Sunday, April 28, 2013

Blog on Hold


I want to thank all of you for being patient while I take a little vacation from blogging. My husband and I just finished closing on and moving into our new house! As exciting as that is, it has taken up every spare moment of my time and then some (think lots and lots of wallpaper from the 80's). I have fallen so far behind in my reading that I fear I'll never catch up- then I remember I was never caught up in the first place and I don't think it's humanly possible with my TBR list.

I hope to be up and running again soon as I am typing this from my *almost* complete library. It only needs two more bookshelves and a new armchair I picked out for my birthday. I will have to post some pictures of the end result; I'm in book heaven!

Look out for upcoming reviews on books such as A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin and possibly The Handmaid's Tale as well as much bookish news!

Happy Reading!
Paige Nguyen

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday #14

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish
Bookish people have a bit of a bad habit. We can't help it, it's written in code on our genes. It's a habit we'd like to keep secret, especially from ourselves. But for this week's Top Ten Tuesday, we've aired this shameful habit in hopes (for me at least) that it will help us break it!

You see, sometimes I really really want a book- like I need it. My husband claims that I get this certain face and clasp my hands a certain way and he knows he's in for the long haul. It could be a new release or just a book I've been hearing a lot about recently, or "I'll never find it this cheap again!!" And I'll skip with it to the checkout counter or click the Order With One Click button and be as happy as clam.

And this is where the bad part comes in... I bring it home, sit it proudly on my shelf...and never take it back down to read it. I know, I know- stop shaking your head already, I'm working on it. There's no rhyme or reason to why this happens, it just does. If you marry a bookish person, you just have to accept that it comes with the territory. It's not that these books will NEVER get read- they will...eventually. But life happens, new books come out, and the previous "absolutely have to have now" purchases get pushed farther down the to-read list.

I have quite a few of these, but this year I'm making a dent in the stack. I will give one excuse: most of them were bought at a going out of business sale and were literally no more than $2.00 a piece. How can you not get them? So, without further ado, here is my list of "must-have right now, or I'll die, please please please" books that I have yet to read.

1) The Iron King by Julie Kagawa- I heard a lot of good things about this one from friends on Goodreads so I bought it right away. Then I heard more about what the story entails, and now I'm afraid I won't like it. I've had bad luck when it comes to modern Fae books. 

2) The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas- The sheer size of this one is what keeps me from picking it up. But hey, Les Miserables is one of my ultimate favorite books and it's the size of a cinder block! Then again, I braved 1Q84 and did not like it one bit!

3) Heroes of the Valley by Jonathon Stroud- I loved his Bartimaeus series and so when I basically tripped over this one at a used bookstore, I vowed to cancel our Netflix subscription in order to validate the purchase (we still have Netflix).

4) The last 5 Clan of the Cave Bear books by Jean M. Auel- I loved the first book and then bought what I thought was the second was actually the sixth. How do I rectify the situation? Um, buy the other 4, duh! 

5) Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce- I really enjoyed the first book and found this one (the second) for cheap. I've been eyeing the third one on Amazon....

6) The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor- Another thrifty find that had been recommended to me a few times.

7) The Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix- I cannot tell you how many people have told me (more like screamed at me) to read this! I absolutely know I will love it, but they have been sitting in their lovely little box since last fall...

8) Wolfskin and Foxmask by Juliet Marillier- These are the last Marillier books published that I have yet to read. I found a bunch of hers for cheap online and had to snap them up. I heard they were going to stop printing them (no really, I did).

9) Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith- another big recommendation that I bought right away. I can't wait to actually read it.

10) Queen Hereafter by Susan Fraser King- I'm a sucker for historical fiction that takes place in Scotland/Ireland/anywhere in the UK really. I found it on Goodreads and then Amazon had it used for so cheap! It's still collecting dust.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Japanese Bookstore in a Home

From Good
Most of us wish we had our own library in our homes a la Beauty and the Beast, but what about your very own bookstore complete with a cafe where people and friends can drop by anytime to peruse your stacks? That's what this Japanese couple, teaming up with architect Atlier Bow-Wow (quite the name...), did in Izu, Japan.

