Thursday, January 31, 2013

Character Connection: Roar from Through the Ever Night

One of my blogging goals this year is to write a Character Connection every month! I love how this feature forces me to look more closely at a loved character and then try to verbalize exactly why I'm drawn to them. It's also fun to share my character loves with you! You should join with us every month over at The Introverted Reader!

My highlight this month:         

from Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi

(I have no idea who this is in real life
but this is just how I picture Roar
only wearing black of course!)
Well, actually we meet Roar in the first book, Under the Never Sky, and yes, he's cool in that book, but I was focused much more on Perry. In the second book, Roar has a much more prominent role and suddenly his coolness is right there in your face!

Why do I think he's so cool?
  • He a sidekick character and it seems that in most cases, the sidekick is more swoon worthy than even the main love interest. He gives Perry the run for his money on this!
  • He "has a prince's look but a pirate's eyes."
  • He's dark and mysterious and wears black "from head to toe."
  • He laughs... a lot.
  • He hides behind the facade of his swagger, which he has going in spades.
  • He is funny and witty and silly and crazy.
  • He fights with knives.
  • He has enhanced hearing, and can even hear Aria's thoughts if he's touching her.
  • He's extremely suave and smooth with Aria, which makes you wonder what he really feels, but we know he is in love with Perry's sister, Liv. So, there's that.
  • He sort of reminds me of Jacob in the sense that Aria, our heroine, seems to sort of need him to ground and center herself. 
Have you read these books? Do you love Roar too? And why?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wolf Hall Read Along: Half Way There!

Wow, it's been an interesting trip so far down British history lane! Not sure how to define the experience that this book is. But here's what I'm thinking so far.

The writing is unlike anything I've ever read before. Strange mix of awesomeness and confusion. It's kind of a stream of conscious book, you know. And you really need to be paying attention in order to know who's thinking what, who's saying what and what HE refers to whenever it's used. Very weird.

And yet, at the same time, the writing quite sucks you in and makes you feel there. Maybe it's the stream of conscious thing that can do that, but yeah, it's not really that hard once you get used to it. Very weird, indeed!

I've read several books about this period in history, so I'm really enjoying seeing it from a different perspective. I can't remember much about Cromwell from previous readings, he probably seemed like the boring character then. But I've a feeling I've always thought of him as the bad guy. And I tend to want to put all these players in this crazy story into some sort of bad guy/good guy category. So I'm finding it fun to actually like him and feel for him and want him to succeed in whatever he's trying to do.

But, that's the thing. What IS he trying to do?  Of course, I know that he is key in making the change that allows Henry to divorce the queen and marry Anne, but at this point, I see him waffling from one camp to the other. He is/was the cardinal's boy after all, right? And the cardinal is not for divorce? Am I right?

Yes, it's all confusing.

As always, though, I wish that somehow Queen Katherine could have won this fight. I do NOT like Anne Bolelyn, and have never felt very sorry for her, even if she really didn't deserve what she got. But none of them did. Someone was just a little head chopping happy, I'd say.

But now I'm getting ahead (ha, aHEAD, lol) of myself! And talk about stream of conscious! Sheesh, what's up with me today. I'm too tired I think. But you love posts like this, right?

Anyway, besides Cromwell, I'm totally loving his dude/secretary/helper/friend.... Rafe. Love him! Was he a real guy? Do you think he had such dry wit in real life? And how would anyone know anyway? It's the author making up his personality I'm sure. But I approve.

The human-ness we are seeing with Cromwell, his kids, his wife, his home, his pets, his love for his extended/adopted family. I love it. I hope that's how it really was. I'm scared for them all though. I know how this ends!

Now.. on to the second half of the book....

Oh, for Jessica's thoughts on the first half of this book (she's co-hosting this read along with me!) click on over here!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Movie Review: Lincoln

Movie: Lincoln
Genre: Drama/History
Starring: Daniel Day Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones
Rated: PG13
My Rating: Two Thumbs Up

At first I didn't think I'd really be into seeing this movie, then everyone started raving about it, then it was nominated for a gazillion awards, and so THEN I thought, sheesh, I should see it!

I loved it because it was intense without special effects. We don't see much of that these days. It was a "talking" movie, remember those? And such awesome acting. Yes, I agree that it deserves the attention it's getting.

Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln

The story is mostly about Lincoln and his cabinet trying to get the 13th Amendment passed during the month of January 1865. They needed Democrats on their side, and that was no easy thing. At the same time he was trying to negotiate the end of the Civil War. People told him, he couldn't have both things. It was either one or the other.

Well, not if Mr. Lincoln had a say! He wanted both!

I was hoping it would end before a certain night in April 1865, but no such luck.

Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddius Stevens,
and the leader for the amendment

Some things this movie made me wonder about:
  • was Lincoln really that soft spoken, or was that a Daniel Day Lewis thing?
  • did he really have a kid that young when he died? I guess so.
  • I loved his humility. I hope that's really how he was too.
  • It's amazing that all the events of this movie took place pretty much within a month.
  • Thaddius Stevens, I hadn't heard of him before, but I came right home and looked him up! I so do love Tommy Lee Jones!
  • Wow, Lee Pace is in everything these days! Here he plays the "bad guy" congressmen, against the 13th amendment. Awesome job... but... boo!!!
  • There weren't many scenes from the war, but the bit we did see... awful.
  • If he hadn't been shot, think of all the other things he might have done. It's painful.
  • Poor Mary.
Lee Pace as Mr. Wood and against the amendment
Anyway, it's a fascinating look into a small but very powerful moment in our history acted out in a most awesome manner. Go see it.

