Tuesday, March 31, 2015

When I'm Not Writing with Jared R. Lopatin

Today I'm over at Tynga's Reviews, hosting Jared R. Lopatin for a "When I'm Not Writing" feature.  His latest YA book, The Outerlands, is being released today.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Bookman's Tale by Charlie Lovett | Book Review

The Bookman’s Tale

Right from the start I knew this was a book that I had a really, really good chance of enjoying.  A book with books as a major plot point?  ABSOLUTELY.

And I was so very right.  This is a fantastic novel!  In fact, I felt compelled to immediately email my mom, my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law, and my aunt when I finished it to tell them that they must also read and enjoy it.

Peter, the bookman of the title, is a newly widowed antiquarian bookseller.  In the wake of his grief, he leaves his home in western North Carolina and relocated to England, where he stumbles upon an unusual watercolor painting hidden in an unusual book in a small village bookshop.  You see, the painting is clearly Victorian, but very much seems to picture his wife.  And the book... !  Wait till you read this novel to find out what book Peter finds, and what it means!  I was hooked.  The story is told in three viewpoints:  Peter in 1995, Peter in 1985, and various booksellers throughout history.  "Peter in 1995" is where the current action is, with the mysteries surrounding the watercolor and the book.  "Peter in 1985" recounts the love story of Peter and Amanda, his late wife.  Ohmygoodness, these chapters were just too sweet!  Peter is a painfully shy library intern and Amanda is a caring and vivacious girl.  It also tells the story of Peter falling in love with antiquarian books.  And other chapters introduce us to the progression of ownership of the mystery book through the centuries.  Intrigue!  Then at the end the author does some kind of magic and makes connections that I didn't see coming.  You'll have to read it to find out!  You do not have to be interested in antique books to appreciate this sweet story.  By the time I reached the middle of the book I was so hooked that I had a lot of trouble putting it down!

*I received an ARC of The Bookman's Tale from the publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review.  It sat on my to-read shelf way too long and is already available for purchase or library check-out.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Eldest by Christopher Paolini | Audiobook Review

Eldest (The Inheritance Cycle, #2)

Flashback Friday Review!

I went to write a review of Inheritance and realized that I'd never posted reviews of the first three books in the series!  So I'll be posting Flashback Friday reviews of the first three books prior to a full-fleshed review of Inheritance.

I originally read Eldest in September 2013, and I gave it four of five stars.  This series gets better and better with each book!  And starting with Eldest, I switched from physical book to audiobook.  Fantasy is great for fantasy.  No worrying about how to pronounce all the nontraditional names of people and places.  And Gerard Doyle does such a great job with the narration!  He has spot-on cadence, and he does this fantastic deep gravelly voice for the dragons.  I couldn't imagine a dragon sounding any differently!

Here's the Goodreads synopsis:

Darkness falls...  Despair abounds...  Evil reigns...  Eragon and his dragon, Saphira, have just saved the rebel state from destruction by the mighty forces of King Galbatorix, cruel ruler of the Empire.  Now Eragon must travel to Ellesmera, land of the elves, for further training in magic and swordsmanship, the vital skills of the Dragon Rider.

It is the journey of a lifetime, filled with awe-inspiring new places and people, each day a fresh adventure.  But chaos and betrayal plague him at every turn, and Eragon isn't sure whom he can trust.  Meanwhile, his cousin Roran must fight a new battle back home in Carvahall- one that puts Eragon in ever graver danger.  Will the king's dark hand strangle all resistance?  Eragon may not escape with even his life.

A wonderful fantasy book.

*I checked out my copy of Eldest from my local library.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Dreamfire by Kit Alloway

(Another book (like Loop) where I really wish the cover wasn't quite so pink.  It's got a really strong male protagonist too!  I want to hand this to boys and girls and the reality is just that not many boys will grab this!  URGH)

Today I'm over at Tynga's Reviews talking about ALL THE WAYS I totally loved Dreamfire.  I mean, head-over-heels loved it!  I've been scouring the interwebs for any hint of a rumor that there'll be a sequel, but I haven't found any.  If you do, let me know!

*I own my copy of Dreamfire.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  For more information, or to join the fun yourself, check out their blog!

Top Ten Books From My Childhood/Teen Years That I'd Like to Revisit

Anne of Green Gables (Anne of Green Gables, #1)
1. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.  Of course!  How often do I mention this book?  All the time!  I read my first copy literally to pieces, but you can never have too much Anne.  I plan to reread it soon, for the PopSugar Reading Challenge that I'm doing, as it's also "a book that my mom loves."

