Friday, January 23, 2015

Book Review Discussion: Splintered by A.G. Howard

Book: Splintered by A.G. Howard
Genre: YA Fantasy 
Rating:★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
For: Fun (the Beehive Awards thing at first, but that's over now!)
From: I bought it at Barnes and Noble

Short Synopsis: So, Alyssa's family is cursed, ever since her great great something grandma, Alice, fell down a rabbit hole and came back all crazy. Alyssa's mom, Alison, is so crazy that they are just about to start shock treatments on her. In order to break the curse, (and save her mom),  Alyssa must go down the rabbit hole herself and fix everything. Through magic, of course, and with a little help from a moth friend, she makes the trip. She ends up pulling her boy-next-door-crush along with her. Oops! And then the magical fantastical adventures begin!

My Response: I loved some parts and yawned my way through other parts. There's a love triangle of sorts with two very different boys (one magical, one not.) My feelings are firmly planted with the non magical one. There's a kiss to die for in this book. I think I better go read that scene again and study it so I can write one like it some day. The premise is pretty cool, with the passing down of craziness. And there's a fun twist at the end that I doubt you'll see coming. But, I do lose interest with all the descriptions of the strange creatures and all the weird and crazy things that must be done to reverse the curse. It's a little over the top in spots!

Bottom Line: But for the most part, I totally enjoyed it and I must say, I think I'll be reading the next book! (Book three just came out this past week I think. Sigh. How to keep up with it all!)

Let's Talk About: Alice! Fan or not a fan? Do you find this story to be too strange all the way around? Do you enjoy the retellings of such strange stories? Are you a fan of the Johnny Depp (Tim Burton) version of Alice? This story is a lot like that.

Other Reviews:

But don't you see? I loved this book. I loved it. I rushed through my day to get to the parts when I could get back to Alyssa's story. From Bookshelvers Anonymous

It's thrilling, with plot twists here and there to keep things unpredictable and exciting. From B's Book Blog

The coolest thing about this book is the brilliant display of imagination on the part of author A. G. Howard. I only wish I could think up stuff this vivid and exciting. From Logan E. Turner

I highly recommend this one to fans of fairytale retellings, and especially to those who like their books a little dark and twisty. From BookTwirps Book Reviews

Thursday, January 22, 2015

My Thoughts on Serial: The Podcast

So, I just finished the last episode of Serial. I know I'm a bit behind the times, but now I'm wondering, have you listened to it? And if so, let's talk!

Serial, if you don't know, is a 12 episode podcast done by the same people from NPR that do This American Life (not a podcast I've listened to, but one I'm curious about also) and when they first debuted this new podcast last fall, everyone went berserk about it. I remember hearing about it from the get go, but didn't start listening to it until about Christmastime when my son talked about it and we decided to get all caught up. As you can see, it still took me awhile (I've told you about my "listening" fetishes, right?)

What they've done is taken an interesting murder crime, one that appeared to have a ton of strange problems and issues, and they've brought it to light again and rehashed the whole thing. They called and interviewed every person originally involved that they could find.  They examine all the evidence, rumors, thoughts, phone calls, letters, diaries . . .everything. And try to come up with a conclusion, once and for all, who dunnit?

This case was a murder of a high school student in Baltimore in 1999. Her ex-boyfriend was arrested, tried, convicted and put in prison for life. He says he did not do it. His friend (well, sort of friend) says he did. And so it goes. Who's telling the truth? It makes you crazy wondering what really happened! If you love true crime stuff and real life stories and fascinating mysteries, you'd love this thing! 

And, if you love that sort of thing, you've probably already listened to it. So... have you? What do you think? Who IS telling the truth? Did he really do it? Did Jay do it? Or is there another story not being told? Are they protecting a third party?

Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Book Review Discussion: The Things You Kiss Goodbye by Leslie Connor

Book: The Things You Kiss Goodbye by Leslie Connor
Genre: YA Contemporary
Rating:★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
For: fun
From: the library

Short Synopsis: Bettina is one odd duck. You know, the artsy type, the one that dresses weird, plus she's from a very strict Italian family, which always makes high school life harder. That's why when the basketball star starts paying attention to her, she falls pretty fast and hard. Besides, her dad decides he likes this guy and lets her go out with him. Finally, she has freedom. But gradually, this guy changes... so gradually in fact, Betinna hardly notices. But one day when he's especially mean, she runs to hide in a car shop near the store. Who she meets there changes everything.

