Thursday, April 30, 2009

Review: Being Nikki by Meg Cabot

Last night, I took my lovely book on a nice walk with me. I know I've mentioned that I've recently rediscovered the fine art (or should it be considered a sport?) of reading while I walk. (And I don't mean on a gym machine...I mean outside.) Anyway, minus a soccer ball mishap that had me chasing down a ball for a little girl, and a pesky double stroller that a mom decided needed to be parked in the middle of the walking trail, I had little to no trouble trotting right along with book in hand. I have to say, it really kept my attention too, so the time flew right on by!

Synopsis: Picking up where Airhead left off, Em is still trying to sport the life of a super-teen-model, even though she never wanted to be super pretty or popular. Modeling in crazy photo shoots in the Caribbean, wearing clothes with designer labels, and dealing with brothers she didn't know she had...duh, because she's not who everyone thinks she is...only begin the drama that ensues in Book 2 of the Airhead series. Not only must Em keep the secret of how she became Nikki (to protect her family from being sued for millions they don't have), but must also deal with a mad-crush she has on her friend Christopher, who now thinks she's selfish, super-model Nikki.

Review: Does the synopsis sound a bit like a teen soap opera? Well, it is...kind of. I now get book one in the series, as it set up everything that then happens in book two. You get a sense of what is to come in Airhead, but it's not until Being Nikki that you really see just how complicated Em's life has become. I would think it would seem pretty fantastic to wake up and be super sexy, but I suppose it wouldn't be if at the cost of your very identity. In book two, I enjoyed the way her friendship with Christopher (he thinking she's Nikki) developed, and even though I kind of know where it's all headed, I liked the mystery and drama built into the story. There is way more drama surrounding Stark Enterprises, for whom she works, so you feel like there is always more we are going to learn. Also, we get the sense that Em is a good person, and it makes her actions (as Nikki) seem believable.

All in all, I liked book two the best so far. I'm glad that I read them back to back, as I'm sure that had I read Airhead alone, I would have thought, "Wait...what?" You really don't get to the heart of the drama until book two, so it definitely makes for a much more entertaining read overall. Once again, regardless of genre or subject, Meg Cabot manages to entertain me though, and I really do just love her writing voice.

Being Nikki comes out on May 5th, so once again, thanks to Meg Cabot for sending me an advanced copy of her book!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Giveaway: A Hopeless Romantic by Harriet Evans

This is my first, official book giveaway! I read A Hopeless Romantic earlier this year (here's the link to that review) and LOVED IT so much that I had to have a keeper copy. Having said that, back in February I ordered a copy for myself, and as a gift to give my friend Doc. Well, after a MAJOR UPS debauchle, I ended up with three copies. I decided awhile ago that I would give this extra copy away, but wanted to wait to do it as a celebration of my students taking the AP exam next week on May 7th. I know that seems silly to many of you, but to me, it's consuming my waking days and nights! (Yes, I've started dreaming about it.)

Anyway, in celebration of my students finishing up and taking the AP test next week, I'm going to give away my extra copy of the novel. On Sunday, May 10th, the giveaway will close at midnight MST. Sorry, only resident of the U.S. and Canada at this time.

To enter:
  • Leave me a comment, telling me about a test that you took in high school that gave you nightmares! :) Please include your email address so that I can contact you if chosen.
  • For another entry, include this giveaway on your blog (sidebars count), and post another comment letting me know that you've posted this.
  • For another entry, Twitter the giveaway and then post a comment, letting me know you twittered!
  • For another entry, follow me, and post a comment letting me know you are a follower! :)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunday Salon #2 & a Couple of Book Awards!

Today I got an early wake up call by unexpected know the kind I'm talking about...a world that doesn't understand that you get up before 6 am EVERY morning throughout the week, a world that doesn't know that you stayed up late Friday night to cram for a test that you should have been studying for months ago, and a world that doesn't know that a little extraneous light and a bird chirp could wake you up (my dad used to tell my mom that she could hear a mouse fart, and it would wake her up, so maybe it's genetic???). WHY can't I be one of those deep sleeper types? Anyway, due to my early wake-up call, I climbed in the tub with a couple of good books and read for an hour. I'm still in the process of finishing Meg Cabot's new release coming out in like nine days, Being Nikki. I'm also staring at my TBR pile (not counting the ones sitting over on the bookshelves, nor those in my nightstand/bookshelf) and having a mild anxiety attack. I leave in one month for Hawaii, so I think I'm going to be returning a lot of things to the library, unread (gasp). Hopefully, I'll be finishing up Being Nikki, and then be able to post my review! I'm also hoping to read Going Home by Harriet Evans, since I fell in love with her book, A Hopeless Romantic (which I've blogged about). Love her stuff!

Also, this last week I was given three blogger awards! It was so sweet of a couple of my blogging friends to nominate me, so THANK YOU so much. :) I love the new people I've been able to meet in the book blogging world, and I love their book suggestions and reviews. So nice!

