Thursday, March 31, 2011

Friday Buys 3/5/11-4/1/11

Yah....sorry about the lack of Friday Buys this month.  :/  I haven't found the time to take the pictures, load them to the computer and then to wordpress, and then write a post about them.  So here is a compilation of all month.  I've been hitting the jackpot so there's a bit more here than my bookshelf can handle...things are being stacked all weird now.  Perfectly fine with me, though!  The more the merrier, right?  ;)

So, where to start?

  • I guess I could start with my first ARC copy received from the author.  Miss Anne Osterlund was kind enough to send me a review copy of her newest book Exile, which I heartily devoured in a few short days.  It was super awesome and I can't wait to share my review with you!




  • These next books are like best friends...but in book form.  100 Cupboards, Dandelion Fire, and The Chestnut King by N. D. Wilson.  They are (in my opinion) some of the best pieces of literature out there, especially for children.  They have the writing, the story, the characters...  Gosh, they're amazing!  Hopefully I'll have reviews for those soon - I just need to re-read them!  (Ok, I don't NEED to...I just want to.  Haha!)  (Oh, and by the way, Wilson has a new children's book coming out this summer, called The Dragon's Tooth.  You should check it out!  Looks amazing!)






  • I love this book... To Catch A Pirate by Jade Parker.  I've read it three times and decided it was just too cute to exclude from my shelf.  So I got it for $3.00 in really good condition.  Oh yah.

  • And then....I bought some Harry Potter books.  Numbers 5 and 6.  For $3.00 each.  $6.00 total.  That's 1/10th of what I would have spent buying them new.  They're in decent condition...  Quite a bit roughed up, but that means they've been loved!  (Now I just need books 1 and 7 and I'll have the whole series in hardcover!  Used, but that's better than nothing.  I've only read the first one, but it was so awesome that I had to get the rest.  And if I don't like them...I'll just sell them or something.  But I doubt that'll happen!!)






  • The other day I got this lovely copy of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier for only $1.25!!!  I keep seeing reviews about it and a reader friend told me it was good, so I'll definitely have to pick it up soon!

  • Ah...The Phantom Tollbooth.  I've never seen it for this cheap ($.50).  Actually, I don't think I've seen it used, ever.  So I had to snag it.  I have never read it before but I've heard only awesome things about it.  This copy is in really great condition, too!




  • Scott Westerfeld's craze Uglies was in the used bookstore in good condition for $1.00.  I could never pass that up!!




  • Beauty (Robin McKinley) is one of those books that I feel like - "Everyone except me has read this book!"  Well, that's about to change soon...or at least this year, as I've been reading a lot of fairytale retellings lately and feel like soon I'll need a break.  Haha!  But either way, I'm excited to read McKinley's rendition of the fairytale when I can get around to it.  I got this lovely copy for $6.50 at the Borders Closing Blowout Sale near our house.




  • The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen has been on my radar for a couple of months...  After reading the synopsis for the third time I decided it looked too good to pass up...  $8.00 on Amazon.




  • Deception by Randy Alcorn actually just came up because it was cheap on Amazon... $6.00.  I have the first two in the trilogy and am planning on reading them pretty soon...possibly for a trilogy review.  Great deal, huh?




And then I bought two awesome notebooks... One for a "What I'm Reading" notebook because I'm on my last book in my current notebook.  I bought another for a review notebook...cuz I desperately need to be able to write down the awesome (and not so awesome) stuff that I read...  It's already helping so much with the books I'm currently reading.  The notebooks are those brown eco-friendly ones that look really cool...but I'm deciding whether or not I want to just write what each one is for on the front and be done with it, or cover them with adorable paper and make it all frilly and cute.  I'll let you know when I've figured it out... :)

So that's a list of the books I've bought this month!  And tomorrow there will be more jackpots (I'm hoping...).  Our Friends of the Library bookstore is having a huge sale, from 10-4 on the 2nd of April.  I will be going asap to get my fill of cheap books, and then will probably be heading over to Borders for another look at their selection.  The books last week were only 10-30% off.  Next week they should be half-off or more, which means cheaper books...  I just hope they'll still be left!  Haha! :)

Happy reading and thanks for being so patient with this extremely long post!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison



If only Savannah Delano's beautiful but stupid boyfriend hadn't broken up with her for her sister - she wouldn't be in this mess.  Instead of planning to go to prom with Hunter, in the gorgeous $350.00 dress she'd bought specifically for the event, she's stuck with a frustrating and inexperienced Fairy - excuse me, Fair - Godmother.  When Chrysanthemum Everstar gives Savannah three wishes, Savannah thinks she's got it under control - I mean how hard can it be to use three wishes to wish your life back to the way it was?  (A.K.A. perfect.)  A lot harder than you think.  Especially if Chrissy is in charge.  Savannah gets stuck in the Middle Ages in two fairytales she never wanted to be a part of - and then has to turn around and rescue (again, from the smelly Middle Ages) a boy from school she told herself she was going to avoid (because he's the last person she wants to take her to prom).  Can Savannah save him in time and regain control of her life?  Or will these events alter her life in a way that can never be changed?
_____________________________________________

My thoughts -

You know those books that you pick up thinking you're getting into a light and fluffy read that may or may not be good literature?  When I pick up a book like that, I try not to expect too much from in in character development, story line, originality, etc.  My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison was exactly one of those books.  I planned to read it, enjoy it for what it is, give it three stars, and move on.

