Monday, January 31, 2011

It's Not What You Read, But Where You Read Challenge

Join this challenge HERE.

Here's how it works:

  1. Join the challenge by posting that you're going to join (whether it be a link on your Facebook status, a blog post, or a photo of a memo taped to your office door - I don't really care as long as you can update us digitally somehow about your progress)
  2. Choose on place from each category.  It's up to you - you can do one of the suggested places, or you can pick one from your life that you think fits.
  3. Read in that category for at least one hour.  Ten minutes six times counts and sixty minutes one time counts, you get the picture. 
  4. Check off that category by updating your post (post it note?) and leaving a comment on this post with the link.  
  5. When you've finished all seven categories, come back to the second linky on this post and add in the link to your post showing everywhere you read.  It's not necessary to snap a photo of yourself reading in one of the categories, but it could be fun and we'd love to see it!
  6. Wait for March 30, June 30, September 30, and December 30 to see if you're the lucky finisher that was drawn for a prize.  

What are the categories?  Dude, you know I'll tell you.

Twist Your House
Read somewhere inside your house that you have never sat (or stood I suppose) and read before.  It could be the bathroom (but I won't 'cause I think, ew gross), the bathtub, the corner, the closet, the guest bedroom, the dining room table - it just can't be somewhere that you've read before.  Think outside the box.

Place of Commerce
Read somewhere that things are sold.  Coffee shop? Sure.  While you're waiting for your wife to try on clothes?  Absolutely.  At the fountain at the mall while you're scoping out guys?  Uh, that's a stretch but give it a try.

Move
Read on the bus, on a train, on the light rail, on a plane, in a car, while you're walking, while you're on the treadmill at the gym.  It doesn't have to be somewhere you haven't read before, just somewhere where you are moving through space.

Nature
This one could be hard for city folk, but there is a park somewhere, right?  The requirement is that you are sitting/standing on something that isn't manmade.  Man could have planted it, but not created it.  Granite countertop?  Um no.  Granite boulder?  Um yeah.

You Don't Call Home
Out of state?  Sure.  At your neighbor's house?  Sure.  Hotel?  Yup.  But it can't do double duty for any of the other categories.

Probably Shouldn't
Think work, church, grocery shopping.  DO NOT READ WHILE DRIVING OR RIDING YOUR BIKE OR ROLLERBLADING/SKATING.  BE SAFE.  Be creative.

In Pairs
I don't care where you are as long as someone else in the room is reading their own book too.  Before bed with the hubbie?  Sure.  In a hotel lobby?  Absolutely.  In a bookstore?  Dude, you get the picture.

Seven hours of reading in a place that you probably wouldn't normally.  That's the challenge.  Think you can take that over the course of a year?  If you think you can, add your name to the linky.  And spread the word. The more people that finish the challenge by December 30th, the bigger the prize will be.  There will also be quarterly prizes for those who have finished, so the earlier you finish, the bigger your chances of winning.  And the first prize will be a $10 online bookstore gift card.  Oh yeah, and we're open worldwide baby.

Sounds fun, no?  This has nothing to do with my ever increasing challenge habit... I swear!  It's just interesting, and fun, and really I'm going to be reading in all sorts of places anyway, and my faithful followers know how much reading I'll have to get done for all the challenges I've signed up for so I'm going to have to get creative about where I read.

Come on, fellow addicts!  You know you want to join this challenge with me.
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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Rebecca Review (Beware of Spoilers)

I've owned a copy of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca for over a year now.  I loved the movie, and felt the urge to read the book.  I also don't read enough classics.  So I was thrilled that this month not only was Rebecca picked as the book club selection, but was also part of a read-a-long and qualified for my Dusty Reads Challenge... and a few others. I listened to both the (extremely) abridged audio cd and read the unabridged novel.

I loved this book.  We shall call the main character Unusual Named One (Uno for short), since her name is never given and the only mention of it is that it's unusual.  There's lots of times in the book I just wanted to slap her silly, there were times I cringed at how timid she was, times I simply wanted to see Mrs. Danvers shove her out a window.

And yet...

I'd be lying if I didn't admit that on some level I can completely identify with Uno.  She's young, as I once was, she's poor, as I still am, and incredibly naive, as I still can be on occasion. Uno is swept off her feet by rich, older and worldly Maxim de Winter.  The fact that she falls for him so fast and completely is realistic, Uno has no family, no friends and a crappy harpy-like employer Mrs. Van Hopper.  I can easily imagine the relief that she feels that someone like Maxim would ask her to be his wife, just as I can easily imagine that I would be obsessed as Uno is with Rebecca, Maxim's first and seemingly perfect wife.