First off, thanks to Jessica Marie over at Books Love Jessica Marie for awarding me the Friendly Blogger Award. Jessica was one of a handful of people I started following as a part of the "community." She reads a lot and has become very active in the blogging community, so thanks for your award Jessica!

You are normally supposed to pass these awards on to 10-15 other bloggers, but I really don't know that many bloggers that haven't already received this award! (Sigh...I'm still circulating to get to know you all!) However, I do have a good friend who has been blogging about books, teaching, and more recently...preparing for baby #1! She is a good friend of mine (who should be having a baby as we speak), a great teacher, and a great creative writer.

The second award came from wonderful Teddyree over in Australia at The Eclectic Reader. LOVE Australia and hope to go back soon! I actually met Teddyree during the 24 Hour Dewey Read-A-Thon, when I dropped in to cheer her on. Thanks Teddyree! :) Anyway, she was so nice and awarded me the Let's Be Friends Award:

Blogs that receive the Let’s Be Friends Award are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers

  • I'm going to pass this award on to J. C. Montgomery, over at The Biblio Brat, who I actually discovered more through Twitter. She has great taste in books, and I love to see what she has to say! I look forward to hearing more from her!

The last award I've been given is the Lemonade Award, for blogs with great attitude or gratitude, by Alaine, over at Queen of Happy Endings (how can you not like a title like that). I also met Alaine during the Read-A-Thon, and I not only loved her choice of reading material, but loved that she was reading with other people and commented on their "chatty" sides. :) It was really fun to read her posts! Thanks Alaine!

  • I'm going to pass this award on to Deborah, over at Books, Movies, and Chinese Food. I also met Deborah during the Read-A-Thon and really enjoyed her bright, cheery blog and different types of reviews.

Thanks again!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Review: One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell

After listening to this book on CD for WEEKS, I finally finished it this morning as I was driving to take the Praxis exam. Yes, I've taught for awhile, so I shouldn't have had to take it, but let my license lapse in grad school. Fun eh? As I drove up this morning to take the exam, I listened to the last 2o minutes of the novel, which is a little of a relief. I get too anxious when I take this long to listen to a book!

Synopsis: Following the residents of One Fifth Avenue in New York City, Bushnell's book by the same title looks at the lives of the many residents of the much coveted building as one of its famous residents dies and leaves a wonderful apartment behind. With so much space, luxury, and special perks, just about everyone would like some piece of her apartment (or parking spot). We won't even mention the antiquity she's kept under wraps in her apartment all those years that is now back up for grabs...or is it? According to the Amazon synopsis: "There's Billy Litchfield, an art dealer who slobbers over the wealthy; strivers Mindy and James Gooch, and their tech-savvy 13-year-old Sam, the most hilariously bitter (and strangely successful) family in the building; gossip columnist Enid Merle and her screenwriter nephew, Philip Oakland, who struggle to uphold traditions and their souls; actress Schiffer Diamond, who lands a hit TV series, and her old love; and Lola Fabrikant, a cunning Atlanta gold digger whose greatest ambition is to become Carrie Bradshaw." (See, too many characters to name!)

Review: In a Sex in the City sort of revival, except with a more established variety of couples and single characters, you get an insider view to the scandalous, and what seemed to me unhappy lives. While the writing fits a Candace Bushnell creation, and the storylines move along at a quick pace as they bounce from character to character, I felt that the only characters I truly cared about were Philip Oakland and Schiffer Diamond because their history together was spelled out, and they didn't seem like total disasters in their lives (well, relatively speaking). Many of the characters lived somewhat sad, detached lives from those they loved, focusing on money and career to overshadow the next person. While a fast-paced story because of its multiple narrators, the novel is a tricky one to listen to and keep up with the story. If you enjoy the lives of the upward bound and the rich, with their fast-paced lives, affairs, and relationship issues (for some), then this novel fits that perfectly. Overall, I would say it's interesting, but I would like to feel more for the characters I read about...or did I just feel that way because I listened to this?

Well, now that my Praxis study and test-taking is over, I can now switch gears again. Does anyone else feel that life is about putting out one fire at a time? :) Oh well. I'm so glad to have the test out the way and back to more regularly scheduled chaos!

P.S. No, this smartly-dressed young lady is not me! As a self-proclaimed lie-a-bed, I rolled out of bed, threw on a sweatshirt and jeans, and headed off for the test. If I don't have to look professional on my day off, then forget it!!!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Reading Meme

Thankfully, I finished the last of my AP Literature essays that I have been grading for the past four days. They were actually pretty good, so I'm feeling more hopeful about their ability to pass the exam in TWO WEEKS from TODAY! I'm sorry that I'm a bit obsessed by the entire thing, but this has been a pretty tough year as far as teaching is concerned, and I'm eager to see how they will do. :)

Well, having just finished those essays, I can now switch back to doing a bit more reading. In light of that, I thought this meme was interesting and wanted to consider my own reading! So, until I finish my wonderful Meg Cabot ARC, Being Nikki (which has been a fun read so far), I thought I'd consider my reading! This particular meme comes from Kailana, Chris, Maree, Bart, and Book Zombie.

