Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday (33) - Best Opening Sentences

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is the top ten best book openings/closings.  Since I wouldn't want to give anything away by including closing sentences, I decided to do opening sentences only.  There are just so many amazing first sentences out there, I had a really hard time getting it down to ten, but I managed to do it anyway.

Top Ten Opening Sentences
  1. "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."  - Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
  2. "I write this sitting in the kitchen sink."  - I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
  3. "There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it."  - Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
  4. "Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say they were perfectly normal, thank you very much."  - Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
  5. "It was a pleasure to burn."  - Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  6. "It's a funny about mothers and fathers.  Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful."  - Matilda by Roald Dahl
  7. "My mother thinks I'm dead."  - Legend by Marie Lu
  8. "I was sixteen the first time my grandmother died."  - Amber House by Kelly Moore, Larkin Reed & Tucker Reed
  9. "It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die."  - The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
  10. "I've been collecting bugs since I was ten; it's the only way to 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."  - Splintered by A.G. Howard
So what do you think?  Any you agree or disagree with?  What are some of your favorite opening sentences?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Upcoming Releases - August 2013

So I really wanted to post this earlier today, but then it turned into one of those days.  Why do we even have Mondays anyway?

Upcoming August Releases

There are so many awesome books coming out in August.  I cannot wait to read them.  Here are some of the ones I'm most excited about.

  • The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson
    • Hector!
    • This is the final book of the Fire and Thorns trilogy, and I am practically biting my nails to find out what happens next!
  • Doon by Carey Corp & Lorie Langdon
    • A book based on a musical?  Set in Scotland?  With an awesome cover?  Yes, please!
  • The Fall of Five by Pittacus Lore
    • I love this series (although I still need to read the previous book), and I'm hoping that this installment in the Lorien Legacies is as exciting as the first two.
  • Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
    • Honestly, I have yet to read Throne of Glass, but I did get it at BEA, and I do intend to read it soon.  There is just so much buzz around this book, and bloggers (whose opinions I trust) seem to love it.
  • The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud
    • This middle-grade ghost/detective story just sounds like so much fun.
  • The Lost Kingdom by Matthew J. Kirby
    • I do not read enough steampunk, and this book seems like the perfect answer.  I got the ARC at BEA so I'm really looking forward to it.
  • The Returned by Jason Mott
    • I want to read this because it has an interesting concept, and they're making it into a TV series.
  • Longing For Home by Sarah M. Eden
    • I don't know much about this book, but I do know that I enjoyed the last book I read by Eden.  So if this one is as good as that one, then I won't be disappointed.
  • The Nazi Hunters by Neal Bascomb
    • I'm one of those "strange" people who enjoys reading non-fiction (I used to read textbooks for fun), and I especially love reading about WWII.  This book is actually narrative non-fiction, so it's written like a novel.
  • The Apollo Academy by Kimberly P. Chase
    • I actually stumbled upon this book while looking for a different one, and I thought it sounded really cool.  It's also the first "new adult" book I've seen that interests me.
Are you looking forward to any of these?  Are there any other books coming out soon that you'd recommend?  And if you've already read one or more of these, I'd love to hear what you thought about them.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Book Blogger Hop - July 26th

So this is my first time participating in the Book Blogger Hop.  It's a weekly meme hosted at Rambling of a Coffee Addicted Writer.  There's a new prompt each week to encourage bloggers to follow other blogs, meet other bloggers, learn about new books, and gain some followers.

This week's prompt:  How do you organize your books to be read?

Pre-BEA:  Before I attended Book Expo America, it was really easy to organize my TBR books.  The only books in my actual TBR pile were ones I bought as they came out or borrowed from the library.  I didn't have an organized system.  It was just seeing a book online/in the library and going "That looks cool!" and then reading it.  I didn't have any ARCs for review, so I never cared about when I finally got around to reading a book.  Which is probably why I have so many books sitting on my shelf that I just had to buy, but still haven't read yet.

Post-BEA:  After attending BEA, a lot has changed.  Now I have so many books to read, including ARCs, and it's overwhelming.  So I started making an Excel spreadsheet of my whole TBR pile, both new books and old.

I want to read and review the ARCs I received as close to the release date as possible, so I've got them organized by date in the spreadsheet and physically in stacks on the floor.  (Yes, piles on my floor because there is no longer room in the bookshelves, desk, and wardrobe, or under the bed.)

For the books that aren't ARCs, my method is based on genre.  I don't want to read the same genre over and over again, or I get burned out.  I went through a reading slump because I read way too many dystopian novels in a row, and ended up pulling out of it by reading some Georgette Heyer regency romances.  Now, I've got my books separated by genre, so when I finish a fantasy book, I can then grab a mystery novel, for example.

And of course, I have a constantly growing list of all the books (well, most of them anyway) I want to read on my blog and on Goodreads to help me remember everything and stay on track.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Ups & Downs of Recommendations: Part 2

So I started talking about how scary it is to recommend books back in May (read it here), and now I want to talk about taking recommendations.

Taking recommendations from others is never as nerve-wracking as giving them, which is why I'm always open to hearing about new books to check out.  I've been pretty lucky so far.  Almost every book that's been recommended to me (that I've read) has been a great read.  Sometimes, the book has been so good that it's now one of my favorites.

Of course, I also have to take into consideration that one of the reasons why these recommendations have worked out is because of who's doing the recommending.  I've had books pushed at me from multiple directions, but the ones I actually follow up on are usually from people that I trust, people with similar taste, or people who know me.

I suppose if I were to read more of the random recommendations I've gotten, there'd be a greater chance of being disappointed with a book.  For example, if I just started reading all the books that goodreads.com says I'd like, I'd probably have a lot more negative reviews than I currently do now.  So while I'm always open to recommendations, I'm more likely to listen to the ones from people that know me, or at least know my preferences.  A great example of this would be two emails I received recently concerning review books.  One publicist took the time to look through my blog to see if the book she was sending would be a good fit for me (my review is coming soon, I swear), while a second publicist's book was completely outside the outside of my comfort zone.  Just knowing that you know my taste a little bit helps me decide whether I'll follow up on a recommendation.