Oh, Rebecca... What an evil wench really.  All the things that Mrs. Danver seems to admire in her are things that horrify me.  "Rebecca cared for nothing and nobody!"  Um, that's not actually a good thing, Danny.  Here's my take on Mrs. Danvers- she had a major girl crush on Rebecca.  Maybe not in a sexual way, but I think Rebecca purposely manipulated Mrs. Danvers, as she did everyone, and made Danny feel special and important.  The funny thing is, Mrs. Danvers knew how Rebecca played games and used people, but felt that because Rebecca included her in secrets that there was some real connection between the two women.  There's a scene between Uno and Mrs. Danvers where she's explaining how Rebecca was, how she cruelly treats a horse and then just coolly goes about her business.  Danvers says this with great admiration.  I cringed.  If I hadn't disliked Rebecca before than I certainly hated her after that little charming tidbit.

And Rebecca's conquests!  Not only poor Frank, but Giles as well!  I'm lucky enough not to know anyone like Rebecca, but I do know of her type.  The type of person that feels the need to compete with every person on the planet, that sees sex as a weapon.  It's Frank that suffers the most though, he's clearly devoted to Maxim and Manderlay, but once Rebecca decided to set her sights on him the poor man was in for a lifetime of regrets.  A family member of mine once had a girlfriend that couldn't stand to be alone, and while he was abroad she slept around (with strangers and a few of his friends), but at least she did it because she was emotionally needy and had had a horrible childhood.  She couldn't separate affection from sex.  But Rebecca is cold and calculating with sex, there is no emotion, no affection.  She merely enjoys messing with people (and I would not be surprised if there were notches carved into her bedposts- it's a wonder that Danvers didn't point them out to Uno).

There were many minor characters to love in this novel- Frank, loyal Frank.  I actually really enjoyed his friendship with Uno, at times feeling that her life would be so much better if she had just fallen for a man like him.  They were able to talk and interact in ways that she couldn't with Maxim- although the memory of Rebecca was still between Uno and both Frank and Maxim.  I loved Maxim's sister, Beatrice.  She's strong and confident and one of the few people not enthralled with Rebecca... of course Rebecca putting the moves on Bea's husband might account for that.  I also enjoyed Ben, however the references to him being an idiot were not so pleasant but this was written in the 1930's so it's sadly in keeping with those times.  Other reason to hate Rebecca- her threats to have him put in an asylum.

Minor characters not to love: Mrs. Van Hopper.  Ugh, how I disliked her character.  I have known people like her, horrible gossips always looking to ingratiate themselves with people they deem worthy.  I would have accepted almost any man's proposal to get away from her!  Then there's Favell.  What a smarmy worm.  I was very proud of Uno for taking an instant dislike and mistrust in him.  Saying no to his suggestion of a car ride was one of her first's hints of a backbone.

Uno does grow in the novel, gaining confidence and poise along the way.  Sadly, most of it comes the moment she learns that Maxim didn't really love Rebecca.  Oh, so you shot your first wife and then dumped her body in the ocean?  But you didn't really love her?  Then that's all that matters, come closer my darling, murderous Maxim!  One can't help but wonder if Uno would have loved Hitler if he had merely confessed to have never loved any woman but her.  But it does enable her to stand up to Danvers, which is a big pay off for us readers.  Granted, it's just over dinner but it still counts.

I wish I had read the book before watching the movie, because I think that would have made the reveal, and Max's true feelings, all the more edge-of-your-seat reading.  But I adore the movie, which hopefully I'll catch soon on TCM.

The audio version that I listened to can be found here.  It was just like watching the movie, and I adored it.  If you don't like audio books to use background noise props then this one probably isn't for you.  However, listening to the story in the car on a cloudy, rainy day was the perfect setting.  It was like I was there.




Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier gets a Midnight Book Rating of 11pm.  A great book, a wonderful classic, an almost gothic romance- perfect to curl up with on a dark, stormy night.  Especially if you live by the sea.






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Saturday, January 29, 2011

A-Z Challenge

*sigh* I just found another connection for my Challenge Habit.
It's not my problem- it's an addiction!

Sadly at this time Betty Ford clinics have no treatment.

So until then I will be forced to continue my cycle of challenges, read-a-longs and readathons.

