January 03, 2013

40 Books for 2012: Roundup

#12: Finding Magic by Stacia Kane
#13: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
#14: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
#15: Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie
#16: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
#17: Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris
#18: The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
#19: Tempest’s Fury by Nicole Peeler
#20: When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle
#21: Ashes by Ilsa Bick
#22: Fourth Comings by Megan McCafferty
#23: Chasing Magic by Stacia Kane
#24: Shadows by Ilsa Bick
#25: My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher
#26: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
#27: New York to Dallas by J.D. Robb

So... yet again, I did not meet my goal. And um, I may have also stopped blogging my reads mid-year. Oops. So maybe, new goal for 2013? Stop re-reading old books, so I can try more new books? Sounds like a plan.

June 21, 2012

May Reads: 40 Books for 2012

#11: Sweethearts by Sara Zarr – Childhood friends and outcasts, Jennifer and Cameron, were eachother’s sole confidants, until they were ripped apart. Years later, Cameron comes back, but the Jennifer he knew is gone. She’s reinvented herself as thin and popular Jenna. Now the two have to figure out how they fit into eachother’s lives, or if they do at all. I really liked this story, especially the unexpected ending, but it was heartbreaking and didn’t leave me with any warm and fuzzies.

April Reads: 40 Books for 2012

#10: Sacrifical Magic (Downside Ghosts, book 4) by Stacia Kane – I love this series, but I’ve never seen such a mess of a heroine. A junkie that grew up in foster homes who never learned to trust a single person is attempting to have her first serious adult relationship. It’s heartbreaking to witness, especially because she just can’t seem to keep herself from screwing it up. But she keeps trying, because she’s in love with a man named Terrible, the right-hand man of the neighborhood pimp and drug-dealer. Oh, and there are ghosts.

March Reads: 40 Books for 2012

#8: Charmed Thirds (Jessica Darling, Book 3) by Megan McCafferty – I don’t even know why I continue with this series. Jessica Darling annoys me so much. But I just can’t help needing to know if she makes a recovery of the trainwreck of her life. So far, not so much. Charmed Thirds covers Jessica four years of college. Sadly, her boyfriend Marcus Flutie is absent for most of it, as they are off having very different college experiences. And in typical Marcus fashion, he joins a freaking commune. Jessica does a plethora of stupid, obnoxious, and/or selfish things, and I still hate her. Then, at the end, Marcus reappears and I’m reeled in again.

#9: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen – So I loved Pride and Prejudice, right? LOVED. Then went on to watch the five hour BBC production and loved that too. I remembered liking the Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet version of Sense and Sensibility when it came out, so surely I would like reading it too? No. Many times NO. It took me forever, was so very boring and contained obscene amounts of gossip about how much money people have. So crass. And the Dashwood girls are no Bennett sisters.

March 07, 2012

February Reads: 40 Books for 2012

"According to Dickens, the first rule of human nature is self-preservation and when I forgive him for writing a character as pathetic as Oliver Twist, I’ll thank him for the advice."

-Jellicoe Road

Yes, my reading list is still pretty heavy with the YA selections. The Young Adult genre has simply produced some of the most amazing stories in the last ten years. It’s so different than how I remember YA from when I was a kid. I adored my beloved Paula Danziger, but I read all of her books in middle school. By high school, I read nothing but adult fiction. If YA fiction had been this amazing and epic when I was in high school, I wouldn’t have had to read all that Anne Rice. And may have abandoned black lipstick that much sooner.

#4: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater – Set on an island off Ireland where the annual sport every November is catching vicious water horses and racing them for a cash prize. This book was scary and brutal, but also incredibly moving and memorable. The characters were all so sympathetic and realistic, and the Irish village setting was so quaint and freezing. The main characters Kate and Sean also had some significant swoon factor. [book club selection]

#5: Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta – This is quite simply, one of the best books I’ve ever read. It was so good, that the moment I finished it, I started reading it all over again. I never do that. Taylor Markham goes to school on the Jellicoe Road where every Fall for a generation, a group of cadets from a military academy descends on the school property, and territory wars erupt between the two schools and the townies. This year, Taylor is in charge of the Jellicoe side, and Jonah Griggs, a boy from her murky past, is in charge of the cadets. There are so many amazing layers to this story, and all of the characters are fantastic, and I love them so much.

