Friday, December 31, 2010

Book Review: Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

OKAY! Everyone has read this book so I will save you the trouble of reading a long creatively crafted summary. Bottomline: Boy finds notebook in Strand Bookstore, it was placed there by Girl, they're both quirky, it's almost too good to be true.

Now that you know what happens, I will talk about how much I loved this book. OMG I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH. It was a quick read at only around 260 pages, but there were definitely quotes in there that I look forward to going back and underlining. There were so many laugh out loud moments that I was afraid to read this on the train for fear that the passengers would think I was a maniac...who reads hardcover books...

I was surprised at how smart the writing was generally. There were sometimes words that made me scratch my head and even a couple of references that I was unfamiliar with. All in all, my experience with this book was great. I love reading stories that take place in my city, especially around the parts that don't normally show up in books (The Strand Bookstore around 14th, Dyker Heights Brooklyn). It was also cool to read it around this time because I felt like I could run into them on the train at any moment (the book takes place from around Christmas through New Years).

Highly suggest this book to any and everyone!

End of the Year: Challenge Wrap-up

Library Crawl 2010

Well, I fell three books shy of my 25 book Library Crawl Challenge this year!! This is MOSTLY due to the huge fine I received a couple weeks ago from some outrageous glitch one of the branches is taking forever to clear up!!! This is completely uncharacteristic of the library so I'm not too outraged, but I am sad that I failed my OWN challenge haha! You win some, you lose some. Check out the list of books I did finish here.

Mystery & Suspense Challenge 2010

Well, what are ya gonna do? I started this challenge with 2 months left in the year and got to about 9 books. I got super busy with singing and the like, and failed this one too! Wahhh!! See what I did end up reading here.

There's always next year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Follow my blog Friday (5)

What are your new years book blogging resolutions?

I would love to blog way more, 
participate in a lot more giveaways & hops 
make more bloggy friends
and do a LOT of reading challenges!

Be sure to check out all the other cool blogs on the hop! And Happy New Year!!


2011 Library Reading Challenge

I found Alice @ The Reader Room today and saw that she's holding a Library Reading Challenge! I haven't really said it that much lately, but I am addicted to the library. I have some of the most amazing libraries in my city right at my fingertips. I also go to the library at least twice a week when I'm lucky.

So needless to say I'm going to do this challenge to the friggin max. I also told Alice I'd like to co-host it with her so I will keep you guys posted on that as we come up with cool ways for everyone to participate and win prizes.

Here are some of the rules:

- Do a post about the Library Reading Challenges on your blog (if you have one)
- Add your link to the challenge post on your blog below (on her page)
- Books do not need to be added in advance
- The books must be read during January 1st - December 31st 2011
Will keep you all updated on the exciting co-hosting possibility :)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My FIRST award!!!!!!!

I've always wanted a blogger award. ALWAYS!

I'm sending a colassal supercalifragilisticexpialidocious thanks to Nina over at Brush Up on Your Reading. She rules. Follow her immediately, read her thorough reviews. She is awesome. Period.


Here are the things you have to do when you get this award:

1. First, thank and link back to the person that gave the award.
2. Answer the 10 survey questions
3. Pass the award along to other bloggers whom you think are fantastic.
4. Contact the bloggers you have chosen to let them know about the award.

1. If you blog anonymously, are you happy doing this? If you are not anonymous, do you wish that you had started out anonymously, so that you could be anonymous now?

I did start out anonymously. I think I am essentially still anonymous. I didn't want to call it La Toya Lewis soprano's book reviews. I feel like the opera singer part of me is marketed and is a brand and all that, but the book lover part of me is just for fun. I'm not looking to take over the world one book at a time...but I am looking to take over the world one Opera at a time ;)

2. Describe an incident that shows your inner stubborn side.

Omg, I'm stubborn every day of my life. Let me just pick one. Oh, I will never go to a restaurant that I don't like with a group of friends. Even if I'm the only person out of 5 people who doesn't like that restaurant!
3. What do you see when you really look at yourself in the mirror?

This amazing unstoppable gorgeous GORGEOUS woman.

4. What is your favorite summer cold drink?

Sweeeeeeeeeeeet tea. And water, freezing cold water. And Lemonade. All at the same time. Just kidding. Or am I?

