Joining the century: Part 2

It has been a few months since I've written here as I've been busy working on my reading goal for the year (more to come on that later). I plan to write more consistently as the new year comes. I wanted to make a quick post to share a deal that my wife and I just got in on.

If you've been following my blog very long or looked at my older posts, you might remember that about 2 years ago we joined the century. After a couple of years with T-mobile, I was ready to get out of our contract. We are now with Virgin Mobile (which uses the Sprint Network). Not only that, but we are now part of the real century - that's right, we own Android phones!

One major reason we switched to Virgin - price/cost:
With T-mobile:

  • 2-year contract
  • 700 minutes
  • 400 text messages each (800 between the two phones)
  • $80 a month (ok - $70 but with all the fees and stuff it was a consistent $83)

With Virgin Mobile:

  • No contract. Prepaid phone.
  • 300 minutes each (600 combined)
  • Unlimited texting and data (yes, unlimited data)
  • $50 a month ($25 per phone which is actually like $26.50 with tax)

So we lost some minutes in the deal, but but we are saving $30 a month. The other thing was that we had to buy the phones. We got in on this deal. So that was $400 to get the phones (Christmas gifts), but in 1 year we will have saved $360 ($30 a month over 12 months) and actually a bit more because we are going to disable one of the phones for a few additional months during the summer. So as long as we have our phones for a year, they will pay for themselves. If you interested in the other Virgin plans, here they are:

(yeah, we could have gotten more minutes for the same $80 we were paying for T-mobile)

Oh yeah, and my phone is all setup with my Google Voice number with a flawless integration. So far, loving the phone.

Timpooneke, Timpanogas - Mistakes and Blessings

It was a crazy day on Saturday. Fun but crazy. About 10 years ago, I first went on a hike up the back side of Timpanogas mountain that led me to the top of the mountain (I was with my brother and Mom). A few weeks back, I remembered how much I enjoyed that hike and decided it would be fun to do it again.

Saturday morning I met up with my brother and sister at 7 and headed to the trail head. It took us about an hour to get there, and when we did there were car loads of people. The first time I hiked the trail must have been a weekday because the parking lot was full and there were tons of cars on the street. We parked probably a good 1/2 mile from the trail head.

Once we got started (about 8) up the trail, we encountered several groups which were coming down already. We found out that most of them had walked up in the dark in order to watch the sunset (after finishing the hike, I was pretty impressed). The first part of the trail is pretty easy and mostly straight. You pass several cool waterfalls from runoff up the mountain and are in the trees for the most part.

BJ helping Elisa out

BJ and Elisa ahead of me

One of the several waterfalls we passed

After about 2.5 hours, we had gone probably about 2.5 miles. We needed to move at a quicker pace if we were going to make it to the top as my brother needed to be home by 4 and the full trail is 7.5 miles long. Our sister wanted us to go ahead so that we could make it to the top and we did (mistake #1). We took off at a pretty good pace and then at one point we accidentally got off the trail and went up a pretty steep rocky area. It really killed my brother's legs and he couldn't keep up the pace as well.

A view of what we were about to climb from the fork

"Flower Garden" - also right at the fork

Despite the tired legs, we kept on going and came to a trail fork that led to either the top of the mountain or over to a lake (we spent a large portion of time later on at this fork). We headed up the top of the mountain and while in the process, my brother got a pretty bad cramp in his leg. I really wanted to make it to the top and so I left him behind and made it to a place called "The Saddle." Basically this is close to the top and the area where you can see out over Utah lake and the cities there close by, as well as back the way that you had climbed up. It was about 11:45 at this point, and I really wanted to make it to the top, but I could see my brother moving up slowly but surely. I decided to wait for him to see what he wanted to do (mistake #2).

At "The Saddle"

My brother made it up at about 12:00 and he did want to go further up the mountain (mistake #3). He called his wife and got out of his previous engagement to watch his little one, and then we took off. It was really windy up there, so it was a good thing that we both had jackets because we put them on. We headed up what we both would agree was the steepest and hardest part of the hike. There was one are that is called "The Staircase" and you realize why as you climb it. It's a rock face that you are climbing up along the rocks and it's pretty steep. It took us about an hour to get to the top despite it only being about 1/2 mile (due to a combination of the steep climb and leg cramps). The top was some site.

