Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February 2012 Wrap-Up

Here's a summary of my book-related activity for February. I still felt like I was playing catch up a lot of the time. Maybe March should be another no-buy month...

Books I read (linked to the reviews)

The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose (NetGalley)
MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend by Rachel Bertsche (library book)
The Hollow Tree by Janet Lunn (TBR pile)
Stolen by Kelley Armstrong (TBR pile)
The Queen of the Damned (re-read [but this time in audio!]) (in progress)

Books I bought

And this is what happens when the Children's Hospital book sale comes around. Amazingly cheap books (always including a good selection of R.L. Stine!) supporting a good cause? Yes please!

I decided not to caption them this time, because it makes formatting them right harder, and with this many of them I look at the html and shudder. So I apologize to anyone using a screen reader!

Books I've been approved for on NetGalley

I realised that this is a category that's been missing from these wrap-ups so far! It includes all my requests that were approved this month, since that's when I know I'll be reading them, so they're added to the to-read shelf.

Xoc: The Journey of a Great
White by Matt Dembicki
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Progress on challenges

Stolen was my February book for the Read Your OWN Library! Challenge.

The Hollow Tree was my February Random Read.

I completed the following letters for the 2012 A-Z Book Challenge: H, M, and Q

I read 2 books for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge.

I read 1 book for the 2012 Anne Rice Challenge. You can still sign up!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Hollow Tree by Janet Lunn

Title: The Hollow Tree
Author: Janet Lunn
Publication Date: 1997
Length: 260 pages

The Hollow Tree tells the story of Phoebe Olcott, a young girl who becomes caught up in the American Revolutionary War, with people she loves fighting and dying on both sides. Though Phoebe does not feel that she is on either side, she decides to carry out her dead cousin's mission by delivering a message to the Loyalists. To do this, she must go on a dangerous journey across the Appalachian Mountains on foot.

I must admit, at the beginning I was bored. For the first couple of chapters I wasn't really sure where the story was going. But after a while, I really started to care about Phoebe. I could definitely relate to her point of view about the war. She's so far removed from it that it just seems like pointless death to her, so she feels no loyalty to either side. All that's important to her is helping those she cares about.

I love the various characters that come into Phoebe's life as she travels. I especially like Bartlett, the orphaned bear cub who starts to follow Phoebe on her journey, and curls up next to her to sleep. And I love the kids that Phoebe cares for in the Loyalist camp, especially the rambunctious Tibby Thayer.

One thing to consider if you're planning on reading this book to kids is that there is the occasional racial slur. I understand that they're included for historical accuracy and whatnot, but I'm not sure at what age a kid can read that the right way. So if you're reading this to a young child, make sure you explain why those words are not ok to use.

Overall, it's a really nice story, a bit slow moving at times, but it definitely made me care about the characters.

Monday, February 27, 2012

MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche

Title: MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend
Author: Rachel Bertsche
Publication Date: December 20, 2011
Length: 349 pages

Rachel Bertsche moved to Chicago to be with her boyfriend, tired of being in a long-distance relationship. But before long, while she's happily married, she realises that her new life is missing one very important thing: friends. She's still close to the people she left behind in New York, but still, they're in New York. She wants someone she can call for a last-minute brunch or pedicure. So, she goes on a search for a new BFF, in which she goes on a friend date with a different woman every week for a year.

It's hard for me to even put into words just how much I love this book. I loved it before I even read it, and then I read it, and loved it more. That's because it focuses on a very real and unfortunate phenomenon: it's considered acceptable for a woman to admit she's looking for a man, yet the response to a woman admitting she's looking for a best friend is generally some variation of pity.

I can completely relate to the author of this book. There have been a handful of girls I've considered my best friends during my life. Of those, I'm only still close with one of them. Her name is Megan, and she lives in Vancouver. I see her when she comes back to Winnipeg for holidays, and I went on vacation in Vancouver to visit her last summer. And I know she's my BFF because, even though we both utterly suck at calling and emailing, when we see each other it's as if no time has passed. I'm very lucky to have her as a best friend.

