Thursday, October 31, 2013

Book Review: Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield

Book: Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield
Genre: Literary Fiction
For:  Review and my one RIP read!
From: NetGalley (Release date: November 5, 2013)

Wow, has this book been highly anticipated or what?! We all loved her other book, The Thirteenth Tale way back when (before I started blogging actually!) But let me just say really quick here... this one is very very different, so be warned.

The best way I can think of to describe this book is that it's sinister, dark and really quite weird. It had the feeling of an Edgar Allen Poe story.... or an Alfred Hitchcock movie (especially The Birds!) But, I'm not quite sure I "got" it. And I know there was SOMETHING that needed getting there at the end, but I just scratched my head and thought... now...wait....what?

I mean, I understood that there was this dude who starts out as a nice and fairly normal guy. He is very motivated and ambitious and smart and his life is all lovely and happy. But then tragedy strikes and he basically sells his soul... or something. And then he his driven for the whole rest of the book to build a big huge store for the selling of funeral arrangements and mourning clothes.

The book takes place in Victorian (ish) England during the time when people wore black forever after someone they love dies. He becomes totally and completely obsessed with this store (which he names Belllman and Black) and making it all perfect and such.

Which he does, but at a pretty great cost.

Interwoven between his story we get some hint at another presence in his life, but I'm not sure who or what that being is (the ghost referred to in the subtitle... I think! But I'm not convinced it was a ghost at all.) Bellman (our main character) is also obsessed with this presence and feels accountable to him/it.

Then there are the birds, the rooks, that are a running theme throughout the story... referring back to an incident that happened in Bellman's childhood. And everything seems to hinge on this incident. And those birds. (cue Twilight Zone music here!)

Ah... it's weird stuff. Creepy too, in a strange subtle simple way. Which basically means....

Bottom Line:.... I totally enjoyed it! Even if I'm not sure I understood that ending! Please, if/when you read this, let's talk openly in the comments. Deal? I really need to know what you think!

Other Reviews:

If you are looking for a classic ghost story this fall, this is not it. From Book Chatter

The haunting is in the message, in the issues that Setterfield tackles – the meaning of life and death, of what’s important and what isn’t, of dealing with love, with loss, with work, with rest. From Modern Gypsy

I found this to be a very slow read with lots of details and some repetition in the descriptions of William's daily routines. From Cherie Reads

I found this a dark, atmospheric and unusual Victorian tale depicting a man’s glorious rise and tragic fall; cleverly written and structured, it made me think about the joy and sadness of life. From The Little Reader Library

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Book Review: Turning This Thing Around by Keith Maginn

Book: Turning This Thing Around by Keith Maginn
Genre: Memoir/Self Help
For: Review
From: ebook from the author

It seems I've been a little magnet for small and simple memoirs this year. I've enjoyed getting these little glimpses into other people's lives... real people's lives. Maybe I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed lately with my own life problems, but it's nice to read how other people have overcome their issues and what helped them along the way.

This particular book is about the author who, as a young man, realized that he'd been suffering from several mental health issues all his growing up years which in turn caused some pretty painful physical side affects. As a teenager, he just covered it all up, but later on during his twenties, and after a painful end to a relationship, he finally understood that things were pretty serious and he needed help.

The first thing he did was to reach out to friends and family. Three cheers for this step! It makes me crazy when people suffering from such issues tend to turn away from those who want to help them the most.

Then, he got a therapist. And he mentions,and I tend to agree, that we should probably all have one!

And then he learned how to meditate and do yoga. This is the bit that fascinates me. It seems like such a simple way to "fix" your brain and emotions, and yet the author said this was the biggest thing that helped him. It's something we can all do, right? I'm thinking I just might give it a try, because calming my brain would be really nice right about now!

There were many other things he did and as he says, he is still in the process of figuring things out but he feels like, compared to where he was just a short time ago, life is looking very very up!

Bottom line: I enjoyed this short, sweet and simple tale of one person's road to emotional healthiness.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Scary Covers

I wasn't going to do this one because I have a hard time thinking or remembering covers, but then a few came to mind so here you go:

I think I'll stick with just five today! Can you think of more really obvious ones that I forgot? 