"The Staircase"

A view from the summit

Once we were done, my brother really wanted to go down to the glacier rather than back the way we came and I agreed (mistake #4). We headed down a trail the opposite of the way we had come up and walked for another 1/2 mile. No one else was headed down this trail but some others followed about 10 minutes behind us. It wasn't near as long or bad as it was mostly downhill. We did take a wrong turn at one point and we came to a drop off that was about 15 feet down. The rock face had some places for holding and we both shimmied down it somehow, but it was certainly the time when my heart was beating the fastest of the entire hike. We walked a bit further and came to the glacier. It was pretty rocky on the snow but fortunately, there was predefined path where other's had slid down the mountain. My brother had brought some garbage bags for sliding down and we had a little joy ride down.
Sliding down the glacier

We finally made it to the bottom where there is a lake that is runoff from the glacier, and we took a few minutes to take our jackets off, put some more sunscreen on, and just get ready for the down hike. We took off and headed back around to go where the fork in the road was at. About 1/2 way back to the fork in the road (about 2:30 pm) my brother decided he wanted to check if his wife had called. I decided I'd check my cell phone as well (blessing #1). It turns out my sister had made it to "The Saddle" and didn't know where we were. She had called my parents and they in turned called us not 5 minutes earlier than when we checked our phones (she didn't bring her cell phone so she didn't know our numbers). We called the number she had left back and told her to meet us at the fork in the road (mistake #4 - we both typically assume that everyone orients themselves the way that we do).

"Emerald Lake" at the bottom of the glacier

We made it back to the fork in about 10 minutes, but we knew our sister probably had a good 20-30 minutes ahead of her from when we had talked to her so we just sat down to relax. BJ and I sat at the fork watching the trail up above for our sister for some time. We could see people coming down and we kept thinking that was her. After about an hour we really started to get worried, because she really should have been there at that point (it was pretty steep up there so we thought maybe she had been taking her time to come down). We decided that I would head back up the mountain (not too quickly because surely she would be down soon) while my brother waited at the fork). I was moving along and got to one point where the uphill really starts heavily and at that point I was freaked out. I had no idea where my sister was and I couldn't think where she could be. Fortunately, my legs weren't tired or hurting at all because of my running routine (blessing #2) and so I was able to fly up the mountain pretty quickly for a second time (probably half the time it had taken us before) in order to get to "The Saddle."

Basic idea of the path we had taken around

A video of the trail we took

Waiting for Elisa

Of course she wasn't there and I thought maybe she had gone down the back way and was looping around to where we had been. I was still freaking out at this point though, but luckily I had cell phone reception and was able to get hold of my parents and found out that my sister had headed down the wrong trail that looked easier to get down (I assume she was following others) that led back to where the lake was at. She had got a bit scared when she didn't recognize the trail she was on and that there were far less people on the trail. Luckily, a couple coming by had a cell phone and she was able to call and tell us where she was (blessing #3). She was headed down the trail to the Provo canyon side of the trail. We decided to head down the mountain back to the car and then drive around and meet her at the other trail head. It was about 4:30 when I got this information of where she was and I was up at "The Saddle" still.

I flew down the mountain at a probably unsafe speed considering how steep the cliffs were and got back to the fork, my brother had probably been there a good 2 hours just waiting at this point so his legs were well rested and he was ready to go. We flew down the mountain. From that fork in the road, it took us 1.5 hours to get down to the bottom of the trail. We passed a ton of people on our way down and a couple of people wanted to make sure we had found our sister as we passed them (we had asked several people if they had seen her). We stopped and filled up our water bottles since my brother was practically out and I had a half of a bottle left. We then made the long trek back to the car (if you've forgotten we had to park a good half a mile from the trail head due to the number of people being there).

A look from the car to where we had hiked to

We got to the car and drove to the other trail head. Our sister only ended up waiting for us about 10 minutes despite the fact that she was probably an hour ahead of us going down the mountain. It was almost 7 at that point and we had to drive from Provo canyon back to Salt Lake and on to Bountiful. I was home by 8:30, only 4.5 hours later than originally planned. My wife wasn't too mad, but I don't think my brother got off as easily :).

Things I learned from the hike:
- Bring plenty of water. I had enough but both my brother and sister needed more. They both had those camelpaks and they found out that those don't hold as much water as they thought and you don't know how much water is actually left in them.
- Bring your cell phone regardless of whether or not you think you'll have coverage. We had coverage in the oddest places. My sister didn't have her phone...
- Make sure you make it clear where you are meeting up if you split up. The problem wasn't that we split up, it was that we didn't clearly state where we needed to meet up after splitting up (none of us knew that well though as it has been some time since we were there).
- Enjoy nature. I already knew this though. That's the whole reason I went in the first place.

