Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Goodreads Catch-up Readathon #3

I totally forgot to update with this readathon the last two days.  On Sunday night/Monday morning I was completing Catherine the Great and for some reason on Sunday night I totally forgot, as I did last night.  Not a big deal.  Since I haven't posted, I have managed to finish Catherine the Great and The Great Gatsby and started to read Sarah's Key, of which I managed to get about 40% of the book done while sitting in a lounge chair near a pool yesterday. Its a good beach read and has me interested in the roundup in Paris that occurred in mid-July 1942.    I also started reading The Hound of the Baskervilles again and hope to get a large portion of the book completed before I get home in the next 36 hours.

I hope you all have a good reading day and I hope to update in the next 36 hours or as soon as I can.

Teaser Tuesdays (Feb. 28)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The girl fell upon the food that was placed in front of her, cramming it into her mouth with slurping noises her mother would have detested.  It was heaven.  It seemed she had never tasted such savory, delicious soup.  Such fresh, soft bread.  Creamy, rich Brie cheese.  Succulent, velvety peaches.  Rachel ate more slowly.  Glancing across at her, the girl saw that Rachel was pale.  Her hands were trembling, her eyes feverish.

~p. 117, Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rossay

Monday, February 27, 2012

What's on Your Nightstand - February 28

Its been quite a month of reading.  I have finished a number of looong books, but some them in e-format, which has been a bit of a challenge due to the fact that my e-reader doesn't have e-ink available and therefore means I will likely have to get a second e-reader in order to read out in the sunshine, when summer comes in a few months, or at least when the warmer weather comes.

That aside, it was an amazing month for reading and despite the fact that I am getting a little tight on time for a couple of books, one will have to likely to wait until early March to finish/complete, I have read and reviewed a number of fascinating books, which the last two books that I completed in the last two days don't have a review, but will be posted alongside the March books.  I digress.

1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
3. The Scarlet Letter
4. The Help
5. The Cat's Table
6. The Marriage Plot
7. The Gift
8. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
9. The Kitchen Counter School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices Into Fearless Home Cooks
10. 11/22/63
11. My Life in France
12. Anya's Ghost

Yes, that is correct I read and reviewed 12 books since the last What's on your Nightstand on January 24.  Part of the reason that I was able to read so much was because of a vacation, that I am currently finishing up and I didn't want to bring along all those books and also because I just spend a lot of time finding things to watch as I read, aka sports, as I found that if I watched my sports along with listening to a podcast or two or three, I could get big chunks of books done.  Also there was the time crunch and also I don't like bringing books back to the library unread.

On my nightstand:

First Chapter - First Paragaph(s) - Tuesday Intros (Feb. 28)

This weeks choice:
Originally published June 12, 2007

The girl was the first to hear the loud pounding on the door.  Her room was closest to the entrance of the apartment.  At first, dazed with sleep, she thought it was her father, coming up from his hiding place in the cellar.  He'd forgotten his keys, and was impatient because nobody had heard his first, timid knock.  But then came the voices, strong and brutal in the silence of the night.  Nothing to do with her father. "Police! Open up! Now!"

Would you continue reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (Feb. 27)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

What I am planning on reading this week:
What I finished and reviewed this week (or at  least since the post):
 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
 • The Kitchen Counter Cooking School
 • 11/22/63
 • My Life in France
 • Anya's Ghost

What is up next:
I don't know; its been a weird two weeks, being on vacation and I just want to concentrate on the ones that I am planning on reading this week.

Musing Mondays (Feb. 27)

Should be Reading asks this week:

• Do you read books that are part of a series?
• Do you collect all the book in a series before starting?  What if the series is brand new, and the only book that's been published so far is Book One? As subsequent books in the series are published, do you go back and re-read the series?

Yes, I do read the series.  As I usually read the series when its already published, I don't usually have that problem of re-reading the series.  But if I do read a series as the books are being published, I usually don't go back and re-read the series, unless of course its a series that one needs to go and re-read the series, depending on how big the books are of course.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sunday Salon - Not a great week...

It has and it hasn't been a great reading week.  While I have read a lot, I have only finished one book this week.  I guess I am comparing myself to the other weeks in which I have usually have had 2 or more book reviews up, especially lately.  And that partly has to do with the fact that I have been trying to finish Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman and seems to have zapped any sort of reading will out of me. I will and have read great portions out of the ebook, but it seems that any time I finish with reading it, I don't want to read anything else.  I think part of the reason is that the book is so dense that one can't just plow through the book like they would with a novel.

Its not that I don't like it, I do, but it just seems that when I am finished with a section, I can't read anything else.  Its like I have to will myself to read something else because it zaps so much energy out of me.

