Thursday, July 28, 2011

From Facebook to Here

I had been using an app on Facebook called "I'm Reading" to keep track of the books I'm reading, set aside or finished. Now with Facebook, it's main goal is to allow you the opportunity to show off. And this app was good for that... mostly. I don't know if it's the apps lack of proper development or maybe Facebook being a jerk (I'd tend to lean toward Facebook being the culprit considering not too long ago we added a "Share This" feature at work that would not work the way WE wanted it to because of Facebook nonsense, anyways...) but it wouldn't let me brag about the books I've read the way I wanted to. Also, the app only allows a limited character count for reviews and sometimes my rants require more than 1000 characters. So, to preserve what has already been published elsewhere and to combine everything in one place, I'm including all my mini reviews in this one post. I may, from time to time, revisit these books and expand upon them in the future but for now, here you go:

The Sun Over Breda (Captain Alatriste) by Arturo Perez-Reverte
2 Stars

It felt like the writer had a word quota to fill! There were too many references to past and future events that bored me at times, and made me forget what was going on (a war in Flanders and I should not be forgetting there’s a war going on!). These books are told from the point of view of fifteen year old, Inigo Balboa, who is Captain Alatriste’s “sidekick”. All I have to say my favorite parts of the book were when Inigo was not directly involved in two scenes with Captain Alatriste. This will not stop me from reading the other books in the series. I enjoyed the first two (full of action, intrigue and sword fights!) and have the fourth awaiting it’s turn. I do love the cover of this book. You can bend and fold the book and it still retains its shape with no creases! I am however disappointed that cover art was changed. My first three books have a similar style, where the fourth is different and does not match the other three! Pooey!

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
5 Stars

This book is worth reading for three characters: Sydney Carton, Madame Defarge and the city of Paris.

Sydney Carton, the tragic hero who I like to refer to as the “Original Snape”. Though this may have been pointed out on the internet before but I’m not going to bother looking for it.

Madame Defarge, with the knitting and watching, the simmering hatred and thirst for revenge that bursts and reveals its cruelty near the end.

Paris, on the eve and the start of the revolution, the sense of chaos and the passion for change from people long oppressed is felt.

It’s all very nail biting and palpable.

And of course this book has one of my favorite literary lines: “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

Free ebook version available here...

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
0 Stars

Put aside. Just wasn't feeling it after the drama and far superior A Tale of Two Cities.

Free ebook version available here...

Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini
5 Stars

I found a new favorite book and character! A fun, exciting story, full of intrigue, action, romance, pirates and a Caribbean setting with an intelligent character like Peter won't be able to put this story down! If you enjoy historical fiction along the lines of Richard Sharpe, Horatio Hornblower, Captain Alastriste, and Captain Jack Aubrey, then you'll enjoy the tale of Captain Blood as much as I did.

(Looking at this review I wrote I realize how it doesn't do this book justice. Please read! It's so so good!)

Free ebook version available here...

The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo by Stieg Larsson
0 Stars

Put aside. Got bored in the beginning but I'll return to give it another shot.

American Gods: A Novel by Neil Gaiman
3 Stars

Unfortunately I took a break from this book about half way through, so some events were forgotten from the beginning as I finished. There's references to many foreign gods and folklore. Being unfamiliar with many, I wasn't sure if some events were made up or if there were actual references to folklore. Some of the interactions between the characters made me wonder if they were driving the story forward, or if it was an important plot point or just a Tarantino Royal with Cheese conversation. Nothing wrong with that but I was confused whether the interactions were to bring these characters to life and show them in their everyday life, or did it have something to do with the overall theme of the story, that the clothes they wore, food they ate, things they said were all part of their god-like powers/folklore/myths that have been forgotten by the ancestors of the people who brought their gods with them as they settled in America. But Neil Gaiman has a way of writing that I enjoyed.

Unfortunately I took a break from this book about half way through, so some events were forgotten from the beginning as I finished. There's references to many foreign gods and folklore. Being unfamiliar with many, I wasn't sure if some events were made up or if there were actual references to folklore. Some of the interactions between the characters made me wonder if they were driving the story forward, or if it was an important plot point or just a Tarentino Royal with Cheese conversation. Nothing wrong with that but I was confused whether the interactions were to bring these characters to life and show them in their everyday life, or did it have something to do with the overall theme of the story, that the clothes they wore, food they ate, things they said were all part of their god-like powers/folklore/myths that have been forgotten by the ancestors of the people who brought their gods with them as they settled in America. But Neil Gaiman has a way of writing that I enjoyed.

Nina Garcia's Look Book: What to Wear for Every Occasion [Hardcover] by Nina Garcia (Author) and Ruben Toledo (Illustrator)
4 Stars

It may seem that Nina's suggestions on what to wear for every occasion may seem obvious. However, it's not just what you should wear but there are notes of encouragement she gives throughout the book that make it worth reading. It's a nice confidence booster and stylist wrapped up in a nice, colorfully illustrated package.

