Saturday, June 23, 2012

Adventures in Barnes & Noble

One of the main downsides to living in a ridiculously small town is that there are no - and I mean no - decent bookstores nearby. There's the slim selection at Walmart, a few Hallmark stores that also happen to sell books, and a tiny used book store that sells almost nothing but self-help books, none of which are  closer than a half hour's drive. This means that when I do make a rare trip to civilization, skipping Barnes & Noble is absolutely out of the question.

Yesterday's trip was particularly eventful, and included some of the following occurrences:

1. I saw "The Complete Sherlock Holmes" in a leather-bound, gold-leaf hardcover on the display. I then found the same book (different publisher) downstairs for less than half the price. Epic win.

2. The "down" escalator wasn't escalating, just sitting their like a set of stairs. I walked up it, fulfilling a lifelong goal to walk up a down escalator.

3. As I paid for my books, the salesperson made the following comment: "I love coming here. It's kind of dangerous, though. Do you ever feel like you have a problem? Like, 'I should go to AA meetings, but for buying books?"

I wanted to hug her and proclaim joyfully that I wasn't the only one with this problem. There was a counter in the way and several people nearby, though, so I settled for nodding vigorously and discussing the various methods to store such a large amount of books.

Just more proof that books - and the places that hold them - are full of unexpected adventure.


Tuned In To (4)

Tuned In To is a weekly feature discussing albums I've been listening to, songs that have been stuck in my head, or artists I've discovered, and is posted on Fridays. 

First, I'd like to apologize for this post being a day late; I was out of town until late last night, and didn't have the energy to write anything before dropping into bed. Secondly, this post is going to be a little different than normal. This week, I'm talking about a song that fits perfectly with the plot/characters of a book. 

I finished The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater yesterday, and since I was in a slightly noisy environment when I was reading, I had my headphones in and was listening to Coldplay's album X&Y while I read. As I was reading and listening, I was struck by how perfectly their song Swallowed in the Sea fits the book.

To me, this song perfectly captures not only Sean and Puck's personalities and their relationship, but also the bond between Sean and Corr. I don't want to spoil the book incase you haven't read it, but I will say that the last scene was so moving, it almost brought it to tears, and when I think of it combined with this song, I get chills at how perfect it is.

What do you think? Have you read The Scorpio Races? Do you have any songs you think fit the book?


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Song Wars (4)

Song Wars is where I compare two songs with similar titles, meanings, or lyrics, different versions of the same song, or an original song and the covers that have been made. I'll discuss what I like and dislike about both songs, then decide which one, overall, I like better. 

This Week
"50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" by Paul Simon vs. "50 Ways to Say Goodbye" by Train

What They Have in Common: Very similar titles and meaning

Titles: The titles of these songs are so similar it's almost impossible to compare them; however, I have to say I like the title of "50 Ways to Say Goodbye" just a little bit more - it's a bit more catchy and memorable. 

Lyrics: I love the verses of the Paul Simon song. Something about the way they rhyme, the way they're sung, and the beat to them just makes them really amazing. I don't care for the chorus as much - it's tolerable, but the way he uses so many different names sort of annoys me and the lyrics aren't as well-written as in the verse.  I have a similar problem with the Train song - certain parts, especially in the chorus, are really awesome and I love them, and then there are other parts that I don't like or that leave me kind of confused, like, "Why would you put that there? What does that have to do with this song." While neither song has flawless lyrics, "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" wins this round for me because at least all the lyrics make sense, even if I don't like all of them. 

Music: Train wins this one partially by default - there's not a lot of noticeable music in "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover", while "50 Ways to Say Goodbye" is instantly recognizable. But I also like the music - I'm not madly in love with it, but it's catchy and unique. 

Singing: I honestly don't have a strong opinion in either direction for this category. Both songs are well sung, though neither jumps out at me as being outstanding. I do like the softer way Paul Simon sings the verses of "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" - like I said, something about the way it combines with the lyrics just makes it really awesome - so because of that, "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" wins this category. 

Meaning: This is another category where the songs are so similar, it's difficult to compare them. In fact, based on meaning alone, it's almost impossible, but I really love the tone and attitude of "50 Ways to Say Goodbye" - I'm not sure whether to describe it as sarcastic or something else, but whatever it is, I love it. It definitely has more bounce and energy than "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover", which is why it wins this category. 

So "50 Ways to Say Goodbye" wins for me. Which song do you like better?