I was WAY wrong!  This book began surprising me from the first pages - how Rallison introduced her characters was amazingly intriguing.  Instead of starting from Savannah's perspective, she dives into her sister Jane's.  What does Jane think of this whole "boyfriend stealing" thing?  Does she really mean to steal Hunter from her sister?  Is it her fault?  Is she just a mean sister with a cold heart, waiting to prey on Savannah at any moment, as Savannah thinks?

After we get that side of the story (the first chapter), we get Savannah's heartbreak and her attempts to make amends on her own.  But even when her Fair Godmother Chrissy shows up, Savannah can't seem to get things under control.  But all these mistakes turn out to be a blessing in disguise as Savannah realizes what it means to be responsible and strong and to truly love someone - and to have someone truly love her in return.

There were a couple of really awesome statements in this book about love and what it does to even the most responsible people.  The story was original and fun and, while it had a light-hearted tone, the danger was real and peril was inevitable.  There were so many twists and turns in the last half that I couldn't help but drop my jaw in amazement.  There was mystery and magic and intriguing battles with dragons and ogres and knights.  The mystery had me guessing until the end, when I had narrowed it down to two suspects but still couldn't decide!  The Black Knight creates a very old-fashioned atmosphere, with challenges and mystery and chivalry.

There is so much packed into these few pages that it made me wonder how Rallison did it so masterfully.  There's Jane and hunter's story, followed by Savannah's attempts to get a prom date by herself, then Savannah being transported to different fairytales - and then to the middle ages for the third time to save Tristan, her un-wanted prom date.

Speaking of Tristan...  I totally adored this guy.  And even though he was amazing from the first time his name is mentioned, Rallison manages to take him from a cute, sweet, gentle but strong guy and add greater integrity and a whole lot more confidence (the kind of confidence you get from slaying dragons) to his character.  And all the while she manages to keep him consistent!  And he and Savannah are exact opposites in such a way that makes you go, "DUH!  They're so meant for each other!"
Favorite character -

I don't have a favorite character.  (Shocker!)  While I liked Chrissy and Savannah a little less than I liked Jane, Hunter and (duh!) Tristan, it wasn't enough so that I can choose.  I am at a stand-off here, but it really doesn't matter.  Everyone was wonderful and they were all so perfect for the story!
Favorite aspects/scenes -

The originality of the two fairytales at the beginning was amazing.  If you can make Cinderella and Snow White original and incorporate those two stories into the end of the story, you've got amazing talent.  The switching of potions and enchantments was something I hadn't thought of/read before and found it added a more serious tone to the story.  The way the love story is built is so smooth and wonderful...  The innocence in this story is hard to ignore - and so easy to like.

A favorite scene would be the ball.  And all the scenes after the ball...  But I can't say another word or I'll ruin the surprise!!

One word to sum up this book (and final thoughts) -

Illuminated is the word I think best describes this book.  The whole thing shines and is filled with treasures.  If you haven't read this book - what the heck are you waiting for?!  This is a matter of serious importance! :)  I hope that everyone who reads this review will find the time to read this book...and I hope everyone finds it as incredibly wonderful as I have!  Now all I have to do is get my hands on a copy of My Unfair Godmother which is released April 12th.  More more more! :)  I'm already dying to read My Fair Godmother a second time!

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Pale Assassin by Patricia Elliott


Eugenie and her brother Armand are orphans in Paris, cared for by a guardian who is nothing like a father.  Their lives are safe - until the Revolution breaks out in full swing.  Aristocrats are killed every day in the streets.  Eugenie has done nothing to instigate such hatred, and continues to live life glamorously.  But when she and her brother are put in danger, she must reassess her way of life in order to protect herself and get out of France as fast as she can.

___________________________________________________

My thoughts -

Oh, dear.  I hate writing conflicted reviews about conflicted books.  WHY does it have to be confusing?  WHY are certain parts appealing and others not?  WHY does part of me like this book and the other part dislike it?

These things I don't know if I'll ever know, so I will try my best to relay my feelings in a rational and understandable way.

