Friday, November 29, 2013

Friday Five: I made a Twitter?

 Created by My Summer Girl Books


When you say things like I made a Twitter and are not entirely sure if that's how it's supposed to be stated since it sounds super weird, it's generally a bad sign.  I'm like an old woman with technology.  I really, really hate newfangled devices.



I held onto Myspace as long as could, grouched about facebook for ages, and refused to get a smartphone.  I loved T9!  It was great!  In fact the only reason I ended up getting my iPhone at all is because my phone finally broke and it was cheaper for me to get the iPhone.  At $1, you're not going to get a better deal.  And admittedly, it's definitely useful being able to access the internet now, and having GPS (not that it stops me from getting lost even when I'm looking at the blasted map)  But as it took me until 2012 to admit the usefulness of smartphones, it's no surprise I've avoided twitter as long as possible.  "It's dumb!" I say to myself over and over.  "I don't understand the point.  Is there a point?  And if so, what is it?"


...but then....

Blogging happened.  And the more I saw all these bloggers talk about all these fun twitter conversations they'd been having the more I thought to myself...Elizabeth...you are not strong willed.  One day you will cave and this will happen.  It looks like so much fun!  And I started blogging so I could talk to all the other awesome people in the world who love books as much as I do.  But still, I couldn't bring myself to try this new weird thing that apparently is not going anywhere, unlike my prediction that it would be a short fad.  And so I finally caved.  Yesterday.  THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU HAVE TOO MUCH FREE TIME. 


I still don't get twitter.  At all.


As far as I can tell it seems like facebook comments?  And I'd feel awkward jumping into conversations with people I don't know yet, so maybe I'm just missing the point.  But if you are feeling kindly, follow me on twitter and teach a girl what there is to know about twitter!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Seeing Red - Kathryn Erskine



I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Seeing Red

Summary

GoodreadsNational Book Award winner Kathryn Erskine delivers a powerful story of family, friendship, and race relations in the South.

Life will never be the same for Red Porter. He's a kid growing up around black car grease, white fence paint, and the backward attitudes of the folks who live in his hometown, Rocky Gap, Virginia.

Red's daddy, his idol, has just died, leaving Red and Mama with some hard decisions and a whole lot of doubt. Should they sell the Porter family business, a gas station, repair shop, and convenience store rolled into one, where the slogan -- "Porter's: We Fix it Right!" -- has been shouting the family's pride for as long as anyone can remember?

With Daddy gone, everything's different. Through his friendship with Thomas, Beau, and Miss Georgia, Red starts to see there's a lot more than car motors and rusty fenders that need fixing in his world.

When Red discovers the injustices that have been happening in Rocky Gap since before he was born, he's faced with unsettling questions about his family's legacy.




Thoughts

So I basically spent this entire book on the verge of tears.   I had NO idea what I was getting to with this book.  It's set during the 70's and it deals with the aftermath of the civil rights movement and the rampant sexism that was still in place.  This book is powerful.  It isn't that I was on the verge of tears because I was constantly devastated (although don't get me wrong, there are DEFINITELY heart breaking moments) - they were more tears of shock and frustration at what Red was dealing with.  And despite what we think about it now, this is barely even history.  It is a very, very close past.

I don't think I'm alone in seeing overt racism and sexism in the US as something in the distant past.  (I mean the kind where you get lynched or that domestic abuse was not really a police matter - OVERT overt) I'm not saying it doesn't still exist - unfortunately, I think that is part of being human.  A minority of people are always going to feel that way about us.  But a lot of giant steps were taken to solve many of these issues before I was born.  But when you say the seventies...that was not that long ago.  That was in my parent's time. That doesn't sound as long ago as it feels.

This book deals with so many issues - racism, sexism, loss of a parent, growing pains, domestic abuse, where blame stops, sins of your ancestors - I mean the list goes on.  Despite all of this, it's not a difficult book to get through.  I know that sounds hard to believe considering what that list is, but the writing is well-written, but simple, and the characters are so relateable I could NOT put it down, and stayed up til 3 am to finish it!

Every thing in this book is so layered - in a lot of ways it reminds me of To Kill a Mockingbird (I know I have said this about another book only a couple weeks ago - I promise not everything reminds me of TKaM!)  Sometimes the reader has things figured out way before the character in the same way that in TKaM, Scout might say something and not fully understand what it meant, whereas the reader knew exactly what was happening.  It's not like a mystery where it's unfortunate that you know things before the narrator does.  It really sets up different levels of understanding depending on the reader's experience, which is why I think it would be a great book for classrooms or from a parent as an introduction to issues.  This book is also a great example as to why the Bechdel test isn't a measurement of how well a book displays women in literature, it's simply an observation of their roles.  Seeing Red doesn't pass the test as the book is narrated in first person and our narrator is a boy, but it strongly advocates male/female equality (it's not preachy though, don't worry).  I'm not sure I've read a book that so strongly shows why we need it, and what it means when we don't have it, and it was very well done!

My only complaint is Thomas.  Yes, what Red did was awful.  But Thomas decided to stop being friends with him long beforehand, and Red stood up for him, even if he made some grievous errors directly beforehand.  He might have taken a second to recover, but he did what was right.  I don't see why Red is the only one to blame here, or that his sins are unforgiveable.  Most of my problem is not so much Thomas's reaction to what Red did (because I definitely get that), but more that he stopped being friends before that whole situation without a good reason.  Part of that is a me thing...I have loyalty issues.  You better have a damn good reason to stop being best friends with someone *spoilers* and that person being white is not a good reason.  Perhaps Thomas meant it as self preservation, but Red had done nothing at that point to deserve judgement because of his race.  That's racism as well. *spoilers*.  But other than an issue that is more of a personal complaint than an actual criticism of the book, this book is really amazing, and I really recommend it.  If you are looking for a book to expand your child's (I say child lightly, I don't think this is a book for someone who isn't ready for it) awareness of issues, or to have a book that might open up a dialogue between the two of you, this should definitely be at the top of your list!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Monday Musings: Stereoptyping and diversity in books

I have seen a lot of discussion on stereotypes and diversity on various blogs that I follow.  And I am in total agreement with them - why aren't  there more Hispanic girls as main characters or Korean love interests or black best friends?  But there's more to all of this than protagonists:  I'm talking mean girls.





