Friday, June 24, 2011

Ready To Throw in the Towel

I'm frustrated with myself. I can't seem to get any reading done. There's just too much exciting stuff going on right now. Like packing. Closing on my house. Finding appliances. Watching TV. (Lame, I know, but it seems like I just want to zone out lately.) Learning my new job. Playing on FaceBook. (I have a serious love/hate relationship with the computer right now.) Seeing my boyfriend for the first time in a month (and dealing with the mopiness from missing him). Sending good friends off to Texas. High School Reunion (the boyfriend's, not mine). Golfing for the first time in six years. And I'm completely bored with the book selections I've made. I only need to read The Ginger Tree this week and I can't seem to get it done. I had such high hopes for this book too. For all of the books, really.

Really hoping that in two weeks things will be calmed down so that I can focus again.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Neglecting The Bookshelves Self-Challenge Week Eight

I have zero progress to report. None. Zip. Zilch. Nada. It was a rough week at work. There was a lot of running around after work, home insurance to be arranged, boxes to pack, appliances to be purchased and moved... and teaching The Diva how to do somersaults. I'm running through a bout of insomnia, which is frustrating, as well as just plain old feeling like crap.When I did have down time this week, I chose to zone out with the TV rather than fall into a good book. Although my selections seem to be rather questionable.

Embassytown is a little confusing. There is no setup for the alternate world, lifestyles or characters. The story is thrown at you and you have to work things out on your own. It's well-written, which means I'll continue on with the book, but it's also a thinker so I can only focus on it when my brain is fully functioning. Hasn't happened much this week.

The Ginger Tree is a book club read. I need to really tackle this one over the weekend for book club next week. I'm roughly 50 pages in and bored out of my mind. I'm really hoping that this book picks up the pace - soon.

Speak is an entertaining read. It's dark, but not too dark, more like a shadowy gray. It has some really great one-liners, but it's not laugh out loud funny.

I also have two books checked out from the library that are due SOON. I need to finish up these five books and then I'm putting the challenge on hold while I move, finish up loose ends at the apartment and get settled into the new house. I didn't plan for my summer to be this busy, but books are forever, right? They'll be waiting for me when I'm ready.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Neglecting The Bookshelves Self-Challenge Week Seven

Making progress here! I'm still working through Embassytown. This one might be another book that takes a few weeks. The other books I'm putting on the list for this week:

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
ISBN: 014131088X

When Melinda Sordino's friends discover she called the police to quiet a party, they ostracize her, turning her into an outcast -- even among kids she barely knows. But even worse than the harsh conformity of high-school cliques is a secret that you have to hide. 

The Ginger Tree by Oswald Wynd
ISBN: 0060959673
Source: public library (book club read)

In 1903, a young Scotswoman named Mary Mackenzie sets sail for China to marry her betrothed, a military attachÉ in Peking. But soon after her arrival, Mary falls into an adulterous affair with a young Japanese nobleman, scandalizing the British community.

My goal is 24 books in 16 weeks.
I'm currently at the end of Week 6.
These are the books I've finished:
  1. Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell
  2. 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
  3. Fireworks over Toccoa by Jeffery Stepakoff
  4. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
  5. Flying Changes by Sara Gruen
  6. The Book of Joe by Jonathan Tropper
  7. These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf
  8. Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade by Diana Gabaldon
  9. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Before I Fall

Before I FallBefore I Fall by Lauren Oliver

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book is like the movies Groundhog's Day and Mean Girls had a head on collision. Or an ugly love child. This book really was a tough sell for me. The main character is a well-fleshed out teenager - she parties, ignores her family, has fights with her mom, only cares about the "now" factor - I really wanted to hate her, but underneath all of that I could see a sweet, smart, caring girl. There was some really good writing, good character development but the plot was too big. I really appreciated the author's portrayal of teenage life (pretty darn accurate from what I remember), probably one of the best YA books I've read in that regard. I'm putting this author on my watch list, I think there's huge potential there.

Synopsis: What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all: the world's most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High—from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life.
Instead, it turns out to be her last.

Then she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.

Recommended Reading:
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Willow: It's Hard to Keep a Secret... by Julia Hoban
All Unquiet Things by Anna Jarzab
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
The Lying Game by Sara Shepard

Monday, June 6, 2011

Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade

Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade (Lord John Grey, #2)Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade by Diana Gabaldon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a very good story woven around a central plot. I always appreciate the details Diana Gabaldon brings into her stories, her careful research that brings the reader fully involved into the story. This was an interesting story of avenging a father's death and homophobia in 18th Century England. It was a treat to find the story followed a storyline central to DG's Outlander Series, including the character Jamie Fraser.

In 1758, in the heart of the Seven Years’ War, Britain fights by the side of Prussia in the Rhineland. For Lord John and his titled brother Hal, the battlefield will be a welcome respite from the torturous mystery that burns poisonously in their family’s history. Seventeen years earlier, Lord John’s late father, the Duke of Pardloe, was found dead, a pistol in his hand and accusations of his role as a Jacobite agent staining forever a family’s honor.

