Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: The Best of 2013

It's the end of 2013, and to celebrate it, Top Ten Tuesday is all about the best books read this year.  I read so many good books, but there were some that were so much better than all the rest.

The Top Ten Books I Read in 2013

  • The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson
    • I read both this and Girl of Fire and Thorns this year, and they were amazing.  (I still haven't gotten to the third book; what's wrong with me?)  I love the characters (especially Hector), the vivid descriptions, and the storyline.
  • Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
    • This is one of those books that I can't believe I didn't read until this month.  It was so good!  I cannot wait to get my hands on the next book.
  • The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
    • This book is beautifully written.  Stiefvater's writing is so good that the story could have been terrible, and I still would have liked it.  Fortunately the story was also great, so this book was a gem.
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth
    • Another book I cannot believe I didn't read til this year.  I'm still not too sure about the movie version coming out in March though.
  • Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
    • I loved Cinder, but Scarlet is even better than the first book.  And people keep saying that Cress is even better than that.  I'm so jealous of all you people who've read it already.  February 4th can't get here soon enough.
  • Splintered by A.G. Howard
    • Alice in Wonderland retellings are always so much fun, and this one is one of my favorites.  The writing, the descriptions - Wonderland came to life in this book.
  • Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
    • One of the most romantic books I read this year for sure.  I'm totally in love with Perry.  I just got swept away into this book.  And it was so awesome meeting Veronica Rossi, who is such a cool person.
  • The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer
    • And now for the funniest, laugh-out-loud book of the year.  I really was literally laughing out loud while reading this book.  I love Heyer's regency romances because they're usually witty and sarcastic and fun, but this one is probably the absolute best when it comes to witty banter.
  • Amber House by Kelly Moore, Tucker Reed & Larkin Reed
    • I loved how different this book was.  I don't usually read paranormal books, so I didn't really think I'd like this.  But I loved it!
  • Legend by Marie Lu (and Prodigy too)
    • And last but certainly not least, Legend and Prodigy were such great books.  Great characters, lots of action and adventure, and a heart-wrenching cliffhanger.  I seriously need to pick up Champion to see what happens to Day and June.
And those are my personal favorite reads from this year.  How about you?  Have you read any of these?  Did you like them too?  I'd love to know!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Book Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Title:  Throne of Glass
Author:  Sarah J. Maas
Genre:  YA fantasy
Series:  Throne of Glass #1
Publisher:  Bloomsbury USA
Pages:  404, paperback
Acquired via:  BEA giveaway


Synopsis (from goodreads):  In a land without magic, where the king rules with an iron hand, an assassin is summoned to the castle. She comes not to kill the king, but to win her freedom. If she defeats twenty-three killers, thieves, and warriors in a competition, she is released from prison to serve as the king's champion. Her name is Celaena Sardothien. 

The Crown Prince will provoke her. The Captain of the Guard will protect her. But something evil dwells in the castle of glass--and it's there to kill. When her competitors start dying one by one, Celaena's fight for freedom becomes a fight for survival, and a desperate quest to root out the evil before it destroys her world.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Why did it take me so long to read this?!  I had to go to jury duty the past two days, so I figured I'd bring a book for all the time you spend waiting.  I grabbed the first book in my TBR pile that caught my eye, and it was this one.  As soon as I started reading it, I was hooked.  I didn't want to put it down, even when they called me to be possibly selected for a jury (I wasn't).

Throne of Glass is an amazing fantasy novel with great characters, good world-building, and a fast-paced & exciting plot.  I'm practically hitting myself for not picking up Crown of Midnight at BEA too, because then I could be reading that right now.

I love the characters in this book so much.  They're three-dimensional and interesting, and Maas does a good job with character development.  As more details about each of the characters were revealed throughout the story, I got more and more attached to them.  Celaena is a kick-ass heroine with more depth to her than simply just being a killing machine.  And I was so worried that Prince Dorian was going to be one of those typical handsome and smug ("sexy-and-I-know-it") princes that would annoy me.  But then his personality turned out to be so much better than that.  Mostly though, I love Chaol Westfall - the strong, silent Captain of the Guard.  Definitely my favorite character thus far.

The writing and the world-building are also fantastic.  The way Maas describes Celaena's world just made me feel like I was there.  I also enjoyed the way she builds up the history throughout the book, rather than having a long introductory prologue or chapter that goes on and on.  It kept the book from losing its fast pace.  The story's constant movement made the book "unputdownable".

And of course the romance.  How can I talk about this book without bringing up that romantic tension?  It's built up slowly and realistically (hooray for no insta-love), and while it is definitely a love triangle, it's a really well-written one, one you could actually see happening.  Especially since both of the men in the triangle are great characters, and you could see Celaena with either one of them.

I cannot wait until I can get my hands on the next book, because this one was so awesome!

Monday, December 9, 2013

2013 End of Year Survey

We're coming to the end of 2013, which means it's time for an End of Year Survey!!  The survey comes from Jamie over at the Perpetual Page-Turner.  If you want to participate and/or read her answers, please visit her blog here.

