Full confession: most people (all sane people) would simply treat this book as a reference. Maybe even just something to look nice on their bookshelf. I might be slightly crazy, and I read it. I couldn't help it! I love books. And there's no way I'll ever have time in my life to read all 1001 books in full before I die, so why not read short synopses/reviews of them?
I ended up really, really enjoying this book! I got a "sampler plate" of 1001 books from around the world and across history! The book is set up in chronological order of publication, starting very, very early in history and proceeding through 2010. Peter Boxall is the main editor, but the synopsis-reviews were written by dozens of reviewers and academics from around the world. I totally loved that about this book! The internationality. All the inhabited continents were fairly represented. There were so many books listed that I probably wouldn't have ever run across casually. You can bet I added plenty of books to my ever-growing TBR list!
I was also impressed that all the reviewers were able to condense these books into 300-350 words each. You saw that correctly: these reviews are definitely bite-sized. Some of the books were many hundreds of pages long, and the reviewer managed to get it down to a few hundred words. Impressive! (As a comparison, my reviews are usually close to 500 words.)
And finally, the book isn't straight text. There are lots of images throughout, of the book's first jacket, or a picture of the author, or a copy of the movie poster. I loved the extra visuals sprinkled liberally throughout.
Because there is a great mixture of different genres, the presentation style is fantastic, and because I was convinced to add so many books to my TBR list, I give this book 5 of 5 stars!
*I checked out my copy of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die from my local library.
Top Ten Tuesday is a fun meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. For more information, or to join the fun yourself, check out their blog!
Top Ten Books Which Feature Characters Who are Redheads
Heck yes! The topic is actually "Top Ten Books Which Feature Characters Who..." and we all get to pick the feature to throw in at the end. Why wouldn't I highlight redheads?
1. The Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery. Anne, the main character, is a very spunky redhead that I adore.
2. Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. Her whole goal in life is to spread joy and beauty. I love that.
3. The Felicity books by Valerie Tripp. I spent hours reading and rereading these books as a kid, and acting them out with the doll. My dear dad even built a custom carriage for my doll to ride in, pulled by her toy horse.
4. The Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling. All the Weasleys! They're all awesome in various ways. I think I especially love the twins, for their propensity toward fun and games. Can't keep a redhead down!
5. Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink. I love that Caddie never conforms! And yet, she's not mean-spirited about it. She never wants to upset her parents; she'd just rather play outside than sew inside.
6. Red by Alison Cherry. This whole book is full of redheads, because it takes place in a fictional redhead sanctuary town, where the redder your hair is, the more popular/powerful you are.
7. The Fancy Nancy books by Jane O'Connor. These are picture books, and Nancy is just the most adorable little kid ever! If I ever had kids, I'd totally be ok with them being like Nancy. She never gives up, and only ever wants to better the world around her.
8. The Babysitters Club books by Ann M. Martin. Mallory is a redhead, and has multiple redheaded siblings. I so identified with Mallory when I was a kid, often feeling slightly out of place with my frizzy red hair and glasses.
9. Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. Clary isn't my favorite redheaded heroine, but the book series is good.
10. Archie comic books. Archie is a redhead! I love these comics. My dad used to get them for me and my sister for road trip reading.
I'm excited to see the various lists this week! Leave a comment and I'll be sure to visit your blog!
I'll be perfectly honest: it took me a minute to get into Life Unaware. But once the story really started unfolding, I was hooked and couldn't put it down until I found out what the heck was going on!
The main character, Regan, has a life that looks perfect from the outside. She goes to a private school where she gets good grades, is a shoe-in for the varsity cheerleading squad, is running for student government, and is Miss Popularity. However, no one sees the inside: Regan only strives for the cheerleading squad and student government because her mom demands it. She uses blackmail and rumors to stay on top of the social food chain because an anxiety disorder leaves her socially crippled. Then one day Regan's world comes toppling down. Someone has printed screen shots of her private texts and messages, where she planned vicious rumors to take down other girls at school. They've been distributed to everyone, and now they all know her two-faced moves. She's ostracized. She's cyberbullied. In other words: the bully has become the bullied.
More brutal honesty: I had a lot of trouble connecting with or sympathizing with Regan. Yeah, she's under a lot of pressure from her mom (who is a congresswoman) and has an anxiety disorder... but she was also really cruel. The book opens with her asking her best friends for help finding "dirt" on another girl that Regan can use to manipulate her way onto the cheerleading squad. It was hard to resist cheering for karma. But as the book progressed, I felt more and more pity for Regan. I think that she's one of the more complex characters I've found in YA recently. She makes mistakes and does downright bad things, but she's more than that: she also cares a lot about her best friend, and really does want to please her mom. She's strong: she keeps going to school after the incident instead of playing sick and staying home. I don't want to give any spoilers, but she continues to grow stronger and stronger in her actions as the book progresses.