Here's how this challenge works:

Read 26 books this year ( easy right ) 
One for each letter of the alphabet.
I'll be filling this out at I go along, if a book has a * by it that means I plan to read it, but haven't yet.

A- Abandon by Meg Cabot
B- Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
C- Cell by Stephen King
D- Dracula (Graphic Classics) by Bram Stoker, retold by Fiona MacDonald
E- Entwined by Heather Dixon
F- Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters by Marilyn Monroe
H- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling
I- I Love You, Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle
J- Jennifer's Body by Audrey Nixon, Diablo Cody
K-
L- Lisey's Story by Stephen King
M- Maybe This Time by Jennifer Cruise
N- Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
O- Obedience by Will Lavender
P- Plum Spooky by Janet Evanovich
Q- Queen of the Dead by Stacey Kade
R- Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
S- Stiff: The Curious Life of Cadavers by Mary Roach
T- Tempest Rising by Nicole Peeler
U- Uninvited by Amanda Marrone
V- Vixen by Jillian Larkin
W- Without You by Anthony Rapp
X- XVI by Julie Karr
Y-
Z-Zombies vs, Unicorns by Holly Black, et al

If you're interested in joining in the ABC's of reading fun then head over to The Thoughts of a Book Junky! to sign up.






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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Favoritest Mug

is simply simple.

it pertains to HOT, HOT COFFEE mugs.  well, just one mug. 

Simply post a picture of your very favoritest mug. The one you'd choose to drink from every time if it never needed to spend any time in the dishwasher.  The one you secretly eye whenever your significant other, mother, brother, best friend, [insert other] grabs it from the cupboard and you hold yourself back from snatching it out of their hand and shouting, "Give it back!  It's mine.  All mine!"

Or just one you like almost that much.

You don't have to share anything about the mug, but if you'd like to share the story behind it, well, that would just be an added bonus.  Most of my mugs hold a special significance.  I usually buy one while taking a vacation and have started a collection.

Okay, so here's my favorite mug:

This is my Pico Mundo Grille mug.  I got it from Dean Koontz's site and it's based on the Odd Thomas series (in the beginning Odd is a simple fry cook at the Pico Mundo Grille, although he occasionally dreams of selling tires).  When I bought this several years ago I wasn't that much of a coffee or tea drinker.  Since giving up soda awhile back, coffee has become my major source of caffeine.  I love the literary reference to one of my favorite characters, and I like the size and shape of the mug.  I now have a bit of interesting mug collecting habit, but this one is still my all time favorite!


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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Scott Pilgrim #1 & #2 Reviews

From Goodreads:
Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life (Scott Pilgrim #1) 
by Bryan Lee O'Malley
 
Scott Pilgrim's life is totally sweet. He's 23 years old, he's in a rock band, he's "between jobs," and he's dating a cute high school girl. Nothing could possibly go wrong, unless a seriously mind-blowing, dangerously fashionable, rollerblading delivery girl named Ramona Flowers starts cruising through his dreams and sailing by him at parties. Will Scott's awesome life get turned upside-down? Will he have to face Ramona's seven evil ex-boyfriends in battle? The short answer is yes. The long answer is Scott Pilgrim, Volume 1: Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life.

From Goodreads:
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (Scott Pilgrim #2) 
by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Does Scott and Ramona's burgeoning relationship have a future? Isn't Scott still supposedly dating Knives Chau? Who is Ramona's second evil ex-boyfriend, and why is he in Toronto? Who are The Clash At Demonhead, and what kind of bizarre art-punky music do they play? Who's their hot girl keyboardist, and what is Scott's relation to her? Why are they Knives Chau's new favourite band? Fights! Drama! Secrets revealed! The answers to all these questions and more!





I loved the movie Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.  It  had all kinds of geeky, snarky goodness. I've been wanting to read the graphic novels for awhile, but was reluctant to buy them.  So I was happy to see the first two volumes at my local library.

Oh, you heard me right.  I went to my library.  I'm giving myself a second chance.  This is a new year and a new me, surely I can return library books in a timely manner.  After I made a sizable donation, or as some might call it, a large library fine, they were generous to welcome me back with open arms.  With all the stories of public libraries in so much trouble, it felt wrong not support my own local libraries. I'm a book lover, I not so secretly would love to be a librarian, and I will return books on time dammit!

So far the two volumes of Scott Pilgrim don't stray too far from the movie, although you get a few extra scenes and a little more background than they good fit in the movie.  Plus you get more Kim.  I love Kim- she's a big part of the snarky goodness. The second volume shows her early relationship with Scott, which I enjoyed reading- hope to see more and how Envy and Scott started off.

