Tuesday, July 29, 2014

More Outlander...and Other Guilty Pleasures

Although I didn't post anything for two months, I was still reading.
Never fear, I will always be reading!!

So let's get caught up on a few of the books I covered, shall we?

After finishing Divergent, I actually read the 5th book in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander Series, The Fiery Cross.  This book was a whopper!  It added another thousand pages (*gasp*) to the saga of Jamie and Claire.  The thing is, I love Jamie and Claire, and I love reading about them, but this time I felt there were parts of the book that were a little drawn out.  (Which is funny, because I'm sure a lot of people will argue that five 1000 page books of any single story is rather drawn out.)  The main thing that pushed me through it was that I needed to return it to the guy who let me borrow it.  (Ha.)  That, and I really wanted to get through the series to be ready for the 8th book, Written in My Own Heart's Blood, that came out last month.

Although it wasn't my favorite installment of the series, I am still helplessly addicted to the story and will most definitely read on.  I love Diana Gabaldon's writing style and the way she makes me live the story along with the characters.  And real life has slower seasons along with the busier ones...right?  So, I enjoy experiencing both the slower and busier seasons of life on Fraser's Ridge as well.  It makes it real, yo.  ;)

I already have the next book, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, waiting for me on my shelf since I bought it as soon as I finished this one.  Once I finish my stack of library books, I am looking forward to reading it.

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Every morning I receive emails from BookBub and BookSends with eBooks that are currently available for free.  Never one to resist such a bargain (it's free!), I have nearly filled up my iCloud storage with these eBooks.  As a way to thank the author (and publisher), I always make a point to review the books both here and on Goodreads.

Winter Song, by Jennifer McMurrain, is one of the books I downloaded for free.  This is a book worth paying for!  (I think it's $2.99 now on Amazon, and it is totally worth it.)  Chalked up under my "guilty pleasure" category of books that are a quick read, I finished it in only a couple nights...since it was hard to put down.  At first I thought the plot might be cheesy (one of the main characters is a ghost), but I decided to read it anyway since I love Susanna Kearsley's paranormal love stories and because she has opened me up to reading stories of that genre.  To my delight, the book was well written and I really liked the characters… even the ghost, despite his faults.  :)

The story is a paranormal romance (I know, I know…but give it a chance!) about a woman who loses her fiancé in a boating accident.  Grieving, she decides to pursue the dream they had together of fixing-up and running a bed and breakfast, not realizing that he is still with her and watching over her.  As she gets closer to Noah, the handyman she hired to help her fix up the B&B, her deceased fiancé gets angry and tries everything to ruin their relationship since he is unwilling to let her go.

Overall, it is a sweet story and it's not too racy (which I like).  It has plenty of emotion and even a bit of a twist at the ending.  So, yes, I do recommend Winter Song to anyone who loves a good romance!

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Another great book I picked up while it was available as a free download was Peter Cunningham's The Sea and the Silence.  This book had mixed reviews, but its description on Goodreads caught my attention:

"A powerful novel from one of Ireland's best writers on the turbulent birth of a nation, and the lovers it divides."

How can I not download this one?  I love history, I definitely love Ireland, and, of course, I love lovers.  And the description goes on to call the book "an epic love story."  So I was excited to read it despite the fact that people seem rather divided by either loving it or hating it.

I am one of those who loved it, but I didn't love it until I read the entire book.  It seems that most reviewers (on Goodreads) who didn't like it are readers who didn't finish the book.  Finish the book, people!!!  It is a book you don't fully appreciate until you reach the end!!  I promise!  And then, when you do reach the end of the book and you still don't like it, I will listen to your opinion.  I will admit the first half of the book isn't as captivating as the second half.

The first half tells the story of a woman named Iz (our heroine), and her failing marriage.  Even though that was reason enough for me to continue the story, I appreciate why people may want to give up on the book prematurely.  Admittedly, the first half is not exactly riveting, yet it is crucial to know before reading the second half of the book.  It is in the second half where the reader learns about Iz at a younger age and where the plot quickly speeds up.  This is when the turbulent history of the Irish comes in and when we begin to fully understand Iz, her early years, and what lead her to be who she is in the first half of the book.  When you finish, I believe you will be surprisingly satisfied with the book.  I know I was, and it earned the book 4 stars from me.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Love Your Library!!! (The 11th Commandment)

I love books.  I love holding them, I love reading them, I love hugging them and smelling them… I wish I could keep every book I've ever read, but I just can't afford to.