#6: Sloppy Firsts (Jessica Darling, Book 1) by Megan McCafferty – Jessica Darling’s best friend, Hope, has just moved away and left her alone in a high school where she seems to hate everyone and everything. The book is comprised of journal entries and letters to Hope about how awful her pseudo-friends are and her growing obsession with oddly hot pothead, Marcus Flutie. I liked aspects of this book, like the awesome stylings of Marcus Flutie, but overall found Jessica to be such a miserable whiner that she’s not at all sympathetic. [book club selection]

#7: Second Helpings (Jessica Darling, Book 2) by Megan McCafferty – So I loved Marcus Flutie so much, that I read the second Jessica Darling book just to get more of him. And this book, though still written as a series of whiny Jessica’s journal entries and letters, was much more rewarding in the Marcus Flutie department, and for that, I am grateful. This is Jessica’s senior year of high school, and she finally has some epiphanies about herself that serve to make her a slightly less obnoxious teenager. And I will probably read the third book in the series, because, you know, MARCUS.

February 23, 2012

Why aren't you watching The Vampire Diaries?

“There’s no such thing as a bad idea, just poorly executed awesome ones.”

-Damon Salvatore

February 22, 2012

Something to keep in mind when making your Oscar picks.

Via Lindy West:

A Los Angeles Times study found that academy voters are markedly less diverse than the moviegoing public, and even more monolithic than many in the film industry may suspect. Oscar voters are nearly 94% Caucasian and 77% male, the Times found. Blacks are about 2% of the academy, and Latinos are less than 2%. Oscar voters have a median age of 62, the study showed. People younger than 50 constitute just 14% of the membership.

Oscar winner Jack Palance = it all makes sense now.

February 10, 2012

My Oscar Predictions 2012

Geez, when did the Best Picture category get so glutted? I think I agree with most of Roger Ebert's predictions this year. (Though you'll note that I also predict the possible upset where applicable.) Ebert predicts The Artist for Best Picture, which is a perfectly rational guess, based on it's performance at the preceeding award shows. However, I do not have that much faith in the Academy. I think The Artist will be too avant-garde for their sensibilities, and they'll choose The Help, just like they chose Crash, and Forrest Gump. Because sometimes, the Academy is just dumb.

Best PictureExtremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Midnight in Paris
The Artist
The Descendants
The HelpThe Tree of Life
War Horse

Leading ActorBrad Pitt (Moneyball)
Demian Bichir (A Better Life)
Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
George Clooney (The Descendants)
Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
My heart says "George Clooney!" because... well, why wouldn't your heart cry out for him? But Jean Dujardin is likely the sure bet, especially if the voter didn't choose his movie for Best Picture. Can you say 'consolation prize'?

Leading ActressGlenn Close (Albert Nobbs)
Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)
Michelle Williams (My Week With Marilyn)
Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
Viola Davis (The Help)
For the love of all that is holy, Academy, do not screw this up. Do not give yet another freaking award to a tepid Meryl Streep movie.

Supporting ActorChristopher Plummer (Beginners)Jonah Hill (Moneyball)
Kenneth Branagh (My Week With Marilyn)
Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close)
Nick Nolte (Warrior)
If it doesn't go Plummer's way (though he's old, and the Academy loves that shit), look for Nick Nolte for the upset.
Supporting ActressBerenice Bejo (The Artist)
Jessica Chastain (The Help)
Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids)
Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs)
Octavia Spencer (The Help)
Melissa McCarthy could be the upset here, and with good reason. Though Octavia had the more serious performance, and that always has the edge.