5. When you take time for yourself, what do you do?

Read and play video games!

6. Is there something that you still want to accomplish in your life? What is it?

Would love to start a family, run a music school, become an internationally renowned opera singer, write a book.

7. When you attended school, were you the class clown, the class overachiever, the shy person, or always ditching?

I was all of these. Class Clown in Elementary, Shy Person in HS, Overachiever in Undergrad and Always ditching in Grad School! W00t!

8. If you close your eyes and want to visualize a very poignant moment in your life, what would you see?

Sheesh, I have no idea. I've had a pretty cool life, there's always these cool things that lead to other cool things. I'd say when I was led into the choir room in college so I could "check out" the choir. I ended up walking into the Opera chorus and my life hasn't been the same since!

9. Is it easy for you to share your true self in your blog or are you more comfortable writing posts about other people or events?

Oh it's way easier for me to talk about myself. I know myself best!

10. If you had the choice to sit down and read a book or talk on the phone, which would you do and why?

Depends on my mood but 65% of the time, I'd rather be reading. It's way easier for me to find time to talk to people on the phone but not so easy for me to find time to read!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays (2)

I'm calling this (2) because I think I did one before. Anyway, Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

Just do the following:
Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser”
sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My Teaser:

"No," I said. "The trip got called off at the last minute. Because of the political unrest."

"In Sweden?" Priya seemed skeptical.

"Yeah-isn't it strange how the Times isn't covering it? Half the country's on strike because of that thing the crown prince said about Pippi Longstocking. Which means no meatballs for Christmas, if you know what I mean."

~Dash & Lily's Book of Dares page 58

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Book Review: The Pirate Queen by Patricia Hickman

Saphora and Bender Warren are a well to do Southern couple. Behind the grandeur of their wealthy lives exists deceit and suffering. Bender is notorious for his infidelity and Saphora has had enough. She decides to leave him on the very day that he finds out that he is in fact terminally ill. He asks her to move to the coast with him as he gets treatment. The story unfolds as we delve into their lives from this point on.


I finally finished this one.

There was some heavy subject matter in this semi-dense read. Definitely not the type of book I'd readily pick up. But there was something about the language Hickman used that kept me intrigued. For starters, there's no secret that you're about to read a book about a man dying of cancer. It's in the blurb. But what makes this book so amazing is that despite the immense sadness it prepares you for before you even open its pages, is that the story and characters are so accessible.

At first, I was so embarrassed for Saphora. Living with this man for years and years and only deciding to leave him after he's cheated so many times. She makes so many mistakes in her life and throughout the book and you get to live through them too. I was annoyed with her, I felt sorry for her, I was saddened by her imperfection so late in life. And then somewhere in the midst of the story, I loved her. She's probably the most authentic character I've read in a while. Hickman paints a picture of this woman in the most unapologetic, raw manner possible.

Other treats in this book include inspirational quotes at the start of each chapter:
"Just don't give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don't think you can go wrong." -Ella Fitzgerald

and helpful book discussion questions at the end:
Saphora's strongest desire at the outset seems to be to run away from home. But in the end, we discover there were hidden desires realized in Saphora's story. What other intrinsic desires were driving her?

I really loved this book, although it's not something I'd read over and over. It was just way too sad for me! I do however highly suggest this read if you're okay with being a little blue while reading. Just make sure you have tissue handy!

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review

In My Mailbox [3]: Christmas Edition

Ok so it's not exactly the Christmas edition but I did get A book for Christmas finally!!! Whee!

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

I'm devouring this book, devouring. I just love it so much! Fav sentence so far: "Family- like arsenic - should be taken in small doses..." Bwahaha!

I told my dad I was basically finished reading it after a day and he said "I should hope so! It was in the Teen section for cryin' out loud!" Haha, he strictly reads dense non-fiction, what are ya gonna do?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Follow My Blog Friday (4)

Hello Bloggy friends new and old!

Hope you're staying warm and enjoying the holiday season!! I've added a new AWESOME reading challenge for 2011. It's the Books of LOST Challenge. Check it out here!

What are your plans for this fabulous day?

Well, today I'm going to do some extreme last minute shopping for my family! Later tonight I will sing at the Midnight Mass! Two simple things but it will take up my entire day! Happy Holidays to you all!

