Monday, June 26, 2017

Happy Monday! How I'm Doing With My Reading Schedule

It's Monday again!

Well, the 25th has come and gone and I've managed to accomplish my goal of finishing books according to schedule!

Yeah, remember?  My obsessive-compulsive reading schedule that only proves that I'm a crazy person?  The one that I made to get me out of my reading slump?

Well, it's working!  Slump is now a distant memory, and I'm only two books away from finishing my 12-book goal!  Yippee!

Here's what I've read this past week (click on the covers for a link to the review):

This is one of my favorites in this series (#5), along with the first book.  You gotta love Temeraire in this one!

This was a re-read (book 6 is in the series), and, once again, it read better the second time around.  There were still some slow parts, but there were enough interesting bits scattered around to make it fun.

I admit, King has thoroughly confused me with this one.  I'm hoping the subsequent installments in the series will clear things up a little.

This was a book club BOTM, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  I think I'll read it again later it on; it seems like one of those books that will improve on the re-read.

Okay, I've got only two books left this month.  Two.  That's it.  That's all I'm planning so far.  I need to figure out what next month's books are, but in the meantime, I've got my next two books to read, and here they are (click on the cover to find out more):

This is BOTM read for a book group that has a monthly tag, where you read as many books as you like that fit that tag.  This month's tag is coming-of-age, and this book is considered to fit that tag, so there you go!

This is the next book in the Temeraire series.  I've read it before and I remember vaguely what happens (apparently I only gave it 3 stars last time.  Huh.), but I'm looking forward to reading it again. 

Anyway, I need to get back to reading!  I'm feeling super confident and happy about my goals this month, and I can't wait to finish it!
Happy reading everyone!

Book Review: Tongues Of Serpents (Temeraire #6), by Naomi Novik

Genre:Historical Fantasy
Date Published: July 2010
Publisher: Del Rey
# Of Pages/Listening Time: 274 pages/9 hours and 47 minutes

Goodreads | Audible

Synopsis: A dazzling blend of military history, high-flying fantasy, and edge-of-your-seat adventure, Naomi Novik’s Temeraire novels, set in an alternate Napoleonic era in which intelligent dragons have been harnessed as weapons of war, are more than just perennial bestsellers—they are a worldwide phenomenon. Now, in Tongues of Serpents, Naomi Novik is back, along with the dragon Temeraire and his rider and friend, Capt. Will Laurence.

Convicted of treason despite their heroic defense against Napoleon’s invasion of England, Temeraire and Laurence—stripped of rank and standing—have been transported to the prison colony at New South Wales in distant Australia, where, it is hoped, they cannot further corrupt the British Aerial Corps with their dangerous notions of liberty for dragons. Temeraire and Laurence carry with them three dragon eggs intended to help establish a covert in the colony and destined to be handed over to such second-rate, undesirable officers as have been willing to accept so remote an assignment—including one former acquaintance, Captain Rankin, whose cruelty once cost a dragon its life.

Nor is this the greatest difficulty that confronts the exiled dragon and rider: Instead of leaving behind all the political entanglements and corruptions of the war, Laurence and Temeraire have instead sailed into a hornet’s nest of fresh complications. For the colony at New South Wales has been thrown into turmoil after the overthrow of the military governor, one William Bligh—better known as Captain Bligh, late of HMS Bounty. Bligh wastes no time in attempting to enlist Temeraire and Laurence to restore him to office, while the upstart masters of the colony are equally determined that the new arrivals should not upset a balance of power precariously tipped in their favor.

Eager to escape this political quagmire, Laurence and Temeraire take on a mission to find a way through the forbidding Blue Mountains and into the interior of Australia. But when one of the dragon eggs is stolen from Temeraire, the surveying expedition becomes a desperate race to recover it in time—a race that leads to a shocking discovery and a dangerous new obstacle in the global war between Britain and Napoleon.

My Rating:
.....For being enjoyable and making me want to read more.

My Thoughts:

My Thoughts: Like with the previous installments, this book improved on the re-read. It still isn't my favorite in the series, but it was still pretty enjoyable, especially the beginning and the ending.

The middle was the slowest bit (but not too slow). The 2-month flight across the continent of Australia didn't have much going for it, in my opinion, although there were some occasional parts that were exciting to read. I also enjoyed reading about the hatching and harnessing of Kulingile; it's one of those triumphant stories about overcoming the odds, which I feel saved the middle section of the book.

Temeraire is still my favorite. It's clear that Naomi Novik is using him to include modern ideas in a historical setting. He's our gateway to understanding what early 19th-century life is like, and he's such a fun character to follow. I'm glad Novik has continued to write parts of the novel from his point of view, and I hope she'll continue to do so (I can't remember, it's been two years since I read the series).

All in all, a fun read in a new place. The culture comparisons continue to be interesting, the action still grabs my interest, and I want to read the rest of the series. So, on to the next one!

Book Review: The Gunslinger (Dark Tower #1), by Stephen King

Genre: Sci-fi Horror?
Date Published: June 1982 (revised edition published June 2003)
Publisher: NAL
# Of Pages 340 pages


Synopsis: In The Gunslinger (originally published in 1982), King introduces his most enigmatic hero, Roland Deschain of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting, solitary figure at first, on a mysterious quest through a desolate world that eerily mirrors our own. Pursuing the man in black, an evil being who can bring the dead back to life, Roland is a good man who seems to leave nothing but death in his wake.

My Rating:
.....For being thoroughly confusing

My Thoughts:

Ummmm......huh. It's hard to say what I think about this book. I'm more confused than anything else.