See what everyone else came up with over at The Broke and the Bookish today!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Book Review: Just One Year by Gayle Forman

Book: Just One Year by Gayle Forman
Genre: YA Romance
Rating:★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
For: Fun
From: bought from Amazon

So, I was a little disappointed in this book, sadly. While I understood that its a companion novel and not a sequel, I didn't quite comprehend what that meant. Let's just say it does not start where the other book, Just One Day, left off. And if you remember that one, it ended with quite the cliff hanger! Well, this book does not help out that situation much!

Anyway, this one is all from Willem's point of view. He's the one, if you remember, that was present during some of the first book but then just disappeared. So now, we find out what happened to him and the journey and changes and lessons he learned during the year that follows.

For those of you who haven't read the first book, Willem is a Dutch guy who is a bit lost after his father's death a few years before. To combat that, he's been travelling the world. On his travels, he meets a girl he calls Lulu and they make a pretty intense connection in Just One Day. But then something happens. It turns into quite the tragic story.

So we found out more details on what happens, and we follow him around for more travels during this book. Mexico and India are the star countries. He patches the relationship with his mom and seems to find himself and his purppose. But the big question, does he find Lulu? If you've read the first book, you'll pretty much know the ending of this one, which was kind of a weird thing actually.

Bottom line: So, I enjoyed the writing and the characters, just as I did in the first one, but the story wasn't what I expected necessarily. Or wanted. Or needed! It was a little frustrating for me.

Have you read it yet? What did you think?

Other Reviews:

I liked that so much of the book was about pining and searching. It was about free will versus destiny and whether you should be active or just let things happen to you. From Good Books and Good Wine

The first story – which I loved – has taken on so much more meaning after book two. From Anna Reads

Told in Willem’s brave, tender, tragic voice, this extremely satisfying sequel to the beautifully wrought Just One Day will satiate salivating fans who have been dying to find out what happened to Lulu’s mysterious Dutch crush. From Reading Rants

I was excited that Willem isn't the typical YA book boy, who's typically a popular kid or a broody loner. Willem felt like a fresh type of character. From YA Romantics

Saturday, October 26, 2013

To NaNoWriMo or Not To NaNoWriMo?

I was reading a book this morning (I know, it's hard to believe) and it said something about the conflict between our right and left brains. This is EXACTLY what I've been experiencing the past couple of days.

So what does that conversation between my brain halves look like? Take a peek:

RIGHT BRAIN: You know, you really should try this NaNoWriMo thing. I think you'd love it.

LEFT BRAIN: Are you KIDDING me? Where in the heck would you find time for THAT right now?

RB: Um well, I could do it. I could. I mean, there are moments all through the day that I waste. So I could fill them up with writing.

LB: Yeah, right. Something will have to give. Are you ready to give something? And besides, what makes you think you can write a book. That's like, HARD!

RB: Well, I, you know, write every single FREAKING day! (Almost.) I have tons... thousands... of blog posts you know....

LB: A blog post is different than a book. There's this thing called PLOT. What do you know about plot? Nothing!

RB: Well... what better way to learn then to try. You know, I can TRY at least!

LB: Well, I guess so, but still, it's going to be hard to write something if you have no idea of the direction it's going.

RB: I sort of have a direction. I wrote those four chapters years ago, remember? Back when I thought I could do this? And I just re-read them and, guess what? They aren't half bad!!

LB: They're pretty bad.

RB: It's got some awesome dialogue, you have to admit.

LB: Dialogue is no plot.

RB: You have to start somewhere. Seriously, you KNOW it would be fun to try. You know it! Who cares if we don't know how. And it's not like I'll try to get published or anything. Sheesh.

LB: Well then, why waste all that time if you don't have a goal like that? How can you even justify the amount of time this will take?

RB: It's on my bucket lists... that's how! Those lists (both the bookish one and the whole life one!) justify ANYTHING!

LB: You can't do it.

RB: Yes, I can.

LB: Seriously, you can't.

RB: Oh yes, I so can.

LB: Nope.

RB: Yep

LB: You are not going to do this.

RB: I am. I am so going to.

....and on and on and on it goes.

I'm not kidding this is totally what's been going on in my head for the past few days. One morning I was totally excited about the idea. By the evening, I was thinking, no way. Can anyone relate? How do you overcome this conflict?

And... you ARE doing NaNoWriMo this year? Please, if I do this I need lots and lots of cheering friends, as you can see. We need to fight that dumb left brain!