It was a fun hike, and I had a good time, but I think next time I'll do it alone on a Saturday when there are lots of people and I don't have to leave anyone behind. Either that or do it with people that don't have any time constraints because it is quite a hike, much harder than I ever remembered it. We are all glad to be home and safe today in spite of our sun burns.

Running Time

This past weekend, I did something that I've been getting ready for over the past year. I ran a half marathon. That's right - 13 miles! It was the Canyon to Canyon Half Marathon.

When I started running just over a year ago, I had no plan to run in any races. In fact, the reason I have really been running is to keep in shape. The first time I decided to run, about a year ago, I couldn't even run for 10 minutes without stopping. Slowly, I've been working up my distance, and for the past few months I have been running a consistent 8 miles, 3 times a week. Ultimately, th reason I was running was to keep in shape. I never had any intention of running a half marathon.

Then my work made an offer to enter us into a race if we were willing to run. Since I was already running, I decided to go for it. The options were for a 10K or a half marathon. Since I typically run further than a 10K regularly, I decided that the half was the way to go. Unfortunately, I didn't prepare as well as I probably could have for the race. The furthest that I'd ever run before Saturday was 9 miles.

Saturday morning, we headed up to the site of the race (East Canyon resort). Here are some of the shots of all of those who decided to run:

Here are a few things I learned about running a half marathon:
- Learn to pace yourself. I tried to pace myself off of a couple of other people and while it worked pretty well, I could have probably done a little bit better if I could do it myself.

- Running up and down hills is a lot different than running on the treadmill. I already knew this, but the course was a lot of up and down.

- Be prepared. The last couple of miles were death. I was seriously thinking that I was going to die. I probably walked at least 3 minutes during the last mile as it was death. My legs still hurt today, 2.5 days after the race (they're almost better).

- Run hard no matter what. In the end it all paid off.

I finished with a time of 1 hour and 43 minutes. I was absolutely shocked at how fast I completed the race and very happy too. I thought that I was going to die afterwards, but I am still here. In fact, that time was good enough for fastest for my age group (25-29). For those wondering, that is just under 8 minute miles.

All in all, it was a good experience, and while I don't have any plans to run a full marathon, I plan to keep up running and will probably run a few more half marathons as well.

Google Voice

Google seems to be everywhere. Google practically monopolizes my time on the internet. My blog here ( is obviously on a Google service, I look at my Google Reader about every 5 minutes to keep up to date, and I only search on Google, unless for some reason Google is down and then I resort to some other service. A year or so ago, Google came out with a new service called Google Voice that I have been using.

Check out the above video to see what Google Voice is all about. A simple way to manage all of your phones and manage your contacts and a lot of other stuff. I wanted to do a quick review of the service, the things I like and the things I think could be better.

After signing up for the service (you will pick a phone number for yourself and a couple of other things), you get the main Google Voice page. If you use any other Google services, then the layout will feel familiar and intuitive. Like most of the Google services (Gmail, Reader, etc.) you can archive your old messages, star the important ones and delete the useless ones. Nothing too spectacular other than the fact that you can hold onto the messages for as long as you like. At some point during the setup process, you have to enter a current telephone number that you already have.

You can see from the above screenshot that the setup is pretty straightforward and you determine when calls come through on the phone you setup. There are a ton of different options from here and I will just cover a few of my favorite. First up, I love that I can use my Google Voice number for texting instead of my regular cell phone. When people write me, I can have the SMS forwarded onto my cell phone, sent to me in an e-mail, or just sit in my Voice inbox. Since I am not very good at writing text messages using my phone, I much prefer to type answers on my keyboard.

Another feature that I love is that I can access my messages from anywhere when I miss a phone call. On top of that, people have to say their name when they call me from an unknown number so when I pick the phone up, it tells me who is calling (as they state it). If I don't answer or reject the call, they leave a message (you can customize what message people here based off of what group you put them in - for example, I have a custom message for my wife that she hears when she calls that is different from what others hear) and that message is available to me by calling my Google Voice number from my phone, but also available to me online to listen to. There is also the option to transcribe the message to text but it could definitely use some work. Anyways, since I am online most of the time, I will typically find out that I missed a call through my e-mail rather than seeing it on my phone.