The book is short, which is a new experience for me when it comes to reading a King novel, and I think I would have preferred some length. However, I do know this is part of a series, so I'm hoping that the subsequent novels will answer my (many) questions.

I also don't like the main character, Roland, aka the gunslinger. He's too stubborn and determined for me to like him, especially with how he handled the situation with the boy Jake.

And I'm confused about the man in black. He's a villain, but he gives advice? That entire last chapter was odd and threw me through a loop. Once again, I'm hoping for more answers in the next few novels.

Overall, when it comes to me and Stephen King books, it's either a hit or a miss. This time around, I think it's more of a miss. (If you're wondering which books were hits for me, they were Bag Of Bones, The Shining, and Needful Things) I will read the rest of the series (because I can't leave it open-ended like this), and I'm hoping it'll get better from here.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Book Review: Victory Of Eagles (Temeraire #5), by Naomi Novik

Genre: Historical Fantasy
Date Published: January 2008
Publisher: Del Rey
# Of Pages/Listening Time: 352 pages/10 hours and 29 minutes

Goodreads | Audible

Synopsis: Naomi Novik's triumphant debut, His Majesty's Dragon, introduced a dynamic new pair of heroes to the annals of fantasy fiction: the noble fighting dragon Temeraire and his master and commander, Capt. Will Laurence. Now in the latest novel, they soar to new heights of breathtaking action and brilliant imagination.
It is a grim time for the dragon Temeraire. On the heels of his mission to Africa, seeking the cure for a deadly contagion, he has been removed from military service - and his captain, Will Laurence, has been condemned to death for treason. For Britain, conditions are grimmer still: Napoleon's resurgent forces have breached the Channel and successfully invaded English soil. Napoleon's prime objective: the occupation of London.
Separated by their own government and threatened at every turn by Napoleon's forces, Laurence and Temeraire must struggle to find each other amid the turmoil of war and to aid the resistance against the invasion before Napoleon's foothold on England's shores can become a stranglehold.
If only they can be reunited, master and dragon might rally Britain's scattered forces and take the fight to the enemy as never before - for king and country, and for their own liberty. But can the French aggressors be well and truly routed, or will a treacherous alliance deliver Britain into the hands of her would-be conquerors?

My Rating:
.....For being thoroughly entertaining

My Thoughts:

I think this is one my favorite books in this series.
Once again you've just gotta love Temeraire; he's such a great protagonist whose opinions make you laugh without him intending to be funny. And now you finally get to read the story from his point of view. For the first time in the series, Naomi Novik splits the narration between Laurence and Temeraire, rather than just Laurence. And personally, I prefer Temeraire's POV. He's considerably more open-minded, while Laurence has too much a sense of duty to his country.
The plot is more fun in this novel as well. Previous installments involved a lot of travelling to distant countries, which sometimes slowed the plot down. This time, however, Temeraire and Laurence are staying quite firmly in England while Napoleon takes over London (pretty sure this never actually happened in our real history, but hey! Things change when you get dragons involved). There's a lot more action, and a lot more politics, which kept my interest for the entire novel.
I also loved Temeraire's triumphs in this book. He's finally able to make progress on establishing more rights for his fellow dragons, going so far as to create an army of unharnessed dragons to help defeat Napoleon. I think that's why I really like this book: after watching both Laurence and Temeraire lose so much, it was nice to see a bit of a win for a change.
Overall, this one was fun to read, albeit a little sad at times (I blame Laurence for that). But still a good read. Still think this is a great series, so if you haven't read it yet, go back to the first book ([book:His Majesty's Dragon|28876]) and check it out!

Book Review: World And Town, by Gish Jen

Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Date Published: January 2010
Publisher: Knopf
# Of Pages: 386 pages


Synopsis: Hattie Kong—the spirited offspring of a descendant of Confucius and an American missionary to China—has, in her fiftieth year of living in the United States, lost both her husband and her best friend to cancer. It is an utterly devastating loss, of course, and also heartbreakingly absurd: a little, she thinks, “like having twins. She got to book the same church with the same pianist for both funerals and did think she should have gotten some sort of twofer from the crematorium.”
But now, two years later, it is time for Hattie to start over. She moves to the town of Riverlake, where she is soon joined by an immigrant Cambodian family on the run from their inner-city troubles, as well as—quite unexpectedly—by a just-retired neuroscientist ex-lover named Carter Hatch. All of them are, like Hattie, looking for a new start in a town that might once have represented the rock-solid base of American life but that is itself challenged, in 2001, by cell-phone towers and chain stores, struggling family farms and fundamentalist Christians.
What Hattie makes of this situation is at the center of a novel that asks deep and absorbing questions about religion, home, America, what neighbors are, what love is, and, in the largest sense, what “worlds” we make of the world.
Moving, humorous, compassionate, and expansive, World and Town is as rich in character as it is brilliantly evocative of its time and place. This is a truly masterful novel—enthralling, essential, and satisfying.

My Rating:
.....For being a well-written story about acceptance and belonging

My Thoughts:

This is my first time reading this author, and I like her style!

The protagonist is a fun character. Hattie's a widow who's able to laugh at herself. She's a retired woman by the time this book starts, but that's not a bad thing from her point of view. She's had a fulfilling life, and, even at an older age, she's an independent woman.

Hattie, however, is still feeling out of place in her town of Riverlake. She lacks a sense of identity, something that has plagued her for decades, being half Chinese, half American. And that's how she gets involved with her new Cambodian neighbors, another group of people who are feeling displaced and unsure of where they belong, which gives Hattie that sense of feeling needed.

