End of 2010 Survey

Jamie at The Perpetual Page Turner came up with this survey for the end of the year and I thought it would be the perfect way to ease back into blogging after a couple weeks off.

1. Best book of 2010 - East of Eden and The Hunger Games series tie for my favorite books for the year for different reasons. East of Eden was one of the most thought provoking books I read all year. The Hunger Games was the most exciting and anticipated.

2. Worst book of 2010 - The Yiddish Policeman's Union was the worst for me. It did not hold my attention and I started and stopped reading it multiple times this year.

3. Most disappointing book of 2010 - Both Blue Highways and Travels With Charley were big letdowns. Funnily enough, they are both travelogues. I read the first on my roadtrip across the country where I thought I would be completely into it. Unfortunately, I found it to be very boring and it took me the longest to read of any book all year. Travels With Charley was a book I'd gotten so excited about after hearing so many good things from other people. It ended up falling pretty flat after all that hype.

4. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2010 - The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay was a huge surprise for me. For a very thick book about comic book creators, I really enjoyed it.

5. Book you recommended most to people in 2010 - My most recommended this year was The Millenium trilogy. I read the first two of the series last year and finally was able to finish it out back in the spring. Since then I've been telling everyone to get their hands on it right away!

6. Best series you discovered in 2010 - The Wake series by Lisa McCann and The Hunger Games. Both were exciting and action packed that had me on the edge of my seat in anticipation for the next book in the series.

7. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2010 - Jay Asher, Kody Keplinger, Lisa McCann, Rob Sheffield

8. Most hilarious read of 2010 - Going Bovine had me laughing a ton, even though it had it's super sad moments. I also read the first 3 Stephanie Plum books this year and they all had my laughing out loud.

9. Most thrilling, unputdownable book of 2010 - The Hunger Games series and Hate List were all books I absolutely flew through. I think I read Hate List in just a day which hasn't happened probably since the final Harry Potter books was released.

10. Book you most anticipated in 2010 - Great House by Nicole Krauss was my most anticipated. Right around the time it came out I got really backed up on books from the library and I STILL haven't read it. I actually just picked up my copy from the library yesterday and plan to have it be my first read of 2011.

11. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2010 - I read a lot of e-books this year, so I didn't always pay attention to cover designs. The ones that stand out to me the most are Dreamland by Sarah Dessen Going Bovine by Libba Bray. The Dreamland cover had me thinking the book was about something completely different and the cover for Going Bovine is pretty silly but sums up the book very well.

12. Most memorable character in 2010 - Katniss from the Hunger Games stands out the most in my memory.

13. Most beautifully written book of 2010 - East of Eden had some fantastic language and was almost poetic. Some of my favorite quotes this year came from this book.

14. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2010 - I think I'd have to say My Sister's Keeper had the greatest impact on me. I felt incredibly heavy after finishing it and cried for a really long time throughout.

15. Book you can't believe you waited until 2010 to read - East of Eden!



I apologize for being MIA these last couple weeks. I started a new job and was busy preparing for the holidays. My plan was to catch up on my reading and writing of reviews this week, but I got stranded in New England after the blizzard we had yesterday. I couldn't get another flight out until Thursday so I'm computerless for another few days.

I hope you all had wonderful holidays and are keeping warm! Expect an influx of posts this weekend when I get a chance to play catch up.


Review: Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Book: Hate List by Jennifer Brown
Published: Little, Brown and Company, 2009
Genre: YA
Pages:  405 pages
Where I got it: got an e-book copy for my Nook
Buy It: Amazon

Summary (from Goodreads): Five months ago, Valerie Leftman's boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saved the life of a classmate, but was implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things she and Nick hated. The list he used to pick his targets.
Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life.

My thoughts: I've been on a really great streak of captivating young adult novels lately. Hate List was another book that I could not put down. Brown tells Valerie's story by alternating between present and past which had me hooked from the beginning. The subject matter is tough, especially after all of the issues with bullying that have come to light in the last couple of years but the story will really leave you stunned. Valerie kept a notebook full of things she hated, including people, places and inanimate objects. When her boyfriend, Nick, found out about the list and began adding things to it, she thought nothing of it. Soon Nick started mentioning suicide and killing people in great detail until one day he finally carried out the plan he seemed to have hinted at for months before, killing several classmates and a teacher before turning the gun on himself.

Thinking about the way Valerie must have felt about being an indirect cause of the shooting makes the story all the more interesting. She had pretty natural thoughts for a teenager, like wishing she could get revenge on the people who make her life hell at school. I know I have said things in the heat of the moment that I never truly meant, but Val's boyfriend took the hate list that they started literally. Despite the fact that so many people treated her like a criminal and her role in the shooting wasn't completely determined, I really liked Val's character. I felt so bad for her and how she really had no one on her side other than her therapist. In addition to dealing with the ramifications of the shooting, Val also had to deal with her crumbling family and the loss of the guy she loved. It was amazing to me that she even went back to the same school at all.

The ending of Hate List was fantastic. Valerie went through so much during her senior year and this book made me feel like I had experienced it all with her. When she is finally able to graduate and present the project she was working on, it was very touching. She grew as person and was able to get back into a good place with the important people in her life. It was nice to see a happy resolution to such a terrible situation. I'd recommend anyone read this book!

My rating: 4 stars 


Book Review: Love Is A Mixtape by Rob Sheffield

Book: Love Is A Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield
Published: Three Rivers Press, 2007
Genre: Non-fiction/ Memoir
Pages:  219 pages
Where I got it: bought at Borders
Buy It: Amazon

Summary (from book jacket): Mix tapes: We all have our favorites. Stick one into a deck, press play, and you're instantly transported to another time in your life. For Rob Sheffield, that time was one of miraculous love and unbearable grief. A time that spanned seven years, it started when he met the girl of his dreams., and ended when he watched her die in his arms. Using the listings of fifteen of his favorite mix tapes, Rob shows that the power of music to build a bridge between people is stronger than death. You'll read these words, perhaps surprisingly, with joy in your heart and a song in your head- the one that comes to mind when you think of the love of your life.

My thoughts: Even before I picked up Love Is A Mix Tape, I knew that I was really going to love it. Music has always been one of my biggest interests, so when I first heard about this memoir and the way Sheffield weaves the story of finding and losing the love of his life with some of his favorite tunes, I was siked. It took me far too long to get my hands on a copy and then actually read it. It's a short book, just over 200 pages, and all of the pop culture references make it a fun and relatable story. I often found myself saying "YES! I loved that song!" or "OMG, I totally know what he means!" Their love for baseball and the Red Sox also had me just loving them as a couple.

