Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween! CSN Give Away Winner!



Happy Halloween and a Blessed Samhain as well. I hope you all have a wonderful trick or treating tonight and celebrating the spooky holiday. I'll be sticking around the house, watching Halloween cartoons and handing out candy to kids. Maybe I'll even dress up a little bit to fit the part of candy giver.

Now what you have all been waiting for- the CSN Stores Give Away Winner! The Gods of the True Random Number Generator have spoken and the winner of the $55 gift certificate to the csn stores website is....
STORMIE!
CONGRATULATIONS!

Keep an eye on your email that you signed your comment with, you should be hearing from CSN Stores shortly with your redemption code! Thank you all who participated and once more-
HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Demon in My View

The second Amelia Atwater-Rhodes book that she published ten years ago brings back one of the characters we knew from In the Forest of the Night- the dark and slightly twisted Aubrey. In the former book he seemed more evil then anything, DIMV allows his character to develop more- shedding light on a more gentle Aubrey that we did not previously know. I remember my distinct feelings of this book when I read it ten years ago and my feelings haven't changed that much.


While I adored learning more about the character Aubrey and learning a little bit more about the witches that exist in this world I absolutely hated the main character. Jessica Allodola isn't a character to be appreciated. If Atwater-Rhodes was trying to create a character that is ungrateful and nasty- she did well. I didn't care for this character, instead I cared more for the supporting characters of the book.


The plot was interesting: A woman is made into a vampire while she is pregnant- what will happen to the baby? How will it be affected? She is made into a woman again and has the baby, how will that child be? A great idea but I wish it was explored a little more. Also, Jessica is the author of a list of vampire fiction which her classmates enjoy reading, the same classmates who really dislike her. They don't realize that the author Ash Night is actually Jessica. Again, I wish this was explored more.

I read this book while at work one day. It was slow and I had about two hours where I didn't have any students so I flew through the pages. Once more, this is a great book for the young teenagers out there. Nothing written inside is too racy and it flows well. For the older teenagers they might be bored by the lack of pages and lack of plot development however- it's still enjoyable. It's a book you can breeze through and entertain yourself with. Although this is one of my least favorite books by Atwater-Rhodes I do still feel that it is well written and enjoyable.

It's not needed to follow the rest of the books Atwater-Rhodes wrote about vampires so you can read this out of order. If you're considering skipping the book, I suggest you don't, simply because this is a great way to be clued into different information of the series.

Happy Blog Hop! And a note to readers~

Book Blogger Hop

Question of the day:
"What is the one bookish thing you would love to have, no matter the cost?"

A library.... no really. I would love to have a legit Beauty and the Beast styled library attached to my house. Okay, maybe it doesn't have to be as big as Beauty and the Beast library, but to have one attached to my house would be awesome none the less.


It would have to have a ladder to get to higher shelves, although I am afraid of heights and would likely never climb said ladder, I'd probably keep nicknacks up on those shelves.

But really, ever since I was a little girl I would fantasize about the stereotypical little girl things, my wedding, who I would marry, being a mommy, my house. And always- ALWAYS- there was that library.


Moving along, a few things to mention:
1) Don't forget to enter into the CSN Stores Giveaway HERE, the winner will be announced on Halloween!
2) Guest Reviewers! Please remember to email me your guest posts asap considering I am starting to post them all November 1st, the quicker you get the post to me, the quicker it will be up! If I don't hear from you before December 1st, your post won't be put up unfortunately.

And everyone else- have a GREAT Halloween!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hole-in-the-Wall Bookstores

I get ridiculously excited when I go to a bookstore. But after working at one, they've become such normalcy that if I approach a bookstore it needs to be incredibly special for me to have a great reaction. Something has to make that bookstore special. Something about it needs to jump out of me and grab my attention. The way the store looks, it's prices, the books they carry, and special characteristics all go into this.


During the weekend I went to one of my favorite towns: Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. I've written about this town many times simply because I can't get enough of it. Never have I gone there and not enjoyed my adventure to the fullest. Being nestled between a bunch of raging hills it's quaint and beautiful. It's a cross between Stars Hollow (ala Gilmore Girls) and Christmas all year long.


The past couple of weekends the town has been celebrating the fall. With train rides into the mountains, horse drawn carriage rides, fresh apple cider being sold on street corners, pumpkins on every doorstep, and all of the stores open and busy with customers it was pretty intense to visit. Especially since I was not expecting that many people all at once. However, the groups of people milling around on street corners or in doorways made it more comfortable, somehow I felt a bond with these people, even though I did not know their names.


