7

The Mood Reader

I am a mood reader, but my moods change as quickly as the weather in Michigan. This makes focusing on one book at a time challenging. I’ve mentioned before that I have multiple books going at a time– sometimes I’m switching between five different books! And considering I am a slow and easily distracted reader, it takes me a long time to finish what I start. I don’t generally give this habit much thought, unless another blogger writes about peculiar reading habits, inviting discussion in their comments. But, lately I find myself growing frustrated by it because how do you write about books if you don’t finish any?! I have a feeling it will be a while before I’m ready to write another review, so here are the books I’ve started and the moods I have to be in to read them:

onesummer_small One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson. By now you must know that I’m a big fan of Bill Bryson, but I can’t just read Bryson any ol’ time. Most of the time, his books are best enjoyed while doing a bit of traveling yourself. One Summer, however, is best enjoyed when I’m feeling nostalgic for the good ol’ days. Preferably on a back porch during the dog days of summer with a glass of iced, sweet tea within reach. I think the average temperature this summer was 75 degrees, and while I absolutely appreciated this because I have a low tolerance for anything close to “sweltering”, this season didn’t really feel much like summer, and that’s my excuse for taking so long to read this book.

universeThe Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking. Half the time I’m reading whimsical young adult books. The other half, I’m reading non-fiction books. No subject matter is too daunting too me, which is how I ended up with The Universe in a Nutshell. Also, there were illustrations. I’ve actually read a fair amount of this book, but I started on a chapter that I find particularly challenging. It takes everything I know to be true about atoms and throws it into the garbage; apparently there is more to an atom than protons, neutrons, and electrons, like bosons and quarks (and their particular “flavors”, which really just describes how the subatomic particles spin). It’s all very fascinating, but I have to be feeling especially curious and patient because I spend a lot of time doing research to understand the ideas in this book.

sunburnedcountryIn a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson. I must be nuts to read two Billy Bryson books at one time. Actually…yes, I am. I feel like I’ve read a little too much of Bryson recently. I did finish A Walk in the Woods earlier this year. To make matters worse, In A Sunburned Country is probably my least favorite Bryson book. He likes Australia a little too much, so this book isn’t nearly as snarky and funny as his other books. I have to feel nondescript to read this book. It’s the book I pick up when I’m waiting in line…

spoonThe Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of Elements by Sam Kean. Phew! In the defense of this book, it’s absolutely fascinating and funny, but I think I have too much non-fiction in my life. I’m frequently switching between this book and the next book on my list depending on whether I’m at home or I’m at work.

exiledThe Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima. The more frustrated I am in the real world, the more I want to immerse myself in the fantastic seven realms. Especially now, since Hans Allister and Princess Raisa are  at Mystwerk House and Wein House (read: BOARDING SCHOOOOOOL!!!) Considering my accounting software has been out of commission for the past three days, which just makes me really, really behind at work, and I’ve dealt with really awful customers lately, all I want to do is bury my nose in this book. I just want to get swept away amongst warriors and mages.

Does your mood influence the types of books you read? Are you good at sticking to one book at a time, or do you switch between different books depending on your mood, like me?

1

I Finally Finished Another Series: Twilight

[Warning: this post may contain spoilers]

I’ve done it! I’ve really done it! I have officially completed two entire series in my 26 years of existence. I spent the afternoon of Labor Day power reading the last 200 pages of Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer. And this GIF of Kristen Stewart sums up my feelings over losing several hours of my life to the book:

I avoided the Twilight saga for as long as possible. I had heard too much about the bland characters, the poor writing, and the sketchy romantic relationship to know that this was one book hype I should probably avoid. And! When Twilight hit the shelves, people compared its popularity to Harry Potter. As if it were even in the same league! But somehow, someone talked me into reading the series. I went in totally prepared to hate everything about it, but if I’m honest, I don’t actually hate the series. Not all of it, anyway.

 

When I read Twilight, I was surprised. Surprised by how much I didn’t dislike Bella and Edward and Jacob. Surprised by how easily I was swept up in the fantasy of Bella’s budding romance with a sparkling vampire. Surprised by how I did not want to put the book down– not even for Fallout 3, which I had just purchased that weekend, and this is kind of big deal. I ended up reading it in two days even though I’m a pretty slow reader. I was just…hooked! I mean, obviously I could tell the quality of story telling and character development wasn’t the greatest, but for some reason that didn’t even matter. Twilight has this junk food quality about it. I compare it to cookie dough, which is unhealthy, but I cannot help gobbling down spoonful after spoonful of it anyway.