My boyfriend and I met in a Psychology class in college. One of the first connections we had was through music. The first time we hung out outside of class, I took him to my car and went through all of my CDs, giving him anything he didn't already have. Our first Christmas together, we both unknowingly made mix CDs for each other and continued making mixes for each other that often had many of the same songs on them. Finding someone that can share my love of music has always been something I dreamed of, so to see that in a couple like Rob Sheffield and his late wife, Renee, really made my heart happy. It was touching to read about love from a man's point of view. He describes Renee with such affection, it's plain to see he was head over heels for her from the day they met. I loved this quote he used to describe her, "She was in the middle of everything, living her big, messy, epic life, and none of us who loved her will ever catch up with her".

Another thing I loved about this book was Sheffield's description of mix tapes and the desire to share music with others. As a kid, when I was not reading or out playing with my friends in the neighborhood, I was in my room listening intently to the radio, waiting for songs I liked so I could tape them off the radio and make my own mix tapes. I wore out my old stereo doing that kind of thing. I used to keep a notebook where I wrote down what number each song was every week during Kasey Kasem's top 40 countdown. I would use my parents 5 disc CD changer on shuffle to make my own top 40 countdown (with only 5 artists, haha). I was a huge music nerd but those were the things I loved to do. I felt a kinship with Sheffield while reading this because it was all so familiar to me. I loved that the beginning of each chapter included a new mix tape with so many songs that I remember from the 80's, 90's and early 2000's. I also thought it was funny that Rob was a fan of Hanson. I was a huge fan, but I was also a 12 year old girl then.

When Sheffield's wife passed unexpectedly, he had a very difficult time moving on with his life. Music haunted him but also became a form of therapy. I can't imagine what he went through when he lost Renee. I have a hard time listening to certain songs or albums that remind me of bad times in my life, but Sheffield spent 7 years sharing every part of his life with Renee. This was a heartbreaking story about how he dealt with his loss and eventually learned to move on without her. I expected to cry while reading this, but there was enough humor in Love Is A Mix Tape that I felt a balance. It was definitely a sad memoir, but I had this feeling like everything was going to be okay for him eventually. Sheffield's final act of letting go of Renee was incredibly touching. He took all of her hats to Central Park and spread them around, putting a note on them that they were free. I thought that was a great way to honor her and spread her cheer around a place that she loved.

If you are a fan of music, pop culture or just a beautiful love story in general, go out and get a copy of Love Is A Mix Tape. Rob Sheffield is a fantastic writer with a huge capacity to love, as you will see demonstrated in this memoir.

My rating: 4.5 stars


Top Ten Tuesday - Favorite Reading Spots

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme featured on The Broke and the Bookish. This week we are talking about our favorite reading spots.

1. My couch - I've been spending lots of time curled up on my couch with a book lately. It's comfy but it's pretty dark in the evenings. I need to get a brighter lamp before I go blind from straining my eyes!

2. On my roof deck - the apartment I moved into over the summer has an awesome roof deck. I spent many afternoons out there on my little beach chair. I've been looking for a more comfortable lounge chair to put up there.

3. On the futon in my loft - this is a great substitution for reading outside. It gets really bright in the loft and I can lay right next to the sliding glass door which lets in a nice breeze.

4. My bed - I love curling up under the blankets on a cold day. Sometimes I end up falling asleep though.

5. At the park - Some days there is really just nothing better than spreading out a blanket in the grass and laying down with a book.

6. At the beach - As much as I love the beach, I tend to get bored just laying on a towel or sitting in a chair trying to get a tan. Having a book makes it more enjoyable and it also makes me feel productive. It's not always the most comfortable place to read, but I still love reading by the ocean.

7. On the train - When I lived and worked in Boston, I got so much reading done on my commute to and from work. As long as I was able to get a seat, I was guaranteed a half hour each way of losing myself in a book. It was a nice way to de-stress right after a long day of work.

I think those are the places I enjoy reading most. I can't think of a full list of ten. I'm going to have to explore new places to read!


Book Review: The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

Book: The DUFF by Kody Keplinger
Published: Little Brown/ Poppy, 2010
Genre: YA Fiction
Pages:  288 pages
Where I got it: got an e-book copy for my Nook
Buy It: Amazon

Summary (from Goodreads): Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn’t think she’s the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She’s also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her “the Duff,” she throws her Coke in his face.
But things aren’t so great at home right now, and Bianca is desperate for a distraction. She ends up kissing Wesley. Worse, she likes it. Eager for escape, Bianca throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with him.
Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out Wesley isn’t such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

My thoughts: The DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) is a story about self esteem during the teenage years. If you talk to pretty much any young girl with a group of girlfriends, you'll find out that she has felt like the duff at one time or other. When Bianca Piper meets the hot, womanizing Wesley Rush, it's clear he's only after one thing. He is looking to score with Bianca's good looking friends and chatting up the duff is a good way to score brownie points with her friends. He introduces the term "the Duff" to her and continues to address her as such throughout the book. Bianca is a smart girl who doesn't fall for guys like Wesley. When her family life starts to go downhill, Bianca finds that kissing him is the perfect distraction from her troubles. Eventually she finds herself starting to care about Wesley and getting jealous of the other girls he's seeing. The DUFF was a fun, quick read for me (I read it in just a few hours), although a little predictable at times.

The DUFF had it's depressing moments, like when Bianca would get down on herself for the way Wesley was calling her the duff (although he usually didn't treat her like he thought of her that way). It was sad to read about the developing troubles with her parents. I liked Bianca even though I felt like I probably shouldn't. She was a promiscuous hypocrite when it came to Wesley and was kind of the downer of her group of friends, but her snarky attitude was what won me over. Her two best friends were polar opposites of her, both peppy and popular. I could not stand Bianca's crush, Toby Tucker, and thought there were certain parts of their brief relationship that were odd. He didn't seem like her type at all, other than them both being smart kids who don't typically follow the trends that the other students do. I was rooting for Bianca and Wesley in the end and I'm happy with the outcome of the story.

I was amazed to find out that Kody Keplinger wrote this book when she was a senior in high school. I think that her characterizations of high school students were pretty spot on, so I guess I shouldn't have been so surprised. She's definitely a young, new author to watch. I'm looking forward to reading her next effort.

My rating: 4 stars 


In My Mailbox/ Weekly Reading Wrap-Up (7)

Job hunting is a frustrating process. Since beginning my search back in July, I feel like I've been riding a rollercoaster. This past week was the 3rd or 4th time that I thought I finally was going to be hired, only to be strung along a little further. I still may get this particular job, but it's not as in the bag as they made it seem. I've been trying to lose myself in my reading to de-stress myself (it's working, plus I'm getting so much reading done). This week I read and reviewed Alice I Have Been and The Jane Austen Book Club. I also finished reading The DUFF by Kody Keplinger, which I'll be reviewing tomorrow. I'm reading Love Is A Mixtape by Rob Sheffield now and loving it!