I've just signed up! Now, help me find all you other writers there! :)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Book Review: Tinkers by Paul Harding

Book: Tinkers by Paul Harding
Genre: Literary Fiction
For: Community Read event
From: Free from the library

I can see why this book won the Pulitzer. It's very artistic. It's kind of like all the movies that win the Oscar, you know? Artsy and... kinda confusing. But who cares, because it's so pretty!

This book is a very poetic look at the thoughts of a dying man. As he lays there with his family around him, his thoughts go back to his own father who was a Fuller Brush man (do you know of which I speak?) and thus known as a tinker. He remembers several stories his father told, and he remembers how his father suffered from epilepsy and how is mom could not deal with it very well, and he remembers what happens in the end.

Then, his thoughts turn to his grandfather, someone he wishes his father had told him more about. After they die is not the time to think this! You know what I'm saying? Talk to your old people now! I have a very strong passion about this subject!

Anyway, so then we get a bit of the story from the dad's point of view.

In between are excerpts from several books that I'm assuming meant something to this guy, George, the one who is dying. And then, there's lots and lots of beautiful poetic stream of conscious passages that are actually pretty amazing. And so true to real life experiences. Nice when a book does that... tells the truth and all.

I'm sure a ton of it went right over my head, but I enjoyed most of it. And being such a small and tiny book, the bits I didn't get were fast and quickly over!

Bottom line: A beautiful ode to the end of a life.

P.S. If you missed it, I posted about hearing the author speak at the library last week. Come and see what I thought! His second book, Enon, has just been released and tells the story of Charlie, one of the grandsons who was watching over George in Tinkers.

Other Reviews:

Three stars for plot, but five stars for prose – for an average of four stars. From The Bluestocking Society

Tinkers is a language lover's novel. Harding wowed me with his words. From Nomadreader

This beautiful, spare novel should find its way into the hands of every reader of literary fiction. From The Boston Bibliophile

A few reviewers have said the book should be read as poetry rather than prose. Fair or not, when I hear that, I always tend to assume they mean it just doesn't work as a novel. And in this case, I think my assumption is right. From A Little Reading

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tons of TV Talk

In the TV watching front, things have picked up tremendously! How's a person to keep up?

Well, one way is to list all the shows on their blog and then get really depressed about it! Seriously, do I have time for this?

Most of these shows I watch later, online or on demand, and Netflix where available. We don't even have a DVR but really, who needs one these days, right? The way we watch TV now is so different from just a few years ago. It's crazy.

Anyway, here's the list....

Shows I'm Watching 


What a big TV night this is! What's up with that?

Amazing Race: A show that I often do make the time to watch live. For me, it is still as fun as always, and makes me want to travel the world. It's especially cool when they do go somewhere that I've been. I love it!

Once Upon a Time: The plot for this show is so complicated that it makes my head spin, but I love it and I love the twists and turns on all the fairy tales. So so creative. Anxious to see the what's going to happen with Hook and Emma. And I still need to watch last week's show!

Revenge: This one seems to be waning lately. We heard it was going to pick up this season, so we are giving it a chance. Often though, I end up tuning out the details of the plot and just look for the character interaction. Nolan continues to fascinate me, but I have cringe at him sometimes too.

Some in my family watch (or have watched) Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead. I haven't dared try either one of those yet.

Of course, Downton Abbey will soon join the list here! Last year I watched it online when it was currently showing Britain, and in fact I have watched one episode of the new season. But then something happened and it's not available, at least where I was finding it, so now I guess I'll just wait and watch it later with everyone else.


Sleepy Hollow: I've watched several episodes of this one and they just seem to be getting better and better. That dude, Crane, is growing on my big time. I love his old fashioned character thrown into modern times. It makes for some pretty fun dialogue. The stuff that happens though, is pretty creepy scary.


Currently, I have no Tuesday shows!


Survivor: Can you believe how long this show has been on TV? Its crazy! This season they are pitting family against each other and it's been really fun and turns everyone's strategy on its head. Totally enjoying it so far.


The Vampire Diaries: Another show that it still pretty good after all these years. Things are so different!

Parenthood: I think this one is pretty much my favorite show of all. It's so real and so ordinary and so true and so good. I do miss Mr. Cyr though! Bring him back!

Friday and Saturday

Currently no shows on these nights either! Am I missing something?

Shows I'm Pondering

Reign looks very intriguing, but I haven't sat down to watch that first episode yet. It may be added to my Thursday night line up soon!

Also, that Alice in Wonderland show looks fun too, but I haven't decided if I should really give it a shot or not.

