Monday, April 30, 2012

Review: The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons

Book: The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons
Genre: Historical Fiction
For: Read Along
From: Bought at Changing Hands bookstore in Arizona


I really loved this book. But I knew I would. It was just what I needed, an adult historical romance in among all the YA dystopia and MG fantasy I've been reading of late.

This book tells the story of a girl from Vienna Austria, who, just before WWII is about to start, goes to live as a domestic servant in a big manor house in England. This is because her family can feel the imminent threat to Jewish people, and they send her there to protect her, while they wait for Visas to go to America. The plan is that everyone will meet up in about a year's time, in America.

In reading the author note that follows the book, this is in fact what many families did to survive. I'd never heard of it before, but I guess this is what the author's great aunt did, thus the inspiration for the story. She was also inspired by the stories of beautiful seaside English houses that were taken over by the army during the war. She based this on one a specific village called Tyneham.

The house at Tyneham.
Of course the story goes on to tell of the relationships the girl makes in England, the attachment she forms with the land and the house, and the worry she has over what's happening with her family that she left behind.... all of which make for a wonderful tale.

As mentioned last week, I loved the writing style, full and rich and easy. I loved the characters, I loved the setting... a place a could easily see myself falling in love with and want to stay at forever. And of course I also loved all the tragedy, since I seem to be a sucker for those kind of stories!

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS.... FULL OF SPOILERS... proceed with caution: 
(From our read along host:  Carrie at Books and Movies)

What is your opinion of where Mr. Rivers and Elise’s relationship ends up?

I thought it was great, despite the age difference. But it hurt and I couldn't forget about poor Kit. Still, I think they both ended up having wonderful happy lives because they decided to say what the heck to social mores and go with their hearts.

As you see it, what events led to Tyneford’s fate?

The war of course. I think no matter what else would have happened, the war is ultimately to blame.

What significance did Tyneford have to Elise, Kit, and Mr. Rivers?

As I've mentioned before, the setting should be considered a major character in this book. You really get a feel for its personality and its effect on everyone. I think the house permeated the very beings of all three of these characters....the Rivers men through birth and blood and Elise inherited it. It's the very essence of who they are. Which makes it all the sadder that things couldn't work out.

Can a place like Tyneford exist in today’s world?

I would have to say, not in the sense that it did during the time this book was written, but I still believe that a place, or a house or a location can have a profound impact on people and can get under their skin and change who they are. I would say my grandma's farm in Idaho would be such a place for me.

Why do you think the novel in the viola blank?

Ah, good question! Why indeed? Did her father put it in there blank? Gosh, that seems like a lot of trouble! I like the speculation that it was so she would write her own story, but still. I don't know.

Anyway. I'm so glad I managed to fit this one in just in time to join the last bit of the read along! It makes me realize that I need to be sure and keep historical fiction in my reading line up. Why do I neglect it so?

Bottom line: I loved it!

Other Reviews:

Books and Movies
The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader
Devourer of Books
Wicked Little Pixie

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Sunday Salon: May? No Way.

Wow, it can't be May this week can it? No way is April over already.

Well, I've delayed my Sunday Salon post so long that Sunday is nearly over now and I'm wondering if anyone will read this anyway! But I guess I'll go ahead with it just in case, and for my own documentation of my completely exciting life.

Outside my window: I think it's blue and beautiful.

 I am listening to: In the process of discovering the song that many of you probably have known forever called Somebody I Used to Know... listening to this remix over and over and over at the moment. Wow. Loving it. 

Song of the week: Well, I think that above song should do it. Where have I been? And guys, I need a new Josh Groban song. Yes. Find me one now.

TV Talk: I'm about to catch up on The Vampire Diaries, since I didn't get to watch it live again this week. I hear it's sad. Dang. I'm not into American Idol since Colton got booted... just watching it a little bit here and there. The Amazing Race is just okay this season too, but the finale is coming up. And Survivor is fun sort of, but not really caring about anyone there either. Watching all the guys that have been booted off in the Ponderosa videos is more fun than the actual show! Once Upon a Time makes say "Wait, what? " every time it ends. 

Books Finished: I finished Supernaturally by Kiersten White and Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson... reviews this week hopefully. Oh, and also The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons. LOVED that one! Review tomorrow.

Books Started: I'm a few chapters into Precious Bane by Mary Webb which is May's book club book. Trying to read it early in case someone needs to borrow the book. It's going okay so far, it's got a weird style that takes some getting used.

Books Up Next: I know you've heard this before, but The Wise Man's Fear is SO NEXT!!! I am telling you... this time next week I will be either done or immersed in that book! It's so happening!

