Saturday, April 21, 2012

Read-A-Thon Mini-Challenges

Turn To A Page: Reflections of a Bookaholic is hosting an interesting mini-challenge to fill in the blank of a sentence based on a phrase on page 32 of the book that you are reading. 

Here is mine:
"I would rather read than lie on a Turkish rag with a baby on my chest any day!"

p 32 of 'Next to Love' by Ellen Feldman

Book Sentences: On the Wings of Books is hosting a mini-challenge involving taking at least 3 book titles an making a sentence with them.

Here is mine:
"The kissing list, some enchanted evenings before ever after" - isn't that every girl's dream on how to find prince charming?

Book Appetit!: Book Journey is hosting a mini-challenge in which we are asked to share was food, drink and music we might use if hosting our book club for the book we are reading.  My book club has started a tradition of matching the snacks/desert offered at the meetings to correspond with the book - so I am familiar with this activity. 

The book I'm reading "Next to Love" is set in the early 1940s as World War II is just starting.  That makes me think of the soda shops or five and ten stores which served basic grill food.  So my menu would probably include grilled cheese, hot dogs, burgers, fries and probably some kind of milkshake or malt.  The music would include some big band and patriotic tunes from that era.  I visited the National World War II museum in New Orleans last June and they had an awesome women's trio sing songs from that era. 

Mid-Event Survey
1) How are you doing? Sleepy? Are your eyes tired?
I'm hanging in there.  This afternoon I was getting tired, but I tried to get up and move around a bit every hour or so.

2) What have you finished reading?
I've finished reading Harry Lipkin, Private Eye and Next to Love
3) What is your favorite read so far?

I would say I've enjoyed both of the books so far and don't have a favorite between them.

4) What about your favorite snacks?
I had two cups of hot chocolate so far and probably will have some tea before the night is over

5) Have you found any new blogs through the readathon? If so, give them some love! 
Yes - some of the readers I've been cheering for, I plan to follow post read-a-thon. 

Read-A-Thon Status Update

I'm going to use this page to give a status update every couple of hours on how I'm progressing.

Hour 1 & 2
Time Spent Reading: 70-90 minutes as I've been cheering on folks as well.
Book(s) Read: In Progress with "Harry Lipkin, Private Eye"
Pages Read: 124
Thoughts: cute book so far with some good twists and great descriptions of life in Southern Florida

Hour 3 & 4
Time Spent Reading: 70-90 minutes as I've been cheering on folks as well.
Book(s) Read: Finished "Harry Lipkin, Private Eye", started "Next to Love" by Ellen Feldman
Pages Read: 116
Thoughts: Loved how the mystery in "Harry Lipkin, Private Eye" resolved.  I'm having a hard time getting focused reading "Next to Love", but the book is warming up for me.

Hour 5 & 6
Time Spent Reading: 60-80 minutes as I've been cheering on folks and had some lunch.
Book(s) Read: Still working on "Next to Love" by Ellen Feldman
Pages Read: 77
Thoughts: This book is warming up for me and the heartbreak is just leaping off the pages. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be a military wife.

Hour 7 & 8
Time Spent Reading: 80-90 minutes, continuing with cheering others
Book(s) Read: I have just under 60 pages to read in "Next to Love"
Pages Read: 114
Thoughts: The author is throwing in perspectives of the kids and husbands as well as the wifes, which gives the reader a fuller picture of the story from all angles.

Hour 9 &10
Time Spent Reading: 60 minutes, took a break and did some cheering
Book(s) Read: Finished "Next to Love", starting "Before Ever After"
Pages Read: 60
Thoughts: Enjoyed this book immensely and appreciated how the author incorporated the historical time periods into the story itself.

Hour 11 &12
Time Spent Reading: 100 minutes and did some cheering
Book(s) Read: continued "Before Ever After"
Pages Read: 100
Thoughts: Good mystery with a mixture of history and romance

Hour 13 &14
Time Spent Reading: 80-90 minutes and did some cheering
Book(s) Read: continued "Before Ever After"
Pages Read: 80
Thoughts: Mystery is still keeping my attention, but I'm kinda tiring of the format the author is using.