- A mean girl is attractive.  Generally she is at the top of the food chain in high school, and to be there, one has to be attractive.
- She is often a cheerleader.  Again, this comes with being at the top of the food chain.  (If she's not a cheerleader, which is shocking, she's usually team captain of something)  So I can excuse that this is often used, although I would like to point out that there were plenty of popular girls at my school who were not cheerleaders.  But then on the flip side, to my knowledge we didn't really have mean girls, so there's that too.



What I don't get is why the leader of the mean girls is almost always blonde.  And always white.  I mean statistically speaking, blondes are not leading the genetic polls here, it's a recessive gene.  And why aren't there other ethnicities?  It's not like blonde cheerleaders are the only mean girls in the world!  And it's not like there aren't popular kids of all ethnicities in schools (or at least there were plenty in mine!).   So why aren't they represented more in books? I can understand people feeling wary of being called racist for having a minority represented as the villain of your book.  But honestly guys?  Why can't we just have all different sorts of races as all different sorts of characters?  Protagonists, best friends, villains, anti-heroes, rogues - we don't need to make a big deal out of it.  You know what I LOVED about The Hunger Games?  It was racially diverse - and understated about it.  Simply a couple sentences written here and there so it was clear that people were different races, and that was it.  I mean honestly when you are out running errands, do you honestly think OMG!! There's a Latino!  WOW THAT'S CRAZY.  I mean, I don't.  In fact I'm not sure I consciously think anything other than "oh there's a person there, I should try not to run into them.  Or that street sign I ran into yesterday."

Ok I know this is not a street sign, but it's freaking adorable and hilarious


I'm torn because on the one hand, I'm always so excited when books turn gender roles upside down or if there is diversity at all...but I wish I could read things without having to make such a big deal about them because it is normal.  In my life, it's only a big deal running into diversity in YA books (although racism and sexism in the classical  music world is a discussion for another day).  In any case this has turned into a tangent I didn't mean to go down, because as a white girl while I can sympathize with diversity issues, it's not really anything I can truly understand.  Mostly I'm just pissed off because as a blue-eyed, blonde girl if I were cast in a YA novel I'd have like a 90% chance of being the mean girl.  And also all my junior high school classmates called me a Nazi. 

Moral of the story:  Please make more books with less stereotyping so if I become a famous actress one day I won't have to be a mean girl!  (Or a dumb blonde, or the geeky smart girl when I wear glasses.  Why are all these stereotypes still in existence?  They've been proven false over and over again!)


Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2) - Maggie Stiefvater

I received this in exchange for an honest review.

The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle, #2)

 Summary

Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same.

Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life.

Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after...


Notable quotes:

First let me say this book is so freaking quotable!  So I'll limit it to two.  And the one in the next section totally isn't cheating

In that moment, Blue was a little in love with all of them.  Their magic.  Their quest.  Their awfulness and strangeness.  Her raven boys.

The Gray Man had been called effervescent, once, in an article.  He was fairly certain it was because he had very straight teeth.  Even teeth seemed to be a prerequisite for effervescence. 

Thoughts

What can I say about this series that hasn't been said before?  Seriously, look for a review of this and everyone is RAVING about how awesome it is!  So don't just take my word for it.  Take the words of Nafiza, Gillian, or Mitchii, or just google a review of it!  In fact go read one or all of those reviews, and then come back to me because it covers pretty much everything I don't feel like talking about because I've read it over and over on so many blogs.  To sum it up, basically this is a great series, the characters are wonderfully well rounded, I still love the mythology.  Basically I loved everything I loved before.  Now go read all those other reviews for details.

I wish I hadn't heard so much hype from this.  I tried so hard not to pay attention because I didn't want to be disappointed!  And I wasn't - I don't want you to take that from this review at all!  It was a perfectly wonderful book...it was exactly what I expected.  Which is good.  But I think if I hadn't heard so many things about this book (seriously I think every blog I follow has reviewed this), then I would be one of people out there going fangirl crazy.  I'll also say that I really want to reread this (and I might) back to back with The Raven Boys.  I had a hard time disengaging my brain while reading this because I was waiting to see certain events unfold, so I couldn't lose myself as deeply in the story either, which was a shame.

I feel like I'm in an alternate universe because I don't feel the same way as everyone else about the characters! (Other than that I love them, just for different reasons)  Honestly, I feel for Adam - I get his reasons.  I think he might be too stubborn for his own good at times, but I understand wanting to do things on his own and needing to prove himself.   I do not, however, get Ronan's.  Why exactly is a Greywaren more special than any normal person who can take things out of a dream?   AND WHY IS HE SO ANGRY ALL THE TIME?  I also have a hard time picturing him for some reason...although with a description like this, I don't know how:

The three brothers were nothing if not handsome copies of their father, although each flattered a different side of Niall.  Declan had the same way of taking a room and shaking its hand.  Matthew's curls were netted with Niall's charm and humor.  And Ronan was everything that was left"  molten eyes and a smile made for war.

