Thursday, December 20, 2012

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

**Links: Book 1**

I'm definitely coming to the realization that I will always adore this series.

In the second book, Harry is in his second year at Hogwarts (see how this goes? each book is a new year). A house elf named Dobby tries to prevent him (in several different ways) from returning to, and eventually remaining at, Hogwarts. He claims he is doing this for his protection, but Harry refuses to stay away. He returns to Hogwarts.

However, strange things start happening. Harry hears voices that no one else hears and people are being petrified by something. The school is in an uproar of suspicions. Harry's the culprit, no, Malfoy, no, Hagrid, no someone completely unrelated to the school. Nobody knows, but there is fear running rampant.

The book has some excitement, and it's slightly darker than the previous book. And, with reading along with Pottermore, I learned exciting new things about the Chamber of Secrets as well as other things, including the sword of Godric Gryffindor.

All in all, I still love this book.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie


I must admit, I went into this book feeling a little skeptical that I would enjoy it. I often find that I have difficulties connecting with books that are about black characters. I'm sure that's probably because I grew up in, well, a mostly white suburb, so my associations with the African American culture is limited.

So, I was pleasantly surprised that I truly enjoyed this book.

Hattie Shepherd is the main character of this book. Now, when I say that, I don't really mean that the book is completely told from her point of view, but rather that she is the binding character for the entire thing. It's a book separated in many chunks, each chunk representing a certain point in time for Hattie. The twelve tribes? Her eleven children and one of her grandchildren.

There are her struggles through motherhood throughout her entire life, beginning when she is just 17 and trying to take care of twins (be prepared, the first block of time is a tear-jerker), and ending when she is an old woman who has to take care of her ten-year-old granddaughter after having the child's mother committed.

It is an emotional story that shows just how hard it can be sometimes. Hattie is unhappy in her marriage, struggles to take care of her children, and overall struggling with life. She tries to run away, but doesn't. Her children try to escape their past, only to find that it has shaped them into the people that they don't really want to be.

I definitely enjoyed this. Thanks to Oprah's Book Club for introducing this great piece of work to me.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Crossroads of Twilight


**Links: Prequel * Book 1 * Book 2 * Book 3 * Book 4 * Book 5 * Book 6 * Book 7 * Book 8 * Book 9**

I think I've made it over the hump of "I can't push through this" when it comes to this series. I really enjoyed the early books, but somewhere in the middle of the series, it gets kind of difficult to push through, and now I'm to exciting reads again.

Rand has cleansed the male half of the Source of its taint that makes men who channel go mad. But he is a very small part of this book. Most of this book is Mat, who is escaping from the Seanchan with the Daughter of the Nine Moons, the woman he is destined to marry, as well as the next in line for their throne. Perrin has a significant role in this book as he continues to hunt for his wife Faile who was captured by the Shaido Aiel. Even Egwene is significant in this book. She and the Aes Sedai who are under her have besieged Tar Valon in an attempt to take down Elaida and reunite the White Tower.

I'm really excited to see where things will go with the story lines. Will Perrin get his wife back? When will Mat marry? Is Egwene going to be ok (something exciting happens to her right at the end of this book)? What is going on with Rand and his sickness when he tries to channel? When will the three boys be back together?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Little House on the Prairie

**Link: Book 1**

In book 2 of this series, the Ingalls family move to the prairie, specifically Kansas. It is an extreme fresh start for the family. They go with only the barest of belongings, and all of those stored in a covered wagon. Pa has to build a house and a stable, as well as all of the furniture.

There are some exciting parts involving Indians and illness. They have friends who help them out through some of their tougher times.

I loved reading this. I was scared, excited, worried, and happy for them as they ventured into their new adventure. The end made me feel a little sad, but I'm sure it is just the beginning of a new adventure for the family.

It's a great book for your kids (I'm reading it to my daughter).

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Last Lecture


If you don't recall this story from a few years ago, Randy Pausch was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The college had a series known as Last Lectures, where professors would give a lecture as if they were to die tomorrow. Except, when Randy Pausch decided to give his, he really did have a deadline looming.

