Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: My Favorite Books of 2013

Finally! Time to list my favorites of the year! Check out hundreds of other lists and link your list up over at The Broke and the Bookish today.

As is my tradition, I will list ten favorites in both the adult and YA categories. However, I can't list them in any particular order, because they are all so wonderful. Also, instead of linking to my review, I thought I'd just include a snippet of it and quote myself. Fun? I thought so. (P.S. Pay no attention to how many times I use the words intense and awesome. Okay?)

Adult Books

1. Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson: Have I mentioned the romance yet? In comparison to Edenbrooke, I thought the tension and chemistry were much more intense in this one, which I of course, liked very much.

2. Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder: Though the romance that WAS there was one of the best things about this book. You know, that slow burning kind? The kind where you know the sparks are flying but both parties are in major denial? The kind where the "bad" guy is the good guy? The kind where if they don't just admit it you think you will scream? Yeah, that kind.

3. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot: I loved this book! If you haven't read it, do put it on your pile and do NOT be scared of the science of it, because it is very well done as far as making us "normal" people get it.

4. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini: Beautiful writing, beautiful story. I loved it. This author has me. I will read anything he writes.

5. Fiesta of Smoke by Suzan Still: 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.

6. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss: It's an awesome story with some awesome characters and a confusing plot that makes you think... in a good way!

7. The World's Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne: In fact, the whole melding of all these elements make for a fascinating memoir of this basically ordinary guy who just happens to be an LDS weightlifting librarian with Tourette's!

8. Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield: Ah... it's weird stuff. Creepy too, in a strange subtle simple way. Which basically means....I totally enjoyed it!

9. Visiting Tom by Michael Perry: It's so simple, and yet, the stories are so profound and so meaningful and so heart warming. I love it. It makes me want to write this way and tell the stories of my own grandparents. 

10. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter: There are so many moments in history touched upon here! I sometimes thought the author just put in every little passion he had about anything in this book....movie stars, WWII, Donner party, Italy, play writing, cabins in Idaho, etc. etc. It pretty much has it all!

And in the YA category:

1. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancy: And that sets up situations where you are dying to turn the page and scared to turn it at the same time. The biting fingernail sort of feeling. And the anxiety, which is lovely while reading actually. And that feeling of needing to pause between chapters to catch your breath. Ah. I love it.

2. Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi: 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.

3. Fragments by Dan Wells: The crazy stuff they go through, and the crazy stuff they eventually learn?! Oh my. I was dying. THEY were dying!

4. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys: I found it to be quite a hard one to read. At the end of nearly every chapter I had to close the book and just breathe for bit, before I could continue on.

5. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor: The writing is beautiful and rich and passionate. I loved that this is one of those "use your brain" type YA books. You will not find fluff here! But you will find a fascinating, mythical story full of dynamic and interesting characters. Awesome.

6. Legend by Marie Lu: It's awesome. It's awesome because the action is intense, the relationship is intense, the story is intense and the characters are unique and wonderful. And the writing is a blast too. 

7. Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta: These books are full of rich wonderful fantasy plots and characters! They are complicated and wonderful. They are intense and beautiful. They are harsh and graphic and violent.

8. Transparent by Natalie Whipple:  I loved it! I loved the mix of normalcy with strangeness. I loved the characters  There's an awesome family of crazy boys that will have you laughing a ton.

9. Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein: Just like Code Name Verity, this book is written with over the top emotion and images that you won't soon forget. The characters are amazing. It's just simply a wonderful book, a terrible moment in history, but a wonderful way to portray it.

10. Pivot Point by Kasie West: Because, of course, there are many complications and there's a bad guy and stuff happens, really bad stuff, and there are two guys, of course, so it's kind of like a love triangle, but NOT, and you start cheering for a certain choice, but you just can't be sure if it's really the best one even yet, and... yeah... it gets a bit intense!

Do we share any books as our favorites this year? I look forward to seeing what your favorites are!

Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Year End Number Crunch

My favorite! Counting up the books! Here's the results for this year:

Total Books Read: 90
Total Re-reads: 7
Total Pages: 29, 762

Men: 17
Women: 73

Book Club: 9
Challenges: 3
Blog Tours: 5
Reviews for ARCs received: 34
Read Alongs: 2
Utah Authors: 27
On my own for fun: 32
(yeah, so a few of those overlap!)

The library: 9
My own stash: 32
Kindle: 39
Borrowed: 1
Physical ARCs sent to me: 9
YA and MG: 60
Adult: 30

From the YA category:
Science Fiction/ Fantasy (including dystopian, paranormal, horror, steam punk, etc.): 35
Romance: 9
Other (contemporary fiction and historical fiction): 15
Middle Grade: 1 

From the Adult category:
Non Fiction: 9
Classics: 2
Literary Fiction: 5
Science Fiction/ Fantasy (including dystopian, paranormal, horror, etc.): 1
Historical Fiction: 3
Romance: 8
Mystery/Thriller: 2

Star Rating:
5 star: 28
4 star: 35
3 star: 27

My thoughts:

  • Wow, I did much much better with the non fiction reading! Love those books.
  • But much much worse with the classics. Gah, what happened?
  • And what happened to my adult fantasy stuff? Hmmm? Wow, that blows my mind.
  • I tripled the amount of books I read on my kindle, mostly ARCs from Netgalley and etc. That's been awesome fun this year.
  • I did much less read alongs than I thought I would...again.
  • And it appears I'm pretty much over challenges, sadly.
  • Look how many Utah authors I read! Sweet!
  • The woman authors have totally taken over the man ones. Hmmm, not sure what I think of that. I liked it when I had totally even numbers there. 
Fun fun stuff. Did you crunch your numbers? What did you learn about your reading habits this year? Do any of our habits match? 

