Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sensibility and the Reality of Heaven

One of these days I'll actually blog about one book at a time again. Pft! Where's the fun in that? This way you get an extra long post, an extra pictures, and then you send out words of praise because you don't have to hear from me in a while. That's not really what you think of me, is it? I should stop planting ideas in your head.


I finished Sense and Sensibility and once that was done I decided I wanted something a little bit different before diving right back into the world of Jane Austen. So I took Heaven is for Real  from my sister's shelf and read it in a day. It's quite liberating to read a book in a day after reading a book that took you much longer than that (my own fault, let me assure you).

I was updating my goodreads.com account when I noticed that one of my old teachers gave Sense and Sensibility 5/5 stars. I was suddenly struck with a lack of self confidence. But I stuck with what I planned to give it when I first logged onto the site, 3/5 (meaning I liked it, it was better than okay, I just couldn't bring myself to say I REALLY liked it or loved it). Here's why. First of all, from the very beginning, the book was competing with my love for Pride and Prejudice. There were a few times during the book where I thought, "This just isn't as good as Pride and Prejudice." Perhaps that's not entirely fair, but it's the truth. I did like it more as it went along, and having only seen Emma Thompson's movie rendition of the tale, I enjoyed a lot of the background details and insights that the book provides that aren't as clear in the movie. On that note, I found myself commending Emma Thompson for her work on the movie. She did a very good job in my opinion trying to include all the important aspects of the original work. That's not an easy thing to do. I have a feeling that given time I will come to love this book. You may recall that the first time I read Pride and Prejudice I hated it and now it's one of my favorite books of all time. It is a good story with some memorable characters, but I felt it a little slow at parts and while some characters are memorable, I thought some of the main characters needed a little bit more (meaning more of the love interests than say the Miss Dashwoods).

I first heard of Heaven is for Real while I was attending the Publishing Institute in Denver. I saw it on a shelf at the Tattered Cover (which you should go to if you're ever in the Denver area!) and my roommate mentioned how she'd wanted to read it. By the time I saw it on my sister's shelf, I'd heard a little more about it and thought I'd give it a read. It relates the story of Colton Burpo who had an emergency appendectomy back in 2003. He was lucky to survive. Over the next couple of years, he related to his parents the experiences he had during his surgery...when he went to heaven and back. It's a touching story. It made me tear up a few times. And it's a quick read. It's a story of a family who was blessed with the life of their son. It's about faith and trust in God and that He loves us more than we can imagine. Colton's experience hasn't just affected his family, but he's been able to offer comfort to others because of his experience. If that's not enough to get you interested, it also has pictures! What more could you ask for :)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Jane Austen

Truth be told, I've only actually read one Jane Austen novel (GASP!). I bet you can guess which one that was. That's right, Pride and Prejudice. I've written some thoughts about that lovely story before, so I won't go into much detail again. Suffice it to say, my seventh grader self had a problem with it. My college self and beyond loves it.

I came to know a few of the other stories thanks to movie dramatizations. About a year ago, I decided I wanted to be familiar with all of her novels even though I hadn't read them all. So I did the obvious thing. I watched more movies courtesy of my local library. I can now say I know the general plot of all six Jane Austen novels. I don't have very many books with me currently, but one I do have access to is The Complete Works of Jane Austen. I decided it was about time I read another one. So I started with the first one in the book, Sense and Sensibility, which I am still currently reading.

Although I like it and I'm enjoying some of the insights we gain from book format vs. movie format, I find myself thinking that I don't like it as well as Pride and Prejudice. I still have a bit to go so I'll put no final judgement on it yet, but it raises this question. What is your favorite Jane Austen novel? Or can you absolutely not stand her? If you haven't read the novels, tell me which movie is your favorite. I'd really like to know :)

Based on my experiences with the stories thus far, I would rank them as follows:

1. Pride and Prejudice
2. Emma
3. Sense and Sensibility
4. Persuasion
5. Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park are currently tied

Leave your comments below! Which is your favorite or least favorite, and tell us why if you feel so inclined.

Oh and lest I forget, HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!

If you're looking for a great book for this joyous occasion, you should look into Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich. It's full of monster fun! You better sing the words on all the Phantom of the Opera pages...or else!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 Edition!

It's come to my attention that National Novel Writing Month is a mere 13 days away. GASP!

How many of you are doing it this year? Last year was my first time, and although I didn't finish by the end of November, I did eventually reach 50,000 words. I was so proud of myself! That novel is the longest thing I've ever written! Let's see if I can do it again! Now to come up with an idea...

You should do it too! Learn more and create a profile at www.nanowrimo.org!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Magic Candy and a Mind Reading Marigold

Last week, I finished two books, both of the young adult genre. We'll present these in the proper order, shall we? That means you're up Candy Shop War! Go on! Move it!