1. What author do you own the most books by?

J.K. Rowling. For my birthday last year, I ordered the adult, UK version. Besides those, I own various of the American version in hardback.

2. What book do you own the most copies of?

A Hopeless Romantic by Harriet Evans. I loved it so much that I bought a copy, bought one for my best friend, and another as a gift. Well...UPS misdelivered TWO of my boxes, so I was sent another by Amazon, only to later have the old boxes show up. That just some time in the next couple of weeks I'll be doing a giveaway! :)

Before that mail debauchle, it was Beowulf. I love that epic, and have it in different translations.

3. Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions?

No...too tired of grading and correcting things to care when I read anything else.

4. What fictional character are you secretly in love with?

Like most women: Mr. Darcy, Rhett Butler, and do you want to really laugh??? When I was a young girl, I had this secret crush on Almonzo Wilder from the Little House on the Prairie series!

5. What book have you read the most times in your life?

The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (for a paper I presented in graduate school), and my guilty pleasure read is Bridget Jones Diary.

6. What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?

Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Can you see me blushing through the computer???) I don't know what my deal was with pioneers and farmers, but I loved them when I was in grade school! :)

7. What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?

Wow, I would never normally trash a book like this, because I can't write, so why dog on someone else's work?!? I can't say it was the worst because it was bad, but only because it was so disturbing to me, but I'd have to say The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan. (Just reviewed last week.)

8. What is the best book you’ve read in the past year?

A Hopeless Romantic by Harriet Evans, for taking me 100% out of my own life and making me feel like I really knew and understood a character. Total "chick lit," and I loved it!

9. If you could force everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?

God of Small Things by Arhundati Roy, but only if they are willing to read and discuss!

10. Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for literature?

James Welch

11. What book would you most like to see made into a movie?

Oh, this is a scary question, because half the time Hollywood really messes it up, but I guess I'd say Small Island by Andrea Levy. It's a pretty hard book, with its issues surrounding empire and post-colonialism, which I think would make a pretty dramatic film.

12. What book would you least like to see made into a movie?

Wait! How about one I wished they had never made?!? Scarlett, the sequel to Gone With the Wind. I'm sorry, but I DID actually like the novel for at least giving me something to grasp for a follow up to the whole "Frankly my dear...," but the movie was SO cheesy that it almost made me cry. You just shouldn't mess with a cultural icon like Rhett Butler!!!

13. Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.

Dang that Stephen King...I've only been reading the one book of his, The Stand, and I will admit to incorporating the barren landscapes from the novel into my scary dreams. Strange, eh?

14. What is the most lowbrow book you’ve read as an adult?

Once again, they at least have a skill that I do not, so I don't know that I can label this one! I will say though that while in graduate school, I always felt a little weird admitting that I liked "chick lit" and YA fiction. To me it seemed ridiculous to be so snobby about one's reading, but there it is, I was still somewhat embarrassed!

15. What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, because I just don't get magical realism. Honest, I just don't.

16. Do you prefer the French or the Russians?

The French. Sorry, but with Victor Hugo to back that, I couldn't say otherwise.

17. Roth or Updike? know..."A & P" where the three girls walk into the grocery with nothing but their bathing suits on? I love the detail in this short story!

18. David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?

David Sedaris, although I haven't read Dave Eggers.

19. Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?

Wow! It depends on what I'm wanting. Actually though, I think Milton.

20. Austen or Eliot?


21. What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?

Mysteries. I don't know why, but I really can't stomach mysteries. They bore me to tears, and have to have something else to offer me along the way, or I'm moving on to something else!

22. What is your favorite novel?

The God of Small Things by Arhundati Roy, because it changed the way I look at the world forever.

23. Play?

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, by Tennessee Williams. Actually, anything by Williams! I know some find him to be really depressing, but I think the emotional depth of his plays to be astounding.

24. Short story?

"A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner, because it's just so darn freaky!

25. Epic Poem?


26. Short(er) poem?

"Telephone Conversation" by Wole Soyinka, and "A Psalm of Life" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Although honestly, how am I to choose my favorite?!? I really have developed a love for too many to count.

27. Work of non-fiction?

I don't have one favorite, but I generally like autobiographies.

28. Who is your favorite writer?

Serious Side: James Welch Fun Side: Meg Cabot

29. Who is the most overrated writer alive today?

Once again...can't knock someone for something that I couldn't manage in my wildest dreams!

30. What is your desert island book?

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, because I'd need something long that I could go over and over again!

31. And … what are you reading right now?

An ARC by Meg Cabot, Being Nikki, and Going Home, by Harriet Evans.

