Category Archives: Musings

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

So, I happened to stumble across something completely new and WONDERFUL the other day. What is the cause of this delight? A YouTube adaptation of Pride and Prejudice called The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

Now you may think that the world doesn’t need ANOTHER P&P adaptation. Poor Elizabeth Bennet has been through the ringer in reprises and sequels. I thought I had my fill after reading the original novel and watching the 2005 movie version, but was quickly proven wrong.

There is something special about this retelling. It starts with the characters. Elizabeth Bennet-Lizzie–is the perfect mix of wit and sarcasm. Charlotte is the consummate foil with her serious attitude. Older sister Jane is absolutely charming. Lydia is perfection; she takes all of the annoying characteristics of teenagers and makes them entertaining. The actors own their characters, creating believable people. I want to grab a drink with them and become their friend.

Instead of meeting the Bennet parents, you see them portrayed by Lizzie and Charlotte in costume. This often allows the writers to work in the original words of Jane Austen without them seeming out of place. Lizzie’s rendition of Darcy enables you to see her perception of him without her having to say it directly. Lydia’s impersonation of Bing Lee–Charles Bingley–is what I assume to be wildly inaccurate; but entertaining as hell.

The characters alone were enough to make me subscribe to these videos; the brilliant writing led me to become addicted. The writers adapt the Bennets’ problems of the early 19th century to contemporary issues. Finding wealthy suitors to support your five daughters–due to a lack of an inheritance– becomes finding rich guys to pay off your three daughters’ student loans. These stories translate seamlessly while being injected with humor.

I was hooked after watching the first video. I watched the three available episodes immediately. I then re-watched them another two or three more times. On Mondays and Thursday I eagerly watch Lizzie’s twitter feed for an announcement of a new vlog. Once a new one is posted I watch it two or three times before the withdrawal sets in.

Why am I so interested in a story when I know the ending? Because the writers have made such an interesting journey. They have taken something we know the answer to and created new questions. When will we see Darcy? What sort of craziness will Lydia get herself into? What journey will Charlotte take? I need to know now!!!

However, I am forced to wait for these answers. On days where there is no new videos updates I check the various Twitter feeds of the characters and their various Tumblr pages. I know I will be sad when it the series ends, but can’t wait to see how the it unravels. Have I convinced you to check the first episode? I have included it below. Looking to catch up on all of the LBD goodness? Check out this link here I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

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E-Readers Revisited

Last September I posted my thoughts on the topic of E-Readers. I summarized that I would love such a device but cannot justify the cost. I concluded that it was not something I needed at the time.

Recently I have found myself with some quiet time holding my daughter while she sleeps. This has been a great opportunity to get some reading done. Unfortunately the fact I am holding a sleeping baby makes it hard to turn the pages of the book. It crossed my mind that an E-Reader would easily allow for one-handed reading. My wonderful husband suggested that perhaps this would be a good Mother’s Day gift. This seemed like the perfect idea.

Nook E-ReaderThe question then became “Which E-Reader should I buy?” I narrowed my choices down to two; the Nook and Kindle. I compared them to determine which was the right one for me.

One feature I considered a “must have” was a 3G connection. This would allow me to purchase a book at any time. Both options include this feature. The Nook–like my iPhone–takes the internet connection one step further and allows you to browse the web. I did not want to pay extra for this feature since I would not use it. Another feature the Nook had was that it displayed in color. I could not justify getting a device with color–again it is not something I would ever use.

Kindle E-readerIn comparison the Kindle was filled with features I would use. The fact it was not back-lit meant I could easily use it in direct sunlight. The Kindle mobile app allows me to read my books on my Macbook, iPhone, or iPad. The syncing feature allows me to pick up exactly where I left off no matter the device. My Amazon.com addiction–90% of my books have been purchased from the site–was another plus for this device. Purchasing the E-Reader from Amazon meant I could continue on with my shopping habits.

In the end the thing that finally made my decision had nothing to do with the features of either product. As a Mother’s Day special, Amazon offered a free $25 gift card with the purchase of a Kindle. This was the perfect thing to start my collection of E-Books. With my husband’s credit card in hand, I ordered the device and eagerly awaited its arrival.

Kindle App IconI have had my Kindle for two months now, and I am very happy with the decision I made. I find myself frequently enjoying how I can easily download several sample selections to my Kindle to peruse. I can determine if I’m interested in a book before spending money on it. I love being able to easily read books with one hand. Since I can purchase a new book at any time, means I always have something to read. I could go on and on about all the reasons I love my Kindle.

