Saturday, December 20, 2014

Book Bingo: The Garthim Wars

Wow, did I miss a lot of time! Sorry about that! I wish I could say I was taking a vacation, but I was actually working more. My supervisor left the store, and I got a promotion! Hopefully this was a temporary lapse, but no matter what, I'm here just in time to review some books I've read before the end of the new year!

The Garthim Wars by Barbara Randall Kesel is part of the Legends of The Dark Crystal graphic novel series. It's illustrated by Heidi Arnhold and Max Kim. If you've ever seen the movie The Dark Crystal, this is a prequel to that storyline. In a fantasy world that is ruled by evil Skeksis (vulture-like creatures with magic), two Gelflings (a more peaceful race--big fans of music, craft, and animals) whose towns have been destroyed set out to rouse others of their kind in defense of their homes. In this novel, the Gelflings are fighting Garthims (giant cockroach and crab-like creatures), but who knows what lies ahead of them next?

(picture taken from Goodreads;
cover art by Jae-Hwan Kim)

First Impression: I'm a bit confused by the pace. There's a lot of action right at the beginning,  and then it dies down for the council discussion in the gelfling cave community. I'm concerned that this storyline won't fit very well into the timeline of The Dark Crystal and its other prequels. I like that the authors included dream-fasting--that's a nice little tidbit from the movie. The art is pretty good and its fairly accurate to the style of Henson's puppets. I like the different outfits, hair, and everything they pulled in to make the characters unique, but I wish the faces were a little more varied, as well. This would make a huge difference, especially since the art is all black and white.

Conclusion: Lahr and Neffi had good interaction with each other as well as other characters. It's interesting to see how the gelfling society traditions conflict with wartime--for example, all of the older gelflings are constantly trying to discuss Neffi's search for a husband, but she is more focused on necessary defense tactics. The story would have been more unique if the authors had chosen two boys or two girls to be the main characters rather than a boy and a girl. As it is, the graphic novel reads a bit like an attempt to copy Jen and Kira from the movie. I was surprised that the book ended where it did, but it's apparently the first volume in a sub-series of The Dark Crystal timeline. Stories set in war time rarely grow old, even if the war is fictional and/or unrealistic. Many of the issues remain the same, and the primitive setting of this story puts an interesting spin on war and Henson's fantasy world. This is, in fact, an official graphic novel from the Jim Henson Company--not a separate one as I originally thought. I enjoyed it more that I thought I would, though I'm still unsure how it will fit in the complete storyline. I will probably read the second one if only to know what happens next.

The Garthim Wars is my tenth "Series" choice for the 2014 Book Bingo Challenge. I don't usually write reviews of graphic novels, but I read them fairly frequently, and I figure I can use as many books crossed off my bingo sheet as possible at this point. I can't believe the year is almost over!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Book Bingo / Book Club / Halloween: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

(American cover; picture taken from Goodreads)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling is the first in a series about an orphaned boy who has lived with his aunt, uncle, and cousin since he was one-year-old. On his eleventh birthday, Harry finds out he is a wizard and that his parents were killed by a very powerful, dark wizard who then tried to kill him and was somehow struck down. Harry receives an acceptance letter to a wizarding school called Hogwarts, and so begins one of the best and most well-known children's fantasy series of all time.

(British cover; picture taken from Goodreads)

Memory: I don't remember my exact first impression of this book, since it was 1998 or '99 when I first read So, I'll have to tell you what I do remember. I had heard the hype about the Harry Potter books and specifically avoided reading them because I didn't usually enjoy books that were really popular with other kids my age. The second or third book had recently come out. I was at a bookstore in Springfield, Missouri, and my cousin was visiting us from Minnesota. She kept trying to convince me to read the series and I would turn her down, until finally, she pushed me into a wooden chair and told me to read the first two chapters of the first book. She said she was going to watch me and keep pushing me back down until I at least gave it a chance, so I agreed to her two-chapter stipulation. After a few pages, I was intrigued but still convinced that I would put it down after two chapters. After two chapters, I was completely absorbed. After about twenty minutes, I was in love with Hogwarts, and my cousin ran off to a different part of the store to look at something else. After about an hour, my mom came to get me to leave, and I convinced her to buy me the book. And the rest is history!

