Friday, February 14, 2014

For When I'm Feeling: Hungry

I really think I should have saved my first topic for this feature (Cold) for this week, since yesterday, my town got 2 feet of snow dumped on it.  Shoveling that was just awful.  And then I thought I'd do something like "Romantic" for Valentine's Day, but this week's Top Ten Tuesday was too close to that.  So I thought about my typical V-Days and how I spend every February 14th treating myself to an awesome & delicious meal.  Which led me to today's topic for my new feature.


I am an unashamed food-lover.  And there are so many books and movies that are centered on food, or have food as a big part of it.


  • Eat, Pray, Love
    • Favorite quote: "I'm in love. I am having a relationship with my pizza."
  • Under the Tuscan Sun
    • "Ice cream changed my fate."
  • Chocolat
    • (About chocolate seashells) "And it *melts*, God forgive me, it melts every so slowly on your tongue, it tortures you with pleasure."
  • No Reservations
    • "I wish there was a cookbook for life, you know? Recipes telling us exactly what to do."
And those are the movies and books that I turn to when hungry.  Which then of course only make me more hungry.  Any suggestions for other yummy books or movies I should check out?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Swoon-Worthy Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is books that make you swoon.  I love swoon-worthy books, and for me personally, I tend to swoon over books with a dark, brooding, and/or flawed love interest.  There are always exceptions to the rule (Peeta!), but I definitely have a type.

Top Ten Books That Made Me Swoon

  • Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
    • I love Perry, and his romance with Aria gave me goosebumps.
  • The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson
    • Hector! Hector! Hector!  He's so amazing.  I'm actually jealous of Elisa.
  • Prized by Caragh M. O'Brien
    • And for this book, it was all about Leon - the epitome of dark, brooding, and flawed.  I wanted to smack Gaea sometimes for not seeing how awesome Leon was.
  • The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan
    • The whole book is great, but it's at the very end that the real swoon-worthy moment happens between Percy & Annabeth.  Percibeth forever!
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth
    • Once again, it's all about the dark, brooding, & flawed love interest - Four/Tobias.
  • Daughter of the Earth and Sky by Kaitlin Bevis
    • I love almost all Hades/Persephone retellings, but this one is one of the most passionate and swoon-worthy to me.
  • Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
    • I think I must be a sucker for characters named Wolf.  Both Wolf from Scarlet and Wolf from The 10th Kingdom are incredibly swoon-worthy.
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy
    • Sir Percy Blakeny is the most passionate hero ever.  The part when he kisses the ground where his wife just walked because his passion for her is that strong?  Bring on the swoon!
  • Austenland by Shannon Hale
    • For me, the swooning came at the very end of this book.  The final conversation between Jane and her "Mr. Darcy" is so sweet and romantic and funny.
  • Persuasion by Jane Austen
    • I've already seen a lot of people have Pride & Prejudice on their lists, and while I agree that it's definitely a swoony book (that Mr. Darcy and his smolder), I think Persuasion is seriously swoon-worthy.  That letter from Captain Wentworth... so perfect.  And Anne almost did actually swoon over it.
And those are my top ten swoon-worthy books.  How about you?  Have you ever "swooned" over a book?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Book Review: Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

Title:  Arranged
Author:  Catherine McKenzie
Genre:  Chick-lit/Romance
Publisher:  William Morrow Paperbacks
Pages:  416
Acquired via:  Purchased from Amazon


Synopsis from goodreads:  Anne Blythe has a great life: a good job, good friends, and a potential book deal for her first novel. When it comes to finding someone to share it with, however, she just can't seem to get it right.

After yet another relationship ends, Anne comes across a business card for what she thinks is a dating service, and she pockets it just in case. When her best friend, Sarah, announces she's engaged, Anne can't help feeling envious. On an impulse, she decides to give the service a try because maybe she could use a little assistance in finding the right man. But Anne soon discovers the company isn't a dating service; it's an exclusive, and pricey, arranged marriage service. She initially rejects the idea, but the more she thinks about it-and the company's success rate-the more it appeals to her. After all, arranged marriages are the norm for millions of women around the world, so why wouldn't it work for her?
A few months later, Anne is travelling to a Mexican resort, where in one short weekend she will meet and marry Jack. And against all odds, it seems to be working out-until Anne learns that Jack, and the company that arranged their marriage, are not what they seem at all.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I rarely give chick-lit and/or contemporary romance a shot, because most of the times that I do, I've been disappointed.  In this case, I wouldn't say I was disappointed, but I certainly wasn't blown away.