Meet Felicity: An American Girl (The American Girls: Felicity, #1)
2. The Felicity books by Valerie Tripp.  Yes, I had an American Girl Doll.  And of course it was the redhead Felicity.  I probably read this series a few times over as a kid, and they never got old.  I loved the time period and Felicity's daring.

The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm
3. The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm by Nancy Farmer.  My aunt had recommended this one to me, and I read it, but it didn't say "wow!" to me back then.  I'd like to revisit and see if it lives up to the "sci-fi modern classic" hype.

A Break with Charity: A Story about the Salem Witch Trials
4. Ann Rinaldi books.  I think she's the only author I read in 8th grade!  I'd love to revisit her historical fiction.

The Bronze Bow
5. The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare.  I think this one probably has more layers of meaning than what I picked up on as a kid.

Watership Down
6. Watership Down by Richard Adams.  I read this in 6th grade and it was a struggle.  Probably the thickest book I'd ever attempted at that point.  It took me weeks to read it, and so I don't feel like I ever really got into the story.

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (Extraordinary Voyages, #6)
7. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne.  Another book that I read way too early.  I think this was middle school, too.  I was too ambitious for my own good, and would get bogged down in these super-thick books and miss a lot of the story arch.  I love how my parents never discouraged me from trying these books though!

The Complete Short Stories
8. The Complete Short Stories by Ernest Hemingway.  I fell in love with Hemingway's writing in high school, and went on a binge where I read all of his stuff.  Now, as an adult, I tend to put off rereading in favor of new-to-me books, but I think a visit to Hemingway is in order.

Redwall (Redwall, #1)
9. The Redwall series by Brian Jacques.  I can't even remember if I've ever read the full series.  I think I owned the first book, and maybe checked out a few more from the library.

Welcome to Dead House (Goosebumps, #1)
10. Some Goosebumps books by R.L. Stine.  Why not?  They'd probably take me an hour to read now, and I loved them as a kid.  Why?  I can't remember.  I think they gave me a little scare.  I'd like to revisit and see if they're still scary, or just full of plot holes.  Either way, the man's a marketing genius, and introduced me to the suspense/thriller genre, which I still read today (Stephen King).

What about you?  What books from childhood do you want to revisit?  I absolutely love this week's topic and plan to go visiting around to see others' lists!  Leave me a link and I'll be sure to stop by your blog!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Pop Sugar Reading Challenge Update!

Here are the titles I've added in the past two weeks (look for reviews soon!):
The Map of the Sky is a book with more than 500 pages.  (608!)

Inheritance by Christopher Paolini is a book written by someone under 30.

Napoleon's Pyramids by William Dietrich is a book set in another country.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand is a book that became a movie.

How (Not) to Fall in Love by Lisa Brown Roberts is a book published this year.

Perfect Puppy in 7 Days: How to Start Your Puppy Off Right by Sophia Yin is a book with a number in the title.

The Complete Peanuts, Vol. 22: 1993-1994 by Charles M. Schulz is a book with nonhuman characters.

CraftFail: When Homemade Goes Horribly Wrong by Heather Mann is a funny book.

Where She Went by Gayle Forman is a book with a female author.

Ink by Amanda Sun is a book with a one-word title.

Mint Juleps With Teddy Roosevelt by Mark Will-Weber is a nonfiction book.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas is a popular author's first book.

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige is a book that a friend recommended.

Don't Give Up, Don't Give In: Lessons From an Extraordinary Life by Louis Zamperini is a memoir.

The Red Deaths by Casey Eanes with Seth Ervin is a book that I can finish in a day.

Loop by Karen Akins is a book set in the future.

Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver is a book set in high school.

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes is a book by an author I've never read before.

The Maker Movement Manifesto: Rules for Innovation in the New World of Crafters, Hackers, and Tinkerers by Mark Hatch is a book written by an author with my same initials.

And I'm currently reading Dreamfire, which is really good so far, but which doesn't satisfy any of the remaining checklist items and Dreams of Gods & Monsters, which is a book by an author I love that I haven't read yet (I loved loved loved the first two books in this trilogy).

I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Eragon by Christopher Paolini | Book Review

Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle, #1)

Flashback Friday Review!

I went to write a review of Inheritance, and realized that I never posted reviews for the first three books in the series!  To get us caught up, I'll be posting Flashback Reviews of the first three before writing a fully fleshed-out review of Inheritance.