The theme of this book is definitely about identity and belonging in a community. You follow different characters as they try to find the place/community they can belong to, and watch as they either fail or succeed.

Another major theme also seems to be mourning the past and the people each character lost. The Cambodian family in particular had a really terrible experience in their home country, something that still affects the father, Chhung. I don't know if I really like Chhung, but I definitely feel sorry for him.

What makes this book really good, however, is the writing style. The author tells the story from three points of view: Hattie (our elderly protagonist), Sophy (the teenage Cambodian daughter who feels like she should have never been born), and Everett (a local farmer who finds himself completely displaced by his wife of 37 years). All three characters are completely different from each other, and you can see it in how they narrate their part of the story. Gish Jen did a brilliant job changing the style of narration to fit each character: Hattie's thoughtful pondering, Sophy's fast-paced rambling, and Everett's steady and ordered opinion. This is the first time I've seen an author successfully depict a character's personality in their writing style, with the ability to change the style from one character to the next. Absolutely genius!

All in all, I really enjoyed this book. It has some dark and sad parts, with flawed characters that you're not sure you can like, but with some excellent writing, and an insightful look into Chinese, American, and Cambodian cultures. This is certainly a novel that I will read again; it feels like the kind of book that you'll get more out of on the re-read. Definitely an unforgettable story.

Monday, June 19, 2017

It's Monday! Time To Brag A Little

Happy Monday folks!

Well, I'm feeling a little smug.  I've been keeping up with my (slightly crazy) reading schedule, and I'm loving it!  I'm finally finding myself able to actually sit down and read, and enjoy myself on top of it.  It's so depressing when you find yourself unable to do what you love most because there isn't time.  It's even worse when you do have time, and you don't feel in the mood to read, because you're stuck in a rut and you have no momentum to get out of it.

But now I'm officially out of my rut, and back in the swing of things!

For those of you who are wondering what my reading schedule is, let me catch you up:

For the month of June, I want to complete four books every 10 days.  That's 12 books total.

So far, I've completed six books, with two more soon to be finished. Whoohoo!

My upcoming deadline is June 20th, this Tuesday.  I'm pretty confident that I'll be able to finish my current reads by Tuesday evening, despite having just started one of them.  We shall see!

Anyway, here are the books I've finished thus far: (click on the book cover to see the review)

Just finished this one yesterday on audiobook!  This is yet another good continuation in the Temeraire series.  Seriously, if you like books about dragons, this is a good one to read.

This one was a BOTM for a book group and a surprisingly quick read.  I wouldn't say it's the best thriller I've ever read, but it was still fairly decent.

I finished this earlier in the week.  Empire Of Ivory was book #4 in the series, this one was book #3.  I liked book #4 better, but this was still pretty good.

So, doing well so far!  Here are my upcoming reads for this week: (click on the cover to find out more)

This is a BOTM read for a book club whose meeting is coming up this Tuesday.  So far I'm finding this book to be rather sad...and maybe a little confusing.  I'm definitely looking forward to the upcoming discussion.

This is the audiobook read, and book #5 in the Temeraire series.  This will be a bit of a sprint for me to finish by Tuesday night, but I'm looking forward to reading it.  It's already off to a great start!

The next book-book I'm planning on reading.  It's short, so it'll be a good one to read after all the heavy books I've been working on.

The next installment in the Temeraire series, this one I'm hoping to start listening to on Wednesday.

Anyway, as usual, all this talking about books to read is making me want to read some more, so off I go!  It's going to be a rainy day, so perfect for cozy-ing up with a book.

Happy reading everyone!

Book Review: Empire Of Ivory (Temeraire #4), by Naomi Novik

Genre: historical fantasy
Date Published: September 2007
Publisher: Del Rey
# Of Pages/Listening Time: 404 pages/11 hours and 6 minutes

Goodreads | Audible

Synopsis: Tragedy has struck His Majesty’s Aerial Corps, whose magnificent fleet of fighting dragons and their human captains valiantly defend England’s shores against the encroaching armies of Napoleon Bonaparte. An epidemic of unknown origin and no known cure is decimating the noble dragons’ ranks–forcing the hopelessly stricken into quarantine. Now only Temeraire and a pack of newly recruited dragons remain uninfected–and stand as the only means of an airborne defense against France’s ever bolder sorties.
Bonaparte’s dragons are already harrowing Britain’s ships at sea. Only one recourse remains: Temeraire and his captain, Will Laurence, must take wing to Africa, whose shores may hold the cure to the mysterious and deadly contagion. On this mission there is no time to waste, and no telling what lies in store beyond the horizon or for those left behind to wait, hope, and hold the line.

My Rating:
.....For maintaining my interest in the series.

My Thoughts:

This is the second time I'm reading this, and I'm upgrading this book to 4 stars. It was certainly more exciting this time around, and I'm beginning to appreciate this series in the same way I appreciate the Dresden Files, although for different reasons. The Dresden Files is funny and action-packed, while the Temeraire series is interesting in a more cultural and historical way, but both series are the same in that they are genius in maintaining the readers' interest.

I felt sorry for Temeraire in this installment. He wants to promote better conditions and equal rights for his fellow dragons in England, but this is a time period where a lot of the English are still trying to hold on to slavery, much less considering that dragons should be viewed as more than just beasts, so a lot of Temeraire's ideas are falling on deaf ears.