Recommendations That I've Loved

  • John Green's novels - Paper Towns and The Fault in Our Stars
    • Recommended by:  My brother
    • Why I loved it:  I don't read a lot of contemporary YA in general, so I was a little skeptical of these books.  But they're so amazing.  TFIOS is beautifully written, heartbreaking, and quotable.  I love Augustus Waters.  And Paper Towns was different, unique.  It has great character development and a good story.
  • The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
    • Recommended by:  My brother
    • Why I loved it:  I love fantasy; it's my favorite genre.  I also love satire, sarcasm, and humor.  This series embodies both.  Pratchett wrote great fantasy adventures with wizards and dragons and assassins.  But they are filled with mocking references to pop culture.  This combination was the perfect fit for me.
  • Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
    • Recommended by:  My brother
    • Why I loved it:  I like science fiction as well as fantasy, and this book is a combo of both.  But I was nervous at first because it seemed like it could be a little too... gross.  I ended up loving the book.  Yes, it had some moments that I thought were a little icky, but it was never more than I could handle.  It's a really interesting story that I thought was original and exciting.  And there aren't a lot of "science-y" details to slow down the story.
  • The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
    • Recommended by:  My sister
    • Why I loved it:  I love Greek mythology.  Ever since elementary school, I've been studying and reading pretty much every book of mythology I could find.  This book (and the whole series) is amazing because it's a fun, modernized version of the Greek myths told from the POV of an 11-year-old with a great sense of humor.
  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
    • Recommended by:  My mom
    • Why I loved it:  Mysterious, creepy, and romantic, this book is the definition of modern Gothic.  And I love Gothic novels.  I was on the edge of my seat, practically biting my nails the whole time I was reading it.  I love novels with a lot of suspense and a great antagonist.  Rebecca definitely has both.
  • For One More Day by Mitch Albom
    • Recommended by:  My aunt
    • Why I loved it:  Besides being very well-written, this book was so beautiful and sad and emotional; I was a wreck after reading it.  But I loved it because it made me grateful that I have such a great relationship with my mom, and it also made me think.  If you hade one more day with a loved one you'd lost, how would spend it with them?  What would you talk about?  Definitely a tear-jerker, but so worth the tears.
  • A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
    • Recommended by:  One of my BFFs
    • Why I loved it:  My friend and I have pretty similar taste when it comes to books, so I can trust her when she gives me a recommendation.  This book is fantasy (favorite genre), it has a dragon (I LOVE dragons), and it has a great concept.  It's got a few sections about sailing that drag a little, but for the most part, it's an awesome story about power, temptation, and knowing yourself.
  • The Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones
    • Recommended by:  A good friend
    • Why I loved it:  This book is really a great parody of traditional fantasy ideas.  It pokes fun at what people expect to see in epic fantasy.  I was laughing so hard throughout the book.  Plus, there are griffins.  Really cool, kind of quirky griffins. 
  • The Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey
    • Recommended by:  Two of my friends' moms
    • Why I loved it:  In case you didn't get this already, I love, love, LOVE dragons!  I think they are the coolest fantasy creature ever, and would probably read almost any book containing them.  Besides the dragons, the books also have great characters, interesting stories, and amazing world-building.
  • The Host by Stephenie Meyer
    • Recommended by:  A coworker/friend
    • Why I loved it:  My coworker read this and told me it was WAY better than Twilight, so when I saw it on sale, I thought "Why not?"  And she was right; it is so much better than Twilight.  It's a great romance; it's well-written; there's no sparkly vampire; and the sci-fi aspect isn't overwhelming.
Now what about you?  Do you read everything that's recommended to you?  Or do you only trust certain people's recommendations?  What are some books you've loved that were recommended?  What are some books you would recommend to someone else?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday (32) - Favorite Non-Bookish Sites/Blogs

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is the top ten words and/or topics that will make you NOT want a book.  But I actually did something very similar yesterday for the 15-Day Book Blogger Challenge.  We had to write what our deal breakers were (read it here, if you'd like), and I listed all of the things that ruin a book or turn me away from a book.

So because I already covered this topic yesterday, I've decided to do a Top Ten from the past.  Today I'll be writing about my favorite blogs/sites that aren't book-related.

Top Five Non-Bookish Sites
  • Entertainment Weekly  -   I go here for all of my TV & movie news.  Yes, they have a section for books too, but I rarely get my book news from them.  I love going here for the recaps of TV episodes I've missed, or peeks at upcoming movies.
  • People  -  I admit that I like to read some of the celebrity gossip out there, and People's my favorite source.  I especially like their own top ten list; every Friday they print their top ten favorite celebrity quotes.  And they're almost always hilarious.
  • AllEars.Net  -  I LOVE Disney World!  I go there as often as possible, and this site is the best for updates, menus, photos.  They even have host several blogs, all about Disney, on their site too.
  • Weight Watchers  -  Besides being a great tool for tracking points, the site has hundreds of yummy recipes, tips for eating out, articles, and a supportive community.  One of my favorite features of the blog is the cheat sheet section.  You click on a cheat sheet, and it will bring you "into" a restaurant, where you can place what's on the menu onto a plate to see the points.
  • IMDB  -  This site is one I use a lot because it has all the trailers, info about actors, pictures.  It's the perfect place to go when you can't remember a specific actor's name, or where you've seen them before.  It also has quizzes and forums to try too.

Top Five Non-Bookish Blogs
  • Paper & Stitch  -  I love scrapbooking and creative ideas for DIY decor.  This blog covers party decorations, home goods, clothes, plate settings, flowers, holiday projects... you get the idea.  And all of them are so bright and pretty.
  • Young House Love  -  I've always wanted to design and decorate a home just the way I want to, and that's what the couple who created Young House Love are doing.  They share tips on remodeling, painting, and design, and they share the ups & downs of their own DIY home projects.
  • The Pioneer Woman Cooks  -  Ree Drummond's cooking show on the Food Network is one of the best (in my opinion).  She's funny and creative; she homeschools her kids, just like my mom homeschooled us; and she makes delicious food.  I can't wait to try some of her recipes, like her jalapeno quesadillas and cowboy quiche.
  • My Baking Addiction  -  My second favorite hobby after reading is baking.  I think it's so much fun to come up with new ideas for cupcakes or cookies, and even better to share them with people.  This blog has so many amazing recipes (Oreo cheesecake, tiramisu brownies, rosemary lemon shortbread), as well as great tips and how-to guides for baking.
  • The Disney Blog  -  As I said before, I LOVE Disney, so it makes sense that I would be following a Disney blog.  This is one of the best with multiple updates a day about all the latest news and updates from Disney.
And that's my Top Ten list of non-bookish sites and blogs.  Do you have any favorite sites or blogs, bookish or not?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Book Review: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

Title:  Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
Author:  Barbara Kingsolver
Genre:  Non-fiction/Food memoir
Publisher:  Harper Perennial
Pages:  400
Acquired via:  Borrowed from my sister


Synopsis from goodreads.com:  Author Barbara Kingsolver and her family abandoned the industrial-food pipeline to live a rural life—vowing that, for one year, they'd only buy food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it. Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is an enthralling narrative that will open your eyes in a hundred new ways to an old truth: You are what you eat.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I loved Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, but the only problem now is... I want to buy a farm.  Or at least start growing my own food.  The book really opened my eyes to how our food industry works, or more correctly, doesn't work, and how we can make even small changes in how we eat or shop for food that would positively affect our health and local economy.

Why I loved it
  • The story  -  Kingsolver and her family move back to her husband's family's farm and decide to live for one year eating only food they can grow themselves or buy locally.  They have to face challenges, like giving up certain foods, such as bananas or fresh fruit in winter, and having to butcher their own chickens and turkeys.  I don't think I could ever kill a chicken, so if I'd tried this experiment, I'd either become a vegetarian or I'd buy it from a local farmer.  But I did think it was amazing that this family was able to take on this challenge and succeed.  I found it uplifting and inspiring.
  • The tone  -  A book with nothing but dry facts about the food industry would probably have bored me to tears.  Kingsolver's book is a great read because she writes with such a great tone.  She delivers the facts but with sarcasm and humor.  And I love sarcasm, so it definitely worked for me.
  • The writing  -  The writing throughout the book is beautiful.  Descriptive as well as informative, I felt like I was reading a literary memoir while also learning something.
  • Co-authors  -  One of my favorite parts of the book was that Kingsolver's husband and daughter both contributed to the story.  Kingsolver's husband, Steven Hopp, is a college professor, and he writes small essays within each chapter.  Each one pertains to the topic Kingsolver is discussing, but his essays are more like the bare facts.  And Kingsolver's daughter, Camille, wrote a story at the end of almost every chapter.  She shared insight on how it felt to be a teenager/college student going through this huge food journey.  She also includes recipes and weekly meal plans for each month.
  • The facts  -  While I was very happy that the book wasn't just an encyclopedia of facts, I was also grateful for the inclusion of statistics and research.  It made the book and Kingsolver's stance credible.  It also helps with presenting this book or its ideas to others who might be skeptical.  Having a solid foundation in fact made the book very persuasive.
This book definitely made me think.  It also made me decide to make some changes in my lifestyle.  While I realistically won't be buying a farm, and I don't have the time/space to plant a garden, I am trying to cut out as much processed food as I can.  I also want to shop for my produce more locally, buy free-range meats and eggs, and avoid hormone-filled dairy.  Each step will not only be beneficial to my health, but it will also help support local farmers (another major focus of the book).  With all of its anecdotes, recipes, research, and humor, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is definitely an inspirational and eye-opening memoir that I would recommend to anyone.

