Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Year End Number Crunch and Top Ten Favorites

It's that time of year! I want to let you know how my reading went whether you want to know or not! So I bring your this post in two parts. First the stats, and then the list of my favorite ten books of the year. Enjoy.

Year End Stats

Total pages: 24,579
Total Re-reads: 4 (one of them I read twice just this year)

Men: 14
Women: 62

ARCs for Review: 13
Supporting Utah Authors: 21
Book Club: 9
Read Alongs: 3
Beta Reading: 1
For Fun/No Reason: All the rest! (29)

Library: 21
On my Kindle: 20
Bought/Owned: 35
Borrowed: 0

YA: 52
Adult: 17
Middle Grade: 7

From the YA category:
Fantasy: 17
Science Fiction: 8
Dystopian: 7
Contemporary: 17
Horror: 1
Graphic: 1
Historical Fiction: 1

From the Adult category:
Fantasy: 1
Science Fiction: 2
Classics: 3
Graphic: 3
Literary Fiction/Romance: 5
Poetry: 1
Mystery: 2
Non Fiction: 0

From the MG category:
Contemporary: 5
Steampunk: 1
Fantasy: 1

Star Ratings:
5 stars: 18
4 stars: 35
3 stars: 17
2 stars: 6

  • Um... nonfiction? Anyone? Anyone? Guys, I'm good with nonfiction! Why am I not reading more? Well, good thing our first book club pick of the year is a nonfiction choice. At least that number won't be zero next year!
  • Also, my adult books are going down and down and down every single year. And while I love all the YA I read, I don't want those adult books to get less and less. I guess I really need to concentrate on this issue!
  • My historical fiction category is very very lacking too. Must fix!
  • 27% of my reading is of local Utah authors. How cool is that?
  • I gave a few less 5 stars this year, but not much. Sorry not sorry.
  • I don't know what else to observe. Everything is pretty much staying about the same as usual.
  •  I didn't do as many review books this year, it felt like anyway, but still a good handful. 
  • Last year I didn't do any read alongs, but this year I co-hosted three! So that was a nice improvement.
  • My goodreads goal was once again 90. Last year I managed 85. This year 76. Do you see a trend? I think I'll lower my goal next year. Sigh. 
  • What other sort of number would you find interesting? 

Top Ten Books of the Year

Usually I break this down between adult books and YA books, but since I didn't read very many adult books this year, it's all one list this time. And in no particular order. Links and blurbs from my own reviews.

The Martian by Andy Weir:  He didn't worry about word choice, or changing tense, or flipping in and out of different POVs . He just wrote the dang story and had the most awesome fun voice ever. And it worked. I loved it.

These Broken Stars: by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner: I was so into the romance, and these characters and the survival story ( I seem to be a sucker for those) and the weird scifi stuff going on that I just couldn't breathe and until it was all over.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff: You get the voice of the characters, you get the intensity of the things going on, you get their romantic connection (even though they are on different ships) and you get the conflict. It's really amazing and like I said, so so awesome.

The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski: It's a painful book, to be sure. But the writing is so beautiful that it almost makes up for all the pain it's putting you through!

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker: What fascinating characters with all their stories coming down to one crazy breath holding moment! 

The Tightrope Walkers by David Almond: The book makes my heart ache with both beautiful things and hard things.

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead: And... I loved the writing. Gah, there's some amazing authors out there! And PS. I really loved this boy Sherm. Like, a lot.

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby: The writing is amazing and blew me away. I know there's a lot of deep stuff this book is saying, but I just sat back and enjoyed.

The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord: I loved the whole "nerds are awesome" theme too. I mean, I really really loved that especially.

Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis: And the ending was a bite your fingernails off kind of ending. Yeah, it was all wonderful.

Bottom Line: Another awesome year of reading. Here's to next year! Bring it on!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 End of Year Book Survey

One of the tradition at year's end is to fill out this intense survey from Jamie at The Perpetual Page-Turner. Be sure to grab the questions, ponder your choices, post and link up!

Number Of Books You Read: 75 (as of this moment)
Number of Re-Reads: 3 (four if you count that I read another one twice this year)
Genre You Read The Most From: probably a toss up between YA fantasy and YA contemporary


1. Best Book You Read In 2015?

YA Speculative: tie between Iluminae (Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff) and These Broken Stars (Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner)
YA Contemporary Romance: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
YA Fantasy: The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski
YA Historical Fiction: The Tightrope Walkers by David Almond
Adult Fantasy: The Golem and the Ginni by Helene Wecker
Adult Science Fiction: The Martian by Andy Weir
Adult Romance: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

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

Girl on the Train. Sheesh. This book did NOT live up to the hype for me in any way at ALL!