That is just a quick overview of the things I like. There are a couple of things on my wishlist. Currently, you have to have a phone to actually use Google Voice (in other words you need a cell phone or home phone to actually place calls). Ok, so that isn't completely true. However, you could have an account with Gizmo5 but Google recently acquired the company and it is no longer open for registration (you can enter your e-mail to be notified when it opens again). So I really wish that Gizmo5 was opened up again.

Also, I wish there was an easier way to call people using my Google Voice number from my cell phone. In order to call people I have to either call my Google Voice number and then enter the person's phone number that I want to call (or retrieve a saved GV number), or else I have to enter the person's phone number into the GV interface online. I'm not sure what the better solution is, but it would be awesome if there was some easier way.

The final feature that would be really nice is if you could add a phone number that had an extension involved. I would prefer to forward calls to my work phone during work hours, however this isn't possible because my phone number is behind an extension.

Overall, I have been quite pleased with Google Voice and would definitely recommend using it. Let me know what you like or dislike about the service.

A couple things:
Whenever I give out my phone number, I give my Google Voice number. I have updated all of my credit cards, services, and such things to use my Google Voice number as well. The only people who have my cell phone number is my family really, and that is because I just haven't informed them of the new number. I prefer people to call the Google Voice number though since I like to have a searchable record of my calls.

Ubuntu Any Day

WARNING: Hardcore geekiness ahead!

Several months back, I built a new computer because the one we had was extremely slow, especially for the photo-processing and drawing programs that Anya was trying to run. The computer that I was replacing was a cheap $300 computer which I had purchased just after my mission. To say the least, it was time for something new. Well, being a computer geek, I wasn't about to get rid of that old computer.

What did I do with it?

First off, I installed a fresh blank copy of Windows XP. I put a few programs on there, and that was that. I also put a couple of games on there (Diablo and Starcraft). For a few weeks I was playing a lot of games but I got tired of that after a while.

Next I put on a copy of Ubuntu as a dual-boot. What does that mean? Basically, I could start my computer into Ubuntu or Windows. If you don't know what Ubuntu is, then you are like a lot of people out there. Ubuntu is a free Operating System that is based off of Linux. Linux is that ugly command line:

Fast forward several months to today and you'll find that I have booted Windows on that machine for at least 6 months and I've been thinking as of late that I really want to just get rid of Windows on it completely. Here are just a few of the things that I love about Ubuntu:

  • It's fast. I mean it is really fast compared to any of my windows machines.
  • It's lightweight. You can run Ubuntu on practically nothing. You can actually boot Ubuntu up from a thumb/usb drive and not install anything. Obviously you lose any changes or customizations that you make, but it is a fun way to try it out.
  • It's got cool graphics. That's right. Check out this video of some of the fun things that Ubuntu does:
  • Recognizes everything and gets everywhere. I can plug anything into it and it always recognizes it. I don't have to install any drivers and watch any annoying balloons. It just works. Not too mention the fact that I can get anywhere on my network. With Windows I can't find anything (a printer on my network for example doesn't show up half the time in Windows, but is always found by my Ubuntu machine).
  • It just feels more natural to use it. I can't really explain this one. You just have to use it.
  • FREE! And FREE programs for everything.

If you have never used Ubuntu, you definitely need to check it out. There are two ways to do so.

1. As I mentioned above, download a copy of the latest version and put it on a CD or USB drive. You can then restart your computer and work from that without even installing anything on your computer. Obviously this is kind of a pain because you can't save anything.

2. Install it as a Virtual Machine. This is actually really easy and something that I recently did on my work laptop as I needed a linux environment to test some different commands out on. Here is the quick run down:
- Download VirtualBox.
- Install VirtualBox.
- Download Ubuntu.
- Run VirtualBox and create a new virtual machine.
I know it sounds scary, but it's really not and really easy. Here are the instructions I followed.

Running Ubuntu 10.04 as a virtual machine on Windows.

The next computer I have for myself will have Ubuntu as it's base operating system with Windows as a virtual machine. I would much rather work in the Linux environment than in the Windows envrionment. Definitely check it out.

Oh yeah, the biggest downside of Ubuntu is that there are some things that don't support it. The biggest thing is my Nokia phone. Nokia is a Windows shop. I blame them.