15-Day Book Blogger Challenge - Days 14 & 15

I am both happy and sad to say that this is the last day of April's Book Blogger Challenge.  Happy because I feel so accomplished for finishing the 15 days, and sad because it's over.  For more info on the challenge, visit April's blog Good Books and Good Wine.  (I really wanted to get Day 14 posted yesterday, but for some reason, blogger was having issues and not letting me upload pictures.  Not sure if it was blogger or my computer that was the problem, but whichever one it was, it's why I'm posting the last two days of the challenge together.)

Day 14 -  Book Deal Breakers

When I hear the term "deal breaker" in reference to books, I think about all the things that I cannot stand in books, that ruin a book I'm reading, or that would keep me from ever reading a book at all.  Here are mine:

  • Graphic violence/gore  -  I can't do graphic violence; it just grosses me out too much.  It's one of the reasons why I avoid rated-R action movies, because I spend most of the time watching from behind my fingers and feeling sick to my stomach.
  • Erotica/graphic sex  -  Smut/romance novels/Fifty Shades of Grey - just not my thing.
  • Bad/Gross things happening to children  -  I just can't handle this stuff.  I used to watch Law & Order: SVU with my friends, and the shows started having more and more terrible things happening to kids, and we stopped watching.  I don't need to read or watch that kind of stuff and have it stuck in my head.
  • Rushed/Pointless endings  -  I can't stand books that have endings that feel rushed or thrown together at the last minute, like the author ran out of ideas and decided to just wrap it up.  It makes me wonder why I bothered reading the rest of the book if it's just going to have a blah ending.
  • Disrespect for people's beliefs  -  I'm a Christian, so reading books that mock my faith always makes me uncomfortable.  But I also dislike books that mock other beliefs, no matter what they are.  I understand if you don't agree with a certain set of beliefs, but there's a huge difference between disagreeing and disrespecting.
  • Grammatical errors/bad editing  -  Super pet peeve!  Since I was a writing major in college, people used to bring me their papers to edit, and I always noticed the grammatical errors first.  I mean, I don't expect people to be perfect (I know I'm not), but publishers pay copy-editors to catch these errors, and when there are a lot in a book, it makes me think they were just sloppy.
  • Vampires/werewolves/angels/zombies  -  I'm so sick of the vampire & werewolf fad.  The fallen angels stories just feel... wrong.  And zombies are just too icky.  Yep, I said "icky".
  • Horror  -  I like to sleep at night, so these books are just not for me.
  • Whiny main characters  -  Probably my number one problem with the few chick-lit books I've read (and disliked) is that there's always a woe-is-me, my-life/relationship/job-sucks character who I can't stand.  She annoys me so much that I just don't care if her issues ever get resolved.
  • Insta-love  -  Don't authors realize that insta-love makes a story both unbelievable and boring?  Where's the slow build and the tension that make a relationship so amazing?  It's funny how much I can't stand this in books, but don't mind it so much in movies.  After all, aren't most Disney princess movies centered around insta-love?
And those are my deal breakers.  What are some of yours?

Day 15 -  Blogging Mentors

So I don't have any blogging mentors in the traditional sense of the word "mentor."  But there are a couple of bloggers that I consider an inspiration.  I started following them last year, when I was coming out of a long blogging slump, and reading their blogs made me want to get more involved with my own and with the blogging community.
  • Meghan,  Recreational Reading  -  This blog is one of the first I ever started reading.  I love the features she's created, as well as her blog's format.  She also regularly updates her blog (which I wish I was better at), so I always know that they'll be something fun to read.
  • Jamie,  The Perpetual Page-Turner  -  Jamie's blog is so much fun to read.  Besides cool book reviews (I love the post-its at the end), she's also not afraid to share stuff about herself in fun, colorful posts.  My favorite is the post she did about how to recognize her at BEA, complete with pictures of all of her BEA faces.
How about you?  If you're a blogger, do you have a mentor?  Is there another blogger out there that inspires you?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

15-Day Book Blogger Challenge - Day 13

It's day 13 of April's Book Blogger Challenge, which means... only 2 days left!  I can't believe it's almost over, because I've been having so much fun with this challenge.  For more info, visit April's blog Good Books and Good Wine.

Day 13 - Underappreciated Books

Ok, so today's challenge is really difficult.  "Describe one underappreciated book EVERYONE should read."  Only one???  I can think of so many books that people should read that aren't getting a lot of attention.  But I'll be good and only tell you about one of them.

Why you should read I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

  • Goodreads description:  I Capture the Castle tells the story of seventeen-year-old Cassandra and her family, who live in not-so-genteel poverty in a ramshackle old English castle. Here she strives, over six turbulent months, to hone her writing skills. She fills three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries. Her journals candidly chronicle the great changes that take place within the castle's walls, and her own first descent into love. By the time she pens her final entry, she has "captured the castle"--and the heart of the reader--in one of literature's most enchanting entertainments.
  • Opening sentence:  I write this sitting in the sink.
  • The story:  This book is a beautifully written, bittersweet coming-of-age story.  I guess it's also a romance, but what I took from it was the narrator's growth from child to woman.  I really connected with Cassandra (the narrator).  She's a great complex character, and it's interesting and refreshing to "watch" her change, to see her shift from this pure romantic idealist to a realist who's still secretly holding on to and hoping for some of those ideals.
  • The writing:  I love the way this book is written.  The story is told in journal form, as Cassandra chronicles everything happening around her.  As the book continues and Cassandra grows up, the writing becomes more mature and more beautiful.  And not only is the writing awesome, but it's so quotable too.  My favorite line is the opening sentence, but there are so many more.
  • Personal reason:  I also have a great connection with this book, because it's one of the main books that made me realize I wanted to write.  I read this shortly before deciding on a college, and it helped me choose my major.  I just knew that I wanted to write a book like this someday.
So what about you?  Have you read I Capture the Castle?  Did you like/dislike it?  What is an underappreciated book you think everyone should read?

Friday, July 19, 2013

15-Day Book Blogger Challenge - Day 12

I can't believe the challenge is almost over.  It's day 12 of April's 15-Day Book Blogger Challenge.  For more info, visit her blog Good Books and Good Wine.

Day 12 -  Fighting blogger fatigue

This is something I struggle with A LOT.  When I first started blogging, I never thought that there would ever be a day where it would feel like a job, or that I'd ever feel tired of blogging.  But it happens.  Especially when you forget why you're doing what you're doing, or when you put yourself under too much pressure.

