Book Review: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

the paris wifeThis month, my book club is discussing The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, which tells the story of Ernest Hemingway’s marriage with Hadley Richardson. I didn’t know much about Hemingway’s personal life before reading this book, much less about Hadley – which I know is probably a major crime for an English major, but I was kind of glad to be able to read this story blind to the historical ending.

Here’s a description of the book from

Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway and her life changes forever. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group—the fabled “Lost Generation”—that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill-prepared for the hard-drinking and fast-living life of Jazz Age Paris, which hardly values traditional notions of family and monogamy. Surrounded by beautiful women and competing egos, Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history, pouring all the richness and intensity of his life with Hadley and their circle of friends into the novel that will become The Sun Also Rises. Hadley, meanwhile, strives to hold on to her sense of self as the demands of life with Ernest grow costly and her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Despite their extraordinary bond, they eventually find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage—a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they’ve fought so hard for.

Things I loved about this book:

  • McClain’s writing style is pretty much to die for – descriptive and passionate – you really get a full sense of Hadley and the world that she and Ernest shared together.
  • Hadley – I am very drawn to character driven novels and this one definitely fits the bill. If you don’t like Hadley, you might have a hard time reading this book – but I loved her and found her to be a compelling main character.
  • The literary references! English majors will rejoice at this book which tells not just Hemingway and Hadley’s story, but also features Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound and more.

Things I loathed in this book:

  • Ernest Hemingway – He may be brilliant, but he was an ass – at least in this story. The fact that Hadley put up with all of his shenanigans is a real testament to her love for him or possibly just the time period. He just might win the award for Worst Husband Ever.
  • Marriage in this circle of friends was just a sad, cruel joke really. The insane amounts of adultery and betrayal were heart breaking and I often wondered “Is it the time period? The effects of the war? The literary world? Is this just how a lot of marriages are?” It really saddened me how many of Hadley and Hemingway’s friends were in equally awful marriages.
  • The Other Women in this book really had a lot of nerve. I won’t name names because I don’t want to give any spoilers for people who have yet to read the book and are equally unaware of the historical facts surrounding this crazy Literary Soap Opera!

Basically, I really loved this book and I’m looking forward to my book club’s discussion tomorrow!

Have you read The Paris Wife?

Any other similar historical fiction books you think I should check out?

books & reading nightstand

Nightstand: November 2011

So it’s mere days before Thanksgiving, which is exciting in it’s own right, but it also means that it’s time for me to fill you in on my nightstand! Haven’t done this before? The fabulous ladies at 5 Minutes for Books ask us each month which books we are reading, read recently or plan to read soon – basically this amounts to “What’s on your nightstand right now?” Get it?

When we last nightstanded, I was reading The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent – the story of Martha Carrier, one of the first women to be accused, tried and hanged as a witch in Salem, Massachusetts. Like her mother, young Sarah Carrier is bright and willful, openly challenging the small, brutal world in which they live. Often at odds with one another, mother and daughter are forced to stand together against the escalating hysteria of the trials and the superstitious tyranny that led to the torture and imprisonment of more than 200 people accused of witchcraft. (description from

I have to say I really kind of adored that book, although it was slow reading at times, it really kept me hooked and the story was just fascinating, though heart breaking. I definitely recommend it!

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen SimonsonAfter finishing The Heretic’s Daughter, I had planned to read our November book club pick, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson. This is the story of Major Ernest Pettigrew, retired, of Edgecombe St. Mary, England, [who] is more than a little dismayed by the sloppy manners, narcissism, and materialism of modern society. The decline of gentility is evident everywhere, from tea bags, to designer sweaters, to racism masquerading as tolerance…

But after about three chapters (or 40 pages or so) I honestly couldn’t read anymore. It is not often that I will put down a book after only a few chapters, but lately I have been thinking that my time is too precious to read books I’m not enjoying. And I wasn’t enjoying this one at all. The book was intended, I think, to be a fairly light-hearted satire, but I found the main character so annoyingly cynical that I couldn’t read it without rolling my eyes at him. I don’t know if the book would have gotten better or if I was being too hard on it. I’d guess there are people who loved it and would enjoy it. But I honestly don’t think I was going to be one of them.

My only reason for reading the book would have been because it was a book club pick and normally I’d give myself a harder time and make myself read it anyway, but I decided to go easy on myself this once because my nightstand is kind of overwhelming me at the moment with books to read and truthfully? There was one book in particular beckoning to me. It’s been sitting there patiently for months, picked up in between books just long enough to read a chapter or so, giggle to myself and then move on to my next mandatory read. Well this month it said, “Um, Jen, knock it off and read me already. You’re gonna love it!”