That's it for me today - fell asleep during hour 14 - so I'm going to call it a night.  I'm sure I can finish up this book in the morning. 

Read-A-Thon April 2012

I'm excited to be able to participate in the Read-A-Thon today.  The last couple have been hard to participate too much.  I'm hoping to read/cheer/participate for 10-12 hours today.  My thoughts will be with those who are striving for as close to 24 hours as they can.

Here's my read-a-thon stack

First up, is Harry Lipkin,Private Eye by Barry Fantoni.

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
Washington DC metro - in Northern Virginia

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

I would say Rebecca, by Daphne DuMaurier and The Sherlockian by Graham Moore

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

Good question, probably the leftover raspberries I have in my refrigerator

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I'm a librarian for a large news organization and a recent newlywed. Thanks to my husband for allowing me to give up a Saturday to read!

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?
I'm going to try to split my time between reading, cheering and the mini-challenges.  I'm not 100% what my strategy is, but I'll figure it out as I go. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

2012 Reading Summary Q1

I haven't done well in the past with monthly reading summaries, so I thought I would try quarterly updates to highlight books that I've read.

2012 Reading Goals
Cannonball Read IV: 52 books
Goodreads Challenge: 70 books

I'm currently reading book #20 so I'm on making good progress on meeting both Cannonball Read and my Goodreads Challenge numbers.

My top three books so far this year are The Innocent by Taylor Stevens, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella. 

My least favorite books so far are First You Try Everything by Jane McCafferty, The Boiling Season by Christopher Hebert and The Kissing List by Stephanie Reents.

I've enjoyed the #EarlyBirdRead program that Random House started and I'm looking forward to Dewey's Read-A-Thon in a few weeks.  The TBR pile is still high and I've been trying to balance those books with choices from the library and/or book club books.

CBR4 #19 The Kissing List by Stephanie Reents

An inventive debut that recalls the imagination of Aimee Bender and the sardonic wit of Lorrie Moore. The interlocking stories in The Kissing List feature an unforgettable group of young women – Sylvie, Anna, Frances, Maureen – as their lives connect, first during a year abroad at Oxford, then later as they move to New York on the cusp of adulthood. We follow each of them as they navigate the treachery of first dates, temp jobs and roommates, failed relationships and unexpected affairs – all the things that make their lives seem full of possibility, but also rife with potential disappointment.  Shot through with laugh-out-loud lines, yet still wrenchingly emotional and resonant, The Kissing List is a book about women who bravely defy expectations and take outrageous chances in the face of a life that might turn out to be anything less than extraordinary.
Received an ARC copy of this book from a Read It First giveaway

This book is a collection of short stories that are kinda of connected to each other. Three of the stories I just couldn't get into and skipped. 

I liked the character driven stories and felt that Reents captured the different tones of each character really well. I could have read more stories about Slyvie, whom was one character I connected with.  It was interesting how all the characters seemed to just throw caution to the wind and experience life. 

This book is a decent read and I could see one or two of the stories turning into a movie or even a TV sitcom.

CBR4 #18 The Deep Zone by James Tabor

In this gripping debut thriller from James M. Tabor, a brilliant and beautiful scientist and a mysterious special ops soldier must lead a team deep into the Earth on a desperate hunt for the cure to a deadly epidemic. When she was unjustly fired from a clandestine government laboratory, microbiologist Hallie Leland swore she would never look back. But she can’t ignore an urgent summons from the White House to reenter the realm of cutting-edge science and dangerous secrets.  “Potentially the worst threat since Pearl Harbor” is how the president describes a mysterious epidemic killing American soldiers  in Afghanistan—and now poised for outbreak in the States and beyond. Millions will die unless Hallie and a hastily mobilized team can recover the ultrarare organism needed to create a new antibiotic. The good news is that Hallie knows more about the organism than anyone else on the planet. The bad news is that it can be found only at the bottom of Earth’s deepest cave. Hallie’s team is capable—especially the mysterious Wil Bowman, who knows as much about high-tech weaponry as he does about microbiology—but the challenge appears insurmountable. Before even reaching the supercave, they must traverse a forbidding Mexican jungle populated by warring cartels, Federales, and murderous locals. Only then can they confront the cave’s flooded tunnels, lakes of acid, bottomless chasms, and mind-warping blackness. But the deadliest enemies are hiding in plain sight: a powerful traitor high in the Washington ranks and a cunning assassin deep underground, determined to turn Hallie’s mission into a journey of no return.
Received an ARC of this book via Random House's EarlyBirdRead program

