Saturday, March 31, 2012

Bloggiesta Update: Part One

So here I am, trying out Windows Live Writer as was suggested by Jacinda of The Reading Housewives in her awesome mini challenge post. She has some very convincing arguments for using this program. But I’m not going to commit yet! I will need to play with it and use it for awhile to be totally convinced! So, let’s so how it works for me as I give you a Bloggiesta update!
So here’s what’s been going on with me so far:
  • I’ve updated much of my review archives, but am not quite done yet.  Wait! I AM done after all!
  • I’ve figured out code for social media icons (thanks to Jenni Elyse,) but haven’t been able to put them on my blog because something is wrong and it won’t let me! I can’t add a gadget.
  • I’ve led a Bloggiesta chat!
  • I’ve commented on lots of starting post blogs.
  • I’ve hung out on Twitter more than ever before in my life I think.
  • I updated my blog roll
  • I’ve added some stars to a review, and learned how to add html for star ratings.
  • I’ve been updating Pages… but I deleted a whole bunch of work there and have to start over. :(
  • I’ve tried out to see if I can get blog posts automatically sent to Twitter.
Anyway, that’s what's been going on around here so far. And, in order to keep trying out this Live Writer thing. I’m going to add some pictures and play around a bit and then post it. Okay? Okay!
With Live Writer I can make a table!
Something I’ve wanted… …. to do many times!
And here’s embedding YouTube from here instead of using the html code:
Really love Colton… anyone else?
What can I do with pictures? Let’s find out…..
DSCN5239 DSCN5246 DSCN5257DSCN5243
Well, that was fun. Hmmm…. I think I’ll give this thing a go! But there’s lots to figure out still! Ah my spinning head!!

Review: Promises by Carolyn Twede Frank

Book: Promises by Carolyn Twede Frank
Genre: MG Historical Fiction
For: Blog Tour
From: Sent to me by the author.

This book is based around the idea of promises that our heroine, Hattie, makes during the year she is 12 years old. It makes me think about all the little promises we make every day that we might not realize we are even doing! For instance, when we tell our kids we'll be there at such and such a time to pick them up... that's a promise. When we commit to helping with an assignment of some sort of another, that's a promise. When we say we'll participate in a blog tour! That's a promise too! :) It's nice to stop and take a moment to think about how important it is that we, that I, make sure I count these little commitments as big ones, to actually consider them promises, and keep them!

But let's get back to Hattie! She is turning 12 just as her family is moving to a tiny Utah town on the edge of Bryce Canyon, called Tropic. It's the late 1800's and she is just as bummed as any kid today would be about moving, and about the fact that no one remembered her birthday! She thinks she will have no friends in this new place, and in fact, when she arrives, the only girl her age is, to be blunt, a snotty brat! (Totally reminded me of Nellie Olson from Little House stories.)

But she does find some connection to the girl that used to live in the house her family has bought. She promises, in her heart, to find this girl and get to know her and bring her back her things. Will she be able to keep this promise? You'll have to read the book to find out!

The story is very sweet and heart warming, drawn from the memories of a real life Hattie. It gives you a realistic feel for what life may have been like for a young girl druing this time.... every day living, things kids did for fun, friends they made and... dealing with heartache and loss.

One thing I loved was the horseback rides she took with a certain cute boy, who really WAS a good friend, down into the Bryce Canyon! Can you even imagine letting your 12 year old kids take off on such an adventure today? It freaked me out!

Anyway, I've been to Bryce and it is an awesome place. I loved learning about what it was like for people living here before it became a famous and well traveled park.

Bottom line: I really enjoyed this fun little book!

Be sure to check out this blog tour page for more reviews on this book. There's a book trailer here if you are interested. Also, the author, Carolyn Frank, is having a contest on her blog as part of this blog tour. Be sure to enter to win a full-sized puppet stage and puppets, value of $290 by participating in this blog tour giveaway. Check out her website or blog for more details. Also, she is having a joint tour with her friend and blog tour partner, Cindy Hogan. Her book is called Protected and you can find info about her blog tour on her page here.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bloggiesta Starting Line!


Welcome to the starting line for Bloggiesta... the blogging party led by our fearless mascot PEDRO (Plan. Edit. Develop. Review. Organize.) and created several years ago by Natasha from Maw Books Blog (who is enjoying a brand new baby girl at her house!) The idea behind Bloggiesta is to keep Pedro happy by spending these next three days working on perfecting your blog and connecting with other bloggers doing the same thing.

