Friday, February 28, 2014

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge | Book Review

("Her mission was to kill him.  Her destiny was to love him."  What a tag line!)

Seventeen years ago, Nyx's father made a bargain with the Dark Lord:  spare his wife's life, and he would give the Dark Lord one of his daughters for a wife.  That daughter is Nyx.  For her entire life, Nyx has led a hard life.  Few toys and much combat training.  Her sister has lived a life of luxury, and also knows that she'll never have to leave the comforts of home.  Nyx and her father have devised a plan:  she will marry the Dark Lord, Ignifex, and go to his home and from there devise a way to destroy him and break his hold on the village.

(Do you see it?  Cruel Beauty = Beauty and the Beast! I love it.)

I thought Cruel Beauty was really really really super great, all the way up to the very end.  I loved the twists on the classic story:  the whole story takes place under a dome; everything under the dome (the whole village, and the Dark Lord's/Ignifex's castle) is under the Dark Lord's control.  There wasn't quite enough discussion about this whole dome situation for my taste.  I needed a little more atmosphere-building.  Nyx's father is pretty powerful and rich, so we don't see at all how the dark magic affects the villagers.  Also, Nyx's father is super smart.  He uses magic sigils to create all kinds of devices like lamps and medicines and clocks.  So part of the plan to take down Ignifex involves having Nyx learn how to find "hearts" and trace counter-sigils to disable them.  If she's successful, Ignifex and his castle should just fall to pieces.

So that's one twist on the classic.  Another twist comes in the form of shadows.  Town lore says that if you stare too long at a shadow it'll make you go insane.  This is mostly true, but it's because shadows are actually beings.  They cry and cry and drive you mad.  So Nyx is very hesitant when she first meets Ignifex's servant, Shadow.  He IS a shadow!  There's a big twist at the end regarding the shadows and Shadow and the shadow creatures, but I won't give it away.

Which brings me to the end.  I hate to admit it, but I didn't quite "get it."  It felt just a little rushed.  Not too bad, and I'd have forgiven the rush if I only understood it a little better.  And I didn't get it!  I consider my reading apprehension to be pretty high, so I get a little ticked when I don't easily understand things.  But really it was only the last couple chapters that threw me so Cruel Beauty still deserves every one of it's four of five stars.  I definitely recommend this book; maybe someone else will catch on to the ending better than I did.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Archived by Victoria Schwab | Book Review

(Not thrilled with the cover.  Even the hubby was questioning this design.  But I guess it kind of fits; keys play a major role in the story and the one character is a ghost of sorts.  We won't hold this against the book, ok?)

It's hard to classify this book, but I think I'd call it a ghost story.  But not a creepy, scare-your-pants-off ghost story.  There's only one bad ghost and lots of scared, confused ghosts.  And Mackenzie's job is to help the scared, confused ghosts find their way back to peaceful slumber.  So it's almost a "nice" ghost story.

Mackenzie is a Keeper.  She inherited the job from her beloved grandfather, and she's currently the youngest Keeper, and her territory is a very busy one.  The Archives are like a library, and there's an Archives in every territory.  The Archives are where Librarians work, maintaining Histories.  Histories are physical records of a person's life.  Histories look very much like bodies, and when they get loose from the Archives, they wander the halls In Between and Keepers are dispatched to return them to the Archives.  Are you still with me?  I might be redundant, but let's go over it one more time (it's a pretty foreign concept):  Librarians work in the Archives, maintaining Histories.  Sometimes Histories get loose in the In Between and Keepers are dispatched to fetch and return them.  Mackenzie is a Keeper.

As if that's not enough action, Mackenzie has quite a lot on her plate out here in the real world.  Her family is devastated after the loss of her 10-year-old brother just one year before, and they've just moved to a new city so that her mom can start a new business.  It's summer now, but soon Mackenzie will start at a new school.  And on top of it all, she has this secret job where she occasionally slips into another dimension to chase down corporeal ghosts.

Mackenzie is one tough cookie!  I really admire her strength, both emotionally and physically.  She definitely kicks ass.  So I feel super bad that she has all this weighty tough stuff happen to her at such a young age.  A side effect of her Keeper job is that she can hear emotions when she touches someone, and since the death of her brother it's become nearly impossible for her to bear touching either of her parents.  And she's also still struggling with losing her grandfather.  And now she's all alone in a new city.  My heart just breaks for her.

So I was really excited when she meets Wes.  It's hard to hold back here and not give you spoilers, but meeting Wes is definitely a high point for Mackenzie, even if she doesn't know it at first.  You don't even know how badly I want to tell you what happens!