The trailer:

Monday, January 28, 2013

Book Review: Among the Nameless Stars by Diana Peterfreund

Book: Among the Nameless Stars by Diana Peterfreund
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Rating: ★★★★★
For: Fun
From: free for Amazon Kindle

Have you noticed the trend lately with these little interim novellas? They are put out between the main books of a series to keep us tied over I guess. (At one of the panels I was at recently, the author mentioned that they are now becoming part of many contracts, and that the publisher is requiring authors to write these little middle books to be put out as ebooks. Interesting yes?) I've never really been all that drawn to them, but when I saw this one for free awhile back, I decided to try it and see what I think.

This story takes place before the events of  For Darkness Shows the Stars and we learn what happens to Kai when he first leaves the North Estate. And it's not pretty. After getting through the fire fields... terrible volcanic wasteland, he finds a group of people living awful conditions and he wonders if this is what he left his fairly comfortable spot on the North Estate for. It's quite discouraging.

But he pushes on to get to the big city where he expects his dreams to come true (except for the fact that Elliot is not with him.) At first it seems like things might be okay, but then suddenly, everything comes crashing down and in fact it's so bad, he fears he may never escape.

All along through these adventures, he is writing to Elliot, mostly in his head, but sometimes on letters that he plans to never mail. We see that he pines for her and yet is so mad at her that he vows to never forgive her.

So, all in all, it was fun first foray into these new things, the "in between" series book. I enjoyed the back story and loved being in this world again, even if it was for only a short time. And yes, I can't wait for the next book in this series, the REAL next book!

Bottom line: Totally enjoyed it, very fun!

Other Reviews:

Whether you read the novella first or second, I feel that it's important because it shows Kai's backstory through firsthand experience, giving more readers insight into his life and the trials he endured before FDSTS. From A Backwards Story

It’s fantastic character development for Kai. It gives a lot more insight into him as a person, why he thinks and feels the way he does, why he makes the choices he does, and why he feels so betrayed by Elliot. From Flashbulb Review

You will love Kai all the more so than you already did. So go get a copy and start reading! From Thoughts at One in the Morning

This POV story brought me SO much closer to him [Kai.] From Read-A-holicZ

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Life Story: The Scar on My Knee

 One day, at the end of a hot hot summer, I decided to go play across the street at my friend’s house. I was five, nearly six years old, and only a couple weeks away from starting Kindergarten. We went down into her cool dark basement to watch Sesame Street. My friend was sitting on the floor, and I was sitting on the couch, and we were both totally enjoying ourselves. All was well.

Then, for some unremembered reason, I got off the couch to go over to my friend to tell her something. I slipped down onto my knees and  proceeded to walk across the long shag carpet, still on my knees, across the room.

Suddenly, massive sharp pain! In my right knee! I stopped. I gasped. I cried. I moaned.

“What’s wrong?” my friend asked?

“I don’t know! My knee! It hurts!” I had no idea what was happening. But I did know that I couldn’t move or bend my knee.

We looked at it and saw one teeny drop of blood.

I tried to stand up, balancing on my left leg and then trying to put pressure on my right leg to walk. Intense pain. I couldn’t walk. My knee was frozen in a bent shape anyway. There was no way.

By that time, the mom of the house had been called to the rescue. She had no idea what to do either, but she did manage to pick me up and carry me across the street, back to my house, where she deposited me on my front porch and told my mom that something happened, but we don't know what!

My mom, perplexed and worried, asked me what happened and I told her that I “walked across the carpet on my knees, then something hurt!” A few minutes later, the neighbors came back over and said they had looked all through the carpet to see if there was anything to give a clue, and they found a half of a wooden toothpick.

So that’s what we figured had happened, that maybe I kneeled on a toothpick and it had broken off in my knee. But still, we couldn't see a thing... only a little drop of blood.

My mom did the only thing she could think of, and called the doctor. It was just about time to close, but when he heard the story, he told her to go ahead and bring me in and he would stay after and wait for us. He was a young doctor, just new in his practice, and willing to help out however he could.

The ride was a short one, but I’m sure a painful one. Much of this part I’ve blocked from my memory! When we arrived, we discovered that the air conditioning had gone out in the office building and it was, as mentioned above, a stifling hot August evening. The building was even more stifling.

My mom explained the situation, what we knew of it, and told about the toothpick. The doctor really had no idea what to do, but he decided to go ahead and deaden my knee with a shot, which I was hysterical about, but once that was over, things didn’t hurt so bad.

And then it got graphic. All he could do was to start digging around in my knee. I was crying, my mom was crying, he was nearly crying and we were ALL sweating to death. My mom remembers this poor young doctor, with sweat streaming down his face, trying so hard to figure out what was in there!

Finally, and I have no idea how long it took, it felt like forever to us all, but was probably about an hour, he struck gold. Or steel I should say. He pulled out the tweezers and held it up for us to see. A needle! “I think this may be the problem!” he said.

Yes, there was no toothpick. But, there was a needle. Embedded all the way into my knee.

The doctor said, “If we’d only known it was a needle! We could have x rayed and it would show up and I could have gone right to it!”

He sewed me up with five little stitches and we were on our way! Thank you Doctor Thomas!

Back at home, I remember my mom propping me up on the couch in the living room, with pillows under my knee, and bringing me dinner to eat. She served it in a muffin tin, with all the little parts of dinner in each little compartment of the tin. It was a hint from somewhere that she had recently read, (the day’s version of Pinterest... maybe a magazine?) about serving food to someone “in bed.”