That being said, has anybody else experienced that feeling that after reading a portion of a book, you can't read anything else because either you are so focused on the book or its just so dense with facts and information that you can't really read anything else?

Book reviews:
Anya's Ghost

Goodreads Catch-up Readathon #2

Well, didn't get much done today.  I maybe read about 30 pages and that was only from one book and I haven't even gotten to Macbeth or Hound of Baskervilles or Catherine the Great.  The main problem is that these three are on my ereader and its not great in the sun.  Now if I had an ereader that allowed me to read it in the sun, I would be working on the three of them.  Oh well, guess I will be staying up late tonight working on Catherine the Great and possibly the other two and that's not to mention that I should be starting Bleak House this week.  But with a plane trip on Wednesday, I will possibly get a good chuck of the freebies (Catherine the Great needs to be returned by then and I plan on getting it finished before its due and has to be returned) while I head home from my vacation or maybe I will just sleep.  I am thinking I am going to read Sarah's Key next weekend, as I would like to not rushing to finish the book before my bookclub on the 10th.

I hope everybody has had a good Saturday and I will talk to you in about 24 hours from now. Toodles.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Goodreads Catch-up Readathon - Update #1

I think I read quite a bit today.  While I didn't get a lot done during the daytime due to activities that prevented me from reading, I did manage to get in quite a bit of reading during the evening hours.  I finished the first chapter of an ARC that I totally forgot I had (and clearly need to read) and I got a bit more of Catherine the Great completed (thinking of reading a bit more before I go off to dream land; the book is making me sleep at times, despite that the topic is quite interesting!).   I am guessing I probably read somewhere around 50-75 pages today, which for me is pretty average, but I still was unable to get to a number of my books that I really do need to get completed by the end of the month.  I am thinking I am going to concentrate on The Hound of the Baskervilles and Catherine the Great and just kinda wait and see with the others at this point, even though I do know I need to get Bleak House started this week.

TGIF at GReads - Required Reading

TGIF is a weekly feature created and hosted by GReads! that re-caps the week’s posts and has different question each week.

 This week's question: Which book from your school days do you remember reading & enjoying? Is there a book published now that you'd like to see in today's curriculum for kids?

I loved to read and was always reading whether it be on the bus after school or during my lunch hour, at least before I switched schools for my final two years of high school.  My favourite reads from high school was A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.  The reason that I fell in love with the book was that it was a fairly short Dickens novel and also it had the historical element that I thoroughly enjoyed learning about.  When it came to university, my history profs occasionally assigned a book and the one that I changed how I felt about was All Quiet on the Western Front.  I had read it in Grade 12 for English and didn't really like it, but when a history prof of mine assigned it in a Western European course and when I realized the historical context of the book, I was much more appreciative of the book and quite enjoyed it.

This weeks posts:
Goodreads Catch-Up Read-a-thon
Anya's Ghost - Vera Brosgol
WWW Wednesdays (Feb. 22)
Sunday Salon - What a week!
Two Book Reviews - The Kitchen Counter Cooking School and My Life in France
Bleak House Read-Along Starting Post

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Goodreads Catch-Up Read-a-thon

Even though I am on schedule to make my goal for this coming year, I have books that I am behind on and when I saw this come through on another blog this past evening (Thursday), I knew that I had to do it. Stephanie at Once Upon a Chapter is hosting this one.  Here are the details from her blog:

*Will run from 2/24 (12:01 AM) to 3/1 (11:59 PM).

*If you are a blogger, please do a post announcing your participation. If you want to do all of your updating from one post, that is completely fine by me. (You can also grab the smaller button below.)

*I will be having mini-challenges throughout the week. Two for US residents and one for my international friends!

*I can’t stress this enough: HAVE FUN with the read-a-thon!

To sign up, visit her BLOG 

What will I be reading?

Les Miserables.  I am horribly behind on this book and I need to get caught up on it.
Anna Karenina.  Another one that I am horribly behind on.
• Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman.  Even though I am not behind on it, I do have to get it done in the next few days or else I don't have access to it.
• The Hound of the Baskervilles.  Really thought I might have this one done by now, but I don't and I need to get it done for one of my reading challenges.
• The Great Gatsby.  Really did think I would have this one done, but other books got in the way and I just was unable to finish it.