  • Bloggiesta begins now and runs through Sunday night... wherever you are. We don't have specific starting and ending times.... just Friday March 30 through Sunday April 1... wherever and whenever you are in the world!
  • Plan to spend as much time as you can working on your to do list and completing mini challenges. Don't worry about having the entire three days to devout to this, but do challenge yourself to put in some good hours to the project.
  • To let us know you are here and officially participating please sign the Mr. Linky below with a link to your BLOGGIESTA TO DO LIST which you should post on your blog. If you have already done this post... just link to it now. If you have yet to write up your list... do it today and link to it. Please, do not use a link to your blog in general... but to your specific TO DO LIST post! We want people to be able to easily find your Bloggiesta plans.
  • We would also like it if you would add your Twitter handle to your link so we can all easily find you there!
  • We have two grand prize packs from Walden Pond Press and Candlwick Press which you will be eligible for by just participating. We will pick random winners from the wrap up/summary links once the weekend is over.


Candlewick Judy Moody Prize Pack (Includes all of the following):

An extra-large Judy Moody T-shirt
A pink boa
Pink sunglasses
1 copy of Judy Moody: Twice as Moody (which includes book 1 & 2 in the Judy Moody series) 
1 copy of book #9: Judy Moody Detective

Candlewick on Twitter, Facebook and Website

Walden Pond Press prize pack (Includes all of the following):

Neversink by Barry Wolverton hardcover
The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander hardcover
The Fourth Stall, Part II by Chris Rylander hardcover
Juniper Berry by M.P. Kozlowsky hardcover
Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu hardcover
The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy ARC

Walden Pond Press on Twitter, Facebook, Blog

  • Late comers are welcome to join in the fun! Just sign up below with your Bloggiesta post!
  • Feel free to update your progress any way you see fit. You can just cross things off your list, or write a couple of update posts. We will have a Finish Line Post link up here on Sunday for anyone wishing to link up their summary posts (or crossed off lists.) We will pick two random winners from this list for the above mentioned prizes.

  • Much of our connection with each other will be happening on Twitter. Be sure to follow @Bloggiesta and the hashtag #bloggiesta.
  • For fellow participants who are on Twitter, we've created this Twitter list. If you are participating but aren't on here... that means I was unable to find your Twitter handle on your blog! So let us know by commenting here, or sending me (@SueySays ) or @Bloggiesta or @the1stdaughter a message and we'll get you on the list. If you subscribe to the list, you'll easily be able to see what all the participants are tweeting.
  • Also, plan to do lots of blog hopping by clicking on participants links found below on the Mr. Linky. Send lots of encouragement everyone's way and help out with your expertise on all bloggish things!
  • A new addition this year will be three different scheduled Twitter parties! Be sure to attend a least one of them... but better yet, come to all three! Use to follow the conversation (and it puts the hashtag in for you automatically!) and see what everyone is up to. Those times are:

Friday night at 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Eastern time (EDT)
Saturday afternoon at 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern time (EDT)
Sunday morning at 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Eastern time (EDT)

I think that's it! It's time to go ahead and link up your starting Bloggiesta posts below like this:

"Your Name" from "Your Blog Name" (your Twitter name)

For example, mine would look like: Suey from It's All About Books (@SueySays). And remember, plug in the URL that links up to your to do list, whether you've already posted it, or are just posting it today.

Now... GET TO WORK!!! (And don't forget to break out the salsa and blast some music!)

Bloggiesta: A Master List of New Mini Challenges

One of the best things about Bloggiesta are those awesome bloggers who are willing to put together a post teaching us about something that either they are experts in or feel passionate about. So in addition to your own To Do List plans, please check out these Bloggiesta Mini Challenges and let's show them love by doing a bunch of their challenges and commenting and asking them questions! Many of them will be hosting their own prize giveaways, and rules for entering those will be on their own blogs.

I know they've all work extremely hard on these posts, so go and do!  And learn a ton from them!

Bloggiesta Mini Challenges

We still have a few more challenges that will be posted a little later today, so be sure to come back for updates! Remember, Bloggiesta doesn't officially start until tomorrow, but feel free to look over all these wonderful challenge posts and decide what you'd like to do and how you plan to get organized. As mentioned above, these bloggers have put in  A LOT of time on these posts, so show them lots of love!

And don't forget, there's still much to learn from past Bloggiesta challenges too! Danielle from There's a Book has all those listed on her blog today too. Be sure to check them out!

A starting line post will be here on this blog tomorrow where you can link up with your To Do List posts and let us know you are here and participating. So be sure to come back and link up!

Also, don't forget to add these scheduled Twitter Chats to your Bloggiesta calendar:

Friday night at 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Eastern time (EDT)

Saturday afternoon at 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern time (EDT)

Sunday morning at 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Eastern time (EDT)

That's it for now! Have fun planning and we'll see you back here tomorrow for the official start to this crazy fun Bloggiesta event!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My Bloggiesta To Do List

Since I'll be posting other things once the actual Bloggiesta starts (the mini challenge list tomorrow, and the starting line link up on Friday!) I thought I'd go ahead and get my to do list down right here right now before things get too crazy and I forget what I wanted to do!