I also had a pretty good week in my mailbox. I discovered Net Galley and am super psyched to start reading and reviewing ARC's that way.

From Borders:

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

From Amazon:

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (I left my copy at my parents house in Massachusetts)

For review from Net Galley:

Miss Entropia and the Atom Bomb by George Rabasa
The Raising by Laura Kasischke
Everything I Was by Corinne Demas
Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky
The Diviner's Tale by Bradford Morrow
Adios, Nirvana by Conrad Wesselhoeft
The Lying Game by Sara Shepard

Thanks to HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Unbridled Books and Lerner Publishing Group! Also, thank you once again Kristi for hosting IMM.


Book Review: The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

Book: The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler
Published: A Plume Book, 2004
Genre: Fiction
Pages:  304 pages
Where I got it: bought it at a thrift store
Buy It: Amazon

Summary (from Goodreads): In California's central valley, five women and one man join to discuss Jane Austen's novels. Over the six months they get together, marriages are tested, affairs begin, unsuitable arrangements become suitable, and love happens. With her eye for the frailties of human behaviour and her ear for the absurdities of social intercourse, Karen Joy Fowler has never been wittier nor her characters more appealing. The result is a delicious dissection of modern relationships.

My thoughts:  I read quite a few negative or mediocre reviews about The Jane Austen Book Club before picking it up off my shelf. I was hesitant to read it, but I actually enjoyed this novel for the most part. The title is a bit off putting; once you start reading you will see that this is not a novel about Jane Austen, but about the people in the Jane Austen book club. I found the characters to be interesting, if not a little pretentious. The women of the book club were very snooty when it came to discussing the works of Jane Austen. Some of the thoughts they had about the man in the club, Grigg, bothered me. They accepted him into their group but often turned their noses up at his ideas because he wasn't as familiar with Austen as they were.

The beginning of the book had more discussions about Austen and quotes from her novels. I was enjoying how Fowler applied the events in whatever Austen novel they were reading at the time to the stories she told about the lives of her characters. About halfway through The Jane Austen Book Club, I felt like that really dropped off and it became a book about the characters completely. It didn't seem as cleverly written anymore. The relationship between Jocelyn and Grigg bugged me. It seemed to me that Jocelyn was just settling in the end. There wasn't very much chemistry between the two until she found out he had a crush on her. It felt very middle school to me. Fowler meant for there to be a happy ending, between Jocelyn & Grigg, and Sylvia welcoming her husband back home and into their book club. However, I couldn't shake the feeling that it was another matter of convenience for them to get back together.

I think too many people were expecting a book all about Jane Austen and her writing and this really wasn't that. If you are able to go into it knowing that, you will probably enjoy it more for what it is. Most of the characters are likeable and it was a relatively quick read (for me). If anything, I have an urge to read all of Jane Austen's novel, and in order. If you enjoy a story about the lives and relationships of people, most who happen to be book snobs, I'd suggest you give The Jane Austen Book Club a try.

My rating: 3 stars 


Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop

The Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books. In the spirit of the Twitter Friday Follow, the Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and share our love of the written word!
The question this week is: "What very popular and hyped book in the blogosphere did you NOT enjoy and how did you feel about posting your review?"

My answer: I don't think there has been a book that's been over hyped in the blogosphere that I had to write a negative review for yet. I'm still new to blogging and have been reviewing quite a few older books. I think the most disappointing book I read was No One Belong Here More Than You by Miranda July. I had high hopes for it and it ended up falling really flat for me. When writing my review, I tried to point out the positive points of the book to balance out my dislike for it.


Book Review: Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin

Book: Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
Published: Random House, 2010
Genre: Fiction
Pages:  345 pages
Where I got it: got an e-book copy for my Nook
Buy It: Amazon

Summary (from Goodreads): Alice Liddell Hargreaves’s life has been a richly woven tapestry: As a young woman, wife, mother, and widow, she’s experienced intense passion, great privilege, and greater tragedy. But as she nears her eighty-first birthday, she knows that, to the world around her, she is and will always be only “Alice.” Her life was permanently dog-eared at one fateful moment in her tenth year–the golden summer day she urged a grown-up friend to write down one of his fanciful stories.

That story, a wild tale of rabbits, queens, and a precocious young child, becomes a sensation the world over. Its author, a shy, stuttering Oxford professor, does more than immortalize Alice–he changes her life forever. But even he cannot stop time, as much as he might like to. And as Alice’s childhood slips away, a peacetime of glittering balls and royal romances gives way to the urgent tide of war. 

My thoughts: The story of Alice in Wonderland is such a familiar tale to people all over the world. What most people don't know is what happened between Lewis Carroll and the real Alice. This fictional tale may be an exaggerated retelling, but it has many of the facts shockingly correct. Learning that Lewis Carroll (real name: Charles Dodgson) may have been a child molester is really something that cannot be forgotten. I never really thought much about who was behind the creation of one of my favorite childhood fairytales until now. It is a disturbing look at the truth behind a fantastical world that will make you think about the story of Alice in a different way.

Alice I Have Been is an emotional novel that peeks into the life of the Alice who inspired the famous story. As a young girl, Alice Pleasance Liddell and her sisters spent many days hanging around Mr. Dodgson, who took a special interest in Alice. He came up with the story of Alice In Wonderland and Alice urged him to write it down. After an incident between the two, Alice is forbidden to see him. Alice I Have Been details her struggle with overcoming her past relationship with Mr. Dodgson and how it affected her throughout her life as she searched for her true identity, separate from the girl in the fairytale. He immortalized her as this young, carefree girl but he knew that she would one day grow up and not be the young girl he so admired.

I really enjoyed the writing in this novel. Alice was a tortured soul, but I was glad that she was able to come to terms with what happened before she died. It seemed that she always discovered things too late. She realized that she truly loved her husband after he passed, and it took her almost her entire life to read the full story of Alice in Wonderland because it was too painful for her to think about all that story put her through. Her relationship and feelings towards her three sons was heartbreaking and I'm not even a mother. Throughout all of this, she also had to deal with losing so many of her loved ones. A sister, a potential life partner, sons, parents, husband. It's a tragic tale that will have you on the edge of your seat. I found my self sympathizing with Dodgson as well. He seemed innocent enough, despite his interest in young girls. We don't actually know what occured between the two, as this is just Benjamin's mind at work. Alice and her family never spoke about it and Dodgson's family ripped the pages from that time of his life out of his journal.