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Half Bad by Sally Green, which was a random unsolicited book I got in the mail, one I knew nothing about. But I loved it. I need to get my hands on its sequel!

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

I have no idea what I pushed a lot this year. These Broken Stars maybe, even though that's sort of an "old" book. Maybe Illuminae too perhaps.
5. Best series you started in 2015? Best Sequel of 2015? Best Series Ender of 2015?

Best series I started was The Starbound trilogy beginning with These Broken Stars. The last one just came out and I have it in my hands and hope to get to it soon. Illluninae was the start to a new series too! LOVED it!

Best ending book was probably Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi. I totally loved that series. 

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2015?

The author teams of Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner... and Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

I read a bunch of graphic novels this year... definitely not something I read much of, and I totally enjoyed American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang.

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

These Broken Stars, Illuminae, The Martian, to name a few.

9. Book You Read In 2015 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

I don't know what I'll re-read from this year's list, but I really want to re-read Edenbrooke!
10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2015?

Illuminae for sure!

11. Most memorable character of 2015?

Mark Watney from The Martian comes to mind. I also enjoyed Will from Me Before You, Tarver from These Broken Stars, Finch from All the Bright Places and Finn from Bone Gap.
12. Most beautifully written book read in 2015?

Bone Gap was beautiful. The Winner's Crime also beautiful. The Tightrope Walkers quite beautiful too.
13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2015?

Life changing? That is just so dramatic. Though provoking though? Maybe Me Before You would fit this category! I'd also say Wonder might work here too.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2015 to finally read?

It took me awhile to get to Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. Also, it took me too long to get to Wonder by R.J. Placio. Glad I finally read these two!
15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2015?

"Push yourself. Don't settle. Just live well. Just live." -- Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2015?

Shortest: Joy Street at 28 pages
Longest: The Golem and the Jinni at 657 pages

17. Book That Shocked You The Most

Saga. Yes, I read the first of this popular science fiction graphic series and was pretty shocked by some of it's content.. though I also expected it too. Shocked and not shocked. Is that a thing?

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)
Oh I love Lilac and Tarver from These Broken Stars!
19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

The relationship between Jill and Mandy in How to Save a Life. Lots to learn from them!
20. Favorite Book You Read in 2015 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

The Winner's Crime perhaps. 

21. Best Book You Read In 2015 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis which several friends bugged and bugged me to read and I did and I loved it! Bone Gap was also recommended and I loved it to.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2015?
Did I mention Tarver? Yes? From These Broken Stars. Sigh.

23. Best 2015 debut you read?

Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon. That was a debut I think, yes?

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?
Oh my goodness! So many! I'm going with Illuminae for this one! So good!

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

The Martian was a blast to read and I smiled throughout much of it.
26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2015?

All the Bright Places is freaking sad and heart wrenching.
27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

Heir to Edenbrooke is a tiny, little hidden gem! :)

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

The Winner's Crime of course. The best soul crushing series ever. I can't wait to see how it all ends soon!

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2015?

Illuminae, hands down. Yeah, have you noticed a theme here with this book?

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

The Winner's Crime made me mad because.. you know.. it ended and all.


1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2015?

I've been so bad about making new blogging friends this year. The only one that stands out is Amy, even though I'm a terrible commenter there!

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2015?

These Broken Stars

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?

Our first Book Banter about Jane Eyre got quite the discussion going! I loved it!

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

The best events I participated in where the three read alongs I helped to host, but my favorite one of the three was North and South for sure. We had so much fun with that!

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2015?

I blogged about all my best moments of the year here, but I'd have to say that eating lunch with a bunch of Newbery/National Book/Printz/Caldacott winners was pretty much at the top of the list.

6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?

I think the most challenging thing right now and all this past year is just sticking with it in the face of the fact that it seems to be going out of style.

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

Most comments: A Day in the Life post back in March. When are we going to do another one of these??

Most views: My review for The Bishop's Wife way back in January! Wow. Weird.

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

I always wish my music posts got more love... like when I gushed about Kendji awhile back. Sigh. I guess my love for books and music don't cross over much with you all as it does with me! 

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

I don't think I discovered anything particularly new this year, sadly.