The Candy Shop War
By Brandon Mull
Young Adult
Published by Shadow Mountain
363 pages

You may know Brandon Mull from his New York Times bestselling series Fablehaven. That's where I first heard the name. I've actually read the first book in the series, but haven't read the others yet. I'm a slacker where that's concerned.

This book wasn't quite what I expected it to be, and once I started reading, I wasn't sure I was going to like it at first. It won me over in the end. I wouldn't put it on my list of favorite books of all time, but it was still pretty good. I think it's a book that will have a lot of appeal for a younger audience (younger as in preteen or thereabouts).

The book tells the story of four kids who just want to make it through school alive and avoid the school bullies. If they have a little opportunity for adventure, that's all the better. One such opportunity presents itself in the new candy shop in town. Mrs. White, the owner of the shop, takes a liking to the kids and offers them samples of her secret candy, candy that gives them extraordinary powers. Thrilled with the ability to defy gravity, change your appearance, and use mirrors as a means of travel, they gladly continue to return to Mrs. White for new candy. But with each new assortment comes a higher price, and when the risks become lethal, suddenly this magical candy isn't worth it anymore. But backing out isn't so easy.

I was expecting this book to have a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory feel. Here's why. The first thing it says on the back cover under praise for The Candy Shop War is, "Mull...dishes up a crowd-pleaser as delicious as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." Okay, so I've never actually read that one (goodness knows why as I'm a fan of Road Dahl), but having read enough of Dahl's work, I had a certain style in mind, and Mull's book isn't like that. That's not a bad thing, it just threw me off at the beginning.

I also wasn't sure if I was going to like it because of some of the dialogue, and a little bit of how one of the characters acted in the beginning. But once it really gets into the adventure and mystery of it all, I started to like it better, and neither of those things bothered me anymore. Plus it was getting more exciting, and I was genuinely wondering how they were going to sort everything out in the end. I like how things worked out especially because things didn't go according to plan a few times, but they were still able to figure out a way to solve it. I just can't believe I couldn't figure out how they were going to get out of the situation in the end! When it happened, I was like, "Brilliant! That's the only way it could have happened! Why didn't I see that?"

Not a hard read. I can see kids reading it on their own or with a parent or even a teacher reading it in a classroom setting. I always loved when my teachers read to the class. Good times indeed.

Once Upon a Marigold
By Jean Ferris
Young Adult
Published by Harcourt, Inc.
266 pages

Part comedy,
Part love story,
Part everything-but-the-kitchen-sink

That's our introduction to Once Upon a Marigold from the front cover. I'm a bit of a fan of fairy tale like stories, whether they be retellings or very much unique in plot but still with that fairy tale feel. This book fits into that. Like The Candy Shop War, I wouldn't number this book among my top favorites. However, it was enjoyable and had a clever plot that makes me smile just thinking about it.

Every one who knows anything about life at all knows that love doesn't always come easy...especially when you're the foster son of a forest troll. Such is the case with Christian, a lad who ran away from home at the age of six determined never to return. That's when Ed, the troll, found him and took him home. They have a pleasant life together, but when Christian finally gets the nerve to send a p-mail (that's mail by pigeon, don't you know) to the princess across the river, that life is turn upside down and twisted in a complex series of knots. So begins Christian's correspondence with Marigold, a unique princess with the uncanny ability to read minds. He is soon head over heels, but he knows he doesn't stand a chance at winning the heart of a princess. To make matters worse, he discovers Marigold's mother is bent on having the kingdom for herself, even if that means taking drastic measures.

This book is fun, creative, and a quick read. I think my favorite character is Ed, mostly because he tries to use so many well known expressions, but he gets them wrong every time. Christian never quite knows what he means, but he pretends that he does. This book is clever, and it too will have a great appeal for young readers.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Least Favorite Books Ever

I have a feeling I've mentioned some of the worst books I've ever read, but I can't be sure, and I don't know that I've ever told you why they land on that list. I'm going to give you insight into a couple so you don't have to read them if you don't want to. Or perhaps you will read them out of curiosity. I can't stop you, but I can warn you. This is just my opinion anyhow.

Blood and Chocolate

This is a young adult novel about werewolves. That's putting it very simply. There is a movie based off of it as well. I think it was released in 2007. I don't have anything against using werewolves or vampires or other fantastical creatures as part of a plot to a story (you'll notice that there's another book on this list that involves both werewolves and vampires...). Here's what bothered me about this book. I didn't find it believable at all. The main character was supposed to be in love with this guy and that's the major issue of the book as she's a werewolf and he's human. But I just didn't believe it. I couldn't believe that she was in love with this guy. I couldn't bring myself to like the characters. The ending was oddly sweet, but at the same time it gave me a sort of, "What the heck?" and also "Gross?" It's a little hard to explain. But you should probably know the movie differs significantly from the book in how it ends. The movie wasn't that great either, but I may have liked it better than the book.