Such a Pretty Fat by Jen LancasterAnd I totally am! What book am I finally digging into and adoring something fierce? Such a Pretty Fat by Jen Lancaster. It’s basically the funniest book about dieting that you’ll ever read and I think I especially love it because (especially when it comes to food and dieting) Jen Lancaster and I are kind of kindred spirits. It’s like reading my own thoughts on paper except then sometimes SHE goes to the gym or starts a diet or loses weight and I’m all, “Oh, hey, wait for me!”

I’m kind of hoping that this will be a book that motivates me to finally kick my ass and start eating better and exercising (I’m already trying) and that she doesn’t end the book with, “And then I gave up, who are we kidding, really?” We’ll see…. Either way, as far as book choices go, I’m glad I made this one because I now go to bed at night eager to read!!!!! Instead of “Oh yeah… that book….. Maybe I’m tired?”

So what am I going to read NEXT? Man, guys, I have no idea… There are kind of a million positions I’m being pulled in, but here are some of my ideas:

  • Attempting Wicked by Gregory Maguire again and then possibly reading the rest of the Oz series by him.
  • Little Bee by Chris Cleave which I keep hearing is some kind of fantastic
  • Some more funny books like Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin or Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner
  • Unbearable Lightness by Portia De Rossi has also been waiting patiently for me for awhile…
  • Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde looks really good – I love his Thursday Next series.
  • And then let’s not even talk about all the OTHER books I own but haven’t read yet and guys, what about the books I WANT to buy? What if I get books for Christmas? If you don’t hear from me for awhile, you’ll know that my TBR pile finally fell over and buried me.

What are you reading right now?

family fun

American Idol’s Gone Country

This week the folks at Idol got back to MY roots with country week. I’m sure a lot of people across the globe (my husband included) groaned a little when they saw this. I groaned a little bit less. Country music is not my favorite genre but I think I can fairly well judge it as I don’t hate it, and I lived in Kentucky for almost ten years. I’ve heard a lot of it – I learned to sing with country music (Reba is my home girl). Okay fine, I like country music. I just like a lot of other genres more. Which means – if their performances aren’t good – I’m going to be pretty critical or at the very least bored, which doesn’t say much for them either. Here’s how they did in my quasi humble opinion:

Michael Sarver, Sun Comes Up: This was a good old fashioned fun time. Was it his best vocals? No, how could it be? That was hardly the point – this was about kicking back, engaging the audience and having a blast – and he did that in spades. Or something. I don’t know – the judges were not so much loving it, but I think any of his fans will have eaten that ish up. I enjoyed it, even though I couldn’t understand a word he said.

Allison Iraheta, Blame It On Your Heart: I think I might be in love with Allison’s voice. She had better get a record deal out of this (assuming she doesn’t win) because I love love love her music. I love this song – a lot – my husband groaned a little (or a lot) when I started singing along (to be fair, Allison sang it way better than I did). The judges love her – no duh – what’s not to love?

Kris Allen, To Make You Feel My Love: The judges were over the moon for this performance. I was over it. I get it, he’s cute – he has a decent voice. But really? Is he REALLY that good? I gotta be honest, I was mostly just bored.

Lil Rounds, Independence Day: Okay so this wasn’t her best performance, but all I mean by that is that she is amazing and going places and oh my god and this song was just really good. She’s not a country star, but she clearly wanted to try it anyway – honestly, okay. Her voice is beautiful and she did a good job – but it’s hard not to compare her to her usual swaggering self. I still love me some Lil’ Rounds and I’m assuming she’ll be fine. (Right?)

Adam Lambert, Ring of Fire: “Are you wearing an Aluminum suit?” “Are you in a rocket?” “Are you David Bowie?” If you got that reference you win 100 cool kids points. Moving on, my point – this performance was out there – it was that kind of Bowie-esque performance that I felt an artist would pull out after really well establishing themselves because let’s be honest, it was weird. And it was so busy being weird and hypnotic that there didn’t seem to be much time left for strong vocals. Which is fine. I just said that was fine for Oil Rig Guy – but this isn’t oil rig guy, it’s Adam Lambert. I love Adam Lambert. I guess I expect more from him? My husband, by the way, bless his stuck in the 70s soul, loved this performance. It was like the first and only time he smiled all night. The judges looked equally baffled and maybe a little violated and confused. Or maybe I’m just vaguely quoting Kara.

