Sunday, January 30, 2011

Non-reading goals in 2011

While I listed my reading goals at the beginning of the year, there are 2 other goals I want to achieve this year - start exercising and get the house ready so we can start having guests!

We finally gave in and bought a Wii a few days ago :) I know for those of you who exercise regularly, Wii Fit (Plus) may be too simple or not real exercise for you. But for someone like me who never exercised at all (unless you count about the 1-2 months we went to the gym way back when), hopefully it'd motivate me to just move a bit more! We played Wii Sport and Wii Sport Resort a couple of nights ago, and last night I started using Wii Fit Plus. So we'll see how that goes! If you have a Wii, what other games would you recommend? It's so nice that our library also have Wii games we can borrow too - granted, not a very large selection and most are kids games, but it's better than nothing :) Funny how I have never owned any type of video games console before (well I won a Game Cube but used it like once, because I sucked at video games). Used to like Pac-Man but it was my aunt's and not mine.

The other goal - we moved in 3.5 years ago (4 years in June) and apart from a handful of times my in-laws were here, we had ever had any guests because our house is such a mess! Still have wallpaper to take off, rooms to paint, and the boxes to stuff to unpack. Probably need to throw stuff out too since when we moved, we didn't have much time to pack (I was finishing up my graduate degree with finals and papers, transferring to a new position / department within the same company, and moving at the same time). So we pretty much just packed everything, rather than throwing out stuff we didn't want when we pack. So now, when we unpacked, we need to sort things through. My taste in decoration is quite extreme, I like modern furniture, to antique (Victorian, '20s Art Deco), to farm house style, to danish modern (60's), to Asian Zen! I can't make up my mind :) But I really just want to unclutter, and make it welcoming to families and friends so we don't have to be too embarrassed when we say we can't have anyone over :) Of course we have to make it kitty friendly too...

Ummm... which just means, I'll have less time to read... and the library just told me I have 4 books to pick up and they are books I'd been looking forward to reading! I need to read faster!!!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Book Review - Call of the Mall: The Geography of Shopping by the Author of Why We Buy by Paco Underhill

Title: Call of the Mall: The Geography of Shopping by the Author of Why We Buy
Author: by Paco Underhill
Year: 2004
Page: 240
Genre: Non-Fiction - Business

FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the Library

Summary (from
Paco Underhill, the Margaret Mead of shopping and author of the huge international bestseller Why We Buy, now takes us to the mall, a place every American has experienced and has an opinion about. The result is a bright, ironic, funny, and shrewd portrait of the mall — America's gift to personal consumption, its most powerful icon of global commercial muscle, the once new and now aging national town square, the place where we convene in our leisure time.

It's about the shopping mall as an exemplar of our commercial and social culture, the place where our young people have their first taste of social freedom and where the rest of us compare notes. Call of the Mall examines how we use the mall, what it means, why it works when it does, and why it sometimes doesn't.

First Sentence:
Why are we here?

My Thoughts:

Why this book?
  • I picked this because of a project I am working on, so I wanted to learn more about this topic. The author seemed to be an expert in retail.
First thought:
  • Interesting facts about shopping centers / malls!
Cover Art:
  • I liked that it is simple. The shopping bag handle is a nice touch.
  • I like that Non-Fiction books usually have a catchy title, then a subtitle to explain what it is about. Though I don't know if "Geography of Shopping" really captured the content. It was more like the Anatomy of the Mall?
  • Pretty easy to read. It was more conversation in style. 
  • The book was organized so that the author started off from the outside of the mall, the parking lot, then proceeded to go inside, and each chapter is about a certain area or aspect of the mall, e.g. food court, map/directory etc. Then the last chapter was back to the parking lot.
  • Some chapters were more interesting than others though... possibly because I was paying attention to the chapters more relevant to my project
  • The author had done a lot of research in retail so he came across as an expert but not overly know-it-all
  • The author's friends appeared in different chapter of the mall (some teenage girls when it talked about how teenagers shopped, a male friend when it came to buying jewelry etc.) It could get a little confusing because it seemed like he went to the mall alone to start with, then his friends just appeared out of nowhere. Hard to remember who-is-who
  • The last chapter was kinda cute, and a good tied in to the beginning of the book 
  • Didn't really feel emotional. It was kinda a fun read, even though I don't usually like shopping and go to the local mall maybe once a year or when necessary (thank you online shopping! Though too bad online clothes shopping don't usually work out too well...)
What I Learned:
  • Quite a few fun facts - about parking lots, parking lot signs, location of the stores, etc etc! I took some notes but hadn't had a chance to write them up yet... 
  • I think next time when I go to the mall I have to pay more attention to its design and layout!
Read this Author again?
  • Yes I plan to read his other retail books. Would I read them if I didn't have this project? Maybe not. But I think if you are a retail owner, it is worthwhile to read.

Overall Rating: 
3.5 Books - Learned a few things, but don't love it...

All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Book Review - The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern

Title: The Book of Tomorrow
Author: Cecelia Ahern
Year: 2009
Page: 320
Genre: Fiction - YA

FTC Disclosure: Free ARC from in exchange from an unbiased review

Summary (from
The magical new novel from number one bestseller Cecelia Ahern. Tamara Goodwin has always got everything she's ever wanted. Born into a family of wealth, she grew up in a mansion with its own private beach, a wardrobe full of designer clothes and all that a girl could ever wish for. She's always lived in the here and now, never giving a second thought to tomorrow. But then suddenly her dad is gone and life for Tamara and her mother changes forever. Left with a mountain of debt, they have no choice but to sell everything they own and move to the country. Nestled next to Kilsaney Castle, their gatehouse is a world away from Tamara's childhood. With her mother shut away with grief, and her aunt busy tending to her, Tamara is lonely and bored and longs to return to Dublin.When a travelling library passes through Kilsaney Demesne, Tamara is intrigued. Her eyes rest on a mysterious large leather bound tome locked with a gold clasp and padlock. What she discovers within the pages takes her breath away and shakes her world to its core.

First Sentence:
They say a story loses something with each telling.

My Thoughts:

Why this book?
  • When HarperCollins asked if I want to review their Jan new release, I thought this book sounded very interesting - I mean, a book that'd tell you what happens tomorrow? At that time, I had no idea who Cecelia Ahern is. It wasn't until when I received the book, I noticed that it was the same author who wrote PS I Love You, which I just read not too long ago. This book didn't seem like a chick lit though so I was happy about that. 
First thought:
  • So promising, but didn't quite live up to expectations... could have been shorter.
Cover Art:
  • Pretty! Suited the story well
  • Fitted the story also
  • I thought the writing has improved a bit since PS I Love You (hey at least the protagonist didn't GIGGLED 3 times on one page!), however, the beginning was a bit slow and confusing, and the protagonist tended to rambled a bit.
  • There was a bit of a twist in the end which wrapped up the story and I didn't see it coming so it was good to see something a bit different
  • This was advertised as a YA book I think (main protagonist was under 18 years old) and there were some F-words used and some sex-related content (not graphic). Didn't bother me though
  • My biggest disappointment though was about the this mysterious book itself - I thought it played such an important role, and yet I didn't think it was fully explained
  • Didn't like the main protagonist, Tamara, much. She was a brat, but did see her "grow up" a bit throughout the book
  • My favorite character was Sister Ignatius - would have loved to meet someone like her in real life!
  • Some of the minor characters weren't very developed... they just seemed to appear and disappear...
  • I like non-ambiguous ending, and so I thought the ending was not bad (except about the book.)
  • I did want to find out what happened and so I kept on reading, but I didn't feel much emotion one way or the other. It was more about "let's find out what happened" rather than "let's find out what happened to Tamara".
What I Learned:
  • Can't say I really learn anything new... but would like to learn more about castles in Ireland!
  • I thought this was a new release (1/25/11) but I saw that it was actually published in 2009? Perhaps it was a new release in the US? Not that it mattered much...
Read this Author again?
  • She's not a bad author, but her books are just not my genre. So I don't know if I would or not...