So that's the upside of my friendship situation. (Is this book review getting weirdly personal? Oh well.) The downside is that here in Winnipeg, I, like Rachel, don't have someone I could invite to go wedding dress shopping with me. You see, all my local friends are guys. I studied computer science in university. You meet a lot of guys there, and not a whole lotta ladies. So now I have a group of friends who are super fun, and I can meet them for lunch in the food court, but I cannot call them to talk about feelings. Well I could, but they'd be weirded out, and would not give me the responses I'd need. They certainly wouldn't talk about their feelings.

So anywho, as I read this book, and saw all the ways that Rachel got herself out there meeting new people, I became inspired. I started thinking about how I could go from someone who spends the vast majority of my personal time on my computer or curled up with a book to someone who has more of a balance in life. And I'm already noticing a difference. I'm not going on a friend date every week or anything, but I am getting out there, and it's been really fun.

So, now that you know all about my personal life (hey, that's like the point of the blogosphere, no?), you should read this book! In fact, you should start a book club with a bunch of girls you don't know, and then read this book together. Maybe you'll find your BFF.

This book gets all the stars.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose

Title: The Book of Lost Fragrances: A Novel of Perfume
Author: M.J. Rose
Publication Date: March 13, 2012
Length: 416 pages

The L'Etoile family has been making fine perfumes for generations. Jac L'Etoile, who is gifted with a naturally powerful sense of smell, left the business after her mother committed suicide in the perfume workshop when Jac was young, leaving her brother Robbie to inherit the family business. But now Robbie is sure he's discovered the perfume their ancestor claims to have found centures ago: a scent that causes people to remember their past lives. And between Tibetan monks, Chinese mafia, and scientific researchers of reincarnation, everyone wants to get their hands on this secret.

This book really had me wondering what was going to happen next. It's constantly flipping between different points of view, making you care for just about everyone involved, even though it's pretty obvious who you should be cheering for (umm, unless you are a communist in China who hates Buddhists; then you might see this book from a different point of view). I loved seeing how the different characters from all over the world came together as the story progressed.

There was one side story in the book that I found particularly interesting, and that it turns out is actually based in fact. Of course I already knew about the persecution of Tibetan Buddhists by communist China, but what I did not know was that China put in place a requirement for people to register to be reincarnated ('cause that makes sense...). This law was created to prevent reincarnated Lamas from being identified, thus depriving Tibet of its spiritual leaders. One of the characters in this story is a reincarnated Lama who was kidnapped by the government as a child to prevent him from growing up and helping to identify the next Dalai Lama. Really interesting!

I'm really fascinated by people who are trained to identify smells. When I went to Paris in high school, we toured a perfume factory, and they had us smell all these different scents and write down what we thought they were. I failed horribly. Even if something smelled familiar, I couldn't place it, and after smelling a few difference scents, my nose lost the ability to smell much of anything at all. So I loved the descriptions of all the different things Jac's nose was picking up, that other people didn't notice.

The Book of Lost Fragrances comes out on March 13, and I definitely recommend you check it out.

Full disclosure: Free e-book copy received from the publisher through NetGalley.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Goodreads Catch-Up Read-a-Thon

GoodReads Readathon Button

I've never actually understood read-a-thons that are of the days-long variety. I mean, you're obviously not going to read the whole time, like in Dewey's read-a-thon, so what's the point? How's it different from your normal day-to-day reading? However. I am behind on my reading (hence the slowness of this blog in the last couple weeks; sorry!), and maybe this will give me some motivation to get crackin'.

Click the image above for full details, but basically the read-a-thon goes from February 24 to March 1. And there will be mini-challenges. :) Technically this challenge is to catch up on your Goodreads reading goal; I'm only one book behind on my goal, but I guess that still counts! Mostly I just need to catch up on the little pile of things I need/want to have read by a certain time.

So, now for what I'm going to read. I'd be thrilled if I could just finish Stolen by Kelley Armstrong and The Queen of the Damned (audiobook) by Anne Rice. If a miracle happens and I have time for more than that, then I'd probably read The Whipping Club, since it comes out on March 1 and I'll feel bad if I don't get that NetGalley read and reviewed before the publication date.

