Top 20 Countdown Tuesday, Aug 31 2010 

As of August 31, 2010, the New York Times Bestseller List includes some alluring titles–and even shares some of the books on my reading list. Very nice, very nice. So, for my twentieth post, I think I am going to make a list. Anyone who knows me can tell you how much I love making lists–it wasn’t in my 5o Things About Me blog–but a definite now-you-know.

In fact, I think I like this list idea so much, I might have to do it at the end of every month. Instead of it being a Top 20, maybe I’ll make it the Top 10 of “insert month here.” Categories include Hardcover Nonfiction, Hardcover Fiction, Paperback Nonfiction, Paperback Trade Fiction, and Paperback Mass-Market Fiction. I took the first four of each section. Click here to view complete lists for each category.  Anyway, lists, lists, lists.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Shit My Dad Says by Justin Halpern
2. Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert
3. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
4. Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Postcard Killers by James Patterson and Liza Marklund
2. The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson
3. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
4. The Cobra by Frederick Forsyth

Paperback Trade Fiction:
1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
2. The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
3. Little Bee by Chris Cleave
4. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Paperback Mass-Market Fiction:
1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
2. The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
3. Ford County by John Grisham
4. Charlie St. Cloud by Ben Sherwood

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
2. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
3. Where Men Win Glory by Jon Krakauer
4. My Horizontal Life by Chelsea Handler

Reading Questionnaire Sunday, Aug 29 2010 

Soo I browsed around. Found this nifty little questionnaire–I like them. They are in list form and not complicated. Anyway, I am in the process of getting ready for school to start up again–this means my entries, already fairly slow, will now be extremely slow.

READING BACKGROUND:

Do you remember learning to read? What early memories of learning to read stand out in your mind?
I actually don’t remember. For as long as I can remember I’ve been reading. I remember looking at pictures and then being able to read… but I don’t remember the learning process. So sad… the process of learnin to read is so frustrating for some–I often wonder how it was for me.

Did you like to read when you were a child?
I think I did. For awhile I preferred to be read to–but when I began to really get into reading, there was no stopping me from reading multiple books of varying genres at a time.

Did your parents or other adults read to you a lot when you were little? Do you remember any favorite storybooks?
My mum read to me while I was in the womb and then to put me to sleep at night. I loved the Golden books that were about everything from Disney stories to expanded story rhymes.

Do your parents read often?  What do they read?
My mum doesn’t read as much as she used to because she’s a tad busy with life. She likes novels by Nora Roberts and I believe she is reading Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden right now.

Do you like to read for pleasure at all? If so, what kinds of things do you read?
I love to read all kinds of genres–historical fiction and nonfiction, supernatural, true crime, psychological thrillers, Harry Potter. Alot of variety. 🙂

If you do not like reading, when did you begin to dislike or have trouble with reading?
I’ve never disliked reading–that I know of. It was frustrating when I began reading ethnic literature and I wasn’t sure how certain words were pronounced. But I love the challenge of learning a foreign language. 

Estimate the number of books you own.  How many of those books matter to you?
Oh. I think that I own approximately 200 books, maybe a little less. They all matter to me. I’ve received them through family and friends.

Estimate the number of books in your household.
I could not even begin to tell you. There are four other people who live here currently. 🙂

What are some of your personal interests?  Do you remember reading anything in connection with any of these interests?  Explain.
History–particularly the Tudor time period, psychology, criminology, supernatural phenomena. I read about the things I am interested in. 🙂

Will improving your reading skills be helpful to you?  Why or why not?
I major in English, so if I were to improving anything–whether it be reading or writing, whatever–it is always a good. Always room for improvement.

 READING SPEED:

Do you consider yourself a slow or a fast reader?
It depends on what I am reading. There are some novels where I read slowly because I want to take in all of the details. There are other novels where it  takes me only a couple of hours–say… Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyers.

What kinds of reading have you had  trouble finishing in school?
Two particular novels that gave me hell would be Moby Dick by Herman Melville, and Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe.

Do you spend a lot of time re-reading? Do you ever give up on reading assignments because they take too long? Explain.
It really depends on how boring the novel is. If it is really good, no re-reading necessary. Now, if it bores me to tears… say Moby Dick and Robinson Crusoethere is A LOT of re-reading.

 READING CONCENTRATION:

Do you have trouble staying focused while you read? Explain.
If it is boring, it is difficult to stay focused. If I am extremely stressed about something, then it is also difficult to stay on track.