Book Review: Dan Knight's Journey by Edward Smith

I got this book via Bostick Communications. I read the blurb and was interested to read a coming of age story where the main character lives on the edge. I was especially interested because it takes place in NY.

What I found was that it was a well thought out and interesting story line, but it lacked the sort of writer's finesse that separates and idea from a story. The language was a bit too simplistic. By that, I don't mean that I need to read hard to understand language. I mean, it sounded like someone was recounting facts rather than painting a picture for our imaginations:

"...we walked up to Second Avenue and found the Chinese restaurant, Peking Garden. It looked good and smelled good. We got a booth and before long, I was having Chow Mein and my mother had something that I couldn't pronounce. We finished with small plates of ice cream. Then she paid up and we left."
That's not the worst paragraph I read in the book, but it's a pretty good example of the writing style throughout. It may be a hit for some, but I need my brain stimulated a bit when I read.

In my Mailbox (2)

Hey guys! I got 2 really interesting books in the mail this past week!

The first one is The Pirate Queen by Patricia Hickman.

"The envy of all her friends, wife and mother Saphora Warren is the model of southern gentility and accomplishment. She lives in a beautiful Lake Norman home, and has raised three capable adult children. Her husband is a successful plastic surgeon—and a philanderer. It is for that reason that, after hosting a garden party for Southern Living magazine, Saphora packs her bags to escape the trappings of the picturesque-but-vacant life.

Saphora’s departure is interrupted by her husband Bender’s early arrival home, and his words that change her life forever: I’m dying."

blurb taken from GoodReads

I'm a little over halfway through this one now. It's not the type of book I'd normally read which is great! Now I can sink my teeth into something different to see if I like it!

The other one I just got today via NetGalley. State of Mind by Sven Michael. There's no cover image online because it hasn't come out. It appears to be a cyber punk work that takes place in LA 2030! Should be interesting!

What's in your mailbox??

Book Review: Mistletoe Murder by Leslie Meier

In this first of the Lucy Stone murder-mystery series, we are introduced to the town of Tinker's Cove and its inhabitants. The series follows Lucy Stone and her family. After Lucy finds the very wealthy owner of her business, "Country Cousins" dead in his car of an apparent suicide, Lucy is suspicious that something else is afoot. The police declare it to be murder instead and Lucy begins to nose around to find the perpetrator.

Now, if my summary has just bored you to tears, it's because this book bored me to tears. It wasn't so much that it was terribly written or unimaginative (or other things that I hate). The issue I had was that this was barely a murder mystery. There were no clues that the reader could piece together themselves or any indication that Meier wanted to do anything in this novel beside let us get to know Lucy Stone & the small town she lives in. I don't mind character driven novels from time to time, but I do find that I need the plot to keep my interest. I have many of the other books from the series on my TBR pile, but I think I might pass on reading the rest of the series right this minute.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Midwinter's Eve Giveaway Hop 12/21-12/22

Midwinter's Eve is a Giveaway Hop hosted by Kathy at I Am a Reader not a Writer. This giveaway is running for two days so enter as soon as you can!

The Spell Book of Listen Taylor by Jaclyn Moriarty

The Zing family lives in a world of misguided spell books, singular poetry, and state-of-the-art surveillance equipment. They use these things to protect the Zing Family Secret one so huge it draws the family to the garden shed for meetings every Friday night.

Into their world comes socially isolated middle grader Listen Taylor, whose father is dating a Zing. Enter Cath Murphy, a young teacher at the elementary school that Cassie Zing attends, suffering from a broken heart. How will the worlds of these two young woman connect? Only the reader can know!

This time around I'm going to keep entry super simple. Fill out this form and comment on my review found here! The winner will be chosen by the number generator at and will have 48 hours to respond to my email before I choose different winner!

Be sure to check out all the other giveaways on the hop and thanks for checking me out! Comments are welcome!