I will be creating a new one each day, hopefully at the end of each day.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Anya's Ghost - Vera Brosgol

Title: Anya's Ghost
Author: Vera Brosgol
Pages: 224 pages
Published: 2011
Challenges: 2012 Support Your Library
Genre: Graphic Novels, Young Adult
Edition: Paperback
Source: Library

Description: Anya could really use a friend. But her new BFF isn’t kidding about the “Forever” part . . . Of all the things Anya expected to find at the bottom of an old well, a new friend was not one of them. Especially not a new friend who’s been dead for a century. Falling down a well is bad enough, but Anya’s normal life might actually be worse. She’s embarrassed by her family, self-conscious about her body, and she’s pretty much given up on fitting in at school. A new friend—even a ghost—is just what she needs. Or so she thinks. Spooky, sardonic, and secretly sincere, Anya’s Ghost is a wonderfully entertaining debut from author/artist Vera Brosgol. (via Goodreads.com)

Thoughts:  Overall, I thought it was very good and quite honestly, it was a quick read for me.  While it was only 224 pages, it seemed much shorter than that and the story really only got started going until sometime closer to the end when Anya was starting to put things together and started to realize that something was amiss. But it was really quite good and kept me reading for the hour's drive to a spot we were headed.  What I didn't like was that the story felt like it was going nowhere for a bit during the beginning, but once the story got started, I really started to enjoy it and would be interested in another book on Anya's adventures and can definitely see the point of the story.  For me the turning point in the book was the time when she went to the public library to work out what happened to the ghost that kept following her around.  After that the story seemed to slow down to a manageable pace and could see Anya change, probably for the better, and understand that this wasn't going to last forever.

Honestly, I felt that the book could have been a little longer, as I felt that the story was a little short, but if you do take the story in context, it was probably just right.

Bottom line: Since its a fairly quick read, at least it was for me, I would probably recommend this book to people that have read things like Blankets, Maus, Persopolis, etc.  I would also recommend it to people who want to read something in the graphic novel genre to get their feet wet and those that read more literary type fiction.  Overall, it was pretty good.

Rating: 4/5

Pages for 2012: 5654

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

WWW Wednesdays (Feb. 22)

This is a weekly book meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…
• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you'll be reading next?

My answers:
1. What are you currently reading?
2. What did you currently finish reading?
• Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (review)
• The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a few simple lessons transformed nine culinary novices into fearless home cooks (review)
• 11/22/63 (review)
• My Life in France (review)

3. What do you think you'll be reading next?
I am not really sure, but probably Madame Tussaud.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday Salon - What a week!

What a week it has been!  Glad that week is finally done!

It was indeed a busy week for me, as I had to get my library account basically divested of any remaining materials that I had on hand and return them and in fact I have 2 materials checked out between the three library accounts I have (one I haven't had books out from in years) and the materials that I do have are from the same library (there is a reason for this and you will understand why in a couple of weeks).  And this meant a lot of reading and not putting up blog posts, although somehow I managed to put up quite a few in the meantime (don't know how that happened).

One was an ebook that was nearing the end of my accessibility and the others were physical library materials that needed to be returned (one audiobook and 2 books) by the middle of the week, hence I was able to get most of what I wanted to get done, which was a miracle cause I was reading one of them until basically the bitter end and managed to finish it well before I left (it also meant for an early library drop-off the next morning due to the fact that I didn't have a car until late the previous night and made me a bit anxious as a result).

Basically it was a pretty good week of reading and with the library materials out of the way, I was able to start up on my some of my ebooks that have been neglected over the past few weeks and was able to start them.  I will start on some paper books in the next day or two, as one is a bookclub book (Sarah's Key) and the other is a library book (can't recall the title) and a couple are for readalongs that I have either neglected to start (East of Eden) or just didn't start (The Great Gatsby; should be easily completed as I am about half-way done) and the other physical book I brought I can't recall why I brought it along in the first place.

Anyways, I digress.  And yes, I did have a bit of a meltdown the other day, but I am trying to move on and just let people comment as they wish to.  Here are my reviews for the week (You can view the review by clicking on review),  a Sunday Salon post I put up on Tuesday (couldn't help myself!), and my start-up post for a Bleak House Read-a-long:

Reviews for this week:
• Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (review)
• The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a few simple lessons transformed nine culinary novices into fearless home cooks (review)
• 11/22/63 (review)
• My Life in France (review)

General posts:
• Sunday Salon - What is it with the fascination with the early 1960s?
Bleak House Read-a-long Staring line

Hope you all have a great Sunday and I look forward to hearing from you in the posts that I have linked up with.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Two Book Reviews - The Kitchen Counter Cooking School and My Life in France

No cooking this week, but I got two foodie books done this past week, one has elements of a cookbook in it and the other is memoir.  I hope you enjoy both reviews and if you feel inclined to do so, leave a review.  (You can view the review by clicking on review.)