Alice I Have Been is a more toned down Lolita. As the reader, if you are able to look past the scandal, this is an interesting and engaging novel that I'd recommend you read. I've been trying to figure out how to rate this one. As I neared the end, I could not put it down because I felt very attached to Alice's story and Benjamin's writing had me hooked from the beginning. I'm still a little creeped out by the relationship between Alice and Dodgson but I'm also quite intrigued about their history. Google Lewis Carroll's photographs of children if you are at all interested in this story and you will get a quick peek at the background of this novel.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars 


Top Ten Tuesday - Fictional BFF's

I haven't participated in Top Ten Tuesday in a few weeks because I've just been so busy with job hunting. When I saw that this week's topic was about the characters in fiction that we'd like to be best friends with, I knew I had to participate! Thank you to The Broke and the Bookish for hosting this meme.

My list is mostly characters from books I read as a kid. Most of the books that I read now, I get annoyed with the adult characters for some reason.

1. Hermione Granger (Harry Potter) - I always related to Hermione for being a bookworm and being a little uptight in certain situations. I felt like we could have been very good friends growing up. Plus she is a kickass girl who could get us out of just about any situation with her magic and her smarts.

2. Liesel (The Book Thief) - I loved Liesel because of her kindness and the way she cared for everyone, especially Max and Rudy. I think she and I would have gotten along so well.

3. Kristy Thomas (Babysitter's Club) - Even though Kristy was known for being a bossy big mouth, I always wanted to be best friends with her growing up. I was a big tomboy and thought Kristy and I had so much in common.

4. Pippi Longstocking - What an awesome, eccentric character in fiction! I wanted a friend like Pippi so badly as a kid.

5. Francie Nolan (A Tree Grows In Brooklyn) - Francie was a bookloving young lady who was curious about the world. When I read this a few years back, I immediately wished to have a friend like Francie, mostly because she reminded me so much of myself. Who doesn't want a best friend that's just like them?

6. Oskar (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close) - Oskar was such a smart character for a kid his age and the things he did were sometimes so heartbreaking. To have a best friend who was so innocent and kind hearted would have been great.

7. Leslie Burke (Bridge to Terabithia) - Leslie was the kid with the over active imagination. Everyone needs a friend like that to have fun with.

8. Anne Frank - not a fictional character, but after I read her diary in 8th grade I related to her so much. If I had known her, I definitely would have been friends with her.

9. Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House books) - I spent some of the best winter nights as a kid curled up reading about Laura and her family. She definitely would have been someone who I'd be friends with as a kid.

10. Stephanie Plum - The only adult character on my list, I love Stephanie's character in the Plum books. She's a little bit clumsy and bumbles her way through her job as a bounty hunter. I think that she and I would be good friends.

Honorable Mentions:
Scout Finch (To Kill A Mockingbird)
Gemma Doyle (Gemma Doyle Trilogy)
Kirsten (American Girl series)


Book Review: Catching Fire & Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Book: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Published: Scholastic, 2009
Genre: YA
Pages:  391 pages
Where I got it: library
Buy It: Amazon

Summary (from Goodreads): Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark won the annual competition described in Hunger Games, but the aftermath leaves these victors with no sense of triumph. Instead, they have become the poster boys for a rebellion that they never planned to lead. That new, unwanted status puts them in the bull's-eye for merciless revenge by The Capitol. Catching Fire maintains the adrenaline rush of Suzanne Collins's series launch.

My thoughts: The second installment in The Hunger Games trilogy was just as action packed and exciting to read as the first. I decided during book one that I was team Peeta, and Catching Fire confirmed my stance. I love Peeta's devotion to Katniss in this book, despite how he knows that a lot of it was acting on Katniss' part. The announcement of the way the Hunger Games will occur in their 75th year came as a complete shock to me, although looking back I should have expected something so dramatic from the evil President Snow. There was so much violence and betrayal present, I had to keep reminding myself that this is a series aimed at teens.

As with the first book, I liked how Collins portrayed Katniss as a real teen. There were times where she had selfish thoughts or arguments with the other victors but they were balanced out by the connections she made with Finnick and the older woman, Mags. The cliffhanger is pretty intense so I'd suggest if you're reading this series for the first time, you make sure you have Mockingjay on hand and some time on your hands because you will get sucked into the story! I finished Catching Fire in just a couple of days and dove immediately into Mockingjay, which is why I'm doing a combined review here. There are certain parts that are overlapping in my brain and I had to return the books to the library today, so I apologize if this review is lacking. I no longer have the books on hand to reference.

The verdict: 4 stars 

Book: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Published: Scholastic, 2010
Genre: YA
Pages:  400 pages
Where I got it: library
Buy It: Amazon

Summary (from Goodreads): Young Katniss Everdeen has survived the dreaded Hunger Games not once, but twice, but even now she can find no relief. In fact, the dangers seem to be escalating: President Snow has declared an all-out war on Kattnis, her family, her friends, and all the oppressed people of District 12. The thrill-packed final installment of Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy will keep young hearts pounding.

My thoughts (*spoilers*): I've heard from quite a few people that the third and final installment of the Hunger Games series was a letdown. I would agree that it's not on the same level as the first two, but I did not feel completely let down. I enjoyed reading about life in District 13 during the rebellion from the Capitol. It was a nice change of pace from the first two books being set during the Games. Mockingjay is set during an all out war. I believe this book also has the most violence in it out of the three. It was interesting to see a completely different, hijacked Peeta. I was still rooting for his recovery all along and happy with how Collins ended the story as far as Katniss and Peeta's relationship went.

However, I was really bummed about the deaths of both Finnick and Prim. Finnick's death seemed very unemotional for Katniss which was a little unbelievable to me after how close they had gotten. He was finally able to be happy with his one true love, Annie, and Collins killed him off without much of a second thought. Prim's death was just awful. The whole series began with Katniss volunteering for her sister so that she would not be put in harm's way, and she still ended up gone too young. I also felt that there were far too many details unresolved. After the rebellion and defeating the Capitol, was life really better for the people of Panem? What became of Gale or Annie and she and Finnick's child? Overall, this was a great trilogy that was fun and quick to read, but I would have enjoyed a more detailed wrap up of the story from Collins.

The verdict: 3 stars


In My Mailbox/ Weekly Reading Wrap-Up (6)

I haven't done an In My Mailbox or Weekly Reading Wrap-Up in a few weeks because I haven't really gotten any new books recently (sad, right?). This weekend ended up being a pretty good one for me though as far as books go. I've been on somewhat of a self imposed book ban since I'm still living the unemployed life. I've been sticking mostly to the library and catching up on unread books on my shelves. However, in my travels yesterday I happened to pass a Borders with a giant sign in the window "GOING OUT OF BUSINESS! EVERYTHING ON SALE!". Now tell me, how could I not swerve across traffic into their parking garage right away? I had to limit myself because books were only 20% off at this point so they aren't crazy deals yet. My boyfriend and I are thinking about going back soon to possibly buy a bookshelf and a chair or two and I'm hoping they will have marked books down even further. I should also mention that it was only this particular Borders that will be closing- I don't want to freak out any of you Borders enthusiasts!
Anyway, here's what I got in my mailbox this week.

