Thursday, November 13, 2014

Blue Lily, Lily Blue

I think I'm going to have to reread Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Cycle.  I feel like I'm zipping through the books so fast that I'm consuming them, instead of really feeling everything. I just have to know what happens next.  I feel like I waited forever for Blue Lily, Lily Blue to come out.  I read it very quickly and now I'm going to spend however many months, until sometime next year when the final book comes out.  I'm hoping it's sooner rather than later.

I love Blue. I love the boys. I love the ladies at 300 Fox Way. I appreciate real life seeping into their quest. Even though they are searching for Glendower and Maura, they are also thinking about the end of high school, about going off to college, what they can and can not afford.  They are taking time to think about their futures beyond this quest.  At times it feels irrelevant, or at least not as important, but it is and they have to acknowledge that.

The end was a bit of a surprise and I thought it was great.  Everything thing about it, from Adam and Persephone's conversation at the store until the very last page, it was fantastic.  More than anything else in the novel, the end has me eager to read the final book in The Raven Cycle.  I am really enjoying Blue's relationship with The Gray Man and I'm wondering what is going to happen with him.  He seems the most unpredictable of all the characters.  It's not that I think he'll hurt the Boys or the Women, but he could do anything to pretty much anyone else.  Also, the more I read the series, the more I love Calla.  There is so much I am enjoying that I will definitely be reading more books by Stiefvater. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Book Memory Challenge

I saw this post on What Red Read yesterday (I'm a bit behind in my blog reading; she posted this in October) and thought it would be fun to test my bookish memory. I tried not to look at Red's answers so as not to influence my own and was mostly successful.
 
Here are the questions: 
 
Here are my answers:
 
1. Michael Ondaatje
2. Eragon
3. Of Mice and Men
4. NW, by Zadie Smith
5. The Thorn Birds
6. All I can think of is the movie Sweet November. Was it ever a book?
7. The Knife Of Never Letting Go
8. Magisterum Book One: The Iron Trial. I know it's kind if cheating, but it says Book One on the book, so maybe it counts. 
9. Harry Potter and the...
10. The Hunger Games (This was probably the easiest one. I had loads to choose from.)

 
 
Here is me checking my answers:
 
1. Easy peasy... Ondaatje is one of my favourite authors.
2. Check
3. Check
4. Check
5. Check
6. Nope, it was never a book, but this is where my brain got stuck.  My brain couldn't have come up with The Hunt for Red October?  Because that was actually a book before it was a movie.  Goodreads has a list, though I've heard of some of the books, others are a real stretch (May shouldn't count when they mean "may")
7. Not all the editions have a knife on the cover, but the one I was thinking of does, so Check.
8. I'm going to say, no.  I could have said, One Hundred Years of Solitude, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, One Day...
9. Check
10. Check.... super easy
 
I did pretty good, I think.  8 out of 10.  If anyone else does the memory challenge, please put your link in the comments so I can check it out.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Pretties

Spoilers if you haven't read Uglies. Minor spoilers for Pretties.

I'm feeling more and more sorry for Tally.  Nothing she does seems to turn out right.  At the end of Uglies, Tally has given herself up to be turned Pretty, with the intention of taking an experimental cure. In Pretties, it starts out with her not remembering. That's part of what the pretty operation does, it changes not just your body, it changes your mind.  Is being pretty on the outside worth what it does to your mind?

I couldn't put Pretties down.  I read it easily in three days.  I could have read it in two, but my Hubby was bugging me to go to sleep.  I am finding the Uglies series not just entertaining, but thought provoking.  The people that Tally meets outside of the city, what Dr. Cable says to her, how she views herself, the New Smokies, the Crims, makes you think.  Is being "pretty-minded" so bad?  Everything seems under control, in general.  There is peace and love and happiness, but is the cost too high?  The Rusties (us, I'm presuming) destroyed themselves.  If Tally succeeds, will it just happen again?

I did not expect what happened with Shay and the Cutters.  I knew she was mad, but to do what she did.  I guess I understand the Cutter thing, once she knew she couldn't get her hands on a cure, but after?  Was it just to get revenge on Tally?  Does she really hate Tally that much?  It was a great addition to the series.  It definitely makes me even more excited to read Specials, though with the title, I could have guessed what it was about.

I'm really enjoying Scott Westerfeld's series.  I thought I would like it, but I didn't know how much.  I didn't know that I'd be thinking that maybe, in the end, Tally and the Smokies won't succeed.  That would certainly be an interesting twist.  I'm wondering about the end of book 4; will Extras leave me with an open conclusion, an unknown future?  Could the people living in the cities stop wanting to be pretty when that is what they've grown up with?  I could see where Westerfeld got the idea for the series as it is littered with issues we deal with today.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Fish Out Of Water

I couldn't wait to finish the final book in MaryJanice Davidson's Fred the Mermaid trilogy.  Fish Out Of Water was everything I wanted it to be.  I loved the ending.  Finally!  An ending I was satisfied with.  It wasn't a super happily-ever-after type ending, which I like, but happy enough. Some of the story was a bit predictable, but it was so entertaining, that it doesn't matter.  I wouldn't have expected anything else.