Book Review: The Promise of Amazing by Robin Constantine

Book: The Promise of Amazing by Robin Constantine
Genre: YA (NA?) Contemporary Romance
For: Review
From: Edelweiss

Here's one of those books that I requested on a whim. I'd heard nothing about the book or the author. It just sounded interesting, probably because of the good girl bad boy thing. Why that's interesting, I have no idea.

So yes, this is the story of a girl who thinks of herself as every day average. She's not sure what she wants to do with her life, meanwhile she is trying to get good grades and works at her mom's event venue which has a King Arthur theme.

One day while she was at work, a guy attending a wedding chokes on a Little Smoky and Wren (yes I've just read two books back to back with characters named Wren. Weird?) does the Heimlich on him and saves his life. They are instantly attracted. (I'm not one turned off by insta-love, if you are,  this might bug you.)

After that the guy, Grayson, tries to learn more about her and to get to know her, but it turns out to not be that easy. He hopes his bad boy days are over, but he seems to be getting roped into things he'd rather not be doing. And that's a problem if Wren finds out.

I totally enjoyed this book. It bordered on a NA feel for me, even though I think the characters are still in high school. Not sure. But I read it awhile back and should have done the review right away, because frankly, I can't remember that much about it. It was a fun romance, but nothing much else stood out for me.

Bottom line: Fun romance.

Other Reviews:

This is a great book that I highly enjoyed. Addicting from the start, The Promise Of Amazing is a successful story of love and forgiveness. From Books with Bite

I’m so sad to report that this one wasn’t a winner for me. From Anna Reads

It is a typical good-girl-meets-bad-boy young adult novel, but without the cheesy lines or trashy love scenes or beachy setting. From Marjolein Book Blog

Sunday, December 29, 2013

My Best Bookish Events of 2013

Compared to last year, this year was quite calm in the awesome bookish events department. But I still have some good times to list.

1. When Kathy wondered about reading The Book Thief before the movie, Kami and I jumped on that and before we knew it, we were all hosting a read along! I felt like it was the most successful read along (where success means lots of participants that followed through with the reading and participated in questions and Tweet chats) I've hosted to date. Maybe the timing was perfect. Maybe it was the book. Maybe it was our enthusiasm. But whatever it was, it was an awesome fun experience. What read along should we host this year?

2. Remember that one time where Markus Zusak sent me a postcard? Yeah, that will stand out as a memorable moment for this year!

3. This was the year I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo and learned how hard (and fun) it is to write a book. Now, maybe this next year I'll learn about what comes next. If nothing else, participating in the process will be an interesting experiment.

4. It was yet again a fabulous for author signings. Here's a probably not-inclusive list of authors I saw this year: Brandon Sanderson (multiple times), Paul Harding, Terry Tempest Williams, Dan Wells, Lauren Oliver, Megan Whalen Turner, Claudia Gray, Brodi Ashton, Kirsten White, Kasie West, Michelle Argyle, Ally Condie, Marie Lu and more.

5. Going to Europe and seeing some famous historical and literary sites was a dream come true. I enjoyed sharing pictures in this post.

6. Book club continued strong this past year. We'll be celebrating our tenth anniversary coming up in May. Hopefully I'll come up with some way to mark that event. But meanwhile, last year, we had a meeting, in September I think it was, where we went wild. That was the most loud and raucous we've ever been at book club and I loved it. Here's hoping for more such meetings this year!

7. Making my 50 Bookish Things To Do List! Now, here's to accomplishing it in the next few years.

8. Hosting a crazy fun Utah Book Month, again. What fun we have doing this. I want to make our celebrations even better.

9. Being able to read and review many more new books this year was fun, and many of those for local Utah authors. I love it.

10. Attending another LTUE conference. Here's hoping I add to my conference attending experiences this year. We'll see.

Yep. It's been a great year. Can't wait to see what happens this next year.

What awesome bookish things happened to you this past year?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Movie Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Movie: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Genre: Fantasy
Starring: Richard Armitage, Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen
Rating: MG 13
My Rating: Two thumbs up

I started worrying a little when we decided to go to this movie. I'd heard both good and bad things about it. Some loved it, some thought it was boring. And since I wanted to pay the money to go to the Imax (with a crowd of family in tow) I really didn't want to waste my money on a boring movie.

I shouldn't have worried. It was awesome. The 3D Imax high frame rate thing was amazing. We truly felt like we were in the movie. The fact that my husband actually fell asleep during it doesn't mean anything, right? Everyone else loved it and sat through the nearly three hours without problem!