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Wish List (2)

The Wish List features one book from my wish list each week, along with why I want it. Thanks to Jill at Breaking the Spine and Ren at All By Myshelf for the inspiration for this feature. 

The Raven Boys
By Maggie Stiefvater

"There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark's Eve," Neeve said. "Either you're his true love...or you killed him."

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them - not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Anglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Anglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can't entirely explain. He has it all - family money, good looks, devoted friend - but he's looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she's not so sure anymore.

I absolutely love Maggie Stiefvater. Everything I've read that she's written has been fantastic beyond words. I was blown away by Lament and Ballad, loved Shiver, and am in the middle of The Scorpio Races right now and can't put it down. I was really excited to learn she has a new book coming out. It sounds mysterious, intriguing, thrilling, and magical, and I can't wait until it's released. 


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Reading Room (19)

The Reading Room is a weekly update on books I'm reading and planning to read, posted on Tuesdays. It was inspired by the feature On Myshelf at the blog All By Myshelf

Today was one of those, "It's so hot I can't even breathe," sort of summer days. That, of course, meant it was time for a trip to the Land of Free Air Conditioning and Books - the public library. It seems a lot of people had the same idea I did, because the place was packed, but I managed to make my way past the old men reading newspapers, the cluster of people at the computers and several babies in strollers to the bookshelves.
The first book that jumped out at me was Switched by Amanda Hocking, so I grabbed it and then hightailed it out of the Young Adult section, because it was one of the most crowded areas in the entire library - and the nearest baby-in-a-stroller was asleep and snoring ridiculously loud for being so small. Anyway, it looks really interesting - plus, I absolutely LOVE the cover. 

The other book I grabbed before leaving was The Throne of Fire, by Rick Riordan, the second book in The Kane Chronicles. I love Rick Riordan's books, and The Red Pyramid, the first book, was fantastic. I can't wait to start reading this and see what Carter and Sadie are getting up to. The only problem is that the library doesn't yet have a copy of The Serpent's Shadow, the third book in the series, so once I've finished this book I'm going to have to find someone to borrow it from, or fork over the money to buy my own copy. 

The next few days are supposed to be just as ungodly hot as today was, so I have a feeling I'll be spending a lot of time sitting in front of the air conditioner, reading...


Friday, June 15, 2012

Tuned In To (3)

Tuned In To is a weekly feature discussing albums I've been listening to, songs that have been stuck in my head, or artists I've discovered, and is posted on Fridays.

So, I've been obsessed with Neon Trees for about a month now, ever since they started making regular appearances on my Pandora Shuffle, and I'm really liking their most recent album, Picture Show. "Everybody Talks" has been on the radio almost constantly, which is awesome - I love it - but the song that's really been stuck in my head is "Moving in the Dark." It's so incredibly catchy, and I love the lyrics. Unfortunately, I can't post the video, but here's a link to it on YouTube - you should definitely go watch it. Go ahead, I'll wait.

It's stuck in your head too, now, isn't it?

Thanks to the lovely blog Kaleidoscopic Reveries, I've also discovered the incredible artist Ferraby Lionheart. I'm in love with his song "Tickets to Crickets" - it's so sweet! I'm so glad I've stumbled upon this artist, and I will definitely be checking out more of his songs soon.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Wish List

New Feature Alert!

I've wanted to do something like this for awhile, and since it's summer and I have more time to write posts, I've decided to take the plunge. The Wish List will feature one book from my wish list each week, along with why I want to read it. Of course, this type of feature has been done by many other blogs, so thanks to Jill at Breaking the Spine and Ren at All By Myshelf for the inspiration.

So, the first book to be featured is...
The Eternal Ones
By Kirsten Miller

Haven Moore can't control her visions of a past with a boy called Ethan, and a life in New York that ended in fiery tragedy. In our present, she designs beautiful dresses for her classmates with her best friend Beau. Dressmaking keeps her sane, since she lives with her widowed and heartbroken mother in her tyrannical grandmother's house in Snope City, a tiny town in Tennessee. Then an impossible group of coincidences conspire to force her to flee to New York, to discover who she is, and who she was.

In New York, Haven meets Iain Morrow and is swept into an epic love affair that feels both deeply fated and terribly dangerous. Iain is suspected of murdering a rockstar and Haven wonders, could he have murdered her in a past life? She visits the Ouroboros Society and discovers a murky world of reincarnation that stretches across millennia. Haven must discover the secrets hidden in her past lives, and loves, before all is lost and the cycle begins again. 

