Welcome friends! I have started this entry in the global technosphere because I have been in love with books since the age of 2. Among the busy business of being a new teacher, this is my outlet for sharing thoughts on a love of reading a wide variety of books. My inspiration can be summed up with a yearbook quote from a teacher written when I was 8: "To the only girl at recess I see reading a book. Good for you!"
My blog title is quoted from a classmate who asked me this once. Believe it or not, I've also heard it as a teacher :D

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Quarterly Challenges Update

Since it's the end of March and the year's challenges are a 1/4 of the way through for 2011, I thought I would do a check-in with you to let you know where I'm at and to see where "you at" :) you can see by my challenge progress bars at right, here's my progress from January 1st-March 31st on my measly 5 challenges...not to say the challenges themselves are measly (far from it) but to self-mock my wimpiness when it comes to first-time challenge participation :D

For more details on books read & TBR, see my Challenges Checklist.

Back to the Classics--hosted by Sarah @ Sarah Reads Too Much
Progress:  3/8--could be better; I blame the couple of switcheroos on planned books I had to make
Read:  Banned Book, Pulitzer Winner/Runner-Up, 21st Century Classic
TBR:  Wartime Book, Children's/YA Classic, 19th Century Classic, 20th Century Classic, Book Reread From H.S./College

What's in a Name 4--hosted by Beth @ Beth Fish Reads (linked to the challenge page)
Progress:  3/6--not bad, getting there...
Read:  Book With a Number, Book With Travel/Movement, Book With Evil
TBR:  Book With Jewelry/Gem, Book With a Size, Book With a Life Stage

1st in a Series--hosted by Katy @ A Few More Pages
Goal:  Series Lover (6 books)
Progress:  4/6--almost there!
Read:  Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone, The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, Rabbit, Run, A is For Alibi
TBR:  Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The Gunslinger

Stephen King--hosted by Carolyn @ Book Chick City
Goal:  6 books
Progress:  2/6--slow-going; I love Stephen King but variety is the spice of book blogging life :)  The Stand is going to be the biggest hurdle!
Read:  Full Dark, No Stars, Misery
TBR:  The Stand, The Gunslinger, Night Shift, Pet Sematary

Outdo Yourself--hosted by Brianna @ Book Vixen
Goal:  Breaking a Sweat (11-15 more books)--last year, I only read 18 (that I remember)
Progress:  18/33--just over halfway; I've already matched last year's total & it's only March, so I'm celebrating so far ;)

How are your challenges coming along?  Is it smooth sailing or hard going?  Any suggestions for further challenges I could join when my other ones are finished?

Monthly Wrap-Up & Year-to-Date

Boy, that was a fast month!  Thanks to my week off for spring break, I got more reading done this month than last and only second to January (thanks to the Xmas break).  Here's the breakdown:

Books Read This Month (7)--click titles for reviews
Middlesex- Jeffrey Eugenides (A)
Oprah: A Biography- Kitty Kelley (B)
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe- C.S. Lewis (Chronicles of Narnia series, #1) (A)
Fahrenheit 451- Ray Bradbury (A+)
A is For Alibi- Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone series, #1) (A)
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone- J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter series, #1) (A+)
Misery- Stephen King (A)

Other Books Reviewed This Month (0)
*Retro reviews (for books I've read prior to starting my book blog) are all caught up.

Currently Reading (2)
The Cider House Rules- John Irving
My Life- Bill Clinton

Books Read So Far in 2011 (18)
*DNFs don't count

Literary Blog Hop

A biweekly meme hosted @ The Blue Bookcase.

This week's question is:

Do you find yourself predisposed to like (or dislike) books that are generally accepted as great books and have been incorporated into the literary canon? Discuss the affect you believe a book’s “status” has on your opinion of it.

I rarely believe right off the bat that I'm going to like a book simply because it's part of the literary canon.  Of course, I hope to like it (as I do with every book I try no matter what its literary status) but sometimes I have an inkling after about 50-100 pages in that this book is just not for me and I won't force myself to continue (and I may or may not return to it for a second chance in the future).

Also, I have a hard time defining the "literary canon."  I assume the working definition includes classics and dribs & drabs from modern literature (or "modern classics").  This is a term that is very much in flux and an ongoing topic of debate, and a term I have some trouble taking seriously.  I mean...if you don't like a book from the "canon" are you less of a reader?  I don't believe so...*here ends the rant*. are the possibilities to interpreting this question (click titles for reviews):

*Books I knew I would like & still do:
Hoo boy...tons.  Some examples include: Anne of Green Gables, The Color Purple, The Diviners, The Handmaid's TaleThe Importance of Being Earnest, Little Women, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, A Room of One's OwnThe World According to Garp, and most Shakespeare plays (Hamlet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Twelfth Night, The Tempest, King Lear).

*Books I wasn't sure about but grew to like:
Catcher in the Rye (whiny, yes; bad literature, no), Fahrenheit 451 (slow burning at first but turned out to be awesome), Brighton Rock by Graham Greene (deep, dark, disturbing, fantastic), and To Kill a Mockingbird (in high school, the first half was not as good for me as the second half, which won me over).