First of all, in case you missed it, Bloggiesta starts this Friday (first thing in the morning whenever that is for you!) and runs all weekend through Sunday night. It's an event where bloggers of all sorts get together and work on their blogs, talking and helping each other out along the way. (Through blog hopping and Twitter.... follow @bloggiesta and #bloggiesta to keep up with the conversations! If you are participating and have a Twitter account... be sure you are on the list here.) You can still sign up here... or you can just post your to do list, and sign up with that link here on Friday when the event starts.

So anyway, here's what I hope to work on during the Bloggiesta weekend:

1. Catch up on review links for Reviews by Title and Reviews by Author pages
2. Clean up labels... again. (Ugh, I think the worst blog task ever!)
3. Ponder my sidebar and what should stay and what should go.
4. Add social media icons. I don't know how! There's a challenge that will help I hope!
5. Figure out if there's something wrong with my LinkedWithin (ask an expert out there!) I think it works.. it just days it days to figure out like things to link to, so I'm not going to worry about it!
6. Clean up Google Reader... again (this is second to the labels in the yuck factor!)
7. Clean up email (is this a blog task? I say yes... close enough.)
8. Make sure all page tabs have up to date links.
9. Comment a lot and make new friends.
10. Complete several challenges and learn something new.
      -- Added my blog to be automatically updated to Twitter.
      -- Experimenting with Windows Live Writer.
      -- Learned about General Status Updates on Goodreads
       ---  I can make stars now for my reviews!
       -- I have commented 20 times... at least (actually much more) for the comment challenge!
11. Update the blog roll.

....and I'm sure there's tons more, but that's a start.

Remember... come back Thursday for a list of Bloggiesta Mini Challenges... the new ones. The past challenges will be listed over at There's a Book. Use them both to learn new things and get a pep talk on the things you may even already know how to do!

Then, come back on Friday to kick off Bloggiesta by linking to your To Do List to let us know you are here and playing.

Also, plan now to participate in at least one of our Twitter Parties! We'll be holding scheduled Bloggiesta Twitter chats during these three times:

Friday night at 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Eastern time (EDT)
Saturday afternoon at 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern time (EDT)
Sunday morning at 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Eastern time (EDT)

Hopefully this allows most of you to have a chance to join us on Twitter at some point during Bloggiesta. Of course, Twitter connections will be ongoing, but we thought it would be fun to have some scheduled gatherings too.

Break out the chips and salsa! Let's do this thing!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Review: Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

Book: Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: ****
For: Fun
From: The Library

I think it just has to be said right here that I need to read a Robin Hood rendition at least once a year. I guess this one can be it for this year! (Though I may need more than one!) I loved this take on the story, and was captivated from the get go. Awesome fun story.

So I think it's no spoiler that the twist  for this particular Robin Hood retelling is that Will Scarlet is actually a girl. Yes, and the whole merry band knows this and yes, they all seem to have a crush on her. But the REAL question is, who does she like the best? Robin or John? :)

Her past is a bit mysterious but is slowly revealed to us as the story goes on. And that's where the really interesting stuff starts happening. Ah, so fun! What is it about this story that gets me every time? The adventure? The romance? The swashbuckle? The boys? The villains? You know, of course, that it's all of it, and this story had all that.

In fact, it had a really familiar feeling to it because was much like the BBC show that I loved/love.  But then again, I probably just made it be that way in my head. These characters, however, were much younger. So that was interesting and different. But there was a Guy of Gisborne, and not all Robin Hood stories have him. And of course you know what I made him look like in my head:

But he was a real bad dude, and I'm not sure he's going to show any good side at all like the above one does now and then. And I say going to... because I'm quite certain there's more to come, and we haven't seen the last of any of them yet. there's not much more to add besides the fact that this was a Robin Hood story and...

Bottom Line: I loved it!

Other Reviews:

Proud Book Nerd
The Story Girl
Emily's Reading Room

Top Ten Tuesday: Hooky Books

Today's prompt over at The Broke and the Bookish is... what books would you like to play hooky with? So, for me, this means what books suck me in so much that I don't want to do anything that I HAVE to do, those books that when I do go about my day, I can't stop thinking about, and I want to get back to them in a desperate way, those books that, while maybe don't have a high literary value (whatever that means) have a really awesome story value. (Sounds like a post subject for another day! Whew. Deep.) So, let's see what comes to mind!

Top Ten Books I Have or Would Play Hooky With
(in other words, some I've read and would have, some I haven't read and want to... and if that doesn't make sense to you, it's okay, we'll let it go for now!)

