Friday, December 31, 2010

What I Read in 2010

[I know I already did a 10 Best Books of 2010 post, but this one is including alllllll the books I read this past year!]

The last day of the year is always a great time to look back at the past 365 days and reflect. In the past year, I transferred colleges, moved away from home, turned 20, experienced the hell of roommates for the first time, and mainly learned to live on my own (I still can't cook to save my life though).

What about the past year book related? Well, the biggest thing was the formation of The Broke & the Bookish, the other blog I review for. The launch of that great blog was how this one came to be. Because of these two blogs (and Twitter!) I've met some amazing people -- I like and know the majority of you better than my actual friends in real life! The blogs are around six months old and I've had a great time working on them.

Reading wise, I think I did pretty good. At the start of 2010, I think I overestimated my abilities and resolved to read 100 books. I only read 66, but that is definitely better than the average full-time college student! Here is a list of what I read this past year:

The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George
Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks
Sovereign Ladies: The Six Reigning Queens of England by Maureen Waller
Katherine by Anya Seton
Bones to Ashes by Kathy Reichs
Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi
Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner
Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall
Little Altars Everywhere Wells, Rebecca
Washington's Lady by Nancy Moser
Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier
Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
The Year 1000: What Life Was Like at the Turn of the First Millennium by Robert Lacey
Atonement by Ian McEwan
The Pact by Jodi Picoult
The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
Murder Most Royal by Jean Plaidy
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
Sex with the Queen by Eleanor Herman
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Mistress Shakespeare by Karen Harper
Eleanor of Aquitaine by Alison Weir
Manhattan, When I Was Young by Mary Cantwell
The Trophy Bride's Tale by Cyrilla Barr
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
The Secret Bride: In the Court of Henry VIII by Diane Haeger
Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding
The Children of Henry VIII by Alison Weir
Sex with Kings by Eleanor Herman
Dark Angels by Karleen Koen
The Courts of Love by Jean Plaidy
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
The Countess and the King by Susan Holloway Scott
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks
The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber
The Merry Monarch's Wife by Jean Plaidy
Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles by Margaret George
Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn
Ophelia by Lisa Klein
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent
The Hours by Michael Cunningham
The Perfect Royal Mistress by Diane Haeger
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
The Queen's Handmaiden by Jennifer Ashley
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

Definitely a wide range of books! The only rereads from this list were the Harry Potter books. I hope I do this well in 2011! My TBR pile for the coming year is quite daunting.

I hope everybody has a great New Years :)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

"Memoirs of a Geisha" by Arthur Golden

Author: Arthur Golden
Published: Random House, 1997
Where I Got It: A yard sale

One word: WOW. I devour anything and everything historical fiction related, but had somehow not managed to delve into anything Asian related (maybe excepting The Joy Luck Club). Not wanting to break my personal rule of ALWAYS reading the book before watching the movie, I gave this one a try.

Memoirs of a Geisha brings to life the exotic lives of geisha living in 1930s/40s Japan. Our geisha in particular was born as Chiyo, a poor girl in a small fishing village. She, along with her sister, is taken to the city of Kyoto at the age of nine, where she trains to become a glamorous geisha. Her new life of hard work, backstabbing and betrayal is a shock to her at first, yet she grows up to become very clever and successful. 

What amazed me most about this book is the fact that Arthur Golden was able to write an American novel about Japanese culture from a female perspective so well and believable. I was doubtful at first whether or not he could voice a female effectively, but boy, did he ever. His imagery is unbelievably vivid.

However to me, the most fascinating part of this book was the culture. I learned so much about the customs, clothes, fashions, and practices of geisha (and also the fact that geishas is not a word, neither is kimonos. Who knew?). The time period it is set in was also interesting; early 1940s Japan was not a pleasant place to be. Another strong point is the wide range of characters. I found myself seething at Hatsumomo, sympathizing with Pumpkin, and rolling my eyes at Mother. 

Towards the end, things got pretty so-so for me. I was much more interested in Chiyo's (later named Sayuri) struggles to become a geisha, not necessarily what happened after she became so successful. I will say that I'm glad a typical Hollywood perfect ending wasn't included. If everything had wrapped up just perfect, it wouldn't have had the same feel to it.

