Monday, May 30, 2011

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

I read The Hunger Games (book 1) a couple of years ago before the following two books were available. I adored the book, was totally sucked into the plot, fell deeply in love with the characters, and was eager to find out what happened next.

The original book kept me on my toes and I never really knew what was going to happen. But Catching Fire blew me out of the water. This book just didn’t stop. Everywhere you looked there was a new shocking piece of information, a new shocking plot twist, and I was clinging on to the ride with wide eyes and my jaw dropped.

Now picture this: I’m at tutor and where I work I sit at a table with another tutor. She and I entertain ourselves until a student comes along who needs help. How do I typically entertain myself? I read. Catching Fire was read at work during slow points and obsessively so. I slumped down in my chair, the book getting closer and closer to my face as I quickly read over each page, and occasionally I’d slam my Kindle down and gasp, “Oh my gosh I can’t believe that just happened!” That’s how the entire book went for me. Continuously I would be flailing over what I was reading and then I’d dive deeper into the book, speed-reading my way forward so I could see what would happen. It’s just that great.

Spoilers from this point on:
Peeta was always my favorite character. While I enjoyed Katniss because she’s a tough female in a world where YA female characters are always dependent on others, she takes charge and makes rash decisions. She gets angry and impulsive and maybe emotional every now and then, but she’s brave. She’s tough. And I would not want to get on her bad side. But Peeta? Peeta has always been my favorite and always been the character I feel I would get along with. I just friggen love him. Gale? Eh, he’s ok. When I first read The Hunger Games I had been unsure of Peeta through most of it. I didn't know if I could trust him or not but, if I were to trust him, I liked him. Once I knew that the trust was earned I really began to enjoy him.

But the relationship between Peeta and Katniss had me, once more, so on edge. I shipped these two so much and they seemed to really progress during this book. They became so much closer to one another and I just wanted Katniss to realize that she loved Peeta!

The fact that the book took such a twist as to bring all of the victors into the Hunger Games once more threw me so much. The creatures in the game, the ever changing arena, it was a mess and I didn't know what was coming next. But isn't that the great thing about a well written book? The author gives nothing away and all that you do, all that you guess, you're still surprised by the end.

I flew through this book as quickly as I could (despite that I did, after all, have work to contend with). As mentioned in an early post during this month... my life kind of threw up in my face. A lot of drama happened all at once and I was very unsteady and unstable. This book served as such a great distraction. For the first time in weeks I was completely immersed in another world and I had a break from the troubles my real life had given me. It gave my brain a chance to relax for a bit and concentrate on something else.

So, rock on Hunger Games, rock on Catching Fire. I won't lie- I think I liked this book more than the first and it killed me when it ended... however, I was lucky because I had Mockingjay waiting for me and I started it immediately after.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Blog Hop- May 27th

Blog Hop:
Book Blogger Hop

This Weeks Question:
"What book-to-movie adaption have you most liked? Which have you disliked?"

Oh boy. Generally I go into the movie theater with this huge expectations for book-to-films. I mean, why would I see the film version if I didn't love the book? So I'm already going in there with this idea that, "This is my favorite book. I love this character, I love that scene, I love this line. I EXPECT IT ALL TO BE THERE." and of course, I'm usually disappointed.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy did a pretty decent job of going from book to film. I mean, those books are incredibly long and yet they were still pretty spot on. I don't believe they would have been able to include everything simply because had they, the already three hour long films would have been even lengthier.

The same goes for Harry Potter. I love all of the films and I promise you I will be a crying mess when I leave the theater after the last film is released. I really enjoy the books and the movies.

Last but not least, Atonement's book-to-film adaptation was beautifully done and I cried while both reading the book and seeing the movie.

What have I disliked? In all honesty, I thought the film versions of Under the Tuscan Sun and Practical Magic were better than the books. The film version of Blood and Chocolate was pretty bad. I know there are more that left me raging but I can't think of them.

It's been an active week in my neck of the woods. I live in Pennsylvania, kind of the middle/east end of the state, and we've had insane weather as of late! Three tornadoes on Monday, a tornado warning last night, and a storm that was so intense that it blew over trees and knocked out the power for six hours. Now, I already live in the country so it's pretty dark out once the sun goes down. But when the few street lights we have go out it is black outside. I couldn't believe how dark it was!

Luckily, no one has been hurt or killed due to the storms in my area. My heart goes out to the mid west and all those involved in the horrible storms recently.

This past week I've jumped back into book reviewing with a vengeance. Please check out:
The Loud Book and The Quiet Book
Teaser Tuesday
The Wise Owl Bookstore

Have a great Memorial Day weekend everyone!!
Thank you to all who have served in our military.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Wise Owl Bookstore

May 15th I awoke to a gloomy day, as has been common since April 1st in Pennsylvania, but for once it didn't cause my mood to turn sour. I was off to the opening of a new bookstore so really, how could I not be cheerful?

In the city of Reading, PA there is the artsy Penn Avenue. For anyone who might be passing through I urge you to check this out for all of the unique little shops and the brand new store The Wise Owl Bookstore. Quaint and relaxing, you can stop in and browse for a wide range of books that are new or gently used.

I have the pleasure of knowing the owner and she's a really awesome woman who is bringing the relaxation of a legitimate bookstore to an area where there is only the mainstream booksellers.