Thus the benefits of using the library system.  How awesome a feeling it is to browse through their rows of shelves and walk out with a large stack of books in your arms --absolutely free!  (Of course, I had to work through my little anxieties about the general uncleanliness of library books… who knows who's been reading them, and where?  On the toilet?  After blowing their nose?  What is that small smudge on the page?  Ew!)  So, with hand sanitizer nearby, and with your immunizations up to date… the library is a great resource.  The only disadvantage is that you must give the books back.  Well, at least you should give the books back.  Let's just say it's generally frowned upon if you don't give them back.

Yesterday, I happily left the library with these books:

With all that said, I have been thinking about the library a lot, especially with the release of Amazon's new Kindle Unlimited.  While I am very excited by the idea of instant access to over half a million eBooks for such a low monthly price (*grin&wink*), it also makes me a bit nervous.  There is something so special about a book in its printed form… I don't want to see it lost and replaced by a digital version.

So please, love your library.  It is free, after all.  It is also more fulfilling than you might think, when an urge to splurge on books is boiling up inside you.  (I doubt I'm the only one who battles with that, right?)

And don't get me wrong, I do read eBooks myself and I have a long list of things I love about them, but I first loved a proper book and I will never forget my first love.

I suppose that sentiment is shared by many, so I needn't worry about the newest achievement of book technology.  Perhaps I can give in to the excitement after all, because even for those who only read eBooks, at least they are reading, right?  And that is something to get excited about.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Neck deep in the series...

I am now two-thirds of the way through Veronica Roth's Divergent series, and although I can't say that I'm loving these books as much as the Hunger Games trilogy, I can say that they have captured my attention.

On Goodreads, I gave this book three stars but then bumped it up to four stars after a couple day's reflection.  The thing is, I liked Divergent better than Insurgent, so it doesn't seem right to give them both the same ranking.  But since there are no half stars, and since the trilogy so far (in my humble opinion) is a four star story, I decided to do my "packaged deal" ranking of the books.  Also, giving the book Four stars seems quite appropriate, don't you think?  (*giggles*)

Now, as far as the plot goes, I don't want to reveal too much since you really must read the first book, um, first.  If I tell you the plot of Insurgent, I will be spoiling the plot of Divergent.  Since I strongly lack talent in summing up plots anyway (and in writing as a whole), I'll just skip it this time.  (You're welcome.)  Just know that if you do read Divergent, I do recommend continuing on in the story by reading Insurgent.

With that said, I have started reading the third and final book in the trilogy, Allegiant.  I am actually really interested in how Roth will end her series, especially since it has such mixed reviews.  (Nothing peaks curiosity like a good controversy!)  Also, when I'm done reading it, I can pat myself on the back for being so cool and contemporary (two things I never attained in high school) even if my fourteen year old doesn't think so… she watched the movie, "Divergent," and hated it because she had no idea what was going on.  *sigh*  Oh well.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Falling behind in life… but not in reading books!

I never like to admit when my husband is right, but it's true, it didn't take much time for me to go silent on this blog.  Since no one is following this blog, I suppose it doesn't really matter, but let's pretend it does for a minute….  ;)

Last month I moved to a new city.  With that being such a big life event, I have fallen behind in a lot more than updating this small corner of the internet.  One thing I haven't neglected, though, is reading books!

After reading The Alchemist, I gave in to popular culture and picked up Divergent, by Veronica Roth.  It came highly recommended by friends of mine, but I must admit I wasn't too interested in reading it until after I saw the movie.  Yes, it's true.  I really did just admit that.  Here I call myself a book lover and I saw the movie before reading the book it's based upon.  (For shame!)  But I can't take it back now, and maybe it's a good thing after all, since I am now enjoying this trilogy quite a lot.

The book is a dystopian novel, set in Chicago many years after society (as we know it) collapses and a new society forms.  The new order consists of five classes (or factions): the Erudite are the intellectuals, Amity consists of those who work the land, Abnegation are selfless and caring (taking the role as government leaders), Candor value truth and transparency, and the Dauntless are brave, providing protection and keeping order.

Beatrice ("Tris") Prior is the heroine, who must decide which faction to dedicate the rest of her life to on her 16th birthday.  She takes a routine aptitude test on that day, which is designed to reveal which faction she truly belongs to.  Instead of giving her clear direction, it shows that she has strong traits from more than one faction.  She is what they call Divergent.  With that knowledge --which she must keep a secret since the Divergent are considered a threat to society-- she goes on a journey of self discovery within the faction she chooses.