Now that I have an E-reader, I eagerly endorse them to anyone who asks. I initially thought I would miss having paper books, but that hasn’t been the case. I think this purchase has been instrumental in me meeting my reading goal in record time. These devices may not be for everyone, but I am really glad I finally got one.

Most Anticipated Books of 2011

I have set my reading goals for 2011; now it’s time to start choosing the books! Below are seven books that I eagerly anticipate reading this year as I aim to complete my goal.

The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia AhernFirst up for release is The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern. The January 25th release date is right around the corner. Ahern’s novels are a refreshing change from the ordinary, due to the setting of the books. Her plots seem to take place in a world very similar to our own, with an extra magical layer to them. This fantasy world has worked in all of her books except her last. I hope her newest release is more successful at maintaining the balance between reality and extraordinary.

Delirium by Lauren OliverI named Lauren Oliver’s debut release Before I Fall my favorite read of 2010. I was excited when Oliver announced her next book, Delirium. This book is the first in a trilogy scheduled to be released over the next three years. I usually wait until all of the books have been released to start a series. I plan on breaking this trend with Delirium. The first reason is the book’s description. It reminds me of one of my favorite books, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. The second reason is that my love for Before I Fall has me very eager to has me very eager to read more from Oliver.(Bad Pun Alert!) I am delirious to get my hands on a copy of this book!

Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss & Love by matt logelinOver two years ago I started reading a blog by new dad Matt Logelin. The blog was very different than those by other new fathers. Matt lost his wife less than forty-eight hours after welcoming his daughter into the world. The words on his blog were honest and emotional. I was quickly enthralled by his story. Even though the man was a stranger, I found myself rooting for him as tried to move past the tragedy in his life. He is now telling his story in Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss & Love. The memoir will be released April 14th. I plan to have a box of tissues available for this read; it’s going to be a real tearjerker.

Abandon by Meg CabotMeg Cabot has two books being released in 2011. The first up is Abandon, due out April 26th. This book is the first in a new series she is writing. Her second story–Overbite–is the follow up to her 2010 release Insatiable. I am a bit apprehensive about both stories. Insatiable started strong, but I felt that it got a bit “out there” at the end. I’m hoping this is not the case in Overbite. The description of Abandon gives me the same concern. This is upsetting because I have loved her earlier works. I hope to be able to enjoy her Supernatural releases as well.

The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson Abandon is not the only story I’m excited about being released on the 26th of April. That is also the publication date of the long-awaited sequel to 13 Little Blue Envelopes. I have been eager to get my hands on The Last Little Blue Envelope since Maureen Johnson announced it over a year ago. The original is one of my favorite works by Johnson; I hope the same is true for its sequel. Johnson is also releasing The Name of the Star in September of this year. This book is the first in her “Shades of London” series. I loved her submission in Zombies vs. Unicorns because it was a bit darker than her usual work. I am hoping that this latest series is more of that darker tone. If so I feel it will be one of her more enjoyable novels.

There are two other notable releases I want to mention. On June 21st Ally Carter will release the second book in her Heist Society series. I can’t wait to find out what hi-jinks Kat and crew encounter in Uncommon Criminals. Jen Lancaster is releasing her first work of fiction on May 3rd of this year. I have found her previous memoirs to be hysterical and can’t wait to see what If You Were Here is about.

2011 Reading Goals

My goal for 2010 was to read 78 books. The plan was to average one and a half books a week. Some months–like April–it was easy to meet this goal; other months–such as June–it was tough to get through the pages. In the end the good and bad months evened out enough that I met my goal.

Last week I had to decide what my goal would be for 2011. I would normally aim to meet or surpass my previous target, but I don’t think that is possible this time. This year my usual distractions–and family–will welcome a new addition. I have no doubt that a new baby will reduce the time I want to spend reading. It’s hard to choose a book over a new baby! As a result I decided to drop down my target from 78 books to 52. I feel this is a realistic goal that I will be able to meet.

This year I have extra help as I aim to reach my target. The 2011 Reading Challenge on Goodreads.com is a neat tool to help me track my progress toward my goal. To start I inputted in how many books I was aiming to read this year. As I update the site when I finish a book, the tracker will automatically update my total. The Challenge page also allows you to see how your friends are doing as they aim to meet their goals. Another reason to sign up for Goodreads.com!

