Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Spooky Classics

To continue my celebration of everything Halloween, I've been checking out the various covers available on classics that are known for being scary/spooky! Here are a few for you to check out (pictures taken from AbeBooks)!:

 
Dracula by Bram Stoker

 
Creature from the Black Lagoon by Vargo Statten (pseudonym for John Russell Fearn)


 
Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

 
The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

I hope you enjoyed these! My reading this month has been slower going than I expected, but I'll have something else for you soon (at least a couple of posts before Halloween, I promise)!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Somewhat Literary Halloween Prep.

Okay, normally around this time of year, I'm aware that Halloween is coming. I plan costumes for my family, and we carve a jack-o-lantern, and there's some sort of activity to plan for at work (usually a scavenger hunt or murder mystery, as well as a kids' Lego-building competition). But the changing season always overshadows the holiday for me. Not this year! Within the last couple of weeks, Gabe has decided that Halloween is going to be the greatest event of all time. And he's swept me up in his enthusiasm! A friend of ours gave us a pumpkin from her garden the other day, and this was his face when he saw it:


How can I resist that face? He also painted a jack-o-lantern-shaped treat bowl for handing out candy, insisting on using yellow and red individually but not orange:



So, I'm going all out for Halloween! Not with the costumes...I may or may not dress-up this year...but we're going to paint and carve pumpkins, bake jack-o-lantern cookies, and (most of all) read up a storm! I'm already reading a few fantasy books right now, but they're not necessarily scary or even suspenseful. I also started The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells and Dracula by Bram Stoker to throw in some classics love! Hopefully I'll finish a couple of books to review for you while Halloween spirits are high. Meanwhile, here are a few Halloween-related literary finds for your perusal and enjoyment:


Frankenstein, MD is a modern, vlogger interpretation of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. (I just recently started watching this, so my comments aren't on the complete show.) It's pretty good, although everything happens a little faster than I expected. Maybe that's because the book itself is kind of short? Or possibly because I'm only used to seeing Austen stories reproduced in this form. Speaking of which, it's put out by Pemberley Digital--the same group that brought us The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Welcome to Sanditon, and Emma Approved, so it can't be bad, right? The actors are perfect for their characters, and I can't wait to see how they end the story!

Ollie's Halloween by Olivier Dunrea is Gabe's favorite book right now. Five goslings (Gossie, Gertie, Peedie, BooBoo, and Ollie) go trick-or-treating, "prowling" through pumpkin patches, and "stalking" through cornfields. They are enjoying the sights and sounds of the holiday while collecting treats, but Ollie keeps a treat-less distance from the others, pondering Halloween decorations. By the end of the story, Ollie's friends invite him to share their treats, and everyone's having a great time. As always, the author's illustrations are great fun and the coloring is very pretty. Dunrea's Gossie & Friends series is just adorable, and I never get tired of reading these sweet books about the little group of gosling friends.

Check out these Halloween-themed dust jackets for your books! Diane of SouthHouseBoutique and Jill of ForStrangeWomen developed these clever covers. Just in case you want to use your personal library to help you decorate--this is a fun, inexpensive way to do so (without any damage to the books, I might add!).

I hope you enjoy my finds! There will be more to come, as well as book reviews, of course!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Book Bingo / Truman Award: The False Prince

The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen is a Truman Award Nominee for the 2014-15 school year. It is the first book in The Ascendance Trilogy. Sage is an orphan in Carthya who gets by on his wit and quick pickpocketing skills. When Conner, a nobleman with questionable practices and motives, pays the orphanage for Sage, the boy tries to fight back and get away. He quickly discovers that Conner won't let him go that easily. The royal family of Carthya has been murdered, and Sage (or one of three other orphans Conner picks up) will be the nobleman's ticket to restoring their country and gaining power. All they have to do is convince everyone at court that one of them is Carthya's lost prince, Jaron. And so the action and intrigue begin!

http://www.jennielsen.com/books/ascendance-trilogy/the-false-prince
(jacket art by Tim O'Brien;
jacket design by Christopher Stengel;
picture taken from Goodreads)

First Impression: I'm curious how this will all play out. I kind of assume at this point that Sage will win if the two-week competition for Conner plays out, but I'm not sure what will happen to the other boys. I like that even though the boys have had hardships, they still have some childlike qualities--shock at Conner's violence, for instance, and not being able to see their charade as an act of patriotism as the adults do. Imogen will obviously play a bigger role at some point, although I can't tell what. Not sure if it will be romantic or not. And I'm curious what Sage will do. That's my main motivator to read at this point, honestly. He seems to really hate the idea of pretending to be something he's not. Conner does not seem like a kind or merciful person, and his motives and future actions are predictable. Mott, Conner's right-hand man, is a bit of a curiosity. Maybe he'll stick with Sage later on? I'm excited to see how this plays out. I thought it would be a fantasy rather than historical fiction (in a land that isn't on a real map, but still), but it's actually more creative and unique this way.