There are two things I do every time I go to Jim Thorpe. So long as the stores are open I must visit the bookstore and the candy shop. The candy shop- Rainbow's End- is the one place I go to pick out my own box of candies. Every time I visit the town I get $6 worth of chocolate turtles then happily go on my merry way. It looks like what I think an old time candy shop would be. Bright colors, candy covering the walls, a counter with bins and bins of candy and ice cream served in the back. The best thing, in my opinion, is the huge display of chocolates. I love it. So much. But how sad is it that I don't know the name of the bookstore though? Pretty sad, but I think if I knew the name it would ruin my hole-in-the-wall aspect to it.

This particular bookstore is the span of a room and a half. you can tell the rooms were a former living room and small dining room. The books pile high and surround you, making the small store seem more comfy. There is typically a large table in the former living room that is covered in books. The walls, floor, fireplace, and windows have stacks. I can't get enough of it. I buy a lot of my books from this shop. Used books, gifts to people or simply books that were bought that people no longer wanted, all finding homes again.

This particular trip held two unexpected things. The bookstore has a new friend.

And directly across the street is ANOTHER book shop. One that I had never seen before! But first, let's cut back to the cat. Book Store Kitties is the very reason I adore book stores. Well, aside from the cozy book atmosphere. But to see a cat just relaxing, the expression of "I own this place, the human just tends to my needs." It completes the scene. This particular cat was very friendly and soft. I don't know it's name, I just called it "Pretty Kitty".

Now this other bookstore... I was shocked. Truly. Has this store always been here and I never noticed it? Is it new? Where did this store come from? It very well could have been there first but this place is literally directly across the street. You look out of the front door of one bookstore and you're looking into the front door of the other. I needed to go into this bookstore though, I needed to see what it held inside.

Books. And lots of them. Old books- hardcovers dating back fifty years or more. Beautiful classics in hardcovers with beautiful paintings. All over the place were these beautiful books that should be in a glass case and yet they were there- waiting to be purchased by me. Luckily, I only brought $20 with me and aside from needing to buy my $6 of chocolate from Rainbow's End- I walked away with only four books. (If I had more money, it would have been spent).


The brown book is actually another Charles Dickens book- a gift from 1965, from London, to an Emily. I saw the written words on the inside of the book and fell in love with it. Here was a former gift to someone. Maybe the woman gave the book away, maybe it was lost in a move, maybe she is no longer alive. But it was cherished at one point. Bought after making a choice in some bookstore in London, England.

I quickly bought the book, I didn't need to think very long about it. I should probably start writing my own name in books. Maybe, if I lose track of books in the future, someone will come across one of my books and wonder about me. Who is this girl Erica who wrote inside the book cover? I wonder where she is now, I wonder if she liked this book. Emily, I want you to know that I'll cherish this copy of Oliver Twist. It has found a new home.

If you are interested in visiting unique bookstores please check out Indiebound where you can find a list of independent bookstores in your area!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Unearthly

There has been a change in the world of young adult fiction. Vampires have ruled the bookshelves for the past few years but they are losing their place. In are coming the wave of angels, kicking vampires back into the darkness and stepping into the limelight. Cynthia Hand's yet to be published novel joins this fleet of angels. Due out early next year, Unearthly, the first book in a trilogy, is certain to create a great fan base.

The story follows Clara Gardner, an almost typical teenager who is forced to move away from her childhood home with her mother and brother. Most would assume she has to  leave because of her mother- a job change or something typical like that. However, the move is entirely because of Clara. Being a quarter angel (her mother is half, her father is a regular human being) Clara begins to see visuals of her purpose= to save a boy. (I refuse to go anymore into it with risk of giving out too many facts! You need to discover all of this for yourself!)

Being unable to fly (she has wings mind you) and seen as an invisible within her new school, Clara finds that completing her purpose might be harder than she assumed it would be. But quickly Clara discovers that things aren't always as they seem and nothing can be planned.

Developing feelings for two boys, learning her powers, and trying to still maintain a relatively normal teenager existence Clara has a crazy year ahead of her. But there are twists to everything that she does that she, nor her knowledgeable mother, have foreseen.

The book was a fast read and I appreciated the use of teenager slang through Clara's thoughts. It wasn't grand words and descriptive sayings. This isn't a book whose literary prose could be compared to Dickens or the Brontes. But that's a good thing! Great, even. Clara is more believable as a character and I was convinced through her inner dialogue that she was normal and real- she just had a few differences from you and I.

Picking up the book I wondered, will this be heavily religious? This was my first angel-themed YA book I've read because I've been holding out on the craze. But I've always wondered, angels are religious figures, there has to be a very thin line you must tread which could make the YA books seem stupid or turn them into religious fiction. Cynthia Hand walks this thin line with success. I didn't feel like religious ideas were being crammed down my throat. I do feel that people who do not necessarily believe in a God could enjoy this book as well.

