Sunday, July 31, 2011

Book Review: The Book Thief

I've been surprisingly productive this month as far as reading goes! Including the book I'll be blogging about below, I'll have read 5 books in July. This is way above average.

I don't know how close of attention everyone else pays to their reading, but I usually see trends indicating that I read the most in April and December. I tend to get really restless because of the rain in April. The fluctuation I always see in December for my reading can be attributed to two different factors:
  1. I'm trying to meet my page goal because I slacked off sometime around May
  2. One semester is over and another has yet to begin. I'm able to sneak out of work an hour early and run home to read. I also usually get to travel long distances in December, which allows me to cram in more reading time
So now I'm wondering if geographic location has anything to do with my reading habits? I thought it may be my job, too, but I worked in higher ed as I was in higher ed, so I don't think it's that. Obviously, the weather in North Dakota is not at all like it was in Oregon. Winters here last 9 months, spring 1 month, summer 1 month, and fall 1 month....but at least we experience all 4 seasons! Logically, then, I should be reading more throughout the winter? Because I can't escape my apartment to even go grocery shopping?

I digress.

There's a book that was added to my Amazon Wishlist back in 2009: Markus Zusak's The Book Thief. I had come across it as a "popular read"; I read the description, and added it immediately. For whatever reason, I never bought it for myself; nor did anyone buy it for me. I finally decided to add it to my library list, where I picked it up last week. Let me just advise that if this book has been on your TBR list for a while, take it off! Go to your library and read it today!

Here's the Goodreads Summary:

"It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Narrated by Death, Markus Zusak's groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a young foster girl living outside of Munich in Nazi Germany. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she discovers something she can't resist- books. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever they are to be found.
With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, Liesel learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids, as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement."

 Because this book is narrated by Death, I think it's told from an interesting perspective in the given time period. The only complaint I have about the narration by Death is that Death gave spoilers! He would mention something about a person dying; then, as a reader, I would vigilantly be on the lookout for clues to what could have caused the death (as though it would even be possible to prevent it). This hindered me from reading the novel very quickly...some of the intrigue was taken away. 

The character development--including the character of Death--was done very well. As a reader, my heart went out to Liesel for what she, her friends, and her family were going through--and thought to be normal. The novel isn't so much about stealing books (not a Fahrenheit 451, as I had hoped) but about a young girl's mission to control her environment in a time and country where only one person has control.

Please, please pick up this book--you won't want to put it back down until you've turned the last page!
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Rating: 5/5
Pages: 550
2011 Reading Goal: 6,884/12,500

I'm 55% done with my reading goal, but the year is 58% over! In spite of all my reading this July, I'll still have to play catch up come December...and the next 5 months are the busiest of my year :(

Ooohhh! I almost forgot! Thanks to you voting (or the four of you who voted, at least), I'll be doing giveaways on my blog now! I've been hunting around other blogs to find what I like or don't like for giveaways and am taking mental note of them. Expect a giveaway to be coming up soon!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Broke Ass

I'm basically still a college student. A couple of months ago, Matt and I were at the liquor store when I discovered this wine, Broke Ass. This particular one is a red, but they do make a white. It's sat in my fridge for a while. I'm not usually really big on reds because the blend of flavors and alcohol content are both pretty strong. I usually have to pair reds with a pretty hefty meal just to get it down. Broke Ass can definitely be consumed without any accompaniment, and goes down smooth.

This wine cost around $4.50 and is AMAZING! It tastes rather light, in spite of having an alcohol content of 13% (this could be dangerous!). It's from Argentina, which was actually something that made me nervous when buying it. I became somewhat of a cheap wine snob in Oregon, because I discovered the beauty of Washington and Oregon wines, but could only afford the ones around $15 and under. I had nothing to be nervous about with the origin of this wine. It's a delightful plum-and-blackberry blend, and I recommend it to all you wine lovers out there. I plan to get the white wine too...that is, if this bottle wasn't already at the halfway mark :P

Did I just graduate from Two-Buck-Chuck to this "higher class" wine? I think so :)

Sunday, July 17, 2011


I failed.

