September Reading Wrap-Up

Some of you may remember that I suffered from a reading slump last month.  I only read seven books, and the majority of them were YA.  This month I read nine books.  Yes, that is only two more books, but I think the quality of my books was so much better this month, so that means more than anything.

Here is what I read:

RIP challenge:

I’d Know You Anywhere, Laura Lippman

Wait Until Twilight, Sang Pak

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, John Berendt

The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova

Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury

The Dracula Dossier, James Reese

Non RIP

Room, Emma Donoghue

The Sealed Letter, Emma Donoghue

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark

As you can see, the majority of my reading was for the RIP challenge.  I hope to keep that up for October as well.  RIP is my favorite challenge and there is nothing better than curling up with a scary book when fall hits.

My year to date yield is 81 books, so I am definitely on track to hit 100 books before the end of the year.  I think the read-a-thon will definitely help me hit that goal too.  I am hoping to get even more reading done in October!

How was your reading month?

Some new challenges & events

There are some wonderful events and challenges coming up that I am really excited about.  First up, The Steampunk Challenge, hosted by The Bookeeper.

What is steampunk, you may ask? In a nutshell, it is

a genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology.

New Oxford American Dictionary

From what I could tell, there are no levels, which I like.  I hope to read two books, possibly more, within the next year, as this challenge runs October 2010-October 2011.  The only book I know for sure I want to read is Leviathan, by Scott Westerfield.

Did you sign up for The Steampunk Challenge?  If so, what are you reading?  If not, please feel free to toss some suggestions my way anyway!

The YA-D2 challenge hosted by Bart of Bart’s Bookshelf! This is the second year I am signing up for this challenge.  I have been reading much YA dystopian fiction of late, so this is the perfect excuse to dive back in.  I hope to complete level 2, which means I am attempting to read 2-4 books from October 1-December 19, 2010.  I plan to read some, or all, of the following books.

The Dead and the Gone, Susan Beth Pfeffer

The World we Live in, Susan Beth Pfeffer

A Killing Frost, John Marsden

How I Live Now, Meg Rosoff

Beyond those three, I am not completely sure what else to add to my list.

Did you sign up for YA-D2?  If so, what are you reading?  If not, please feel free to toss some suggestions my way anyway!

Last, but certainly not least, is Dewey’s 24 hour read-a-thon, which commences a week from this coming Saturday, on October 9. Don’t you love that button?

I am busy compiling my list.  It is probably at least 10 books deep right now.  I have been busing coming up with YA and graphic novels to buttress my pile with, as those seem to be two genres that work really well with the read-a-thon.

I am not going to post my read-a-thon pile until late next week, but I am excited to hear what you’re considering reading for the read-a-thon!

Book Review: Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451

Ray Bradbury

Ballantine Books

208 pages

Guy Montag is a firefighter.  In the world he lives in, firefighters do not fight fires though, they actually start them.  The government, in an attempt to control the population, has banned any written word, so all books are set afire.  If neighbors or acquaintances suspect someone is harboring books, they will report them and the entire house will be immediately burned down.

The world Guy lives in is so completely unbelievable–it actually reminded me of the movie Pleasantville with Toby McGuire and Reese Witherspoon, in the sense that the government is attempting to stop the flow of any emotion and feeling.  Without those, no one cares enough to question any motives.  Guy’s wife, Mildred, was the worst! She had her “family”, which were really the people on TV, and that was all she seemingly cared about.

Shockingly, I was never assigned to read this book in school.  I know it is assigned reading in a lot of high schools and I am so glad that that was not the case for me, because I highly doubt that I would have appreciated this book to the extent that I do reading it now, as an adult.

This is the type of book that is tiny but packs a BIG punch.  There were so many lines that I would just read and reread because they were so great.  Some of my favorites:

“You weren’t there, you didn’t see,”he said. “There must be something in books, things we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there . . . “

page 51

“Most of us can’t rush around, talk to everyone, know all the cities of the world, we haven’t time, money, or that many friends.  The things you are looking for, Montag, are in the world, but the only way the average chap will ever see ninety-nine per cent of them is in a book. “

page 86

I think any serious reader will appreciate this book.  My husband was incredulous to find out how much I loved this book, seeing as he read over half of it and eventually put it down in disgust.  I think, had he stayed with it, he would have seen the “big picture”.  This book just stands for so much more than just the plotline.

I didn’t intentionally read and review this book for Banned Books Week–it just kinda happened!

