Thursday, December 19, 2013

Audio: Brida

Brida is a short novel of love, life, magic, and nature. The main character, Brida, is a young, Irish woman who decides she wants to learn witchcraft. She seeks out a magus and a witch to be her teachers of the traditions of the sun and the moon, respectively.

(picture taken from Photobucket;
uploaded by romela)

First impression: I like Coelho's writing style. He tends to wander from the main focus at times, but that fits with this story. I can't tell what the balance of every day to magical events is going to be in this story. I thought it would be a fantasy, but it seems to be more rooted in existing traditions than in new magic and fabricated ideas. The magus is an interesting character, although his motives are questionable. Brida is still somewhat undeveloped. Right now she's just a young woman trying to be strong and independent while longing for companionship and purpose. We'll see where Coelho takes her.

(picture taken from Photobucket;
uploaded by amigonas)

Conclusion: What an interesting book! Coelho uses such poetic language in all of his writing, and I love the way he mingles all things together in the world: religion, magic, nature, etc. His books vaguely remind me of Hermann Hesse's writing, and his characters are detailed and fantastic. Linda Emond, the reader of the audio CD version, also does a fantastic job. Her smooth, layered voice lends personality and connection to Brida. I will definitely continue reading books by Coelho in the future.

Just a heads-up, my computer decided to crash this week. Something is wrong with the motherboard (I don't know much about computers, but that's what the guy who can fix it said). I'm using my husband's computer right now, and hopefully I'll be able to alternate this one with the library computers to keep writing reviews for you guys, but until I figure this out, my responses might be delayed. I wanted you all to know--I'm sure you understand what a pain this is in the incredibly digital world in which we live! Anyway--keep entering for my giveaway and sharing with your friends! You guys are awesome!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Giveaway: Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Celebration!

Two days ago, I promised you all a Pride and Prejudice-themed giveaway, so here it is! There will be four prizes and three ways of entering. Here are the prizes:

1. Two Guys Read Jane Austen by Steve Chandler and Terrence N. Hill
As you know, I think this book is amazing! You can read my review here.

2. Lost in Austen (2008 movie with Elliot Cowan and Jemima Rooper)
(picture taken from IMDb)
Although I've had mixed feelings about this movie, it's grown on me. You can read my review here.

3. an art print of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy as a couple
The artist is Jess Purser. I love Etsy (probably my favorite shopping destination), and she has a great shop there called Castle On The Hill! I contributed to her Kickstarter campaign earlier this year for some postcards of various Austen couples, and this print was one of my prizes for contributing. It's really pretty, but I have nowhere to put it, unfortunately. My loss is your gain!

4. a set of postcards of Austen couples
These were also created by Jess Purser! Aren't they fun? I kept a set, and I'm giving one away!

Now for the contest entry information and rules. Please read all the way through them before participating!

How to Enter:
  • To enter, leave a comment on this post answering this question: Which one of the prizes are you most excited about? After you answer the initial question, you can earn an extra entry by commenting on this post answering this question: Which book featured on my blog in other posts are you most interested in reading in the future (or if you've read them all, tell me which was your favorite)? Last but not least, after posting the two comments above, you can earn a third entry by sharing this post on your blog and linking back to it through a comment on this post. If you don't post a link here or I can't click through the link, I can't count your entry. The entries can be posted together in one comment, or they can each be posted separately. Comments that do not fulfill these requirements will not be included in the drawing.
  • Comments must be left on this post before 11:59pm on Tuesday, December 31, 2013 (Central Time) to be entered into the drawing. One entry per type per person please. Contest open to entrants with continental U.S. mailing addresses only.
  • Each qualified entry will be entered into a drawing, and four winners will be selected randomly from those entries. Each winner will receive ONE of the four prizes listed in this post.
  • The winners will be contacted via e-mail, so please be sure you leave a valid e-mail address in your comment(s).
  • The winners will be notified by January 7, 2013. If a winner doesn't respond with his or her mailing address within 72 hours of the notification e-mail being sent, he or she forfeits the prize and an alternative winner will be selected (same guidelines apply).
  • Each winner's prize will be shipped by me after the mailing address is provided. After the prizes are claimed, the winners' names will be announced on this blog.
This is my first time hosting a giveaway, and I'm excited! Make sure you check back to see how things are going and to find new books to love! Good luck!

Sunday, December 8, 2013


Wow, so I have really lost track of the time passing in-between my posts here. Since I work in retail, this time of year is completely insane, not to mention I've taken on a ton of new responsibilities lately. I'm actually reading quite a bit, though; I just forget to update my blog. So, I'm sorry for that. If I have the time in the next couple of days, I'll try to back track with a few posts. Anyway, this is me rambling, but my main point is that I definitely won't be finishing my blog challenges for the year. I was sad about it at first, but I don't regret participating, and I'm not really upset about it any more. I think the important thing is that I tried, and next year my reading focus will be on two things: my book club books and my giant beanstalk of a TBR list. This is a more realistic goal, as there will be some overlap, and it will still leave me plenty of freedom to read extra books without the pressure of four or five novels a month (which is just too much right now, since I'm a fairly slow reader). I still have fun ideas for this blog, but they will probably be spread out over time rather than a full revamp that you can expect soon. I hope that I don't lose any readers due to my inconsistencies, because I appreciate you all.