New Moon made me even weaker in the knees. While Twilight focused on Bella and Edward’s relationship,  New Moon, focused on Bella and Jacob’s friendship, and I adored that. I freaking loved Jacob Black in New Moon– in all the books. I finished book two just as quickly as the first book. I had to because the second movie was hitting theaters, and I ended up dragging both my parents along to see the film.

Then, my love for the series ended abruptly. Eclipse happened, and I fell out of love with the series. Eclipse was so boring; I actually skipped nearly an entire chapter of this book because it could not hold my attention– the one where Bella is sitting about a campfire with Jacob and his family/friends, learning about shape shifters. I consider myself Team Jacob, but not even he could keep my attention during the info dump. To make matters worse, Bella turns into a jerk– she was over-compensating her faithfulness to Edward because she finally realized she had feelings for Jacob too.

I didn’t think it were possible, but I started to like Bella even less in Breaking Dawn. Edward too. Because they were just so, so mean. Their attitudes were so unappealing that I ended up putting the book down for two years. I regret doing that because the last 200 pages of the book were such a doozy; attempting to finish the book became a challenge. I ended up skim-reading to the end, but nothing really happened anyway. I thought it was going to be this battle royale– Cullens and Co. vs. the Volturi. I thought that’s what New Moon and Eclipse were building up to, but they just talked through their differences, and everyone lived happily ever after. It was anti-climactic. [Note: I actually saw Breaking Dawn part II in theaters before finishing the book, which was also a mistake because, while I liked the movie's ending a little better than the book's ending, it was still a "cop-out", and this affected my attitude towards the book.]

I of course dragged my mom to see all the movies, and I think I preferred them to the books despite Kristen Stewart’s emotionless acting and all of the cheesy fight scenes. I liked the scenery and I loved the music. Also, I liked this guy and his abs:

Taylor Lautner, you are so dreamy.

 

Have you ever read the Twilight saga? Did you love it or did you hate it? Or, do you fall somewhere in the middle like myself?

0

Hogwarts is My Home

Just in case you forgot.

0

A Mid-Year Resolution

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

This is it, everyone. This is the week I will finish Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer. I have declared it my goal, and I will not rest until I have finished the very final page.

I am notorious for starting book series and not finishing them. I’ve mentioned on a handful of occasions that the only series I’ve ever finished is Harry Potter, but that all changes this week. Not that I will ever openly admit that I read the Twilight series, but the fact will remain– I will be able to officially say “I’ve read two series in my 26 years of existence”.

Breaking Dawn has been especially challenging to finish. I started reading the book two summers ago. After about page 500, I set the book down, and I haven’t picked it back up. By now, most people would have cut ties with the book, but with only 200 pages remaining, I cannot in good conscience just give up. This is truly a testament to my endurance.

I am having a hard time getting back in to the groove of reading this book though. I find that I can only read about 20 pages at a time before feeling a sort of hollowness in my chest. Supernatural Bella is such a terrible being. She’s supposed to be almost-perfect, but oh gosh, she’s so mean and arrogant and I just…I really kind of hate her, and I really do not like reading about her.  I’d rather read about human Bella, who was clumsy and emotionless and really quite like Melba Toast.

Am I bonkers for doing this? For insisting on finishing a book–a terrible book– just so I can claim I’ve finished a series? Have you ever endured a series (or even just a single book) just to say you’ve read it, and which one was it?

3

Is it possible to re-read a series too many times?

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

I’ve mentioned before (here and here), when the seasons shift from Summer into Autumn, I re-read the Harry Potter series. The crisp air, the Fall colors, and the overcast skies make me think about feasts in the Great Hall, trips to Hogsmeade, and mugs of butterbeer. This year, the hankering to re-read Harry Potter has come two seasons early. I blame it on Al Roker, who has been reciting Harry Potter-themed trivia on Comcast On Demand for the chance to win tickets to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. After hearing Hedwig’s theme for the umpteenth time, I could resist no longer, and I decided to hunt for my books. You’d think I wouldn’t have to “hunt” for something I cherish and read so frequently though. Alas! I am dreadfully unorganized.

I embarked on another re-read around midnight on Saturday. After cracking open the cover of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for the 8th time, at least, I was struck by a memory of my first, true re-read. My final semester at college, right before Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (part one) hit theaters, I decided to re-read the series from start to finish. I picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for the first time in probably 10 years, and I was flabbergasted by how much I forgot. I had become so accustomed to the introduction in the movie that I forgot all about Vernon Dursely’s uncomfortable day at Grunnings and the shower of shooting stars over Kent, which was probably bewitched by Dedalus Diggle. Since then, it’s been a rare occasion that more than a year should pass before picking up at least one of the books to read (last year was one such occasion), and I feel I could practically recite parts of the series.