Once Upon a Read-a-Thon

That's right, I didn't make it through the reading challenge earlier last week. I had the best of intentions. One day, I even got off work early to come home and read. Another day, I cut back on my workout by 30 minutes so I could get some more reading time in. I swear I tried. But with two jobs and a time span of 3 weekdays, I just wasn't able to do it. I've still completed my goals of reading the two books, but just a little later. I finished reading them yesterday afternoon, so I was three days over the deadline. It'll just have to do. But now I've learned my lesson for read-a-thons: no more weekdays!

Here were my goals for the read-a-thon:
  1. Finish reading What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day by Pearl Cleage (204 pages remaining)
  2. Start and Finish Seven Year Switch by Claire Cook (237 pages total)
I was able to complete both books and love them! The detailed information is below:

What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day is one of the many books Matt bought me in the B&N online sale. The title was so intriguing, as was the summary. Here is the back cover summary:

"After a decade of elegant pleasures and luxe living among the Atlanta brothers and sisters with the best clothes and biggest dreams, Ava Johnson has temporarily returned home to Idlewild--her fabulous career and power plans smashed to bits by cold reality. But what she imagines is the end is, instead, a beginning. Because, in the ten-plus years since Ava left, all the problems of the big city have come to root in the sleepy North Michigan community whose ordinariness once drove her awa; and she cannot turn her back on friends and family who sorely need her in the face of impending trouble and tragedy. Besides which, that one unthinkable, unmistakable thing is now happening to her: Ava Johnson is falling in love."

 Ava Johnson is almost the exact opposite of me. Seriously, we have nothing in common--but I was drawn to her character in just the first page of the novel, when she discloses her big secret. It's also nothing I can relate to, but intriguing nonetheless. She has undergone change since escaping the tiny Idlewild community, but comes back to discover that maybe change isn't always good. Her growth and progress through the novel were captivating, and Cleage really sucks you in to feeling as though you know Ava and all the other characters. Cleage's descriptions, although minimal, are enough to clarify specifics, but leave the rest up to the imagination. My favorite quote from the book, and the only one that explains the interesting title, is this:

"...because by now we were old enough to know that what looks like crazy on an ordinary day looks a lot like love if you catch it in the moonlight"

Oprah did a great job in picking this novel for her book club. I highly recommend it to anyone--no matter how opposite you are from Ava.
What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day by Pearl Cleage
Rating: 4/5
Pages: 244
2011 Reading Goal: 6,097/12,500

The other novel I read, also from the big B&N online sale, was Seven Year Switch by Claire Cook. I was lead to believe, through reviews, that this would be the perfect beach read. Obviously, in North Dakota, there are no beaches. I thought about bringing the book to The Lake, but instead just stayed at home to read it. I see now why everyone said it was the perfect beach read. Here's the Goodreads summary:

"Just when she's finally figured out how to manage on her own, Jill Murray's ex-husband, Seth, is back crashing into the man-free existence Jill and her ten-year-old daughter, Anastasia, have built so carefully. Jill's life just hasn't turned out quite the way she'd planned. By now, she'd hoped to be jetting around the world as a high-end cultural coach. Instead, she's answering phones for a local travel agency and teaching cooking classes at the community center. Enter free-spirited entrepreneur Billy who hires Jill as a consultant for an upcoming business trip. Suddenly, her no-boys-allowed life is anything but.
They say that every seven years you become a completely new person, but Jill isn't sure she's ready to make the leap. It takes a Costa Rican getaway to help her make a choice not so much between the two men in her life, but between the woman she is and the woman she wants to be."