2013 End of Year Book Survey

1. Best Book You Read In 2013? (I had a 3-way tie)

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2013? 
  • The Host by Stephenie Meyer.  I didn't expect to like this book, since it was by Stephenie Meyer, and I'm not a fan of what she did with the Twilight series.  But this ended up being so good.
4. Book you read in 2013 that you recommended to people most in 2013?

5. Best series you discovered in 2013?

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2013?

  • Rae Carson or Veronica Roth

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2013?

9. Book You Read In 2013 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2013?

11. Most memorable character in 2013? 

  • Wolf from Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
  • Four/Tobias from Divergent by Veronica Roth

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2013?

  • The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.  I love Stiefvater's style of writing in this book.  The prose is so beautiful and descriptive.

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2013? 

  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  After reading this book, I've made more of an effort to eat less processed foods, to try to shop more at the local farmers' markets, and to buy certain foods organic.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2013 to finally read? 

  • Divergent!  I'm still shocked that I put off this book for so long.

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2013?

  • The opening to Splintered by A.G. Howard  -  "I've been collecting bugs since I was ten; it's the only way I can stop their whispers.  Sticking a pin through the gut of an insect shuts it up pretty quick... Crickets, beetles, spiders...bees and butterflies.  I'm not picky.  Once they get chatty; they're fair game."

16. Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2013?

  • Longest -  The Host by Stephenie Meyer at 619 pages
  • Shortest -  The Son of Sobek by Rick Riordan at 40 pages (I know it's technically a story, and not a book, but it's the shortest thing I read this year.)
17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc. etc.) Be careful of spoilers!
  • The twist at the end of Insurgent by Veronica Roth!  Even though my mom's never read the books, I had to tell her all about it, just so I could tell SOMEONE.

18. Favorite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2013 (be it romantic, friendship, etc).

  • There were just too many great romantic relationships in the books I read this year, but my absolute favorite was Sarah Thane and Tristram Shield from The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer.  They're sarcastic and witty, which means they have the best dialogue ever, and they complement each other perfectly.

19. Favorite Book You Read in 2013 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

  • The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer.  I've read so many of her books, but this one was spectacular.  Her books are usually fun and witty , but this book surpassed them all as far as amazing dialogue is concerned.

20. Best Book You Read In 2013 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:

21. Genre You Read The Most From in 2013?

  • It's a toss-up between fantasy and dystopian.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2013?

23. Best 2013 debut you read?

24. Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read in 2013?

25. Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2013?

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2013?

  • Prodigy by Marie Lu.  The ending of this book just killed me.  I'm scared to read the final book, because I just know it's going to be emotional.

27. Book You Read in 2013 That You Think Got Overlooked This Year Or When It Came Out?

  • Altered by Jennifer Rush.  Every time I saw the title Altered on someone's blog, I'd get excited because I thought they were talking about Rush's book, but it was always a review or mention of Gennifer Albin's book instead.

Looking Ahead to 2014

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2013 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2014?

  • The House of Hades by Rick Riordan.  I'm still so ashamed that I haven't gotten to this yet.

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2014 (non-debut)?

  • Again, there are so many, but Cress by Marissa Meyer is probably #1.

3. 2014 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

4. Series Ending You Are Most Anticipating in 2014?

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging In 2014?

  • Posting more regularly would be nice.  Getting this new feature I've been working on up and running would be great too.
Please feel free to let me know what your answers would be, and if there's any here you agree with!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: 2014 Must Reads

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is 2014 releases that I'm dying to read.

Top Ten Nine 2014 Must Reads
  • Cress by Marissa Meyer
    • The Lunar Chronicles is such a great series, and I'm really looking forward to the next book.
  • The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan
    • Cannot wait!!!  Rick Riordan is one of my favorite authors, and this series has been so incredible.
  • The One by Kiera Cass
    • I think all of the books on my list are in series.  I'm hoping Cass ends this series really well.
  • Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi
    • Perry!  I'm seriously in love with him, and I'm so excited for the next book.
  • Unhinged by A.G. Howard
    • I really enjoyed Splintered, and hopefully this book will be just as unique and fun.
  • The Seeker by Stephenie Meyer
    • So it's not definite that this book is actually coming out in 2014, but I'm including it anyway.  My feelings on this book are mixed.  I loved The Host and would love to read more about those characters, but at the same time, it ended perfectly and I don't want Meyer to mess with that.
  • Neverwas by Kelly Moore
    • I had no idea what to expect from The Amber House, and it turned out to be so good.  Please let this book be as spooky and surprising and awesome!
  • Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman
    • Anything with dragons, and I'm hooked.  Looking forward to this sequel, which will hopefully have way more dragons in the story.  (Technically they pushed the publishing date to 2015, but maybe they'll come to their senses and go back to the original 2014 date).
  • Erased by Jennifer Rush
    • Another sequel that I can't wait to read.  I need to know what's going to happen to Sam, Cass, Nick, and Anna.
And that's my list.  What do you think?  What are you looking forward to reading in 2014?

Monday, November 4, 2013

On Official Hiatus

So it's been a while since I last updated, and it's going to be a while before I update again.  This past month of non-blogging started out as a reading slump.  Then my life got crazy busy with my business classes and events and whatnot that's been happening.  Which explains last month.

