Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Tenth 10

This group's number one book was an easy choice. I tend to read a lot of young adult fiction, particularly the sci-fi dystopian kind, and Divergent was a great start to what looks to be an awesome series. I'm really looking forward to the rest of the books as they come out. Also of note is the Dairy Queen series, about a football and basketball-playing girl from Wisconsin. DJ is something special, and is a character girls can really look up to as a role model. One more at the top: Hot Guys and Baby Animals. Seriously, do you need another nudge to go get that one? You won't regret it. ;)

1 | Divergent  Veronica Roth  [Book 1 of the Divergent series]

2 | The Off Season  Catherine Gilbert Murdock  [Book 2 of the Dairy Queen series]

3 | Hot Guys and Baby Animals  Carolyn Newman and Audrey Khuner

4 | Front and Center  Catherine Gilbert Murdock  [Book 3 of the Dairy Queen series]

5 | Uncommon Criminals  Ally Carter  [Book 2 of the Heist Society series]

6 | Dairy Queen  Catherine Gilbert Murdock [Book 1 of the Dairy Queen series]

7 | Liesl and Po  Lauren Oliver

8 | Crossed  Ally Condie  [Book 2 of the Matched series]

9 | Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks  Lauren Myracle

10 | The Catcher in the Rye  J.D. Salinger

And with that, 2011 in reading is over. I barely made it to 100, but I did! Keep watching for my year in reading wrap up post.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Ninth 10

Michael J. Fox. He is amazing. That is all.

1 | Lucky Man  Michael J. Fox

2 | Level Up  Gene Luen Yang and Thien Pham

3 | Skip Beat!, Volume 25  Yoshiki Nakamura

4 | Un Lun Dun  China Mieville

5 | The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie  Alan Bradley  [Book 1 of the Flavia de Luce series]

6 | Hourglass  Myra McEntire  [Book 1 of the Hourglass series]

7 | Cleopatra  Stacy Schiff

8 | Gimme a Call  Sarah Mlynowski

9 | A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future  Michael J. Fox

10 | Improper English  Katie MacAlister

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Eighth 10

The top two spots this week are filled by two vastly different books. The top spot went the lastest installment in one of my favorite series, Heat Rises by "Richard Castle." I love the show Castle, and I love that the main character "writes" real books. The other book is one of my very favorite comfort books, The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye.  The rest of the books I read all ranged from really enjoyable to moderately enjoyable. All-together, not a bad set of books.

1 | Heat Rises  Richard Castle [Book 3 of the Nikki Heat series]

2 | The Ordinary Princess  M.M. Kaye

3 | Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children  Ransom Riggs

4 | The Winter Queen  Boris Akunin [Book 1 of the Erast Fandorin series]

5 | The Help  Kathryn Stockett

6 | Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist  Michael J. Fox

7 | What Happened to Goodbye  Sarah Dessen

8 | Prime Baby  Gene Luen Yang

9 | Abandon  Meg Cabot  [Book 1 of the Abandon series]

10 | The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1  Mark Twain

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Seventh 10

This group of books was incredible hard to rank because I read 2 books in particular that I loved, but in vastly different ways: East of Eden by John Steinbeck and Bossypants by Tina Fey.  In the end, I had to give the Number 1 spot to East of Eden, because as hilarious as Tina Fey is, it's John Steinbeck's writing and characters that have really stuck to me, lacking onto my mind and not letting go. Now please excuse me while I go listen to my best friend Tina Fey read me Bossypants one more time before I have to return the CDs to the library. :)

1 | East of Eden  John Steinbeck

2 | Bossypants  Tina Fey

3 | A Game of Thrones  George R. R. Martin [Book 1 of the A Song of Ice and Fire series]

4 | Skip Beat! Volume 24  Yoshiki Nakamura

5 | A Night to Remember  Walter Lord

6 | The Serpent on the Crown  Elizabeth Peters [Book 17 of the Amelia Peabody series]

7 | Guardian of the Horizon  Elizabeth Peters [Book 16 of the Amelia Peabody series]