Speaking of imperfect characters, I loved how all the secondary characters are also complex and real. After the whole printing-of-the-private-messages fiasco, Nolan is the only person who will talk to Regan. The reader might think this is a typical white knight set-up, but it turns out Nolan has a secret of his own. He's not perfect either. And Regan's mom: she's really, really career driven, and kind of comes across as mean at the beginning of the book. But as Regan grows and matures and changes, so does her mom. I feel like that's pretty unique in a YA book, isn't it? That the parent grows over the course of the story?
Overall, I think this book would be a great conversation-starter with teens about bullying and it's effects. Yeah, the ending wraps up a bit too neatly, but there definitely a few surprises to the plot to keep the reader interested.
*I received my copy of Life Unaware from the publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review. Thank you!
Here are the titles I've added in the past three weeks (I hosted a Stacking the Shelves one week and then forgot to update last week):
The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson is a book set somewhere that I've always wanted to visit (London)!
Modern Crochet: Crochet Accessories and Projects for Your Home by Molla Mills is a book originally written in another language (Finnish)!
The Map of the Sky by Felix J. Palma is a book with more than 500 pages.
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand is a book that became a movie.
How (Not) to Fall in Love by Lisa Brown Roberts is a book published this year.
Perfect Puppy in 7 Days: How to Start Your Puppy Off Right by Sophia Yin is a book with a number in the title.
Inheritance by Christopher Paolini is a book written by someone under 30.
The Complete Peanuts, Vol. 22: 1993-1994 by Charles M. Schulz is a book with nonhuman characters.
CraftFail: When Homemade Goes Horribly Wrong by Heather Mann is a funny book.
Where She Went by Gayle Forman is a book with a female author.
The Bookman's Tale by Charlie Lovett is a mystery or thiller.
Ink by Amanda Sun is a book with a one-word title.
Napoleon's Pyramids by William Dietrich is a book set in another country.
Mint Juleps With Teddy Roosevelt by Mark Will-Weber is a nonfiction book.
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas is a popular author's first book.
Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor is a book by an author I love that I haven't read yet.
Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige is a book that a friend recommended.
A Cold Legacy by Megan Shepherd is a book that scared me.
Don't Give Up, Don't Give In: Lessons From an Extraordinary Life by Louis Zamperini is a memoir.
The Red Deaths by Casey Eanes with Seth Ervin is a book that I can finish in a day.
Loop by Karen Akins is a book set in the future.
Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver is a book set in high school.
The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes is a book by an author I've never read before.
The Maker Movement Manifesto: Rules for Innovation in the New World of Crafters, Hackers, and Tinkerers by Mark Hatch is a book written by an author with my same initials.
And I'm currently reading The Time Fetch by Amy Herrick and Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith, which are books that don't satisfy any of my remaining checklist items. Ones that I don't have a book lined up for: "a classic romance" (recommendations for a romance without extended bedroom descriptions?), "a book of short stories," "a book based on a true story," "a book that made you cry" (I usually actively avoid these; any recommendations?), "a book with magic" (this is harder than I thought; lots of great fantasy out there, but they don't often contain straight up magic: recommendations welcome), and "a book that takes place in your hometown" (I've decided to claim the greater Greenville, SC area as my "hometown," as that's where I grew up: South Carolinians: any recommendations?) Thank you!
As always, feel free to comment with any suggestions for the remaining checklist items!
I just finished reading The Shadow Cabinet and realized that I'd never posted reviews of the first two books in the series! I originally read The Name of the Star in May 2013 and I gave it 5 stars because there is SO MUCH AWESOME in this series!
(I do apologize for all the exclamation points. I just can't contain the excitement!)
The Name of the Star has:
a main character from a small town in Louisiana (I love the deep south!)
a boarding school
London (I really want to visit someday)
Jack the Ripper
ghosts, both friendly and not-so-friendly
two really attractive-sounding guys, both with British accents
How could anyone resist?!?
*I checked out my copy of The Name of the Star from my local library.
(The copy that I read had a different cover... a "movie-tie in" cover. Not a fan of that.)