And what about The Originals? The spin off from Vampire Diaries? I want to watch it just for Elijah!

Speaking of vampires, what about Dracula? Has that started yet? Does it look good?

I tried Agents of SHEILD, but it was boring to me.

Shows on Netflix

Buffy: I finished season three finally have started the first episode of season four. You know, this show still does not totally grab me! It seems surface-y to me, I need it to be deeper.

Dr. Who: We actually rented the DVDs from the library of the latest season... still trying to get through those, even though there's not very many. I'm enjoying Clara though. I need to catch up to be read for the big 50 anniversary "Day of the Doctor" episode. It would be fun to watch that live, but you know, I don't even know where or when to find it! Gah!

Other shows on Netflix that will be an ongoing project for me including Supernatural and Teen Wolf and I can't remember what else!

So, what shows are you watching with me? Let's discuss! What shows do you think I should add to the list? You can probably tell from this list which sorts I like, so tell me! What am I missing??

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Names

The prompt this week over at The Broke and the Bookish is to list some favorite book character names. I have a ton! So here's a few that come to me at the spur of the moment. (Most of them from fantasy stories, which kind of makes sense, right?) And I'm going to be lazy and not name the books... you can guess most of them I bet!

Ten Favorite Character Names

1. Finnikin
2. Kvothe
3. Perrin
4. Sage
5. Cricket
6. Heathcliff
7. Ronan
8. Seraphina
9. Karou
10. Valek

Did you guess the books? Do you agree with my choices? I seem to be heavy on the boy names, yes? What names do you love?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Author Appearance: Paul Harding

This year for our community reads event through the library, we are reading the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Tinkers, by Paul Harding. As part of this celebration, the author himself came to visit. How often do you get to see a Pulitzer Prize winning author?! Not very often I say, so of course, I was there.

Now, I'm not very familiar with either him or his book. I started reading Tinkers during the readathon last week and after not very long decided it was not a good readathon book. It needs a bit of focus and concentration! (I have since, this weekend, read half of the book have learned that there are only a few parts that are "hard" and the rest isn't too bad at all!)

And the author, I'd never heard of until I knew about this event. So basically, I had no idea what to expect or what he would be like. But let me just say, I'm starting to understand that most authors who have won this prize have done so for a reason! This guy knew how to use his words!

I'm not much a fan of  "readings"... you know where the author opens their book and reads away. Usually it's a bit on the boring side, but this guy was fascinating to listen to. Actually, I'm thinking that his book just lends itself to being read out loud. It has that poetic feel and cadence that makes it much more easy to understand if read out loud. And when he himself did it, it was especially awesome.

Then, he simply took questions from the crowd. And his answers, instead of being one worded, short and simple things, were long beautifully worded essays! How can people think on their feet like this? It truly blows me away.

Anyway, I remember someone asked him about doing a book where one of the secondary characters in Tinkers gets the spotlight. He said that you can't set out to write a specific kind of book, that the book sort of comes to you and you just have to go with it. He thinks that if he sat down to do something like that, it just wouldn't work. He went on for quite a long time about this, going with your gut instead of forcing something to happen. 

Someone else asked about what he was doing when he got the news about winning the prize. It was a pretty funny and not-so-glamorous story. He was off away from home, teaching or something. He was lonely and a bit depressed. And  I don't think he even got a phone call or anything until after he saw the news online or somewhere. I can't remember exactly, but he did not find out ahead of time. And then they wanted him to come do press and some such thing, and he was like... "but I don't have a clean shirt!" 

I can't remember now all the questions, but it was a very enjoyable evening and I'm very glad to have taken the time to go listen to him. He was delightful! 

And now that I'm more into the book, I can say that it's being quite delightful too! That review to come soon!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

In Which I Faint at the Mailbox

I've already shared these pictures with many of you. Yes, if you are on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, you've seen my mail already. However, if you are not, how could I neglect sharing here also? I must keep sharing 'till I've shared in every single place there is! (And after this post, I promise, I will shut up about it. I think.)

So I went to the mailbox the other day... the long and arduous trek down to the end of the driveway where usually I gather all the junk mail and throw it away in the can on the way back to the house, where I then stack the rest of it to be shredded at some later time. Getting the mail is usually so disappointing. However, sometimes there's a book in the mailbox, which is always exciting, but only rarely happens these days. Sometimes, during letter month or Christmastime there's a card or a note from a real life person, though this is far and few between too.