This book looks really good. I loved the first two books in Kirsten Miller's Kiki Strike series, and since I follow her incredibly strange and awesome blog I knew she'd written other books, but I'd never taken the time to look at them until recently. The other day, I became so fed up with searching for new information on the third Kiki Strike book, The Darkness Dwellers, that I decided to take a look at this one. I'm glad I did - I definitely want to read it now. It sounds like an incredible mix of danger, romance, and supernatural elements, and I have no doubt it will be just as thrilling as the Kiki Strike books. Can't wait to read it!


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Reading Room (18)

The Reading Room is a weekly update on books I'm reading and planning to read, posted on Tuesdays. It was inspired by the feature On Myshelf at the blog All By Myshelf.

I was right about my birthday bringing new books. I am now the proud owner of two books I've been looking forward to, both of which are conclusions to two of my all time favorite series - making their arrival both exciting and a little sad.

The first book was 13 Secrets, by Michele Harrison, the final book in the trilogy that began with 13 Treasures. These books are so incredible, I almost can't believe it, and the world they create is so magical and amazing - I want to live there. I read the first book the summer before last and loved it; stumbled upon the second book, 13 Curses, in Barnes and Noble and loved it even more. I can't wait to see what's in store for the third book - I have a feeling it's going to be just as stunning as the first two. Still, I'm a little sad that I won't have any more books about Tanya, Rowan, and all the fairies to look forward to - I have a feeling I'm going to be rereading these books frequently, and I'll definitely be keeping an eye on Michele Harrison, because she's proven herself to be an outstanding author.

Then there's The Enchantress by Michael Scott, the final book in The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel. This is it - this is what the previous five books have been leading up to, and it's going to be epic. I can't believe that the end of the series is finally here. I feel about this series ending the same way a lot of people felt about the end of Harry Potter - My childhood. Gone. I haven't been this emotional about the end of a book series since Inkdeath, and even that wasn't this bad. Although I'm excited to see how the series ends, I haven't started reading The Enchantress yet - and not just because I don't want to admit that the series is actually over. I'm also planning on rereading the first five books, to fully refresh my memory on everything that's happened since The Alchemyst.

Not sure whether to be delighted or distraught,

Book Review: Lizard Love by Wendy Townsend

Grace's life is perfect in Mooresville. Nature is close at hand, and Grace can explore endlessly, observing all manner of wild things. But Grace and her mother move to New York City, where as far as Grace can see, everything natural is either dying or has already died, been buried, and paved over. She hates the city until she discovered Fang & Claw, a pet shop run by a toad-ugly boy named Walter and his father, and meets Spot, an iguana. Fang & Claw becomes her haven from school, where she doesn't fit in, and from the city streets, where men and boys are starting to notice her and treat her in ways she finds disgusting. Even when Grace goes back to Mooresville for a summer break, things aren't the same. So there is nothing to be done except return to the city and confront who she is, what she is becoming, and deal with it.

The first thing I want to say is that I absolutely love the cover of this book. I know it's not something I usually discuss, but it's just so amazing - I love the color scheme and the way the silhouette is arranged over the picture of the iguana. Even the placement and font of the title is awesome. The cover is fantastic , and a great fit for the book.

Onto the rest of the story. I liked the plot; it was a pretty typical story about a young girl finding her place, but it had plenty of original elements to make it interesting, and I enjoyed reading it - I never felt like it was too cliche. When I first started reading, I expected Grace to be older, and was surprised to find out that for the main part of the book, she's around the age of 13-14. At first I was skeptical, sure that the book wouldn't be as good without an older narrator, and although I still personally might have preferred that, Grace's age works. Given the themes of the story, it made sense.

The supporting characters, such as Walter, Grace's grandparents, and her friend Cathy, weren't described in as much detail as Grace herself, but I was still able to get a good sense of them from reading the book. Some characters definitely had some stereotypical characteristics, but they were slight, and didn't make me dislike them. The relationships between Grace and the supporting characters felt very natural - it never seemed forced.

Another thing I really liked about the characters is that none of them were made out to be an antagonist. There were boys in school who were rude, but we never really found out who they were; Cathy had different views from Grace and could be pushy but was never cruel; Grace's mom understood Grace's unhappiness with the move and tried to help her deal with it; and Grace's grandparents made decisions that Grace didn't like, but they did what they thought was best. Grace's struggle wasn't against other people, but simply to find where she belonged.