All I know, it made me feel special to be eating in the living room and I was so glad to have that knee fixed.

I also remember that for those last couple of weeks of summer, I couldn’t get my stitches wet and that was quite the trial to not be able to play in the sprinkles or the kiddie pool.

And that’s the story of how I kneeled on a needle and ended up with a scar on my right kneecap!
Two weeks after the knee incident
on my first day of Kindergarten
August 1971

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Recent Book Events

Let the book events continue!

A few weeks ago I attended the launch party for the last Wheel of Time book, A Memory of Light. That was fun! Lots of very excited and geeked out people in the crowd... people who have read this series countless times, people who have named their kids after the characters, people who have this world memorized better than their own lives I think. I felt a little out of place, being stuck in book 8 and all, but it was fun to be a part of it.

They had Harriet McDougal, Robert Jordan's (real name Jim) wife, come out and she read from the book a bit. People gave a standing ovation. And Brandon Sanderson came out and people gave HIM a standing ovation. And... did I say everyone was so very excited?

Then they had a little panel thing, with those two plus a handful of others that really didn't participate so I didn't understand why they were there, but whatever. And the audience proceeded to ask questions for the next hour and a half. And they all told their life stories especially as it pertained to the series. Which was interesting and all, but it sure did take up a lot of time.

I love how Brandon made everyone feel cool about their questions and put everyone at ease and before long it felt like we were not in a high school auditorium but in a living room discussing the series as one big group of nerdy friends! It really was a lot of fun and sparked a little fire for me to want to finish this series once and for all.

After the Q and A, all the die hards went back to the store to get their copy at midnight and Brandon stayed and personalized everyone's copy until the wee hours of the morning. Harriet had pre-signed her books beforehand. But not being a die hard, I went home!

Then, at the library a week or so ago,  I went to a YA panel including Ally Condie, Rob Wells, Jennifer Nielsen and E.J. Patten. They were a blast as always, tirelessly answering all the same questions they get asked at every other panel I've seen them in! I didn't ask a question this time, like I did last time, but it was okay because things were pretty much hopping.

And then, just a couple of days ago there was another writing panel at the library, this time for general fiction. We had Josi Kilpack (who writes cozy culinary mysteries) and Greg Park (who writes fantasy) and Steven Peck (who writes... I'm not sure what, but it looked quite far out!) They talked a lot about publishing at first, and then got more into how to write stuff. I get a kick out of the questions from the audience at these low key things.... you can really tell who are the "newbies" at panel questioning. Anyway, afterwards I chatted with Josi for a bit and got my one book I have of hers signed.

I missed Brodi Ashton's launch for Everbound which also happened this week! I just can't do it all I guess!

But events coming up that I hope to get to:

Terry Tempest Williams, a well known local non fiction author, coming to the library
Dark Days Tour including Dan Wells and Lauren Oliver and I can't remember who else.
The LTUE writing conference with keynote speaker, Megan Whalen Turner! Cool!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Mini Movie Reviews: The Lucky One, MIB III, Bourne Legacy

Here's a few movies I've recently watched at home on DVD that I thought I'd report on quickly.

The Lucky One
Starring: Zac Efron and Taylor Schilling
Genre: Romance

I guess I take these Nicholas Sparks movies with a grain of salt, and go into them knowing they'll be sappy and romantic. So, when I'm in the mood for such a thing, I'll watch! And then of course, I'll usually find them to be just perfect, for what they are. And besides, I'm good to watch Zac Efron in most anything these days. There I said it.

The story is pretty simple. A soldier in Afghanistan I think, finds a picture of a girl in the rubble after a fight. When he returns home, after barely surviving other close calls, he wants to find this girl to thank her because he believes the picture was his good luck charm and saved his life. So, of course, he manages to track her down, and then ends up working for her at a pet boarding place and doesn't tell her about the picture  He sees what's going on in her life, becomes involved and falls in love. But things are complicated. As they always are!

So I must have been in the mood because, in the end, I enjoyed it. The plot was simple, the love story was good, the ending a bit convenient. But overall, I enjoyed it.

Starring: Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones
Genre: Science Fiction

I enjoyed the first movie a lot. The second one was just okay. So with this third one, I wasn't expecting much and haven't really cared about seeing it. But we got it for Christmas and I was pleasantly surprised with it! The story is actually quite thought provoking and touching.

We go back in time with this one because the Will Smith character has received some info that let's him know that his partner's life is in danger, so he must save him. He then learns a lot about this younger version of his friend that explains a lot of things. He also learns a secret that he never even imagined would be part of the deal. It changes his whole outlook on life.

In the end, I really enjoyed this one!

The Bourne Legacy
Starring: Jeremy Renner and Rachel Weisz
Genre: Action Adventure

Well, so I didn't know what to think about a Bourne movie without Matt Damon. So I didn't rush to see this at the theater. Very skeptical. However, wow, this other dude that I'm not familiar with at all, was great! I appreciated that they gave him is own character and didn't try to have a new guy play Jason Bourne. But, the action scenes were breath taking and there was even lots of Parkour that I'm now so "familiar" with! All that rooftop jumping? Awesome.

In this movie, we learn that there were more enhanced people like Jason Bourne. But now they've decided all of these guys need to be destroyed. One guy manages to elude them and comes to a particular doctor to get help. I enjoyed seeing a bit of the back story of how these super assassins were created in the first place. Interesting stuff.

Bottom line: I actually quite loved this one!