Conclusion: As always, this book is amazing. Even if nostalgia was not a factor, I would still be captivated by Hogwarts and Rowling's magical Britain! There's not a lot to say except one must always experience Harry Potter for oneself. It's not important who your favorite character is or in which house you belong at Hogwarts--we are all united somehow by our individual and completely different experiences with this series. It was nice to read the first book again.

(newer cover; picture taken from Goodreads)

Recommendation: This is a great book for people who like fantasy and/or coming-of-age stories. There's some middle grade adventure in there, too--the never-ending battle of good versus evil!

I decided to count this toward my Book Bingo goal since I still have a spot where it would fit. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is my ninth Series pick for the 2014 Book Bingo Challenge. My favorite cover is the older American version, I think, although all of them are pretty neat. Which is your favorite? Do you have any good Harry Potter-related memories to share? I'd love to hear them! Comment below! And don't forget to subscribe and stay posted for more reviews! Happy Halloween!

Book Bingo / Audio / Halloween: Iced

Iced by Karen Marie Moning is the first book in the Dani O'Malley Trilogy, a spin-off of the Fever series. I haven't read any of the other books in the series, so my review only refers to this one book. Dani "Mega" O'Malley is a fourteen-year-old girl who can move in fast mode and kill dangerous Unseelie creatures with her sword of light. The setting is Dublin, Ireland AWC (After the Wall Crash between Faery and the human world). Dani finds herself constantly in motion trying to kill Unseelie, protect her fellow humans and keep them informed on the dangers around them, and avoid the ever-growing number of adults monitoring her and trying to set ground rules for her to follow. Needless to say, it's quite a trick, and things get even more complicated when an unknown creature comes out of nowhere and starts covering parts of Dublin in ice that explodes rather than thawing.

(picture taken from Goodreads)

First Impression: I haven't read any other books by this author, but I picked this up at a sale a while back, and it's just been sitting on my shelf. The first couple of chapters are really confusing because this book begins a spin-off of another series. I can't decide how I feel about Dani. On one hand, I think her motivations are good, and she has a lot of handy capabilities. On the other hand, she's a bit annoying and selfish, and her abilities are dwarfed by a couple of guys not very far into the book, which makes them less amazing in comparison. I question Moning's decision to make Dani fourteen-years-old--or to have a fourteen-year-old main character in an adult book. I know this was a character from the main series, but sixteen- or seventeen-years-old might have been more appropriate. Maybe her intention was to make Dani more hormonal and reckless? Ryodan is something of a mystery. Is he a vampire? Elf? Goblin? Who knows? And what are his intentions and motivations? Christian seems like an obvious romantic interest: good guy trapped in a bad situation, not much older than Dani...but I have to admit, I like Dancer best so far if she's going to pick a guy.

Conclusion: It's really hard to review this book, because my opinions are so split about different characters and events. I mostly like the world Moning has created--Dublin AWC. It seems somewhat believable, what with Unseelie flooding the human world with lots of other creatures and the Seelie staying away most of the time. You have a lot of people staying at home while others flock to clubs or religious organizations to find comfort and warmth. There are some characters that I love, like Dancer and even Christian to some extent. Then there are characters like Ryodan. I think he's supposed to be attractive in a powerful and controlling way, but I kept seeing a flashing EXIT sign out of the corner of my eye when he'd show up. Get away from the abusive, somewhat psychotic killer! The ending is believable and probably perfect for the story, but the last chapter kind of tainted my view of the book by its boring and unnecessary existence. Also, what's with all the sex? Moning constantly has her characters talking about sex, and it has almost nothing to do with the storyline! I've ever seen something so prevalent that was so unnecessary to a story in my life! Oh well. I'll probably read the next one so I know what happens...or possibly go back and read the main series where Mac is the main character, because Dani is pretty annoying.

Audio: Natalie Ross has a good voice for Dani, although it's pretty obvious that she's older than the character. She does well at changing her voice for different female characters as well. Sometimes her voice for Kat was so low-key it almost put me to sleep--that's my only complaint. Phil Gigante did a pretty amazing job changing his voice for each male character--I would have never guessed that it was the same person speaking for all of the guys! Great performance all around.