The end of the book left me wanting to know more and luckily, there will be more. Unearthly is due out in early January so be sure to pre-order your copy now or be at your local  bookstore when the book is officially released. Seeing that this is my first time experience as a YA angel-book reader, I was pretty entertained and I did not hate it. Way to go, Cynthia Hand, you can bet that I'll be reading the next book in the trilogy.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

CSN STORE GIVE AWAY!!!!- CLOSED

All right boys and girls, we've been here before and here we are again! CSN has been wonderful to me and is offering another give away to my lovely readers. I was so excited to find out about this while working at my dining room table. It's where I get my serious work done. For those of you who are new you might not know who CSN is and basically, how awesome they continue to be:

If this is your first time participating in a CSN giveaway on this blog let me enlighten you to the awesomeness of this group. With only two employees CSN began an online shop. In a year they had three web-based stores, by the next year they had nine. By now CSN stores is comprised of over 200 different sites! Some of the websites include: Luggage.com, AllModern.com, WritingDesksAndMore.com, Cookware.com, and BedroomFurniture.com. Their products are beautiful and there is just so many options that any house hold will be able to find something that fits their tastes.

Now let's get to this giveaway!

Shall you choose to enter you will be up for the chance to win a
$55 gift certificate 
to purchase whatever you would like on the CSN Store websites! So what do you have to do to enter? Let's go to the rules:

1) You must leave a comment to this entry to enter.
2) You must include your email when you make the comment through intense debate- this way, the email is private to those viewing the comment but available to me so that I may email you if you win. 
3) To be entered two more times (meaning your name will be listed three times for the drawing) FOLLOW THIS BLOG THROUGH GOOGLE FRIEND CONNECT. 
4) To be entered one additional time please LIKE MY BLOGS FACEBOOK PAGE.
4) If you already follow me or like my facebook page, please tell me this in your comment so that I remember to put your name down for those additional entries, if you don't remind me there is a good chance that I won't notice. 

So just so you understand, because I have a tendency to make things confusing:
Leaving a comment to this entry= One entry
Following the blog= Two more entries
Liking the facebook page= One more entry
So you have the chance to have your name entered four times for this giveaway- raising your chances at winning! 


You can enter starting NOW. Entries will be taken until Midnight on Gate Night (IE: 12AM EST Halloween) and the winner will be announced on Sunday, October 31st, at 9AM EST!
Good luck!

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Very Scary Jack O Lantern

In the same form as A Very Scary Haunted House the author comes back with a cute tale in the form of a spooky little book. This time the story is more of a tale- how to find the perfect jack o lantern to scare away all the ghouls and goblins. With the help of images you can only see after having the book shine under a light or flashlight (which is preferred in my opinion) the tale unfolds with beautiful colorful artwork and creepy little creatures.

Yet again, another book I adored as a child. Usually I was being scolded at for reading by flashlight but only during Halloween was it okay to initiate this practice- and only with these books. My mother and I would curl up on the floor or on my bed with the flashlight in hand then dive into the book each and every year. To this day, I'll still sit down and read the book for that nostalgic thrill of childhood.

For your little one this would be a fantastic add to your Halloween collection. And guess what- you can buy it off of Amazon for a penny. (When I saw that I had an urge to buy another copy).

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Oktober Happenings

October is one of my favorite months within the year. While I adore summer (I am a Cancer, it's in my blood) fall is my favorite season of all. It's a mix of every season all rolled up into a flourish of colors. The heat of summer on some days, the crisp chill of winter on others.


October is always my busy month... in fact, fall is my busy season. Generally every weekend I'm out and about- doing some type of exciting thing or another. It's my last chance to enjoy the outdoors before the cold winter months roll in.

My schedule begins to fill itself up in September but by October I'm usually spinning. This year is like that... except to the extreme.

I've picked up more jobs. Freelance work, working at the book store, and now I am also a tutor for a local community college. Three days a week I help students work on their papers and construct better sentences. I help them get their thoughts across in a more concise manner. I've always proclaimed I am horrible at spelling and grammar- when it pertains to my own work. It's really bad. But I think this goes into the category of people not being capable of seeing their own faults. I'm just blind to it. However, catching the mistakes other people make comes easily.

So now I have two part time jobs plus two freelance jobs which come and go. It's also October, my busy month, like I said. With the peak of foliage steadily approaching and Halloween breathing down my neck there is so much to do but so little time!

In the past few weeks I've gone hiking on Hawk Mountain, a yearly thing that I do. It's gorgeous and a prime location to spot the migrating birds. One trip to Hawk Mountain down.... I have two friends who would like to go with me in the future... so I have the chance to take three trips total, which is completely okay with me.

I also have a tendency to take autumn drives. When the sun is out and there is that crisp warmth in the air I'll take the long way home from work. Driving slowly past blazing trees, stopping by streams, breathing in the air.

Trips to farms to drink hot apple cider beside a fire place... walking through towns covered in Halloween decorations... going on ghost tours in jail cells.