My Response: Wow, this one deals with a hard subject. And is definitely not a happy ending, though it does leave you with a sense of hope. But still, be prepared! At any rate,  I couldn't put this one down, for sure. It's beautifully written and beautifully told. I read it in pretty much a day and afterward had to just sit and take a minute to breathe.

Bottom Line: I almost loved it, but it was just too sad to completely love!

Let's Talk About: Sad endings. So, usually I totally love them. They are powerful. You never forget them. But sometimes, they are just too much, you know? What do you think? Are you fan of the sad ending? Always? Sometimes? Never?

Other Reviews:

A powerful read with moments of breathlessness From Waking Brain Cells

At first I thought it was just some regular teen romance but no, this is more. So much more. Its real life in a compact, well written, beautiful story that once you start there is no turning back. From Books With Bite

This would be a good book for someone who wants to see a character recover and become stronger after something turns their life upside down. From This Blonde Reads

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

North and South Read Along Part Two Discussion: Chapter 19 to 35

We've now read through chapter 35 of North and South! Are you loving it? Isn't it most awesome? Well, I think so anyway.

The discussion is being hosted by Kami today. If you want to answer her questions and post them on your blog be sure to link up over at her blog!

Also, don't forget, we'll be chatting tonight at 6 pm Mountain time TONIGHT (that's a date change so take note!) on Twitter using #NorthSouthRAL.  We had WAY too much fun last time, so you know you want to join us! (P.S. Have you been following that hashtag anyway? Lots of fun quotes and thoughts being shared all throughout the read along.) 

And then, we'll see you you here on my blog at the end of the month with our final discussion post.

Questions and Answers:

1. Have your feelings changed towards Mr. Thornton during this section of the book?

I think at first, we feel a bit indifferent towards him. We see him a lot through Margaret's eyes and like her, we aren't too sure what he's about. But I feel like in this section he totally shines. Bringing fruit for her mom, and then saving her from the inquisition...even AFTER she's totally rejected him? I mean, he, despite his gruff outward demeanor, is a complete sweetheart.
Delivering fruit. Wearing that hat!

2. Have your feelings towards Margaret changed?

She makes me a bit crazy in this section because she can't see the sweetheart-ness mentioned above. She is so determined to stick with her silly prejudices! But toward the end of this reading, I can feel that her ideas are starting to change. Otherwise, I'd be very bugged at her indeed. However, I do feel bad about all the death she is suddenly having to deal with. I guess she's not really thinking about love when she has to handle all that other stuff.

3. What do you think about the riot and how Margaret and Mr. Thornton reacted?

Margaret was pretty brave, I must admit. And a bit crazy. And so much acting without thinking. I love how Mr. Thornton doesn't think much of it at the time (except that she's lost her mind) but then relives the moment over and over and over again. I think he feels bad that he wasn't quite as brave as she was. She showed him up! Anyway. It's an awesome scene and such a turning point for all different parts of the plot.

4. Do you think Boucher's anger and actions were justified?

Boucher's plight is insane. I have no idea what I'd do were I in his shoes. Do you? I think he is overly emotional, but somewhat justified. He is in a panic about how to take care of his family, so you can't fault him that. But it does seem like there are better ways to handle the situation.

5. Did Bess's or Mrs. Hale's deaths effect you in any way?

Bess's is so sad. She had her whole life ahead of her. And I think her sickness was caused by working in the mills, right? Which makes it especially hard to take. Mrs. Hale's is sad too, but I think she is dying of some sort of natural cause (I wish they'd just say what it is!) and she at least has lived a bit of life, so I'm not as sad over hers. Though she is still way to young to die and it's hard to see the trauma it causes the family. The boys are especially frail during this time, which is interesting to me. You'd think that Elizabeth Gaskell would think of boys as all strong and unemotional or something. I always find it surprising anyway.

6. Were you surprised to learn that it wasn't common for women to attend funerals? What are your feelings on that tidbit?

Strange! And I wonder why? Just because they can't handle their emotions? And yet, as I said in the question before, it seems more like the boys are the ones out of control! I wonder when this custom changed over the years. Really interesting anyway. 

7. Now that we've met Frederick, do you like him? Are you sympathetic to his predicament?

I do like him. But I wish we could get to know him better. He does seem a bit, wimpy, shall we say. And doesn't really help Margaret all that much. But still, he's scared to be found out, so that makes things really hard. And I'm sure he's been through quite the trauma in his life. So I'll give him a little bit of a pass. I just love how his story interacts with Margaret's to the point of causing all sorts of misunderstanding.

