Sunday, February 27, 2011


Hunted (House of Night, #5)Hunted by P.C. Cast

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This series is becoming quite a conundrum for me...I'm completely sucked into the storyline, even though each book is increasingly annoying.

The story line has always been easy to read, you care about the characters, and I love the elements of Cherokee history and mythology mixed in with the vampyre's pagan culture.

That said, their are many elements of the both the storyline and the writing. First, I am increasingly put off in each subsequent book by the constant retelling of earlier parts of the story. This is a series. Theoretically, most of your readers will have read the earlier books, and don't need a reminder on every other page of what has happened to Zoey with this person or that person, or that she can command the elements, blah, blah, blah. Yes, I realize that some people may randomly pick up a book in the middle of the series, but since a majority will not in a series like this, you need to write to your readers and not go so overboard with the replays. A few here and there, ok. The same details repeated several times in each book, too much.

Next, I've had just about enough of the overdone teenage girl-teenage boy drama. I've heard so many people say that these books are a "more realistic portrayal" of teenage life than the Twilight series(for a paranormal genre, of course), but this part of the storyline couldn't be further from realistic. How about I imprint with one, kiss another, have sex with yet another, and then kiss the fourth another. But who's girlfriend am I? And who do I love? The guy I've known for 2 months, or the guy I've known for an hour? Hmmmm...decisions, decisions. This part of the story, for lack of a better description, needs to get a grip. This whole story line is too outlandish even for this type of story.

But of course I'll be reading the next book within a few days....I just wish these were written better, because I would actually love them, and I'd feel a little less pathetic not being able to put them down!

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Friday, February 25, 2011

The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother

The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White MotherThe Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was enthralling and wonderful. I didn't know what to expect when I picked up this book(a Thrift Store Score!), but was drawn into it from the moment I started reading it.

James McBride is a mixed-race American, with an African-American father and Polish-Jewish mother, known by those in her adult life as Ruth, and Mommy to her children. His father died unexpectedly before he was born, and he spent his entire childhood and much of his early adulthood knowing nothing of his mother's past. This book is the result of his undying curiosity and his mother's eventual willingness, in her later years, to re-open what she had locked away many years ago.

McBride tries, and mostly succeeds, at not sugar coating the terrible childhood his mother endured and ran from, as well as the effects it had on him and his 11 siblings growing up in the Brooklyn projects. The story is told with alternating chapters of Ruth's harsh upbringing and McBride's childhood chronology and search for "self", with cross-references tying his mother's experiences with why his childhood was the way it was. He makes no illusions to it being easy, but he paints a vivid picture of a strong woman making tough decisions, standing her ground, and in the end, coming out on top. The story is well built, and the frequent change from past to present makes it easier to see the parallels in the lives of mother and child.

This book was well written, inspiring, and deeply moving. I highly recommend it.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Standing at the Crossroads

Standing at the CrossroadsStanding at the Crossroads by Charles Davis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received this book as a Goodread's First Read from Permanent Press. Thank you!

First and foremost, this book was superbly written, in such a way that I felt as though I was reading a freely flowing poem rather than an novel. The narrator, an African man known only as The Barefoot Librarian, tells us early on that people have often told him "that I speak too formally, my language dated like the writers to whom it has been modeled", which is an excellent segue into the following text, doted with references to classic literature and life built around stories and the truths in fiction.

The main protagonists of this story are The Barefoot Librarian, and a white academic woman named Kate, both with different ideals and views of the world. The Barefoot Librarian chooses to see the world through the vast realm of stories he has read and collected over the years, while Kate seeks justice and pure truth. The differences that come about between these two, as they trek across dusty and war torn African lands, constantly walking the fine line between safety and the violent Warriors of God, were described in a way that made you feel like you were walking right behind them. It seems wrong to describe this story as beautiful, as it is not a hopeful and positive one, yet beautiful is the description that instinctively comes to mind.