I am thinking: that it was an interesting week in the book blog universe. I was happy just to quietly observe the goings on. I'm glad I really didn't have much emotional connection to the involved parties. Hopefully everyone learned a lesson.

I'm grateful for: chocolate, seriously. 

Around the house: you know all about my book rearranging, but I still need to fix the mess I made at the downstairs book shelf location, and I keep having grand visions of other house fixes, but I'm sure i won't act on any of them, so never fear. It will be okay. 
It will look something like this, only messy.

Recipe of the Week: chocolate malts. First, get that heavy thick vanilla ice cream from Costco, then after you've scooped a bunch into the glass, add a little milk, stir it up, then add Hershey's chocolate syrup, as much as you need, then add a good heaping spoonful (or two) of malted milk. Stir, shake, stir some more. It's hard work I tell you! But wow, yummy yummy! It's been the treat of the week around here.

Favorite things of the week: watching a movie with Kailana, watching We Bought a Zoo again, playing Draw Something and getting new colors, working on movies and such, printing hundreds of pictures for the photo album and making a conscious decision to quilt again. 

Least favorite thing: having the husband hurt his back and hobble along crippled for several days. He finally went to the doctor who told him has sciatica. Hopefully it will get better soon.

Family Matters: Well, the oldest had a job interview, finished finals, and then didn't get the job. The second kid moved home and just slept in, worked a bit, watched a to of Supernatural episodes and went out with the boyfriend... every day the same thing... kid three won another tennis match, the third in a row, and kid four found out what an itching peeling sunburn is like!

The coming week: Rick Riordan is this week! Also a planning session for some Utah Book Blogger business... dang but we are getting organized! Beware! And maybe seeing Susan from Bloggin 'bout Books again? And let's see... I can't think what else.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Pinteresting Challenge

When I saw this fun challenge over at Trish's Love Laughter and a Touch of Insanity, I knew it would be fun to go for it! Because, you know, what else would I do with my life! :)

Click on over to see her "rules" and to officially join. But bottom line, the challenge is to pin things to your boards (or look over what you've already pinned) and then actually DO something, then blog about it! So since I'm not too bad about doing this already (with the easy things anyway) I thought I'd take it do the next level and report about it! And maybe do some hard things too. And maybe involve the kids somehow and make them do a project or two.

I will probably do the middle level which is to make/do 4 to 7 things. Yeah, we'll see how that goes. :)

Here's an example of some things I might go for:

So, what do you think? Join us in the fun?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Movie Review: The Tree of Life

Movie: The Tree of Life
Genre: Artsy Drama (is there such a category?)
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain.... Sean Penn is also included though he really did nothing. The kid who played the boy (Hunter McCracken) did much more acting and needs recognition. 
Rating: PG13
MY Rating: One thumb up, one thumb down

After a fun experience watching Midnight in Paris "together", Kailana from The Written World, and I decided we needed to do it again. I suggested The Tree of Life after hearing some library co-workers rave about it and then seeing also that it was mentioned a few times during the Academy Awards. In fact, it was up for best picture.

So we hunkered down last Sunday evening/night with the movie and the Twitter, and began watching together despite the fact that we were miles and miles and three hours apart. And it was so fun! Mostly because the movie was so so weird, that we had a great time being baffled together and trying to understand it.

The boy, Jack
The basic story of this movie is about a guy, looking back on his life, especially the relationship he had with his dad. (The dad, was of course, Brad Pitt, who I thought played the perfect creepy scary dad.)  In the beginning, we learn that his brother has died, and much of the feel of the movie is the family questioning why this had to happen. Though I am so very confused about this part because as I understand it, the brother died after all the other events in the movie, so at that point, it was not part of their experience. But the guy, older now, feels wrong somehow which makes him look back on these events.

Speaking of confusion... be prepared to experience a lot of it. The movie is weird. Very very weird. (Click here for some example clips.) But artsy too. Very very artsy. You like artsy? You'll love this movie! You hate weird? You need some action? Then this movie is not for you. Thus the mixed rating above. Because on the one hand, it's very good. It's actually amazingly beautiful. The imagery, the music, the feel, the emotion......all beautiful.

On the other hand, the story is confusing and the point of it all is very allusive. Then again, I'm probably a bit (okay, a lot) dense when it comes to these things. Can someone just tell me... WHAT WAS THE POINT? It pondered life, our existence, our relationship to God and to each other, our beginnings, our endings and everything in between.

But the more I've thought about this movie, the more I think I enjoyed it. I think.

But I KNOW I enjoyed the music! You know music is a big deal to me. And in fact, when the movie started I saw something I've never seen movie on a movie.. there was a little notice that came up which said something like... the producer and director of this movie suggest for full enjoyment, it should be played LOUD. How cool is that. Loud was good, trust me.