So I really liked this book.  I liked how tough Mackenzie is.  I loved loved loved what happened with Wes.  I love the setting (Mackenzie and her folks move into a really really old hotel that's been converted into apartments).  I love the ending.

The only thing I didn't care for was that I figured out way ahead of Mackenzie when something was NOT a good idea.  There were two times when Mackenzie went through with decisions that were not going to end well.  But that might be because I'm a grown up (or supposed to be) and she's a teen.  Maybe when I was a teen I would have done the same thing.  So definitely not judging Victoria Schwab or the character for those mistakes.

Overall, a good book that I'll definitely try to hand to some teens.

(This picture will make sense after you read the book.  Go read the book, then you'll get this:  People + Ghost does NOT equal love forever.  Something must go wrong.)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday

This is a neat weekly feature over at a blog I really enjoy, The Broke and the Bookish.  They read books similar to some that I've been reviewing, and they're fun and they write well.  Totally worth checking out.

Top Ten Authors or Characters I Wish Had Twitter Accounts

This one was hard because I actually DO follow many favorite authors on Twitter!  So I guess maybe I'll go with characters?  Some of the favorite authors I follow include Megan Shepherd and Stephen King and Laini Taylor and Ayn Rand and C.S. Lewis.

1. Father Tim from the Mitford series by Jan Karon.  I totally saved one of the best for last. My mom and I read the Mitford books together when I was a young teen and not really fitting in at school but we had Mitford to escape to.  And Mitford was always perfect and comfortable and quaint and I love Father Tim so much.

2. Anne from the Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery.  I literally read my first copy of Anne of Green Gables TO PIECES as a child and had to get a replacement copy.  I just love Anne!  She's so so so spunky and fun and yet also so dramatic and funny... and a fellow redhead.  :)

3. Velva Jean from the Velva Jean trilogy by Jennifer Niven.  My mom and I both LOVE LOVE LOVE these books.  I loved the first one, Velva Jean Learns to Drive right away and then when my mom read it and loved it too and we got to book-gush over it together... it was magic.  I think that makes books even more special to me, when I share them with people I love.

4. Sam Gamgee from the Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien.  I just have this feeling that he'd have this lovely droll sense of humor, and his loyalty to his friends is FIERCE.

5. Barbara Parry, author of Adventures in Yarn Farming: Four Seasons on a New England Fiber Farm.  I haven't actually checked on this; maybe she does have a Twitter.  If she does I need to follow it.  Her book was insightful and so well-written and full of adorable pictures of lambs and llamas and gorgeous pictures of her lovely farm and graceful sheep.

6. John Charming from Charming by Elliott James.  I read this last year and I laughed out loud for the entire book and I fell head-over-heels in love with it and yet I'm having trouble convincing others that they MUST read it too.  Maybe if he had a Twitter for me to enjoy and retweet from I could spread the gospel of Charming.

7. Ann Galardi from 45 Pounds (More or Less) by K.A. Barson.  When I read this book last fall I fell SO HARD for Ann!  I was cheering out loud for her.  She has so much spunk and confidence; I just know that if she weren't fictional she'd grow up to be President or something.

8. Weezie from the Southern series by Mary Kay Andrews.  She's not much older than me; she runs an antiques shop in Savannah; she spends her spare time going "junking" with her best friend; she has a cute goofy dog; she just got married.

9. Mo Fitzgerald from the Bound trilogy by Erica O'Rourke.  A dad and an uncle in the Mob; life in Chicago; life at a private Catholic girls' school; magic; occasional midnight trips to New Orleans.

10. The Town of Scarletville from Red by Allison Cherry.  I'd love to keep up with their events and town goings-ons.  For obvious reasons:  I'm a redhead myself.

What about ya'll?  Which characters or authors do you wish had Twitter accounts?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Revealed by P.C. & Kristin Cast | Audiobook Review

(For a book I really didn't care for, it sure has a decent cover, doesn't it?)

This is #11 in a series, and this "review" is an intervention.  I was hanging with the series for a little while and then I figured I might as well finish out the series.  (The books are pretty short.)  But I think I might go nuts if I try to listen to another (I've done the whole series on audiobook), so I think this'll be my last.

The problems with these books are completely fixable.  Like, maybe not retroactively; it's too late to save books 1-11, but maybe if Miss & Mrs. Cast keep writing they could fix these things in their next books:

1. The main character is really, really, really highstrung and whiny.  She's just not likeable.  My diagnosis: poor blood sugar.  The authors gave the girl IBS and she's a growing teen and she basically subsists on Coke.  She needs some veggies and a good night's sleep.  Please, Zoey:  stop looking for drama.