Another thing that's really cool is how closely the actors from the movie resemble their graphic novel counterparts- maybe with the exception of Scott Pilgrim himself.  Everything is so familiar that it made reading the graphic novel an even better experience for me.  I think I might have been a little loss if I hadn't seen the movie first.

So if you're looking for a good graphic novel (Dewey's readathon isn't too far off!) than I can easily recommend this series.  Can't wait to finish all of them!

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World both get Midnight Book Ratings of 11pm.  Very enjoyable and a great read for newbie graphic novel readers like myself.  Probably you should skip if you didn't enjoy the movie.







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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

One Day Review with Courtney of Abducted By Books





A few months ago my friend, Courtney of Abducted By Books, was in between book club selections and we came up with the idea to both read the book that my book club was reading, One Day by David Nicholls, and then do a joint post.  That was back in December... because that's how long it took to make this awesome post.


Courtney: For those of you who don't know about this novel here is the plot in a
nutshell. The main characters are Dexter and Emma. They went to college
together in England but they didn't really meet and start to form a
friendship until the day of their graduation. They graduated on July
14th 1988, they go home together, they talk through the night and end up
spending the entire next day together, July 15th . Which is where the
novel picks up. From that point on each chapter is July 15th of the
following year through July 15th 2007.

Now here is what we thought:

1. ON THE WRITING STYLE AND SET UP

Courtney: As I got further into the novel I was constantly amazed at how well written it was. I mean on the surface you are only seeing these characters one day out of each year so it begs the questions; how can they possibly be fully developed or how can you as the reader feel that you are really connected with them? I know that was my main hesitation and honestly I don't have any answers. I cannot dissect how David Nicholls does what he does but I promise you that One Day is smart and witty and you as the reader will come to care for these characters and their struggles and triumphs. I would also like to add that it was extremely refreshing to get to read a book that allows its characters to grow and evolve in ways that you would naturally expect people to over twenty years.

Kate: I loved the idea of revisiting Em and Dex on the same day each year. But I also felt that the title of the book was like a promise- that one day Em and Dex would get their act together, that one day the one thing the reader is really rooting for will happen. Back to the revisiting of one day out of each year, I can't help but wonder how that would look in my own life. The writing style was, to me, wonderful. The book flowed and made for a page turning read. I wanted, needed, to know what happened to Em and Dex year after year, my fingers crossed each time.

Courtney: Wow, Kate! I never picked up on the whole promise of the title thing! That is brilliant!!! I think if you checked in with me on the same day each year it would be really boring. I can guarantee it! I also wandered about that when I was reading the book and it kind of bothered me that July 15th always seemed to be such an interesting day for them. I kept waiting for either of them to make a reference to it like; “Hey, can you believe it was five years ago today that we met?” But they never did.

Kate: Yeah, mine would be pretty lame too. What, she’s eating and reading, again? Except Halloween. I almost always do something for Halloween. But if you’re not a Rocky Horror Picture Show fan, then perhaps my yearly Halloween activities would smack me right back into the lame category.

2. IMPRESSIONS ON DEX AND EM

Kate: Honestly I was a bit worried that I wouldn't like either Emma or Dexter. The first chapter failed to make me like either of them overly much. It wasn't until Dex wrote that letter to Emma that he won my heart, and Emma captured it the second year as well. I was afraid that the main characters were going to be stereotypes- rich playboy, poor working girl. Thankfully they both turned out so much more complex! In the end both Dexter and Emma created a friendship so deep and lasting that I couldn't help but cry during their low points and cheer along with their triumphs.

Courtney: I feared their relationship was only one-sided. On the surface it would be really easy to say that Emma cared for Dexter more than he did for her. But once you get further in I don't think that was ever true. I think that even in the beginning Dexter always felt drawn to her and depended on her in ways that even he couldn't comprehend. Emma brought out the very best in him and he gave very little to her in return.

3. SUPPORTING ROLES

Courtney: I loved so many of the supporting characters. My favorite, however, was probably Dexter's father. He was just such a sweet old man with so many touching moments through out the novel. The scene when Dexter showed up at his parents house completely drunk and his dad has to drive him to the train station, oh God, I was crying. And then in the end when Dexter goes to stay with his dad and they have that moment in front of the television, ugh, killed me.