Recommendation: If you like modern stories of the fae in an urban setting, this is probably a good story for you. Or if you like books where the main character is a self-centered teenager with superpowers. Not why I read it, but you never know. There is a lot of talk about sex (without actual explicit scenes) and a fair amount of cursing, so don't read it if that bothers you.

Iced is my Fantasy choice for the 2014 Book Bingo Challenge. Since it's kind of a dark fantasy, I thought it appropriate to review for my Halloween celebration. Wish I could have done more celebrating with you guys, though! Next year I'll go all out and have blog parties and giveaways and stuff! It will be fun!

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!
(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!:

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!:


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!


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 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!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Book Bingo: A Room with a View

A Room with a View by E.M. Forster is about an English girl, Lucy, in the upper-middle-class in the first decade of the 20th-century. She takes a trip to Italy with her mother's cousin, Charlotte, as her chaperone. But as Lucy discovers love, passion, and beauty on her trip, she finds herself torn between this intense, new-found world and her safe and comfortable social conventions. I've grown up watching the 1985 version of A Room with a View, which I love, but for some reason I never picked up the book and read it. Until now!

(picture taken from Goodreads)

First Impression: I'm captivated by the beauty of Forster's language. Maybe some of it is because I've been having classic literature withdrawal lately, but his prose feels like poetry. It's funny, too, how Forster's version of Italy appears so captivating even when the characters are bored or something gruesome is happening. I find it interesting that no one really likes the other characters in the first half of the book. I can definitely see more evidence of it here than in the movie. One person who appears to advantage in the book is Cecil, if only because the reader can see that he tries to phrase his opinions in a less offensive way and to see other points-of-view. He's making an effort. He is the same snooty character, however, that one can never really like. George is as wonderful as ever, and the main difference in him is that he communicates a little more with Lucy. He also seems to be depressed rather than just thoughtful, which changes his character somewhat for me. Freddy's "bone hobby" is actually studies in anatomy. Who knew? I'm enjoying the extra character information in my reading. My favorite parts so far have been the author's descriptions of music and of Lucy when she plays the piano. She comes alive! I wonder if Forster was a big fan of music or if he just found this to be a perfect way to convey Lucy's full character?

(picture taken from Goodreads)

This is my favorite version of the cover that I've seen so far. It's artistic, beautiful, and it displays a few significant themes from the novel. The cover pictured at the beginning of this post is from the copy that I read.

Conclusion: As you know, the beauty of Forster's writing grabbed me from the beginning of this book, and it held throughout! The passion conveyed in the words of the author and the actions of the characters was amazingly profound. It makes the reader want to live, and to do so with extreme depth and clarity. I found the characters very fascinating and unique. Lucy was not perfect. She was the protagonist, but she was very conflicted and somewhat selfish throughout the book. George was my favorite, of course. He lived freely and threw himself into everything he did in such a compelling way--even the characters who didn't like him were fascinated by him. Mr. Beebe was the most confusing character to me, I guess. It's hard to even explain why, but you'll see if you read it. He was a bit of a riddle. The ending was perfect for every character, but it was not exactly what I expected, because it varied from the movie slightly. This made things interesting! And it proved to some extent that authors usually know what's best for their characters. And why not? They've spent so much more time together than we have!

Recommendation: This book is fantastic for those who like classics that challenge social ideals. If you are a fan of John Galsworthy or Elizabeth Gaskell, you will like this novel by E.M. Forster.

A Room with a View is one of my "TBR Pile" choices for the 2014 Book Bingo Challenge! It also would have worked in the "Classic" box, but I'm saving that for a book I'm currently reading! I loved this book, and I hope you enjoyed the review! Please subscribe to the blog or keep checking back for more reviews and maybe some other fun things!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Book Bingo: A World Without Princes

A World Without Princes is the second book in The School for Good and Evil series by Soman Chainani. Some of you may remember the first book from my review here. In this sequel, Agatha finds herself unhappy with what is supposed to be her perfect life. Through a series of uncontrollable events, the girls find themselves thrust back into the fairytale world. But everything has changed, and the darkest threats to happiness might be those people and things they trusted the most.