P.S. I've been awarded two blog awards! :) Thanks to those who awarded me. I simply haven't had a chance to get them posted and thank them properly, but it's coming...I promise! Thanks again.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Review: Airhead by Meg Cabot & Library Loot

Newsflash: Only 27 more AP essays to grade!!! :)

Late last night, after grading for many hours, I put everything away and read myself into a nice slumber. I had taken a nice walk during our beautiful, Sunday afternoon sunshine, and actually read while I walked, so it didn't take me long to wrap this one up once I sat down and really got lost in it. Yes, I've been on a bit of a Meg Cabot kick lately, and having received the ARC for Being Nikki, I now had the push to read the first book in that series, Airhead.

Summary: If you've ever considered what it would be like to actually BE a supermodel, or at least gorgeous and sexy, then Airhead gives you the opportunity to put it into action. In this new novel by Meg Cabot, Em Watts goes from being the smart-girl-who-hates-flaky-pretty girls, to being forced into the life of famous teen model, Nikki. This transformation isn't an easy one, in fact, how she becomes Nikki is quite startling, but Em really and truly becomes Nikki, with her perfect body, hair, teeth, and skin. Em goes from a school schedule full of AP classes, to a schedule full of modeling and grooming appointments. Not only must Em become someone she would normally scoff at, but she must do so in a way that convinces everyone that she really has become the famous super model. So now what does she do about her semi-nerdy friend who sits around playing video games, but who she knows despises vapid behavior as much as she does, who she secretly has a crush on? How will he react to her being gone, and will he recognize her inside this new Nikki character she's been forced to become?

Review: I actually didn't read anything about the book before I bought it. Honestly, I purchased the novel simply because Meg Cabot wrote it, so now that I'm getting ready to read the next book (out May 5th), I pushed to read them both back to back. I'm glad that I knew very little about what was happening to Em (sorry, but every other plot summary pretty much says more than I give away above!), as it made me feel more for Em. There's always this side to most women, where we wonder what it would be like to look like Giselle Bundchen or Heidi Klum. Would it change your personality? Would men flock to you? Would life just come easier?

Most of the book spends time setting up the situation for us. It takes almost 3/4 of the book before we see Em step back into parts of her old life so that we can see how she resolves the two sides of herself. In fact, very little is resolved, but all is set in motion in this first Airhead installment, which makes me very happy I waited to read these books back to back! Now that I see what's going on, and have been left with many things I want to see Em confront, I'm eager to jump into Being Nikki (which I've already done) to see how things are handled. Overall, a fun little escapist read, as are all of Meg's novels. Now off to the second!

As for Library Loot (brought to you by Eva and Alessandra), this is actually a little overdue. Last Friday I ran into the library to pick up a stack of things, and return an even larger stack of books and DVDs. I actually only had on hold Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy, which I had heard some buzz about, yet later found out was just a re-release to a previously published novel. People are either really hating it, or really loving it, so we'll see!

So, on my way to check out, I felt almost sad that I only had one book in my hands to check out, so I grabbed a couple of books on interior decorating (since I'm buying a new townhouse and will be picking everything out...and feel I have no talent for, nor know what I really want), along with two other Pride and Prejudice departure novels that caught my attention on the way out. The first that I noticed in the lobby was Impulse and Initiative by Abigail Reynolds. Now I've read one of hers before, and wasn't too thrilled, but thought this one sounded interesting and thought I'd give it a try. I love the cover, so I'm hoping I enjoy her take on this famous couple! Last, I picked up The Darcy's and the Bingley's: Pride and Prejudice Continues, by Marsha Altman. Doc actually saw this on my shelves once I got home, and stole it from me (momentarily), and really loved it. As with the others, it gets a mixed bag of reviews, so we'll see!

All in all, a very Pride and Prejudice sort of haul for my library loot! Now I'll hope to get my grading out of the way so I can read for a bit. End of level testing is coming up, so I'm going to make the big push to finish all my grading so I can read a little while I proctor tests! Having said that, I better get back to the grading. :) Chow!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunday Salon #1

Yes, this is my first with Sunday Salon, and yes, it's almost 35 more minutes. I stayed up last night cheering for the read-a-thon, and have spent most of today bouncing between work responsibilities I've sort of pushed to the side all week (grading essays and such). Yes, also a procrastinator there! However, the weather was so beautiful today that I grabbed Meg Cabot's novel Airhead and went for a walk down to the park. I can't remember the last time I walked, outside (I do it all the time at the gym), with a book in hand. As a young girl who lived down a semi-long dirt road, I would almost always walk with a book in my hands. It became a skill that I actually repeated in graduate school when I would be walking to one of my various lit. classes, knowing I needed to discuss said book that day. (Sigh...there's that procrastination thing again!) Anyway, it was really delightful. Once I got into a good pace, not too fast, not too slow, then I slipped away into my book. I'm not quite finished yet, and I did read for another 30 minutes this evening while having a quick soak in the tub, but I haven't yet picked it back up to finish.

Well, that is my meanderings through what I've read for today. If I can count the 20+ AP essays I've read about the conclusion of The Awakening by Kate Chopin, then we could chat about that as well! :) Until I finish my other book though, have a good night!