Other Reviews:

The Book Lady’s Blog

Rhapsody in Books

Fizzy Thoughts

Presenting Lenore

A Book Blog. Period.

things mean a lot

Nose in a Book

I purchased this book . . . maybe from Target?

This book counts towards the RIP challenge.

Book Review: The Historian

The Historian

Elizabeth Kostova

Back Bay Books

720 pages

We’ve got a young, unnamed narrator living in Amsterdam learning the story of her father.  Paul was first dragged into the “myth” of Dracula as a graduate student after working closely with his advisor, Bartholomew Rossi.

Rossi disappears suddenly, under suspicious circumstances, and Paul has reason to believe that finding the tomb of Dracula will lead him to discovering Rossi’s whereabouts.  Right as this is occurring, he comes across a woman named Helen in the university library.  She is reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which obviously caught Paul’s attention. The two form an instant bond and Helen immediately offers to accompany Paul on his search for Dracula’s tomb.

Writing a review for this book feels next to impossible.  It is huge and so involved.  Reading it took more out of me than any book I have read in a long time!

My biggest issue with this book is that I feel like, with a book of this length, an extra effort needs to be made to make the book entertaining.  At 720 pages, I need more excitement than your average book.  Kostova kind of dropped the ball on this one.  It’s not that I think that the book included too much needless information.  Instead, it was just portrayed in a very dry way at times.  Especially given the fact that these are graduate students doing research.  That can get boring quick.  There was one point towards the end where I actually had to start skimming because the writing style became too much like that of a research novel instead of a book.

However, The Historian was a very well woven and well researched book.  I loved the history behind it.  I had no knowledge of Vlad the Impaler, Dracula, or Eastern Europe, so The Historian really enlightened me on those topics.  I was definitely very reflective after reading this book–it was the type of book I was still digesting even after I finished reading it.

Other Reviews:

Musings of a Bookish Kitty

So Many Books, So Little Time

Devourer of Books

Tip of the Iceberg

I purchased this book from B&N.

This book counts towards the RIP challenge.

The Sunday Salon: 9/26/10

Yay, it’s Sunday again!  I am just blogging before brunch.  Sunday brunch is my favorite, and I am so excited to meet up with my family.

This week, I participated in the Fall Catch-Up Read-a-thon.

So, how did I do?  Pretty well, I think.  The whole purpose, for me, was to spend more of my free time reading.  I definitely made reading a priority this week, at least during the week.  I really wasn’t sure how much reading I would get done this weekend, and so far it hasn’t been a lot.  I had planned to finish my current book last night, but then our friends called and asked to go out.  I hope to instead finish my book after brunch today.

I read The Dracula Dossier, by James Reese, Room, by Emma Donoghue and I am almost finished with I’d Know You Anywhere, by Laura Lippman.  I think I would have read a lot more had it not been for The Dracula Dossier.  It wasn’t abnormally long or anything, but there were a ton of footnotes, so it just took a lot longer to read.  Here are my stats:

Monday: 128 pages, 2.5 hours

Tuesday: 163 pages, 3 hours

Wednesday: 255 pages, 2.5 hours

Thursday: 221 pages, 2.5 hours

Friday: 44 pages, 50 minutes

Saturday: 228 pages, 2 hours??

Grand Total: 1009 pages, 13 hours, 20 minutes

I am happy enough with the amount I read and hope to add to it, since today is the last day of the challenge.  Plus, it was fun keeping my stats!

I hope everyone else has a great Sunday as well.  What do you plan on reading today?

Book Review: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Muriel Spark

Harper Perennial Modern Classics

160 pages

**My review does contain minor spoilers which are related early on in the book.

Miss Jean Brodie is in her prime.  She is actually a teacher in her prime and she has a select group of students (Rose, Monica, Sandy, Mary, Eunice and Jenny) that are known as the Brodie set.  Miss Brodie’s teaching style is quite different from that of other teachers at the school and she is content with telling stories to her class and reciting poetry.  Mathematics and science seem to fall by the wayside as Miss Brodie “teaches” only what pleases her.

The reader is told early on that one of the Brodie set betrays Miss Brodie, which causes her to be terminated from her employment.  The book switched back and forth between present day and the girl’s school days, being not only their days with Miss Brodie but also their later learning in junior and senior school.  Meanwhile, you also have a love triangle between Miss Brodie, Mr Lowther the music teacher and Mr Lloyd, the one armed art teacher.  The Brodie set is intrigues with this development, as they are hitting that age when sexuality is becoming very curious.  Miss Brodie, of course, encourages this and goes so far as to include the girls in her personal life.