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

I did not finish 90 books like I thought I would. I did not finish all the books on the PopSugar reading challenge, but I came close. (Here are the full results of that challenge.) Other than that, I had no specific challenges going on.


1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2015 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2016?

Dying to get to Their Fractured Light! Why have I not read it already? It will be read probably the first week in the year.

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2016 (non-debut)?

The Winner's Kiss!

3. 2016 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

I don't ever know who is debuting!

4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2016?

The Winner's Kiss! Also, the next book after Illuminae whose name I forgot already. (Gemima!)

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2016?

Change up my review format. At this writing I have no idea what that's going to be yet!

6. A 2016 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone:

I haven't got my hands on any ARCs for 2016 yet!

Want to participate in this survey? Be sure to grab the questions and link up here!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Book Review: The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

Book: The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord
Genre: YA contemporary
For: Beehive long list
From: The library

Short Synopsis: Paige is dealing with the recent death of her first boyfriend. She is sick of everyone giving her that look... the pity look. She has decided that she will start all over this next school year, beginning with perhaps getting to know her long time crush, maybe even going out. And not feeling guilty about it. Of course, things don't go quite as she plans.

My Response: I loved that this, despite it's dealing with death theme, was a cute fun clean romance. Awesome. I loved that the the guy we thought would be the guy was not the guy after all. I loved that the guy we thought would be the guy was not the guy, not because he turned out to be a jerk, but because he was just not the right guy. I loved the whole "nerds are awesome" theme too. I mean, I really really loved that especially.

Bottom Line: I loved it. Like, a lot.

Other Reviews:

...this is a sweet coming-of-age book that focuses on the importance of family and friendship in a way many YA books do not. From Rhapsody in Books

I’ve not cared as deeply for a character as I have for Paige in a long time. She’s exactly the sort of character you root for and empathize with. From Good Books and Good Wine

The Start of Me and You was emotional and an excellent balance of friendship, family, and romance. From Ex Libris

...and while it is pretty clear how this story is going to end up, I'm going to quote the book here because "knowing what happens isn't the same as knowing how it happens. Getting there is the best part." (p124) This sentiment is always true... and the getting there in this book really is the best. From Sarah Reads Too Much

Monday, December 28, 2015

Movie Review: Star Wars VII The Force Awakens (Spoilers!)

Movie: Star Wars The Force Awakens
Genre: SciFi Fantasy
Starring: Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega
Rating: PG 13
My Rating: Two thumbs up

So. I think it's time for me to write down my thoughts. Spoilers ahead, some mild, some not so mild. Beware if you haven't seen it, but I've a feeling you've probably seen it by now.

What I liked:
  • The new characters were awesome. Loved them actually. Daisy (Rey) reminds me a bit too much of Kiera Knightly, not my favorite actress, but it wasn't too distracting. So no matter. She was awesome. As was Finn. Fun, funny, quirky, strong, likable characters. Oh, and let's not forget Poe. Awesome!
  • Yes, I even liked Kylo Ren. At first I wasn't sure. Upon viewing number two, I decided I didn't mind his angst and out of control emo-ish-ness. I think it makes sense for this character. It makes me feel for him as I tend to do these type of villains. 
  • At first I thought BB8 would just be an R2D2 rip off, but then he came into his own and I warmed up and fell in love.
  • The nods to the old movies, both in some phrases, some onscreen appearances, etc. It felt like coming home, just as Han says!
  • The music, as always.
  • The space shots, the battles, the gun fights, the lightsaber fights, as always.
  • The end, that intensity, those looks from both characters, the setting, the music, the pan around shot... all of it. 
  • Han was awesome. Chewie was awesome. Luke was awesome. Loved the beard on him. 
  • The Imax 3D viewing experience. LOVED this. Saw it the second time at a normal theater and thought... wait... where's the screen? Where's the sound? LOL.. getting very spoiled by the Imax theater stuff. 
Finn and Rey
Chewie and Han
Kylo Ren
Luke in a beard.

