When a book goes horribly wrong for you…but gets you exercising

I would write a review of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, but I just don’t feel like it would do it justice. I started the book in February, but goodness…it just really didn’t resonate with me. I put it down, I picked it up, and then I put it down again. When all else failed, I downloaded the audiobook from the library. I had to do that several times. I decided that I would listen to the book when I went and walked on the treadmill at the gym. I was determined to finish. After four months of giving up and then starting again, I finally finished last night on the treadmill.

I am not one to give up on books. I rarely do it and I hate it when I do. I know, I know. Life is too short to worry about that. If it doesn’t fit with my mood, I should just chuck it. I rarely ever do though! I usually push through no matter how torturous I think the book is. I am actually glad that I finished the book and that I didn’t give up on it, but I feel that way only because it got me on the treadmill and exercising. In fact, I so loathed the thought of giving up after approximately 400-500-ish pages that I actually felt motivated to force myself to go to the gym so I would finish it. I was so satisfied last night when I listened to the last little bit last night and the music queued at the end began playing. Then, the reader of the audiobook thanked me for listening to Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. I thought, “No sir. Thank you for helping me get through this horrible experience. You made it a little more manageable.”

I can’t really give a good and true opinion of the book since it took me four months to read it, but I can say that it didn’t resonate with me. I have seen several other bloggers on GoodReads that really liked the novel so I think it might just come down to a personal taste issue. However, I am definitely not giving up my gym time. I already have my next book on my Kindle and am ready to download the audiobook from the library to keep me going. So, to Miss Clarke, “Thank you.” No, I did not enjoy your book (though I did enjoy the last volume and thought the book was well-written), but it did make me start pushing myself to become more active which I appreciate.

What do you all do when a book doesn’t resonate with you?

Do you push on, or do you give up and move to something you think you might enjoy more?

Have you gotten any good or bad habits from pushing through a book?

The Lost Cyclist–David Herlihy

Book: The Lost Cyclist

Author: David Herlihy

Publisher: Mariner Books

326 pages


Frank Lenz was a young man with a bright future. As one of the more famous bicyclists of his day, Lenz was ambitious and wanted the notoriety that some of the other more well-known cyclists were enjoying. His taste for adventure had him seeking out a sponsor to help him take a bicycling trip around the world. He found that sponsor in Outing magazine. In 1892, Lenz set out on his trip around the world. He left his Pittsburgh home and began his worldwide trip by crossing North America before boarding a ship for Japan. For two years, Lenz braved the dangers of bad weather, civil unrest, and illness. As he approached Europe, Lenz knew that the danger of passing through the Middle East would be one of the more harrowing parts of his trip. If he made it through the region, he would find Europe on the other side and be near home. Sadly, he never made it. Lenz disappeared in Eastern Turkey in 1894. The pleas of Lenz’s family and friends convinced Outing magazine to send a correspondent to search for Lenz and find out what happened to him.


I had heard of this book some time ago and thought it sounded interesting, but it wasn’t until a coworker recommended it for our Rogue Book Club book that I finally picked it up. I actually looked forward to reading this book because non-fiction is something that I should read more of and for some reason never get around to picking up. I was not disappointed. Herlihy wrote an terrifically interesting book that gives a little bit of history of the bicycle and the climate surrounding it’s development and also tells an amazing tale of several men that pushed the limits of the human experience.


This book was part travelogue and part mystery. I enjoyed reading about Lenz’s travels through North America, Japan, and China. It was interesting to see how people reacted to a man on a safety bicycle—most had never seen one and didn’t know quite what to think. I also found the cultural exchange interesting. In today’s society, it is so easy to expose yourself to other cultures just by clicking a button on your mouse or television. So much information is at our fingertips. This was not the case in the late 19th century. Lenz was a trailblazer in reaching out to the world to see what it had to offer. He was working fairly blind in some respects relying on information he read in newspapers and gaining information from people he talked to. I kept thinking how daunting it would be to embark on a trip such as this—travelling solo around the world on a bike!


The writing is newspaper reporting style. I saw a few reviews that said it was dry. I found it interesting and liked the directness of the writing style. There is a little bit of disconnect emotionally since it is written in a reporter style, but it also made the book a little more likable in my eyes because it wasn’t overwrought with emotion. The only part of the book that left me scratching my head was the epilogue. Herlihy seemed to be struggling with his own thoughts of the case and it appeared he was working through his own feelings about his research in this epilogue. It is interesting to see his point of view and how he felt about all involved in the search for Lenz. I just wish that he had put this in the rest of the book rather than save it for the end. He brought up some interesting points that made me reconsider some of what he had written earlier in the book. Even with this misgiving, I still enjoyed The Lost Cyclist quite a bit and would recommend it to anyone that enjoys travelogues and mysteries. The book provides both a mystery/true crime element with the excitement of worldwide travel.

