Friday, January 31, 2014

Book Review: The 10th Kingdom by Kathryn Wesley

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, January 27, 2014

Some Fun Finds - Buzzfeed

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

And Just for Fun
And my most favorite of all

Friday, January 24, 2014

For When I'm Feeling: Cold

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


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

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

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Book Review: The House of Hades by Rick Riordan

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


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

They have no choice. If the demigods don’t succeed, Gaea’s armies will never die. They have no time. In about a month, the Romans will march on Camp Half-Blood. The stakes are higher than ever in this adventure that dives into the depths of Tartarus.
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I love Rick Riordan's series, and this book was a great addition.  It was mainly focused on Percy and Annabeth's adventures, with the other characters taking smaller roles.  It had romance, drama, lots of action and suspense, and plenty of new mythological people and creatures.

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: 2014 Debuts To Read

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

Top Ten Twelve 2014 Debuts I Want To Read

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

Friday, January 10, 2014

Book Review: Taken by Erin Bowman

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


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

Gray Weathersby’s eighteenth birthday is mere months away, and he’s prepared to meet his fate–until he finds a strange note from his mother and starts to question everything he’s been raised to accept: the Council leaders and their obvious secrets. The Heist itself. And what lies beyond the Wall that surrounds Claysoot–a structure that no one can cross and survive.
Climbing the Wall is suicide, but what comes after the Heist could be worse. Should he sit back and wait to be taken–or risk everything on the hope of the other side?
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I really, really wanted to love Taken.  There had been so much hype surrounding it before it actually came out, and then when I got it at BEA, I was so psyched to finally read it.  I didn't actually end up reading it until December, and I'm sorry to say I just didn't love it.

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: 2014 Resolutions

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  It's the first one of the new year, so the topic is all about resolutions - bookish, non-bookish, or both.

My 2014 Bookish & Bloggish Resolutions

  • Stop pressuring myself so much.  I have a big problem with this.  I'm constantly putting all this unnecessary pressure on myself to blog more or to blog better, and it needs to stop.  It just takes all the fun out of blogging and even reading.  I need to stop thinking that a good blog has so many posts per week or looks a certain way.  I created my blog to have fun, and that's what I want to get back to.
  • Do something fun for my five-year blogiversary.  In May this year, I will have been a book blogger for five years, and I want to do something special to celebrate.  I don't know what yet, but I don't want May to pass by without doing anything.
  • Move the blog to Wordpress.  I've loved Blogger, but I really want to do more with my blog.  I feel like there is more freedom with Wordpress, as well as more features.  It kind of scares me to switch to something new, but I think it's also going to be fun.
  • Finish a series before buying a new one.  In order to save some money and not feel so overwhelmed with the piles of unread books, I need to stop buying so many new series when I still haven't even finished the old ones.  Divergent, Legend, Eve, Girl of Fire & Thorns... I still haven't read the last books from any of these series.  As much as I want to pick up new series, like Shatter Me, I need to finish the ones I already own.
  • Get a new feature for my blog up & running.  I've been working on a new feature to include this year, and now I just need to actually put things together.  I'm the queen of unfinished projects, and I don't want this to turn into another one.
  • Give my blog some much needed TLC.  My poor blog needs to be updated.  I haven't bothered to clean up and bring my TBR list or review index up-to-date.  There are links that needed to be removed or included.  Just lots of little things here and there that have been bugging me, and I hope to take care of this year.
  • Possibly get a co-blogger.  Part of my solution for taking some of the pressure off of me is to get someone to share in the blogging.  I'd really like it if I could get my sister to join me, but if not, there are a few other people I'll be reaching out to.
  • Put down more books.  I always thought I didn't have a problem with putting down books I don't like, until I looked at the books I read this year and realized there were several that I forced myself to finish.  I have too many unread books to be wasting my time reading books I'm not enjoying.  So this year, I will be setting up a cut-off point for my books.  If I'm not enjoying a book, I'll give it to a certain chapter, percentage, or page count to get better, and if/when it doesn't, I'll put it down.
  • De-clutter the bookshelves.  I am a great believer in never getting rid of books.  It seems almost wrong to get rid of them, even if they're being donated, because I love books so much.  But even I have to admit that the amount of books I have is starting to get ridiculous.  Especially since quite a few of those books are books that I didn't really love.  Some of them are even those books that I didn't want to finish, but I've kept them anyway.  And since I know myself and I know I'm never going to stop getting books, I have to start clearing out ones I already own to make way for the new ones.
My 2014 Personal Resolutions
  • Read my Bible.  I'm always reading new books or watching TV, but I rarely take the time to read my Bible.  I go to a retreat with my friends every year, and afterwards I'm so pumped to read my Bible every day.  But after a month or two, I eventually stop and go back to almost never reading it on my own.  This year I want to change that, even if it's only a couple of verses a day.
  • Start networking.  I really want to start a new career, and possibly one of the most un-fun parts of doing so is the networking.  I'm not a shy person; I'm actually very extroverted, but for some reason, the whole idea of meeting people just for the sake of selling yourself and your company never feels comfortable to me.  But it's something I need to do, whether I like it or not.
  • Find a second/different job.  It's probably not the best idea to write in a public blog like this that I want a new job, but it's the truth.  This new career/business I want to start is going to cost a lot of money.  Part of it would come from the bank as a business loan, but most banks want you to be able to cover 20% of the start-up costs.  Right now, I can't even afford to move out to my own place.  And I need to use a huge chunk of my savings to buy my leased car in April.  So a job that pays better or even a second job would definitely help me reach my goal.
  • Finish all the unfinished projects.  Like I said earlier, I'm the queen of unfinished projects.  Look around my room, and you will see so many.  Just look at the room itself with only two of the walls repainted, the new bookshelves still not put up, and the new carpet still rolled up in the closet.  Before I can start new projects like a brand new career, I need to be able to finish the old ones in my personal life.  Otherwise, that new business could just end up being another unfinished project to add to the list.
  • Get back to being healthy again.  So in 2012, I learned that I had a thyroid condition, started taking medication for it, and joined Weight Watchers.  Over the course of a year-and-a-half, my life got a whole lot healthier.  I was eating better, I had more energy, and my sister even had me working out (which I hate).  I lost a total of 55 pounds and felt really great about myself.  Well lately, I've been pretty bad.  With the holidays and a vacation to Disney, I definitely let myself go a bit, and while I haven't gained a lot back, I've gained enough to make me realize that it's time to get back to being healthy again.  This year, I'd like to start exercising.  Maybe join a yoga class.  I don't just want to lose weight.  I actually want to be fit.
And those are my goals for this year.  I'm hoping I'll do a better job with them than I did with last year's goals.  I totally failed on most of those.  So here's hoping 2014 is the year of met goals, a new career, and finished projects.