4.5 stars. Now off to watch the movie!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Best Books I Read in 2010

I looked at my Google Reader in the wee hours of this morning (I got an entire 45 minutes of sleep last night!) and almost had a heart attack – Holy Mary Mother of God, I haven’t posted anything in a WEEK! I don’t even have a good excuse; I’m at my parent’s house and am doing absolutely nothing. Anyways, I decided I didn’t want to post another plain old book review (probably because I don’t have any new ones handy), and since it’s nearing the end of the year, I decided to spotlight my ten most memorable reads of 2010.

(Now used for Top Ten Tuesday!)

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – Since I’d heard so many good things about this one in the book community, I just knew I had to pick it up. I’m so glad I did, as it’s one of my favourite books of all time now. I read it during the summer, but have yet to come up with a decent review that accurately represents my feelings, it’s just that good.

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett – Truth: big books scare me. I willingly read plenty of them, but a little shiver of intimidation goes down my spine every time I see a book over 600 pages. This was one of them, yet every single one of the 1,000 pages was absolutely worth it. I love stories that span many, many years to watch the character progression. It’s also a great historical fiction story.

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank – I couldn’t believe I’d never read this book before! For some reason, it was never assigned to me in high school. Stories dealing with WWII absolutely break my heart and I tend to stay away from them. This one played with my emotions even more so, as it’s obviously a true story. I remember staring at Anne’s last entry trying to imagine her life at that moment, quickly coming to a close. I couldn’t.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold – I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I did. Even though it wouldn’t seem like it, I really do enjoy fantasy-esque books, I just don’t know where I would start (suggestions?!). This was a nice ease into the genre, along with some YA elements, and mystery/horror. I’ve recommended this one to a lot of my non-book loving friends.

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden – I finished this one just a few days ago and my head is still swimming with the story. The characters are so colourful and vibrant, but to me, the culture is what fascinated me most. Myself, a white girl in 21st century America can live through the characters in WWII Japan. It was an awesome reading experience.

Atonement by Ian McEwan – While not quite the literary masterpiece as some of the others on this list, Atonement sure was entertaining as hell. Yet ANOTHER WWII era book, and another story spanning many years, along with the fact that James McAvoy was in the movie adaptation, it’s definitely a story I’ll be reading again someday.

Murder Most Royal by Jean Plaidy – In 2010, I found my favourite historical fiction author, Jean Plaidy. Being an Anglophile historical fiction nerd, her books (more than 100 of them!) are a bonanza for someone like me. Murder Most Royal was the very first book I read by her and I fell in LOOOVEEE. I read several others by her this year, but I still like this one best of all (Anne Boleyn & Katherine Howard! <3).

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly – A genre I rarely venture into: Young Adult. When I was in the YA target group, I didn’t read. I read as a child and simply skipped to adult fiction. I was hesitant to pick this one up, but ended up loving strong, determined and book-loving Mattie. I hope to read more by this author in the near future (Revolution!).

Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier – I gush over this one a lot, on both this blog and The Broke & the Bookish. It’s just so perfect. I picked it up by chance, a little obscure historical fiction book by the author of Girl with a Pearl Earring. It was a short, easy read that stuck with me for a long, long time.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides – This one’s admittedly not going on any long-term favourites list, but who could honestly just dismiss this book? The character of Cal/Callie demands your attention and will grab at your memory forever.

So there they are.  They are 1/7th of what I actually read this year, but they far outshine some of the other rubbish I read (Eat, Pray, Love and Confessions of a Shopaholic, barf!). I'd feel silly saying anywhere else, but I truly feel I'm a better person for reading these books! Some of them changed me in profound ways.

What was your most memorable read of 2010?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

In My Mailbox (3)

I decided to be different for this week's In My Mailbox, hosted by The Story Siren, -- a vlog! You can finally see the face behind the snarkiness. There's about a 1 second delay between the audio and the visual in the video, boo! This was my 4th or 5th attempt at this video, and you can't really tell, but I was getting rather frustrated. Anyways, here it is:

Just so you know, all those dinging noises are my Twitter notifications. Everyone was tweeting about The Vampire Academy!
I also like how I say "I don't know" 200 times.