8. What are your feelings on Mr. Thornton's proposal?

Dear Mr. Thornton: You were a little hasty dude! If you'd just waited a bit! I mean, why the rush? If you'd have just gone about doing all those nice things and let her SEE that, then she's going to FALL SO HARD and you're home free! Patience my man, patience. But no, you had to run off the minute you get a little, sort of accidental hug, and BAM, off to marry her! Yeah... you should have waited a bit, I'm sorry to say. Still, it made for a nice awkward moment for you to endure that we all enjoy reading about!

9. If you were in Mr. Thornton's place, having seen the person you love with a stranger late at night, then finding out that person was questioned by the police and lied, would you do the same thing Mr. Thornton did? Would you protect that person even though you think they have done questionable things?

I don't know! I'm hoping the doesn't really think those things about her and is giving her the benefit of the doubt. But seriously, he just loves her so much that he doesn't care. He just doesn't want to see her go through all that and he'll do anything to stop it. I love him for it. But I so wish that she would just go to him and say, "Hey, I know you did this thing, and you are thinking this thing, but here's what really happened, just so you know." But maybe she doesn't trust him enough about the whole Frederick thing yet. But still... just tell him!

10. Do you think Margaret's feelings towards Mr. Thornton have changed? Why?

Oh yes. For sure. It's starting to hit her. She realizes that he's for real and genuine and that even though she made him feel like crap, he still loves her despite that and she's blown away by it really. I love seeing this change. 

Ah! All you first timers, I hope you are loving it! Sigh. 

On to the end of the book! I can't wait for our movie night. Do join us, either in person or on Twitter. February 6 at 6 pm Mountain!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Mini Bloggiesta Mini Challenge: Yet Another Pinterest Project

Welcome to Bloggiesta! The mini version! Starting tomorrow, participants will be working on their blogs all weekend, accomplishing blogging tasks and trying out some fun mini challenges. If you are interested, sign up here! And if you can't this time, but think it's a possibility for later, stay tuned for our first ever week long Bloggiesta coming up March 23 through 29. Mark you calendars now. It'll be epic!

So I decided to do a little mini challenge this go around. And yes, I know, there have already been a couple of mini challenges dealing with Pinterest in the past. The first one, from Joy at Joy's Book Blog, was a basic tutorial on how to use Pinterest and just getting started from the bottom up. This was back when Pinterest was the new coolest thing! So if you yet to jump on the bandwagon and are totally new to it, check out her tutorial first.

The other Pinterest challenge we've had was from Wesley at Library Educated where she explored ideas on how to use Pinterest to promote your book blog. She shared all the fun bookish boards she's created and had lots of great ideas.

My challenge is very specific and deals with just one board that you may have created or would like to create. This board should be called Books I've Read (insert year here.) And then you pin all your reviews to the books you've read that year to that board. This is a task I do every Bloggiesta and every time without fail people will say, "Oh, I should do that!" or "Oh, I never thought of using Pinterest that way!"

So now I challenge you to create your "books read" board on Pinterest if you don't have one already and then pin your reviews to that board. Joy's post linked above should help you with pinning if you aren't savvy at that yet but basically open the post that has that review on it. And then you click on the picture of the cover of the book (because you always include that in your reviews, right?) and pin it! (Hoover over it and a pin icon might appear, or right click and see if it's there, or using the pin gadget you may have downloaded and is on your tool bar, or, if all else false, copy and paste the URL manually into Pinterest.) If you are in the actually post, then if someone else pins that pin from Pinterest, it will lead them back to your actual review. Get it? (Here's a link to my 2014 board so you'll see what I'm talking about.)

Start a new board for 2015 and I bet there's just a few books you've reviewed so far for this year that will need pinning, so it'll be easy! If you are feeling ambitious create one for 2014 books and pin all the reviews from last year. Or, just get caught is my plan.

To sum up your challenge:
1. Join Pinterest if you aren't on there already!
2. Create a board for books you've read this year, 2015.
3. Pin the covers of the books you've read, making sure you link back to your review.
4. Do one for 2014 too if you are feeling ambitious (or catch up if you already have such a board!)

Have fun and enjoy!

Let me know if you have any questions regarding this challenge. Come back and report your successes!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Book Review Discussion: The Bishop's Wife by Mette Ivie Harrison

Book: The Bishop's Wife by Mette Ivie Harrison
Genre: Mystery
Rating:★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
For: Supporting local authors
From: Received for free from the publisher. All opinions are my own. 

