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The Reading Studio {February 2010 Edition}

The Reading StudioBook Heaven. That's what it felt like for me last month. I'm sure it will show in my ratings for the books I read in February. Well, for the most part, that is.

Nothing I like more than falling in love with a new author and series (even though she's a veteran writer and these are relatively old books). Plus, I've also started a couple of other series that I'm enjoying at the moment. And, falling in love again with an old classic!

You see, one of the things I decided this month is that if a book is not cutting it for me at the time, I should just abandon it and read something that I'd actually LOVE. After all, there are too many wonderful books out there and not enough time. So, why waste precious spare moments on books that don't speak to me? I'd much rather enjoy my reading moments, thankyouverymuch. Of course, I might make an exception every now and then, when I'm already more than halfway through the book and/or series.

And, even though Uni started again for me in February (even more reason for me to read just stuff I want to read), I still managed to keep up with my reading time. Here's what delighted me...

Eclipse1. Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer (Fiction, YA Fantasy/Romance) - The story of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen continues in this book. This time, extending the love triangle with Jacob Black even further. In this book, the idea of "new, untrained vampires" had been introduced, as well as facing the wrath of Victoria's revenge.   

Mini Review: Well, I'm going to be honest and say that offhand, this is the book that delighted me the least this month. And yes, it's also the book that delighted me the least in the Twilight series. If it were possible to get a big headache whilst reading a book, this one did it for me. I'm not averse to reading romantic novels, even the really cheesy variety. But, the "love triangle" aspect of this book just got to the point of being ridiculous for me. And, the comparisons with Wuthering Heights? Come on, really? Bella, as a heroine, hasn't really been too endearing from the start. This book made it worse. She makes me think too much of girls who're called uh... a tease? Plus, the hysteria? Uhm. Anyway, I probably would've liked it so much more if New Moon and Eclipse were somehow edited and merged in to one book. With New Moon material being of more prominence. Or perhaps, shortened Eclipse and add the earlier bits from Breaking Dawn. Just anything to stop the extended whining and whinging! Anyway, I'm not sure if I'll change my mind when I re-read it. But for now, I'm just not that crazy about this particular book in the series. That's why I'm not so sure how I'd like the movie that's meant to be released this year.

Studio Notes Rating: 2.5/5 { Buy at Amazon } | { Buy at Fishpond }

Breaking Dawn2. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer (Fiction, YA Fantasy/Romance) - The much-awaited wedding between the mortal girl Bella Swan and the vampire Edward Cullen finally occurs. Then, there's the honeymoon... and of course, the unexpected pregnancy - and the gruesome birth. All in just the first part! Then, there's Bella's new life as a vampire and mother to a half-vampire girl who's become imprinted by former suitor and friend Jacob Black. And yes, the great big "vampire showdown" where the Volturis (from New Moon) makes a re-appearance --- and the Cullens, with their closest friends and allies.

Mini Review: Still completely cheesy and utterly jumpy in many places (e.g., the werewolves in the first three books, apparently, aren't real werewolves - just shape-shifters... okay... I'm not even going to get in to the "overly perfect ending" and all the other crazy stuff). But, I have to say that in some ways, Breaking Dawn is a bit more palatable to me on some level - probably because Bella finally stops whining too much - and there was less hysteria. Although there was that "I'm so cool now!" vibe you need to ignore next. In any case, it was also interesting to read the story from Jacob's point of view, giving a closer glimpse in to their world. Though perhaps, I might have liked a story told from Edward's point of view as well. Give it more of an even space between the main characters. And, yes, admittedly, I was hoping for a bit more action during the final battle scene. But overall, I did finally manage to like the series for the most part (faults and all). I'm definitely looking forward to the movie adaptation of the final Twilight book, which might end up as two movies.

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

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief3. Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (Fiction, YA Fantasy) - At first glance, 12-year-old New Yorker Percy Jackson is an unlikely hero: Not only does he have ADHD and dyslexia, he's even a trouble magnet. He's been moving from school to school for as long as he can remember. Then, when he accidentally pulverizes his teacher who tried to kill him, he realises something's really, really different about him. That's when he found out that he's a demigod - a Half-Blood - half-mortal, half god. The son of the Sea God Poseidon himself! But, that's not the biggest problem. He's being attacked by monsters all over the place - AND the God of the Air Zeus is after him, as he is believed to have stolen Zeus' lightning. Now, with the help of his best friend Grover (a satyr) and Annabeth (another demigod he met at Camp Half-Blood), he has to catch the real thief to stop a war between the gods - and World War III.

Mini Review: Having been reviewed somewhere as "better than Harry Potter" and liking the premise of the book (and the look of the movie trailer), I read the first book of the Percy Jackson with expectations that were too high. I was prepared to like it a lot. That was probably a bad thing. As I read the book, I just found myself saying over and over: There's no way that this is better than HP! For one thing, there were aspects of the book that grated on my nerves. A lot. I know that they're probably meant to be taken tongue-in-cheek. But, they didn't come over as funny to me at all. However, I love mythology. I've been fascinated with Greek mythology since I was a child. So, the whole idea of the Greek gods and monsters appearing in modern times captured my imagination. And, if you like action-packed reading, then this will certainly deliver. That's why even though I felt disappointed in places, I still bought the rest of the series. And, I'm glad I did (more on this in next month's review!).   