What I didn't like:
  • I was bothered that the plot was basically A New Hope re-do. I mean, yes, it was fun to have the nods to the old stuff, but to totally use the same plot? Disappointed in that.
  • Um. Han. Why why why!!! (Still, it made this movie especially emotional, yes?)
  • Kylo Ren, the fact that the actor portraying him wasn't over the top gorgeous. I feel like he needs to be over the top gorgeous. Agreed? I think it would add to the drama of what's going on, plus given his parentage, I mean, you know?
  • Princess Leia was... weird looking. She kinda gives me the creeps these days.
  • That weird Nazi/Hitler scene. Where did that come from? Just... weird.
General Leia
The weird Nazi scene

Questions I Have:
  • Did Han yell... BEN??? (Is Kylo Ren's real name Ben?) On the second viewing I paid very close attention to this and yes, it totally looks like he calls him Ben. For some reason, the answer to this question is very important to me!
  • What is Rey's parentage? Where does she come from? Who is ripping her away from her family in the flashback? (Did you notice they played Luke's theme whenever she was onscreen there toward the end?
  • Is Kylo Ren alive? I mean, I'm pretty sure he is, but I didn't get a confirmation that it's a sure thing. He has to be though, right? That planet collapsed pretty fast!
  • Will we get some love stories going on? Don't skip over this stuff writers! Romance please!!! :)
  • We will get much more Luke Skywalker in the next movie, yes?
Yeah, that's pretty much all I have to say about it right now. What are your thoughts? Are we on the same page or totally different? 

Bottom line: I have loved the re popularity of this movie this past weeks and months. It makes my heart so happy!


Sunday, December 27, 2015

2015 PopSugar Reading Challenge Results

Do you remember this challenge that everyone loved and got excited about at the beginning of the year last year?  Did you keep up with it? Did you mark you books down? I did! Here's how it turned out for me:
  • A book with more than 500 pages: The Golem and the Jinni
  • A book that became a movie: North and South
  • A book published this year: Ignite
  • A book with a number in the title: The One
  • A book written by someone under 30: Throne of Glass
  • A book with non human characters: Shutter
  • A funny book: The Martian
  • A book by a female author: Ignite Me
  • A mystery or thriller: The Girl on the Train
  • A book with a one word title: Splintered
  • A book set in a different country: Love Lucy
  • A popular authors' first book: These Broken Stars
  • A book from an author you love: Cress
  • A book a friend recommended: Wonder
  • A book based on a true story: Saints
  • A book at the bottom of your TBR list: Lost Without You
  • A book that scares you: All the Bright Places
  • A book more than 100 years old: Canterville Ghost
  • A memoir: American Born Chinese (okay so I stretched this one a little!)
  • A book you can finish in a day: Joy Street
  • A book with antonyms int he title: Love, Lucas
  • A book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit: This is What Happy Looks Like
  • A book that came out the year you were born: Dune
  • A book with a love triangle: It's Not Summer Without You
  • A book set in the future: The Elite
  • A book set in high school: The Fill-in Boyfriend
  • A book with magic: Half Bad
  • A graphic novel: Saga
  • A book by an author you've never read before: The Things You Kiss Goodbye
  • A book you own but have never read: Clockwork Angel
  • A book that takes place in your hometown: The Bishop's Wife
  • A book that was originally written in a different language: The Red Notebook
  • A book set during Christmas: Landline
  • A book written by an author with your same initials: Illuminae
  • A banned book: Animal Farm
  • A book you started but never finished: Silver in the Blood

Some I didn't manage, or that I counted as another category:
  • a classic romance (why oh why did I not read a classic romance?)
  • a book of short stories
  • a nonfiction book 
  • a Pulitzer Prize winning book
  • a book your mom loves
  • a book based entirely on its cover (entirely?)
  • a book you were supposed to read in school but didn't (this book does not exist)
  • a book with bad reviews (not sure if this book exists either)
  • a trilogy (like a whole trilogy in one year?)
  • a book from your childhood (would a picture book count?)
  • a book with a color in the title (I had a few of these but used them for other categories)
  • a book that made you cry
  • a play
  • a book based on or turned into a TV show (I'd love to read The 100)
Here's next year's challenge list. What do you think? Are you in?

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!!

This video does a great job of expressing my feelings of the season. Enjoy!


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Airing of Grievances for Festivus 2015

As is my yearly tradition, I get to rant today, all I want without fear, for the annual Festivus celebration.

Please feel free to rant with me!