So I have set my reading goal for the year. I am interested to see how I do! If you want to see my progress, check out either Goodreads.com or here on the blog. Good luck to all as you try to meet your reading goals!

2010 Year in Review

I completed Ready or Not by Meg Cabot on December 28, 2010. This marked the 78th book I read that year, and I met my goal of reading 78 books! In celebration I will be highlighting some of my favorite–and one least favorite–of 2010.

Favorite Pregnancy Read

Nominees: Knocked Up: Confessions of a Hip Mother-to-be by Rebecca Eckler and Baby Bargains, 8th Edition: Secrets to Saving 20% to 50% on Baby Furniture, Gear, Clothes, Toys, Maternity Wear and Much, Much More! by Denise Fields, Alan Fields
Winner: Baby Bargains, 8th Edition by Denise Fields, Alan Fields
Book Cover for Baby Bargains, 8th Edition by Denise Fields & Alan FieldsI judged this category based on which book I felt prepared me the best for my impending motherhood. These two books are very different from each other, which made it difficult to choose a favorite. Knocked Up was an entertaining and realistic tale about the journey of pregnancy; it is a great memoir. Baby Bargains wins the category, however. This book helped me prepare for the new baby the most. As a first time mom, I know nothing about the products available for a newborn. This book was invaluable in helping figure out which items I needed and which I didn’t. I loved how this information was all in one place for easy reference. This is such a great book that I recommend it for all new parents.

Favorite Series

Nominees: Airhead Series by Meg Cabot, Gallagher Girls by Ally Carter, The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins, and Mediator Series by Meg Cabot
Winner: Mediator Series by Meg Cabot
Cover of Shadowland (Mediator #1) by Meg CabotI didn’t realize how many great book series I read this year until I tried to pick a winner. All four series were full of five-star books. In order to pick my favorite, it came down to one fact: which series was the most consistent throughout. Two of these series–Airhead and Hunger Games–started off strong but the series’ finales left me disappointed. To some extent this also happened with the latest Gallagher Girls book. This was not the case in the Mediator books. Each book had a consistency that I enjoyed. I picked up the first and finished the last within forty-eight hours. The entire time I was interested and engaged in the plot. I enjoyed how Cabot was able to tell Suze’s story over six books while keeping the plot connected and entertaining. Note: While the Mediator series wins this category, all four series are “Must Reads” in my book.

Favorite Goodreads “First-Read”

Nominees: Second Time Around by Beth Kendrick, The Council of Dads: My Daughters, My Illness, and the Men Who Could Be Me by Bruce Feiler, Lay the Favorite: A Memoir of Gambling by Beth Raymer
Winner: Lay the Favorite: A Memoir of Gambling by Beth Raymer
Lay The Favorite book cover What I like most about Goodreads giveaways is that they give me a chance to read a book I wouldn’t normally pick up. This is true of all ten books I have won. I appreciated all but one of them, with Lay the Favorite being the one I enjoyed the most. The fact that I had nothing in common with the main character, yet still was still entertained by her story, made the book more interesting for me. The book was a real page-turner that had me interested throughout. I never would have purchased this book, but am really glad that Goodreads gave me the opportunity to read it.

Worst Book of 2010

Nominees: Rich Again by Anna Maxted, The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell, The Gift by Cecelia Ahern
Winner: Rich Again by Anna Maxted
Book Cover of Rich Again by Anna Maxted I previously mentioned that I picked up this book solely based on its cover. The bright colors and shopping bags made me believe the story was a typical Chick Lit plot with a bit more conflict. Instead I found a book with a confusing setup, unlikeable characters, and morbid plot. There was not one enjoyable aspect in this story. I have never before been unable to finish a book and was only able to complete this one because I heavily skimmed it. Such a bad book all around.