*Books I thought I would like & were disappointed by:
The Great Gatsby--now don't shout "WHAT?!" too soon at me!  It's not that this is a bad book (the symbolism and themes of class distinction are terrific) but I found the characters either too wooden or not playing enough of a part.  Characters are a big deal for me as a reader (almost as important as the story...well, okay, second to the story) and they didn't cut it for me.

*Books I didn't like but may try again some time:
Slaughterhouse-Five--I actually felt bad for giving this up but it just wasn't for me.

*Books I didn't like then & still don't now & probably won't try again:
Anything by Jonathan Franzen--I actually finished The Corrections (my general opinion is best summed up as "meh") but did not finish Freedom though I gave it my very best shot.  Also, Heart of Darkness and (mind you, this was in high school), I was sickened by the themes & events in Macbeth but I might actually try this again in my (short) side quest to read all the major Shakespeare plays (I'm down to Julius Caesar and this one).

What did you come up with for this question?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Misery- Stephen King

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters

Published:  1987
Pages:  338
ISBN:  9780451169525
Genre:  Horror/Thriller

Started on:  Mar. 20, 2011
Finished on:  Mar. 25, 2011 (6 days)

Where Found:  Chapters-Indigo
Why Read:  I love Stephen King books and this was an obvious oversight!

Read for:  Stephen King Challenge (2/6)

Summary:  A popular writer is held captive by a deranged fan after a car accident leaves him helpless to escape her wrath unless he can write a sequel to reverse the death of her favourite character.


Misery turns out to be a more meaningful title than it initially seems.  Misery is not only a state of being for Paul Sheldon, kept barely alive by the tyrannical, completely psychotic "number one fan" Annie Wilkes until he writes a sequel just for her that reverses the death of her favourite character, also named Misery.

King's novels usually involve paranormal activity or other phenomena, something that doesn't occur here, which makes it all the more real and even more frightening.  It starts off rather suddenly with the whys and hows of the story slowly building from there.  It reads like a slow burn, gets quite addictive, and suddenly brings forth one unexpected curve after another up to the end.  I didn't know until only a few pages from the end

I haven't seen the 1990 movie with Kathy Bates and James Caan, but it was obvious from the book that Kathy Bates is perfect for the role and could really pull off every horrifying, disgusting, and even sickly sweet sides of Annie.  I could also picture James Caan as Paul--not sure why, but probably because of his tough guy demeanor with a touch of suave smoothness, like in The Godfather.

This was a hard book to rank.  I was so close to giving it an A+, but while I can't quite bring myself to place it in the same league as my favourite Stephen King books (The Green MileDifferent SeasonsCarrie and The Shining), it is a fantastic read and I highly recommend it.

Rank:  (A)- Incredible, Highly Recommend

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

A weekly meme hosted by Sheila @ Book Journey.

So sorry to have abandoned the blog this week.  Don't worry, I'm still here :)  I managed to finish one book and will review it this week, and I've started a new one, which is very captivating so far.

Books Read This Week (1)
Misery- Stephen King (A)--Incredible!  I'll post my review soon.

Currently Reading (2)
The Cider House Rules- John Irving--Has grabbed my attention and won't let go!  And yes, I realize I skipped Rebecca to start this one instead...I love John Irving's books so much, I couldn't resist.

My Life- Bill Clinton--on hold for now

Next to Read
Rebecca- Daphne du Maurier

A Short Guide to Nearly Everything- Bill Bryson--for What's in a Name 4 challenge--a stopover in nonfiction should be nice for a change

I'll try to catch up on reading posts I missed this week.  Have you read anything outstanding lately?  What are you starting up this week?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone- J.K. Rowling (#1- Harry Potter series)

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters

Published:  1997
Pages:  223
ISBN:  155192398X
Genre:  Fantasy/Children's

Start Date:  Mar. 18, 2011
Finished Date:  Mar. 20, 2011 (3 days)

Where Found:  Birthday present from several years ago (part of a 3-book set)
Why Read:  Re-read for a challenge; I'm also planning on reading the entire series as I've only read the first 3 books before (I need to refresh my memory by starting from the beginning).

Read For:  Back to the Classics challenge (3/8), 1st in a Series challenge (4/6)
Previously Read:  Around 2000-2001, I read the first 3 books of the series, and started Goblet of Fire (#4) but never finished it.

Summary:  A young boy is recruited by a magical wizard school called Hogwarts, already a legend in their community for surviving an attack that killed his wizard parents, and must protect a mystical stone from being usurped by an evil presence at the school.