I originally read Eragon in May 2010, and I only gave it 2 of 5 stars.  I didn't write a review, but fantasy isn't really my go-to genre, and Eragon isn't for the faint of heart.  It's dense, and its only the first in four books!  There was a lot of world-building and character-introducing in this book, which is only to be expected.  And as we know, I went on to read the next three books! 

Here's the synopsis from Goodreads:  One boy...  One dragon...  A world of adventure.

When Eragon finds a polished blue stone in the forest, he thinks it is the lucky discovery of a poor farm boy; perhaps it will buy his family meat for the winter.  But when the stone brings a dragon hatchling, Eragon soon realizes he has stumbled upon a legacy nearly as old as the Empire itself.

Overnight his simple life is shattered, and he is thrust into a perilous new world of destiny, magic, and power.  With only an ancient sword and the advice of an old storyteller for guidance, Eragon and the fledgling dragon must navigate the dangerous terrain and dark enemies of an Empire ruled by a king whose evil knows no bounds.

Can Eragon take up the mantle of the legendary Dragon Riders?  The fate of the Empire may rest in his hands.

*I own my copy of Eragon.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Map of the Sky by Felix J. Palma | Book Review

The Map of the Sky by Felix J. Palma

Today I'm over at Tynga's Reviews, talking about how much I'm continuing to LOVE the Map of Time trilogy!

*I checked out my copy of The Map of the Sky from my local library.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  For more information, or to join the fun yourself, check out their blog!

Top Ten Books on My Spring TBR List
This one wasn't too hard!  I have a TBR stack next to my armchair that exceeds 10 books!  So to narrow it down, here are the library books that I need to get to ASAP before my library fines get too ridiculous!  (In order by author's last name; not in order of preference.  And yes, I know how to count and I know that there are more than 10 books here.  I have a bit of a control problem when it comes to bringing home library books.)

1. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die
2. 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die by Peter Boxall

The New Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook: 150 Fresh Ideas for America's Favorite Pan
3. The New Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook: 150 Fresh Ideas for America's Favorite Pan by Ellen Brown

Washington Schlepped Here: Walking in the Nation's Capital
4. Washington Schlepped Here: Walking in the Nation's Capital by Christopher Buckley

Laughing at My Nightmare
5. Laughing at My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw

100 Things to Do in Charlotte Before You Die
6. 100 Things to Do in Charlotte Before You Die by Sarah Crosland

Bud, Not Buddy
7. Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

In Her Kitchen: Stories and Recipes from Grandmas Around the World
8. In Her Kitchen: Favorite Recipes From Grandmas Around the World by Gabriele Galimberti

Crochet the Perfect Gift: Designs Just Right for Giving and Ideas for Every Occasion
9. Crochet the Perfect Gift: Designs Just Right for Giving and Ideas for Every Occasion by Kat Goldin

Alan Turing: The Enigma
10. Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges

11. The Lodge Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook: A Treasury of Timeless, Delicious Recipes by Pam Hoenig

The Shadow Cabinet (Shades of London, #3)
12. The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson

A Lifetime of Fiction: The 500 Most Recommended Reads for Ages 2 to 102
13. A Lifetime of Fiction: The 500 Most Recommended Reads for Ages 2 to 102 by William Patrick Martin

The Mother of All Booklists: The 500 Most Recommended Nonfiction Reads for Ages 3 to 103
14. The Mother of All Booklists: The 500 Most Recommended Nonfiction Reads for Ages 3 to 103 by William Patrick Martin

Modern Crochet: Crochet Accessories and Projects for Your Home
15. Modern Crochet: Crochet Accessories and Projects for Your Home by Molla Mills

The Sweetheart
16. The Sweetheart by Angelina Mirabella

Letter to a Future Lover: Marginalia, Errata, Secrets, Inscriptions, and Other Ephemera Found in Libraries
17. Letter to a Future Lover: Marginalia, Errata, Secrets, Inscriptions, and Other Ephemera Found in Libraries by Ander Monson

Crocheted Animal Hats: 15 Projects to Keep You Warm and Toasty
18. Crocheted Animal Hats: 15 Patterns to Hook and Show Off by Vanessa Mooncie

Dear Miss Breed: True Stories of the Japanese American Incarceration During World War II and a Librarian Who Made a Difference
19. Dear Miss Breed: True Stories of the Japanese American Incarceration During World War II and a Librarian Who Made a Difference by Joanne Oppenheim

The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared
20. The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma

The Map of the Sky (TrilogĂ­a Victoriana, #2)
21. The Map of the Sky by Felix J. Palma

The Big Book of Sides: More than 450 Recipes for the Best Vegetables, Grains, Salads, Breads, Sauces, and More
22. The Big Book of Sides: More Than 450 Recipes for the Best Vegetables, Grains, Salads, Breads, Sauces, and More by Rick Rodgers

Vest Bets: 30 Designs to Knit for Now Featuring 220 Superwash® Aran from Cascade Yarns
23. Vest Bets: 30 Designs to Knit for Now by Sixth & Spring Books

Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #3)
24. Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor

Beyond the Call: The True Story of One World War II Pilot's Covert Mission to Rescue POWs on the Eastern Front
25. Beyond the Call: The True Story of One World War II Pilot's Covert Mission to Rescue POWs on the Eastern Front by Lee Trimble

The Hobbit Party: The Vision of Freedom That Tolkien Got, and the West Forgot
26. The Hobbit Party: The Vision of Freedom That Tolkien Got, and the West Forgot by Jonathan Witt

And what about you?  What's on your Spring TBR list?  Leave a comment and I'll certainly stop by!

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James | Book Review

The Haunting of Maddy Clare
(I just love the soft loveliness of this cover!)

A historical fiction ghost story that was just the Goldilocks-perfect level of tension!  The Haunting of Maddy Clare is set in 1920s England, and the main character is a young lady who is just starting her professional life.  I just love that:  right from the beginning we know that our protagonist is AWESOME because not a lot of young ladies had careers back then.  There certainly weren't a ton of them living on their own.  And here's Sarah, taking assorted jobs from a temp agency, including the job that becomes the focal point of this novel.

For her next job, she's going to travel with Alistair (a single young man, ooh la la) to the countryside to investigate a ghost.  At the very beginning of the book, I was thinking that maybe the team would travel to the countryside, investigate the "haunted" barn, and declare it all a sham.  But no:  there really is an honest-to-goodness ghost in the book!  As I mentioned, the book has the perfect tension to it; yes, there's a ghost and that's spooky, but there's also investigation into the back story of the ghost and some contemporary plot that rounds out the story.

When Alistair and Sarah reach the village where they're to investigate the ghost of Maddy Clare, they're joined by Alistair's male assistant, Matthew.  Since Maddy Clare hated/feared men in life, her ghost continues to refuse men after death; so it falls to Sarah to go into the haunted barn to try to talk to Maddy Clare.  She's to take in an audio recorder and a camera to try to get proof of the ghost for Alistair's future book on the subject, and try to find out what "unfinished business" Maddy Clare needs to take care of before moving on.  The scenes where Sarah is in the barn are a bit scary, but they're nicely spaced out throughout the book.

I also loved the mystery aspect to the novel.  The team is not just there to study the ghost; they're also under obligation by the owner of the barn to get rid of the ghost.  In order to do that, they must follow a very few, very cryptic clues from Maddy Clare.  They also interview many of the locals to get some background information.  The author does a fantastic job skillfully planting a few red herrings along the way, and I was kept guessing until the end!

And finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the touch of romance in The Haunting of Maddy Clare.  This novel actually won an award for the love story, so you know it's good!  I don't want to give any spoilers, but the love interest is contemporary to the characters, and doesn't involve the ghost.  ;)

I really enjoyed this book!  The cover caught my eye; I didn't know a thing about the plot before I dove in.  Four and half of five stars, and I've already recommended this to others!

*I received an ARC of The Haunting of Maddy Clare from the publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review.  Thank you!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Stacking the Shelves

Stacking the Shelves

Today I'm over at Tynga's Reviews, stacking my shelves!  Click over and join in the fun yourself!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Napoleon's Pyramids by William Dietrich | Book Review

Napoleon's Pyramids (Ethan Gage, #1)

Napoleon's Pyramids wasn't bad.  Full disclosure:  I probably wouldn't have ever picked up this book in a bookstore, but my dad did, and then he passed it along to me after he read it.  I'm slightly neurotic and have to read every book that I'm given, and my copy had a blurb on the front that compared it to Indiana Jones.  

I don't know if it's because I read a lot of (usually shorter in length) YA or if this genre always unfolds this way, but it really felt like there was a very slow start to the story.  Personally, I kind of had to talk myself into continuing even.  Don't worry:  it definitely picks up along about the middle and does become very Indiana Jonesish, but you have to get through the first 100-150 pages first.