What I loved:
  • That we get to know the dwarves better. And the elves actually. Basically, there was good character development. 
  • The barrel ride and fight. Cool effects. 
  • That Kili had a story line.
  • That Sauron was introduced to the mix.
  • That Legolas was "back".
  • That Lee Pace had screen time.
  • That the dragon was as awesome as expected.
  • That there was cool elf parkour going on!
  • There were girls (well, a girl) and a romance, sort of.
  • That when the dragon breathed fire, we the audience actually felt it. 
  • And so much more!
What didn't bother me:
  • That so much of this is not in the book.
  • That it's so long.
  • That they could heat up and melt gold so fast with machinery that had been sitting there forever and ever. 
  • That Legolas looked a little too old.
And I loved the credit song. Take a listen:

And there's the trailer if you'd like:

Monday, December 23, 2013

Time to Air Grievances

According to the Festivus celebration, it's okay to air grievances today, December 23. And as I've said before, no one is reading blogs right now anyway, so it's safe. Right?

So, in no particular order, I air to you the stuff that makes me crazy:
  • overflowing garbage cans that everyone ignores
  • dirty floors
  • the fact that cookies and candy aren't good for you
  • heartburn
  • dead kindle batteries
  • restaurant leftovers in my fridge that never get eaten
  • anxiety and depression
  • fruit flies
  • achy feet
  • not enough cars to go around
  • broken cars
  • grandparents with dementia
  • kids who won't sleep
  • no blog post ideas
  • reading slumps
  • slushy snow
  • moldy bread
  • sad kids
  • not enough room in my house for all the crap we've accumulated
  • holes in my socks

Well, I'd say that's a good gripe list for now! 

What would you like to air today? 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

End of the Year Book Survey 2013

It's time to scour our brains like crazy and post the answers to the 4th annual year end book survey created by Jaime from Perpetual Page Turner. Be sure to link up your answers over at her blog.


1. Best Book You Read In 2013? (If you have to cheat — you can break it down by genre if you want or 2013 release vs. backlist)

Best YA Contemporary: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Best YA Fantasy: Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta
Best YA Paranormal: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Best YA Romance: Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi (okay, so this is fudging on the genres!)
Best YA Dystopian: Legend by Marie Lu
Best YA Science Fiction: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Best YA Historical Fiction: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Best Adult Fantasy: Poison Study by Marie V. Snyder
Best Adult Historical Fiction: Fiesta of Smoke by Suzan Still
Best Adult Paranormal: Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield
Best Adult Romance: Blackmoore by Julianne Moore
Best Adult Literary Fiction: And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
Best Non Fiction: The World's Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

Just One Year: Turned out to be not as awesome as Just One Day. Wilhem's story was interesting, but I wanted romance.

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2013?

Tiger Lily: Much more engaging and thought provoking than I expected.
Seers: Just plain good!

4. Book you read in 2013 that you recommended to people most

I feel like I recommended The Book Thief a lot this year... again. What with the movie and all.

5. Best series you discovered in 2013?

Legend: This one grabs you fast!
Shatter Me: I wasn't a huge fan until the second book ended and then bam!

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2013?

Rick Yancey and Rainbow Rowell

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?

I don't see anything on my list that was out of my comfort zone really.

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2013?

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey...hands down.

9. Book You Read In 2013 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

I'm sure I'll re-read stuff, but not sure I'll re-read anything from this year that fast. Know what I mean?

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2013?

Pivot Point was a pretty cool cover.

11. Most memorable character in 2013?

Javier from Fiesta of Smoke
Bellman from Bellman and Black
Day from Legend
Evan from The 5th Wave

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2013?

Beautiful Ruins
And the Mountains Echoed
The History of Love

All of these are amazing in the writing.

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2013?

I never know how to answer this question!

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2013 to finally read?

Poison Study, and now I can't believe I'm waiting so long to get to get to more of them.

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2013?

“Hope is the most treacherous thing in the world. It lifts you and lets you plummet. But as long as you're being lifted you don't worry about plummeting.”
Elizabeth Wein, Rose Under Fire
16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2013?

Longest: Wolf Hall 650 pages
Shortest: Turning This Thing Around 118 pages

17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc. etc.) Be careful of spoilers!

The end of The Eternity Cure! Oh my. Next book please!

18. Favorite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2013 (be it romantic, friendship, etc).

June and Day from Legend
Calypso and Javier from Fiesta of Smoke
Kate and Henry from Blackmoore

19. Favorite Book You Read in 2013 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

Through the Ever Night
The Runaway King
...and so many more!

20. Best Book You Read In 2013 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:

Poison Study... recommended by so many.

21. Genre You Read The Most From in 2013?

Probably YA fantasy and/or dystopian. What a party it is in that genre!

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2013?

Evan from The 5th Wave... reminds me of Samm from Partials and Fragments.
Day from Legend...my heart aches for him.

23. Best 2013 debut you read?

Pivot Point

24. Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read in 2013?

Quintana of Charyn... I love this world.

25. Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2013?

Blackmoore... I loved the tension and the gothic-ness

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2013?