The Golden Ass

The only part I liked about this book was the story of Cupid and Psyche. Pretty much didn't like everything else. I probably wouldn't have even picked up the book if I didn't have to read it for a class. I didn't care for the sexual content and I just felt the main character was an idiot. That's probably why he gets turned into a donkey. In the end, he's a changed man, but even though moments of redemption and starting anew struck me as boring. Just not my cup of tea I guess. It's been so long that I can't remember very many other details, so I'm afraid that'll have to do. Take a moment to Google the Cupid and Psyche story.

Madame Bovary

I think the common thread in these first three examples is that I just hate the characters or can't relate to them. Madame Bovary is no exception. I hated her. I may view the book a little differently if I were to read it again, but for now, it remains on my list of worst books I've ever read. My complaint may contain a bit of a spoiler so be warned. What I remember about this book is that Madame Bovary is unhappy with her marriage. I think she finds her husband boring or something. It really has been awhile since I've read it. Anyhow, she goes on to have a number of affairs (that number be three if I remember correctly) to try and find what she feels is missing. Well, things don't turn out so hot, and she ends up committing suicide via rat poison. She doesn't die right away either. You get to read about how lovely it is to die in that fashion. Lovely being meant to be taken as sarcasm. It ends with her poor depressed husband, having no idea of what has been going on or what would drive her to kill herself. Quite depressing really. And I just couldn't stand her. Once again, I felt she was an idiot. Maybe I have no heart. I don't think so. My eyes tear up when I watch Newsies, so I know I'm capable of some emotion.

Breaking Dawn

No offense to all those people getting pumped up for part one of the final installment of the Twilight Saga, but Breaking Dawn fits onto this list as well. I read the entire series and was actually enjoying them until I read the last. I found it anticlimactic. There needed to be some element of sacrifice involved I think. I supposed you could say that Bella sacrificed her family and her non-vampire life, but that just didn't feel like a sacrifice  or perhaps just not a big enough one. I didn't like some plot choices, and the ending just fell flat. There was this build up all for nothing, and things just magically work out okay. It was too easy. I could get into more specifics of things, but if you do choose to read it, I don't want to be the one to spoil it for you. I would be curious to know of your reaction to it.

So there you have it. Those are some of my least favorite books ever. And if you like them, more power to you. If you want to share with me why you liked them, feel free to share. Just don't yell at me. I fear the yelling. Besides, I'm pretty sure most if not all of these books have sold really well. Stephenie Meyer is set for life! That's more than I can say for myself.

I asked a few other people what some of the worst books they've ever read are. Here's some that were mentioned:

Sarah's Key
The Scarlet Letter
Anything Stephen King

Your turn. What are some of the worst books you've ever read and what makes them the worst?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Hunger Games Trilogy

I finished Mockingjay the other day, and now I'm ready to evaluate the series as a whole. I really enjoyed it. Here's a couple reasons why:

1. Strong female protagonist who kicks butt!
2. Engaging writing style. I wasn't sure how I was going to like the first person present tense going on, but Collins pulled it off really well. I don't think all authors are capable of that.
3. Katniss ended up with the guy I thought she should endup with.
4. It didn't have an unbelievable happily ever after ending. It was happy in the sense that it wasn't one of those stories where the bad guy wins or you're left feeling like you will never be happy again, but the good that comes in the end came with a price.

I can't really think of much I'd have to say against the series. After some thought, the only things that really come to mind are insignificant details. Such as, perhaps Katniss asks too many rhetorical questions to herself. See? Not a big deal. Of course, now you're going to read the series with my example in mind and become annoyed because you notice every single question she asks. Forget I mentioned it.

One issue I've seen raised is the love triangle. Do all teenage girls have problems deciding how they feel about two boys who clearly are attracted to the girl? I never had that problem... Jealous...

But in all seriousness, the love triangle didn't really bother me in this book because there was so much action going on, so many lives at stake, that the love triangle almost sits in the background and then jumps up and down every once in a while to remind you that it's still there. And it gets resolved in the end, in case you couldn't figure that out from my list.

The funny thing is, I didn't choose which guy she should end up with because I totally loved one guy over the other. When reading Twilight, I was totally team Jacob because Edward really annoyed me starting in book two. Sorry, Edward. You're just not my type. In The Hunger Games it was more like reasoning which one I'd most likely fall for were I in that situation and what reason I wouldn't choose the other guy. I'd spell that out for you, but I don't want to ruin the surprise.

One last thing I forgot to mention that I liked about the series, I could never guess what was coming next. Not long term anyway. When I was reading the first one, I had a very small idea of how it would end, but then I always found myself asking, "But how can this go into another book?" Turns out I only had a vague idea of how it would end, and the next two books kept up the pace.