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a few simple lessons transformed nine culinary novices into fearless home cooks (review)

My Life in France (review)

Have a good weekend.

Friday, February 17, 2012

My Life in France - Julia Child with Alex Prud'Homme

Title: My Life in France
Author: Julia Child with
6828 KB

Julia Child singlehandedly created a new approach to American cuisine with her cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking and her television show The French Chef, but as she reveals in this bestselling memoir, she was not always a master chef. Indeed, when she first arrived in France in 1948 with her husband, Paul, who was to work for the USIS, she spoke no French and knew nothing about the country itself. But as she dove into French culture, buying food at local markets and taking classes at the Cordon Bleu, her life changed forever with her newfound passion for cooking and teaching. Julia’s unforgettable story – struggles with the head of the Cordon Bleu, rejections from publishers to whom she sent her now-famous cookbook, a wonderful, nearly fifty-year long marriage that took them across the globe – unfolds with the spirit so key to her success as a chef and a writer, brilliantly capturing one of the most endearing American personalities of the last fifty years. (via Goodreads.com)

Thoughts:  I really enjoyed this book and loved the description of the restaurants that she and Paul went to when they first arrived and how she, a self admitted non-cook in her late 30s, became a cook by diving into French culture by learning the language, the customs of buying food at a local market and by taking classes at the famed Le Cordon Bleu in Paris (which was also attended by the author of Kitchen Counter School) in the late 1940s.  While I am not a cook myself (as you probably all know by know), I could really appreciate the chance that Julia took to learn to become an accomplished cook (she came across as the sort of person that has the expectations to become an accomplished cook; I think also the fact that she was trying to get to the same sort of level as Paul's mother had a large effect on her) and even though I probably will never get to the level of Julia herself (somehow we always compare ourselves to her), I think even taking the chance to cook or bake something is a step in the right direction.

I did appreciate her frankness about her frustration in writing the first cookbook and even though there was great success with the second one as well, she didn't bow into pressure into writing a third book.  I also appreciate that the book felt personal, even though it was only a glance into her private  life, and that not everything was perfect and how she worried about things just like we all worry about things and how concerns about what was going on in Paul's work in the 1950s was of equal concern for her and probably didn't make things any easier when living abroad in Europe, far away from family and friends in the States.

Also, I appreciated that she didn't constantly talk about food in the book and that you felt like you got to know Julia and her husband, albeit on a surface level, and the fun little facts that she passed along in the book (did you know that Judith Jones, the editor for Mastering Vol.1 & 2, was the person that got The Diary of Anne Frank into the hands of American readers in the 1950s, when it was just sitting on "the pile" of manuscripts that had been submitted to her while she was working for Random House in Paris?) that made the book enjoyable to read.

Bottom line: It's probably the best "foodie" memoir that I have read and for once it was more about the life of the person rather than the food, even though one could probably taste one of her famous dishes as you read the book (I haven't so I can't exactly say).  But whenever I would pick up the book, I would be transported into a world in which food wasn't just for survival, it was meant for feeding the soul and to be enjoyed by everybody around.  Recommended for those that are fans of Julia Child, those who have watched "Julie & Julia", or just generally like good food with a good glass of wine.

Rating: 5/5

Pages for 2012: 5430

Bleak House Read-Along Starting Post

I got an email yesterday about a readalong for Bleak House and didn't know what to do because I am also supposed to be reading other stuff for other challenges and have yet to get reading them.  I suppose it doesn't help that I have been trying to get ebooks from the library (and regular books as well) completed. So hence I was a little hesitant to start yet another one.

I have been wanting to read Bleak House for a while and after a few hours away from the computer, I thought I would do it after all.  I am going to be reading the etext from Gutenburg, but marking my progress with the Penguin Classics version (pictured next to the text).  Here is a quick synopsis of the book from unputdownables.net:

Often considered Charles Dickens’s masterpiece, Bleak House blends together several literary genres—detective fiction, romance, melodrama, and satire—to create an unforgettable portrait of the decay and corruption at the heart of English law and society in the Victorian era.

Opening in the swirling mists of London, the novel revolves around a court case that has dragged on for decades—the infamous Jarndyce and Jarndyce lawsuit, in which an inheritance is gradually devoured by legal costs. As Dickens takes us through the case’s history, he presents a cast of characters as idiosyncratic and memorable as any he ever created, including the beautiful Lady Dedlock, who hides a shocking secret about an illegitimate child and a long-lost love; Mr. Bucket, one of the first detectives to appear in English fiction; and the hilarious Mrs. Jellyby, whose endless philanthropy has left her utterly unconcerned about her own family.