I read the first two books, Sleeping With The Fishes and Swimming Without A Net in the last couple weeks.  I've already talked about how I enjoy the grumpy mermaid and how much I like Davidson's writing.  So here are a few quick, but hopefully not spoilery things I liked about Fish Out Of Water.
- Fred's Dad. Sad, but good... and violent.
- Bad behaviour can make even the most beautiful person ugly.
- Be yourself, not who others want you to be, you'll be happier that way.
- Thomas always saw the real Fred.
- I still love Tennian.

Fish Out Of Water ended the series so well.... but wait!  Here's the main reason I picked up this trilogy in the first place.  The next book I plan on reading in Davidson's Undead series has a crossover story with Fred!  Undead and Underwater is on my to-read list.  I'm glad that Fish Out Of Water isn't the last I'm going to see of Fred.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Look At Diversity: Where Has My Reading Taken Me?

I like to think that my reading is diverse.  I don't try to make my reading diverse, but when I see authors from different countries, with different backgrounds sitting on my shelves, I feel like I don't have to try.  I've never had a set reading list (except in school), so I just go where my mood takes me.

Red over at What Red Read, wrote a post last month about her reading stats and trying to diversify where her reading comes from.  It was an interesting post and got me wondering about my actual reading statistics, not just what I felt that I read.  I eyeballed my reading list from the past year and could tell that it was an even split between male and female authors.  I quickly realized that I've been reading a lot series lately, which I felt might skew my stats, because several books would be by one author.  Also, reading a lot of series meant that I was reading a lot more newer books than classics.

I analyzed my reading stats, some of it was what I expected, some of it was not.  I decided to choose a twelve month period, from October 2013 to September 2014.  I thought that would give me a good look at where my reading has taken me.  In that time I read 50 books (I think that might be the most I've read in one year).  25 books were written by women, 24 by men, and the final one was a short story collection including both sexes.  That is what I expected.  What I found surprising was how many of these men and women were white Americans.  Previously, I read a fair amount of Canadian literature (being in Canada) as well as books by English authors, with a few from other countries.  I was very surprised with my findings and wondered why this was (Excel helped a lot).  In that 12-month time frame, 33 of the books I read were in series!  That's more series than I have ever read before. Not that I never read series, but they were much fewer than the 13 I read.  I didn't finish all the series, but from the spreadsheet, that's only because not all the books are out yet and many were books I or my Hubby already owned.  All these series were by Americans. 

As I compiled all this information, I remember, about a year ago, looking at my bookshelf and realizing that I had picked up a few Young Adult series recently decided I should really read them. So, I guess I started to and just hadn't realized how that decision had changed my reading habits.  I also wanted to catch up on two series I have been reading for years, but had been neglecting.  That hasn't left a lot of room for anything else.  I've also read much less classics than in previous years. Previously, I read something like 12 classics in one year.  That's way down for 2014.

This new realization concerned me, so I decided that I would look further back at my reading habits. If I take a look at all of 2013, not just the last few months, my stats improve.  There are many more Canadians and English authors on the list.  There are a few more classics, but not as many as I would have liked.  I eyeballed my list of read books for the last few years (it's a lot of books to actually analyze) and it's more what I thought it would be.  Still a lot of white authors, but not as many as this last year.  That means (to me) that the choice to read through a bunch of the YA series I own has left me with a less culturally diverse reading list.  Now I wonder why that is.

What does that mean for my reading choices going forward?  Well, I still want to shrink my to-be-read pile and the easiest way to do that is to read easy books, but I plan on being more conscious of reading too many of them.  I might research authors more; often times I don't know about an author's background until after I've read their first book.  I'm also going to get back to reading more classics. I've got a list I want to finish.  I still think I have been doing a good job, I just also think I can do better.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Last Shots

The final graphic novel in The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger series was not adapted from part Stephen King's The Gunslinger novel or a related story, it is a series of shorts, a few "last shots" into the world before the end.  Last Shots had everything I have come to love and expect from The Dark Tower graphic novels.  The art, the stories, were fantastic. 

There were three stories in the slim volume.  The first story, Sheemie's Tale , was about the special young man who Roland first encounters in Hambry, in the fourth Dark Tower novel, and then among the Breakers in the final novel.  Sheemie's story was tied to Roland's for longer than Roland ever knew.  In his mind, Sheemie calls to Roland to save him.  The second, Evil Ground, takes place before The Little Sisters of Eluria and The Battle for Jericho Hill.  It's nice to see Roland and his friends again. So Fell Lord Perth is the final story. It's a look at how it all began, Gilead and Arthur Eld.  I loved reading these stories for a lot of the same reasons I enjoyed The Wind Through The Keyhole.  I loved revisiting Roland and the world of The Dark Tower. One thing I appreciate about Last Shots, is that I think even if you haven't read anything else Dark Tower related, this little collection of stories would be enjoyable, just a taste of that world. I'm looking forward to the graphic novel adaptations of the second Dark Tower novel, The Drawing of the Three.  There will be something new to feed my Dark Tower addiction, Last Shots isn't the end.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Swimming Without A Net

Oh, Fred.  How did this happen? How did you end up there? Were you too aloof?  Too nice?  Well, maybe not nice, but she has a conscience.  Fred, the Grumpy Mermaid is trying to help Prince Artur and his dad, King Mekkan with a problem.  A solution is found, but is it the right one for the Undersea Folk?  Fred grows in Swimming Without A Net.  In the first Fred The Mermaid book, I feel like Fred spent a lot of time reacting to the situations around her.  In Swimming Without A Net, Fred is actively participating in mer-people's lives.  She makes decisions that are not entirely selfish.  She grows as a person and the end of this second novel I find a bit bittersweet.
Vague Spoilers....