The ending was sad too, because England was proving to be too stubborn and ungrateful, and you know that Laurence and Temeraire have to take drastic action. It definitely ended on a very negative note, making you feel like the world won't ever change for the better.

Overall, though, this was a very interesting read, and I'm excited to read the next one

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Today's Topic: I'm A Book Geek And I'm Loving It

I'm feeling pretty good about myself today!

This month I set a reading goal of 12 books.  So far, I've finished five with a sixth book not too far behind.  It's making me feel pretty mighty!

I think it's helping that I set up a reading schedule with deadlines for myself: every 10 days I'm trying to finish four books.  It's forcing me to set aside time every day to read, or to do some chores so I can listen to my audiobook, and preventing me from doing my all-time weakness of TV-bingeing.  I'm loving how productive my days feel now!

I'm also loving how I'm feeling more like the book geek I know I am.

It's great being a book geek.  People know that a bookstore is your first choice to hang out, and they learn to leave you alone when you're in the middle of reading.  The only people who still give me funny looks are the strangers at restaurants and in the streets (why is not weird for people to check out their cell phones while eating their lunch, but it's strange if someone reads a book?  I don't get it).

Because I don't blog enough about things other than book reviews, I've decided to make this list of ten signs that you are a book geek.  If you feel like you can relate to at least 3/4 of this list, then be proud, because you're a book geek too!

10 Signs That You Are A Book Geek:
1) You watch a movie adaptation of a film, and you feel the need to point out why the book was better
(Let's face it: the book is always better)

2) When you visit someone's house, the first thing you gravitate towards is their bookshelf
(You just want to see if they've read the same books you've read)

3) Instead of a fitness schedule, you have a reading schedule
(Your brain needs a good workout after all)

4) You spend more time on Goodreads than you do on Facebook
(Facebook has the cute animal videos, but Goodreads has the awesome stories)

5) You know what a "book hangover" is
(A book hangover definition: physically, you've finished a book, but emotionally, you're still not done with the story)

6) You have to check out any place with a sign overhead that says "books"
(And then spend a minimum of an hour there)

7) Spending $100 on clothing is ridiculous, but spending $100 for over 20 books at a used bookstore is an awesome deal and must be repeated.
(I swear I needed those 20 books.  Oh and btw, we need more bookshelves)

8) Your favorite places to visit are fictional
(I'm a regular visitor to Hogwarts, thankyouverymuch)

9) You've memorized your library card number, and the librarians know you by face, if not by name
(When I was a kid and mom needed to reach me, she would always call the library first)

10) The first thing you pack for a trip is at least two books 
(it has to be more than two, because you're going to finish at least one while traveling)

Okay, enough computer stuff.  I feel the need to read some more.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Book Review: The Woman In Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware

Genre: Mystery thriller
Date Published: June 2016
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
# Of Pages: 352 pages


Synopsis: From New York Times bestselling author of the “twisty-mystery” (Vulture) novel In a Dark, Dark Wood, comes The Woman in Cabin 10, an equally suspenseful and haunting novel from Ruth Ware—this time, set at sea.
In this tightly wound, enthralling story reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s works, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. The sky is clear, the waters calm, and the veneered, select guests jovial as the exclusive cruise ship, the Aurora, begins her voyage in the picturesque North Sea. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…
With surprising twists, spine-tingling turns, and a setting that proves as uncomfortably claustrophobic as it is eerily beautiful, Ruth Ware offers up another taut and intense read in The Woman in Cabin 10—one that will leave even the most sure-footed reader restlessly uneasy long after the last page is turned.

My Rating:
 ★★ 1/2
.....For being a fast-paced thriller

My Thoughts:

Well that was interesting!

The book ended rather abruptly for me, although that was mainly because I had an ebook copy, which included a preview chapter for another book. I thought I was only 90% done, and suddenly the book is over. I should have paid attention to the chapter menu. Lesson learned!

Anyway, this was an intriguing thriller. The murder mystery strongly reminded me of Agatha Christie's novels, although the setup of the story turned into something rather unique. Each part ends with some type of e-mail/internet exchange or newspaper report, which implies that something disastrous is going to happen later in the book, but you can't really be sure what. The setup is brilliant in that it keeps you reading. Because you know something bad is going to happen, you read through the slower parts a lot more quickly.

The solution at the end was not what I was expecting. I'm not sure if I liked it or not. Without giving away any spoilers, all I can say is that it's different from what I thought it would be.

Overall, if you like mystery thrillers, this is worth a look. It's a very, very quick read, with several good plot twists. Check it out!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Book Review: Black Powder War (Temeraire #3)

Genre: Historical Fantasy
Date Published: May 2006
Publisher: Del Rey
# Of Pages/Listening Time: 365 pages/10 hours 22 minutes

Goodreads | Audible

Synopsis: After their fateful adventure in China, Captain Will Laurence of His Majesty's Aerial Corps and his extraordinary dragon, Temeraire, are waylaid by a mysterious envoy bearing urgent new orders from Britain. Three valuable dragon eggs have been purchased from the Ottoman Empire, and Laurence and Temeraire must detour to Istanbul to escort the precious cargo back to England. Time is of the essence if the eggs are to be borne home before hatching. Yet disaster threatens the mission at every turn thanks to the diabolical machinations of the Chinese dragon Lien, who blames Temeraire for her master's death and vows to ally herself with Napoleon and take vengeance.

My Rating:
 ★★ 1/2
.....For being pretty enjoyable.

My Thoughts:

As a re-read, this was pretty enjoyable. The middle part lost my interest for a bit there, but the beginning, and especially the ending, was hugely entertaining.

