It is with GREAT pleasure that I announce I’ve succeeded in completing my goal of reading 100 books this year!  I’m a bit behind on posting my reviews, but I promise you within the next week I’ll complete them and get on track for the new year! Since I’ve completed my goal of 100 for the year I’ve thought about increasing my goal for 2012 and am thinking of upping the goal to 110.  I’ll post my definite plans tomorrow in my kick-off post, similar to what I did last year.

2011 has been a pretty amazing year of reading for me.  Looking back I’ve read some fascinating memoirs, heartbreaking fiction, and  suspenseful mysteries among other things.  My top ten for the year with links to their reviews are as follows:

  1. Jane Eyre
  2. One Day
  3. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
  4. The Hunger Games
  5. Stardust
  6. The House At Riverton
  7. Lunch in Paris
  8. A Wife For Mr. Darcy
  9. Eat, Pray, Love
  10. Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian/The Silent Governess

It was SO difficult to come up with a top ten for the year; I have to pat myself on the back for choosing such a wide array of excellent reads.  I do hope that you’ll tell me what you’ve enjoyed reading this year! There is no better recommendation to read a book than a recommendation from a fellow reader!

In terms of the challenges I signed up for this past year I completed the Historical Fiction Challenge and the Page to Screen Challenge with flying colors.  The Chunkster Challenge continues through January 31, 2012 so I still have a month to finish my last two “mega-chunkster” books.  My Austen challenges I did not do so well on.  I only completed 2 of the Jane Austen mystery novels, and completed 50% of the Sense and Sensibility Challenge.  I’m disappointed that I did so terribly on them, but I guess the light at the end of the tunnel is that I still completed my 100!  I’ve already begun to sign up for 2012 challenges, so make sure you head over to my challenge page to track my progress.

I hope that you will all enjoy the holiday today, checking back in tomorrow to join me on my journey of reading in 2012.

Happy New Year, and happy reading!

Reflections of a Book Addict: ArmchairBEA Day 2 & 3

Unfortunately my day got a bit hectic yesterday, putting me a day behind on my ArmchairBEA posts.  The theme of yesterday’s post was supposed to be “The Best of 2011.”  Below are four of my favorite books that I’ve read so far this year!

  1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – Classic book that I just had the pleasure of reading for the first time.  (Epic failure on my part)  This tops my best of 2011 list because of how much I loved the book.  Jane Eyre embodied everything that is wonderful about books. The writing was superb; the story was dramatic, emotional, passionate, etc.  There is a reason why people still fall in love with this book 100+ years later.
  2. The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins – Amazing series of books!  Collins describes a post-apocalyptic world in which “tributes” are chosen to fight to the death for the honor of their home state.  Peeta and Katniss, two main tributes that hail from the same district, must fight for their own survival and deal with their feelings for each other.  It’s never a dull moment with this series: I was always on the edge of my seat! 
  3. Stardust by Neil Gaiman – Neil Gaiman writes the story of Tristran Thorn, an average young man living an average life until he goes on a quest to find a fallen star.  The writing of the narrative was very descriptive, allowing the reader to experience the world that Gaiman created.  It makes for an interesting way to read a fantasy novel.
  4. Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris – What can I say about Sookie Stackhouse.  Full of humor, violence, sex, plot twists, and other extremes, Harris creates an amazing novel where we follow Sookie along on her quest to live a normal life among the supernatural world.  Her hilarious asides blend seamlessly with the action and make this series one of my favorites.  I am already eagerly counting down the days until book 12 is released next May!

2011 has so far been an awesome year for books!  I’m really looking forward to continuing along my journey to 100.  If you’re interested in seeing what other books I’ve read so far this year check out my 2011 book list.

Today (5/25)’s theme was a way to create a network amongst the ArmchairBEA participants.  Bloggers interviewed other bloggers and posted the interviews up on their own blogs.  I was lucky enough to be interviewed by Bethany of Subtle Melodrama!  Bethany posted the interview today, and you can find a link to it here.

Due to my finding out about ArmchairBEA super last-minute I myself wasn’t able to interview anyone for today’s posting.  Fear not readers, as I will be signing myself up nice and early next year so that I can take part in all the festivities!

For more information on ArmchairBEA click here.