I'm not usually a fan of non-fiction books. In fact, I tend to find them rather tedious and hard to get through. But this was different. I flew through this 206 page book in record time: 3 hours.

It was touching and moving. But most of all, it wasn't entirely about the fact that he was going to die. Randy wrote this as almost a companion to his Last Lecture. The book included more information that wasn't in that hour long lecture. He talks about his children, his wife, his experiences just getting to where he was.

He said that his main goal was to leave some sort of lasting advice for his three children.

But he left lasting advice for all of us. Things like writing a thank you note or not complaining. He wanted to pass along bits of wisdom that he had learned during his life, things that would help normal people in their everyday lives.

I cried a little bit, but not nearly as much as would be expected. I mostly found myself wondering how I could apply his wisdom to my own life.

Read the book, watch the lecture, live your life.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Winter's Heart

**Links: Prequel * Book 1 * Book 2 * Book 3 * Book 4 * Book 5 * Book 6 * Book 7 * Book 8**

First, I want to say that my husband was so wrong when he said this was a slow book. He went on and on about how he hated it and I wouldn't like it either. But, guess what? I really enjoyed it.

Granted, there are some slower sections, but that has been the case with most of the books in this series.

I particularly LOVED the last chapter of this book.

But, let me describe a little better. The book was really split in three distinct sections: Perrin, Mat, and Rand.

The beginning of the book, you follow Perrin and Faile through some seriously tough times (which haven't been resolved). Then the middle, you get mostly Mat. Rand gets the end of the book, but occasionally appears through the beginning and middle. There's a little of Elayne and Aviendha, and very little of Egwene.

You discover characters that will make a huge betrayal, characters that find amazing strength, and even characters that you still can't quite figure out (Verin, anyone?). Rand performs an amazing feat in the last chapter (seriously, read through this book just for that). There are so many points in the book that just pull you in with excitement.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Little House in the Big Woods

The Little House series was one of my favorite reads when I was a kid. So, I decided to start reading it to my daughter. She's not always the easiest to read to, but she'll quiet down long enough for me to read a chapter of Little House to her.

This is the first book of the Little House series. It's just a sweet book. Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote her own life as this series. I think that's one of my favorite things about this. It's easy to read, which makes it great for kids that are starting chapter books, and the illustrations help keep the attention of littler kids. Plus, I mean, come on, it helps adults reconnect with those books we loved as kids.

Anyway, in this first book, Laura and her family live in a little log house in the Big Woods (which are in Wisconsin). It takes place over the course of a year - the beginning of winter to the beginning of winter. It's just a great view into what normal life was like for people in that time period. From farming and hunting, to cooking and making clothes, Laura Ingalls Wilder shares it all.

If you've never read this, read it. Read it for yourself, read it for your kids, it doesn't matter.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Gulliver's Travels

I'm going to preface this whole thing by saying this: if you are not an extreme bibliophile, you probably won't like this book.

Gulliver's Travels is split into four sections. In each of these sections, you learn about Gulliver's experiences with different groups of people: the Lilliputians, the Brobdingnagians, the Laputans, and the Houyhnhnms. He ends up in each of these societies when he is either shipwrecked or abandoned.

There are a lot of tough words (and I read this to my toddler), especially once you get to the fourth part. Swift used a lot of nonsense words that have to be defined in the book. It's also somewhat satirical about the British empire. It's not always explicit that he is making some sort of statement about the government of England, but they're there if you look deep enough (and know Jonathan Swift's works).

So, I'd mostly just recommend this to English majors and extreme bibliophiles. I enjoyed it for the most part, but I'm both an English major and a bibliophile.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Path of Daggers


**Links: Prequel * Book 1 * Book 2 * Book 3 * Book 4 * Book 5 * Book 6 * Book 7**

Book 8 in Robert Jordan's epic fantasy The Wheel of Time. I enjoyed this book quite a bit. Maybe because it was shorter than the last book, maybe because the story really sucked me in. I don't know. But I enjoyed reading this.