2. There's way too much pointless dialogue.  You know, dialogue that goes nowhere and solves nothing.  Mostly all the whining about boys.  Also unnecessary: all the "asides" from Zoey.  These books are definitely for an older teen audience, and they don't need that much explanation.  Please, authors: trust your audience.  We're smarter than you think.

3. When oh when oh when will it ever end????  *wail*  This series has gone on longer than it's readers.  Someone who started with the first book years and years ago would now be an adult and totally uninterested in continuing.  And doing these on audiobook... they just run together.  There's no beginning or end; just an endless horrifying loop of drama.  But I heard rumor (please please please be true!) that Book 12 will be the last one!

4. Blatant crazy-lady nudity.  Not cool.  This is YA, folks.  Let's keep the characters clothed, please.

I really feel like books 1-11 could be edited and condensed into about 3 books.  That might be better.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Weekend PinTest #2: Cookie Dough Greek Yogurt

Has anyone else been sucked into the vortex of Pinterest quite as much as I have?  I mean, other than the craft blog ladies.  Ya'll, I could lose hours of my life browsing that site.  A couple months ago I realized, though, that I was pinning much more than I was doing.  So now my goal is to try at least one pin from my boards every weekend.  Some weeks I attempt upwards of two or three!  I know:  my life is very exciting.

So my first Weekend PinTest was over a month ago.  Eeps.  I really will try to  be better about that in the future!  Can we blame it on me still being so new to blogging?  Still getting into the habits?  ;)

Cookie Dough Greek Yogurt

How it is supposed to look:
Cookie dough greek yogurt! Just add 1 tbsp. of creamy peanut butter, 1 tsp. of honey, 1/4 tsp of vanilla extract, 1 tbsp. of miniature chocolate chips and a dash of sea salt.  (I did it & it's GREAT! I will def repeat this often. My modifications: left out the vanilla extract b/c I used Vanilla Greek yogurt and I left out the sea salt b/c I forgot. Still absolutely delicious, and mostly tastes like cookie dough! -mh)
(Image taken straight off Pinterest.)

How mine ended up looking:
Displaying photo 4.JPG
(Not too shabby at all.  I mean, my chocolate chips are mixed in so they're not as visible and mine is paler, but otherwise I feel like it was pretty spot-on.)

Here are the instructions, which are right in the Pin itself, no need to click through:  

Cookie dough greek yogurt! Just add 1 tbsp. of creamy peanut butter, 1 tsp. of honey, 1/4 tsp of vanilla extract, 1 tbsp. of miniature chocolate chips and a dash of sea salt.

I get up only early enough to get to work on time, no extras.  Breakfast is eaten at my desk.  So I did my Cookie Dough Greek Yogurt in two parts.  First, I put the peanut butter and honey in a tupperware bowl.
Displaying photo 1.JPG

Then I added the chocolate chips.  The instructions say to add 1 tbsp of mini chocolate chips.  I added a "mounded high" rounded tbsp of regular-size chips.  Because that's how I roll.
Displaying photo 2.JPG

Then I packed the tupperware bowl and a single-serve container of Vanilla Greek Yogurt in my lunch bag and off I went to work!  
Displaying photo 3.JPG

I had two modifications to the original pin:  first, I purposefully omitted the 1/4 tsp vanilla extract because I was going to be using vanilla Greek yogurt.  It looks like the original Pinner was using plain Greek yogurt.  Second, I omitted the sea salt because I forgot. 

My verdict is: YUMMY.  It really does taste very similar to cookie dough!  And it's all healthy ingredients (except the chocolate chips) so I don't feel even a twidge of guilt eating it for breakfast.

What are ya'll digging on Pinterest this week?

Here's a link to my Pinterest board "Been There Done That" where you'll find all the Pins I've tested... successfully and not-so-successfully:  Click Here

The Pin claims to have originated from the blog, but I couldn't find it on there.  Maybe you can.  Or maybe it's an orphan pin.  If you find the original post or if you are the originator of the Pin, please let me know and I'll give you much love!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Little Blue Lies by Chris Lynch | Book Review

Personally, I'd give Little Blue Lies 3 of 5 stars.  But bigger picture, I think it definitely does have teen appeal (and it's a teen book, so bingo) so I'm giving it 4 of 5 stars.  I don't know... it's pretty short, so I read it nearly overnight.  I had one of those nights where you're sick and not asleep so you read a YA book.  Maybe that's making me more "meh" about it than I should be.