From sale at Borders:

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender

From the library:

Catching Fire & Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

This week was a bit of a slower reading week for me. I've had visitors from New England the past 2 weekends and haven't gotten back into the swing of things just yet. I reviewed The Hunger Games and read and reviewed Eating Animals. With hosting the holiday this coming week, I'm really hoping I'll still be able to squeeze Catching Fire & Mockingjay in because Mockingjay is due back at the library on Saturday!


Book Review: Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

Book: Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
Published: Back Bay Books, 2010
Genre: Non-fiction
Pages:  267 pages
Where I got it: won it on Goodreads!
Buy It: Amazon

Summary (from Goodreads): Jonathan Safran Foer spent much of his teenage and college years oscillating between carnivore and vegetarian. As he became a husband and a father, he kept returning to two questions: Why do we eat animals? And would we eat them if we knew how they got on our dinner plates?
Brilliantly synthesizing philosophy, literature, science, and his own undercover detective work, Eating Animals explores the many fictions we use to justify our eating habits-from folklore to pop culture to family traditions and national myth-and how such tales justify a brutal ignorance. Marked by Foer's profound moral ferocity and unvarying generosity, as well as the vibrant style and creativity that made his previous books, Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, huge bestsellers, Eating Animals is a celebration and a reckoning, a story about the stories we've told--and the stories we now need to tell.

My thoughts: In Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer sets out to provide us with the facts about the animals we are eating in America. This is not a book that I would typically read but I'm a big fan of Foer's writing after Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, so I was interested to see what he had to say here. There were parts that felt a little too textbook for my taste, but I was surprised by how interested I was in all of the statistics and facts he detailed. I am not a vegetarian, although I'm not a huge meat eater either. Beef is the one meat that I think would be hard to give up if I decided to go vegetarian because I really do love a good burger now and then. 

This was the first account of how our meat is processed that really got to me. I haven't been able to eat any meat this week after reading some of the descriptions in Eating Animals. I like the way Foer presents his thoughts in a fairly neutral manner considering that he is a vegetarian himself. I don't feel like I'm being pressured or bullied into giving up meat. Since he is one of my favorite authors, I also find myself respecting his opinions and ideas a lot more. I think that's why the book got to me more than any documentary I've seen on factory farming. I was surprised by how much of the sea life was being affected by shrimp and tuna collection. Every vegetarian I know still includes fish in their diet. I've heard all about the mistreating of chickens and cows, but never really anything about how many fish are being injured or killed accidentally by fishermen. I think that Eating Animals is a good book for just about anyone to read. There are a lot of interesting facts that will allow you to make a more informed decision about what you're eating next time you're at the grocery store.

The verdict: 3 stars  


Book Blogger Hop!

Book Blogger Hop

Welcome to another week of the Book Blogger Hop, hosted by Jennifer at Crazy for Books! This week's question/ topic is: "Since Thanksgiving is coming up next week, let's use this week's Hop to share what we are most thankful for and what our holiday traditions are!"
I'm thankful for my supportive family back east, my amazing boyfriend who has been so encouraging as I have begun to get frustrated with the job search, all of my friends, new and old, and the exciting new life I've been living these past few months in California.
In the past, my family would spend Thanksgiving at my aunt's house. We were always told to be there for a 1pm dinner, but we knew we weren't actually going to eat until about 4. The boys always watch the football game and I tend to curl up with a book somewhere in her house. This year will be the first year that I don't get to see my family for Thanksgiving, since my boyfriend and I moved across the country over the summer and it's just too expensive to fly home for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. We are lucky enough to have been welcomed into a great group of friends out here (most of whom we went to college with). They all stay here for Thanksgiving as well, so this year, we are hosting the dinner for our friends. I can't wait!


Book Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Book: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Published: Scholastic Press, 2008
Genre: Young Adult
Pages:  384 pages
Where I got it: the library
Buy It: Amazon

Summary (from Goodreads): Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with every one out to make sure you don't live to see the morning?

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love. 

My thoughts: I am fairly certain I am one of the last few people on earth to delve into The Hunger Games series. I hadn't heard much about it until the final book, Mockingjay was released earlier in 2010. Since then it's been on the back of my mind to eventually get myself a copy in order to see what all the hype is about. Lately, I have found that a book that has been so hyped up ends up leaving me quite disappointed. I'm excited to say that The Hunger Games delivered exactly what I was hoping it would and I can't wait to finish my current book so I can start in on Catching Fire.

I think what I liked most about The Hunger Games was the concept. It's something so far-fetched and awful to think about that I became fascinated with Katniss' world. The book is decently sized at nearly 400 pages but it's very easy to breeze right through because the suspense makes it impossible to put down. I thought Katniss was one of the most likeable characters I have read about in a long time. She felt very real to me in the way that she volunteered for the games so that her younger sister, Prim, did not have to go. Her heart got her so far in a battle where caring for others was nearly impossible. I thought that her developing relationship with Peeta was interesting and I'm excited to see where that leads, as well as how her friendship with Gale with play into it.

The verdict: 4 stars  


Book Blogger Hop!

Book Blogger Hop

The Book Blogger Hop is a weekly meme run by Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books that lets us book bloggers interact and get to know one another in a fun way. This weeks question is:
"If you find a book that looks interesting but is part of a series, do you always start with the first title?"

My answer: Yes! The first book of a series always provides all of the back story and should set you up for the rest of the books. I hate missing out on little details or being lost because I didn't read a series in order. There are some series that don't necessarily have to be read in order or from the beginning but I just feel better doing so.


Book Review: Travels With Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck

Book: Travels With Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck
Published: Penguin, 2002 (originally 1962)
Genre: Non-fiction/ Travelogue
Pages: 214 pages
Where I got it: the library
Buy It: Amazon

Summary (from Goodreads): With his dog Charley, John Steinbeck set out in his truck to explore and experience America in the 1960s. As he talked with all kinds of people, he sadly noted the passing of region speech, fell in love with Montana, and was appalled by racism in New Orleans.

My thoughts: I really wanted to like this book. I read East of Eden recently and fell in love with Steinbeck's writing, plus I love traveling so I figured this would be right up my alley. Unfortunately, Travels With Charley fell flat for me. I was expecting more stories from the places he visited but instead found it was more filled with small snippets of interactions with people he met along the way. I had a lot of trouble finishing it and have been putting off writing this review because I'm really not sure what to say about it. I should note that I've been sick for over a week now and also had 6 people visiting from New Hampshire over the weekend so I took a little hiatus from reading in the middle. I think that added to my difficulty in getting through Travels With Charley. I'm not saying I hated it, but I just found it to be nothing special. I think I had hyped it up way too much and it ended up being a short book without enough detail for my liking.