What is not to love about this book?  It brings back fun childhood times of imagining far-off places and fantastical things.  J.K. Rowling reinvigorates the spirit of children's authors before her, such as C.S. Lewis, E.B. White, and L. Frank Baum (and isn't it fortuitous that they all use first and sometimes second initials?)  Like Lewis Carroll before her, Rowling uses inventive terms, such as "muggles," that are playful and allow children to experiment with language.  She encourages children to read, explore, play, make new friends, not give in to bullies, and be brave.  As a child, you relate to its themes, and as an adult, you admire them for being truthful and inspiring.  The characters are multidimensional and each have their own importance to the story with roles dating back to classic literature:  Harry is the hero discovering himself; Ron is not only a sidekick but a loyal friend; Hermione is sharply intelligent, stubborn yet caring; Dumbledore is their sage guardian; McGonegal is the firm mother figure; Snape is the conflicted challenger; and Voldemort is the bane of all evil, a classic "bad guy."

Even adults can enjoy Rowling's sense of adventure through the rip-roaring plot that soon goes off in incredible directions from a rather simple beginning about a disadvantaged boy, but intrigues us with his miraculous survival and magical destiny.  The story simply sweeps you away from the beginning and doesn't let go.  So many subplots are introduced in this book that sequels were inevitable, and I can't wait to continue re-reading Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban, and continuing right to the last (*sniffle*) book.  I've heard many wonderful things about the final books (and yes, I'm aware of its sad elements, too).

Rank:  (A+)- Spellbinding, A Must-Read!

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

A weekly meme hosted by Sheila @ Book Journey.  I finally got around to using the new logo ;)

Well, it's back to work this week, though it will probably be slow-going as most teachers are refreshed from spring break and don't need time off.  Maybe a meeting or two will net me some work.  I have a few days booked ahead, so that's something to look forward to.

I had a great bookish week, buying a huge load of new titles at Book Depot & Chapters, and read 3 great books this week, with some fantastic looking ones ahead.

Books Read This Week (3)--click titles for reviews
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (A+)--fantastic must-read for all book lovers!

A is For Alibi (Kinsey Milhone series, #1) by Sue Grafton (A)--a re-read for the 1st in a Series challenge; very good, highly enjoyable mystery

Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling (known as The Sorceror's Stone in the U.S., Harry Potter series, #1) (A+)--another re-read for the 1st in a Series challenge.  It's "spellbinding" (hee hee) :D  Simply amazing & even better than I remembered it.  I'm definitely going to finish off this series as soon as I can.  Review for this coming soon.

Currently Reading (2)
Misery- Stephen King--started reading this last night & it started off very eerily, and now it's building up tension; this should be a good one!

My Life- Bill Clinton--on hold for now

Next to Read
Rebecca- Daphne du Maurier--not for a challenge but I've waited long enough to dive into this book that everyone says to "read now!"

The Cider House Rules- John Irving--I loved Garp and Owen Meany so much that I'm psyched to start another of Irving's modern classics!

What are you reading this week?  Have a good one :)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Book & Blogging Quizzes

I spotted these @ Roof Beam Reader and The Eye of Loni's Storm.  I'm a bit dubious about the results of these type of quizzes but they're fun :)

When it comes to reading, you tend to stick to old and modern classics.  You are picky about what you read.  You probably anticipate certain books' releases, and you snatch them up the moment they're available.  You have been building a library of books that mean a lot to you. You carefully consider every book before deciding to add it to your collection.  You believe that if a book is worth reading, it's worth paying more to have it in hardcover.

You are a natural problem solver. You like figuring out the best way to do something.  You are very intuitive. You are good at picking up on people's moods and predicting the future.  You can't help but being a bit of a detective and a snoop. You always want to know what's going on.  And while you may have the scoop on everyone you know, you're not a gossip. You're a pro at keeping secrets.

You've got a ton of brain power, and you leverage it into brilliant blog.  Both creative and logical, you come up with amazing ideas and insights.  A total perfectionist, you find yourself revising and rewriting posts a lot of the time.  You blog for yourself - and you don't care how popular (or unpopular) your blog is!

You Are a Couplet

You're not much for words, so you write a little ditty.
It might not be a novel, but at least it is witty.

What Type of Poem Are You?
The First Rule of Blogthings Is: You Don't Talk About Blogthings

Friday, March 18, 2011

A is For Alibi- Sue Grafton (#1- Kinsey Millhone series)

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters
Published:  1982
Pages:  308
ISBN:  9780312938994
Genre:  Mystery/Thriller

Start Date:  Mar. 16, 2011
Finished Date:  Mar. 18, 2011 (3 days)

Where Found:  Chapters-Indigo
Why Read:  Mostly for a reading challenge; was interested in re-reading it

Read for:  1st in a Series Challenge (3/6)
Previously Read:  For an American lit course with a hard-boiled mystery theme, previously reviewed here

Summary:  A private investigator simultanously investigates the potential innocence of a recent parolee convicted of murdering her husband that coincides with the similar death of an associate while continuing to look into a small claims case.

There isn't very much to add that I haven't written about this book before.  It's a solid mystery with a reliable, easy-to-like protagonist in Kinsey Millhone.  In this particular book, the first in the "alphabet" series (currently up to "U"), there are many suspects, keeping you guessing and leading to an electrifying ending.  Grafton makes the repetitive nature of Kinsey's job as a private investigator, especially the ongoing interviews with suspects and connections interesting.  She gives lots of interesting descriptions of interior and exterior locations, which may be annoying in any other book, but in a mystery with a P.I., this attention to detail adds to its charm.