Favorite Memior

Nominees: Sliding Into Home by Kendra Wilkinson, My Fair Lazy: One Reality Television Addict’s Attempt to Discover If Not Being A Dumb Ass Is the New Black; Or, A Culture-Up Manifesto by Jen Lancaster, Didn’t I Feed You Yesterday?: A Mother’s Guide to Sanity in Stilettos by Laura Bennett
Winner: Sliding Into Home by Kendra Wilkinson
Book Cover of Sliding Into Home by Kendra WilkinsonSo, I have a confession to make. I have a small obsession with all things related to the original Girls Next Door; Holly Madison, Kendra Wilkinson, and Bridget Marquardt. I was very excited when I heard that Wilkinson was going to be releasing a memoir. I figured this book would give me a little extra insight into what went on behind the scenes of the TV show. I was also interested in learning a bit more about what Wilkinson’s life was life before her time at the mansion and what brought her there. Apparently I wasn’t the only one interested, as it was impossible for me to get my hands on a copy of the book until a week after it had been released! Once I was able to start reading, I found myself enjoying the pace and flow of the story. Her truthful tale was the perfect mix of history and humor that defines her. This book may not be on the same level as some of the other five-star books I read this year, but it served as a needed escape. It was the perfect way to get some “guilty pleasure” time in and getaway from the insanity that can be real life.

Favorite Chick Lit Novel

Nominees: Second Time Around by Beth Kendrick, The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes, Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin
Winner: Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin
The cover of Emily Giffin's now book "Heart of the Matter"Most of the Chick Lit stories I read in previous years were fun and flighty. They involved a single girl shopping her way around town while looking for the right guy. This year I discovered that authors were moving away from this type of story in favor of serious tales. Emilly Giffin was able to successfully tell the tale of the challenges of marriage after writing great “boy meets girl” stories. There was very little about this book that didn’t work. I highly recommend it to all of my Chick Lit blog readers.

Favorite YA Novel

Nominees: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green, David Levithan, Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan, Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, The Hunger Games & Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Winner: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Book Cover of Before I Fall by Lauren OliverIt was a great year for me in terms of YA books. A quick look at a summary of YA books I read least year shows that a high percentage of the them rated four or five stars. It was hard to narrow this list down to the nominees. It was even harder to pick a winner! After much deliberation I picked Before I Fall. I started reading the book with no expectations. Lauren Oliver was a new author who was not from the usual circle of authors I read. I finished the book with a changed attitude. The way in which Oliver discussed the life and death of the main character was inspiring. I find myself often recommending this book to friends and strangers. Such an amazing book.

So, those are some of my favorite books of 2010. What were some of your favorite reads?

Books vs Movies

If forced to choose between reading a book or watching its movie adaptation, I will always choose the book for many reasons. The first has to do with the fact that a novel can be read at any pace. It can be savored leisurely, a few pages at a time, or devoured all at once. This is not true of films, which are usually best enjoyed all at once in two hour time blocks. The fact that you can re-read a passage in a paperback several times is another thing that appeals to me. Sometimes I do this to better understand what the author is trying to convey. Again, this is not something that can be done easily with motion pictures. A final thing I enjoy about books over movies is the fact I can use the authors words to develop the characters in my head. I do not have to accept the choices of a casting director to decide what someone looks or acts like.

In the past I have watched films based on a story I had previously read. I almost always end up enjoying the book version more. It is possible that this is a result of the extra time and budget constraints placed on films. Time constraints dictate that a movie be around 90 minutes long. In order for filmmakers to make this limit, they must cut out the smaller details found in a book. I often enjoy these little tidbits that we learn about the characters or story and miss them when they are cut. Budget restrictions placed on those in the film industry may dictate casting choices. In order to meet his budget, a director may decide not to include some smaller characters who don’t have a large impact on the plot of the story. If they don’t have to hire an actor, they don’t have to pay them. While these characters are not crucial to the plot development, I often enjoy their presence and miss them when they are cut.

My least favorite thing is when a movie ends in a completely different way than the story from which it is based. There have been many times that I have read a book that did not have the typical “happy” ending. Sometimes the girl wouldn’t get the guy. Imagine my surprise when I watch the movie and it ends with the girl and guy happily together. To me this is something that does not make a faithful movie adaptation. A change like this significantly alters the story.

Book Cover of Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin With all of that being said, I find it very odd that I am eagerly anticipating the movie release of Something Borrowed next year. This movie is based on the book of the same name by Emily Giffin. I adore this book. It is one of the books that I find myself absentmindedly picking up and not being able to put down. I have talked previously about her skill at depicting relationships, and this book is an excellent display of that ability. Even though you know the relationship between the characters of Dex and Rachel is a bad idea, you just can’t help that they work it out.

If anything, I would think my extreme love for this novel would make me less likely to want to see it. I usually hate seeing books I love ruined by movie adaptions. Some early images from the set have confirmed they have majorly altered the storyline of one of the characters. This would normally drive me insane, but has yet to bother me too much.