8 | Empire State: A Love Story (or Not)  Jason Shiga

9 | Dead Reckoning  Charlaine Harris  [Book 11 of the Sookie Stackhouse series]

10 | Insatiable  Meg Cabot  [Book 1 of the Insatiable series]

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Quilting Bee Round Up

So, last year I joined quite a few online quilting bees. 3 to be exact. That might not see like many, and at the time, it didn't strike me as that overwhelming, but for some reason, I was always dragging a little behind in sending my blocks back, especially as time went by. Plus, after the first few months, I pretty much gave up on blogging about them. So again, I apologize for my epic laziness! Since I finally sent my last blocks back last month, and I plan on starting to blog more, quilting-wise, I thought I would post one giant update with all the bee blocks I made in the last 18 months. Are you ready? :)

The Modern Tradition Quilt Bee
This is the first bee I joined, and I think the one that lost the most people along the way. :) Oh well! Life happens. 

Log Cabin Blocks for Leanne (February)
Modern Tradition blocks for Leanne

Grandma's Flower Garden Blocks for Lesly (March)
Modern Tradition blocks for Lesly

Arkansas Crossroads Blocks for Greta (April)
Modern Tradition blocks for Greta

Tulip Block for Norma (May)
Modern Tradition Block for Norma

Starflower Block for Sherri (June)
Modern Tradition Block for NoahandLilah

Star Block for Lydia (July)
Modern Tradition Bee Block for Lydia

Quatrefoil Block for Rebecca aka Reebecki, my RL friend! (August)
Bee Block for Rebecca

Churn Dash Blocks for Heather (September)
Churn Dash Blocks for Heather

Buzz Saw Block for ME! :D (November)
Buzz Saw: Modern Tradition Quilt Bee
You'll see many more of these! I'm still waiting on a few, but I have received most of them, and have picked out the sashing, and plan to sew them all up at our annual retreat in September.

A Spider Bee
This was the second quilting bee I joined, and we all did the same pattern when it was our turn (for the most part), and just varied the color. I got REALLY good at these blocks, and still love them!

Flowered centers and bright florals for Brioni (February)
Spider Bee Blocks for Brioni

Brown centers and foresty colors for Theresa (March)
Spider Bee Blocks for Theresa

Purple centers and green and purple batiks for Tracy (April)
Spider Bee Blocks for Tracy

Now for something completely different for Becca! :) (May)
Spider Bee Blocks for Becca

White centers and orange and pink strips for Greta (June)
Spider Bee Blocks for Greta

White centers and peach and green strips for Suzy (July)
Spider Bee Blocks for Suzy

Surprise blocks for Heidi, who had a baby boy! (September)
Spider Blocks for Heidi

Blue centers with white frames and pink and green strips for Sudi-Laura (November)
Spider Bee Blocks

Maroon Striped centers and rich stripes for ME! :) (December)
A Spider Bee

Bee Liberated
This is the last bee I joined last year, and we started this one in May. This one was particularly focused on Gwen Marston's Liberated Patchwork, and was a lot of fun to participate in.

Slashed Nine-Patch Blocks for Dena (May)
Bee Liberated Blocks for Dena

Liberated Baskets for Kimber (June)
Bee Liberated Baskets for BahamaDawn

Owly Liberated Log Cabin Blocks for Susan (July)
Owly Liberated Log Cabins for Susan

Liberated Log Cabin Blocks for Jessica (August)
Liberated Log Cabins for Jessica

XO Blocks for Jill (September)XoXo block for Jill XO block for Jill

Liberated Star and Friends for Joan (November)
Liberated Star for Joan   

Liberated Log Cabin Blocks for ME! :) (January)

Liberated Quarter Log Cabin Blocks for Heidi (March)
Bee Liberated Blocks for Heidi

Kathy's Blocks for Krista (April)
Bee Liberated Blocks for Krista

Free-pieced word block for Wendy (May)
Bee Liberated Block for Wendy

And one more set of blocks...
My friend Rebecca was in another bee last year, and she let me make a few liberated stars for her quilt. :) They were fun!
Light Wonky Star Dark Wonky Star