As a question of inheritance becomes a question of murder, the novel’s heroine, Esther Summerson, struggles to discover the truth about her birth and her unknown mother’s tragic life. Can the resilience of her love transform a bleak house? And—more devastatingly—will justice prevail? (via goodreads.com)

My intent is to post every Friday my thoughts on the reading.  Here’s the reading schedule for the read-along:

Week #/ dates :: Place in which to STOP
Week One/ February 24- March 1 :: Chapter 6
Week Two/ March 2-8 :: Chapter 10
Week Three/ March 9-15 ::Chapter 15
Week Four/ March 16-22 :: Chapter 20
Week Five/ March 23- 29 :: Chapter 24
Week Six/ March 30- April 5 :: Chapter 30
Week Seven/ April 6-12 :: Chapter 34
Week Eight/ April 13-19 :: Chapter 39
Week Nine/ April 20-26 :: Chapter 45
Week Ten/ April 27- May 3 :: Chapter 51
Week Eleven/ May 4- 10 :: Chapter 56
Week Twelve/ May 11-17 :: Chapter 61
Week Thirteen/ May 18-24 :: The End

If you’d like to sign up for this read-along, please visit the starting post here!

TGIF at GReads - Book Blogger Pride

TGIF is a weekly feature created and hosted by GReads! that re-caps the week’s posts and has different question each week.

This week's question: What do you take pride in when it comes to blogging?

Its really hard to tell, but I think when a discussion starts to take place among myself and others on something that I have blogged about.

The one blog post that I take pride in is when I wrote a Sunday Salon post back in late August on the aspect of depression, An Open Dialogue. It was something that I wasn't sure to write about but it really was my favourite piece.  I didn't care that I had gotten few comments on my site, but it did open up a discussion on my main twitter account (@melissawiebe) on the day that I posted it.

I suppose this is to say that I am proud of posts from time to time that strike a conversation in people, without any sort of prompting and somebody just wants to talk about it, which seems to be happening less and less these days, as it seems few people actually want to talk about the stuff I post about and makes book blogging more and more like a chore than anything.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Harry Potter Books 1 and 2 Discussion Questions

The Reading Fever is hosting a year-long readalong of the Harry Potter series.  After a rocky start, she finally posted the link-ups and discussion questions.

1.  What was your first very first impression of Harry Potter himself? Did your impression change at the end of the first book?
 I don't really remember what my first impression him was, due to the fact that I have read two more books in the series since reading the first one back in January and since I have read the first book at least four or five times and the first time I had read a book, it was after I had already watched at least the first three movies, so my impressions were probably vastly different than it probably should have been.  But that being said, my first impressions of Harry is that he's definitely a kid whose a loner due to the fact that he's just different than all the other kids and also Dudley probably scares him off as soon as he can.

2. At what point in either book did you decide that you did, or didn't, like the story?
Um, probably when I first saw the third movie in 2003.

3. Is there anything you dislike so far? Something you would change if you could?
Like I said earlier, I have read these first two books many, many times, but honestly I would have made sure that it had a little more depth to them; they seem a little shallow, but honestly they are very addicting.

4. What is it about J.K. Rowling's writing that makes her books so appealing to so many people? Is it the characters? The plot? Something else? What do you love most about her writing?
 I think it has to do with multiple things, but I think what I love about her writing is such that an adult, a young adult or a preteen can pick it up and find each find something different that makes it appeal to each of them.

5. In the first book, we are introduced to a very different world than the one we live in. What were some things that blew your mind when you first read about them?
What blew me away was that she makes it very realistic that you can think it can actually happen.

6. Despite being so different, what do you think makes the wizard world so believable? What makes it a place that people want to escape to?
 I think that there is enough of the "muggle" world involved that one thinks it actually is believable and the reason that people want to escape to it because it is a different place, etc.  Its probably the same reason that a lot people want to escape to the world of The Lord of the Rings.

7. In The Sorcerer's Stone, Professor Quirrel tells Harry, "There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it." What does this statement tell us about Professor Quirrel? Do you agree or disagree with him?
What it tells me about Professor Quirrel is that he really wants power and will do anything to get any sort of power.  I disagree with him because power inevitably makes one hungry for more power and at some point the people who do that do something really, really stupid that you just wish them gone, for whatever the reason.

8. In The Chamber of Secrets, Dumbledore tells Harry, "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." The sorting hat also suggested Harry could fine great fame and glory in Slytherin House. What choices does Harry make that lead him away from darkness? Could he have been the good wizard that he was if some of those choices were different?
He clearly understands the difference between good and evil and how to know what really is evil and I suppose somehow knowing what evil can do made him turn away from darkness and I also suppose it was the conversation he had with Hagrid in Diagon Alley that made him turn away from Slytherin House.  I don't think he could have, as he would have not had the influences of Ron and Hermoine and others.

