Friday, June 24, 2011

Literary Giveaway Blog Hop!

Welcome to Kristi Loves Books! I'm an avid reader and have been blogging for almost a year now. I have diverse tastes, but I gravitate toward literary fiction, most often classics.

My giveaway is international, and you qualify if Book Depository has free shipping to your country. The winner will be shipped one book of their choice from the list of some of my favorites below.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
The Book Thief  by Markus Zusak
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

To enter, just leave a comment with the following information.

1. What is the literary fiction book that you most often recommend?
2. Name the book that you would like to win out of my above listed of favorites.
3. Leave an email address so that I can contact you if you win.

Easy, right? One entry per person, and no hoops to jump through for extra entries. Please no entries after June 29. I will select a winner at random and email the winner by July 1. The winner will have 72 hours to respond to the email, or a new winner will be chosen. Good luck, and enjoy the rest of the hop!

List with all the Participants:

  1. Leeswammes (Int)
  2. The Book Whisperer (Int)
  3. Kristi Loves Books (Int)
  4. Teadevotee (Int)
  5. Bookworm with a View (Int)
  6. Bibliosue (Int)
  7. Sarah Reads Too Much (Int)
  8. write meg! (USA)
  9. My Love Affair With Books (Int)
  10. Seaside Book Nook (Int)
  11. Uniflame Creates (Int)
  12. Always Cooking Up Something (Int)
  13. Book Journey (Int)
  14. ThirtyCreativeStudio (Int)
  15. Col Reads (Int)
  16. The Book Diva's Reads (Int)
  17. The Scarlet Letter (USA)
  18. The Parrish Lantern (Int)
  19. Lizzy's Literary Life (Int)
  20. Read, Write & Live (Int)
  21. Book'd Out (Int)
  22. The Readers' Suite (Int)
  23. I Am A Reader, Not A Writer (USA)
  24. Ephemeral Digest (Int)
  25. Miel et lait (Int)
  26. Bibliophile By the Sea (Int)
  27. Polychrome Interest (Int)
  28. Book World In My Head (Int)
  29. In Spring it is the Dawn (Int)
  30. everybookhasasoul (Int)
  31. Nishita's Rants and Raves (Int)
  32. Fresh Ink Books (Int)
  33. Teach with Picture Books (USA)
  34. How to Teach a Novel (USA)
  35. The Blue Bookcase (Int)
  36. Gaskella (Int)
  37. Reflections from the Hinterland (USA)
  38. chasing bawa (Int)
  39. 51stories (Int)
  40. No Page Left Behind (USA)
  1. Silver's Reviews (USA)
  2. Nose in a book (Int)
  3. Lit in the Last Frontier (Int)
  4. The Book Club Blog (Int)
  5. Under My Apple Tree (Int)
  6. Caribousmom (USA)
  7. breienineking (Netherlands)
  8. Let's Go on a Picnic! (Int)
  9. Rikki's Teleidoscope (Int)
  10. De Boekblogger (Netherlands)
  11. Knitting and Sundries (Int)
  12. Elle Lit (USA)
  13. Indie Reader Houston (Int)
  14. The Book Stop (Int)
  15. Eliza Does Very Little (Int)
  16. Joy's Book Blog (Int)
  17. Lit Endeavors (USA)
  18. Roof Beam Reader (Int)
  19. The House of the Seven Tails (Int)
  20. Tony's Reading List (Int)
  21. Sabrina @ Thinking About Loud! (Int)
  22. Rebecca Reads (Int)
  23. Kinna Reads (Int)
  24. In One Eye, Out the Other (USA)
  25. Books in the City (Int)
  26. Lucybird's Book Blog (Europe)
  27. Book Clutter (USA)
  28. Exurbanis (Int)
  29. Lu's Raves and Rants (USA & Canada)
  30. Sam Still Reading (Int)
  31. Dolce Bellezza (Int)
  32. Lena Sledge's Blog...Books, Reviews and Interviews (Int)
  33. a Thousand Books with Quotes (Int)
Sorry for the wonky formatting! Not quite sure how to fix it, but at least the links are all there.

If you get lost along the way, visit Leeswammes where the hop begins.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Through the Looking-Glass

by Lewis Carroll

So, I finished these about a week apart, and I couldn't bring myself to write two separate posts since my thoughts are pretty similar on both. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland begins when Alice follow a white rabbit in a waistcoat through a hole. She finds herself in an unusual world which she deems Wonderland. In Through the Looking-Glass, while playing silly games with her cats, she ends up going through the mirror in the room to find a world that is completely backward.

One word that best describes both of these books is whimsical. There is a lightheartedness to both books as Alice makes her way through the different worlds. The writing is extremely witty, and there is a great deal of word play. I did love the characters that she encountered. My favorite of which was Humpty Dumpty. It was fun to read, but it didn't really blow me away. Fantasy really isn't my thing, so my reaction isn't surprising.