My blogging fatigue got so bad that from March 30, 2012 to September 27, 2012, I didn't post a single blog entry.  I was feeling blah about the whole thing.  (And sad to say, it wasn't just my blogging that suffered, but my reading too).  I'd put myself under all this pressure that my blog had to be a certain way, and I had to post x-number of times per week, and I needed to get so many page views.  I mean, I couldn't even get my family to read my blog; why would anyone else?  It lost all the joy, and I didn't get back into really blogging again until November 6, 2012.

So how did I get out of it?  Top Ten Tuesday.  The weekly meme over at The Broke and the Bookish was exactly what I needed.  It was something fun to do, it introduced me to the blogging community (aka the perfect support system), and it was a good foundation for me to build a schedule around.

Now that I'm "back in the swing of things," I still hit those moments of my blog feeling like a job.  But I also know, thanks to talking to lots of other bloggers, that it's normal to feel that way.  And I've come up with a list of things to do to combat it (which also helps with reading slumps too).

  • Just remember - Life happens.  There are going to be days or weeks that I won't be able to blog.  Maybe I'm on vacation, maybe I'm sick, maybe my family comes first.  So I try not to pressure myself - it's okay to go off schedule, miss a day.
  • Participate in a meme or challenge.  Things like Top Ten Tuesday or this Book Blogger Challenge are perfect for helping me get back to blogging.
  • Binge a little.  When I'm feeling overwhelmed by something, whether it's my blog or my TBR pile, I turn on Netflix and allow myself some time to just relax and be a couch potato.  I usually feel refreshed and ready to get back to blogging afterwards.
  • Re-read some favorites.  I've always found that grabbing a book or series that I love and re-reading it is an awesome way to fight fatigue.  Reading something I feel really passionate about helps me remember why I started blogging in the first place.
  • Finally, talk to other bloggers.  The awesome part about being a blogger is that I'm part of a community, and they've all been through this or are going through it now.  I've personally found that everyone's really friendly and will have no problem giving advice or pep talks.
How about you?  How do you fight blogging fatigue?  Or if you're not a blogger, do you have a hobby that sometimes feels like a chore?  How do you get past those slumps?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

15-Day Book Blogger Challenge - Days 10 & 11

It was my mom's birthday yesterday (Hi, Mom!), so I didn't get any reading or blogging accomplished.  Which means today's Book Blogger Challenge post is for both Day 10 & Day 11.  For more info about the challenge, or to participate, visit Good Books and Good Wine.

Day 10 -  What to Read Next

Once I've finished a book, and I need to choose something to read next, there's a couple of things that help me make my decision.
  • The genre of the book I just read.  If I just read two dystopian novels in a row, I'm most likely not going to want to read another one.  I'm going to find a book in a genre that's not even similar, to keep things from getting too monotonous.
  • The release date, if it's an ARC.  I'm trying to read and review ARCs around their release date, although that hasn't worked out too well so far.  But since I've only just gotten ARCs for the first time at BEA, I figure I just need to work on scheduling things better.
  • How much I've been dying to read a book.  I just bought Raven Flight from Amazon, and I got Through the Ever Night at BEA, and I CANNOT WAIT to read them, so as soon as I finish my (overdue) library books, they are next up on the list.
  • Deadlined books.  Obviously, books from the library or borrowed from friends/family get higher priority because I don't get to keep them.  I'm still not all that good at prioritizing though, which explains the fact that I'm always paying fees when I go to the library.
  • Recommendations/Reviews/Word-of-Mouth.  If I'm stuck and can't decide what to read next, either because I'm torn between books or I just don't have the motivation, I'll visit people's blogs or talk to a friend and see what they have to say.  Sometimes one person's love of a book will make me want to read it next.

Day 11 -  My Top Five Blog Posts

My five best blog posts?  How do I decide what makes a post "the best"?  Are we talking most viewed or most commented on?  Or just the ones I enjoyed writing the most?  Too many possibilities!  Since there's no criteria for how to choose "the best" posts, I've decided to pick the top five posts I enjoyed writing the most.
  • WWJAT? A Review of Lost in Austen.
    • This was the first review I ever wrote, and I had so much fun doing it that I just knew that blogging was right for me.
  • Top Ten Fictional Crushes.
    • Who doesn't like talking about their book boyfriends?  Seriously?
  • Top Ten Bookish Memories.
    • I really loved this post, because I got to look back and see how my reading obsession got started, how it's shaped my life, and where it's been leading me.
  • Random Thoughts - Books & Food.
    • I love baking and cooking and tea, almost as much as I love reading.  So writing a post about how well the two of them mesh just seemed natural.  It was also a lot of fun to write.
  • Blogger Confession - Binging.
    • I confess that the main reason I love this post is simply because it's the first time I've ever used GIFs.  It was just so much fun looking through pages of GIFs to find the right ones, and then incorporating them into the post.
So there you have it.  How I choose what to read and which of my posts are my favorites.  How about you?  How do you pick what to read next?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

15-Day Book Blogger Challenge - Day 9

It's day 9 of April's Book Blogger Challenge!  For more info or to participate, visit her blog, Good Books and Good Wine.

Day 9 -  Why I Do What I Do

I love introspective posts like these.

So why do I blog about books?  For two reasons - because I love to write and because I LOVE to read even more.

The Writing

When I graduated college with a degree in creative writing, I learned pretty quickly that I wasn't going to be writing a bestselling novel and retiring at an early age.  The jobs out there were your standard cashier/waitress jobs or desk jobs.  I worked the first for a while before landing the office job that I have been at for almost five-and-a-half years now.  With all the hours I was spending commuting, working, and commuting back home again, my writing took a back seat.  People would ask me if I'd written anything, was I using my degree, and I always had to say no.

One Sunday, I was talking to a woman in church who I'd known for years (she was a homeschool mom, just like mine), and she asked me if I was writing.  I gave her the usual "No, but I'd like to get back to it" answer that I gave to everyone, and she says, "Maybe you should try blogging.  It would be a good way to keep writing."  What a great idea!  It was one of those "Could've had a V-8" moments.

The Reading

So in May 2009, a whole two years after graduating college, I decided to start this blog simply as a way to keep writing.  But what to blog about?  I didn't really want to just write about my life.  It seemed pretty boring at the time, and besides, I'd already tried that back in high school using LiveJournal.  Then there was always the politics option.  I minored in political science and loved a good debate, but seriously, no one wants to read a blog that's nothing but me ranting at the corruption in our system.  (Well, some people might, but I certainly wouldn't have.)  That left two options - a blog containing my actual stories, poems, book chapters, etc.  Or a book review blog.  It wasn't that hard of a choice.

As much as I love writing, I love reading infinitely more.  Ever since fifth-grade, books have been such an integral part of my life.  I've traveled the world, fallen in love, been the damsel in distress, been the kick-ass heroine, flown on a dragon - all without leaving my home.  I love books for what they can give you, what they can show you about the world and about yourself.  And I've always wanted to share that with people.  It's why I was in a book club in high school with one of my BFFs, why I gave my brother a four-page reading list so we could discuss books, why I joined goodreads and went to BEA, and it's why I blog.