Books Mentioned:
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
The Loves of Charles II by Jean Plaidy
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
Ophelia by Lisa Klein
The Game by A.S. Byatt
Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue
Through a Glass Darkly by Karleen Koen

Blogs Mentioned:
Passages to the Past

Also, since I recorded this video, I received an ARC in the mail, Inside Information: Archives of an Angel by Michele Tokiwa; ANOTHER book from my Secret Santa, Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende (THANK YOU!); and two books from the library: The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent and The Hours by Michael Cunningham. What a haul! They all look pretty interesting.

Anyways....yeah. This is probably the last vlog ever.

*covers face in embarrassment*

Thursday, December 9, 2010

"Ophelia" by Lisa Klein

Title: Ophelia
Author: Lisa Klein
Published: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books, 2006
Where I Got It: My favorite used bookstore

I may be going out on a limb here, but I think it's safe to say that 99% of you have read Hamlet by William Shakespeare. If you haven' probably didn't attend high school. Anyways, you all know Ophelia, Hamlet's lady friend whose peak in the story is drowning herself. In Ophelia, we are told the same story that we all know by heart, only from a different angle.

The story starts with Ophelia as a young girl. She lost her mother early on and lived with her domineering father, Polonius, and brother, Laertes. When she is about ten years old, her father gets her a spot in the palace working for Queen Gertrude. Several years later, she catches the eye of Prince Hamlet. They fall in love, but they must keep it a secret as he is a prince and she is essentially a nobody.

Part 2 is all of the events that essentially happen in the play. As I said before, it's the same story, just told from a different point of view. Ophelia watches the madness of King Cladius, the piety of Queen Gertrude, and Hamlet's ravel to madness from the sidelines. Then things began to get weird. Remember Ophelia's scene where she has the likeness of a crazy woman as she gives flowers to everyone? I think the author didn't want Ophelia to be this story, she was simply putting on an act to fool everybody around her. Up to this point in the book, I'd been enjoying the story immensely. It was the change of Ophelia from a tragic character to strong heroine that irritated me. 

If this wasn't enough, Ophelia doesn't die. She takes poison to feign a death and only lets Horatio in on the secret. I realize that this would have been a much shorter story if she really had died, but c'mon...I would have enjoyed the overall book much more if it had followed the story more closely and ended with a crazy person drowning herself. I think this irritation carried over into Part 3, Ophelia's new life in a new country. Everyone that she previously knew (her family, Hamlet, etc) are barely given a passing thought. There was a totally different feel to the story that just didn't fit.

If you don't mind that the story becomes majorly skewed from the original play, I think you'd like this story a lot. It was well written and Ophelia is a pretty likable character. It was a nice, quick read - as well as a flashback to high school. 3.5 stars.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Top 10 Favorite Places to Read

I've been a terrible blogger recently. I've been studying my life away for the most evil class ever: Microeconomics. I take my final tonight. :(

ANYWAYS, this week's Top Ten Tuesday, Favorite Places to Read, sounded too good to pass up.

1. My Bed    Why yes, I am creepily putting up a picture of my bed! But what place isn't more comfy? I read here every night before I fall asleep. Plus, you all can get a glimpse of my super cool Abominable Snowman stuffed animal.

2. The Reflecting Pond    This is right outside my school's library. Since I practically live inside the library nowadays, I like to take a break, get a smoothie from the cafe inside and come out and sit on a bench under a tree. It is SOOO relaxing! Fun fact: the local news crew came on campus recently to report a story about some protest, and there was a shot of me reading in this spot! Cool story, I know.

3. The beach    Well, there isn't a beach here in Orlando, but back home, when I lived a few minutes away from the beach, I would drag a chair onto the sand and read. The sound of the waves and birds, along with the sun and breeze is one of the best experiences ever. If you live near a beach, you should try it. I actually met one of my boyfriends this way; I was reading and he was surfing. Unfortunately, he hates reading, so I couldn't keep him for long. :)

4. In front of the fireplace    I actually haven't lived in a house that had a fireplace in a long time (and it was in southern California, we never used it anyways). Since it's about 25 degrees out right now, all I can think of is curling up in my Snuggie with a book and some tea in front of a fireplace. Bliss!