That being said (if you stuck with me), this is the fun part! Although I won't be finishing my P&P Bicentenary goals, that's no reason for you to suffer! I will still be doing my Pride and Prejudice Challenge themed giveaway, and there will be three prizes: Lost in Austen, the 2008 movie that I reviewed here; Two Guys Read Jane Austen by Steve Chandler and Terrence N. Hill, which I reviewed here; and the third is still TBD, but I've already decided it will not be a movie or a book, so we can have some variety. I hope you all get excited about these--I know I am! I'll try to be back tomorrow with the giveaway or at least more information, so stay posted!

artist Shira Sela)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Book Club: Ender's Game

I've always heard Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card touted as a modern classic and a must-read for all youths and adults who love sci-fi or reading in general. Needless to say, I've always wanted to read it, but I've just never made the time. Since it was the book club selection for this month, however, I made the time to read it, and I'm so happy I did! The story is centered around a young, gifted boy (six-years-old at the beginning of the book), Andrew (or "Ender" as his brother nicknames him). It is set in the future, and there are many societal rules (laws against over-population or religious practice of any kind, for example) that do not exist in today's society. The primary goal of children in this altered world is to become great commanders in the war against the "buggers"--aliens who have attacked Earth and been beaten back twice before the book's storyline. Ender is one of the young geniuses chosen to attend Battle School, and as his prospects become more and more promising, his life and his goals become more and more difficult and indecipherable.

(taken from Photobucket;
uploaded by bandgk424)

First Impression: This book starts out strong. Card has a really good feel for how these children might think and feel. They understand a lot about what is going on and how the adults are lying to them, but they don't quite know why they are being manipulated. I'm enjoying this so far.

Conclusion: Ender's Game is fantastic! Card lays out the similarities and differences of his world through the experiences of his characters rather than blanket description, so the reader can understand what is happening and feels like part of that world. All of the characters are very complex and well-developed, especially Ender. I'm afraid of giving away any details in case I'll ruin part of the book for another reader, but suffice it to say that this book is thrilling and every step of the story is unexpected. It completely took my breath away. Card has apparently written some other storylines with some of the characters from this book, and I will definitely be reading those. Apparently a movie version of this is being made soon as well, so I'll be interested to see how that will turn out:

(taken from Photobucket; uploaded by kwamie42)

Don't forget to follow my blog for regular updates and make any suggestions in the comment field for improvements! Thanks for reading with me!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I'm Back!

Okay, I know it's been about a month and a half since I updated, but let me make a couple of quick apologies and promises for the future, and then we'll act like this never happened. First, the apologies: my son turned 1 1/2 (not technically a birthday but significant all the same) and I got a promotion (finally full-time at my beloved book store)! I think you'll agree that these are celebratory events, but I still miss you all, and I'm sorry for keeping you waiting. Now for the promises: I have a couple of new ideas brewing for the blog, including some cosmetic and functional changes, my planned North and South Book Talks, something with tea and poetry, and...drumroll, please...giveaways! I've decided to wrap-up the year-long bicentenary celebration of Pride and Prejudice with some Austen and P&P-related giveaways in the next couple of months. This will be a first for Reading in the Dark, and it's very exciting! So stay posted for all of that! Don't forget to follow my blog for regular updates and make any suggestions in the comment field for improvements! Thanks for reading with me!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Book Club: The Eleventh Plague

 (book cover; taken from Goodreads)

You can probably tell from the cover what The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch is about. Post-apocalyptic America! So, initially I thought this was going to be a zombie book, which made me not want to read it, because I'm kind of sick of zombies right now. But it's not. The background of the story is that the United States and China decided to start a biological war with each other which killed off most of the people in at least those two countries (the rest of the world isn't really mentioned, so I'm not sure what happened to them). What's left is a shell of what once was--amusement parks with weeds and vines growing up the rides, broken billboards that you can see from miles away, abandoned and broken-down houses that could fall at any minute, etc. The worst part is what happened to those who were left: ex-military slavers, abandoned children, scavengers, and small hypocritical towns left where civilization once reigned. The main character is a teenage boy named Stephen--a scavenger like his father. He has lost his mother and grandfather to the hardships of the only existence he's ever known, but at least he always knows where he's going and what he's doing...until his father falls into a coma after hitting his head and Stephen meets a group of men who offer him shelter and security.

First Impression: The main purpose of this world eludes me. Stephen makes references to why the world fell apart, but has yet to explain if the "plague" from the biological warfare is still active somehow. Also, how are there still scraps for them to find after such a long time? I have a lot of questions, and I'm intrigued only enough to want answers so far. This is mostly an adventure/survival story, it seems, without a lot of literary meat or value.