Mistborn–Brandon Sanderson

Book: Mistborn

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Publisher: Tor Fantasy

672 pages


For years the Lord Ruler has held his subjects captive in terror. No one dares venture out into the mists, and most people try to lay low and not be noticed. Vin has always lived this way. Her brother taught her to trust no one—not even him. When he does leave, Vin is left to fend for herself. She meets Kelsier, a charismatic thief that has grander plans than to just steal from a noble. She joins his band of misfits and together they plot to change the world as everyone knows it.


When I picked up this book, I was in the worst reading slump. Lately, I feel like I am too tired to read, too ill to read from allergies, or just too darn busy! So many people have told me about this book over the last few years that I was alternately very excited and very leery about reading it. Typically, when people gush about a book like all my friends have about this one, I am a little disappointed once I do sit down to read it. Not so with this book. I found myself wanting to call in sick to work just so I could read (Note to Boss: I did not call in sick while reading this book…I promise!). The story is engrossing; the world building is excellent, and the characters were interestingly written. I grew to care about Vin and Kelsier as well as a few of the other characters like Kelsier’s brother, Marsh and Sazed, the eunuch.


The magic system in the book was fun. Mistings and Mistborns could drink concoctions with different metals and then burn them to get special abilities including enhanced vision, the ability to “push” physically, riot emotions, and others. I don’t want to spoil all the fun for those of you that might be interested in this book. Suffice to say that I wanted to be a mistborn after I read this book. I want some of those abilities! Life would be so much more interesting with a little fantastical magic!


As far as characters go, Vin is one of the better female characters I’ve read for some time. She’s young, but strong and capable. I like that she is flawed and goes through a little bit of teenage angst in the book (but not much…I couldn’t take that). She’s an extremely likable character and is reminiscent of Arya in the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin. I like young women in literature that are good examples, but also not cookie cutter strong women. I like a little bit of flawed character in books and I think Vin fits that mold. Kelsier is also interesting to read about because you never quite know what his motivations are. I like the having to guess about what his next move is. I also like his interactions with the crew. While they are very secondary in the story with the exception of a few like Sazed who tends to Vin as she becomes more involved in the gang, they are all really fun to read about and have distinct personalities.


I will say for all you readers who don’t typically read book series, this book does end with a definite pause. You will be wanting to pick up the next book immediately to see how it unfolds. The Lord Ruler is definitely a multi-faceted character that lets some information fly in the book which will make you want to continue. If you are not a series reader, I would still challenge you to try this one because it is simply a fantastic read and one that got me out of my reading slump and excited about picking up a book again. Brandon Sanderson is an engaging writer that not only writes good plot but also builds an interesting world and characters to go with it. I will definitely be reading his entire catalog.

The Disappearing Spoon–Sam Kean

Book: The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of Elements
Author: Sam Kean
Publisher: Hachette Book Group
Kindle Format (no pages)
My Rating:

The Periodic Table is something every student is familiar with. For most of us, we accept this castle-like chart of boxes of letters without much thought, but every element has its own story of discovery. The history of the table is in and of itself a collection of fascinating stories. Sam Kean wrote this largely anecdotal book about the Periodic Table in a way that most readers can understand and every reader can enjoy.

How do I start this review off? Well, I had a terrible 2011 reading year and I even thought myself a little crazy when I decided to start this book on (of all days) New Year’s Eve. It only took a few pages to have me hooked. The book starts off with the story of Dr. Rush’s Thunderclappers. What is this, you ask? Well, it is a laxative that some guy named Dr. Rush gave Lewis and Clark to take on their expedition across the land that has now become the United States (Who wouldn’t get a little irregular on a tough journey?). What the reader finds out is that these laxatives contained Mercury in them and that subsequent efforts to find Lewis and Clark’s trail across the unknown land included the finding of mercury deposits at their campsites. You might think it’s strange that I found that interesting, but I was hooked! Laxatives with mercury?!! I read on…

The book is filled with wonderful tales of discovery as well as pranks that scientists used to play on each other. The title of the book comes from a prank that involves the element, gallium. Scientists would make gallium spoons which has a low melting point and when they sat down with colleagues for tea, well….you can see what ensued:

Are you intrigued? Kean continuously provides interesting tidbits about the periodic table. Whether it is civil war in the Congo, or scientists that try to use beer for “bubble science” (he explains the Mentos and Diet Coke reaction along with some other more serious bubble science), the periodic table has driven a lot of human behavior that I never thought about before. The book is packaged in a pretty accessible way as well. I have never taken physics—EVER. Still, I wasn’t so lost while reading this book that I couldn’t finish it. In fact, I found it so accessible that I have spent some time talking to several people with physics degrees to understand some of the concepts even better. I also have spent a little time looking up some of the things that Kean mentioned in the book which has added to the enjoyment for me (I spent several hours on YouTube looking at weird chemistry experiments after finding the above gallium spoon video).