Ready, set, GO!
  • You know how you update your phone, and then two weeks later it bugs you to update it again? And then when you finally give in and update, your phone is all messed up? Yeah, I hate that.
  • I also hate it when I decided to be all good about exercising and then I get some ailment that makes it pretty much impossible to do so.
  • I really hate commercials on Spotify, but I also really hate paying for premium.
  • Speaking of, I also really hate it when I can't find certain music on Spotify!
  • I hate it when our ice maker thingy gets stuck in the up position which makes it think the ice bin is full and then it stops making ice.
  • I hate that my pregnant daughter has been in pain for the past week with kidney stones. I hate that worse than anything else! (Update: things are much better now!)
  • You know those people who come to movies (or concerts) and then get up and down and up and down and up and down and in and out and in and out and in and out? They make me crazy.
  • I hate it when people rag on the prequels of Star Wars.
  • I hate that since Nano has been over and done I haven't found time to write a word on my story.
  • I hate that I wasn't able to go see Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff at The King's English last month.
  • I hate that there's not enough time to read all the books I want to read!
  • Ditto for all the TV shows I want to watch!
  • I hate the traffic craziness the couple of days before Christmas. And the parking craziness.
  • I hate the last minute frenzy in general before the calm and peace (usually) of Christmas day and the week after. 
But I love that week! Have a good one guys!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Best Bookish Events of 2015

At the end of the year, I love to look back and remember some of the awesome bookish things that happened. Here's some of my favorites from this past year:

Hosting three most awesome read alongs: North and South in January, Dune in May and Not in the Script in August. So. Much. Fun. We are planning another one (maybe two!) for this next year. I hope some of you find yourselves wanting to participate!

Utah Book Month Twitter Chats: We tried a new thing and had authors chat with us on Twitter all through the month of August. We ended up talking to 11 different Utah Authors! It was fun and overwhelming all at the same time!

Hosting author Amy Finnegan at book club: I'm starting to get the hang of having a local author join us for book club. Who's coming this next year do you think?

Hosting author Sara Zarr at the university's symposium: I was very nervous to do this little gig, but it turned out to be very fun and at moments surreal. I'm glad I stepped out of my comfort zone and just did it!

Meeting more authors at signings and launchings: Some notable authors we met this year were: Marissa Meyer, Sarah J. Maas, Ransom Riggs, Gene Luen Yang, and Clare Vanderpool.

Ransom Riggs
Marissa Meyer
Tom Hiddleston
Wait, WHAT??
(Sorry not sorry to Sara Larson!)

Starting a fun feature with Jenny we like to call Book Banter: I've thought many times over the years that pitting Jenny and I against each other over our differences in taste would be fun. We finally did that this year! In case you missed it, here's our very first one on Jane Eyre.

Hanging out with authors at LTUE, Storymakers and Writing for Charity. I can't wait to do it all again this coming year!

Having my daughter start her very own book blog! 

What fun bookish things did you do this past year? Looking back like this always makes me wonder what's in store for the next year! I look forward to another fun one!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Favorite Songs of 2015

Thanks to Spotify's new Discover Weekly feature that they rolled out in July, I've discovered lots of new-to-me music to love this year. It's hard to pick just a few to share. But truly, it's been a great year for me and music. I hope next year is as sweet. Do keep in mind that some of this stuff is new (as in this year) and some is not. Basically, it's just music that I loved and played non-stop over the days and months.

Anyway, here are a few of them. Let me know if you listen and love any of them. And also, I'd love to know what music you fell in love with this year.

Our Destiny by Thomas Bergersen. I discovered this artist after loving the music to the trailer they used for Interstellar I think it was. And then they had a new album last year maybe... it's called Sun and this year I listened to that album over and over again and love every single song. This music is what I referred to in my Favorite Things post as epic music.... which I describe as music that sounds like it's from a soundtrack but isn't. Dramatic, big, orchestral... epic. Anyway, this is one of my favorite songs from that album. Thomas Bergersen also works with a group called Two Steps from Hell, and their music is also epic and loud and awesome.

 Cool by Kendji Girac. I recently did a whole post about my new Kendji obsession. It's still going strong, though I'm having a hard time find his music. (The new album that was on YouTube got yanked... and he is not on Spotify and his albums... being imports from France... are not readily available to buy. Frustrating!) Anyway, this one of his makes me so happy I just... I love it.

My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark by Fall Out Boy. This group is not my normal but I tend to seem to love their stuff, strange as it is. And this particular song to me is the perfect hand banging rock song with both awesome drums and guitar.

Louder Than Words by Les Friction. This is a one album group, which makes me so sad. I wish they would do more stuff. But they fit into the epic genre of music too and I just recently discovered this particular song and seriously. This is so up my alley it's scary. I feel like it's a total soundtrack to the story I just wrote for Nano and I can't seem to get enough of it.