Movies I'm hoping to watch at home on DVD in the near future:

Premium Rush
Pitch Perfect
The Words
Skyfall (as soon as it comes out)

What have you been watching lately? And, what would you recommend?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Pondering Imagination and the Reading of Fiction

Awhile back, quite awhile back in fact, someone on Twitter linked to this article/speech. It was fascinating to me because it talks about people, guys in particular, with regard to their reading of fiction. And how they, as manly men, sometimes tend to want to hide or discount their desire for fantastical fiction that's full of imagination. They may feel it's beneath them, or too frivolous or not worth their time.

At first you may think, wait, what? Guys are just as imaginative as the next person! Look at the wonderful imaginations of all the wonderful writers out there, who are male. And look at the major demographic who goes to, say for instance, Brandon Sanderson's book signings. Lots and lots of guys.

But at the same time, isn't it interesting that I've had this very conversation regarding fiction and its merits with people in my family. Once I was asked, by a guy in my family, "why should I read fiction? You don't learn anything!" Whoa, did that get me going!

In fact my husband and son both will come to me for their next book selection and request, "I want something real."  Which is fine and all good, but it makes me wonder if they ever enjoy the fiction that they DO read. Or are they sort of suffering through it.

Then there's the hard evidence of our book blogging world where male book bloggers make up a very small minority. (I love it when I find an awesome guy book blog to read! Their different perspective is refreshing.) Perhaps it's because guys aren't so much into blogging...but then again perhaps it IS because they aren't so much into reading... especially fiction.

I don't know. What do you think? I just found the whole discussion fascinating and have been dying to throw it out here and see what you all thought about it! Do you see people in your life, guys especially  who poo poo fiction and fantasy? Or is it completely the opposite in your experience? Are guys the biggest consumers of this genre?  Imagination vs. guys vs. fiction vs fantasy.  What's the real scoop?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Book Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Book: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating:★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
For: Fun
From: Gift from Deanna for Christmas!

Wow, I think this was one of the most buzzed about books last year! And now finally I can know what everyone was talking about.

If you love dragon stories, you can't miss this one. It's one of the most unique and original dragon worlds I've read. In this world, the humans and the dragons have worked out a hesitant peace between their species, but when the Queen's brother turns up dead, suspicion is instantly on the dragons and that perhaps they have broken the treaty.

Relations between the people and the dragons are very fragile anyway. Dragons are forced to take on their human persona (including wearing bells so the humans will know who they are, because otherwise they could totally blend in) and they have stay in their own spots and hangouts. They are really looked down on by the humans. When we join Seraphina, she is the music master's assistant at the palace and she has just discovered that she herself, is half dragon.... something that has never been heard of before.

This causes all kinds of internal conflict and external issues as well. She thinks maybe her grandpa is to blame for the recent death and she has no idea how to solve it all! And then there's the prince that she seems to be inconveniently attracted too, him being betrothed to his cousin the princess and all!

It's an awesome story with cool dragon-building-world things going on! Political intrigue and back family stories all included.

The writing is beautiful and amazing. There ARE lots and lots of "hard" words though! I should have kept a list of all the vocabulary words I could have come up with. Let's just say you need to bring your brain along for this read.... which depending on what was going on in real life, was sometimes hard to do!

Bottom line: I totally enjoyed it and can't wait for more. I'm assuming there's more. There's tons left to work out!

Other Reviews:

They [dragons] serve pretty well as a distant villain, since there’s all these stories of sacrificing maidens. But at the same time, dragons are famously sentient. Ms. Hartman does a good job of incorporating both sides of dragon nature. From Creativity's Corner

If I were to summarise my feelings for this novel, they would be expressions of love and joy. It is not often that right upon finishing an e-galley, I order the hardcover copy of a novel. Usually I wait for the paperback release. Not for this one though. From Iris on Books

Interesting world building, political machinations, and mystery--but what's really important is that there is now good reason to hope that Seraphina won't be sad and lonely forever. From Charlotte's Library

One of the things I most loved about this book is the use of 'girl power'. From The Written World

Seraphinais like a breath of fresh air. A story this beautifully conceived and well-crafted should stand the test of time. From omphaloskepsis

Finally! This is what YA fantasy should be about - a fabulous crafted story that does not rely on a teenage love angst. Yes, folks, I am tired of reading about teenage love triangles. From Polishing Mud Balls

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: I Want These Settings!

Books are set in so many wonderful cool places. It's hard to come up with anything that hasn't been done before! But I gave it a shot for this week's Brook and Bookish question:

Top Ten Settings You'd Like to See More Of

1. Adventures on a farm... sounds boring maybe? But I think it would be so sweet and nice.
2. The Amazon jungle... that would be intense, and I can't think of one book set here... that I've read anyway.

3. Italy... because there can never be enough books set in Italy!
4. A big family... anywhere.. maybe a big city because that would be unusual I think.
5. A space station...yeah okay, like Star Trek's space station, only not.
6. Some quaint bed and breakfast...maybe in New England... this sounds like a calm relaxing setting too, like the farm

7. York, England... I visited here and loved it and I can't think of many books set here.

8. Plymouth Colony... I have yet to visit here, but want to, and I think a book set here would be very interesting.
9. High school band geeks.... I've only read a few books were the high school band plays a big part in the characters lives...we need more!
10. Medieval England... I can never get enough of this setting. I have no idea why, because it such a rough and hard time period, but so fascinating too.

How about you? Where would you love to see more books take place?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Book Review: Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi

Book: Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi
Genre: YA Dystopian
For: Fun
From: Bought with gift card

I loved Under the Never Sky and since I read it "late" I didn't have to wait long for the next book of the trilogy! How lucky for me! But still, the wait was long enough! And even though I had other book commitments, this one slid in (again, just like book 1) and demanded to be read.