Now for things I liked about it. I found the relationship between John and his french poodle, Charley, to be so endearing. I've never had a dog but reading a book like this is exactly why I'm anxiously anticipating the day I have a place that allows pets. His love and dedication to his dog is really what kept me reading. My favorite part of Travels With Charley was when they went to the national park to stay for the night and John is warned about bringing in Charley because of the bears. John assures the park ranger that Charley would never hurt a fly and should not be worried about the safety of the bears. Charley's surprising reaction upon seeing a bear for the first time is a great piece of this story that had me laughing out loud. Overall, I thought Travels With Charley was okay but lacking in parts.

The verdict: 2 stars


Book Review: Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Book: Going Bovine by Libba Bray
Published: 2009, Delacorte Press (an imprint of Random House)
Genre: YA
Pages: 480 pages
Where I got it: the library
Buy It: Amazon

Summary (from Goodreads): All 16-year-old Cameron wants is to get through high school—and life in general—with a minimum of effort. It’s not a lot to ask. But that’s before he’s given some bad news: he’s sick and he’s going to die. Which totally sucks. Hope arrives in the winged form of Dulcie, a loopy punk angel/possible hallucination with a bad sugar habit. She tells Cam there is a cure—if he’s willing to go in search of it. With the help of a death-obsessed, video-gaming dwarf and a yard gnome, Cam sets off on the mother of all road trips through a twisted America into the heart of what matters most.

My thoughts: (*possible spoilers!*)I think it's about time that I declare my love for Libba Bray. I read her Gemma Doyle trilogy a couple of years ago, which made me realize that I was missing out on some great Young Adult fiction/ fantasy.  So, naturally I was excited when I heard she was coming out with another book, Going Bovine. I love the writing in this book. Normally, I find myself annoyed when an author tries to integrate the language of a high school student into a book but I feel like Bray did a pretty good job of getting it right here. The story is so out there- Cam is diagnosed with Mad Cow Disease and sets off on an epic adventure with his hypochondriac dwarf friend, Gonzo. Along the way they pick up the lawn gnome/ Norse God, Balder, and meet a quirky cast of characters. This is a story about life and finding it's meaning. About being able to do all the things people should get to do before they die. It's about life, love and friendship.

Going Bovine is a modern day Don Quixote. Before Cam's diagnosis, he was reading the story of Don Quixote for class. I liked how his mission to save the world led him on his own adventure that included a car called the Buick Rocinante. For those of you that haven't read Don Quixote (I haven't, and didn't know this), his horse is named Rocinante. At one point on their trip, the guys end up at the Church of Everlasting Satisfaction and Snack 'N Bowl (CESSNAB), which turns out to be a happiness cult of sorts. At first Cam embraces their way of life and decides to stay for awhile. It's not until he ventures to their library and discovers there is only one book in the whole place that he realizes something is not right at CESSNAB. I loved the scene where Cam names off any book he can think of that would be safe for people to read and the librarian gives ridiculous excuses. It was Bray's way of poking fun at the ridiculousness of book banning.

Some people might be put off by Cam's attitude problem in the beginning or the bizarre turn this book takes when he meets his punk rock angel friend, Dulcie, but I suggest you give Going Bovine a try. It's a touching adventure with a deeper message of living life to the fullest. It gives a boy his last wish, To Live....

The verdict: 4 stars  


Top Ten Tuesday - Books that Made You Cry

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by those lovely ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish. The topic this week is the top ten books that made us cry. This one was actually pretty easy for me. I didn't realize how many tearjerkers I've read!

1. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger - such a sad, sad book and one of my all-time favorite's. The love story between Henry and Clare leads to a tragic end.
2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - I find myself crying when reading pretty much any book set during the Holocaust but this one seriously messed me up. I must have used a full box of tissues.
3. The Boy In the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne - another Holocaust book that is so tragic. Even though I knew how it was going to end after reading the book, I watched the movie alone and cried like a baby all over again.
4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling - Sirius Black :(
5. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks - does any Nicholas Sparks book have a happy ending?
6. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult - some really heavy subject matter in this one that just twisted my heart in so many ways.
7. PS, I Love You by Cecilia Ahern - so sad but kind of in a good way. Holli's late husband helps her move on.
8. Marley & Me by John Grogan - this book made me both want a dog so badly and not want an animal ever just because of how hard it is to lose them.
9. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson - one of the first books that ever made me cry. I used to have nightmares of my best friend dying.
10. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White - another book I read as a child that made me cry so hard.


Happy Halloween!

I hope everyone has enjoyed their Halloween weekend! Sadly, I can't do an In My Mailbox this week because I didn't get any books :( BUT! This past Wednesday was my birthday and I was lucky enough to get a couple of great gifts. My boyfriend's family sent me an Amazon gift card and my boyfriend surprised me after taking me out to dinner with a Nook! I was so giddy about that, he kept laughing at me. I haven't had a chance to read on it yet because of the stack of books I got at the library last week. I'm also planning to splurge on some books with the gift card but I feel overwhelmed in trying to choose. What are some recently released books you all have enjoyed?

I'll leave you all with a couple of photos from the Halloween party I attended last night. Did any of you have fun costumes?


Book Review: The Line by Teri Hall

Book: The Line by Teri Hall
Published: 2010, Dial Books
Genre: YA Dystopian Fiction
Pages: 219 pages
Where I got it: the library
Buy It: Amazon

Summary (from Goodreads): Rachel lives with her mother on The Property. The good thing about living there is that it's far from the city, where the oppressive government is most active. The bad thing, at least to most people, is that it's close to the Line - an uncrossable section of the National Border Defense System, an invisible barrier that encloses the entire country.

She can see the Line from the greenhouse windows, but she is forbidden to go near it. Across the Line is Away, and though Rachel has heard many whispers about the dangers there, she's never really believed the stories. Until the day she hears a recording that could only have come from across the Line.

It's a voice asking for help.

Who sent the message? What is her mother hiding? And to what lengths will Rachel go in order to do what she thinks is right?

Written in mesmerizing prose, this futuristic debut examines one girl's struggle to risk crossing - not just the barrier, but the lines her mother has drawn to keep her safe from the secrets that Rachel is only just beginning to discover.

My thoughts: The Line is one part dystopian fiction, one part paranormal. Rachel and her mother, Vivianne, live on The Property owned by the prim and curmudgeonly Ms. Moore. The government has been redesigned to rule all but Rachel has begun to question the sheltered life she has always known at The Property. The book starts out pretty slow but the action in the last 75 pages or so really redeemed it for me. I didn't love The Line, but I think it did a decent job pulling me in for at least the next book in the series. Once Rachel learned about the past of her family and her mom's employer, Ms. Moore, I was hooked. 