I almost wanted a little more out of the ending. Just two more sentences or so. However, we the readers are also given enough.

The series is a quick read and well worth the time.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

My Children Shall be Named Albus Severus, Renesme, and...Vincent?

I was just thinking to myself the other day (a dangerous pastime, I know), reflecting on a conversation I had with a friend of mine where he said that Albus Severus has to be one of the worst names to give a child ever. He hasn't read past the first book in the Twilight Saga, so I sat him down, gave him some hot cocoa and toast, gently put my hand on his shoulder and broke the news to him:

Edward and Bella name their child Renesme.

In all actually, this conversation took place over facebook... But who doesn't love the idea of hot cocoa and toast? If you're raising your hand, please put it down before someone hurts you. Thank you.

Last night, my parents were telling my brother and me how they came up with our names, which is probably why I was thinking about the Albus/Renesme conversation in the first place. I know names like Isabella and Jacob are quite popular at the moment, but I found myself wondering if I would name my child after a character in a book and if so, which names would I consider and which would I absolutely avoid.

No offense, but Albus Severus and Renesme are both names that would probably end up on the top of the "do not use these" list. Although I did hear about someone who named their dog Severus. Totally okay with that. But if I look at some of my favorite books (or even some I just think are good), I come up with names like these:



And now I'm drawing a blank. I'm not saying any of those are bad names. They're very fitting for each of the characters they belong to. I just don't know that I want to use any of them for my future children. There's actually a couple there I would or have considered for possible future baby names, but not because of their place in books.

I'm not ruling out the possibility of naming a child after a character, but I haven't thought of one that I really like yet. Of course, I'm sure names I choose are in some book somewhere, but that's not the same as telling my future son, Tom Edward Lastname, that I specifically chose his name after the Dark Lord and a sparkly vampire.

Hmm, perhaps I should name future son Vincent after the Final Fantasy VII character. True he's not the main character, but Vincent sounds cooler than Cloud. He kind of looks creepy though...

I've just opened the door to so many name possibilities.

What do you think? Would you name your child after one of your favorite characters? Which names are in the running and which or totally out of the question?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Move Aside, Coriander!

So according to my lovely sidebar, the book I'm currently reading is I, Coriander. All that changed when about two seconds ago, give or take, a familiar vehicle pulled up to my house. It was the UPS man with gifts!

Thank you, UPS man! Never fear, Coriander. Your time will come. But for now, you must step aside! I gots to finish what I began! (Note: I'm entirely aware that that is not proper English.)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Emily Ritter, Welcome to the Book Blogging World

Interestingly enough, considering I just finished The Hunger Games, a friend of mine from the Denver Publishing Institute just finished the series and started a blog to celebrate. Like me, she's very much into YA fiction, and she's looking for suggestions on what to read next. She's only got one post so far and it's about the wonderful Hunger Games. I admit, I think her post is better than mine. Ha ha. check it out and hear about the book from her perspective. She's really fun, and I have no doubts that her blog is going to be well worth reading. Just click the link and be on your way!


Monday, August 15, 2011

Edgar Sawtelle and The Hunger Games

You know what can be a problem? When you read the first book in a series, really like it, and then you don't have the next book of the series in your possession. Drat. But before we get to that, let me introduce you to Edgar Sawtelle.

Before attending a book signing with a bunch of my peers, I'd heard the name Edgar Sawtelle, even seen the book on the shelf a few times, but I knew absolutely nothing about the book. Still, I stood in line and shared a wonderful conversation with the author (that's code for once again I had no idea what to say to a famous person, so I simpled grinned, uttered a thank you, and walked away with that silly grin still plastered to my face). From what I picked up while standing in line and listening to what David Wroblewski had to say, I gathered this was going to be a tragic tale. I cannot deny that it was tragic, but I'm nearly 100% satisfied with the way things turned out. The tragedy was beautiful in a way. I suppose you'll only understand what I mean once you've read it yourself as I don't want to give anything away.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is the story of...well...a boy named Edgar. Edgar lives on a farm in Wisconsin with his parents. They run a successful business of breeding dogs, training them, and placing them with families. When tragedy strikes their family, Edgar is forced to make a run for it. While traveling through the woods, Edgar must fight for his own survival as well as the survival of the three dogs that are with him.

As I began reading, knowing that I needed to brace myself for tragedy, I made a sad sort of moan and said, "This is going to be Where the Red Fern Grows all over again, isn't it?" (In case you're wondering, that's not a bad thing. I happen to be a big fan of Where the Red Fern Grows. It just meant I knew there was a possibility of rivers of tears staining my face as boy and dog become best of friends, of course something will happen to the dog, and perhaps there'll be a little ray of sunshine at the end to make the sadness seem a little less heartbreaking.) Well, I wasn't entirely right in my assumption. This book is a lot different.