I did find that I enjoyed Alice's Adventures in Wonderland much more than Through the Looking-Glass. It's contradictory to say, but despite both stories being full of randomness, I found the first much easier to follow. There were times in Through the Looking-Glass that I felt a bit jolted and confused because Alice would suddenly appear elsewhere.

Overall, I was glad that I read both of these books. It seems to be my theme lately, but I think I would have enjoyed these much more had I first experienced them when I was younger. Sheesh, I feel like I'm turning into an old fuddy-duddy, and I'm only 30. If you enjoy fantasy, and whimsy, and don't mind a heavy dose of randomness, you just might enjoy these. As they're classics, they are at least worth a try. They're super short so if you don't love them, not too much time will be invested. 

After finishing my reading, I watched the Tim Burton version of Alice in Wonderland. I didn't know much about it and was interested to find that it is an older Alice about to get married who ends up back in Wonderland. It was fun seeing all of the different characters that she encountered in the books play a role in this new story. Johnny Depp was fantastic as usual.

Have you read either of these? Seen the new movie? What did you think?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women

by Louisa May Alcott
published 1868
completed June 2011

I think most everyone knows the basic premise of Little Women. It follows the March family and their four daughters--Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy--as they grow into adulthood. I'm embarrassed to say that at thirty years old, this is my first reading of Little Women. I've never even seen the movie.

Funny little story before I get to my review. I found a copy of Little Women at a charity shop. It had the movie tie-in cover (I hate those!), but it was 20 pence so I went ahead and picked it up. I finished the book, then was super confused. The back of the book says that Jo finds love and Amy goes abroad. What? My book ended with the scene with Meg and Mr. Brooke. I guess there are two parts and my copy only had part one. The copy I have gives no indication that it is only part of the book. It says complete and unabridged. Ugh! So annoying! Luckily my husband had bought himself a toy the previous week, a shiny new iPad 2, so I downloaded the free kindle version so I could read part two. It was my first time reading a book on the iPad. I didn't love the experience, but maybe I'll get used to it at some point.

So, back to the actual talk about the book. I'm glad that there was a part two, because I wasn't that enamored with it after part one. The second part was much better than the first, I thought. I loved seeing the girls grow up and struggle to figure out who they were and what they wanted in their lives. This is, yet again, one of those books that I wish I had read as a child. I'm a teeny bit cynical and their family's happiness and innocence appeared unrealistic to me. It was also sort of preachy at times. There was always some moral lesson that the girls were learning. It's not that I disagree with Alcott's morals, it's just that it was too overt for my taste. I hate not loving a book that everyone else seems to love, but I have to be honest--it was just okay for me.

I loved the characters in Little Women, though. I appreciated that each character had their weaknesses that they needed to work through. Flaws make more realistic characters, so I appreciate that they were all a tad flawed. I really loved the section with Meg and her husband. Having been through the married with a new baby stage, it was spot on. Children are absolutely wonderful, but there is a huge adjustment period when they arrive. Trying to find time for your relationship with your spouse and still being there for your children is a delicate balance. I loved seeing Meg and her husband work through that.

In all, I would recommend it with some hesitation. I don't think it's for everyone. Christian morals play heavily into the themes and plot. I think young girls would appreciate it more than adults. I'm glad that I read it, and I'm looking forward to passing it along to my daughter when she's old enough to read it.

Have you read Little Women? What did you think? I'd love to see a movie adaptation of it. Do you have an adaptation you would recommend?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

I Capture the Castle

by Dodie Smith
published 1948
completed May 2011

At the end of 2010 when everyone was creating their "best of" posts, it seemed like I Capture the Castle was on so many of them. I had never even heard of the book prior to seeing so many bloggers saying it was a favorite. I am so glad that I got myself a copy. Cassandra is the narrator of this charming tale of her impoverished life living in the ruins of a castle. Her family's life is transformed when their landlord passes away and the new heir comes to take his place.

I wish I knew how to adequately describe how much I loved this book. I can't really explain why. I'll just share some random thoughts on what I loved. First, I have to say that I loved Cassandra. The narration was done in the form of her diary and I loved her writing style. She seemed to love life and I loved her humor and wit. Despite being naive, she was really endearing.

Stephen just melted my heart. Doesn't everyone wish they could have someone like Stephen fall in love with them? He was so sweet to Cassandra and never pressured her. He made so many sacrifices for her and her family.

As an American living in Scotland, I loved all of the references to the differences between the two cultures. Just a couple of days ago someone was laughing that I said herbs without the "h" sound. The commentary on how we use our knife and fork definitely made me chuckle.

I would have really loved a fairy tale ending, but I really respect where Dodie Smith took the story. It was really the right way to end it. It was real. Without giving away any spoilers, the decision that Cassandra had to make in the end really showed how much she had grown up. It's really a story about Cassandra coming to understand love. It raises some interesting questions. Should you try to love someone just because they love you? Do you want a relationship with someone who doesn't love you as much as you love them? I highly recommend I Capture the Castle. It took a little while to get into it, and at times it was a little slow, but the ending was worth the little bit of work it took to get through it.