Anyway, the music. There's tons of cool classical stuff, plus lots of original stuff by Alexandre Desplat. Here's one of each for your listening pleasure:


We decided to ask each other questions again, so here are the questions that Kailana asked me:

1. What were your reasons for choosing this movie to watch together? Just that I'd heard about it from people I work with at the library. It made me curious about the movie.

2. If you had to sum this movie up in one sentence, what would you choose to mention? That it's beautiful, but strange.

3. What did you think of the overall story? Did you feel there was one? Yes, I think there was one, the story of the boy and his growing up years and what he had to deal with concerning his dad. But I didn't understand what caused the reflection of the older guy to think back.

4. What were your favourite parts of the movie? The music for sure. I loved how it was filmed too, sort of a home video style, but really really nicely done!

5. Did your husband ever elaborate on what he thought of the movie? Did he like it or basically think similar to us? He didn't say much!  I will ask him!   (Later:) He says the cinematography was amazing and beautiful, but the story was strange. It's probably got some deep meaning about the existence of man, he says, but he didn't care enough to figure it out. He says "the pretty pictures were enough." (So it appears he felt about the same as me.)

6. Would you recommend this to anyone? I actually think I would... but I would have to know that they are into movies as an art form and not just a story.

Be sure to visit The Written World for my questions to Kailana! And to get her take on the movie.

And not that THIS means a thing, but here's Sean Penn wandering around it what totally looks like Goblin Valley here in Utah! Film makers LOVE this place!

Bottom line:  I think I liked this movie despite it's weirdness and confusing moments. If you've seen it, I would love to know what you think about it. If you haven't seen it, be brave, watch it, and then come back and tell me what it means!

And finally, here's the trailer, and this will REALLY give you a feel for what I mean by both weird and beautiful:

We're pondering The Help for our next "watch along" since I haven't seen it yet! Anyone want to join us?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Books Discussed at Book Club April 2012

For those interested, here are other random books (besides our highlighted book of the month, Watership Down) that we discussed at book club last week:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen... which she is reading for the first time and it's a blast to see her "discovering" the story and characters. A lengthy gushing conversation ensued.
Harry Potter.... the British versions, which are awesome!

The Maze Runner by James Dashner... she's been listening to it... says it's just okay

The Odd Thomas graphic book, Odd is On Our Side by Dean Koontz...  It was good.
The 4th Mathew Swift book... it was AWESOME of course! (The Minority Council by Kate Griffin)
Black Heart by Holly Black... the 3rd Curse Workers book... it was also awesome.


Austenland by Shannon Hale... a comfort re-read
Poison Study  by Maria V. Synder   .... a comfort re-read

Jessica N:

Has not been feeling up to reading, but instead has spent time finishing Psyche on TV!


Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta... the 2nd after Finnikin of the Rock.... loved them both
Return to Exile by E. J. Patten... for a blog tour for new local author. It was okay, but a bit of an effort at the same time.
The Hollow City by Dan Wells... comes out in July. Awesome book.
Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen... fun take on Robin Hood.. which brought us to a rousing Robin Hood discussion!

The Book Shuffle

So I got it into my head yesterday to finally do something about the piles and piles of books on my floor. I had no idea what I could do, but I thought maybe I could shuffle things around a bit. And of course I thought maybe you'd enjoy seeing the process.

I've shared my crazy TBR shelf many times, but here, once again is a shot of what I was dealing with. On the floor is four quite large stacks. I'd forgotten what was even in there! I wanted to get them out again to see what needed immediate reading attention!

Then I categorized the books into these stacks:

Books I really wanted to read ASAP:

Books I really wanted to read, but not as desperately: 

Books I've already read that needed to be shelved downstairs:

Books from Utah authors that I've not managed to get to yet:

Books that have been sent to me to review that have totally gotten lost in the shuffle:

And random books that didn't have a specific stack to be in:

So I took the already read pile, the random pile and the books I want to read, but not right away pile, and carried them downstairs to the big shelves…. where I plopped them on the tables and haven’t dealt with them yet. I’m worried about actually shelving the “want to read someday” pile because then I’ll forget about them! Anyway, I wonder if I’ll find room on the shelves down there for books I’ve shuffled to that spot! Maybe I'll tackle that one today.


The books I want to read soon, the Utah author books and the forgotten review books, I just stacked back on my shelf in front of the long forgotten TBR books that are always in the back! Oh, and there is still one small floor stack.


So, does it look any better? Now, I wonder how long it will take for me to accumulate another massive floor pile!