1.The Passage by Justin Cronin
2. The Twelve by Justin Cronin (coming out in October)
3. Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
4. The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss (I know you are all getting sick of me listing this book and are thinking.... would you just read it ALREADY! Let me play hooky and I will!)
5. The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins (of course!)
6. The Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer (you know you did and/or want to!)
7. The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy (I've mentioned many times how when I read this book, I was totally absorbed. So much fun!)
8. The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye (I want so bad to read this one again to see if it consumes me now the way it did back then.)
9. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (I couldn't step away from this one!)
10. Anything by ______________ (you fill in the blank!)

So what books would you like to skip out on life for?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Review and Book Club Report: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks

Book: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks
Genre: NF
Rating: **
For: Book Club
From: The Library

I think the book club, when deciding what books to choose from the book club set last year, was intrigued by the strange and funky title of this one... and so we voted it in! We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into!

This is a compilation of clinical stories about this particular doctor's experience helping neurological patients. The first story is about this music professor who suddenly can't see properly, in fact, things just seem to have disappeared for him, though he wasn't quite blind either. Anyway, one time, he thought his wife was his hat and tried to grab her head and put it on. Funny and sad. But he compensated for this loss by using his ears, and since he was so musical, he used music to also make it possible to see and function nearly normally. Interesting.

And so it goes from there, with several other stories about interesting cases where people have suffered really terrible brain problems and yet seem to overcome them and continue with life.

I found it to be okay reading, but got frustrated with the medical terms and yearned just for the stories. I kept thinking... if only he would have just written it like a story so it would "read like a novel"... but he didn't. We think that maybe they were never meant to be a book for the masses in the first place. I  have no idea.

Anyway, I managed to get through half of the book before deciding I'd had enough and needed to move onto other things... plus it was book club day and why keep reading it after book club was over?

I have nothing much to add from our book club discussion, which was actually really short. Everyone was on the same page with their thoughts which were basically these:

  • too many medical terms, not enough story
  • out dated, with way too many derogatory references to patients (the use of the words "retarded" and "defective" for instance)
  • out dated as far as treatment options, we wondered what these patients would have for help today
  • confusing all around, the terms and references to patients we hadn't met yet. 
However, as I said, it was quite interesting too!  And so...

Bottom line: I liked it okay.

Other Reviews from a couple of book clubbers:

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Sunday Salon: Exciting Week!

It's been a crazy fun week! And this next week promises to be the same! I love having tons to do and lots of stuff happening, don't you?

Outside my window: Nice out there today. Very nice. I should be out there breathing that air!

I am listening to: My Classic Rock Pandora station.. currently playing Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress.

Song of the week: This song keeps coming up on my Pandora and I really enjoy it. What do you think?

TV Talk: Oh my gosh, the people on Survivor are awful this go around! And I can't tell you how glad I am to see that Colton kid go! I mean, it was sad, and all, but still. However, I loved, LOVED, the Colton on American Idol this week, singing Piano Man. LOVED! 

Books Finished:  The Hollow City by Dan Wells (loved this one! But it doesn't come out until July so I'm going to have to wait a bit to tell you all about it!) and Promises by Carolyn Twede Frank ( also really enjoyed this one... review as part of a blog tour coming up next weekend!)
Books Started: Return to Exile by E.J. Patten
Books Up Next: Gosh, I have no idea what's going to win the battle of book stack! I'll let you know next week!

I am thinking: man, I have a lot to do!

I'm grateful for: music, family, books, movie premiers, chocolate, computers, blogging friends, and sleeping.

Around the house: nothing to report in this category. I need to sweep the floor, let's just say that!

Recipe of the Week: The Pinterest recipe of the week are these ginger/chocolate cookies, which actually were not as good as I expected... the look better in the picture! Then again, I could have just royally messed it up perhaps!

Favorite things of the week: Hungers Games tops the week for sure! Beauty and the Beast the night before that was pretty fun too. Hanging out with my sister who was here for several days was also quite fun, though we got too tired, slept too much and ate too much! Another favorite thing was when Jenny come over and we talked Dan Wells, among other things, for an hour. :)

Family Matters: My two oldest kids went to the color festival this weekend. I saw picture on Facebook that sums it up:

Only I heard there were WAY more people there... more like 50,000. So far, I have yet to experience this phenomenon... maybe some day. 

Hunger Games was very fun with my family... two sisters pictured here in Jenni Elyse's photo

... and also with my daughter and my dad. Daughter pictured here with me and Jenni Elyse:

The coming week: BLOGGIESTA! Yes, it starts this week Friday through Sunday. Come and work on your bloggish business with us as much as you can those three days. Sign ups here. Be sure to follow @bloggiesta on Twitter and use the #bloggiesta hashtag to stay informed of what's going on. I plan to post New Bloggiesta Mini Challenges on Thursday, then the starting line up post with links to your to do lists on Friday.