Read-a-Thon Wrap Up

I can't believe I stayed up until 3:30 in the morning cheering for everyone. While I had a few things here or there on Saturday that I had to go out and take care of, I got to spend some quality time dropping in on readers throughout the day and night. They were all so inspiring! Believe it or not, I visited every reader at least once, and most I got to a second time.

There were a lot of differences across the board in the way people approached the read-a-thon, and I thought it was fun observing them. Some read their little eyes out, others took breaks to get things done around the house, others stopped off to cheer others on, and all seemed to participate in updating their blogs so we all could see how they were doing. Such fun! I have to admit though that it was the conversations about food and caffeine that had me laughing. There seemed to be a real run on pizza last night, and people drinking tea and Diet Coke into the evening. Lots of people had animals to keep them company, and a few had children watching videos in the background.

Well, this has decided it for me...I MUST join in next time to cheer AND read!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Dewey's Read-a-Thon Cheerleading Section!

Hi all! I'm here to cheer. Wait...that rhymed...maybe the cheerleading thing, although cyber-cheering, has rubbed off on me? :)

Well, I just spent a little time cheering on about 3o readers. What a great variety of book bloggers! Since I have to be to a family event later, and have a stack of AP essays to grade today, I didn't join the actual read-a-thon put on over at "Dewey's Read-a-Thon," but I did sign up to cheer others along the way. Next year I will really have to think about doing this. It looks like a lot of fun.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Reviews: The Musician's Daughter & Project Princess

Okay, so I actually finished these both yesterday, but didn't get a chance to post about them. Yes, I'm still in the middle of my Spring Break (not that you'd know it by all the snow we've gotten), but have been running errands, keeping doctor/dentist appointments, and grading online and school assignments. It's all very good. I'd be a pretty bored girl otherwise...right? :)

Project Princess, by Meg Cabot, is another VERY short installment in the Princess Diary series. Honestly, it was more like a pamphlet (for my friends that think I either spend all my time reading, or have some speed-reading technique I'm hiding). I honestly think it took me 20-30 minutes to read? Anyway, this installment is a "between" or insert story that goes in between the longer novels in the collection, and tells of Mia going on a fieldtrip with her schoolmates to do humanitarian work. You Prince William did in Chile? Well, Mia's real motivation is to get to spend extra time with her boyfriend, only she soon finds that their efforts are spent working, and at night sleeping in tents. Gasp! Like me, Mia hates camping.

Once again, the story is pretty much centered on Mia's anxiety over her relationship with the boy. It's cute, and to be quite honest, from all I've seen and experienced, a pretty accurate portrayal of how we all act when we like a boy, think he likes us, or only wish he likes us. We LOSE our minds. :) So, regardless of being 14 or 40, relationships make us all a little nutty, and Mia is just open enough in her diaries to share that with us!

As for the second book I read, I can honestly say that I've been reading it for two weeks. How do I know? Well, I read it all at the gym as an experiment to see how long it would take for me to read a book while on a cardio machine. Little did I know that some days I would feel more like watching Oprah as I plodded along, or that I would become fascinated by the size 0 girl in front of me with cellulite and stretch marks, wearing so little that I could see it all, and think to myself, "Holy cow! You mean that even super skinny girls get those?!?" Yes, it disheartened me, and took me away from my reading at times. (All a true story.) Anyway, I finished the novel yesterday while working out on an orbitron, which I owe much thanks to for getting me through many novels while in graduate school (what can I's a strange, symbiotic relationship exercise machines and I have...too bad I'm not stick thin).

Synopsis: As the title indicates, the story centers around the daughter of a poor musician playing in the Prince's orchestra in 18th century Vienna, who we find has been murdered. Theresa, his daughter, then sets out to find out who murdered him, what happened, and why all the mystery surrounding his death. Not only does she have the mystery surrounding his death, but also money to come up with so that her brother can go to school to apprentice with a violin maker, and to help pay for the medical care her ailing, pregnant mother needs at such a stressful time. Theresa, through the course of the novel, mingles with gypsys and princes, all in search of answers. Who murdered her father and why? Must she marry a man she does not love, only so she can provide money for her brother and ailing mother?

Review: While I am not a mystery fan, as revealed in previous posts, this particular story felt more like an adventure than a real "who done it" sort of story, and therefore, had me intrigued. I still can't quite put my finger on it, but throughout the novel I felt like I had read this kind of style and voice before, as if it were the same style of storytelling that I remember from back when I was in high school. However, this is a new release, so I quickly realized that the somewhat detached, floating style of the writing was merely a reflection of the author's voice, which was pretty intriguing all by itself. I really did like this novel, and the mix between mystery, romance, and history just kept propelling me to want more.

Very clean read, and one that has you trying to piece together what you think might be going on.