In hindsight, I went a bit overboard with an A+ ranking, as it doesn't quite fit in the company of my 40-some odd other A+s.  I have read better books than A is For Alibi, but very few mysteries can top this one.  For more details, you can read my old review here.

Rank:  (A)- Very Good, Highly Recommend

Literary Blog Hop!

A biweekly meme hosted @ The Blue Bookcase.

This week's topic is from Debbie @ ReaderBuzz:

What one literary work must you read before you die?

As The Blue Bookcase pointed out, you could interpret this question two ways & I'm going to answer both:

What must I read before I die?

I definitely need to read at least one book by Ernest Hemingway and one by John Steinbeck, two authors I've completely neglected and never read in school.

What must you read before you die?

This is very general as I wouldn't know your particular brand of reading material and very limited scope compared to the numerous books that get recommended every day, but I would very strongly suggest you read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, one of the most unique books I've ever read.  It's incredibly informative about one of the most prevalent type of minds we encounter often today: autistic.  For that matter, any book that informs us about important issues (social, political, physical, personal) should be read before we no longer have to worry about them.

I'd love to hear what you chose for this week's topic!

Friday Blog Hop!

A weekly meme hosted by Jennifer @ Crazy For Books.

This week's topic is from Somer @ A Bird's Eye Review:
Do you read only one book at a time, or do you have several going at once?
Usually, I only read one book at a time as I like to give all my attention to a single story.  Every so often, I'll dip into a second book if the first one is slow-going or if I'm particuarly psyched to start a book waiting on the shelf.
What about you:  are you a one-book-at-a-time reader or one of varying attention span?
Have a great weekend :)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Fahrenheit 451- Ray Bradbury

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters

Published:  1953 (my copy is the 50th anniversary edition pictured above)
Pages:  190 (with Afterword, Coda, and a Q&A)
ISBN:  0345342968
Genre:  Sci-Fi/Classic

Start Date:  Mar. 13, 2011
Finished Date:  Mar. 15, 2011 (3 days)

Where Found:  Chapters-Indigo
Why Read:  On my TBR list

Read for:  What's in a Name 4 Challenge- Book With a Number (3/6)

Summary:  In a future America where books are illegal to read, a fireman responsible for burning any books found is influenced by a precocious young girl to resist what he has always known and escape the monotony of his life.


I never thought I would find a writer who can create more suspense than Stephen King.  And in so few words!  Ray Bradbury creates a terrifying, almost believable future in which people are discouraged from venturing outdoors, are entertained through wall-to-wall TVs in which they become part of the repetitious, soap opera-type shows, and are forbidden from reading books.  The anti-hero protagonist, Guy Montag, is getting pretty sick and tired of this life, despite stepping into the footsteps of his father and grandfather before him as a firefighter, who in a bizarre reversal, does not put out fires, but starts them on books some resistors have kept hidden.

Bradbury's style is vintage science fiction: choppy sentences that should be read quickly, action slowly building from the beginning to a frenetic pace by midway and coasting to the end, and mechanical technologies only vaguely recognizable at the original time of printing, but much more conceivable now.  People watch TV on wall-sized screens, listen to music and converse via tiny "seashell" earbuds, and are highly desensitized to human emotion, escaping through TV shows with paper-thin plots and vague characters.  You feel Guy's pain from beginning to end, wanting to give his doped-up wife, Mildred, a firm shake by the shoulders, and sic the Mechanical Hound, a grotesque watchdog who euthanizes "criminals" that fight against authority, on Beatty, the head fireman whose past is sympathetic, but his actions are unjustifiable.

The 50th anniversary edition comes with an interesting afterword written by Bradbury with fascinating anecdotes about the book (for example, did you know that the characters Montag and Beatty are named after brands of paper and pencil [respectively] and that Bradbury wrote the novel on a pay typewriter that charged a dime per half hour?).  Bradbury also reflects on the stage and film adaptations of the book (both pleasing to the author) and a subsequent scene that he contemplated adding to the book's later editions in which Beatty's motives are further represented.  This is followed by a fiercely written Coda that criticizes backstabbing editors who censored Bradbury's numerous works for the purposes of pleasing particular social groups, which makes one feel a tad uncomfortable at first (some may find comments borderline racist), but has a point nonetheless about artists: no one can fully please everyone and no one's work should be "edited" in an attempt to do so.  The book ends with a 50th anniversary Q&A between Bradbury (now 90) and Ballantine Books, the publishers of this edition, with a contemporary slant, including comments on how the book can be compared to today's digital age and its envitable comparison to other sci-fi classics, such as George Orwell's 1984.

If you are a book lover, you must read this book, which will no doubt terrify you, but make you even more grateful for the freedoms of expression, thought, and literacy that we all share.

Rank:  (A+)- Outstanding, A Must-Read!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Top 10 Tuesday- Literary Family

A weekly meme hosted @ The Broke and the Bookish.