(picture taken from Goodreads)

First Impression: I'm surprised by how Chainani starts this one, but that is partially because I forgot how he detailed the ending of the first book. He also likes to take risks and do unusual things with his characters, which he continues here. Agatha is still my favorite character, although she seems less sure of what she wants this time around. Her inner self is at war. Unlike last time, I have no idea what the future has in store for Sophie or Tedros, and I'm eager to see what will happen. I don't like the new evolution of the storybook world, so I hope the girls (or others) bring it crumbling down or re-instate the old ways.

Conclusion: Agatha's whining and indecisiveness bothered me in this book. She was so sure and pure-of-heart in the first one--her inability to take action in this one was a bit frustrating. Tedros was, as always, bothersome in his lack of self-assurance, but he continued to be loyal to his friends and ideals. Sophie was the most confusing one this time. Is she good; is she evil? Who knows? And Evelyn Sader was Chainani's most brilliant creation yet, although I still can't help but hate her. I think it was the fact that she tampered with the books in the school library! Speaking of which, there's a giant turtle librarian! I loved it. I probably would have ended the storyline of the series with this book (or maybe even the first one). I love Chainani's originality, but I'm curious why you never see books with just one sequel. And it's frustrating being left hanging! I had finality with the first book since I thought it was a stand-alone...albeit a tentative, barely constructed finality. The author's specialties seem to lie with the cliffhangers and the edgy, unique characters. I'm extremely fascinated to see how it will finally end.

Recommendation: This book will only make sense within its series, so I recommend reading it if you liked the first one.

The School for Good and Evil: A World Without Princes is my fourth "New Release" choice for the 2014 Book Bingo Challenge. How are everyone else's challenges going? Don't forget to comment and subscribe for further updates on the challenge! Who knows, maybe I'll get that blackout after all!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Paper Towns

Paper Towns by John Green is about a girl named Margo who is unhappy with her life, her town, her friends, etc. She disappears one day, and her neighbor (Quentin), who has had a crush on her since childhood, starts a search to find out where she is and what happened to her. Quentin is actually the main character, but he is so focused on getting "inside Margo's mind" during his search that the reader learns just as much about her as one does about him.

(picture taken from Goodreads)

First Impression: This is a little strange so far. Basically, there's this little girl who sees a dead body and gets really weird about it. Rather than running away, her initial reaction is to close the dead man's eyes (she doesn't, but she wanted to). Then she starts this whole investigation to find out what happened and gets spooked when talking to her friend about it. The funny thing is, the main character is just as strange in the opposite way, because he just sees the dead body, talks to his parents (who are therapists) about it, and then moves on as if nothing significant had happened. And yet, his reaction feels more normal than hers. Maybe it's just the general attitude in which this book starts that is throwing me off, because Green has already switched gears and left the beginning years behind, and I'm only twenty-three pages in. Quentin is now in high school, and he seems to live a fairly normal life outside of the major social circles. I really have no idea where this book will take me, so I'm just along for the ride at the moment.

(picture taken from Goodreads)

This is the cover on the paperback edition, which I actually think is a bit more fun. Lots of books have pictures of girls on the front, right? This one makes it special.

Conclusion: John Green has a talent for taking something basic and making it special. This book becomes something you don't expect. It starts out a little quirky, and you assume it's going to be about Q's (Quentin's) strengthened friendships or the point where he decides to let Margo go, but it's not. So, the ending wasn't what I expected or even really what I wanted, but I like how it ended overall. I don't really want to read more about Quentin and Margo, but I wouldn't mind a spin-off, maybe about Radar or Margo's little sister.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Book Club / Book Bingo: The Giver

The Giver is the first in a YA science fiction quartet by Lois Lowry. I first read this book in upper elementary school, and I had no idea that Lowry ended up writing more books set in this world! It's about a futuristic community in which no one experiences deep pain or difficulty. They also can't see color or really experience love, and the environment has been controlled to be flat and the same all of the time. There are very strict rules to be followed, and people are assigned spouses and children after written requests to a committee. The main character, Jonas, has reached the age of job assignment (12-years-old), and he is made Receiver of Memories. What follows is happiness and sadness, joy and pain as he learns the past and present truths of his community.