Alan Turing: The Enigma is an exhaustive, in-depth biography of Alan Turing, a British mathematician, a genius, who was instrumental to helping the Allied effort during WWII. I picked up the biography because my mom told me that the movie was really good, but the hubby wasn't interested in seeing it. I know that sounds odd, but that's how it goes in our house. I kinda forget that the TV/DVD player exists when left to my own devices, in favor of books.
Back to the book. It's probably the most thorough biography I have ever read. Topping out at just under 700 pages, with an additional 50+ pages of notes and bibliography, there isn't a moment of Alan Turing's life left unaccounted for. However, I didn't begrudge any of the reading time. The pace kept moving right along, without ever getting bogged down with extraneous information.
The biography starts with a brief chapter outlining Alan's heritage; his grandparents and parents. This gives the reader insight right away into what would come, when Alan took up mathematics, a career with little visible results (in his parents' eyes). In fact, evidence shows that his mother never truly understood what he did. As we move through Alan's childhood and schooling, we start to see the development of his genius and his personality. Alan was not a typical young man, much preferring to read science and math nonfiction to playing sports. We also see the development of what may have been his first homosexual relationship, and how the loss of that dear friend (more than a friend?) to a genetic illness affected him at such a crucial juncture of his life.
The meat of the book deals with his work at Bletchley during WWII, helping develop machines (what would in hindsight be recognizable as very early forerunners to the modern computer) to break the German codes. This gave the Allied forces invaluable information, and did much to help the war effort. I believe this is what the movie focuses on.
I will admit that there are a few sections that didn't really completely resonate with me. Not the author's fault! Not bad writing! I'm just not a mathematical genius. I work in a library. The extent of my average daily math use is counting... to find nonfiction titles arranged according to the Dewey Decimal system. I don't feel like I missed any important info by skimming the few mathematically dense pages, so I would assure potential readers that they don't need to be Einstein Jr. to enjoy this book.
Along with the sections explaining Alan's work on machines and mathematics, there's lots and lots of "human interest." This is what I live for! All the details about what he was like to work with (not surprisingly, he was a bit eccentric) and his hobbies and his career path. (Speaking of: this book was written about a Brit by a Brit, so I was slightly confused on some of the academic path information. For example, his parents worked hard to get him into public school, which was implied was better than private school. Here in the USA, private school is generally regarded as the better option.)
Overall, a pretty good read! But not for the very casual reader. I'm a fast and intense reader, and it took me nearly 2 weeks to read. However, for anyone interested in mathematics and cryptoanalysis, this book won't disappoint.
*I checked out my copy of Alan Turing from my local library, and racked up late fines because it was so very long!
I give Modern Crochet 2 of 5 stars. The author is very knowledgeable (she has a Masters degree in Fine Arts!), and she explains crochet concepts very clearly and concisely, but there's very little variety in the projects in the book.
Nearly every project calls for rag rug yarn or twine, and all are either solid, stripes, or triangles. (As seen on the cover.) Nothing wrong with that, but it's just not for me. And I feel like I'm not alone. If I'm going to spend money on a crochet techniques/pattern book, I want it to go far in the variety of things I can make for my home. As it is, I didn't find a single project in this book to recreate for myself or as a gift. This is personal preference, but if the author had simply injected a little more color into the book, it may have seemed more appealing (a good 50% of the projects are shown in black & white yarn.)
One good thing: this book did do a good job of explaining how to add a zipper to your crochet project, so that you can make pillows with removable inserts for washing.
It was interesting to flip through for a half hour, but I'm not considering purchasing.
*I checked out my copy of Modern Crochet from my local library.
(I just LOVE LOVE LOVE the covers in this trilogy!)
Flashback Friday Review!
I originally read Days of Blood & Starlight in August 2013. I gave it four of five stars on Goodreads, and I didn't write a review. :/ If I had to guess, I'd say I probably knocked off that fifth star for the ending. Laini Taylor really knows how to pull a reader into her world and then sweep the rug out from under our feet! This isn't a bad thing; it's good that I get so involved with these characters. But the cliffhangers!
Here's the synopsis from Goodreads, so that we're all caught up on plot before my review of Dreams of Gods & Monsters next Thursday: Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.
This is not that world.
Art student and monster's apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is- and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.
In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she'll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.
While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.
But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?
*I checked out my copy of Days of Blood & Starlight from my local library.
(You can't tell, of course, in this digital picture, but the book's got a matte cover. I love the feel of matte covers!)
Today I'm over at Tynga's Reviews, gushing about everything about this book! See? I can't even write proper sentences in my excitement! Beckon Me totally changed my perceptions of New Adult books, and I'm so impatiently waiting for the sequel!