Oooh....this was too good a topic to pass up this week :)  My odd, wild literary family would consist of:

1)  Father--Jules Tonnerre from The Diviners by Margaret Laurence for his music, his legendary stories, and his adventures.

2)  Mother--Kate Gulderson from One True Thing by Anna Quindlen for her unconditional kindness, her talent in arts & crafts (she could teach me a thing or two!), and her strength.

3)  Brothers--I'd love to have two:  Hassan from The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini for his loyalty, generosity, and love; and Christopher from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon for his knowledge, his curiosity, and his challenges.

4)  Sisters--I'd love have two:  Anne from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery for her imagination, her literary sense, and her ability to see the world for all its beauty; and Bridget Jones from Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding for her humour, her self-acceptance (for the most part), and her boyfriend, Mark Darcy, who we will envitably fight over :D

5)  Grandfather--Jacob Jankowski from Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen.  His stories of the circus will leave me spellbound.  I have to admit that I saw this on many top 10 posts today & couldn't resist "borrowing" him :)

6)  Grandmother--Marilla Cuthbert from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.  Even though she's an adoptive mother, I see her as a grandmother figure with her no-nonsense attitude, heart of gold, and acceptance of others' differences.

7)  Uncle--Will from About a Boy by Nick Hornby for his carefree ways, his laidback habits, and his spoiling of young children in his life :D

8)  Aunt--Muriel Pritchett from The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler for her quirkiness, her love of animals, and her awesome clothes!

9)  Cousin--Lisbeth Salander from the Millennium series by Stieg Larsson, because she doesn't have a family of her own and would need a person & place to turn to when she's in trouble.  You know, besides Mikael ;)

10)  Pet--this was a great suggestion for a family member by Anne @ My Head is Full of Books!  I would choose Marley the dog from Marley & Me by John Grogan, who would ruin the house but be a lot of fun, and Flaubert's parrot from Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes, who is a stuffed bird but has a fascinating history behind him :)

What a wild & crazy family that would be!

Major Book Shopping Haul!

Boy did I ever sleep in this morning!  And it's no wonder after a full day out.  The Book Depot was pretty awesome.  They only had 2 of my challenge books that I wanted to get but I was pleasantly, overwhelmingly surprised by the availability of so many books on my must-read list.  I ended up with an overstuffed box of....57!

Here are the photos I snapped of them all & their titles.  Sorry if the glare of the flash obscures some parts.

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold- John le Carré
Moonlight Mile- Dennis Lehane
By Myself & Then Some- Lauren Bacall
The First Wives Club- Olivia Goldsmith
Infinite Jest- David Foster Wallace
Tom Cruise: An Unauthorized Biography- Andrew Morton
A Lotus Grows in the Mud- Goldie Hawn
The Age of Innocence- Edith Wharton
Brideshead Revisited- Evelyn Waugh
Love and Other Impossible Pursuits- Ayelet Waldman
Living History- Hillary Rodham Clinton
U2 by U2- Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullens
Great Expectations- Charles Dickens
Reservation Road- John Burnham Schwartz
Wuthering Heights- Emily Bronte
Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself- Alan Alda
Patchwork Planet- Anne Tyler

Blessings- Anna Quindlen
All the King's Men- Robert Penn Warren
Middlemarch- George Eliot
The Evening Star- Larry McMurtry
The Poseidon Adventure- Paul Gallico
Frankenstein- Mary Shelley
American on Purpose- Craig Ferguson
The Birthing House- Christopher Ransom
Kate Remembered- A. Scott Berg
Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn- William J. Mann
Gulliver's Travels- Jonathan Swift
L.A. Confidential- James Ellroy
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood- Rebecca Wells
The Stone Diaries- Carol Shields

The Bluest Eye- Toni Morrison

LEFT COLUMN (from left to right, top to bottom):
Angela's Ashes- Frank McCourt
The Awakening- Kate Chopin
My Antonia- Willa Cather
Vanity Fair- William Makepeace Thackeray
If I Only Knew Then- Charles Grodin
Profiles in Courage- John F. Kennedy

Film Flam- Larry McMurtry
Our Town- Thornton Wilder
Sense and Sensibility- Jane Austen
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland- Lewis Carroll
Through the Looking Glass- Lewis Carroll
The Scarlet Letter- Nathaniel Hawthorne
Far From the Madding Crowd- Thomas Hardy
Shameless Explotation in Pursuit of the Common Good- Paul Newman & A.E. Hotchner
Tess of the D'Urbervilles- Thomas Hardy
We Were the Mulvaneys- Joyce Carol Oates
Get Shorty- Elmore Leonard
Terms of Endearment- Larry McMurtry
The Picture of Dorian Gray- Oscar Wilde
Mutiny on the Bounty-
A Tale of Two Cities- Charles Dickens
Their Eyes Were Watching God- Zora Neale Hurston
Cry, the Beloved Country- Alan Paton
Native Son- Richard Wright
Hannibal- Thomas Harris

But, the adventure didn't end there!  I thought to myself that I should venture forth and get the challenge books I was seeking in the first place...and a couple of others the Book Depot didn't have ;)  So, I ended up getting 10 more books at Chapters:

Pet Sematary- Stephen King
Night Shift- Stephen King
Misery- Stephen King
The Cider House Rules- John Irving
On the Road- Jack Kerouac
Back When We Were Grownups- Anne Tyler
The Reader- Bernhard Schlink
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter- Carson McCullers
Night- Elie Wiesel
A Short History of Nearly Everything- Bill Bryson

So, the grand total from my book haul is 67 books.  I was lucky to squeeze some on my shelves and get all the others in one box for the closet.  Space is dwindling with every book buying know how it is :)  All in all, I'd say my TBR shelf is pretty full for now!