The side of me that doesn't like this book says...  Ok.  Bad character development.  What's with that?  Armand, Eugenie, Julien, Guy, La Fantom...  All had a major character flaw - inconsistency.  One moment, Armand would act one way, and the next he would act another.  It wasn't all the time, but you could tell the author didn't have a strong "relationship" with her characters.  Julien and Eugenie were the strongest, and they still lacked character until the middle of the story.  Belle was the most lively, but she didn't have a huge part.  On top of that, I see the writing as a glass half empty.  Good, but bland.  A bit forced.  And the story - it lacked.  There were scenes I didn't even have to read, and I would have been fine.  And then all of a sudden at the very end  - BAM! - there's a love story.  Sheesh.

However, there is my other side, who says this about the book...  Yes, bad character development is disappointing, but I did end up liking and respecting Eugenie and Julien half-way through.  I also look at the writing as good - a glass half full.  The action scenes held a lot of substance and I felt transported.  I also LOVELOVELOVE the French Revolution, so that made the read easier and more enjoyable.  And the love story - who cares if it was sudden?!  I realized when it happened that that's what I'd wanted to happen the whole time.  It should have developed slower and the characters should have shown more realization before they spoke about it to each other, but it was still a wonderful way to end the book...

Favorite Character -

Julien and Eugenie tie for first.  They were both likable after I got past the beginning and they held more substance once the story really got rolling.
Favorite Aspect -

The small romance at the end and the era this story revolves around (French Revolution).

One word to sum up this book (final thoughts) -

Conflicted. With a heavy sigh I write that word, wishing it could be different.  I just can't make up my mind about it.  I liked it, but no, I didn't.  At least I know I didn't hate it.  I would never recommend it unless you were just DYING to read something and you'd already read all the books I was recommending.  Or if you're a French Revolution freak, like me.  There are supposed to be two more books after this one.  I don't think I'll read them unless they just fall into my hands.  Otherwise, I'm not going to look for them.  It's a shame, because I think Patricia Elliott has potential, and I want the story to pick up and interest me.  I want her to WOW her readers - I just hope she'll have another chance.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan



This review is spoiler free for all four books in the series so far!
  1. The Lightning Thief (book 1)
  2. The Sea of Monsters (book 2)
  3. The Titan's Curse (book 3)



Percy Jackson is back at Camp Half-Blood - and there is yet another problem.  Or rather, the continuing problem of Kronos and his growing army.  When another oracle is revealed - this time to Annabeth - the daughter of Athena chooses three inhabitants of the camp to go with her: Percy, Grover, and Tyson.  The three set out on the dangerous mission of finding Ariadne's string before Kronos' monsters can find it, but it turns out there is more to their quest...and that it is all the more dangerous.  With Grover still wanting to find Pan, and Annabeth desperate to accomplish this quest - even though it seems someone will die in the end - Percy must once more use his wits and the power of Poseidon to help his friends and prevent Kronos from being able to navigate Daedalus' deceitful labyrinth.
___________________________________________

My thoughts:

Ummm...can I say, "WOW"?  Because that's how I feel right now - and have felt since I finished this book.  I will start by saying this is my favorite Percy Jackson book so far.  It had a tone that was a bit more serious than the others, but its contents are fascinating to no end.  Not kidding, I was ten times more hooked than in the last three, and I really really liked those!

Percy is altogether a likable guy.  If I was in the story, I'd have a major crush on him...  He's smart, kind, reliable, and has faults to make him more human.  And more likable, I say.  When I'm reading these books, especially this one, I feel like I've grown up with him.  He started out as a 12-year-old who thinks he's a mortal with ADHD and dyslexia.  Now he's almost sixteen and has skills like none other, and fights demigods and monsters - and sometimes gods.  He's like the Hercules of our time.  You can't help but love him!  And just when you think he's pulled the coolest stunt in the series so far, he does something else that's even cooler.  The fight scene in chapter 14, "My Brother Duels Me To The Death", has got to be one of the best fight scenes I've read in a long time...maybe in all time.

Annabeth's character was altogether more developed in this book, I felt.  Because she had to lead a quest, you see and hear more of her decisions.  It was really neat to get close to her character like never before....to get inside her head a bit.

The other characters, of course, are awesome.  They accent the story perfectly; no one is out of place.  And I love the writing.  I can tell Rick Riordan has a fun time writing these books - because the reader has fun reading them!  Percy's voice is unmistakable and (again) likable and interesting to read.  So far, the story has built up perfectly.  It started out with just a little bit about Kronos in the first book, then a little more in the second, then more, and now this - a full battle!  It feels so natural.

Favorite character -

This has been established: Percy.  However...there is another that tied pretty closely who is only in this book.  That would be Daedalus.  He. Was. Amazing.  The twist in the story that revolved around his character was SO fascinating!

Favorite aspect -

Percy and Annabeth's growing relationship/friendship (call it what you will).  Their friendship has always intrigued me and I feel it has developed well over these four books.  I can't wait to see what happens between them in the next and final book!