Little Blue Lies follows two teens, Junie and Oliver, who are kind of dysfunctional.  Like, Junie knows that her dad works for the local mob boss and she's heard of this mob boss (known only as One Who Knows) has hurt people in the past, but she still insists on standing up to him.  That seems pretty dangerous for a teenage girl.  And O?  He just DOES NOT have it together.  He's the only kid in a rich-rich family and he has absolutely no goals or motivations in life.  He graduated high school but he doesn't have a job or plans or college applications out.  He's just OBSESSED with getting Junie Blue back as his girlfriend.

So this book is told stream-of-consciousness from Oliver's mind.  So it's a little rambling at points and definitely has some laugh-out-loud moments.  I kept finding it really hard to remember that Oliver is 18; his thoughts and perceptions read much younger.  Also, since the whole book is from his perspective, I imagine we miss out on some information.

My problem with the book is that about 2/3 through a WHOLE BUNCH of stuff happens that would never ever happen in real life.  Like, the mob boss is out to get Junie so Oliver decides it's ok to let her go walk dogs, unaccompanied, in the mob boss's neighborhood?  Junie's mom is getting beat down emotionally (and sometimes physically) by her husband on a regular basis so she leaves and goes to Oliver's house and the husband is just cool with that?  Oliver needs to get away, so he takes his mom's car and his dad's gold card and checks in to the swankiest hotel in town, and none of the hotel employees question it?  They just hand over the penthouse keys?

It was just a really well-written book (once you get used to the stream-of-consciousness) and pretty funny but then near the end all the pieces start falling in place way too conveniently.  Way too many characters turn out to be 180 degrees different than you thought.  Too unrealistic for realistic fiction.  But hey; I can see plenty of teens (guys and girls!) reading this and laughing a little and enjoying it.  Nothing wrong with leisure books!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Christmas Bliss by Mary Kay Andrews | Audiobook Review

I just love the Weezie & Bebe books!  They're such good friends and I love that, and they know each other so well.  It's so easy to imagine myself right there in Savannah with them.  We'd go antiquing and show shopping and then have a big dinner at Daniel's restaurant with all the family and Manny and Cookie!

Christmas Bliss: it's the week before Christmas, and also the week before Weezie and Daniel's wedding.  Weezie is super busy putting the finishing touches on her wedding; she's even making her own cake!  Bebe is busy being very, very pregnant with her first baby.  Marion (Weezie's mom) is busy with Weezie's wedding planning and also has her hands full with Joe (Weezie's dad), who is starting to forget things.  Manny & Cookie are busy, continually trying to add to Weezie's wedding and decor, adding larger and more grandiose touches at every turn.  And poor Daniel is still working in NYC with a bad head cold.  What'll the girls do?  Will the wedding happen without a hitch?

I so enjoyed this book.  I'm not from Savannah, but I was raised in the South and these books just feel like home to me.  They're that comfy old sweatshirt you put on and instantly feel cozy.  There's not a lot of shiny embellishments or fancy prose, but it just feels nice.

A funny note on this book:  I'd seen back in November 2013 that Christmas Bliss was up for publication and I went ahead and requested the audiobook from the library.  Because I wasn't the first in line to receive it though, it ended up in my hands in January.  So I did what anyone would do (right?) and listened to a Christmas story in January!  Fun.  :)  While the book undeniably takes place at Christmastime, the holiday is a bit "background" since the main focus is on Weezie's wedding and Bebe's impending baby, so it worked out alright.  It wasn't nearly as Christmasy as Blue Christmas, the third Weezie & Bebe book.

As I just mentioned, I listened to Christmas Bliss on CD.  The narration was great!  The narrator had a good southern accent, but it didn't sound hokey or redneck.  It was nearly exactly how I always thought Weezie & Bebe would sound!  So I'm extra excited to write about this book since it was a winner both in writing and in narration.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

W... W... W... Wednesdays

This meme is sponsored by the blog Should Be Reading at
On W... W... W... Wednesdays book bloggers are asked just three simple questions:

What are you currently reading?

What did you just finish reading?

What will you read next?

I think this will be a nice recap and will give me one day a week with an easy peasy blog post.  :)

This week,
I'm currently reading Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi

I just finished reading Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd (and I get to go to an author meet-and-greet on Saturday and MEET MEGAN SHEPHERD AND MY EXCITEMENT IS TOO MUCH)

Next, I'll read Uninvited by Sophie Jordan


What about ya'll?  What are you up to, bibliographically speaking?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday

This is a neat weekly feature over at a blog I really enjoy, The Broke and the Bookish.  They read books similar to some that I've been reviewing, and they're fun and they write well.  Totally worth checking out.

Top Ten Reasons I Love Being a Reader/Book Blogger

1. I love being a reader because I'm never bored.  99% of the time I have a physical book (or two or three) in my purse or backpack.  I also have e-books on my phone or iPad.  I'm never without something to read to pass time!

