Friday, December 28, 2012

One of Those Malibu Nights

One of Those Malibu NightsOne of Those Malibu Nights by Elizabeth Adler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A weekend camping trip, and out come the guilty pleasures!

This one is definitely a typical guilty pleasure (or as the BF would say, some good fluff....though he would NEVER call it good, lol!). This book is very lighthearted, even for a mystery, as the the fun, playful human interactions are well balanced with the suspense and intrigue. The interwoven story lines also made this enjoyable, though on a few occasions I felt the number of people who seem to come to the same private investigator, unbeknownst to each other and in relation to the same overall set of problems, was a little over the top and not believable. To the author's credit though, this is fiction so of course there is room for all the creative license one would like to employ, but I am sometimes a bit put off by the moments where I go "really?!" - it just seems to me to be easier to get into a story like this when there is at least some feeling that things going on could actually happen.

The only other thing I didn't love as much about this book was the way the relationship between Mac and Sunny shaped up and played out. We are introduced to Sunny as being Mac's "on again, off again" girlfriend who wanted to get married though Mac is "happy how things are". I won't throw in a spoiler, but will just say that the state of their relationship at the end of the book was a bit disappointing, though not for the normal reasons. This didn't originally bother me when first reading, as I was not aware that this was the first book in a series, but upon realizing that there were additional books, I was bit bummed out. The "on again, off again" and "will they or won't they" scenario is one that has a lot of potential in a series. Yes, it can be somewhat annoying sometimes when the latest book or episode leaves you wondering until the next comes out, but in the end it is one of the great elements that they know will keep readers and viewers coming back, and I think too much happened in this one story that could have been spread out over at least one, if not two, other books that would have added to the desire to read the next one.
Otherwise, a great lazy hammock afternoon read!

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Life's a Beach

Life's a BeachLife's a Beach by Claire Cook
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was nice easy read, but definitely not up there in terms of great books.

While I definitely appreciate a great "guilty pleasure", this one was just a bit too simple and predictable, without any great poignant moments or much apparent creativity. One sister is the golden child, one sister has wasted potential and a so-so love life, blah blah blah. This model has been done repeatedly, but can still be great if there is different presentation, message etc. Unfortunately this book has neither. I picked this up from a friend's bookshelf when I was literally out of my own books to read while housesitting, and this is about the only situation I'd recommend it for. If you're stuck in the airport during a snow storm, buy a different one.

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How I Planned Your Wedding: The All-True Story of a Mother and Daughter Surviving the Happiest Day of Their Lives

How I Planned Your Wedding: The All-True Story of a Mother and Daughter Surviving the Happiest Day of Their LivesHow I Planned Your Wedding: The All-True Story of a Mother and Daughter Surviving the Happiest Day of Their Lives by Susan Wiggs
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I started this book at least 3 times before reading past the first few pages, but eventually forced my way through since it was a giveaway book and I already feel terrible that I hadn't finished it a year and half later.

While there were definitley funny moments and some great heartwarming ones, it was very obvious that it was a collaboration and not in a good way. I usually love Susan Wiggs when I need a does of chick lit, but much of "her" was missing in the collaboration on this. My other issue, which may be related to having never been a bride but who knows, was that she came across as the spoiled bride (at least financially, not in the spoiled bridezilla way) whose world just might end if her "one" perfect day was not absolutely perfect. I guess that is what I should ahve expected from a wedding planning memoir written by a mom and daughter, but it still detracted from it for me. I could have done with a little more memoir and a little less commentary.

Overall it was an ok read for a rainy day, but definitely not one that would recommend and my copy has already taken it's journey to the thrift store shelves.

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie SocietyThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I started this book last year and for some reason wasn't immediately drawn into and let it slip by the wayside. Having read so many wonderful reviews, I decided last week that giving it another shot was a good way to steer away from the incessant string of guilty pleasures I've been reading lately, and I am so thoroughly glad I did!