Kate: I liked Ian at first. I wanted him to be a funny, light hearted character. I felt Emma deserved a healthy relationship, but Ian let me down. Not only wasn't he funny, he was moody and whiny. And although I disliked her at first, in the end I really liked Sylvie. I also liked Dex's relationship with his mom. She always knew how much Em meant to him. Courtney: Yeah, I really liked Sylvie in the end. She was really good to Dex. But remember how CRAZY her family was!!! That whole scene was sooooo uncomfortable!

Courtney: I hated Ian though. I always felt like there was something just off about him and I couldn't see how Emma could get involved with him. I didn't like him in the beginning, at no point did he grow on me, and I think by the end of the book I was actually quite angry with him.

Kate: Ah! Sylvie’s family! What a bunch of crazypants! It was so funny, what Dex does to Sylvie though. Not that I condone violence towards women, but they were all kind of asking for it.

4. FAVORITE LINES

Courtney: My favorite line was: “She doesn't want an amusing story, she wants change, a break, not anecdotes. Her life has been stuffed with anecdotes, an endless string of the bastards, now she wants something to go right for once. She wants success, or at least the hope of it.” I'm thinking about using part of that for when we get our literary tattoos. The “she wants change...not anecdotes” part.

Kate: And here's mine. It comes towards the end of the book: "Cherish your friends, stay true to your principles, live passionately and fully and well. Experience new things. Love and be loved, if you ever get the chance."

5. THOUGHTS ON THE MOVIE

Courtney: How do you feel about David Nicholls being the one to write the screen play for the film version? Do you think he will keep the one day a year format or drop it so the film version can flow better?

Kate: I’d be pretty pissed if they changed the whole formula of the one day premise for the movie. If they don’t use that then what’s the point of making a movie out of it? I’m a little weary that the move will get a rom com white wash to it, because for me the book is not chick lit.

Courtney: Yeah, that is my fear. I don’t want them to change for format of the book but I can see them doing it and just having it be another romantic comedy. But, since David Nicholls is doing the screen play I’m trying to have some faith! I'm really excited about Jim Sturgess playing Dex. I re-watched the movie 21 this weekend and all I can say is anyone out there who is doubting his abilities to be Dex should watch that movie. I'm not saying the movie itself it great, I'm saying HE is great in it. I got word of him playing Dexter early on so I did have him in mind while reading and I can't imagine any other actor playing that part better. However, if I was forced to select a different actor based on looks, I would have picked the guy shown HERE


Kate: I’m fine with the casting, but I wasn’t aware of who was playing whom when I read the novel. When we decided that we were going to pick our own actors for the roles, that’s exactly what I did. The actor I had in mind for Dex can be found HERE, although interestingly enough I did not pick a fair haired actor, despite the book’s description of Dexter.

Courtney: Yeah, my actor selection for Dex is literally only based on the fact that he is blond, has an accent, and is attractive but not too attractive. I'm so not a fan of Anne Hathaway. I can't explain it I just haven't seen a movie of hers that I actually liked since Ella Enchanted. So I'm not happy for her to be playing Emma. To see my selection for Emma click HERE

Kate: I am a fan of Anne Hathaway’s, but I think my pick for Emma is even better. Sometimes I really like Anne- Ella Enchanted, Rachel At The Wedding, Valentine’s Day, and other times I dislike her- Devil Wears Prada, Bride Wars and Havoc (I seriously could not hate this movie more if I tried). I do think she’s a wonderful actress, but my Em is the true Em. Unfortunately it looks like the movie is in post production so it’s unlikely that this glaring mistake can be fixed. For those of you interested in the REAL Em click HERE

Courtney: Oh, my God, I HATED Devil Wears Prada!!! I thought I was a lone on this but lately I have found a lot of other girls coming forward with there distaste for it! Yeah, the movie is in post production and have you seen some of the stills for it? I saw one that I think is supposed to be Anne Hathaway during Emma’s early years and it is scary!




*********************SPOILER ALERT***********************




6. THE END

Courtney: It would only be fair to inform our readers that you did warn me about the ending before I got there. Kate knows me well enough to know that when it comes to certain endings, if I'm not warned it will ruin the book for me. And you didn't tell me straight out how it ended you just prepared me for an upset. However, I was preparing myself for it to be Dexter that died so I was still shocked when it went the other way. After seeing Dexter and Emma through their trials and tribulations, it was actually really hard for me to believe that they were going to have a happy ending. Even when they got together and were planning the wedding, I was holding my breath waiting for Dexter to do something to screw it up, which he very easily could have done. So, I guess I felt like having one of them die was actually quite poignant.