The new dragon, Iskierka, makes me laugh. She's such a spit-fire, which is appropriate, considering she's a fire-breathing dragon. I also enjoyed reading about the feral dragons. Once again, Naomi Novik proves her brilliance in creating new cultures that revolve around dragons. This time she demonstrates an ability to create a brand new culture consisting solely of dragons, complete with their own community and language. Seriously, this was anthropologically awesome!

Overall, I liked this story better the second time around, especially since I remember what happens next, so the unexplained bits made more sense this time. If you haven't read this series yet, you really should, especially if you love fantasy and/or historical fiction.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Happy Monday! A Recap Of What I've Read, And My Goals For Next Week

Happy Monday folks!

It's gorgeous outside!  A perfect day to sit and read on the porch.  I can't wait to go out there!

I'm feeling pretty good about myself today.  I set a goal to finish 12 books this month, and so far I'm doing pretty well!  I finally finished two books I had been working since May, and while I didn't finish the audiobook I had planned to complete last Saturday, I only have a couple of hours left.

And in other good news, the poison ivy rash that has been plaguing me for the past couple of weeks is finally dying down!  I've been using Benadryl to keep the itch away (surprisingly, it doesn't make me drowsy), and it's looking much better.  I definitely learned my lesson the hard way: I'm super allergic and I need to be extra careful when handling the plant.

To top it off, I'm doing well financially!  Summer is always a good time for dance lessons, which means I'll be expecting a lot of extra cash by the end of this month.  Always a good thing, especially since I have some plans for our garden that I want to put into action.

Anyway, back to reading!  Here are the books I finished this past week.  Click on the book cover to see my full review.

I'm so proud of myself for finishing this book.  I didn't finish this book when I was a kid, and I had been meaning to try again for years.  It was a marathon to read, but I'm glad I'm finally done.  I'm also really heartbroken.  This book was so upsetting to read, but the annotated edition I read was really helpful.

This is the second Russo book I've ever read, and I'm beginning to really like this author.
This book was surprisingly dense, but also pretty darn good.  It has a nice rambling quality, with characters that you can like, although you might get a little exasperated by some of their antics.

This is book 2 in the audiobook series I'm currently working on.  I've read this before, and I did enjoy this book better the second time around.  I don't think I can really declare this series a favorite, though, just a really good series.

Okay, so my next deadline is June 20th.  I know, I know, I'm a little crazy to have a reading schedule, but I feel like I've been in a bit of a slump and I want to get myself back on track.  It's also keeping me away from the TV and bingeing on my favorite shows (like Doctor Who, already approaching the end of Season 4).

Here are the books I hope to finish by the 20th (click on the cover for book details):

This will be the first book to finish.  I was supposed to finish this on the 10th, but I fell behind.  I'm almost done though, with only a couple hours left on the audiobook.

This is the last BOTM for my library book club, before the club takes a break for the summer.  It's not too long, so I feel I can finish this pretty quickly.

Another BOTM for an online book club that I've been neglecting.  This is clearly going to be a fast read.  It didn't take long to finish 10% of the book.  I'll probably finish this in 3 days.

The next installment in the audiobook series I'm listening to.  Definitely will finish this by the 20th.  Easily.

Book 5 of the audiobook series.  This might be a bit of stretch to expect myself to finish this by the 20th, but I'm going to try.  It'll give me a good excuse to go outside and work in the yard, at the very least.

Anyway, it's way too gorgeous to stay inside any longer.  I'm going to finish watching the news and then go out there with a book. Have a great day every one!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Book Review: Uncle Tom's Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Genre: Classic literature
Date Published: May 1852 (this annotated edition: September 2006)
Publisher: John P. Jewett
# Of Pages: 472 pgs (my edition)


Synopsis: Although the American anti-slavery movement had existed at least as long as the nation itself, Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) galvanized public opinion as nothing had before. The book sold 10,000 copies in its first week and 300,000 in its first year. Its vivid dramatization of slavery's cruelties so aroused readers that is said that Abraham Lincoln told Stowe her work had been a catalyst for the Civil War.

Today the novel is often labeled condescending, but its characters still have the power to move our hearts. Stowe's Tom is actually American literature's first black hero, a man who suffers for refusing to obey his white oppressors. Uncle Tom's Cabin is a living, relevant story, passionate in its vivid depiction of the cruelest forms of injustice—and the courage it takes to fight against them.

My Rating:
.....For completely breaking my heart

My Thoughts:
Man, this book was rough! Now I remember why I didn't finish this when I was young.

This book took so long for me to finish--not because it was a dull read, but because the story was so heartbreaking. I ended up switching to the annotated edition so that the footnotes could give me a bit of a break from the tragic lives these slaves had to endure.

Harriet Beecher Stowe is brilliant when it comes to creating an emotional scene. You can't help but feel for the characters as their lives are torn apart. The parts that really touched me the most were the story of Cassy and her life, along with the scene of Emmeline being sold to Simon Legree. Stowe wrote these chapters with women readers in mind, and it worked. When I finished the chapter where Cassy told Tom her past, I had to put the book down and try not to cry. And poor Emmeline! The trauma of being examined and sold like that! What's worse is the knowledge that these things are based off of true stories. It amazes me that people actually condoned these actions and saw them as normal.