This month my non-blogging/non-reading can be explained with one "word" -


That's right.  I'm actually going to attempt it for real this year.  This November I'm going to be sitting down and finally getting my ideas and imagination written on paper.  Yes, I will be handwriting my novel since my laptop's still broken.  And yes, I'm already a few days behind.  But I'm going to give it my best this year and not let myself get distracted with other things.  Which includes reading and blogging.

So technically I've already been on hiatus, but now it's actually legitimate and official.

See you all in December!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Guest Post: Sean F - Fiction Predictions

This guest post is by Sean F (aspiring writer, sporadic blogger, and Ashling's younger brother).

Fiction Predictions

In the interest of maintaining the momentum which my sister has achieved with this blog, she has asked me to provide a guest post.  Therefore, I have endeavoured to dig my writing cap out of mothballs and have a go at putting pen to paper again.  It was at this point that I realised that I had neither pen nor paper (which is irrelevant, really, as I have a laptop) but, more importantly, I hadn’t the faintest idea what to write about. You see, not only was my writing cap getting dusty, but my reading cap was as well.  With few exceptions, I have not picked up a book with the intent to read it in some months now, and as this is a reading/writing blog, this seems to me to be a bit of a detriment.

However, let it not be said that I’m not willing to take suggestions and so, thanks to the help of a friend, I have a list.  You see, the thing I have noticed about this and other reading/writing blogs is that the focus tends to be on the past - that is, books that are already written.  Therefore, what follows is a list of books that should exist and hopefully someday will (if they do not already).  It’s only three books long but then, nobody said it has to be long to be a list.

#1. Captain Hook’s Story

The worlds of parallel and revisionist fiction have seen some successful ventures of late, from the smash hit Wicked to Terry Pratchett’s Dodger, which raises the question of why hasn’t anyone done anything with Captain Hook yet?  The charismatic corsair extraordinaire plays the perfect foil to Peter Pan, a colourful villain for a children’s tale… and yet, he is decidedly one-dimensional, though I suppose most villains in children’s stories are.  There is certainly room to expand upon J.M. Barrie’s character and, dare I say it, even room to cast Peter Pan in a darker light, drawing upon his similarities (and, some argue, his predecessor) the Green Man, a creature akin to Fairies, from back when fairies were believed to steal children.

Certainly would put the Lost Boys in a different light, wouldn’t it?

#2. Dummies for Dummies

As I do not know the geographical makeup of the people who will be reading this, there is a book series available on this side of the pond called “__________ For Dummies”.  I hope that was self-explanatory, and also that my research indicating that these books are not available outside of the United States was factual.  Otherwise, this entire paragraph was pointless and somewhat embarrassing to claim as my own.

Anyway, rather than a guide to some subject with which you are having difficulty, what I propose instead is a story about a fictional family – one that is shallow, vapid, inept, grotesquely overconfident concerning their own value, and sadly rich enough to make it seem that they actually are important.  In a sense, it would be a book that illuminates what is best about our culture by condensing all of what’s worst about it into one, easy to read book.  Essentially, a modern Great Gatsby

…Or an episode of that program with the Kardashian’s, only you can assign it for English class.

Further, there aren’t any commercials.

#3. Your Book

Having gone with the light-hearted and somewhat cynical options already, I decided to finish this off with something sincere.

It would only be a slight exaggeration to say that everyone I know who is an avid reader also aspires to write something.  I myself have several novels that I pick up every now and then, work on feverishly, and then put them away for a few months. Someday, I might get one or two of them published, maybe not.  Maybe yours will get printed instead.

But then, the ultimate goal of writing isn’t – or, I should say, shouldn’t be – to get it published.  Granted, that would be an excellent outcome, but if artists only painted pictures they knew they would sell, Van Gogh would’ve only finished one painting.  The goal of writing is to tell a story so that we can share that story with others… and the only stories that get told are the ones that get written.  So I encourage you to work on writing your story.  It could be anything – it could be about a peach growing up on a farm.  Actually, don’t write about that, I borrowed that example from Elf, and a cease and desist letter from Will Ferrell’s attorneys would be a bit of a bother…

…but if you do finish something, I jolly well want to read it.

Unless it’s some sort of romance novel, then you can send it to my sister.

This is her blog, after all.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Guest Post: Siobhan F on LOTR

This guest post is by Siobhan F (Ashling's youngest sister).

The Ten Symptoms of LOTR-Ob (Lord of the Rings Obsession)

  • You find yourself leaning into a speaker to get the full experience of your favorite LOTR song.
  • The top of your Christmas list is all LOTR-related.
  • You find yourself at a loss on what to read next after that last chapter.
  • You can't think of one possible reason why someone wouldn't absolutely love LOTR.
  • You wonder what people are talking about when they say that it's 'too long.'
  • You can think of no better way to spend the day than reading, watching, or talking about LOTR (or even all three).
  • You contemplate on whether you would like to live in 'Bag End' or 'Crick Hollow.'
  • You find yourself quoting LOTR at least once a day.
  • You have at least 3 copies of each movie and book in your house.
  • You go to sleep thinking about how awesome LOTR is.