Scott McIntyre, Wild Angels: I’ll be honest, I somehow tuned this performance out. It was fine – it sounded like most of his songs. Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s talented, but in all truthfulness, he’s not an artist whose record I’d buy. I’d just admire it a ton and nod my head in enthusiasm in polite company. Some weird fight broke out over “to piano or not to piano” and it was kind of awkward and I might have gotten up to get a snack around here.

Alexis Grace, Jolene: I definitely got up to get a snack because although I remember hearing Alexis sing, I  cannot remember my reaction to it – I remember the judges disagreeing some more (I think) and that Alexis looked a little unkempt – like in a sweaty, tired kind of way that I don’t remember seeing before. She’s still adorable and I love her voice. I might have loved the performance if I’d been listening like I was supposed to.

Danny Goeke, Jesus Take The Wheel: This song got on my nerves, from the very topic of the song, to this weird ranting about not turning to god to solve all your problems that my husband and I got into, rather than being forced to listen to the whole song (this was an us agreeing rant by the way). Danny has a nice voice and a lot of people loved it but my husband and I kind of agreed with Simon (about him looking ridiculous) and that was that. A pregnant woman by the way? Should not be forced to listen to those lyrics. Yikes – add black ice to my list of now irrational fears. Thank God Spring is coming.

Anoop Desai, Always On My Mind: Oh my wow. I was just in raptures over this performance. Anoop Dogg is back in the house – this might have been my favorite performance of the night and my favorite Anoop performance ever. This boy clearly thrives under pressure (better late than never) and I think we were all reminded why we love him. He’s like that surprise you never see coming but it turns out to be the best surprise EVER.

Megan Joy, I Go Walking After Midnight: Love her. Love that the awkward wiggly dance was back (as much as I liked her actually moving her legs last week, we’ve come to love the awkward). I think the song suited her well and while it wasn’t without a couple of spotty moments, overall? Loved her. And the fact that she was sick as a dog the whole time? Commendable (even though even from across the tv screen I kept kind of cringing over the germs ick factor. Hope she wasn’t contagious…)

Matt Giraud, So Small: Okay fine – I’ll admit, I turned the tv off before he even came on stage. I don’t care. I’m sure he was fine. I have yet to be blown away by him and I was tired (and pregnant tired at that) so I went to bed. If you stayed up to listen to his song – please comment and tell me how he did.

So who did you love? Who did you hate? Who do you think will be saying auf weidershein tonight?

books & reading reviews

Book Review: God’s Debris

Grade: B+

Scott Adams is probably best known for his hugely popular comic strip, Dilbert, but he’s also written a couple of books that you could categorize as philosophical fiction, or as he likes to call it, a thought experiment. My husband (who is a fan of both Dilbert and Adams’s books) has been encouraging me to read God’s Debris for years and I finally broke down and did so a couple weeks ago. It didn’t take long – these books are very thin, quick reads, despite the whammy of intellectual stimulation going on between the covers, I managed to finish it in a few days.

This book is fiction, but the ideas in it are very philosophical. The ideas presented in the story might offend some people or simply confuse, but if you like challenging your opinions on things possibly well established as facts, this might be the book for you. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that college aged guys in particular will like this – people who say, “Why?” a lot might like this. People unsatisfied with conventional outlooks on religion, science and life will like this.

I’ll confess I got frustrated with this book a lot, especially in somewhere in the middle when the two (only) characters seemed to go off on the world’s longest tangent talking about I still don’t even know what – something in the math science realm I’m assuming. For me, it was akin to being in a room with two people talking about a subject you know so little about that they could be speaking a foreign language for all you know, and ignoring you completely. I almost put it down and moved on, but my husband insisted that I finish it and keep reading so I did and it did get better. The end of the book was probably my favorite. Now that all the big walls of thought have been essentially torn down, physics, math, science and religion sort of redefined – they move onto much easier to digest concepts and I found myself nodding along and going WOW to a lot of basic concepts about things about relationships, communication and how we learn. I even learned a thing or two.

So where does that leave me? I think that if you are like me, in that you are comfortable with having things you consider a fact questioned – maybe you are even a little thrilled by it – that you will likely enjoy the book, at least in parts. For me it was worth the quick read entirely for the few things I took away from it. If you have a scientific or mathematic background and can handle and understand language from those areas – man, I think you will love this book with a passion. I highly recommend it for those people and cautiously recommend it for the rest of us.

books & reading reviews

Book Review: Wicked: Witch & Curse

Grade: B+

It’s tough having the same title as a literary phenomenon turned Broadway musical. How do you compete and set a name for yourself? Well if you’re smart you get a really standout cover and make the book as huge as possible (even if you have to combine two books in one). Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguie can consider this a job accomplished. Their book practically leaped off the shelf at me while perusing my local bookstore and I thought, “If you can judge a book by it’s cover, this is going to be a good one.”