I really enjoyed this book. I don't think I'd give it 5 out of 5 stars, but it was still good. I loved the feel of it--being out in the country, simpler way of life, that sort of thing. Plus having a boy with a strong connection with an animal always seems to be a strong connecting point. Something else I really loved about the story is the fact that Edgar is mute. Not only did it work really nicely with the story and add some interest, it pulled me in especially because of the opportunity I had to learn some ASL and spend some time in the deaf community. So I really enjoyed the setting and the characters.

If you're a fan of only happily ever after endings, this may not be the book for you. But if you don't mind a little tragedy mixed in with adventure and a few dogs for good measure, you should give the book a chance.

As for wishing I had the next book in a series, I finally decided I wanted to read The Hunger Games. I'm the kind of person who buys books faster than I can read them, so it's been sitting on my shelf for a while now. I knew the concept of this one, and for the most part, I'd heard positive feedback. I finished it today, and now I won't know how the series ends until I get my hands on the other two books of the series. Sigh. In case you couldn't tell, I was pleased with this book. I can't really call this a happy book either. It's full of violence and death, but it was a really good story. For those of you who don't know what it's about, it's a dystopian novel where every year two contestants are chosen from twelve districts to compete in the Hunger Games. The Games are one giant fight to the death, which is televised to all of Panem. 24 contestants. 1 winner. 1 survivor. Intense, no?

What book is next on the list? I don't know yet as I sat down to write this the moment I finished reading. Happy reading! More updates to follow!

Also, for those of you who don'e know, The Hunger Games is being turned into a movie. It comes out next year. Will you all join me in watching it on the silver screen :)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Edgar Sawtelle

I apologize that this project has been on hold for awhile. But such is life, no?

I can't even remember what I've read between now and my last post. So let's just start fresh!

I couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a book signing of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle at the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver (the one in Lodo to be precise). David Wroblewski told us a bit about his experience during the writing and publishing process. He seems like a very nice man, and it was a pleasure to hear him speak.

I haven't had tons of time for reading since that time as I've been in school, but I have been reading it in small increments! So The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is my current read, and I am enjoying it thus far. I have a feeling that it's one of those books that's going to make me cry... I just hope no one's around to see that. I'll keep you posted. Until then, happy reading!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Everyone Loves a Little Beauty Sleep

April's recommendation of the month goes unquestionably to Cameron Dokey's Beauty Sleep, a retelling of the well known story of Sleeping Beauty. I believe it is a part of a group of books published by Simon & Schuster known as the Once Upon a Time series. Essentially they are all retellings of classic fairy tales although they are not all written by the same authors. I read one once before. I can't remember the title or even the story it was based off of for the life of me. All I remember is thinking although it wasn't bad, it wasn't my favorite either. For me, it just landed on that "okay" mark. My expectations for Beauty Sleep were that it too would land on that "okay" mark despite the fact that it is writeen by a different author. I was in for a pleasant surprise.

I fell in love with this book almost instantly. It may have something to do with the fact that it begins like so:



I was amused from the get go, and already I was curious. One of my favorite things about this story is Aurore's voice. The story is told by her, which I love. It worked well as she tells you the main plot and every once in a while gives her own insights in a way that isn't distracting but helps the story form and move along. It's funny, thoughtful, loving--it's interesting how such a well known story can be retold in such a way that it so fantastically becomes it's own story.

I'm one of those people who gets way too connected to characters. You know that person who tries to hide the fact that their eyes are watering during a mvie? Yeah, that would be me. But it's not just with movies. I believe I've admitted previously how emotionally involved I can get with characters in books (see that post I wrote about Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). Not every story does it. I'm not that much of a cry baby :) But every once in awhile there seems to come a book that for it's entire duration or perhaps just for certain moments touches me on an even deeper level. I tried to explain it to my mother who so graciously listens to me when I go on such rants. I think she got it. The question is, can I explain it adequately twice?

Beauty Sleep is one of those books that connected with the very core of my being. I don't how else to explain it, and no doubt it will not have the same effect for everyone. It was the way she spoke about certain characters that got to me, how without physically being there and without a blatant declaration of love, I could feel it. And I'm not just talking about romantic love either. Without I doubt, I knew her father loved her. True, they are only fictional characters, but when you create a shadow of a love that deep in my heart as I read the symbol actions of these characters, I suppose you'd called that talent, a gift even. That is the greatest thing this book did for me.