9. If you're re-reading the series, what are some differences you've noticed this time? Are there things you didn't pick up on before? Or did you find you liked/disliked something differently this time?
 I am noticing the foreshadowing of things in the final books, especially in book two, things that play important roles in those books.

10. Just for fun: If you could make your own polyjuice potion, who would you disguise yourself as, and why?
I honestly don't know who I would disguise myself as.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

11/22/63 - Stephen King

Title: 11/22/63
Author: Stephen King
Pages: 864
Published: 2011
Challenges: 2012 Support Your Library, 2012 Chunkster Challenge, 2012 Historical Fiction Challenge
Genre: Historical fiction
Edition: Hardcover
Source: Library

Description: Jake Epping is a thirty-five-year-old high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching adults in the GED program. He receives an essay from one of the students—a gruesome, harrowing first person story about the night 50 years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a hammer. Harry escaped with a smashed leg, as evidenced by his crooked walk.

Not much later, Jake’s friend Al, who runs the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to 1958. He enlists Jake on an insane—and insanely possible—mission to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson and his new world of Elvis and JFK, of big American cars and sock hops, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake’s life—a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time.
  (via Goodreads.ca)

Thoughts: For the most part I really enjoyed the book, but I felt that the end of book, basically the last 50 pages, kinda fell flat.  I understand why King had to do what he had to do at the end, but it kinda seemed like a bit of a cop out, especially since he had spent so much of the book building towards the day of the shooting.

Enough of that.  What I loved about the book was the fact was that clearly King had done his research not only on Oswald, but he clearly had done his research on all the major players involved and also on the area surrounding Dallas at the time.  The fact that the details were paid attention to made the book that much more special, especially in regards to the era.  It made the time period that much more vivid, especially since he waited until the present day to write the book and allow the book to have the contrast between Jake's life in 2011 and the one he leads in 1963 makes it that much stark and how far we have come, at least in terms of technology.  

It was such an engrossing book that I almost felt like I was there with Jake as he moved from 1958 to 1963 and almost wanted to go back myself to a time when you didn't have to rely on technology so much and live in such a place.  Of course I could do without the busybodies, who seemed to poke in Jake's business all the time or it seemed that way.

Bottom line: I really enjoyed this book and I really think that most people would really like this book and even if they haven't read anything else by Stephen King, I would recommend it, especially if you enjoy books dealing with time-travel.  Its an interesting look at a time and era that really changed the United States.  Highly recommended.

Rating: 4.5/5

Pages for 2012: 5077

If you have read the book, I am curious as to what you thought of the book.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices Into Fearless Home Cooks - Kathleen Flinn

Title: The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices Into Fearless Home Cooks
Author: Kathleen Flinn
Pages: 304
Published: 2011
Challenges: 2012 Support Your Library
Genre: Non-fiction, Foodie books
Edition: Hardcover and Audio
Source: Library

Description: The author of "The Sharper Your Knife" tells the inspiring story of how she helped nine others find their inner cook.

After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, writer Kathleen Flinn returned with no idea what to do next, until one day at a supermarket she watched a woman loading her cart with ultraprocessed foods. Flinn's "chefternal" instinct kicked in: she persuaded the stranger to reload with fresh foods, offering her simple recipes for healthy, easy meals.

"The Kitchen Counter Cooking School" includes practical, healthy tips that boost readers' culinary self-confidence, and strategies to get the most from their grocery dollar, and simple recipes that get readers cooking. (via Goodreads)

Thoughts: I quite enjoyed the book and learned a lot when I read the book.  One reason that I don't read a lot of foodie type books is mainly because a lot of the writers talk about the food that inspires them as cooks, rather than inspiring others to learn the proper techniques and Kathleen Flinn has certainly has inspired me to start making more of my food by scratch rather than buying my food from the center aisles.  Sure I know that I am to do that, but where do you start when you basically have little or no cooking skills and Kathleen's book clearly illustrates the fact that there is likely an entire generation of women who don't really know how to make things from scratch and rely heavily on the "center aisles" to feed not only ourselves, but also our families and to also realize that its much healthier for not only our bodies, but also our budgets to make our own food.

For me not only are their budget considerations to making my own food, but there are also health reasons.  As some of you may know, I have been battling a rash for the past month that basically came out of no where and has resulted myself to go on a more restricted diet than I have been accustomed to.  Its been frustrating, but this book gave me hope that I can eat most of the food that I have eaten on a regular basis and not break the bank doing so.  I hope that in the coming months I can tackle the recipes from the book that I photocopied and use them to my benefit (and yes, I do plan on purchasing the book).