Conclusion: This was a really interesting take on the post-apocalyptic world. Probably the most realistic one I've read, since I could see that war actually happening in the future. It took me a while to get into it, but I like what Hirsch decided to do in part three, bringing it all together. His characters were well-written, too--flawed and never black-and-white (by which I mean he had lots of realistic variation). I never really liked Jenny, but her character was well-designed and served its purpose. Stephen's father could have done a bit more, I think, but he served most of his purpose as well, I guess. I do wish that Hirsch would have expanded a bit and written a longer book. There wasn't quite enough detail for the complicated premise of the story. Not at all what I was expecting but a good read for older children and adults.

Don't forget to follow my blog for regular updates and make any suggestions in the comment field for improvements! Thanks for reading with me!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Audio: The Host

I listened to an audio version of The Host written by Stephenie Meyer and read by Kate Reading. The book is set on Earth, where aliens have taken over by entwining themselves with the spinal cords and brains of human host bodies. These aliens (who call themselves souls) are gentle, peaceful creatures (with the exception of seekers) who decided to take over because humans are prone to violence and destruction. The main character and narrator, Wanderer, is one such soul, who has been placed in the body of one of the few human resistance fighters (or really just survivors) left, Melanie. She finds that her host is not going to fade away easily, and so begins the story.

(picture taken from Photobucket; uploaded by allwaysatoffee;
probably a promotional picture from the movie, which I haven't seen)

First Impression: Meyer uses simple language in this book, which was also the case in her Twilight series. Perhaps because she's writing about an alien, or "soul," most of the time, her style seems more appropriate for this type of book. Reading does a very good job varying her voice between characters, especially with the small difference in tone she uses between Wanderer and Melanie. It makes a big difference when they are having conversations internally. There isn't the same "teen drama" as I found in Twilight, so I'm enjoying The Host so far.

Conclusion: I found myself genuinely curious throughout the book as to what might happen to Wanda and Melanie. Will they be separated? Will one of them disappear? Will Wanda fall in love or steal more bodies for her kind? Okay, that last one was a little complicated. But generally, I just found myself curious as I read on. I saw a lot of things coming in this book, mostly because I had so many ideas; one of them was bound to be right. The encouragement of these ideas is what I like in a book such as The Host, so I would consider Meyer successful in that respect. The extraction about 65% of the way through the book is very well done--possibly one of the best parts. I can't be more specific or I'll ruin it, but Meyer shows a great eye for detail in that section of the story. While I'm not sure that I like where that portion ends, I think it is more true to Wanda's character because of my non-agreement. I find the emphasis on the body in connection with love very interesting. I don't necessarily agree that the body has such a strong physical reaction against the mind, but the connection fit in well with the story. I don't think this novel needed to be so long in order to tell Meyer's tale, but it is more well-rounded than the Twilight series, which I hope is a sign that Meyer is maturing as an author. I also think she does better with sci-fi than with dark fantasy. Maybe it's the higher ratio of science to drama. Anyway, this book saved Meyer as an author that I might read in the future. I'll probably read the next one she writes.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

P&P Challenge: Darcy's Story

Darcy's Story by Janet Aylmer is the story of Pride and Prejudice told in third-person limited from Mr. Darcy's point-of-view. I'm not going to cover the story for you again, but this version starts a little before the original and ends at the same time as the original.

(sketch of Mr. Darcy taken from Photobucket;
uploaded by paranoia_rebirth 5)
paranoia_rebirth5;taken from Photobucket

First Impression: It's impossible for me to read Darcy's Story without comparing it to Mr. Darcy's Diary by Amanda Grange, since both books are based upon the same premise and I read Grange's novel in April. While Grange's story is written in diary form, Aylmer's novel is written in the third person. I prefer this so far, because she isn't taking as many liberties with Pride and Prejudice as Grange does. However, this also means that she's being a little less creative with the story. Maybe that will change as the story goes on. I like the relationships that Darcy has with his friends and family in this one. There is plenty of background without comments that might change Austen's characters too much from their original form. I'm enjoying this book so far. I definitely think that this challenge is helping me to not be so critical of sequels and re-interpretations of classics that I love.

Conclusion: Aylmer does a great job not revealing more than Darcy would know at each point. Darcy notices that Elizabeth refers to Wickham in a friendly way, for instance, but he hasn't seen them together a lot and doesn't suspect a strong attachment. Also, he is completely blindsided when Elizabeth rejects his proposal, which is to be expected. Darcy's relationship with Georgiana seems very well-executed to me as well. He has taken care of her in the past as a father, but Aylmer makes a very smooth transition for Darcy from the role of a father to the role of a caring older brother. Instead of treating his sister like a child, Darcy begins to see her as a young woman--someone who still needs guidance but should be allowed to make some decisions on her own. Georgiana, in turn, becomes Darcy's closest confidante on matters of the heart. Overall, I really enjoyed this. I think Aylmer did a great job reflecting Darcy's character without assuming too much about his emotions and actions beyond Austen's intentions.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Book Talk: North and South

This will be an experiment! For a while (possibly a couple of years, but we're trying to find a way to speed it up) my friend, Jenny, and I will be reading North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.