I really enjoyed the new characters introduced in Swimming Without A Net.  I thought the scenes with Thomas and the King were hilarious.  I loved Tennian.  I thought she was funny.  At first she comes off as the more typical mermaid, but then you see she is stubborn and more like Fred than either of them may admit.  I also liked that Fred had a girlfriend, someone she could relate to, not just because she was also a mermaid.  I liked that Fred cared about her happiness.

I am eager to see how the trilogy ends.  I want to know what happens to the Undersea Folk.  I also want to know about Fred.  Where do her choices lead her?  Will she be happy?  Will she ever meet her father?  I have a feeling yes, but I could be wrong.  I was thoroughly captivated by MaryJanice Davidson's writing.  I read the short novel easily in two days.  Davidson gave me exactly what I wanted from Fred's second book and I am full of expectation for the third.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Doll Bones

Doll Bones is the first book I've read by Holly Black and I don't think it'll be the last. Doll Bones tells the story of three friends, Polly, Alice, and Zach, who are twelve and are growing up. The three friends have been playing together since they were little. Something happens which makes Zach think that he won't be able to play with Polly and Alice anymore. Life changes a lot at twelve and these three are no exception. Growing up, however, is not all they have to worry about. They're being haunted, by a creepy porcelain doll.

What is it about porcelain dolls that make them creepy?  Also, they're creepy, so why do people buy them?  How many possessed dolls have there been in horror movies and shows? But they keep getting bought. The cover of Doll Bones is the creepy doll. It is a great cover for a middle grade horror novel. It is the cover and the fact that I've been wanting to read something by Black (and the crazy sale price) that had me pick up Doll Bones and it was great.

Doll Bones was the perfect read for the car trips we took recently; I barely noticed the time pass by. I loved the three main characters. They each came from different home lives and they are each becoming adolescents in their own way. They are leaving childhood behind, but are also trying to hang on to it. Their quest was fantastic, scary and fun. I liked the end, the last line, but I'm still left wanting more. I want to know more about Polly, Zach, and Alice. I wish there was more at the ending. I want to know more about their families too. It might just be me though, I've been hard to please with endings lately. I'm happy I read Dolls Bones, it was a great October read.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Favourite Poetry - The Classics Club Meme

I don't usually do the Classics Club Meme, but I couldn't resist October's topic.  Classic poetry!  My long-time favourite poem is by Romantic, William Wordsworth:
 
A slumber did my spirit seal;
 I had no human fears:
She seem'd a thing that could not feel
The touch of earthly years.

No motion has she now, no force;
 She neither hears nor sees;
Roll'd round in earth's diurnal course
 With rocks, and stones, and trees.

It is lyrically beautiful, while also being so very sad.  I first read this poem in University.  It has stayed with me since. 
 
I went through poetry overload after University.  I took an entire course on poetry, plus there was poetry in other classes as well.  I spent so long dissecting classic and contemporary poetry that I couldn't read it anymore, just for the enjoyment.  A couple years ago that slowly started to change with Disney Princesses, and Rime of the Ancient Mariner (which for some reason I never read in University.)  Since, I have kept up with reading poetry here and there.  I also decided that there were some classic poems and poets I had to read.  This past spring, I started reading the complete works of Emily Dickinson.  I decided to do it slowly, as so many poems would just blend together if I read it all at once and I wanted the opportunity to savour each poem.  From the collection, I have two favourites so far:

That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.
 
and

Death is a dialogue between
The spirit and the dust.
“Dissolve,” says Death. The Spirit, “Sir,
I have another trust.”

Death doubts it, argues from the ground.
The Spirit turns away,
Just laying off, for evidence,
An overcoat of clay.
 
I know that The Chariot is Dickinson's most well-known poem, and I do think it is wonderful, but I can't have the same favourite as everyone else.  As soon as I read Hope it stuck with me and I think it might be like Wordsworth's classic, a poem I will think of for years to come.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sleeping With The Fishes

With a title like Sleeping With The Fishes, you wonder if the mob is going to be involved.  You'll have to read the book to find out....

I loved Fred. The tone of the writing very much reminded me of MaryJanice Davidson's Undead series, but Fred is not Betsy. Fred doesn't care about clothes or men. Fred is a scientist, a marine biologist. She is tough, assertive, and blunt. There are a lot of similarities between her and Betsy too.  She is self-centred. She's also very tall. Fred lacks compassion; it's a decision she has to make rather than instinct. I like that she's not a damsel. She does not fall all over herself for the water fellow or the handsome prince. 

I like that in the novel, the issue of how we "bipeds" treat the environment is the centre of their investigation. People dump into the water, they are more concerned with money. The novel makes it seem as though there are only a few people like Thomas who really care. I hope that's not true. I like that a fun, mermaid novel has a bit of a serious thread running through it. 
 