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary by David Sedaris
5 Stars

Who knew animals could be so manipulative, so insecure, so faithful, so self-centered... so like humans! I found myself slightly disturbed by the Aesop like stories. But I couldn't help but think that these vignettes were strangely familiar, like something I read in the news, or a friend of a friend who had a similar experience. After reading this, it'll make you stop and think before you say something that would make you sound or act some of the creatures in this book.

I enjoyed Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk and highly recommend it (for those with a sense of humor and not likely to be offended by much). This is definitely a book I will come back to for a reread. I'm also looking forward to reading more from David Sedaris.

I also have to point out that I loved the way this book was printed. I'm not a big fan of hardcover books, but this wasn't overwhelming large, with thick pages that were easy to turn. The illustrations were lovely too.

The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower, Book 1) by Stephen King
0 Stars

Set aside.

The Road Home by Jim Harrison
0 Stars

I put this aside to read Anne of Green Gables. I will return though I'm at a part in the book that I'm finding difficult to get through. The narrative has switched to another character and I'm starting not to like him very much. However, that could change once I come back to finish reading.

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. (Lucy Maud) Montgomery
5 Stars

Anne always makes me smile!

Free ebook version available here...

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1) by George R. R. Martin
5 Stars

Un. pre. dictable! That's what this book is and I LOVED it! I like George R. R. Martin's writing style. He just tells the story with just enough details to bring this world to life without getting too wordy.

The first part of the book was a lot of character introduction and moving those characters around. I was surprised that I found myself very engaged with these characters though not a whole lot was happening at first. But when the story started moving along I was sneaking in as much reading time as I could.

I had planned on reading a non-Martin book when I finished A Game of Thrones. But this guy left so many story lines unfinished that I had to run and get the second book to find out what happens next! Darn you George R. R. Martin! So many books to read... so little time!

A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire #2) by George R.R. Martin
5 Stars

No time to leave a review. Just trust me when I say READ IT! So so much happened and it just doesn't stop. Now off to read Book 3, A Storm of Swords! Thank goodness for ebooks and ereaders!

A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire #3) by George R.R. Martin
5 Stars

So much happened in this book it's crazy! Several fun twists, the body count continues to grow, people betraying one another... what's NOT to love!

(When I finished Book 3 I was so obsessed with the A Song of Ice and Fire series I had to take a break. I read A Storm of Swords in a week, reading almost a hundred pages a day, even during the work week! I was that obsessed and needed a break despite the 5th book having just been released and I still needed to read Book 4. But seriously, THIS book! Oh my goodness, thinking about it still gives me chills and I can't believe what happened! I'm horrified and angry but IT WAS SO AWESOME! Do not go to some wikipedia to find out what happens! READ IT!)

To Hell on a Fast Horse: The Untold Story of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett by Mark Lee Gardner
4 Stars

This was a very interesting read. It's a true telling of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, two very real men who have done some extraordinary things, and who will always be remembered together. After reading this I feel like reading, or even writing a dime store novel. But I don't think Pat Garrett would approve.


The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
5 Stars

I think the last time I read this book I was in high school. I forgot what made me want to pick up a copy two weeks ago but I'm glad I did. It's one of those comfortable books, like a pair of favorite jeans or a favorite stuffed toy. It's definitely a book that should be in everyone's collection. I read it over the weekend and it's as good as I remembered it. It's a classic YA novel. And of course, I CRIED! You would too! And if you didn't cry after reading this book, well, then you have ice water running through your veins! I won't forget you Johnnycake and Dally! Stay gold, Ponyboy!

Monday, July 25, 2011

To Read or Not To Read: King Solomon’s Mines

Since I was no longer feeling A Princess of Mars I went ebook browsing on my Sony Reader. Project Gutenberg is a great place to get free digital copies of books that are in the public domain so I have over seventy books saved. As I was browsing I came across Allan Quatermain by H. Rider Haggard and I thought I’d give it a try. Now, if you read something like this what would you do?:

“I have just buried my boy, my poor handsome boy of whom I was so proud, and my heart is broken. It is very hard having only one son to lose him thus, but God’s will be done.”

Right?! I was completely caught off guard and was drawn in thinking, Oh my goodness, this is so horribly sad, what happened? I read a few pages more and was feeling like I can get into this. Then I did some research on the internet and learned that Allan Quatermain was a sequel to King Solomon’s Mines. Never liking to start a series from the middle I began reading King Solomon’s Mines, intending to follow it up with Allan Quatermain. I probably should have stuck with Allan Quatermain. But then, it could turn out to be just like King Solomon’s Mines.