 (the Elizabeth Gaskell Window in Poets' Corner
of Westminster Abbey; picture taken from The Gaskell
Society webpage)

We're each going to read two chapters or so a week and have a regular correspondence on them. If you read my review of Two Guys Read Jane Austen, that book is my inspiration for this idea. We'll be reading the book at the same time, discussing about every two chapters at a time, and I'll be posting slightly edited versions of our conversations here. I encourage you to read along with us if you're interested! I'd also like to warn you now about spoilers to come. Usually, I try not to ruin books for those of you who have yet to read them, but since this discussion will be much more in-depth, I won't be able to do that. Each of these posts will be clearly labeled as spoilers in the title for those of you who would like to avoid them. I'm going to link back to this post with each chapter post as well, so you can just refer to this one if you prefer. I've been trying to think of more ideas for this blog, and I'm really excited about this--I hope you all are, too!

Bitsy View: Bedtime

Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book by Dr. Seuss   
     --Summary: Creatures everywhere are going to sleep.
     --Writing Style: rhyming sentences
     --Highlight: "Speaking of dreaming, / I think you should note / That the Bumble-Tub Club is now dreaming afloat."
     --Afterthought: As with all of Seuss's books, this is very cute, with lots of fun creatures that don't actually exist. I think it's great for the imagination right before you go to bed--inspire those dreams!

Pajama Time! by Sandra Boynton     
     --Summary: Various animals are singing and doing the pajama dance as they get ready for bed.
     --Writing Style: rhyming song/chant
     --Highlight: "Pajammy to the left. Pajammy to the right. (Jamma jamma jamma jamma P! J!)"
     --Afterthought: This is currently my son's favorite bedtime story. It gets that last energy burst out with a pajama dance, and then he is ready to sleep.

Clifford's Bedtime Story by Norman Bridwell    
     --Summary: Emily Elizabeth helps Clifford get ready for bed.
     --Writing Style: short sentences
     --Highlight: Clifford falls asleep while Emily Elizabeth reads a story, and he dreams about saving a girl (who looks like Emily Elizabeth) from a castle.
     --Afterthought: This is a simply enjoyable bedtime story. The pictures are not intricate, but they are bright enough to attract attention and fun for any Clifford fan.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Audio: Unbearable Lightness

I've been meaning to post about this book since my list with my ten favorite books so far this year! Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain by Portia de Rossi is about the author/actress's struggles with an eating disorder and coming out to the public as a gay actress. I listened to the Simon & Schuster audio version narrated by the author, Portia de Rossi.

(picture from Goodreads)

First Impression: Rather than focusing on actions and events in her life, the author's primary focus is on her emotions and thought processes, which I find an appropriate approach to her story. The writing has a "quiet" quality to it that conveys the underlying menace of the author's struggles. I find this somewhat unsettling and perfect for the nature of the book. Also, Portia narrating the story makes the whole thing feel more personal.

(picture from a Portia de Rossi fanpage:

Conclusion: The most interesting facet of de Rossi's story is that she had no intention of becoming anorexic when she started the journey down. She had a professional nutritionist and an eating plan geared toward helping her lose weight and stay healthy. With constant shows, interviews, and photo shoots, she found herself constantly worried that she wasn't losing enough weight to keep up with the rest of Hollywood. Bit by bit, she did more exercise and ate less every day until she got below 90 pounds and began to feel excruciating pain with any movement of her body. I love that de Rossi displays her progression from a young girl who just wants to be appreciated and noticed as something special to a woman who understands that happiness is the key to health. My favorite part is the epilogue, where she ties everything together and discusses the importance of her story. It especially resonates with me when she states why she no longer believes in diets or weighing herself: she says that without the psychological pressure of always eating "good foods," resisting "bad foods," and losing weight, our body will tell us what it needs when it needs it and each of us will be the healthy weight we were meant to be.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Book Club: Blood Feud

Sorry I've left you guys hanging lately! I've been on vacation! But now I'm back with a bunch of content for you all, so hopefully I can keep it flowing a little more steadily. Here's a picture to show that the wait was worth it:

 (my son, Gabe--sixteen months)

Gabe had such a good time at that birthday party! He's all about balloons now. But, on to more serious pursuits--reading non-fiction!