The cover of this book really sets up the plot and tone of the book well.  There is quite a bit of science and caving terminology included in this book, but I was still able to enjoy the book with having limited know on both.  Tabor does a good job describing the inside of the cave that Hallie's team goes to.

I enjoyed the local DC flavor and political intrigue as well. Tabor also captures the impact of the war on our soldiers and their families well. An actual outbreak in Iraq among our soldiers inspired this story.

As I read this book, I started to see a "24" like episode being played out on the page.  Hallie, the scientists at BioTech and the doctors treating the patients are all racing against the clock to stop a full outbreak.

I participated in an EarlyBirdRead chat with Tabor this afternoon.  I asked him if his writing process was different for this fiction book versus the non-fiction books that he has written.  Tabor answered "Yes, because with fiction you are starting at zero, where with non-fiction there is an overall arc of the story." Tabor also shared the authors that influenced him as well as some hints about the sequel that he is writing right now. 

This book is a great thriller that captures both political intrigue, scientific mystery and a budding romance.

CBR4 #17 The Amber Room by Steve Berry

Life is good for Atlanta judge Rachel Cutler. She loves her job, loves her kids, and remains civil to her ex-husband, Paul. But everything changes when her father, a man who survived the horrors of World War II, dies under strange circumstances—and leaves behind clues to a secret he kept his entire life . . . a secret about something called the Amber Room. Desperate to know the truth about her father’s suspicious dealings, Rachel takes off for Germany, with Paul close behind. Shortly after arriving, they find themselves involved with a cast of shadowy characters who all claim to share their quest. But as they learn more about the history of the treasure they seek, Rachel and Paul realize they’re in way over their heads. Locked in a treacherous game with ruthless professional killers and embroiled in a treasure hunt of epic proportions, Rachel and Paul suddenly find themselves on a collision course with the forces of power, evil, and history itself. A brilliant adventure and a scintillating tale of intrigue, deception, art, and murder, The Amber Room is a classic tale of suspense—and the debut of a strong new voice in the world of the international thriller.
I heard Steve Berry speak in January and after that talk read The Romanov Prophecy another stand alone early novel of his.  This book also has some Russian related plots, but this book was Berry's first novel.  You can see the similar style to Dan Brown.  This book is a good thriller, but I found it hard to connect with the characters. Unlike The Romanov Prophecy, the plot twists in this book were a bit more believable.  I appreciate the strong female characters within the book.  I was shocked by the amount of violence and sex scenes.

Monday, April 2, 2012

CBR4 #16 - The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory

A story rich in passion and legend, The Lady of the Rivers is the story of Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford, a woman who navigated a treacherous path through the battle lines in the Wars of the Roses.When Jacquetta is married to the Duke of Bedford, English regent of France, he introduces her to a mysterious world of learning and alchemy. Her only friend in the great household is the duke’s squire Richard Woodville, who is at her side when the duke’s death leaves her a wealthy young widow. The two become lovers and marry in secret, returning to England to serve at the court of the young King Henry VI, where Jacquetta becomes a close and loyal friend to his new queen.The Woodvilles soon achieve a place at the very heart of the Lancaster court, though Jacquetta can sense the growing threat from the people of England and the danger of their royal York rivals. As Jacquetta fights for her king and her queen, she can see an extraordinary and unexpected future for her daughter Elizabeth: a change of fortune, the throne of England, and the white rose of York.
This book is the third in the Cousin's War series.  It was hard to get started reading this book as I had to familiarize myself with the basic story again. I struggled to get through a good portion of this book mostly because I had "read" this same "story" two other times with the other books in the series.