So I started blogging about books.  And it's been amazing.  I'm pretty much doing something I love and then telling you about it.  It has its ups and down; we all hit those slumps.  But it's also so much fun; it's so worth the time and the effort.  I mean, it would be nice if I could get paid for it too, but even though this blog doesn't come with a paycheck, I still feel like I get something great out of it.  I get to be part of a community of people that understand this crazy love of books, who get why someone would rather buy books than clothes.  People who see no problem with having double and triple-layered rows of books, or books piled on the floor, or crammed into every available space.

And I get to gush and rant and cry and laugh all I want about books.  That's probably the most rewarding part.  Until recently, I was really the biggest reader in my family.  My dad and brother both read, but not as much as I do, or the same genres.  My mom and my younger sister have both told me "Why read the book when you can watch the movie?"  Now, my youngest sister has become a rabid reader, just like I was at her age, but she's still too young to be reading the same books as me.  I can recommend books to her and see how she feels about them, but I can't discuss the books I'm reading with her.  And while my three BFFs all love to read, we are rarely reading the same thing.  So this blog is the perfect way for me to just share, to spill everything I'm feeling about a book.  Even if no one reads it, it's still an outlet to let out all the FEELS.

So yeah... all of that to say that I blog because I love my writing, but I really love my books.

What about you?  If you're a blogger, why do you blog about books (or whatever else you blog about)?  If you're not a blogger, what are you passionate about and why?

Top Ten Tuesday (31) - Authors Who Deserve More Recognition

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic - top ten authors who deserve more recognition.  I really love this topic because it means I get to shine a spotlight on some of my favorite authors.

Top Ten Authors Who Deserve More/Better Recognition

  • Frank Beddor
    • I love retellings, and Beddor's adaptations of Alice in Wonderland are some of the best.  He wrote both The Looking Glass Wars trilogy and the Hatter M graphic novel series.  If you like Splintered by A.G. Howard, I think you'd really like Beddor's books as well.
  • Louisa May Alcott
    • Yes, Alcott is already widely known for Little Women, but most people don't know about any of her other books.  She wrote so many good books, and I've loved all of them.  My favorites (besides Little Women and its sequels) are A Long Fatal Love Chase, The Inheritance, Eight Cousins, and Rose in Bloom.
  • Jerry Spinelli
    • I love, love, love his book Stargirl.  It was the very first book we read for my high school book club, and I thought his book was so sweet and perfect.
  • Patricia C. Wrede
    • I grew up reading Wrede's fantasy novels, and she's probably the reason that I love the fantasy genre so much.  Her Enchanted Forest Chronicles are funny and exciting, and her other books are fun reads too.  I especially love Mairelon the Magician and The Magician's Ward.
  • Lloyd Alexander
    • I read Alexander's Prydain Chronicles shortly after reading Wrede's series.  While Wrede's books are much more lighthearted, Alexander's books are much darker and more serious.  His books would probably be considered closer to epic fantasy.  He also wrote the Westmark trilogy, which is a great series with a military/political edge.
  • Stephenie Meyer
    • Ok, ok.  Cue the eye-rolling.  I'm not trying to say that Meyer doesn't get enough recognition.  She gets plenty.  I'm just saying that a lot of it isn't the good kind of recognition, thanks to the Twilight movies and final books.  But I think she deserves better for The Host.  I loved that book (and the movie too), and thought it far surpassed her other series.
  • Kaitlin Bevis
    • I'm absolutely in love with Hades/Persephone stories, and Bevis' series is one of my favorites.  She definitely deserves some praise for The Daughters of Zeus trilogy.  It's exciting and romantic with killer cliffhangers.
  • Stephen R. Lawhead
    • Lawhead has written so many books, and I feel like so few people read them.  He's written both science fiction and fantasy, but he's mostly known for the fantasy.  Some of the series I own are The Pendragon Cycle (a retelling of King Arthur), the Dragon King trilogy (epic fantasy), and the King Raven series (a retelling of Robin Hood).
  • Anne Bronte
    • I feel like poor Anne Bronte is always being overshadowed by her sisters.  Everyone's heard of Charlotte's book Jane Eyre and Emily's Wuthering Heights, but no one ever talks about Anne.  I admit that I'm guilty of not reading her books either (although they are on my TBR list).  I've only seen the BBC adaptation of her novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, but I think that's because so many more people know her sisters' novels better.
  • Donita K. Paul
    • Besides being the author of the DragonKeeper Chronicles (a great fanstasy series with dragons), Paul is also just a very fun person in real life.  Even if I hadn't read and loved her series, I would have thought she was so cool from her bio on goodreads.com.  It says, "I am an author of Christian Fantasy. My first 7 books were Christian Romance, but I came over to the Dark Side when I heard there were cookies".
What about you?  Any here that you agree or disagree with?  Any authors you'd like to add?

Monday, July 15, 2013

15-Day Book Blogger Challenge - Day 8

It's day 8 of April's Book Blogger Challenge.  If you're interesting in joining or just want to know more about it, visit her blog, Good Books and Good Wine.

Day 8 - Things that appeal to me on blogs

So I know some of this stuff is going to sound hypocritical, because I don't actually have some of these things that I've listed here (such as a search bar or video blogs).  But I do hope/plan to... someday.

  1. A creative title and custom artwork  -  I love fun blog names and custom layouts and artwork.  It catches my attention immediately.
  2. Lists, challenges, and surveys  -  Lists are my favorite!  They're just so much fun to read.  Challenges and surveys are great too, both to read and participate in.
  3. Reviews with ratings  -  I prefer it when people include a rating with their reviews.  Sometimes a person's review can border between "Liked it" and "Loved it," so the rating just makes it clearer.
  4. Pictures and GIFs  -  I just started using GIFs because they're so much fun.  You can learn a lot about someone based on which GIFs they choose, such as what TV shows or actors they prefer.  Also, I like blog posts with pictures, even if it's just a picture of the cover.
  5. Videos/Vlogs  -  I only discovered vlogging recently, thanks to Hank and John Green (the Vlogbrothers).  Now I'm always on the lookout for posts that include videos.
  6. Humor and sarcasm  -  I love sarcasm and witty humor.  I'm drawn to books and people that get sarcasm, so it's only natural that I like to read it in blogs too.
  7. Quotes  -  Quotes are just awesome because they're another way of getting some insight into the blogger.  The quotes you love and post say something about you.
  8. Non book-review posts  -  It's so much fun getting to know the person behind the blog, and personal posts or even bookish posts that aren't reviews are some of my favorites to read.
  9. Themes  -  I think it's great when a blogger comes up with a theme and carries it through the whole blog.
  10. Features, but not too many  -  It's fun to see features such as Top Ten Tuesday or Stacking the Shelves on people's blogs, but on the other hand, if a blog is nothing but memes & features, it gets kind of old.
  11. Fun fonts and colors  -  I'm all about color.  I didn't used to be, but over the past year, I've really fallen in love with things that are bright and colorful.  And I also love fonts that are out of the ordinary.  I want them to be readable too, of course, but a fun font will always catch my interest.
  12. Review indexes and/or search bar  -  I used to have a search bar, but it didn't always work, so now I have a review index.  It's really helpful for people to have some way to find your past posts.
  13. Spoiler-Free reviews  -  This is such a pet peeve of mine.  I know I'm not perfect, but I do try to be really careful when writing my posts or at least including a warning, because I don't want to ruin the book for anyone.  So please don't ruin the book for me!
  14. Full posts without "Read More Here" links  -  I know a lot of people are the opposite.  They'd rather have the posts shortened so they can scroll through more, but I'm not really a fan.  Maybe I'm just too lazy, but I prefer to see the whole post at once.
  15. Links to goodreads.com  -  If I think a book sounds interesting, I want to be able to look up more info on goodreads.com, or add it to my To-Read list.  I know I'm constantly forgetting to do this myself, but this is just another thing that's on my blogging to-do list.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Book Review: Ink by Amanda Sun

Title:  Ink
Author:  Amanda Sun
Genre:  YA mythology/fantasy
Series:  Paper Gods #1
Publisher:  Harlequin Teen
Pages:  326
Acquired via:  ARC received at BEA


Synopsis from goodreads.com:  On the heels of a family tragedy, the last thing Katie Greene wants to do is move halfway across the world. Stuck with her aunt in Shizuoka, Japan, Katie feels lost. Alone. She doesn’t know the language, she can barely hold a pair of chopsticks, and she can’t seem to get the hang of taking her shoes off whenever she enters a building.