(picture taken from Goodreads)

This book never gets old! It's so beautiful and emotionally wrenching at the same time. I remember, the first time I read it, becoming more and more horrified at the prospect of living in this futuristic world where nothing really means anything. This time, the passing on of memories bit by bit is what really struck me. When Jonas experiences snow for the first time, I can feel what it would be like never to have seen or felt snow before that moment. Lowry has a gift for detail, accomplishing quite a lot in a short amount of space, and I relish in the constant discoveries Jonas makes throughout the book.

This is my Re-Read choice for the 2014 Book Bingo Challenge! I loved re-visiting this book--re-read something that you love today! Don't forget to check back and subscribe!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Book Bingo: Sea of Shadows

Sea of Shadows is the first book in a new YA fantasy series by Kelley Armstrong, Age of Legends. Twin sisters are the main characters, and they are the Keeper and the Seeker--communicators to the spirits of dead ancestors as well as to those who were excommunicated for crimes to their village and country. Together, the girls (Ashyn and Moria) help the dead to find peace and protect their village from those who have no peace to find. Their jobs never seemed too difficult until the night of Ashyn's first Seeking. As everything they've ever known crumbles around them, the girls are separated and forced on a journey to find each other and protect their land from creatures that once only lived in stories.

 (picture taken from Goodreads)

The characters in this book were awesome! They had primary characteristics but were still well-developed, with plenty of depth and change throughout the book. Gavril Kitsune (a soldier and sometimes-friend of Moria's) was probably the most intriguing character--he was a mystery, and yet, he felt deeply and followed an honorable code obvious to the girls. The relationships between Moria and Ashyn and their spirit animals, Daigo and Tova, were beautiful. I just wished the girls would speak more directly to the spirits. Maybe Armstrong did this on purpose, so the girls would not have extra advantages in the crises they come across? It was interesting, too, how the author used animals and mythical creatures to convey meaning about each character or event. The differences in the girls' reactions to the first personally tragic event in the story, for instance, revealed Moria's bravery and strength as well as Ashyn's steadfast hope and cunning. Armstrong chose the perfect creatures to put in the characters' ways, as well. They were unique and strange--not too similar, so you knew they were not directly connected, but not too different, so they would fit well in the same book. And the ending of this book was crazy! I didn't realize when I was reading it that this was the beginning of a new series, so I thought the plot would wrap-up by the end of the book. Boy, was I left hanging! One of my favorite characters is mixed-up in all of the bad events of the book--more than I expected, although less, I suspect, than the other characters think. I thought of some alternate ways to have told this story if Armstrong wanted it to be fiction or science-fiction, but I think Armstrong made the right choice going with fantasy--her use of those cool, mythical creatures really made the story. In conclusion, I would definitely recommend reading this book, but maybe not until the next one in the series comes out. I don't usually read series as they're being published, and the suspense is driving me crazy! It's so good!

This book was my third New Releases Choice for the 2014 Book Bingo Challenge. Still making progress! And I'd love to hear how far you guys have gotten with this!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Lots of Love, Other Blogger Giveaway

I know, I know--I promise lots of posts, I disappear again. Suffice it to say, when your two-year-old gets really sick for two weeks and then you fall ill for a week, even the computer does not seem like an interesting option. You know what does? Sleep. So that's what I've been doing. Posts to come, but for now, a link to a Jane Austen giveaway (and you know those are my favorite kinds)!

This giveaway is being held by Miss Laurie over at Old-Fashioned Charm, and it seems worth some of your time! Good luck to all my faithful readers!