The weather will be in the low seventies one day- making it hard to walk around in long sleeved shirts. But the next day it could be in the 50's with a chilly wind that calls for winter hats and hoodies. I adore sweaters as much as peasant skirts. Hats and scarves are a plenty.

It's been a busy time. Between work and my autumn activities I've managed to get reading in. I don't know, the cooler the weather is, the more I want to snuggle up with a book.

This long winded post is brought to you as a way of celebrating the fall. I hope you all who are reading this are enjoying your autumns just as much. If I disappear here and there- don't fret- I'm just busy with all of my jobs and the beautiful weather. This weekend? I'll be touring a quaint town by my home, hopefully shopping for some used books, and then in the evening going on a haunted hayride with friends.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop

A few of my friends have partaken in this for awhile now... finally, I've jumped on the bandwagon. What a great idea, an easy way for book bloggers to come across one another's sites and see what other reviews are out there!

And what else is great are the weekly questions pertaining to reading and the likes. I adore this weeks question:

"Where is your favorite place to read? Curled up on the sofa, in bed, in the garden?"

Of course, I have a million ways to answer this question. I have so many jobs, so many locations of work, and I drive to and from these jobs so much that there isn't a really specific location where I like to read. If I had the time, it would be in my reading chair in my room.
Ignore the cat.

It also doubles as the location where I throw all of my belongings after I get home from work. Currently that poor chair has three balls of yarn, a half crocheted blanket, a half made scarf, one jacket, a winter hat, two purses, and one book on it. If I had the time, if the chair was cleaned off, I would curl up in it to read. 

A few other locations where I read:
  1. My living room on the couch nearest to the tv/door.
  2. My bed.
  3. The community college.
  4. During the summer- at the lake.
  5. The front porch.
And many other locations, since I carry a book with me everywhere I go.

So where do you like to read?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I Am Number Four: Lorien Legacies #1


Wow.


Months ago I had a chance to read this book when it was just an advanced readers copy. I was going to grab hold of it, take it home, dive into it. But before I had the chance the book vanished. In September the book was finally on the market and suddenly there is a movie being made, due to release in the near future.

Can I say wow again? Because I just did. A book that has only been on the shelf for a month and already they have a movie adaptation of it? Awesome!

I'm not big on the legit scifi stuff. Aliens, space travel, shape-shifting? No, no, I've been a vampire girl since I was 12 and I suspect I always be. That's as into fantasy as I get and everything else generally doesn't interest me. But this book... this book was incredibly hard to put down. I carried it with me and while at work kept thinking, "Oh please, I just want to read this book." While tutoring at the areas college I wanted to tell my students, forget about that homework assignment and lets talk about this awesome book I'm reading. Of course I didn't do that, but the thought was there.

The planet Lorien has been attacked and destroyed. The only hope for the race of Lorien people are nine children who were sent to earth with their guardians to grow, develop their 'legacies' (powers), and potentially reestablish their race on their planet all while battling against the opposing race who took over and destroyed their planet.

The Lorien people look just like us and have nearly the same language. They're incredibly intelligent and live longer then humans of this earth. John, the main character of this book who is also known within his Lorien terminology as Number Four, is within the group of children. Nine children, all bound by a spell that prevents the opposing aliens from killing them only in their numbered order. Numbers one through three have been killed- number four, John, is next.

On the run with his guardian Henri, John finds himself in Ohio where he finally establishes some form of  a normal human life. But his death is close at hand unless he does something, unless he prepares to fight.

This book grabbed hold of me in so many ways. The characters were interesting and despite that I generally read books where the main character is female the fact that John was a male didn't bother me in the slightest. He was engaging and his struggles with being from out of this world were understandable. My emotions were brought into the plot. I felt the excitement, fear, anger, and heartbreak just as John did.

My heart was left running when the book ended. I wanted more, I still want more, and I need it soon. Luckily, the next book is due to come out this coming year. But I don't know if that is soon enough. I feel that this series, written under the pseudonym of Pittacus Lore (the real authors are Jobie Hughes and James Frey, "A Million Little Pieces"), is going to blow the previous teen obsessions out of the water. And this time, it's going to take male fans with it.

Check out the movie preview below


Now go read the book!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

In the Forest of the Night

Amelia Atwater Rhodes, a woman who is now in her mid twenties, began writing when she was only a child. Her first published book, In the Forest of the Night, came out when she was only a mere fourteen years old. How amazing is that? Fourteen and you're already a published young adult author.

I always have problems with the young adult genre because it's broken down into so many age groups. Young adult, typically, is for the early teenager (around 13 years old) up to the High School age (18+). I think we can all agree that what is appropriate for an eighteen year old is generally not appropriate for a thirteen year old. So with that, helping a confused parent pick out a book for their son or daughter is always a complex matter. How old are they? Physically and mentally? You have to break it down into what young adult book would be appropriate for what age.

