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The Reading Studio {January 2010 Edition}

DAY {PROJECT 365} - Library Things (aka my first batch of books in 2010)One of my ongoing goals is to read at least 1 book a month. This came after my realisation two years ago that I was hardly reading at the time. Considering how much I love books and reading, I was appalled. So, I decided to make reading a part of my life again. I think I managed about an average of two books a month last year. That's not counting textbooks and such for Uni, of course. I also didn't count the dozens of children's storybooks I read.

This year, I'm taking my reading habit up a notch. Not only do I read at least a book a month (I'm being kind to myself by not overextending my goals list - HAH! ;-)) --- I have to start documenting my reading too. Partly to remember. And, partly to practice my ability to read as a writer and to record my views.

So, here I am. If I read more than 1 or 2 books in one month, I plan to write a round-up of my reading log. I'll only dedicate single posts to single books/series, if I feel I have more to say about something. Otherwise, it stays in the round-up. If I read just one or two books, then I hope I can justify dedicating a single post for those books!

Anyway, here's a list of what I read last month (with mini reviews). You'll definitely notice that my reading preference at the moment is heavy on the YA Fantasy genre. With reason, of course. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Here you go, in order of reading completion during the month (warning: might contain some spoilers?):

Arriving at Your Own Door: 108 Lessons in Mindfulness

1. Arriving at Your Own Door (108 Lessons in Mindfulness) by Jon Kabat-Zinn (Non-fiction, Self-help) - A collection of short thoughts from Kabat-Zinn and some quotations that relate to the topic of mindfulness or meditation.

Review: If someone told me that I'd be interested in the topic of "mindfulness" or "meditation" a couple of months ago, I would've said they're nuts. My mind runs a hundred miles a minute and it seriously hurts to try to make it go still. Unless I'm totally exhausted, the brain just won't stop buzzing. But, something happened to me at the end of last year that I can't quite explain. And, that something led me to the concept of finding stillness within me. When I was trying to understand the whole thing better, I came across Kabat-Zinn's work. Since I wasn't quite sure I'd be all for the mindfulness thing, I decided to read whatever was available from my local library. Thankfully, they had this concise version of one of his books. And, I'm glad I read it. I can't wait to read more and to learn more. Of course, my mind still buzzes about - and I still struggle with the stillness. But, I am more aware of this concept, and I know I want to get to know it more and to see how it will work for me.

Studio Notes Rating: 4/5 | { Buy at Amazon } | { Buy at Fishpond }

Princess from Another Planet

2. Princess from Another Planet by Mindy Schanback (Fiction, YA Fantasy/Sci-Fi) - This is the story of Gracie Wright whose mother claims that she's a Queen from the planet Pannadeu. This planet has been destroyed by the Maluxiads. The mum, and a small number of residents from Pannadeu escaped and got sucked in to earth. Mum gets married to an earthling and produces two heirs. And yes, this makes our protagonist a princess. When the Maluxiads heard that they're on earth, they decide to go too and destroy them (because they don't like to leave things unfinished). There was also the sub-plot of switching places with a rich cousin in order to attend an exclusive camp.

Review: I like YA. I like Sci-Fi/Fantasy. If you put those two together, I'm usually in reading heaven. But, even though the premise of this book appealed to me to start with, I slowly lost interest, as I couldn't shake off my nagging disbelief in some of the characters and the plot. I don't usually like writing negative reviews, that's why I don't do them. But, since I've committed to a reading log here, and I'm committed to telling you exactly what I thought when I read something... I might have to get used to writing such feedback. After all, I can't possibly like everything I read, right? But, I still encourage you to check out other reviews of the same book. Others might have a different viewpoint.

Studio Notes Rating: 2/5 | { Buy at Amazon } | { Buy at Fishpond }

Fairest

3. Fairest by Gail Carson Levine (Fiction, YA Fantasy) - This is loosely based on the story of Snow White, which is once again set within the world of Ella Enchanted (only this time, our heroine Aza is from Ayortha). Blessed with a lovely voice, but unfortunate in her looks, Aza felt isolated and lonely in the singing land of Ayortha, where beauty was considered to be of high importance. When she accepted the friendship and work as lady-in-waiting of the new Queen, found herself entangled in lies and deception.

Review: Some of you would already know that I'm a Gail Carson Levine fan. She's one of the authors who hooked me in to modern retelling of fairy tales. Fairest, like her other novels, did not disappoint. It was interesting how Ms Levine handled the theme of "beauty" (or the lack of it) in this book - and how everyone didn't always make the right decisions. Although I wasn't too excited about the "songs" written within the story, I could overlook those because of the other strong elements in the book.   

Studio Notes Rating: 4.5/5 | { Buy at Amazon } | { Buy at Fishpond }

Twilight

4. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (Fiction, YA Fantasy/Romance) - Seventeen year old Isabella (Bella) Swan moved to Forks to live with her dad (the Chief Police) and found herself the talk of the town - and the focus of one particular male, Edward Cullen. But, Edward is no ordinary male. He's a century-old vampire in the body of a 17-year-old. The initial pull towards Bella is due to his attraction to her scent and her blood. He loves her - but he is in constant danger of killing her. Yet, Edward becomes trouble-prone Bella's protector and saviour. They fall in love. But, their romance was never meant to go smoothly.