I wonder if there is such thing as reading a book (or in my case, a series) too many times. Is it possible that one day, the spell these books have cast on me will run its course? …Naaaaaah! Surely not. That’s kind of like saying one day I will stop craving my mom’s homemade chicken noodle soup!

What book(s) do you frequently re-read? Have you ever felt like you read a book too many times? 

0

Book Report: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Beautiful CreaturesBeautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles #1) by Kami Garcia + Margaret Stohl
Released: December 2009
Publisher: Little Brown and Company
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 563
Source: Purchased

From Goodreads
Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she’s struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town’s oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.

My Thoughts
You guys, why didn’t you tell me how amazing Beautiful Creatures was? Oh wait, You did! I often talk about how book hype usually ruins books for me, but on this rare occasion it didn’t! In my opinion, Beautiful Creatures deserves all the rave reviews it’s received so far.

There is something so satisfying about Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. It was the setting that sucked me in first. The fictional town of Gatlin, South Carolina reminded me of hot and soggy summers spent in the woods and creek behind my house in northern Georgia. I half expected kudzu to creep and crawl from the pages of my book. Had the transmission in my car not gone kaput a month prior, I may have jumped in to my dodgy Ford Taurus and drove south for the winter. Next, I was immediately preoccupied by the lives of the people in small-town Gatlin. I wanted to stand in line at the corner store sipping sweet tea while nonchalantly listening in to gossips air their neighbor’s dirty laundry.

The characterization in Beautiful Creatures was near perfect. They all came alive almost effortlessly. The southern belles and their jock counterparts were a cause of friction that was written well. The mean girls/jock conflict might be overdone, but Garcia and Stohl’s approach is surprisingly refreshing. Perhaps because it reads more like a small town versus an outsider threatening what is comfortable rather than the mean, preppy girls versus the goth. The Sisters, with their batty ways were hilarious! But Amma, with her crossword obsession and her voodoo superstitions stole the show for me.

If the characters and the setting don’t suck you in, perhaps the point of view will. What a surprise it was to discover that this paranormal romance  was written almost entirely from a male’s point of view. When was the last time you read a book dealing with romantic elements from a guy’s perspective? It’s just not usually done, which makes this book even more outstanding. Ethan is more complicated than some high school horn dog. He struggles with parting himself from the small town mentality that his friends are trying to shove down his throat as he realizes he’s falling for mysterious and eccentric looking Lena. The romance that develops between the two is sweet and so reminiscent of what I remember of high school romances—holding hands and almost-kisses and wondering if you’ve really just fallen in…well, the “l-word”(because who knew saying “love” would be so anxiety inducing even though it’s kind of invigorating?). It’s such a nice break from overly dominant and manly teenage boys and submissive teenage girls.

The supernatural elements were a show-stopper as well. They were just plain, ol’ neat. I mean, we’re talking about controlling elements, shape shifting, seeing time, mind control, healing, and that’s only scratching the surface. But, that’s not all. There is also Amma who wards off bad spirits with voodoo charms and pleases dead ancestors with chicken and whiskey. There is a natural conflict that arises between the casters and Amma just as there is a conflict that arises between all of the mortals in Gatlin and the casters. It makes for some pretty suspenseful moments.

Beautiful Creatures would be perfect except for two issues that I had with the book. First, the book seemed long. I understand that it is long but so are Harry Potter books, and sometimes those don’t seem long enough! I don’t know if it was pacing or if certain events in the middle were dragged out a chapter too many or even if my anticipation for the events at the end made the book seem so long. Regardless, at some point, I lost my reading vigor because it seemed daunting. Now, on the flip side, it seemed like the ending was rushed! And it seemed like a few explanations were made up suddenly at the end to cover holes in logistics. Like, how is Ethan supposed to get from the Library back out the spooky mansion when they’re clear across town from each other? A perfectly rational supernatural explanation is offered even though no mention of such a thing was made when Ethan first visited the library.

Overall,
I LOVED Beautiful Creatures! The setting, the characters, and the point-of-view made the book a refreshing read. Especially in a genre that has exhausted shoddy love interests, vague characterization, and love triangles. Perhaps Beautiful Creatures was a little too satisfying though. I honestly felt Beautiful Creatures would have worked perfectly as a stand-alone novel. It tied things up nicely but left enough to the imagination. So, as much as I loved Beautiful Creatures, I’m not entirely convinced I want to continue on with the series. Conflicting, eh? I’m not sure book two can live up to its predecessor. If I’m way wrong, please tell me in the comments!