I really enjoyed this story of Holly Cathers and her cousins Amanda and Nicole, descendants of a hugely powerful wiccan tribe, the Cahors whose long running blood feud with warlock family the Deveraux has been passed down from generation to generation as the ghosts of Isabeau Cahors and Jean Deveraux attempt to live out their destinies through each generation, resulting in bloody massacres, heart break and deception.

The book’s story is rich and complex, and grows more and more intricate with each chapter, but never feels like too much – Holder and Viguie masterfully weave their tale in just the right way, the mix of current teen culture and ancient magical history is well accomplished. I really enjoyed the story and definitely plan to read the next book, Wicked 2: Legacy & Spellbound. I did feel like some of the story was rushed, some tragedies seemed to simply fix themselves with little explanation.

I also think this story might be way too much for some teenagers to handle. This book has a lot of death – and a lot of the deaths are friends and family. There are some very dark passages describing magical rituals, some involving sex, though not explicit, it isn’t romantic either. I’d be hesitant to recommend it to just anyone in the teenage set. A college student and above I think could easily handle it and some mature teenagers might do fine, but it’s definitely not for the faint of heart.

Still, all said, I really enjoyed this story and look forward to the next installment.

This review can also be found at @ Momma’s Review.

books & reading reviews

Children’s Classics: The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe

I wasn’t sure what I was going to blog about for this month’s Children’s Classics carnival @ 5 Minutes For Books. But as I finished reading The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe last night it occurred to me that it was both a children’s book and a classic – it was simply a slightly older read than the things I’m reading to my own son who is just two years old. Still it does qualify even if I haven’t been reading it with a child (just a child at heart). I do hope to read this to MM when he gets older and I hope he enjoys this story as much as I have.

First, to be honest, I didn’t love this book as much as I’d expected to – I read The Magician’s Nephew first and liked it more – but I think that is only because The Magician’s Nephew was a new read for me – The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe is a story I already knew well, and I’d seen the movie adaptations a couple times. I have a very hard time reading a book whose movie I’ve already seen, but I did read and enjoy this book. It is possible I liked the movie more though – but really, in a book this small, it was easier I think to give more details in the movie, something that rarely happens in a book-to-movie adaptation. The length of the movie and being able to see it all unfold in front of your eyes was magical and the recent movie especially was very well done. So while I did like the book, I think I handicapped my own enjoyment by seeing the movie first.

But I love C.S. Lewis’s writing style and the book is very well written and perfect for children. I think it will be a very fun book to read aloud to my own children someday and the story is truly a classic that anyone can enjoy. I recommend both the book and the movie.

For more reviews of children’s classics, head over to 5 Minutes For Books for a list of participants.

books & reading reviews

Review: Home by Julie Andrews (A Memoir)

Grade: A +

I haven’t read many memoirs but every time I do, I typically think, “Memoirs are wonderful – I should read more of them.” But being non-fiction, somehow memoirs are harder for me to get through, even when I’m enjoying them – a good novel I can typically plow through in less than a week, given appropriate reading time. A good memoir will take me at least 2 weeks, probably more. I started reading Home: A Memoir of My Early Years by Julie Andrews shortly after Christmas and finished it two days ago. Being sick with the stomach bug gave me more time for reading (when I wasn’t doing stomach bug things) but it still felt slow going even though it was good.

I’m often amazed reading a good memoir that all those remarkable things can actually have happened to one person. All the same elements of a great book are usually present – comedy, love, drama, tragedy – and it’s all miraculously true. Andrews delivers a powerful punch in her memoir, which tells not only the story of her childhood and first several years in theater, but also the stories of her parents, grandparents, great grandparents and aunts and uncles – not to mention back stories to several of her friends and acquaintances. Andrews reminds me a lot of my grandmother and my mother-in-law, in that she seems to have taken the time to truly know everybody she meets – a quality I greatly admire – and I think it really added something special to her story.