Review: Admittedly, I've resisted getting in to the Twilight series. Not because I'm trying to be a literary snob, as I don't really consider myself as one. I can read just about anything (as you'll probably see in these reading logs). It's just that even though I love fantasy, I'm not particularly keen on vampire lore. Maybe partly because like Bella from the book (and apparently, Ms Meyer herself?), I get all woozy when it comes to blood. That's why even though some of my good friends have been such Buffy fans - and later, Twilight fans - I was never lured in to such things (but admittedly, I did like Anne Rice's "Interview with the Vampire"). But, as I continue to study the genre of YA fantasy, Twilight kept coming up in some examples. So, as a writer, I decided that I had to know what people are talking about. So, I did. And, I have to say that it's a love/hate thing for me. In fact, I don't even know how to rate this book (especially because I don't want to be flamed by Twilight fans! :-D) All I know is that I can understand why people love it. I can understand the attraction to the series and the characters. But, there were just so many things that I found difficult to enjoy about it, and yet, I'm still hooked... So, what can I say? (Well, truthfully, I can say heaps more, but... I'm going to hold it. For now.)

Studio Notes Rating: 4/5 | { Buy at Amazon } | { Buy at Fishpond }

The Two Princesses of Bamarre

5. The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine (Fiction, YA Fantasy) - Two sisters live in a kingdom haunted by monsters and a plague. One of them is a brave princess aching to go on an adventure to slay monsters and find a cure to the Gray Death, which claimed the life of their mother. The other princess is timid, scared, and wishing to be protected. When the Gray Death struck again, it was Addie who had to step out of the comfort of their castle to battle with ogres, specters, and dragons to save her sister Meryl - and their kingdom.

Review: Unlike many Gail Carson Levine books that I've read, I think this is one of the few that wasn't a retelling of a fairy tale. But, like most of the other books I've read, this is another winner from Ms Levine. Beautiful plot, strong characters, unexpected twists, and an amazing world. Definitely the kind of stuff that made me fall in love with reading and writing.   

Studio Notes Rating: 4/5 | { Buy at Amazon } | { Buy at Fishpond }

Now and Again: Sabrina the Teenage Witch

6. Sabrina The Teenage Witch: Now and Again by D. Weiss and B. Weiss (Fiction, MG/YA Fantasy) - Sabrina's busy schedule in college made her wish that she could go back to highschool in one moment of weakness. And, when an eavesdropping gnome decided to grant her wish, she travelled back in time by accident. Both the past and current Sabrinas then come up with a plan to reverse the spell and get things back to how they were.

Review: Well, I told you I can read just about anything. If it can hold my attention long enough. And yes, this book is from the Sabrina The Teenage Witch series, which was based on the TV series that starred Melissa Joan Hart. Of course, Sabrina is based on the character from the Archie comic books (anyone here read 'em?!). Anyway, I've always been fascinated with the ideas that the writers of the TV series come up with, so that's why I decided to pick this up from the library. The plot and the writing aren't too exciting in this book, but I was still interested in some of the concepts.

Studio Notes Rating: 1.5/5 | { Buy at Amazon } | { Buy at Fishpond }

New Moon

7. New Moon by Stephenie Meyer (Fiction, YA Fantasy/Romance) - In her usual clumsy fashion, Bella gets a paper cut whilst opening a birthday present in front of the Cullen family. As such, Edward had to defend her from the most of the family who suddenly seemed ravenous for her blood. Due to this event, the Cullens decide to leave Forks, which left Bella in a massively deep depression. She then developed a friendship with Jacob Black and worked up an appetite for dangerous activities. Jacob turned out to be another boy who's "not good for her", as he happens to carry the werewolf gene. Due to Bella's daredevil tactics, Edward was led to believe that she died - and so wished to kill himself too by seeking the Volturi (a powerful vampire family in Italy).

Review: Still with the same mix of great and utterly terrible, New Moon continued to make me want to scream and sigh at the same time. But, it lost some of the first book's initial attraction for me. And yes, it just makes me wonder: How can something so good get so bad (or is it the other way around)? In any case, I'm a Twilight quasi-convert now, for better or for worse. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Studio Notes Rating: 3/5 | { Buy at Amazon } | { Buy at Fishpond }

NOTES:

  • Fishpond is an Australian-based online bookstore, which offers free shipping for orders over $50.
  • This is also an entry for 52WoC #49: What You Love.

About the Author Shai Coggins (MTeach, MSoc Sci App Psych)

Shai has been managing and blogging here at ShaiCoggins.com for 17 years. Here, she writes about creativity, productivity, and how to recharge for a better, happier lifestyle. She is the author of Today: Life Journal, Colour Bliss: Kaleidoscopes, and a little known children's book. A serial entrepreneur, Shai also currently runs Vervely.com, a boutique digital media agency offering online content, community, and conversion marketing services. Her blogging experience and digital work have been featured in various media, including being listed in Fast Company's "Most Influential Women in Technology" list. Originally from Manila, Shai lived in Singapore and the USA before moving to Australia with her British husband. They have two children, a pet bunny, and a rambunctious rescue Labrador.

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