I mean that is a seriously swoon-worthy image!  Perhaps I can't make him super attractive in my head the way he's described because the angriness gets in the way.  I'm not saying I dislike Ronan - I don't.  I just don't understand why everyone obsesses over him!  Honestly my take from the book is that Ronan is a boy I would stay far, far away from and that Noah is a sweet adorable boy who I very much wish was alive.  That snowglobe scene was so cute!  Pretty much any scene with Noah is going to have serious 'awww' moments.  Actually I very much like Ronan and Noah together - they seem to bring out the good parts in each other.  Speaking of Ronan and other people...I also didn't really understand Kavinsky.  Why does he want Ronan to like him so badly?  And speaking of that - serious spoiler alert: Is Ronan gay?  Is that what was implied or am I completely making that up?  MUST KNOW ALL THE ANSWERS!  I mean in the grand scheme of things, that's low on the list of mysteries I need the answers to, but still!*end spoilers*  For some reason I still don't have a good handle on Ronan and it bothers me!!  Especially since this book is all about him!  I am definitely rereading this *grumbles with frustration and questions*

I also don't seem to get the Gansey/Blue shipping like everyone else. Again, it's not that I don't like them or I don't want them to be together...I just.. I dunno.  It doesn't make me go OH MY GOD I NEED THIS!  I like that Blue approaches Gansey as a love interest slowly and lets the acknowledgment unfold slowly...but at same time it doesn't make me swoony.  (Well ok.  That one scene which shall not be mentioned because of spoilers...OH MY GOD YES.  That is what I need in my life!)  I guess because I'm not feeling tension between them ... on second thought totally scratch that.  It's totally there.  There is just something broken inside me!

Moral of the story:  Elizabeth is going to go read these books back to back and will go under a Raven Boys transformation of fangirling.



Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Republic of Thieves (Gentleman Bastards #3) - Scott Lynch




I received this in exchange for an honest review.

The Republic of Thieves (Gentleman Bastard, #3)
Summary

GoodreadsWith what should have been the greatest heist of their career gone spectacularly sour, Locke and his trusted partner, Jean, have barely escaped with their lives. Or at least Jean has. But Locke is slowly succumbing to a deadly poison that no alchemist or physiker can cure. Yet just as the end is near, a mysterious Bondsmage offers Locke an opportunity that will either save him or finish him off once and for all.

Magi political elections are imminent, and the factions are in need of a pawn. If Locke agrees to play the role, sorcery will be used to purge the venom from his body - though the process will be so excruciating he may well wish for death. Locke is opposed, but two factors cause his will to crumble: Jean's imploring - and the Bondsmage's mention of a woman from Locke's past: Sabetha. She is the love of his life, his equal in skill and wit, and now, his greatest rival.

Locke was smitten with Sabetha from his first glimpse of her as a young fellow orphan and thief-in-training. But after a tumultuous courtship, Sabetha broke away. Now they will reunite in yet another clash of wills. For faced with his one and only match in both love and trickery, Locke must choose whether to fight Sabetha - or to woo her. It is a decision on which both their lives may depend.



Thoughts

 OH MY GOD.  HOW COULD I HAVE DONE THIS TO MYSELF?!?!?!



#^O#$%^&*U(*&^%$#@

So, I'm about 2/3 of the way through Republic of Thieves.  GUESS WHAT I JUST REALIZED.  It's the third book in the series!! I HAVEN'T READ THE FIRST TWO.   Seriously.  I am amazed at my idiocy sometimes.  I mean, kudos to the author for not making it necessary (although it does explain all my "man I wish I got more detail on these things they keep referencing instead of just saying that it happened" moments.  WELL NO WONDER.  They're probably explained in the first two freaking books!)  I really hope I haven't permanently ruined anything for myself in the first two books, although obviously there are clearly some spoilers issues.  That being said...at least I still think this book is awesome?  But seriously.  How did I forget that?  What was my plan?  I don't request sequels in a series if I haven't read the original book first.  Was I planning on reading the first two books and just forgot?  I have been looking forward to starting this series FOREVER.  In any case, I am an idiot. And since I'm already 2/3 of the way through the damned book, I'll just finish reading it and THEN go back and read the first two. 

And now that I have finished my regrettable mistake, on to the real review!


Oh the trickery!  So clever!  Part of the reason I've been looking forward to this series is:

1.  I love my rogues!  I mean George Cooper anyone?  Not to mention of course Han Solo, or Aladdin, or...my list could go on.  If you're a rogue in a story I'm guaranteed to love you.
2.  I love clever twists and tricks!  And this book is CHOCK FULL of them!  Seriously they are THE BEST. 

The dual storylines were awesome.  I think they are a big part of the reason I didn't notice I was reading the third book.  They were artfully done and it was like reading two books at the same time (in a good way).  The past didn't impact the future event-wise, it was more like a revealing of character development, which I liked very much.  So to sum up, everything about this book is amazing:  fantastic character development - even from coming to this book 2 books late, lots of action and adventure, clever twists and turns, witty dialogue.  IT HAS IT ALL.  Now onto what I really want to talk about.

Ummm can I have Locke Lamora in my life?  I mean...this.  *swoons*

"These are my cards on the table.  I think you're beautiful.  I feel like I'm an idiot with dirt on his face sitting next to someone out of a painting.  I think... I think I'm just plain stupid for you.  I know that's not exactly sweet talk out of a play.  Frankly, I'd kiss your shadow.  I'd kiss dirt that had your heel print in it.  I like feeling this way.  I don't give a damn what you or anyone else thinks... this is how it feels every time I look at you."

"And I admire you," he said praying that he could blurt everything out before she interrupted him. This desperate eloquence was like an out-of-control carriage, and if it smashed to a halt it might not move again.  "I admire everything about.  Even your temper, and your moods, and the way you take gods-damned offense when I breathe wrong around you.  I'd rather be confused about you than stone-fucking-certain about anyone else, got it?  I admire the way you're good at everything you do, even when it makes me feel small enough to drown myself in this wine cup."

"Locke - "

"I'm not done."  He held up the cup he'd used to illustrate his previous point and gulped its contents straightaway.  "The last thing.  The most important thing...it's this.  I'm sorry."

And it goes on.  It's like five pages on my cell phone so I'm not sure how long it actually is but...usually really long love confession scenes annoy me...but Locke...oh Locke!  Especially knowing everything I do about their relationship (And I bet it would have been EVEN MORE AWESOME if I actually DID know even more about their relationship.  But whatever.  I need to stop complaining).  I mean, talk about slow burn romance!!!  You know how I say that slow burn romance is the best and every book should have it?  I TAKE IT ALL BACK.  They need to be together.  BE TOGETHER RIGHT NOW LOCKE AND SABETHA. NOW. I DEMAND IT.