Animated FeatureA Cat in Paris
& Rita
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots

Hugo (Martin Scorsese)Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen)
The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius)
The Descendants (Alexander Payne)
The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick)
Again, I break with Ebert. The Academy loves them some freakin' Scorsese (drink!). Though, this is also another consolation prize award, and they may choose to give it to Terrence Malick, because Tree of Life won't be picking up a single other statue.

Screenplay (Adapted)The DescendantsHugo
The Ides of March
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Though Moneyball could be the upset here.

Screenplay (Original)The Artist
Margin Call
Midnight in ParisA Separation

Documentary FeatureHell and Back Again
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
Paradise Lost 3: PurgatoryPina

And just in case you're curious, I'm also calling A Separation for the Foreign Language Film.

February 09, 2012

January Reads: 40 Books for 2012

#1: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart – Fifteen year-old Frankie is a sophomore at a prestigious prep school who went from ugly duckling to swan over the Summer. She’s acquired a hot senior boyfriend Matthew, and been accepted into his group of friends - except for the secret meetings that Matthew doesn’t tell her about. Frankie manages to infiltrate the secret club and lead them into their best pranks ever, without their knowledge. Everyone in my book club loved this book, so I expected to like it better. But I wanted Frankie to be more invested in her own life, instead of trying to find acceptance from a secret boys club. It was good, but it didn’t quite live up to the hype.

#2: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – Sixteen year-old Hazel has been living with terminal cancer for three years. Her life is centered around her parents and her trashy reality shows, and the oxygen tank she has to lug everywhere she goes, until she meets amputee and cancer survivor Augustus Waters at her teen cancer group. I don’t want to give too much away, but the truth is, I have a hard time talking about this book. It’s an incredibly emotional experience, and it stays with you for a really long time. Two days after finishing it, I broke down in tears at a stoplight. It’s not just the best John Green book, it may be the best book ever. My favorite review, from Forever Young Adult: Augustus Waters is MAGIC.

#3: Something Wikkid This Way Comes: A Novella by Nicole Peeler – Capitola, Shar, and Moo, the #1 ladies detective agency from Nicole Peeler’s Tempest Legacy gets their own story. They’re hired to investigate cult-like disappearances at a girls’ Catholic school. This was a light mystery, that I read in one evening on my Kindle for iPhone app. I wasn’t especially attached to the characters. I think the thing that works best about the Jane True series for me is Jane True herself, who is sadly absent from this story.

January 19, 2012

December Reads: 50 Books for 2011

37 books. Sadly, I did not reach my goal of 50 new books for 2011. It’s very likely that I did read 50 books last year, just due to the fact that I’m a re-reading nerd. There are a handful of books that I read over again every single year (the entire Twilight saga – to my utter shame, the first few books of the In Death series, Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me and Jude Deveraux’s Sweet Liar – just to name a few). But the idea of this type of goal is to get me out of that rut and trying new books, authors, and genres. So now I’m thinking of a more conservative goal for 2012. What do we think of 40 new books this year?

2011 Round-up:

#35: Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen – Formerly chubby Colie spends the Summer with her eccentric aunt, working at a diner and making friends with a couple of older girls, and a quirky artist named Norman. This is my second Sarah Dessen novel. And while I don’t completely adore the heroines in either story, I like where the stories go, and I do love the secondary characters. This book made me want to spend the Summer at the beach (reading Sarah Dessen books) in an assortment of flashy sunglasses.

#36: Dead Reckoning (Sookie Stackhouse, Book 11) by Charlaine Harris – Sookie Stackhouse’s workplace gets bombed and she gets sucked into yet another supernatural political intrigue, and it’s pretty much just another day at the office. I still love Sookie. But I think this series should have ended about three books ago, so now everything is just dragging. And I really hate how much Eric has changed as a character. It doesn’t seem realistic. And yes, I’m talking about a thousand year old vampire and realism.