I read this book in about a day, as it's a pretty short novel at only 219 pages and each chapter is on average 5-8 pages. I really liked Rachel's character. She was so brave to offer to Cross the Line in order to save a man she has never met. We see her character beginning to grow into a young woman as The Line progresses. I do find it a little unbelievable that Rachel's mom, Vivianne, would actually let her go knowing that she may never be able to Cross back to their side. I'm definitely going to pick up the sequel, Away, when it is released sometime in 2011. I'm looking forward to finding out if Rachel's father is alive somewhere among the Others, what exactly the Others are, and if she'll be able to be reunited with her Mom.

The verdict: 3 stars  


Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop

The Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Jennifer at Crazy for Books. This week's question is:
What is one bookish thing you would love to have, no matter the cost?

My answer: I have been dreaming about having a room with wall to wall bookshelves, perhaps a window seat and some french doors. In the room, I would also have a big comfy chair where I could curl up and do all of my reading. Someday!

Thanks for stopping by my blog!


Book Review: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Book: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Published: 1959, Penguin
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 246
Where I got it: the library
Buy It: Amazon

Summary (from Amazon): Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House has unnerved readers since its original publication in 1959. A tale of subtle, psychological terror, it has earned its place as one of the significant haunted house stories of the ages.
Eleanor Vance has always been a loner--shy, vulnerable, and bitterly resentful of the 11 years she lost while nursing her dying mother. "She had spent so long alone, with no one to love, that it was difficult for her to talk, even casually, to another person without self-consciousness and an awkward inability to find words." Eleanor has always sensed that one day something big would happen, and one day it does. She receives an unusual invitation from Dr. John Montague, a man fascinated by "supernatural manifestations." He organizes a ghost watch, inviting people who have been touched by otherworldly events. A paranormal incident from Eleanor's childhood qualifies her to be a part of Montague's bizarre study--along with headstrong Theodora, his assistant, and Luke, a well-to-do aristocrat. They meet at Hill House--a notorious estate in New England.
Hill House is a foreboding structure of towers, buttresses, Gothic spires, gargoyles, strange angles, and rooms within rooms--a place "without kindness, never meant to be lived in...."
Although Eleanor's initial reaction is to flee, the house has a mesmerizing effect, and she begins to feel a strange kind of bliss that entices her to stay. Eleanor is a magnet for the supernatural--she hears deathly wails, feels terrible chills, and sees ghostly apparitions. Once again she feels isolated and alone--neither Theo nor Luke attract so much eerie company. But the physical horror of Hill House is always subtle; more disturbing is the emotional torment Eleanor endures. Intense, literary, and harrowing, The Haunting of Hill House belongs in the same dark league as Henry James's classic ghost story, The Turn of the Screw.

My thoughts: 
As far as a haunted house story goes, The Haunting of Hill House is one of the creepiest that I've read. The doors that would always slam shut and the way the house seemed to purposely get each person lost were the little things that made me regret that I was reading my flashlight in my dark bedroom. Some of the other things that added to this book's creep factor were the cold spot in the house and the banging that would happen in the hallways in the middle of the night that only certain people could hear. There was one particular moment of hand holding in the dark that had me shivering with fright. It reminded me of The Shining in many ways. If you're a Stephen King fan or you are into psychological thrillers, I would highly recommend this book.

With that said, I've been having trouble deciding if I actually liked The Haunting of Hill House or not.  The characters all seemed to change personalities from one minute to the next. I felt confused on whether Eleanor and Theodora liked each other. At times it was like they felt as though they were long lost friends and then at other times we would get Eleanor's internal monologue about how much she hated Theodora. I think that Shirley Jackson meant for us to dislike the characters but overall it just made me feel indifferent about the ending. I don't know if it was the house that was making everyone act weird or if everyone was just bipolar. There was so much buildup as the house was biding its time before it claimed one of the visitor's for its own but I wasn't overly shocked, nor did I feel bad for the person it chose. I did enjoy the buildup but I was slightly let down in the end. However, it was refreshing to read a ghost story that's strictly spine tingling instead of full with gore.

The verdict: 3 stars


Top Ten Tuesday - Books for Halloween

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.This week, we're talking about our favorite spooky books for Halloween, which just so happens to be my favorite time of year!

1. Scary Stories to Tell In The Dark by Alan Schwartz - as a kid, I LOVED scary stuff and these books were so creepy. The illustrations were pretty terrifying too.
2. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson - I'm reading this one currently and loving the spooky feel!
3. The Shining by Stephen King - this is my favorite Stephen King novel. Super creepy story and the movie is great as well!
4. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger - I read this around Halloween last year and while it's not as good as Niffenegger's first novel, I thought it presented itself well as a creepy read for Halloween.
5. Fear Street series - loved these as a kid. R.L. Stine definitely knows how to scare me!
6. Dracula by Bram Stoker - I read this last year at Halloween. I wasn't completely crazy for it but it's one of the original horror stories. I liked reading the simplified version of what a vampire is like instead of all the variations we have in the vamp novels out there now.
7. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley - my thoughts on Frankenstein are similar to those of Dracula. Even though I didn't love it, I think everyone should read this at least once around Halloween.
8. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski - loved the haunted house part of this book, the rest I could have done without. Definitely spooked me!

I can't believe I can't think of any more. I read so many horror stories as a kid, I wish I could remember all of them.


Book Review: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

Book: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
Published: 2000, Random House
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 662
Where I got it: my wonderful local library
Buy It: Amazon

Summary (from Goodreads): Had The Blair Witch Project been a book instead of a film, and had it been written by, say, Nabokov at his most playful, revised by Stephen King at his most cerebral, and typeset by the futurist editors of Blast at their most avant-garde, the result might have been something like House of Leaves. Mark Z. Danielewski's first novel has a lot going on: notably the discovery of a pseudoacademic monograph called The Navidson Record, written by a blind man named Zampanò, about a nonexistent documentary film--which itself is about a photojournalist who finds a house that has supernatural, surreal qualities. (The inner dimensions, for example, are measurably larger than the outer ones.) In addition to this Russian-doll layering of narrators, Danielewski packs in poems, scientific lists, collages, Polaroids, appendices of fake correspondence and "various quotes," single lines of prose placed any which way on the page, crossed-out passages, and so on.
Now that we've reached the post-postmodern era, presumably there's nobody left who needs liberating from the strictures of conventional fiction. So apart from its narrative high jinks, what does House of Leaves have to offer? According to Johnny Truant, the tattoo-shop apprentice who discovers Zampanò's work, once you read The Navidson Record,
For some reason, you will no longer be the person you believed you once were. You'll detect slow and subtle shifts going on all around you, more importantly shifts in you. Worse, you'll realize it's always been shifting, like a shimmer of sorts, a vast shimmer, only dark like a room. But you won't understand why or how.
We'll have to take his word for it, however. As it's presented here, the description of the spooky film isn't continuous enough to have much scare power. Instead, we're pulled back into Johnny Truant's world through his footnotes, which he uses to discharge everything in his head, including the discovery of the manuscript, his encounters with people who knew Zampanò, and his own battles with drugs, sex, ennui, and a vague evil force. If The Navidson Record is a mad professor lecturing on the supernatural with rational-seeming conviction, Truant's footnotes are the manic student in the back of the auditorium, wigged out and furiously scribbling whoa-dude notes about life. Despite his flaws, Truant is an appealingly earnest amateur editor--finding translators, tracking down sources, pointing out incongruities. Danielewski takes an academic's--or ex-academic's--glee in footnotes (the similarity to David Foster Wallace is almost too obvious to mention), as well as other bogus ivory-tower trappings such as interviews with celebrity scholars like Camille Paglia and Harold Bloom. And he stuffs highbrow and pop-culture references (and parodies) into the novel with the enthusiasm of an anarchist filling a pipe bomb with bits of junk metal. House of Leaves may not be the prettiest or most coherent collection, but if you're trying to blow stuff up, who cares?