Even if it doesn't hit your core like it did mine, it's still a great read. It's a great look at a story we all know so well. Once again, her voice is delightful. The characters are believable and heartfelt. The plot itself is interesting. The ending was different than I expected. I am happy with it simply by the fact that it fulfilled the desires I had for the romantic side of the story. It wasn't a bad ending by all means. I'm just preparing you in case you like to form your own ending before you even reach the actual end like I seem to do.

In other bookshelf challenge news, I've just finished reading The Schwa was Here by Neal Shusterman. It's the story of Calvin Schwa, a boy with the unique ability to blend in to the point of near invisibility. The story is told by Anthony "Antsy" Bonano, a friend of The Schwa.

Take a look at the back cover:

They say his clothes blend into the background, no matter where he stands. They say if you stare at him long enough, you can see what's written on the wall behind him. They say a lot of things about the Schwa, but one thing's for sure: No one ever noticed him. Except me. My name is Antsy Bonano--and I can tell you what's true and what's not, 'cause I was there. So if you all just shut up and listen, I'll tell you everything there is to know about the Schwa, from how he got his name to what really happened with hi mom. I'll spill everything. Unless, of course, "the Scwa Effect" wipes him out of my brain before I'm done...

There you have it. It was a good book, but not necessarily one that hit home for me. However, I think it will be the right fit for another reader. It has unique characters, an interesting concept, and it seems tons of nerdy references which I'm a fan of. I can guarntee that Darth Vader is mentioned at least once. So although it landed more on the "okay" line for me, if it sounds interesting to you, I'd still recommend picking it up. Maybe it just wasn't the type of adventure I was in the mood for. Maybe it just wasn't my soul book. It still made me smile and chuckle even though it won't rank among my favorite books.

In conclusion, the next book on the list for my bookshelf challenge is Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. I think it's about time I read it. Happy reading :)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Updates, Queens, and Ember

Hey guys. I've had to take a bit of a break from this blog. I think for the time being it's going to turn into a book review sort of blog. I'll update you when I get a chance. Keep reading and writing and enjoying life! Oh, by the way, The Sugar Queen and The City Of Ember were both enjoyable books.

The Sugar Queen

A quick word of caution. This book does contain some language and sexual content. I felt I should add that little disclaimer for those of you who are bothered by that. It started to bother me, but I am more sensitive than some people. It was a cute story. It felt real despite it's little fantastical elements. I think on the whole that it will appeal to many women. I enjoyed witnessing the development in these characters, specifically that of Josey. She's one of those characters who you're drawn to because you'll find a little bit of yourself in her. As she learns and grows and finally becomes more of the person she wants to be instead of punishing herself, I think it gives us hope that we can overcome our trials. We don't have to hold ourselves back. We can have faith in ourselves. We all make mistakes, but we can move past those and become better.

City of Ember

I didn't realize this was the first in a series of books. However, I was pleased with this one and will pick up the rest of the series at some point. It stands well on it's own. Some might disagree with me judged on how it ends, but I'm one of those people where if you give me enough you don't have to give me the entire picture. I can figure it out on my own. I can handle an ending like M. Night Shyamalan's The Village. The short story "The Lady or the Tiger" on the other hand drives me a little nuts. I feel like The City of Ember has an ending like The Village. We don't have to see the guy get better to know that he does. Of course, you could write a sequel where he dies... That changes everything. Anyway, I enjoyed it. It wasn't a difficult read. The two main characters are strong and believable. Plus, I just like the whole dystopian novel thing. I like seeing the world of Ember through these two children's eyes. Ember and the way of life there is so easily understood because of how convincing it is portrayed. I understood how it worked. I could imagine myself there. Well done.

I'm still doing my bookshelf challenge! I'll keep you updated as I go along. I've been kind of slow because I've been putting some other things first. Hopefully now I'll be able to invest more time into it. Have a great weekend!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Little Women and Sugar Queens

I survived Little Women. Can I tell you how proud of myself I am for actually making it through the whole thing this time, especially after that little fiasco I had halfway through? I actually enjoyed the book, and so I feel it's appropriate that it goes for this month's recommendation, don't you? Although I don't like reading these sorts of books all the time, every once in a while I like to sit down and read these real sort of domestic stories. I like the characters, and it was really interesting to connect their lives with my own. Who knew that women my age thought some of the same things then as they do now? Sure, environment and technology and orther things are different, but I find it interesting that some things stay the same. I guess we're still all human no matter what time we live in.

For those of you who don't know about the plot, Little Women follows the lives of the March family, particularlly that of the four daughters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. The book begins during the time of the Civil War. Their father has gone to fight, and the girls must learn to live happily with what little things they can afford. It's full of all sorts of life lessons as we watch the girls overcome their individual struggles. They each have such different personalities. I think that's part of what makes it fun. Also, the neighbor boy, Laurie, becomes a good friend of theirs. He's probably my favorite male character of the entire story.