He wasn't really trapped at all, he was just looking in the wrong place.(p10)

"Would you prefer to be given a life already lived too, Tamara? That way you can sit back and observe it. Or would you rather live one yourself?" (p92)

Overall Rating:
2.5 Stars - Not bad, but I think others would enjoy it more than I do. Didn't quite find it magical

All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


  • Reading had been slow this week - trying to read 300 pages in one day (The Emancipator's Wife) so I could finish it by book club night, then had a big project at work so didn't get much sleep... but this coming week should be better. Well I hope so anyway!
  • I started reading Cecelia Ahern's The Book of Tomorrow. Should be a pretty fast read but due to my tiredness and busyness it's not going as fast as I'd hoped. I started on Monday and had only read 130 pages... this books is coming out on 1/25/11! By the way, if you are interested in one of her backlist titles, Thanks for the Memories,  it’s being offered at $1.99 through all major retailers, and it includes an excerpt from the new book. The price goes back up to $9.99 on 1/25. You can find it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Sony, the Apple iBookstore (just search for Thanks for the Memories and it comes right up), and other e-book retail sites. I haven't read this book myself, but thought I'd pass the deal along!
  • I wonder if I need to impose a Library Ban! Every time I go there, I tried not to borrow more than what I had just returned, and I failed 99% of the time... I just love browsing around to see what is new! And all for free too! Can you believe that I have 64 items checked out right now? 7 of them are audio books (will they motivate me to use the elliptical? It hasn't so far oops...), 1 DVD (Hoarders Season 1), 2 cookbooks (dessert!), 8 books in Chinese... then the rest are various fiction and non-fiction! Plus there are 3 ARC... gosh I wish I could just take time off work and read, read and read! 
  • While I rode the bus the other day, I saw this guy reading a book covered in butcher paper - it made me think: (1) Is he (or his significant others) one of those who loves everything looks neat and orderly in the house, so they cover every book in butcher paper so everything matches (yes I'd seen some decorating bloggers do that! So all books are tan color on the white book shelves...), or (2) he's reading something he's embarrassing or scandalous about, and this way he can still read in public? Too bad I couldn't take a peek :) Okay maybe I don't want to...
  • One of the free books I'd received from the publisher is Habit of a Foreign Sky by Xu Xi. I love the cover! It looks very interesting, I guess I have to read the book to see if it's relevant though. I love that the paper back has a smooth, matte cover that just feels so nice to touch.

Book Review - It's a Jungle in There: Inspiring Lessons, Hard-Won Insights, and Other Acts of Entrepreneurial Daring by Steven Schussler

Title: It's a Jungle in There: Inspiring Lessons, Hard-Won Insights, and Other Acts of Entrepreneurial Daring
Author: Steven Schussler 
Year: 2010
Page: 256
Genre: Non-Fiction - Business

FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

Summary (from
As a burgeoning businessman in the 1980s, Steven Schussler stopped at nothing to make his dream of a tropical-themed restaurant come true, even turning his home into a rainforest-complete with indoor waterfall, life-size replica of an elephant and 40 tropical birds-in order to have a prototype to show potential investors. Drawing from his own life and business triumphs, Schussler offers would-be entrepreneurs a new way of utilizing creativity to achieve their dreams. 

Schussler distills his principles for entrepreneurs on a budget, and also reveals the ways in which his lessons-from self-branding to developing strategic partnerships to giving recognition where recognition is due-can work in larger corporations. Just like his famous themed restaurants, Schussler's insights provide entertainment, education, and ample food for thought for all business people aspiring to their next level of success.

First Sentence: 
Let me tell you a story about risk taking.

My Thoughts:

Why this book?
  • I like reading business books, or books on how people succeed or be creative in their profession. This seems like an easy read and looks interesting while I browse the library's new books section.
First thought:
  • Fast read, wish it goes into depth a little bit more
Cover Art:
  • Eye catching! Definitely caught my attention on the walls of new books. Relevant to the book as well
  • The main title fits the book - has a double meaning (the author was the founder of the Rainforest Cafe, plus the business world can be described as a jungle!), and the subtitle further explains what the book is about. Not bad.
  • Pretty easy read. Not a lot of jargon so easy to understand
  • The book is a series of stories (failure and success) of how the author got to where he is today. Each chapter started with a question and make you reflect.
  • The "5Ps" - Personality, Product, Persistence, People and Philanthropy - are the main principles. There were examples to illustrate these principles.
  • The author's personality really showed through in the book. He is passionate, creative and not risk averse! While you are reading this book, it is almost as though he was talking to you, or you're listening to one of his seminar / presentation (I have no idea if it is true or not since I had never listened to him or seen him in person, just the impression I got that you know how he'd be like in real life.)
  • Even though I live in MN, I had never been to the Rainforest Cafe, and now made me want to go eat there (though he no longer owns it.) I didn't know that he turned his house into a rainforest, to try to get investors to buy into his theme restaurant concept! There were other pretty "outrageous" (or crazy lol!) stuns he did to get attention - I won't spoil them for you so you'd have to go read the book yourself! Would I do what he did? I don't know, since nowadays you'd probably get arrested! But I am definitely not a risk taker... maybe it is okay to take some risks sometime?
  • The book ended with the Philanthropy chapter, which was actually the chapter I found the most interesting since you don't usually see a lot of it in other business books (apart from Dave Ramsey's money management book). For one project he hired some homeless people instead - cost double because they needed to be trained and some of them weren't good workers (or didn't show at all), but some ended up leaving the streets and became productive. His night club offered free soft drinks to designated driver, or free to tow the patrons' cars home while they take a taxi instead... doesn't necessarily make financial sense (the tow services costs $100,000 a year) but it was the morally right thing to do. 
  • He also believed in thanking the people who helped him along the way, and it was evident as he thanked A LOT of people in the acknowledgment! 
  • I was amazed by some of the things the author did! I wish I was as creative sometime!
What I Learned:
  • While I did learn something new (how passionate he really is on what he believes in, which I think I lack - there are lots of think I like, but what do I really, really, really LOVE and is my life mission - it got me thinking?), most of the rest of the book was not really new to me - networking, trust, good impression etc. So I wish the book goes a bit more in depth, rather than just give a high level overview with some examples
  • I think if you haven't read a lot of business books, but are thinking of having your own business or just want to learn more about being an entrepreneur, this is a good book to start as it is easy to understand and entertaining to read. However, if you have familiar with business principles, this is more like a refresher or complementary book as a lot of the concepts aren't really new - but I guess it reinforces these concepts work.

Read this Author again?
  • Probably

Overall Rating: 
3.5 Stars. Pretty good. Would rate it higher if I hadn't read much of this genre as I'd have found it more useful then.