Also this week I'll be participating on my first ever panel discussions... one at a BYU writing class about how blogging can help authors (on Wed)... and one at the library about how to get a blog going and find a community and get readers (on Thurs.) Fun, yes? Scary? For sure yes! I'll be freaking out, but I'll also be having a ton of fun talking to people about blogging and I can't wait!

Oh, and then there's cake decorating on Tuesday with the young girls in my church class. Maybe I'll take a picture for you all.

So basically I'd say the only day with something NOT happening will be tomorrow. Here's hoping for reading time at least on Monday! ETA: Scratch that.. I just remembered there's an orchestra concert tomorrow! So yep... every evening this week. Argh.

Blog Report: Weird, I reviewed two movies this week! John Carter and The Hunger Games. That was fun, I think I'll do official reviews of movies more often. Okay? Okay. I also reviewed some books... The Savage Grace as part of a blog tour (including the Author Picks Five post too!) and a couple of recent award winners: Where Things Come Back and Why We Broke Up.

Lots of stuff besides Bloggiesta coming up this week, I have to catch up on reviews and wow, so many things going on this week! Will you be sticking with me to see how it all shakes down? I hope so!

P.S. Did you notice a little change in my blog this weekend? It's a small thing, but it felt huge for me to change it! Two points goes to whoever can tell me what it is!!! 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Movie Review: The Hunger Games

Movie: The Hunger Games
Genre: Drama
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Stanley Tucci
Rating: PG-13
My Rating: Thumbs Up!

What an exciting night this was! My first time ever going to a midnight movie premier. I think I could do this more often though it does mess you up for a day or so. It was an absolute blast going with bunch of other crazy book bloggers and their various friends and family. It was a blast being in the theater with an audience where everyone was so excited that it was tangible. I loved that. And they were all appropriately excited. Clapping and cheering through the previews, but calming and shushing each other for the movie itself... than gasping and weeping and laughing at all the right moments during the movie. That was great!

Our crowd met up for dinner beforehand, which was really fun. Penelope of The Reading Fever did an AWESOME job coordinating both the dinner AND the movie, and then even had prizes and fun things for us at the dinner. Penelope, I never had a chance to say a huge thank you last night, but you are truly the best. Thank you so much!

Anyway, having reserved seats for these crazy movie nights is the best way to go. We just walked in and sat down in our wonderful spots and all the stress was gone... only excitement left!

So... about the movie itself.

It was wonderfully done. The casting was phenomenal.. even the dude playing Peeta, ( Josh Hutcherson) who I was a little leery about, did amazing. Jennifer Lawrence captured the spirit of Katniss perfectly. And all the Capitol characters were just right. It was so fun to see it all come to life!

My favorite things:

  • the way they were able to show the brutality of the games without too much graphic-ness.
  • the intensity at the start of the games... how scared Katniss was.
  • the contrast between District 12 and the Capitol
  • they way they showed how the directors of the games manipulated the players
  • Rue
  • seeing the movie with both blogger buddies and family!

My least favorite bits:
  • when I realized that Prim looked just like my youngest daughter! That freaked me out!
  • when the audience laughed at Gale's distress at seeing Katniss and Peeta together.
  • that fact that I didn't  notice the music... was there music? 
  • and of course, there was that shaky, much movement camera work that made me motion sick! I really didn't like that!
All in all, it was a blast of a night and so very exciting to be part of it all!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Review: Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

Book: Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
Genre: YA
Rating: ****
For: Fun (keeping up with the awards!)
From: the library

Here's another book that recently won an award (the Printz Award no less!) which prompted me to instantly request it from the library and once again, I'm actually quite surprised it came to me to so fast!

And now if only I can find words to describe what this book was like! The story alternates between two points of view... one is this kid who lives in this small town where there's nothing to do and he just wants out. He loves his brother and family, he loves this girl who seems unattainable, he loves his best buddy and they all have some fun times together.... especially making fun of the strange guy who shows up going on and on about an extinct woodpecker which he claims to have sighted in this town.

The other story line is this strange religious journey that first one boy takes, which he then passes on, in a sense, to another kid. I was baffled by this story and of course, in all my clueless-ness, had no idea what it had to do with anything. But of course, we all know it will make sense in the end.

Anyway, and then something happens, which I'm not going to say here because I think it's better if it hits you out of the blue, but I'm sure other reviews and summaries will tell you what it is, if you are dying to know. And that something throws everything off, especially our teenage kid who was already feeling pretty down and out. Now things are so much worse!