I found the mythical part of the plot was not as prevalent as I thought it would be.  The always changing political atmosphere during this time period in England caused me to focus extra hard on trying to remember who was on which side at any point in time.

Over the summer I read a book about Cecily Neville called Queen By RightIt was cool to see Cecily make an appearance in this book as well.  Philippa Gregory has brought history to life for me in the past, but I can't say that I enjoyed these Cousin's War books as much as her Tutor's series. 

CBR4 #15 - I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella

I’ve lost it. :( The only thing in the world I wasn’t supposed to lose. My engagement ring. It’s been in Magnus’s family for three generations. And now the very same day his parents are coming, I’ve lost it. The very same day! Do not hyperventilate, Poppy. Stay positive :) !!

Poppy Wyatt has never felt luckier. She is about to marry her ideal man, Magnus Tavish, but in one afternoon her “happily ever after” begins to fall apart. Not only has she lost her engagement ring in a hotel fire drill but in the panic that follows, her phone is stolen. As she paces shakily around the lobby, she spots an abandoned phone in a trash can. Finders keepers! Now she can leave a number for the hotel to contact her when they find her ring. Perfect!Well, perfect except that the phone’s owner, businessman Sam Roxton, doesn’t agree. He wants his phone back and doesn’t appreciate Poppy reading his messages and wading into his personal life. What ensues is a hilarious and unpredictable turn of events as Poppy and Sam increasingly upend each other’s lives through emails and text messages. As Poppy juggles wedding preparations, mysterious phone calls, and hiding her left hand from Magnus and his parents . . . she soon realizes that she is in for the biggest surprise of her life.
This was the first book by Sophie Kinsella that I've read and I'm happy to say I wasn't disappointed.  It was a great light read and is full of nice twists as Poppy's wedding gets closer and closer.  I could easily see this book being a romantic comedy in the future.  I was surprised by the good mystery/suspense in regards to Sam's business interests.   I can relate to Poppy as my husband and I planned our whole wedding.  I thought it was fascinating how Kinsella took a "what if" situation - picking up an object left behind by someone else - and just ran with that idea. 

CBR4 #14 - First You Try Everything by Jane McCafferty

An engrossing tale of a marriage that’s falling apart and a wife who will stop at nothing to keep it together.From their early days in college, Evvie and Ben were drawn to each other by feelings of isolation stemming from their wounded childhoods, passionate idealism, and zeal for music. Sheltered by their love, they weathered the challenges and trials of the imperfect world around them. But as the years passed, they grew apart. Now Ben has his sights set on a completely different kind of future—alone, or with someone else.Convinced that Ben cannot live without her, Evvie begins to unravel, as she obsessively devises ways to reclaim the love that she cannot let go of. She gambles on a spectacularly dangerous scheme, one that may ultimately have devastating consequences.Jane McCafferty has written a highly original, utterly beguiling, and emotionally satisfying novel about marriage. Told from alternating viewpoints, this gripping, psychologically astute, and madcap novel illuminates the power of love to define and transform our lives, for better or for worse.
Received an ARC of this book from Harper Collins

By accident - or on purpose - I've been drawn towards books focusing on marriage. The premise of this book sounded interesting, but I knew within 20-30 pages that this book was going in a different direction than I expected. The book moves back and forth between the wife and husband each being the narrator of the storySwitching between the two narrators wasn't hard to follow, but the style of them telling the story and then switching to some memory in the middle of the story was hard to follow.

Without giving away too much, Evvie's "solution" to get Ben back was very far fetched, but I could see as a mentally unstable person she would think that plan would work.  The ending of the book seemed very abrupt probably because the climax was so thrilling and exciting.  Overall, this book left a lot to be desired and just didn't resonate with me at all.  