All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Book Review - The Emancipator's Wife: A Novel of Mary Todd Lincoln by Barbara Hambly

Title: The Emancipator's Wife: A Novel of Mary Todd Lincoln
Author: Barbara Hambly
Year: 2005
Page: 624
Genre: Fiction - Historical

FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

Summary (from
As a girl growing up in Kentucky, she lived a sheltered, privileged life filled with picnics and plantation balls. Vivacious, impulsive, and intoxicated by politics, she is a Todd of Lexington, an aristocratic family whose ancestors defeated the British. But no one knows her secret fears and anxieties. Although she is courted by the most eligible suitors in the land, including future senator Stephen Douglas, it is a gangly lawyer from Illinois who captures her heart. After a stormy courtship and a broken engagement, Abraham Lincoln will marry twenty-four-year-old Mary Todd and give her a ring inscribed with the words “Love Is Eternal.”

But their happiness won’t last nearly so long. Their first child will be born under the gathering clouds of a civil war, and three more follow. As Lincoln’s star rises, the pleasure-loving Mary learns, often the hard way, the rules of being a politician’s wife. But by the time the fiery storm of war passes, tragedy will have claimed two sons, scandal will shadow her days as First Lady, and an assassin’s bullet will take Lincoln himself, leaving Mary alone and all but forgotten by the nation that owed her husband its survival.

Yet it is in the years to come that Mary Todd Lincoln will truly come into her own. In public, she will fight to preserve Lincoln’s memory even as she battles a bitterly contested insanity trial. In private, she will struggle with depression and addiction as she endures the betrayals–both real and imagined–of family and friends.

With a gifted novelist’s imagination and a historian’s eye for detail, Barbara Hambly tells a story of astonishing scope, richly peopled with real-life characters and their fictional counterparts, a tour-de-force tale of power, politics, and the role of women in nineteenth- century America. The result is a Mary Todd Lincoln few have seen and none will forget–the fascinating, controversial woman of whom her husband could say: “My wife is as handsome as when she was a girl and I fell in love with her; and what is more, I have never fallen out”–Mary Todd, the woman who loved Abraham Lincoln.

First Sentence:
Encountering Mary Todd Lincoln was the nicest thing that happened to John Wilamet on his first day in the Promised Land.

My Thoughts:

Why this book?
  • Library book club February pick. Not something I'd normally choose for sure.
First thought:
  • I learned something new, but boy, was it a long book (600+ pages). Would be better if it was shorter!
Cover Art:
  • Not bad. Gave the impression that it is a historical novel. Fits the book. Just not very exciting...
  • It is not something that would have caught my attention...
  • Pretty easy to read, but some passages were overly descriptive for my last. I think it could have been a bit shorter if it was edited tighter.
  • It did made me want to find out what happened, however, the story went back and forth A LOT between Mary's childhood/teenage/younger years, and later years. It got rather confusing sometime. 
  • I wish it was written in a more linear fashion so I could read to find out what happened next, rather than "this happened now... let's go back x number of years... then 357 pages later we'd explained what happened in the first chapter, but before that we needed to go back 5 more years first"
  • Some parts also seemed repetitive, and I wasn't sure about some of the "dreams" Mary had... 
  • I liked Mary when she was a young girl - she was independent and had her own ideas (though during the book club discussion, some thought she was manipulative and a chronic liar). I didn't like her after she married Lincoln. I felt bad for her though after he died
  • There were lots of other characters (Mary had lots of siblings and half siblings, and other rich friends and "beaus") and I wish the book included a family tree as it was difficult to remember everyone's names, and some had similar names!
  • While the story was supposedly quite true to historical records, one of the minor but important character, John, who was a freed slave, was fictional. While I think his own story may have been interesting, his side story made the story longer... 
  • Since I didn't grow up in the US, I didn't know a lot about Lincoln (and nothing about Mary Todd). The portrayal of Lincoln was negative at times which surprised me a little, but I suppose if you knew more about his history it shouldn't come as a surprise (e.g. I didn't know he came from "backward" country with no etiquette, was considered odd looking etc.)
  • Mary and Licoln's oldest son Robert also was not very likable... in fact many characters weren't very likable... but you have to agree that Mary Todd went through a lot and led a rather tragic life. Had she lived in modern society now, she probably would have lived a very different life
  • A rather predictable or expected ending I guess... since this book pretty much covered Mary Todd's whole life, I guess it was acceptable.
  • I was glad I didn't live in that era! But I didn't feel overly emotional while reading it. 
What I Learned:
  • I learned quite a bit about Mary Todd, Lincoln, and what life was like back then. Since I am not a big history fan, this is the best way for me to learn more about the US history, so I am glad I read it, just wish it was a bit more concise.
  • All but one from the book club liked the book - the person who didn't like it thought it was a bit too long (I guess I liked it okay, but don't dislike it). For the first time since I'd joined last January, this was the first time we had spent the WHOLE HOUR discussing this book, and didn't get side tracked! Interestingly, a lot of people thought she was crazy, whereas I didn't think she was as crazy as I was led to think - she definitely had some mental issues (bi-polar, hoarding etc) but I don't know if crazy was the right word to describe her. 
Read this Author again?
  • I think it'd depend on the topic, and the length of the book :) I am not scared of big books, but sometimes I think less is more... (unless they are those books I wish I can never finish because they are so good that I want to keep reading about them forever!)


I find myself looking forward to the end of my term as much as any of the poor slaves looked forward to Freedom (p53)

Could you marry a man who would stake his life - and your happiness - on a letter written in anger, that should simply have been put on the fire? (p90)

Overall Rating: 3 Stars - It's Okay. Glad I learned something, but could be better.

All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Put Off By The Book Titles

Have you ever been put off by a book title? I almost didn't read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society because the title sounded so boring (and had no idea what the hack it was supposed to be about). But I'm glad other reviews convinced me to give it a go or I would have never touched this book (the cover didn't attract me either). In fact, Marce @ Tea Time with Marce is having a little contest to rename this book - go give your suggestions! I have to think about it - it's been a while since I read it and I don't remember a whole lot. I just remember a lot of classic books were mentioned, and I had not read any of them so had no idea what they were referring to lol. Yes I read a lot, but not a lot of classics... the books the teachers chose back in high school bored me...

Another book that came to mind was The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloots. Since I am not into vampires stuff (not now anyway!), "immortal" doesn't catch my attention, and again it is a book I almost never read because the title sounded boring!

I am reading The Emancipator's Wife by Barbara Nambly (A Novel of Mary Todd Lincoln). Not a book I would've picked based on the title either, but it's my next book club read. I'm enjoying it so far, but it's slow going... it's 600 pages, and I'd been very busy at work, and I'd just been tired... still have half the book to go and only 2 days to read! Hope I can finish...

Anyway, I came across another book while reading my RSS feed, and this is another title that'd have put me off:

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkin

Why? It sounds chick-lit-ish (a genre I don't like). It's a YA book and I found that I don't particularly like reading YA focusing on boyfriend/girlfriend, sex and all that. I think that's part of the reason why I didn't like Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver much (my review) - even though the main message wasn't about that, but a lot of the conversations among the characters were on these topics. I remember thinking I'm so glad I don't have a teenager daughter, as I wouldn't know how to deal with that (I guess, if I ever become a mother, it's something I'd learn somehow... but hard to imagine when you're childless / child-free.)