The writing was good, though I felt some points were too exaggerated, such as Grace's dislike of Cathy's dog, her hatred of the city, or the changes she realized were happening in Mooresville. The author didn't exactly tell the reader exactly what was going on, but it was pretty obvious - I felt that the book could have benefited from a little more subtlety. Other than that, I liked the descriptions, and I could understand and relate to Grace and Walter's love of the lizards, even though I've never felt that way myself. Making the characters relatable and conveying their feelings and emotions was definitely one of the strong points of the book, and what made it, apart from a few flaws, an enjoyable read.


Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. There's a new topic each week, and bloggers post their top ten books in that category. For those of you who aren't aware, I absolutely LOVE making lists, especially top ten lists, so I'm excited to start participating in this.
This week's topic is The Top Ten Books I'd Recommend As Good Beach Reads.

10. Whatever You Do, Don't Run: True Tales of a Botswana Safari Guide 
By Peter Allison

I took this book with me on vacation last year, and it turned out to be a fantastic beach read. It's funny, lighthearted, and interesting, and was great to read while relaxing on the beach.

9. The Old Man and the Sea
By Ernest Hemmingway

I love this story. It's wonderfully written; I could picture every scene, setting, and emotion described. I also love the plot, which is incredible because of its simplicity - even though it's not very complicated, there's so much meaning.

8. The Count of Monte Cristo
By Alexandre Dumas

Don't be intimidated by the book's huge size - it's fantastic and incredibly addictive. It's one of my favorite books of all time. And even better? If you can find room for it in your bag, it's long enough to last for your entire vacation.

7. The Lace Reader
By Brunonia Barry

This book definitely surprised me: the plot was different than I had anticipated, but more than that, I didn't expect it to be so good. It was fascinating, and I loved the way the story was told.

6. Witch and Wizard
By James Patterson

These books are short, fast-paced, and action packed, especially the first one, which I found impossible to put down. If you haven't read them yet, make sure to throw the first one in your suitcase - you won't be disappointed.

5. Along for the Ride
By Sarah Dessen

All of Sarah Dessen's books are amazing and could easily fill this list on their own, but this is by far one of her best. She creates some of her most memorable characters ever, I love the setting, and putting the book over the top is the fantastic cover.

4. Sand Dollar Summer
By Kimberly K. Jones

It's been awhile since I read this book, but I still remember that although it was short and sweet, it created great characters, described all the emotion in the plot really well, and perfectly captured the beachy, summer atmosphere of the setting.

3. The Penderwicks at Point Mouette
By Jeanne Birdsall

In fact, all three stories about the Penderwick sisters are fantastic. This is the third in the series and probably the one best suited to the beach, but if you've never read these books before, I highly recommend picking up all three. Even though they're for slightly younger readers, these are the type of books you're never too old for and will never outgrow.

2. The Empire of Ice Cream
By Jeffrey Ford

My cousin sent me this book for my birthday last year, describing it as a great summer book. It turned out to be exactly that and much more - strange, wonderful, imaginative, and the perfect beach read. It's full of some of the most unique and creative short stories I've ever read - and it even starts out with one set on the beach. This is an absolute must read.

1. My One Hundred Adventures
By Polly Horvath

To me, this book is summer - full of excitement, adventure, and wonder - and as soon as the weather starts getting warmer, I think of this book. It's one of those stories that will stick with me forever.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Reading Room (17)

The Reading Room is a weekly update on books I'm reading and planning to read, posted on Tuesdays. It was inspired by the feature On Myshelf at the blog All By Myshelf.

I've finished three of the books from my last post; I loved Write Naked and The Red Pyramid, and you can see my review of Paper Covers Rock here. Now I'm moving on to Defining Dulcie. Hopefully it'll be just as good as the other books were. I also have a birthday coming up soon, which means I might have some new books to blog about next week.

Despite all this, when I went down to the library to return the books I'd already finished, of course I checked out more. The first one that caught my eye was Lizard Love, by Wendy Townsend. I'd seen it before but never really taken a close look at it, and it looks interesting - there's themes that I've seen in other books, but the plot itself looks pretty original, so it should be a good read. I also grabbed The Smile by Donna Jo Napoli, which caught my eye for several reasons - first, one of my friends read it last summer and said it was good; secondly, it's another book to add to my reading list for the YA Historical Fiction challenge, which is looking pretty sad in comparison to my other reading lists; and finally, it was written by Donna Jo Napoli, author of Lights on the Nile, which I read and liked.