 The novel itself is a super quick read. I don't have kids, but I was engrossed in the relationship Jill has with her daughter, Anastasia, and her ex-husband, Seth, who abandoned her seven years ago. It's interesting to see Anastasia's desperation for a father, at a time in her life where she's starting to push her mother away. The character development is somewhat lacking, and I think more detail and background would be enjoyable, but it's not too bad overall. I recommend this novel to any woman looking for a beach read or wanting to gather the courage to find themselves.
Seven Year Switch by Claire Cook
Rating: 3/5
Pages: 237
2011 Reading Goal: 6,334/12,500

I'm also still working on a little "spring cleaning" of my bookshelves. I have many gently used books from a non-smoker, non-pet home. I was thinking of donating them to the library, but then it occurred to me that I could do giveaways to my readers. Would you vote to let me know what you think? There's an anonymous poll at the bottom of the page that closes at the end of the month. I look forward to my readers insight! :)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Time for a Reading Challenge

I'm not super into reading challenges because they either span out over too many days (100 books in one year? I'd forget by month 2!) or are too much for me to balance with my full-time job and life.

However, this one seems super appealing:

Once Upon a Read-a-Thon

This Readathon is hosted by Lori at Pure Imagination, Candace at Candace's Book Blog, and Angela at Reading Angel. It runs from 12:01 AM on July 11 to 11:59 PM on July 13th. Short and wonderful.

It's atypical for me to read more than one book in a week, and I'm lucky if it's even that much. Here are my goals for the two days of this readathon:
  1. Finish reading What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day by Pearl Cleage (204 pages remaining)
  2. Start and Finish Seven Year Switch by Claire Cook (237 pages total)
While this is way less than what many others are choosing to read (six books?!?! in two days?!?!?), 441 pages is way more than what I typically read in two days--especially when they aren't by authors I normally read.

Anyway, I encourage you to sign up for the challenge as well at Angela's blog: Reading Angel. Wish me luck! :D

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Remember Me?

Are you sick of me yet? I've been a little crazy on the posting, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing...

On Monday, I had one of the best days I've had in a long time. It was one of those days where you pick up a book in the morning or early afternoon, and when you put it down it's close to midnight. I completed reading The Bricklayer and started on a TBR book that has been on my shelf far too long. I purchased Sophie Kinsella's Remember Me? probably about three years ago at B&N. I've been saving it for a rainy day. All of us have those books, right? The one you know you'll love, so you want to save it for a time when you need to be comforted by the familiarity of it?

I decided to give in on Monday, even though it wasn't rainy. I needed the comfort of a book I'd love, and you all know I've read an unhealthy amount of Patterson novels. This book was was worth it. I should start by letting you all know how much I love Sophie Kinsella (pen name for Madeline Wickham). In fact, I've been meaning to reread the whole series of Confessions of a Shopaholic. After all, it's been a whole 5 years since I last read them ;) Remember Me, while just as silly and predictable as the rest of Kinsella's novels, is a fun, light, quick read. I literally laughed out loud several times. If you're a fan of Kinsella novels, move this to the top of your list.
Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella
Rating: 4/5
Pages: 389
2011 Reading Goal: 5,853/12,500

As I had mentioned in a previous post, I have filtered through a bit of my bookshelf to make room for more. Now I'm debating whether I should donate my formerly loved novels to the library or do giveaways on my blog. Thoughts? Please vote in the poll at the bottom of this blog. The poll ends July 31st.

Have a wonderful upcoming weekend!

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Brick Layer

I'm back again, already! I had started a novel last week and finished it up today, so I thought I might as well blog about it while it's on my mind.

My brother and sister-in-law gave me a large stack of books for Christmas, and I'm slowly working through them. This was one of them: The Bricklayer by Noah Boyd. The back cover gave a pretty unclear description of what the novel was about, but indicated there would be a good mystery with the FBI. The novel itself was well written with likeable characters. It could have been more consuming, but the chapters ended in the wrong spots, so there were no cliff hangers. Although the ending was a surprise twist, I think I would have been more excited by it had there been more cliff hangers throughout. It was a good, quick read and I recommend it for those interested in a good mystery.