Studio Notes Rating: 3.5/5 { Buy at Amazon } | { Buy at Fishpond }

Pride and Prejudice4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Fiction, Classic) - The feisty and fascinating Elizabeth Bennett meets the dashing and wonderful Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy. Do I need to say much more?

Mini Review: I know I'm a Jane Austen fan. But, I have to admit that I've forgotten when was the last time I read this classic favourite. Either it's been so long ago, or I may have never even read the full version (que horror!). And, having watched BBC's version just last year, I knew I needed to read the book (again). Since I didn't have a copy (another shocker!), I ordered one from Fishpond early this year. And, I just fell in love with the book all over again. It's funny, sweet... and absolutely absorbing. I loved, loved, loved it. *sigh*Romance, society, politics, family... Perfect heroine. Perfect hero. Wonderful storytelling. What more can I ask? Reading this made it certain that Pride and Prejudice stays in my "Favourite Books of All Time" list.

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

Charmed Life (Essential Modern Classics)5. Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones (Fiction, YA Fantasy) - Cat (Eric) Chant admires his older sister Gwendolen more than anything. He follows whatever she says. Especially ever since they've become orphaned due to a tragic boating accident. Cat thinks Gwendolen is a witch. A powerful, ambitious one at that! When they were taken to Chrestomanci Castle to be taken care of, Cat becomes increasingly agitated. Especially with the way Gwendolen kept behaving badly! Then, when his sister abandons him and gets a replacement, he slowly learns the truth about himself that changes the course of his life forever.

Mini Review: Wow! Just wow. There's something about reading a book that takes you to a completely different place. When I picked this book up, all I wanted was to get to know other YA Fantasy writers and Diana Wynne Jones is one of those that keeps coming up at libraries and bookstores. So, I gave in and chose a random book off the library shelf. After reading this, I realised just how much I've been missing. She's a wonderful storyteller that spins worlds and creates characters that just make you want to believe. I've definitely become a fan of this veteran British author. Charmed Life (a Guardian Award winner, amongst other awards) --- is just one book from her Chrestomanci series (apparently, they're in no particular order, but I'm reading them based on the author's suggested reading order). There's humour, adventure, parallel worlds, magic... all packaged well in this wonderful story. Definitely a recommended read for YA Fantasy readers! Now I'm hoping to have my own copies of the books.

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

The Ultimate Happiness Prescription: 7 Keys to Joy and Enlightenment6. The Ultimate Happiness Prescription (7 Keys to Joy and Enlightenment) by Deepak Chopra (Non-Fiction, Self-Help/Spiritual) - A small, practical read on the topic of joy and mindfulness. It shares several lessons, tips and ideas about living a happier life - and why we should strive for one.

Mini Review: If I were to come up with a list of "must read" text for Blissology, this book will be one of the top on my list. In fact, I love this book so much, I probably could write a whole blog post singing its praises - and quoting several points from it. I actually filled a journal full of notes from the book! While I'm not completely sold on some of its points, I have definitely taken on board most of its lessons. In fact, it has given me some really wonderful food for thought on my study of mindfulness - and my quest to understand what it means to be truly connected. For example, this book helped me to see that mindfulness is about living a connected life from within. It even gave an excellent scientific explanation on how mindfulness helps us. Also, it shared how our personal happiness can actually help people around us. It even gave some practical advice on how to put the concepts in to practice. Really amazing stuff!

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

Airhead7. Airhead by Meg Cabot (Fiction, YA Crossover) - All tomboyish Emerson ("Em") Watts wants is to finish highschool, play video games with her best friend Christopher - and to be noticed as a 'girl' by aforementioned best friend. But, due to a freak accident, she wakes up living a totally different life --- in a totally different body. Not knowing exactly how it happened, Em Watts - the old one - is now dead. And, she's now living the life of face-of-evil-corporation Stark --- Nikki Howard --- due to a mysterious brain transplant.

Mini Review: I came across this book accidentally when I was visiting Meg Cabot's website. The idea intrigued me, but I wasn't too certain about the supermodel + celebrities + sci-fi + crime / thriller approach. However, when I read the excerpt of Book 2 on her website, I was kinda hooked. There's really something about Ms Cabot's writing that reels me in. And, in spite the weird plot, I still enjoyed reading Airhead, thanks to interesting character building and fascinating storytelling. Definitely made me want to know what happens next! (Yes, this is just Book 1 of a three-part series).

Studio Notes Rating: 3.5/5 { Buy at Amazon } | { Buy at Fishpond }

How about you? What have you read lately? Anything you'd like to recommend?

Oh, by the way, I'm at Goodreads! If you're there too and we know each other, please do add me as a friend.

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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