Between Shades of Gray.... heart wrenching story.


1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2013?

I don't know! I have been BAD with this this year! I met a bunch of new to me bloggers during the Book Thief read along, but I have not been good about keep up with them. I feel so bad. :(

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2013?

Probably Blackmoore, which you can find here.

3. Best discussion you had on your blog?

Remember the time I asked you all about reading emotions? That was a pretty good discussion!

4. Most thought-provoking review or discussion you read on somebody else’s blog?

I wish I had an answer for this one, but my mind is blank!

5. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

I think The Book Thief read along that we did in September was pretty fun!

6. Best moment of book blogging/your book life in 2013?

My best moment this year was when I got a personalized post card in the mail from Markus Zusak. So so awesome.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

The post with the most views is my questions for the first part of the The Book Thief. Have you used them in your discussions? I'm wondering if people are finding it and using them!

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

My Josh Groban concert review! I guess it's boring to all you bookish peeps?

9. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

Can't think of one really.

10. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

My Goodreads goal this year was 80 books and I easily did that. But, I have FAILED with all my classic goals. Ugh. All the new shiny books take over!


1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2013 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2014?

Days of Blood and Starlight
Fire Study (or Magic Study I can't remember which one is next!)
Howl's Moving Castle
Gah, there's so many really.

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2014 (non-debut)?

Hmmm... there are many and I listed them for a recent Top Ten Tuesday. But mostly Into the Still Blue, Ruins, Ignite Me, Evertrue... and I can't remember what else.

3. 2014 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

I don't know the debuts until you all start talking about them! What debut should I be most anticipating guys?

4. Series Ending You Are Most Anticipating in 2014?

This answer would pretty much be a repeat of question 2.. those are all series endings as far as I know. Though series endings make me sad too.

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish or Do In Your Reading/Blogging In 2014?

I hope to get back to commenting more. I hope to read more classics. I hope to keep the enthusiasm going for blogging in general. Lots of people are talking about losing the mojo and I'm feeling it. Seven years in March. I need to shake things up and keep it fun here.

Whew! I did it! Have you done YOUR year end survey yet? Get to it!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Top Ten Favorite Songs of 2013

Last year (and maybe the year before, I can't remember) I listed my favorite songs of the year and it was fun, so here it is again! (In no particular order.)

Remember, these are not songs that came out this year, but songs that I loved this year, even if they are old and either newly discovered or re-discovered. Make sense?

1. Daylight by Maroon 5: I fell in love with Maroon 5 this year and while there are so many many of their songs that I love, I especially love this one.

 2. Royals by Lorde: This song took the world by storm and I loved it because of it's uniqueness. Sounds so different from say.. a Katie Perry or a Miley Cyrus!

3. Wake Me Up by Avicii: I'm not sure what or who Avicci is (all his songs are different sounding, I think he's a mixer/dj type, yes?) but he's pretty dang cool! And every time I hear this song, I want to quote it.

4. Unchained Melody The Righteous Brothers: We saw the one alive brother in concert this summer and since then I've been obsessed by this song. Sadly, the guy with the most beautiful voice singing this song is the one that died.

5. Nyana by Tiesto: I just love the beauty of this song! It's not your normal Tiesto trance thing.

6. Demons by Imagine Dragons: I don't know. These guys are just awesome.

7. Hollow Talk by Josh Groban: Of course I loved every song on this new album, but this one stood out to me. It's haunting!

8. Polar Bear by King Charles: Someone told us about this guy and we've been listening every since. He reminds me of Prince in a way. But better songs. This one is one I can't help but dance to!

9. Send Me an Angel by Scorpions: What a beautiful song by a some hard rock guys! I love it when they do that. And these guys? I wish I'd known more about them back in the day when they were big. Better late than never, eh?

10. Counting Stars by One Republic: Another one where the whole album is awesome. Love!

When I did my Josh Groban CD giveaway last week (congrats to winner Tammy!) I asked for you to let me know what your favorite song was for this year. Here are some of the entries:

Tammy said: Beneath Your Beautiful by Labrinth

 Mindy said Someone I Used to Know and Kelly said Walk Off the Earth, so I combined the two!

Carrie suggested Loved Me Back to Life by Celine Dion

 Emily likes Ben Rector and his album The Walking In Between. I choose this song from it:

Elaine says Gregory Alan Isakov!

 Colleen likes The Black Keys and their albums Brothers. I picked a song:

 And then Alexia561 likes Pink! (And this song almost made my top ten!)

  What songs would you add to the list? Do we share any favorite songs? Have you discovered anybody new by listening to songs on this post. Let me know! (Here's hoping your computer doesn't stress out too much loading this post!)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Josh Groban Funny

This popped up the other day on YouTube and cracked me up, so I must share. In case you haven't seen it, you really should watch and it's only two minutes. It will make your day, even if you aren't a Josh fan.


These Kid History people are locals and live basically just down the street from us. So, lucky them for getting to meet Josh and how the heck did they manage to get him to do this? So awesome.

And that's all I have for today. I'm working on my year end lists though. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: New-to-me Authors of 2013

The Broke and the Bookish asks us today, what new authors did we discover this past year?