But here's the really brilliant part: Stowe is able to show how and why Southerners saw slavery as normal. She not only describes the horrors of slavery, she also creates different characters with different views on slavery. She has benevolent slaveowners alongside cruel owners. She has some people who see blacks as childlike, some who view them as equals, some who hardly see them as people, and some who view them as people but still retain prejudices against them. Stowe is able to depict each and every opinion of that time period within this book, and truly demonstrates just how tangled the issue of slavery is. When I was a kid, I couldn't understand why the South couldn't just agree to free all the slaves, why a civil war had to start before slavery could finally end. Now I can see their point of view: I don't agree with it, but I understand it.

Stowe doesn't just stop with criticizing slaveowners, though. She also criticizes the North for their part in slavery: they may be free states, but, thanks to their prejudices, they aren't doing anything to help end slavery.

Overall, this is a book everyone must read. Once. Once is enough. I don't think I'll be able to read this a second time. Maybe years down the road when my future children are assigned to read this in school I'll read it again with them. But I won't willingly read this again. It's a very good story. Really too good, because the stories are so emotionally disturbing. I can't bring myself to repeat the experience. It will forever haunt me.

If you haven't read this yet, you need to read it. It's famous for good reason. Just be prepared. You're not just reading classic literature, you're reading a horror story. A horror story about our country's dark history. I strongly recommend the annotated version; it helps with harder sections.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Book Review: Nobody's Fool, by Richard Russo

Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Date Published: May 1993
Publisher: Vintage
# Of Pages 549 pages


Synopsis: Richard Russo's slyly funny and moving novel follows the unexpected operation of grace in a deadbeat town in upstate New York—and in the life of one of its unluckiest citizens, Sully, who has been doing the wrong thing triumphantly for fifty years.

Divorced from his own wife and carrying on halfheartedly with another man's, saddled with a bum knee and friends who make enemies redundant, Sully now has one new problem to cope with: a long-estranged son who is in imminent danger of following in his father's footsteps. With its sly and uproarious humor and a heart that embraces humanity's follies as well as its triumphs, Nobody's Fool is storytelling at its most generous.

My Rating:
.....For being an entertaining, rambling read.

My Thoughts:
Have you ever read a book and felt that you really liked it, but you still want to punch it in the face?

This is the second novel by Richard Russo that I've ever read, the first being his memoir. His memoir had the feeling of being loving and nostalgic (it was about his mother after all). This book has the feeling of being an interesting smart-ass.

The tone and writing style brilliantly has the exact same feel as the town it's set in: rambling, run-down, but with enough life in it to make you stop and check things out. You find yourself a visitor for a few weeks to a tiny, dying town, and you subsequently become enveloped by the drama of it's residents.

Sully is quite the character. He never lets up and puts himself in comically ridiculous situations for the sole reason that he can, so what the hell. He drives everyone a little nuts, but he still remains likeable. You want things to work out for, yet at the same time you're resigned to the fact that he's going to mess it up, because he always messes up.

The other characters are also pretty memorable, although there were quite a few I didn't like. They all have striking personalities, components of which we can all recognize within ourselves. I think my favorite side character is Will, Sully's grandson. He's so sweet, and I love seeing him slowly triumph over his fears.

The pace/plot of this story is both frustrating, and yet interesting and appropriate for this novel as a whole. Like I said before, you feel like you're coming in to this strange town for a little visit. You stick around for a little while because the people living there are kind of ridiculous and you want to see what they do next. Then comes a dry spell, where nothing of not happens for a little while; days blend in with each other, and you start to get a little bored. But then, just as you start to decide that things are boring and you want to leave, something outrageous happens, and you get sucked back in to this small-town drama.

Overall, this book is both brilliant and odd. The tone and pace of the novel are perfectly suited to the blue-collar setting of this tale, but Sully is still an odd, albeit funny, duck. I really enjoyed this book, despite not liking some of the people in it, and despite my frustration when reading some of Sully's bizarre antics. You're going to want to slap some sense into some of these characters sometimes, yet the fact that you want to is proof that you're getting into the story, thereby making this book an intriguing piece of literature.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys contemporary fiction, particularly of the small-town-soap-opera variety. It's not a book with a cookie-cutter plot; instead, it's a story with a life and spirit all of its own. Check it out!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

A Tuesday Rant About E-mail Scammers

Well, that was a fun to way spend my morning.

I just sent a complaint report to about an e-mail scammer who's been contacting me.  I'm still feeling irritable about it, so I decided to write a post and vent my feelings a little.  Here's my story:

As many of you know, I'm a self-employed ballroom dance teacher.  I have my own studio and my own website.  And I love my job.

The one sucky thing about my job is that it's based on appointments and walk-ins, so I have good months and bad months with earnings.  I have to hope that people will use my website's contact form and inquire about private lessons.

So you can imagine how happy I was when a "father" e-mailed me the following message last week:

"Hello how you doing today this is Nicolas Barry i will like to ask if you still provide dance lesson I'm organizing a surprise dance (like flashmob) for my daughter's wedding, So i want you to teach the Bridesmaids choreography and i hope you accept credit card as method of payment ?"
Mind you, this isn't a weird e-mail for me.  People are frequently grammatically incorrect in e-mails, and I get a lot people asking me if I accept credit cards.  What was different was this surprise flash mob dance request; I've never had a request like this before, but hey!  I'm always up for something new!

I replied with my usual response: yes I do still teach dance lessons, yes I do accept credit card.  I also added the usual "private group lessons are $15 per person per hour.  Please let me know if you wish to set up an appointment".