But one this particular day there I found a postcard that looked like this:

At first I thought it might be from Melissa of Avid Reader's Musings since she's been known to send me Book Thief related things. I was thinking... ah cool! Melissa you are the best!

Then I looked on the back and saw this note:

I couldn't understand it at first, but then I realized it says THESE not THERE... and "whole lot of these" was referring to the postcards themselves.... Book Thief movie promotional materials I'm thinking. Still, it's not quite clicking in what I have in my hands.

And then I saw this on the other half of the post card:

And that's when I freaked and gasped and very much out loud there at the mailbox said, "Are you kidding me?" I looked again. Out loud, I said to no one. "Seriously? Oh! My! Gosh! Really? He didn't! He did!! Wow, he really did!"

If the neighbors had been out, I wonder what they were thinking!

I may have turned about in a circle, I may have done a happy dance, I may have giggled a little. And then I took myself quickly back in the house were I looked again, and thought "I think this is for real. This is real, right?"

About that time I managed to calm down and think rationally that I really am no one special, that he probably sent a "whole lot of these" to EVERYONE he knew... or I should say, to everyone he had an address for. And I'm sure that stack was a very large one.

But how did he get my address, you may ask. Remember back nearly two years ago at the first Letter Month? And I was brave (or crazy) enough to decide to send him a fan letter? Even though I felt pretty darn silly doing it? Remember that?

Well, sometimes it pays to write a fan letter! Especially if it's to Markus Zusak because I think he says what he means and means what he says! Back at the time, this is what he tweeted me back:

And ever since then I've wondered if he really would, but figured he really wouldn't. I mean, seriously. He has better things to do.

And yet he has! In the form of a promotional movie postcard, and, you know what? I'll take it.

Friday, October 18, 2013

A Pinteresting Update!

I've been madly working on the Pin It and Do It Challenge! Madly!

Here's a few things we've accomplished:
(links to the original Pinterest pin, but the pictures here are proof of how things turned out for me!)

A Fruit Fly Trap!

Thoughts: It worked! Though you have to tape the paper to the jar or the critters manage to escape.

Fresh Tomato Spaghetti Sauce

Thoughts: I made a huge batch and put it in the freezer!

A Halloween Wall Hanging

Thoughts: Pretty easy! I like how it turned out. How I found time to actually do this one, I'll never know.

Witch Hat Cookies

Thoughts: Extremely easy. A big hit at the party we took them to.

Pumpkin Brownie Blondies

Thoughts: Very heavy and rich. I'm not sure I really liked these.

Spiders on the Door!

Thoughts: We had to buy spider rings and cut the ring part off. Then make sure you use the heavier round magnets. We tried the thin sticky backed stuff and it did not work at all.

Seems like we've done more stuff, but I guess it was all before the challenge actually started! Anyway, let's see what we come up with during the second half of the month!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

TLC Book Tour, Review and Giveaway: Fiesta of Smoke by Suzan Still

Book: Fiesta of Smoke by Suzan Still
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance
For: Book Tour
From: TLC Book Tours

You know, whenever I get an email from TLC saying "Hey, Suey! I think you'll LOVE this book!" I have a hard time passing it up because... they are pretty much almost always right!

And this book was no exception. A book and author I'd never heard of, and now I'm giving it five stars? When I first saw how big it was I was a bit worried and thought, oh man, can I fit this thing in right now? Well, I blazed right through it and loved every bit of it.

This book is one of those sweeping sort of stories that covers a lot of time and territory. It follows three main characters throughout their lives and how they all connect eventually in the end. Along the way, we get many different flashbacks to other times in each of their lives, including stories within stories that they were told as they were growing up or learning or experiencing different things.

However, the main year of the story is 1992, the main location is Mexico (and a little bit of Paris) and the main conflict is the Mexican Revolution, where toward the end everything comes together in a harrowing, nail-biting climax worthy of any movie!

Speaking of movies, I couldn't help thinking a bit of Romancing the Stone while reading this book! (Switch out Michael Douglas with Antonio Banderas, change the place from Columbia to Mexico and bam!) And while the details are quite a bit different, it has that same sort of feel to it! It also reminded me a bit of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's books, only with just a touch of that magic realism stuff that is really awesome when it comes in small doses! Know what I mean?