So what’s so wrong with King Solomon’s Mines. Well, I was first insulted by the DEDICATION of all things!:

“This faithful but unpretending record of a remarkable adventure is hereby respectfully dedicated by the narrator, Allan Quatermain, to all the big and little boys who read it.”

Big and little boys?! As if big and little girls would not enjoy this book?! As Stephanie Tanner would say, “How rude!” Then as I read further I began to understand why it was dedicated to “big and little boys”. They’re the only ones who believe themselves superior and like to hunt and kill animals for sport! This is such a product of the late 19th century; a well-to-do Englishman in South Africa who believes himself superior. I’m offended but at the same time think he doesn’t know better. Then I feel like I’m making excuses for the character, and in turn, the author. I don’t know what to think. I’m confused. But can I still enjoy the adventure? And what do I know of the author? Not much. Maybe he didn’t feel the way his character does and the character is based on someone he has met? And if I just stop reading am I the same as those who have tried to ban the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird? See? Still confused. But, as I have continued reading King Solomon’s Mines it has amused me immensely to make snarky notations whenever Allan Quatermain insults the intelligence of anyone who is not an Englishman. He calls them a Zulu even if they’re not! Even when he knows they’re not a Zulu!

Well, if King Solomon’s Mines gets to be too much for me I’ve got a backup. I’ve finally given in and picked up a copy of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Why did I wait so long? Battle Royale, The Running Man.. yeah, enough said. To be continued...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

To Read Or Not To Read: A Princess of Mars

Last week I started reading A Princess of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I feel bad saying this but I’m not feeling it. So far it’s been alright. It’s well written, too the point and moves at a nice steady pace.

I should want to read it. It’s a classic. I wasn’t that into A Tale of Two Cities at first but I’m glad I stuck with it because it got REALLY good in the second half. Maybe the same will happen with a Princess of Mars, but maybe not.

I really want to read it knowing the movie John Carter will be coming out next year and it’s directed by Andrew Stanton, who directed two Pixar movies: Finding Nemo and WALL-E. Then I watched the trailer and I didn’t feel anything for it. When I watched the teaser trailer for The Dark Knight Returns I was pretty excited even though I haven’t been a huge fan of the two previous Batman movies. When I saw The Three Musketeers trailer it angered me. The point is I felt something. With the John Carter trailer I felt nothing. I wasn’t impressed and I think it contributed to not wanting to continue reading A Princess of Mars.

But it wasn’t just the trailer. I was not feeling it even when I began. I was forcing myself to read it and I should have known better. Whenever I try to force myself to read something I lose interest, and not just in what I’m reading, but I lose interest when I try to read other books. Not good!

I love reading! I need a good book at all times! I’ll have to pause and return to A Princess of Mars when it’s the right time. It doesn’t feel good to be in a reading slump and I need to get out of it before it gets worse. Now, what to read... that is the question…

To be continued…

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Storytime With Venessa

An original story by Venessa. No script, no rehearsals. It's short and sweet... just like Venessa! Enjoy!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Harry Potter and Thank You Michelle for Your Persistence That I Should Read These Books to Become an Obsessed Potter Nerd

The weekend is over and if you haven’t seen Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2…WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?! In honor of the last movie, based on my favorite book of the series, I wanted to start my blog off right with my thoughts about the last Harry Potter movie EVER (No!)…

First, I have to comment on the whole HP 7.2 experience: Regal stinks (at least the Jacksonville theater we went to) and I’m dying to see this movie again at our AMC theater here in Tallahassee. I saw a Soccer Mom and an older lady, in her late sixties/early seventies, both wearing Mischief Managed t-shirts. How awesome is that?! Watching young and old and everyone in between filling up the theater was exciting to see. Then hearing those same young and old sniffling and cheering won’t be anything I’ll ever forget. It was a good crowd for a 12:50pm show time.

Now, how about them trailers? Yeah, I was a bit disappointed with what we got stuck with (in no particular order):

Hugo – What is this movie even about? Horrible trailer. NEXT.

The Dark Knight Rises – Yes, please! Gary Oldman FTW!

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows – I’ll see it but I get the feeling it won’t be as good as the first.

Some movie where elves wrapped a polar bear… moving on…

Rise of the Planet of the Apes – Andy Serkis! As Caesar! I'm totally seeing this movie!

Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (and in case you need it, SPOILER ALERT!):

  1. The Beginning. Yes, we know Voldemort has the Elder Wand, yadda yadda yadda, let’s get to the good stuff!

  1. Who do I speak to about renting Shell Cottage for the summer?

  1. Hermione as Bellatrix (or Helena Bonham Carter as Emma Watson), funny, but let’s move it along now because I'm really anxious to see the ...