Until tomorrow, happy reading!!

Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of Stardust

Hi everyone, Adam here! I wanted to give you a broad overview of my new series appearing on the blog, called “Adam’s Film Friday’s.”  Each Friday I will post a new review on a film.  There is no type of film I’m against trying to review, so if after reading some of my posts you think there is a film I’d enjoy or even one you’d like to hear about just use the form on the contact page and let me know.

Stardust, a modern fairy tale, is set during the 1800’s in a small English town called Wall.   The story begins with Dunstan (Ben Barnes) journeying past a magical wall that surrounds the town into the realm known as Stormhold.  (Stormhold is a world filled with witches, warlocks, and all things magical)  There he finds a slave girl with whom he spends the night.  Nine months later a boy is dropped off at Dunstan’s front door, his son Tristan.  18 years later, Tristan (Charlie Cox) has grown up into a local shop boy who vies for the heart of Victoria (Sienna Miller). One night while sharing champagne in the woods, Tristan and Victoria, see a shooting star. Victoria says if Tristan is able to bring the shooting star back to her before her birthday in a week, she will agree to marry him.  Tristan makes it across the wall and begins his journey to find the star, which coincidently turns out to be a beautiful woman Yvaine (Claire Danes).  At the same time Tristan is trying to bring the star back to Victoria, a witch named Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer), and a prince, Prince Septimus (Mark Strong) are also searching for her.  Lamia needs the star’s heart for her and her sisters so they can be immortal, and Septimus needs the ruby that the star is wearing so he can take over as King of Stormhold. As they all go on their separate journeys, their stories connect and form what is one of the most entertaining fairy tales I have ever seen in film format since I was a kid.

I thought for the most part the cast fit their roles very well. A definite standout for me was Robert DeNiro as Captain Shakespeare, whose character is completely different from anything else I have ever seen him in. When I first heard he was in this film, I expected him to play the tough guy, but it definitely showed his versatility as an actor to play Captain Shakespeare.  Captain Shakespeare appears to be a tough guy, but let’s just say he also has a soft side. 

Another standout for me was Charlie Cox as the bumbling hero Tristan Thorne. He portrayed the character with the right amount of aloofness and heroic stature that made his character so likeable. Had he done only one of those two contrasting traits, he would have either looked like a condescending jack-ass or a moron.  He was able to find the balance though and effectively play the character.

The weak link in the first half of the film for me was Claire Danes as the star Yvaine. Her performance got better as the film progressed, but her British accent was very weak in the beginning which made her scenes very awkward and uneven to watch. However by the end of the film she came into her own. (If anybody wants to see how good of an actress Claire Danes is, watch her in Baz Lurman’s version of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  She is a perfect Juliet).

I think anyone from 9 to 99 would really like this “old school with a twist” fairy tale. The fantastic special effects, solid performances from some old Hollywood favorites/new up and comers, and a solid story made this an enjoyable film viewing experience. I leave you know with this question: Do you think the stars are watching you as you gaze up at them? After viewing this film you will constantly think of an answer to that question.

4 out of 5 Stars

Paramount Pictures (2007)
PG-13, 127 Minutes

Kim’s note: Stardust is based on the book of the same name by Neil Gaiman.  For my review of the book click here

#4 A Review of Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Cover ImageNeil Gaiman is by my definition a modern-day renaissance man.  He writes books for adults, books for children, writes songs, graphic novels, comic books, and much much more.  He truly is a writer capable of many things and writes with an imagination unparalleled.  Published in 1998, Stardust, was the first solo prose novel written by Gaiman. 
Tristran Thorn is completely head over heels in love with Victoria Forester.  While walking in their hometown of Wall one evening Tristran decides to tell Victoria of his eternal love for her.  A star begins to fall as Tristran tells Victoria, prompting her to say to him that if he goes and captures the star she will let him have his hearts desires.  Knowing that the star is the way to Victoria’s heart he sets off across the wall (the wall is what gives the town its name) and begins his journey for the star in the land of Faerie.  Along the journey he meets a cast of characters that are all a bit strange: witches, stars, flying lightning catchers, little hairy men, a unicorn, talking trees, and many more.  Each play an integral part in his journey to the star and also make him question his heritage.   Is he really the son of the Thorns from Wall, or is there more about him that meets the eye.  Is his love for Victoria really as eternal as he thinks it is?  The star on the other hand has a journey of her own, trying to escape an evil witch that is trying to eat her heart for eternal youth.  The star must also be found by the next leader of Stormhold so that they may lay claim on the topaz jewel that she wears around her waist.  Will Tristran and the star make it through the perilous journey and back to Wall in time for Tristran to present the star to Victoria?  You must read Stardust to find out!
The first thing I have to say about this novel is the detail in which Gaiman writes.  He has literally created an entire world for his readers.  I really wish that the world he created was real because it is amazing.  The detail that is put into describing places that don’t really get visited in the novel is just exquisite. 