Kate: As much as I loved this book, the ending ripped my heart out. I wanted Em and Dex to make a million mini-me's. I wanted them to have some time for happiness. In my opinion, Em got screwed. At least Dex had some fun during his younger years, Em had loneliness and failed relationships. Of course, it's my strongly held belief that one should only bicycle on park paths or on boardwalks at the beach, so although the ending shocked me it really shouldn't have. Nothing good comes of biking on the road, people! Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's healthier for the body and the environment. Try car pooling, and avoid tragic endings. Although the ending broke my heart, how Dexter turned out in the end helped heal it some. Seeing the day after they met helped it to end on a more positive note. I'll read David Nicholls in the future- but I'll put on my weary pants first. I hope he’s not going to be one of those authors who feels it necessary to have someone die in order to tell a moving story.

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Here Lies Bridget Review

 From Goodreads:

Heroine, Bridget Duke, rules her high school, but when she crashes her car and ends up in limbo, she must confront the people she has wronged, all of whom want her to go to hell. The outcome of these meetings will decide her final destination.
  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harlequin; Original edition (January 18, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0373210280
  • ISBN-13: 978-0373210282



I'll admit that I was a bit wary of this book.  I've become tired of rich, spoiled teens in YA books and television shows.  How awful it must be to get everything you want in life and still be a horrible person.  And make no mistake- Bridget does some awful things.

But what sets this book apart is you really get to see inside Bridget, why she does what she does.  In particular, her relationship with her ex-boyfriend and former best friend really helped to make me sympathetic towards Bridget.  When Bridget is given the chance to see how she really affected those around her with her selfish behavior, her realization dawns slowly and realistically.  It's a bit of Heathers meets A Christmas Carol... or for all of you younger readers- Mean Girls meets Jim Carrey's version of A Christmas Carol.

I don't want to give away the ending, but Bridget and those around her do not suddenly skip off into the sunset- there are consequences, long lasting, for Bridget's actions over the year.  I like a happy ending as much as the next reader, but I'm glad that the author choose to end things on a more realistic note.  In a world full of Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars, it's nice to see a story that doesn't glamorize rich teens, but rather humanizes them.

Here Lies Bridget gets a Midnight Book Rating of 11pm.  I'd recommend it to any YA reader out there.

*I received a copy of this book to review free from Netgalley.



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Monday, January 17, 2011

A Winter's Respite Readathon


I'm working all week long, but I need something to kick me into gear.  I'm currently reading 4 books, and except for 1, I'm about half-way through each of them.  My tbr pile is screaming for my attention, and while I'm enjoying my 2 readalongs and the Potterthon, there's still lots of challenges that I have yet to read anything for.  I know, I know, we're barely half way through January, but I really feel I haven't read as many books as I should be reading.  Mostly because all I do anymore is work, work, work. 

Hence the reason to do the week long Readathon.  We'll be twittering with the hashtag #readathon.  I love twitter and readathons!  It's always my favorite time to tweet.  So I'm starting this morning off with the audio version of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.  It's not too late to sign up, just head over to The True Book Addict and join in all the reading fun!

If you're participating, let me know- I'm more than happy to cheer you on this week. 


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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Review





I know lots of Potter fans out there have a special love for Sirius Black, but for me what makes book 3 special is Remus Lupin.  Of course, a man who carries chocolate with him and encourages you to eat it can always win a spot in my heart.


To be honest, the first time I read this series, I really didn't particularly like Sirius Black.  His actions in the 5th book which lead to his death struck me as supremely selfish.  But, re-reading book 3 has helped to soften my impression of him.  The scene in the book where he asks Harry if he wants to come live with him (however odd and sudden it was) was rather sweet.  I long for a book focused on the Marauders- Mooney, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs. And of course, more Snape and Lily!

Prisoner of Azkaban is where Harry begins to grow up, he makes the decision to not kill Wormtail, a very mature choice given that his parent's betrayer was also one of their most trusted friends.  Poor Hermione in this book though- overworked and shunned by Ron and Harry when she is only trying to look out for their best interests.  However, this is also the book that sees Hermione taking a swing at Draco and walking out of Divination in disgust- this is the Hermione we all love.

The only part of Prisoner of Azkaban that I have trouble with is the end.  It doesn't seem realistic that Dumbledore couldn't find a way to clear Sirius Black's name.  It doesn't make sense that suddenly the MoM is okay with lowering the intense security on the castle and around Harry (except for sending the Dementors back, since they did kind of try to kill Harry). Of course, if Sirius was free and clear, than that would have changed the entire rest of the series, so I'll happily accept it.