Arranged is a novel about a woman who decides she's finished with the dating game and uses an arranged marriage service to find herself a husband.  Obviously there's a lot of inner monologue about her misgivings and doubts.  The whole first third of the book is about the process leading up to finding Anne the perfect person.  So it's mostly character development and background.  The second third is about her meeting her husband and their initial sparks and tension and getting-to-know-each-other phase.  And the last third is about when they start to adjust to life together and obviously face a huge conflict that must be resolved by the end of the book.

For the most part, the book is cute.  The characters are good; the story is fun; and the ending is mostly satisfying.  I just wish the book had been more about their life after their arranged marriage.  Mostly the book deals with everything leading up to it and the "honeymoon."  I think a book about what an actual arranged marriage is like would have been a bit more interesting.  Also, personal preference - please lay off the F-word.  I just get so uncomfortable when I feel like every other word is an F-bomb.

My biggest problem with the book was the huge conflict and resolution.  I kept having this feeling of deja vu.  And then I realized why.  I had seen this same exact story before, in the form of a romantic comedy movie.  I won't say which one, or it will give away EVERYTHING, but it was definitely the same exact plot and resolution.

Overall, Arranged is a cute but unoriginal story.  I think that about sums it up.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Books that Make Me Cry

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is books that make us cry.  This is a hard one for me because I'm a very emotional person.  I cry when I'm sad; I cry when I'm really happy.  I even cry at touching commercials (the most recent Super Bowl Budweiser commercial about the soldier coming home made me a teary mess).  So I decided to pick the books that didn't just make me cry; they made me an emotional wreck.

Top Ten I-Need-a-Tissue-and-a-Hug Books That Made Me Cry

  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
    • I think John Green loves to make his readers cry.  So beautiful but so sad.  This book just wrecked me.
  • Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
    • I really don't know how I'm going to make it through watching the movie version of this because the book was so incredibly intense.
  • The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
    • When I read this book out loud to my little sister, we couldn't even make it through the final chapter.  The two of us were just sitting there, crying together.
  • A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle
    • This book deals primarily with coping with death, and it's real and heartbreaking.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling
    • Why must you kill off all the best characters, including my favorite!?  It wasn't enough to have already killed off so many people in the previous books???
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
    • I read this when I was about 10 or 11, and I just sat in bed and cried during the chapter about Beth.  And then I saw the many movie adaptations and cried some more.
  • For One More Day by Mitch Albom
    • Mitch Albom, like John Green, seems to like writing books to make you cry.  This book is about a man whose life is going downhill, and one night, he has a car accident and wakes up in his little hometown with his mom... who died years ago.  He gets to have just one more day with her.
  • A Night to Remember by Walter Lord
    • A non-fiction account of what occurred on the Titanic.  Walter Lord interviewed the survivors and wrote down the story of the ship sinking based on their firsthand experiences.  It would have been powerful as fiction, but it was twice as powerful because it all actually happened.
  • I Have Lived a Thousand Years by Livia Bitton-Jackson
    • A graphic autobiography of a young Jewish girl and what she suffered in the Holocaust.  I don't really think I need to explain this one.
  • I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett
    • This book is here because of the second chapter.  The rest of the book isn't quite as emotional or intense, but that second chapter left me a blubbering mess.  It's so intense that my brother couldn't get past it, and I'm not sure if he's tried picking up the book since he first started it.
And those are the books that left me desperately searching for tissues after reading them.  How about you?  Did you read any of these and have the same reaction?  What books make you cry?

Friday, January 31, 2014

Book Review: The 10th Kingdom by Kathryn Wesley

Title:  The 10th Kingdom
Author:  Kathryn Wesley
Genre:  Fantasy/fairytale retelling
Publisher:  Kensington
Pages:  479
Acquired via:  PaperbackSwap


Synopsis (from goodreads):  The novel of the BkyB and Hallmark co-venture 'The 10th Kingdom' is a contemporary drama set in a fantasy world where magic and fairy tale characters come to life. This is an Alice in Wonderland for grown-ups and children alike, a witty and satirical reflection of contemporary society told as an epic tale of good versus evil. Follow the thrilling adventures of Virginia and Tony, a father and daughter from New York, who unwittingly find themselves in a parallel universe known as The Nine Kingdoms. Virginia and Tony join forces with a schizophrenic man-wolf, and Prince, a handsome golden retriever formally known as Prince Wendell, grandson of Snow White until his wicked stepmother turned him into a dog. The unlikely heroes then embark on an epic quest to save Prince from the evil Queen and restore him to the throne.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I've wanted to read this book ever since I saw the miniseries in college.  It's actually a novelization of the miniseries The 10th Kingdom.  Which I love.  I definitely recommend it.  (You will fall in love with Wolf; you just will.)