On a challenge-related note, I cannot seem to find Cujo by Stephen King for the Stephen King Challenge, so I'll be swapping in Pet Sematary instead.

Have you been on any book-buying sprees lately?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

A weekly meme hosted by Sheila @ Book Journey.

I'm posting this early (again) this week as I'll be out book shopping most of the day (Monday).  I hope to have lots to share in another post today or tomorrow!

Books Read This Week (2)--click titles for my reviews
Oprah- Kitty Kelley--quite a fascinating book, full of controversy & intrigue

The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe- C.S. Lewis (Narnia series, #1)--a lovely magical read

Currently Reading (2)
Fahrenheit 451- Ray Bradbury--eerie!  I love the vintage futuristic style and its frightening message.

My Life- Bill Clinton

Next to Read
A is For Alibi (Kinsey Milhone series, #1) by Sue Grafton--a re-read for the 1st in a Series challenge

Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling (known as The Sorceror's Stone in the U.S.)--another re-read for the 1st in a Series challenge.  I can't wait to dig into this series again (I've only read the first 3 books) & I'm determined to finish them all by next year.

Other Reviews Posted This Week
Middlesex- Jeffrey Eugenides--finished last week & got the review up last Wednesday.

What are you reading this week?  Have a good one!

P.S.  Stay tuned for news from my trip to the Book Depot...and probably Chapters, too :)

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe- C.S. Lewis (Chronicles of Narnia, #1)

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters

Published:  1950
Pages:  206
ISBN:  0060234814
Genre:  Fantasy/Children's

Start Date:  Mar. 7, 2011
Finished Date:  Mar. 12, 2011 (6 days)

Where Found:  Campus bookstore (I bought this as part of a display for a teacher's college project & it was in one of my boxes of children's books)
Why:  General interest, TBR list

Summary:  When 4 siblings stumble through a clothes closet into a secret world inhabited by talking animals and being overrun by a wicked Queen, they become destined to protect it.


First of all, I must quote the book's dedication, which is the most beautiful one I've ever read:

To Lucy Barfield

My dear Lucy, I wrote this story for you but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books.  As a result you are already too old for fairy tales and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still.  But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.  You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it.  I shall probably be too deaf to hear and too old to understand a word you say, but I shall still be

your affectionate Godfather,
C.S. Lewis

I am not sure if I am too old for fairy tales, however I definitely understand Lewis's point: they are best read by a child and a child at heart.  I felt myself escape into the story, which was very well paced, fast enough for children to be engaged in, yet not so fast that detail is fleeting.  Chapter 16 (What Happened About the Statues) was amazing and had best prose in the entire book, in my opinion.  The Narnia creatures are charming, the children are adventurous and can still be related to youngsters today, and the tale has many morals, borrowing from recognizable Greek myths and Biblical stories.

My one and only criticism is that LWW seems too tightly wound up, as if Lewis wanted to keep the book deliberately short, perhaps as a long bedtime story.  Assuming that the Narnia series was in mind at the time of writing this book, it makes sense to leave many unanswered questions wide open for further books to explore, but as a stand-alone book, it may have been even better if scenes, such as the battles and journies, were extended, instead of merely lasting 1-2 pages.  I sometimes felt that something had just started, and *poof* it was resolved and something else comes about.

I would be interested in continuing with the series, however not for quite a while as I have so many other books prioritized.  Have you read this or other books in the Narnia series?  If so, which book is your favourite?  Please recommend or comment on them below as I'm curious to know if further books in the series are as good or better than LWW.

Rank:  (A)- Extraordinary, Fantastical & Magical

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Oprah: A Biography- Kitty Kelley

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters

Published:  2010 (my edition is 2011, updated & revised)
Pages:  478 (minus Notes & Index)
ISBN:  9780307394873
Genre:  Biography

Start Date:  Mar. 6, 2011
Finished Date:  Mar. 10, 2011 (5 days)

Where Found:  Chapters-Indigo
Why Read:  General interest; this is the most prevalent biography on Oprah

Summary:  A comprehensive, highly critical and equally subjective biography of the most powerful, rich mogul/TV host/businessperson, and many people's personal guru/reason for living.


If this book had been written a few years earlier, my 4th year seminar professor would have been ecstatic!  The course was "The Oprah Effect," a seemingly easy but actually quite aggressive look at Oprah in celebrity culture and her Midas touch on business, TV, American pop culture, and philanthropy.  This professor was so psyched to teach the course that she bought not one but two copies of Oprah's 20th anniversary box set.  If this book were around then, it would definitely have been required reading.