I read recently that Davidson will only be writing two more Undead books and then the series will be over.  It's a sad thought for me, since I've been reading about Queen Betsy for years and years.  It's nice to know that when I want something light and fun to read, Davidson will provide with one of her other books.
 
So, my copy of Sleeping With The Fishes is part of an omnibus with all three Fred the Mermaid books.  Do I read all three since they're in the same "book"? Or do I put other novels in between series books, like I usually do?  I think the latter, but maybe not.  Let's see what I do when I take a bit of time to read tonight.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Binu and the Great Wall

I really wanted to love this book. Binu and the Great Wall sounded like something I would really enjoy, and it is part of the Canongate Myth Series, a series I've been enjoying for years.  But I also had a feeling I was going to be disappointed.  I try not to let other people's opinions influence me when it comes to books.  Since I joined Goodreads, I've seen what more people think of a book than ever before.  Even just a glance at the average star rating lets me know what the overall feeling towards a book has been.  Binu and the Great Wall does not have the best average on Goodreads.  I tried to put it out of my mind.  For the most part I did, until a couple chapters in.  Then I knew.  Binu and the Great Wall was okay.  It wasn't terrible, but it didn't excite me, didn't blow me away, didn't make me eager to pick the book up everyday. 
 
Binu and the Great Wall is a retelling of The Myth of Mengfrom China, written by Su Tong, a bestselling Chinese writer.  It is times like these that make me wonder if my feelings towards the book are because of the translation or if the original read this way also.  There's no way for me to know.  Su Tong has written award winning fiction, he has a good reputation.  I had hope for Binu.  I think my main problem with the novel was the title character, Binu.  Her choices were just crazy.  She couldn't control herself.  I understand that this is based on a myth and I'm guessing some of what is written falls in line with the myth, but still, her choices were a little too unbelievable.  Her motivation for everything she does is her love for her husband, but her choices could still have been better.  I know main characters in novels often go through terrible hardships before they reach their final goal and that the ending is not always happy (I just read Animal Farm after all), but it wasn't evoking the sadness and empathy I think it wanted.  Binu and the Great Wall is an easy read.  It flows well, so it didn't take me long to finish, I just wish I could have liked Binu more.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Reckless

I don't normally read romance novels, or any of its subgenres, but for some reason, I couldn't resist reading Skye Jordan's Reckless.  I downloaded it for free on iBooks, it was one of the top books. It is free with Kindle and Kobo too.  I enjoyed the novel so much, I'm considering paying for the second and third books in the series.  Reckless is a hot and sexy piece of fiction.  I've dipped into this genre before and been disappointed.  Previously, I have found that the writer has focused all their attention on the sexy parts of the novels, to the detriment of the story.  I enjoyed the story of Reckless.  A poor girl works hard and achieves success.  A rich boy leaves the family business to find happiness and make it on his own.  I liked Lexi's work ethic, her focus on her goals.  She just needed to loosen up.  I liked Jax's independence.  He just needed to stop dating superficial girls.  I found myself rooting for them as a couple.  I liked their best friends, Rubi and Wes.  It seems like they'll be the stars of Rebel, Jordan's second Renegades book.  I might just get it when I need a quick read.

I would have liked a bit better ending though.  It was just done.  Suddenly.  One of those times where there were other "sneak peaks" at the end of the book, so I thought there was more story.  It keeps happening to me.  I should have known better and checked.  Even without that unfortunate surprise, I still would have liked something more at the end.  An epilogue?  Riding off into the sunset?  I hope that even though Rubi and Wes are going to be the focus of Rebel we get to know what happens to Lexi and Jax. - I just noticed that the girls names are four letters and the boys are three; is that a thing?  Am I going to start reading more novels in this genre because of Reckless? Probably not, but I might read the ones written by Skye Jordan.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Uglies

That's the ending? Really? Well, fine then. I'll just have to read the sequel to Scott Westerfeld's Uglies. It's a good thing I got the box set at such a good bargain. This is the second book I have read recently that feels like a series, like one really long story. Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children has the same, obvious, cliffhanger ending. Any resolution at all not likely coming until the end of the series. I don't usually like that feeling, that nothing is known, that you must read the next novel before you can know anything, but like Miss Peregrine's, I enjoyed Uglies enough for it not to matter. I want to know more about this society, how it got there and where it's going.

Uglies also reminded me a lot of Delirium. Both stories take place in a society where something is taken away, leaving a more "peaceful" people. When Delirium removes love, the reaction is more shocked, I think, from the reader.  When Uglies removes ugliness, there's more hesitation, doesn't everyone want to be pretty? That's what drew me to the series, the idea that no one is judged on looks because everyone is pretty. There's even a pretty standard. How the Uglies treat each other, how they idolize the Pretties, seemed an almost logical exaggeration of what happens now. The Uglies are teenagers, a time when a person is learning about themselves and also in need of guidance. If pretty adults come to you and tell you that one day you'll be pretty too, why question it?