Oh, and as much as I love my TBR shelf and all the treasures it has in store for me, I really hate this corner of my room. It needs something. A plant maybe? Some sort of picture on the wall? Gah, if I'm going to keep taking pictures of it to share, I need to spiff up my boring corner!! I really wish I had room for a lazy boy chair too, but no such luck.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Book Club Report: Watership Down by Richard Adams

Okay, so here's one of those books that I've felt bad forever for not reading. One of those books you hear about all the time, but just have never seem to get around to. You know the kind? So I was quite pleased when my book club decided to add Watership Down to the line up this year.

But when I saw how fat the book was, I was worried. That's a lot of words about rabbits!

In the end, I read about 130 pages of this popular book and decided I had too many other things to read to suffer through 400 more pages. Yes, people, take note... I DID NOT LIKE IT!

In fact, I was moved to create a DNF (did not finish for those unfamiliar with the term) shelf in Goodreads so I could stick it, and also the Path of Swords somewhere and get them out of my way. It was a sad sad day for me. Here's the thing about books I don't finish.... it's not that I never give up on a book, it's just that usually, when I do, I have all the intention in the world of coming back to it one day and finishing it. (Whether or not that actually is another thing.)

I highly doubt that's going to happen with this book.

And why did I not like it? Seriously, it was just plain boring. I know. How can I even utter the word? But it's true, and so I moved on to a different book, and one that will probably end up in my top ten of the year. See, why waste time, right? Move on, right?

BUT, you may ask, what did the book club think?

For the handful that actually stuck with it and read it, they said:

  • loved the characters of Hazel and Fiver
  • the ending was worth it, it was actually quite weepy
  • how can you write 500 pages about rabbits?
  • books (and movies etc.) that take animals and give them human characters are one thing, but those that allow them to "talk" yet keep their animal behaviors are another.
  • most of us don't like talking animal books
  • the author said in his note "this is a book about rabbits.. there is no other point I'm making" and to that most of us say, "yeah, right. NOT."
  • is this a kid book or an adult one?
  • there was too much description and much of that was using British terms and plants which we had no idea what they were
  • where were the girl bunnies? (I know I know, they show up later after I quit!)
  • why do so many people like this? Sentimental reasons? Why do boys like this so much? Adventure? Really?
  • In the end, it came down to this... do you or do you not like rabbits? We had book club members that came down on both sides!
For other thoughts:

Up next month, Precious Bane by Mary Webb. Have you read it?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: All Time Favorite Characters

So, at first I thought the prompt for the list today (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) was going to be FUN! But no, it is HARD. So very hard. I mean ALL TIME favorites? Only ten? Is this possible? I think not. And while I know it's not going to be a unique and/or espeically creative list this time around, here's what I came up with for starters:

Top Ten All Time Favorite Characters

The Guys

1. Harry Potter... you know he has to be on the list. Talk about a character that has defined a whole genre and reader generation. Very impressive Harry!

2. Mr. Darcy... yes Jenni Elyse... he gets better! Is there any other character more swoon worthy? I mean, he STARTED the whole swooning thing, did he not? All the rest are learning from him!

3. Samwise Gamgee... I will forever and always love this guy. His loyalty astounds me.

4. Ed Kennedy...Here's the one many of you may not know (from Markus Zusak's book I Am The Messenger,) but this guy ponders some pretty deep and thought provoking things that make me see the world in a whole new way. (Wish I could find an actor who I think looks like him, but I can't right now, so oh, well.)

5. Robin Hood... the definition of swashbuckling, clever, flirty and gallant. What more do we need?

The Girls

6. Anne Shirley.... her attitude on life is one I would so love to have.

7. Jo March... even if she made a crazy boy decision, I still like her spunk. Another character, along with Anne, that I've always wanted to be more like.

8. Laura Ingalls... she defines my childhood reading and the character that I loved with all my heart back then.

9. Nancy Drew... the character that tuned me into a reader.

10. Katniss Everdeen.... celebrating girl power everywhere!

Well? How'd the list turn out? Do you agree at all? Who's on your list?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Read Along Catch Up: The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons

When I heard about this read along (being led by Carrie over at Books and Movies) awhile back.  of course I wanted to join in! But I was still waiting for the book at the library, and waiting... and waiting.. and waiting. So, when I was at the bookstore while on our recent trip... I just bought it, with the hope that I could catch up.

Which is exactly what I've been doing this past weekend. And once I "let" myself get immersed (meaning not worrying about what other books needed reading) it wasn't hard to do at all! I've read up through part three's assignment (Chapter 21) and now I'm going to do a catch up post so I can just keep reading it and see what happens!

(Beware, spoilers possible below... though I've tried to keep my comments quite vague for the most part.)