The full title of the book for this post is Blood Feud: The Hatfields & the McCoys: The Epic Story of Murder & Vengeance by Lisa Alther. It's quite a mouthful. And so is the book itself, actually. An eyeful, I guess I should say. The title and description of Alther's book portray a relation of the events surrounding the Hatfield v. McCoy feud in Tug Fork Valley, which only takes up about 60% of the book in reality. I had never heard the entire story of the feud laid out piece-by-piece, so I really enjoyed reading about the topic more thoroughly. Alther does a good job putting the events into a timeline that we can understand and referring back to that timeline when she introduces a lesser known character in the book. She also seems to relate all of the facts to the best of her ability, even though some of the information is muddled through years of reality mixing with legend in the Hatfield and McCoy families. I will say that every once in a while she projects an emotion onto one of the feud members, and I'm not convinced that they felt the same way she seems to about everything. She does make it clear that these are her guesses or assumptions, though, so at least she's not just telling a falsehood. I found the brutality of events and stubbornness of feud members difficult to understand--it just was not necessary in any sense of the word. Given an understanding of the two families' way of life, however, I can understand how this feud came to take place. Below are pictures of the two feud leaders, Ranel McCoy and Devil Anse Hatfield, which I found on Photobucket.

Randolph (Ranel) McCoy

William (Devil Anse) Hatfield
 After her discussion of the Hatfield v. McCoy Feud, Alther talks about several other feuds that did not garner as much attention from the public (for various reasons). I never realized there were so many, so this was an especially interesting section to me. I am not a big fan of the last chapter of the book, however, where Alther talks about the McCoys' and Hatfields' genetic disposition to be feudists and her own fears (of the Cumberland Mountains and their inhabitants) "inherited" from her grandmother. She starts to cross into an area with which I don't quite agree, so the end of the book drags for me. Nevertheless, this is a good read, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in the Appalachian feuds of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

P&P Challenge/Book Club: Death Comes to Pemberley

Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James is set six years after the marriage of Elizabeth Bennet to Fitzwilliam Darcy. It is the night before the annual Lady Anne's Ball at Pemberley, and Elizabeth has spent the day preparing for the ball with the servants. She and Darcy are wrapping up the evening with some of the guests staying with them when a carriage flies up the lane, releasing a hysteric Lydia. When she is inside and sane enough to accuse Elizabeth of mistreatment (for not actually being invited to the ball), she recounts her story: On her way in the stormy night to "crash the Pemberley party" so-to-speak, Wickham and Captain Denny leave her in the carriage and stalk into the forest, where the sounds of gunshots emerge after a few minutes. Convinced that Denny has killed Wickham, Lydia rushes on to Pemberley and insists that a search party be sent out immediately.

First Impression: I've never read anything by P. D. James before, so I'm not sure if the book reflects how she usually writes or just the time period which she is referencing. Either way, I'm enjoying it. There is all of the formality without the stiffness of someone who shouldn't be writing about the 19th century. James definitely knows what she's doing. The book is set six years or so after Jane and Elizabeth married Bingley and Darcy, which leaves a good amount of time for all of the characters to be comfortable in their settled lives without the unnecessary romantic scenes that might interfere with the mystery that's coming. While it's good that James refers to what takes place in Pride and Prejudice, I don't think she needs to do the scene repeats that she does in the first chapter. Maybe it's for the benefit of those who haven't read the book--that would make sense--or maybe it's just to set the stage. I hope it doesn't continue as the book goes on. Side note: I expect that Kitty and Georgiana will have plans for marriage by the end of the book. So far I'm enjoying the novel.

Conclusion: I don't like how James changes the characters. It seems like she keeps half of their original characters in tact and the other halves she changes to help her story along. Also, it doesn't seem right that Elizabeth and Darcy question their domestic bliss so much after six years of marriage. I could understand Elizabeth sometimes questioning if she did the right thing for Darcy. However, I could never see her re-addressing her actions toward Wickham after she knew his true character, and I would never EVER think of her wondering if money factored into her choice of a husband. It was made evident through her first refusal of Darcy and her general attitude toward riches in Pride and Prejudice that she wasn't motivated by money when considering her future. In fact, that was a common personality trait in all of Austen's heroines.

This book was very well-written. I like P.D. James's writing style for this genre--formal but not too stiff. I also like her interpretation of Darcy. He takes care of his family and friends while maintaining his responsibilities and sensitivities as master, husband, and father. Colonel Fitzwilliam was a big disappointment for me. In Austen's novel, the Colonel is warm, friendly, and lovable. In Death Comes to Pemberley, he is solitary and serious. There are reasons given for this transformation, but I find them inadequate for the extreme differences in the core of his personality. Also, I am surprised not to find a lot of mystery in this mystery. There are many secrets kept throughout the book (and then unloaded on the reader all at once toward the end of the novel), which gives the appearance of mystery, but there really isn't a lot of study given to who committed the murder and how. The epilogue adds nothing to the book, in my opinion. It seems to provide a chance for James to express her thoughts on P&P without wrapping-up anything from this novel (with the exception of Georgiana's romantic interests). At the end, I feel calm, as though I've been doing yoga rather than waiting breathlessly to hear the conclusion to a murder mystery, but it's a pleasant peace. I'm curious how someone who hasn't read Pride and Prejudice might react to Death Comes to Pemberley. Have any of you read it?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Bitsy View: Berries, Puppies, and Apple Pie

Jamberry by Bruce Degen   
     --Summary: A bear and a little boy travel across a world made of food (marshmallow weeds, biscuit lilypads, etc), collecting and eating several types of berries as they go.
     --Writing Style: rhyming poetry (board book)
     --Highlight: The bear and the little boy fall down a waterfall holding their canoe over their heads as blueberries rain down just behind/above them. The illustration of this leaves an exciting, adventurous impression.
     --Afterthought: The illustrations are really fun and they reflect the friendly, adventurous spirit of the rhymes.