Uglies (like Delirium) centres around a girl who is fine with the status quo. Tally (like Lena) starts out wanting the operation that will make them normal. It is a friend that starts them down the rebellious path. Is it the boy that keeps them their, or is it that their beliefs change? I like to think the later. Tally learns the truth about the operation. It changes how she views everything and everyone she has ever known. I like the idea of the unwilling rebel/hero. I've seen it twice now in these dystopian novels. I wonder if I'll see more of it. 
 
I have to say, that scene with Tally, Shay, and the magazines was really interesting. I liked Tally's reaction to them and how Shay explained things too her. I like the idea that magazines, fashion magazines, could hold a piece of our history that future generations would never know about otherwise. I also found it interesting that in Tally's world, not everyone learns penmanship. Not even basic printing. Technology is such a huge part of Tally's world that even people living in the wilderness have to use it. 

I'm excited to read the rest of the series. Westerfeld has created and intriguing world and left the end of Uglies with a big setup for Pretties. The series is four books, and I don't think it'll be long before I have read all of them. 

Monday, October 06, 2014

Animal Farm

Animal Farm was a fantastic, interesting, wonderful novel.  A very short novel (novella), I was surprised at how short, initially.  Once reading the story, however, it couldn't have gone on longer.  It was the right length.  It was everything it needed to be.  It was more than I expected it to be.  Animal Farm is one of those books I should have read years ago, maybe right after I read George Orwell's other famous novel, 1984.   Animal Farm was my Classics Club Spin book, but I was going to read it anyway.  It had been gnawing at me that I hadn't read it yet. 
 
The comparisons to Communism are obvious, Orwell was definitely not subtle about Napolean and his regime.  I feel so bad for the animals who rebelled against their oppressors, only to have it happen again.  It has a very historic Russian cycle to it.  Though I knew the story was not going to be a happy one (since 1984 was not), I was still shocked about what happened to Boxer.  The cruelty reached a new height.  I wonder what happened to Snowball.  I kept hoping that he would rally animals at another farm, then try to overthrow Napoleon.  I hoped that the horses would do something.  I almost hoped that the men would win their final battle.  I ended the book hoping that the animals would revolt against the pigs. 
 "All animals are equal
but some are more equal than others."
 
My Hubby told me there are Animal Farm movies/videos.  I'd like to see one.  There are cartoons and live-action.  I'm interested to see how the book is interpreted and if the same feelings evoked by Orwell's story are there when seeing it on screen. 
 
I think Animal Farm is one of those books that everyone should read.  It isn't long and has such a powerful story told through an almost silly way.  Animal Farm is a book I'd like to read again, but like 1984 with its ending, it might be some time.  I wished so much for the happiness of the animals, even after the brutality of their self-proclaimed leader.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Why I Love The Scholastic Book Flyer

For those of you know don't know, the Scholastic Book flyer is a flyer selling books to school children, making those kids part of the Scholastic Book Club.  The flyer comes home every month with the children. Through the flyer you can buy books and they have a pretty good selection with decent prices.  There are different flyers for different age groups.  I have a sentimental attachment to them.  For most of my school life, that was how I got new books.

My parents weren't readers.  They might read the newspaper or a magazine article, but not a book.  I know a lot of people who (sadly) are not readers.  They would rather do something else.  I guess that's fine. My Hubby wondered out loud once how I developed such a deep love of books; the only ones around were the few in my room.  For many years, the Scholastic Flyer was my only source of books.  It's where I got my first diary, my Sweet Valley Twins, Babysitters Club and Fear Street novels. (Fear Street is probably what led me to eventually be a Stephen King fan.)  It wasn't until I was a teenager roaming the mall with my friends that I would have an opportunity to go into a bookstore.  Even then it was rare, as not many teenagers wanted to hangout with books.

Seeing my daughter bring these home now fills me with such happiness.  It fills me with hope too.  Though I have taken my children into a bookstore many, many times.  I know that there are parents out there who aren't taking their kids to bookstores.  Seeing the flyer lets me know that children will have the opportunity to develop a love for reading even if there parents do not.  I also appreciate that it hasn't "gone digital" as so much does these days.  Many families don't have the internet at home or even computers.  A physical paper flyer means access for everyone.  So much has changed in schools from when I was my daughter's age.  I am glad to see that this one thing has not and I hope it never will.
 

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Hollow City

Hollow City is the second book in Ransom Rigg's series, Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children.  I loved the first book.  I was very interested in all the old photographs and they way that the author blended the storytelling and the photos.  I was a little concerned that the "novelty" of the photos would wear off for me in the second book; I hoped it wouldn't feel gimmicky.  It did not.  I think there were less photos this time around, which, I think, made the storytelling more fluid, where filling it with photos like last time would have seemed forced.

The third book in the series is apparently not coming out until "late 2015".  That's at least a year, if not longer.  I wouldn't be paying so much attention to this if the ending of Hollow City wasn't so intense, twisty and peculiar.  I thought the ending was intriguing, but like the first book, it ended with a serious cliffhanger.  In Hollow City the cliffhanger might even be worse.  Usually, I like my books in a series to still be able to stand on their own, at least a bit.  The books in Miss Peregrine' Peculiar Children do not.  It's a series in an unapologetic way.  The journey of the children, especially Jacob, is one long road, that could not be told in a single tale.  It needs to be broken up into books.  So, I will eagerly await then next Peculiar tale and hope it doesn't take too long.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Fall


The Fall is the second book in The Strain trilogy by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. I've been watching The Strain television show on FX Canada and the more I watched it, the more I had to read the second book. Not only did the show put me in the mood for some more dark, vampire fiction, but something happened on the show that I knew related to the second book. How long until I read The Night Eternal?  We will see.