This is a short read, and though a tiny bit slow due to the classically styled prose, it is a wonderful read.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

The Most Recent Attempt at my "Favorite Books" List

I have always had a hard time with answering the "What is your favorite....?" question. Whether it's books, movies, songs, bands etc, I get instantly overwhelmed with ideas at the mere mention of this question. I attribute this to two factors. One, the general concept that the moment I finish something, my mind goes instantly to the next thing(book, movie, concert...) that I am excited to start, so I don't think I give things time to firmly cement in my memory. Two, I have just read so many darn books, seen so many movies and heard so much music that I love, that it all blends together and inspires the knee-jerk and, to be completely honest - cop-out, answer of "I don't think I can choose just ONE...". After being asked my favorite books about 12.7 times in the past few weeks, I've finally decided to man up and actually think about it. So, without further ado(because I know how much this matters to the world, I feel terrible about withholding it for so long), I present the Most Recent Attempt at my Favorite Books list:

In no particular order....

Gone With the Wind

I think this a book that you either love or hate. I know many people who consider it bigoted and racist(despite being set in an era quite possibly best known for bigotry and racism being not just legal, but accepted and commonplace...), while others praise it's unguarded portrayal of that time. Still others think of it in the category of 20th century American classics, while others have called it the first "trashy romance novel". I, for one, could care less where it's categorized...I fell in love with it the first time I read it(somewhere around 7th or 8th grade) and it will always be a favorite.

Beneath a Marble Sky
After a few years of honestly not reading enough(quite frankly, not very much at all), this book renewed my love for and interest in historical fiction. It is about a time period that I really know nothing about, and I was sucked right in. I'm pretty sure I read this in one night!

The Red Tent
This is another one that was quite debated and I think either loved or hated. Like the previous title, it is a time period that I know very little about so I loved the way I could use my imagination. Plus, I know very little(and care even less) about the Biblical accuracy of it, so I think I was able to enjoy it more than many.

Harry Potter Boxset
I started reading these when I was volunteering at an environmental education camp in Portland, Oregon, after hearing endless chatter from 6th graders. Little did I know that I would devour the first 4 books in about as many weeks. Major kudos to J.K. Rowling for not only creating a world that would get kids reading, but one that crossed age boundaries from elementary school kids all the way to their grandparents!

The Kite Runner
The more I think about this, the more I'm sensing a theme of enjoying things about places and times I know little about...could be a sign! Anyway, I read this book a few years ago and ended up skipping 2 classes one day because I had found a sunny spot on the school lawn to read for a few minutes, and before I knew it was halfway into the book and had missed the whole afternoon of classes. It was also the first book that had made me cry in a long time....

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time
This is my most recent addition to the list, having just finished it a few weeks ago. I had owned it for quite a while, because I had heard great things about it, but for some reason never seemed drawn to it. Boy was I wrong. This story had me wanting to drive to Bozeman the morning after I finished it and beg for a job(not too big of a stretch, I only live 75 miles from Bozeman...)

I'm sure I'll think of more...I guess there'll have to be a "Favorite Books, Vol. 2".

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

'Tis The Season For Some Readin - 2011 Challenges!

For those who don't know me, I have a slight touch of ADD(my little brother was also blessed with the H, but fortunately I'm just scattered, not scattered AND hyperactive!). A large part of how this affects me is that I have a tough time following through, hopping from task to task, project to project, interest to interest. Hmmm, I wonder if this has anything to do with my sporadic blog posting?

Reading is something that I have loved since the day I came home from Kindergarten telling my dad that there was a boy a school who knew how to read, so naturally I must learn how to read as well. Unfortunately, books and reading are like everything else, and must share their precious time with my other scatterings. One great thing about living in a very small town with very long, cold, dark winters is that I usually tend to read much more during this season. This year though, I am taking the initiative to keep up with not just reading, but my other interests for....deep breath...all year. So, I have challenged myself with a few goals for the year:

Reading Goals

- 50 Books for 2011, complete with counter to keep me motivated and excited to see the numbers go up!
- Write a review for at least half of my books read in 2011
- Give away at least 10 books that I've enjoyed to friends/colleagues, to hopefully get some folks around me able to have some great book conversations!