I can say, with complete confidence, that In the Forest of the Night is appropriate for the younger 'young adult'. I read the book initially when I was in middle school and I loved it. There isn't any sexual overtones nor graphic language. It's very simple and quick to the point with fluid language that is surprising considering a fourteen year old had written it. Even now, at my current age of 24, I enjoy returning to this book on a fall afternoon and rereading it over a span of an hour or two.

This novel was written prior to the release of the Twilight craziness. It's about vampires and eloquently so. Rhodes weaves a wonderful tale that is appropriate for this age group yet still engaging. You're still struck by the characters and left surprised at the novels end. This was a wonderful and promising start for Rhodes. She continued to write many other books including Persistence of Memory and Token of Darkness. She has her collection of vampire fiction but she has also broken off into a more fantasy related realm of shape-shifters.

Coming out in a couple of months (early 2011) is her newest book: All Just Glass which seems to be the continuation of a book she published 10 years ago, Shattered Mirror.

If you are looking to buy a vampire/fantasy related book for a young adult (IE: a mentality of 13 years old or so) then Rhodes would be a great choice. If you yourself are interested in something that is a quick and enjoyable read, something to bring with you to read at a doctors office or while waiting to pick someone up at an airport, go and read her books! They're enjoyable and fast paced. Despite it being 11 years since her first book was published I still find her to be a promising author and I hope that her writing continues to progress in a great direction. She has a lot of originality and I hope she puts it to good use.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Set to Retire: American Girl Felicity

American Girl, once again, it preparing to retire one of their historic dolls. It seems to be a yearly event now-a-days. First it was the beloved Samantha, then Kirsten (my doll), and now- Felicity. American Girl was a staple of my childhood. As I've said before, I adored my Kirsten doll and I truly feel that without her I wouldn't have developed such a passion for researching the history of my heritage (I am Swedish as is the character Kirsten). I discovered this new world and developed an interest for it so easily- because it was all part of my dolls world. It's a great and clever way for American Girl to attract the interest of girls. Here are expensive, beautiful dolls with a series of clothes and items which relate to each of their stories. Within those stories you're given an interesting history lesson.
(via)

But why American Girl, WHY ARE YOU RETIRING THE HISTORICAL DOLLS??

Thanks to this awesome article by Susan Braun (the only article that gave me any type of a clue as to why the company is doing this) I had a small bit of an answer:
An email from American Girl does state "we do so knowing their departure will make it possible to introduce new characters and time periods for our customers to enjoy." It's interesting to note that most of the latest "time periods" represented have been modern (to be fair, American Girl did introduce a new historical doll as well in 2009; Rebecca Rubin, a Jewish girl of the early 20th century).
Good point Braun! Most of these new dolls are all modern... and that's what bothers me. Why would I want a doll of a girl who is living the same life I am? Experiencing the same things I am? I'd much rather use my imagination and play pretend that I am in another place in time. Are the children of today so void of imagination that they can only play with toys that associate them with today? If so, it makes me extremely sad. And yes, they did have a recent addition to the historical dolls being Rebecca- which is great! Keep those historical dolls coming out and lay off of the "girl of the year". Which, I have a sneaking suspicion, is only a quick way to score a lot of money for the company.

Maybe my memory of my childhood- where I didn't really pick up on this stuff- is a little faulty. But I feel that American Girl has changed. I feel that ten years ago the company was about producing beautiful dolls that had a historical lesson tied in. Something for little girls to bond with but also be used as an educational tool. Now I feel that the company is slowly turning into a typical money hungry one. Maybe I'm wrong... they are still trying to put a good foot forward in educating children (which I cheer for relentlessly, anything that's fun but still educates is GREAT). Maybe I'm just still holding a grudge over the company retiring Kirsten. Felicity was my next favorite so now it's a double grudge.

Who knows.

But what I do know is that if you have a child, or maybe as a kid you always wanted Felicity but could never afford one, you better get onto the American Girl website and put your order in before we say goodbye to Felicity.

Friday, October 15, 2010

How Philosophy Can Save Your Life

Philosophy isn't second nature for me. I've always been fascinated at the idea of being a philosopher. It seems so smart, so rare, and like you're entering a world of insight that you can't find in day-to-day life. When I saw this book on a display I thought, well this is a good way to jump into Philosophy. Yes, please, tell me how it can save my life and ten ideas that are great to consider.

My only experience with philosophy is the 200 level course I took during my freshman year of college. Why I thought I could handle any philosophical class that was greater then 'intro to philosophy' I don't know. But I do know I somehow passed that class with a decent grade and if it wasn't for a classmate of mine sitting with me for hours at a time putting everything into 'Erica terminology' I probably wouldn't have pulled that grade.

But this fascination with philosophy has continued and I was so pleased to take this book and begin to reading it. I had visuals of suddenly gobbling up all the philosophical books I could get my hands on and living a more philosophical life when I was finished. However, that didn't happen.