Monday, January 6, 2014

A Week at the Movies

So this past week I saw three movies, and loved 2 out of 3.  All three movies I saw - Frozen, Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug - are all based on books/stories, but each one handled the retelling of book-to-movie very differently.

Let's start with Frozen.  I love this movie so much that I've already seen it twice in the theater, with only a week between each showing.  It's a funny and sweet adventure with great songs and lots of laughs.  I just felt so good after seeing this movie because it's such a happy and fun story.  It was even better seeing it the second time, because it was great listening to other people enjoying the movie or getting surprised by the plot twists.

Of course, the story it's inspired by - The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson - is nowhere near as happy as this adaptation.  But honestly, no one ever expects Disney to stick to the original fairy tales.  Their movies would be a whole lot darker if they did.  And we wouldn't come away with awesome songs like "Fixer Upper" and "In Summer."

The next movie I saw was The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.  This was such a great movie.  It's got romance and action and adventure and intrigue.  The script and the acting are both really good.  And the new characters are great additions to the story.  I originally didn't think I'd like Sam Claflin in the role of Finnick, but he was perfect.  Second movies in a trilogy/series can suffer sometimes, because it feels like a filler or stepping stone, but this one was just as good as the first movie.

And as for how well it stuck to the book... these Hunger Games movies are the perfect example of how to adapt a book into a movie.  The plot stays close to the book, and the changes made are minor.  Most of the changes were made for the sake of time, and I believe that since Suzanne Collins is involved with the making of the movies that she's helped keep the movies on track with her books.  I left the theater excited for the next movie and satisfied with how well the movie did justice to the book.

Which leaves us with the last movie I saw and the one I did not love - The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.  Let me start with what I did like, because that's a considerably shorter list.  Smaug was amazing.  He's the absolute best part of the whole movie.  Also the part where Gandalf leaves to face the Necromancer is really cool as well.  And that's it for what I liked.  Even my fan-girl love for Richard Armitage and Lee Pace could not make me love this movie.

Now I saw this movie with my brother and sister who each had different reactions to the movie.  My sister who hasn't read the book and doesn't really care about changes from book to movie did not like the movie.  She thought it just wasn't a well-made movie.  One of the biggest problems (that bothered my brother too) is the 3D effects issue.  When you see a movie that has a 3D version, you always hope that there aren't going to be a lot of 3D gimmicks that don't work when seen in 2D.  The Hobbit: DoS has plenty.  I mean, they're not gimmicky per say, like bouncy balls flying at your face (bad call, Journey to the Center of the Earth), but there were lots of moments in fight scenes (especially the scene with the spiders) where it was obvious that stuff was supposed to be popping out at our faces.  Which looks stupid when you're watching it in 2D.

Another big problem is that there just isn't enough to fill a whole three movies so this movie felt like it had a lot of filler.  The battles went on forever; whenever you thought they were over, they'd just keep going.  They jumped from one thing to another in such rapid succession, and it was so overly melodramatic.  I think the biggest problem is that they're just trying to get from the first movie (which set the stage) to the third movie (which has all the big final battles) so this movie is simply a stepping stone, and like most middle books & movies, suffers for it.

And then there were my pet peeves - the huge major changes and additions to the story.  I seriously tried to separate this movie from the book, to tell myself not to compare the two, but I have such an emotional attachment to that story that it just killed me watching how they mangled everything.  I don't want to give anything away, in case you still haven't seen it and want to, but there were just so many differences, so many drastic changes that I wondered if I was even watching The Hobbit anymore.

So that was my past week at the movies.  Feel free to comment if you agree or disagree with anything.  I know plenty of people who would completely disagree with me about some things, and plenty of others that share my opinions.  I'd love to hear where you stand.