The book starts off startlingly with Oprah's claims of childhood sexual abuse, reflected by a large number of shows she has done on the subject since her show debuted in regular syndication in 1986, which I felt was a bit odd as usually the first chapter of a biography builds a foundation for the entire book, and this topic was only part of the whole story.  From there, it proceeds chronologically with Oprah's childhood in Mississippi, the man she knew as her father but turns out not to be, her distant relationship with her mother, and her clamor to greatness that she often claims to be the will of God.

The book cannot help but be fascinating.  Even if half of it is accurate, it brings to light a number of issues.  Firstly, how her show has evolved from the triangular sex-oddball-newsmaker topics that strarted out as a feminized Jerry Springer (without the chair beatings and hair pulling) to a cycle of celebrity-product-New Age spiritualism.  Secondly, how Oprah's personality, health, and relationships have been represented on her show versus encounters from former employers, Harpo employees (who have either escaped or remained anonymous lest they break the full non-disclosure agreement they sign upon being hired), distant family members, and others who have served her needs over the years.  And the last big issue is the "Oprah Effect" on the public from her book club, her magazine, her "Favourite Things," her girls' school in South Africa, and her endorsement of often highly controversial, sometimes dangerous, and often contradicting products, ideas, and views, which have recently been brought to light in the book Living Oprah by Robin Okrant (another book my professor would have loved to assign us), who attempts to follow all of the Queen of TV's advice.

Kelley, known for her controversial, sensationalized biographies of Elizabeth Taylor, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Nancy Reagan, Frank Sinatra, the British royal family, and the Bush family, welcomes scandalous, tabloid-worthy tidbits of celebrities as a means of trying to uncover the "true" identity of the celebrity off-camera.  Of course this means a lot of "he said, she said" games and claims of misappropriation by interviewees after the book goes to press, which sure helps sell books.  Obviously, you cannot believe everything Kelley concludes about Oprah, but she certainly makes her case a number of times with quotations from interviews Oprah gave much more freely in early years that contradict several biographical elements she has shared with the public.

So, what is my take on Oprah?  I think she is still very much a closed book, as she has every right to be, and while I sometimes tune into her show, I am far from a follower.  I sometimes find myself rolling my eyes at the simplistic drivel that gets applause & adulation from her 99% female audience.  And I have to sometimes dial down the volume on my TV when she uses that very annoying, deep-throat yell to introduce guests, and her bad (very un-journalistic) habit of interrupting guests to change direction or add an often useless two cents to the topic.  I do think she has good ideas on the surface for philanthropic missions but deep down, money and fame is fueling her and has since her show debuted 25 years ago. 

As for Oprah: The Biography, it still leaves me wondering about the authenticity of celebrities (not an original thought, I know), and journalists who make tidy conclusions from conflicting accounts of the truth.

Rank:  (B)- Very Good, Recommend

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Blog Hop!

A weekly meme hosted by Jennifer @ Crazy For Books.

This week's topic is from Ellie @ Musings of a Bookshop Girl.

"If I gave you £50 (or $80) and sent you into a bookshop right now, what would be in your basket when you finally staggered to the till?"

Oooh...don't toy with me, I'm very vulnerable to book shopping hypotheticals :D

I'm going to think a bit more radically here instead of stating the obvious (challenge books that I haven't bought yet).  I always like to buy fiction, but usually I'll throw in a couple of nonfiction, and usually one (auto)biography or memoir to spice things up. 

Let's say for sake of argument (and having to do several price checks) that each book cost $10, so here are the 8 eclectic books I'd buy:

1)  Get Happy by Gerald Clarke--a biography of Judy Garland
2)  The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers--a classic
3)  Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume--a children's classic
4)  Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery--minus book #1 which I already have; a box set on sale?!  In my dreams :D
5)  Blessings by Anna Quindlen--I've been dying to read something else by her as I absolutely loved One True Thing
6)  Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler--ditto #5, except it was The Accidental Tourist :)
7)  We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver--a contemporary must-read
8)  At Home by Bill Bryson--I had to throw a humourist into the group to lighten the load ;)

Coincidentally, I'm finally getting around to hitting the Book Depot, likely on Monday, so I'll hopefully have lots of book shopping news to share ;)

I can't wait to hop & see what everyone wants to buy!  Isn't virtual, imaginary book shopping fun? :D  What would you buy if you had $80 to spend?  Share in the comments & watch your TBR list grow!

Ontarians are on spring/March break this week, so enjoy!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Middlesex- Jeffrey Eugenides

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters

Published:  2002
Pages  529
ISBN:  0676975658
Genre:  Literary Fiction

Start Date:  Feb. 21, 2011
Finished Date:  Mar. 6, 2011 (14 days)

Where Found:  Chapters-Indigo
Why Read:  General interest & it was on my TBR list

Read For:  Back to the Classics Challenge (Pulitizer Prize winner/nominee) (2/8)

Summary:  A teenage hermaphrodite seeking answers about his identity traces his genetic and family history from 1920s Greece when her grandparents immigrated to Michigan from the Great Depression as his parents struggled in the dwindling economy and into the 1970s when a great change comes to his life.