Well, off to get a bit more grading done this evening! I wouldn't have to if I'd done it earlier, so no reason to feel sorry for me. :)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Review: Valentine Princess by Meg Cabot & 24 Hour Read-A-Thon Cheering

After my disturbed reading from yesterday, I desperately needed something LIGHT and fun. Since I'm trying to get through the Princess Diaries Series, I picked up Valentine Princess by Meg Cabot, and let the fun ensue! Ironic enough, this book is about Valentine's Day, February 14th, and I'm posting on April 14th. Two months late, but a cute coinky-dink! ;)

Synopsis: Mia is now in love (well, teenage love...which we all loved, right?!?), but knows that Valentine's Day is right around the corner. The trouble is, her man (won't say his name so that I don't give him away) feels that Valentine's Day is a holiday created by the commercial industries of the globe to get us all to buy candy, flowers, cards, etc. This puts Mia all in a tither. Will he or won't he? If he forgets or opts out of Valentine's, does that mean he doesn't really "love" Mia?

Review: I found this short installment cute, funny, and LIGHT. In other words, exactly what I needed at the moment. This one isn't very long, and although the teenage angst can make me feel a little short of breath at times, I think Mia is cute and fun to read about.

One last thing before I post. There has been a lot of talk about the 24 Hour Read-A-Thon that Dewey started, and that is generously being continued. I can't participate this coming Saturday, April 18th (from 5 am Pacific Time on), but signed up to be a cheerleader. I know I'll be sad to read all the fun posts and tweets coming from the event, but I'm excited to cheer them on and to read their posts. In fact, I'm hoping I can take some time later in the evening to maybe read a book and post later that night. We'll see, but it sure sounds fun!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Review:The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan

How do I review this book? I've been scrambling to find something sugary sweet to pop in the DVD player to calm my troubled mind after reading Ian McEwan's The Cement Garden. Reminiscent of a Stephen King meets V.C. Andrews Flowers in the Attic (admittedly, I barely got through part of the first book in that series as a teen), I now find myself praying that I don't have strange nightmares tonight!

(Scrambling in the background...searching for Disney-esque film to calm a troubled soul.'s Harry Potter! Oh, but it has dementors, and I can't even handle a dementor at this point! Why do I not own Mary Poppins?!? Wait! I have The Sound of Music, and that has Julie Andrews in it, right?!? Oh, but it also has Nazis in it...never mind. Sigh. The problem with not having any lack sugary, happy plots to put your mind at ease. MUST get more Disney films ASAP!!!)

Synopsis: So, to get more serious, here is a brief synopsis...if I can even make one. The Cement Garden is a story about four children, who have lost their father, whom they didn't much care for, and must take care of an ailing mother on her death bed. The cement portion of the novel's title comes from an obsession the children's father had with making cement pathways throughout the family garden. With the death of their father, they are left with bags of leftover cement, and the weight of growing up too quickly.

Review: Really not knowing what to say, I feel that all I can say is that the word disturbing fits this novel on so many levels. (Those of you that read Faulkner's short story, "A Rose for Emily," would feel some kinship between that story and McEwan's. I actually really like this short story, and I love teaching it even more.) Having read many pieces of contemporary fiction in graduate school, I still can't remember feeling so cast about by a novel. Honestly, I simply didn't like it, and yet that makes me feel somehow unsophisticated in admitting my response. Sorry, but there it is. I really just didn't understand McEwan's mix of sexual impulses with the normal, casual occurrences of life. You somehow understand the point he's making about the innocence of children, making those early connections to their sexual selves, and feels so strangely placed in this story, and really quite disturbing. Okay, I get it. It's a reflection of our cultural/social upbringing.

I can't recommend McEwan's novel. I read this for the 1% Well Read Challenge over at 1% Well Read, and will be happy to move along to something new. I'm thinking I might either read Life of Pi (which I've heard is quite good), or The Inheritance of Loss. However, for the time being, I'm going to put Mama Mia in so that I can take my mind away from this story!

If you have read this novel, don't hesitate to post a comment or send me a message to discuss. I'm not usually one to be so thoroughly thrown by a novel, so it would be good to hear what anyone else thought!

Amazing Inspiration!

Author, Whitney Gaskell, posted this amazing clip from the UK's "Britain's Got Talent." You MUST go see it. Amazing!!! Three cheers for the underdog!


"Naturally Thin" by Real Housewives of NYC's Bethenny Frenkel

Yes, I love the "Housewives" show on BRAVO, but actually have a sample of Bethenny's book on my Kindle. She is so to the point as a person, that I actually think I'd like her ideas on food. I've also heard she offers great recipes for things like "guilt-free" cupcakes. Who doesn't need that? If I buy the rest of the book, I'll be sure to review! :)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Discussion: Fiction to Film? To Read or Watch, & Should You Have to Decide???

Over on Book Blogs, I posed a question that I think I'd also like to pose here. I really would like some feedback about films that you think helped you to understand a book better. We all know that there have been a lot of movies made from our favorite books, that had us walking away sad and frustrated by the mess they made out of a story we loved. However, are there times that the film actually HELPS or extends what we love about the novel???

