Tuesday, April 21, 2009

4 Mini-Reviews in 4 Sentences

Since I finished 5 books in the read-a-thon, I am now really behind on my reviews. I have been having a difficult time keeping up with my reviews in the past several months, so I'm going to be VERY brief--I'm going to try to do each review in only 4 sentences. We'll see how this goes!! (I am going to write a "normal" review for My Antonia since I only read part of it during the read-a-thon, and it is one of my books for the Classics Challenge).

Matrimony by Joshua Henkin

Julian Wainwright is an aspiring writer who falls in love in college. As he matures into a full-fledged adult, his life does not take the path he imagined, but he learns the value of love, trust, friendship and family.

As many people have mentioned in their reviews, this was definitely a character-driven novel, which I really like. The story is fairly slow-paced, but an enjoyable read.
Fire in the Blood by Irene Nemirovsky

Silvio is an older man who lives in a small French village, and is most content when he is completely alone in his small house with a bottle of wine. He tries not to remember the love from his youth, and what secrets surround that love--secrets only known to himself and one other.

I was disappointed in this novel, but maybe because I was reading it quickly during the read-a-thon. I felt no connection with any of the characters and though I was surprised to read the unexpected ending, I was a bit glad the novel was over.


The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

A very short tale about how the Queen of England accidentally checks out a book from a travelling library and her life and habits change dramatically. Her advisers don't know what has gotten into her, and they don't think it's a good idea for the Queen to always have her nose in a book.

Though there are many great bookish quotes, I was also a bit disappointed in this book as well. Though I love reading myself, so I can understand what it is like to want to do nothing else but read, I did not really find this book to be amusing or thought-provoking. (Sorry)

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Tristran Thorn is a young man who will do anything to capture the heart of the beautiful Victoria Forester. When he and Victoria see a falling star one evening, Tristran makes a daring promise that he will go through the forbidden gap in the Wall to find the fallen star and bring it back, if Victoria in turn will give him a kiss and her hand.

Stardust has a bit of everything that makes a story fun to read and memorable--adventure, magic, betrayal, a hero and love. This is my first Gaiman book, and it will not be my last!

Whew--I did it! It is hard to be so brief because I have a lot more to say about several of these books. I think most of them have been reviewed about a million times though, so I probably don't have anything new to say!

All four books completed April 18-19, 2009
Number of pages: Matrimony-291; Fire in the Blood-138; The Uncommon Reader-120; Stardust-333

Sunday, April 19, 2009

RAT: Hour 24 and End of the Event Meme

It is now 6:20, and I'm not going to start a new book. I'll do the survey, see if anyone else is still awake, then go to bed myself! This has been a GREAT read-a-thon! Thank you to the hostesses and cheerleaders!! Now I just have to get caught up writing the reviews for all 5 books I finished.

These are my final numbers:
Total number of pages: 1050
Amount that will be donated to FirstBook: $52.50
Total time spent reading: 860 minutes
Total time spent blogging: 375 minutes

1. Which hour was most daunting for you? probably 18 and 19
2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? Stardust was a good choice. The Glass Castle would be a good one as well.
3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? having a list of mini-challenge ahead of time would be helpful
4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? The 3 hostess did SUCH a great job organizing the entire event!
5. How many books did you read? 5--but I had already read about 1/3 of the first book
6. What were the names of the books you read? My Antonia, Matrimony, Fire in the Blood, The Uncommon Reader, Stardust
7. Which book did you enjoy most? Stardust
8. Which did you enjoy least? Fire in the Blood
9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? n/a
10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? I would definitely participate in the read-a-thon as a reader again!

R-A-T: Hours 22 & 23

My cat FINALLY jumped up on my lap to cuddle with me (at 5am). She's been in and out of the living room all day! I just finished Stardust, so I'm not really sure what to do. I'm going to spend some time blog hopping and seeing who is still awake. After that, there will be less than an hour left--should I start another book? It seems a little ridiculous to be up for 23 1/2 hours, but at the same time, starting another book seems a little ridiculous as well! Maybe there will be a end of the event mini-challenge that I can do! Anyways...I'm very rambly...I'm really not at all tired right now. I have that weird hungry-ish late night eating feeling though. Do you know what I'm talking about? I'm not actually hungry...anyways...REALLY rambly...