I loved learning so many things about Julie Andrews that I never expected, like about her time in World War II as a child, and her parent’s rocky marriage(s), about how early in her career she thought she’d never be good at acting at all and considered herself pretty unspectacular – a word I don’t think anybody would use to describe The Julie Andrews! She also includes a lot of factual tidbits about voice training, the theatre, history and even housework tips! This memoir really had it all and I thoroughly enjoyed and recommend it.

This was the first book I read this year for the In Their Shoes reading challenge. For more information on the challenge click here.

books & reading reviews

Books Read in 2008

I read 47 books this year which is an average of 3.9 books per month. Of those 47 books only 2 books were non-fiction. I’d really like to read more non-fiction in 2009 – consider that a goal. I gave up on 4 books in 2008 – one of which was a non-fiction book. I’m still currently reading 2 books, both non-fiction.

My reading goals for 2009 are

  1. read more non-fiction – no need to go crazy as it’s clearly not a genre I prefer but more than two for sure – I think biographies will be my best bet.
  2. Since I read 47 this year I want to read at least 50 next year – I hardly think that’s too much to strive for.
  3. I’ve got about 28 books that I own but haven’t read yet (but still want to read). Heck I probably have more but those are present and accounted for. I want to read at least half of them this year.

Read in 2008:

  1. The Luxe by Anna Godbersen – Finished January 4, 2008 – VERY GOOD!! One of the best books I’ve read in awhile. Couldn’t put it down!
  2. Fablehaven 2: Rise of the Evening Star by Brendan Mull – Finished January 9, 2008 – Better than the first book, definitely building an interesting series – I’m already impatient for book 3!
  3. I, Freddy by Dietlof Reiche – Finished on January, 20, 2008 – A very cute read, that took me far too long to finish (I’ve been reading it on and off for a year).
  4. The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket – Finished January 27, 2008 – So much better than I’d even expected and that’s saying quite a bit!
  5. The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket – Finished January 31, 2008 – Soooo different from the movie, much more detailed, very enjoyable.
  6. The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket – finished February 2, 2008 – Read this very quickly, loved every minute. the movie leaves so much out of these books, it was a good movie but the books are so much better.
  7. The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket – finished February 4, 2008 – Finally, a plot I didn’t know at all! Just as good as the first three, and it was lovely to be surprised at every turn. Another gem.
  8. The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket – finished February 5, 2008 – Starting to get very curious about a great number of the mysteries throughout this book. So well written. My husband finally finished book one – we are both big fans now!
  9. The Ersatz Elevator by Lemony Snicket – Finished February 6, 2008 – Couldn’t put this one down – very suspenseful or anxiety ridden perhaps? Just as good as the others.
  10. The Vile Village by Lemony Snicket – Finished February 8, 2008 – Such an interesting book, I’m even more curious now and I just realized for the first time that all the titles have a repeating pattern (BB, RR, WW, MM, AA, EE, VV and now HH)
  11. The Hostile Hospital by Lemony Snicket – Finished February 11, 2008 – Loved the whole “filing” thing, ridiculously true to life from my experience. The whole book was, again, terrific. I’m almost bored of talking about how terrific it is and what a wonderful job Snicket is doing. The whole mystery is really starting to amp itself up.
  12. The Carnivorous Carnival by Lemony Snicket – Finished February 12, 2008 – So good I am almost disappointed that it is time to start reading my book club book, instead of continuing on with the series, especially after such a MAJOR cliff hanger!
  13. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray – Finished February 20, 2008 – It was a hard adjustment going from Lemony Snicket to this book and not because it wasn’t good, but because Snicket makes the reading easy and even in scary moments you somehow feel safe with the author always warning you of things and defining anything you may not have known. Libba Bray obviously does not feel the need to do this, and once I lost myself in the story, I was grateful for an opportunity to guess and imagine and experience this beautiful novel in the corners of my own mind. It is a very good debut to her series which I look forward to reading.
  14. The Slippery Slope by Lemony Snicket – Finished February 24, 2008 – So many things I want to gossip about in this book, and all of the things that led up to it, but in an effort not to “spoil” I’ll refrain. Of course it was fantastic with lots of ground breaking developments and long awaited revelations. And of course, more questions, more cliff hangers, and more suspense. Now to start Grim Grotto. I’ve officially finished all the books I borrowed from SIL, so once dh finishes the next 3 on his stack, we’ll be able to return them! Woohoo!
  15. The Grim Grotto by Lemony Snicket- Finished February 26, 2008 – I am dangerously close to finishing this series and more than a little worried that I might go into withdrawal when I do. It’s not very often that one has the pleasure of reading such a thrilling, well-written series – with such extreme attention to details, and always cautious of its audience, it is a real pleasure to read such an impressive work. “Snicket” has created something any good author should aspire to.
  16. The Penultimate Peril by Lemony Snicket – Finished March 6, 2008 – Only one book left to read, which should mean that a lot of mysteries will be solved soon, right? And that Snicket won’t constantly continue to create loose ends that make the story even more intriguing and infuriating at the same time? Of course I loved it.
  17. The End by Lemony Snicket – Finished March 8, 2008 – Ok, finished the series late at night, almost morning with the words “Ah ha!” Because the last word of the book confirmed the suspicion I’d held for at least the second half of the series, but I won’t go any further. My husband guessed the same as well so maybe it’s not really that big of a revelation, but it was still exciting. Still not sure when I’ll get around to reading the unauthorized autobiography or Beatrice’s Letters, and for now it’s on to other, grown-up books but I really thoroughly enjoyed this series and would recommend it to just about anyone. – full review of series here