There are some very positive reviews of this book though, but after reading some more reviews I doubt it's for me... Have you read this book? Maybe you can change my mind :)

How about you? Have you been put off by the book titles? I think a book title, and the book cover, attribute a lot to the success of the book. When I browse around in the library or bookstore, those with a nice covers and clever title definitely catch my attention (whether I'll borrow will then depend on the blurb). I found it interesting that the author doesn't have much say in the cover design, and I think I'd read somewhere that they don't get to choose the title either (or maybe it gets changed without needing the author's okay?)... it's almost like you can't name or dress your own child...

By the way - this blog, Better Book Title, is hilarious!  Some recent "rename" includes The Handmaid's Tale and Room. Take a look!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

BTT - First Book

Do you remember the first book you bought for yourself? Or the first book you checked out of the library? What was it and why did you choose it?

Nope, and nope! Too long ago... probably something in Chinese anyway...

Monday, January 10, 2011

Book Review - Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

Title: Left Neglected  
Author: Lisa Genova 
Year: 2011
Page: 336
Genre: Fiction - Medical

FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

Summary (from
Sarah Nickerson is like any other career-driven supermom in Welmont, the affluent Boston suburb where she leads a hectic but charmed life with her husband Bob, faithful nanny, and three children—Lucy, Charlie, and nine-month-old Linus.

Between recruiting the best and brightest minds as the vice president of human resources at Berkley Consulting; shuttling the kids to soccer, day care, and piano lessons; convincing her son’s teacher that he may not, in fact, have ADD; and making it home in time for dinner, it’s a wonder this over-scheduled, over-achieving Harvard graduate has time to breathe.
A self-confessed balloon about to burst, Sarah miraculously manages every minute of her life like an air traffic controller. Until one fateful day, while driving to work and trying to make a phone call, she looks away from the road for one second too long. In the blink of an eye, all the rapidly moving parts of her jam-packed life come to a screeching halt.

A traumatic brain injury completely erases the left side of her world, and for once, Sarah relinquishes control to those around her, including her formerly absent mother. Without the ability to even floss her own teeth, she struggles to find answers about her past and her uncertain future.

Now, as she wills herself to regain her independence and heal, Sarah must learn that her real destiny—her new, true life—may in fact lie far from the world of conference calls and spreadsheets. And that a happiness and peace greater than all the success in the world is close within reach, if only she slows down long enough to notice.

First Sentence:
I think some small part of me knew I was living an unsustainable life.

My Thoughts:

Why this book?
  • Still Alice is one of my favorite books - I love how the story reveals. So when I heard the author has a new book coming out last year, I marked it on my calendar to look out for it! And reserved it from the library as soon as they had it listed. I think I was first of the queue :) This is definitely my most anticipated book of 2011 (even more so than Mockingjoy by Suzanne Collins last year!)
First thought:
  • Not as good as Still Alice... :(
Cover Art:
  • If I was picking a book by its cover, I think I would've passed this book. While the coloring of the cover relates to the story, I don't get why an apple was used (hopefully it wasn't influenced by the popular Twilight apple cover...) I think a painting would have been more appropriate (you'd know what I mean once you read the book, so I won't elaborate more) Not an ugly cover by any means, just think it could have been better. I do like that it is a metallic cover.
  • I like it. Appropriate. Has double meanings. 
  • Like Still Alice, it is easy to read. I think I prefer books written in first person, as is this one. In the first few chapters though, they began with some passages in italics. Not sure if I like those passages as I got a little bored by them, and could see perhaps just one of them being important to the story. 
  • Have to say it's pretty predictable. Granted, Still Alice was pretty predictable too, but the way the story was revealed made it very interesting  
  • The most interesting part was reading about the assessment and rehab of this medical condition, from the patient's point of view. I think this is where the author's strength is - to explain medical diseases in easy-to-understand terms, so that we have a better understanding of it than just reading a medical dictionary. I wish more was explored in this area
  • The story also touched on mother-daughter relationship, and I wish it went on a bit deeper too
  • I like them fine, though we are definitely not in the same class :) But I definitely didn't feel the same connection to Sarah as I did to Alice - you couldn't help but feel for Alice, but I didn't feel the same way for Sarah even though I feel bad for what she went through
  • I did like Sarah's sense of humor
  • At first I wonder if it distracts from the story when Sarah's kid has "a problem", but I think it ended up weaving into the story quite nicely
  • Predictable. 
  • Not an emotional read for me, as Still Alice was. I remember I cried a lot during Still Alice. Didn't shed a single tear with this one. Now, I don't mean every book has to be sad and depressing, but I want to be able to cry and laugh with the characters, and go through their ups and downs
  • Not a bad read, but definitely didn't live up to my (high) expectations - perhaps that was my fault to have such high expectations, but it's hard not to after Still Alice!
  • I don't regret reading it, I did learn something new. I just wish it was a bit more emotional - maybe goes into the struggle and rehab process a bit more. 
Read this Author again?
  • Yes I will. I hope it'd be as good as Still Alice again. I hope she doesn't become a "formula" author though. I appreciate her bringing medical knowledge to us in an easy-to-understand, and interesting, manner.

The fathers cheering on the sidelines are upheld as great dads. Fathers who miss the games are working. Mothers who miss the games, like me, are bad mothers. (p15)

It forces me to focus on my abilities and not my disability, to overcome huge obstacles, both physical and psychological, to stay up on that board and get down the mountain in one piece. (p296)

Overall Rating: 
3.5 Stars - Not bad, could have been better

All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Books VS Movies

I definitely read more than I watch movies. Usually when I read, the movie already plays in my mind (me = director, casting director, photographer/videographer, location scouter and the rest....) I do enjoy watching movies, just that I prefer reading, and usually the book is better anyway (exception - The Lord of the Rings series. Okay I haven't read the book, but I couldn't even finish the first page.)

Anyway, it's interesting to see the difference between the books and the movies. Recently I watched two movies. I hadn't re-read the books since I last read them, so I can only give you general impressions rather than an accurate account of Book Vs Movie.


Shutter Island
  • I really liked the ending of the book, even though I almost gave up this book because I didn't like the voice / writing a lot, but somehow I decided to stick to it
  • Was excited when I hear a movie was being made! However, I couldn't quite picture Leonardo DeCarpio as the main protagonist. Nothing against him, he just wasn't someone I had in mind when I read the book. I don't know who I'd have cast as I hadn't given it much thought
  • After watching the movie, I guess DeCpario did a decent job, but he still wasn't whom I would have chosen.  
  • I have to say the movie seemed a bit long and slow, in fact I fell asleep a little bit...
  • I liked how they played out the big twist in the end. However, while I was browsing online to see reviews of this movie, I read something I never thought of before - the 4 possible scenarios - (1) insane-insane, (2) insane-sane, (3) sane-insane, and (4) sane-sane (see explanations here). I'd always thought it was insane-insane (certainly the impression I got after the book). I initially thought the same for the movie, but after reading the thread posted in the link above, I think for the movie at least, it was more of an insane-sane situation, which added on a second twist. See, if I don't ever read what others think, I never would have thought of all these stuff! It was the same for the book Liar, which I was greatly disappointed in, and didn't quite grasp some of the possibilities until I read others' thoughts.
  • Overall, liked the book a bit better. Movie would've been better if it was shorter, and perhaps had less flashback about the wife. They were just a bit weird