They built this amazing structure in an area known to be a vacation spot for the Japanese. I would say it was a vacation within a vacation (Inception, anyone?). Not only is it just plain awesome to have a bookstore practically in your living room, but the whole house is designed spectacularly! I especially love that it's tucked away in a Japanese forest.

The bedroom and guest room (can I come and stay?!) are just behind the bookstore. I wonder how late they stay open...This space brings up so many questions for me. What would it be like for your house to be the hub of your community, to have guests over pretty much all the time? Would it get tiring after a while, or just more enriching? How would the neighborhood feel about it- would it be strange to go to someone's house to buy a book?

I've already considered opening my home as a sort of community children's library one day. I've collected SO many books from being a teacher and a general book worm, that it seems a pity to have them collecting dust, waiting for me to have my own children. The one thing that has stopped me from pursuing this idea further is all the red tape that would be involved. My house would have to be "up to code" for insurance purposes- I'd probably need to put in a handicap accessible bathroom and build hand rails and all sorts of things (there's a whole slew of liablities when it comes to having children there). I'm not sure what kind of standards Japan has, but this couple looks like they have plenty of money to spare for that sort of thing.

I think it would be so much fun to have my own little bookshop attached to my house, the way my grandmother had a beauty shop attached to hers. I could host book clubs and author events, have summer reading programs and tutoring- the possibilities are endless!

What do you think? Would a in-house public bookstore be a dream or a nightmare?

Video walk-through of this amazing space!

Find out more at Good

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday #13

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

What books are on the TOP of your Spring 2013 To Be Read stack?

1) Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare: I have this preordered to arrive on my doorstep the day it is released and I can't wait!! I almost feel I should reread the last one to get my head around the story again. I can't remember all the details- eek!

2) Mistborn/ The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson: I'm currently reading Mistborn, a story about a world immersed in a deep evil where a band of former slaves turned thieves find they have some incredible powers and decide to take back their kingdom. I'm sure I'll want to read the second one right away.

3) Emma by Jane Austen: It's time I picked up another Austen book- 'nuff said.

4) The Pearls of Lutra by Brian Jacques: It isn't springtime without a warm-hearted adventure from a little red abbey in the forest! I look forward to reading at least one of these a year.

5) The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor: I've been waiting a long time to read this. It's a sweet (or so I hope) twist on the Alice in Wonderland theme.

6) Dark Triumph by R. L. LaFevers: I just finished Grave Mercy a couple of weeks ago and loved it! It's about a girl who's father is Death. She's brought up in a convent that follows the patron saint of Death and teaches young women how to carry out assassinations for fifteenth century country of Brittany in all manner of ways. It was fantastic! Luckily the second book comes out in April.

7) The Valley of the Horses by Jean M. Auel: I read Clan of the Cave Bear years ago and really enjoyed it. A couple of months ago I was able to pick up the rest of the series for super cheap at a used book store that was going out of business. I would have never thought a novel about neanderthals and early humans would be so enthralling. If you've never read or heard of this book, you should definitely check it out.

8) The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan: I picked this one up for cheap too. I've enjoyed all the other Asian/Historical  books (Shanghai Girls, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Memoirs of a Geisha, etc.) I've read so far, but I've never read anything by Amy Tan.

9) The London Scene: Six Essays on London Life by Virginia Woolf: Once again, another bargain pick-up. I've already perused this one a little and I love how she describes everyday life in London. I've only been once, but I feel like I can go back for a short time by reading these lovely essays.

10) Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale: This is one of the few Hale YA books that I haven't gotten to yet. I'll just post the Goodreads summary here as I can't think of a better way to sum it up: When Dashti, a maid, and Lady Saren, her mistress, are shut in a tower for seven years for Saren's refusal to marry a man she despises, the two prepare for a very long and dark imprisonment.
    As food runs low and the days go from broiling hot to freezing cold, it is all Dashti can do to keep them fed and comfortable. 
     But the arrival outside the tower of Saren's two suitors—one welcome, and the other decidedly less so—brings both hope and great danger, and Dashti must make the desperate choices of a girl whose life is worth more than she knows.
     With Shannon Hale's lyrical language, this forgotten but classic fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm is reimagined and reset on the central Asian steppes; it is a completely unique retelling filled with adventure and romance, drama and disguise.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Feature and Follow Friday #2

Alison Can Read Feature & Follow

Q: What is a book you didn't like that all your friends raved about or what book did you love that wasn't popular?

A. Just recently I read a book that was recommended to me by multiple people who loved it- The Alchemyst. I didn't care for it at all and you can see why here. Another book that fell flat for me was Throne of Glass. I had been so pumped for that one too. See why it was such a let down here. I can't say I was a huge fan of Seraphina either, another let down, although I haven't officially review that one yet.

As for books I love that aren't very popular...the one's I can think of are just not as well known. To those of us who've read them, they are wildly popular, so I'm not sure if they count. One would be The Sevenwaters Series by Juliet Marillier. They are beyond amazing! In one of my book clubs, I was one of the few who enjoyed Of Mice and Men- does that count? It looks like I'll have to come back and add more if I think of any later.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Alchemyst (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel #1)

Title: The Alchemyst
Author: Michael Scott
Publisher/Date: August 5, 2010 Corgi Children's
Genre: Fantasy/Mythology YA
Synopsis: Nicholas Flamel was born in Paris on 28 September 1330. Nearly seven hundred years later, he is acknowledged as the greatest Alchemyst of his day. It is said that he discovered the secret of eternal life. The records show that he died in 1418. But his tomb is empty and Nicholas Flamel lives. The secret of eternal life is hidden within the book he protects - the Book of Abraham the Mage. It's the most powerful book that has ever existed. In the wrong hands, it will destroy the world. And that's exactly what Dr. John Dee plans to do when he steals it. Humankind won't know what's happening until it's too late. And if the prophecy is right, Sophie and Josh Newman are the only ones with the power to save the world as we know it. Sometimes legends are true. And Sophie and Josh Newman are about to find themselves in the middle of the greatest legend of all time. (Goodreads)

I should have known to stay away from books with any form of the title The Alchemist. I had a terrible time reading the one by Paulo Coelho in high school. Although this book was nothing like Coelho's, I had an equally tough time of it. This book claims to be YA, but I think it would fit much better in the MG category. If it was meant for MG, I wouldn't be so disappointed about it.

First of all, I thought we would get to see more of Flamel back in the 13-1400's. But no, we are placed firmly in the modern world and Nicholas Flamel, the greatest Alchemyst of the world, looks like a washed up hippie selling second hand books. Then comes cardboard cut out teen #1 and #2- the twins. I could tell you as much about Sophie and Josh Newman before I picked up the book as when I finished it. They just didn't have real personalities for me. They do or think whatever someone might think a teenager would do or think (hey look I have an ipod, hey look I'm attached to my laptop, I play video games and football!) and the characterization stops there.

Now I know a lot of people like fast-paced, action-packed plots, but I'd say this one went way overboard. It seems like the second the group pauses to take a breath from being chased by some monster, another one shows up and their off running away again! There's chasing and running and more chasing and more running, all while the teens keep up with the "huh? what's going on?" dialogue. This all happens within a few days, mind you. I felt like the author tried to come up with as many mythological beings as possible and then just dumped them into the story to create havoc. I also didn't appreciate his interpretation of most of these legends since his versions lacked the ass-kickery you would expect from them. I mean, if you're a god that's lived for thousands upon thousands of years, you would think you would have come up with a cooler way to communicate other than CELL PHONES! None of them, including Flamel himself, had any depth of character. Take a look at that title again- yes, The Alchymest, wouldn't you expect there to be some, ahem, alchemy taking place? Don't get your hopes up, there isn't any. On a side note of personal pet peeves, I hated the name John Dee for a villain. I know it's based off of a real person, but I kept thinking of John Deere, and Scathac or "Scatty". Whaaat??