But that's okay because it only took me a day. :)

(Beware, small spoilers for the first book ahead....)

This book leaves off just shortly after the first one ended. Perry is now Blood Lord and Aria has gone "home" for a bit but has just come back, much to Perry's joy. However, they know that the tribe will have issues with her, so they pretend to not have any connections beyond allies.... which makes things tense to say the least.

And then of course, stuff happens and they are separated again, each off on their own adventures and solving different problems. Aria ends up traveling with Roar, Perry's best friend, so he is featured much more prominently in this book, which is a very cool thing. Roar is one of the most awesome characters ever!  Dark, and funny, and sweet and silly, and... remember when I talked about swagger the other day? Swagger, he has it! Besides which, he and Aria have this connection that is very jealous-making for poor Perry.

But Perry holds his own in the cool department and I love him too. This world he lives in is a hard one and I love the struggle he has and the decisions he is forced to make. The Aether ( massive lightning storms, which are explained much better this go around) is getting worse and worse and if his people are to survive, he has to find a safe place for them. They dream of a place where the sky is Still Blue and that's what drives them ever on.

I couldn't put this book down and the end is crazy exciting. I may have forgotten to breathe a time or two.

Bottom line: Totally loved it.

Other Reviews:

It keeps up the intensity of the first book, while adding original elements to keep the overall story interesting. From Bloggin' 'bout Books

But as I read Through The Ever Night, I did begin to notice some operatic influences in the story. Themes of jealousy, of ill-fated love, of betrayal and sacrifice. From YA Romantics

While the first book is full of adventure but primarily a love story, this book illustrates the growth that both main characters have made and continue to make. From A Musing Reviews’s not too often you like a sequel better than the first book..and I totally felt the same way about this book too. Perry! Aria! Roar! Cinder! The characters are so strong but broken, so likable and determined. From Anna Reads

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Currently: Mini Readathons Are Sweet

C  U  R  R  E  N  T  L  Y
(as written on Saturday evening)

Listening: to lots of stuff on Spotify, which I only recently figured out. Wow, that thing is like magic. One of the songs I discovered there, one that most of you know already, is this one:

Eating: some pretty yummy sandwiches the past couple of days. It boggles my mind what a good avocado can do to a sandwich!

Loving: that this album is coming out so soon. Can't wait! 

Reading: This weekend was meant for reading I guess, it's like a little mini readathon for me. Today I've been reading Through the Ever Night... a lot. Last night I got a good start on Wolf Hall. And tomorrow I plan to put in much more time on both.... and then there's Monday, a holiday, with nothing planned. More reading ahead!

UPDATE: Finished Through the Ever Night! AWESOME!!

Feeling: after such a lazy day today, I'm feeling quite good and rested. How's that for a different answer!

Watching: I watched a movie on my Kindle called Forks Over Knives. It's about eating plant-based food and whole food, which we all know is good for you, but sort of extreme too. I thought I'd watch this in preparation for the onslaught of nutritional information I'm expecting to get these next few months. I guess I need to know it all, right? Anyway, it's given me stuff to think about. 

We finished all the available Parenthood episodes on Netflix. I hear the current season is ending this week, which I hope means that it will show up on Netflix soon. But I'm scared for this season because I've heard a few things... and yeah, I'm scared.

I thought Survivor started this week, but no, it's not until Feb. 13. I'm excited to see some favorites return. I have high hopes it's going to be a good season. Unlike American Idol which as I mentioned in a previous post, I'm not so sure about.

I'm dying to go see Lincoln. 

Wanting:  hmmmmm.... to go see Lincoln! :)

Thinking: that if writers can have writer's retreats, and quilters can have quilter's retreats,then readers should be able to have reader's retreats. Yes? 

Exercising: Yes! I managed a couple of days this week! My body cooperated, and it was nice, but this weekend, I feel off again. So.... trying again next week. Ugh.

What's going on at your house currently? 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Mini Bloggiesta! February 2-3!

February 2-3

Hey everyone! We've decided to try having a MINI Bloggiesta and see how that goes!

Our main Bloggiesta is planned for late March (I think... now I can't remember the exact dates!) but in the meantime, we know that so many bloggers are anxious to work on their blogs more often than twice a year. And especially when the new year rolls over, it seems everyone is ready to jump in and "do stuff!"

So, after feedback from last time, we decided to have a mini Bloggiesta event. It's going to be two weeks from now on February 2 and 3, just for the two days of the weekend. We'll only have a handful of challenges (though we will link to past challenges and you can work on anything we've done before!) and probably only one Twitter party.

But we'll still plan on working together, encouraging and helping each other through Twitter and posts. We'll have "to do list" sign up links over on our shiny new Bloggiesta page (have you visited yet?) so you can see who else is participating and visit everyone. And if you are new to Bloggiesta and have no idea what I'm talking about, click on over to our About page where all is explained!

So, start thinking about your to do lists and stay tuned for further details! I hope lots of you will be able to participate! OLE!!!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Book Review: The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

Book: The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
Genre: Literary Fiction
For: Book Club
From: personal copy that I've had for so long I have no idea where it came from

Yay that I've FINALLY read this book! I loved it. It's an awesome story with some awesome characters and a confusing plot that makes you think... in a good way!