Here's some questions from the first part (Chap. 1-10):

What do you think of the writing?

I love the writing. The descriptions are great, but not over the top, so you feel like you're really there, but you don't get bored from it all either. I feel very connected to the characters too, which I feel reflects some awesome writing too. Really, it's pretty perfect.

What are your first impressions of Elise?

I've liked her from the beginning. She's feisty, and brave and a little spoiled. She seems to have adapted to her new life quite well, considering the circumstances. I think she lucked out big time landing this job and joining up with a house and staff as wonderful as she did.

Do you think Elise will ever see her parents or her sister, Margot, again?

I've had a dire dire feeling about this from the beginning. Ugh, I hate that! When you feel like something so terrible is bound to happen!

Part Two (Chap. 11-15)  included the "fun" chapters I would say... the falling in love part! Of course we all knew this was coming, but it was fun to watch. However, like has been mentioned on other read along blogs, I was bugged by the stunt that Kit asked Elise to pull, and then I couldn't believe she really did it. Whatever. Kit seems like a fun guy, but I'm getting weird strange vibes from his dad too. Anyone else? The setting (which is like it's own character) is awesome and I want to go here! I want to live here! 

Part Three (Chap. 16-21) is when things start getting a bit too sad. I've worried all through these chapters about how things will be ending. Another story about the terribleness of war and nothing makes sense. And now it's time to wonder if anything we think is going, is REALLY going on. And what's the best thing for Elise to do next? Where does she belong now? How should she be relating to Kit's dad? Some sad sad stuff indeed.

I can't wait to finish up the last little bit (even if I'm scared about what's going to happen!) I have been totally loving this book. All those that said if you love Downton Abbey, you'll love this... well, they were right. It truly does have the same sort of feel, though it's only following one story line where as Downton Abbey has several.

Be sure to check out Carrie's post for the day to see what other readers have to say about the book so far. I will have my regular review up next Monday to wrap up this read along. So glad I could join in for this last little bit of it!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Sunday Salon: Non-Readathon

Saturday night here. It’s been a day. Crazy in the beginning, lazy in the end, and kids going here and there and everywhere.

Outside my window: Wow… what a gorgeous day it was today! And I have one kid who went swimming outside at the very height of the beautifulness and she SWEARS she put on sunscreen. Yeah, and now we’ll see how fun the next few days are!

 I am listening to: Nothing at the moment, except the breeze through the window and the bird who suddenly decided to sing his head off.

Song of the week: Lazarus by Porcupine Tree… it’s such a pretty sounding song. I have no idea what he’s singing about though.

TV Talk: Ah, I’m so anxious to catch up on Vampire Diaries! And what’s with voting Colton out in American Idol people? WHAT WHAT I say? That was so so sad. What a dude. Survivor is frustrating, so very frustrating. Someone needs some guts over there! I watched a ton of Merlin episodes this week. and one Dr. Who. Fun stuff as always!

Books Finished: I did NOT finish Watership Down, I just don’t have the patience for that one right now. So I created, for the first time, a DNF shelf on Goodreads just for it.. and Path of Daggers of course. Sad sad day. But I did finish Return to Exile and reviewed it here.
Books Started: I started The House at Tyneford and am LOVING it! Sheesh, now THIS is what I needed!
Books Up Next: I will continue on with Before I Go to Sleep, which was also started last week while on the trip. Then I need to read next book clubs book kinda fast this month so someone can borrow the book… Precious Bane. After that, I don’t know what’s up next!

I am thinking: That it was sad to not participate in the Readathon today, but oddly nice too. I did read all afternoon, so that was good, but it was nice not to stress about it too. I hope you all had fun… those that read all day!

I'm grateful for: My grandma and all she has taught me and the fun we’ve had all these years! We had a fun party with her, but she didn’t have much clue what was going on.

Around the house: We had a college kid move back home this weekend, and she’s organized her room pretty good, but has sort of displaced the kitchen a bit. We need to re-organize that now.

Recipe of the Week: I made bought carrot cake for book club to celebrate the bunnies of Watership Down! :)

Favorite things of the week: the rain at the first of the week, and the sunshine at the end… I enjoyed them both! Book club was a nice thing about this week too. We had such fun jabbering away! Seeing some cousins I haven’t seen in forever was kinda cool also. AND, also, I got tickets to see Rick Riordan! Yep. Awesome.

Least favorite thing: oh… getting sick on Tuesday and Wednesday was NOT fun at all! Where did that come from I say?

Family Matters: One kid back home as mentioned, one kid with a sunburned back as mentioned, one kid just now finally getting over jet lag, and one kid who locked his keys in his car trunk, but we luckily had an extra key!