Neverland by VanLadyLove. I don't know what it is about this song...but it makes me so happy and I think I could play it over and over and never get sick of it.

Friction by Imagine Dragons. When this album came out earlier this year, I instantly gravitated to this song. Another rowdy rock song that I love to blast as loud as possible.

Reconte-Moi Une Historie by M83. I don't know why I haven't been familiar with this band sooner. Because they are another one that is totally my thing. They are so different! So cool! So awesome! Hard to pick a favorite, but this one stood out to me because of its uniqueness... and also the message of the story. (At least the message I take from it!) I love it more each time I listen to it.

I'll stop there, though I could go on and on. What were some of your favorite songs that you discovered this year?

Friday, December 18, 2015

Book Review Discussion: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Book: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Genre: YA Fantasy
For: book club
From: bought for my Kindle

Short Synopsis: The book starts when our heroine, Celaena, is a slave in a work mine and is being led out, which, she later finds out, means that the prince wants her to be his champion in a competition put on by his father, to find a new assassin. Good thing she is the best assassin around because she'll be able to nail this competition. Right? Meanwhile, she sort of likes the prince even though she doesn't really want to, and she sort of likes the captain of the guard, who is pretty much her personal body guard and she makes friends with some of the other competitors, but not all of them. AND, she discovers there's something creepily magical going on in the castle even though magic has been outlawed for years.

My Response: I thought it was fun! And intriguing. It was a bit slow in the beginning and I had a hard time wanting to read it over other activities, but then it picked up and then I read the last bit all in one sitting for the most part when I suddenly found myself invested in the characters and anxious to know what happens next. I must say that this girl isn't my favorite  book character that I've read. She's a little wacko. She seems a little flighty and unsure about a lot of things, but I feel like that's part of the story and we'll learn more as we go along what's really up with her. And while it didn't turn into a true love triangle, only a pretend one, I find myself firmly on Team Captain of the Guard! Just in case anyone is keeping track of these things.

Bottom Line: A fun, if slow, start to what I understand from those in the know, is going to be a crazy intense fantasy series. I look forward to reading the next one!

Let's Talk About: We had a pretty awesome rousing discussion about this one last night. I was impressed and once again, surprised, as book club discussions often do for me. Quite the robust crowd did NOT like this book and listed off many reasons why they didn't... reasons that baffle me as they are not reasons that make or break a book for me. What makes or breaks a book for you?

Other Reviews:

Throne Of Glass is an epic fantasy with a few good characters and a storyline tilting more towards love and loyalty than assassination and action. From Books and Sensibility

Throne of Glass is not a perfect book. But it IS a perfect book for me. From Small Reviews

Maas’s strength in this book is her world building, and I loved getting to the know the characters, rules and mythology of this world. From Linus's Blanket

It’s rare to get a character who’s so well-balanced but also not portrayed at perfect. Sarah J Maas did a really fantastic job with Calaena. From So Many Books, So Little Time

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Movie Review: In the Heart of the Sea

Movie: In the Heart of the Sea
Genre: Adventure
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Benjamin Walker
Rating: PG 13
My Rating: Two thumbs up

At the beginning of the movie, Herman Melville as a young man comes to interview an older guy about what happened when he went whaling on a ship called The Essex, years before. This guy is reluctant at first to talk, but his wife helps him to realize that talking will help... and talking about what happened is something he's never done. So, then the movie flashes back to when this guy was 14 years old and how he found himself aboard this whaling ship and how he survived some really scary, crazy things. Herman Melville, as we all know, went on to write a pretty famous book called Moby-Dick... all inspired by this guy's story.

But, he leaves some stuff out. (Not the guy, but the author!)

And in this movie, we get all the stuff. The good, bad and the ugly. And there's lots of bad and ugly.

But that's what makes it the crazy story that it is.

Before. Sigh.
After. (from Chris' Instagram)

Chris Hemsworth plays the first mate of this ship, and he's pretty bummed that he's not the captain. In fact, he and the captain have some issues. Both are out to prove something, and in the end, it's pretty bad for the crew as a whole.

But basically, they end up going out far far from what's normal, down by South America, to find whales. They've been told that there's a demon whale, but they ignore the warnings and go anyway. Turns out, they should have listened.
This would be scary, yes?

It's pretty crazy dramatic from there and but I won't say what all happens because you just might want to go watch the movie!

