Twilight Saga

I'm having a bit of a slow week, blogging wise; the reading's getting done, but I'm falling down on the reviewing side of things. The problem is that this week I read Stephenie Meyer's New Moon and Eclipse... how do I write a review for books that practically everybody in the entire world (or at least the reading/blogging world) has already read and reviewed themselves?

Well I've decided to simply not.*

I liked the books, and enjoyed New Moon best of the three (haven't read Breaking Dawn yet). By now you've probably already made up your mind as to whether or not you're going to read the Twilight saga, and don't really need me to sway you either way.

Happy reading!

*I feel like such a cheater.

Musing Monday (Nov. 24)

Well I'm very excited to be writing up my first go around at Monday Musings - I hope the questions are up to snuff and that I don't overlap with previous weeks - though I'm sure you'll let me know if I do!

How do you feel about wide-spread reading phenomenons - Harry Potter, for instance, or the more current Twilight Saga? Are these books so widely read for a reason, or merely fads or crazes? Do you feel compelled to read - or NOT to read - these books because everyone else is?

Pleave a comment with the link to either your own Musing Mondays post, or share your answer here (if you don’t have a blog). Thanks!

I don't know about the rest of you, but I tend to think that if a book (film, issue, whatever) is receiving public opinion, then it's probably for a reason - whether good or bad. And it's really hard to have an opinion on these these if I haven't read them myself ... and what can I say, I like to have an opinion! I don't necessarily feel 'compelled' or 'required' to read such books, but the community aspect that comes from having done so is always nice.

I remember when the Harry Potter series was in it's first wave of insane popularity. I remember being so excited to see little kids (though, to be honest, they probably weren't all that much younger than I was at the time) reading - and so voraciously. The excitement that surrounded the reading of these books was amazing - and still is.

Twilight would definately have to be the HP of the moment. I hadn't intended to read the series at first, but was told quite firmly that I "had too", "simply MUST" read these books by the kids I had for my first prac this year. Every week they'd check - "Have you read it yet???" I figured I had to just to get some peace - so I guess there was some compelling there...

I like the same community aspect that has grown up around these books (though it's definately narrower that that of HP). I went on an excursion with some Year 12 students from my second prac this week and every time we stopped for a drink or a break of any kind (even when we didn't stop) they'd all gather around each other - "where are you up too?", "oooh, the next part's GOOOOD!", "don't you just love it when...", "...yeah, she likes the kissing parts too."

I guess the difference between a fad or a craze and a phenomenon or cult classic is it's staying power - and that only time can tell.
Storm Front
Jim Butcher
341 pages; published 2000

My name is Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden. Conjure by it at your own risk. I’m a wizard. I work out of an office in midtown Chicago. As far as I know, I’m the only openly practicing professional wizard in the country. You can find me in the yellow pages, under ‘Wizards.’ Believe it or not, I’m the only one there. My ad looks like this:


Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations.

Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates.

No Love Potions, Endless Purses, Parties, or Other


You’d be surprised how many people call just to ask me if I’m serious. But then, if you’d seen the things I’d seen, if you knew half of what I knew, you’d wonder how anyone could not think I was serious. (2-3)

When I come across a review of a book I find interesting it goes on a list (one that gets a little on the long side from time to time) until I can it down. As such, a lot of the time I borrow a book from the library no longer remembering why it was I wanted to read it in the first place – Storm Front, the first book of Jim Butcher’s ‘Dresden Files’ series, was one such book.

As soon as I started reading however, it came swooping back.
Harry Dresden is a professional wizard, hiring himself out as a private detective and police consultant to pay his rent and make his way in life. At the start of the book, Harry is somewhat lacking on the monetary front and takes in two assignments – one tracking down a quiet wife’s missing husband, and another consulting on magical murder case with the Chicago P.D.
It is with the murder case that most of the book is concerned, especially when Dresden himself becomes a suspect.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish – attracting many a strange look for my outright laughter. Told entirely in the first person, Harry’s voice is frank, honest, and downright hilarious.

Paranoid? Probably. But just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that there isn’t an invisible demon about to eat your face. (9)
I did feel, in parts, that this book was trying to set up a lot for the future books, and as such didn’t guy into the depth I would have liked – but as there are several books to follow, this is natural and forgivable.