While the breaks from the classes were nice, its hard to say if they added anything, other than maybe a few extra recipes (one of which I realize I missed, but when I purchase the book, I'll get it)

Bottom line:  This is a really good book, especially if you find yourself fumbling in the kitchen, not sure where to start.  It is a perfect book for those that are learning to live on their own and really don't know the cooking basics.  And judging by the carts that I see in the grocery store on a weekly basis, there are clearly a lot of people who could use the help!

Rating: 4/5

Pages for 2012: 4213

Sunday Salon - What is it with the fascination with early 1960s?

I realize that this is early, but I thought about something as I watch "Freedom Riders", which looks at the Freedom Rides in the summer of 1961, and I am wondering what is with the early part of the 1960s that has North America so fascinated, at least lately.

If it isn't the show Mad Men, its books, movies, and documentaries that deal with the period. While it isn't as prolific as maybe stuff on World War II, it is starting to get that way.  Was it because of something like Hurricane Katerina making us realize that we still are so racially divided or was it the electing of Barak Obama, who was born in the early part of the 1960s, or is it people starting to realize that the race issue in the States needs to be dealt with on a more deeper level, as some sort of acknowledgement of what still is an issue, even though it is just lying underneath the surface or is it the fact that in the next decade there will be several commemorations of what happened in what happened during the Civil Rights movement?

Who knows the reason, but it is somewhat curious that a book/movie about black maids in white households in Jackson during the first half of the 1960s has become somewhat successful and probably may win a few Academy Awards within the next two weeks.

Its not that we're waxing nostalgia on that time period and thinking was everything was a-okay.  Its almost as if its okay to take the blindfolds and talk about the reality of the time period and what happened to people who were American citizens (at least I think there were).  What is it about that period that we, as a society are wanting to talk about this time period?

Its not like we wax poetically about the 1970s? Was it that society changed that much in the 1960s that we continue to talk about this time period or are we just starting to realize how impactful the events of the 1960s have had our culture as a whole, just like it took several decades to really realize how impactful World War II and other dramatic changes in history was on our culture?

I am not saying that the 1960s were innocent, they weren't, but they certainly had a huge impact on not only the United States, but also the industrialized world.  

Your thoughts on this are most definitely welcome.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J.K. Rowling

Title: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Author: J.K. Rowling
Pages: 317
Published: 1999
Challenges: 2012 Harry Potter Reading Challenge
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Edition: Hardcover and Audio
Source: Purchased and Library

Description:  Harry Potter is a very unusual boy. He can't wait to get back to school after the Summer holidays! But that's not the only unusual thing about Harry; Harry's school is Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and Harry is a wizard! But when Harry, along with his best friends Ron and Hermione, go back for their third year at Hogwarts, the atmosphere is tense. There's an escaped mass murderer on the loose, and the sinister prison guards of Azkaban have been called in to guard the school ...(via Chapter.ca)

Thoughts:  Its definitely a quick read and took me a few days to listen to the audio as I read along with my copy of the book and I realize that it took me a number of months to get through this book last year, but when reading it with the audio, I was able to get it done in about 3 days (probably I could read it within a day, but honestly, it would have been a little much).

What I love about the book is that the book still has the innocence of the first two books, but has the element of darkness throughout the book and quite honestly, this is my favourite book of the series for the simple fact that most of the story is included in the movie of the same title, even though there are some slight differences between the book and the movie and when you compare it to the next three book/movies, there wasn't a lot that was omitted in the movie.  True there was things that were switched up in the movie, but the essential story and the various subplots that take place in the book are included in the movie as well (okay, the thing with the Firebolt being stripped down in the book isn't included in the movie, but its so minor that I think most fans will overlook it).

Bottom line:  This is probably the best one of the Harry Potter books because while the book is still fairly lighthearted like the first two, but still has is able to bring the darker side of the series and carry momentum throughout the book by giving the reader a bit more understanding to Harry's dad's life at Hogwarts and also introduces us to several new characters that are going to prominent throughout the last 3 books of the series.  Recommended for those that are a fan of the Harry Potter series.

Rating: 5/5

Pages for 2012: 3909

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Musing Mondays (Feb. 13)

Should be Reading asks this week:

What is your favourite romantic book -- or book that includes a love story? (an adult romance, young adult, kid's story, anything)

My favourite romantic book/story is Jane Eyre.  While the book is fairly dark and the story probably not plausible, its just such a romantic story between Jane and the brooding Mr. Rochester. 