My original question to Book Blogs is linked here. You can comment here, because I really am curious and would love feedback!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Review: Princess in Waiting by Meg Cabot

I should have posted about this last night, but just couldn't stay awake! :) It's better to post once one is fully awake and coherent.

Princess in Waiting by Meg Cabot is the fourth in the Princess Diaries series and picks up right where book three left off. Mia is in Genovia for Christmas break, and desperately missing her newly acquired love, Michael Moskovitz. Mia agonizes over Michael, day in and day out, in her diary, discussing how painful it is to be separated from him, how cruel her grandmother and the entire country of Genovia are for keeping her from him, and how distance and time must be making him less interested in her, right? Once Mia gets home, you'd think they'd be fine, right? Wrong. Grandmere has too many princess duties for Mia, and once again she is left agonizing over time not spent with Michael.

Another cute entry in the series. I actually really liked this one, although I felt that teenage anxiety of first love and possible loss creep over me as I felt all that Mia did. The waiting bit is definitely about her waiting to be with her new boyfriend, and not about the waiting to become a royal! :) Yet again, a cute book, and puts me one stop closer to reading Mia's book that she wrote. After all, that's my goal. To complete the series and then read the book Mia wrote. It's all taking me back, so it's been kind of fun!

Oberon Kindle Cover

Received my new Oberon Design cover for my Kindle this week. I had really debated whether I should get a new cover for my Kindle, since I have Kindle 1, which came with its own cover. Here's the problem. The original cover has a lanyard, type elastic that pulls it together. Not only was my lanyard fraying off the back of the cover, but I noticed that a crease had appeared down the front, right-hand side that made me a bit nervous about its protective capabilities. Kindles aren't exactly cheap, so I want to keep it safe, so I broke down and bought a new cover in the hopes it would be more durable. Granted, I've only had it a week or so, but it is nicely padded, has a nice lip around the edge so that the Kindle isn't directly exposed to the outside, and it has a smaller lanyard that attaches it to a button on the front. I picked out "Roof of Heaven," but also really liked "Avenue of Trees." Who am I kidding, I liked almost all of them! Besides all the protective elements to it, the designs and colors are really pretty! :)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Library Loot -- 4/9

I thought I'd have a leisurely evening, reading and laying around. No such luck. I've been doing a bit of grading in my online class, and to top it off, my students did some cyber-sleuthing (stalking), and found my landline number. Now I get phone calls from time to time about their assignments. Silly kids. Love them, but feels weird getting calls at home! I did get to watch "Mama Mia" at full volume, singing along whenever possible. How can you not like that? It makes online grading a bit easier in the long run.

Other than that. I did get a chance to go to the gym (where I probably got more reading done than I have at home), and then headed next door to the library to pick up four books that I'm excited to get to! Library Loot is hosted by Eva and Alessandra, and here's what I picked up:

First, Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy. This has had a wide range of reviews, but since I'm such a sucker for remakes, I thought I'd give it a try and see what I thought! Yes, it's a follow up to Pride and Prejudice.

Second, I got another P&P follow up. I picked up The Darcys & The Bingleys: Pride and Prejudice Continues. Honestly, I haven't heard a lot about this particular sequel, but I have had this one on hold at the library for a bit. We'll see when I can get to it!

Third, I picked up Bewitching Season by Marissa Doyle. I wish I could remember where I read about this book, but one of our amazing book bloggers recommended it, so I put it on hold. It has that princess feel I'm obviously going for right now, so looks good to me! :)

Last, I checked out Violet on the Runway by Melissa Walker. The inspiration for this NYC fashion, runway, YA fiction probably came from one to many episodes of The Real Housewives of NYC. You know, since they're all SO into fashion and all! (Sorry, if you've watched that show, then you'd be smirking right along with me right now!)

With one more day of teaching to go, I'll have nine days off to read to my heart's content! :) Can't wait.

P.S. I finished my AP audit, and it has already been accepted!!!

Monday, April 6, 2009

My First ARC!!!

After a fairly nerve-wracking day (and no, for once it's not because of work), it was so exciting to return home to find a package with the "Meg Cabot" sticker I've heard about from other bloggers, sitting on my counter! Honestly, my heart gave a little jump, and I smiled because I knew I'd been chosen to review Meg Cabot's newest sequel to Airhead, Being Nikki. It's terribly exciting, and I need to get a move on. Unfortunately, after getting a bit of bad news about owing MEGA taxes this year, I've had a nasty headache brewing and think I'll be heading to bed early. More reading tomorrow! I really can't wait to dive in. :)

I did want to review a fantastic documentary I watched over the course of the last three days, "Monarchy: The Royal Family at Work." I caught the first episode of this five episode, BBC produced documentary about two months ago when I was flipping channels. Having a fascination with BBC productions, and of course with the Royals, I was instantly gripped by the film. Sadly, it was next to impossible to catch the real times it was being shown on PBS, so I checked the library and put it on hold. How silly one else was even in the que to get this great piece!