Mostly, I wanted to see if the author would expand certain parts or change things or add more details to the book version.  And she did... a little.  But for the most part, the book really is a straight-up copy of the miniseries.  The biggest difference is that the author gave the reader insight into what the different characters were supposedly thinking during all of those situations.  So while the dialogue is almost word-for-word from the show, the characters all get way more depth and development.

It's a fun, mostly fast-paced read, and there are lots of recognizable fairy-tale characters throughout.  But the characters and stories are closer to their original versions - darker and more violent.  There's also plenty of humor and a sweet romance.

My biggest problem with the book though is that the ending is incredibly rushed.  As I was reading, I was really enjoying the details and descriptions, the inner thoughts of the characters, the steady pace of the story, but I got about two-thirds of the way through the book and realized that there was still A LOT of story to be covered and not a lot of pages left.  Which meant that final third of the book crammed a ton of action and events in, while sacrificing all those details & descriptions & character development that had made the beginning so good.

If you haven't seen the miniseries, then you might not love The 10th Kingdom novelization and its crazy, rushed ending.  But if you have seen the show, then you'd probably enjoy the book.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Some Fun Finds - Buzzfeed

I feel like I am so behind the times.  I only recently discovered the site Buzzfeed, and it is addicting.  I'm on that site every day.  And I especially love the book-related and the food-related posts.  Here are some of my favorites:

And Just for Fun
And my most favorite of all

Friday, January 24, 2014

For When I'm Feeling: Cold

I've decided to start this new feature (not the same as the one I talked about in my resolutions post) after talking to my coworker.  Whenever I'm feeling sad or happy or lonely or whatever, books (or movies) are my go-to places to express or change how I feel.  So I'm going to start this new feature (complete with a lovely banner created by my brother) to share what those books (or movies) are.


I don't know about where you live, but when I left the house for work this morning, it was 4 degrees outside.  4!!!  I have never wanted to work from home so badly in all my life.  So what's the perfect solution to a day as cold as this?  A big mug of hot chocolate with whipped cream & marshmallows, lots of comfy throw blankets, a seat in front of the fireplace, and the following books:

  • The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
    • Besides being an extremely exciting book that gets your heart racing, the book takes place in a hot, desert country.  At one point, Elisa has to travel across the desert, and the descriptions of the heat and the sun are so vivid.  
  • Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
    • Pretty much anything with dragons could apply.  There's plenty of fire-breathing and arid landscapes.
  • Austenland by Shannon Hale
    • This is a great read for when it's cold, but not because it's about warm places.  It's perfect because it leaves you with a nice warm & fuzzy feeling when it's done.
  • A Thousand Days in Tuscany by Marlena de Blasi
    • Every time I read this, I want to hop on the first plane to Italy.  Part of the book does take place during the winter months, but for the most part, you get to hear about beautiful (warm) countrysides, yummy (warm) food, and the friendly (warm) people.
  • The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss
    • Tropical islands are always a dream when you're suffering through snow.  Of course I wouldn't want to be shipwrecked on one like the Robinsons, but I'd love to explore one and see all of the amazing animals.
  • Many Waters by Madeleine L'Engle
    • This book made me so thirsty.  It's a really interesting time-travel take on the story of Noah, and the setting is a hot, dry desert where the sun practically destroys your skin super fast if you're not used to it.
And those are my go-to books when I'm feeling the chill of winter.  I hope you enjoy this new feature, and I'd love to hear which books you read to warm up.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Book Review: The House of Hades by Rick Riordan

Title:  The House of Hades
Author:  Rick Riordan
Genre:  YA mythology retelling
Series:  The Heroes of Olympus #4
Publisher:  Hyperion
Pages:  597, hardcover
Acquired via:  Bought on Amazon


Synopsis from goodreads:  At the conclusion of The Mark of Athena, Annabeth and Percy tumble into a pit leading straight to the Underworld. The other five demigods have to put aside their grief and follow Percy’s instructions to find the mortal side of the Doors of Death. If they can fight their way through the Gaea’s forces, and Percy and Annabeth can survive the House of Hades, then the Seven will be able to seal the Doors both sides and prevent the giants from raising Gaea. But, Leo wonders, if the Doors are sealed, how will Percy and Annabeth be able to escape?