There was also far too much repition. How many times are we going to be told their parents are archaeologists before we're allowed to move on in the story? The twins just stay panicked the whole time and repetitively make really dumb choices. They annoyed me.

I gave it two stars instead of one because I can see a young crowd enjoying this. Maybe some middle schoolers who are into Percy Jackson? Although I really can't say since I haven't read that series. If this book would have been advertised for younger kids, I probably wouldn't have picked it up and wasted my time. I already know I don't like very many books geared towards MG. I know that plenty of you do enjoy those, so you might like this one. I for one will be trading it in at the used book store for something better.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday #12

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This week it's all about what series you tried and failed to get hooked on. These are the series your friends begged you to read, but you never quite seem to finish.

1. Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan: I have been told time and time again to read this series by a couple of friends in high school and then a couple more in college. I read Eye of the World way back in the tenth grade and was even given the second book as a "secret Santa" gift. I can't say that it didn't interest me, because it did, but I never got fully hooked. I now own the first six books, but I keep putting them off. Why? Because I read the first one eight or so years ago, and I don't remember a darn thing. That means I'm going to have to reread the first one, which always puts me off- especially when I have so many other glorious books waiting on me on my bookshelves. I will get to it...eventually.

2. The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott: I read The Alchemyst and pretty much detested it. It says YA, but it felt more like MG to me. Maybe I just don't have a thing for mythology (I bet I would if it was done right), but I have no desire to continue this series.

3. The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare: Well, this one I can't say for sure I won't read. It didn't sound like something I would be into, but my gosh are they popular! Interestingly enough, I read Clockwork Angel and didn't fall in love. Then all my determined Goodreads friends cajoled me into reading the second one, which I totally enjoyed. Now I can't wait for Clockwork Princess to come out this month. I will have to give City of Bones a chance. :) 

4. The Chemical Garden by Lauren DeStafano: I've only read Wither so far. Although it seemed like an interesting concept and held my attention for most of the book, the ending ruined it for me. It was just too incredibly simple. I haven't decided whether to ever finish the series.

5. Harry Potter- JUST KIDDING! Book of Ember by Jeanne DuParu: Maybe the ending was supposed to be a spoiler, but it was pretty obvious where the City was. I thought you were supposed to already know going into the book, but the ending made it seem like a surprise. Once again, I think it was written for an audience too young to keep me interested.

6. Parasol Protectorate by Gail Carringer: I thought this was going to be a great introduction to steam punk with a lot of wit and mystery thrown in. What I got was a strange romance novel with explicit scenes. While I enjoyed some of the wit and humor, it was not what I expected, and I don't care to continue with the series.

7. Wicked Lovely by Malissa Marr: I read this a very long time ago, so I can't remember why, but I really disliked it. I won't be getting the second one anytime soon.

8. Abarat by Clive Barker: This book was just plain weird. Reading it was like having a very strange and bad dream. It has really interesting illustrations, but I'm pretty sure some of them gave me nightmares. I never even finished the first one.

9. Wideacre by Phillipa Gregory: I never finished the first one here as well. I thought it would be a beautiful historical fiction about a strong-willed heroine with some romance thrown in for good measure, like The Boleyn Inheritance, also by Gregory (which I loved). Wideacre quickly turned into a book revolving completely around incest with lots and lots of explicit descriptions of said incest. I had a hard time not throwing up. I promptly returned it to the library.

10. Austenland by Shannon Hale: I just realized that I put Hale down as one of my top ten auto buy authors last week so I will have to amend that to only her YA books. Although I didn't hate Austenland, it was just too fluffy with too little plot for me. If I came across the second book, I maybe would read it (if I had nothing better to do)- they're short at least.

What series couldn't you bear to finish?