2. I love being a reader for the "travel."  Through books I get to travel to other countries and experience other cultures.  Often, I get to experience the other culture through the eyes of someone who is living it.  Free library books are much cheaper than airfare to Paris.

3. I love being a reader for the characters.  I get to "meet" so many interesting people inside books!  I cheer for them, I laugh with them, and I cry for them.  Sometimes I really just want to adopt them and keep them forever.

4. I love being a reader because I learn so much, all the time!  It's crazy.  I find myself picking up new vocab still.  I learn about all different people and places and experiences.  I feel like reading constantly expands my worldview, and my ability to think in the "big picture."

5. I love being a reader because I love talking books.  I'll talk books with anyone at any time.  I've asked a stranger what the title of their book is, if the cover caught my eye.  Just yesterday I talked books with my dental hygienist for the entire visit.  I get irrationally excited when I see on Goodreads that a friend/family member/colleague has read the same book, because I know what that means:  book talk time!

6. I love being a book blogger because I have so so so much freedom in my format and my pursuits.  This blog is barely six weeks old; I can still change things up and play around a bit.  I'll be happy to get into a definite routine, but for now I'm also enjoying this play time.

7. I love being a book blogger because I love talking about books and sometimes the people around me, such as my hubby, get tired of listening to me expound in length on YA books.  So I come online and write a one-sided conversation about the book.

8. I love being a book blogger because I hope that someday someone will latch onto my little blog and think it's great and there:  I've reached one more person, made one new book buddy.  And that's a lot more book convos.

9. I love being a book blogger because now I feel a little extra legit in receiving and reviewing ARCs and egalleys.  I feel a little special that some publishers want my opinion on their upcoming books!  And then I can pass along the ARCs to the teens where I work and they're excited too.

10. I love being able to have all this freedom to read so many books about so many different ideas and then share my thoughts on those ideas with so many different people.  You know, there are still many countries in the world where literature is either not widely available, or is still very heavily censored.  We are blessed here in America.  Read on, ya'll.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Art of Being Cool: The Pursuit of Black Masculinity by Dr. Theodore Ransaw | Book Review

(I can dig minimalist covers... if the book's any good.  This one wasn't.)

I feel like I need to preface this particular review, because it's going to be my first 100% negative review.  There wasn't anything in this book that I liked, and I didn't even end up reading it word-for-word cover-to-cover because it was making me angry, but not in a good social-justice-needs-to-happen way; in a oh-my-goodness-how-did-this-guy-get-published kind of way.

Here's the book's description from Goodreads:

"Addressing the challenges facing adolescent black males, this book analyzes and stresses the importance of identity development. It helps educators and parents understand the importance of cultivating a positive black male identity and how this overlooked aspect of childhood development impacts young adults. Solutions for finding a balance between academics and social activities are also provided."

But it simply doesn't come close to any of those things.  I picked this up because where I work, I interact with a lot of young black males and I thought I could read this and count it as professional development.  Maybe I'd pick up on some tips and tricks on how to better foster relationships with the young men I see every day.  Nope.

Full of opinion rather than research; biased; not useful; shoddy writing/grammar. For instance, the author mentions in the introduction that we'd see lots of pictures of his father, uncles, and grandfathers. Not a single photo in the book. Who doesn't proofread that kind of blatant mistake out?  The author finds a white man to blame for every single problem, and very few solutions are offered.  One of the solutions offered is to encourage young black men to express themselves through rap & hip hop music.  That'd be fine.  I'm all for encouraging young men of any race to express themselves through music and art.  But what about all the negativity in much of today's rap & hip hop?  How do we address that?

The author also seems incredibly politically biased.  I really didn't expect to find paragraphs trashing Mitt Romney in a book that was supposed to be about young black men.  That election was years ago: time to let it go.  I wasn't surprised to find a lot of praise for President Obama in this book: I was surprised to find him referred to as a "common man from a humble background."  Say what? 

I was really hoping to read a book about how a person could go about connecting with young black men, and how we (the educators mentioned in the book description) can help them to succeed.  Instead I got a lot of finger-pointing and not many answers.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs | Book Review

(These books have great covers!  Sorta creepy; very cool.)

I loved loved loved Hollow City!  But I knew that I would; I loved Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children too.

In Hollow City the peculiar children and Jacob head off Cairnholm Island and head to the big city of London.  They're in search of a loop, any loop, that still contains a protectorate.  The wights and hollows have been going around capturing the birds and peculiars to steal their second souls for their own power and use.  Along the way they meet other peculiar children who are also without their birds and they help them out.  All of this takes place in 1940 London, which is getting bombed on the regular.