If you agreed with:

1-3 items: Your LOTR-Ob is hardly even on the scale.  You're a minor LOTR fan.  (What on earth is wrong with you?!)

4-6 items: Iffy.  Your LOTR-Ob is there, but it's kind of low.

7-8 items: Better.  Your LOTR-Ob is close to extreme, but not up there...yet.

9-10 items:  You have Extreme LOTR-Ob!  (Not that that's a bad thing...)

P.S:  Most of these symptoms were discovered by my own self-diagnosis.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Down in the Slumps

So in case you haven't noticed, there hasn't been much activity here on the blog, and that's because...

I'm in a slump.

Lately, I just haven't felt motivated to read anything.  And blogging feels like a chore, like I'm obligated to do it.  I'm sure there are reasons, good ones, for why I feel so blah about all this.  Some of the ones I can think of are:

  • Too many books - I never thought I'd ever say this.  It evens feels kind of blasphemous to write it here, but in this case, it's true.  I have so many books from BEA, and books I've gotten since then, literally stacked on my floor because there's no room for them, and it's overwhelming.  I feel like there's no way I can ever get through them, and it makes me not even want to try.
  • Disappointing books - Reading a disappointing book is always a guaranteed way to put me off reading for a while.  Unfortunately, the past couple of books I've started (but not finished) have all been kind of on the blah side.  And not finishing any books means not having anything to review.
  • Lack of content - On the blogging side, I don't currently have anything to review so I haven't been posting anything.  And I don't want to post only memes.  So I end up feeling obligated to come up with something creative to fill posts, which makes this feel like a chore.  And honestly, who likes chores?
  • Laziness - I'm being completely honest here, so I'll admit that part of this is simple laziness.  These past few weeks have been crazy at work, and then it was my sister's birthday, and then it was my birthday, so I didn't feel like doing anything.  I decided to relax and be a couch potato, and getting back into the swing of things (including exercising & eating healthy, not just reading) is hard.  So yeah, part of this whole slump is my own fault.
  • Stress - Starting next week, I'll be back in college.  I'm going back to school for a small business certificate program.  And even though I'm one of those crazy people who LOVES being in class and learning things, I'm also really nervous.  I'm nervous about the classes themselves, but I'm also nervous because the whole reason I'm going for this certificate is because I want to start my own business.  And that's not just nerve-wracking - it's also really scary!
So yeah, these are my excuses... I mean, perfectly good reasons for why I'm in this slump.  Hopefully it doesn't last too long, but until then, I'm going to try to put together a few guest posts for now, to keep my poor blog from suffering.  And while I'm getting those lined up, I'm hoping that some tried-and-true solutions that have worked in the past will help pull me out of my slump.  I'm going to be re-reading some old favorites, putting together a schedule (I crave structure!), and working on creating a unique feature for my blog.  Cross your fingers that one or all of those work.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday (40) - My Fall TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week, it's all about what you're planning to read this Fall.

I love autumn.  It's my favorite season of the year, and even though it technically doesn't start till the 22nd, I'm pretty much saying it's already here.  The weather's starting to get chilly, the leaves are changing color, and Dunkin Donuts is selling it's pumpkin and apple products.  The only downside of Fall is that it also means it's time for the seasonal TBR list post for Top Ten Tuesday.  I have a love-hate relationship with these TTTs.  I love them because I discover lots of new, interesting books while reading everyone's blogs.  And I hate them because my TBR list is already crazy and overwhelming, and these posts just add on to it.  The simplest solution would be to not read anyone else's blog, but I'm a glutton for punishment apparently, because there's no way I'm not finding new books to read someday.

My Top Ten Books to Read This Fall

And those are the top books I'm looking forward to reading this Fall.  Are you excited for any of these too?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Upcoming Books-to-Screen Adaptations

This past Top Ten Tuesday was all about what books we'd like to see made into movies or TV shows, and it got me thinking about all of the screen adaptations that are already in progress or just released.  The big craze right now seems to be making YA books into movies, and while in some ways I love this, in other ways I'm dreading it.  There's no denying that Hollywood doesn't always get it right when it comes to adapting books.  Things get left or cut out, storylines are completely changed, or terrible actors are hired to play our favorite characters.  But sometimes they do actually get it right, which is why I'm always on pins and needles when I hear about the next book-to-screen adaptation.

This year and next are going to see a lot of adaptations, both in the movies and on TV.  And I thought I'd share some of them, and let you know which ones I'm psyched about and which ones have me biting my nails with nervousness.