Now understand, the structure of this book is great. Each chapter is one key point and within the contents of each chapter McCarty discusses the philosophical definition or idea behind the title of the chapter then dives into two ideas by different philosophers on this topic. But what really threw me off... what really turned me against this book was what McCarty had at the end of each chapter.

About five pages of 'homework' to do about what you learned or ways to invoke these philosophical lessons into your daily life. She suggests that you do this in groups. I wasn't prepared for that and I ended up skipping about 5 pages per chapter because I wasn't doing these homework assignments. I didn't want to. I felt suddenly forced into the idea and very unwilling to partake in it.

At times, I found my thoughts not sticking to the words. I was reading each page, my eyes skimming from sentence to sentence, and that was all. There wasn't any emotional output. I wasn't having anything I was reading sinking in. Usually, this was during the portions of the book where she seemingly rambled about what different philosophers would say about common day issues. But the one thing I did enjoy, the one thing that makes me feel this book is worth it: the ten ideas were great ways that your life can improve.

Each idea that was listed I took a step back and thought, yes, yes that would make my life better. Yes, I would feel more open, more accepting, more enlightened if I embrace this.

Maybe this wasn't the right book for me to dive into the world of philosophy with. Maybe, I should have chosen something different (Philosophy for Dummies?) But I appreciate what Marietta McCarty is getting at. This book shows such an observance of how we all live and interact with one another and it presents a better way to go about this. If this is philosophy- following these ideas and living accordingly- I believe the title is more or less accurate. Yes, it can change your life.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Tudor Queens of England

I should start this with a word of forewarning: I've always enjoyed history as in, I like going to historic sites, I love watching a good battle reenactment, and I squeal with nerdish delight when I get to go through historic towns and houses. But reading history books is not something I usually do. In fact, it's kind of a new thing for me. When I was in school and then college I never really willingly took a history class until I the spring semester before I got my BA. I was trying to make up my schedule for the semester and I only needed one class. Aside from that, I had to pick up two others that would entertain me for the semester and constitute me as a full time student.

I ended up signing up for two different art classes which should have been all I needed but I felt a void so I signed up for a Native American history class. It was at a level most juniors would be taking and I had really no experience with history. Whoops. But I made it through the class and with good grades to boot. I left with my interest in history raised and once I began to experience the need for learning after graduation I didn't just dive into fiction literature but some history books too.

Enter the Tudors. I've always had some bit of a fascination for the Tudors but now that I was actively taking a role in history (by, you know, reading books about these historic events) I began to develop more of a girl crush on the Tudor crowd and that has been pretty prominent for a couple of years now. Queen Elizabeth? Uh, hello, can you be my friend? Anne Boleyn? You're friggen awesome. I'm a complete fangirl.

See? Look at my joy with Queen Elizabeth via the Pennsylvanian Ren Faire! 
(Okay I totally realize that Queen Elizabeth is long dead but I'm a fangirl, okay? It doesn't matter!)

So when I came across this book at Barnes and Noble for a couple of bucks I dove on it. A book? All about the awesome women in the Tudor line? YES PLEASE.

I wasn't really sure what I was expecting. I went into the book hoping to end it with a new found understanding of the Tudors and hopefully to have developed my love for the ladies even more. Well, I can admit this- I did find the book interesting although at times a little confusing (a lot of names were thrown around and I didn't have a clue who they were talking about). But what I found was a developed interest for some queens whom I had never really heard of before. Also, a sympathy for others who previously I just didn't care about. Some questions, some assumptions, were answered and made clear. All in all, it was a quick and informative way to learn about the Tudor queens without extensive research.

From what I've read of other readers there seems to be the general complaint that nothing new or outstanding was mentioned in this book. It's all on a basis of information most Tudor enthusiasts already know and with that it was a boring read for those particular people. But what about the people who have a very limited outline of the Tudor history (IE: me)?  The book was incredibly informational although at times weary because it was such a typical history book. There was a lot of information and not very much flowing descriptive language. Either way, I walked away with more knowledge then I had previous to reading the book and to me that means the book did the job.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Fire Inside

I had the pleasure of getting to read this novel prior to it's release. I was worried about it though... it's more or less supernatural and it's structure is built upon the storytelling that the majority of comic books lack: neither of these subjects do I read much of (if you exclude vampires, which by this point, I think you can). I've never read a comic book in my life (except for one manga series... which I'm pretty sure are two different things, almost?) and action packed scifi stuff is above and beyond me. I was figuring this would be a tough read, it would be a read that I found myself dragging through and unable to relate to in any way.

I was wrong. Entirely. I flew through the pages of this book and was done before I wanted to be. Well, I use pages loosely since it's an ebook.