One word to sum up this book (and final conclusion) -

This book is a maze.  Really and truly.  Not only are the characters stuck in a multi-thousand year old maze for most of the time, but the story events are just like it - twisting and turning and totally surprising.  Highly recommended to everyone...seriously.  This book just topped off an already good series.  And I heard from the kids I babysit that #5 is super duper surprising and that I "won't guess in a million years what happens!"  They tried many a time to tell me what happens...I had to plug my ears and make loud noises until they stopped screaming and getting all excited about it...and still they were jumping up and down.  They had me all excited and squealing!  And when I finished The Battle of the Labyrinth, it had me squealing with excitement and clapping my hands and dropping my jaw over and over again, trying to say something worthy.  (Nothing worked...)  So what am I going to do now?  Dive into The Last Olympian, of course!  I'm sure many wonderful and surprising adventures await me there! :)

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Battle of the Labyrinth (Quotes)

I absolutely LOVE this quote!!!
The shadows in the cavern became deeper and heavier.  I tried to back away from the edge of the pit, but it was like swimming through oil.  Time slowed down.  My breathing almost stopped.

-- Chapter 15, Page 274

Great imagery...  I could just feel the oily air around me.  And time slowing.  And pushing so that I won't fall off the edge of a cliff and to my doom, where an angry Titan awaits me.

This book is quite something, lemme tell you that. :)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Pale Assassin (Quotes)

In a book that is just average, this paragraph really stood out to me.  It says a lot about the feelings of the young people during the French Revolution.  This is one of the many many reasons why I am so interested in that dark and strange war.
"This is such a time to be alive, Eugenie!  To be young!  It is the young who will change France.  We are the ones with the ideas.  There is so much to do!  Liberty, equality, fraternity!  Those words have such a brave ring, do they not?  They are the watchwords of our Revolution, Eugenie, and we must make them come true for our beloved country!"

- Chapter 7, Page 73

Check back in about a week or so for my review on this book, The Pale Assassin by Patricia Elliott!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Giveaway Hop Winner!

Let's all give our congratulations to....


Lexie@BookBug


Thanks so much for participating, Lexie!  Hope you enjoy the novel! :)


 


What she won:



Happy reading! :)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Giveaway is closed!



The Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop, open March 17th-20th, is now closed.


Thanks so much for participating - and if you didn't participate make sure to stop by again for more giveaways and giveaway hops in the future!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte



Jane Eyre, a girl of no importance and the daughter of an unapproved match, lives a troubled life for her first ten years under her aunt's roof.  Her parents died when she was a baby and she was left as Aunt Reed's charge with no other living relatives that she knew of.  When her aunt can no longer stand Jane any more, she sends her to a boarding school where the rules are strict and the headmaster is every bit the tyrant Aunt Reed was.  But Jane conquers, becomes a teacher, and then wishes to become a private tutor.  After her ad is received and her application accepted, Jane finds herself in the home of a mysterious and strange man, Mr. Rochester, who has put his ward, Adele, under Jane's tutelage.  But then Jane finds herself falling deeply in love with Mr. Rochester, who she could not imagine would love her in return.  This, and the strange happenings in Thornfield Hall, give Jane cause to doubt her future.  And when Mr. Rochester's dark secret reveals itself, Jane must question her love and discover what she must do with her life before she can find the happiness she never had.

____________________________________


This is one of those "Can words describe?" books.  And while I feel there aren't very many words that do an adequate job, I will try my best.


Can you believe that I haven't read this book yet?  I can't.  For years, people have been telling me,  "Sierra,  you have to read this book."  "Sierra, this is one of the best books I've ever read."  "Oh my GOSH!  You haven't read Jane Eyre?!"  "What are you waiting for, you, the reader, of all people?"


So here I am, having read (devoured) the long awaited book that has been loved, cried and giggled over by hordes.  And I'm here to tell you people who have not yet read this book - "What.  In the world.  Are.  You.  Waiting for?!"  (I know...I'm one to talk...but now I know how everyone else feels!  haha!)


Throughout the course of the book, I got choked up.  But there was too much ahead to slow down, stop, and actually cry.  However...when I got to the last chapter, I lost it.  Tears came and the two-year-old little boy I was babysitting put down his yogurt and stared at me, head cocked to the side, probably completely confused as to why I was smiling and crying at the same time.  After all the heartache and sadness, and even the little bits of joy in between, the happiness of the end just overwhelmed me.  It was just too beautiful to not feel that way - there was so much emotion in my heart that I felt it would almost burst.


