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.