The character of Jean Brodie, in and of itself, was artfully composed.  She was fun to discover as the pages went on.  Some of her methods I actually quite liked, but I never knew what to make of her and I am not sorry to say I relished in her comeuppance.  As for the rest of the characters, they were so poorly drawn that I had trouble telling them apart.  Some of them, such as Monica, were mentioned so infrequently that I really did not get any sense of idea who she was.  Even characters that came more to the forefront, such as Rose and Sandy, were never explained.  Because of that, everyone except Miss Mackay and Miss Brodie were completely unknown to me.  I find it difficult to connect with a book when the characters fail to elicit any type of response from me.

Overall, I think it was the style of the book that killed it for me.  I don’t mind that the narrative wasn’t chronological.  It was just the way Spark seemed to haphazardly throw everything in.  There was no structure or foundation.  Although that often seems to be a well lauded way of writing, it never does it for me.  I pretty much knew after the first few pages that this book was not a good fit for me, but I wanted so badly to like it that I forged ahead with it anyway.

I am going to be completely honest—I would not have even finished this book had it not been so short.  It was that excruciating.  Ultimately, the last 5-10 pages were very worthwhile and made me very reflective, so I guess the book was redeemed a bit in the end.  Not enough to make up for the torture I endured reading the rest of it, but it was a small consolation.

Other Reviews:

The Literate Housewife

Age 30+ . . . A Lifetime of Books

Books Please

A Life in Books

I purchased this book from Half Price Books.

This book counts towards the Women Unbound challenge.


Book Review: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

John Berendt

Random House Publishing Group

400 pages

Do you ever find a book that just kind of creeps up on you?  Maybe you don’t even realize the enormity of your love for it until you’ve finished reading it?  You just can’t let it go because it’s consuming your thoughts?  That, in a nutshell, is how I feel about Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

The setting is Savannah , Georgia , a place full of southern hospitality and charm.  Author John Berendt has travelled down there intending to spend time between that locale and his home in New York , however he soon finds that he rarely is able to leave Savannah .  Thus, he stays there five years.  Immediately he envelopes himself into Savannah ’s high society.  Somehow he is able to ingratiate himself among people from all walks of life living in Savannah .  Thereby begins the development of a cast of characters, the likes of which you have never seen before!

Jim Williams: An antiques dealer who lives in the Mercer House, a posh historical home in the heart of Savannah .  Jim throws a Christmas party every year which is the highlight of society functions.

Joe Odom: The guy that can swindle you for all you’re worth but whom you still want to be buddy-buddy with.  It’s a rare characteristic!

Lady Chablis: The super loud drag queen performer whose liberal use of the f-word is shocking and comical.

The Lady Chablis

Luther Driggers: It is speculated that Driggers has in his possession a bottle of poison that could wipe out the entire population.  Not to mention, he often is seeing walking flies on long strings of thread.

Minerva: The “witch” that casts spells on the prosecuting legal team during Jim Williams’s trial.  She is also known to visit her lovers’ grave at midnight to beg for lottery numbers.

That’s only a small taste of the characters sprinkled throughout Berendt’s book.  That may have been helpful for me to know from the beginning, as the book was not at all what I expected.  You see, MitGoGaE (yes, I really went there!) is really a character based book.  It may be characterized as true crime, but that is just the tip of the iceberg.  The book really encompasses so much more.

The center of the book details the trial of Jim Williams.  Williams is charged with the death of his employee/lover Danny Hansford but his claim is that the shooting was done in self defense.  Williams is then tried FOUR times, with the first two convictions thrown out and the third trial ending in a mistrial.  As with your typical true crime book, the trials are all featured in the book.  However, they are nowhere near as extensive as you would generally find in a true crime book.  I understand why Berendt minimized the coverage of the trials and I wholeheartedly agree that he was right in doing so, but I feel like maybe he left out a tad too much.  The trial coverage was limited to just a few pages for each trial.  I am glad that there was no repetitiveness to the trial coverage though, and I am sure that is one thing that Berendt was trying to avoid.

MitGoGaE spent years on the NY Times bestseller lists, and I can completely understand why that is.  Despite the fact that it is not your typical true crime fare, it definitely ranks up there with the classics, such as In Cold Blood and Helter Skelter.

Other Reviews:

A Fondness for Reading

Bookshelves of Doom

Shelf Love

Novel Insights

I borrowed this book from my mother.

This book counts towards the RIP V challenge.


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