Vague Spoilers ahead.

I really enjoyed seeing the evolutions of Eph, Gus and Fet. These are not the same men who appeared in The Strain. They've adapted to the battle against the vampire strain infecting the world.  I wish Nora had been developed a little more.  I also didn't like the end of her, her mother and Zach.  I did like what happened with Palmer.  I continue to wonder how Eph and Fet's relationship will develop.

I'm not sure how I feel about The Fall.  It was a good story, a little slow at the beginning, but really picking up speed and flowing easily to the end.  It was engaging and entertaining.  It felt like a second book though.  The ending wasn't a total cliffhanger, but still full of wonder.  However, I know The Night Eternal does not pick up right away after the end of The Fall. It's years later, so I am not left with the urgency to read the final book, as so often happens with me and trilogies.  Next month is October though, the perfect time of year for vampire fiction.  Maybe I will be reading it soon.
 
I really want to know what happens to Zach.  His fate is left so dark, scary, and very uncertain.  That's what I am looking forward to most in the final book.  Also, after all that has happened, how will humanity survive?
 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Steel Cut Oats

Why do people love steel cut oats for their oatmeal in the morning?  I've heard from so many people how wonderful it is.  I've see recipes for different ways to make it on Pinterest and blogs.  I have been told that if I love oatmeal, I just have to try steel cut oats.  So, I finally bought a bag last week and now I'm wondering what I'm doing wrong.

I love oatmeal.  Regular, rolled oat oatmeal.  It's one of my favourite breakfasts.  It can be as simple or as complex as I want.  Often, I add raisins and a bit of maple syrup.  It's a warm way to start off a chilly fall or winter morning.  Why am I not getting this same feeling from steel cut oats?
 
Should I do one of the overnight recipes?  One of the baked recipes?  Why is this so hard?  I used an actual pot to make them, going beyond the ease of rolled oats in the microwave, because I WANT to know, I want to understand the love people have for them. 
 
I'm considering trying one of the overnight slow cooker recipes.  They seem like more work than I intended, but if they come out better, as wonderful as suggested, then it might be worth it.  I also think waking up to a cinnamon smell might be nice.  Anyone out there love steel cut oats or have a recipe to share?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Where There's Smoke, by Jodi Picoult

I've always been curious about author Jodi Picoult.  She's written some wildly popular books, at least one I can think was made into a movie.  Pic out has written so many books, where do I start?  I start where I have with other authors.  I read a short story.  Where There's Smoke is available for free from iBooks, Kindle and Kobo.  It's also available through Google Play and as a PDF directly from Jodi Picoult's website.  If I missed anything, information is available through her site.

Where There's Smoke features a main character from Picoult's upcoming novel Leaving Time. It's offered for free, I believe, as part of the promotion for Leaving Time. I've always thought that offering free short stories is a good way to get people interested in a novel. Am I interested in reading Leaving Time. Yes...ish. Serenity, the main character and narrator of Where There's Smoke, is an interesting character. I like how naturally she describes and uses her psychic abilities. I could read more of Serenity, I thought I might have gotten a bit more in the short story. The story had a "prologue" feel to it. Though, what I considered the secondary storyline, was resolved, the main plot was not. I assume it will be dealt with in the novel, but as a short story on its own, the conclusion was lacking. So, while I want to know what happens to Serenity, the short story could have been just a smidge better.  


Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Expendables 2

So... The Expendables 2..... was fun.  It was cheesy and bloody and had some hilarious one-liners.  I loved the scene with Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Jet Li punched a guy so hard his face exploded.  There were some great fight scenes and shootouts.  Honestly though - and I've said this about action movies in the recent past - it needed more swearing.  A few good f-bombs raises the energy, gives it more of an "authentic" action movie feel.  It's not like I want swearing in my romantic comedies or my science-fiction.  It's just these specific kind of movies, with blood spray and excessive force. 

I think my favourite part of the movie was actually the outtakes on the disc.  It looks like working with Jean-Claude Van Damme is silly.  He seems to be goofing off, while playing this ruthless villain.  Wait, that may be my second favourite part.  My favourite part of the movie is the music they play whenever Chuck Norris shows up.  I mean, he's Chuck Norris, so of course he gets his own music.

I think Sylvester Stallone has created a fairly fun couple of movies.  I haven't seen the third yet, but I plan to.  Are these the best movies ever?  No, but they play up their own ridiculousness, which keeps me wanting to see more.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Fresh Tomato Salsa


All the ingredients chopped up.
After months of buying beautiful produce from the local farmers market, I decided it was time to make my own salsa.  I didn't want to just throw tomatoes, onions and jalapeños in a container.  I wanted a recipe to guide me and found this tomato salsa recipe from All Recipes.  The recipe as written is good.  However, I wouldn't be me if I didn't tweek it.  I have my recipe below (click the link above for the original recipe). 