Where's Spot by Eric Hill   
     --Summary: Sally, Spot the puppy's mom, is looking for him at suppertime and finds several other animals in the process.
     --Writing Style: question/answer, lift-the-flap (board book)
     --Highlight: Just when Sally thinks she's found Spot, it turns out to be a turtle under the rug. The turtle says, "Try the basket."
     --Afterthought: This is really fun for kids who like surprises and playing peekaboo. Make sure your child is careful enough for a lift-the-flap book. When I first bought this, Gabe ripped one of the flaps off, so I had to set it aside for a while. But now he can read it just fine, only bending the little flaps slightly as they open.

Apple Pie ABC by Alison Murray   
     --Summary: A dog hangs around while his owner, a little girl, makes an apple pie and eats some, and then he tries to get some pie for himself.
     --Writing Style: alphabetical phrases (board book)
     --Highlight: The puppy pulls the tablecloth and the whole pie comes down on the floor, which he then grabs and quickly runs away.
     --Afterthought: The pictures in this are simple but eye-catching, and the puppy makes a very sweet, pitiable character while trying to get some pie.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The School for Good and Evil

 The School for Good and Evil by

(Design & Animation: Manny Palad & Michael Blank
Original Music: Luciano Storti)

Have you ever seen a trailer for a BOOK before? This was my first, so I found it really fascinating. Of course, it tells you little of what's actually going on--much like its movie counterparts.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Top Ten Books I've Read So Far in 2013

Today, I found a weekly feature through Word Hits hosted by The Broke and the Bookish that is so much fun! It's called Top Ten Tuesday. Every week, they feature their top ten in something book related, and this week it was Top Ten Books Read So Far in 2013. (Each of those links leads to a different page, so make sure you check them all out!) I decided I'll participate, even though you all have heard about most of these books already, and I've divided them into a couple of sections. The books themselves are in no particular order, and if I've written about them on my blog, I'll link them to the original post as well. Also, some of my entries are actually series which I've finished, and I didn't want to pick a favorite book from the series. I'm not including any books that I re-read this year, that I have yet to finish, or that were written for elementary school ages or younger.

Two Guys Read Jane Austen--What a great way to delve further into Jane Austen!

Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths Vol. 1 & 2--I don't know how many of you have seen The Dark Crystal, but I simply adore that movie! These graphic novels tell the history of Thra (the world in which the movie is set) and how it came to be divided by the devastation of the crystal. I loved being pulled back into this story--it challenged my imagination and my moral compass. Also, the copies that I have included some background information on the making of the movie and the characters, which I found intriguing.

Liked a Lot:
Austenland--This was my first review for the Pride and Prejudice bicentenary challenge. I really enjoyed the playfulness and uniqueness of it.

A Wrinkle in Time--It would be hard for this book to get more awesome. Meg (and all of the main characters) is fantastic, but my favorite is probably Aunt Beast. What a cozy, happy character! I can't believe it took me so long to read this book.

Sookie Stackhouse series--I loved the voice that Charlaine Harris gave Sookie. She may not be my favorite character, but she is definitely unique. Also, I find the mix of mystery, comedy, romance, and paranormal activity very interesting.

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls #1)--With all of the other paranormal books out right now, it's hard to find one that really feels like an original, and this is one. Deborah Harkness has my attention; we'll see what she does with it when I read the second book.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks--Science is not my strong suit, but this book really captured me. Skloot does a fantastic job balancing the family's story of Henrietta with the medical community's story of HeLa.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians series--This is the first series I've read by Rick Riordan, and I love how he transformed Greek mythology, adapting it for the modern world and making it more accessible to the reader. Well-written and very inventive.

The School for Good and Evil--Just your typical fairy tale...or is it? This book took me on one of the craziest psychological roller coasters I've ever been on. Chainani plays games with your head and makes you believe things only to switch it up later. I liked this for it's original take on fairy tale ideals and technicalities. Look for a post on this book later this week.

Unbearable Lightness--I have always liked Portia de Rossi for her wit, humor, and "stage presence," but this book gave me another reason to see her as a strong, admirable woman. I am excited that she decided to share the story of her struggle with anorexia and other eating disorders, and I'll be writing a post about this one soon.

Cookbooks: I don't really "read through" cookbooks; I just glance through, reading bits and trying the recipes that sound the best to me. But I've found some interesting ones this year that I wanted to share with you. They're not exactly part of my ten, and I'm still working on a good way to review cookbooks. Meanwhile, find these and rifle through them--I'm sure you'll find something fantastic!