CBR4 #13 - Four of a Kind - Valerie Frankel

Besides the fact that their kids all attend the same fashionable Brooklyn Heights private school, Bess, Robin, Carla, and Alicia have little in common. Thrown together on the tony school’s Diversity Committee, the women impulsively turn their awkward first meeting into a boisterous game of poker. Instead of betting with chips or pocket change, however, they play for intimate secrets about their lives.

As the Diversity Commitee meetings become a highly anticipated monthly ritual, the new friends reveal more with each game. Picture-perfect housewife Bess struggles to relate to her surly teenage daughter and judgmental mother. Robin, a single mom, grapples with the truth concerning her child’s real father. Carla, an ambitious doctor, attempts to balance the colossal demands of her family with her dream of owning her own private practice. And to distract herself from her troubled marriage, shy copywriter Alicia fantasizes about an attractive younger colleague.

Putting all their cards on the table, the four women grow to rely on one another, bracing for one final showdown.
Received a copy of this book from Random House's Reading Group

What happens when you put four women together to start a Diversity Club at their children's school? In Frankel's story, the four mothers start a poker game and share secrets from their life.  Slowly a bond between the mothers starts and they find themselves becoming "attached" to each other more than they expected.

The life events that appeared within the story did represent every day events that could happen.  In a way, it seemed that these mothers could handle any situation that came their way, which may or may not be realistic. I did appreciate the spontaneity of the Atlantic City trip and how they each approached real poker games differently.

I didn't realize until the end of the book that there was a glossary of poker terms in the back.  If you aren't aware of how to play Texas Hold'em, that glossary would be helpful.  I enjoyed how that game was intertwined in the book, as I learned the game myself by watching a few too many episodes of Celebrity Poker. 

There was an intriguing subplot of wealth and if money makes you happy.  I was surprised by the generosity of Bess versus the rationalization of Carla as she decided to buy a lottery ticket or not. The multiple narrators worked well for this book, as the reader gets to "know" each woman by her style and personality. 

Overall this book is a great beach read and reminded me of another book I read The Other Mothers' Club.

CBR4 #12 - The Boiling Season - Christopher Herbert

Received an ARC from Harper Collins

An ambitious young man struggles to define himself and his future in a Caribbean nation plunged into violent revolution. Having spent his childhood trapped in the slums of a politically volatile Caribbean island, Alexandre dreams of escape. Within only a few years, he rises from being a valet for an important politician to becoming a caretaker for a derelict estate purchased by a wealthy foreign businesswoman. While the rest of the country copes with the rise of a brutal dictator, Alexandre flees to his new home in the remote mountains outside the capital. There he oversees the restoration of a manor house and gardens that evoke for him an innocent, unspoiled past. When his new employer sees a chance to turn the estate into something more—a decadent, jet-setting resort—Alexandre views the undertaking as the culmination of his dreams. Eager to lose himself in the creation of this opulent Eden, Alexandre severs the last links to his unhappy past, including his family and friends. But as the outside world starts to crumble around him, Alexandre must face the limits of the utopia he has created. Soon he is trapped in the middle of a war he has tried to ignore, and discovers he will have to choose between preserving the estate he loves and protecting the people he has spent his life trying to escape.
I had a hard time relating to the main character in this book.  It was interesting to read about how the main house and the property was fixed up. Not to give away too much, but parts of this book reminded me more of how occupied France has been described during WWII than descriptions of presidential revolutions.

There was an intriguing plot theme focusing on the wealthy/celebrities wanting to escape their daily life and be isolated in a resort environment.  On the flip side, the plot theme of highlighting the locals wanting to not live in poverty and forgetting about the old neighborhood.  In a way both groups were wanting to reinvent themselves in different ways.

This book wasn't my favorite, but with revolutions in the Middle East in the news this book does provide another perspective on life during a revolution. 

Here are two articles to read more about this book - interview of Christopher Herbert at Chapter 16 and Christopher's own essay which inspired this story.