerker? No 
                      Where did it take place? Yes
                      FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

                      Summary (from amazon.com):
                      Violet Ambrose is grappling with two major issues: Jay Heaton and her morbid secret ability. While the sixteen-year-old is confused by her new feelings for her best friend since childhood, she is more disturbed by her "power" to sense dead bodies—or at least those that have been murdered. Since she was a little girl, she has felt the echoes the dead leave behind in the world . . . and the imprints that attach to their killers. Violet has never considered her strange talent to be a gift; it mostly just led her to find dead birds her cat left for her. But now that a serial killer is terrorizing her small town, and the echoes of the local girls he's claimed haunt her daily, Violet realizes she might be the only person who can stop him. Despite his fierce protectiveness over her, Jay reluctantly agrees to help Violet find the murderer—and Violet is unnerved by her hope that Jay's intentions are much more than friendly. But even as she's falling intensely in love, Violet is getting closer and closer to discovering a killer . . . and becoming his prey herself. 

                      First Sentence:
                      Violet Ambrose wandered away from the safety of her father as she listened to the harmony of sounds weaving delicately around her.  

                      Why did I pick this book?
                      All about {n} LOVED this book so that got me interested after reading her review!

                      My thoughts:
                      • It was a fast read, too me less than 2.5 hours
                      • I think I would've given it a much higher rating had I read it as a teen. But, I am judging the book as an adult, so it's just okay for me - I think that's because I used to read a lot of murder/mystery/thrillers type of books, so the plot became fairly predictable and the story like was quite simplistic, without a lot of twists and turns for me. I don't think I am the target audience for this book (but that's okay!)
                      • It has an interesting premise, but I felt this is more of a teen romance book with a protagonist with a special ability, rather than a book about a protagonist with a special ability per se if that makes sense. I wish the author had focus or elaborate more on that. It's not really a YA book deal with an issue which I do prefer - again, reading as an adult, since some younger readers may not always want to be taught different lessons when they read :)
                      • I like the characters okay, but don't really feel attached to them. It seems like there is a 2nd book but I don't know if I'll read it or not - I have to say the author did a really good job to "close the loops" - so you don't feel frustrated that you have to wait to find out what happen until the next book! But I guess that's how they got you to buy the next one :)
                      • Some chapters were written from the killer's perspective - when I read some online reviews, some reviewers thought it was great to hear the killer's thoughts - but it's not something new to me as there were other thriller books I'd read with the same method
                      • I remember when I was a teen, I LOVED reading Christopher Pike and RL Stine (especially Pike!) I wonder if I re-read them now, whether I'd still like them as much. From memory, Pike's plot seems a little bit more complicated than The Body Finder - but then again, I hadn't read a whole lot of thrillers at that time so didn't have much to compare with.
                      • The cover IS pretty though!
                      • Didn't find a quote I like... Will give it 3 Stars because it did held my attention and read it in one setting!

                         
                        Rating: 3 Stars

                         
                        Have you read this book? 
                        If you have, I would love to hear what you think! I'll link your review here if you wish!


                        Challenges:
                        100+ Reading
                        Young Adult

                        Saturday, June 5, 2010

                        Book Review - The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan


















                        Title: The Lost Thing 
                        Author: Shaun Tan 
                        Year: 2010 
                        Page: 32 
                        Genre: Graphic Novel

                        New to me author? No 
                        Read this author again? Yes
                        Tearjerker? No 
                        Where did it take place? Anywhere
                        FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library (inter-library loan)

                        Summary (from amazon.com):
                        The main humour and intrigue of this remarkable author/artists book lies in the contrast between the casual 'What I did on my holidays' narrative and the bizarre, surreal and funny scenes.


                        First Sentence:
                        So you want to hear a story?
                         
                        Why did I pick this book?
                        I loved Tan's other books, so gotta read more!


                        My thoughts:
                        • It's yet another oh-so-simple-but-oh-so-true story. Things that happens all the time but we don't notice... or forgot to notice
                        • Definitely a "symbolism" story, and a little sad one at that.
                        • I don't like the drawings in this one as much as I like the drawings from The Arrival or The Red Tree though, so I deduct 1/2 star for that... 
                        • The quote below is semi-spoiler, so read at your own risk, but I just want to remember it by...

                          Quote:

                          I still think about that lost thing from time to time. Especially when I see something out of the corner of my eye that doesn't quite fit.

                          You know, something with a weird, sad, lost sort of look.

                          I see that soft of thing less and less these days though.

                          Maybe there aren't many lost things around anymore.

                          Or maybe I've just stopped noticing them.

                          Too busy doing other stuff, I guess.

                           
                          Rating: 4 Stars

                           
                          Have you read this book? 
                          If you have, I would love to hear what you think! I'll link your review here if you wish!


                          Challenges:
                          100+ Reading