So I looked over my list and I've got a bunch of authors that I never read before that I quite loved. Here's a few:

1. Tahereh Mafi: Her first book was just okay, but I loved her the second one, Unravel Me.
2. Rick Yancey: His book, The 5th Wave, just might go down as my favorite of the year!
3. Rainbow Rowell: So much buzz with her and I enjoyed Fangirl, though I've a feeling I might like her others better.
4. Marie Lu: I heard of her last year, but didn't read her until this past month and was blown away.
5. Maria V. Snyder: Why did it take me so long to read Poison Study, and why is it taking me so long to read the next books in the series?
6. Laini Taylor: Loved the first one, and the second one is waiting!
7. Michelle Argyle: Local author whose books I devoured this year.
8. Jess Walter: Really awesome book, Beautiful Ruins.
9. Ruta Sepetys: I need to read her other book. First one, Between Shades of Gray was fabulous.
10. Lauren Graham: Do you think she'll write another?

What authors did you discover this year?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Book: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Genre: NA Contemporary Romance
Rating:★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
For: Fun
From: Amazon

Wow, but I've heard a lot about this book! Everyone seemed to love it. I had no idea what it was really about. Fangirl? Fangirl of what I wondered. And why did everyone love it so so much?

Well, so she (our heroine) is a fangirl of some Harry Potter type series and she is a very popular online fan fiction writer. Things get interesting when she goes off to college and suddenly doesn't have as much time to keep up on her writings, and besides, now she has writing classes where she has to do "real" writing. And even more besides, she is a bit fascinated with her roommate's ex boyfriend.

So he, this guy named Levi, was the best thing about this book. I agree with everyone that I've seen saying he's their new book boyfriend. He was simply delightful and fun and just the coolest. No wonder Cath was fascinated. But Cath herself, I was just so so about. She was a bit irritating, but still interesting I suppose. I didn't enjoy her Simon Snow fan fiction stories. They were thrown in here and there throughout this book, and they were long and weird and had nothing to do with the story. Except as a device to get Levi and Cath together, sort of. Maybe there's some sort of symbolism deep down, but I didn't dig to find it. I just felt it slowed down the main story and once there in the end, I skipped it entirely to get back to the story.

Have you read this book? Did you enjoy the Simon Snow stuff? Or did it bug you too? I'm really wondering if people generally liked it or not.

Anyway, so the relationship development was fun for me. And the relationship (or lack thereof) that Cath was struggling with regarding her family was interesting and frustrating. I didn't like her twin sister at all and I wondered why Cath even bothered with her. But she is her twin I suppose.

Bottom line: Fun engaging story. I enjoyed it despite the fan fiction stuff. And despite the many many F bombs.

Other Reviews:

As you can tell, though, for me the blend of romance, family issues and friendship challenges worked like a charm! From Anna Reads

The bottom line is that I was bored much of the time and when the swoon-worthy conclusion arrived, it did not compensate for the lack of depth in the secondary characters and their individual conflicts. From Book Harbinger

There's just so much good in Fangirl . Cath has an interesting family dynamic, and a very interesting fanfiction hobby/habbit/lifestyle, and some school drama, and one of the most adorable romances I've read in a while. From Read This Instead

This was a cute, fun book, but the gazillion issues were annoying at times. As were all the Simon Snow bits. Truthfully, I just find it hard to care about a fake novel that sounds too much like HP. From Estella's Revenge

Cath’s struggles to leave her old life behind and adapt to life at college felt very real. From Bermuda Onion's Weblog

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Currently: Tired, Tired and Tired


(as written on Saturday Night)

Listening: Tangled is on downstairs. So there's that. But mostly I'm listening to lots of Christmas music. Have you tried the Swingin' Christmas station on Pandora? It's all the old classics. I really enjoy it.

Watching: I'm getting behind in all my shows. Tragic, I know. But tomorrow, we WILL be watching the Survivor finale. I love those shows. Always so much fun and it's been a blast of a season this go around.

Reading: I finished Fangirl and really quite enjoyed it, though not to the level I was expecting given all the buzz. Anyway, hopefully a review will go up tomorrow or soon. But since I finished that, I haven't picked up another book. And it's been days! What? How can this be?

Blogging: I must be in a slump guys. The dreaded slump. I keep skipping days and this is not normal for me. I have nothing to say and I'm too busy and Christmas stressed to really care right now. Yeah. It's everyone's story right now. Anyway, we'll see if things pick up in the new year. I will be doing end of the year wrap ups though. I love those, as you know.

Eating: Ice cream. Chili. Grilled cheese. Honey nut Chex. That's been my food for the day. What do you think? Healthy? Speaking of healthy, I did Zumba three times this week! I know, right? I'm back! Ha.