Liddabit Sweets Candy Cookbook
Molly Moon's Homemade Ice Cream
The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook

Series: Sookie Stackhouse

I recently finished the Sookie Stackhouse series written by Charlaine Harris, which inspired the TV series True Blood. Since I already wrote a short review on Goodreads after reading each book, I just copied them all here for you. As you can see by reading, I really enjoyed this series early on, but Harris began to drag toward the end, which I guess is to be expected with such a long series. The series centers around a young telepathic woman, Sookie Stackhouse, who lives in a small town in Louisiana near her friends and family. It all starts with the first time she meets a vampire, whose thoughts she can't hear, and goes from there on a wild ride of mystery, comedy, and para-normalcy.

#1 Dead Until Dark: This was great! Charlaine Harris creates a world that I find very believable. If vampires were real and "came out of the coffin," as she puts it, I'm pretty sure some parts of the world would be similar to how she writes it. I've seen a little bit of True Blood, so I knew some pieces of story to expect, but I was certainly surprised at some of the differences in character which I found. I also liked the extra background information that I got (as always) from the details in the book that you don't get from television. I enjoyed the book a bit more than the show, and I plan on reading more in this series.

#2 Living Dead in Dallas: I've enjoyed both of the Sookie Stackhouse novels that I've read so far. This one is quite a bit different than the TV show True Blood, while the first one was fairly similar. I figure they'll become more and more different, which is alright. They're both good in their own rights, but I like the books better, to be honest. There are a few things I don't like as much, such as Jason's attitude to Sookie in the first novel, but overall, it seems more real/detailed/enjoyable, etc. The main reason might be Sookie's narration, but I suppose I'll learn more as the series goes on. Overall, it keeps the blood pumping with mystery, action, intrigue, and it's just a nice, quick read.

#3 Club Dead: I'm really enjoying this series. It's almost like a palate cleanser for other things I'm reading, since the language and the general concept are easier to grasp. The best thing about the writing, I think, is that the narration is so consistent. Harris really has a grasp on Sookie's character. One thing I don't like is some of the rehashing. I understand a little rehashing of vampire capabilities and such toward the beginning of each book, I assume for the ease of those who didn't start the series at the beginning, but it bothers me when those comments continue throughout the story, almost to the very end. Even if some of the main characters aren't the smartest people (a flaw which isn't often found in main characters and is appreciated by this reader for its rarity), Harris might improve parts of the book by assuming that her readers are a little smarter. Just a sidenote. In general, I really liked this story and the fact that Sookie decides she isn't willing to sacrifice herself for the sake of a cheating, abusive vampire boyfriend, since every other vampire's girlfriend in modern writing seems compelled to do so.

#4 Dead to the World: I really enjoyed the step aside in Eric's amnesia. This one was a bit different than the usual Sookie Stackhouse book, but not in a bad way. I appreciate how Charlaine Harris can keep two intertwining plot lines going so well; it leaves a really nice way to emphasize her choice of first-person narrative, since Sookie always has suspicions of things being connected in ways that they never are. Also, I liked how she introduced witches to the series, although I think that became a "bark bigger than bite" situation.

#5 Dead as a Doornail: This book was a "win some on this part, lose some on this part" for me. There were definite sections to the book, and I think readers will probably take a very certain stance on which parts they liked and which they did not. What I mean to say is that the entire book will not appeal to one person or another--different parts will appeal to different people. That being said, the parts that I didn't like were excusable because I can still see how it fits in the world Harris is creating. The werewolves' competition for a new packmaster was not something I agreed with or that I would have written, but I can see how it works with the persona of the pack. Also, I'd like to mention that I never quite predict how these Sookie Stackhouse books will end. I like that I can read the series and, although I can predict certain events, I can never completely know what's going to happen. Harris goes very different directions than I would personally, and there's a lot I admire about that. She has a unique way of writing and represents the voice of her main character very well.

#6 Definitely Dead: I'm not sure how to feel about this one. I liked it, but I was suspicious the whole time since there were so many newly-introduced characters. Everything with the Pelts was insane, and I don't like that Sookie keeps getting almost sexually-assaulted. Other than that, the book was really good, and Quinn was a unique addition to the characters.

#7 All Together Dead: What a roller-coaster ride! This book was on high speed almost the whole time, but it almost provides a crazy adrenaline rush for the reader! The vampire summit was a brilliant event idea on Harris's part, I think. It provided new territory with basically unlimited possibilities. I cannot put this series down! You can ask my husband--as soon as I finish one, I pick the next one up. This was one of my favorites in the series so far, and I can't wait to see what's next for Sookie and her (sort-of) friends.