Jane is a character I look up to - I want to be like her.  Her decisiveness, her courage, her resolution, her faith...it amazed me, and amazes me still, even after the book has been set back on the shelf.  She knew what she had to do and she did it - no matter the cost.  And the way she loved everyone so unconditionally - especially Mr. Rochester - continually surprised me.  Her kind heart, her gentle but firm manner, and her intense love...  Wow.  I also loved her close study of human nature and how she described and saw people - why she was intrigued by them.


Mr. Rochester himself is quite a character.  Going into this story, I was NOT expecting him to be the least like he was - physically ugly and mentally independent.  He was strange, but yet so perfect for the story.  In all my travels through literature, I've never met a character like him, and I doubt I ever will again.  That character will always be embodied by Mr. Rochester alone.  I easily fell for him as Jane did; her love for him was pure; she never once judged him for his faults; she loved him all the more for them.  The reader cannot help but feeling the same.  I loved seeing his pride break down, slowly but surely, and the way he described the experience after.  It was just amazing.


As far as the story line and the writing... Both were equally magnificent.  The story captured me from the first, especially when I expected the novel to begin when she was older.  But I loved every bit of it - every second was glorious, and painful and lovely.  I cared for Jane so much that it didn't matter what she was doing - I wanted to read about her.  And Mr. Rochester and St. John and Adele and everyone else.  The writing was incredible, down to the very last word.  I loved how she wrote most of the time in past tense, and then sometimes slipped smoothly into present tense, showing the reader exactly what it felt like, to be doing instead of remembering.  I'm actually not a huge fan of present tense, but this was so perfect I just couldn't resist liking it.


Favorite character:  Mr. Rochester because of his originality...and how much I loved his character within the first few pages of his introduction.


Favorite aspect:  DUH!  The love story, of course!  Totally intriguing the way it was played out, the intensity of Mr. Rochester's secret hanging over it part of the time, the rest being Jane's own doubts about Mr. Rochester's nature or her sadness over him being engaged to a woman who would not and could not love him - and who he had no passion for either.  Oh my gosh this story had me in its clutches and didn't let me go!!!


There are no single words to describe this book. Magnificent and heart-pounding and gut-wrenching are about the best I can do.  They are true - as true as true can be - but there is something about the book that can only be felt and understood by reading it yourself.  It's not anything that can be described - it's an experience. One that I can't wait to relive again and again and again!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop - Two Girls of Gettysburg! 17th-20th




Ok, so while I enjoyed Two Girls of Gettysburg, I can't see myself reading it again...at least not any time soon.  So I've decided to give away my paperback copy of the book to one lucky winner.  Here is my review if you would like to read it! :)

This book is in nearly perfect condition and practically stayed on my nightstand the whole time - I don't remember ever taking it anywhere.  At the moment it is currently under some books to keep it flat and fresh.  No tears, stains, or marks of any kind.

This giveaway begins on March 17th, 2011 at 1:01 AM.  It ends on March 20th, 2011 at 11:59 PM.  The winner will be selected/contacted soon after and announced on the 23rd, at the latest.  This is only a US giveaway, due to the cost of shipping.

Ok, now onto the rules:

Mandatory entry  (equals 1 point):

  1. You must be 14 or older to enter this contest.

  2. You must be a follower in some way:  Facebook, Goodreads, or a confirmed subscriber by email.  (All these can be found on the right side of this blog.)


Extras:


  1. +1 for each extra following.


  2. +2 for commenting on your favorite review of all my reviews.  Leave a meaningful comment telling me why you liked that particular review and if you have read the book or not.  See my list of book reviews here.


  3. +1 for adding up all your points.


Then you must:





  1. Fill out this form.


  2. When contacted, reply within 48 hours, or another winner will be selected.  All winners are selected through Random.org.


Thank you!  Have a great time visiting all the other wonderful Lucky Hoppers - you can find the full list here on I_Am_A_Reader,_Not_A_Writer.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Jane Eyre (Quotes)

Over the course of reading what is the incredible and delicious story of Jane Eyre, I discovered that I absolutely LOVE the way Mr. Rochester puts his feelings into words.  It is like poetry infused into prose, and it is beautiful.

This is my favorite passage from the whole book:
"Because," he said, "I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you, especially when you are near me, as now; it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame.  And if that boisterous channel, and two hundred miles or so of land, come broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion will be snapped; and then I've a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly.  As for you, you'd forget me."

-  Chapter 23, Page 295

There are others...  But while I don't think it would give anything away, I still don't want to post it because it's in the second to last chapter.

There is also a single sentence that made me cry - but that does contain a major spoiler...

So really, if you haven't yet, you should just read this book.  You will be a very very very happy reader.  :)  But until then, enjoy the quote above...

Happy Reading! :)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Guest post is up!! :)

Click here to sign up to write a Guest Post! :)  If you know of anyone who's interested, spread the word!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy

I won this ARC copy of Words in the Dust from the Goodreads Firstreads giveaway program.