*I received a copy of Beckon Me from the author. Thank you!
Whether you're trying to check the boxes on becoming an official Charlottean or just hoping for a few fresh ideas on how to spend your next Saturday afternoon around town, look no further. From kayaking on the Catawba to chowing down on famous fried chicken, this city is brimming with cool activities and must-visit spots. In the mood to play outside? Check out the numerous options at area parks and local lakes. Feeling festive? Mark your calendars for the featured family-friendly events and seasonal festivals. Craving a taste of regional fare? Make reservations at the restaurants and bars included in these pages. Plus, in addition to great ideas for your next Charlotte adventure, this book also offers insider tips to make every experience even better. Consider this your handy guide to discovering Charlotte and having a ton of fun while you do it. -back of book
This book, written by a local entertainment guru, delivers just what the title promises: a "bucket list" of 100 activities to experience around Charlotte. Nearly all of the places mentioned are in Charlotte proper, with a small handful located less than 45 min drive away. This is a brief book, but it holds no pretensions to anything more. With a one-page introduction, the author dives right into the good stuff: the list. I think most people would be mostly pleased with this list. There were one or two things that weren't on the list that I would've included, but there's many more on the list that were plenty intriguing and fresh to me! I went through the book and read it cover to cover, but it could also be a fun coffee-table book for discussion starting, or a good reference book to have in your home to pull out when you have out-of-town guests visiting.
As I mentioned, I read straight through the book. (It was a quick read.) And as I read, I kept Post-It flagging funtivities! I was pleasantly surprised to see that the hubby and I had already completed quite a few fun items on the checklist, such as "Take in Tunes at Uptown Amphitheatre" (we saw Counting Crows!), "Catch a Show at the Evening Muse" (we've actually seen three!), "Line Up for the Lights in McAdenville" (I definitely recommend this!), and "Shop 'Til You Drop at SouthPark Mall." Then just tonight I checked off another item: "Indulge in Amelie's Salted Caramel Brownies." And WOW: yup, another great recommendation: these brownies are SO GOOD. A few things I'm going to drag the hubby to (he can be a little bit of a homebody) over the next few months: "Get Lost in the Amazing Maize Maze," "Take You Out to the (Knights) Ball Game," "Back the Buzz at a Hornets Game," "Get in on the Food and Fun at the Greek Festival," "Witness the Miracle on the Hudson," and "Walk Through History at the Billy Graham Library," just to name a few. You'll need to check out the book yourself to see more details about all these cool activities, and to find a few of your own to try!
*I checked out my copy of 100 Things to Do in Charlotte Before You Die from my local library. (Sadly, my library isn't in the list. Oh well.)
(I just LOVE LOVE LOVE the covers in this trilogy!)
Flashback Friday Review!
I went to write a review of Dreams of Gods & Monsters and realized that I hadn't posted reviews of the first two books! And ya'll know I try to be thorough.
I originally read Daughter of Smoke & Bone in January of 2013, and I gave it four of five stars on Goodreads. Here's my short & sweet review: "Would have gotten 5 stars but I didn't like the ending. Not the way it was written, but the actual ending. I had gotten emotionally involved with the characters and I was shocked in the last two chapters!"
Obviously a good book; I went on to read the next two!
Here's the synopsis from Goodreads: Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands," she speaks many languages- not all of them human- and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.
When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
Overall, such a unique story and such a well-crafted world and such fantastic characters!
*I checked out my copy of Daughter of Smoke & Bone from my local library.
Inheritance is the fourth (and final) book in the Eragon series, so I can't guarantee that there won't be spoilers for the first three books in this review. I can promise no spoilers for Inheritance.
Eragon has come a looooong way from his humble beginning in Eragon! From a poor farm boy who knew little of his family to a dragon rider leading the Varden (sp?) against Galbatorix. As you can imagine, Inheritance is fraught with tension. Everything has been leading to this final battle to defeat Galbatorix and return freedom to Alagaesia. Christopher Paolini does NOT disappoint!
Rather than structuring Inheritance to be nothing more than a large, lengthy battle, Christopher Paolini opens with battle preparations. The reader is present for the birth of Rorin's child, and goes on an adventure with Eragon and Saphira to gain more recruits for the Varden. We continue to see growth and strength in characters. For instance, Naswadda (sp?) is really put to the test in the first half of the book. I know, I know: no spoilers! But I can say that the reader will see forgiveness in action, and there will be a time when the line between black and white, right and wrong, becomes a little fuzzy and gray. I love that about these books: none of the characters are 100% good or bad. Even the hero of the story, Eragon, has his flaws.