Do you often find yourself thinking of other things as you read? Try to explain what you experience when you are trying to read.
Reading is my all expense paid vacation from reality, whenever, wherever. When I am reading a novel or short story, I am there and nowhere else.

When you read at home or school, do you have trouble blocking out distractions, such as noise? Do you listen to music or watch TV when you are studying or reading?
I love my family, but they are LOUD. 🙂
Living with them has allowed me the ability to multi-task and/or block out the background noise, haha.

READING COMPREHENSION:
What kinds of reading material do you find most difficult to understand? Why do you think these types of reading are difficult for you?
Anything math and/or science related in regards to biology, chemistry, physics, etc. Biology becomes easier as I grow older. These forms do not interest me, so I get bored, in turn, it is not easy for me to understand.

Do you ever feel that you are understanding while you are reading, but are unable to remember the information once you are done? Explain.
I remember a good deal of everything, even if I do not want to. If I understand it, I remember it. If there is some difficulty involved, I remember it, but there is also a greater need to remember it so I can work towards understanding whatever it might be.

Do you visualize, or see pictures in your head, while you are reading? What kinds of reading material do you find easiest to visualize?
Seeing. For me, visualizing things in my head is part of the beauty of reading. There is not an exact science and label to everything. The author says something is tall or blue–how tall and how light or dark is the blue? Reading is one of those things where I love a grey area because it allows me to see things how I would see them. I believe anything can be visualized in your head. 🙂

Vampire Academy Wednesday, Aug 25 2010 

“She became a Strigoi, Rose.” (241)

Five hours. Total time it took to read Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy. Incredibly quick read, but an incredibly good book. I could not put it down. Okay,  I put it down a couple of times so I could move around. This might sound familiar, but I have never read a novel like it. It is different from what I have read and definitely different than the Blue Bloods series. I’m not going to lie–I love the idea that Montana (of all places) has a hidden area where vampire teens and their companions go to school.

Mead takes a different approach to vampires and their companions. The main character’s name is Rose Hathaway–half-human, half-vampire–a dhampir. Her best friend is Lissa Dragomir–a Moroi princess–Moroi being mortal vampires. In Mead’s world, there are two kinds of vampires: Moroi, good; Strigoi, evil. A dhampir’s purpose is to protect a Moroi royal. Personally, I’ve never heard of mortal vampires and vampire guardians–but I think it is fantastic!

Character development is very high in this novel–and as such, I hope so in the rest of the series. I am all for the relationships that are forming: Lissa/Christian and Rose/Dimitri. I look forward to future novels, partly for these couples, and partly because I like the plots. Lissa and Christian understand each other because they are the last in their line, everyone else has passed on. Then there is Rose and Dimitri. Hmm… Dimitri Belikov. I am not sure what is to happen with this pair, but I love them together! Don’t know why–maybe it is the older guy thing–the maturity and knowledge that younger males seem to… lack. Ahm. Anyway, the romantic relationships are not nearly as complicated in Vampire Academy as in the Blue Bloods series. Don’t get me wrong–love them both and really love the complications as an outside looking in–that’s it. 🙂

”’That’s part of it, ‘ he said. ‘But also… well, you and I will both be Lissa’s guardians someday. I need to protect her at all costs. If a pack of Strigoi come, I need to throw my body between them and her.'” (324)

I think I will introduce this series to my sister. That is, if she hasn’t already discovered them. So–I like Mead’s storytelling and characters. I’m giving Vampire Academy a 3.4/4 out of 5. I really wish I had come across this series earlier than now.

The Face of Deception Tuesday, Aug 24 2010 

“She shook her head. ‘It’s too bizarre. It couldn’t be pulled off with Chadbourne anymore than with Kennedy. The office is too public.'” (142)

Well, the title says it all. Iris Johansen did an amazing job writing her characters and pulling the story together the way she did. I love a good conspiracy theory and this novel delivered those lovely qualities. Murder. Sex. Lies. It was quintessential conspiracy. It involved my favorite one of all–The Kennedy Family–America’s Royal Family. Was Kennedy really assassinated by Oswald or others? Where is his brain? Etc. Learning more and more about me every entry, aren’t we? Anyway…

Due to the importance of body language, specifically within this novel, I should mention the following. I have been told that it is difficult to read me–and sometimes I am greatful it is that way. But that is another story altogether. Reading body language is fascinating and I have  started trying to do just that. The direction of someone’s feet and their shoulders, eye movements, or lack of movement, the scratch of a nose or ear lobe. It might be totally horrible to do that, but hey, it is entertaining. In any case, I loved Johansen’s use of body language when describing the antagonists and protagonists.