Having seen the movie first before reading the book, I was curious how a certain relationship would work out. I don't want to spoil anything for those of you not familiar with the story. To try and put this simply, I was not satisfied with certain relationships in the movie, but as I read the book, the circumstances seemed more clear, and I was more readily able to forgive the characters for not behaving the way I wanted them to. Surely, I'm not the only one who's come face to face with that issue :)

My biggest problem with the book was its length. There were certain moments that just seemed to drag on and on! But keep pushing through it! There are good lessons and life experiences shared that I think you'll enjoy. I just would have liked it even better if it was 200 pages shorter :)

So read this book when you're willing to be patient. Like I said, it's good. It's just a bit long. I think I should recommend the movie also. It's been a while since I've seen it, and I know they made some changes to the story, but nothing major. If I recall correctly, it's a pretty good representation of the book. I can't believe I'm condoning this, but if you can't stomach the book, you should at least check out the movie. Or perhaps see the movie first then make your way through the book.

Technically the next book on the list should be Little Men, but I think I'm going to switch it up a little just because I want a little change of pace. So that one will be coming, but for now we're skipping to the next one: The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen. I haven't heard much about it, but here's what the back says:

Josey Cirrini is sure of three things: winter is her favorite season, she's a sorry excuse for a Southern belle, and sweets are best eaten in the privacy of her closet. For while Josey has settled into an uneventful life in her mother's house, her one consolation is the stockpile of sugary treats and paperback romances she escapes to each night.... Until she finds her closet harboring Della Lee Baker, a local waitress who is one part nemesis--and two parts fairy godmother. With Della Lee's tough love, Josey's narrow existence quickly expands. She even bonds with Chloe Finley, a young woman who is hounded by books that inexplicably appear when she needs them--and who has a close connection to Josey's long-time crush. Soon Josey is living in a world where the color red has startling powers, and passion can make eggs fry in their cartons. And that's just for starters.

Brimming with warmth, wit, and a sprinkling of magic, here is a spellbinding tale of freindship, love--and the enchanting possibilities of every new day.

Sounds exciting, right? Okay. Enough chatter. Time to get some reading done!

Monday, January 24, 2011

So Ends Part One? What?

I've been trying to be good and actually make time for reading so that I can be successful in my challenge to myself. If I don't make myself read now, there's a good possibility that I will forget my challenge and pick up whatever book seems sweetest at the moment. I'm determined to stick with my challenge. So I've been reading Little Women, and I was quite surprised when I made it past the halfway mark and still hadn't reached the place where I stopped reading so many years ago. I wondered why I'd been so lazy as to not finish the book when I was so near the end. Well, when there were only about fifty pages left I knew something was up. I'm familiar enough with the story to know that much more had to happen before it came to it's close, and there was no way that everything that was meant to happen could happen in fifty pages.

I kept reading and just now made it to the end of those fifty pages. It was then that I made a curious discovery. The end of my copy reads thus: "So grouped, the curtain falls upon Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. Whether it ever rises again depends upon the reception given to the first act of the domestic drama called LITTLE WOMEN." Can you imagine my distress when I realized the story is broken up into two parts and I held in my hands only the first? My reaction was something to the affect of, "What the heck? Why would you only publish part one in a book when there are two parts? Curse you!" I'm still very fond of the copy as I like old copies of books and mine is a printing from the 1960's, and I realize some of you might not think that old at all, but I'm afraid it's before my time. Please forgive me.

Fortunately, I happen to have another copy of Little Women, and it has both parts! So tomorrow I resume my reading. Meg has just become engaged, meaning the next chapter may very well be the one that lost my interest the first time I tried to read it. You will not beat me this time! I think I'm enjoying the book better this time around. I'm enjoying the little bits of wisdom. I also love Laurie, and I have a little rant about him, but I think that should be saved until after I've finished the book since my judgements are based solely on movie representation. It won't be long now until I'm on to book two!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Danielle's Bookshelf Challenge

I have a lot of books. I guess you could say that's one of my guilty pleasures. It's so hard to resist picking up a new book or adopting some from a thrift store. So I've gathered quite I few over the years. I'm sure it's not us much as some people, but it's enough where each shelf is stuffed with two layers of books instead of one, and I'm starting to stack books on top of the two rows as well. The thing is I haven't read a good chunk of them. I picked them up because they sounded good and I fully intended on reading them. I just haven't yet.

Here's my challenge: to read every book on my shelf that I haven't read (excluding nonfiction and some collections of short stories). I thought I should start in order as I do have most of them arranged by author. Any guesses as to what book number one is? I'll give you a hint. The author's last name starts with an A and ends with an lcott. That's right. Louisa May Alcott is the writer and the book is Little Women. I'll admit, I almost skipped over this one. I'm horrible right? I'm familiar with the story. I even read half of it once when I was younger. I read up until the point when Meg got married, and then I was so bored I couldn't continue.