I also had a little bit of a problem with the protagonist.  I just never got into him; I never found myself really rooting for him.  It's a historic fiction, and I suppose that the author wanted to be true to the voice of a character from that social status and era, but I was very put off by the aloofness of Ethan, and the racial stereotypes presented.  Oh, and in this book, women are only good for one thing... and they don't need clothing for it.

My final hang-up with the book was that I figured out the mystery before Ethan Gage did.  I enjoy mysteries, but I'm not ever actively trying to guess the ending before the reveal.  I'm not very good at figuring out mysteries before the reveal.  So in the rare cases where I do figure out the puzzle, I end up a little impatient and sometimes bored, waiting for the characters to "catch up" with me.  

Like I mentioned, there is a bit of Indiana Jones-style action in the second half of the book, and that's a bit fun.  Lots of action, lots of puzzle pieces falling into place quickly, lots of bad guys appearing and then being vanquished at just the right moment.  

I'd give Napoleon's Pyramids 2.5 out of 5 stars.  It's not the brightest crayon in the box, but it was a rather comfortable little adventure.  No huge roller coaster hills of suspense or anything.  

*My dad gave me a copy of Napoleon's Pyramids.  Thank you!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver | Book Review

It took me a little bit to get into Vanishing Girls, but once I was in, I was HOOKED.  For me, the book had a bit of a slow start, then about 2/3 of the way through there's a WHOA moment and the story is kind of turned on it's head and becomes unputdownable.  (<--had to make up a word to describe this twist)  And, because of this twist, it's really hard to write a coherent review without spoilers!  (But I do promise no spoilers; Girl Scout honor.)  To find out what I liked about it, click on over to Tynga's Reviews!

*I received my copy of Vanishing Girls from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.  Thank you!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

When I'm Not Writing with Seth Ervin and Casey Eanes

Casey Eanes Seth Ervin

Double feature "When I'm Not Writing" today!  I'm over at Tynga's Reviews, finding out what Seth Ervin (on the left in the pic above) and Casey Eanes (on the right) are up to when they're not writing.  Yesterday, I posted a review of their first book, The Red Deaths, which is an awesome fantasy adventure!

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Red Deaths by Casey Eanes with Seth Ervin | Book Review

Keys of Candor: The Red Deaths

You might not believe this, but I read all 400-some pages of The Red Deaths in one day.  I got sucked into the world of Candor on a Snow Day and didn't re-emerge until nearly dinnertime.  Isn't that just the best way to read fantasy?  Let the world be built around you and enjoy the story while you're there without having to reacclimate yourself?  I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Candor and am looking forward to potential sequels!

(Note to the authors:  there really better be sequels.  That ending left me wanting more!)

The Red Deaths follows three young people:  Kull, Willyn, and Seam.  All three are on the brink of adulthood as their world heads toward war.  Rulers of the various Realms of Candor are dying.  Blame is being tossed around, and Realms are preparing to go to war over their rulers' deaths.  Panic, confusion, anger... all leading to war. Some things don't change whether you're a resident of Candor or a resident of Earth.

The strengths of The Red Deaths lie in character development and attention to detail.  By the end of the book, I really felt like I knew Kull, Willyn, and Seam, along with many secondary characters.  The reader gets to know all their strengths and weaknesses; their hopes and fears.  And you might just be surprised at who you end up rooting for!

The attention to detail from the authors also pleasantly surprised me.  Knowing one of the authors, I really shouldn't have been surprised, but I still was.  This is a self-published book, but you might not know it at first glance.  The writing never fell flat; there were nearly no typographical or grammatical errors; and the writing style is smooth and consistent without.  I don't know if Casey & Seth each took turns writing chapters, or if they worked together on the entirety.  You never encounter too-abrupt shifts in writing style that would indicated a change in author.  I was definitely impressed.  

The only thing is that I wanted just a little bit more world-building.  But then, I suppose, I wouldn't necessary want a 700-page book!  I'm ok with sacrificing a bit of scenic description in favor of such well-rounded characters.  And the way The Red Deaths ended leaves me hopeful for future installments, in which we may get to "see" more of the world of Candor.

I could definitely see myself recommending The Red Deaths to others.

TOMORROW I will be hosting Seth & Casey for a When I'm Not Writing post!  Check back then to find out what the guys are up to when they're not "in" Candor!

*I borrowed a copy of The Red Deaths from Seth.  Thank you!  But I highly recommend buying.  For now at least, if you buy a physical copy you get an ecopy for free!