The I-Cannot-Wait-to-See-These Movies

  • Ender's Game
    • Based on Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
    • Release Date:  November 1st (USA)
  • The Book Thief
    • Based on The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
    • Release Date:  November 15th (USA)
  • The Maze Runner
    • Based on The Maze Runner by James Dashner
    • Release Date:  2014
  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
    • Based on Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
    • Release Date:  November 22nd (USA)

The I'm-Really-Not-Sure-About-These Movies

  • Austenland
    • Based on Austenland by Shannon Hale
    • Release Date:  August 30th, 2013
    • Why I'm nervous:  Because I watched the trailer, and I'm just not sure if the movie's really going to stay true to the book.  I love Keri Russell and JJ Feild, and I know Shannon Hale was one of the screenwriters, but I'm still really nervous that it's going to be over-the-top cheesy.
  • Divergent
    • Based on Divergent by Veronica Roth
    • Release Date:  March 20, 2014 (?)
    • Why I'm nervous:  One reason I'm nervous is because I'm scared of what parts of the story will be cut or changed for time's sake.  And the other reason is that I don't love the casting for the movie.  Everyone's in love with Theo James, but even though I think he's great-looking, I just think he looks too old to play Four.  And I don't think Shailene Woodley's that good of an actress, at all.
  • The Fault in Our Stars
    • Based on The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
    • Release Date:  2014
    • Why I'm nervous:  Because I LOVE this book and I will be SO upset if they screw it up.  And once again, I'm not a fan of Shailene Woodley, but I did hear from a friend that John Green felt the same way.  Then he saw her audition and changed his mind, so maybe I'll be surprised.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday (39) - Books that I Wish Could Watch

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week, the topic is about books we wish they'd make into movies or TV shows, but only if we lived in an ideal world where they didn't cut stuff out or change the plotlines.  I really do enjoy movie/TV adaptations of books... when they get them right (BBC is one of the best at this).  So these are my picks for books I'd love to watch, just so long as they don't screw it up.

Top Ten Twelve Books I'd Love to See on the Screen

The Movies

The TV Series

And those are my picks - if we lived in a perfect world.  Anything you agree with?  Anything you want to add?  Any adaptations that are coming out that you're excited about?  Let me know!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Update & Reading List- September 9th

So I kind of disappeared from the blogosphere for about a week, but this picture sums up what each day at work was like this past week:

And this is what it was like each night when I got home and tried to read:

I pretty much accomplished zero reading this past week.  I did get the house cleaned and my sister off to college, but when it was all done, I had neither the energy nor the enthusiasm to read or update my blog.  However, I'm hoping that this week I will get back on track with updates and reviews (which means actually reading something so I can do reviews).  My reading list for this week is currently:

  • Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
    • There are three reasons I'm going to read this book.  First, my sister's reading the book for college, so I thought I'd read it too, and we could discuss it.  Second, it's C.S. Lewis, and I love him.  But I've read very little of his books beyond Narnia and the Space trilogy.  Third, it's a mythology retelling, and I am ALWAYS excited for that genre.  Cannot wait!
  • The Lost Kingdom by Matthew J. Kirby
    • I've been meaning to read this for a while.  It's the book I kept trying to read this past week but kept falling asleep.  Not because of the book though; just because I was burned out from work.
  • Paris, My Sweet by Amy Thomas
    • I'm actually about halfway done with this book.  I started it last month, got distracted by other books, and never finished it.
  • When In Doubt, Add Butter by Beth Harbison
    • I don't usually love chick-lit, but this one is focused on food and cooking, which I love.  So I'm giving this book a chance, and I'm hoping it turns out great.
  • A Re-read.  
    • Not sure which book I will be re-reading yet, but I always find that when coming out of a reading slump or when just needing to find an energy boost, re-reading an old favorite is the perfect solution.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday (38) - Books That Should Be Taught in Schools

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is about books that we think should be taught in schools, or contemporary books we'd pair with classics for required reading.  I personally don't love this topic since I dislike the idea of "required" reading.  I think it ruins the enjoyment of a book when you're being forced to read it in order to do homework on it.  But I also understand that for some kids, especially in today's screen-obsessed society, the books they read for school may be the only books they ever read (if they actually read them and don't use sites like Sparknotes to cheat).  The way I set up my list was by choosing books (contemporary or classic) I think would be good to teach in school, and including books (contemporary or classic) that they would pair with well.

Top Ten Books that Should Be Taught in Schools (with Possible Pairings)
So those are my picks.  Sorry if I got a little serious with this list, but I think the topic is a more serious one anyway.  Do you agree with any of these?  What would you add?  What other books would you pair with together?

Friday, August 30, 2013

Upcoming September Releases

Lots of September books this year, and my birthday is right in the middle... so books for me!  The ones I'm wishing for the most are:

  • The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White
    • I'm so excited for this book because it's about Egyptian mythology.  I love mythology retellings in general, but I tend to only read ones centered on Greek myths.  This sounds like a great book and a nice change.
  • The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas
    • Fantasy is my favorite genre, especially if there's an element of magic to it.  This new series looks like a perfect match for me.
  • The 100 by Kass Morgan
    • A nice mix of sci-fi and dystopian, and it's being made into a TV show.  I'm hoping to read it before the show comes out, and fortunately it's not starting til mid-season so I have plenty of time.
  • Antigoddess by Kendare Blake
    • Like I said earlier, I love mythology retellings.  Despite reading so much Greek-based retellings, I never get tired of it.
  • Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis
    • I'm a sucker for dystopian novels, even though they can drain you.  This one's very survival-oriented, set in a world where water is a rare and precious commodity, and people will kill over a small pond.
  • Starry Nights by Daisy Whitney
    • This just sounds like a cute, magical book.  It's about paintings coming to life, and a guy who falls in love with a girl trapped in a painting.
  • The Falconer by Elizabeth May
    • I don't read a lot of steampunk, even though I've enjoyed the little I have read.  This new series looks like it will be exciting and fun to read.
  • Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
    • First, it's Brandon Sanderson.  Second, it's super heroes.  That's enough for me.
  • All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill
    • I actually already own the ARC of this book (thanks BEA!), and I've only been hearing good things about it from my fellow bloggers.  I'm really hoping I like it as much as they do.
  • The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
    • This is another book I already picked up at BEA, and I wasn't even going to read it originally.  The first book in the series, Raven Boys, wasn't impressing me, but then I read that last line, and I knew I HAD to read The Dream Thieves.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday (37) - Most Memorable Secondary Characters

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is about memorable secondary characters.  There are so many amazing secondary characters out there.  I can't believe I can only choose TEN.  But I did, and here they are.