I couldn't find a way to share the book trailer I found directly in my post, but here's the link!: http://www.amazon.com/gp/mpd/permalink/m28V8WFXZO6T17/ref=ent_fb_link

Conclusion: Boy, can Jennifer Nielsen keep a secret! This book has a crazy twist about 3/4 of the way in. I had a couple of suspicions about the secret earlier in the book but dismissed them and assumed I was being too suspicious. This book is just well-written middle reader fiction all the way around, so hurray for Nielsen! I will definitely be continuing this series--I'd like to know how the author chooses to continue the story and what happens to all of my favorite characters!

Recommendation: Readers ages 10 and up (including adults) who enjoy sassy characters, adventure, suspense, and a little intrigue. There are a few brutal moments, so I'd recommend not reading it if you're especially sympathetic to characters' physical pain. Also, Nielsen's writing style has a distinct fantasy feel to it even though the story is fiction. It's hard to explain, but you're more likely to enjoy the story if you like fantasy books.


I'm using this book as my eighth "Series" choice for the 2014 Book Bingo Challenge. Those have been the easiest ones for me to knock-out this year! I haven't made as much progress on my award nominee readings, but I'll have to give you an update on that later. Thanks for reading! Don't forget to subscribe, and check back soon for something fun and a little different!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Hamlette's Piratical Blogathon / Book Bingo: Treasure Island

I meant to mention this before so you could participate if you so desired (sorry!), but I am taking part in Hamlette's Piratical Blogathon for Talk Like a Pirate Day! I don't ever talk like a pirate...pretty sure none of my customers at the store would know what I was saying...but I enjoy a good literary celebration! My role in this party is to review Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, a classic of which I'm sure most of you have heard. Here's a button for the blogathon!:

HamlettesSoliloquy

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson is about Jim Hawkins, a boy whose family owns an inn on the coast. At the beginning of the book, a pirate captain on-the-run shows up at the inn flashing some gold, and they accept him as a boarder. The situation quickly becomes dangerous and unpredictable, and Jim finds himself with a treasure map, an adventure ahead, and some dangerous pirates at every turn!

First Impression: This isn't really what I expected. When the Captain showed up, I assumed he would lead Jim Hawkins on an adventure of some sort (maybe directly to Treasure Island), but the Captain is hardly part of the story at all now! Also, the rough treatment of Jim by the pirates (even the milder ones) is much more accurate than many books published today. It kind of scares me for him but excites me as a reader wanting a more legitimate experience. I'm curious to see if Jim's mother will last through this adventure or if he'll go it alone. I'm also interested in how much the current characters and plot points so far will come into play later in the story. It's tempting to guess that the whole story will lead to nothing as a bit of a joke, but since this is a traditional adventure story, I doubt it.

(picture taken from Goodreads)

Conclusion: Even though I don't consider adventure fiction to be one of my genres, this one held my attention and was fun to read. The story is actually a series of small adventures that play into one big scenario. I'm a little surprised at Long John Silver's character. Rather than the violent, immediately terrifying creature I've heard described, Silver is a friendly smooth-talker. He may look a little sea-worn, but he puts up a good front and keeps everyone at ease. And his ability to wiggle through every situation amazes me! Jim Hawkins is a typical kid with a taste for adventure, although he seems to handle seeing dead bodies better than most kids. The squire is a bit foolish, but he and the doctor are the ones who keep the crew going until the end. My favorite character is probably Captain Smollett--a dependable, trustworthy sailor who warns the men at the beginning that their plan is crazy. I can't believe it took me so long to read this book! I tend to find a lot of adventurous stories to be over-the-top, but this one wasn't! It was fun and a little bit dangerous--a great read in this early fall weather I've been getting!

Recommendation: Anyone who likes a little excitement and adventure (19th-century style) will like this book!


I got kind of lucky that this book fits so nicely on my Book Bingo board, so there's another box checked off! I'm using Treasure Island as my "Classic" choice for the 2014 Book Bingo Challenge. I'm making surprising progress, I think! Thirteen boxes to go! Don't forget to click through the Piratical Blogathon link for more adventure!