Then there’s gorgeous but aloof Tomohiro, star of the school’s kendo team. How did he really get the scar on his arm? Katie isn’t prepared for the answer. But when she sees the things he draws start moving, there’s no denying the truth: Tomo has a connection to the ancient gods of Japan, and being near Katie is causing his abilities to spiral out of control. If the wrong people notice, they'll both be targets.
Katie never wanted to move to Japan—now she may not make it out of the country alive.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Favorite quote:  My heart was glass - easy to see through, simple to break.

I literally finished Ink thirty minutes ago, and I couldn't wait to review it.  I love myths and retellings, and I read a lot of them, but they're usually based on Greek mythology, so Ink is a great change.  It's story is based on the Japanese spirits called Kami, from the Shinto religion.  Not knowing anything about Shintoism or Japanese beliefs, I was a little concerned I'd get a lost during the book, but I never had that problem.

My thoughts:
  • I loved the characters in this book.  Katie feels like an outsider after being thrust into a whole new country and culture.  The book opens with her feeling embarrassed because she forgot to change out of her school slippers.  That's definitely a culture shock.  I think Katie's a great character because she seems real, human.  She didn't jump from one culture to another without some embarrassing moments.  Her love interest, Tomo, is also pretty cool.  He's got that bad boy vibe I love without actually being a "bad boy".  He's just this broken, sensitive guy that puts up walls to protect himself and others.
  • While I think the book started a little slow, it picked up the pace soon, until I was caught up and needed to finish the book.  Perhaps not a book worthy of losing sleep to finish, but it was still full of enough romance, tension, excitement, and action to keep me riveted.
  • The concept for the book was interesting and original.  I've read so much Greek mythology that this was a breath of fresh air.  I liked the idea of the Kami, the paper gods, the moving ink, and the Japanese mafia all rivaling each other for power and control.
  • I really enjoyed the inclusion of the drawings and the Japanese words.  The book is all about drawings and sketches that come to life, so it was a great idea that they included them.  They even have a section about the artists who did the drawings because their art is beautiful and brings more depth to the story.  I also liked that the book didn't always translate the Japanese during the story.  It makes Katie's struggle to cope with her new surrounding seem more realistic (there's a glossary in the back if you want to know what everything means).
  • The setting and culture were great.  I've read so few books set in Japan or eastern Asia, so this book was refreshing and fun and eye-opening.  I'd like to read more books that take place in these countries, because their culture is so different from ours.  I could understand how Katie must have felt moving to a foreign country and needing to learn a whole new language and way of life.
Overall, Ink is a great book with just the right amount of romance and action and drama.  It's got beautiful artwork, an interesting concept, and a fun setting.  Definitely a good read.

15-Day Book Blogger Challenge - Day 7

Today is day 7 of April's Book Blogger Challenge.  For more info or to participate, check out her website, Good Books and Good Wine.

Day 7 - Blogging Quirks

  • I use the words "so" and "really" a lot.  That's how I tend to talk, and it comes across in my writing too.  I sometimes make the effort to not use them so much, or I'll even go back and edit them out once I've finished the post.
  • I feel super guilty if more than one day goes by without posting in my blog... which means I feel guilty all the time.  I'm trying to get over this, because honestly, no one wants to read a crappy post that I just threw together in order to avoid feeling guilty.
  • Procrastination and I have this love-hate relationship when it comes to review posts.  Sometimes I'll put off reviewing a book, and then I don't remember everything I liked or disliked about it.  And that ends up leading to a short, rather blah review.  But sometimes, I just don't care.
  • I had to change my rating system because my original one was too confusing.  So now I rate things on a scale of 1 to 5 cupcakes.... yes, cupcakes.  Why?  Because besides reading, I love to bake.  Especially cupcakes.
  • I used to hate coming up with a title for every post, but now I don't have a problem with it.  When I first started blogging, I felt like I needed to come up with a witty title for each post, and that just got old.  Then, I stopped using titles altogether, which actually made things more difficult.  Now I'm back to giving my posts titles, but they're all generic ones like "Book Review...".
  • Recently, I've started discussing what I'm going to write in my reviews with my coworker.  And as I'm talking to him, occasionally my rating will change the more I talk about it, as I realize that there were more flaws or more awesome things than I originally thought.
And that's it.  Or at least, those are all the ones I can think of.  Do you have any blogging quirks?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

15 Day Book Blogger Challenge - Day 6

It's day 6 of April's Book Blogger Challenge!  For more info on the challenge, or if you want to participate, visit her blog, Good Books and Good Wine.

Day 6 - Book-Buying Habits

As I was thinking about this day's challenge, I realized that my book-buying habits have changed a lot over just a few short years, not only in how I buy books but also in the where and how much.

First, I used to be an avid Barnes & Noble girl.  Almost every single book I bought came from their store or website.  My dad would say, "Who wants to go to B&N?"  And I was waiting by the door in minutes, and then coming home with a pile of books.  But after I came back from college and got a full time job, I started using Amazon more and more.  It was more convenient and less expensive, and I had been having less than satisfying dealings with B&N's customer service.  Now whenever I buy a book, it's through Amazon.  I honestly can't even remember the last time I walked into a physical book store.

Second, I used to buy books by the dozen.  There were packages arriving at my door once a week, sometimes more.  It got to the point where the UPS guy knew my name and my family member's names.  Of course, when I was doing this, I had all the money in the world (or at least it felt like it).  I'd just gotten a full-time job, I was using my parents' old car (still on their insurance), and I had no big expenses.  Well, a lot changes over a few years (new car, monthly expenses, unforeseen expenses, vacations, etc.), and now I'm way more careful with my money (cuz I'm broke).  So the Amazon boxes are more like once a month, and they only have one or two books in them.  Either they're books I REALLY, REALLY want and have wanted for a long time, or they're the next books in the different series I'm reading.

Third, how I shop for books has changed A LOT over the past few years.  I used to just buy books that looked good without knowing anything about the book itself or other people's opinions of it.  If it was fantasy, I just grabbed it up without a second thought.  Which meant I ended up with plenty of books I didn't end up enjoying.  That has completely changed.  Now I have a specific set of criteria that I follow.