So that's it! You should be seeing my completed quilts in the next few months hopefully. :)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Sixth 10

1 | The Book Thief  Markus Zusak

2 | American Born Chinese  Gene Luen Yang

3 | American Gods  Neil Gaiman

4 | Delirium  Lauren Oliver  [Book 1 of the Delirium series]

5 | Children of the Storm  Elizabeth Peters  [Book 15 of the Amelia Peabody series]

6 | Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic  Alison Bechdel

7 | A Game of You  Neil Gaiman  [Volume 5 of the Sandman series]

8 | Mennonite in a Little Black Dress  Rhoda Janzen

9 | My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands  Chelsea Handler

10 | Citizen 13660  Mine Okubo

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Fifth 10

1 | The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake  Aimee Bender

2 | Something Borrowed  Emily Giffin

3 | Looking for Alaska  John Green

4 | The Ghost Map: the Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic - and How it Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World  Steven Johnson

5 | Persepolis: the Story of a Childhood  Marjane Satrapi  [Volume 1 of the Persepolis series]

6 | Persepolis: the Story of a Return  Marjane Satrapi  [Volume 2 of the Persepolis series]

7 | The Golden One  Elizabeth Peters  [Book 14 of the Amelia Peabody series]

8 | Grayson  Lynne Cox

9 | Suite Scarlett  Maureen Johnson  [Book 1 of the Scarlett series]

10 | Interview with the Vampire  Anne Rice [Book 1 of the Vampire Chronicles series]

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Fourth 10

1 | The Complete Maus  Art Spiegelman

2 | Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs  Ken Jennings

3 | He Shall Thunder in the Sky  Elizabeth Peters  [Book 12 of the Amelia Peabody series]

4 | Outlander  Diana Gabaldon  [Book 1 of the Outlander series]

5 | Lord of the Silent  Elizabeth Peters  [Book 13 of the Amelia Peabody series]

6 | Skip Beat! Volume 23  Yoshiki Nakamura

7 | PS, I Love You  Cecelia Ahern

8 | Season of Mists  Neil Gaiman  [Volume 4 of the Sandman series]

9 | Dream Country  Neil Gaiman  [Volume 3 of the Sandman series]

10 | The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group by Catherine Hinks

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Third 10

OK, since I am a terrible blogger, and since it felt like I was just copying what I was saying in my Goodreads reviews and pasting it over here, I've decided that instead of regurgitating that stuff on my blog, I will simply rank each set of 10 books I read in order from most to least favorite, and then if you are really interested in my thoughts of them, you can jump over to Goodreads and read a full review. Sound fair? Here we go, then!

1 | Jane Eyre  Charlotte Brontë

2 | A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love, and Faith in Stages  Kristin Chenoweth

3 | Heist Society  Ally Carter  [Book 1 of the Heist Society series]

4 | The Doll's House  Neil Gaiman  [Volume 2 of the Sandman series]

5 | Only the Good Spy Young  Ally Carter [Book 4 of the Gallagher Girls series]

6 | Preludes and Nocturnes  Neil Gaiman [Volume 1 of the Sandman series]

7 | The Falcon at the Portal  Elizabeth Peters  [Book 11 of the Amelia Peabody series]

8 | Mary Poppins  P.L. Travers

9 | Watchmen  Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons

10 | Sex, Drugs, Einstein, & Elves: Sushi, Psychedelics, Parallel Universes, and the Quest for Transcendence  Clifford A. Pickover

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Second 10

I've finished 10 more books towards my goal of 100, and in under a month, so I am still ahead of pace to complete my goal! Once again, it is hard to rank books because I liked them all for different reasons, but that's the challenge I've given myself, so here we go!

1 | The Host  Stephanie Meyer
I first read this book when it came out in 2008, and just finally got around to re-reading it. I enjoyed it just as much as the first time. It may not be the most well written book of the lot, but it entertained me the most, and made me care about the characters the most. Set in the future, where aliens have taken over Earth, and there are only a few left fighting to survive and avoid capture.