They have no choice. If the demigods don’t succeed, Gaea’s armies will never die. They have no time. In about a month, the Romans will march on Camp Half-Blood. The stakes are higher than ever in this adventure that dives into the depths of Tartarus.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I love Rick Riordan's series, and this book was a great addition.  It was mainly focused on Percy and Annabeth's adventures, with the other characters taking smaller roles.  It had romance, drama, lots of action and suspense, and plenty of new mythological people and creatures.

I was so happy with the entire Percibeth storyline.  It was awesome for these two to finally get back together and share an adventure.  Their relationship develops and grows so much throughout the book as they suffer crazy torture in Tartarus.

The other characters have their own adventures, but some of them seemed to get very little attention in this book.  Piper and Jason both had very minimal storylines, while Leo, Hazel, Frank, and Nico had a lot of focus on them.  I especially loved the way Frank's character developed.  He really got a chance to shine.

There was one part that I wasn't too thrilled with, which is a first for me with Riordan's books.  I won't give away what exactly it was, for those of you who have yet to read the book, but there is one part of the book, a big "character revelation", that seemed forced and preachy and not really well-written.  I personally think Riordan could have written it a lot better, but that's just my opinion.  It was the only thing in the whole book that bothered me, and it didn't bother me enough to keep me from loving the book.

Fortunately, Riordan did not leave us with a literal cliffhanger like he did with the previous book (which he poked fun at in the dedication; you must read it!).  Instead, the book had a satisfying ending, while hinting at the big climactic finish to come in The Blood of Olympus.  I cannot wait to read the next book, and hope it is an epic finish worthy of this series.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: 2014 Debuts To Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is 2014 debuts that we're excited for.  At first, I wasn't sure if I knew more than three debuts coming out this year, and then discovered that there are actually 19 that I'm pretty psyched about.  And here are the top twelve of those 19.

Top Ten Twelve 2014 Debuts I Want To Read

Honorable Mentions:  Defy by Sara B. Larson, Alienated by Melissa Landers, Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes, Library Jumpers by Brenda Drake, Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald, Salvage by Alexandra Duncan, and My Faire Lady by Laura Wettersten.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Book Review: Taken by Erin Bowman

Title:  Taken
Author:  Erin Bowman
Genre: YA dystopian
Series:  Taken #1
Publisher:  HarperTeen
Pages:  360, hardcover
Acquired via:  BEA 2013


Synopsis from  There are no men in Claysoot. There are boys—but every one of them vanishes at midnight on his eighteenth birthday. The ground shakes, the wind howls, a blinding light descends…and he’s gone.  They call it the Heist.

Gray Weathersby’s eighteenth birthday is mere months away, and he’s prepared to meet his fate–until he finds a strange note from his mother and starts to question everything he’s been raised to accept: the Council leaders and their obvious secrets. The Heist itself. And what lies beyond the Wall that surrounds Claysoot–a structure that no one can cross and survive.
Climbing the Wall is suicide, but what comes after the Heist could be worse. Should he sit back and wait to be taken–or risk everything on the hope of the other side?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I really, really wanted to love Taken.  There had been so much hype surrounding it before it actually came out, and then when I got it at BEA, I was so psyched to finally read it.  I didn't actually end up reading it until December, and I'm sorry to say I just didn't love it.

That doesn't mean I hated it.  It had a great premise.  I thought the characters were well-developed, and the descriptions of the settings were beautiful and realistic.  And it was a fast-paced, action-filled read.  Overall though, it was just okay.

One of my big problems with this book was the melodrama.  It felt like every two seconds something new and big was happening to Gray, each one more dramatic and shocking than the last.  The whole book came across as very soap-opera-ish.  And then there was Gray himself.  He's a stubborn, reckless jerk most of the time.  It was kind of hard to sympathize with him.

But worst of all was the stupid romance.  I don't mind love triangles, when they're written well.  The one in this book (sorry if this is a spoiler) just stinks.  First of all, the original girl Gray's into, Emma, is really not that great.  I couldn't understand why he was so into her.  They get separated, and the first girl Gray meets afterwards, he's suddenly totally lusting over while still adamantly saying he's in love with Emma.  I mean, I like the second girl better, but the way everything comes together in the end seemed ridiculous.

I may still pick up the second book because I honestly liked some of the secondary characters way more than Gray, but it won't be a disappointment if I don't.