Zulaikha lives in modern Afghanistan, when the Taliban have been brought down and the Americans are still making progress in her country.  She lives with her Baba (father), her Madar (mother...but not her birth mother), brothers and sister.  Her father and older brother are welders and work hard to provide for the family.  Zulaikha would live a very normal life...except for one thing.  Her mouth.  Her ugly, cleft lip, her twisted teeth, and her disfigured nose.  But then the Americans show up, offering a free surgery to fix Zulaikha's mouth.  And her sister, Zeynab, might be married to a man of wealth and prestige.  Could Zulaikha get the happy ending she and Zeynab had always dreamed about since their Madar-jan died?
______________________________________

I fell in love with this book from the opening words.  Literally.    "I traced the letters in the dust with my finger, spelling out my name:  Zulaikha"

But after that, the story blossoms into a whole world, the world of life in Afghanistan in the aftermath of a war, the world of an every-day-life Afghanistan family.  The culture in this is so rich, the characters so well-developed, that you cannot help but believe that it is real.

This is Trent Reedy's first novel, and he did a most excellent job.  Telling from Zulaikha's perspective could have been hard, but Reedy was talented enough to pull it off with incredibly smooth writing, characters that grow, a setting that is so different, and hardships that almost everyone can relate to.

Favorite character:  It's a tie between the sisters, Zulaikha and Zeynab.  I loved Meena for her part in Zulaikha's life; and even though I hated her guts, I thought the girls step-mother had a very important role.

Favorite aspects:  The way Zulaikha interacts with her family...she is truly an amazing girl.  And the way the reader watches Zulaikha grow is just beautiful... I honestly felt like I was growing with her, every step of the way.  The poems were so beautiful and so was the way Zulaikha related to the characters in the poems.

One word to sum this book up:  I would have to say a few words:  sweet, heartbreaking, and lovely. Trent Reedy really has pulled off something amazing here and I can't wait to see whose story he tells next!  (This story was based off a girl named Zulaikha who the writer met while serving in Afghanistan who had a cleft lip.  The Americans fixed it and he swore to her that he would tell her story...  If that isn't a touching story, I don't know what is.)

Recommended to ages 12 and up.  Click to read my favorite quotes from Words in the Dust.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lessons from Dostoevsky

When I have money to spend at a bookstore, I want to spend it well.  I want to spend it on something that's worth my while - worth my time and money.  Something that will feed me, inspire me, and make me want to come back.  While I don't always get my way and sometimes feel cheated out of my money, I've never EVER felt cheated by Dostoevsky.

EVER.

Did I say ever?

I've read The Idiot and Crime and Punishment.  I read The Idiot when I was in 9th grade - something the majority of 9th graders in the world would never do...I'm sure most of them don't even know who the author is.  But I, the lone Russian-literature-loving Freshman, knew.

I knew, I read, I loved.  (Shhhh...I know...I can be cheesy.)

I began loving Russian literature with The Idiot.  Now, every time I have money to spend on books - EVERY time - I consider buying something of Dostoevsky's or Tolstoy's or whatever else I can find.  It doesn't always happen, but it's on my radar 24/7.  I want to get as much of it as I can.  It's some of the most quality literature out there, where you can get everything from romance and adventure and some of the most difficult struggles imaginable - all in one book.  It's deep and holds a well-deserved place in the ranks of great literature.

So why am I writing this post? you may ask.

The other day at the bookstore, I was looking to spend the last Barnes and Noble Groupon I'd bought.  And, of course, I made myself comfortable in the "D" section.  Copies of Dostoevsky's novels The Possessed and Crime and Punishment have just recently come out by Vintage Classics.  I was contemplating the possibility of buying them, but I was unsure of the translation.  My fingers lingered over the beautiful spines - and the beautiful stories underneath.  I picked up The Brother's Karamazov.  I own the book, but have never read it.  Picking it up, I wanted to see what lay beneath the cover.  This is what I read:
Alexei Fyodorovich Karamazov was the third son of a landowner from our district, Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov, well known in his own way for his dark and tragic death, which happened exactly thirteen years ago and which I shall speak of in its proper place.

-- Chapter 1, The Brother's Karamazov, Everyman's Library (Translated by Pevear and Volokhonsky)

Not only did it strike me for the beautiful way it was written, but also the content of the paragraph.  Do you know how many times I read a book and will suddenly think, WOW, this author knows exactly where to put information, at exactly the right time, said by the right person, in the right setting.

"...and which I shall speak of in its proper place."

It only happens once in a blue moon.  Brittney Ryan, Anne Perry, N. D. Wilson, James Barrie and...Fyodor Dostoevsky.  There are many books out there that I love and cherish so much, and while they are written well, and even expertly, they do not display this intensely rare gift.