They did a great job showing the intensity of what happened, of turning these beautiful actors into starving skeletons, and showing lots of it from the point of view of this 14 year old. No wonder he doesn't want to talk much about it!

I loved the acting. I loved the music. I loved the cool water/sea shots. I loved the whales and yes, I was on their side, even though these guys were just trying to make a living and whale oil was pretty valuable in those days.

Anyway, it was a good, crazy intense movie. And hey, now we know where phrase.. "thar she blows" comes from!

Here's the trailer if you'd like to see what I mean:

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Favorite Things of 2015

For the past few years I've done a year end post of things that ended up on my favorites of the year, things not so bookish, since bookish will be the subject of another post. Things not necessarily new, but stuff I've discovered or learned about or found throughout the year. Things that just made my day! Here's a few of those favorite things for this year:

Back in the summer, Spotify rolled out a new program where every week, you get a new list in your side bar of music that Spotify thinks you'll think, based on them music you've been listen to a lot. Each week, the list changes, so if you like something, you have to save into a new playlist. I can't even tell you how much new-to-me music I've discovered and fallen in love with through this new thing! It's called Discover Weekly, and it's the best! (Click the link to log into Spotify and see my list.)

 While I was poking around learning about one of the new pieces of music from Discover Weekly, I happened upon this French dude named Kendji. And now I'm obsessed and he has become my new favorite of the year!

When I got back from my trip this summer, I saw a bunch of buzz about something called Poldark. What is this, I wondered. I looked it up and BAM. I knew I had to find out for myself what it was all about. I watched the terrible quality versions on YouTube, but have since bought my own DVD set and watched them again. Love. (Poldark: A Masterpiece Classic period drama done by the BBC staring Aidan Turner.)

Speaking of TV, another new show I discovered this past year is The 100. It is pretty much as intense and character driven as The Walking Dead, and that's saying a lot.

Once upon a time I had to worry about my phone dying when I was somewhere I could not charge it. That is all changed now since I discovered battery packs! Who knew something so simple could make me so happy!

So, I've know about and used Pixlr, an online photo editor, for years, but it was just this year that I embraced its usage for the making of collages. I even had to dedicate a Pinterest board to save them for future posterity!

This year I realized I have a favorite pen. It's the Pilot G-2 1.0, not the .7, not the .38, but the 1.0! The BOLD point! I love it! All the colors! Though most of the colors only come in .7 sadly.

I went to my first Storymakers writing conference this year...finally. I'd been avoiding it for years for some reason. But I went, I learned, I loved, I'm hooked.

So I learned that there's a music genre called Epic Music. And I learned that I seem to adore this genre. I learned that there is music composed that sounds like soundtrack music but is not soundtrack music. It's epic music. I can't seem to get enough of it! Do you know and love this type of music? If so, send me your suggestions for new music to fall in love with! (A favorite song post will come next week, and much epic music will be on that list!)

When in Italy, you must eat gelato every day. It's part of the experience. It's a given. And we did. And it was most awesome. I have no idea what my favorite flavor is, but if were to choose from the picture below, I'd probably pick menta! :)

If you are interested in taking a look back in time, here are my favorite thing post from the past years:

Favorite Things of 2012
Favorite Things of 2013
Favorite Things of 2014

What were some of your favorite things of this past year?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Book Review Discussion: Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

Book: Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon
Genre: YA Contemporary
For: Beehive Award long list
From: The library

Short Synopsis: Maddy has a disease that forces her to stay inside her air sealed house. If she is exposed to germs at all, she'll get deathly sick and probably die. It's just how it is. Then one day when she sees the new guy move in next door, she is fascinated and for the first time, she wonders what life is like outside and feels bugged by all the stuff she's missing.

My Response: I'd heard so much about this one! So it was with great anticipation that I dived into it! And let's just say I read it pretty much in a day. Very engaging and romantic and fun! A few nail biting moments and a lovely twisty ending. And yet another awesome book boy to love. I don't know what else to say except that it pretty much lived up to all the buzz I've seen!

Let's Talk About: I'm giving it five stars because of the "read it in a day" aspect, and how engaged I was. Some of us have had talks about this, about what merits a five star rating or not. I tend to think that it's not that big of deal and if I really enjoyed a book, might as well show it! Put my stars where my review is! Or something. Do you agree? Or do you feel that five stars should only be reserved for those books that are, like, out of this world mind boggling amazing?