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (Feb. 13)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

What I am planning on reading this week:

What I finished and reviewed this week:
The Marriage Plot 
The Gift 

What's up next:
• Romeo & Juliet
• Macbeth 
• Sarah's Key

Sunday Salon - Me and foodie books

I don't know why but I am on a foodie book craze.  I think its in no part due to the fact that I am seeing so many of these types of books pop up in the last year or so and probably due to Julie and Julia and the success of the movie of the same title, which I have watch a number of times and is one of my favourite movies about food, right along there with Ratatouille.

It probably has something to also to do with the fact that I really want to cut down on the money that I spend on food and the fact that I am on a elimination diet to see if I have any food allergies (I had an outbreak of hives about a month ago, that weren't itchy and bumpy) and have started to realize that the vast majority of food that I get are full of salt and sugar and really want to reduce the amount that I eat (trust me after a week of chicken, white rice, white fish, potatoes, and dark green veggies sugar becomes really sweet and I try not to touch it as much).  After reading most of The Kitchen Counter School, I have started to realize that really for pennies, I can probably make most of the things that I eat and spend less on the food that I get at the grocery store.  And probably eat healthier to boot!

This is all to say that I am really enjoying the foodie books that I am currently reading, including Julia Child's My Life in France, which I highly recommend, even if you don't know how to cook.

Hope you all have an excellent and restful Sunday.

Books reviewed since my last Salon post:
The Gift
The Marriage Plot
The Cat's Table
The Help
The Scarlet Letter
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Library Loot: February 8-14

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

Catherine the Great: portrait of a woman
• Maman's Homesick Pie

• The Kitchen Counter Cooking School

• The Help
• Freedom Riders (likely to get it within the next few days)

• The Paris Wife

The Gift - Cecelia Ahern

Title: The Gift
Author: Cecelia Ahern
Pages: 305
Published: 2009 (first published 2008)
Challenges: 2012 Support Your Library
Genre: Christmas fiction
Edition: Hardcover
Source: Library
Rating: 3/5

Description: Lou Suffern is practised in the art of concealment. He is, also, always overstretched, trying to do too many things at once. His overburdened schedule gives him few moments of peace, even in his sleep. And when he spends time at home with his wife and family, he is always distracted, and, mentally, somewhere else. 

On a cold winter morning, Lou is on his way to work when he encounters Gabe, a homeless street dweller, sitting outside an office building. Lou is intrigued by him, and contrives to get him a job in the post room. But this act of charity rebounds on him, and Gabe’s presence begins to grate on Lou -- particularly when he discovers that the latter seems capable of being in two places at the same time. Christmas is drawing near, and before the season is over, Lou’s life will be irrevocably change by the casual act of kindness he has performed. (via Goodreads)

Thoughts: It was cute and for the most part the story went over my head and wasn't really engaged with it.  Felt it was a little mundane and by the point I finished it this evening, I just wanted to finish the book.  It wasn't badly written, its just it was something that wasn't really that memorable nor was I that engaged with the book.   The story seemed to be ho-hum through out the book and I suppose it didn't help that it took me about 2 months to complete the book.  Maybe if I had just sat down one afternoon during Christmas, this would have been done sooner.

Bottom line:  This book is meant to be read quickly and not over the course of two months.    Its also clearly a book that isn't hard-hitting, but has a decent storyline and if you want a decent Christmas story that ends a little differently than you expect, this would be a story for you.  A decent read, but nothing to write home about.

Pages read for 2012: 3592

February Prompt - A Classics Challenge

For this month's prompt on Nov, we are be asked to write about a character that we find interesting.  This month I have chosen Konstantin Levin from Anna Karenina.

I am going to answer a combination of Level 1 and Level 2 questions.

My first impressions of Konstantin Levin is of somebody who doesn't enjoy being in the city and is clearly a person who feels pressed in when visiting his friend, Stepan Arkadyevich and somebody who prefers to be on his country estate and getting his hands dirty and not in a fancy home somewhere not doing things with his hands.

I have actually grown to like Levin and even though I think that he can be a bit awkward socially in that he would rather be by himself rather than around the social elite of St. Petersburg and Moscow and like my protagonists to be a little more socially attuned.  I find him to be totally believable because he sounds a lot myself, in which I would rather be with a few selected friends rather than amongst people that I really am not comfortable around.  I would also rather be in a space that is somewhat out of the way rather than in a place that is constantly busy, although I do like being in a place that is close to stores and activity so that when I do need it, I can easily access it. Like Levin, I would also rather be around books than people and find that being around people rather difficult.  I would like to meet him; he seems to be what one calls an old soul, as he is not really concerned about the things of the here and now and more concerned about things that require thought and study.

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