The book starts out in Paris where a newsman named Hill happens upon our heroine, Calypso, an American writer, who appears to be running away from something or someone. He falls pretty much instantly in love with her and they talk and talk for the evening, and then she disappears. He is now obsessed with finding out more about her and learning her back story. We follow him on this quest which takes him all over the place, meeting all sorts of interesting people, and ending in Mexico.

Meanwhile, we ourselves, are learning the details of her story, which includes going to college at Berkeley when suddenly this Mexican kid (named Javier) shows up at her door. She, for some crazy reason, lets him stay. He is Gorgeous (yes with a capitol G!) and so of course, Calypso cannot resist and they hook up and it appears they fall deeply madly in love.

But then some really bad stuff happens (read the book!) and he disappears... for YEARS! She goes on with her life, which ends up quite miserable, because all she can think about is Javier.

Meanwhile, he is having quite the many adventures himself, but all he can think about is Calypso! Oh, and leading a revolution of course!

Oh my word! It's so good! The writing is totally wonderful with that rich, beautiful, flowing style that makes you feel totally immersed in the story and the world and feel the passion and emotions of these fascinating characters. They are truly something and it was a blast to read their story and feel all these things right along with them. It's one of the best overall romance stories I've read in a long long time. I totally loved it.

For those squeamish sorts of readers, do beware, there's some graphic and disturbing scenes and some strong language now and then. But for me, it had a place and was not abused, which I appreciated.

Bottom line: This book was a blast to read and I loved every minute of it.

Hey and you are all so lucky because for just one more day (through today the 17th) you can grab this book for your Kindle at Amazon for only $1.99! Totally worth it!

Also, if you are interested in winning her previous book, Commune of Women, leave me a comment here (tell me a favorite historical fiction book that you've read) and I'll randomly choose a winner and the TLC people will send you a book! 

If you'd like to see what others have to say about Fiesta of Smoke, check out the list of reviews here over at the TLC site. And be sure to drop by the author Suzan Still's, website and say hi!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Book Review: Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund

Book: Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund
Genre: YA Science Fiction
For: Review
From: Edelweiss

I was so looking forward to this book having loved the first book, For Darkness Shows the Stars, so so much last year.

But while this one had essentially the same feel as the first one, it just wasn't quite the same for me! And I know I'm going to have a hard time putting my finger on just exactly why. Maybe it was just one of those mood things, and if so, dang, that's frustrating!

Anyway, this particular tale takes place in the same world as the first one, the world full of characters dealing with the consequences of the mistakes their ancestors made when they tried to create a superhuman race. This ended up causing havoc on the gene pool and instead, created people born with major mental issues, which they call Reduced. At first, I thought perhaps this story took place years and years after the first one, but later on we find out that no, it's only shortly after, but in a different part of the world.

In fact, the setting is in what we know as Hawaii... I think. Or some other nearby Polynesian island. There are two islands, who have quite the major conflict with each other. (And I'm not sure I understood what the conflict is, which is partly why I had a hard time with this book, much of the plot details were lost on me.) Our main character has taken it upon herself to free certain people (the Reduced, or the people like them who have taken a drug to cure the problem which has now backfired) and she calls herself the Wild Poppy.

Yes, this book is a retailing of The Scarlet Pimpernel, just as the first one was a retelling of Persuasion.

And yes, we can see all the fun similarities, complete with all the fun differences too. That's what I like about these books. The obvious retelling and yet the unique take on it too. It's awesome.

My problem with this one was that the plot was much too complicated for me and I felt the characters got lost in that. You know I'm a character person! And I'd much rather have lots of interaction between them than lots and lots of parts that exists just to explain the complication of the plot.

And these characters were pretty cool. Our Wild Poppy spy had some pretty nifty gadgets and technology going for her. And the guy she wanted to love, but couldn't because she thought he was for the other side, was pretty cool too, yet, we just didn't get to know him well enough. I needed more!

Also for much of the book I was wondering if Kai and Elliot from the first book would show up. To answer this question for you, I would just say..... keep reading!

Bottom line: I totally love the style, setting and take on this retelling, however, the plot details bogged me down. And like I said above, this could have just been my "unable to focus" mood this past week!