Happy Holidays,

Monday, December 20, 2010

10 Good Things on a Monday (2)

10 Good Things on a Monday is a weekly meme hosted by my bloggy friend Nina at Brush Up on Your Reading. You basically list 10 good things coming up to take the anxiety away from a crazy week ahead. This appeals to my obsessive list making requirements. This week I'm going to list Ten Christmas Carols I can't live without:

1. Good King Wenceslas
2. Have yourself a Merry little Christmas
3. Silver Bells
4. Walking in a Winter Wonderland
5. Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer
6. Jingle Bell Rock
7. Carol of the Bells
8. Di
ng Dong Merrilly on High
nine. O Come O Ye Faithful
10. Jolly old Sai
nt nicolas

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Books of LOST Reading Challenge 2011

Alright, I had to do it. Anyone who knows me knows that I am OBSESSED with the television show LOST. The series ending was probably the worst part of the year 2010 for me. So why not let the show live on in our minds and hearts by dedicating a book challenge to it??

I found this very cool (short) list of books on Flashlight Worthy . Other sites that have LOST books lists are: (The longest list) (Breaks some up into categories)

I've listed some of the many books here, but click the links above for the books and their correlations.

1. Alice in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found there by Lewis Carroll
2. Are you there God? It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume
3. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
4. Carrie by Stephen King
5. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
6.Everything that Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'Connor
7. Rainbow Six Tom Clancy
8. Watership down by Richard Adams
9. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
10. The Moon Pool by A. Merritt

If you're a LOST fanatic like me, you'll know that there are COUNTLESS books that appeared in people's hands, were mentioned by characters, were alluded to in episode titles and so forth in the series. As you can see from the links, there are tons of choices. And you'll have an entire year to read them! Challenge goes from Jan. 1 2011 - Dec. 31st 2011

The levels of the challenge you can do are:

Don't tell me what I can't do 1-2 books
We have to go back 3-4 books
WALT!!! 5-6 books
Benjamin Linus 7-8 books
Sawyer 9 books
The New Jacob 10+ books

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  • Grab a button & make a post where you list the books as you read them
  • Be sure to pick which level you're taking the challenge at (feel free to add or subtract the amount of books you choose at any point)
  • Sign up on the linky list with a direct link to your challenge post so we can keep track of each other
  • Bloggers or non-bloggers can participate! The more the merrier!

Will come up with awesome ways to celebrate the end of this challenge! Until then...

On my wishlist (2)

I put a bunch of books down for my wish-list last week. So I only have one that I can think of at this moment!

At lunch with my friend Joe today, he mentioned this book to me. He knows how much I like New Age books and this one seems like a really fantastic one!

But You Knew That Already by Dougall Fraser

(Blurb via Boomerang Books)
"Crowned "Best Psychic" by the "Dallas Observer", this talented clairvoyant and his hair-raising predictions have been featured on hundreds of national and local television and radio shows. In his entertaining mix of memoir, spirituality, industry expose, and psychic self-help, he'll sort out truth from fiction, hilariously uncovering the psychic trade's slights of hand and mind. Fraser helps readers learn that they, too, have access to a whole range of psychic abilities - and he's just the one to show them the tricks of the trade. Fraser's fresh voice, irreverent humor, and dead-on predictions are destined to turn a whole new audience of would-be skeptics into willing and eager cosmic converts"

I love LOVE books about psychics. Especially ones that seem like they have a fresh perspective on the phenomena.

What's on your wishlist?!

**On My Wishlist is a weekly meme hosted by Book Chick City.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Book Blogger Hop 12/17-12/20 & Follow My Blog Friday (3)

Book Blogger Hop
Book blogger hop is hosted by Jen @ Crazy For Books!

"What do you consider the most important in a story: the plot or the characters?"

Wow, this is a really hard question because I can't have a story that is lacking in either department. But I will say that I can read a story if the plot is enthralling and the characters are ho-hum. But if the plot falls flat, it doesn't matter how awesome the characters are for me!

Follow my Book Blog Friday is hosted by Parajunkee!

What did you study in college, or are currently studying and did it lead to your current 9 to 5 or are you doing something totally different?

I majored in music, Classical Voice & Opera to be specific. And since it's an arts sort of career, our 9-5's have to be day jobs that tend to have nothing to do with music while we pursue the larger goal of singing on international stages as well as regionally in America. It would be awesome to have a 9-5 opera job that's for sure! Here's hoping!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday & Mid-Week Updates

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine .

Not too long ago, I realized that I read way too many of the same kind of book: Suspense/Mystery etc. I started browsing through some blogs and found The Lucy Valentine series. Chick lit! But it's also a mystery, so I'm sort of moving away from the same old same old.

I tried to put it on hold at the library but that seemed impossible. So this Wednesday, I'm waiting on the first in the series:

Truly, Madly
by Heather Webber

Lucy Valentine is as smart as can be, as single as you can get, and so not qualified to run a matchmaking service. But when her parents temporarily step down from the family business, Valentine, Inc., it’s Lucy’s turn to step up and help out—in the name of love.

Plus, her rent is due.

Here’s the problem: Lucy doesn’t have the knack for matchmaking. According to family legend, every Valentine has been blessed by Cupid with the ability to read “auras” and pair up perfect couples. But not Lucy. Her skills were zapped away years ago in an electrical surge, and now all she can do is find lost objects. What good is that in the matchmaking world? You’d be surprised. In a city like Boston, everyone’s looking for something. So when Lucy locates a missing wedding ring—on a dead body—she asks the sexy private eye who lives upstairs to help her solve the perfect crime. And who knows? Maybe she’ll find the perfect love while she’s at it…

(taken from Goodreads)

Mid-week updates!

  • I'm working my way through the two novels that were in my mailbox Mistletoe Murder & Dan Knight's Journey. Both are pretty okay, not exactly mind-blowing. I should have some reviews for them soon.
  • My Newbie Blog Hop is in full swing with over 10 blogs signed up! Check those newbies out and sign yourselves up if you haven't already!
  • I'm signing up for way too many 2011 challenges already but what else is new haha!
What's new with you guys??

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by Should be Reading .

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
My teaser:
"Home had never looked so good, thought Lucy as she braked to a stop in the driveway. The familiar shape of the old farmhouse comforted her, and the porch light that Bill had left burning for her was welcoming."

-pg 16. "Mistletoe Murder" by Leslie Meier

Monday, December 13, 2010

Crazy Holiday Blogfest!

Welcome to my book blog newbies! Feel free to comment and add me as a friend! I love to read your comments and follow you back!

So I am going to write a random blog post about holidays and maybe tie it into books somehow. I don't know where this post will end up seeing as how I am the Queen of Random. It will be short, promise!

It's so crazy this year. It's absolutely freezing, way too soon...the Christmas decorations have gone up (seemingly overnight) and I haven't purchased anyone a single gift! More importantly, I haven't had any hot cocoa with marshmallows yet! I mean???

Many of you might not know this about me but I'm an opera singer. And December is a super awesome month for us because we get hired to sing at churches and various performing venues to provide stunning music and wow all of you with our awesomeness. This week I have a few caroling gigs (yeah, we wear a Santa hats and there's at least one person with bells for when we sing Jingle Bells) around the city and am doing a concert at a church. So I'm super excited for all that. Hopefully it will get me in the Christmas Spirit and I'll be able to buy some gifts while drinking hot cocoa!

Thanks for reading xo

PS: I like books.

10 Good Things On a Monday (1)

My new bloggy friend Nina is hosting this new weekly meme on her awesome blog Brush Up On Your Reading. Make sure you check hers out, she's posted some pretty amazing book covers! You can basically list 10 things that are good, that will put you in a nice mood for the week. And it doesn't have to be about books if you're on book review overload. Which I think I might be?

As for me, I think I'll list 10 types of food I'd like to eat before the year is over (I would say 'that I'd like to eat this week', but I don't want you all to think I'm a slob)

1. Quesitos (made by me, recipe from my LA bestie)
2. Macaroni & Cheese on top of the stove
3. These amazing mashed potatoes that I saw the recipe for on a recipe site (Goat cheese and Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes!)
4. Steamed Shrimp with Old Bay Seasoning
5. Arepas from Empanada Mama in Hell's Kitchen
6. Pineapple Fried Rice from my fav Thai place in Park Slope, Mango
7. Honeycrisp apples (had to throw in something healthy)
8. Ice cream Gingerbread House from Baskin Robbins
9. Compost Cookie from Momofuku Milk Bar in Midtown (it's not as weird as it sounds)
10. Brown Stew Chicken (made by me!!)