Documenting the engagements kept by the Queen, the film follows the British monarch to a state visit to the U.S., showing to what extent everyone goes to in order to make her visit comfortable and monumental. It was interesting to watch the way the White House (actually not white, but "whisper") pulled out all the stops to put together a formal dinner, showing the presidential chinas being considered, and discussing George W. Bush's aversion to white tie events to begin with. You then follow this episode with other visits the queen makes, other dinners and presentations made at the palace in London, and even see her visit her famous home in Balmoral. It's all so fascinating! I don't know how she keeps to her schedule all the time, nor how she deals with talking & schmoozing with so many people all the time! The final episode actually shows her children, cousins, and grandchildren taking on royal duties as well, highlighting the seriousness with which they take their work, championing causes from around the UK.

If you're at all interested in Britain, or the royals, then I highly recommend this wonderfully fascinating documentary.

Wish I had some of the Queen's money about now...

Personal Vent: Preparing for the Exam & Audit

I know I often come across as very glib and silly when it comes to my own reading materials and what I do, but there is another side of me that hasn't been fully expressed. This evening (up until 10 minutes ago), I spent several hours pouring over my syllabus so that I could revise a previous syllabus that needs to be resubmitted to the AP board for approval. It's had me rather paralyzed, as I was really unsure about how to outline all I would be teaching over the course of the year. It's SO much work! The other thing that has had me flummoxed about this entire process is how much I have had to shift and change to meet the needs of my students! Just to make myself feel better though, can I please outline what I will have covered (in brief) so that I can at least say I've worked my A@# off?!?

  • "A&P," "Araby," "A Modest Proposal," "Yellow Wallpaper," "A Rose for Emily," & various other short stories and articles.
  • The Doll's House and Hamlet--both plays.
  • Don Quijote, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, and The Awakening for novels, along with two "required" novels from the AP list--per term--for individual book reports, equalling nine to ten novels read.
  • Canterbury Tales, "Tyger," "Ozymandias," "Rape of the Lock," "Kubla Khan," "Digging," along with over twenty or thirty other poems brought together in a project.
These literary works don't even include the literary essays, historical documents, current events, and other pieces I brought into class to supplement & make timely all that we've read or done in class. Then top it off with literary, poetic, and writing terms that they have learned; papers, in-class writings, and projects they've completed; and practice exams, creative projects, and interviews I've held with them one on one. All this we've covered while balancing all that high school has to offer a student through clubs and extra -curricular activities.

Sigh...can I PLEASE just pass this silly audit and quit being paralyzed over the fear of it all? Wish me luck. I turn my revised audit in Monday or Tuesday.

Oh, did I mention that I teach another entire curriculum over World Literature??? I really love teaching, but have to say that after reviewing the year, it all seems a bit overwhelming!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Review: Princess in Love by Meg Cabot

Happy Sunday! I finally finished another book last night, and it gave me a little happy grin. Without pretense or hidden messages, Meg Cabot's third in the Princess Diaries series, Princess in Love was a sweet little, fun book that put me one stop further into the story of Princess Mia.

In book three, we find Mia in a relationship with Kenny, the boy who had sent her anonymous love-email in book two. While she muses on the idea of finally having a boyfriend, he's not the one she REALLY loves! The pressure to be a "normal" teenage girl who has a boyfriend who she can lock lips with from time to time has Mia all in a tither. You see, she really doesn't want to kiss Kenny, she wants to kiss Michael! As she tries to figure out how to break it to Kenny, that she doesn't want to be his girlfriend, and how to get Michael to see how much she likes him, she continues to prepare to head to Genovia for her Christmas address as the new princess. What stress!

Told in diary form, and in the language of a teenager, the third Princess Diaries' tale is a fun, rather quick jaunt through Mia's life. After teaching three "classics" in the last month and a half, the more light stuff I can get my hands on to keep me smiling (and not taking myself too seriously), the better!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

1% Well Read Challenge

Over at 1% Well-Read, there is this great challenge to try to read 13 novels from the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list. Now, I don't 100% agree with all the choices on this list, and believe that quite a few should be added in contemporary literature, but I'll go with what's here because the list is still pretty awesome! The challenge runs from March 1, 2009 to March 31, 2010.

I don't know if I can do this, but I'll try??? Man, I tried the Historical Fiction challenge and only managed 1 out of 3 books!!! Maybe that means I'm a 30% of the 1%? :) Let's hope not, because I actually really would like to read these books.

Well, here goes. I better get started ASAP! Sure wish they had more Native American fiction on this list. Sigh...

Real Housewives of NYC Meet Judge Judy

This is so hilarious! If you watch this show (and yes, I'm an avid watcher and fan of the show...just can't help watching the insanity sometimes), then you'll love this clip with Judge Judy, told in graphic novel form!

Real Housewives meet Judge Judy