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
  • I liked the book okay - not bad, but not quite live up to the hype
  • I liked the movie much better! VERY WELL CAST! In fact, one of he special features was an interview with the actress who played Lisbeth. I wouldn't have guessed it was her - what a transformation! Kudos to the casting director for seeing the potential and trust that she'd be prefect for the role
  • I liked that they cut out the fluff and non-important scenes in the movie. It is much "edited" which was lacking in the book. The story flew much better without the distractions. Now, would I have understood the missing gaps in the movie had I not read the book? I don't know... hard to say
  • There were some graphic scenes in the movie, but I think they were necessary in order to explain the character development / plot. It stayed true to the book from what I remembered anyway
  • Reading subtitles weren't a problem for me - I grew up watching Hollywood movies with Chinese subtitle. So I am used to reading and watching at the same time
  • I will definitely watch Movie 2 and 3! I don't think I'd read the books though
  • Will I watch the Hollywood version? Maybe... since I don't usually re-watch movies much either (just like I don't usually re-read books, though there are some exceptions for both medium). I can see why they cast Daniel Craig, in fact, in fact, he reminded me of the actor who played Mikael in the Swedish version. Not sure if it's a good thing or not... I guess that means I WILL have to watch the Hollywood version then just to compare! 

  • I know Water for Elephants, The Help are being made into movies. Will probably watch those at some point...
  • I tried reading Never Let Me Go and couldn't get into it, but the premise sounds interesting. So will probably watch the movie instead.

Books Read In 2011

  1. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (3 Stars)
  2. Caribou Island by David Vann (2 Stars)
  3. Left Neglected by Lisa Genova (3.5 Stars) 
  4. The Emancipator's Wife by Barbara Hambly  (3 Stars)
  5. The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern (2.5 Stars) 
  6. Prophecy of the Sisters (Prophecy of the Sisters #1) by Michelle Zink (3 Stars)
  7. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (3.5 Stars)
  8. Matched (Matched #1) by Ally Condie (4 Stars)
  9. Oxygen by Carol Cassella (3 Stars)
  10. Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt (2 Stars)
  11. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (2 Stars)
  12. Christmas, Present by Jacquelyn Mitchard (0.5 Stars)
  13. A World I Never Made by James LePore (3 Stars) 
  14. The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee (2.5 Stars) 
  15. Still Life by Joy Fielding (3 Stars)
  16. The Shepherd by Ethan Cross (3.5 Stars)
  17. The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen (4 Stars)
  18. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce #1) by Alan Bradley (3.5 Stars)
  19. The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen (2.5 Stars)
  20. Where She Went (If I Stay #2) by Gayle Forman (3 Stars)
  21. The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry (3.5 Stars)
  22. The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (2 Stars)
  23. Addition by Toni Jordan (3 Stars)
  24. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell (3 Stars)
  25. The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen (2.5 Stars)
  26. Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale by Carolyn Turgeon (2.5 Stars)
  27. Don't Breathe A Word by Jennifer McMahon (2.5 Stars)
  28. Night Road by Kristin Hannah (2 Stars)
  29. Odd Jobs by Ben Lieberman (2 Stars)
  30. The End of Everything by Megan Abbott (1 Star)
  31. Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante (2 Stars)
  32. I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells (3 Stars)
  33. The Silent Girl by Tess Gerritsen (3 Stars)
  34. Never Knowing by Chevy Stevens (3 Stars)
  35. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett  (3 Stars)
  36. Revelations by Laurel Dewey (4 Stars)
  37. Before I Go to Sleep: A Novel by S. J. Watson (3.5 Stars)
  38. These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf (3 Stars)
  39. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty (2.5 Stars)
  40. Creep by Jennifer Hillier (3 Stars)
  41. Tomato Girl by Jayne Pupek (3.5 Stars)
  42. Megan's Way by Melissa Foster (3 Stars)
  43. The Family Fang: A Novel by Kevin Wilson (1 Star)
  44. The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees (3 Stars)
  45. The Wednesday Letters by Jason Wright (2 Stars)
  46. Iron House: A Novel by John Hart (3.5 Stars)
  47. The Human Bobby by Gabe Rotter (4.5 Stars)
  48. Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down: A Novel by Irene Schram (1 Star)
  49. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen (3.5 Stars)
  50. The Blade Itself by Marcus Sakey (2 Stars)
  51. Letters for Emily by Camron Wright (3.5 Stars)
  52. Hot Lights, Cold Steel by D. P. Lyle (2 Stars)
  53. Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman (3.5 Stars)
  54. Children of Paranoia (Children of Paranoia #1) by Trevor Shane  (4.5 Stars)
  55. Henry's Sisters by Cathy Lamb  (1 Star)
  56. No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay   (3.5 Stars)
  57. Battle Royale Ultimate Edition Volume 1 (of 5) by Koushun Takami and Masayuki Taguchi (3.5 Stars)
  58. Battle Royale Ultimate Edition Volume 2 (of 5) by Koushun Takami and Masayuki Taguchi (3.5 Stars)
  59. Battle Royale Ultimate Edition Volume 3 (of 5) by Koushun Takami and Masayuki Taguchi (3.5 Stars)
  60. Divergent by Veronica Roth (4 Stars)
  61. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick  (2 Stars)
  62. Little Bee: A Novel by Chris Cleave (3 Stars)
  63. Retribution: A Novel by Jilliane Hoffman  (3.5 Stars)
  64. The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: A Novel in Pictures by Caroline Preston (3 Stars)
  65. I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder (3 Stars)
  66. Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross (3.5 Stars)
  67. Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach  (2 Stars)
  68. Q: A Novel by Evan Mandery  (3.5 Stars)
  69. Paper Angels by Jimmy Wayne and Travis Thrasher (3.5 Stars) 
  70. The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar  (3.25 Stars)
  71. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys  (4.75 Stars)

  1. It's a Jungle in There: Inspiring Lessons, Hard-Won Insights, and Other Acts of Entrepreneurial Daring by Steven Schussler (3.5 Stars) 
  2. Call of the Mall: The Geography of Shopping by the Author of Why We Buy by Paco Underhill (3.5 Stars) 
  3. Late for Tea at the Deer Palace: The Lost Dreams of My Iraqi Family by Tamara Chalabi (4 Stars) 
  4. Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture by Peggy Orenstein (3 Stars)
  5. Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan (4.5 Stars) 
  6. Big in China: My Unlikely Adventure in Raising a Family, Playing the Blues, and Reinventing Myself in Beijing by Alan Paul (3.5 Stars) 
  7. Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls Are Not for Sale, an Activist Finds Her Calling and Heals Herself by Rachel Lloyd (3.5 Stars) 
  8. The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir by Kao Kalia Yang (4 Stars) 
  9. This Life Is in Your Hands: One Family, Sixty Acres, and a Family Undone by Melissa Coleman (3 Stars)
  10. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua (4 Stars)
  11. Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff (4 Stars)
  12. The Man with the Beautiful Voice: And More Stories from the Other Side of the Couch by Lillian Rubin  (4 Stars)
  13. Two Kisses for Maddy by Matthew Logelin (3.5 Stars)
  14. Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi (3.5 Stars)
  15. Feed Your Brain, Lose Your Belly by Larry McCleary MD (3 Stars)
  16. Totto-Chan: The Little Girl At The Window by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi (5 Stars)
  17. Life, on the Line: A Chef's Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat by Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas (4.5 Stars)
  18. A Stolen Life: A Memoir by Jaycee Lee Dugard (4 Stars)
  19. On the Mend: Revolutionizing Healthcare to Save Lives and Transform the Industry by John Toussaint and Roger Gerard (3.5 Stars)
  20. Buy-In: Saving Your Good Idea from Getting Shot Down by John P. Kotter (3.5 Stars)
  21. Maman's Homesick Pie by Donia Bijan  (4 Stars)
  22. Many Lives, Many Masters: The True Story of a Prominent Psychiatrist, His Young Patient, and the Past-Life Therapy That Changed Both Their Lives by Brian Weiss (3 Stars) 
  23. Missed Connections: Love, Lost & Found by Sophie Blackhall (3.5 Stars) 
  24. The Wisdom of Big Bird (and the Dark Genius of Oscar the Grouch): Lessons from a Life in Feathers by Caroll Spinney and J. Milligan  (3.5 Stars)