So many things to love about this book!  Of course, the pictures.  Personally, I felt that the photos in Hollow City were a bit "darker" but they were still really intriguing.  And one of the best photos out of both books combined: a dog wearing flight goggles and carrying a pipe in his mouth!  I think it's a boxer, and we (N & I) love boxers.  A boxer with 'tude?  Yes, please!

Then there's the history.  I love historical fiction!  I know that WWII London is dark and scary and explosive but it's still history and I love it.

They peculiar kids visit another loop where there's fantastical animals!  Fun.  Who wouldn't want to have a conversation with a talking animal; find out what they're thinking and feeling?  Especially an awesome pipe-smoking boxer?

I devoured this book.  And good news: there's going to be a third book (and who knows? maybe more!)

I'm not always thrilled with book trailers, but Ransom Riggs does his own and they're fantastic!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Enders by Lissa Price | Book Review

(Not thrilled with this cover.  Wasn't thrilled with the cover for Starters either.  Stinks that such a great duo of books didn't get great attention-grabbing covers.)

Prime Destinations has been shut down and Callie, Tyler, and Michael are living in Callie's Ender's house.  Callie still has a chip in her head that allows the Old Man to talk to her, and she has yet to find her Ender's granddaughter to let her know about the inheritance.  And now the Old Man is starting to reactivate chips in other Starters' heads and using them as weapons.  Callie takes some risks to save herself and the other Starters from the mastermind behind Prime Destinations.

There were many things I loved about Enders.  After reading Starters, I was familiar with the world, so it was more about the characters and the action.  I also loved that Callie always stayed true to herself and her goals and her family.  I loved the action.  I loved the way it all came together at the end.  As an adult who would be recommending this book to teens, I loved that it was free of language and "tender loving" so I could give it to young teens; but it has enough action and intrigue that I can give it to older teens.

I liked this book well enough to do a little investigating to see if Lissa Price had changed her mind and was working on a third book!  (The ending is just open enough to leave some room for imagination or a third book.)  :)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday

This is a neat weekly feature over at a blog I really enjoy, The Broke and the Bookish.  They read books similar to some that I've been reviewing, and they're fun and they write well.  Totally worth checking out.

This week's Top Ten was hard.  I don't read many books that are all about the tender loving moments!

Top Ten Books That Will Make You Swoon

1. A Time to Love by Barbara Cameron--Honestly don't remember too much about this except it was a stereotypical romance, so kind of predictable.  No sexy times, which is also nice.  I have an imagination; it makes me blush when authors write out the bedroom details.

2. Spanish Holiday by Kate Cann--Don't remember a ton about this one either (I read these first two years ago, and they were on my very spare "Lovey Dovey" Goodreads shelf) but that it was light & fun.  Main character is in college, so I'd classify it "New Adult."  Slightly sexier than A Time to Love but still no details, thank God.

3. The Art of Courtly Love by Andreas Capellanus (This was actually required reading for some medieval literature class I took in college and I loved it!  It's all these "rules" for courting someone, from the 1500s.  Capellanus covers every scenario imaginable, from a knight courting a lady to a man of the cloth wooing a servant girl.  Fantastic.)

4. The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio (Required reading from the same college course.  Again, I LOVED it!  It's a collection of 100 short stories about romance, originally written in the 1500s.)

5. Christmas Bliss by Mary Kay Andrews--This is actually the fourth book in a series, and all of them have lighthearted fun little romance aspects to them.  They're sweet, not steamy and that's how I prefer my literary romances.

6. The Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal--The romances in this one are a bit messed up.  You know, like married people sleeping around.  But they're royals, so they do what they want and then all end up with syphilis and then go crazy.  You get what you pay for.

7. The Summer I Became a Nerd by Leah Rae Miller--This romance is so tender and sweet!  I fell head over heels for the guy.  He's real and he's got great personality and the dialogue between the characters was just so great.

8. Delirium by Lauren Oliver--In a world where love is forbidden (and even viewed as a "disease" to be "cured"), what's sweeter than two people falling in love?

9. Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi (actually the second book in a trilogy, but this is where we see the character development of the hottie)  Perry sounds So. Hot. in the descriptions.  He's all ripped from living off the land and fighting and hunting and he's got tattoos and he's a leader (power is sexy).

10. Tarnish by Katherine Longshore--Who doesn't love a good royal court romance?  :)

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Making of Middle-Earth: A New Look Inside the World of J.R.R. Tolkien by Christopher Snyder | Book Review

(GORGEOUS cover!)