  18. The Other Boleyn Girl by Philipa Gregory – Finished March 18, 2008 – This book was so amazingly good – better with every chapter, every added detail to this historical masterpiece. I am officially eager to read all her other works. – full review here
  19. My Hamster by Peter Fritzsche – Finished March 26, 2008 – This book was pretty good on filling a new hamster owner in on the basics, but the author is definitely a naturalist and had me scared out of my mind by the end, worrying about every different way I could cause harm to my hamster. It was very well laid out and informative otherwise.
  20. Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich – Finished March 25, 2008 – I don’t know what happened with her 12th book, but in lucky number thirteen, she manages to get back into her stride, at least as far as I’m concerned – this may have been her best Plum book to date. I love all of her current events references – the cable company charade as well as a million other things I can’t remember anymore were fantastic. It was very now, very current, very good. The Morelli / Ranger thing manages to continue without feeling stale – ah, I just can’t say enough. It was terrific. Can’t wait for fourteen!
  21. Extras by Scott Westerfeld – Finished March 30, 2008 – Just when I thought this series could not get any better, Westerfeld sucked me back in to prove me wrong! I adore his writing style, constantly find myself thinking (or talking) with his made up lingo – to put it mildly, this entire series is awe-making! 😛 It did take me a few chapters to embrace the main character, and get over Tally not being present (in the beginning), but to be honest, as much as Aya annoyed me, Tally was the same way in Uglies, and let’s face it Pretties and Specials, too. Something about being 25, trying to get back into the mindframe of a 15 year old can prove challenging I think. But I love it! I love the love stories, I love the way Westerfeld forces you to look more critically at our own society and all the ways we could be different – and all the ways those different societies could go horribly wrong, too. In short, Westerfeld is a genius and I ❤ him.
  22. The Virgin’s Lover by Philipa Gregory – Finished April 7, 2008 – While it was nowhere near as good as The Other Boelyn Girl, it did begin to capture my interest somewhere in the middle, much the same. The ending definitely surprised me, although I had suspected parts of it, and was left wondering a LOT and wishing I knew more of the history of this time period.
  23. So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld – Finished April 8, 2008 – This was soooo good – Westerfeld is truly a genius in his field – and unlike the Uglies series, this one is easily enjoyable by guys and gals alike – stepping back from “the whole world” this book focuses on marketing, consumerism and the elusive “cool” – and of course a bit of kissing thrown in for good fun. It definitely kept me guessing, proving that some authors at least are smarter than their readers (that’s a big compliment – I get so annoyed sometimes when I am always one leap ahead – sometimes it can be fun being smarter than the characters, but sometimes it’s painfully obvious and dull).  I just attempted to read the Maximum Ride series by James Patterson and it was such a miserable flop that I gave up, so this book was warmly welcomed and devoured in less than 24 hours.
  24. Trickster’s Choice by Tamora Pierce – Finished April 16, 2008 – Another really good book – I’ve been hitting the jackpot lately. Despite a few strange things to get used to in this young adult fantasy book, I really liked this story, with illusions to Tudor England and a small bit of romance, there was little left to be desired. I’ll definitely be reading the rest of the series.
  25. Trickster’s Queen by Tamora Pierce – Finished April 27, 2008 – Just as good as the first book – it seemed to take forever to read, if only because of all the information to digest within each chapter – but I really did like it a lot! The world she creates is just amazing and the story is a GOOD one!
  26. Masquerade by Melissa De La Cruz – Finished April 30, 2008 – Clearly, having gobbled up this book in three short days, I liked it a lot – this is a very promising new series and I’m not very happy to have to wait for the next installment to come out before learning more about this intriguing historical mystery – who was who when and who will they all be now? It’s exhilarating – and of course the romance had me glued to the edge of my seat. Fantastic.
  27. Rebel Angels by Libba Bray – Finished May 6, 2008 – This second installment was fantastic even if I did guess some major things awfully early on (and I didn’t want to be right, but I was). This book still amazes me in a lot of ways and it really is a terrific inspiring book for young women – it really shows you how privileged women are today and yet how some things are terribly the same. Which is I’m sure what she’s going for.
  28. Forever Lily by Beth Nonte Russell – Finished May 20, 2008 – It took me awhile to finish this but not because I couldn’t get into it, but rather it’s just a very intense book that I had to read in small chunks without overwhelming myself. It was beautifully written, such an amazing story that I am still a bit surprised at its non-fiction label – I’m not sure I buy into the whole past lives thing but it’s a deeply fascinating idea to me. I was especially moved by the scenes in the Chinese Orphanages – this book made me want to go out and adopt several Chinese daughters, just to play my part. 😛
  29. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde – Finished June 9, 2008 – This book was just fantastic in so many ways – the English major in me drooled and laughed my way through the entire book. It took me awhile to read it, just because the plot was a bit complicated – Fforde creates his own world within the confines of this great book, and it took me awhile to get used to the swing of things, but now I’m eagerly awaiting the next book in this series!
  30. Jane Austen in Scarsdale by Paula Marantz Cohen – finished June 19, 2008 – I’m kind of torn between 3 stars and 4 on this one. I did like it, and by the end I more than liked it, but it wasn’t one of those amazing books you just can’t put  down, so much as a book that grew better with age and really started to get REALLY good the more I read. The last 10 chapters were devoured in one afternoon. I think I’d read another of her books, but it certainly won’t take precedent. As far as light reading goes, however, it was exceptional.