This book had a kind of a Catcher in the Rye feel to me, but at the same time is nothing like that book. I know, I just KNOW there are tons of symbolic messages to be had, but I just can't seem to put my finger on what they are! You know the kind of book though? It feels so DEEP but you just aren't sure why? Yeah?

Or maybe I'm just too tired to really figure it out!

But I liked the style, I like the kid, I liked how he talked to himself (when one does that one starts using the word ONE a lot!) I liked the surprise and twisty moments.

Bottom line: Yeah, I really liked this one!

Other Reviews:

A Book a Day
The Book Nest
My Books. My Life.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Authors Pick Five: Bree Despain

This week I had the pleasure to review Bree Despain's latest book, The Savage Grace (see my review here) and as part of that blog tour, she is guest posting here today by answering the following question (you know the one!):

What five books are most important or influential to you?

Here's what she has to say:

First off, asking me to pick only five important books feels like asking me to decide which of my children is my favorite--you cruel, cruel, woman! :) But I will do my best . . .

I think I'll go with the 5 books that have had the most impact on me as a writer.

1. The first book is one that I am not actually quite sure of the title. I believe it was called DUCK TALES (not the Disney Ducktales). It was a chapter book I found in my Easter Basket when I was about 8 years old. My reaction was probably something like, "A book? That's a dumb thing for the Easter Bunny to bring!" I struggled a lot with reading as a child and even though I enjoyed the bedtime stories my father used to tell me, I thought at the time that reading was boring and hard. However, this was the first time anyone had ever given me a chapter book to read, so decided to give it a try despite thinking it was going to be too difficult. But within a few pages, I was completely enthralled by this story about a little lost duckling trying to find his family. I found myself staying up late, reading under the covers to find out what happened. And then asking for more chapter books when I was done with this one. This was the book that turned me into a real reader.

2. JACKAROO by Cynthia Voigt. Even though I still struggled with reading through most of my childhood, I continued to enjoy it and always sought out new books to read. When I was in middle school, I found this book in my older sister's collection. I read it and fell in love with this story of a girl who must pretend to be the famed hero/bandit "Jackaroo" in order to save her town. I became so enthralled by the story, I started writing my own little stories and poems about the characters. Then I started writing my own stories about my own characters. This is the book that turned me into a writer. It also had a strong girl-power message that gave a me a confidence boost as a 13 year old.

3. HE SHALL THUNDER IN THE SKY by Elizabeth Peters. In high school, I found myself bogged down by all the assigned reading I had to do for my honors English classes. I was a very slow reader and and I had to work very hard to keep up with my homework--which means I hardly ever got to read for fun anymore. It wasn't until I was in college that I got back into reading for pleasure. My sister introduced me to the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters and I pretty much became obsessed with it. It is a long series with several books, and I spent a lot of time combing the dusty stacks of my college's library (that was being renovated at the time) to find the each next book in the series. I remember once wading under what felt like miles of plastic sheeting in a dark library basement--with a flashlight--because I HAD to get the next book! My favorite book in the series was HE SHALL THUNDER IN THE SKY. This was the book I was reading when I came to the realization during my junior year of college that instead of being an attorney, archeologist, or actress, I really wanted to be an author.

4. At the time that I decided that I wanted to be an author, my roommate was student-teaching a third grade class. She told me all of her students were really getting into this book called Harry Potter. I was a volunteer reading tutor at a local elementary at the time, and I was always searching for books my students might enjoy, so I decided to check the book out. I enjoyed the first one, so I read the second one. Both were really good, so when HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN came out a few weeks later, I ran out and bought it--and I LOVED it! It is still my favorite of the series and still one of my all-time favorite books. This is the book that made me decide to enroll in a series of "writing for children" classes at my college.

5. When I first started taking those writing classes in college, I thought I wanted to write middle grade books like my beloved Harry Potter. However, during one of my writing courses, I was required to read a few Young Adult novels and then write the first chapter of a YA novel. One of the books I chose was THE PRINCESS DIARIES by Meg Cabot. I loved this book! And when I took a crack at writing a first chapter of a YA novel, I realized that YA was where my voice really belonged, and that's what kind of books I wanted to write. Princess Diaries was the book that made me want to write YA. And if I can sneak a 6th book into here, I would say that reading SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson solidified me as a YA writer for sure. I find so much inspiration in that book.

Thanks for the interview! It was fun to talk about some of my favorite books. I find myself wanting to re-read them again.

Thanks Bree for a look into your book inspiration to becoming a writer! I want to re-read (or read for the first time) some of these books too!