Speaking of protagonists, Eve Duncan is a forensic sculptor. Most of the time, many authors spend the first few chapters giving you some kind of backstory to the character. That does not happen here. Duncan tells her story without the help of Johansen. It was kind of funny how greatly I connected with Eve and the correlations between her mother and mine. Granted–yes, I know, they are characters, but that does not stop what you feel when reading a novel. I think it is so important to draw connections between yourself and a character, that way, you enjoy the novel more than others. Now, if you are the kind of person who, after watching an action movie with lots of explosions and/or read a book with lots of action finds themselves wanting to pull off the stunts made visually and mentally available, I’d suggest staying far away from these book. Just saying. We don’t need a speed boat accident.

I enjoyed Eve’s desire to find her daughter who has been missing for eight years. That sounds horrible, but you can tell a mother (who has a sick kick for action) has written this novel. On a higher note, I can’t wait to begin reading the next novel. Granetd, I have read Killing Game before, so it it will be a different experience reading that novel than it was for never having read The Face of Deception. So, I am giving The Face of Deception a 3.5/4 out of 5. Well written and perfectly planned out.

The Van Alen Legacy Friday, Aug 20 2010 

“When you had lived for thousands of years, going through your memories was like trying to find a contact lens in a pile of glass” (51).

Warning: Spoilers ahead. I’m not going to lie–I screamed when this came in at the library. And my friends, it did not disappoint. I–for the FIRST TIME EVER–wanted to be caught making my suprise face. Crazy probably–damn near scared Amanda. 🙂 So much happened in this novel, it  is definitely more jam packed than the first three: Blue Bloods, Masquerade, and Revelations. I did not put it down except to go to sleep–it only took me a day to finish 368 pages of speechlessness.

I was not sure what to think about each chapter belonging to the three central female characters: Schuyler, Bliss, and Mimi. However, prior to this post I would have spit at the character named Mimi–evil. This novel changed all of that. I can’t tell you why–just that you may or may not, depending on your tolerance level, have more patience with her during Misguided Angel.

And then there’s Jack Force. Dude! Why, why, why! I spent the first part of his appearance banging my head against a wall because Schuyler had already made a choice–it was not okay. So frustrating. I will not be shy about this though–I’ve secretly been rooting for Jack and Schuyler since he made his first appearance in Blue Bloods. All I’m going to say is this: If my love life ever becomes three-people complicated, Houston, we will have a problem. I need to find someone who has read this book so I can gush over it with them–I know, I know–how teen-like. I don’t care. :) Shout out to my friend, Kala: Girl, hurry and read these books!!!

Onto my homegirl, Schuyler. I’m so happy she has been able to learn the use of her powers in the year she and Oliver have been on the run. I feel bad for her though–Jack and Oliver. Same story, different day. I think it is just a matter of of getting to the events that will FORCE her to make a final decision… or maybe someone can make one for her. How do you say complicated: We have a Mimi, Jack, Schuyler triangle. Then we have a Oliver, Schuyler, Jack triangle. Oh goodness!!

I just can’t get over the use of biblical references and historical events. Anyone who knows me can tell you that I love almost anything history–European history–America is too young. But to mix Bible stories with historical events–Oh my God–match made in Heaven. Props to you, de la Cruz–you are amazing.

On another note, this novel holds true to the quotes at the very beginning of the novel:

The murdered do haunt their murderers.
– Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights

I’ve been sleeping a thousand years it seems, got to open my eyes to everything….
– Evanescence, “Bring Me to Life”

In that, I was quite content to find out that two characters have made a return. Granted, one of them did not make a permanent return–RIP Dylan. I am glad those Silver Bloods can do no more harm to you. And I will not say the other character’s name–you will definitely have to read this novel to discover that information.

There has been a great deal of character development. It has been so touching to see characters make choices they would not have had to make a year ago. De la Cruz has written her characters well. I am really, truly excited for Misguided Angel–the fifth and possibly final book in the series. Loose ends are being tied up and one day, I will re-read the Blue Bloods series; pulling my own loose ends of the novel together. For more information on the books and any spin-offs, click here. The Van Alen Legacy gets a 4 out of 5. Superb writing.

“Thank you for loving me enough to let me go” (365).

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