It's told from three even sometimes four points of view. The "main" one is an old guy who has lived a lonely life and he's afraid he's going to die soon and no one will have noticed him at all. As he narrates, we learn that his past includes escaping the Holocaust, (but his family did not) and how he then spent years hiding. And that he loved a girl all through childhood but she was sent to America just before the war, that he wrote a book about her, that he wrote another book recently after suffering a heart attack, and that he has spent his  later life being a locksmith in New York and hanging out with his friend Bruno.

The second narrator is a young girl whose father died several years prior and whose mother is still not doing well. She has determined to find someone to make her happy, and she thinks that maybe the guy who has recently requested a translation of a particular book, just might be the answer.

Then we have the author of the book mentioned above and his story and the book's story, and how that connects to the two people mentioned above.

And now and again we also hear from the girl's strange little brother, because he sees some things that have impact on the story also.

In the end, all the stories come together in a very clever and profound way. Getting there was a little confusing though, and often I was wondering how this could happen and what was going on, but I knew it would work and it was awesome.

I loved the voice of the old guy. He was funny and down to earth and so sad. The girl reminded me a lot of Fanny from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. She was smart and a thinker and a plotter.

I really enjoyed the style of this one! And I hope to search out this author's other books! And maybe even her husband's (Jonathan Safran Foer) too!

Bottom line: I loved it.

Other Reviews:

Permeated in this literary novel is an affecting sense of loss and love, and disappointment in life........This book just takes my breath away. From A Guy's Moleskine Notebook

Such a beautiful book that just invites you in so easily From Sarah Reads Too Much

But bottom line is this is a beautiful and moving book that I think you should all go read right now. From Love, Laughter and a Touch of Insanity

Altogether, I found the story haunting, revealing, thought-provoking, and beautiful. From One Literature Nut

Thursday, January 17, 2013

New Books, Nutrition and A Mountain

Today, I was going to do a post for Where in the World are you Reading? BUT, the question is, where's an unusual place you read? And.... I can't think of any unusual place. All my reading places are the normal places. You know, the bed, the couch, the car. So, I guess I'll pass on that one for this month and wait for next month's prompt!

In the meantime, I have some rambly things to discuss today. You all seem to enjoy the rambles, so, here goes.

** First, check out the books I've "purchased" with Christmas and birthday gift cards! I know! It's exciting, and so I had to share! Here's hoping I actually read them soon. Like very very soon!

**And hey! Guess what? I'm going to take an online class from, like, a REAL university! It's from this website called I think it's fairly new, but I'm so excited. I'm going to take two nutrition classes. One that starts soon and is more science-y. And one that starts in April that's more about the myths and fads that are always floating around and how to know what's right and real and what's not. That's the one I'm most excited about. I want the TRUTH about nutrition. I wonder if it's possible, but I'm going to try. You see, I have an issue with food, as you  may or may not know, and I'm hoping that this class will help me. My problem is, I get particularly defensive about food, and I get crazy when people say certain food is BAD and certain food is GOOD. So, maybe these classes will help. I guess we'll see.

But no matter what I learn, I will be trying to eat more healthy (whatever that means) but for some, it means salads, and so check out this one that my son (nearly 18) made yesterday:

I can eat that (with dressing of course!)

**So, our read along for Wolf Hall has started....but I still haven't started the book! That's because I wanted to first get done with Seraphina, a really awesome dragon book, but it seems to be taken me forever! I'm so so close! Which means that I hope to start this huge Wolf Hall book soon. And I hope that it sucks me in and goes down easy and fast-ish.

** One of my favorite things in the whole world is the sun on the mountains in the morning. I tried to capture it for you:

** Oh, and I hope you were able to check out my guest post over at Melissa's the other day! But look what I saw when I was at the bookstore yesterday. It made me laugh:

** So I've been an American Idol fan since the beginning. And I watched the new season last night, complete with the new judges and... and.... I'm just not sure I can do it this year. That was AWFUL! Makes me realize how much I actually enjoyed Steven Tyler and all his... craziness! Ugh. I'm so bummed.

** Well, I guess that's all I've got for now. I'm quite certain I had more, but I can't think suddenly. Anyway, I need to go figure out what to do for book club treats tonight! And clean the house a bit, and go get next month's books... and finish Seraphina!

Wishing an awesome Thursday to you all!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Month of Letters: Address Request!

Everyone! It's almost time for another round of A Month of Letters! 

Remember how I did this last year? And how much fun I had? And remember that I sent some of you letters? And how much fun that was for YOU? (It was, right?)

So, let's do it again!

In February, I'll be making the goal to write (and mail of course!) a letter or card or postcard a day. I have some of your addresses leftover from last year, but if you didn't give me yours and you'd like a letter, now is the time to make that possible! I'd so love to add to my list!

If you are cool with that, email me your mailing address (jenstusue AT yahoo DOT com) or fill out the form below if that's easier for you. I promise I won't do anything shady with your address, just mail you a letter is all!

And, if this sounds even a little bit fun to you, do join the fun! Then let me know, and we'll send each other letters! :)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Guest Post for Retell Me a Story Week

As mentioned here last week, Melissa from One Librarian's Book Reviews is celebrating story re-tellings this week over at her blog. She asked me to write a post about one of my favorite subjects with which I had an absolute blast. So today, I invite you to click on over and read it!  Please? 

I'll be over there responding to comments, should you have any, so I'll see you there!

Top Ten Tuesday: 2013 Debuts

So here's the thing... I pretty much have no idea what books/authors will be debuting this year. I'm so out of that loop! And I'm not sure how to get INTO the loop, but I think it's okay because I have lots to keep me busy as it is, and I KNOW you guys will tell me what's coming up and what the good ones are, right?