Top Ten Most Memorable Secondary Characters

  • Neville Longbottom and Severus Snape from The Harry Potter series
    • There are so, SO many good secondary characters from this series, but these two stand out to me as the best.  Neville is amazing because he starts out incredibly timid and self-conscious, and then he blossoms into a hero.  Severus also turns out to be an incredibly deep, complex character who surprises everyone in the end.
  • Hassan from An Abundance of Katherines
    • I would read an entire book just about Hassan.  He's funny and irreverent; he has no problem smacking some sense into his best friend; and he's way less whiny than all the other characters in the book.
  • Captain Thorne from Scarlet
    • I love the addition of Captain Thorne to the Lunar Chronicles.  He added just the right amount of humor to the series, and I can't wait to read more about him.
  • Haymitch from The Hunger Games trilogy
    • Of all the people in the series, I think Haymitch is the most real.  He's not a hero; he doesn't show fake sympathy; he doesn't say meaningless fluff to cheer up Katniss or Peeta; and he's actually really smart when he's not drunk.
  • Squijum from The Unicorn Chronicles
    • I love Squijum purely for his ridiculous cuteness.  He's pretty much only in the series to provide both a comic relief and an annoying sidekick, but he's the one you remember.  If I could have a pet Squijum, I would.
  • Nico di Angelo from the Percy Jackson series
    • Nico is another character who gained a lot of depth and character throughout a series.  He changed from a whiny little kid to an interesting nemesis to a powerful ally.  I'm especially interested to see what kind of a role he plays in the next book, The House of Hades.
  • Calcifer from Howl's Moving Castle
    • I'm definitely cheating here and picking this character based on both the book and movie version.  His sarcasm is honestly what I love the most about him, and in the movie, he's voiced by Billy Crystal, who does a perfect job bringing Calcifer to life.
  • Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride
    • Once again, I'm basing this choice on both the book & the movie.  Inigo Montoya is such a great character; I think I like him the most of all.  His dedication to avenging his father, as well as his friendship with Fezzick, gives him great depth.  And who doesn't love quoting him? "My name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my father.  Prepare to die."
  • Faramir from The Lord of the Rings
    • Like Harry Potter, this series has tons of amazing secondary characters, but as I'm not including anyone in the fellowship as secondary, I have to pick Faramir as my favorite.  Besides having great emotional depth, he also has an interesting backstory that shapes who he is and the decisions he makes throughout the books.
And there you have it.  Sorry I was lazy and didn't provide any links to Goodreads.  I will next time; I promise.  But I was in a rush to get this done, since I've fallen behind on my blogging (stupid wisdom teeth).  What do you think?  Anyone here you agree or disagree with?  Anyone you'd like to add?  Who are some of your favorite secondary characters?

Book Blogger Hop - August 23rd to 29th

Book Blogger Hop is a weekly meme hosted at Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer.  There's a new prompt each week to encourage bloggers to meet new bloggers, learn about new books, and gain followers for their own blogs.

This week's prompt:  Book blogging is more than just reading.  Who helped you set up or run your blog?  Or did you do it all yourself?

I've done everything with my blog by myself.  Before starting this blog, I'd had a little experience with online journaling, thanks to my silly high school Livejournal account.  And I had a little background in html because my friends and I used to have our own Lord of the Rings fansites on angelfire back in 2001-2002 (and they still exist apparently; feel free to visit mine and see what a fangirl I was).

But even if I hadn't used Livejournal or known html, I still would have been fine setting up my blog because Blogger's formatting is so easy.  Maybe if I'd started on Wordpress or hosted my own blog, I would have asked for help.  But since Blogger is so easy to use, I've done everything on my own.

Personal Update - August 27th

A few days ago, I said that I was expecting to have my wisdom teeth removed within the next few weeks.  But things never turn out the way you plan.  When I explained to the oral surgeon that my family was leaving over the weekend for a two-week vacation so I wasn't sure when I'd be able to make the appointment for the actual surgery, he decided that the best thing to do was perform the surgery that afternoon.  Which meant I had to figure out who was coming to pick me up because my family was in NYC that day, and who was going to pick up my brother since we commute together.  It all worked out in the end, and all four of my wisdom teeth were removed that afternoon.

What this meant was that Friday afternoon, Saturday, and part of Sunday were spent dozing through TV shows and movies. And because I spent so much time passed out, I'm really behind on both my reading and blogging.  I will eventually get caught up again, but it'll probably mean that I'll either be posting like a fiend over the next few days, or I'm just going to post things late (like my Top Ten Tuesday might not get posted til Thursday).