Then I ventured out of the YA section and into the adult fiction shelves, where I found myself asking some interesting questions. The first thing I noticed was that there didn't seem to be as many new books  as there had been in the young adult section, which made me wonder - are there fewer new adult books being published? Is the library just not buying as many new adult books because they have more to begin with? Or are there just as many new adult books, and I just don't notice them because I don't go into that section as often?

The next question I found myself asking was "Am I more likely to pick up a book that looks like another book I've read and enjoyed?" The reason for this was that the book I grabbed was Quite A Year For Plums by Bailey White, which is similar in size and shape to La's Orchestra Saves the World. It also stood out the way La's Orchestra had because of its smaller shape and lighter cover, and the cover had a similar appearance. And both books have whimsical titles that are a little on the longer side. True, it was the book's description itself that made me check it out, but it was the title and cover that caught my eye. It would be an interesting thing to look into - would someone who enjoyed The Hunger Games be more likely to read James Patterson's Private Games, for instance? (Well...those similarities are a bit blatant, but that's the general idea.)

Still pondering this question,

Book Review: Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard

Sixteen-year-old Alex has just begun his junior year at a boys' boarding school when he fails to save a friend from drowning in a river on campus. Fearing the consequences if they reveal the whole truth about what happened, Alex and his friend Glenn, who also witnessed the accident, decide to lie. Plagued by his guilt, Alex takes refuge in the library, telling his tale in a journal he hides behind a copy of Moby-Dick.

But the boys were not the only ones by the river that day. In the midst of their panic, Miss Dovecott, a young English teacher fresh out of Princeton, happened to arrive.

Over the next few weeks, Miss Dovecott begins to recognize the poetic talent in Alex; she helps him find his voice, and he is thrilled by his teacher's special attention. But when it becomes obvious that Miss Dovecott has noticed glimmers of guilt in Alex's writing, Glenn is convinced that she is out to get them. Now Alex must choose between his friend and his mentor. But every decision has consequences.

This book was surprisingly good. I found it at the public library last week, and although it looked interesting I had mixed feelings about it. I started reading it Sunday, and although I remained skeptical through the first few chapters, by the time I finished it I was pleasantly surprised. 

The main character, Alex, was very well-written; though he definitely had faults and I didn't always agree with his thoughts or decisions, he was never unlikeable. He was a very convincing teenage boy, while still being unique enough to be interesting. I could definitely relate to him and feel all his emotions, even the more complicated ones. I liked Glenn's character development throughout the novel, and Alex's reaction to it, and Miss Dovecott was very well-written and lifelike. Even the minor characters, though not always as original, were believable. 

For the most part, the writing itself faded into the background, which I think served the book well - it allowed the plot and the emotion to come through very clearly. It also made sense, since the book was supposed to be told through Alex's journal entries - the style definitely fit his character and never slowed down the plot. Then there were moments when the writing was simply outstanding - times when I had to stop and reread something because I liked it so much, or when I would write down a quote I especially loved. I also liked that Alex's poems and essays were included in the book - it definitely helped get a better understanding of his character and the relationship between him and Miss Dovecott - but the way the book was organized was a little confusing at first. I wasn't sure whether I was seeing something that was happening in the present or a flashback, and it was hard to get a sense of the book's timeline and how I was supposed to be interpreting the information. This was the book's main flaw, but once I got past this it was an enjoyable read that I'd definitely recommend taking a look at. 


Monday, June 4, 2012

Inspire (8)

Inspire is a weekly writing prompt or exercise, posted on Mondays. Anyone who's interested can participate, and you're more than welcome to share what you've written by posting a link in the comments

This week's prompt is to write about faults. Faults and weaknesses are what make us human - they make characters believable. They can be used to make us sympathize with characters - perfection can be too annoying to read about - or to despise them, in the case of villains or antagonists. How we react to others' faults can be interesting, too - there are some people whose faults I recognize but still like to be around, and other people who have no glaringly obvious weaknesses but I cannot stand.

There's plenty of room to explore. Create a character and think about what their flaws might be, or take a character from something you're already working on and think about their weaknesses - how do they affect the character's reaction to different situations? How would the character change if they no longer had these faults? These are just a few suggestions. Feel free to experiment, and have fun!