Short Synopsis: Our main character, Linda, is very involved in her local Mormon (aka LDS) ward. That's due in part because she is the bishop's wife. (A bishop is the leader of the ward, or Mormon congregation.) Because of this, she befriends many people in her neighborhood and ends up learning some strange things. For instance, the husband of one of her friends dies, and then she (the bishop's wife) discovers he's been hiding a big secret. Also, the wife of another neighbor disappears in the night and suddenly she (the bishop's wife) is torn between helping him and his daughter, and having him accused of murder! But, did he really do it?

My Response: Ah, I have no idea how to review this book and I've been dreading it since I finished it. So, I guess I'll just jump in. I was intrigued by this book given that it's inspired by (but by no means an account of) the Susan Powell disappearance/murder that happened here in Utah several years ago. What a terrible story that was! Though I'm not that much into mysteries, I was hooked enough to want to find out how this particular story ended. And it wasn't as expected and it made me a little crazy! Maybe even a little mad. Sigh, and I can't say more about that as I don't want to be all spoilery, even more than I just was!

I see from other reviews that many readers really liked this character, Linda. But she made me crazy and I did not like her much at all. I felt like she was all up into everyone's business and justified it because she's the bishop's wife. It made me look at the bishop's wives that I know and wonder about them. I can't imagine them doing anything like this. Maybe visiting neighbors now and then. I don't know. Let's just say I don't think most bishop's wives are like this one! And she seemed to hate on and complain about everything, and her life just isn't all that bad. Sometimes I just wanted to tell her to grow up a little, you know?

Okay, now for all the Mormon talk. As a Mormon myself, it made me just roll my eyes. Like, a lot. I feel like for those wanting to know about what living in this church like, the author could have done a lot more showing and much less telling. There were so many asides of... "and we believe this and we think that and this is what we are supposed to do" that I was like, really? Just show us! All that narrator info dumping took me right out of the story. And also, I just feel like it cheapens our faith to an extent, makes us look so dumb, for lack of a better word. And I really wish that a book could be written that explains our lives without doing that. Am I making sense?

Mostly I just want to say that some of the culture of Mormon life depicted here is what I'd say to be correct, but much of it is not, at least what I see anyway. As with any group of people, everyone is different and I hate it when book such as this (or a movie or TV show or whatever) is written and read by the masses and then everyone thinks that's how we all are. We aren't, we are all different, just like everyone else.

Also, of course, every single freaking controversial thing going on with the church right now was brought up and analyzed. And maybe that was the subtle not-so-subtle point of this book,  I don't know. Because I do feel the author wrote this for a specific reason, I'm just not sure what that reason was. To voice her own issues with the church? I think so. To share our beliefs with the world? Maybe. To dis men? A little. To write a mystery? I'm not sure!

Bottom Line: An interesting story on some levels, and a maddening one on others.  I think most non-LDS readers will find it interesting, and some LDS ones too, but I've a sense that many LDS readers will cringe at most of it. (Now given everything I've said, you may think my star rating is a bit generous, and you'd be right. But I was still intrigued by this story, even with all the eye rolling! Two and half stars would have been more on target I'd say. But I don't know the HTML code for a half!)

Let's Talk About: Religion! There's a reason why I avoid the subject on my blog for the most part. . .but have at it today! Mark, get set, go!

Other Reviews:

But even without the Mormon perspective, it's a good mystery. I didn't see the ending. From Annette's Book Spot

I absolutely love books that give me insight into cultures, religions, and communities I’m unfamiliar with, and this novel did a great job with that. From S. Krishna's Books

I guess the best way to describe this book is that it's not a Mormon book, it's a suspense novel set among Mormons. From 2 Kids and Tired Books

For those wondering if the religious aspects are overwhelming, they're not. From Killin' Time Reading

I'm not sure how other Mormons will react. It may be difficult to see the culture from an outsider's view. Mette is a practicing Mormon, but this narrative reads more like someone on the outside looking in. From Emily's Reading Room

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: 2014 Books I Wanted to Read!

So, in actuality, there are SO MANY 2014 books that I wanted to read but didn't get to that I had no idea where to start, so I started with Goodreads lists. That helped a lot, and here's a short ten book list that came from that.

Ten Books from 2014 I Meant to Read

1. Landline by Rainbow Rowell
2. The Storified Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zavin
3. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
4. A Slow Regard for Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss
5. The Martian by Andy Weir
6. I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelsen
7. Cress by Marissa Meyer
8. Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi
9. These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman
10 The Young Elites by Marie Lu

Well, actually some of these I didn't know about until the world started buzzing about them and NOW I want to read them. Good thing we have a whole new year, and lifetime, to get to them!

What would you put on your list? Be sure to link up over at The Broke and the Bookish!


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