2 | Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art  Scott McCloud
My good friend Care teaches a course at Queens College CUNY on Graphic Narratives, and it's a topic I've been interested in for a while, so I've decided to read along with her class this semester. First up was this primer and explanatory guide on what the medium of comics is exactly. Not only was it super-informative, but it was really entertaining as well! I definitely recommend it to anyone who has an interest in comics/graphic novels.

3 | The Ape Who Guards the Balance  Elizabeth Peters
I've come to really enjoy listening to these books in the car as I drive - the narrator is excellent, and though I've technically read this one before, it's been so long that it's almost like reading it for the first time! I'm enjoying the addition of Ramses as a part-time narrator, and though Nefret is becoming quite annoying at times, there is an overwhelming amount of emotion and adventure that overcomes and pushes this book to the top of my list.

4 | Before I Fall  Lauren Oliver
I'd heard really good things about this book, some calling it one of the best to be published in 2010. It's a really well-written story, with a fascinating twist that I think is executed quite well - a girl dies, and then relives that last day of her life over and over again, until she can figure out the right way for it to go. Definitely a touching book.

5 | The DUFF  Kody Keplinger
This one I happened upon while browsing through Borders one weekend. The spine was brightly colored, and the cover intrigued me, so I opened it up to read the first few pages.  I was quickly hooked. I couldn't put it down! I ended up reading it in 2 days. The characters were very real and their issues were as well.

6 | Fire Study  Maria V. Snyder
This is the third book in a trilogy. So, did I read this immediately following reading the first 2 books in the trilogy, like a normal, sane person? Of course not, I waited a YEAR! I honestly don't know what I was thinking. I had to refresh myself on how the 2nd book ended before I could pick this one up, but I honestly don't think it made *that* much of a difference, except maybe I wasn't as invested in the characters as I might have once been.  My issues with this book are the same as with the others - the pacing is off in the beginning, and the plot is a little too winding. But other than that, I like the characters and the world this is set in, and the ending to the trilogy is great! Looks like there is another trilogy set after this in the same world, but with different characters, so maybe I will try to read all 3 of those soonish rather than laterish.

7 | Starship Troopers  Robert Heinlein
I'm a fan of Robert Heinlein, and I vaguely remember being amused by the cheesy, campy movie that came out in the 90s that was loosely based on this book, so I've been meaning to read this one for a while. Luckily, it is almost nothing like the movie, which I rewatched after reading the book and is rather terrible, especially in comparison. This book is concise and unapologetic, and really about life as a soldier and at war, about finding a place where you belong and a life that really matters. I really was pleasantly surprised.

8 | Misguided Angel  Melissa de la Cruz
This is another one in a series that I began reading several years ago. While I like the characters, and find their history and backstory really interesting, this book also suffers in the pacing department. I feel like every time the story really gets going, and we actually learn something, the book ends, and we are forced to wait another year for a new book to come out. Of course, I still keep reading, but next time I might wait a year or 2, so I can read a few back-to-back. And see, I've been so preoccupied with talking about the things that annoy me, that I'm just now mentioning that the cool elements in this story are the unique vampires, that are actually fallen angels that have been reincarnated over the centuries. Interesting, right? I wish they would capitalize on the awesome concept more.

9 | Matched  Ally Condie
There has been so much hype around how great this book is, and I was really looking forward to reading it. I love dystopian teen fiction (hence my Hunger Games obsession), but I really felt rather let down by this one. The romance set up seems to be a little flawed, and I can't say I really care about any of the characters, which is not a good sign. I will keep reading this series, but perhaps with lower expectations.

10 | Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife  Mary Roach
This is another one I was really looking forward to, because Roach's book Stiff is still one of my favorite non-fiction books ever. Unfortunately, this one just didn't live up to my expectations. I don't know if that's because there's not enough scientific evidence about the afterlife to say anything definitive, or because it turns out I don't really care what science might say about anyways, but regardless, I just kept waiting for this one to end. I'll still give anything Mary Roach writes a try, because she is an excellent writer, but I also won't be surprised if I end up disappointed again.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The First 10

If you read my reading goals post from a few weeks ago, you'll know that I'm planning on switching up my reading blogging format for this year. Instead of posting weekly reading updates (which felt rather redundant to my Goodreads reviews), every 10 books I read, I'll write a post, ranking the last 10 books I read.  Here are my first 10!