Did Not Finish

  1. The Lens and the Looker (The Verona Trilogy #1) by Lory S. Kaufman [Did Not Finish] 
  2. A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby [Did Not Finish] 
  3. In with the Devil: A Fallen Hero, a Serial Killer, and a Dangerous Bargain for Redemption by James Keene and Hillel Levin
  4. Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year by Anne Lamott 
  5. So Much Pretty: A Novel by Cara Hoffman
  6. The Good Patient: A Novel by Kristin Waterfield Duisberg 
  7. Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward
  8. Middlesex: A Novel by Jeffrey Eugenides
  9. Joy For Beginners by Erica Bauermeister 
  10. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
  11. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline  
  12. Mirror Image (Daniel Rinaldi Mystery) by Dennis Palumbo 
  13. The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta 
  14. Best Kept Secret: A Novel by Amy Hatvany  
  15. Jane Was Here by Sarah Kernochan 

Chinese Books:
  1. Bu Yi Shen Xiang (The Commoner Fortune Teller) 布衣神相 Book 1 - Qu Nuan (aka Ming Feng Xue Miao) 取暖(又名风雪庙)by 溫瑞安 (1 Star) - too many characters, did not bother to read Book 2-6. 
  2. Kai qi qian shi mi ma (CH 133.8 Y83K) 开启前世密码 by 游乾桂 
  3. Medicine for Lovers Only  愛情白皮書 (Vol 1) by Fumi Saimon 柴門ふみ
  4. Medicine for Lovers Only  愛情白皮書 (Vol 2) by Fumi Saimon 柴門ふみ
  5. Medicine for Lovers Only  Part II 愛情白皮書 II (Vol 1) by Fumi Saimon 柴門ふみ
  6. Medicine for Lovers Only  Part II 愛情白皮書 II (Vol 2) by Fumi Saimon 柴門ふみ
  7. Medicine for Lovers Only  Part II 愛情白皮書 II (Vol 3) by Fumi Saimon 柴門ふみ
  8. Peter Pans and Wendies (Vol 1)  by Fumi Saimon 柴門ふみ
  9. Peter Pans and Wendies (Vol 2)  by Fumi Saimon 柴門ふみ
  10. Family Affairs (Vol 1) by Fumi Saimon 柴門ふみ
  11. Family Affairs (Vol 2) by Fumi Saimon 柴門ふみ
  12. 童火 by 查靈生 
  13. Black Jack 怪醫秦博士/ 怪醫黑傑克 (Vol 1) by Tezuka Osamu 手塚治虫 
  14. Black Jack 怪醫秦博士/ 怪醫黑傑克 (Vol 2) by Tezuka Osamu 手塚治虫
  15. Black Jack 怪醫秦博士/ 怪醫黑傑克 (Vol 3) by Tezuka Osamu 手塚治虫
  16. Black Jack 怪醫秦博士/ 怪醫黑傑克 (Vol 4) by Tezuka Osamu 手塚治虫 
  17. Black Jack 怪醫秦博士/ 怪醫黑傑克 (Vol 5) by Tezuka Osamu 手塚治虫 

    Book Review - Caribou Island by David Vann

    Title: Caribou Island
    Author: David Vann
    Year: 2011
    Page: 304
    Genre: Fiction - Literary

    FTC Disclosure: Received ARC from HarpersCollins

    Summary (from
    The prize-winning author of Legend of a Suicide delivers his highly anticipated debut novel.

    On a small island in a glacier-fed lake on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula, a marriage is unraveling. Gary, driven by thirty years of diverted plans, and Irene, haunted by a tragedy in her past, are trying to rebuild their life together. Following the outline of Gary's old dream, they're hauling logs to Caribou Island in good weather and in terrible storms, in sickness and in health, to build the kind of cabin that drew them to Alaska in the first place.

    But this island is not right for Irene. They are building without plans or advice, and when winter comes early, the overwhelming isolation of the prehistoric wilderness threatens their bond to the core. Caught in the emotional maelstrom is their adult daughter, Rhoda, who is wrestling with the hopes and disappointments of her own life. Devoted to her parents, she watches helplessly as they drift further apart.

    Brilliantly drawn and fiercely honest, Caribou Island captures the drama and pathos of a husband and wife whose bitter love, failed dreams, and tragic past push them to the edge of destruction. A portrait of desolation, violence, and the darkness of the soul, it is an explosive and unforgettable novel from a writer of limitless possibility.

    First Sentence:
    My mother was not real.

    My Thoughts:

    Why this book?
    • When HarperCollins asked if I wanted to review any January release (this book will be released on 1/18/11), I debated whether to get this one or not. This book is not usually my genre, but I liked this description - "brilliantly drawn and fiercely honest"- I like honest novels, and I like that this story seems a bit dark (I don't usually prefer happy ending books). Sometimes when I don't like a particular genre, I always wonder if I just hadn't read the right book yet... so every so often, I'd give it a try again, especially since my reading taste have changed a bit in the past few years
    First thought:
    • Where are all the quotation marks? 
    Cover Art:
    • Very pretty, I love the colors. Something I'd hang a print of at home. After I read the book, it captures the mood the story very well.
    • Indifferent. Title alone doesn't capture my interest, but well, the story is set on "Caribou Island" so can't say it doesn't relate to the story. I guess I just like books with clever, witty titles better
    • I guess others would describe Vann's writing as beautiful, poetic... but it's not really for me. It's too flowery and descriptive for my taste. I guess that's why I usually am not interested in this genre...
    • The positive of such writing though, is that I can "play the movie" in my head as I read the book. But it's a slow moving movie...
    • Vann also did not use quotation marks in his dialog! This bugged me, as it made the story much harder to read - who is saying what, what is being said, what are actual thoughts but not said out loud... I had the same problem with The Road by Cormac McCarthy 
    • Actual plot itself can be summarized in a few sentences (but I won't, don't want to give spoilers). For someone who likes more action driven story, this isn't it
    • This is definitely a character driven story - it is more about their relationships to each other, but it just wasn't satisfying to me. Didn't have any ah-ha moments.
    • There were basically 8 characters in the book - Irene and her husband Gary, their children Rhoda and Mark, and their significant others (Jim and Karen, respectively), and Mark's friends, Carl and Monique
    • I don't like any of them. I don't like their personalities, and don't know why their signification others stay with them. They are realistic, but I feel that while the characters are described well "in the present", it didn't have a lot of development to tell us why they turned out they way the are
    • While it did tell a little bit of Irene's past, it was a bit too superficial to explain her actions
    • If I really had to choose a favorite character, it was probably the daughter Rhoda. I felt bad for her but there wasn't anything about her personality that made her stood out
    • I could definitely see the ending coming - while I wasn't 100% certain, but there was no surprise 
    • Some said it is a depressing book - it wasn't a happy story, but didn't make me depressed or too sad... I am not cold-hearted, but the characters chose their paths and I guess sometimes I just didn't have a lot of sympathies for those who won't help themselves and just blamed others for what happened to them 
    • I think for those who like The Road by Cormac McCarthy (writing style wise) would enjoy this author's style. The story actually reminded me a bit of Shadow Tag by Lousie Erdrich (my review here) - so if you like that book, you'll probably like this too. I liked Shadow Tag a bit more because I liked the children in the book
    Read this Author again?
    • Probably not... I just prefer non-character driven novels and don't like anything too descriptive