Of course ultimately, this series is (like Tolkien's Lord of the Rings) an allegory of the ancient tried and true fight between good and evil. Even flawed, there is never any question that the Varden are the "good guys" and Galbatorix is the "bad guy." So even with their small flaws, the reader never questions whether Eragon is "good" or "bad;" he always has the best of intentions.
As is probably predictable, a large chunk of the middle of the book is the battle. It's intense! While I think that many readers will guess at the ultimate outcome, none of the individual characters' fates is guaranteed, leaving readers on the edge of their seats.
The language in these books is just beautiful. Poignant and almost lyrical, with heavy undertones of Tolkien. But never, ever dull or pedantic. There are sweeping descriptions of setting that never feel overly long, and are well spaced between dialogue and action.
And finally, a note on the narration, as I listened to this book on CD. Gerard Doyle does a FANTASTIC job. I do believe he's the same narrator as on the other books, and I do like continuity in narrators in audiobook series. And his reading is so excellent. The cadence isn't too fast or too slow. And he does a really cool, deep, gravelly voice for the dragons!
A great end to a great series! I've already re-added the books to my tbr list to re-read in the future.
*I checked out my copy of Inheritance from my local library.
I was so super impressed with William Patrick Martin's most recent booklist book, The Mother of All Booklists, that I immediately requested this slightly older volume from my library. It has the same set-up: five chapters each representing an age group, each with 100 recommended reads. The author explains in the introduction that he used the same process of culling through dozens of "best of" lists and compiling the results. I so loved reading through the Early Reader and Middle Grades sections! Looking at the covers and reading the brief synopses took me right back to my childhood library. It made me want to go re-read them all! Then I got to the Young Adult and Adult sections, and my enthusiasm decreased dramatically. The Young Adult section was packed full of classics. Not that there's anything wrong with classical literature, but I think you find it more in schools than in a teen's casual reading. And I can't speak for everywhere, but in my local library and book stores, these literary classics (such as Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, etc.) are shelved in the adult section. I also noticed a trend in the Young Adult and Adult sections of A Lifetime of Fiction: a nearly complete absence of science fiction/fantasy. At the end of the book, the author again breaks up the titles by interest, and there are four sci fi/fantasy books in the Adult category! Four! Out of 100! So, I would say that this might be a good starting point for a parent of a young child, but I wouldn't use it for reader's advisory for teens or adults.
*I checked out my copy of A Lifetime of Fiction from my local library.
Top Ten Tuesday is a fun meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. For more information, or to join the fun yourself, check out their blog!
Top Ten Characters I'd Like to Check in With
(These are characters who's books or series have ended, but I'd like to check in and see how they're doing.)
1. Anne from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. You had to know that would be on my list!
2. Hayduke from The Monkey Wrench Gang and Hayduke Lives! by Edward Abbey. Is he still running wild in the desert, or is he in jail?
3. Karou from Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Days of Blood & Starlight, and Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor. Did she and Akiva ever get to just be a couple??
4. Juliet from The Madman's Daughter, Her Dark Curiosity, and A Cold Legacy by Megan Shepherd. In fact, I'd also love to check in with Elizabeth's servants too. Where did Juliet and Montgomery go after leaving the estate? And were the servants able to repair the mansion? I like to think that they opened up a school for orphaned girls there.
5. Lily from The Secret Lives of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. I love that Lily got to stay with the ladies, but what happened next?
6. Jessica from The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen. I was cheering SO HARD for Jessica by the end of this book! I was very much not ready for it to end. I'd love a follow up; maybe Jessica in college? Please?
7. Zora from The Wisdom of Hair by Kim Boykin. She had so much going against her, but yet she persevered. The book ended in such a way that it'd be really easy to continue the story.
8. Madelyne and Logan from The Summer I Became a Nerd by Leah Rae Miller. Ohmygoodness the witty repartee between these guys! I would read an entire book more just of their conversations.
9. Ryan Dean West from Winger by Andrew Smith. This one may not count completely... I think I heard a rumor of a sequel. (PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE) I fell head over heels for this adorable sometimes misguided puppy of a teen boy and then that ending (!!)... I just need to see how he's doing.
10. Junior from The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Can we please have a follow-up were we follow Junior to college? I listened to this on audiobook and was literally laughing out loud. People next to me in traffic prob thought I was certifiable.
And there's probably many more that I forgot, but it's been a long day and I'm tired. I do enjoy reading others' lists, so please comment and leave your link and I'll definitely visit!