To be honest, it was a little difficult to rank these because I really liked a lot of them, and would say I enjoyed reading all of them. I think they're a particularly interesting mix of Young Adult fiction, "serious" fiction, and non-fiction.
1 | Graceling  Kristin Cashore
I've had this book on my list to read since the day I joined Goodreads almost 2 years ago. I'm not sure why it took me so long to get to it - maybe I was afraid of being disappointed?  Luckily I had nothing to fear. This is perhaps my favorite kind of book - set in a unknown, magical world, with characters you can love and admire.

2 | Fire  Kristin Cashore
After finishing and loving Graceling, I knew I needed to read it's sort-of sequel, Fire. I say "sort-of" because this isn't actually a sequel at all, it's just set in the same general world, though in a different time, and different part. Really, what these 2 books have in common is the same feel of magic and wild. Once again, these characters are so engaging, I can't help but support them and want the best for them.

3 | An Abundance of Katherines  John Green
Here is another young adult novel, but one completely different than the first 2 on my list. I loved this book because it was real and witty and surprisingly, sometimes shockingly, funny. I loved how quirky and OCD-ish Colin is, and his cast of friends are all unique and fully themselves, as they try to figure out exactly what that means. On top of all that, though, after reading this book, I discovered the video blog of the author John Green and his brother Hank, who in 2007 challenged themselves to no textual communication (email/texting/IM) for the whole year, communicating almost entirely through daily video blogs back and forth. These guys are so funny and hilarious and warm and real, I feel like we're already good friends, even though I'm only up to April 2007. And apparently, the video blog was such a success that that they still record videos, though not daily anymore. You can check them out at their youtube channel, Vlog Brothers. Can you tell I'm slightly obsessed? :)

4 | The Vanishing of Katharina Linden  Helen Grant
This was my friend Heather's pick for our book club this month, and I am happy to report, it's the first book (of the twelve we've read so far) that everyone has liked! Usually, there is at least one dissenting opinion, but for once, we unanimously enjoyed this book. This is a funny yet creepy little mystery set in a small town in Germany, and though the cover describes it as a "modern day fairy tale", I'd say it's less fairy tale and more social commentary from the perspective of a child, ala To Kill a Mockingbird. It's definitely one I would re-read sometime, because I was totally surprised by the ending!

5 | Kitchen Confidential  Anthony Bourdain
I used to think Anthony Bourdain was kind of a jerk, based on his appearances on Top Chef, but I had heard his book was really good, and I admit to being curious about the culinary world, so when I saw this one for $1 at a local library sale last fall, I was quick to pick it up. I definitely enjoyed this book - Bourdain is straightforward, descriptive, and honest, both about his checkered past and the restaurant business. I loved hearing all the nitty-gritty details about life as a chef, working at a restaurant, and everything that entails. I have a much better opinion of Bourdain now, to the point where I actually found him charming when he appeared on Top Chef last week. :)

6 | The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks  Rebecca Skloot
This one is a really fascinating true story and one of my mom's favorite books from last year. Henrietta Lacks, a poor African-American woman who died of cancer in the 1940s, is the woman who, unbeknowst to her or her family, provided the first cells to be grown in culture and the cells that are most widely used for research to this day, HeLa cells. Rebecca Skloot does a great job presenting both sides of the debate on the ethics of cellular research, writing from the perspective of both the medical community and the people whose cells are harvested, often times without their knowledge. The real heart of this story, though, is the effect these cells had on Henrietta's family, especially her youngest daughter, Deborah.

