Thursday, July 30, 2009

On vacation

I'm off on holiday today, will tell you all about it when I get back. Chances are that it will involve little other than reading by the pool. ;-)

Have a great couple of weeks and talk to you all soon!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Garden Spells

I absolutely adored this book. Whenever I sat down to read it, I felt so relaxed and transported into a magical world. Beautiful feeling. The tone and atmosphere is kind of a cross between Alice Hoffman and Joanne Harris - lots of food and culinary magic. I love that kind of thing and wish I knew more about it myself.

The story is about two sisters in a small southern town, trying to overcome their fears and find happiness. The storyline is actually very simple, I guess it's the style that makes the book special. I was worried that it would be too much like Alice Hoffman's Practical Magic, but the similarities in the two stories didn't bother me at all.

What I love about such everyday magic books is the underlying commentary on human nature - to use food to influence people you have to understand how people work. That psychological aspect really appeals to me, even if it is a tad simplified.

The story also deals with the 'gifts' that your family leaves you - what happens if you don't want to be a part of the legacy?

Plus, the cover is so so so very beautiful. It has glitter! What more is there to say? ;-)

Challenges: Southern Reading Challenge, Chick Lit 2, Romance Reading Challenge

Sunday, July 26, 2009

My News

Well. It sure has been a tough year so far - and you all know it too, what with my constant complaining about being tired, stressed out or simply in a bad place. My concentration has been on and off, I can't seem to keep my mind on reading like I used to. And I have a good reason. I'm pregnant.

It feels so amazing to finally be able to write that. I've been waiting until after the infamous 12-week scan and here I am, at 14 weeks now, able to finally announce it to the world. :-)

Why were things so hard? I won't bore you with details, but the gist of it is that we did an IVF cycle pretty much right after moving house. So basically we had all the stress we could possibly have had at once. It was a horribly diffcult time and I don't particularly want to think about it. But we survived and hey, it worked!

I am thrilled and looking forward to what these next months will bring. I don't expect any huge improvements in concentration, but hopefully things will settle down a bit at least.

I do have thoughts on a pregnancy-related book too, I hope they count because as you can imagine with my addiction I bought pretty much every book I could find.

I now finished reading The Best Friends' Guide to Pregnancy by Vicki Iovine. The subtitle says 'Or everything you doctor won't tell you' and it lives up to the expectation. This book tells you how things will actually feel, not just what will happen to you. It's a funny take on the experience and after reading so many clinical books (which are also important) I totally needed this. I definitely this is one to read when pregnant.

It fits into a couple challenges too! :-)

Challenges: 999 Challenge, Non-Fiction Five challenge, A-Z Challenge

Friday, July 24, 2009

We thought you would be prettier

I wanted to read this book by Laurie Notaro mainly because of the title. Shame, shame on me. :-) The subtitle is 'True tales of the dorkiest girl alive' which I thought was also fantastic. How can a girl like me (read: dorky :-)) not read this?

It's a collection of essays, true stories from Laurie Notaro's life. I must say that she has a great writing style - very entertaining. And the stuff that tends to happen to her! Wacky and quirky, for sure.

I'm too tired to write (think) more, but I hope you get the idea. I'll explain why I'm so tired in tomorrow's post.

Challenges: 999 Challenge, Non-Fiction Five Challenge Dewey Decimal Challenge,

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Vanishing of Katharina Linden

It's very fitting that my first post after the one about giving up on 2009 books is my thoughts on a 2009 book. :-)

The Vanishing of Katharina Linden is a book by Helen Grant, an English woman living in Brussels, which is where I live. The book was on display in our local bookstore and I loved the idea of finally getting to read a local author, since I don't read French or Dutch, so I bought it immediately. The story sounded good too, something about girls vanishing in a small German town. Spooky.

I wasn't expecting it to be a page-turner. But it was. I don't want to talk about the plot too much, not to give anything away, but it held my interest all the way through. The story is told by Pia, daughter of a German father and an English expat mother. Pia is around 17 when she tells the story but the events themselves take place when she is 10 years old and she and her family are living in a small picturesque German town.

The only thing I will say is that the book had me pretty scared, scared enough not to want to read it in the evenings if I was alone, because I tend to get nightmares... just because it's about a 10-year-old is it really a YA book??

Being an expat myself, I really liked that aspect of the story too - the way the English mother is portrayed as she tries to fit into German society, with the different customs and everything. There aren't many books that deal with this.

Anyway, I would totally recommend this one to you. I read it in no time and loved it - it's definitely going on my list of faves at the end of the year. Plus you'll be reading something that is probably not very well-known (yet) where you live, which makes things interesting too!

Challenges: 999 Challenge, Suspense and Thriller Challenge

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Giving up on 2009 books

I am very sad to have to write this, but I have to give up on trying to get my hands on books published in 2009. I really wanted to read some after realising at the end of last year that I didn't read a single book published in 2008. So I signed up for challenges like The Pub Challenge and the Countdown Challenge thinking I need to rectify this embarassing situation.