Did I just read a textbook?  I think I just read a textbook.  The most gorgeous and engaging textbook ever, but a textbook nonetheless.

I saw the beautiful cover of this book and read in the description that there were plenty of pictures, so I thought I was getting a coffee-table style book, you know?  But maaaaaaan.... Christopher Snyder goes IN DEPTH with his book!  And there were also a lot a lot (on purpose repeat there) of nice, big, chewy SAT words in there.  I was about halfway through the book when I decided to read the author blurb on the back flap and it said that Dr. Snyder teaches Honors seminars on Tolkien at Oxford University.  I bet this is the assigned reading.  :)

I'm so glad I read this!  I learned so many new-to-me facts about Tolkien and the road to LOTR.  I definitely enjoyed the entire book.  I read it cover-to-cover in one sitting on a snow day.  The chapters cover a biography of Tolkien's life and a chapter on medieval history and how Tolkien drew so heavily on it for his LOTR and related books.  Did you know that Tolkien was fluent in Middle English?  And Old English?  And Latin?  I did not have a full enough appreciation for the man's genius before reading this book!  He was a true scholar.  Part of me would really love to sit down and have tea with him and pick his brain; part of me fears, and rightly so, that he'd leave me in the dust intellectually if I tried!

My only beef with the book is in the layout.  I feel like the three appendices could've been full chapters in their own right.  I think some readers could miss out on some great information if they skip the appendices, and not everyone reads appendices.  I'm just nerdy like that.

I loved this book and definitely recommend to all Tolkien and LOTR fans.  I gave it 4 of 5 stars only because it's so very dense with information that it might be too much for the casual reader.  It's got such gorgeous detail (such as all the pages being printed to resemble aged paper instead of stark white), lots of illustrations and photographs, and is peppered with quotes from Tolkien.  Overall, a great read.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs | Book Review

(Look at her feet!)

What a fantastic book!  I'm absolutely kicking myself for not reading it years ago when it first came out.  The good news is that I get to go straight into Hollow City.  :)  This book has it ALL:  pictures--real pictures (photographs), history/historical fiction, paranormal people, and mystery!  Yup--ALL of it.  My mind was blown.

Pictures!  I like pictures in books, but that's much more common in non-fiction than fiction, so it's always a pleasant surprise to find pictures.  These are replications of actual photographs from the turn of the last century.  I've read other reviews that said that the children in the photos were "creepy."  The photos are a little dark, and the kids aren't smiling, but that's not unusual for the time when they were taken.  I loved the pictures.  And I read this on my black-and-white Kindle and the pictures were super clear, even in daylight!

History!  The book is told from the point of view of Jacob, a modern teen.  But Jacob has a really good relationship with his grandfather, who tells him stories of growing up in a children's home in WWII Wales, and shows Jacob pictures of the "peculiar" children he grew up with.  Jacob does some extra digging into this grandfather's past on his own and learns that he had to flee Poland as a child and live in the children's home because he was Jewish.  Then he joined the British army and fought in WWII before eventually coming to settle in America.  After his grandfather passes away, Jacob travels to Wales with his father and find the children from his grandfather's past are still alive and well... and still children.  I don't want to give anything away, but there's even more history once Jacob encounters the children from Miss Peregrine's Home!

Paranormal People!  The book title mentions this:  the children living in Miss Peregrine's Home (group home) are "peculiar."  Again, don't want to give anything away... Oh, but I can assure you that none of the characters are vampires.  It's not that kind of paranormal.

Mystery!  Jacob's grandfather dies an unexpected death, and Jacob is the only witness.  When he tries to explain what happened, his family and friends assume that he's lost his mind and don't believe him.  What Jacob finds in Wales may vindicate him...

Such a fantastic book!  I can't wait to read the sequel.  I can't believe it took me so long to finally read this!

One of the fantastic photos from the book (there's many more!):

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Coffee With Jesus by David J. Wilkie | Book Review

(Clip art fun!)

I had read only a few Coffee With Jesus strips before I got hold of this book through my library, and I hadn't really gotten into them.  I absolutely loved the book, though!  It had me laughing out loud.

Coffee With Jesus is a comic strip that started online, and I'd first encountered it when friends re-posted strips to Facebook.  You can see Coffee With Jesus strips here:  David J. Wilkie took clip art from ads from the 1960s and 1970s and gave them names and coffee time with Jesus (who is Himself clip art from old Sunday School print materials).  The characters always have very "real" observations on life or questions about faith for Jesus, and Jesus always answers them in "real," modern language.