But I  googled anyway, and found a Goodreads list, and whatdayaknow, there're books on there that I actually have heard of and am looking forward too, mostly authors of a local nature. Such as:

Top Ten Five Four 2013 Debut Books I'm Excited About

1. Transparent by Natalie Whipple

2. Pivot Point by Kaesi West

3. Insomnia by J.R. Johansson

and also this one, because she's a famous book blogger:

4. Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans

....and that's really all that I can think of at the moment.

So, now you all tell me, what debuts should I totally be aware of that I'm so very not? 

Be sure to check out everyone else's lists or to join in over at The Broke and the Bookish.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Book Review: Reached by Ally Condie

Book: Reached by Ally Condie
Genre: YA Dystopian
Rating: ★★★☆☆
For: Fun and Support Local Authors
From: bought at launch party

It took me awhile to get into this one. It may have been, perhaps, the crazy time of year I was trying to read it in. And once the holidays were over and I could concentrate on it, things went much much better.

In this the third and final book of the Matched trilogy, we find our three main characters, Cassia, Xander and Ky, all in different places trying to deal with a plague that has taken over the Society. Each one gets a turn narrating, which is fun, but you have to pay attention to the chapter headings so as not to get mixed up!

Ky is piloting ships that are dropping supplies into the affected areas, Xander is right in the midst of things doctoring the "still" (infected people) and Cassia is sorting, which I never quite understood but I think it means computer work trying to find information to better help the situation.

Well, the situation which at first is controlled gets extremely out of control and then our three heroes finally end up together to try and find a cure. Once this happened, the book went much faster for me and I found myself waiting anxiously to see what they would figure out.

As with all of Ally's Matched books, I was especially struck with the poetry element. They are so beautifully written! But sadly, sometimes I felt like I lost the plot in the midst of the beautiful writing. Does that makes sense at all? That's why, for me anyway, it took some concentration to read it.

But in the end, it was okay because I felt the intensity of those final pages. And I'm feeling quite satisfied with the ending. As always with a love triangle, it's hard to see who gets chosen and who gets "left" but this one worked out just fine, for me anyway. Also, with this book, it's not just the love triangle that's the issue, but the state of the society as a whole, and I feel like things were wrapped up to a great conclusion.

Have you read it yet? What did you think about the end of the trilogy?

I look forward to what Ally has for us next!

Bottom line: I enjoyed it, especially the second half.

Other Reviews:

I am totally all for reading about plagues. Luckily, Reached totally delivers on it’s promise of disease. We get to see the beginnings of the plague, how immunity is developed and then also how the disease mutates, much like in real life. From Good Books and Good Wine

...loose ends are tied up, surprises are in store, people die (c’mon, people HAD to die) and Ally Condie does a beautiful job of taking care of the characters we came to love in Matched and Crossed. From Anna Reads

I loved, loved, loved reading Xander's narrative. And I love seeing the characters through his eyes. From Becky's Book Reviews

The book is more about Xander than anything else really. Xander, Cassia and their friendship. But more just Xander. From Bloody Bookaholic

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Life Story: My Sad and Happy Birthday

But first, a little intro to this new "feature" of my blog. You may remember that I talked about doing this awhile back, but since then I've chickened out many times. I've always been drawn to writing down life stories. I actually interviewed both sets of grandparents and compiled stories for all four of them. It was an awesome experience. I've written down my stories in various random boring forms, but never have I actually tried very hard to work to make it more interesting.

Then I went to a class at the library a few months ago that got me all fired up to try again. And I thought, well, if I posted little articles or essays about different little incidents of my life on my blog, that would give me motivation, and an audience to write for. I figure if I picture you my readers reading this stuff, I may write better. You know? Does that make sense?

So even though it scares me something terrible to post my stories to the blog, I thought I'd at least try it for a bit (maybe twice a month) and see what happens, how it feels and if I continue to freak out about it. (I will be obscuring some details and names of people who might rather not be public on the web, at least I will try.)

Anyway, I figured I'd start with the beginning and so for my first life story post I give you:

My Sad and Happy Birthday

Once upon a time, on the Thursday evening of November 11, 19--, my parents went to the final session of their childbirth classes. At that class, they watched a movie of a baby being born which was something quite new to both of them, this being their first baby and all. While not making her especially nervous, Mom did say that  it must have made her a bit excited and ready because in the middle of the night, her water broke.

But the thing was, she had planned to work another week for BYU’s The Daily Universe student newspaper, and then after that have days and days, weeks even, to plan and prepare for the baby! You see, I was a month early!

When her water broke, Mom said to Dad, “ah, something is happening! I think maybe the baby is coming. I think maybe we should go to the hospital!” Dad said “you’ve just peed your pants I bet, try going back to sleep.” Mom said, “Ah... no... I don’t think so.. I think that yes, we really better go!”

They were living in a small student apartment south of BYU campus and so off they went in the middle of the night to Utah Valley Hospital in Provo Utah to see what was actually going on. A short couple of hours later, and despite the fact that the nurses were not convinced it was really happening, I was born early Friday morning, November 12th.

Mom called her mom, Grandma T and said, “It’s a girl!” She was so excited to get a girl and couldn’t wait to share the news. Grandma said, “You’re joking, right?” Remember, I was a month early, not due until mid December! Mom said, “No, no I’m quite sure there’s a baby here!”