HamlettesSoliloquy

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A-Z Bookish Questions

 I don't do these little questionnaires very often, but I like to write something other than reviews once in a while. Also, I have about three of these just sitting in my "Drafts," so here goes!

A to Z Bookish Questions
Borrowed from Birdie at Lady of the Manor

Author you've read the most books from: If we're talking about adult books, probably Jane Austen (or John Galsworthy, if you divide his books as they were originally published). I've read somewhere between 5-10 books by various children's and YA authors, though.

Best sequel ever: I don't know if it's the best, but A Modern Comedy by John Galsworthy is a fantastic sequel to The Forsyte Saga, although each of them really consists of three books.

Currently reading: About ten books, actually. But the ones I read from almost every day right now are The Spymistress by Jennifer Chiaverini (my current book club read), Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (for Hamlette's Piratical Blogathon), and A Grimm Warning by Chris Colfer (the third book in The Land of Stories series).

Drink of choice while reading: Usually tea; sometimes Dr. Pepper or milk.

E-reader or physical book: Physical book! I understand why some people like the e-readers, and they are very convenient, but nothing beats the nostalgia factor.

Fictional character you probably would have actually dated in high school? Other than the fact that he's in a band, Dexter (from This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen) is exactly like my husband was in high school! So, he's the most likely. Transport me some years back in time, and I might pick John Thornton from North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell!

Glad you gave this book a chance: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson--I don't usually read adventure books, but this has been a really fun read!

Hidden gem book: The Dark Flower by John Galsworthy--very heavy and dark, but absolutely fantastic!

Just finished: The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen, the first book of The Ascendance Trilogy

Kind of books you won't read: I don't really refuse to read anything, but I have a tendency to avoid certain things...like westerns...and thrillers...

Longest book you've read: I'm not really sure. I've read a lot of long books, and I'm not going to look up the page numbers, but they're mostly classics.

Major book hangover because of: Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong--the next one doesn't come out until April 2015! I had never read the first book in a series before the second one was out until now; it's been a bit of a shock.

Number of bookcases you own: One, because I don't have space for more at the moment. It only holds books that I have yet to read (or finish). And I have boxes and totes full of books in my bedroom...and my closet...and my basement...

One book you read multiple times: The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen--I've read several books multiple times, but this one always resonates with me, no matter my mood.

Preferred place to read: I love to read in the park, especially in the Spring or Fall, when the weather isn't too extreme. But give me a blanket, and I'll happily curl up to read on my couch.

Quote you like from a book you read: “Till this moment I never knew myself”(Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice). Simple but expressive.

Reading regret: Not finishing The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. This is the only book I didn't finish reading in the first eighteen years of my life, and I've been told it's fantastic. I plan on picking it up again someday, so we'll see.

Series you started and need to finish: The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy. I just need to read the third collection of books, but who has the time? I know it will take me a couple of months to read. Maybe this Fall.

Three of your all time favorite books: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen, and A Room with a View by E.M. Forster

Unapologetic fangirl for: Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf

Very excited for this release more than all the others: Empire of Night by Kelley Armstrong, the second book in the Age of Legends series

Worst bookish habit: Probably forgetting to return my library books on time...also, sometimes I set books aside and don't finish them until five or ten years later.

X marks the spot: I love bookmarks! I have a collection that is rotated as it's used. Also, I love finding old, rare classics at library book sales for half the market price!

Your latest book purchase: A collection of Roald Dahl pieces written for adults--should be interesting.

Zzzz snatcher book: Is this supposed to be a book you read instead of sleeping? If so, than the answer is The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. I'm chipping away at it very slowly, because lately I'm only reading it when I can't sleep.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Book Bingo: Insurgent

Insurgent by Veronica Roth is the second book in the Divergent Trilogy. In this continuation, Tris and Four take their small band of survivors to a peaceful location and begin sifting through the events of the first book. After they leave, things begin to spiral violently toward war, and the main characters must keep track of who is telling the truth and who is lying in order to save their society. If you'd like to read my review of Divergent (the first book in the series), you can find it here.

(picture taken from Goodreads;
faction symbol art by Rhythm & Hues Design;
jacket art and design by Joel Tippie)

First Impression: Tris almost seems like a different person . In the last book, she acted for the support and assistance of others; now she seems to think and act primarily of herself. Little details seem to be changed about her as well. Her fear of intimacy, which was central to her character before, seems non-existent now. She's just bothering me all around, and it's really distracting from everything else.