    Irene followed because once she had endured she could punish. Her turn would come. And this is what they had done to each other for decades now, irresistibly. Fine, she would think. Fine. And that meant, just wait. (p5)

    Because you can choose who you'll be with, but you can't choose who they'll become. (p101)

    Overall Rating: 2 Stars - Not Really For Me... But Others May Like It

    All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

    Book Review - Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

    Title: Before I Fall
    Author: Lauren Oliver 
    Year: 2010
    Page: 470
    Genre: Fiction - Young Adult

    FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

    Summary (from
    What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

    Samantha Kingston has it all—looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12th should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it’s her last. The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. In fact, she re-lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she had ever imagined.

    First Sentence:
    They say that just before you die your whole life flashes before your eyes, but that's not how it happened for me.

    My Thoughts:

    Why this book?
    • Read lots of good reviews. So Many Books, So Little Time's review persuaded me to put it on my TBR list. While YA is not my favorite genre, I like reading them every so often if I want a fast, light read. And this book seems to be one of the Top 10 of many bloggers' favorite reads in 2010.
    • I actually borrowed this book before, started reading a few pages, then returned to the library because I couldn't get into it. I didn't mark it as Did Not Finish then because I felt like I just wasn't in the mood for it, but may give it a try later. Usually if I make it as DNF, I probably won't give it a second chance. But when I saw there were still so many positive reviews, I decided to pick it up again
    First thought:
    • I can see why others like it, but it's just okay for me
    Cover Art:
    • Before I read the book - looks fine, indifferent. After I read the book - can understand better why the cover was chosen, but I think it'd make more sense if it was set at night with snow, as opposed to sunlight and grass
    • Not bad. Guess described the story without giving too much away. The title itself doesn't intrigue me though
    • Pretty easy to read, like most YA. Straight forward. I don't know many teenagers though so I can't tell you if that's how teens speak these days
    • Many said it's like Groundhog Day (the movie) - I have never watched it so can't comment on that. Interesting concept, but got a bit repetitive after a while, especially since it is 470 pages long... Also a bit predictable for me, even when some past events were revealed
    • Can't really say I can relate to any of the characters - I was not one of the popular girls and really had no desire to hang around girls like the main protagonist and her friends in the book, even if everyone else wanted to be them
    • None of the characters really stood out to me - they aren't prefect and have their faults which I guess make them realistic. Just that nobody made me go "wow, I wish I have a friend like that!" or "I wish I am like that!" If I really have to choose, probably Kent, Sam's childhood friend who she ditched as she became popular.
    • Predictable for me. But I guess at least it DOES have an ending, as I feared it would continue on and on and on...
    • Didn't get too emotional... probably because I really didn't care too much about any of the characters
    • I think I would enjoy this book more had I read it as a teenager. While this book does have a message, it didn't really tell me more than what I already know
    Read this Author again?
    • Depends on the topic

    Overall Rating: 3 Stars - It's Okay... Didn't Waste My Time (Too Much)

    All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

    Thursday, January 6, 2011

    BTT - Any New Year’s reading resolutions?

    Any New Year’s reading resolutions? 
    1. Quality over quantity. If I can reach 100 books again for the 4th year in a row - fine. If not, I won't stress out much about it.
    2. Read approximately half fiction and half non-fiction
    3. Continue to blog every book, hopefully within a week
    4. Let's see if I can stick to doing BTT every week!
    5. Keep recommending books to others and encourage non-readers to discover the magic of books!
    6. As much as I love my local library, I should at least read 10 of my own books... there are 170+ waiting...
    7. Give audio books a try, while trying to exercise (bought an elliptical and have hardly used it... because I'd rather use the time to read instead... and I can't read it and use it at the same time. Perhaps audio books will help lower the opportunity cost)
    8. Read 5 books with husband - he prefers audio books and I prefer reading. So to spend more quality time together, maybe we'll pick a book and I'll read to him instead. We did one book together last year and it seemed to work quite well. Since English is not my first language, he can correct my pronunciation too. Kill multiple birds with one stone :)
    9. Read 5 books I won't normally choose. Even if I can't finish, at least give it a try.
    10. Just enjoy reading... it shouldn't be a chore

      Have to remember to check back 1/1/12 to see how many goals I meet!

    Wednesday, January 5, 2011

    "HOLD PICKUP NOTICE" from the library...

    Left neglected by Lisa Genova is ready for me to pick up in the library! YAY!!!

    My most anticipated book in 2011!

    Just want to share the excitement :) Doesn't take much lol :) But I'm sure you book lovers know exactly how it is!

    PS - She wrote Still Alice, one of my favorite books.

    Saturday, January 1, 2011

    Book Musing - 2010 and What Will Happen in 2011?

    • All the books I read in 2010 are linked here.
    • I think I had a pretty good reading in 2010. I read over 100 books, even though I did not read a lot in March when I went on vacation, and then in July when I read about cat articles online instead when we adopted the kitties...
    • I found that I don't quite like character-driven novels... I need some good plots + characters I like! Character-driven novels are typically too slow or boring to me... 
    • I discovered that I quite like dystopian fiction (YA or adults)! I can't read too many of them. I think I read about 14? Young Adult is also another surprise category - haven't read too many YA before 2010. Since I'm in my early 30's though, I found that some YA are too YA-ish for me... I think I prefer those with a message that appeals to all, rather than just aiming for YA
    • My main goal of staring a blog on 1/1/10 (Yeah! 1 year anniversary!) was to write a review of all the books I'd read, so that I can remember what I have read (I like recommending books to others! But can't recommend something if I don't remember them!). I am glad to say I achieved this goal (though the last 10 reviews of so were a day late, written in 2011 instead :)
    • An added bonus of blogging was getting to know some of my blog followers! I enjoy reading you reviews on your blogs and the comments you left on my posts (though I am doing a bad job of replying comments in a timely manner, sorry! Will try to do better in 2011) - so THANK YOU
    • I had definitely expanded the genre I read - I used to read mostly murder/mystery fiction. I don't think I'd have read so many new genre had it not be reading your blogs! Granted, I don't like everything I read, but it's a good learning experience
    • Also joined in-person book club in 2010 and I enjoyed going there. I admit I haven't finished a few books, but I still like listening to the conversation. Will continue to go in 2011
    • I don't think I will do any challenges in 2011. I think I'd just choose what I want to read instead. I know it takes a lot of time and effort for the hosts to host the challenges and I don't want to not finish the challenges... 2011 definitely will be a "quality over quantity" year for me
    • I missed reading Non-Fiction - 24 is not bad, but considerable less than what I read in 2008 and 2009. I found that when I am busy at work, I tended to read fiction to escape, and it had been a busy work year. But I guess learning new things from reading non-fiction
    • I had 11 Did-Not-Finish books. I will continue to discard books in 2011... too many books, too little time. It is by no means the authors' fault when I can't finish though. 
    • I like my review format, but may do some slight changes. I like writing in bullet points :)
    • Because I borrowed most of my books from the library, I saved over $1155 :)
      • Yes I will continue to blog in 2011!