  1. Dragon! The part I’m more excited about because vault, horcrux, treasure multiplying, yadda yadda yadda…

  1. Escape from Gingotts on the Dragon! Yes! The Dragon flying through the air was beautiful and one of two scenes from the whole movie that was truly lovely, cinematically.

  1. What in the world did they rub on their hands after getting out of the lake? Hand sanitizer? And don’t tell me Dittany because they’re hands looked fine to me and there was nothing about the treasure burning them like the book.

  1. Pale, British boys taking off their wet shirts does not compare to Thor. IT DOES NOT!

  1. I was okay with the explanation of the mirror. I guess.

  1. Neville Longbottom emerging from the tunnel behind Ariana’s portrait!

  1. Neville revealing Harry to everyone in the Room of Requirement. I almost started cheering! And did you notice the Harry Potter theme playing over that scene? I loved it!

  1. McGonagall dueling Snape! LOVE!

  1. The castle statues preparing to defend Hogwarts and McGonagall giddy with excitement when using that spell for the first time. I was giddy too!

  1. Establishing the defenses of the castle sent chills up my spine as I watched the “Magic”.

  1. Seeing Ron and Hermione in the Chamber of Secrets destroying the cup horcrux was fun since we only heard about it in the book.

  1. But why couldn’t Ron have just told Hermione he remembered what Harry said in Parseltongue to open the locket in Part 1? Talking in his sleep? Really? How would Ron have known that he was saying something like “I’d like fries with that” instead of assuming it was “Open the damn door”?

  1. Never cared about Ron and Hermione’s first kiss so moving on…

  1. Fiendfyre! And I like that Harry destroyed the tiara with the Basilisk fang instead of using the Fiendfyre. It makes more sense rather than stopping the momentum of the movie to explain what Fiendfyre was and what it could do, when the movie audience already knew Basilisk fangs could do the same thing.

  1. I was fine with the explanation of Harry able to sense the horcruxes when they were near. I was worried how they would find them knowing they had a good idea what the objects could be by the end of Book 6 but none of that was discussed in the 6th movie.

  1. I really enjoyed the whole battle sequence and how awesome was Kingsley blasting some Death Eater away?!

  1. Snape’s death was even more brutal than the book! But how else could you kill such a powerful and skillful Wizard? I thought this was done better in the movie than in the book and it made it that much harder to bear when…

  1. SNAPE TOLD HARRY HE HAS IS MOTHER’S EYES! We all knew this was coming. We all knew the significance of “Look at me.” But that one additional line pushed me over the Emotional Edge of No Return!

  1. Thank goodness Fred’s death happened off screen because see above…

  1. Then of course, the moment (or rather, memories) we were all waiting for… THE PRINCE’S TALE! A young Severus and Lily lying under the trees together. That quick scene alone was enough to convey how much Severus loved Lily. It was lovely, yet heartbreaking knowing how it all ends... with Severus holding Lily’s lifeless body! SERIOUSLY, HOW COULD YOU, MOVIE?! Didn’t you already push me off the edge after the “You have your mother’s eyes” line?

  1. AND THEN THE FOREST AGAIN! And thank goodness for waterproof mascara!

  1. When reading the Deathly Hallows, it was always hard to imagine what that piece of Voldemort’s soul - that had been in Harry - looked like, so I was very pleased with the way it was interpreted in the movie: slightly indecent (just as Harry described it in the book), disturbing and grotesque.

  1. I like how the camera lingered on Narcissa Malfoy when she discovered Harry was still alive. Would she tell Voldemort? The Malfoy’s fate, I believe, hinged on her decision and I liked that the movie showed how that one decision was another contributing factor to the weakening of Voldemort’s power.

  1. I would have loved a “Dumbledore’s Army!” from Neville but his touching speech as he took a stand against Voldemort worked for me.

  1. Molly and Bellatrix duel! I would have liked a longer duel but then again, it wasn’t that long in the book either and Bellatrix still lost so I’m a happy camper.

  1. I liked that Nagini was loose and attacking while Ron and Hermione tried to destroy it with the Basilisk fang. It just made it that much more exciting when Neville chopped it’s head off with the Sword of Gryffindor!

  1. Harry vs. Voldemort: Extended Dueling Edition!

  1. But that took them away from the heat of the continuing battle and only Harry witnessed Voldemort’s death, which weakened the whole point that this was not just Harry’s fight but the whole Wizarding Community’s.

  1. Epilogue was alright. I got teary eyed when Harry reminded Albus Severus he was named after the bravest man Harry knew and when the movie faded out because IT WAS THE END! NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

Overall I really, really liked the movie. Neville needs his own Indiana Jones-like action adventure and I’m calling it now: Alan Rickman receiving his first Academy Award nomination and winning! OR ELSE. Is it too early to start talking about a reboot?