#8 From Dead to Worse: What?! From Dead to Worse is a bit scattered, and boy, does it end with a bombshell! Rather than the usual two plot intertwining, Harris uses a bunch of smaller plots to pull this book together. Between the Were succession, the vampire takeover, Sookie's great-grandfather, and Amelia's witch dilemmas, I think this book is meant to be a segway in the series connecting larger plot lines. Harris puts everything together with clever attention to detail. Harris allows Ms. Stackhouse to make peace with her past and brings in other family so Sookie won't be alone after Jason's mistakes. Also, she makes way for a reconciliation with Bill, more open communication with Sam, and a closer connection to Eric (possibly without the same expectations). And as Sookie appears to break further away from the humans around her, she makes more connections to supes across the country, an effective substitute for the storyline. This book didn't give me the same emotional roller coaster I felt with the others, but it seems to be a very smooth transition, and I look forward to reading the next one in the series.

#4.1, 4.3, 5.1, 7.1, 8.1 A Touch of Dead: I liked having the short stories that belong in-between the books. It was kind of fun to read some smaller events going on in Sookie's life, although the books are set in such a close timeline to one another that I didn't find it necessary. I was a little surprised that she had such little interaction with some of the main male characters, considering what a large role they play in the books themselves. Overall kind of fun to read through, but I wouldn't spend a lot of time on it or want to own the book.

#9 Dead and Gone: This is the saddest of the Sookie Stackhouse books that I have read so far. In all of the series' books, there is some death and some crazy wars and things, but in this one it becomes personal. Not only is the war taking place primarily centered around Sookie's family, but the people who die are ones you never would have wished or expected, and Sookie is damaged (emotionally and physically) more than ever before. Who knows where the series will go from here.

#10 Dead in the Family: I like how this one started--slowly, with a focus on Sookie's physical and emotional recovery after the insanity of the last book. The entire book was really an aftermath of previous events, a picking-up of pieces, if you will. Although the "mysterious players" (because there's always at least one in each book) in this book were easier to discover than they usually are, the ending was fairly unpredictable. Also, the characters were changing quite a bit as the story went on, which confused me a bit. I understood how they were changing, I just didn't know how to feel about it. I'm still not sure how I feel about some characters that were very clear to me before.

#11 Dead Reckoning: This book was...complicated and frustrating, to say the least. Not that it wasn't good. It's one of those where you want to yell at the characters constantly for saying certain things or not taking action that makes sense to you. Also, most of the Sookie Stackhouse books end somewhat happily, but this one didn't. Each plot within the story culminates into something sad or horrible from which Sookie might never recover. Harris's book ends with a cliffhanger of epic proportions, and I know I'm nearing the end of the series. I believe there is one book after this one and one that has yet to be published, but I might be wrong. There are about six reasonable pathways I could see this story taking. I won't reveal them at this moment, but I'm waiting on the edge of my seat to see what will happen to complete the Sookie Stackhouse series.

#11.5 The Sookie Stackhouse Companion: I was a bit disappointed by this book. I guess I didn't really understand what it was supposed to be until I read it. I'll explain: the book is a companion, as it's described, and it contains lots of recap information to keep the book straight as well as some extra information. I'll cover this in three sections. Parts I knew I wouldn't care for: the recap of each story (I already read the books), the index of everyone in the series (read above parentheses), and the fan narrative (pointless?). Okay parts that disappointed me: the interviews with the author and the director of True Blood (these were interesting, but not enough for me to ever read again--they might make more sense as a magazine article or a post online) and the secret conversations between Eric and Bill (I was really excited about these and expected them to have new, interesting information, but there was only enough to brush the references in the series to their conversations). The third part is the short story in the beginning, which saved this book for me. I think my problem was in buying the book. I never had any trouble keeping track of the characters or events in the series itself, and the primary purpose of the book (apparently) was to lay-out these things. I should have borrowed it from the library or tried to find it used. I'll probably pass my copy on to someone else and never pick it up again.

#12 Deadlocked: Wow. I'll be honest: after everything that has happened in this series, I don't like the characters nearly as much as I did before. I guess I still like some of them, but their actions make it harder for me to root for anyone to survive or be happy. I guess this is good, since the series is almost over. It makes it easier for me to let go. I really feel like I've been watching a TV show rather than reading a series, which I guess is why it translates so well into the show True Blood (although they've changed it quite a bit for the show). Although I'm not as emotionally invested in the series since my disappointment in the characters, I've still enjoyed reading it, and I'm looking forward to reading the conclusion in May.

#13 Dead Ever After: I can't decide what to say about this book because it's the ending of such a long series. I won't say I'm disappointed, but I will say that this book felt anti-climactic to me. Harris does a good job pulling in a lot of loose threads from the old books. Unfortunately, she also pulls in some threads that I thought were tied and could have been left out. Without ruining it for anyone who doesn't know, I'll say this: Instead of taking care of random people I barely remembered, she could have spent a little more time settling things with the people I did. Harris uses her beloved signature writing style for this book, which still makes it worth the read, but it felt like she just put together a bunch of little ideas for ending the series, and the only way they connected was in having contact with Sookie at some point in the series.