So then I got this response:

"Thanks for the response. Wedding is on the 24th of June. The ladies are local. There are 7 Bridesmaids(all ladies) and i want them to choreograph a song by "John Legend" titled "All of me"  I want lessons to be at your studio. I'll prefer Tues&Thurs 11-1pm, if that's okay with your schedule. Though the ladies are fully committed to this training, so their timing is pretty flexible  They are not professionals and have no experience in dancing. What is the total cost for 2 hour rehearsals twice a week for 3 weeks?"

Uh, okay.  It's still pretty legitimate-looking.  Wedding date, number of bridesmaids, song, schedule, etc., all the usual info.  The last line was a little weird, but I figured he just wanted confirmation on the cost.

So I replied in the usual way, repeating the cost and that it's all pay-as-you-go.  The e-mails went back and forth, with the guy really sounding like a dad wanting to surprise his daughter, but he still insisted on my quoting an estimate.  I finally conceded and gave him a number: $1,260.  I also emphasized the pay-as-you-go policy with the payment at the end of the lesson.

Here was his next response, and that's when the red flags came up:

"What is your full-name,studio address for the private transport driver i'm organizing to locate your place when they are coming Can i make reservation with my credit card? Cause i won't be coming in with the ladies due to my current health status. I'm currently under intensive care in preparation for my surgery. I'm doing the booking since the whole surprise is my idea and i will be responsible for all payment."

Seriously, he used my website for the original e-mail, he should be able to see all the basic info right there!

The real kicker was the "private transportation".  I've gotten this kind of e-mail scam before.  They say they're hiring transportation and, for some emotionally tragic reason, they have to pay for all the lessons in advance by credit card.

Here's how they get you: the driver can't accept credit cards so they ask you to put his charges in along with your lesson cost.  They expect you to be helpful and agree, and when the lesson happens, you give the driver his price using your own cash.  Once they're gone they reverse the credit card charge and run off with your money.  Sucks, doesn't it?

I sent him a reply calling his bluff.  I told him there were no reservations allowed, and that if paying per lesson was a problem, that he should send the bridesmaids money and they could pay me in cash.  I also threw in the friendly advice that he should make sure his driver is paid in advance.  I then subsequently reported his email to

I know I probably shouldn't reply, but he tried messing with me and I really, really want to get a little revenge.  If he keeps replying, I think I'll try suggesting something a little more ridiculous.  I'm not sure what yet, maybe suggest that the choreography should include life-size Dalek robots from Doctor Who?

I'm still miffed, though.  It had seemed so legit at first, and I would have made so much extra cash this month if it was real.  It angers me that there are people out there who are willing to steal money from innocent small businesses who only make enough to get by, and wouldn't have been able to afford losing hundreds of dollars.  The world can really suck sometimes.

Anyway, here's some helpful advice for all you dance studios out there: watch out for e-mail scams like this one.  Never accept a charge where you have to pay for another service with your own money.  Report it immediately if you spot this type of scam.  The bridesmaid flash mob has been the most recent one, but there are other scams are out there as well.  They are all grammatically incorrect, need a bunch of lessons prepaid, insist on a check or credit card for some compassionate reason, and have weird requests added on (paying for someone's boarding, transportation, etc.).

Done for now.  I'm going to take my mind off things and go get lost in a book.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Book Review: Throne Of Jade (Temeraire #2), by Naomi Novik

Genre: Historical Fantasy
Date Published: April 2006
Publisher: Del Rey
# Of Pages/Listening Time: 398 pages/11 hours 45 minutes

Goodreads | Audible

Synopsis: When Britain intercepted a French ship and its precious cargo–an unhatched dragon’s egg–Capt. Will Laurence of HMS Reliant unexpectedly became master and commander of the noble dragon he named Temeraire. As new recruits in Britain’s Aerial Corps, man and dragon soon proved their mettle in daring combat against Bonaparte’s invading forces.

Now China has discovered that its rare gift, intended for Napoleon, has fallen into British hands–and an angry Chinese delegation vows to reclaim the remarkable beast. But Laurence refuses to cooperate. Facing the gallows for his defiance, Laurence has no choice but to accompany Temeraire back to the Far East–a long voyage fraught with peril, intrigue, and the untold terrors of the deep. Yet once the pair reaches the court of the Chinese emperor, even more shocking discoveries and darker dangers await.

My Rating:
 ★★ 1/2
.....For being better on the re-read

My Thoughts:

Bwahaha!  I finished a book right on time!  Fear my freakishly organized reading schedule!

.....Anywhoo, on to the review!

I think I can safely say that I enjoyed this story more the second time around.

I only vaguely remembered what happened in this story. I knew there were certain key plot points that were going to happen, but I couldn't remember the details, so it made the re-read a little more intriguing and entertaining.

What really makes this book excellent is the cultural differences that Naomi Novik brings up over and over again throughout the novel. She took two existing historical cultures, inserted dragons, and created brilliant contrasts between them. I am very much impressed by the amount of detail that went into this, especially with the politics. Because I was able to focus more on how the two cultures interacted with each other, I felt that the parts that felt tedious before were not as slow this time around. I really found it a fascinating read from an anthropological perspective.

I also really love Temeraire. He has such a frank view of the world, and his exposure to different places is making him a very idealistic dragon. It's difficult to argue with his point of view, and I loved watching Laurence struggle with the many debates they've had. Laurence has had a rather narrow-minded upbringing, so watching him slowly open up to new ideas and concepts is making me feel pretty victorious.

Anyone who studied the social sciences in high school or college would find this series a pretty fun read. It may not be the most action-packed fantasy out there, but there's enough detail in the back ground to make it worth a look.