Bree Despain is the author of the Dark Divine trilogy which includes The Dark Divine, The Lost Saint and the new book The Savage Grace. She became interested in writing during college days where she at first thought she would be a lawyer. But she really started writing after a car accident when she realized life was too short to not do what you love to do. Bree lives in Salt Lake with her husband and little boys. For more info, click here for her website and you can read her blog here, and follow her on Twitter here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Review: The Savage Grace by Bree Despain

Book: The Savage Grace by Bree Despain
Genre: YA Paranormal
Rating: ***
From: The author
For: ARC for Review

At the LTUE conference a few weeks ago, Bree Despain announced that the first six people in line at her signing in the evening would get an ARC. So, somehow, I ended up first in line! Funny how that happens! So thank you Bree for the book!

Warning! This review contains spoilers for the first two books. Because yes, this particular book is the third in the trilogy about Grace Divine and her werewolves... of which she has quite a few now! She has suddenly found herself the leader of the pack! However, the first problem she must deal with in this story is how to fix Daniel. The last book ended with him stuck in a wolf state and that's just not going to work for the two of them, so that's first on her list.

Second, she would also like to fix Jude, her brother, who is having many issues of his own as this book begins. He is one of those characters that you just never know which side he is on! Speaking of which, there is also Talbot, with whom she had a bit of a fling in book two and now she can't abide him at all. He goes from being sweet to being creepy in the same scene. What is up with him anyway?

But the biggest problem of all is how to regain peace in the werewolf world by confronting the main alpha dude wannabe, Caleb. And let's just say that show down doesn't go quite as planned!

Speaking of showdowns, there were lots in this book....lots and lots of fighting and I could see the special effects in my head just like it was a movie! Pretty cool! Another cool thing is all the werewolf lore and the background of these particular wolves. But the coolest thing is Grace, and the powers within herself that she discovers in this story. Yes, very cool.

Bottom line: I totally enjoyed it!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Movie Review: John Carter

Movie: John Carter
Genre: Science Fiction
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins
Rating: PG-13
MY Rating: Thumbs Up!

So, I saw a gazillion previews for this at the theater when I was seeing other movies. I wanted to WANT to go so bad, I mean Tim Riggins? Hello! But it looked so corny and weird and I just didn't know. But then when it came out, so many of you raved about it, so I decided I would give it a chance.

We went to see it at the IMAX theater in 3D of course. And I thought it was so much fun! I love that place! I love how the sound and music vibrate you to your very bones! All the previews (The Hobbit, the new Batman movie, The Hunger Games... gave me chills. I want to see them ALL there!)

Taylor as Tim
Okay, so speaking of Tim Riggins (of Friday Night Lights fame if you have no idea what I'm talking about, one of my TV obsessions of recent years) I was worried I would think of him only as that character throughout the movie. I hoped he would be good enough to make me forget that dude, know what I mean? And he did, for the most part. It took a little while though! Poor Taylor, he'll always be Tim Riggins!

So, there's this dude named John Carter. He's a captain in the Civil War and he seems to have a chip on his shoulder. He's angry at the world. (We learn why later.) And when they try to arrest him for, I don't know what, he runs away. In the process, he finds this cave, and then this weird thing happens and bam, he finds himself on MARS!
Taylor as John Carter

Once there he makes friends with these strange creatures which to me were a cross between Jar Jar Binks and the Avatar dudes. Then he meets a Martian Princess, and he helps her fight her war and save her from the bad guy. And they take a ride down Lake Powell! On Mars! Who knew Lake Powell was on Mars!? (Oh my, this was SO Lake Powell! Yeah, I've been there, I know!) Only they called it the River Is.

This movie had a lot of Star Wars type characteristics, but it's kind of cool to remember that the book it's based from was written years and years before Star Wars. I bet a lot of current day science fiction is inspired by this guy (Edgar Rice Burroughs) stuff. It's very cool. I should read a book of his some day, yes?

Anyway, I thought the movie was very fun, very Scifi/Fantasy, very predictable, but really, a lot of fun. It's also one of those movies that I think would be even better on a second go around because there was a lot of stuff that was hard to follow, or understand what they were saying. So I think another time through would clear that all up.

Bottom line: I totally enjoyed it!

The trailer:

Some music from the movie (because you know I love soundtracks!)

Review: Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

Book: Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler
Genre: YA 
Rating: ***
For: Fun (to keep up with award winners!)
From: the library

This book recently won the Printz Honor Award. So of course, I put it on hold at the library, and wow, it actually came to me! My first impression of the book, it's HEAVY! My second, it has beautiful slick pages with fun pictures! I could tell right off it's not your normal sort of book.