Other Reviews

BTT: Honesty

I receive a lot of review books, but I have never once told lies about the book just because I got a free copy of it. However, some authors seem to feel that if they send you a copy of their book for free, you should give it a positive review.

Do you think reviewers are obligated to put up a good review of a book, even if they don’t like it? Have we come to a point where reviewers *need* to put up disclaimers to (hopefully) save themselves from being harassed by unhappy authors who get negative reviews?

I don't receive any free advance copies from either authors or publishers (though, hey, if anyone wants to send me some, I wouldn't be saying no!) so I don't feel that I have that pressure to provide a good review.
Having said that, in the reviews that I do write, I don't feel that I MUST write glowing reviews - if I don't like something, I'll say so - but I do feel that constructive criticism is the way to go. Flaming and all-out meanness, no matter where or how I got the book, isn't the way to go. Regardless of how I feel about the book, it's still someone's work. I wouldn't want someone overtly trashing something I'd spent a lot of time on.
The Last Lecture
Randy Pausch
206 pages; published 2008

I wasn’t in a suit. I wore no tie. I wasn’t going to get up there in some professorial tweed jacket with leather elbow patches. Instead, I had chosen to give my lecture wearing the most appropriate childhood-dream garb I could find in my closet.

Granted, at first glanced I looked like the guy who’d take your order at a fast-food drive through. But actually, the logo on my short-sleeved polo shirt was an emblem of honor because it’s the one worn by Walt Disney Imagineers – the artists, writers and engineers who create theme-park fantasies. In 1995, I spent a six-month sabbatical as an Imagineer. It was a highlight of my life, the fulfilment of a childhood dream. That’s why I was also wearing the oval “Randy” name badge given to me when I worked at Disney. I was paying tribute to that life experience, and to Walt Disney himself, who famously had said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” (16)

Generally speaking, I’m not a big reader of non-fiction. In fact, with the exception of the occasional book of essays and a biography or two (usually only one or two a year), my reading is almost entirely fiction. Despite this, my cousin (who, admittedly, seems to read more non-fiction than I do) and I both suggested this book for our book club.

The books title, ‘The Last Lecture’ refers to a series of lectures given by respected professors in which they are asked to “consider their demise and to ruminate on what matters most to them” (3). Randy Pausch was one such professor – a computer science professor a Carnegie Mellon University. What makes Randy’s lecture unique, however, is that it is truly to be his last lecture. Having been diagnosed with terminal cancer, Pausch’s took the opportunity presented through the tradition of the last lecture to impart some of his heart-felt wisdom and advice as well as, quite touchingly, preserve a part of himself for his wife and children.

Titling his lecture “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”, Pausch presents his lecture in a manner that is both honest and moving. Part autobiographical, part humour-filled wisdom, he delivers a wealth of common sense knowledge and life-experiences to his audience – yet so comfortably, so familiarly, that one can’t help but imagine the day his children are old enough to listen to his lecture, to pick up this book and read their father’s words.

While reading this book I laughed, and I cried – both in equal measure. Read the book for yourself. It is guaranteed to make you reconsider you smile, to make you think, to make you reconsider the time you have left. Randy Pausch thought he had all the time in the world. He didn’t. This is the legacy he leaves, in lieu of that time. 5/5

Purchase The Last Lecture here.

Other Reviews
Have you written a review for this book? I would love to include it, comment below and I'll add your link!
TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!
"Toot streaked out over Lake Michigan's waters again, a miniature silver comet, and vanished in a twinkling, just like Santa Claus. Though I should say that Santa is a much bigger and more powerful faery than Toot, and I don't know his true name anyway." (75)

The Dresden Files, Book 1: Storm Front

Jim Butcher

Monday Musings

As of Monday next week, I will be hosting the Musing Mondays feature previously found at MizB's Should Be Reading. MizB has felt the time has come to pass the feature on to someone else and I am very happy to be picking up her hat - I only hope I can do it justice.

I'd like to thank both her for the opportunity to do this, as well as those of you who have already been kind enough to welcome me so warmly - thanks, and I'll see you all on Monday!

Lookie, another list book...