The weather has changed after Nynaeve and Elayne, along with Sea Folk Windfinders, other Aes Sedai, and a group of runaways and wilders called Kinswomen channeled into the Bowl of the Winds. Now, winter has struck across the entire world. It is a drastic change from the heat they had been suffering with.

Egwene and her army (and the rest of the rebel Aes Sedai) are traveling towards the White Tower, where they intend to bring down Elaida and gain control of the home base of the Aes Sedai.

Rand is really struggling. The entire world is against him, but he needs to live to see the end because the entire world depends on him as the Dragon Reborn. The question is, will he survive the end?

Perrin is on the tail of Masema, the Prophet of the Dragon. Masema is creating chaos wherever he goes, all in the name of the Dragon Reborn. Perrin has to handle this and bring Masema to Rand so that the killing and chaos can stop.

I'm kind of looking forward to going on and dreading the next book. Supposedly, book 9 is extremely slow, but we'll see.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Beauty's Release


**Links: Book 1 * Book 2**

I'm sort of glad that I'm finally done with this series. It just made me feel sort of uncomfortable. When so much of the book is basically just forcible rape, it's hard to be ok with what's going on.

Granted, this last book was a little easier. There was less beatings and whippings, but there was still that raping going on. Beauty and five other "slaves" were kidnapped and taken to an Arab country to become slaves to a Sultan. But they're treated, not necessarily better, but gentler in their new location. Hence, less beatings. So I was able to deal with this story a little better.

I still don't know that I'll ever read this series again. Unlike Fifty Shades (which excited me), I just couldn't handle the discomfort that this story made me feel.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Crown of Swords


**Links: Prequel * Book 1 * Book 2 * Book 3 * Book 4 * Book 5 * Book 6**

Book seven of this epic fantasy series mostly followed two groups of characters. You follow Rand through a huge chunk of this book as he plots how to kill Sammael, one of the Forsaken. He has control over some Aes Sedai in addition to all of his followers in various countries and the Aiel.

But you also follow Elayne, Nynaeve, Mat, and various other characters in their grouping during this book. Elayne and Nynaeve have been tasked by Egwene (the Amyrlin of the rebel Aes Sedai) to find a bowl that can change the course of the weather, which, in the middle of winter, is scaldingly hot no matter where the characters are. In places where there is supposed to be snow, there is only heat.

Following the various different characters can sometimes be confusing. You have to be able to follow the different story lines, because the stories are not really the same for the different characters that you follow. But, if you are able to follow anywhere from two to half a dozen story lines, you will likely enjoy this series.

I enjoyed this one. Granted, they don't follow my favorite characters (Perrin and Faile) much, but the story was exciting, more so than some of the other books in this series.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Beauty's Punishment

**Link: Book 1**

Ok. The second book in this series is definitely better than the first book was. There's more of a story that happens, and the sexual parts are a little more fulfilling, both for the reader and the sex slave in the book.

But don't get me wrong. I still wouldn't recommend this to anyone who isn't in to that complete depravity and the complete sexual submission that is very prominent in this book.

There's more love that occurs in this book. Not necessarily full blown romantic love, but a definite tenderness. Beauty and other slaves are sent to "the village" which appears to be a much better environment for her at least. There is still the harshness of the abuse (whipping, paddling, etc), but that tenderness is apparent and kept me from feeling completely sorry for the characters that are slaves.

If you think you can handle this series, go for it. But I won't say that I whole-heartedly recommend it to anyone. It comes to personal preference.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty

I think I decided to read this series partly because of the whole Fifty Shades of Grey fascination. It's on the cover of the newest edition of this series that was published in 1983. "If you liked 50 Shades of Grey, you'll love the Sleeping Beauty trilogy".

But here's what they don't tell you. If you liked the domination/submission part of Fifty Shades, you'll love these. What I truly enjoyed about Fifty Shades is so not in this book.

The first of the trilogy, The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty is just that. It's the tale of what happens after Sleeping Beauty is awoken from her long slumber in her castle. But it's entirely about sexual submission and beatings. There are words like "love" and "passion" scattered through the emotions of this book, but what it really is in simple terms is control and abuse. More than was ever in Fifty Shades.