3 cups tomatoes, chopped
1 cup yellow bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup red onion, finely diced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped 
2 tbsp fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)

Everything mixed together
2 tbsp+ fresh jalapeño pepper, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
 
- I used yellow pepper instead of green pepper (what the other recipe called for) because I was thinking, it might suck if someone got a chip-full of green pepper, except it wasn't green pepper.... also, I like colour.
- I prefer red onion over white, in general.  I also cut the amount in half because I found 1 cup overpowering, taking away from the fresh tomato flavour.
- I like spicy salsa, my Hubby likes spicier salsa.  So, more jalapeño.
Mmm.... Chips and Salsa.
- I also added more cumin.  I think it tastes better.
 
The salsa I make lasts about a week.  If I have people over, it doesn't last at all.  For some reason, people seem impressed that I make salsa from scratch.  It's not hard.  Just a lot of chopping.  Guacamole, other dips I've made take more work, but don't get the same reaction.  I hope more people can enjoy making their own homemade salsa.




Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Lock In

Lock In is the second book I've read by John Scalzi and it was super-fantastic.  I was engaged, entrapped, "locked in" from the first chapter.  I loved Agent Chris Shane and his hardass, drinking, smoking partner, Agent Vann.  The plot was fast-paced and kept me reading late into the night. I loved everything about this story. I thought the virus was interesting, as was the advancements made to help those who suffered from Lock In. I thought Chris Shane had a very unusual first week with his new partner. I thought Chris's family was interesting and I like how they became part of the plot of the story. I thought Tony and Tayla were great secondary characters. I like Trinh and Davidson. Every character seemed to have a full life/backstory that we just don't see in the story. 

I was lucky and won an ARC of Lock In from Goodreads. I loved Redshirts and was excited to read more by Scalzi. I also really enjoy his blog, Whatever. Basically in Lock In, a virus plagues the world. Most people are affected and most end up okay, but one percent suffer from "lock in" being trapped in their own bodies, yet completely conscious and aware. Chris Shane, becomes the most famous child with Haden's - the disease gets its name from the president's wife and daughter. Technologies are created to help those who suffer from being locked in. Everything is about this one percent, which in America, where the story is based, is 1.7 million people. If you think about it globally, that's 70 million people. There is no cure, so people are continually being affected. The American president throws money at research and no one argues, everyone supports it since they all know someone locked in. After a generation of this, a couple of senators sign a bill cutting funding to Haden's research programs; that's when things get violent. 
 
The description doesn't do it justice. The book is amazing. The Agora is fascinating, people with Lock In can exist there and make it whatever they want it to me. Threeps, aka Person Transports are fantastic and I love who they're named after. Scalzi invents things I wish were real and I wonder if one day they will be. I can't express how much I enjoyed Lock In. I hope that Scalzi writes more about Shane and Vann, I want to know what happens next. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Empire Striketh Back


http://www.amazon.ca/William-Shakespeares-Empire-Striketh-Back/dp/1594747156The Empire Striketh Back is the second installment in William Shakespeare's Star Wars. Everything I enjoyed about the first book was here in the second. I still love R2-D2's asides. I enjoyed the Shakespearean insults. While the novelty of writing Star Wars in Shakespearean language was starting to wear off, there was enough new stuff to keep me interested. Author Ian Doescher goes deeper into the character of Lando of Calrissian, more than what we learn about him in the movie. There were singing Ugnaughts. Best of all, Yoda spoke in Haiku. I loved the Haikus.

Doescher writes a bit of an Afterward explaining some of his choices in Empire and how this book differs from the first. I thought it was interesting (and I appreciated it as an Afterward, not an Introduction). I also thought it was interesting that one of his readers who was an expert in Shakespeare, has never seen the Star Wars movies (has he been living under a rock?). I really enjoyed The Empire Striketh Back and I look forward to the third book, The Jedi Doth Return. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Giver


The ending!  What happened?  This is the second book in a row that I've read where the ending leaves so many possibilities.  I know that technically Lois Lowry's The Giver is the first in a quartet of books, but after reading the description for Gathering Blue, I don't know if it has anything to do with Jonas.  So, that leaves me wanting to know what happens next.  As crazy as this kind of ending makes me, I also liked it.  I like the possibilities.

I'm not really sure what my thoughts are on the rest of the book.  I enjoyed it.  I can see why so many have loved it over the years - The Giver was published 20 years ago, before dystopian novels became a thing. The main character, Jonas, is thoughtful and introspective.  Initially, he balances what he learns with the way he grows up.  The more he learns about the truth, however, especially about his father, the more he wants to turn away.  This isn't a very action-packed novel.  The reader mostly orbits Jonas and his time learning.  The Giver doesn't need action, I wanted to know what Jonas was going to learn next, I wanted to know what his decisions were going to be.