1000 Books to Change Your Life
Jonathan Derbyshire (ed.)
280 pages; published 2007

… there are lots of books around that suggest that […] tell you both how to read and what to read; books that prescribe a canon of great works and then tell you how to go about extracting the ore of significant meaning from them.

But we’ve no intention of being anywhere near so prescriptive. Not because we’re sceptical of the existence of literary value – we’re quite sure you can tell a good book from a bad one – but more because we’re unsure that most people’s reading habits are suited to the kind of strenuous mind-expansion programmes recommended by the latter-day zealots of what used to be called ‘improving’ literature.” (7)

Any regular readers of this blog, or anyone who knows me in the slightest, is aware of my list fixation – in fact, if you do, you probably take part of the gentle but constant teasing of the same. So when I saw this book, "Time Out" 1000 Books to Change Your Life, my fingers itched till it made its way to my shopping cart. It was not, however, what I had expected.

I expected something along the lines of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die – something that was, in essence, a list of 1000 books, perhaps with some contextual information and a bit of a blurb. I was pleasantly surprised with what I found.

1000 Books takes Shakespeare’s ‘Seven Ages of Man’ speech from As You Like It as it’s basic format, breaking the book up into seven main sections – birth, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, middle age, old age, and death. Within each of these sections are various essays, recommendations from known authors, and various suggestion lists based around a topic – ‘birth and motherhood’, ‘siblings’, ‘illicit liaisons’ and ‘mid-life crises’, just to name a few.

The book was an interestingly engaging read, suited to both a long perusal or picking it up for essay or two here or there. It was well written and the suggestions of books were fresh and wide-spread. A welcome contribution to any book collectors (or list collectors) shelf. 4/5

Other Reviews
Have you written a review for this book? I would love to include it, comment below and I'll add your link!

Monday Musings 17/11

Right now I'm reading the first book in Jim Butcher's 'Dresden Files' series, Storm Front. I'm not far into it so can't tell you too much, but from what I've gathered so far, it's about a professional wizard who gets contracted as a consultant to the Chicago PD to help solve a magical homocide.

I'm also working my way through the Chronicles of Narnia - I'm up the A Horse and his Boy

I just finished reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which I haven't written a review for yet (though I'm sure everyone knows the story). I enjoyed it a great deal more than The Magician's Nephew.

Hmmm, well I should read Jeffrey Eugenides Middlesex next (next in line for my book club), but I think I'll go for Neil Gaiman's American Gods, as it's been sitting on my bookshelf for a while, and staring at me in an attempt to make me feel guilty.

Our bookclub is thinking of doing a holiday themed book for December ... but we haven't quite decided yet. But I will be reading Little Women soon - which, while not exactly a 'holiday-themed' book, is in fact MY Christmas book. It's the one I pull out every year to read under the Christmas tree.

Remembering the Babysitter's Club

Whenever anybody asks me what my favourite books were to read as a kid, I never even hesitate: Little Women, Heidi, A Little Princess and The Secret Garden ... but maybe I remember these so strongly as my favourites because I enjoy them still. They're favourites that have endured. However there was also a whole stack of books that I read over and over that rarely get a mention, and I can only assume that it's because they're not books that I read today. These are, of course, Ann M. Martin's The Babysitter's Club and Babysitter's Little Sister series.

Yesterday my mother saw me updating my book records and, after a brief round of light teasing, asked if I had included all the Babysitter books I had read when I was younger. The fact is, I had never even considered adding them. Little Women was there, for sure, as was Heidi and a whole range of childhood favourites. I don't even hesitate to add any child or young adult books that I read today, so why ignore all those books that I had read then?

My day today (never let it be said that I don't use my holidays productively) was spent reading through the complete lists of books in the Babysitter's Club and Little Sister series, to see just how many I remembered and which ones I felt secure in adding to my list ... who would have thought I would remember so many of them?

Reading these lists, I was flooded with memories of reading these books: feeling so lucky when I was allowed to order new ones through the school book club; taking my little clipboard to the public library and ticking off the numbers I was borrowing (yes, I was a list freak even then); sitting propped up in bed reading through a pile of them and running out to my mother at the start of every chapter because I couldn't read the cursive journal entries.