5. On a porch swing    Ohhh, another reason I hate living in an apartment! I love all things both swing-y and porch-y, so this sounds like heaven, especially in the woods, by the beach, in the mountains, etc......soo jealous right now.

6. While it's raining    SOOO PERFECT. I absolutely love rain (except when I'm wearing nice shoes). It's the most relaxing thing ever to read or fall asleep to, especially when accompanied by a thunderstorm. Lucky me, I live in the lightening capital of the world!

7. With my cat    Oh man, I'm such a dork. You won't judge me if I say my cat is like my child? He's a total lap cat and is my favorite reading buddy.

8. The library    Duh! What better place to read than somewhere you are surrounded by books and other book loving people (and maybe some homeless people...)? My public library isn't very exciting, but it's got a nice environment/feel to it.

9. In the pool   The community pool here is usually filled with drunken college students, so this isn't possible here. My aunt's pool is my favorite place to get a raft and a drink and float around with a book.

10. While I'm drinking tea    I almost made this 'While I'm eating ice cream,' but do you know how hard it is to eat ice cream and hold a book at the same time? Tea is much easier and more manageable. It doesn't help that I'm freaking addicted. I drink at least 15-20 cups a day. It helps me relax, and when I'm relaxed, it's easier to read! They go hand in hand.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Harry Potter Re-read - Part 4

Hey-o! I swear I didn't forget about my Harry Potter re-read. Sadly though, I didn't get to finish the whole series before Part 1 of the Deathly Hallows came out; I'm aiming for part 2 now. I read book 4 and 5 in less than a week, so I'm back on track!

OK, on to the Goblet of Fire. The first time I read the series, this book was by far my least favorite. Several big things bugged me (not to mention the length freaked me out, but I definitely got over that as the series continued), yet when I re-read it, I realized it's not so bad. I appreciate it much more now.

The beginning of the book is all about the Quidditch World Cup, where I was heartily reminded of the FIFA World Cup (cue the vuvuzelas! *bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz*). The whole concept of how the wizards concealed their ginormous stadium from the muggles and set up portkeys was fascinating! Wizards from all over the world attended, and a tidbit I found interesting were the witches from the Salem Institute in the US. Ha! Later at Hogwarts, Harry and his fellow Hogwartians find out that a prestigious and ancient tournament will be held at their school and that they will be getting some guest students from other magical schools. Harry's usual luck follows him into this book and he is accidentally chosen to compete. The rest of the book follows him and the other contestants as they fight dragons, demon-possessed mermaids, and trippy mazes. Everything climaxes at the end when Harry meets Voldemort in the flesh. Lord V. is no longer attached to the back of people's heads or remembered through dreams - he's legit now. Just in the last 100 or so pages, you know that the rest of the series is going to get a whole lot darker.

Movie time. I have several things I'd like to point out about this particular movie, the first being THE HAIR. In the summer of 1994, almost every male character apparently turned hippy-ish and grew super long hair. Why?? Everyone is clean shorn in the very next movie........yeah I know, this isn't a major catastrophe, it just bugs me majorly.

Second of all, MAD EYE MOODY/ BARTY CROUCH JR IS THE DOCTOR. Even though he's the bad guy, I couldn't help loving him just for that fact alone.

Third......this guy right here ----------->
Yes. Robert Pattinson when he was actually taken seriously. He played Cedric Diggory, Harry's fellow Hogwarts champion who was killed by Wormtail. After R-Patz achieved his fame through Edward Cullen, I was amazed at how many people (well, girls) stated that their all-time favorite Harry Potter character was Cedric. Really?

Well, I don't really know what else to say about this one. It is still my least favorite, but I like it for that fact that it is the last book where Harry is truly a child. He's definitely growing up, but he's still innocent, so to speak. It's grown on me. I think my favorite part in the whole book is when the Weasleys come to pick up Harry to go to the World Cup and the twins turn Dudley's tongue into a 4 foot long purple monster. I would have loveddd to see that in the movie. So, what did you guys think about the book/movie/both?

May I also suggest that you watch this video? It's a sample of the Rifftrax of the film. Basically these 3 guys watch the movie and narrate it with their snarky comments and songs. It's quite hilarious and there are plenty of Robert Pattinson bashings!

"Remember, your son's a blood-sucking demon."


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