So that's the latest with me.  I'm finally past all the pain and puffiness, and am now playing catch-up.  Things I hope to accomplish now:

  • Book Blogger Hop from August 23rd
  • This week's Top Ten Tuesday
  • Finish and review The Lost Kingdom by Matthew Kirby
  • Update my TBR list and blog page.
  • Promote my first-ever giveaway, ending this Friday.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Blog Tour - Stonefly by Scott J. Holliday

I'm so excited because I have the tour for Stonefly by Scott J. Holliday today.  I'm psyched to be participating in my first ever blog tour, sharing my review of this great book and hosting a giveaway!

Title:  Stonefly
Author:  Scott J. Holliday
Genre:  Fantasy/Thriller
Series:  Jacob Duke #1
Publisher:  Haley Road Publishing
Pages:  327
Acquired via:  Blog tour!


Synopsis from goodreads.com:  Jacob Duke has come back to Braketon­—a sleepy, backwoods town bordering Dover, the mental institution where he spent his formative years. Jacob's intention is to enjoy Braketon's woods and water for the first time as a free man, but he soon discovers that Dover isn't through with him yet. Driven by a curse that compels him to grant any wish he hears, Jacob is drawn back into his disturbing former life by a young boy's desire to see his own father dead.

Complicating things are Lori Nelson, Jacob's friend-with-benefits who continues to put new boyfriends in his path, and Motown, Jacob's friend from his years at Dover, who carries a secret that rocks Jacob's foundation and makes him question his own morality

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Stonefly is an exciting, tense read that kept me on the edge of my seat.  Its characters and setting were great, but it was the concept that really intrigued me.  I love books like this one, with a unique idea, lots of suspense, and a sarcastic narrator.

What I Loved
  • The whole concept
    • The idea of having no choice but to grant any wish a person makes, even if it seems wrong or impossible to do?  That's so crazy.  I don't know how I'd be able to handle that.  I think this whole idea was brilliant.  It leads to lots of questions about morality and responsibility and consequences.
    • I expected this story to be really dark and possibly creepy based on the concept and a few reviews I'd read, but it ended up being lighter than I expected.  That's not to say it wasn't dark; it definitely was.  But it balanced the dark edge with the perfect amount of sarcasm and lighter moments.
  • The male protagonist
    • The majority of the books I've read recently all feature a female lead.  And the few books I've read with a male lead are YA, so the guy's in his teens.  It was a refreshing change to read something from a grown man's point-of-view.
    • One of the most interesting aspects of Jacob is that he's deaf.  I've never read a book before where the main character was deaf, and it was cool to see how someone who can't hear copes and how it can handicap him.  It also definitely added to the overall suspense.  Since Jacob can't hear, you can't "hear" what's coming either.
  • The suspense
    • Stonefly is incredibly suspenseful.  I couldn't put the book down.  There's so much tension; I was actually concerned that the final climax wouldn't live up to all of the build-up, but it was exciting and satisfying.
    • The book was really creative at building up the story and filling in the blanks in the form of "flashbacks."  Jacob's life gets filled in a little at a time, which not only gives him great character development, but also made me want to keep reading.  Each new piece of information about Jacob was a like a clue to who he was and how he might handle the craziness in his life.
  • The setting
    • The book takes place in a little town, but a majority of the flashbacks are set in the mental institution that Jacob spends most of his teen years in.  The setting of the institution was just another interesting facet of the story.  It gave insight into what it was like to live for years in a place like that, surrounded by people who are suffering from various forms of mental illness.
I will add that the only reason this book didn't get 5 cupcakes is because of the profanity and sexual references.  The profanity isn't excessive or extreme; there was just too much for my taste.  And I felt that some of the sexual references were unnecessary.

I'm really looking forward to the next book in the series.  Finding out more about Jacob and his curse and where he goes next; I'm hoping that even more mysteries will be answered and if the curse changes Jacob, his life, and his ideas of morality.

The Giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Personal Update - August 22nd

I discovered this week that wisdom teeth are evil... yes, evil.  Apparently, one of my wisdom teeth is infected, which explains the hellish pain I've been experiencing for the past two days.  And of course, there's a whole process involved in getting rid of them.  I need to visit an oral surgeon for a consultation, and then my insurance has to approve the "extraction", and once it's approved, then I can set up an appointment for it to actually happen.

What does this mean for my blog?  Fortunately my dentist did give me antibiotics and prescription-strength Ibuprofen, so for right now, everything is okay on the blogging front.  But when I do finally get these stupid teeth removed, I might take a vacation from... well, anything requiring more than couch potato brain power.  Because I've been told that it's pretty painful, and I don't think I'll really be all that concerned with blogging if my face is swollen and my jaw's in pain.

All of this is to say -  Don't be surprised if in a week or two (or three, depending on how busy my oral surgeon is), my poor blog suddenly seems neglected.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday (36) - Things that Make Blogging/Reading Easier

(Such a crazy, stressful day at work so far.  Time to take a break and finally write this meme.)  Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is things that make your life as a reader/blogger easier.