My thoughts: House of Leaves has been on my to-read list for at least 4 years now but the sheer weight of the book has always had me putting it off. Since I joined my local library recently and a group I belong to on Goodreads was planning to tackle it for one of our October group reads, I finally put a copy on hold at the library. I've read a few reviews in the last week since I began the journey of reading it myself. Many people have said they don't understand why it is considered scary. To those people I say, what were you reading? I wasn't having nightmares or anything, but I was certainly spooked. Sure, if you only pay attention to the editor in the book, Johnny Truant's, asides about his own life, it's not scary. The retelling of The Navidson Record, which is what House of Leaves revolves around, had me completely engrossed most of the time. There were parts that read like a textbook, making it a little difficult to follow and absorb, but for the most part I flew through this book. Poltergeist is one of my favorite movies ever, so a story about a house that is essentially alive and changing form inside gets two thumbs up for me.

I wasn't really a fan of how much work it was to read House of Leaves at times. There were sections where words were strewn about the pages and I wasn't sure where exactly the next line was or I had to reread a couple of times in order to piece together what was going on. There was a stretch of pages that had only a word or a single line on them. Even though it adds to the suspense and somewhat schizophrenic feel of the novel, I couldn't help but think of how much paper was wasted on that. The use of photos, collages, letters etc. was a fun effect but there were pieces that I didn't really understand what they had to do with The Navidson Record or House of Leaves.

Like I mentioned earlier in this review, reading House of Leaves was like a journey because it took such an effort to read and there are quite a few story lines to follow. I liked it but I could have done without all of Johnny Truant's stories. None of them had anything to do with The Navidson's, other than him going crazy while obsessing over The Navidson Record just like Navidson became obsessed with his house. I think I would have much rather just read the whole account of The Navidson Record and the mysterious house on Ash Tree Lane that sucked people and objects into its depths, getting them lost and driving them slowly insane.

The verdict: 3 stars 


In My Mailbox/ Weekly Reading Wrap-Up (5)

In My Mailbox is a weekly feature hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. This week I finally made it to the library to pick up my copy of House of Leaves that I put on hold. I meant to only go in, grab the book and get out... Let's face it though, that was never going to happen. While I was there I also got:
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
The Line by Teri Hall
Going Bovine by Libba Bray
Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck

I'm slowly crossing off my list of books I've been dying to read, as mentioned in a Top Ten Tuesday post I did awhile ago, so I'm pretty pleased about that!

In the last week, I read and reviewed Frankenstein (in case you missed it- HERE) and started reading House of Leaves, which I'm just about done with. I'm glad to be getting some spooky reading in as Halloween approaches.


Book Blogger Hop!

Book Blogger Hop

The Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Jen at Crazy-for-Books. If this is your first time hopping by, drop me a comment so I can check out your hop as well. Happy hopping!

This week's question is: Where is your favorite place to read?

My answer: I've been learning to read just about anywhere these days, but one of my favorite places is on a beach chair on the roof deck of my apartment. I love to go up there in the warm sun and just relax. When it's cold, I usually choose to sprawl out on the couch under my favorite fleece blanket. Our new apartment has a fireplace that I can't wait to start using in the coming months!


Book Review: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Book: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Published: 1818
Genre: Fiction/Classic
Pages: 220
Where I got it: bought at a book sale years ago
Buy It: Amazon

Summary (from Goodreads): The epic battle between man and monster reaches its greatest pitch in the famous story of Frankenstein. In trying to create life, the young student Victor Frankenstein unleashes forces beyond his control, setting into motion a long and tragic chain of events that brings Victor himself to the very brink. How he tries to destroy his creation, as it destroys everything Victor loves, is a powerful story of love, friendship …and horror.

My thoughts: With it being so close to Halloween, I decided it was time to pull Frankenstein off my bookshelf. It didn't end up being that spooky, but I think I would have liked it less if I read it any other time of year. I also remember having a copy of Frankenstein when I was a kid, but I have a feeling it was adapted for kids because I remember it being quite easy to read. This time around, I had more trouble following the story in the beginning. As with many classics, the language in Frankenstein is very wordy. As I read on though, I came to enjoy the eloquent language and the story sucked me in. It helped to read the Sparknotes after each chapter, as I found there were small details I didn't pick up on in the book itself. Since I already knew the basic story of Frankenstein (who doesn't?), that also helped in my reading.
As far as the characters go, I felt bad for the monster. He became a very intelligent being after learning so well from the secret teachings of Felix, unbeknownst to him. His desire for a female version of himself humanizes him. He wants someone familiar that he can love, which is something almost every human hopes for in life. When he doesn't get what he wants from his creator, he lets himself become the monster he so desperately did not want to be by taking away Victor's loved ones so that he would know the monster's pain. I found it interesting that even in the early 1800's, appearance played such a large role on being accepted into society. 
I did not like Victor much. I didn't feel like there was much character development for him. He created this monster that was killing the important people in his life and would blame it on himself, then fall into a fever for months. This pattern happened repeatedly. At first he agreed to the creation of the female monster in order to protect the family that was threatened, but then he decides it's a bad idea and destroys his progress. He is being tortured by both the monster and himself and I'm surprised he lasted as long as he did. There wasn't much more to his character. He was a coward for abandoning his creation because of it's appearance and I believe he deserved the torture he was put through. In fact, I felt the whole story was lacking. With the numerous adaptations of Frankenstein over the years, little details have been added that were not in the original story. This came as a disappointment to me. There just wasn't enough excitement. Overall, I thought Frankenstein was a decent story that I'm glad I read during the month of October. The language made it enjoyable enough to read but I would have liked there to be more action.

The verdict: 2 stars