But... at the beginning of the year, all that was available was hardcovers... Now, I live in Belgium, where we have a couple of English bookstores, but they're not cheap. I tend to only buy books that are on their 3 for 2 offer and newly published novels never end up on that table. Amazon delivers here, of course, but those new books are still expensive... when you want to read around 10 of them, the prices will really add up.

Plus I tend to prefer paperbacks, but it looks like all the ones I really do want to read will only be out in paperback in 2010. And I don't want to spend loads of money on books I'm not sure I want to read.

We have a great library here, but they don't get the latest books right away.

Not even mentioning the fact that there are millions of books published before 2009 that I still depserately want to read, so it's not like I'll run out of ideas.

So there you have it. I'm abandoning this particular goal. Meaning that I'm bowing out of The Pub Challenge and the Countdown challenge - and I enjoyed the latter one very, very much.

Mind you, I won't be avoiding 2009 books if I see something interesting. I'm reading one now that is great and that I can't wait to tell you about. It's written by a local author too so it'll probably be new to you! :-)

I'll be waiting for all your reviews of this year's books and putting them on my list for next year!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Murder on a Bad Hair Day

Don't you just love the title? ;-) Murder on a Bad Hair Day is the second book in the Southern Sisters mystery series by Anne George. I read the first one for the Southern Reading Challenge last year, bought the second one immediately and haven't gotten around to reading it till now. Good thing the next installment of the Southern Reading Challenge is on now!

This series features 60-year-old sisters Patricia Anne and Mary Alice - lovable and eccentric characters who live in Alabama. They somehow manage to get themselves mixed up in trouble and this time the trouble involves 2 murders, a disappearance and an art gallery. It's a truly enjoyable mystery and the characters are great. It totally makes me want to go to Alabama, although I wonder if the reality resembles the lovely place in the book.

Recommended if you like reading mysteries... Thanks Joy for introducing me to this series!

Challenges: 2nds Challenge, 999 Challenge, Southern Reading Challenge, Suspense and Thriller Challenge, What's in a Name?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Wolves at the Gate

What can I say about volume 3 of these Buffy Season 8 comics, except that they're fabulous? I think this was my favorite installment so far - maybe I'm getting used to the comic format? I did find I was naturally reading the dialogue in order rather than reading it like I would a normal book!

I really can't say anything about the plot or the characters without giving some of it away, so I won't. Anyway, you'll probably never read these unless you're a Buffy fan already and if you are a Buffy fan already then I don't need to go on and on about what a genius Joss Whedon is.

Challenges: Graphic Novels Challenge, Countdown Challenge, 999 Challenge, My Year of Reading Dangerously

Monday, July 13, 2009

More challenges done

Chris at Stuff Dreams Are Made Of and Robin at A Fondness for Reading are hosting a very special challenge in honor of Dewey from The Hidden Side of A Leaf, who was a crucial part of the book-blogging community before she recently passed away.

The challenge was to read books that Dewey had reviewed on her own blog. I wanted to take the challenge one step further and read books that I heard of through Dewey, but it didn't really work out that way. I'll be keeping my original reading list for another time though!

Here's what I ended up reading:
Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

Kindred was the only book that I'd heard of through Dewey and it was my favorite of the lot. I can't wait to read more by this author!

Chris and Robin - this was a wonderful idea, thank you.


It's also the end of the It's the End of the World (As We Know It) challenge, hosted by Becky. I loved this challenge - I think these dystopian novels are a great genre for me somehow! I'm really glad that I discovered so many and look forward to read more - see my original list for ideas...

Here's what I read:
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
Messenger by Lois Lowry
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

I can't possibly choose a favorite between Atwood and Lowry... I love both these authors!

Thanks Becky, I loved doing this, looking forward to the next edition!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Girlfriend in a Coma

I think that Douglas Coupland may well become one of my favorite authors. I've heard so much about him over the years but never got around to reading anything. When my good friend Amy recently moved away and was getting rid of a bunch of books, I snagged a copy of Girlfriend in a Coma and here I am, beginning my Coupland adventure

The girlfriend in the title is Karen, girlfriend to Richard. Karen and Richard have first-time sex one December evening and later that night Karen loses consciousness and goes into a coma that lasts 17 years. She eventually wakes up to a world she hardly recognises and tries to continue on as normal, until a strange sleeping disease kills all of the population except her and her circle of friends. Strange? Definitely. But oh so original and gripping!

It's hard to talk about the story without giving too much away, but let me tell you that every time I thought I knew what was going on, something even stranger happened. I was expecting a different kind of story, but I was not expecting a commentary on modern life. I loved how Karen perceived the new modern world when she woke up - with all the advances and technological improvements making things more efficient, but with the world's inhabitants more empty than ever, with no goals and no soul.

Lots of commentary on the meaning of time and what happens when we don't slow down and appreciate it too...

Are all of Coupland's books like this, I wonder? I can't wait to find out!

Challenges: Every Month is a Holiday (Canada Day!), What's in a Name

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Some challenges finished and one not so much...