Overall, this book was a great way to start of the New Year. In fact, I liked it so much that I would even consider reading it again (which I rarely ever do with books). The book challenged me, made me laugh out loud (who wouldn’t laugh when an author explains molecules interacting with each other “like two obese animals trying to have sex”), and caused me to have some very interesting conversations with several people. I highly recommend the book for both science and non-sciencey types because it’s an incredibly fun way to experience what most people found to be incredibly boring in their high school chemistry class.

**I am a Book Depository and IndieBound afilliate so If you purchase any of the books I have featured through the links I posted or from the banners in my left hand sidebar, I get a small commission from them. I am in no way compensated for the reviews I post of my books.

New Year’s Eve Read-a-Thon

Last night I was feeling kind of down because I didn’t have any plans for New Year’s. I got on Twitter to check out my fellow bloggers tweets and found out that Jenn from The Picky Girl was doing a New Year’s Eve Read-a-Thon with a few other fellow bloggers. I believe that Becky from One Literature Nut is hosting the event and Heidenkind from Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books is the other organizer.

Anyhow, I asked Jenn if I could join in and she welcomed me into the event. There are a few books that I wanted to hit on today now that I DO have New Year’s plans with these lovely people.

Here they are:
The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
--I actually finished this book earlier today. I had only 5% left to go on my Kindle and I was determined to hit ,*sigh*, 20 books read this year.

The Disappearing Spoon and other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the Periodic Table of Elements by Sam Kean
--I am currently reading this and just by the introduction know I’m going to enjoy it. It starts off talking about laxatives containing mercury! Fantastic! I’m in!

Grave Peril by Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files, Book #3)
--I need to work on my TBR shelf. It sits at 237 right now and this has been sitting on my shelf for some time. The Dresden Files are fun and quick reads, and I’m definitely in need of a little fun in my reading life right now.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
--Oh yes, this poorly neglected book on my shelf has been sitting there for a year without me picking it up. Lydia from The Literary Lollipop started a read-a-long last year and guess what….we all put it down for an entire year. We’re trying to get back into it right now. We’ll see how it goes. It’s a fantastic book so far. I plan to pick it up at some point this evening.

In all, 2011 was an abysmal reading year for me. I didn’t like most of what I read, and felt pretty unsatisfied every time I finished a book. In fact, it sounds like a lot of people had mediocre reading years and a mediocre 2011, too.

My favorite book of the year was probably On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan. He is simply an amazing author. My least favorite books of the year were probably Tinkers by Paul Harding and The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie. City & the City by China Mieville is probably third in this Year of Blah. Maybe I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to read these books at the time I read them. I can’t really say what it was that made me dislike them as much as I did.

As for goals for 2012? Well, I was just talking to Fiona from The Book Coop and I decided that I would try to finish some other poor, neglected books that I started and haven’t finished:

  • Finding Chief Kamiakin by Richard D. Scheuerman – I was enjoying this book when my life very suddenly and drastically changed. I put it down and never picked it back up.
  • People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks – I was also enjoying this book and all of a sudden didn’t feel like reading it anymore so I put it down.
  • North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell – OK…I don’t know why I put this book down. I was enjoying it immensely. Mr. Thornton, I love you. I actually think I put it down because I was ruining my copy in my bag that I carry on the train. I can’t stand books that don’t look pristine!
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis – I’ve read two of the books. I felt “meh” about them, but I want to finish the series to see if they get better. Maybe I’ll just try for one or two of the books in 2012.
I hope that everyone has a wonderful 2012. This past year has seemed to be a challenging one for a lot of people. I feel your pain if this has been a challenging year for you. It’s definitely been one for me, but I am better for it and happier. I still have days where I struggle, but overall I think my life has changed for the better and brighter days are ahead. I hope that all of you feel that way too. Without struggle, we don’t grow so I hope to keep that in mind for the upcoming year.

I also hope that everyone has a fantastic 2012 reading year! Good luck and keep me updated on what you’re reading! I love to know about new (and old) books!

Being Bookish…

During the last year, I’m not sure I could say that I’ve actually been bookish, but I’ve been realizing over the past few weeks how much I enjoy my bookish friends. There are several bloggers I’ve kept in touch with since I’ve more or less put blogging on the back burner, and it’s these people that keep me going.