  • We had a most awesome fun author panel and signing at the library today. I talked to people too! I'm getting better at this thing. It's only been 7 or so years now, and finally, I'm getting better. :)
  • Four school performances this week and one recital left to go. I'm concerted out!
  • Shopping. I hate it.
  • We decided we need a bigger house today. Yeah, I wonder if that's going to happen!
  • Book club this week! Party!
  • December is half over. Make it stop.
  • We are thinking about San Diego in a couple of weeks. It might turn into a tradition as we went there last December too. Awesome city.
  • Oh, and so this week our house filled up with natural gas because the hot water heater repair guy did not connect all the connections. And so, if I understand things correctly, that means that our house could have exploded. With us in it. Though we did "evacuate" when we "suspected" (ha, the smell was TERRIBLE!) a leak, since that's what Google said to to. Let's just say, it was an exciting hour.
  • That was two nights after the power went out for an hour. That was fun too.
Okay. So much for all the excitement around here. Here's to surviving another week! I'm so tired.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Remembering Sandy Hook: Dawn and Mary by Brian Doyle

A year ago I was running errands for work and heard a news report on the radio saying something about a shooting at an elementary school. It sounded so bad that I couldn't even beleive it was possible. Well, as we know, that ended up being the Sandy Hook shooting and turned out even worse than we imagined. One of those stories that you can never wrap your head around.

A few weeks ago we got to listen to award winning writer Brian Doyle come and read us some of his essays. One of them, titled Dawn and Mary, was his tribute to the heroes of that day. He read it and he weeped and he had us all holding our breaths with feeling it. Afterward, he begged us to share his eassy on this day to remember the heroes and not the bad guys. He gave us a copy and pleaded with us to share it everywhere.

So I'm taking him up on that challenge. Here's what he wrote about that day:

by Brian Doyle

Early one morning several teachers and staffers at a Connecticut grade school were in a meeting. The meeting had been underway for about five minutes when they heard a chilling sound in the hallway. (We heard pop-pop-pop, said one of the staffers later.)

Most of them dove under the table. That is the reasonable thing to do, what they were trained to do, and that is what they did.

But two of the staffers jumped, or leapt, or lunged out of their chairs and ran toward the sound of bullets. Which word you use depends on which news account of that morning you read, but the words all point in the same direction — toward the bullets.

One of the staffers was the principal. Her name was Dawn. She had two daughters. Her husband had proposed to her five times before she’d finally said yes, and they had been married for ten years. They had a vacation house on a lake. She liked to get down on her knees to paint with the littlest kids in her school.

The other staffer was a school psychologist named Mary. She had two daughters. She was a football fan. She had been married for more than thirty years. She and her husband had a cabin on a lake. She loved to go to the theater. She was due to retire in one year. She liked to get down on her knees to work in her garden.

Dawn the principal told the teachers and the staffers to lock the door behind them, and the teachers and the staffers did so after Dawn and Mary ran out into the hall.

You and I have been in that hallway. We spent seven years of our childhood in that hallway. It’s friendly and echoing, and when someone opens the doors at the end, a wind comes and flutters all the paintings and posters on the walls.

Dawn and Mary jumped, or leapt, or lunged toward the sound of bullets. Every fiber of their bodies — bodies descended from millions of years of bodies that had leapt away from danger — must have wanted to dive under the table. That’s what they’d been trained to do. That’s how you live to see another day. That’s how you stay alive to paint with the littlest kids and work in the garden and hug your daughters and drive off laughing to your cabin on the lake.

But they leapt for the door, and Dawn said, Lock the door after us, and they lunged right at the boy with the rifle.

The next time someone says the word hero to you, you say this: There once were two women. One was named Dawn, and the other was named Mary. They both had two daughters. They both loved to kneel down to care for small beings. They leapt from their chairs and ran right at the boy with the rifle, and if we ever forget their names, if we ever forget the wind in that hallway, if we ever forget what they did, if we ever forget that there is something in us beyond sense and reason that snarls at death and runs roaring at it to defend children, if we ever forget that all children are our children, then we are fools who have allowed memory to be murdered too, and what good are we then? What good are we then?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Inquiring Minds Want to Know Your Thoughts on Writing

So I had the first chapter of my Nano novel critiqued last night. That's probably one of the scariest things I've ever done. Like, ever. I want to run away so bad! But Kathy made me stay and told me, well, we are here now, let's do this! (Oh crap, I used a !! Make that two.)

But it was fascinating to hear how complete and total strangers saw my character and my story. I tried not to argue with them, because I know that's a big no-no, so I nodded a lot and asked for clarification here and there, and agreed with them on many points actually. But here, on my very own post about it, I can argue all I want, right? And ask all the most obnoxious questions that I stifled yesterday, right?

And besides, I really do want to know what you all think about some of these points. So please, let me know.

** So, what exactly is wrong with the dreaded !!!!!. I guess it's kind of like the adverb of punctuation, yes? It tells, it doesn't show. But sometimes, oh man, sometimes you just really need it. Don't you?

** Speaking of telling and showing, don't do both. No telling. No telling AND showing. Just showing. Only showing, always showing. Do we all agree with this one?

** What is your definition of conflict? And do you need conflict all the time to keep you interested? And does that conflict need to be very obvious or can it be subtle?

** If a person was sitting in front of you, and they turn their head to the side but was looking down, would you see the color of their eyes? Or not quite?