I'm proud to say that I'm already done with the Classics Challenge hosted by Trish! It actually runs until 31 October and required us to read 6 classics plus one book that is thought to become a classic. Classics are a weakness of mine so I enjoyed catching up a bit - even though what I read barely resembles my original plans... which had more serious/difficult/challenging classics than the ones I ended up with!

Here's what I read:
Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos
A Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Plus The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

My least favorite of the bunch was definitely Riders of the Purple Sage - I wanted to try a western but this genre is clearly not for me as I couldn't even finish this book! I enjoyed both the Agatha Christie and the first Sherlock Holmes story and loved The Little Prince as always. But the prize has to go to The Handmaid's Tale, which was original and beautifully written. I love Margaret Atwood!

Thanks Trish for hosting, looking forward to the next edition! :-)


I also completed the Centuries Challenge hosted by Becky. I had higher hopes for myself here too and here's what I ended up reading in the end:

Aesop's Fables by Aesop (c. 550 B.C.E. - Greece)
A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare (16th century)
Sleeping Beauty and Other Stories (17th century)
Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery (20th century)

Obviously Anne wins here, but then there isn't much out there that would beat Anne with an 'e'!

Thanks Becky - this was fun!


And I'm afraid that however much I wanted to finish the Spiritually Speaking Challenge hosted by Lilly from Reading Extravaganza, I got nowhere near the finish line - see my meager progress here and note that I do really, really want to read all those books at some point. Soon. :-)

Thanks anyway Lilly, I might have made it if it went on all year... or if I hadn't signed for every challenge known to man! ;-)

Friday, July 10, 2009

How I Live Now

I thought I should probably get around to writing down my thoughts about Meg Rosoff's How I Live Now before I forget them completely!

This is a book that got loads of attention in the blogoshpere at one point, one of those that everyone was reading and it consistently got good reviews. Perhaps my expectations were set a bit too high because of this and I didn't like it as much as I thought I would, nor as much as I wanted to.

The story is about American Daisy, who is sent over to England to stay with her cousins for a while and ends up having to live through war and occupation as England is invaded by an unnamed enemy. The cousins are separated as soldiers take over their house and are all sent off to work. Obviously the situations they have to live through are horrible and they need to all do a bit of growing to manage.

The storyline is interesting and after reading and absolutely loving Susan Beth Pfeffer's Life As We Knew It, I really, really thought I'd enjoy this. But. I did NOT like Daisy at all. I thought she was whiny and two-dimensional and I didn't really care what happened to her. Or to her cousins. And the relationship between her and cousing Edmond, with whom she falls in love, just creeped me out. It just seemed implausible and stretched and, well, creepy.

The ending was abrupt and didn't explain as much as I wanted to. I ended up feeling cheated!

Maybe I missed something, but I have to admit that I was very disappointed. Anyone else??

Challenges: A-Z, Dewey's Books, It's the End of the World

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I've gone off reading!

Can you believe that I was just at the library returning a stack of unread books and I couldn't find anything that I wanted to take home with me?? I think that all the new books I bought in the past year are overwhelming me... As you know, I seem to have gone off reading for a while anyway. And blogging too... I want to assure whoever still reads this that I do visit your blogs, even if I don't always comment. Just in a strange place at the moment.

Anyway, I'm about halfway through Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland, my first book by this author. He is fantastic!!

Hope you're all having a good summer and I hope to re-connect properly real soon. :-)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Wicked Lovely and another challenge down

Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely is my favorite audiobook so far. The narrator, Alyssa Bresnahan, was fantastic and totally brought the story to life for me. I will certainly look for other audiobooks that she has narrated.

Wicked Lovely was a great book. Magical and dark, fast-paced, with realistic characters that I really cared about. Ainsling is the story's central figure - she is not entirely a normal teenager, because she has 'the sight', meaning that she can see fairies. When she realises that a whole bunch of them are following her around and not letting go, a wondrous tale of the merging of two world unravels.

Although the setting is different, what with all the fairies around, the story has plenty of teenage issues, including young love. The development of Ainsling's and Seth's relationship is an aspect that I really enjoyed. The descriptions of the growing sexual tension between them and the problems related to their reluctance to do anything to ruin their friendship - well, it was beautiful. And refreshing!

Really, if you like fantasy then this is one for you. I loved the ending too, I was wondering how the author would resolve everything! I heard that the next book in this series, Ink Exchange, is even darker, but I think I'll have to try it anyway!

Challenges: YA Romance, 1st in a series, 999 Challenge, Audiobook Challenge


This book completes the YA Romance Challenge for me. It was hosted by Becky of Becky's Book Reviews and was great fun. I'm reading so much YA lately, so strange!

Here's what I read - to see my original plans, see my initial post.

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky
Sweethearts by Sara Zarr
Vegan Virgin Valentine by Carolyn Mackler
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr (scroll up for my thoughts)

I couldn't pick just one favorite, these were all good! I guess this genre just appeals to me! :-)

Thanks Becky for hosting, looking forward to the next edition!