#37: The Ruby in the Smoke: A Sally Lockhart Mystery by Philip Pullman – I keep going back and forth on whether I liked this book. I said 'no' when my book club met to discuss it. The Victorian London and opium dens setting is fascinating and moody. The mystery-solving in that era reminded me heavily of my beloved Francesca Cahill mysteries. And I liked the secondary characters, and the family of misfits that they build together. But I never really liked Sally. I liked her unconventional business skills, and her curiosity. But otherwise, she fell somewhat flat for me. [book club selection]

January 05, 2012

November Reads: 50 Books for 2011

#32: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling - This book is adorable and hilarious, much like Mindy herself. It has excellent advice for how to be a good friend and how to be a hot dude. So basically, it's the best gift book of all time.

#33: Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen - I have started this book a dozen times over the years and finally made it over the hump. Around chapter 40, it starts to get really juicy. Based on Pinterest, the quote “You have bewitched me body and soul.” plays a huge part. Except it's totally not in the book! I'm assuming it's from the Colin Firth BBC mini-series (which I got for Christmas, and can't wait to devour all 5 hours). I really loved the story, and the characters, just as I knew I would. I just had to get past those first tiresome chapters.

#34: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs - This YA novel was based on a series of old photos of children that appear to be in some kind of circus sideshow. It was okay, though the main character was came off as super whiny. The ending is somewhat abrupt and unsatisfying, due to a sequel (or likely, yawn, trilogy) in the works. [book club selection]

December 28, 2011

This is my ouch face.

I poked a hole in my nose. Happy birthday Sally! Now it's your turn!

December 14, 2011

A Letter to Santa

Cooper's Christmas wish list as dictated to his 11 year-old aunt. God forbid Santa leave some non-shiny coins in his stocking.

November 17, 2011

October Reads: 50 Books for 2011

It was a YA-tastic October! For no reason at all, and completely by accident, all of the books I finished in October were from the Young Adult genre. Okay, it wasn’t completely by accident as two of the selections were for the Forever YA book club I joined.

#28: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - Is a 576 page tome about an orphan, her foster family, and the Jew hidden in their basement in Nazi Germany during World War II. It’s horribly depressing, mainly because everyone is starving and then dies. Okay, not everyone. But geez, did I need a fluffy romance novel to recover from this one. Liesel, the 11 year-old heroine learns to read over the course of the book and also begins accumulating a collection of stolen books. I didn’t love this story. I could see how it was skillfully written, but by the end, it was very hard to find something good to take away from it. Due to the sucking of the joy out of the world. And I hated the narrator. [book club selection]

#29: The Radleys by Matt Haig – This was recommended to me by two avid readers and it’s vampire YA – what more could I want?? The Radley’s are your average suburban-dwelling English family that go to work, go to school, eat dinner, socialize with the neighbors, take out the trash etc. Except they’re also vampires. I really enjoyed the family dynamic juxtaposed against the paranormal drama. It was entertaining, and had some genuinely exciting moments. And even with all the moodiness and noir of a vampire family drama, it was a relaxing breath of fresh air after The Book Thief.

#30: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor – This YA fantasy has some insane world building and fascinating secondary characters. The heroine Karou, is a blue-haired, tattooed art student in Prague, with a very unusual part time job. She's kickass and incredibly vivid. The Prague setting is wonderfully drawn and has me dying to visit and have a bowl of goulash in a hidden cafe. I would never have chosen this novel for myself, but actually really enjoyed it and look forward to a sequel. [book club selection]

#31: This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen - This is my first Sarah Dessen (the reigning queen of YA romance). Remy is the daughter of a one-hit-wonder rock star and an oft-married mother and is cynical about romance. Then she meets Dexter, a mess of a dude in a band. I kind of like the fact that Dexter took on the manic pixie dream girl role. I had a hard time connecting with Remy because I didn't understand her terror of committing herself to awesome Dexter. But I liked the ending and will be squeezing in some more Sarah Dessen.

It happened to me.