It is something I strive for in my own novels.  Sometimes (oftentimes) when I read something I just wrote I am disappointed by the amount of information stored up in one paragraph and I immeditely think, "How can I stretch this out?  Turn it around?  Give the information some originality, in form and in place?"  The way I accomplish this (and the best way to accomplish this for me, I've found in my eight years of writing) is to read each chapter once you've finished it, over and over again if needed, until you feel as though everything is in its proper place.  It helps to also focus on this one aspect of your writing, and once that is done to finally go to the next aspect or idea.  Another way to tone your writing in this way is to read the great authors like Dostoevsky, Barrie, Wilson, and the rest listed above.  It's inspiring, encouraging, and gives you examples of what you're trying to do on the published end of things.

I can't wait to be able to sit down and write - and incorporate these things that I am learning about the art of writing.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Words in the Dust (Quotes)

I looked down at the words I'd written on the paper.  Words that were at once a thousand years old and yet completely new.  I held them to my chest, but did not feel foolish for doing so.  Somehow I felt Muallem would understand.  My mother could write and read, this poem and more.  I wanted to learn to do that too.

--  Chapter 10, pages 103-104

 
Oh, if Zulaikha only knew

A single wall kept her love from view!

A secret longing, a restless desire,

Burned through her blood, and set her afire.

She tried to contain it, but she couldn't name

The light that had sparked this consuming flame.

--  Chapter 18, page 217

The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan

This review contains information that would spoil the second book.

  1. The Lightning Thief (book 1)
  2. The Sea of Monsters (book 2)



Percy Jackson, Son of Poseidon, is on yet another mission.  However, it is cut short by an ill-fated fight with a monster; the monster stealing Annabeth; the Camp gaining two half-bloods and then losing one of them to the goddess Artemis and her crew of Hunters;  Artemis being kidnapped by a monster; a crazy oracle that predicts two deaths out of five questers...  It's madness, and Percy can't help but wonder if he is one of the two who will die.  But he has to save Annabeth, find out what this monster is and who is responsible, and all the while try to stay alive during the next quest that the Oracle has made known.  And then there's Thalia, who has been called to go on this quest with him.  She's mysterious, and he doesn't know what she wants.  With all this, Percy Jackson has his hands full once more in Rick Riordan's third book in the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series.
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Good heavens.  Does it ever slow down?  Not in Percy's world.  Not when the gods are fighting and their half-blood children are trying to save the gods.  This book is one wild ride, adding even more information and stories from the fascinating and sometimes hilarious Greek and Roman myths.  More monsters are tackled, the reader meets even more gods, and more stories unfold.  Percy hasn't lost his witty charm, the gods haven't lost their ability to fight about petty things, and the monsters haven't ceased to grow.

I liked this book, but not as much as the last one.  While it had some spark, there wasn't as much as the last two books.  It moved the story along nicely, however, and the end was excellent.  It added a half star to my 3 star rating.  I guess I just didn't enjoy the story line as much.  It wasn't bad...it just wasn't great.  A solid good.

Two more books to go!  I plan on finishing them this month.  Number four should be waiting for me at the library soon...

Favorite character:  hasn't changed.  Percy.  And Grover makes me laugh.  (Oh, and I don't like Thalia's character.  She just doesn't click for me...)

Favorite aspect/scene:  For a while I didn't have one...  But my favorite chapter was near the end, called something like "I gain a million extra pounds" or something like that.  REALLY cool!

Summing it up with one word:  Honestly, because I didn't enjoy it as much as the other two, I can only say it was interesting.  Worth reading, definitely, if you liked the first two, and I'm sure the other books will be good as well!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

An Idea for a Monthly Guest Post...

I love Guest Posts.  I've been thinking lately about what kind of guest post I could do that I hadn't seen before...  It didn't take me long to realize that because I LOVE the classics and want to hear lots of other people's thoughts on them, I should do a sort of classics Guest Post.

My idea is this:  Once a month (for now...I may make it twice a month when it takes off), I will host a Gueust Post that has something to do with a classic, or a few classics.  Such as a book review (duh!), a classics comparison, an author bio of sorts (like: 10 interesting facts about "blank")...you could also write a review on a biography that you read about a classics author that was interesting...  Things like that.

Sound fun?

I'll be creating the page for it soon, where there will be some rules and a form to fill out, just so I can have more information on what you want to write.  I will contact you with the date I'll publish your post and you can send in your review/bio/whatever else! :)

Now on to my next review...

Happy Reading!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Friday Buys 2/25/11 - 3/4/11

This week was my most eventful buying week in a long time...probably since mid-January...can't remember.  But I haven't bought a book full price in what seems like a long time.  Always sale... 50 cents, a dollar...  Those are always amazing finds that make you feel so frugal. (Haha!)  But then there are those times...such as when you have a Groupon...when you can't help but walk out of a bookstore with a brand new book.  This week, I bought three brand new books, and two used.