The characters are relatable and despite that my knowledge of superheros begins and ends with X-men cartoons on Saturday morning I really enjoyed that these people were unique and had powers. I enjoyed that the surroundings and way of life painted around each character grabbed hold of me. It was easy to place myself into those locations, those situations, and befriend these people.

Meet main character Jack whose turned the other cheek on being a superhero- meet his best friend Bruce that's popped up out of no where asking for help. Let's hop and skip to the death of one of these characters. What would you do if your friend was killed and you had the capability to find out who the killer was? Would you fight tooth and nail to figure it out? Would you try to prevent other people from facing the same horrible experience of losing a loved one?

I thought so. With that, you can easily identify with the character and that's what I adore about this. These people might be out of this world but you can relate to them- that's the quickest way to gain a readers attention and a following for the series I'm sure. And I am sure that Raymond Rose's Sidekick novels will gain a following to anyone interested in good story telling, action, and comic books. Discover The Fire Inside immediately before the next Sidekick book comes out by downloading it from amazon, you don't even have to move away from your computer.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Replacement

The Replacement was featured on goodreads as a giveaway and a couple of my friends were incredibly interested and entered said giveaway. I hopped onto the site and read the description of the book; immediately I was in love with what I was reading and knew that I would have to get my hands on a copy.

The book has only been out on the market for about a month but it is perfect to read during this month of October. The entire book takes place during the month- specifically around Halloween. It's creepy and disturbing- perfect for this haunting time of year. Mackie Doyle, the main character of this tale, seems sweet, innocent, and caring for his loved ones. But there is something dark and sinister about Mackie- he's a replacement.

As an infant the Doyle family suffered a horrible loss. Their baby boy was taken from his crib as his older sister watched and replaced by a thing with sharp teeth- something not human- a replacement which was in fact Mackie. Mackie has grown up knowing that he is not the real Doyle child but developed a loving relationship with his family none the less, although some of the family struggles are slightly differed from most normal family struggles. What's more is that the worry that your child will be taken and replaced is a town-wide fear which goes unspoken. In most cases, a child is taken and replaced and whether or not the family knows this they don't let on. All bad things are known but not discussed- it's just the way the town is.

But Mackie is growing sicker and sicker. Mackie, a rarity to survive so long in the human world, is beginning to die. A true show of sisterly love his sister goes underground to make a bargain with the other creatures- her success is receiving a liquid that allows Mackie to live. But nothing is given out without a price, now Mackie is tied into doing something for them.

All during this you learn more and more of the struggle amongst these creatures and what exactly happens to the children they take. Mackie takes a stand against this, especially when a love interest has her baby sister taken from her. 

The story was quickly paced and I truly felt for Mackie. The author did an incredibly job writing a character of the opposite sex and writing such an original tale. No words of sparkly vampires or fallen angels, this story is entirely unique and reminds me of the old tales from the English Isle of fairies babies. I was pleased with this book because it was so original and refreshing to read. Also, the Halloween tones seemed just so perfect for this time of year. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Understood Betsy

For many years this book sat on my bookshelf. A hardcover with no design and crunching yellowed pages it was one of the books that my mother had owned since she was a child and that I generally stayed away from. I read many books as a child and my mother read many books to me. But there were only a few select books that I picked from my mothers collection, usually because there were bright pictures within it that attracted my childish attention. Understood Betsy was not one of these books. I stayed away from the old age of the book, not liking it's scent, although now I adore the smell of old books.

But always my mother would go back to this book. Always she would stroke the spine and say in a calm voice, "I loved this book as a little girl. I loved the pictures. I would stare at them for hours and look at all the little details." She'd pull the book off of the bookshelf, holding it with care since it was so worn with age, and flip to a couple of the pictures. Two little girls snuggled in a large bed together, curtains hanging around the bed frame, all drawn in black ink.

That was the image that I remembered even though I never read the book. Those two little girls snuggled up tight as they lay in bed. One girl had dark hair, one had blonde, and it reminded me of my cousin and myself when we were little girls. One blonde, one brunette, curled up together in a big bed sharing secrets only children know.

I read the book just recently in a torrent of words and page turns. It was adorable and made me feel comforted, that I should curl up into my own bed and snuggle with something warm (IE: my cat). Betsy is a little girl who is taught to be very timid and incapable of taking care of herself. But when she is suddenly sent away from her overprotective aunt to live with distant relatives (those heathens!) she is placed into an entirely different world where adults expect children to have their own minds.

So develops the story of this frightened little girl learning how to fend for herself and be independent. She grows strong in more ways than one and learns that just because she is a child it doesn't mean that she always has to depend on others.

The pictures were what my mother loved in this book and although they are simplistic I can see how they will appeal to a child. With large pretty eyes and cute period dresses there are even the most subliminal of objects in each picture that are easy to miss.