Top Ten Things That Make My Life as a Reader & Blogger Easier

  1. My sister & my coworker  -  Whenever I'm struggling with a review or trying to figure out how I feel about a book, I will talk it out with my sister or my coworker or both.  Usually, neither one of them has read the book, but they're always willing to listen and give advice, or just let me talk at them until I figure out what I want to say in my review.
  2. My parents  -  I am extremely fortunate to have parents that are not only very supportive, but also forgiving.  My room is a mess of books.  They're stuffed wherever they'll fit, piled on every flat surface available, and stacked in towers on the floor.  Even though they are forever "threatening" to kick me out if I bring home any more books, my parents still haven't yet (and I keep bringing home more and more books).  Even crazier - it was my mom who told me that I should have brought a suitcase to BEA in order to get more books.
  3. Other book bloggers  -  My fellow book bloggers are awesome, because they're a super-supportive community, and reading their reviews helps me make up my mind about whether to add a book to my TBR pile.  If a lot of bloggers dislike a book, they've just saved me from wasting my time on it.
  4. Goodreads  -  I love being able to keep track of the books I've read (including pre-blogger reads) in one place, as well as all the books I own.  I also almost never pick up a book now without reading about it on Goodreads first.  And I use it to get all my cover images and book blurbs for my reviews.
  5. Fotor  -  Before I discovered Fotor, I was making collages and banners using my computer's Paint application.  It was extremely time-consuming, and the images never looked as nice as I wanted them to.  Fotor is my go-to place now for making fun collages for TTTs and other posts.
  6. Amazon  -  I wish I could put my library on this list, but it's terrible.  And our interlibrary loan system is okay, but there are certain rules that are annoying.  So what usually happens is - I buy all my books.  And Amazon has almost every book out there, and the prices are amazing.  I used to be all about Barnes & Noble, but Amazon has better prices, I don't have to drive 30-40 minutes to the nearest store, and thanks to Amazon Prime, I get my books within a day or two of ordering them.
  7. Twitter  -  I resisted Twitter for a long time.  I couldn't see what all the fuss was about.  Now that I'm using it, I get why people love it.  And it's one of the best ways I've found to promote my blog.  (And to go along with this, tinyurl has been a great tool as well, helping me keep my tweets at 140 characters.)
  8. Excel spreadsheets  -  I would like to thank all of the bloggers I talked to at BEA who said they kept spreadsheets of their TBR lists.  I originally thought that was kind of extreme, but it's been really helpful in keeping me organized.
  9. Bloglovin'  -  I never had Google Reader, and I only recently discovered Bloglovin'.  Which meant that I followed blogs either through email (my inbox was constantly flooded, especially on Tuesdays) or by bookmarking the website and visiting it about once a day to see if there was a new post.  Then people started talking about Google Reader discontinuing and what alternatives to use, and Bloglovin' came up, so I figured I'd check it out.  I'm obsessed with it now.  Not only can I keep track of all the blogs I'm following on one page, but it's also the best way for finding brand new blogs to follow. 
  10. Blogger  -  And of course, I wouldn't be able to do any of this blogging at all if it wasn't for the Blogger platform.  Since my html/CSS code knowledge is minimal or mostly forgotten, when I started, I wasn't brave enough to try Wordpress or to host my own blog.  Blogger is super-easy to use, and the longer I've used it, the more I've been able to do with it.
And those are some of the things that help make my reading & blogging life easier.  How about you?  What makes your life as a reader and/or blogger easier?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Random Thoughts - Reading Nooks

I've always wanted a reading nook.  Someplace that was specifically set up for reading (like the above pic), or that was my own personal corner to read in.  As of right now, living in my parents' house, I'm pretty limited to where I can read.  The place I read the most often is my bed.  I don't own a chair to curl up in, and we don't have window seats.  The couches in the family room are comfortable, but not private.  So really the only option is my bed.

When I (finally) get my own place, I'd like to imagine that it will have a pretty amazing window seat.  I think window seats are amongst the best places to read.  Besides being comfortable, with all those pillows (because of course my ideal window seat would have a ton of pillows), it will also have great natural light, a secluded feel, and (hopefully) a good view to distract you when a book gets to be too heady or emotional.

But realistically, I realize that the first place I move to will most likely be a rental, and, more importantly, cheap.  So there probably won't be a window seat and no option to put one in.  I'm just going to have to wait until I buy my first home/apartment, and then I will have my window seat.

Until then, I've decided to go with the next best thing.  I want a quiet little corner of my own to put in a comfy armchair and a lamp.  Preferably with a side table for my mug of tea (or coffee, depending on the time of day) and a snack.  Round it all out with a soft throw and a squishy pillow, and it's practically perfection.

Now do I currently have room for something like this in my room?  Absolutely not.  It would require a lot of furniture being moved around, or possibly getting thrown out.  But as soon as I'm fortunate enough (a.k.a. financially capable) to have my own place, creating a reading nook will be my top priority.

How about you?  Do you have someplace special where you do most of your reading - a window seat or specific chair?  Or do you read in bed, as I currently do?  Or do you just read wherever it's most convenient at the time?  I'd love to know.