It appears as though this is Noah Boyd's first novel. He'll be coming out with a sequel, Agent X, on July 26th. It's one I anticipate I'll read, but it may not be worth purchasing, so I'll try to find a copy at my local library.

The Bricklayer by Noah Boyd
Rating: 3/5
Pages: 390
2011 Reading Goal: 5,464/12,500

Sunday, July 3, 2011

June Reading Recap

It's been far too long since I've actually written a full post on here. I've got a little bit of catching up to do. In June, I only read two novels. I've been slacking on the reviews, for sure. Last week, the boyfriend bought me nine books from Barnes and Noble. There was (and possibly still is) a huge online sale where books range from $1.99-4.99 each. I'm expecting them to arrive early this week. In the meantime, I'm trying to prove to Boyfriend that I really do read, and thus earned those books. I still don't think he's amused with my addiction, though...

June's novels were 1984 by George Orwell and The Killing Hands by P.D. Martin. I read 1984 on my trip to Washington in the middle of June. The Killing Hands was read over a 4-day period late this month. Otherwise, I was slacking.

1984 by George Orwell has been on my TBR (To Be Read) list for a good six years at least. I read Animal Farm my sophomore year of high school and enjoyed it. I was surprised with how much I loved Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Therefore, I was convinced I would love 1984. I was not disappointed.
My friend Candice purchased it for me as a Christmas gift (thanks, Candice!) and I just now got around to reading it. I think Orwell's insight is fascinating--the visions he had in 1949 of how the world would change in just 35 years are enough to keep a reader well absorbed. The idea of a "big brother" keeps becoming, in a sense, more and more realistic with every year--but I won't get into that now. What I will tell you is that if you want a fast-paced, intriguing classic novel, pick this book up.
1984 by George Orwell
Rating: 4/5
Pages: 326
2011 Reading Goal: 4,682/12,500

You know how books just randomly end up on your shelf? For about six months after acquisition, you'll know exactly where your books come from--book stores, a friend, thrift shop, etc. I was hunting for a good book on my bookshelf and picked up P.D. Martin's The Killing Hands. For the life of me, I cannot figure out where it came from, nor how long it's been there. It looks gently worn, so I'm assuming I got it used somehow. It's a paperback, so it certainly wasn't from a used bookstore, and unlikely from a thrift shop. I'm thinking it's either from a friend or a garage sale, but I'm not sure. I grabbed the book looking for clues to where it came from, in a sense. I know it wasn't a loaner, because I only have three of them and they're on a separate shelf than others. I was hoping the novel would give me clues as to where I got it, but it didn't. Anyone who knows me (including myself) would have picked this book up for me because it's like an episode of Criminal Minds, which is one of my favorite tv shows.
The book is fast-paced with a likeable main character, Sophie Anderson. She works for the FBI as a profiler in L.A. There's a lot of Asian fighting technique covered in detail throughout the book and names can be challenging to keep straight at first, but I certainly recommend this novel to anyone who also enjoys Criminal Minds. It's the perfect fast-paced weekend read.
The Killing Hands by P.D. MartinRating: 4/5
Pages: 392
2011 Reading Goal: 5,074/12,500

I recognize that I'm pretty far behind my page goal so far. I'm hoping to catch up this month. Boyfriend got a promotion and now has weekends off. It's bittersweet--I get to spend more time with him, but not as much time with my books. I'd like to get out to the lake with him some weekend where he can fish and I can read, but I'm not sure how realistic that is for this month.

I also wanted to follow up on my last blog, Calling for Inspiration. I had been looking for book blog networking. Tonight, I came across just the right site: Book Blogger Directory. I'm even thinking about registering my own blog with them. Anyway, I just wanted to let my readers know in case you guys were looking for inspiration, too.

I hope all my American readers have a lovely Independence Day!

I'll be posting again soon! Promise!