Grandma was waiting to hear from Grandpa’s parents, Grandma Goldie and Grandpa Lem, who were serving an LDS mission in New Mexico. She told Mom that she would give them the news when they called. Grandpa Lem had been sick with blood clots and had recently had surgery down there in New Mexico, but infection had set in and he was not getting better. Grandpa was trying to make arrangements for them to come home as soon as possible, which was why they were waiting for the call.

Later on that afternoon when the phone call came, it was not good news. Grandpa Lem had just passed away. Now both Grandma and Mom would always be sad that they didn't make that phone call sooner so he could know that he had become a great grandfather before he died.

As you can imagine, the day turned out to be quite the bitter sweet one. Mom didn’t know what she was supposed to feel. Happy to have a healthy baby girl, yet sad to have suddenly lost her grandfather. Grandma had planned to come help Mom, but with all the funeral arrangements and things going on, she couldn’t come for several days. That was also a bit disappointing for them both.

But as it turned out, Dad’s mom, Grandma L, was able to come for a few days. This was another surprise to all involved as it wasn’t the normal thing for her to be part of the excitement of birthdays. On that side, I was the 9th grand baby of what would end up being 72 plus (I’m not even sure of the count.) Babies were happening so often that she could barely keep up! But it was nice that she could come be with Mom until Grandma T. could get there.

And that is what happened on the sad and happy day that I was born. For the rest of her life (and she lived a long time!) whenever I would see Great Grandma Goldie, she would say to me, “you are my oldest great grandchild! And you are the one born the day my Lem died.”

About 1 month old

With Dad,  and his dad Grandpa L, and
and HIS dad Great Grandpa Fred (who immigrated
from Switzerland when he was 19 years old)

With Mom and Dad

With Mom, and her dad Grandpa T, and HIS mom
Great Grandma Goldie 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Classic Double Challenge AND Retell Me a Story!

Melissa's (One Librariran's Book Reviews) Classic Double Challenge is a given for me now. Last year it was such fun to read a classic and then a retelling of that book. I LOVE this challenge! I was able to read two stories (four books) which I plan to do again this year.... that is... unless I do three! Gah, I want to read them all!

Here's what I'm hoping to do this year:

The Scarlet Pimpernel (which we'll soon be reading for book club)
Across the Star Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund (the sequel to For Darkness Shows the Stars, which you can bet I'll be reading challenge or no challenge!)

The Romance of Tristan and Isolde (I LOVE this story and have never yet read an "original" old version)
Tris and Izzie by Mette Ivie Harrison
Tristan and Isult by Rosemary Sutcliff

Peter Pan (I started this once and never finsihed. It's time.)
Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
The Child Thief by Brom

Hmmm.... well it looks like for a couple of them I'll be reading TWO retellings! It's just too hard to decide these things!

Also, be sure to check out Melissa's Retell Me a Story Week coming up on her blog next week! I've written a guest post that she'll be sharing which I can't wait for you to read! And mine is only one among many. I hope you come and see what Melissa has planned!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Movie Review: Les Miserables

Movie: Les Miserables
Genre: Musical
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russel Crowe
Rated: PG13

My Rating: Two thumbs up

When I first heard that this, my most favorite beloved musical, was going to be made into a movie, I was a little nervous. Okay, a lot nervous. I had pretty much zero faith that these big name stars could pull it off. Could they REALLY sing? Or would they just lip sync stuff? That would be so awful!

Then I saw the trailers and the behind the scenes videos and I became more and more impressed. I decided this was going to be a cool thing after all. I totally looked forward to seeing it... which took me a week or so because of crazy holiday stuff!
Cosette and Marius

But finally, see it I did and I loved it of course! They did an awesome job. It was so cool to see some of the scenes that are hard to do on stage, done in a movie setting. The opening number... wow! And the sewer scene (though it was a bit too short) and the downfall of Fontaine... and the barricade conflict. All amazing as a movie.

That being said, I still think that the play is more powerful... more emotionally powerful. Which is crazy I know, because the movie WAS emotionally powerful. But the play, much like we book lovers always say with books... is still better.

Jean Valjean and young Cosette

As far as how I thought these big name actors did. Hugh Jackman as fantastic. Anne Hathaway lived up to all the hype I'd seen about her I Dreamed a Dream performance. She blew it out of the water! But Russel Crowe was not my favorite Javert by any means. Something was sorely lacking. I loved the Marius dude, someone I haven't heard of before (Eddie Redmayne) and Amanda Seyfried was a pretty good Cosette also. Oh, the girl playing Eponine (Samantha Barks) .... perfect! Spot on! I thought Enjolras (Aaron Tviet) was great too, but his part is so much more powerful in person. It's so hard to explain unless you've see it live!
Jean Valjean and Fontaine
Which makes me wonder how many people are having their first experience with Les Miserables now, with this movie, and have nothing else to base it on. And how many are actually comparing it to their play experience. I've been lucky enough to see this live more times than I can count (I would guess about ten) and I have this thing memorized! So I would say I am a pretty tough critic.


And thus, in pondering the whole thing, I feel mixed. On one hand, I loved it, they did a great job. It's amazing, it's moving, its message is uplifting and powerful. On the other hand, the live singing tends to give me constant chills and brings tears to my eyes even more so than the movie.

Bottom line: I loved it. I love the play more!

Now I want to know where you fall in this! Have you seen it yet? Have you seen the play? How do the two, movie and play, compare for you? Or is this your first exposure to the musical in any form? Did it blow you away with the emotion? Or have you seen neither and have no desire to do so?

Oh, and P.S.... It was MOST awesome to see Colm Wilkinson, the original Jean Valjean,  playing the bishop! Who ever had THAT idea was genius! See what they all have to say about that here:


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