It was a good enough book considering it's erotica. But there's not much story to it. Beauty is a sex slave, plain and simple, and the entire 250+ pages are about the Prince gaining control and dominating her through the use of cruel means.

I wouldn't really recommend this to, well, anyone I know. It's just not that kind of book.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Little Women

I can confess that this book took me so long to read because I was reading it to my daughter at night. I wanted to read classic novels to her at bedtime, and I figured I could start with Little Women.

This is such a moving story when all is said and done. There is love and loss, but the most important aspect is the growth of the four young women - Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. The way that they grow and learn is the heart and soul of this story and I so enjoyed sharing that with my two year old. She doesn't understand, but I feel great sharing it with her.

Tissues are needed for a certain chapter in this book (where the loss happens), because I know I was driven to sobs by it.

The only thing I did not completely enjoy about the book is the almost preachy nature. It has a lot of religious references, but I was able to overlook a lot of them because Louisa May Alcott managed to cover the preaching and religious stuff under some good morals that anyone can use - religious or not.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Debt of Bones

The prequel to the Sword of Truth series. Yes, another epic fantasy series that I own. This is a short and sweet book. 160 pages and you're done. It really shows you the character of Zedd before you meet him in the first book of the series. He is a good guy, but he has a pair of nicknames. He is the wind of death, but he is also the trickster.

I enjoyed this book - novella really - because it is a brief introduction to a character that will be confusing and difficult to read in the coming book.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

King Lear

Another Shakespeare play that I don't really get. King Lear divides his kingdom into three parts to give to his daughters. Cordelia, his youngest, doesn't profess her love for her father, so he banishes her and splits her third between her two older sisters.

Lots of drama ensues, with a subplot of a bastard son of an earl plotting to take the earldom from his father by getting his legitimate brother banished and then killing his father.

It was really confusing. In the end, we have half the character list dead. Almost all of those die in the last act alone. I think only one character dies outside Act V. But I get why he's called Mad King Lear. He really does go insane after the first act. He talks to himself and says things that make absolutely no sense.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Richard III

I'm not really sure what to say about this play. It was long. I guess there's that. But it was an intriguing read. I say that because Richard was such a conniving (excuse the word) bastard throughout the entire course of the play that I wonder if there wasn't some sort of mental issue with him.

I read this because I had to. It's why I've read all of these Shakespeare plays thus far. I don't know that I'll ever read this one again because I didn't love it. I didn't hate it either. I'm just kind of ambivalent to it.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Fifty Shades Freed


**Links: Book 1 * Book 2**

I really enjoyed this book. It had so much more story than sex and I loved that about it. There was still sex, and it was hot, but the story was so much fuller than the other two books.

The progression of these books was amazing. This last book you learn all the burning questions about what happened in Christian's past. He finally opens up and tells Ana things that he had been keeping from her.

I did enjoy all these books. I did. They were hot, but there was a story there. The story and the development of the characters is the best part of them.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fifty Shades Darker


**Links: Book 1**

That was an intense book. And it wasn't entirely the sex that made it intense. You have the threat of an ex-sub, a new boss who is rather creepy, and an ex-Domme who is just a witch.

I liked this book better than the first. The first book had so little in the way of character development, that I didn't feel like I really got to know the characters until I read this book. Now, I find Christian and Ana sort of endearing.

I still love the sex scenes, but I am still pregnant. They're still intense and descriptive, but the fear that I had that Christian would try to take things too far isn't there anymore.

So, like I said last time, I enjoyed this book, but if you aren't into descriptive sex scenes, don't read this.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey

Wow. Intense book. It definitely lives up to the genre of Erotic Romance. I enjoyed the story, partly because I'm pregnant and my husband is deployed. So it was nice to vanish into a book of such an erotic nature. I will confess that it caused some rather intense dreams that I likely wouldn't have had if I hadn't been reading this right up to the time I fell asleep last night.

I will say, as someone who really enjoys writing, this was not something that I would call well-written. There are grammar mistakes, and at times the story is weak. But, it's an erotic novel. I didn't have high expectations for the writing. I went into it really wanting the erotic part of it. And that didn't fail me.