  • Genre  -  I admit that genre plays a big role in whether or not I bother to check out a book.  For example, if the book was in the horror section, it's an automatic turn-off.  If it's paranormal or romance, I might give it a second glance.  If it's fantasy, I'll probably grab it up in a second.
  • Cover  -  They say "Don't judge a book by its cover," and I try really hard not to, because I know there are great books out there with boring covers.  But if I'm browsing through a list of books and it's a choice between the book with the plain cover and the one with the pretty/interesting cover, I'm going to look into the pretty one first.
  • Author's name  -  I'm always looking to see if my favorite authors have written something new.  I'm way more likely to pick up their books than an unknown's.  And if it's an author I don't like, it's hard for me to get past my feelings for his other books to look at new ones.  Which isn't a good thing - I didn't want to read The Host at all because it was written by Stephenie Meyer, and I'm so glad I pushed past that because I loved the book.
  • Book blurb  -  I do not like to go into a book blind anymore.  I've done it way too many times with blah results.  The book can be the right genre, have great cover, and be by an author I like, but if I read the blurb on the back and it doesn't interest me, I don't buy it.
  • Buzz words  -  Certain buzz words make me want to buy a book immediately.  Mythlogy, fairy-tale retelling, mystery or detective, Jane Austen, dystopian, regency - those are examples of words that catch my interest and make me want to get the book.
  • Goodreads rating  -  Since I only signed up for Goodreads around a year ago, this is a newer criteria for me.  But now, I'm always looking a book up to see if it got good ratings.  If I see that a lot of people really loved a book, it definitely sways my opinion in the book's favor.  It doesn't work out all the time of course (people have different tastes), but it's still helpful.
  • Blogger recommendations  -  I have discovered so many new books and series thanks to other bloggers.  And there are a few who I know have similar tastes as me, so if they love a book, I'm pretty confident I will too.
  • Sales/Used books  -  And then of course, all of these criteria go straight out the window if there's a sale or if they're used books.  If I can get a pile of books for the same cost as three full-price hardcovers, I'm being way more relaxed and just buying up the books.  That way I don't feel so bad if I don't like the book, because it won't have cost me that much anyway.
So those are habits.  They're mostly driven by a desire to save money and not go broke buying books.  If I ever again reach a comfortable place financially, who knows what will happen?  I could stay frugal, or I could go back to buying my books by the dozen.  We shall have to see.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Movie Review: The Host

Whenever I watch a movie that's based off a book, I'm a little nervous about how they're going to adapt it.  I'm usually okay with small changes; it's the big changes and pointless additions that bother me.  But there really wasn't a reason to worry about that with The Host.  If I had seen this movie just a few days ago, it probably would have had a place in my Top Ten Best Book-to-Movie adaptations.  It has a great cast, the writing and pace are good, and it stays relatively close to the book.
  • Casting
    • Saoirse Ronan was perfect as Melanie/Wanda.  She's a brilliant actress (I personally think she'd be a better Tris than Shailene Woodley), and I love how she portrayed her character's inner conflict.
    • Max Irons and Jake Abel - how do you choose?  (Team Ian!)  They each brought their characters to life perfectly.  They were exactly the way I pictured them in the book.
    • Diane Kruger pulled off her character so well.  I totally despised her throughout the movie because she just oozed evilness.
    • Secondary/supporting characters - Each person they chose for the other parts was great, whether they were well-known (William Hurt) or not (Chandler Canterbury).  They all brought so much personality to their roles, even if it was only a small part.
  • Writing/Script
    • I have to admit I was a little concerned about the writing for this movie.  I kept thinking, "What if this is another Twilight?"  Even though the book had been so amazing, it didn't mean that the screenwriters would do it justice.  Fortunately they did, staying away from total cheesiness and writing a pretty sweet movie.
  • Pace/Action
    • I definitely felt like they beefed up the action in the movie in order to keep things from getting slow.  They don't add any unnecessary action scenes.  They simply took what was already in the book and made it bigger.
    • The movie was paced very well.  It never felt like it was getting boring, or that the story was dragging.  With the action scenes mixed in with the romance and drama, the movie had a good balance of movement.
    • The only weird thing about the movie was that it felt both rushed and not rushed.  The movie itself moved at a good pace (which I already said), but at the end, I couldn't help but feel like it had all happened too quickly.  I think that was mostly because they had to cut a lot from the book for the sake of time, so I kept feeling like they'd skipped ahead too far.
  • Book vs. Movie
    • I loved how true the movie was to the book.  Yes, there were small changes, but every adaptation makes small changes here and there.  None of the changes were drastic or story-altering.  They were very minor things that I had no problem with.
    • Also, as I said earlier, things were cut from the story.  But once again, when doing an adaptation, you can't fit a whole book into a two-hour movie, unless it's a really short book.  And The Host is in no way a short book.
I truly loved this movie and felt that it lived up to the book.  I'm definitely looking forward to Stephenie Meyer's next two books in the series, and I hope that if they do movie adaptations of those, that they can get the original cast and do as well with them as they did with The Host.

15-Day Book Blogger Challenge - Day 5

It's day five of April's Book Blogger Challenge.  For more information on the challenge or if you want to participate, visit her blog - Good Books and Good Wine.

Day 5 - Recommend a tear jerker

Ok, so this one's kind of hard for me because I'm a crier.  I read something that's really happy - I cry.  Really sad - I cry.  I watch a movie, and I almost always tear up during an emotional part.  I cried my eyes out after Castle's third season finale.  I'm just an emotional person (I get it from my mom), so I try to avoid books that I know are going to make me bawl.  Pretty much all Nicholas Sparks books are on my Do-NOT-Read list.  But I still end up reading them anyway, so here are some of my favorites.

  • Young Adult Fiction
    • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green  -  I'm pretty sure I've already recommended this book a thousand times, but I'm going to do it again.  My brother recommended this to me first, and a friend warned me - "It's a cry book."  I think if she hadn't warned me, I would have been a slobbery mess by the end of the book.  But since I was prepared for all the feels, I was able to keep the crying to a more dignified minimum.  It's an incredible, bittersweet love story that made my heart ache.
  • Adult Fiction
    • For One More Day by Mitch Albom  -  My aunt lent me this book, and it was amazing.  The main character, Charley, is a broken man who's life is falling apart, but when he has a car accident and stumbles back into his hometown, he discovers his mother waiting for him.  His mother who died eight years earlier.  For just one more day (hence the title), Charley gets to make things right with his mom, get the forgiveness he craves, and pull his life back together.  I definitely sobbed during this book.  Albom's writing is superb, which just added to how beautiful this story was.
  • Non-Fiction
    • The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom  -  I read this in high school, along with The Diary of Anne Frank, and I cried my eyes out.  It's the biography of a woman in the Netherlands who becomes part of the Dutch Underground during WWII.  She and her family help Jews escape Nazi persecution, until they're found out and taken to a concentration camp.  It's an extremely powerful and heartbreaking story, but also inspiring.  Despite all of the terrible things that happen to Corrie - suffering in a concentration camp, watching her sister die, being the sole survivor of her family - she never loses faith, and even finds it in her to forgive her Nazi persecutors.
So what do you think?  Did you read any of these and cry?  Or maybe you didn't cry?  What tear jerkers would you recommend?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

15-Day Book Blogger Challenge - Day 4

For more info on April's 15-Day Book Blogger Challenge, visit her site, Good Books and Good Wine.