I will admit that the very beginning took a bit to get into, but had I gone just a bit further the first time I would have found myself at the point of no return, being wholeheartedly absorbed and not wanting the story to ever end. I think my earlier stumbling block was that I did not initially take to Juliet. She struck me early on as a bit coddled, self absorbed and someone who was profiting from her writings on the war without having suffered nearly as much as so many others (not to say at all that she did not suffer, I think I just didn't "feel" for her as much as I thought I should). This though, ended up being why I loved her in the end. The fact that her suffering was ultimately so much less than her Guernsey friends and the manner with which she got to know them and love them was the tie that bound in the story. She felt for them and their struggles without doing them the indignity of pitying them. She embraced them all for who they were, what they had been through, and how their individuality combined with their makeshift community got them through.

This story touched my heart and I want it to go on forever! I want to read Juliet's next book, and go stay with her in her Guernsey cottage. I want to try Isola's potions, go fishing with Eben, eat Amelia's cooking and talk to Dawsey about Charles Lamb (who I've never heard of, but most definitely need to look up!).

This is a book that will always have a place on my bookshelf.

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Fluff, Fluff, Deep, Fluff, Fluff - 2012 In Review

The lack of a functioning computer has obviously inhibited my ability to blog or keep up with much on Goodreads, but one 2013 resolution is to fix that calamity!

Despite my ever present goal/desire to put quality over quantity, I was sorely unsuccesful this year - there were a few solid pieces in there but a pretty sizable chunk of the 2012 reading fell into my "Guilty Pleasures" category.

The actual books  fell into a surprisingly broad spectrum, but with the very distinct pattern of succumbing to a "one track mind"!

Clive Cussler - During a 6-week of stint of very low activity while the BF recovered from surgery last winter, he somehow convinced me to read one of the Dirk Pitt books...and I proceeded to read about 15 of them! These books are great for me because I do actually feel like I'm learning something (I know a whole lot more about marine sciences than I ever thought I could, and my bucket list of exotic locales to visit increases with each book). However, the overall cookie cutter plots do get to me sometimes, so I've learned to space them out a bit.

Sookie Stackhouse - I have been a fan of True Blood since the beginning, but it never crossed my mind to read the books until a friend dropped of the first 9 of them in mid-October....I finished those, as well as the 10th, 11th and 12th books on the Kindle, by mid-December. These are so easy to read, (and I think more enjoyable to me because I picture the TV show characters in my mind and Eric is oh so yummy to think about!) but I think they did get weaker as the story went along. I'm very curious to see how the series concludes with the 13th/final book in the spring. My biggest qualm with these books though, is that the earlier ones were written in a way that made me feel like I was reading a YA novel with some sex thrown in. Don't get me wrong, I like YA and read it all the time, but these earlier books seemed like they couldn't make up their mind. It also seems like Charlaine Harris realized this, because the vocabulary, dialogue style and situations became more adult as they went along. That said, there were also definitely some instances where there were so many "big words" that it almost seemed like overcompensation...."I can't seem to fully write like an adult, so I'll thrown in a bunch of words that kids will never understand and that will make it better".

The Hunger Games - Yes, I succumbed. Primarily because Dad found the first 2 books a yard sale and dropped them off for me to borrow. This is one trilogy that I LOVED....and then the love waned. All 3 books were entertaining, but by the time I got around to Mockingjay I just did not appreciate it as much as the first 2, which were relatively equal though I enjoyed The Hunger Games a bit more than Catching Fire. My issue with Mockingjay was that it was just too simplistic - convince girl to be symbol of rebellion, send girl into ONE firefight and tides change, throw in a few other not-so-memorable things, send her to the capitol, tell her to kill the president, end of story. Nothing was in depth at all with this book, so I felt more like I was reading cliff notes instead of the novel itself. And as Stephen King said....the name Katniss really is stupid :)

When all was said and done though, I did meet my 50 book challenge for year.....56 and counting!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Laughably Mediocre Results of the 2011 Challenges

It's a new year, and time for some new Challenges. But first, how about a summary of the completion (or general lack thereof!) of the 2011 Challenges!