I honestly don't know if new copies of this book have the same artwork but I hope they do. It certainly adds to the element of the books. It's such an adorable story, certainly something for a parent to read to their child before bed. There are certainly many overtones of how society was at a certain time and how it was actively changing- even in the book. But I don't want to linger about that. What I want to linger over is the fact that this is a lovely book about a little girl that can be enjoyed by any little girl with imagination.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Banned Books Week: The National Book Festival

This past Saturday was the National Book Festival. How fitting to be celebrating books at the start of Banned Books Week? For the day my coworkers/friends and I took off from work and traveled to Washington DC. I was up at 3:30 in the morning after a solid week of not getting a full night of sleep. Meeting with my two friends Aidan and Greg we hopped into Greg's car and traveled south.

The weather: in the 90's. A hot wind would gust through the national mall on occasion but otherwise it was stifling and I ended up with sunburn.
The crowd: huge. 

Going to the National Book Festival was an experience which I can knock off of my bucket list. I decided, to wrap up Banned Books Week, I'll post a couple of random photos from the event. Because hey, this is my freedom right here- my freedom to read what I would like and no one will stop me. =)
My friends Greg and Aidan.
Aidan is the cofounder of the company Christopher Williams Books- Check it out!
And Greg can do it all, just check out his website James Kastle.

Picture taken by Brandon Howe

Diana Gabaldon! Author of Outlander

Another picture taken by Brandon Howe
That would be me getting my book signed by Katherine Patterson-
She was such a sweetheart!

There were over 20 booths where authors were doing autographs and multiple tents where the authors who weren't currently signing books were, instead, making speeches or answering questions. It was amazing to be surrounded by so many people who adored books almost as much as myself. Plus, you're on the National Mall of DC and have the capability of doing some sight seeing while you're there. 

If you're interested in going the National Book Festival it is each year during the fall. My suggestion to you is avoid the DC traffic and parking situation entirely by parking at one of the DC Metro stations further out. Pay for a metro card and ride the train to the Smithsonian station. (it only cost me $3 to go from Vienna, Virginia all the way to DC and $3 to get back). There was a lot of food and water for sale in an assortment of places so you didn't have to look very far but I brought a big bottle of water with me which lasted while I waited for an hour in one line in the direct sun. 

Wear comfortable shoes that are good enough for a lot of walking and a lot of standing. Also, bringing a little camping chair that's easy to lug around is understandable. When you're standing on line to have a book signed you will be standing still for a long time, sitting down was something I dreamed about during those moments. Also, if you want to get a lot of books signed- bring a lot of friends with you who are willing to stand on line for you. I wouldn't have had the chance to get Diana Gabaldon's signature if it wasn't for Aidan who patiently waited on a line for me.

I'm so glad I had this opportunity, although the day was definitely dampened by my inability to handle heat. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

Banned Books Week: Of Mice and Men

Oh to list the many places this book has been banned would fill this page with pointless dribble of unworthy names. Of Mice and Men, a classic and staple in many summer reading lists or classroom assignments, has been challenged or banned in numerous places in the United States and Ireland. It is actually number 12 on ALA's Most Challenged Classics book list. The one challenge I read which made me laugh the loudest is that the KKK apparently challenged the book! The main reason the book has been challenged or banned from schools are for the following reasons:

  • profanity and using God's name in vain
  • it was 'filthy'
  • anti-business attitude
  • authors questionable patriotism
  • racial slurs
  • it's violent ending
  • morbid and depressing themes
  • derogatory towards African Americans, women, and developmentally disabled
Apparently we're only supposed to read fluffy happy books in this world. Apparently, nothing bad happens and if it does, we should shun it. This is literature, this is fiction, this is the freedom of speech and freedom of the press. If you have a dislike for anything in that list, that is your choice and your right. But to try and take away an authors right because it does not agree with your own? That's ludicrous. 

I do not believe in using racial slurs, I feel it is wrong, so you won't see me running around chanting those words. Do I think they should be removed from the book though? No. The setting of this book takes place years ago when racial slurs were part of everyones vocabulary. There was a clear line separating whites from African Americans. It's a sad fact, but it's the truth, it is America's past. With the story line, location, and events that play out it would take away from it's sense of reality if it were not to include these skewed perspective of people.

I think this book tells more of the relationship between a small, quick, and tough man and the love he had for this lumbering giant who had some form of a mental disability. Proof that people who have mental disabilities are human and can be loved to, proof that they can be misunderstood. Maybe it wasn't such a good example due to what the character accidentally does in the end of the book. Maybe. But it's near impossible not to fall in love with the relationship these two have.

And let's look at it this way: Here are two characters who are at completely different mental and physical ends from each other. They go from place to place, coming across racism, adversity, and problems along the way. Their lives are not exactly perfect but they work hard, all for their dream: to own their own piece of land that they can run themselves and they'd never have to work for someone again. These men might be completely different from one another, but they still have an American dream.