“With Tristran’s next step he was standing beside a lake, and the candlelight shone brightly on the water; and then he was walking through the mountains, through lonely crags, where the candlelight was reflected in the eyes of the creatures of the high snows; and then he was walking through the clouds, which, while not entirely substantial, still supported his weight in comfort; and then holding tightly to his candle, he was underground, and the candlelight glinted back at him from the wet cave walls; now he was in the mountains once more; and then he was on a road through a wild forest, and he glimpsed a chariot being pulled by two goats, being driven by a woman in a red dress who looked, for the glimpse he got of her, the way Boadicea was drawn in his history books; and another step and he was in a leafy glen, and he could hear the chuckle of water as it splashed and sang its way into a small brook.”

Gaiman’s entire novel is filled with these descriptive passages.  It’s absolutely amazing to read and be able to picture what you are reading in your entire head.  Even though the above paragraph is one sentence, it doesn’t read as one sentence.  My brain would take pauses as I was reading to create the images I was reading about.  It certainly made the novel more enjoyable for me. (I’m guessing it would for other readers as well)

There are so many enjoyable characters in Stardust.  Tristran has an amazing “coming of age” story that is written so well.  For me I’ve sometimes read novels that the character just becomes an adult without anything really driving their maturity.  In Stardust Tristran must take his childhood and his childhood learnings and use them as instruments that drive his march into adulthood.  He must come to terms with his lineage and his emotions and use them all on his journey both from Wall to Faerie and from child to adult.  On the other hand Yvaine, the star, must learn to deal with her new surroundings.  As a fallen star she will never be allowed back into the sky and so must learn to live among the creatures/people of Faerie.  While she starts off as a proud and angry star, she learns that not everyone “below” is after her; there are some that do have her best interests at heart.  It’s Gaiman’s characterizations of these characters that make them so likeable and so enjoyable to read about.  It’s been said that he has the sequel to Stardust in his head, waiting for the right time to write it down.  For all of us, I hope that time comes soon. 

5 out of 5 Stars

This is my first completed review for the Page to Screen Challenge

Stardust by Neil Gaiman
Harper Perennial Publishers (2006)
Paperback 288 pages
ISBN: 9780061142024
To visit Neil’s website click here
For more works by Neil click here

New Year; New Challenges

January 1, 2011.  It’s the official beginning of my new challenge!!  I have 365 days to read 100 books.  I’m partaking in two reading challenges this year (that I’ve signed up for so far) so 11 of those books are the Jane Austen mystery series and 20 of them will be historical fiction novels. I’m excited that I’m mixing it up this year and doing some reading challenges as well.  I think it will help keep me motivated throughout the year. 

I’m really looking forward to some of the titles that I’ve decided to read this year.  I have a very eclectic group to read so far.  Some of the titles include:

  1. The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory
  2. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (It’s the 200 year anniversary of the book this year!)
  3. Little Children by Tom Perrotta
  4. Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding
  5. V For Vendetta by Alan Moore
  6. Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
  7. You Better Not Cry by Augusten Burroughs
  8. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  9. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  10. The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo by Stieg Larsson
  11. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  12. Stardust by Neil Gaiman
  13. The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
  14. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris

I have a much bigger list than this, but I’m really looking forward to the specific books above!

So now that my new challenge has begun I would like to encourage you guys to do your own challenges.  You don’t have to read 100 books like I do, but you can do something similar to Todd and try for between 25 and 50.  You are always welcome to post on the blog thoughts about your own reading challenges or about specific books.

If you decide to do a challenge: Good Luck and Happy Reading!