So really I'm lying.  I LOVE THIS ROMANCE.

The only problem I had with the book honestly was Sabetha, and it is only to a small extent since really this book was about so much more (but I'm fixated.  I need this to happen!)  I DON'T GET THIS GIRL.  Why is she so freaking touchy??  I imagine there is some past that has been hinted at in the previous books that we don't know yet?  It seemed deliberately mysterious.  But I could be wrong, and it might be crystal clear to everyone else.  And I imagine I would have a much better handle on her if I had read the first two books I know I said I wasn't going to bring that up again but really! And the red hair (which I'm guessing is the background to her touchiness and maybe to her past before the Shadow's Den?  She seemed touchy about her past before then as well) explanation was...woah.  Didn't see that coming.  That was...relatively graphic.  And tragically enough, I wouldn't be surprised if that was something that happened in our history.  Or if it to some extent still happened.  After all, we live in a world where females are still circumcised in some cultures.  But on to less depressing matters.

Oh my god.  Locke's mystery...I NEED TO KNOW NOW.  THERE IS SO MUCH I NEED TO KNOW!!!  So basically I'm dying for the next book.  And the first two books.




Overall

So basically this series is the best thing ever.  I am going to get the first two books asap, and THEN I'm going to reread this book because duh that's how this should have happened in the first place!!  I might even re-review this or take a quick look at how my feelings have changed after reading the first two books...in any case....GO READ THIS BOOK!  (Or series if you haven't started it, because lets be real if you started this series you were probably hitting people with baseball bats to get your own copy)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Top Ten books for people who think YA is only for girls


I have to say that some of this idea was definitely inspired by Gillian at Writer of Wrongs (whose post made me want to weep with joy!)  This list is books that I think anyone with the general interest would enjoy - that means girls AND guys of all ages (well ok, not too young obviously).  I also tried to pick books that have plenty of diversity!

Clicking the picture will take you to goodreads/a review of the book!



For people who enjoy dystopias:


                  The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1)                





               The Giver (The Giver Quartet, #1)                  The House of the Scorpion




For people who never thought fantasy or religion could blow your mind and rip out your heart.


The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, #1)




For people who enjoyed Lord of the Flies but wished it had aliens/kids with superpowers


Gone (Gone, #1)





For people who enjoy fantasy, epic characters, and general badassery



                    Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)




For people who want a book to take you past the realms of your own imagination (or people who love gorgeous, mind bending, colorful, imaginative art)


Abarat (Abarat, #1)




 For people who enjoy fantasy, the Undead...and music?


Sabriel (Abhorsen,  #1) 





For people who like steampunk/alternate history


Worldshaker (Worldshaker, #1)                     Leviathan (Leviathan, #1)




For people who love anthropology....or people who wanted to be Indiana Jones but didn't want to give up their flute



City of the Beasts (Eagle and Jaguar, #1) 



For people who enjoy vampires (but scary ones)


Peeps (Peeps, #1)                    Sunshine




For people who enjoy evil sociopathic masterminds and scientific faeries


Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl, #1)




For people who like mythology, humor, and epic demigod quests



The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1)




For people who enjoy awesome characters, fighting, magic, spies - or how about you just read one of these series?


Alanna: The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness, #1)                     Wild Magic (Immortals, #1)



First Test (Protector of the Small, #1)                    Trickster's Choice (Daughter of the Lioness, #1) 



Terrier (Beka Cooper, #1)                    Sandry's Book (Circle of Magic, #1)



 
For everyone.  Duh.


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter, #1)




And that's it for this week's TTT!  What made your list?  Leave me a link below!  (If you don't, I won't be able to find your blog - Disqus doesn't automatically link!)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Exit the Actress - Priya Parmar

Exit the Actress

Summary

Goodreads:  While selling oranges in the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, sweet and sprightly Ellen "Nell" Gwyn impresses the theater’s proprietors with a wit and sparkle that belie her youth and poverty. She quickly earns a place in the company, narrowly avoiding the life of prostitution to which her sister has already succumbed. As her roles evolve from supporting to starring, the scope of her life broadens as well. Soon Ellen is dressed in the finest fashions, charming the theatrical, literary, and royal luminaries of Restoration England.

Ellen grows up on the stage, experiencing first love and heartbreak and eventually becoming the mistress of Charles II. Despite his reputation as a libertine, Ellen wholly captures his heart—and he hers—but even the most powerful love isn’t enough to stave off the gossip and bitter court politics that accompany a royal romance.

Telling the story through a collection of vibrant seventeenth-century voices ranging from Ellen’s diary to playbills, letters, gossip columns, and home remedies, Priya Parmar brings to life the story of an endearing and delightful heroine.



Thoughts

Oh how I love well written historical fiction!  Seriously, it is one of my favourite things ever, and Priya Parmar has done such an excellent job with this book.  I read Dark Angels by Kathleen Koen earlier this year which was set during the same time period, just a little later.  It began in France, so it was interesting seeing all these characters I'd read about before, but seen in a new light.  That's another thing I love about historical fiction (not that you could tell I like the genre judging by what I've reviewed on the blog.  Must remedy this!) - you get the same characters but so many different facets of them, which always makes it interesting even when you've already read a book about that character, and even better if they were just a side character in another book!  Before reading this book, the only thing I knew about Nell is that she is one of the most popular mistresses of all time, and that she befriended the queen, which made me excited about this book from the get go!