Have you read I Capture the Castle? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Have you read any books that you've loved, but can't really explain why?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Two Mini-Reviews-- Room and The Help (because I am lazy)

My goal is to do at least one review a week, so here I am. I've read quite a bit lately, but I don't really feel the urge to write about many of them in detail. So here goes two mini-reviews.

Room by Emma Donoghue

I'm sure you're really sick of hearing about this book. Perfect for mini-review status. The basic premise is that a mother and son are held captive in a single room. I had difficulty getting into this book at first. While I like the idea of Jack as a kid, I didn't really dig him as the narrator. It made me really uncomfortable. Maybe that was the point. For those who have read it, the creamy left (or right, I don't remember), seriously grossed me out. It took me a while to even feel comfortable with her nursing her then five-year old, but I can see how under the circumstances, maybe I would too if it increased his chances of survival.

Sorry for that random thought. I was really surprised with where the author went halfway through the book, but surprised in a good way. The effects on both captives in a situation like this span much farther than I had expected. I guess what shocked me the most, was to find that this actually has happened in real life. Several times. That made me a little queasy just typing that. What is wrong with some people!?! I would recommend Room, but with a few caveats. This is not light fare, and much of it is pretty disturbing.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I had zero idea what this was about when I started reading this. I was in for a bit of a shock when I started reading the narrative by Aibileen, an African-American maid working for a white family. I was really bothered at first that a white woman from a privileged background had the audacity to write a character with that dialect. Once I got to Minny's section, and realized that she had a unique voice, I settled down a bit.  Once it got going, it was a real page-turner (although Aibileen's sections were a little slower to get through because of the dialect). My husband was out of town when I started it and because I didn't have him to tell me to turn off the light, I stayed up way too late reading it. It was worth the lost sleep.

I loved that it took on race relations from a different point of view than anything I'd read before. Racism is most definitely learned. People aren't born that way. Parents (and even teachers as shown in the book) teach children to hate. Although, I have learned this through my own experience, I loved how Stockett showed this through Aibileen's experience raising white children. It was interesting also that this book also focuses on the effect of indifference. There were plenty that may not have agreed with what was going on, but their indifference or fear of others made them an ally to the racists. Overall, I would highly recommend The Help. It was a great story of courage in the face of losing everything. My only complaint was that I wished the story hadn't ended. I want to know what happened to Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny. I really came to love them.

After finishing typing these, they aren't as mini as I was hoping. Whoops! 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Dark Chocolate Cake--Whip Up Something New

I know I already posted today, but I have to do another (which should have really been posted yesterday). As host for the month of Whip Up Something New, I didn't even post my own recipe. I did make a delicious cake earlier in the month, but never got around to posting it. Even though I'm a day late, I'll post it any way. I'm the host, I can do that, right? I hope so.

I needed cupcakes for a birthday party. I didn't have a cake mix so I decided to try a cake from scratch. I found this Dark Chocolate Cake recipe on

  • Dark Chocolate Cake I

  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease 3 - 9 inch round cake pans. In medium bowl, pour boiling water over cocoa, and whisk until smooth. Let mixture cool. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at time, then stir in vanilla. Add the flour mixture alternately with the cocoa mixture. Spread batter evenly between the 3 prepared pans.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Allow to cool.

It was delicious! The kids that I'd made it for devoured them. I had extras and sent them to work with my husband and received many compliments. One co-worker asked where my husband had bought them because he liked them so much. He told him that I'd make them from scratch and it was my first try. His co-worker said that if that was my first try, he'd love to try the second. I didn't do anything special. They're just that good. It was really light, but had a great flavor. I didn't have beaters and did it by hand, and it still turned out great. If you need a good chocolate cake, this is a good one to go for.

I made the frosting from scratch as well with the recipe listed below also from In the photo, you'll see vanilla cupcakes as well. Those didn't turn out as well, so I won't share that recipe. I think it was my fault because I was in a hurry and didn't beat it as long as I should have. They were a little dense.

Vanilla - Chocolate Powdered Sugar Frosting


  • 2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (optional)


  1. Cream sugar, butter and vanilla. Add a small amount of milk (1 to 2 tablespoons). Add cocoa if desired and beat until fluffy. If frosting is too sweet add a little more milk.

52-52-52 Challenge Starts Today!

Amanda at The Zen Leaf has started a fantastic new challenge. It is perfect in that it combines two of my goals into one. The 52-52-52 Challenge involves reading one book a week and losing one pound a week. To tailor it to my own needs, I'm going to change things up a bit. I generally read one book a week anyway, so I'm going to challenge myself to review at least one book a week. I have been very sporadic with my posting and I'd let to get onto a manageable schedule.

I would also like to lose a total of 20 pounds rather than 52. I'm not sure how easy that will be since my weight is in the healthy range, but really my goal is to get more exercise and eat healthier. I know that I can do better than I'm currently doing and that I will have more energy and less stress if I make some lifestyle changes.

Come and join us! To learn more or to sign-up click here to visit Amanda's site.