Conclusion: There's not a lot that I can say about this book, because there are many secrets revealed as you read. I will say that if you make it past the beginning of the book, the second half speeds by like lightning. And my early concerns about Tris's character were somewhat justified due to the trauma she endured in the first book. Apparently her personality changes were a result of that. Tris is not my favorite character, but I like her better when she regains some of her strength and originality. I don't think that Roth has great writing technique, but most of the time she sticks with her strong suit, which is action. She spirals events one into another and out of control until it ends suddenly, and there is one solid act to connect the reader to the next book.

Recommendation: You should read this book if you read Divergent and liked it or if you just want to know what happens to the characters. It won't make any sense at all if you didn't read the first book.


Insurgent is my seventh "Series" choice for the 2014 Book Bingo Challenge. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Book Bingo: Gathering Blue

Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry is the second book in The Giver Quartet. Kira is a young girl with a bad leg living in a futuristic but primitive society. After her mother dies, she catches the eye of the Guardians of her village, and she is chosen to be the new weaver for the Singing Robe. But things are not always what they seem, and Kira's threading abilities are called into question when she starts to discover new and suspicious activities happening around her.

(picture taken from Goodreads)

First Impression: Gathering Blue doesn't seem to have anything to do with The Giver, the first book in Lowry's quartet (the review of which you can find here). In many ways, Kira's village is the opposite of Jonas's community. However, Lowry still works her magic with her characters and their experiences. Kira's life may be completely different from Jonas's, but it is equally compelling. She feels the magic of the threads weaving into her work, and I wonder what story they will tell when she's finished. Is this a prequel to The Giver? Perhaps Kira's futuristic weaving will foretell Jonas's stark community. I understand the relevance of the title now, since Kira's mother could never find the source for blue dye. Perhaps a major plot point will be Kira finding a source of blue for her thread? I'm also curious to see if Kira ends up in some sort of romantic relationship. The most obvious choice for this would be Thomas the Carver, but I almost wonder if Jamison (a Guardian) would be an option? Sidenote: I love how the characters build onto their names with age. For example, Annabella used to be Ann, then Anna, then Annabelle as she aged. Now she is Annabella, and four syllables is as old as the characters can get, I believe. It's such a small detail, but it conveys a lot about each character as well as the village.

Conclusion: Lowry has a fantastic talent for describing civilizations that might exist in the future. Kira had such mental and emotional strength throughout her struggles. She knew she would do her best and make her way as she could. I'm glad that she did not cower to the scarred woman toward the beginning of the story as others did, even though she could not physically defend herself. And Matt was such a sweetheart! He was a little rascal, but he took care of Kira as she took care of him. He saw more than the other children (or tykes, as Kira calls them)--in his care of a wild, wounded dog; when he found out about Annabella; and in his actions toward the end. I loved that Kira took responsibility for her village, even as the people in it disappointed her expectations. The symbolism of blue and the threads not yet sewn was strong and yet subtle, and I liked its continuance in the novel to "tie" everything together--hahaha. Even though Lowry always seems to leave these stories somewhat open-ended, I actually enjoyed it this time. Rather than feeling sad not to know the ending or over-expectant of the next book, I felt an abundance of possibility and could imagine various endings (or continuances) for this great story. Of course, the series continues in two more books. Maybe they'll be more connected to their prequels than this one was to The Giver. As a sidenote, I'm curious to see if any of Lowry's ideas come to pass in the future. I would never live long enough to see them, of course. But now that I think about it, she never gives a specific idea of the time period in which her books take place. I think that's probably wise. It's another detail to expand the imaginative ideas of the reader.

Recommendation: This book is a good read for people who like strong characters and imaginative ideas of alternate societies that might develop in the future (also if you already know and admire Lowry's writing style). You do not have to read The Giver to understand anything in this book.


Gathering Blue is my sixth "Series" choice for the 2014 Book Bingo Challenge.

I'm thinking of adding a "Spoiler" button to my posts, where you could see my comments on the ending or climax of each book if you wanted. It would keep sensitive information hidden until you chose to reveal it after reading the book yourself or if you don't mind knowing. Would any of you be interested in this added feature? I try not to ruin anything for you in my reviews, but there are definitely some things that I have to avoid saying in order to do so! Please comment and let me know! And don't forget to subscribe and check back as I fill-in more of my Book Bingo card!