Even though I can tell from the trailers that they've aged Jonas (he's only 12 in the novel) and that there is more action scenes, I'm interested in seeing the movie.  I want to see how they bring Jonas's internal world to life on the screen.  I've heard mixed reviews on the movie.  I wonder if they traded some of Jonas's thoughtfulness for action sequences.  I'll just have to wait and see.  The book is amazing though, enduring for decades.  I'm sure I've missed tons of stuff, I can see myself reading The Giver again and giving it to my kids to read.  I think it will still be in schools and read for years to come.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Requiem


I was not ready for the story to be over.  I thought there were more pages until I checked how many I had left.  I discovered I had 10 instead of 50.  The edition of Requiem I purchased apparently includes an Alex story.  I knew it was there, but in the midst of the novel, running through the Wilds with Lena and trying to survive Fred with Hana, I forgot about it.  I only remembered it as I approached the end.  I knew it was coming too late though.  I thought there would be more. 


The ending was unexpected.  I appreciated that Lauren Oliver didn't make it neat and tidy.  I expected something like Harry Potter or The Hunger Games and so many Young Adult novels I've read recently, with an epilogue or something at the end that tells us how it all worked out.  That's why I thought there was more to the story. With so few pages left, Lauren Oliver couldn't end the story and give us an epilogue. I like the unexpected, I like that Oliver did something different. There's a certain artistry about her choice of ending. I am intrigued by the uncertainty, the lack of resolutions.  I think I like the possiblity that characters could easily live or die in the next few moments past the end of the story.

I really enjoyed the alternating passages between Lena and Hana. Pandemonium was different than Delirium and Requiem was different again. I felt sorry for Hana through most of the story. Then I felt less sorry for her. I think she did the best she could. Without adults to guide them through confusing emotional times, is it any wonder that the adolescent characters act out? I think it's good to have an adult to help talk through things, parent or not, but the cure takes that away. All these young people hear is that the cure will eventually make it all better and they just have to behave. Like that's so easy when you're seventeen, especially with no guidance. It still breaks my heart to think that parents aren't caring, aren't loving their children. That's really what starts Lena on this path, that they wanted to take her mother's love away. I like that love is explored in more than just the romantic sense. 

Requiem was an thrilling ride to the end. I enjoyed this conclusion to the Delirium series. 

I just kind of wish it was the conclusion...

Since this edition includes the story, Alex, I thought I would write my thoughts on the short story/novella here as well.  Sometimes I am unmotivated to read the short stories and novellas of "trilogies" if I've already finished the main books.  I know what happens already in the plot and, in general, it doesn't add anything to the story for me or my enjoyment of the series. 

Alex was a good story and a great character.  Alex, the story, kind of changed how I view the character. I was thinking he had gotten harder, and he did, maybe just not as hard as Lena saw him. Alex gives the reader insight into what his time was like in the Crypts, Portland's prison, and how he escaped. What I was hoping for was maybe how he got to be where Lena was in New York and how he felt when he saw her with Julian. I was hoping maybe since the story is listed as #3.5 on Goodreads, it would give us some information as to what happened after the end of Requiem. It doesn't. Alex is a good story, but I wish I read it before Requiem. It didn't really do anything for me. It was well-written and enjoyable on its own, but I wouldn't suggest reading it as a concluding story to the Delirium series. Skip to the end, read it first, then read Requiem.  If there is anyone out there who feels different, I would like to hear their opinion.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Delirium Stories

Delirium Stories is a collection of three novellas/short stories written by Lauren Oliver as companions to the novels of the Delirium series.  I read the stories as I read the novels.  Hana and Annabel were read after Delirium and Raven after Pandemonium.  After I read each story, I wrote down a few thoughts, as I often do with short story collections.

Hana

I enjoyed Hana as a character in Delirium, but I think I like her more now. From Lena's perspective, it seems like Hana is a willing participant of everything. Hana is willing, but she also sees how Lena is growing and changing. Hana sees Lena moving away from her. 

Hana has her own experience with a boy, one many of us can relate to, but is put into a different perspective in the context of Delirium. She never tells Lena. If she did, maybe Lena would understand Hana's decision.

Annabel

Though I thoroughly enjoyed Hana and learning about all the things Lena didn't know happened, Annabel was exciting.  It was sad, but also full of hope.  Annabel is Lena's mother.  This is her story, told beautifully.  From Annabel and her own mother's perspective, we can maybe see why some people wanted the cure so desperately.

I loved everything about Annabel.  I loved her determination, her emotion, and her honesty. I love the story of how she met her husband of how they never spoke of it.  I also loved Thomas and getting to know him better.  He was just a name in  Delirium, in Annabel, he was a person, who had suffered loss and wanted to help the world.  Reading Annabel is a highlight in the whole series.

Raven

Raven. Oh my. There is so much. So much you don't know while reading Pandemonium. Raven is a mother/big sister to Lena, but she's so much more than that. There is so much information in this story. If you didn't read it and just read the novels, would there be surprise? I guess I'll find out soon since I'll be starting Requiem shortly. Raven is such a wonderful, complex character. She's so compelling. Even though Lena is looking for her mother, I want her to stay with Raven. Raven has dreams and hopes and fantasies. She has new complications. I don't know if it's because I've read Pandemonium, but Raven is my favourite story of the three. Raven went back for Lena. Annabel didn't.

I really enjoyed the Delirium Stories. I'm glad I read them interspersed with the novels. It added to the overall feel of the series. If you decide to read the Delirium series, pick up Delirium Stories too.