  31. The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray – Finished July 2, 2008 – This book broke my heart – which is not to say I didn’t like it, I loved it – I loved being wrong over and over and right over and over, I loved the small details thrown in to make me say, “Ah ha. I never thought of that.” A small part of me hates, hates, hates the ending and you will know what I mean, but I’ll accept it. It was brilliantly written. – full review here
  32. Boy Meets Girl by Meg Cabot – Finished July 6, 2008 – Took awhile to get used to the “email” format of the book, but the story was a good one – very intriguing – I enjoyed it a lot.
  33. Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz – Finished July 15, 2008 – ::sigh:: I loved this a little too much – I read it a few pages at a time for what felt like forever and then devoured the last 3rd of the book in one giant day-long gulp-fest. I really hope this wasn’t the last installment, because Lisa Lutz, I’m here to tell you I need MORE. – full review here
  34. Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich – Finished July 24, 2008 – Another Evanovich masterpiece – I think this one was even better than the last, with all the usual great antics and some new antics you never even thought to expect. Brilliant.
  35. Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde – Finished August 18, 2008 – This was the sequel to the Eyre Affair and definitely just as good – one of those books with a little bit of everything and more than a few surprises thrown in.
  36. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – Finished August 28, 2008 – The first half of this book bordered on dreadfully boring, the language seemed unnecessarily stale and verbose. I thought for quite some time I’d have to force myself to finish it. But then somewhere in the middle I fell in love and now even as I type this, I think I’ve been reading classic literature long enough because it is surely affecting my writing style. I plan to read Jane Eyre next and I’m looking forward to it, but first I have plans to read some more modern literature and hopefully my writing style will go back to normal. 🙂 In the end, I did like P&P a lot – and I’m not sure if my initial dislike of the book was the author’s fault or my own. Indeed, I may have been prejudiced against the book because of it’s “classic” style – and maybe too proud to admit my own shortcomings that were preventing me from liking it? But then ended up so in love with the book that you might equate the whole transition to Lizzy’s feelings towards Mr. Darcy. At first the book seemed unnecessarily dry and proud and boring – but by the end it was surely the warmest, most involved book I’ve read in awhile. I’m quite fancying myself in love with it. I might marry it. My family will be quite shocked, I’m sure. – full review here
  37. Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce – Finished September 10, 2008 – This was another one of those books where the first half took forever (months) to read and the second half was finished in days. I’m hooked now though and definitely planning to read at least the rest of the books in the Alanna series.
  38. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer – Finished September 25, 2008 – This book was an amazing end for such a brilliant series. I felt like I could see some things coming from a mile away and had so much fun with my speculations but other things took me completely by surprise. I cannot for the life of me understand other people’s angst with this book. It was wonderful. – full review here
  39. The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde – Finished October 25, 2008 – Another home run for Jasper Fforde. I really really enjoyed this book, like it may be my favorite in the series so far. I loved all the literary references and the whole world he creates for literature. Mr Fforde, I am officially in awe of you. – full review here
  40. In The Hand of The Goddess by Tamora Pierce – Finished October 28, 2008 – I devoured this book. It’s a quick read but very addictive, especially now that I know the whole back story, having read the first book in the series, Alanna: The First Adventure awhile back. This book moves quickly but is packed with action. I will definitely be reading the third book soon.
  41. The Woman Who Rides Like A Man by Tamora Pierce – Finished October 30, 2008 – SO good. Clearly, since I again devoured this book. I’m really looking forward to reading the last in this quartet and considering reading a LOT of her other works now. But you know, get in line.
  42. Rumors by Anna Godbersen – Finished November 7, 2008 – Possibly better than the first, but it’s been awhile so that’s hard to say. I had a really hard time putting this book down once I got into the thick of it. Her newest book in the series, Envy, comes out in January of 2009 and you know I’ll be wanting to read that!
  43. Harvesting the Heart by Jodi Picoult – Finished November 26, 2008 – This book was an incredible experience – Picoult is such a gifted writer, I couldn’t help but be in awe of her and loved the intricacies of this story – each piece woven into the next. Brilliant.
  44. Death: A Life by George Pendle – Finished December 4, 2008 – While I didn’t love this book, I did enjoy it – it was funny and well written and gave a very interesting perspective of life and death and all that other stuff in between.
  45. Boomtown by Nowen N. Particular – Finished December 13, 2008 – This story had the potential to be amazing – so many genius anecdotes and tales – but it fell flat and made it very hard to want to continue reading. – full review here
  46. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart – Finished December 20, 2008 – This book combines everything which is great about the Harry Potter series and Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events, but still manages to be it’s own entity – a fresh, exciting new plot that keeps you guessing, with a new memorable set of characters that children will be able to relate to and cheer on. – full review here
  47. The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis – Finished December 27, 2008 – I’m officially smitten with C.S. Lewis and the Narnia series. The writing style was wonderful and the story incredible. I loved reading about the creation of Narnia and all that comes before the lion, the witch and the wardrobe. – full review here