Update 7/22/14: I found another Austen-related giveaway! I seem to be stumbling upon them without even trying now. Anyway, this one is hosted by Tamara, and the post is called My Austenesque Birthday Gifts & Giveaway!!! Good luck again!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Book Club: Looking for Alaska

In Looking for Alaska by John Green, loner Miles convinces his parents to send him to a boarding school in Alabama--Culver Creek. Once there, Miles instantly makes friends, but not the ones he ever expected. The Colonel, Alaska, and Takumi re-name him "Pudge" and teach him the ways of Culver Creek life, constantly getting in and out of trouble with teachers and other students alike. The newly-deemed Pudge quickly becomes an integral part of the group and starts to fall for Alaska, and the rest of the story is in the book.

(picture taken from Goodreads)

First Impression: This is a little weird. I haven't read any contemporary books set in a boarding school in America, so I have very little idea of how that setting is usually included. I like Miles, the Colonel, and Takumi, but I'm on the fence about Alaska. I guess she's just like any other attractive, teenage girl who hangs out with a group of guys.

Conclusion: I liked this, but I didn't love it. Parts of it were very meaningful...others, not so much. The characters in Looking for Alaska felt realistic to me, so that helped me to enjoy the book (while also providing frustration in a few key parts). Green's main characters stood apart from the others, as main characters should, but they were flawed. He wrote about human characters, not forces of nature, which is an important distinction to remember when you're reading this book. A few members of my book club thought certain characters shouldn't have acted as they did, but the characters' actions were true to their personalities. That being said, Alaska never really grew on me. I liked her better by the end, but she was a difficult character for me to actually admire. This book is defined by the climax in the middle of the story. I think most people who read it will pick half of the book as "the most important half." For me, it was the first half. The second half had its moments, though, not the least of which is Miles's essay at the end. It kept a personal connection between the main character and me up until the very end. Side note: I was very fascinated by Miles's obsession with last words. It's something I've never thought about, and now I find myself wanting to know the last words of all my favorite authors and figures in history. Green has definitely encouraged me to try something new, which I always appreciate. All in all, this was a good book. Not my favorite by John Green, but I didn't really expect it to beat The Fault in Our Stars, so I'm not disappointed.

Let me know what you think if you read this, and keep checking back for more great reads!

Monday, June 23, 2014

In Honor Of My Teachers

I've been taking a little break from my computer, as you can tell. I guess it's been about a month, which seems kind of crazy considering how much I'm usually online. That hasn't stopped me from reading, though, so there are some posts on the way. Meanwhile, I'm writing about something else: Two of my favorite teachers retired this year! It is unlikely that either of them will ever see this post, but I want to say a little something about each of them. The more I think about it, though, the less capable I feel of explaining how much they mean to me and what all I have learned from them. So, my solution is to tell you what they taught and name some books and authors to which they introduced me (links from Goodreads). Perhaps that will be enough to leave a lasting impression.

First off, my high school speech and debate coach, who we'll call Mrs. W.
Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen
"The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
A Piece of My Heart by Keith Walker
Dave Barry

Secondly, Dr. T, who taught a couple of my literature classes my junior year of college, as well as an advanced composition class my senior year.
The Iliad
The Odyssey
Confessions of St. Augustine 
Virginia Woolf
The Analects
James Joyce
They Say/I Say by Gerald Graff and Kathy Birkenstein
When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie

These are just a few of the multitudes of literary masterpieces and authors that I have gleaned from these women, but those stood out to me right now. If there are some you haven't read, I encourage you to pick them up and think of how much inspiration has been passed to others using these works. Thanks for reading, guys! I know I disappear from time to time, but I promise to let you know if I ever decide to leave for good, so keep sticking with me! Book reviews to come!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Book Bingo: The Impossible Knife of Memory

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson is the story of a girl used to being on the road with her dad. Hayley has to learn to adjust to life in a normal high school when her dad moves them back to the hometown she barely remembers. But it's not as easy as it sounds. As Hayley struggles with calculus and "zombie" teenagers, her father is struggling with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) from his time in the military, and her best friend is struggling with a broken family. As a tentative relationship begins to form between Hayley and the school newspaper editor, Finn, she must accept her past in order to face her future.