Number of pages since last update: 150
Total number of pages: 1050 (yay! 50 pages over my goal!)
Number of books completed: 5
Time spent reading since last update: 78 min
Total time spent reading: 860 min (14.33 hours)
Time spent blogging since last update: 30 min
Total time spent blogging: 345 minutes (5.75 hours)
Mini-challenges completed: 4--intro meme, You tube video challenge, non-fiction question, mid-event survey

Is anyone else awake??

R-A-T: Hours 20 & 21

So it is 3:45 am here right now. It's funny how noticeable all the little noises around the house are at this hour. I'm still fairly awake-feeling, but my right eye is very stingy. I keep closing it and reading out of only my left eye. It's probably going to get mad at me too! I'm really liking Stardust, and it's moving very quickly. I'm not too far away from my 1000 page goal!

Number of pages since last update: 151
Total number of pages: 900
Number of books completed: 4
Time spent reading since last update: 87 min
Total time spent reading: 782 min
Time spent blogging since last update: 30 min
Total time spent blogging: 315 minutes
Mini-challenges completed: 4--intro meme, You tube video challenge, non-fiction question, mid-event survey

R-A-T: Hours 18 & 19

">Fox Video

For some reason, this video made me laugh until I cried. I don't think it's supposed to be funny, but it was just very unexpected! Maybe you'll think it's funny, or maybe just interesting, but either way...it's a fun 60 seconds!

I'm feeling pretty awake, but my hubby just went to bed (at 1:30 am), and I know lots of others have gone to bed, so this is when it starts to feel a little lonely for me. I just started Stardust, so hopefully that will be an engaging read.

Number of pages since last update: 111
Total number of pages: 749
Number of books completed: 4
Time spent reading since last update: 75 min
Total time spent reading: 695 min
Time spent blogging since last update: 25 min
Total time spent blogging: 285 minutes
Mini-challenges completed: 4--intro meme, You tube video challenge, non-fiction question, mid-event survey

Saturday, April 18, 2009

R-A-T: Hours 16 & 17

Well it's almost midnight here, and even with my fun IHOP break, I'm feeling a little restless. I keep putting my book down and just staring at the wall. Hopefully that will go away soon. I finished Fire in the Blood, and have moved onto An Uncommon Reader. It is nice and short, so that will feel good to finish a book quickly!

Number of pages since last update: 96
Total number of pages: 638
Number of books completed: 3
Time spent reading since last update: 70 min
Total time spent reading: 620 min
Time spent blogging since last update: 40 min
Total time spent blogging: 260 minutes
Mini-challenges completed: 4--intro meme, You tube video challenge, non-fiction question, mid-event survey

I'm planning to post a funny 60 second YouTube video on my next update. I actually don't think it is intended to be funny, but for some reason, I think it's hilarious! Is everyone still awake and reading??

R-A-T: Hours 13-15 and Mid-Event Survey

I just had a very eventful hour 14, as I met up with Trish, Kari and Krystal (our unofficial cheerleader!) at IHOP. Blueberry pancakes=yummy deliciousness! We felt a little silly with our books and cameras, but our server was very kind in taking our pictures! It was a little difficult to concentrate on reading, as I tend to talk A LOT, and there was music playing, plus people to watch, but it was fun and a good break from being at home! I feel very wide awake now, thanks to the 2 1/2 cups of coffee.
My updated stats from the last post are:

Number of pages since last update: 96
Total number of pages: 567
Number of books completed: 1
Time spent reading since last update: 70 min
Total time spent reading: 550 min
Time spent blogging since last update: 35 min
Total time spent blogging: 220 minutes
Mini-challenges completed: 4--intro meme, You tube video challenge, non-fiction question, mid-event survey
Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now? Fire in the Blood by Irene Nemirovsky
2. How many books have you read so far? this is my 3rd
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? reading The Uncommon Reader
4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day? nope
5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? I've had almost zero interruptions all day. Hubby has been very considerate and has been outside or in the garage working on various projects. He is actually reading right now!
6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? how quickly the time is going!
7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Everything has been really great, and I only have one suggestion. It would be helpful to have a list of the mini-challenges ahead of time, to make sure not to miss any.
8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? I can't think of anything at the moment--maybe go to bed earlier the night before
9. Are you getting tired yet? not yet...but I've had quite a bit of caffeine
10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered? having a spreadsheet to keep track of pages, time spent reading and blogging, mini-challenges, etc. is really helpful. I don't know how I would keep track without it!

R-A-T: Hours 11 & 12

Well the read-a-thon is now half over! This day has gone by very quickly! I haven't been having a difficult time concentrating so far, which is great and a little surprising! I have not reached half of my goal yet, which would be 500 of 1000 pages, but I'm hoping that reading a YA book will help increase my page numbers just a little. Ok...here are my stats, then I'm off to visit some blogs!

Number of pages since last update: 97
Total number of pages: 471
Number of books completed: 1
Time spent reading since last update: 80 min
Total time spent reading: 480 min
Time spent blogging since last update: 30 min
Total time spent blogging: 185 minutes
Mini-challenges completed: 2--intro meme, You tube video challenge

R-A-T: Hours 9 & 10

I took a short walk around my neighborhood before hour 9, and I stopped to take a few pictures. The flowers above are not mine, but they are a few houses down from mine, and I think they are so pretty! The sky was looking pretty stormy (see below) but it never rained and now the sun is out and shining!

I was pretty focused with my reading the last two hours, with no restlessness or urges to run in circles. My updates:
Number of pages since last update: 89
Total number of pages: 374
Number of books completed: 1
Time spent reading since last update: 80 min
Total time spent reading: 400 min
Time spent blogging since last update: 30 min
Total time spent blogging: 155 minutes
Mini-challenges completed: 2--intro meme, You tube video challenge

R-A-T: Hours 7 & 8

I opened my gummy bears, and they are SO yummy! I am trying to be good and not eat too many at one time. I also moved from my recliner to my couch in hours 7 & 8, but that probably wasn't the greatest idea because my couch is a little too comfortable! I'm going to go on a quick walk outside to wake up a bit! I'm sad I missed the mini-challenge during hour 7--it was going for a walk and taking a picture. I'm going to do it anyways, just an hour or two later than everyone else!

My updated stats:
Number of pages since last update: 83
Total number of pages: 285
Number of books completed: 1
Total time spent reading:320 (I forgot about this category...oops)
Time spent blogging since last update: 30 min
Total time spent blogging: 125 minutes
Mini-challenges completed: 2--intro meme, You tube video challenge

I'm really enjoying this read-a-thon! So far no headache, which is great because I tend to get headaches pretty frequently. How is everyone else doing?
Mini-challenges completed: 2--intro meme, You tube video challenge

R-A-T: Hours 5 & 6

I participated in the YouTube mini-challenge, and I thought I'd share the funny video. I can't figure out how to upload the video here, and I've wasted too much time trying, so here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H99niLxiPaU

I took a shower and my husband brought home Chick-fil-a for lunch, so my stats for hours 5 & 6 are lower than I would like. But I finished My Antonia, so it's on to book number 2!

Number of pages since last update: 64

Total number of pages: 202

Number of books completed: 1

Time spent blogging since last update: 30 min

Total time spent blogging: 95 minutes

Mini-challenges completed: 2--intro meme, You tube video challenge

R-A-T: Hours 3 & 4

This is a picture of me sitting on my back patio, with my fuzzy blanket and fuzzy socks. My kitty, Pumpkin, is keeping me company!