First of all, I want to make a short disclaimer of sorts that the use of pronouns in this review is a sensitive issue and that any misuse of and/or offense taken by such is unintentional, and I hope that I am applying them appropriately.

Novels that seamlessly weave together several seemingly disjointed themes are amazing.  What seems impossible to interconnect becomes second nature.  In this novel, identity, immigration, sexuality, culture, coming-of-age, religion, ritual, and family are fluid themes that meld together in a continuous flow from beginning to end.

How Cal's journey from two generations prior to his birth affects his identity and self-regard, coming to fruition in his teen years, is extraordinary and unexpected.  We follow his grandparents Lefty and Desdemona Stephanides from war-torn Greece to the Depression of the U.S., his parents, Milton and Tessie through a tumultous economic time in Michigan, and to Cal, whose identity is forthcoming from page 1, remains constantly in question throughout the novel, until the 1970s when he comes to terms with a hidden truth that solidifies in his teen years.

At first, I found the book quirky and a bit slow, but once the secret of Lefty and Desdemona's relationship is made, my interest piqued, and I was taken by it from then on.  Milton & Tessie's struggles with maintaining work during the Depression provides some of the best moments in the novel and the strongest writing.  Cal's voice is dependable, sympathetic, and always searching for answers in his family history to explain his genetics from what seems to be a coincidental twist of fate but culminates into a reason for himself through a series of anecdotal family lore.

The writing can be uneven at times, as a critic pointed out, but once the characters reach Michigan, you become used to Eugenides's rhythm, a practice that we take with every book we read.  As for the subject matter at hand, I hope that it brings further education and acceptance to people like Cal who have a fascinating, multitudinous story to tell.  We can all relate to and have likely read many books in the bildungsroman genre, but you have never read one like this before.  I highly recommend that you step outside your comfort zone and give this book a try.

Rank:  (A)- Very Good, Highly Recommend

Sunday, March 6, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

A weekly meme hosted by Sheila @ Book Journey.

I'm posting this early as tomorrow will be a long day for me & I might not get to it in the evening.  But I will make time to see your Monday posts, I promise :)  Without further adieu...

Books Read This Week (1)
Middlesex- Jeffrey Eugenides--Yes, finally finished it tonight!  I liked it & will post my review soon.

Currently Reading (3)
Oprah- Kitty Kelley--a scandalous guilty pleasure for me to zip through ;)

The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe- C.S. Lewis (Narnia series, #1)--I'm glad this one's much shorter than the last book I read.  Do you find that reading a few books in a row with a huge page count can bog you down?  I'm really looking forward to reading this for the first time.  Why not in childhood, you ask?  I wasn't really into sci-fi or fantasy, though I did love the sci-fi of Monica Hughes.

My Life- Bill Clinton--same drill...yes, I will finish it some day...maybe in 2012 :D  2013?

Next to Read
Same plan as last week's post:

Fahrenheit 451- Ray Bradbury
A is For Alibi (Kinsey Milhone series, #1) by Sue Grafton

Not sure what to read after that...probably another challenge book

Other Reviews Posted This Week
None :(   In my defense, I did post about 12 last week!

What are you reading this week?  Have a good one :)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday Blog Hop!

A weekly meme hosted by Jennifer @ Crazy For Books.

This week's topic is from Mia @ Girl About Books:
Who's your all-time favorite book villain?

Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris comes immediately to mind.  He is such a complex, perhaps even sympathetic character with a brilliant mind but a horrific impulse that bears his nickname "Hannibal the Cannibal."  He is a fascinating character to read, but Anthony Hopkins makes him all the more real with his characteristic creepy "sucking air" sound and that eerie, oddly charming drawl.

Honourable mentions should be made to the following fantastic literary villains:

Pinky from Brighton Rock by Graham Greene
Gonneril & Regan from King Lear by William Shakespeare
George Harvey from The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Mrs. Carmody from The Mist by Stephen King
Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
Mr. Hyde from Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Jim Rennie from Under the Dome by Stephen King

Who is your favourite literary villain?

Have a great weekend :)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Literary Blog Hop

A biweekly meme hosted @ The Blue Bookcase.

This week's topic is from Gilion @ Rose City Reader:

Can literature be funny?  What is your favorite humorous literary book?

Well, certainly literature can be funny!  After all, if we didn't have comic relief in books, there would be an awful lot of dull stories :D

My favourite book that is humourous and literary is Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding.  It cleverly modernizes Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice (complete with a contemporized Mr. Darcy) and isn't your typical "chick lit" romance novel with sharp writing in unique semi-epistolary (diary) style.  It provides a nice balance of bawdy and charming humour...isn't that what we all love about the British? :D

Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon and The World According to Garp by John Irving also count as some of my favourite "funny" pieces of literature.

What is your favourite funny book? :)