7 | Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer  James L. Swanson
Abraham Lincoln is one of my favorite presidents, and after reading a great biography on him last year, I was curious to know more about his assassin, John Wilkes Booth. While you will not find a more detailed and better-written account of Lincoln's murder and the search for his killer, in the end, I was left saddened and disappointed, not in the book itself, but just with the whole situation. While I was curious about Wilkes Booth, to be honest, I don't really want to know more about him, and the more I learned, the more I was frustrated in his audacity and single-minded obsession. Even thinking about him now makes me mad. Some things in life just aren't fair, and one of those things is that Lincoln was murdered on perhaps the happiest day of his life, when the long struggle of the Civil War was finally over.

8 | The Elephant's Journey  José Saramago
One of my friends on Goodreads, Lori of the Next Best Book Blog, sent me this book last fall after she ended up with 2 ARCs. The subject matter seemed really fascinating - based on a true story, of how in the 1500s the King of Portugal gifts an elephant to his cousin, the Archduke of Austria, and the subsequent journey that elephant makes, together with his mahout, from Lisbon to Vienna.  And don't get me wrong - the story really is fascinating, and the characters are unique. I love elephants, and it was interesting to see how people reacted to him along the journey.  But Saramago's writing style can be difficult to absorb, as he writes in solid chunks, also stream-of-conscious style, without pausing to change paragraphs or anything during dialog. It can be a challenge to read, and I have to admit, sometimes when I am reading, I don't want it to be so difficult.

9 | Nightlight  The Harvard Lampoon
This book was a gift from my friend Heather LAST christmas (as in, 2009!), and though I am slow, I finally picked it up and read it the first weekend of the new year. This is a ridiculous and funny parody of the Twilight books, which I can take for exactly what it is: a humorous over-exaggeration of the flaws found in the popular, overly dramatic teen vampire books. Despite my irrational love of the Twilight books, I still found this book pretty funny, and it's definitely a light, silly and fun read.

10 | Claim to Fame  Margaret Peterson Haddix
Although I did eventually enjoying reading this book, it ends up on the bottom of my list because I know it could have been so much more! I still enjoyed Haddix's writing style, but her heroine, Lindsey, was pretty annoying for most of the book, and I didn't feel like her "special talent" of hearing other people's comments about her was very well integrated into the story.  I loved the concept, though, which incidentally had a few things in common with Graceling, and a few of the characters stood out as being quite enjoyable, like Roz. I'll continue reading Haddix's books, as I've liked others by her, but maybe my expectations will just be a little lower.

Friday, January 14, 2011

2011 Reading Goals

After much thought, I present to you my reading goals for this upcoming year. :)

1| Read 100 books.
Since I've met this same goal the last 2 years, part of me feels like I should increase my overall reading goal, but to be honest, I like round, even numbers too much.  And though I like pushing myself, I think upping my goal to another round number, like 125 or 150, would be too stressful to sustain. Above all else, I read for enjoyment, and I never want to lose that.

2| Read long books.
There's something thrilling about finally finishing a hefty book, and I want to continue to challenge myself to pick up and read the big books that are only too easy to pass over. I will definitely be reading Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, as it is one of our book club picks for this year. I also hope to finally read The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne, as well as another epically long Russian tome or two.

3| Read Russian books.
Yes, I failed miserably at this goal last year, but I'm really hoping to do better at it this year.  Hopefully, by starting with specific books in mind, I can be more successful.  On my list to read are The Winter Queen by Boris Akunin, which I began about 5 years ago and never finished; Demons by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, who is my favorite Russian author; One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who I have only ever read short stories by; and Death and the Penguin by Andrei Kurkov, a modern Russian novel, and one that seems different from any of the others I've read.

4| Blog.
I don't think my Weekly Reading blog posts last year really accomplished what I wanted - a different perspective on my reading. Sure, sometimes what I wrote about each book was different than my Goodreads review, but as the year went on, I found myself copying and pasting more and more. What I've decided to do instead this year is write about my books in sets of 10, ranking and comparing them to one another. Every time I hit 10 books, I'll write a post, talking about each book and ranking them in order of preference, from #1 to #10. Hopefully this will be a unique enough perspective to not grow boring. It will be a challenge, I'm sure, to pick favorites, but a good challenge!

And that's it! Hopefully with only a few specific goals, I'll be able to really focus on them this year.