Written by an author most of us know better as Lemony Snicket of Unfortunate Events fame, this book IS very different. It's not funny, like the Unfortunate Events, though it is very clever. Actually, it's very far from funny, it's really quite sad. It's about a girl who is breaking up with her boyfriend and she's writing him a letter to go with the box of all the mementos she's collected during their brief courtship. She's writing as they (she and her friend) go to the guy's house and her plan is to dump the box and letter on his porch. The letter, of course, contains all the memories of their time together, which we are privy to... from the first moments of love and wonder to the event that breaks them up. For each memento she mentions, there's a picture to go with it. Very fun... and different especially for a teen/YA book.

This makes for a very interesting POV for this book. Much of it is in the YOU form, since she is writing to the kid. You said this, and you did that... and I did this and I did that. So it's both second person and first person. Sometimes that confused me actually, but you kind of get the feel of it after awhile. But it is very different.

It's also written in a very stream of conscious style... lots of run on sentences that go on and on and on. However, I liked this. But.. it's very different.

Another impression I had was all the talk about strange obscure movies. (This girl, Min, is very much into the old movies.) In fact, I'm wondering if the movies referred to in this book are real or made up. Anyone know? It bugged me but I was too lazy to actually look it up.

So, this is a strange book for me to review. I liked it because of it's differences and uniqueness. But at the same time, I was bugged by our characters and their choices. You know, I didn't really like them! Many things rubbed me the wrong way and made me cringe at times. I don't know... it's a strange strange book!

Bottom line: I enjoyed the experience, but I would be wary of who I recommended this one to!

Other Reviews:

That's What She Read
A Novel Source
A Musing Reviews
The Story Siren

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Sunday Salon: Back to Regularly Scheduled Programming!

It's been a fun week celebrating five years. I decided to go all out (well sort of I guess) for this one so hopefully you didn't too sick of the celebrating! Here's what I posted this week if you missed it:

Your Questions: Answered 
My Blogging Timeline
Why I Blog Meme

And congratulations again to my giveaway winners! Your books will be on their way tomorrow!

Here's what else is going on with me:

Outside my window: Snow!

I am listening to: The kids are blasting various songs on YouTube at the moment. 

Song of the week: Another blast from the past... Lucky Man by Emerson, Lake and Palmer. This song tells a story that gives me chills in the end.


TV Talk: We are down to the final 10 in American Idol. I enjoy most of them, but haven't really zeroed in on one to totally root for. Survivor was fun with a nice tribe shake up. I've decided I really like the guy named Jay. You know the one? I caught up with Once Upon a Time this week and wow... THAT was a shocking episode, yes? Who's REALLY the big bad wolf and all? I haven't caught up with the latest Vampire Diaries yet, but I did have a discussion in church about it! :) I haven't found time for much Netflix shows lately, just trying to keep up with the live shows is enough for now.

Reading Report: 
Books Finished:  Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley,  Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen
Books Started: The Hollow City by Dan Wells (actually I haven't quite started, but will today!)
Books Up Next: A couple of local author books that I said I'd do a blog tour for... and The Wise Man's Fear just keeps getting pushed and pushed to the bottom still!

I am thinking: that I should NOT have bought those peanut M and M's this week! OR the chocolate peanut butter Tillamook ice cream!

I'm grateful for: certain library perks, like first in line for an ARC! 

Around the house: we bought a supply of TP this week, oh, and meat too.... using our Costco reward check. That was fun. We wonder how long the TP will last! 

Recipe of the Week: The only really interesting/different thing I made this week was Cream of Asparagus Soup. But I feel that cookies might happen today because we've managed to go for several Sunday evenings without cookies, so maybe it will be okay if we make some tonight. Please?

Favorite things of the week: going to see Dan Wells at the library, having a book club discussion there, and ending up with an ARC of his next book out in July, going to see Brandon Mull's fun launch party, going to see the movie John Carter at the IMAX theater, going out to eat twice this weekend, cleaning the birdcage outside in 70 degree weather, driving with rolled down windows, seeing what a caucus meeting was like

Family Matters: One college kid was home for spring break this week, so that was fun. Well, he was home some of the time anyway! Another kid is deep into tennis now. We had to get a doctor release form signed, so that was a bit of pain, but I think it happened. The other college kid is stressing about her major, because she needs to decide so she can sign up for next semester's classes! And then there's the baby who ends up having lots of mom and dad time since everyone else is never here! Is that a perk of being the baby, or not? 

The coming week: HUNGER GAMES! Midnight movie this Thursday! With blogging buddies! And sisters! And daughters! So excited. Also, I'll be going to a musical, Beauty and the Beast on Wednesday. Love that one. There's a beast to prince transformation right before your very eyes! So. Much. Fun! Bloggiesta is only two weeks away! Are you ready? Have you made your to do list? You can still sign up here. And this week here on the blog? Back to some reviews and stuff! I have some catching up to do!


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