Other Reviews:

And I'm all for a science-filled background and plot, but biology (especially genetics) is not my strong point, and there was some stuff that just went over my head and I had to skim through it. If you're interested in that kind of research, I think you'd really enjoy this book. From City of Books

The ending provides much tension, but up until that it's just a really interesting, well-paced story that I really enjoyed. From Annette's Book Spot

To me, the strongest parts of Across a Star-Swept Sea were these moments when characters had to take moral stands, to come to terms with their historical or personal culpability in a situation and figure out what to do. From YA Romantics

There wasn’t a moment I didn’t like it, I never got bored and I enjoyed every part of it. From The Reader Lines

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Was "Forced" to Read!

The word forced is truly in quotes as I've never in my life felt at all forced to read something. The word forced and read just don't go together in my brain. I know some people feel very much differently, but that's how it is with me!

With that being said, here's a list of some books off the top of my head where I had some pretty good encouragement and incentive to read them! I could go on and on, but I think I already hit the ten book limit here!

Ten (SOME?) Books I was "Forced" to Read

"Forced" by a book club or group:

The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy: read by an online group years ago
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett: read by an online group years ago

"Forced" by a read along:

Under the Dome by Stephen King: a read along I did with Jenny a year or so ago
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson: a read along I did with Ibeeeg awhile back
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russel: a read along I did with Florinda and Heather
Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel: read along with Jessica

"Forced" by another reader:

Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz: encouragement by Jenny!
The Soldier's Wife by Margaret Leroy: encouragement by Ibeeeg!

"Forced" to read at school:

Tess of the D'urbervilles by Thomas Hardy: which started my Thomas Hardy love affair
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne: which brings back lovely memories of the movie we watched
The Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens: in which I didn't understand a thing but loved it anyway!

What book would be on your list today? Link up over at The Broke and the Bookish!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Concert Review: Josh Groban

On Friday evening, I went to see Josh Groban in concert.... again.... for the third time. I will never get sick of the experience. It's truly an amazing thing to watch and listen to him sing. Amazing.

The different thing about this show was that is was "in the round" as you can see from the picture below. Now, while that seems really cool, I must say that I don't think our floor seats were as good as the seats up in the bowl this time. That was a bit disappointing. I mean, it was AWESOME when he came to our end (yes, we were on the end) but when he didn't, we could hardly see him. And did he come to our end very much? NO! Dang it! But when he did come, it was heaven. I mean, he was just RIGHT THERE singing! Loved it, loved it.

Our experience generally was quite the same as last time, just a couple of years ago. (The full account of that concert can be found here.) I went with my sister Megs (from Sweet and Sour Sassiness, though dang it, she hardly blogs!) who is even more of a fanatic fan than I am! We managed to find will call and got our tickets without stress and then we waited to be let in...which was about 20 or so minutes later.

Once we found our seats, 7th row on the floor, we climbed back up and out and spent a good 45 minutes in the merchandise line while Megan stressed about what to buy. I didn't buy anything as I was already wearing my merchandise which my work friend gave me last Christmas! Awesome! 

Then we came back to our seats and waited some more. The opening act was Judith Hill and she wasn't bad, I enjoyed most of her songs and they made me want to dance. 

Then we waited. Some more. During that time, I think it was when the two people sitting in the seats right in front of us finally came and sat down. See picture below. We laugh/cried about that for a good couple of minutes. Seriously?

Finally! The show begins with the violinist in the crowd on one side, and the trumpet player in the crowd on the other side! Then Josh runs in from back stage and starts singing Brave! 

And then, and then... he sang... all sorts of other things! Um, yes, I was going to remember them all, but now I can't. Several from his new album of course, but not Hollow Talk which we wanted so so bad. She Ran Through the Fair was beautiful and I can tell by the way he talks about this one that he absolutely loves it and that it makes him feel all romantic-y. I loved that he sang several songs from his very first album like Vincent (was that the first or second, I don't know) and To Where You Are. Of course he sang the few that he will ALWAYS sing at concerts.... You Raise Me Up, Remember When It Rained and Alla Luce, which is pretty much my favorite one. And then, his final finale.... Smile. 

Ah, and then it was sadness. I hate that feeling when it's over. We stood around and gawked at the stage until the security guy got nervous (as if we'd run up on it or something) and came and stood there. Then, we decided to go ahead and be true fan girls like last time and find where he would come out, just in case he'd do some fan greetin'. 

While waiting there, the violinist (I think the piano guy came too, but he didn't stick around for the whole line) came out and worked the line and was so sweet and nice to say hi and take pictures with everyone. Dang, he was a cutie and so very hot on the violin too! So that was fun.