** In thinking about thinking, don't you ever, when you are thinking, ask yourself questions? I didn't know that in a first person narrative, you shouldn't have the character be thinking questions. That one was new to me. I'm not sure I agree with it. What do you think?

** What's the difference between these things ... and these things -- and are there different circumstance in which you use them? And if I want the reader to read things with lots of pauses, should I not be using ... and is it bad if I use more than three dots? What if I want a long pause? ............

** Is it a love triangle if two guys like the girl, but the girl only likes one of the guys? (We didn't discuss this during the meeting last night, but I'm dying to know.)

** Perky. It's bad, right? I do not want a perky character. I guess I don't even want a happy character. Even if she starts out happy and THEN the conflict comes and she gets crazy. But I need her to start out crazy instead? Yes? Or what? I'm so confused on this one. (Here, I would like to use another !!!! so you can feel my sense of frustration, but I'm scared now.) Yeah, it didn't even cross my mind that she shouldn't be happy as the book opens. So confused. But one of the guys last night called her a sweetheart. I liked that. It made me smile.

** Passive voice. I totally agree. It's bad. My chapter is full of it and that's after I thought I got rid of it. Dang. I'm such a bad bad writer. Bad, so bad.

** Flashbacks, in the first chapter. Your feelings on this? I had a feeling they would hate this. I was right.

** If my first scene takes place at church, would you assume that it's going to be a Christian novel? Yeah, me neither.

Well, though I could go on, because yes, there's more, I'll stop for now because I've a feeling you are already overwhelmed. Because I do expect you, the expert readers, to know the answers. Please, what do you think on any or all of the above points?

And speaking of being an expert, I thought I know some things, but seriously, I truly know nothing.

Lest you think I'm complaining here, I'm not. It was fun. It was eye opening. It was hard. It was helpful. It was discouraging, just like I knew it would be. But here's hoping that soon, I won't care, and will keep trying. Know what I mean?

(P.S. I was a terrible critiquer in return, because, you guessed it, I pretty much like everything I read.  I know you are so surprised!)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Orem Library Author Extravaganza 2013

It's time the annual Holiday Author Extravaganza at the Orem Library! 

I just wanted to make sure all my local blogging and bookish buddies were aware of this event and will make time to come over Saturday (the 14th) for the panel (at 10) and the signing (at 11). You can buy the authors' books there, or bring them in if you already have them. But do come and say hi and hang out for a while. It'll be fun!

The authors are:

Ally Condie: Matched series
Brodi Ashton: Everneath series
Cameron Wright: Letters for Emily, The Rent Collector
Jess Smiley: Upside Down, a Vampire Tale
Nathan Hale: Hazardous Tales series, and various other picture books
Chad Morris: The Inventor's Secret
Lisa Mangum: Hourglass Door series, After Hello

Giving a signed book for Christmas is awesome. Just sayin'. :)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Movie Review: Frozen

Movie: Frozen
Genre: Animated Fairy Tale
Starring:  Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad,
Rating: G
My Rating: Two thumbs up

I'm not normally one to go to the animated movies when they are in the theater. I'm more of an adventure/fantasy/science fiction sort of movie goer if you haven't gathered that yet. But I do love the animated films when I eventually see them, usually at home on DVD.

But we ended up at this one with a ton of family over the Thanksgiving weekend. I had no expectations. I hadn't even seen a trailer (GASP!) And of course... it turned out to be a very fun and cute movie with awesome songs and fun animation.

It's loosely based on a fairy tale (The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson) about two sisters where one is cursed with the ability to turn everything to ice and make it snow. Her father hides her away, but when she comes out to be crowned queen years later, things turn bad and she freezes the land. Her sister takes it upon herself to make things right again.

Meanwhile, there's a good guy, and a bad guy of course. And a snowman who completely steals the show! So funny! Here's a clip to introduce you to Olaf the snowman:

Very fun. Very cute. Do go see if if you love these animated movies and the music they create. And if you love Idina Menzel (better known as Elphaba from Wicked!) go see it!

Here's the main song from the movie that she sings:

And the trailer!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Virtual Advent Tour: The Reason for the Season

It's my seventh year participating in this fun blogging tradition, The Virtual Advent Tour, started years ago by Kailana from AWritten World and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader. I love that this tradition is still going strong. Way to go guys!

The idea of these posts is to share some sort of holiday tradition with each other. In the past I've shared our Christmas Eve nativity, our decorating the tree night, our advent box and lots of music. Here's the complete list, just in case you'd like to click back to the past.

2007: Christmas Eve Traditions (including a movie the year the nativity reenactment went to pieces!)
2008: Decorating the Tree (including a yummy cinnamon roll recipe)
2009: The Advent Box: (with a time elapsed video that was a blast to make)
2010: My Love for the Grinch
2011:  I Yust Go Nuts at Christmas!
2012: A Kurt Bestor Christmas

I've had a blast coming up with all these different posts over the years.

For today's post I'd like to share with you a slide show I made years ago for a church Christmas party. I'm venturing into a little bit of new territory as I usually avoid the religious topic for the most part around here, but I feel like for a Christmas celebration, I can break my own rules just a little.