Reading Goals - 66.6% Complete
- 50 Books for 2011, complete with counter to keep me motivated and excited to see the numbers go up! - Fell a little shy on this one, with 35 out of 50. Still happy with the total though!
- Write a review for at least half of my books read in 2011 -  I read an odd number of books (35) and reviewed 17....the "official" half is 17.5, so I'm rounding up from 17 and saying this one is good!
- 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! - I honestly don't know the official count on this, but considering that I sent at least 3 packages of books to Old Faithful this summer and another one with 4 books in right after Christmas, I'm having the faith that it was at least 10.

Blog - 0.00% Complete

- Post at least two blog posts per week - This one did ok up to when my computer finally kicked the bucket in March. It was all downhill from there.
- Only one post per week can be a review...must be creative and stretch the brain muscles a bit more - See above!

Knitting/Crochet - 25% Complete

- Complete both scarves that I have started so far this year! - I technically restarted one of them AGAIN, after it was long enough to be finished, because I am a little too particular sometimes. But, it did officially reach the required size for completion :)
- Finish my best friend's daughter's baby blanket...before her 2nd birthday in October. - And that would be a negative on both counts....not finished at all, let alone in time for the birthday. I actually think it is about the size of a large washcloth at the moment. Maybe time to start thinking about making it a throw blanket for when she goes to college.....
- Learn how to knit something that is not just some variation of a square(aka - no scarves, coasters, dish towels, blankets, etc) - And again....negative.
- Crochet a hat that actually fits my head :o) - I obviously had a rough year with the fiber crafts......

New Things I've Been Planning to Do - 50% Complete

- Actually take the pottery class I talk about every year! - Ok, so I didn't actually do this, but I'm still counting it. I did actually look up the class, make sure I had enough money and that it fit the schedule...then they didn't have it.

Gettin Out! - 62.5% Complete
- Go to at least 3 places on my local "To Visit" list - Woo hoo for exploring! I visited: Lewis & Clark Caverns, Natural Bridge State Park, Drove Chief Joseph Highway to Cody and went to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center!
- Take vacation to somewhere that neither Bryan nor I have been - Since we didn't go on vacation, that made this one a little tough.....
- 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 - While I did get out quite a bit more this summer than in the past few years, I have to be honest and say I probably didn't make the 5 mile per week average. So, I'm giving myself half credit for this one since I did at least make an improvement!
- 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!) - And hunting with the boys it was! I had the joyous experience of attempting (poorly I might add) to be quite while walking through dried leaves and fallen branches, watching Bryan shoot and gut a deer, getting lost while trying to find my way back to the car through trailless woods and then having my car smell like dead deer until, well, it honestly still kind of smells like it. Overall, I would definitely go again....and the deer sure does taste good (and save on grocery spending, yay!). I also spent a day on an outboard motor boat attempting to fish with my dear friend Laney - I will definitely go out and play on the lake again!
- Finish my guitar instruction book and DVD, and be able to play at least 3 songs from memory - Nope....but I did open the book!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Help

The HelpThe Help by Kathryn Stockett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As someone born well after this time period and about as far away within my own country as possible, I can't make any real personal connection to this era in our history, yet in this book I felt like I was there with these ladies as they navigated through the often treacherous obstacles of daily life.

It is definitely a book that not only makes you think about the situation as a whole (and think again and again what a shame it was that there ever was a time like this, and that sadly it still occurs today much more often than most people realize....), but it also made me think about myself. I would like to gallantly think that had I lived in this era and locale that I would have been like Miss Skeeter...beginning to see what was right and wrong about the world around me and doing something, no matter how large or small, to open other people's eyes. But just like everything else, my current ideals are based on where, how and by whom I was raised. Would I have had the fortune and foresight that she had? Or would I have been just like Elizabeth and Hilly; blind to the injustices I put on other people and the selfish little bubble around me? The thought makes me cringe, and it did so many times during this book.

This was a wonderful story, with so many different smaller stories hidden within. Definitely a favorite.

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