Despite having read about a similar time period, much of these events preceded Dark Angels, and I learned so much!  Like did you know that there is a published female writer, Aphra Behn, from this time?  I didn't!  It made Nell's independence much more believable to me.  I also loved the amount of detail spent on large events that happened during this time period (a big London fire, plague - incidentally the shut down of London during this reminded me of a zombie apocalypse, but that's a musing for another time).  Honestly most of these are brushed over in historical novels I've read in the past (generalizing, and I'm speaking of historical novels and not just set in this time since I've read a grand total of one other during Charles II's reign.  And therefore there might not have been crazy things like this happening during all those other books settings').  There was a lot of attention to smaller details like the types of fabrics and styles as well as people's beliefs which felt genuine to me (but then I am not well researched in these things so take that with a grain of salt).  Nell wasn't some liberated woman just set in the 1600s, nor did she (or other characters) think that the doctors' solutions to things were barbaric (to my recollection).  It always bothers me - particularly the latter part - when I come across that in historical fiction, because that sort of thing was normal to them, and honestly most people wouldn't have the education to even question whether the practice was dumb or not.  Again, not a researched opinion necessarily, but it's my opinion on that so there.  Tell me I'm wrong!

The story is told primarily through her personal diary, but between chapters the book adds snippets of gossip, recipes, and correspondence between other characters to get in world events and to add authenticity to a lot of the beliefs people held.  I thought it was so interesting how much the court and royalty were discussed, as well as politics in the lower classes.  I honestly think they were more up to date and informed in comparison to most people I know (sadly myself included now that I rarely watch the news!  Of course, this is just coming for this book, but still!  And having had time to think about it, I realize that courtiers and royalty are equivalent to our celebrities, and sadly I feel like we don't pay much attention as a nation to the celebrities involved in charity and political events and more to sex scandals.  So on second thought maybe as a race we haven't changed very much!  I had expected more of her life with Charles, but really that was only the last third of the book.  It focused a lot on her early life and her life as an actress.  This next part is slightly spoilery (but not enough to white out) so read the rest of the paragraph with caution!  My biggest quibble with this book is that Nell is constantly citing her wish for independence and how she won't give up the theatre...but then with very little fight, she does.  And that seemed like sort of a let down (I know, I know historically I'm sure she did give it up so that's not something you can change in a story haha), but also like it didn't fit with her character.  I might have given her a different reason or...I don't know.  A more compelling reason.

My favourite part of the book was definitely the side characters.  You get such a colorful crew, particularly when they are primarily made up of actors and actresses!   I seriously shipped Nell's sister Rose and...ah damn.  Duncan?  Durst?  I FEEL LIKE A FRAUD FOR FORGETTING HIS NAME!  I wished with all my heart for them to get together during the book (and I'm not going to tell you if they do or not).  It was really strange for me to feel so involved with secondary characters (particularly since I cared way more about Rose and boy I cannot remember the name of than I did about Nell and her lovers).   I particularly loved Teddy.  I thought it was interesting that Teddy was a fairly well-known cross dresser, and that these sorts of things semed to be generally accepted (as long as it was done on the down low, even though everyone knew about it...which seems strange).  I'm assuming since this was mentioned throughout the book, that this is based on historical fact (really you just need to be convincing for me to believe things, I'm terribly gullible!) and that really surprised me!  Beyond that though, Teddy is a wonderful friend, delightfully funny, and...OH MY GOD IS IT SNOWING?!?!   It's totally snowing right now.  Well.  I'm not going outside today.  (Of course it won't be snowing when this posts.  Or rather...I hope it isn't...)

Oops.

I'm having a hard time focusing so I'm just going to skip to...

Overall

I think this is a great book both for historical fiction lovers and for those new to the genre.  It's very readable, and it's rekindled my need to go read all the historical fictions!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Just Like Fate - Cat Patrick and Suzanne Young






Summary


Goodreads:  Caroline is at a crossroads. Her grandmother is sick, maybe dying. Like the rest of her family, Caroline's been at Gram's bedside since her stroke. With the pressure building, all Caroline wants to do is escape--both her family and the reality of Gram's failing health. So when Caroline's best friend offers to take her to a party one fateful Friday night, she must choose: stay by Gram's side, or go to the party and live her life.

The consequence of this one decision will split Caroline's fate into two separate paths--and she's about to live them both.

Friendships are tested and family drama hits an all-new high as Caroline attempts to rebuild old relationships, and even make a few new ones. If she stays, her longtime crush, Joel, might finally notice her, but if she goes, Chris, the charming college boy, might prove to be everything she's ever wanted.

Though there are two distinct ways for her fate to unfold, there is only one happy ending...



Notable quotes:

At two and a half she's all belly and bum; she stands like an adorable troll doll, beaming at me.


Because when it comes down to it, waiting for someone to die is like being told a tornado is coming.  You press pause on your life and brace yourself - but you don't know when it will hit, how bad it'll be.  You can prepare all you want, but in the end, you just don't know.



Thoughts

This book really hit me in a lot of ways that are purely personal, and have nothing to do with the book on its own.  I recently read a post by Jamie at The Perpetual Page Turner, that talked about how reviewing books is never an objective thing.  It's extremely personal, and how we relate to the book is filtered through our own experiences and opinions.  I completely agree with her, especially when it comes to books like these.  This book hits on a lot of things that I lived through, and it does so very well.  It's realistic - I would say that one or both of the authors have experienced everything they wrote about, because it feels true.  It's the right mix of feelings. 

The book starts out with a bang - Caroline finds out her grandmother is in the hospital because she's had a stroke.  We know what is going to happen in the story, but the authors really throw you in instead of working up to the pivot point.  And let me just say that this story TOTALLY didn't go where I was expecting it to.  I think I thought this was going to be more of a fast-paced thriller where she has to choose which reality she wants to live in, and not the exploration of human relationships that it was.  And I absolutely loved that that's what it was!  I was pleasantly surprised by the ending to this book, and the message it sent.  I won't say why, not even a hint because it's the sort of book you need to not know anything of the ending for it to work well as a book.  It wasn't the message I'd been expecting, and it's a message that I think will stay with me for a long time.