The coming week: Um… you know. I think it’s going to be a really quiet week. Here’s hoping!

Blog Report: The blog tour, the trip report, pondering time, listing blogger tips, and thinking about one cool character!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Authors Pick Five: E.J. Patten

As part of the blog tour I'm participating in today of E.J. Patten's book, Return to Exile, (see my review here) I've asked him my favorite author question:

What five books are most important
or influential to you?

Here are his answers:

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling: Years ago, I was trying to decide what I wanted to write. I read Harry Potter and declared, “I want to write something like that.” Harry Potter is the reason I write middle-reader adventure books.

Neuromancer by William Gibson: With Neuromancer, Gibson captured the essence of coolness. It’s one of the defining novels of the cyberpunk genre (a subset of dystopian, which is a subset of sci-fi). The prose are just beautiful. Bleak, but beautiful. They’re recursive, perfectly mirroring the world Gibson’s creating, like the opening line: “The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.” Seriously cool. I read this book in high school and I’ve read it many times since. The reason I like it so much is because Neuromancer combines complex prose with an engaging story— a feat most “literary” works (i.e., prose-focused and boring) and popular fiction (i.e., story-focused with utilitarian prose) never achieve. A warning, though, for my fans: Neuromancer isn’t a middle-grade or YA book. The overall message is pretty nihilistic, and there’s a touch of language and adult themes.

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein: This is the first book I can remember reading by choice. I read it over and over again when I was a kid, until I’d memorized every poem. I don’t remember any of them now, but I remember loving them.

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien: I used to read this series every year. I love the depth and complexity of Middle Earth and the history Tolkien created to make the world feel real. When I wrote Return to Exile, I wanted to make my world feel like Middle Earth, even though it’s based in the modern-day United States. I studied the devices Tolkien used to add richness and detail to his world. Because Return to Exile isn’t really a milieu-driven book, I had to figure out how to adapt the devices to a character/plot driven story. In other words, I had to figure out how to balance the richness of the milieu with the demands of a modern middle-grade pacing. But Tolkien put my feet on the path.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card: What Tolkien is to milieu, Card is to character. Card has an amazing gift for taking you into a character’s mind and plumbing the depths of their psychological underpinnings. Card not only folds you into Ender’s mind, he drives you through a great plot that arises naturally from Ender’s needs and personality. That’s incredibly hard to do and Card executes it masterfully. In Return to Exile, I took a note from Card and tried to create a plot and world that arose from Sky’s inner needs and conflict. Sky, like most people, struggles to survive in a world that’s full of traps, and constantly changing around him. He wants to fit in like his sister, Hannah, and be normal for once, but he knows he’s not normal. In Sky’s world, nothing is ever as it seems—not even him.

As always, thanks for such fun answers! I love how this question lets us get to know authors quite well!

E.J. Patten lives here in Utah with his wife and three kids. This book, Return to Exile, is his first book... but many more are planned (six in this particular series I think.) I don't know a whole lot more about him because his author bio is quite vague, but I DO know that he's a really nice guy, (even with that goatee!) and he's also, like most in this little crowd of Utah authors, quite funny too! :)

You can read his blog here.
Follow him on Twitter here.
Learn more about the book Return to Exile here.
Follow the blog tour here.

(P.S. I think goatees are awesome!)

Review: Return to Exile by E.J. Patten

Book: Return to Exile by E.J. Patten
Genre: MG Fantasy (of the urban sort)
Rating: ★★★☆ ☆
For: Local Author Blog Tour
From: I bought this one at an event last Christmas at "my" library wherein I actually sat by Eric while he signed books! So that's kinda fun, yes?

The story is that last fall when this book came out the author (E.J. Patten aka. Eric) was recovering from surgery and wasn't able to promote it as he would have liked. Thus, this sort of delayed blog tour was formed thanks to Diana from Book Adventures who put it together, and we are now reading and blogging and touring it!

Let me just say right up front that this book is full of monsters! Chuck full of them! So if you love monsters, you can't go wrong with this book. If you are scared of them? Well, I say you read it anyway! :)

In this story we have Sky Weathers, a boy just turning 12, who idolizes his eccentric uncle who has been his best friend his whole life. This uncle suddenly disappears on Sky's birthday, even as Sky and his family are moving to a new house. This, to say the least, is a bit disturbing for Sky and he plans to figure out what's up.

Meanwhile, all sorts of other strange things are going on. There's the bullies at school who are a bit strange. There's also the teachers at school who seem sort of off. There's this strange mark that Sky has on his hand that acts up now and then which confuses him. Even his Mom and Dad are acting weird.

Of course, then there's the monsters that attack him when he went to investigate where he thinks his uncle might be!