And then, and then, and then... Josh came out! But... we were at the very back of the line and we realized that he was only going to go at the front were people could crowd up along the barrier there, so we left our spot and crowded up too. And my camera started being weird, but my sister managed a picture with her phone. So, that was cool, even though we weren't close enough for an actual true encounter or to get something signed... but still, he was just RIGHT THERE! :) Sigh.

And then we went home. Now, we'll wait for another couple of years, and yep.... do it again! One of these years we'll be front row, for a normal stage, so he'll be RIGHT THERE singing to us the whole time! I want to be in the spit zone!

In the Round!

The view from our seats.
Posing in my hoodie.

When the people came, here's our new view.

I love this singing stance of his.

The cool guitar player whose name I can't spell!

The trumpeter and violinist!

Love how this picture turned out.

Some singing emotion!

Josh's footprints on the stage!

With my sister and the violinist, Christian.
He is one tall dude!

Our close encounter, sort of.
And now, a little montage of some of the songs I captured on video, for what it's worth:

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Readathon Updates and Challenges!

Happy Readathon everyone! I'll be putting all my readathon "stuff" here on this one post throughout the day today, with the newest update/thing/challenge/whatever at the top. It's going to be interesting attempt today! So here goes nothin'!

UPDATE HOUR... 16 I think!

So I went to Jenny's reception and did not read:

Jenny and Guy

A hot chocolate bar!

Handwritten quotes on all sorts of mugs!

But since being back, so far I've managed to get to 63% on Across a Star Swept Sea... and then I had to take another break because I just couldn't focus. I wish I could just relax, but I'm a little keyed up. And I don't feel much like reading. Bummer to suddenly not be in a mood to read while the readathon is still in full swing, you know!?

But, I'm going to give it another go now.


BEST OF MINI CHALLENGE from Lisa's World of Books

Best Romance Book of Your Reading Year: Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson

Best YA Book of Your Reading Year: Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi

Best Non-Fiction Book of Your Reading Year: The World's Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne

Best Sci-Fi Book of Your Reading Year: Fragments by DanWells

Best Fantasy Book of Your Reading Year: Poison Study by Maria V. Synder



1) How are you doing? Sleepy? Are your eyes tired? I am sleepy but my eyes are fine since I haven't really been reading that much!

2) What have you finished reading? NOTHING! I have read 15 more % in Across a Star Swept Sea (this book is not as good as For Darkness Shows the Stars, dang it) and I read 11% in Tinkers, which turns out to not be a very good book for the readathon. BUT my daughter is almost done with I Am Not a Serial Killer, so that's cool.

3) What is your favorite read so far? Nothing is a favorite so far. Maybe I need to try something completely and totally different and very very easy...

4) What about your favorite snacks? We had homemade mac and cheese, and lots of caramel popcorn, and soon I'm going to be having wedding reception treats! That's enough food for now I'd say. 

5) Have you found any new blogs through the readathon? If so, give them some love! I haven't yet, but I plan to get to that later tonight. I hope. Man, why does the day have to fly by so fast!? I hate that.


What I’m reading now: Across a Star Swept Sea

How many page read since last update: 12 %

How many pages read total: 12 %

Books finished since last update: no finished books yet

How many minutes/hours read since last update: I've probably only read an hour total! FAIL!

What we are listening to: Hans Zimmer Pandora Station

What we are eating: just had some waffles!

Distractions: sleepy, breakfast, shower, family, many many things



1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? UTAH!

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? I'm looking forward to finishing Across the Star Swept Sea. I'm starting at about 20% into it, so here's hoping I can finish it and move on to even more books!

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? Caramel Popcorn, which has turned into a readathon tradition around here. However, I didn't have time to make it yesterday, so we'll see if it even happens!

4) Tell us a little something about yourself! So, I went to the Josh Groban concert last night! I stood in the fangirl line afterwards and met his violinist and then got a good glimpse at Josh himself, but didn't "meet" him or get him to sign anything. Then I slept over at my mom's house so I could take my sister to the airport this morning and I have just returned home form all that adventure. We got about four hours of sleep, but I heard the freaking clock chime every single one of those hours, so... not sure if I even slept at all. So, this readathon should be interesting!

A picture from last night that I had to share:

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? It's been awhile since I've been able to participate, and so I'm looking forward to it! I won't do anything very different since I know not to stress about any of it and just have fun doing whatever feels right! 

Happy reading everyone! I'll be here all day!


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