It has everything I love in a book - a wonderful best friend, a large focal point on family (and not only bad things about family), and a believable romance.  While at first I found it unlikely college guys would be at all interested in high school girls, but as I was going to type that I thought back to my own past and that of my friends and had to retract my statement.  I loved Chris.  He's definitely one of my favourite book boys!  I love his banter with Caroline (and in many ways it makes me reminisce over some of the more ridiculous conversations I've had with my boyfriend.  Apparently the first time we met I talked to him about giraffes for a good ten minutes.  I know.  I'm special)

I also loved the sister relationship.  A lot of people didn't understand that when I was younger, it wasn't just that my brother and I didn't get along.  That wasn't what it was.  We well and truly hated each other, and in many ways Caroline's relationship with her sister was like my relationship with my brother.  Obviously things have changed now, and we have had a pretty great relationship for quite a few years, but it took some time to get us there.  This falls under the personal category - it's nice to have an author understand that complicated sort of relationship (although my brother's and mine were not nearly so complex!)  I don't want to say too much more about the sisters because spoilers, but...ugh this is so limiting.  Everything is spoilers!

I think that things felt like they resolved a little too easily...but at the same time they didn't either.  I think it was just that book was very different from my expectations, and it didn't linger in being angsty overly long, nor did Caroline suddenly become magically ok.  It was the perfect pace for this story and I think that also surprised me.  Can you see how little faith I have in contemporary YA?  I am slowly broadening my horizons here.  Luckily I've been reading really good contemporary YA, and not the monstrosities I've come across in the past.

Overall

This book was beautifully written and surprising in so many ways.  Maybe it wouldn't get a 5 star rating from everyone, but it hit me on such a personal level, it 100% deserves it.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Booking by Numbers

I saw this on Aeropaper's blog and it looked like so much fun!   Jess Hearts Books created this fun way to take a look at what's on your bookshelves.  Just head to a random generator, put in the number of books you have, and voila!  You get this :)



Book Number: 91 

Book: Hissy Fit by Mary Kay Andrews
Q1.) Have you read this book? If so what did you think of it?

No, and I've just realized that I've gotten Mary Kay Andrews confused with Marian Keyes.  I'm not hugely into chick lit, so here's hoping I like her has much as I enjoy MK (and if you want a recommendation for where to start with chick lit or enjoy a little substance with your fluff, I'd start with MK's Walsh family series, which starts with Watermelon)





Book Number:  62
Book: Finding Cassie Crazy (aka The Year of Secret Assignments) by Jaclyn Moriarty
Q2.) Why did you buy this book? Were you recommended it? Was it a random purchase?

Considering how long I have owned this book - since I was 14 or 15! - it's amazing I actually do remember getting it.  I was in England for my cousin's wedding and I must have needed a book to read on the way home so I picked this one up, completely randomly to my knowledge (although I'm sure either the back part of it or the cover appealed to me.  Actually my mom might have picked it out, I honestly don't know!)  I'm so glad
I read it, as it's in my list of all time favourite books.






                                                                                    Book Number: 101
Book: The Ladies of Grace Adieu and other stories by Susanna Clarke
Q3.) Based on what you know about this book which other book blogger would you recommend it to? 

I honestly have no idea about anything to do with this book (including where it came from.  It just appeared one day!  My books do that sometimes...)  Goodreads says its a Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell novel though, which I haven't read yet either but does explain why I wanted this book I suppose, I'd have to recommend it to fans of that I suppose.






 


Book Number: 25
Book: Fire by Kristin Cashore
Q4.)  Who’s this books bookshelf neighbor?

Graceling by Kristin Cashore and Peeps by Scott Westerfeld (I haven't rustled up the funds for Bitterblue quite yet!)










Book Number: 76 

Book: Voyage of the Basset by James C. Christensen
Q5.) How many books have you read by this book’s author?

Sadly only this one, but the illustrations in it are beautiful!








Book Number: 105

Book: Looking for Peyton Place by Barbara Delinsky
Q6.) Do you have any special memories attached to this book?

Other than the amazing fact that I've dragged this across three states for some reason, nope, none.  Still haven't read it haha.  If it hasn't been read by my next move, I don't think it's going to make that trip...








 Book Number: 34
Book: Pegasus by Robin McKinley
Q7.) Is this book part of a series? If it is are you up to date with the series?

WHY YES IT IS ROBIN MCKINLEY.  DO YOU REMEMBER THIS BOOK?  She still hasn't written the sequel :-/









 
 Book Number: 130

Book: The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho
Q8.) Is this book something you’d typically read or is it out of your comfort zone?

Actually yes.  Well sort of.  I honestly have no idea what genre this is really, but it was a very different style than I was used to, but I really enjoyed it.








Book Number: 82 

Book: Classical Music in America by Joseph Horowitz
Q9.) Have you reviewed this book? If yes then share a link to it.

HAHAHA I am pretty sure no one who follows this blog would be interested in a review of this book.  On the offchance you are interested in the history of classical music, this isn't too bad of a book to try.  It's not horribly dense writing like you can often come across in rather specialized nonfiction.





 


 Book Number: 10
Book: Wild Roses by Deb Caletti
Q10.) Where did you buy this book from?

I got it off bookmooch after ages of waiting!  GO READ ONE OF HER BOOKS NOW!














Book Number: 14 

Book: Persuasion by Jane Austen
Q11.) Roughly how long have you owned this book for?

A few years I think?  This was one of my grandmother's books, so it's a beautiful copy (I love it so much!) and I'm sure it's got some good history to it.












 Book Number: 96 

Book: The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry
Q12.) Share the first sentence of this book.

My name is Towner Whitney.   No, that's not exactly true.  My real name is Sophya.  Never believe me.  I lie all the time.










Book Number: 114
Book:  The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
Q13.) What’s your opinion on this book’s cover?

Considering what I know of Sarajevo, I think the ruins make a lot of sense, but the cover itself doesn't really make me go back for a second glance.








Book Number: 174 

Book: The Six Rules of Maybe by Deb Caletti
Q14.) In a few sentences describe this book in your own words. 
          