If you're participating in this read-a-thon, too, let me know in the comments, and we can cheer each other on!

My Erratic Updates:

February 26 - 2:30 PM:
About 2 and a half days into the read-a-thon.
I've read 98 pages of Stolen, and listed to about 2 hours of The Queen of the Damned.

February 27 - 5:30 PM:
Almost 4 days into the read-a-thon.
Since my last update, I've read 163 pages of Stolen, and listened to about 1.5 hours of The Queen of the Damned. I got lots of reading done yesterday evening! :)

February 28 - 9:30 AM:
Just over 4 days into the read-a-thon.
Between last night and this morning (on my short commute) I read the last 95 pages of Stolen, and listened to about 2 hours of The Queen of the Damned. I'm still only about half way through it! So unfortunately it doesn't look like I'm going to finish it in February. :( Tonight I'll get started on The Whipping Club, though, since I can't listen to an audiobook in bed (I don't think that would help me sleep!).

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

March 2012 Review Copy Cleanup

I don't have a huge pile of review copies (as a fairly new blogger, I don't get that many of them), but I have fallen behind on them simply because the last couple months I've been rather busy and my reading has slowed down a wee bit. So, I've decided to enter the March 2012 Review Copy Cleanup challenge, hosted by Books, Biscuits & Tea and Nyx Book Reviews. Click the image above for the full details.

According to the challenge schedule, March 2 is time to Show Off Your Pile, so I guess I'll save my list of review copies until then!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice

Title: The Vampire Lestat
Author: Anne Rice
Narrator: Frank Muller
Publication Date: 1985
Length: approx. 23 hours (audiobook)

I've read this book twice before, but this was my first time listening to the audiobook. I must say, I did not remember so much of this book being one very long series of philosophical discussions. Repetitive philosophical discussions. Lestat's all "but what's up with this good and evil stuff?"... and that's pretty much what's happening for like half the book.

That being said, this book still has a great story. And the philosophy never bothered me before, so maybe it's the audio format again? Maybe I did some skimming when I read the book. Anywho, once you've read Interview With the Vampire, it's important that you read The Vampire Lestat, so you don't spend the rest of your life seeing Lestat from Louis' point of view. In this book, you finally get to know Lestat's backstory. Also, Gabrielle is in it, which is reason enough to read it. Also Marius. I could read a whole series just about those two.

As for the audiobook format, it was the same narrator as for Interview With the Vampire, so see my review of that for more details. Basically, he has a great voice, and I have only the same minor quibbles as before (primarily Louis being pronounced incorrectly).

This one gets 3 stars (even though when I read this book a couple years ago I gave it 5 stars...) because of the repetitive philosophical discussions. Still required reading for a Vampire Chronicles fan, though!

This book counts for the 2012 A-Z Book Challenge and the 2012 Anne Rice Challenge.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

WWW Wednesday - February 15

Since my reading's been a little slow lately, I thought it would be a good time for a WWW Wednesdays post, so that you know I'm still here and reading, and haven't disappeared!

WWW Wednesdays is a meme hosted by Should Be Reading. To participate, simply answer these questions three:

1. What are you currently reading?
2. What did you recently finish reading?
3. What do you think you'll read next?

1. I am currently just finishing up MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend by Rachel Bertsche. I'm also listening to the Queen of the Damned audiobook.

2. I recently finished reading The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose. Review coming soon!

3. Next up on my list is The Hollow Tree by Janet Lunn, this month's Random Read, which I totally thought I would have read by now! This is not really my best month for challenges!

What are you reading? Tell us in the comments, or link to your own WWW post!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Gender of main characters

I have a bit of a rant I need to put out there.

Lately I've noticed several different book bloggers I follow say things along the lines of "I was intrigued by the idea of a male main character.", and it got me thinking: what universe are you living in and how can I get there?!