The used:

The Vienna Prelude by Bodie Thoene.  I keep hearing these are amazing and I found the first one, almost brand new it seems, for 50 cents.  :)



Mister Monday by Garth Nix.  Are any of my followers Nix fans?  Never read him before but his stuff always looks amazing.  I like the concept of these books so hopefully they'll live up to my expectations.  They look like really easy reads so maybe soon...



The new:

Shirley by Charlotte Bronte.  I've been wanting this book for a while now...  I love romances like the ones described on the back.  Hopefully it'll be as good as it looks...  (Oh, and I've decided to read Jane Eyre really soon...probably my next classic!)



Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini.  Sabatini wrote Scaramouche, which is one of my favorite books of ALL time...and because of that book Sabatini is ranked in my favorite authors of all time.  So, Captain Blood must be good.  There's no way it can be bad.  I've read some of the beginning and was blown away by just that.  Oh, Sabatini, I love you...  And doesn't this copy just rock?  Fun, but scary/intimidating at the same time.  :)



Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brien.  I know the movie is famous, and a lot of you have probably seen it (I think it's a great movie), but who has read the book?  Only one person I know has read the book and she said they were awesome.  She read them when she was really young (like..12) so I'm sure they'll be even better for a 17-year-old.  The writing seems really descriptive but in a dreamy kind of way.  This is the first of 21 books so hopefully it won't leave me hanging too much or else I'll want to go out and buy the whole flipping series... :)  (It's so cool because the spines of the books, put in order, create a picture...  And the covers themselves are beautiful.)



And here they all are!  I bought them all for a total of $25.00 (because of the Groupon).  Hope everyone else is also finding good deals!!



Happy reading! :)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

February Summary

So, what have you all been up to this February?  I've been up to some fun stuff, my favorites, the usuals - school, blogging, reading, writing, planning for college, studying for the SAT, and doing some photography - see my website here or my blog here.  It's been a pretty awesome month, I'd say.  How about all of my lovely followers?

Here's a recap of what happened on my blog during the month of February!

(The single (sometimes double and triple) words next to each review are the words that I would choose to sum up each book.  So if you’re looking for a book that fits that description, or the description catches your eye, you don’t have to go searching through all the reviews for what you want.)

These are the books I read/reviewed in February:



A total of 10 books this month!! :)


2011 Reading Challenge



read 18 books toward a goal of 65 books.



hide





I also wrote a review on Genesis and Exodus in the Bible and did a post on my photography:


Outside of my reviews, this is what I’ve done on my blog this month:

I shared a few quotes:

 I have a weekly meme called Friday Buys, where I list all the books I buy, as I buy them.

And here are my pages:

Where can you find me?

  • Goodreads

  • Facebook

  • Amazon

  • Or you can subscribe using the Email subscription box on the right side of the home page!


(Being a fan/follower/confirmed subscriber on Goodreads and Facebook and my home page will usually bring a lot more points if you ever enter any of my future giveaways!)

And that’s my February!  Take a look at my Blog Love (the links on the right side of the blog) and see what other book blogers have been up to this month.  Yay for March and all the books to be read then! :)  Happy reading, everyone!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man by James Weldon Johnson


This story is a very emotional recollection of a man who was both black and white.  A fictional account from an autobiographical standpoint of what such a life would look like, James Weldon Johnson takes us on a journey full of sorrow, bad mistakes, a glimpse of happiness, and a life lived around the world.  We see the narrator has he grows, as he discovers his heritage, as he loses himself to his desires, and as he finally realizes the course of his life.


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It was seriously the LAST paragraph that did it for me.  Honestly, I had no idea what I really thought of the book until I read the last paragraph.  It was crazy, going on a journey like this one and getting so acquainted with the characters, and still being unsure of how I felt.  It had amazing writing, great characters, and awesome facts to back up the culture - and still it was missing something.  It was just...empty.  Despite all the facts and character development, despite all the places the narrator went and all the people he met, I felt that he didn't do anything.  He waltzed through life with rich people, as a gambler, as a traveller, always searching for something more, always selfish.  Even when he finally decides to do the right thing, he gets distracted.  I wanted him so badly to do something worthwhile.


Seriously, the LAST paragraph, maybe the last two paragraphs, but really the very last, turned the whole book around and took me by surprise.  And while before I wasn't sure if I would recommend it, now I know that I would recommend it highly.  It frustrated me, it made me feel, and it surprised me.  Great book!


Favorite character: the "girlfriend" or the "widow".  A tie between them.


Favorite aspect:  Everything.  But to name just a bit of it:  foreign language, the way the narrator describes different cities and how the people in them live, the talks about mulatto folk in the South and in the North....  I really could go on! :)


One word to sum up this book:  Surprising.  Really surprising.  Please read this book! :)