Drupalcon SF2010

This past week I attended my first ever Drupal conference in San Francisco. The conference was the official Drupal conference, Drupalcon, that is held bianually. The conferences are typically held once in the US and once in Europe each year. The conference was the biggest conference to date for the Drupal community with over 3000 attendees. The conference itself kept us pretty busy basically all day. We were in sessions from 8:30 to 6:30 with a lunch break in there.

A few of the things that I took away:

- Drupal 7 is going to be awesome. There are tons of new changes and improvements that should greatly improve the speed of a typical Drupal site. I guess that is what we get though with over 2 years of development on the platform. Awesome improvements in the FAPI, Token (now in core), and database layer.

- Drupal is becoming a very impressive platform and highly used. Over 1% of the sites on powered by Drupal now according to Dries Buytaert (Drupal founder). On top of that, there are a lot of high profile sites being powered by Drupal (i.e.

- Drupal developers are some of the most sought after in the market. There are a lot of Drupal jobs out there even in the bad economy. There was a graph in the keynote by Dries Buytaert that showed how many more jobs there are for Drupal developers than for Wordpress or Joomla developers.

- I really enjoyed hearing the keynote from Tim O'Reilly (yes, that O'Reilly) on Tuesday. The internet and the cloud is a place that must be made by the strides of new innovations and developers. Very interesting presentation.

Overall, I quite enjoyed the conference and we are excited to start using D7.

On another note, San Francisco was a lot of fun. I got out a couple of times and ran along the bay. It was really pretty good weather the entire time that we were there and the area was pretty nice. Also, we ate out at several different restaurants, but probably my favorite overall was the Russian Cinderella Cafe (I mean obviously I love Russian food). There is obviously a pretty large Russian population in the area as there are several small such cafes in the area.

A big thanks out to all of those who helped out around here while I was away. I look forward to attending another Drupalcon again in the future.

Movie Time

I know you might think that all I do is read (which I do a lot of), but it isn't all that I do. I tend to watch 2 or more movies a week as well. I don't usually just sit down and watch a movie, rather I will turn on a movie while I am cleaning or preparing a meal. Since I've stopped updating my movie blog (not enough time or interest), I wanted to share a few of the best films I've watched over the past several weeks in no particular order.

Forever Strong

Released: 2008
IMDB Link:
Short Synposis: A rugby player is put up in a juvenile detention center. There he plays for the Highland Rugby team and ultimately plays against his father in the National Championships.

My Thoughts: I heard about this film when it first came out but never got to see it. I typically enjoy sports films and this was no exception. I think that it helped that this film covered the Highland rugby team, which I knew a lot about since they were a region rival when I was in high school. Nonetheless, an inspirational film and a film that you should definitely watch.

An Education

Released: 2009
IMDB Link:
Short Synposis: A coming-of-age story about a teenage girl in 1960s suburban London, and how her life changes with the arrival of a playboy nearly twice her age.

My Thoughts: This is one of those films that didn't get a lot of hype even though it was up for picture of the year at the Oscars. I didn't know a lot about this film when I watched it, but it was one of the better films that I've seen in awhile. The film isn't too long and keeps a good pace and is very well acted. Big fan of Carey Mulligan in this film (I can see why she was nominated for best actress).

The Island

Released: 2005
IMDB Link:
Short Synposis: A man goes on the run after he discovers that he is actually a "harvested being", and is being kept along with others in a utopian facility.

My Thoughts: This film was probably pretty popular/hyped up when it came out, but since it was right in the middle of the time when I was on my mission, I'd never heard of it. The film is directed by the same director that did Transformers (Michael Bay). The film focuses on a Utopian society and the way to get to "the island." The film picks up in action during the second half of the film, but overall an excellent film.

If you are looking for a date movie, I would recommend any of these movies. While all of them would be suitable for children, I don't think that they would find them too interesting. If you have a question about another movie, it is highly possible that I've seen it. Also, if you have any movie recommendations, I'd love to hear them.

Review of Drupalcon is coming soon.

If you are looking for entertaining films about history, then I have two recommendations: The Young Victoria and The Other Boylen Girl. The Other Boylen Girl is pretty depressing whereas The Young Victoria is pretty inspirational. Both films are good in their own respects.

Just found this...