Gave Up On in 2008:

  • Maximum Ride series by James Patterson
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • Redwall by Brian Jaques
  • Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick

Still Reading As 2009 Approaches:

  • Home: A Memoir of My Early Years by Julie Andrews
  • The No-Cry Potty Training Solution by Elizabeth Pantley
books & reading reviews

Review: The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis

Which Chronicles of Narnia Character are you?
Susan Pevensie

Susan Pevensie
You are Susan. Very practical and no-nonsense, though you can become less so with persuasion. Incredibly smart, you like to boast your smarts sometimes and others get annoyed. Inside though, you are just a carefree girl who wants so much to get away from the responsibilities you have grown so accustomed to and the mother role you have sort of taken on.

I’ve finally decided to set about reading The Chronicles of Narnia. I’ve thought of reading this series on and off for years since seeing the original movie as a child, then seeing the new Narnia movies in recent years. When my husband also expressed an interest in reading them I decided now was the time. Using some handy gift cards that we received at Christmas this year I picked up a box set of the paperbacks at our local Borders. Last week I read The Magician’s Nephew, which was originally the 6th book written in the series, but as it tells the story of the creation of Narnia and all that comes before The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe it has since become considered the first book.

I was very happy to find that the hype of Narnia is well deserved. Apart from being an amazing story (on an even larger scale than you could know from having just seen TLTWATW) it is amazingly well written. Lewis’s writing style is flawless and reading this book was a delight. I loved that the story could be so timeless and not feel antiquated reading it sixty years after it was written – possibly because even when he wrote it, he set the story before the 1950s, saying quite plainly that it took place long before you. So it’s always been a story of before, quite fitting I think especially for a story that takes begins before Narnia even exists.

I don’t want to go into too much detail, because I really enjoyed reading it with no expectations of what it would be – just opening the book to find out for myself was thrilling and I was very pleased with what I found. So if you haven’t read this series yet, take a chance, it’s GOOD. I am anxiously looking forward to reading Book 2 (formerly Book 1) The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe.

Grade: A++