I accidentally drank a little too much coffee, and I had a little bit of trouble concentrating in hour 3. I kept wanting to get up and run around in lots of circles. I'm still reading My Antonia, and it is a bit slow. Hopefully I'll finish in hour 5. I can't believe we are almost in hour 5! Here are my updates:

Number of pages since last update: 71
Total number of pages: 138
Number of books completed: 0
Time spent blogging since last update: 30 min
Total time spent blogging: 65 minutes
Mini-challenges completed: 1--intro meme

Read-a-thon: Hours 1 & 2 and Intro Meme

We are now done with 2 hours of the read-a-thon, and those first two hours went by really quickly! Before I give my first stats, here is the introduction meme:
Where are you reading from today? I'll be spending most of my time at my home in Dallas, TX, but I will also be at IHOP, and possibly a coffee shop
3 facts about me … 1. I'm left handed (I think I always use this same fact) 2. I have an English degree 3. My favorite color is green
How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours? I have 9 books in my pile, but I know I won't get to all of them. I just wanted to have some options!
Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)? My goal is to read 1000 pages, so I'm going to need to step it up a bit!
If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, Any advice for people doing this for the first time? Take little walks outside, if possible. It's a good break for your eyes, and it feels good to move around a bit after sitting for long periods of time.
I have spent most of the first two hours reading outside on my back porch. We are supposed to get lots of rain today, so it is very cloudy. It' so quiet though, this early in the morning, and I want to be outside as much as possible before the rain! My first two hour stats are:
Number of pages read: 67
Time spent reading: 80 minutes
Time spent blogging: 35 minutes
Blogs visited: 9
Mini challenges entered: 1 (intro meme)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Well it's no secret that in just 2 short days, the next 24-Hour Read-a-Thon will commence, and I could not possibly be more excited!! This will be my second read-a-thon to participate in, and I am armed and ready with books, snacks, a handy spreadsheet, and plans to meet 2 other friends, who are also participating, for a late dinner at IHOP.

First of all, if you haven't heard much about the read-a-thon, please visit the FAQ page. It will be starting at 1 GMT on April 18th, which for me translates to 7:00 am on Saturday morning. I really want to read and blog for the full 24 hours, so hopefully I can hang in there in those wee morning hours! I would like to read 1000 pages, though that may be pushing it a bit. I have decided to donate $.05 per page to First Book, and there are others participating who are also donating to causes close to their hearts. See this link for a list of charities and organizations that are suggested, but of course there are MANY more out there!

Last night, I spent some "quality time" with my books, and I have pulled a few off my shelves specifically for the read-a-thon. I know I definitely won't get to all of them, but here are the ones I have to choose from:

Stardust by Neil Gaiman
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
Matrimony by Joshua Henkin
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
Fire in the Blood by Irene Nemirovsky
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
(I will probably be finishing My Antonia by Willa Cather to start with).

Equally as important to me are my snacks! I stopped at the grocery store tonight and I bought gummy bears, cheddar Chex mix, beef jerky, strawberries, and grapes. I also have hazelnut cream coffee! Yum!

I would write a list of tips, but Trish and Bethany have already written really great posts about the read-a-thon that include helpful tips and pointers. If you are a first timer, you really should check out their posts!

I am really REALLY excited, and every time I look at the sign ups, the list of participants and cheerleaders has grown! Hurray for Saturday!!!

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Since SO many people have read and reviewed Jeannette Walls' memoir The Glass Castle, I'm going to format my review a little differently than normal. This was my choice for our April book club, and I'm going to answer a few of the questions I found on a reading guide at BookBrowse.

(For those of you not familiar with her story, Jeannette Walls grew up in extreme poverty with 2 sisters and a brother. Her father was extremely intelligent, but an alcoholic who couldn't hold a job, and her mother was artistic and had no desire to work or raise children).

1. Though it portrays an incredibly hardscrabble life, The Glass Castle is never sad or depressing. Discuss the tone of the book, and how you think that Walls achieved that effect? Walls simply tells about her childhood without getting emotional. She doesn't go into lots of detail about her feelings or how it wasn't fair that she had to go without food, new clothes, etc. Her positive attitude is very apparent in the way she describes a situation, even a terrible situation, then she simply moves on without dwelling on the negatives.