Let’s face it. New Mexico is not a book-loving state. There are a few bookish people I know here, but the fact that the state capital has only a few small independent bookstores reinforces that people in this state don’t really read. So what has kept me going? For one, my blogging friends that I keep in touch with either over email, Google+, or Google Talk. None of them act like I’m crazy for loving books and wanting to delve into a story or character. It’s been my outlet during a rather abysmal year of reading for me. I’ve been through some really big life changes this year (new job, moving back to the state where I grew up, etc.), and in the process I lost the book club that I used to go to. I really miss it. I miss sitting around the table with my friends and talking about how filthy Jack Reacher is and how despite that, women still love him. I miss being an active blogger where I made many bookish friends and no longer can keep up with them.

However, things have not been all bad. I still talk to some of my blogging friends like I’ve mentioned above, but I’ve also made some new bookish friends at work. My work, *gasp*, even has a book club! It has been a life saver. They are the only people I talk face to face with about books and without them I think my life would be less full. I like that we can complain about some of the books we’ve read together and laugh about some of the situations characters we’ve read about have been in. I like the deep discussions we’ve gotten in about some of the books we’ve read, and I like ribbing them for ruining my TBR list (just today my coworker from the UK introduced me to the Folio Society—I am still shaking my fist at him for mentioning those beautiful books).

Even though I don’t have as much time to read now, I still have friends that view me as bookish and don’t make me feel bad about how little I’ve read this year (I don’t even think I’m going to break 21 books for the year). I feel so thankful for these people who understand a part of me that most people don’t understand. It makes me feel a little bit normal and a lot bit loved. I love all these people’s passion for reading and books, and I hope that I continue to find people that are that passionate about reading but without being book snobs (just today my coworker told me he bought Cicero and I told him I wanted to get back to The Dresden Files. He didn’t blink an eye. I loved that).

I am thankful for all my bookish friends and I just wanted everyone to know that even though this has been a year of ups and downs, you all have made it so much easier to get through with our little escapist conversations about kava juice drinking, Mr. Thornton (*sigh*), and book sniffing. I love you all, and I hope to continue to keep in touch with the blogging community (and get back to blogging). Thank you all so much for sending me cards and little presents over this year to show me that you have thought about me. You guys are all amazing and I feel lucky to have all these great bookish friends.

Soulless–Gail Carriger

Book: Soulless
Author: Gail Carriger
Publisher: Hachette Book Group
Kindle Format (no pages)
My Rating:
3 stars

Alexia Tarabotti is a preternatural—that is, she is soulless and has the effect of taking away supernatural powers from beings like vampires and werewolves. When a newly turned vampire attacks her, Alexia accidentally kills him with her silver tipped parasol. The newly turned vampire turns out to be part of a trend, and Alexia decides to figure out just why new werewolves and vampires have been running rampant throughout the city and turning up dead shortly thereafter.

Somehow, I got the itch to start blogging again while reading Soulless. It’s been about six months since I posted my last review, but here I am posting about a book I felt lukewarm about. Soulless is definitely a fun read, but there is not much to it. I purchased it as a Kindle Deal of the Day and while I think it was worth the $1.99, I wasn’t wowed by it. Alexia is an extremely likeable character which made the book worth reading, but it took about 2/3 of the way through the book for me to really begin enjoy reading it.

The beginning of the book focused too much on the obvious love interest between Alexia and Lord Maccon. There was a huge buildup between them and I felt like a lot of the scenes in the book focused on the two of them interacting. It wasn’t until about halfway through the book that the plot really started to get interesting when more information was given about the disappearances of some vampires and werewolves. I especially enjoyed the older vampire, Lord Akeldama, whose appearance in the book got the plot moving. It wasn’t until Alexia went to visit him after several strange occurrences in London that I was hooked on what was happening in the book.

I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of romance so I think the relationship between Alexia and Lord Maccon was overdone. I was more interested in the main plot of the book and how the disappearances unfolded. I also really liked that Gail Carriger wrote Alexia to be a strong woman that was smart and capable despite her interest in Lord Maccon.

Overall, I enjoyed the book as a something I could read on the commuter train I take to work. It was a simple enough read that I could read through the distraction of my fellow commuters conversations and not miss any of what I was reading (I typically need absolute quiet to read with any efficiency). However, I think the book is also kind of typical of my “blah” reading year. I felt lukewarm about this one. It is definitely a fun book, but not necessarily a series that I will run out and read the next one right away. If you are looking for something quick and escapist and enjoy a little supernatural steampunk, this could definitely be the book for you. If you prefer more heady fare, you might save this book for a time when you are needing something quick and easy.
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