Well, I'm pretty sure I've told you all about my belief that sometimes books deserve a second chance. I obviously thought this one warrented a second chance seeing as I did buy it at some point after I'd read that portion of it. I really do like the story. I'm thinking this time, now that I'm older and a little more used to this type of literature, that I'll enjoy it more. I'll finally be able to say I've read it through instead of just knowing the story from seeing the movie. Huzzah!

You'll get to hear about all my adventures too. It wouldn't be fair of me to leave you out of this. I'll keep you posted on the books I read and what I think of them once I'm finished. Feel free to read along with me and let me know what you think as well. I do love discussing a good book...or even a really bad one :)

Until next time!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Oh, Storyline. You Make My Hours of Gameplay Worthwhile!

When the movie The Prince of Persia came to theaters, I remember talking with some people about it at work. One of my coworkers commented how the storyline of the film differed from that of the video game it is based off of. Another coworker then said something to the effect of, "Video games don't have storylines."

Bless her heart.

I was thinking about this recently as I finished the aforementioned Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. (Side note: I love this series and you should to. Play it or die! Or don't and live I guess...) I would have to disagree with my coworker's comment. Even many of the simplest video games have some sort of plot. Want some examples and pictures? Good because that's what you're about to get.

Anyoone remember this beauty? I would remember it years later for it's theme that so easily got stuck in my head... Oh great. Now it's going to be there for awhile. Anyway, the gameplay pretty much consisted of you moving your little dinosaur around, blowing bubbles at enemies, and then popping them once the enemies got trapped inside. You only have to make it through 100 levels to make it to the end of the game! But why? Why would you spend quarter after quarter to make it to level 100 besides the obvious addictive quality of the game? What is your little dinosaur's motive for running around blowing bubbles from his mouth? Well, let me tell you in a very simple fashion. Your dinosaur is actually a guy who as been magicked into dinosaur form! And you have to get to level 100 to save your captured girlfriend and hopefully return yourself to normal! Although, given the choice, I might choose to remain a bubble blowing dinosaur, but that's just me.

My sister and I discovered Burger Island  for the Wii a couple years ago. We were hooked. We played that thing night and day. Everyone knows that a fast food environment is much more fun when you're experiencing it from the comforts of your own home! This game isn't that hard to figure out--a customer makes an order and you fulfill it. Simple enough right? Well, it can get pretty tricky, but it's also addictive. At least, it seems to be addictive to the lady folk. Guys don't seem to understand the appeal. That's the case in my experience anyway. There was one part my sister always skipped over when we played: the bit in between levels where we were told (hold your breath) the story! It's something to the effect of you've crashed landed on the island, you take over the local burger joint, and you get help from the tiki gods to get new recipes.

Then there are games that get a little more complicated with their twists and turns and sidequests. And I bet you can guess one of the first ones that popped into my mind. Besides much loved titles like Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, and Secret of Mana, I thought of none other than Kingdom Hearts!

The following little clip is from Kingdom Hearts II but it's flashbacks from the first game.

The storyline can be a bit complex, but to put simply, the story follows Sora, a teenage boy who wakes up in Traverse Town after his world has been attacked. With the help Donald and Goofy, they travel from world to world in search of Sora's friends, Riku and Kairi, and King Mickey. At the same time, they must defeat the dark creatures known as heartless before they can take over other worlds and steal hearts.

I first became interested in the idea of storyline and plot in video games after playing the first game of the series. I blame it on studying English in college. All those books and poems and articles you read trying to dig out all you can get and then use it yourself in your own papers! It made me see stories differently. I evaluate movies, books, and even video games differently now. And the reason Kingdom Hearts has stuck with me is for some of the same reasons some of my favorite books remain my favorite. I love the characters, the messages I take from their struggles, the fact that I can relate to them. I love their story, their struggles, their triumphs. I love being a part of it.

It made me think of how much we as people love the concept of "story." We gossip. We tell people about our day. We watch movies and read books. We watch the news. We listen to music which has a story all it's own. Our whole lives are filled with story. A part of us thrives off that I think.

So in case you were left with any doubt, video games like books, movies, and even music have a story. This is not me giving you permission to spend your entire life playing World of Warcraft or any other titles I've mentioned. But perhaps a little video game time in your life isn't such a bad thing.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

An Excuse for my Neglect

It's a new year and it's been over a month since I've updated! I apologize. One of the most recent things to consume a good portion of my time:

That's right. I've set aside my love for books temporarily for my love of Kingdom Hearts. But in my defense, one of the reasons I love the Kingdom Hearts series is the story. That's one thing that it has in common with books! They both have a plot :)

Well, I hope you enjoy the new year as I continue to endeaver to save the world! More updates soon!