Day 4 - Book Flinging

Honestly, I have never thrown a book across a room.  Across my bed maybe, but never across the room.  I've gotten really frustrated with books, but since I'm also super-careful about damaging them, I try not to fling them in a way that could hurt them.  Besides, there are even better ways to get out my frustration with my books; I've thrown them in the garbage, posted them immediately on PaperBackSwap.com, or simply shoved them back onto the shelf, never to be finished.  I'm going to share an example of each.

  • Flung across the bed
    • Goddess Interrupted by Aimee Carter -  Even though I liked this book, I got so frustrated with Kate's character and the introduction of Persephone, I "threw" this book across my bed multiple times.  Both characters whined way too much throughout, and Kate made so many stupid decisions that I just wanted to shake her.
  • Thrown in the garbage
    • Master of Many Treasures by Mary Brown -  It's rare for me to throw out a book, but this one was just too awful to keep or give away.  It started out fine, and then they introduced a new character who was perverse, and then the book itself got perverse.  So I stopped reading it and threw it in the garbage.
  • PaperBackSwap.com
    • Cinder & Sapphires by Leila Rasheed -  I understand that Downton Abbey is amazing, and therefore people want to make the most of its popularity.  But this book just felt like a YA copycat. It didn't have anything new or interesting to draw me in.  Plus, the writing was so-so, and the characters were stale.
  • Doomed to be unfinished
    • Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes -  Boring.  Boring.  Boring.  I started this book because I'd actually seen the movie first, and loved it.  So I brought it with me on vacation to read in the airport, and I just couldn't get through it.  The Polish workers who are the best characters in the movie make up a teeny chapter of her book, and another chapter was all about each place they found a well.  I gave up halfway through and decided that sitting in an airport with nothing to read would be way more exciting than reading this book.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

15-Day Book Blogger Challenge - Day 3

It's day 3 of April's Book Blogger Challenge!  If you're a book blogger, I highly recommend participating in it.  And if you're not a book blogger, it's a fun way of getting the inside scoop on what book bloggers are all about.

Day 3 - Blogging BFFs

So I don't really have any blogging BFFs yet (unless family counts, in which case I have my brother, but I feel like that's cheating).  Even though I've been blogging for around four years now, it wasn't until about six or seven months ago that I became aware of the book blogging community.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover how much of a community it really is too.  But I still felt shy about putting myself out there and commenting, except for Top Ten Tuesdays.  Occasionally, I would comment on a post if I felt like I had something to say, but that was about it.

And then I went to BEA for the first time this year, and I met so many other bloggers, and everyone was so cool and friendly.  It definitely helped me get over the shyness factor.  Then I signed up for twitter, which has helped me meet/follow even more bloggers.  So as I get more involved with the blogging community, I expect I will make more and more friends, who will eventually become BFFs.  Until then, I will share which awesome bloggers I met at BEA, who made me feel like I'd always been a part of the group.  You guys are amazing!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

15-Day Book Blogger Challenge - Day 2

It's day 2 of April's 15 Day Book Blogger Challenge.  It's a great challenge that I would definitely encourage my fellow book bloggers to participate in.

Day 2 - Bedtime Reading Ritual

I've never really thought about it, but I guess I do have a bit of a ritual when it comes to reading books in bed.
  • First, I have to get everything else done and out of the way.  Brushing my teeth, washing my face, getting into my super-comfy PJs, checking email/twitter/facebook/bloglovin... I get all that stuff taken care of, so I don't fall asleep without it being done.
  • Second, I make a ginormous pile of pillows for a backrest.  My bed's up against my wall lengthwise (like a daybed), and there's no headboard/sideboard(?) to lean against.  So I take every pillow I own, pile them on top of each other, and use them as a rather unstable backrest that usually has to be readjusted several times during the night.
  • Third, I get under the covers... no matter what the temperature is.  My bedroom could be really warm, and I will still get under at least a sheet because I cannot read in bed without being under some form of cover.  (Even when it's the middle of the day, and I'm on the couch in the family room, I have to be under a throw blanket while reading.)
  • Finally, I read and read and read until I either finish the book or force myself to put it down.  Whichever it is, it's usually super-late... or super-early, depending on how you look at it.  And then a few hours later, getting out of bed and going to work is like this...

And that's my bedtime reading ritual.  How about you?  Do you follow a pattern with your bedtime reading?

Top Ten Tuesday (30) - Best Book-to-Movie/Miniseries Adaptations

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is the best and/or worst book-to-movie adaptations.  I've already done a post on worst book-to-movie adaptations; it was actually the first Top Ten Tuesday I ever participated in (if you'd like, you can read it here).  So now I'm going to do the best adaptations, but with a little twist - I'm including miniseries in the list because I honestly think they're way better at bringing books to life than the movies.

Top Ten Best Book-to-Movie/Miniseries Adaptations

  • The Lord of the Rings trilogy  -  While I hate to pick one movie as my favorite, I will definitely say that this trilogy is in my top five.  There were some changes from the book, but there weren't too many, and they were changes I could live with.  Even if I hadn't read the books, I would still love these movies, simply because they're so well-done and exciting.
  • Pride and Prejudice  -  Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy.  Enough said.
  • Jane Eyre  -  I like almost all the adaptations I've ever seen of Jane Eyre, but this one is definitely the best so far.  The actors have great chemistry, the script stays true to the story, and the tension between Jane & Mr. Rochester is amazing.
  • I Capture the Castle  -  This is one of those movies I saw before reading the book, and I loved it.  (I love the book infinitely more.)  I think it has a great cast, and while certain parts were cut for time, all of the best parts are still there.
  • Persuasion  -  As much as I LOVE Pride & Prejudice, I think Persuasion has so much more emotional depth to its love story.  And this movie adaptation is so good.  Ciaran Hinds is an amazing actor, and he makes such a great Wentworth.  And Amanda Root as Anne...all of that regret & longing & hope & love - it's all in her eyes.
  • Emma  -  I'm obviously an Austen fan, and this is perhaps the best miniseries adaptation of one of her novels.  With an extremely talented cast - Romola Garai, Johnny Lee Miller, Michael Gambon - and the sets & costumes, Emma just comes to life so beautifully.
  • Under the Tuscan Sun  -  This is one of those rare times that the movie is better than the book.  I found the book so boring I didn't finish it (which is rare for me), but I loved the movie.  They took the core idea of Mayes' story and turned it into a sweet movie about travel, family, love, and self-discovery.
  • Twelfth Night  -  I love Shakespeare adaptations, and this is one of my favorites.  I could not stop laughing; the actors were brilliant, and their timing perfect.  I loved the time period and setting they used - late 1800s in Prussia (or maybe Poland?).
  • Going Postal  -  I've enjoyed all three Discworld adaptations, but Going Postal is the best of them.  For one thing, either they had a bigger budget or a better special effects team, because the CGI and effects were much higher quality than in the first two.  I also loved the story - the thief/cheat is given a second chance at life to redeem himself, which leads to a hilarious adventure. 
  • The Hunger Games  -  Besides being an adaptation of an amazing book, this movie was great because it only adjusted a few of the original story elements (mostly small details), and the material added enhanced the storyline, rather than drastically changing everything.  I'm sure it helped that Suzanne Collins worked on the screenplay.  Plus, the cast, the costume designs, and the cinematography itself all worked together to make this an incredible adaptation.
So what do you think?  Any you agree with?  Disagree with?  What are your favorite book-to-movie adaptations?