Favorite quotes from the book:

"Mooney presents his compliments to Professor Snape, and begs him to keep his abnormally large nose out of other people's business."
     ~Marauder's Map

"Harry and Ron both made furious moves toward Malfoy, but Hermione got there first-
SMACK!
She had slapped Malfoy across the face with all the strength she could muster.  Malfoy staggered.  Harry, Ron, Crabbe and Goyle stood flabbergasted as Hermione raised her hand again."


'"Well, honestly...'the fates have informed her'.  Who sets the exam? She does!  What an amazing prediction!" she said, not troubling to keep her voice low.  Harry and Ron choked back laughs.
     ~Hermione

'"Believe me," croaked Black. "Believe me, Harry.  I never betrayed James and Lily.  I would have died before I betrayed them."'
     ~Sirius Black

'"Are you insane?" said Harry, his voice easily as croaky as Black's. "Of course I want to leave the Dursleys!  Have you got a house? When can I move in?"'
     ~Harry

'"HE DIDN'T DISAPPARATE!" Snape roared, now very close at hand. "YOU CAN'T APPARATE OR DISAPPARATE INSIDE THIS CASTLE! THIS - HAS- SOMETHING- TO- DO- WITH- POTTER!"'
     ~Snape... poor Snape.

'"You think the dead we loved ever truly leave us?  You think that we don't recall them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble?  Your father is alive in you, Harry, and shows himself most plainly when you have need of him.  How else could you produce that particular Patronus? Prongs rode again last night."'
     ~Dumbledore

'"Godfather?" sputtered Uncle Vernon.  "You haven't got a godfather!"
"Yes, I have," said Harry brightly.  "He was my mum and dad's best friend.  He's a convicted murderer, but he's broken out of wizard prison and he's on the run.  He likes to keep in touch with me, though...keep up with my news...check if I'm happy..."'
     ~Uncle Vernon and Harry


Prisoner of Azkaban gets a Midnight Book Rating of 11:30pm (inching it's way to a full out Midnight rating).  I'm so glad I re-read this book, it's been too long!

Read for Challenge:

Other Challenges this book qualifies for in Labels.






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Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Woman in White Read-a--long Pt. 1

I'm taking part in A Literary Odyssey's Read-a-Long. 


I have a confession.  It's a bit embarrassing though...

I've long wanted to read The Woman in White.  But I've also long thought it was a ghost story.

Perhaps I got it mixed up in my mind with the movie Lady in White, which is a childhood favorite of mine.


So when I first saw the read-a-long I was happy to join because A. I don't feel I read enough classic books and B. I adore ghost stories (and really, there's just not enough of them.  Ghosts don't seem to have the cool factor that vampires, werewolves and zombies possess.).

Now I did not labor under my delusion for long, nor was I disappointed that The Woman in White is a mystery and not a ghost story.  I was worried about the length, as I've found in my particular case reading classics take me two to three times longer to read than say, a Stephenie Meyers book would.

The Woman in White is surprisingly easy to read, and fast paced, despite its 600 pages or so.  It's made a nice contrast to my Harry Potter re-read challenge.  So here's what I think so far:

A reader can't help but instantly love Marian Halcombe- what an intriguing character!  It took her only awhile to forever take her place among my beloved character list- I was a bit put off by her seemingly dismissive attitude towards her own sex- but I can see why she has become such an immortal literary figure.

It's hard to read books from a time period where woman had very little say in their circumstances.  To be married by arrangement, to be locked in an asylum against your will, to be forced to bend to the will of a cruel husband... what horror!  The difference between classes, and even more importantly, between the sexes, is vast and troubling.

The story starts off with an intriguing premise- the reader will be told the story by different people involved and at different points.  We start with a young drawing master, Walter Hartwright.  Through the help of his colorful Italian friend (a loveable Professor Pesca), Hartwright is lucky enough to secure a job working for a wealthy country family, the Fairlies.  Even though he is aware of what an important opportunity this is for him, Hartwright is troubled.  His feelings are even more confused when he meets a strange woman on the outskirts of London, the mysterious Woman in White who has a connection to his future employer.  He begins his new job the next day, and immediately works with Marian to uncover the truth of the Woman in White.