As with all of Deb Caletti's books, this is a gorgeously written book that is character centric.  The scandalous falling for the sister's husband may draw some readers in, but the well-written characters will keep them.  (And if your like me and the scandal doesn't appeal to you - trust me.  Deb Caletti is worth it)


I had a lot of fun with this!  If any of you decide to do this, leave me a link to your post in the comments.  I'd love to see what you guys have on your shelves!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sapphire Blue (Ruby Red #2) - Kerstin Gier



 Summary

Gwen’s life has been a rollercoaster since she discovered she was the Ruby, the final member of the secret time-traveling Circle of Twelve. In between searching through history for the other time-travelers and asking for a bit of their blood (gross!), she’s been trying to figure out what all the mysteries and prophecies surrounding the Circle really mean.
At least Gwen has plenty of help. Her best friend Lesley follows every lead diligently on the Internet. James the ghost teaches Gwen how to fit in at an eighteenth century party. And Xemerius, the gargoyle demon who has been following Gwen since he caught her kissing Gideon in a church, offers advice on everything. Oh, yes. And of course there is Gideon, the Diamond. One minute he’s very warm indeed; the next he’s freezing cold. Gwen’s not sure what’s going on there, but she’s pretty much destined to find out.


Thoughts

I feel like I can't give an honest review of this because I HATE Gideon.  I don't think I've ever hated a love interest this much.  I couldn't even tell you why I hate him more than all the other love interests over the years, I just do.  I think part of it is because there is SO MUCH "does he like me or not" angst here and it really stresses me out!  Seriously, I've ended up having to stop watching certain tv shows because there's so much over the top relationship drama that I get legitimately really stressed out, which pretty much defeats the purpose of watching tv.  And this book definitely took me to that point.  It's like Gideon is freaking bipolar!  Of course half the relationship insecurity is because of things Xemerius (a gargoyle only Gwyneth can see.  Or a demon?  Or all gargoyles are demons?  I've forgotten. ) tells Gwyneth about Gideon.  Also the timing.  At the end of the book they've known each other a week.  A week isn't near enough time for love to send me on a roller coaster of relationship stress!!!

I am probably one of the few people who really likes Gwyneth's character.  I feel like most people didn't like her character because she's acting like a silly sixteen year-old.  She reminds me so much of Lydia and Emily from Finding Cassie Crazy.  She's really funny, and I love her relationship with her best friend Lesley, who sadly didn't get much page time in this book.  Which is a shame because she's by far one of my favourite characters.  In fact, I actually really love many of the secondary characters here - like Aunt Maggie who is delightfully loopy and outspoken.  Unfortunately this book cut time from our secondary characters and focused on Gwyneth, who I really like, Gideon, who I loathe, and Xemerius who I found equally amusing and annoying.  Clearly this system isn't working for me.  And I thought we were going to get some info on Jack White, who I thought would have made a good grey character since he's so hostile in the beginning.  But this wasn't explored either.  Basically this book was "Oh Gideon, I love you!  Don't you love me too?  Oh what a passionate kiss!  Wait you don't love me?  Oh you're kissing me again.  Yay!  Just kidding we're totally not at all anything resembling dating, don't worry!"  And the cycle goes on.

Another thing that bothered me - why do they suspect her more than any one else of being the traitor in the group?  I mean technically any of them could have been the traitor.  Why her?  I mean she hasn't even DONE anything yet - clearly they don't think her capable of much thought in general, so why are they suspicious of her masterminding a spy mission?  This is why I need more information!

I think I would have loved this series more if it had followed Paul and Lucy instead.  In fact I thought that in the first book too.  I think it would have given us more of the darker feeling I think many of us expected from this series.  Don't get me wrong, I actually love the lighter feeling and the fact that Gwyneth holds true to what a 16 year-old is actually like.  In fact, if there was no Gideon, I would probably really enjoy this series.  Here's what I would have needed to love it:  no Gideon, and lots more world building.  Because I think the whole concept behind the mystery is fantastic, but the execution is rather flawed.  Not enough is explained as to why there are 12 of them, where the prophecies came from, etc.  I have so many questions about the world that seem to be explained with a simple "the Count said so" - which since he's censored their information, makes sense.  BUT.  I think that's an easy way out and I wish more information was given to us.  I want to know more about the WORLD and the MYSTERY.  NOT. MORE. ROMANCE. NO MORE ROMANCE. IT'S NOT ALLOWED.

I'm going to go read the third book now.  Hopefully I like it more than this one!  I have good feelings, after all the mystery is finally going to get revealed so that should make me very happy :)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Last Winter of Dani Lancing - P.D. Viner


I received this in exchange for an honest review.




Summary

Goodreads:  A riveting psychological thriller in the tradition of Before I Go to Sleep and Memento that introduces P. D. Viner as a master of suspense

Twenty years ago, college student Dani Lancing was kidnapped and brutally murdered. The killer was never found, and the case has long gone cold. Her parents, Patty and Jim, were utterly devastated, their marriage destroyed. While Jim fell apart, Patty was consumed by the unsolved case. She abandoned her journalism career and her marriage to spend every waking hour searching and plotting. She keeps contact with Tom, Dani's childhood sweetheart, who has become a detective intent on solving murders like Dani's. When he finds a lead that seems ironclad, he brings Patty in on it. After years of dead ends, her obsession is rekindled, and she will do anything for revenge, even become a killer herself-dragging her whole family into the nightmare once again, as lies and secrets are uncovered.


Thoughts

I really don't know how I feel about this.  Did I like it?  I honestly have no idea.  I think a big part of it is that it wasn't what I was expecting.  In some ways, that was a really cool thing, and in others..it's just not the sort of book I would have picked up knowing some things about it.  So take this review with a grain of salt.

Let me start by saying that I almost had to DNF the book in the beginning because it starts out with a bang.  And by with a bang, I mean lots of blood, and graphically so.  I wasn't expecting it to be so...graphic.  That was in part my difficulty getting into to story to begin with (along with a couple other things I'll talk about later).  Now this is a thing other people love, so it's definitely not a criticism of the book.  I've already mentioned on the blog what a baby I turn into when it comes to scary things.  So this is nothing against the book, and everything to do with my cowardly imaginative mind.  But I refuse to DNF books, so I pushed through and I'm glad I did, because there were things I didn't expect that I did like.