Other Reviews:

It will take hold of your soul, I guarantee, leaving you with a sense of hope, of inspiration and joy. From Jenn's Book Shelves

Wow. People have been saying all sorts of great things about this book, and I have to agree. This was fantastic! From Sarah Reads Too Much

And all I can say in conclusion is read this book. And when you're done, read it again. From I'm Lost in Books

Enjoy–I envy anyone reading it for the first time! From Reading Rants

Monday, December 14, 2015

Book Review Discussion: Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Book: Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Genre: MG
For: Beehive Award long list
From: The library

Short Synopsis:  Six grader Ally struggles in school, especially with reading. This is the story of how she got a new teacher who helped her to overcome and learn that even though she has a hard time with letters, she is smart in so many other ways.

My Response: I mean, it was okay. I liked what it was trying to do, but it did get a little overly agenda-y for me. And I kept thinking... would kids who struggle with reading actually read this to get something out it? And would kids who enjoy reading, enjoy this book about a kid who struggles with reading? I really doubt it. Because I must say, it was a bit on the boring side. Buy maybe someone would READ it to kids who struggle to read, and then they'd have hope and feel uplifted by this story. Maybe?

Bottom Line: Very slow,  and too much of an agenda for me to totally enjoy it.

Let's Talk About: There are LOTS of middle grade books out there that are most awesome, but books like this are the reason I tend to stay clear of them for the most part. Sigh. I wanted to like it better. What's your feeling about middle grade? Do you find that there's almost always a "lesson to be learned" in them?

Other Reviews;

An incredibly strong novel, this one belongs in every library and will be inspiring to students and teachers alike. From Walking Brain Cells

Hunt provides an encouraging story for both children and educators. Caring teachers can indeed make a difference in the lives of their students. From Reading Junky's Reading Roost

My students keep recommending this to one another, especially to friends who like stories that really reach your heart. From Great Kid Books

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Book Review Discussion: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Book: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Genre: YA science fiction/horror
For: fun
From: bought at Costco

Short Synopsis: The story begins with enemy fire raining down on our characters who live on a small planet at the edge of the galaxy.  They are both rescued but onto two different space ships. It is now the mission of these ships to get to the wormhole that will send them to where they can get help for all the refugees... before the bad guys find them again. It will take six months to get to this transfer spot, and they fear the enemy ship will track them down before that happens. Meanwhile, a few months into this journey, something strange and crazy happens on the third ship of their crippled fleet. The events after this strange and crazy thing is what make up the bulk of this story through an investigation that is being done long after the fact.

The book is a graphic novel of sorts. Actually, I'd call it a visual novel. Lots of illustrations and ways to portray the words visually. This investigation is taking place and in order to process this event, all the documents are put together for review. We, the readers, are then privy to these documents. The documents are made up of emails, chats, surveillance camera reports, on board ship announcements, journal entries, requests for different things, logs, detailed maps and blueprints and computer data.

My Response: Awesome! I started hearing buzz about this book when it first came out and then when I saw it at the store, there was no question, I knew I had to have one! The authors came to my area on my birthday and I so wish I could have gone, but I had other things I had to go to, so sadly it didn't happen. Anyway, now having read the book, I would love to hear what they have to say about it all! And how they did this, and that and the other.

You  may think that having a bunch of documents to read would be... boring... confusing.. disconnected, etc. But no, you get the feel of the whole story. You get the voice of the characters, you get the intensity of the things going on, you get their romantic connection (even though they are on different ships) and you get the conflict. It's really amazing and like I said, so so awesome.

Beware though, this does have a horror element and it's quite violent. Quite.

Bottom Line: I loved it. This! This is the sort of book I want to write! I just, I don't know, it's just so cool! This is story is far from over and YAY for more! One of my favorites of the year for sure.

Let's Talk About: Okay, so what IS your feeling about reading a book that is made up of documents? Do you find this creative? A cop out? Cool as can be? Strange? Too weird to handle? What? What do you think?

Other Reviews:

This book is impressive and a superb start to a promising series. From Good Books and Good Wine

In many ways, Illuminae is a game-changer for the world of young adult science fiction. It bridges the gap between hard-core science fiction fans and those looking for a good story. From That's What She Read

Final Verdict: Illuminae- It's like nothing I have ever read before...and I mean that in the best possible way! From The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia

A glorious science fiction read for teens, this book has romance yes, but at its heart it is a dynamic horror story set in the vacuum of space. From Walking Brain Cells


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