One of my favourite memories however is sitting down in the corner of of my older cousin's room (who I remember as being just so cool! and she had so many books!) and running my fingers along the bottom rows of her bookshelf where she kept her own collection of these books. I remember so vividly the day she bequeathed her collection to me. I can actually see the piles of books sitting in stacks under my bed - it was so exciting!

What surprised me most about today's activities is just how much of the details I remembered from all those years ago. Character's names, families, the tiniest details just hit me. I remembered Mary Ann (who was always my favourite) receiving a mustard seed necklace, I remember Claudia's oh-so-cool high top sneakers and Kristy's ever present jeans. I spared a laugh for Mallory's notebook carrying (what can I say, I'm more impressionable than I realise), and one for myself when I remembered how grown-up and important these thirteen-year-old girls seemed to me when I was young.

I've ended my day with a real desire to reread these books, to see how I would view them now. I may just have to head off to the library tomorrow ... I wonder if I can find my old shiny green clipboard?

BTT: Why Buy?

I’ve asked, in the past, about whether you more often buy your books, or get them from libraries. What I want to know today, is, WHY BUY?
Even if you are a die-hard fan of the public library system, I’m betting you have at least ONE permanent resident of your bookshelves in your house. I’m betting that no real book-lover can go through life without owning at least one book. So … why that one? What made you buy the books that you actually own, even though your usual preference is to borrow and return them?

If you usually buy your books, tell me why. Why buy instead of borrow? Why shell out your hard-earned dollars for something you could get for free?

I never buy any books at all. I borrow all my books from the library, every single one.
Don't believe me?
Yeah, no, me neither.
I'm definately both a book-buyer and a book borrower. I love the library and rarely a week goes by where I don't go in and borrow a few books - I usually have between 12-18 books out at any one time, reading and borrowing on rotation. Any book I read a good review of gets looked up through my libraries and, if possible, borrowed out that way.
However there is nothing like having a book of your own - having it on your own shelf, being able to read it when and where you like, 24-hour access for reference and general hugging ... what? only me? okay...
At the end of the day I try to reserve my book buying for:
  • books I REALLY REALLY want to read
  • books I've read, loved, and want to read
  • books I can't find in the library but have to read anyway
  • books that I didn't mean to buy but where just to hard too resist when I was in the store and had them in my hands.
The Declaration
Gemma Malley
301 pages; published 2007

… journals and writing were forbidden at Grange Hall. Surpluses were not there to read and write; they were there to learn and work, Mrs Pincent told them regularly. She said that things would be much easier if they didn’t have to teach them to read and write in the first place, because reading and writing were a dangerous business; they made you think, and Surpluses who thought too much were useless and difficult. (16)

Science has made the leap to curing heart disease, it has cured aids, it has cured cancer. And now it has cured death. With the invention of a new drug called ‘Longevity’ people can literally life forever.

With such drastic advancements, however, come equally drastic restrictions. With no people leaving the planet, there is no room for any new ones and so the Declaration is formed: a legal document that outlaws the birth of any child from parents taking Longevity. Any such child is an illegal “surplus”, a drain on the planets resources, thieving of a life they were not allotted.

Anna is one such surplus. A prefect at Grange Hall, part orphanage-part drilling facility, Anna is everything a surplus should be: she works hard, accepts any and all punishment (no matter how harsh), hates her criminal parents, and desires above all else to be a Valuable Asset. All she wants to do is prove useful, to remove some small degree of the shame and sin her parents had lumped her with. She “Knows Her Place.”

When the Catchers apprehend Peter, a sixteen year old surplus, and deliver him to Grange Hall, Anna’s orderly life meets an unexpected turn. Illegals aren’t normally caught so late in life and Peter has known too much of freedom to give it up so willingly.

But there are other things Peter knows, too. Like that Anna’s parents never wanted to give her up. That her name isn’t “Surplus Anna” but Anna Covey. And, most dangerous of all, that there’s a way to escape from Grange Hall…

The Declaration, Malley’s first novel (her second, The Resistance, a sequel to Declaration was published in September) was an intriguing read, questioning life and who has the right to it. Anna’s voice, so heavily indoctrinated in the dogma of this dystopian society, so believing of her own worthlessness was painfully touching in parts. An interesting exploration of a world in which the rights to a child, not to mention of the child, are virtually non-existent. Definitely recommended. 4.5/5

Purchase The Declaration here.

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