Most mystery novels I read or watch on tv focus on the investigators, not on the family itself.  This book chose to reverse that situation.  It gave a very interesting point of view on the story - especially with the story lines alternating between Dani's father, mother, and her best friend.  It gave a much more intense emotional impact because of this, and I think in part it's also why the gory parts bothered me so much.  It's a little easier to distance yourself from an investigator's part in all of this, because they see this sort of violence every day.  That being said, because it was character based, it is rather helpful if you actually like the characters.  From the start, I didn't like Pattie very much.  She's rather...driven, in an unattractive manner.  Tom is somewhat more likeable but the longer I spent with him the more I was equal parts repulsed by him and pitied him.  Neither are particularly pleasant emotions.  Jim is by far the most enjoyable character.  I was a bit thrown by *slight spoilers, you'd be fine if you chose to read this I think * the ghost of Dani hanging out with him, which is weird and definitely not what I would have expected in this sort of mystery novel.  I am not quite sure how I feel about this addition other than the fact that I liked this version of Dani much more than the glimpses of her past even if she didn't seem to do much to add the story so I'm not really sure what her purpose was *end spoilers*, but overall he's a well-meaning, likeable guy.  We see glimpses of Dani's past but you should read the slight spoilers to see my thoughts on that.

Some people might not like the different timelines being told simultaneously (well in alternating chapters) as well as a focus on different characters in each chapter (not first person, but third person limited), but I thought it was a really effective way of revealing just enough information with just enough bait to keep you going.  Others have criticized the book for being too twisty and convenient, but honestly in a mystery novel that doesn't bother me too much.  I will say that it's definitely not who/what you are expecting.  As soon as you think you know...trust me you don't!

So the characters are ok, and I enjoyed the way the plot was unfolded...but then...THE EPILOGUE.  Wtf was that??  Is this supposed to be a series?  Was that a conclusion?  WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!?!  It seriously felt like the story ended...but then it ended again like mid sentence!  What??  I don't read unfinished series. Or I at least wait until there's more than one book out.  And I hate discovering only at the the end of a book that it is not a standalone!  I mean it's definitely not marketed as a series - I checked.  I think that's more the fault of the business side of the book, but I can't say I would have been a fan of the way the author chose to write the epilogue anyway had I known this was going to continue.


Overall

I think this was an interesting way of writing a mystery novel.  I liked that it focused on the family and not  the investigators - I thought that was really effective.  It may have been more effective had I liked most of the characters, but that's a personal feeling as was the fact that parts of it were too gory for me (because really...I'm not exaggerating when I say that I can't handle scary/gory things!)  Basically this book wasn't so much for me, but I think there are plenty of people out there who will enjoy this.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sure Signs of Crazy - Karen Harrington



 Summary

Love can be a trouble word for some people. Crazy is also a trouble word.
 
I should know.

  You've never met anyone exactly like twelve-year-old Sarah Nelson. While most of her friends obsess over Harry Potter, she spends her time writing letters to Atticus Finch. She collects trouble words in her diary. Her best friend is a plant. And she's never known her mother, who left when Sarah was two.
Since then, Sarah and her dad have moved from one small Texas town to another, and not one has felt like home.


Everything changes when Sarah launches an investigation into her family's Big Secret. She makes unexpected new friends and has her first real crush, and instead of a "typical boring Sarah Nelson summer," this one might just turn out to be extraordinary.



Favourite Lines:

Lisa is wrong about kissing and love.  It might make you pretty at first, but it makes you look stupid, too.

It's funny how you don't know you are a bunch of pieces until someone hugs you together.


Thoughts

This book makes you feel so many things at the same time!  Sarah often wonders in the book if feeling two things in the same moment makes you crazy, and if that were the case this book would have definitely put me well into the category of madness.

It's definitely a character centric book.  Not a lot actually happens action wise.  A lot of what "happens" in the book are things that took place in Sarah's past, and observations of how the past has impacted the adults who surround her currently.  It's just amazing to see how all the characters grow - but you aren't seeing them grow, you are seeing Sarah seeing them grow without her always recognizing the growth.  Wow.  Isn't that just a mind ...word I can't find a substitute for?

Karen Harrington did an absolute fantastic job of writing a 12 year-old narrator.  There's a fine balance in showing the naivete of a preteen, but at the same time capturing the way children often know more than you'd think.  Or how they only understand a part of a more mature subject.  In a lot of ways Sarah reminds me of Scout from To Kill A Mockingbird.  I'd say this is likely on purpose, as Sarah confides in Atticus Finch through letters.  She's a little older than Scout was I think, but she still captures that sort of heartbreaking quality as she says things that show horrible events...but she says them in such a funny manner and with such a blunt focus that you're torn between laughter and feeling sort of horrified!  It's difficult to describe, but if you've read To Kill a Mockingbird, you should understand what I mean.  Sarah's voice is so incredibly sincere and it's just...well.  I've already said that it's perfect for a 12 year-old who is going through some incredibly heart breaking situations.  I don't have a better way to say it, other than that Sarah is probably the most sincere narrator I've come across in modern literature.  

The only criticism I have is that Charlotte, Sarah's babysitter, acts less like someone in her 20's and more like someone who is sixteen.  I mean, I'm in my 20's and she sounded like a kid I would have student taught.  I had a hard time remembering that she was getting her PhD!  But that is such a small quibble in the grand scheme of things.  This book is just a really special book.  It's a book that kids can read, and a book their parents will love too.  It would be a wonderful book to pair with To Kill a Mockingbird...and everyone should read this.  It's not just for people like me who read younger literature, it's the kind of book EVERYONE should read.

Overall

Read this.  This is easily in my top 10 books for the year.  Maybe even top 5? In any case.  I repeat:  read this!