Don't read this if you can't handle sex scenes written in detail. Don't read this if you can't handle bondage and domination and control. Believe me. You would not enjoy this book. But, if you don't mind those, by all means, read this book.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Out of Oz


**Links: Book 1 * Book 2 * Book 3**

I am so sad to see the end of the Wicked Years series. Gregory Maguire's Oz is beautiful and his story telling makes me feel like I'm there.

The fourth and final installment of this series mostly follows Rain, the daughter of Liir and Candle, the granddaughter of Elphaba. It is not solely her story, but she seems to be the primary character who is followed. A girl who doesn't know who she is, doesn't know where she fits in. Someone that I think a lot of kids could relate to, not that I would recommend letting children read this book. But, hell, I was able to relate to her. I think everyone goes through some period of not knowing who they are or where they belong and you can relate to Rain.

A lot of questions are answered. But there is one big question that you will still be left with, although there are some inferences that you can make in regards to it: What happened to Elphaba? Did she really die? It's never answered as to what happened to her and whether she just disappeared or she actually was killed by Dorothy. But the question of what happened to the last Ozma, how each character would evolve, even what the Grimmerie is needed for.

Even though books two and three in this series are kind of subpar, the last book is amazing. It's on a level with Wicked and I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves that first book. There are hidden gems in this book. References to classic novels, and even references to the musical. You just have to be paying attention and watch for them.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Othello

Ok. I have to admit, I kind of enjoyed this play. Granted, it's one of Shakespeare's tragedies, but it seems like I enjoy his tragedies better than his comedies.

Othello is a black man married to a white woman. This is something that was pretty unheard of in Shakespeare's time. You have Iago, who is basically the little devil on Othello's shoulder. He convinces Othello that Desdemona, his wife, is unfaithful.

I'm not sure what it is, but I find something interesting about how in all of the Shakespearean tragedies I have read, people die. They're either murdered or they commit suicide. No one dies a natural death in his plays, and for some bizarre reason, I enjoy that.

So, yes, I enjoyed reading the tragedy of Othello.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Shakespeare's Sonnets

Ugh. What a nightmare. Going through all of Shakespeare's Sonnets is a bit of a headache. Don't get me wrong, there are some great and memorable sonnets in there. But to sit and read through all 154 sonnets and try to understand them just wasn't happening. I struggled. A lot.

I'll probably never sit and read through the sonnets again, and I only did it now because I had to. I gave it a three star review on Goodreads because there are some great sonnets in there. Sonnet 18 for example is probably his most well known (Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?).

I think my biggest problem was how disjointed they felt. Each sonnet is 14 lines long, but multiple sonnets conveyed a single thought pattern. It's hard to keep things straight when you're not feeling very clear about it. I just didn't enjoy reading them that much.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Tempest

Shakespeare is good at confusing plays. I just felt like I was floundering a little in this one. It's easily summarized as: the former Duke of Milan is mad that his brother has taken his dukedom and he and his daughter have been stranded on an island, so he comes up with a plot to gain back his dukedom by shipwrecking his brother and the King of Naples on the island. Yeah. Now stretch that to five acts.

It wasn't a horrible play. I was able to read it well enough, but it just has these confusing elements, particularly the spirits that Prospero calls to do his dirty work. And let's be honest, they do all of his dirty work. He just sits back and calls upon one in particular (Ariel) to go and either wrangle or confuse the characters that have been shipwrecked.

It was all very confusing.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Merchant of Venice

I'm not quite sure about this play. The way it began made me feel as if I was being thrust into the middle of a story and I had missed the important things in the beginning. It didn't improve as it felt that there were two rather conflicting stories that were being forced to be one.

Granted, it was a comedy, and there were some funny moments. But it's rather anti-Semitic in nature, and I found the tension between the Jewish character Shylock and the Christian character Antonio to be rather cruel. It felt as if Shylock was acting the way he did solely because he was Jewish and Antonio Christian.

I don't know. I didn't love this play, but I have a fondness for William Shakespeare, so I liked reading it. It was a play I'd never read or really experienced, so I did enjoy that.