The only explanation I can think of is that these bloggers read primarily within the contemporary YA genre, which in recent years seems to be a lot of female authors writing a lot of female main characters. But still. The fact remains that even in these books that follow a female character's perspective, there is almost always a male love interest. And that love interest is almost always a huge part of the plot. To act as if women have reached a point where we have nothing to fight for anymore in the literature world is, to put it bluntly, absurd.

Not to mention the fact that women authors still often feel the need to use pen names or abbreviate their names (ala J.K. Rowling) so that readers won't know they're women. Yeah, that's still a thing. (Tangent: I just recently found out that S.E. Hinton [who wrote The Outsiders] is a woman. She abbreviated so her book would sell. That would have been nice to know, 8th grade teacher!! Maybe I would have liked that have that role model at a difficult time in my life!)

Anyway, feel free to offer up counter-opinions in the comments, and we can discuss. Because I really don't get what people are thinking on this one.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Piling Up on Friday (on Monday)

I was sad when I realised I'd missed this meme on Friday, especially since it was a big week for me in terms of book buying. But then today I saw that Finding Your Gibbee was late posting hers, too, so what the heck! I'll just do it a few days late!

So these are the books I added to my TBR pile last week. I'm just going to write a list, no pictures, because there are just too many of them!

Bought when there was a sale on at the local Pagan shop:
  • Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Est├ęs
  • A Morning Cup of Tai Chi: One 15-Minute Routine to Nurture Your Body, Mind, and Spirit by John A. Bright-Fey
Children's Hospital Book Sale books (this is my downfall...):
  • The Road to Dune by Frank Herbert, Brian Herbert, and Kevin J. Anderson
  • The Butlerian Jihad (Legends of Dune #1) by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson
  • The Machine Crusade (Legends of Dune #2) by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson
  • The Battle of Corrin (Legends of Dune #3) by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson
  • Vincalis the Agitator by Holly Lisle (I bought this because I read Diplomacy of Wolves like a decade ago and loved it [though I was in junior high at the time so I don't really remember it], and I JUST NOW realised that this is a prequel to that series!)
  • Starrise at Corrivale by Diane Duane (because the Young Wizards series is SO GOOD that I must read everything she has written)
  • After Human by Michael Cross (You know I've been at a book sale for too long when I start actually browsing and getting things by authors I've never heard of. Bad for the towering pile!)
  • The Witches of Worm by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (One of these days I'll write about how The Egypt Game changed my life.)
  • Scream of the Haunted Mask (Goosebumps Horrorland #4) by R.L. Stine
  • The Ooze (Ghosts of Fear Street #8) by R.L. Stine
  • Don't Ever Get Sick at Granny's (Ghosts of Fear Street #16) by R.L. Stine
  • Invasion of the Body Squeezers, Part 2 (Goosebumps Series 2000 #5) by R.L. Stine
  • Fright Camp (Goosebumps Series 2000 #8) by R.L. Stine
  • Attack of the Graveyard Ghouls (Goosebumps Series 2000 #11) by R.L. Stine
  • Return to Horrorland (Goosebumps Series 2000 #13) by R.L. Stine
  • The Haunted Car (Goosebumps Series 2000 #21) by R.L. Stine
  • Tales to Give You Goosebumps: 10 Spooky Stories by R.L. Stine
  • Even More Tales to Give You Goosebumps: 10 Spooky Stories by R.L. Stine
  • Still More Tales to Give You Goosebumps: 10 Spooky Stories by R.L. Stine
The last half of that list probably looks a bit weird... One of these days I'll also write about my R.L. Stine thing!

Library books:
  • MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend by Rachel Bertsche
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X, as told to Alex Haley
So, yeah. It's a good thing those book sales only come a few times a year. I lose all self-control. Basically any progress I've made on my TBR pile since starting this blog has just been cancelled out. But on the bright side, look at all the pretties!! :) Anywho, I'm now back on no-buy mode for at least the rest of February, and probably March, too. I will get this pile under control!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

WWW Wednesday - February 8

Since my reading's been a little slow lately, I thought it would be a good time for a WWW Wednesdays post, so that you know I'm still here and reading, and haven't disappeared!