Cover Story
I’m not nearly as smitten with the cover as most people seem to be. The bold colors and the font are lovely, but that’s the only striking thing about it. I don’t think I’d be encouraged to pick this book from the shelves (maybe 10 years ago when I was in my goth stage I may have…)

Read this book if you love supernatural stories. Read this book if you like those supernatural stories tinged with forbidden romance. Read this book even if you’re skeptical of supernatural stories tinged with forbidden romance. It’s not like all the others on the market, I swear! Read it!!!

2

When did book series become so complicated?

Figuring out book series these days is difficult. It’s not like the good ol’ days of Harry Potter where there were seven books in the series and you could tell easily in what order to read them because of the nice numbers on the spine of the book.

Harry Potter

These days there are supplemental novellas popping up all over the place, like Julie Kagawa’s Iron’s Prophecy or Winter’s Passage or Summer’s Crossing. I actually purchased two of these back before I was familiar with Julie Kagawa, so I didn’t realize they weren’t stand alone stories. These new novellas have really throw me for a loop the past year and a half. I have about a half a dozen of these supplemental novellas on my Nook. For books I don’t even own. I don’t know how I keep missing that key bit of information.

I don’t know if these novellas are entirely relevant to the story line, but I do understand that they may flesh out the story since they provide different points a view and perceptions. I haven’t actually ready one of these novellas though. I guess I’d rather spend my time and money on full length novels, though sometimes I feel like I’m missing out even if it is only 70 pages.

Cassandra Clare the Mortal Instruments the Infernal Devices

And there is series within series—like Cassandra Clare’s books. Mortal Instruments came first. Then she wrote the Infernal Devices to delve deeper into the history of the world and characters she created or something. I read sometime last year that she is (potentially) writing a third series revolving around the Downworld and the Shadowhunters. I’m not really one of her die-hard fans, so I don’t know if that was just hearsay or if the information was legit. Anyway, I honestly started freaking out half way through the Clockwork Angel because I thought I was reading Clare’s series out of order and thus missing out on a lot of really cool things. I thought I was supposed to read the Mortal Instruments first. After talking to one of my co-workers who thinks Clare is the bee’s knees, I learned that’s not necessarily the case. I mean, her series are all related, but you don’t have to read her original series in order to understand what’s going on in the spin off.

Fast forward a bit to now. A week or so ago, I received a lovely box of books I won from a giveaway hosted by Bitching, Books, and Baking. It was filled with all sorts of enticing books, but the one I decided to read first was a book from the Vampire Diaries series. Only, I didn’t realize that the Vampire Diaries was one of those series that had series within the series (possibly within a series). I guess it’s more like…the Vampire Diaries Franchise. And unlike Cassandra Clare’s books, it appears you actually have to have read the original series to understand what’s going on in this new one. This is what I picked up to read first:

the Vampires Diaries: the Hunters

It says “Vol. 1″ right on the cover, so the error I made is understandable. I don’t know why they don’t call it “Book 8″. Nonetheless, I feel pretty foolish. I know the Vampire Diaries is a pretty popular series, so you’d think I’d know which book to start with. It would appear though that my research abilities have become null ever since I graduated college. Anyway, I read 46 pages into my book and decided to put it down. The first few chapters are recapping what happened in previous books…and holy crap, I feel like I’m missing out! I mean…why didn’t anyone tell me sooner that exciting things actually happened in this book? Maybe they did but I stuck my nose up at them because the book is about vampires, and my track record with the mythological beasts is not a positive one (which in turn begs the question, why do I keep picking up books about vampires?). You may be pleased to know that I’ll be borrowing the Vampire Diaries: the Awakening from the library this weekend.

This all makes me very curious about what other readers think of these series based on previous series. Or, maybe it’s more accurate if I consider them multiple series that take place within the same world. Do you like them because it allows you to revel in one of your favorite worlds? I mean, I guess I’d feel that way if there was more about Hogwarts from J.K. Rowling. I’m sure even if the proceeding works were mediocre (as if that were possible) I’d still gobble them up (because Hogwarts is my home!) Or, are you tired of them popping up all over the place now? Do you think authors are clinging on to something that made them popular? Or do you think that’s the only story they have to tell? Or maybe you’re more benign about it—do you think maybe authors just like the world they’ve created and want nothing more than to just escape into writing about all of the lives that inhabit it? (Note: The Vampire Diaries might be a little different considering the later books were written by a ghostwriter instead of L.J. Smith.)