One thing the book did was give me background.  The book opens with just a couple pages that give the backstory to the creation of the comic strip, and an explanation that this comic isn't meant to poke fun at Christians but to allow Christians to see Jesus as approachable.  What would you ask Christ if you had a daily coffee time with Him?  Coffee With Jesus had me laughing out loud, but I felt like I was laughing with other Christians and not at other Christians.  Very well done!

And here's a strip for you!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

W... W... W... Wednesdays

This meme is sponsored by the blog Should Be Reading at
On W... W... W... Wednesdays book bloggers are asked just three simple questions:

What are you currently reading?

What did you just finish reading?

What will you read next?

I think this will be a nice recap and will give me one day a week with an easy peasy blog post.  :)

This week,
 Currently reading Arclight by Josin McQuein

  Just finished reading Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

  Next, I'm reading The Art of Being Cool by Dr. Theodore Ransaw

What about ya'll?  What are you up to, bibliographically speaking?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday

This is a neat weekly feature over at a blog I really enjoy, The Broke and the Bookish.  They read books similar to some that I've been reviewing, and they're fun and they write well.  Totally worth checking out.

It's raining here in my corner of NC today.  This Top Ten is just perfect for an overly gloomy day.

Top Ten Books That Will Make You Cry
(One note: *my* list is mostly books that almost made me cry.  I very rarely actually shed tears over books.)

1. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys.  Fiction.  Teen Jewish girl narrator is shipped off to Siberia with her mom & younger brother to live in a Siberian work camp during WWII.

2. In the Sea There are Crocodiles by Enaiatollah Akbari.  Fiction based on a true story.  Young boy flees terrible hardship and abuse in multiple countries and grows up a refugee.  Heartbreaking what the boy goes through just to live.

3. Push by Sapphire.  Fiction.  Teen girl is raped and abused (mentally & physically) over and over and over and over again.

4. Wonder by R.J. Palacio.  Fiction.  Young boy is starting public school for the first time in fifth grade.  He has a facial deformity and that's rough but he's got such a good indomitable spirit and spunk to him.

5. The Time-Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.  Fiction.  The couple's long, hard journey to having a child kind of tore me up.

6. Gerald's Game by Stephen King.  Fiction.  Oh, the absolute horror...  This is one book I came very, very, very close to DNFing.

7. Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. Fiction.  Another one with a kid with a major disability to overcome.  I guess I have a soft spot for kids who have it extra rough in life, and who overcome the odds and make friends.

8. The Kid by Sapphire.  Fiction.  Young boy loses his mother at an early age and is being raised in a boys' home where he is sexually abused by the staff and where he himself becomes an abuser because he simply doesn't know any other way to show affection.  So.  Sad.  This is the follow-up to Push by Sapphire.

9. Room by Emma Donoghue.  Fiction.  As soon as you figure out where Jack and his mother are, your heart breaks.

10. Ripples by Lee Gilliland.  Non Fiction.  A girl and her sisters lose their father in a horrible car accident when they were young; mother remarries; the guy's a total jerk.  Made all the more emotional for me because I know the author personally.

What about you?  What books have made you cry?

I'm actually surprised that I could come up with 10.  I studiously avoid books that are billeted as books that'll make you cry.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd | Book Review

(Great cover, but I'm not sure I "get it" in relation to the story.  After a couple weeks living in the jungle, especially after all the running around she does in the jungle, I'd think Juliet would be looking a little worse for wear.  The dress definitely wouldn't still be white.  But what do I know...)

Such a great book!  I would describe this as Stephen King for teens.  It was so well written, had a gripping plot that WILL. NOT. LET. YOU. GO., and was spine-tinglingly chilling thrilling.  I do not possess the wordsmithery to adequately describe it.

The Madman's Daughter is a re-telling of The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells.  In Megan Shepherd's version, the tale is told from the point of view of Dr. Moreau's teenage daughter, who is traveling to the island to reconcile with her father.  See, a few years before, Juliet's father had disappeared and was assumed dead.  She and her mother fell a long way down the social ladder; her mother ends up dying and Juliet ends up a maid at the medical college where her father was once lauded a genius.  When she discovers that her father is, in fact, alive and well on an island she goes to see him and escape her hardships in London.  However, when she arrives on the island she soon finds that nothing is at it seems....

This book has everything you'd never expect to find smooshed together in one book: a madman, very questionable/objectionable medical experiments, a daring escape from a very isolated island, half-human/half-beast creatures forming a church, and a romantic triangle.  Yup.  ALL of that.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone who wanted a "clean" thriller.  Yeah, I know that sounds a bit oxymoronic.  It's a YA book without cussing or tender lovin' but with lots of scary keep-you-up-at-nightness.  Absolutely delightful.  I can't wait for the next book from Ms. Shepherd.