Now unlaid ghosts from the past are stirring. Lord John’s brother has mysteriously received a page of their late father’s missing diary. Someone is taunting the Grey family with secrets from the grave, but Hal, with secrets of his own, refuses to pursue the matter and orders his brother to do likewise. Frustrated, John turns to a man who has been both his prisoner and his confessor: the Scottish Jacobite James Fraser.

Recommended Reading:
Lord John and the Hand of the Devils by Diana Gabaldon
Lord John and the Private Matter by Diana Gabaldon
A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon
An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon
The Outlandish Companion by Diana Gabaldon

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Beer Bread

I love bread. I love beer. It was only natural that when I saw this post, that I had to try this bread. I want to try this in the bread machine using the quick bread cycle, but didn't want my first batch to be experimental.

Classic Beer Bread:
3 cups self-rising flour
3 tbsp sugar
12 oz room temperature beer [recommended Fat Tire]

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9x5" loaf pan with shortening.

Stir together the flour and sugar. Add the beer and stir until combined. Spoon into prepared loaf pan and bake 1 hour. Remove immediately from pan and place on a cooling rack over a cookie sheet. Pour melted butter on top of the bread, letting it drip down the sides.

Gruyere-Rosemary: use a beer such as New Belgium's Blue Paddle Pilsner lager. Stir in 1 cup -shredded Gruyere cheese and 1 tbsp fresh rosemary to the basic dough. Brush top with melted butter after removing from the pan.

Orange Nutmeg: use a wheat beer, such as Mothership Wit. Zest a large orange and add the zest and 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg (I used jarred) to the basic dough. While the bread bakes, juice half of the orange. Whisk with some powdered sugar to make a glaze. Remove cooked bread from the pan, poke sveral holes in the top with a toothpick. Pour the glaze over the bread, allowing it to drip down the sides.

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip: use a dark beer such as 1554. Substitute brown sugar for the granulated. Stir in 3/4 c. bittersweet chocolate chips (Ghiradelli) and 1/2 tsp cinnamon to the basic dough. Sprinkle the dough with cinnamon-sugar before baking. Rub the top of the bread with butter after removing from the pan.

These Things Hidden

These Things HiddenThese Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was a quick read. It took a little bit of getting used to as the story was told jointly by 4 characters. Some had a 1st person POV and some had 3rd person POV, which made it difficult to follow at times. I thought the story was over-dramatized. There was information intentionally left out or mis-spoken to give an impression and then led up to a big dramatic reveal at the end. I didn't feel connected to the characters, I felt some of the dramatization and reactions weren't realistic.

Synopsis: When teenager Allison Glenn is sent to prison for a heinous crime, she leaves behind her reputation as Linden Falls' golden girl forever. Her parents deny the existence of their once-perfect child. Her former friends exult her downfall. Her sister, Brynn, faces whispered rumors every day in the hallways of their small Iowa high school. It's Brynn—shy, quiet Brynn—who carries the burden of what really happened that night. All she wants is to forget Allison and the past that haunts her.
But then Allison is released to a halfway house, and is more determined than ever to speak with her estranged sister.

Now their legacy of secrets is focused on one little boy. And if the truth is revealed, the consequences will be unimaginable for the adoptive mother who loves him, the girl who tried to protect him and the two sisters who hold the key to all that is hidden.

Recommended Reading:
Luka and the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie
The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf
Great House by Nicole Krauss
True Grit by Charles Portis
The Three Weissmans of Westport by Cathline Schine

Friday, June 3, 2011

Neglecting The Bookshelves Self-Challenge Week Six

This week is about cleaning off my plate. Here's what I have going on the TBR list:

Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade by Diana Gabaldon. I'm going to finish this book. I promise.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. eBook checked out from the library.

Embassytown by China Mieville. I'm not guaranteeing that it's going to get done, but I'm going to start it.

Ugh. Let's not talk about the books I haven't even logged into the TBR list. It's getting ugly around here.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

All Who Wander Are Not Lost

It's been a little bit of a whirlwind around here lately. Wheeling and dealing on a house, figuring out what I need for said house, a funeral, a trip to the ER (unrelated to each other, fortunately), decisions about continuing on with my education (I'm not) and adding in the general chaos of my regular life... I need a month long nap to recover.

I'm a little lost where I am on the self-challenge, so I'm going to take a minute to recap:
My goal is 24 books in 16 weeks.
I'm currently at the end of Week 5.
These are the books I've finished:
  1. Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell
  2. 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
  3. Fireworks over Toccoa by Jeffery Stepakoff
  4. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
  5. Flying Changes by Sara Gruen
  6. The Book of Joe by Jonathan Tropper
  7. These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf [review coming soon]
It's not looking good, kids. It's not bad, but looking ahead to the coming months, it's going to be tough.