Just found this cool widet that Goodreads offers. Here are all the books from my 2009 list, arranged by the date I read them:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

The Hobbit: Or There and Back Again

The Fellowship of the Ring

The Da Vinci Code

The Giver

A Train to Potevka

Crime and Punishment

Angels & Demons

The Village of Stepanchikovo and its Inhabitants, from the Notes of an Unknown

A Tale of Two Cities

Seedfolks. Young Adult Literature. Ab Klasse 9 einsetzbar.

The Chosen

The Count of Monte Cristo

The Associate

The Lovely Bones

Deception Point

The Kite Runner

Memoirs of a Geisha

The Secret Life of Bees

Kiss the Girls

The City of Ember

The Bourne Identity

Along Came a Spider

Water for Elephants

The Catcher in the Rye

Digital Fortress: A Thriller

The Time Traveler's Wife

People of Sparks

Life of Pi

The Bourne Supremacy

Patriot Games

Ender's Game

A Supremely Bad Idea: Three Mad Birders and Their Quest to See It All

The Bourne Ultimatum

The Book Thief

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Ultimate Japanese Basic

The Lost Symbol

The Bourne Legacy

The Last Juror


Treasure Island

A Time to Kill


Ford County

The Scarlet Letter

The Bourne Betrayal

The Firm

Oliver Twist

The Historian

The Talented Mr. Ripley

The Hunger Games

Catching Fire

The Road

The Shack





Running with Scissors: A Memoir

The Glass Castle: A Memoir

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel

Inherent Vice

Little, Big

JC's favorite books »

Top 10 Books of 2009

It's already February, but since I had a request to see my favorite books that I read from last year, here is the list. It looks like I read about 65 books last year and this year I am on pace to read over 100 as I have already read 25. This list only contains books that I completed in 2009.


Quick Synopsis: Details the search for the great Dracula.

What I thought: This book had lots of interesting historical details about Dracula and his life. Lots of action throughout. The one negative of this book is the length. It was just a little too long.

Quick Synopsis: Just before their sixteenth birthdays, when they will will be transformed into beauties whose only job is to have a great time, Tally's best friend runs away and Tally must find her and turn her in, or never become pretty at all.

What I thought: One of the many young adult books that I have quite enjoyed. This book forced me to think about what is really important in life while at the same time being fun.

Quick Synopsis: Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden's wealthiest families disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander.

What I thought: This book was a surprisingly fun read and there were action and mystery on nearly every page.

Quick Synopsis: A Train to Potevka will take you on an incredible winter's journey across Great Mother Russia along the 6,000-mile Trans-Siberian Railway. This fascinating story about an American intelligence agent from a small town in the Rockies, is a tale of failed espionage, escape, and second chances.

What I thought: This book probably got a higher rating from me since I served my mission in Russia, but I love how intimate the details are of the country. I gave a full review back in April when I read it.

Quick Synopsis: Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is shocked to find proof that the legendary secret society, the Illuminati is alive, well, and murderously active. Brilliant physicist Leonardo Vetra has been murdered, his eyes plucked out, and the society's ancient symbol branded upon his chest.

What I thought: By far my favorite Dan Brown book. The religious mysteries along with quick action put this book on my top 10.

Quick Synopsis: Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books.

What I thought: Loved how this book was set during Nazi Germany. Engaging on every page and an easy read.

Quick Synopsis: It is a tale of two generations of characters brought jarringly together by the tragic sweep of war, where personal lives, the struggle to survive, raise a family, find happiness, are inextricable from the history playing out around them.

What I thought: This book is disturbing and beautiful at the same time. Set in Afghanistan, lots of interesting history is presented as well as details of the culture.

Quick Synopsis: The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption. And it is also about the power of fathers over sons -- their love, their sacrifices, their lies.

What I thought: This book tears you. I loved and hated the main character but was emotionally involved. An amazing look at the bonds of friendship.



Quick Synopsis: In a future North America, where the rulers of Panem maintain control through an annual televised survival competition pitting young people from each of the twelve districts against one another, sixteen-year-old Katniss's skills are put to the test when she voluntarily takes her younger sister's place.

What I thought: The top 2 books on my list could go back and forth. They are also the only 2 books on my list that I am planning to reread in 2010. This book is an incredible tale of love, devotion, and death. FYI: this book has the highest rating I have ever seen on Goodreads.

Quick Synopsis: Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

What I thought: Just when I thought that I wouldn't like any book better than the Hunger Games, I read this book. Suzanne Collins doesn't lose any steam in her second book of the series here.


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