Basically, this book is one crazy event after the other where Sky and his new friends have to save the day several times over. To me it was sort of a mix between ghost (or shall we say monster!) busters, and an alien (or monsters) "men in black" sort of feeling... with kids in the starring roles of course. These kids who hunt the monsters are called Hunters, which is where the series title, The Hunter Chronicles, comes from. Yes, of COURSE this is the first of series!

The only problem I had is that there's so much monster detail! Sometimes I felt the story itself got lost among all the explanation about the monsters... and the pacing suffered a bit for it. However, I think kids will find this quite fascinating. In fact, there's a fun monster handbook included at the end so they can get all the explanations in one place. Oh and wait! There's lots of riddles too. So monster loving AND riddle loving kids will be pleased!

My daughter (just turned 13) also recently read this book, and while I think she liked it for the most part (it did take her awhile though, it's a long one!) she did mention that she didn't like the ending. This made me prepared for something not so good to happen, yet, I actually found the ending quite satisfying.

Bottom line: I liked it! It's a fun, very adventurous story that I think lots of monster loving kids will really enjoy.

Be sure to check out the other reviews on the blog tour! 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Pondering the Past, the Present and the Future

Tomorrow my grandma turns 90.

It makes me wonder what the world will be like when I'm 90. I will just go ahead and tell you that this will happen in the year 2055. I wonder if I'll still be around? If I inherited much my grandma and grandpa's genes (my grandpa is nearly 92) perhaps I actually will.

And when I think about what's happened to the world in their lifetimes, and what's happened in my lifetime so far, it truly freaks me out as to how different things will be in 2055. Can you even imagine?

Think about how different things are today than in the 20s. Cars. Computers. Medicine. Airplanes. And then how different they are now from the 60s! Computers in our pockets! Chatting with the world.

What WILL it be like in 2055 do you think? Will we actually have the internet in our heads? Will we wear it around on our face, instead of in our pockets? Will "beam me up" ever be invented? Or hover boards? Or autopiloted cars? Or those wands that diagnose sickness with a sweeping wave over your body?

Or will we be living in a dystopian novel by then? Divided into districts... or factions... or living loveless, with our choices and memories gone? We will be all killed off by some sort of plague, or will we have regressed to living a version of the past?

Which makes me wonder... does my grandma think our world NOW is dystopian-like? Actually, she was quite fond of the computer and all it could do, and lamented the day that she decided she could no longer see to manipulate the thing. (Which gives me the vision of me at 90, trying to blog still! I bet I could just speak my posts and thought then, and the computer will interpret!)

Well, whatever it's like, hopefully I'm around to see it! I think. Assuming it's a good thing.

What do you think life will be like in 2055? Do you think the changes will be good, or bad, or a little of both? Do you want to be here to see the future? And to make this more bookish, what futuristic book would you NOT mind our future actually turning out like?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Character Connection: Froi from Froi of the Exiles

It's been a long LONG time since I've written up a character post. But Jen over at The Introverted Reader is changing up the way she is hosting this feature and instead of once a week, we all have a month to think up, and write and link up a character connection post! So I'm hoping I will participate more and I encourage you all to join us because writing about favorite characters is fun, yes? Yes! Do join in! Here's the link for this month's version.

So as you all well know, I've recently been taken with the books by Melina Marchetta first about Finnikin and then about Froi. I love both of these characters, but today I'm highlighting Froi.

I love him first and foremost for the fact that he has changed so much between the two books! In the first book, he's basically the bad guy. We, as readers, really truly don't like him much. He does some pretty bad things, and he's just rotten. But the other characters end up seeing something in him, which makes us as readers also look at him differently. By the end of the book, it seems we are all giving him a chance.

Between books, he has grown up and learned a lot. The change is pretty staggering. So by the time the second book starts, we REALLY have to look at him differently! But what I especially like is that he doesn't totally lose that bit of him that made him feisty in the first book. His temper and bad streak is still there and comes out at some pretty funky moments!

So as the book starts out, even though he's changed and grown, we are still thinking of him as this thief boy. But wow, he does some amazing things and turns out to have such a good heart that our view of him changes and changes and changes some more! Then we also learn more about his background and where he truly comes from, which is quite fascinating. Then,by the end, of course, we are totally in love with him!

Isn't it great when that happens!!

I do hope you find time to find out for yourself what a great character this Froi is!

"I'll come and find you wherever you are. I'll not stop breathing until I do."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Tips for New Bloggers

Well, this seems to be the theme for the past month or so! But since it's the prompt over at The Broke and Bookish for our top ten list today, I'm going to go ahead and list out my newbie blogging tips once again.