       The Good And The Bad of 2010
        Best Non-Fiction

        1. Not by Chance Alone: My Life as a Social Psychologist by Elliot Aronson - you know how you lose something sometime, then you forgot about it... then out of the blue you found it? That's how I felt about this book. I "found" my love for psychology again.

        2. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot - The title and blurb bored me. Almost didn't read it. SO GLAD I did!

        3. Algernon, Charlie, and I: A Writer's Journey by Daniel Keyes - While I enjoyed reading Flowers for Algernon, I enjoyed reading this memoir more. I love reading about Keyes' inspiration and writing process.

        4. Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath - relevant for my work, or anyone who has to deal with change management! I prefer the authors' first book Made To Stick a little more though.

        5. Genetic Rounds: A Doctor's Encounters in the Field that Revolutionized Medicine by Robert Marion MD - learned about what medical geneticists do

        Best Fiction

        1. The Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins - I really like Book 1 and Book 2 of this series, but Book 3, Mocking Jay really disappointed me. I like the premise and the characters. I think what I liked Catniss the most is her protectiveness over her little sister, Primrose. I have 2 younger sisters and I'd do almost anything for them

        2. Unwind by Neal Shusterman - what an intriguing concept (dystopian again)! In a way, I may even like this book better than The Hunger Games / Catching Fire. But the characters aren't quite as memorable for me

        3. The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist - a "quiet" dystopian. Doesn't quite have as much action as the ones mentioned above, but the story stays with me. Almost seems like a grown up version of Unwind.

        4. Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters by Mark Dunn - I like that it's a clever little tale! Typically I don't like symbolic books, but I think this one is quite well done

        5. Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel by Jeannette Walls - I didn't expect to like this book as I have no interest in horses (or cowboys or ranches), but am surprised that I do. Walls' writing has a lot to do with it. Still like The Glass Castle better though. Since I don't usually re-read books, it's saying something that this book made me want to re-read The Glass Castle.

        6. Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper and Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes- there are some similarities between these 2 books, and I think they both made me think more about how lucky I am, and how I should treat others who aren't quite as lucky

        Most disappointing
        • Mockingjay by Suznne Collins - just wasn't the same as Book 1 (Hunger Games) and Book 2 (Catching Fire). Catniss wasn't quite herself... and the pace and plot was just a bit off. Almost forgot about Pete and Gale after reading it...
        • Liar by Justine Larbalestier - this book has SUCH POTENTIAL to be a great book. But the ambiguous ending just left it hanging. The ending could have been like Shutter Island or The Sixth Sense.

        Best Discovery!
        • Shaun Tan! I used to like some comic books in Chinese, but just haven't really found any authors I like in English. While Tan's books aren't really graphic books or comic books, as they are more like picture books, he is definitely talented. It is almost like discovering Shel Silverstein for the first time.

            2010 Book Challenges Update

            These were the challenges I participated in in 2010:

            100+ Reading
            Bibliophilic Books
            Marple, Poirot, Holmes
            Memorable Memoir
            Read Your Own Books
            Science Books 
            Take Another Chance
            War Through the Generations
            Young Adult
            Non-Fiction Five 

            Let's see how I did!
            • 100+ Reading - YAY! 24 Non-Fiction, 74 Fiction, 6 Graphic Novels, 4 Books in Chinese and 11 Did Not Finish. Well, if you count only Non-Fiction and Fiction, then it's 98 books altogether. But It's over 100 if you count the books I read in Chinese, and graphic novels.. so do they count or not?! Interesting, the past couple of years prior to 2010, I read about 75% Non-Fiction, but this year it's the other way round. I think I'd try 50-50 next year, especially since there were some fiction I didn't quite like this year... Would I aim for 100 books again? I don't know (I did read 100 books in 2008 and 104 books in 2009). I think I'd just read what I enjoy and see where I am. Quality over quantity...

            • Bibliophilic Books - Oops! 1 out of 3. There were some Non-Fiction I wanted to read for this challenge, but didn't end up reading them

            • Global - Oops! 3 out of 6. Read Asia, Europe and North America. Missed Africa, Australasia and South America

            • Marple, Poirot, Holmes - Oops! 1 out of 6. Though I did read another Agatha Christie book, just not a Marple or Poirot one...

            • Memorable Memoir - YAY! 12 out of 4. Do I get bonus points? :) Definitely enjoy memoir

            • Read Your Own Books - Oops! 6 out of 10. Need to read more of my own books... but I love my library!

            • Science Books - YAY! 3 out of 3. Thought I'd read more...

            • Take Another Chance - Oops! 3 out of 6. Guess didn't take that many chances...

            • War Through the Generations - Oops! 1 out of 5. I am disappointed I didn't finish this one, this is one I want to finish... alas just wasn't in the mood...

            • Young Adult - YAY! 23 out of 12. Surprised that I read that many YA! Some great ones, some misses...

            • Non-Fiction Five - YAY! 6 out of 5 in 4 months.

            So, finished 5 challenges, and didn't finish 6...

            I am glad I tried the challenges in 2010. First year blogging, and first year doing challenges. I think it helps me decide what to do for 2011... stay tuned.

            THANK YOU to everyone who hosted the challenges in 2010! I know it's a lot of work, and it's much appreciated!

            Book Review - Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

            Title: Please Ignore Vera Dietz
            Author: A.S. King
            Year: 2010
            Page: 326
            Genre: Fiction - YA

            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
            Vera’s spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. And over the years she’s kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything.

            So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone—the kids at school, his family, even the police. But will she emerge to clear his name? Does she even want to?

            Edgy and gripping, Please Ignore Vera Dietz is an unforgettable novel: smart, funny, dramatic, and always surprising.

            First Sentence:
            Before I died, I hid my secrets in the Master Oak.  

            Why did I pick this book?
            The Perpetual Page Turner's end of 2010 Survey (see here) said this is one of her favorite books in 2010. Since she also likes The Hunger Games and If I Stay, I thought I'd give this a try.

            My thoughts:
            • This is just okay to me... while I like Vera and can relate to her somewhat, the plot  / twists disappointed me. Seemed a bit predictable...
            • I think it's tricky for me to read YA - there are definitely some YA I enjoy a lot, but then there are some that I am definitely not the right audience for. I guess I just need to pick more carefully in 2011...
            • It was a fast read though, and the author's writing was easy to read.
            • The book was written from 4 perspectives - Vera, her best friend Charlie, her dad, and The Pagoda (a place/location). Usually I enjoy reading books from multiple perspectives, but I wonder if we really need the Pagoda's perspective? I know there are books that made a place became a character too... but don't really get it in this book. Not sure if Vera's dad's perspective add much either. 

              Rating: 2.5 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!

              100+ Reading
              Young Adult