There is romance in the book (which makes me happy, of course) when she meets a boy named Four.  They soon discover a plot by the Erudite to usurp control of all the factions, conspiring against the Abnegation leaders.  Since her father is one of the Abnegation leaders, she takes a personal interest in stopping the plans of the Erudite.

It is the first book of three, and I am currently reading Insurgent, the second book.  I am a bit nervous about finishing the trilogy since there are such mixed reviews about the final book… but, of course, I must read it and come to my own conclusion (as everyone with an opinion on anything must).

I'll be sure to update this blog again once I finish reading Insurgent… which will be soon… since it was due back to the library three days ago.  :)

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Alchemist

“When each day is the same as the next, it’s because people fail to recognize the good things that happen in their lives every day that the sun rises.” -Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho, has been on my "to read list" for, well, a very long time.  So long, in fact, that I forgot I wanted to read it.  Ha.  But now I have, and I'm glad I did!

Browsing through people's reviews on Goodreads, it is apparently a book that you'll either love or hate.  It is full of deep truths and profound thoughts on life and our purpose in living.  Either the author's beliefs will resonate with you and your personal journey through life, or it will piss you off (seriously, some people were quite angry with their reviews).

The author mixes many religions in his views of God and draws man's purpose, his Personal Legend, from them.  Although I don't personally believe that "all roads lead to Rome" (to use that popular phrase), I do believe that all truth is God's truth, and this book was full of little nuggets of truth.

The story is of a Spanish shepherd boy, named Santiago, who dreamt of finding treasure at the Egyptian pyramids.  Shortly after a gypsy woman interprets his dream and tells him to go seek his treasure, he meets a man (who calls himself a king) that prophetically encourages him to discover his Personal Legend by making the journey to Egypt.  The boy then sells his flock of sheep and sets out to find his treasure.  On his way he overcomes obstacles, fights discouragement, almost gives up… and meets an Alchemist.

I do recommend this book, as I quite enjoyed it.  It's less than 200 pages and an easy read, although it shouldn't be read too fast since the book is more philosophical that fanciful.  Just be sure to read it with a highlighter --there are lots of great quotes like the one I posted above (that one is a favorite of mine) that you might want to refer to again as you make your own journey through life to discover your Personal Legend.  :)

Fun list challenge --how many have you read?

A friend recently posted a link on my Facebook page to a list of 100 books:

The BBC Believes You Only Read 6 of These Books…how many have you read?

What?!  Only 6?  I'll bet ya' five dollars I've read more than that…!!

Yes, that was my internal dialogue and yes, I can't help myself when it comes to book lists --especially ones that consist of books that everyone should read!

This list was super fun since you get to scroll through and click on the books (with gorgeous covers…I want them all) and it keeps a tally for you in the upper left corner.  Watching the tally increase brought on an excitement comparable to tax day, when I watch my refund amount grow… Come on, more money!  More money!  I knew I had all these kids for a reason!  Woo-hoo!!

To my dismay, the tally stopped at 25.  After a brief moment of grief (I've only read a quarter of the books on this list?  *sniff sniff*  What kind of book nerd am I?  *sob*) I resolved to do better next time and start reading.

There are quite a few books that I haven't read yet that are sitting on my shelf, staring me down and waiting for me to read them.  So, with a renewed determination, I will tackle them one by one until I have read them all!  (Well, all of them except for one… I just can't read Moby Dick.  I've tried and I've failed many times over... It's just not going to happen.)

So, my goal is 99 books!  I only have 74 to go!  :)

How many have you read?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Book Nerds Unite!! @ Goodreads.com

Please tell me you are already signed up on Goodreads.  If you're not, and if you truly consider yourself an avid book reader, then go to Goodreads.com right now and get started.  But don't get too sucked in… I do want you to come back and continue reading this blog.  ;)

It is my favorite site to keep track of my books --what I've read, what I'm reading, and --most importantly-- what I want to read (I have a very long "to read" list).  ;)  You can connect with friends (feel free to add me as a contact! *wink wink*), read book reviews (although they won't be as awesome as my reviews), and even enter giveaways to get early release copies of books (I have won!  So it's legit!).  It gives recommendations based on your books and ratings… in short, it's a book lover's dream come true.