Friday, June 2, 2017

A New Summer Reading Challenge!!!

The Bibliophile Reading Group's Summer Reading Challenge is finally here!

BRG's 2017 Road Trip Summer Reading Challenge

I've been eagerly anticipating this challenge for months.  Months!

I first joined this online group years ago because it had been doing a summer reading challenge at the time.  Every year (except last year) there's a summer reading challenge and a winter reading challenge.  Sometimes it's categorical, and sometimes it's point-based.

This summer it seems to be mileage-based!

Here are the rules:

  • The books have to take place 100% in the United States.
  • You have to read at least one BOTM throughout the months of June, July, and August, and participate in the discussion questions
  • A book can take place in more than one state, but the state only counts if at least one whole chapter takes place in that state.
  • The number of pages= the number of miles traveled.  For an audiobook, 2 minutes= 1 mile.
  • The book has to be a minimum of 50 pages (100 minutes on audio).  Graphic novels and picture books do not count.
  • There will be random "detours" along the way; mini challenges that are optional to take, where you would be awarded extra raffle entries.

There will be 3 winners (only one prize for winner):

  • the person who read the most miles
  • the person who visited the most number of states
  • the person who was chosen by raffle (must have read at least 600 miles)
The challenge runs from June 1st to August 31st and I am raring to go!  The books I'm currently reading can't count because I began them before the challenge started (damn), but some of the other books I'm planning on reading this month should definitely count.

Are you interested?  Do you want to play to?  Join the club!  Here are some of the links you can check out:

Whoo-hoo!  Of to do some reading!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Happy June! A Recap Of Last Month, And My Goals For This Month

Yay!  It's June!  It's my favorite month of the year!

It's starting off a little itchy, thanks to the poison ivy incident, but I've had the rash for about a week now, so the itch is finally going down (thank God for meds and calamine lotion!), and I'm feeling optimistic.

My reading didn't pan out so well last month.  I binge-watched a lot of TV, and I focused on the house more than I did reading.  The good news is that my house is slowly looking the way I want it to look, and I have finally figured out a really good cleaning schedule.  Also good is the fact that I made a lot of money teaching dance lessons last month, so I have more than enough to cover the bills (yay!).  The bad news is that I only finished five books, most of them on audio in the car.

Here's what I read.  Click on the book cover to read the review.

May's Books:

A Whole New World, by Liz Braswell
Date Finished: May 9
My Thoughts: An interested retelling of Disney's Aladdin.  It took an unexpected turn at the end, making it a bittersweet story, but I enjoyed it.  Not a masterpiece, but certainly something quick.

Side Jobs: Stories From The Dresden Files, by Jim Butcher
Date Finished: May 10
My Thoughts: This is a re-read.  I had just finished the Dresden Files series, and I didn't want to leave that world just yet, so I listened to this one on audio.  As always it didn't disappoint.  If you read this, I recommend reading it at least after book #12 of the series (Changes).

Someone, by Ann McDermott
Date Finished: May 17
My Thoughts: This was a BOTM read for the library book club I'm a part of.  It was an interesting story of the life of a woman living in New York.  The time jumping was a little disorienting at first, but it worked.  Overall I really enjoyed it, especially after the book club discussion.  Great for your next BOTM read.

Cybele's Secret (Wildwood Dancing #2), by Juliet Marillier
Date Finished: May 19
My Thoughts: I read this on a whim.  I didn't realize it was a sequel until I had already started it, but it didn't really detract from the story.  It was an okay YA novel, with the usual love triangle and it's miscommunicating lovers.  The quest was also a little weird, but it was nevertheless an interesting story.  Not Marillier's best work, but still good.

His Majesty's Dragon (Temeraire #1), by Naomi Novik
Date Finished: May 27
My Thoughts:  Another re-read that has now officially become a favorite.  Who can not love Temeraire the dragon?!  It's a fun and fascinating story that explores what our history would have been like if dragons existed.  I found it extremely entertaining from an anthropological point of view.  Definitely continuing the series over the next month.

So, not as bad as it could have been, but I still want to read more this month.  I have an ambitious reading schedule for June: Twelve books.  Yup, twelve.

I'm hoping to complete four books every ten days.  It's a little extreme, especially since at least one book is going to be tough, but I'm ready to try.

June Reading Schedule:

June 1-10

Books #2 and 3 of the Temeraire series.  My audiobook reads.

I'm still working on it from last month.  I'm enjoying it, but it's small print with no real chapter stops, so it's a little hard to read in short sittings.  But I'm determine to finish quickly.

Okay, this one is taking forever.  At this point, I feel like I'm in a marathon.  It's going to be hard to finish in ten days time, but I really want to finish this soon.  It's just so darn depressing!

June 11-20

The next two books in the Temeraire series.  Should be fairly quick audiobooks.

This is a BOTM read.  I feel bad because I haven't read a BOTM for this book group in a while, so I going to read this one, especially since there's a summer reading challenge involved.

Another BOTM read, this time for the library book club.  It's the last meeting before it takes a two-month summer hiatus, so I don't want to miss out.

June 21-30

The next two audiobooks in the series.  I'll be almost done before the month is out.

This is for a BOTM tag for another book club.  A short read, so it should be fairly easy to accomplish.

Another BOTM for yet another book club (yeah, I'm all about the book clubs this month).   I'm hoping my husband will read it with me.  We've been meaning to read this together for a little while.

Okay, enough talk, time for action!  If I want to read all of these books before my birthday (June 30), I'd better get started.  Happy reading everyone!