2. What character traits--both good and bad--do you think Jeannette inherited from her parents? And how do you think those traits shaped Jeannette's life? I can only think of positive traits that Jeannette inherited--to look at the bright side or how to improve a bad situation; to treat others kindly because you have no idea what they are going through or have gone through; and to be innovative with what you have.

3. Jeannette's mother insists that, no matter what, "life with your father was never boring" (p.288). What kind of man was Rex Walls? What were his strenghths and weaknesses, his flaws and contradictions? One of the most difficult things for me to grasp in this book was how incredibly intelligent Rex was, and yet he wasted away his life. He could have done great things and made enough money for his family to be completely comfortable. Rex very obviously had a rough upbringing as well--his mother was a horrible woman--but he was unable to make something of himself like his own children did. Though he obviously loved his children, he just could not get it together, even though he tried. At times I felt sorry for him, and at other times, his actions made me want to throw the book across the room.

4. Though The Glass Castle is brimming with unforgettable stories, which scenes were the most memorable for you? Which were the most shocking, the most inspiring, the funniest? The most touching story was one Christmas Eve, when there was no money, and Rex took his kids, one by one, to sit out in the desert and pick out a star of their very own. The special time spent with their father really meant a lot to the kids, even if they didn't receive any toys or gifts that year. I also found it really neat how Jeannette, Lori and Brian all worked together and stood up for each other. Though there are many shocking stories, the incident with Oz, the piggy bank, upset me the most. I don't want to give anything away, but for those of you who have read it--I'm sure you agree! I was also completely disgusted with whatwhat Jeannette's father put her through the night they "worked together" to win some money at pool.

The Glass Castle completely opened my eyes to what true poverty can be like. I really had no idea about the living conditions some people experience every day. Reading about Jeannette's childhood and parents made me even more thankful for my own family and how I was raised. The fact that she had some terrible experiences, yet she still stood by her parents and her family, and she is now successful and happy is quite inspirational! I won't be forgetting this book for a very long time!
Date completed: April 12, 2009
Number of pages: 288

Friday, April 10, 2009

Nefertiti by Michelle Moran

From the back cover:
"Nefertiti and her younger sister, Mutnodjmet, have been raised in a powerful family that has provided wives to the rulers of Egypt for centuries. Ambitious, charismatic, and beautiful, Nefertiti is destined to marry Amunhotep, an unstable young pharaoh. It is hoped that her strong personality will temper the young ruler's heretical desire to forsake Egypt's ancient gods.

From the moment of her arrival in Thebes, Nefertiti is beloved by the people but fails to see that powerful priests are plotting against her husband's rule. The only person brave enough to warn the queen is her younger sister, yet remaining loyal to Nefertiti will for Mutnodjmet into a dangerous political game; one that could cost her everything she holds dear."

After reading many rave reviews of this book, I knew I wanted to read it. I was NOT disappointed at all! I loved Mutnodjmet (Mutny for short), as she was kind and loyal to her beautiful, powerful sister, yet she did not compromise her integrity. Even in the tumultuous political environment Mutny was forced to live in, though she would have much rather lived in a quite town away from all the drama, she never was sucked into the power-seeking games that most of the royal court was involved in. The story was intriguing and engaging, and I had a difficult time putting the book down. Nefertiti reminded me of The Other Boleyn Girl, but without the soap-opera feel. Two sisters--one beautiful and ambitious, the other more plain and shy--both involved in two families' struggle for the throne...sounds familiar, right? It makes me wonder how often this situation has occurred throughout history, and in how many different countries?

I highly recommend Nefertiti to those who love historical fiction, a strong heroine, or are simply looking for a book that you can't put down! I am waiting excitedly for Michelle Moran's follow-up novel, The Heretic Queen, to be released in paperback.

Date completed: March 2009
Number of pages: 480