Hartwright and Marian have an instant friendship- both are amiable and both drawn to the mystery of who the woman in white could possibly be.  Mr. Fairlie, the owner of the house, is an extremely annoying character.  He never leaves his room, is a hypochondriac and supremely selfish.  I disliked him immediately.  Next we meet his niece Laura Fairlie, half sister to Marian. Hartwright is immediately taken by her beauty and her docile, sweet manner.  Which I guess was something attractive in those days, but at first I find her fairly bland.

Of course, rather than falling in love with Marian, who is smarter, funnier and wittier than Laura, but also much less physically attractive, Hartwright falls for Laura, and she with him.  Because olden days suck, they can do nothing about their love- she is engaged, he is poor.  Only unhappiness can result from their affection for each other.

During this time, Marian and Hartwright discover the identity of the woman in white- she is Anne Catherick,  and she once knew Marian and Laura's mother, Mrs. Fairlie.  She adored the woman so, that when the Mrs. Fairlie told Anne as a child that women should wear all white, it became like an edict from the heavens.  Anne is a little... touched in the head.  I don't know what her diagnosis would be today, but if she were a picnic, than she'd be a few sandwiches short a full meal.

It also seems that poor, escaped from the nut house Anne has a connection to Laura's intended, a Sir Percival  Glyde.  She sends Laura a note warning her not to marry the evil man, but because she's a bit crazypants she offers no reason.  Marioa and Hartwright discover that it is indeed Anne who sent the note, but are unable to get to the reason behind it.  Talking to Anne seems to be like talking to a brick wall.

Hartwright parts company with the Fairlies, in effort to put a stop to further romantic entanglements with Laura, but he and Marian keep in touch as they try to discover if Glyde is really the evil monster Anne claims he is, or if she's just a well meaning nutcase.  Glyde comes for a visit, and appears sufficiently charming and there is no hint of dishonor in his past.  Even though he offers Laura a chance to break their engagement, she upholds the wishes of her deceased father and the self-centered uncle.  Marian retains some doubt towards the character of Glyde, but is happy to know that she will not be parted from her sister.

Then the marriage happens and the real Sir Percival Glyde is revealed.  And he's a broke jerk.  He's in ever worsening financial trouble, and Laura is his intended piggy bank.  At his home there is also his friend (for some reason another Italian) Count Fosco, and his wife- Laura's aunt.  Fosco and Glyde are very good friends, with the Count the obvious leader of the two men.

Marian at first likes the Count, but realizes that he has a hold on Glyde, and his wife is like some kind of Stepford spouse, happily rolling the fat man's cigarettes.  Still, his conversation and presence invigorate Marian. Soon, though she realizes that there is something sinister lurking behind his friendly facade.  Laura finally comes face to face with Anne, seeing for herself their close resemblance (I think I forgot to mention that they have similar features), but because Laura's Laura and Anne is Anne, she doesn't get down to the secret that Anne knows about Glyde that caused him to have her admitted to the asylum.  So frustrating!  I gaurante Marian could have gotten the secret out of her.  Sadly, Count Fosco, that wily brute, sees Anne meeting with Laura, and works with Glyde to prevent a second meeting.

And that's pretty much where I am.  Glyde is being all bullish, he wants Laura's money and one minute he's  like Mr. Hyde about it, but then Fosco pulls a string here or there and he's Dr. Jekyll again.  As I'm writing this I'm at the point where Marian is sneaking out to give two letters to Laura's recently sacked maid (her new one brings to mind a crazed Annie Wilkes of Misery fame, only less intelligent and with none of the charm of Kathy Bates).

According to my Kindle I'm at 49% read, I've been going from my Kindle to audio on this book.  The audio's pretty good, but sometimes it's just easier to read than listen.  If I listen to audio I always feel I have to physically be doing something, and because I'm essentially pretty lazy, this doesn't happen often. I love listening to audio in my car, and I love that I can also get the Kindle to read out loud to me, despite the weird robot voice.

I can't wait to read what Anne has on Glyde!  I hope it's good.  I hope the knowledge blows Glyde and Fosco out of the water.  I hope to see Hartwright again, and although I find his and Laura's love a little boring, I hope they meet again.  And obviously I can't wait to see what Marian does next.

Phew!  I guess I had a lot to say about the book, and I'm only not-quite-half-way done.   If you're looking for a good classic book that isn't cumbersome or difficult to read but highly entertaining than I can happily recommend The Woman in White to you.

Now I'm off to start Rebecca, which I'm reading for another read-a-long and as my book club selection and I don't have too many days to read it (I actually should be half way through it for the read-a-long but I didn't want to read it too far ahead of my book club meeting this Thursday).




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