Hopefully I'm preaching to the choir here, but if you haven't checked it out yet I do highly recommend it.  And if you know of any other good book sites, please tell me!  :)

"The Splendour Falls," by Susanna Kearsley

This was Kearsley like I've never read her before.  I am a big fan of hers, so I was more than excited when this showed up at my local library.  After reading her more recent books, most of which I now own, I tried to find some of her older ones (including this book) without success.  Thankfully, her newer books have been a hit so this book and Mariana are now easy to get your hands on.  :)

If you have read her newer books, they do tend to fall into a familiar pattern (sort of).  This one is an exception.  Yes, there's a touch of romance --it wouldn't be a Kearsley book without romance! --but it's a mystery.  And a good one!

Emily Braden, our heroine, travels to Chinon, France, to meet up with her cousin, Harry, after he talks her into taking a much needed break.  He has a reputation of being quite unreliable, so she wasn't surprised to arrive in Chinon and find Harry was missing.  As she settles into her hotel, she gets to know the people staying there along with a few of the locals, and as she begins to uncover the hidden history of the castle, she discovers that her cousin may be in danger, and that she may be in danger herself.

This book is a fun and easy read… all in all, I quite enjoyed it.  :)

Sunday, March 9, 2014

More pages than the Bible

One might think, roughly 4000 pages into a story, that the plot is getting a tad bit tiresome and perhaps even drawn out… ok, with that many pages it would be a lot drawn out... but Diana Gabaldon's Outlander Series is a rare exception.  I do believe the story is getting better and better as the hundreds of pages fly by!

This is the fourth book in the Outlander Series.  I recommend --no, I insist!-- that these books be read in order, starting with Outlander.  It is a must read for anyone interested in historical, time-traveling romance.  (If that just made you barf, then you will not share my enthusiasm over these books and you can quit reading this right now, with my blessing.)

Gabaldon's writing is amazing, to put it humbly.  From her pen (or keyboard?), the characters, history, and places in these books come alive.  I would definitely put this book into the "romance" category, but it is very much a historical novel too, beginning a couple years before the Jacobite rising of 1745 and continuing on from there, taking you to England, Scotland, France, and eventually the American colonies (where this particular book takes place). 

The series starts out with Claire, an English WWII war combat nurse who finds herself transported back 200 years through an ancient stone circle.  She meets and falls in love with a Scottish highlander named James Fraser, and… well… the rest is history!  Haha.  (I couldn't resist.)  Ok, honestly, I can't sum it up neatly.  I'm a reader, not a writer, and so much happens in these books!  I really have tried to explain it to my husband, but without success.  He just rolls his eyes once I get to the falling in love part (party pooper).

Anyway, I could go on and on and on about this series (which, obviously, Gabaldon does) but you'll just have to read it for yourself.  And, as a special treat, once you have read the first book, Outlander, you will be ready for the TV series that is beginning this summer on STARZ.  (Check out the website here!!)  But seriously folks, read the book first!  Every honest book nerd will affirm that the book is always better (except for Nicholas Sparks' books, I'll admit --there always is an exception).

For now, read and enjoy Outlander and try to get caught up before the 8th book in the series is released this June… you know I am.  Perhaps by the time I finish that book I will be writing my review for it in Gaelic.  ;)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

That awkward moment when I say, "Hello?!"

The first post on a new blog is always a bit awkward… especially when no one is reading it.

Other than myself, there is one other person who knows I've started a blog about books.  My husband.  When I told him, he simply replied, "So that's what you're up to now?"  (I will blame his lack of enthusiasm on his sleeping meds.)

Reading between the lines, I know he's implying that this is yet another harebrained scheme of mine that I'm destined to get bored of sooner than later, like writing a book (I've discovered I'm better at reading them), learning Hebrew (four months later, it still looked like chicken scratch to me), starting an online Etsy shop (but what would I sell?), and going to the gym (all I needed was the right apparel, but once I looked so sporty, why would I want to go sweat?).

The thing is, about a month ago (after finishing off a bottle of wine) I told him how perfect it would be to do an online review of the books that I read.  It made perfect sense.  (So did a lot of other ideas -like another bottle of wine- but that's the one that stuck.)

What do I love most?  A good book.  And am I talented enough to write a book?  No.  So writing about books seemed like a fantastic idea.

Of course, getting paid to write about books is an even better idea… but I'm not that ambitious, and no one is that foolish.

In the end, lacking any readers, this blog will probably get pushed aside as I move on to my next brilliant idea.  (After all, my husband is always right in the end.)  But for now I will blissfully ignore it's doomed fate and blog my little heart out about what it loves most… books.  ;)