Top Ten New Blogger Tips

1. Be consistent... meaning post often... or at least on a regular basis, whatever you choose that to be.
2. Comment a lot... both on others' blogs and in response to comments on your own blog.
3. Participate... there's lots of events and memes and if you want people to know you are out there, you've got to let them know by participating in things! I think Twitter could also be included here because Twitter is nothing if not participating!
4. Keep it fun... remember not to stress about  blogging, it's supposed to be fun and if it's not, change something.
5. Be personal... mix up the review and meme posts (and giveaway posts) with personal posts and discussion posts so readers will get to know you, and not just what you are reading.
6. Make it look good... don't let your blog get cluttered, or too busy with weird and/or moving backgrounds, or loud with music, or hard to read with strange colors, or annoying with too many spelling/grammatical errors.
7. Be original and creative... which may seem hard with how many blogs are out there, but you can always find your own little spin on things. Don't be scared to go with any fun ideas you have! Just see what happens!
8. Make yourself available... put an email up, and links to to other places you can be found, and make it easy for people to find these things.
9. Give credit... be sure to link up to other bloggers when mentioning them... or their ideas and memes. This always makes people happy!
10. Most importantly, be yourself... do what you want, blog about what you want, do it how you want. There really are no rules except for.... play nice with others.

What would you add to my list? Did I forget something huge? What have you learned so far as a blogger?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Vacation Book Reading

Some of you may have noticed my moaning this week (I can't remember where... Twitter? Goodreads?) about how vacation reading plans never seem to work out. It's so frustrating! So I thought I'd take my moaning further to a full on blog post here.

So let's see, this past week I took five books with me on vacation and bought one more while gone. One of those books I was nearly done with, I had maybe 30 pages left, and so I finished that, though it took me the first three days of the trip. (Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta)

Then, I started another book, and read 125 pages of it ( Before I Go to Sleep by S. J. Watson)  And the other book I read about the same amount of pages (Return to Exile by E.J. Patten.) BUT, I had hopes of finishing them both, and starting on yet a third!

So why is it so hard to read while on vacation? Do you have the same problem? I always expect to have so much down time. I figure I can read while driving, and at night and in between things. But, it never happens.

In the car I end up wanting to watch the scenery fly by (what are road trips for anyway if you don't look out the window and watch stuff, you know?) Besides that, I'm not the best car reader anyway.

The down time never happens because we always end up going non-stop for the most part. When ever we find some down time, we are thinking... so now what do we do? What's next?

Which means at night, I'm exhausted and can barely hold my eyes open for a chapter or two. Such a bummer!

Then with this trip I also made the mistake(?) of taking the computer along and so many times I found myself playing on it instead of reading. Naughty!

I dream of a vacation where I CAN actually read all day if I wanted to. I wonder if it will ever happen.

How about you? Do you manage to read on vacation? Or are you always constantly going? Do you dream of a reading vacation? Or would you feel guilty about not getting out and seeing things?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Sunday Salon: A Trip List

Hey everyone! I'm home! It was a fun week. Here's a list of "stuff we did":

  • viewed the Grand Canyon from several different spots, including up high in a tower!
  • visited a small town museum and talked genealogy
  • ate at a brewery
  • hiked through Indian ruins
  • hiked around a volcano
  • had two or three picnics
  • ate cactus fries
They were good!
  • sat and people watched in Sedona, Arizona
  • almost hit an elk
  • looked at the sun, Venus, Mars, Saturn and the Orion Nebula through telescopes
It totally looked just like this!
  • went on a Pluto walk
  • bought a shirt that says "Pluto was framed!"
  • met book bloggers at the Changing Hands bookstore
  • bought a shirt that says "Fictional Character."
  • walked around Scottsdale Arizona, bought a hat
  • drove to the top of a "mountain" and saw the view
  • slept in... a lot
  • ate out... a lot
  • bought two salt and pepper shaker sets, three key chains, four magnets and one bookmark
  • saw The Hunger Games for the second time
  • watched The Sentinel at "home" on DVD
  • finished Froi, but didn't read much else.
  • looked at condos 
  • played Draw Something while sitting around the table with each other, for an hour and a half 
  • feed backyard chickens and listened to the backyard rooster
  • walked around Lake Havasu for about one minute, saw the London Bridge for about one minute
  • saw the fountains at The Bellagio dance to Time to Say Goodbye
  • oohed and ahhed over the signed guitars at some store in Caesar's Palace Forum Shops
  • visited M and M World, but they did NOT have salt and peppers shakers (or "normal" m and m's)
It's a crazy store.
  • ate at a lunch buffet
  • drove home in a terrible snow storm
  • made it!
Now back to real life this week? Drat.


Related Posts with Thumbnails