Simply put, this is a slide show made from pictures of the life of Christ set to one of my favorite Christmas songs, Silent Night by Mannheim Steamroller. It gives me chills. I hope you click and watch, and enjoy it and remember the "reason for the season" as they say.

Be sure to check the other advent post today over at Dolce Bellezza's!
And you can find the complete list of blog posts scheduled for the whole month here.

Thanks for dropping by!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Book Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Book: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Rating:★ ★ ★ ★ ★
For: Fun
From: Amazon purchase

So, I've never heard of this author before the buzz about this book started happening. I think there's lots of people that like him, yes? And I think I may have been missing out by not reading him before? Yes. I think so.

This is one of those books that has sat on my shelf for, well, not as long as some other books, but still, for many months. And now that I've finally read it, I'm thinking how could I have let it sit there that long? If I only KNEW what was there, and I wasn't reading it... it would have killed me!

And now that it's all over and I'm done, I wish I could turn back time a few days and do it all again.

Yes, I loved this book. Like... a lot. It sucked me in and I was totally immersed and could not, literally, could NOT put it down. I was reading it late one night and was moaning because I really needed to sleep. I mean, 6:30 comes pretty early... but I could not stop reading. I had to force myself to shut the book and put it away. It was painful.

The story is basically about alien apocalypse and the people that are survivors. As the story develops, we learn that there have been several waves of the take over... and now, the people are just waiting for the next terrible thing to happen.... the 5th terrible thing to be exact. It's told from the point of view of a girl who has been left totally on her own, and guy she knew from school that she thinks is long dead. We get a couple of chapters from a couple of other people (I actually wish there had been more from these characters!) but the story is owned by these two.

The girl, Cassie, is trying to find her brother, who was taken away several weeks before. She has no idea what's happened to him. But she promised him she would find him. And the boy, Ben, has been found by a bunch of people who seem to be in control of the whole terrible situation and they are training kids to fight. Which really makes you crazy and want to just rescue them all!

Anyway, now, how to explain what I loved so much about it!

It's a story that makes you crazy because you aren't sure who are the good guys and who are the bad. And when you do figure it out, the characters have yet to figure it out. But also,  when you do figure it out, it still isn't quite clear even. And that sets up situations where you are dying to turn the page and scared to turn it at the same time. The biting fingernail sort of feeling. And the anxiety, which is lovely while reading actually. And that feeling of needing to pause between chapters to catch your breath. Ah. I love it.

And the characters are wonderful. And there's a romance that I totally enjoyed. Everything is just so intense and the stakes are high and the suspense is thick and bad guys are bad and the good guys are good.

It's just awesome.

I was surprised because I thought it was a YA book bordering on MG... but it's actually bordering on adult. Definitely a book for older teens.

The book is a cross between many other favorite books and TV shows. It's much like Falling Skies, if you've watched that. And it reminded me a lot of The Host in ways, and The Stand (and other books were people are wandering trying to find other people) and.... and... and... now I can't remember what else! But that being said, it was very unique too. It was it's own story, for sure.

Bottom line: Um... yeah... I loved it! This will definitely make my top ten list.

Other Reviews:

To say that The 5th Wave is suspenseful is an understatement. From Jen Robinson's Book Page

Add in an alien invasion and holy cow, you guys, The 5th Wave was stunning. From Anna Reads

I could talk about how this is top notch, classic horror science fiction, told beautifully. From In Bed With Books

It asks questions such as ‘what makes us human?’ and ‘is survival worth it when all hope is lost?’. From Good Books and Good Wine

I don't think I've theorized this much while reading in a long time From City of Books

Thursday, December 5, 2013

My Favorite Things of 2013 and a CD Giveaway!

I started this last year and it was fun, so here again, just like Oprah, I will  list some of my favorite things of the year. These are things that really stood out this past year... things I loved, or discovered, or re-discovered. Things I wish I could give away to you!

BUT WAIT! I can give away one thing! See the end of the list for details!

 Never, and I mean NEVER,  have I worn a more comfortable shoe.

This movie will probably go down as my favorite of the year
simply for is most uniqueness

It took me awhile to "get" Spotify, but wow, I get it now!
I got this phone for my birthday and have been loving it!

Not sure why it took me so long to jump on this bandwagon, 
but I'm there now! So SO there!

I could eat a whole box in one sitting.

I can't get enough of this show, 
even if the characters make me crazy!

Who knew a freaking steel tower 
and the city it's in could be so fascinating?
Well, I'm sure some of you knew, 
but I wasn't convinced until this year.

We discovered this cookie in England. I hear it's a thing.

And then there was that time 
Josh Groban made a new album! 
And then went on tour!

And now for a GIVEAWAY because it just so happens that I have an extra one of these CDs just laying around needing a home, so I would like to give it away to someone... someone who would really like and enjoy it. So for the next week (through Dec. 12), I'll take entries for that someone.

To enter, fill out the  form below and I'll draw for a winner next week at this time. As part of your entry, I would love for you to share with me a song, artist or album that you loved this year. And I may (probably will) share some of those answers when I do my Top Ten favorite songs of the year post. Deal?

Josh Groban All That Echoes Giveaway 

What were some of your favorite things this year?


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