I think my lack of cynicism towards the screenplay is due to the author’s enthusiasm for the movie. Throughout the filming processes, she has posted frequent updates on her Facebook page. To me this demonstrates that she is excited about the movie and any changes to her original story. Personally I feel if the author is OK with changes made to his or her own words, I should also be OK with it. Hopefully this is the case and I enjoy the movie!

E-Readers

I love books. I also love having the newest technological toy. You’d think, then, that I’d also love an E-Reader. There are several good reasons why an E-Reader would be a smart purchase, which led me to the internet for research. All this research has done is convince me that an E-Reader may not be for me.

Sony PRS-900BC E-Reader

Sony PRS-900BC E-Reader

One of the reasons I have been interested in E-Readers is the price of e-Books. In many cases e-Books are cheaper than their paper counterparts. A comparison of my last six months of book purchases, however, showed the savings was not as much as I expected. My calculations showed that an E-Reader would have only saved me $14.48 in book purchases over six months. Some calculations showed that it would take 57 months for me to save enough with e-Book purchases to pay for the new $139 Kindle. While this is a savings, it isn’t large enough to justify the purchase.

Another thing people often rave about with E-Readers is the fact that they can be several books at once. If you are reading two traditional books at once, you must carry both around. This is a waste of precious purse space. Compare this to an E-Reader where forty e-Books take up the same space as one book. In this case an E-Reader is clearly beneficial. Personally, though, I would see little benefit from this ability. I read books so quickly that I am rarely reading more than one book at a time. With the exception of my doctor’s appointments, I do most of my reading at home. While this feature is helpful for many, it is not something that would persuade me to purchase an E-Reader.

Barnes & Noble Nook E-Reader

Barnes & Noble Nook E-Reader

It was pointed out to me that with an E-Reader, you can purchase books instantly. When Mockingjay was released, those with E-Readers could start reading promptly at 12:01 am while still in their PJ’s. This interest me due to my need to have things as quick as possible. If not for my Amazon Prime account–which sends me any book I order in two days or less for free–it might have been a selling point. While Prime can not deliver books to me at 12:01 am, it does guarantee I’ll have the book waiting for me on release day when I get home from work. This service is quick enough that I don’t find the instant delivery of an E-Reader to be a factor in the decision to switch from traditional books to electronic ones.

A final argument for an E-Reader deals with the paper that makes up traditional books. Pages of books are so easily torn or soiled. With an E-Reader you will never have to deal with a missing page or spill making a passage hard to read. Again, this really isn’t a deciding factor for me. As I read quickly, there is little time for damage to occur on my pages. A second factor is the large amount of paper necessary to make a traditional book. I alone probably have two or three trees in Harry Potter books. Do I feel like a bad person for killing all these trees I could be saving with e-Books? Honestly, no. Does that make me a bad person? Maybe. It does help to know that many of my books–like my two dozen Harry Potter books–were published by companies that practice Eco-Friendly Printing. Again, this just isn’t something that justifies an E-Reader purchase to me.

Amazon Kindle 2 E-Reader

Amazon Kindle 2 E-Reader

Until recently I just had little reason to want an E-Reader. That started to change when I was faced with two five-hour plane rides. While book portability was never a big concern previously, I started to see this issue in a different light. Currently my plan to read on the plane involves packing several books in my tiny carry-on. All of a sudden the ability to carry several books in one E-Reader is very appealing. Not only will I have to lug all of these books with me on the trip, but I have to bring them back home with me after I finish them. Carry-on bag space will be wasted transporting a book I will never again read.

There is also the issue of what happens when you finish a book three hours into a six-hour flight. Hopefully, I will have thought ahead and packed a second book. If not, I’m stuck browsing the SkyMall catalog for an hour or two. With an E-Reader–and the wifi connection on many airlines–this isn’t a problem. I can easily order up a new book and have it delivered instantly. What normally isn’t a feature I’m interested in becomes very appealing mid-flight.

While I am wishing for an E-Reader for my upcoming trip, I still think that this is a purchase I can justify for every day use. There is no arguing that it would be a great asset while traveling, but the benefits sharply decrease or disappear completely when I’m home. As I don’t travel often, I just can’t justify an E-Reader purchase. Perhaps I will check out a local library that is lending Kindles to patrons. That experience may help me see how much or little an E-Reader would impact my life. If that doesn’t work out, I may just steal my husband’s iPad for the plane ride. He loves the SkyMall magazine way more than I do so maybe he won’t notice.