(picture taken from Goodreads;
cover design by Teresa Evangelista;
cover photo © Martin Stranka)

First Impression: I read a couple of other books by Laurie Halse Anderson when I was in high school: Speak and Catalyst. Anderson seems to have a gift for telling stories that everyone else forgets about. She places her characters in realistic, difficult situations and works through them in ways that could actually happen. Things don't fall into place as easily as they might in most YA novels, and I think that reflects the quality of her work. So far, The Impossible Knife of Memory has not disappointed me. PTSD is not a topic typically addressed in books for young adults, and by writing about it, Anderson is bringing a very relevant problem to light. Even though I am nothing like Hayley, I find myself feeling very attached to her, just by reading about what she deals with on a daily basis. Anderson's writing is at once beautiful and poignant, and I can't wait to see what happens.

Conclusion: The Impossible Knife of Memory was fantastic! The characters were very complex. I felt as though I could know Hayley, Finn, and Capt. Kincain (Andy) personally. It's so fascinating to read about Hayley's life and how she deals with school, her relationship with Finn, and her father's daily struggles. This book is not an easy one to absorb, but Anderson isn't known for tackling the easy topics. I read some reviews about this book on Goodreads while I was in the middle of it, and one of them in particular said they didn't like Anderson's portrayal of PTSD. (For those of you who don't know, the letters stand for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is self-explanatory. PTSD shows up in many different types of situations, but in this book, Hayley's dad suffers because of bad memories and inability to adapt after his multiple military deployments to Iraq, which is pretty common.) Honestly, the review made me laugh, because it said that PTSD doesn't manifest itself in the ways she describes. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder affects everyone differently, and I thought Anderson reflected Andy's pain in a very effective way. Also, there's a twist at the end of the book! I saw it coming but didn't know how it would resolve itself, and my admiration for the author continued to grow through the end of the book. The Impossible Knife of Memory is powerful, and it really touched me. I hope it means something special to the rest of you who take the time to read it.

This book is one of my "New Release" choices for the 2014 Book Bingo Challenge. Are any of you doing this challenge, too? Don't forget to subscribe for blog updates, and leave a comment to let me know what you thought of this book and what you're reading right now!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Book Club / Book Bingo: Only Time Will Tell

Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer is the first in a series called The Clifton Chronicles. When I first started it, I thought it was a stand-alone novel, and one of the girls in my book group picked it out. She promised "it wouldn't be boring," and she "really liked Jeffrey Archer." She was right. The story focuses on Harry Clifton, a poor boy from Bristol with a widowed mother and some mystery as to how exactly his father died. It begins with a segment about Maisie, his mother, and how she came to be married and pregnant, and moves on from there to the family's struggles to send Harry to a good school and a promising future.

(picture taken from Goodreads;
jacket design by David Baldeosingh Rotstein)

First Impression: I did not think I would like this at all. I figured it would jump in with some action and some mystery (it's described to bookstores as a "fiction thriller," which is hard to define), but it didn't. The first few chapters have already brought me close to the lives of the characters. Archer's writing style feels as though the narrator is speaking specifically to me and telling me interesting stories about his or her life. The narrator switches between characters every once in a while, and the author really makes it work for the book. I don't want to know just about one character; I want to know the whole story. I am a little confused about the time-period of the narration, however. Each narrator seems to tell his or her story, but I can't tell if they're talking to the narrator during the events of the book or later in their lives. This will probably be resolved as I read more. I'm certainly not dreading reading it for my book group anymore! 

Conclusion: One of my favorite things is when an author really focuses on the characters--character development, I mean--more than anything else, and Archer does that. The novel is split-up into sections by point-of-view, which changes several times. The author also tells the story of the same time period from these various points-of-view. I found it really interesting to see the same events through a completely different set of eyes each time. I also really liked the main character and the majority of the side characters, which helped me to get into the book initially. When Archer switched to my least favorite character, I was curious to see if he was as hard-hearted and cruel as he appeared to be, so that kept me intrigued as well. Overall, I enjoyed the book, but I probably won't continue the series like I thought I would initially. The story of Harry, his mother, and his friends was very interesting to me, but there's a twist at the end. It seems like the second book might be more about action and intrigue than the interconnected lives of a very diverse group of people, and I tend to prefer the latter.

Only Time Will Tell is one of my "Series" choices for the 2014 Book Bingo Challenge.