- Post at least two blog posts per week
- Only one post per week can be a review...must be creative and stretch the brain muscles a bit more


- Complete both scarves that I have started so far this year!
- Finish my best friend's daughter's baby blanket...before her 2nd birthday in October.
- Learn how to knit something that is not just some variation of a square(aka - no scarves, coasters, dish towels, blankets, etc)
- Crochet a hat that actually fits my head :o)

New Things I've Been Planning to Do

- Finish my guitar instruction book and DVD, and be able to play at least 3 songs from memory
- Actually take the pottery class I talk about every year!

Gettin Out!
- Go to at least 3 places on my local "To Visit" list
- Take vacation to somewhere that neither Bryan nor I have been
- Hike! I'm going to keep track of what I do from May-September, and the goal is to average 5 miles per week for the summer
- Try a new outdoor activity(I have a sneaking feeling this will end up being hunting with the boys, but still undecided on that one!)

Whew, I've got quite the 10 1/2 months ahead of me...wish me luck!!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a TimeThree Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My first instincts are that this book is beyond description to me, so I'll have to settle for "amazing", "awe-inspiring" and "phenomenal". And settling is putting in mildly. Aside from in being a well written and captivating book, the subject matter got to me at a deep and personal level that I don't even know how to describe. I live just 75 miles from Bozeman, MT, where the Central Asia Institute is located, and I quickly lost count of the number of times this book made me want to get in the car and drive to "town", begging on hands a knees for a job within this amazing organization.

Books, not Bombs. Education for girls in a society so commonly stereotyped as being anti-female. An American man having tea with the Taliban and becoming a most trusted adviser, ally and colleague within Islamic nations that so many have been led to believe are driven by terrorism and hatred, and proving to all who will listen that that stereotypes are just that...stereotypes taught and accepted by those who are either uneducated, unwilling to listen or unwilling to open their minds. Through this amazing story of humanitarianism, courage, loyalty, passion and strong will, Greg Mortenson has crossed borders and boundaries that so many have tried and failed at. The difference seems to fall entirely within the truth of his heart and convictions to do the right thing by the people he has grown to respect and love, rather than the desire to promote his own beliefs.

I could go on and on, but right now it's time for may be an early morning if I don't talk myself out of skipping work and driving to Bozeman in the morning. I'll be proud and honored to send pictures of myself groveling on the sidewalk :o)

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Marked (House of Night, #1)Marked by P.C. Cast

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I borrowed this book after a friend spoke over and over again about how she found it "far superior" to the Twilight Series, in terms of it's depiction of modern teenagers.

I did enjoy this book, but it definitely falls into my "Guilty Pleasures" category...books that do not require much thought, rather the ability to let go of thinking in the name of juvenile imagination for a few hours(and a few hours is all you need for this short, very easy read). The best way I can describe this read is that the author's had some great ideas and approaches(new spin on vampires/vampyres, first person of a teenager that is written in part by a teenager etc) but they went too far with most of them.

The biggest of these for me were being bombarded by "totally's", "like's" and OMG's, the overkill of pop culture references, and the way religion/spiritualty was approached. I can handle some of the airhead and text speak, knowing that it is often the case with teenagers, but a little restraint would have gone a long way in creating a little more depth and respect for characters. The repeated pop culture references came across to me as though they were trying way too hard to make their alternative version of the world seem like reality but without being very creative about it...Kenny Chesney, Faith Hill, Shania Twain and Garth Brooks are all vampyres? Come on. If you're going to use pop culture references such as that, use some restraint. Yes, more restraint. You don't need to randomly drop names of very well known stars to get your point across, rather the point coming across to me is a lack of creativity. And, while I appreciate that they attempted to bring the elements of spirituality into the vampyre story, it came out as judgmental and convuluted often times(Zoey constantly degrades the fanatical "People of Faith" but they way she speaks about what she thinks of as "slut" behavior reminds me of the way I'd imagine a good church girl would, based on her own description of the church folk...). I did enjoy though, the mixture of the pagan, Wiccan and Cherokee traditions. kind of seems as though I didn't like this book! In reality, I don't think it's a book of superior quality in any way, but as I said before....if you're like me and need some "guilty pleasures" once in a while, this fits right in.

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