WWW Wednesdays is a meme hosted by Should Be Reading. To participate, simply answer these questions three:

1. What are you currently reading?
2. What did you recently finish reading?
3. What do you think you'll read next?

1. I am currently reading The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose. I'm also finishing off the last little bit of The Vampire Lestat audiobook. I know I put that in the list of things I read in January; that's because I really thought I was going to finish it on like February 1st! It didn't quite work out that way...

2. I recently finished reading Caught in Crystal by Patricia C. Wrede. It was very good!

3. Next up on my list I've got Cinder, MWF Seeking BFF, Stolen (for the Read Your OWN Library! Challenge), and The Hollow Tree (for this month's Random Read). Actually I've got a huge list of books I'd like to read in the next month or so, but those are the first few!

What are you reading? Tell us in the comments, or link to your own WWW post!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Caught in Crystal by Patricia C. Wrede

Title: Caught in Crystal: A Lyra Novel
Author: Patricia C. Wrede
Publication Date: December 13, 2011 (this edition)
Length: 294 pages

Kayl is living the quiet life of an innkeeper with two children when a sorceress shows up at the inn. Kayl's old life, in which she was a warrior in the Sisterhood of Stars, has finally caught up with her, and she's being called upon to finish the mission she started 15 years ago.

I enjoyed this book, because it is very high fantasy, which I don't see enough of. The characters have a mission that involves a long journey, and the purpose is to save magic. Sometimes I like stories to have a bigger purpose like that, rather than just being a very personal story.

At the same time, I did really care about the characters. Even the ever-mysterious Corrana. And I'm especially fond of Glyndon. I wish I could have seen more of some of the other species, like the Wyrds, though I suppose there might be more of them in the other books in the series. (By the way, this was actually the fourth book written in the Lyra world, but it's like the Chronicles of Narnia in that the reading order is not that important; this book has different characters than the others.)

The one minor complaint I have is that sometimes it felt like a lot of time was spent just walking and occasionally remembering things from the past. I mean, I guess that is accurate, since they were on a rather uneventful months-long journey on foot to get to where the action happens, so that's fair. And the flashbacks are important; they wouldn't have had the same impact had they been revealed in a prologue or otherwise all at once. So as I said: minor quibble.

One thing I especially liked in this book was the romance: there was hardly any! The romance was just where it should be, ie. secondary to the actual plot. I feel like way too many books these days have romance as the main plot line (and I'm not talking about romance novels here, so romance should not be the main plot line!). There were just two people who happen to fall in love while doing other things which are the actual focus of the book. So I was like "aww, how sweet!" but also not distracted. So yay this!

Overall, a very solid fantasy read. 4 stars.

This book counts for the 2012 A-Z Book Challenge.

Full disclosure: Free e-book copy received from the publisher through NetGalley.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Piling Up on Friday - February 3

Piling Up on Friday is a weekly meme from Finding Your Gibbee. All you have to do is list the books you've added to your to read shelf in the last week.

I'm starting to realise that NetGalley is the reason my to read shelf doesn't get any smaller even though I haven't bought a book in over a month... I requested Xoc on NetGalley yesterday. I must admit, the reason I requested it is that it starts with an X, which is an awesome find for the A-Z Book Challenge. :) But it also looks neat. It's a kids'/teens' book that follows a great white shark as he makes a journey across the ocean. I hear it's sort of a rant about humans destroying the oceans, which some people apparently don't like, but sounds great to me!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

February Random Reads selection

It's time to select my Random Read for February! How exciting! The suspense is killing me! Now it's off to the random number generator. I have 649 books on my TBR shelf at the moment, so I enter 1 as the min and 649 as the max, and hit Generate. (I can't help but picture myself spinning a big wheel as I do this. "Where it stops, nobody knows!")

Drum roll, please!

For February's Random Read I'll be reading The Hollow Tree by Janet Lunn. It's been on my TBR shelf on Goodreads since June 2009, which is in my first few months on Goodreads, when I was still adding my whole library, so I've really had it for much longer than that. Probably since the 90s. So it's about time I finally got around to this one!