On Sunday I was not only there for the bookstore opening but the chance to be able to attend Raymond Rose's booksigning. You can check out more details of Ray's books Better Together and The Fire Inside. He is also one of the creators of the company Christopher Williams Books.

I've sworn I will not purchase anymore books until I finish reading the ones I already own so unfortunately I didn't get anything at the bookstore but that doesn't mean I wasn't drooling over a slew of books that the store had. So tempting to buy each and every one of them. So maybe it's best that I've sworn off buying books for the moment because it gives all of you a chance to stop into The Wise Owl Bookstore and buy books for yourselves!

But in all honesty, this store is something new and exciting in the area. Something that is definitely needed. I fear that people are forgetting how comforting a bookstore can be because they're so used to Borders or Barnes and Noble but now the people within the Reading, PA region have an opportunity to be reminded of the pleasures that an indie bookshop can give. So check it out if/when you are in the area!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Teaser Tuesday, May 24

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should be Reading and it asks us to...

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title; author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Green Living: The E Magazine Handbook for Living Lightly on the EarthIncreasingly, perfumes and fragranced products are being blamed for contributing to health problems such as asthma, migraines, neurotoxic effects, and upper respiratory irritation. That's because although perfumes were once distilled simply from flower essences, today's fragrances are complex mixtures of more than 4,000 chemicals, 84 percent of which have never been tasted for safety.
Green Living by the Editors of E

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Loud Book and The Quiet Book

These complimentary children’s books are adorable and fun with lightly colored artwork and cute animal characters. The Quiet Book discusses ‘quiet’ moments, good and bad, all of which a child can experience while The Loud Book reflects many of those moments (once again, good and bad ‘loud’ moments).

What I really enjoyed about the two books were the characters. I’m always a sucker for artwork in picture books that is either simple or detailed but all around good. But also, it’s how unique this book is that grabs my attentions. How many of us can make a list of different types of ‘quiet’ or ‘loud’ moments? Enough to fill a book? I doubt it. While reading the books I was nodding my head and snickering to myself, “Yes that is definitely one kind of quiet.” And of course the situations apply to children. When you get in trouble, when relatives come to visit, when you are at school. I feel that they too will go, “Oh, I know what type of loud that is.”

Look at this as a little study into the different feelings in our lives, something that is completely overlooked or not thought much of. But it’s there, those quiet moments that seem… loud and so many more.

They’re separate books but I would suggest buying both books at once. The Quiet Book was the first published (April 2010) but The Loud Book (published just last month) is such a great follow up you just have to have it.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Blog Hop and a General Update

Blog Hop:
Book Blogger Hop

This Weeks Question:
"If you were given the chance to spend one day in a fictional world (from a book), which book would it be from and what would that place be?"

I legit muttered a curse under my breath when I read this question. This is, quite possibly, the hardest question I've tried to answer during my time with the weekly Blog Hop. What fictional world would I want to be in? I don't even know. There are so many stories, so many plots, that I fall in love with and wish I could be a part of. But then there is always the negative aspect of that world where I think, I'm not so sure about this. But lets take this seriously for a moment. What world would I want to be in? I love the world of Harry Potter, which I suspect will be a popular answer. Preferably one of the early books before the real battles began. The same goes for Lord of the Rings. The Fellowship of the Ring, which I think would be my final answer, always sounded so... pretty to me. Rivendell was my favorite location in the books. It sounded so beautiful. There are always parts of each season that are beautiful and dreary. Whether it's the muddy rainy days of spring or the dead-looking portions of winter. There are moments where it seems the seasons are almost magical and others where I feel the magic has slipped away. To me, Rivendell sounds like a place where the magical qualities of each season is what makes up the year. Plus I was always a big fan of the elves from Lord of the Rings.

So, there is my answer. If I were to spend a day in a fictional world it would be a day spent in Rivendell during the period that The Fellowship of the Ring took place.

I want to apologize to my readers. As mentioned a few posts ago I had to put my cat down on the 4th. It was sudden and very much unexpected. I've also been dealing with a couple of other dramatics of life and it's been very hard to get myself to do normal day-to-day functions. Only last week did I finally pick up a book and begin to read again and enjoy it. I'm slowly crawling out of the hole I've been in.

I will not be accepting any books from local or self published authors until I've caught up on the ones that have already been mailed to me. I'm sorry.

Also, if anyone is interested in being a guest on my blog please email me at it would be a great help in keeping this blog active while I get my life back together!

And finally, I do have a few reviews that I need to write. Hopefully I'll have them up during the course of the next week!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Eighth Scroll

I was given the opportunity to read Laurence B Brown’s novel The Eighth Scroll and readily dove into it. The book, filled with mystery, plot, government cover ups, religious ideas and murders is not what I typically go for when looking for a book to read. It’s the type of plot that I am most unfamiliar with so beginning this book I was certainly entering a world and storyline that was foreign to me. Immediately, the language Brown uses in this book grabbed hold of me. When reading novels, you must understand that there is a lengthy list of what will draw my interest. Subject matter, plot, character development, dialogue, description. How else can all of these topics be obtained without the use of language? Brown, an opthalmic surgeon, is skilled in describing the actions of the body. I truly found that the most fascinating, how the characters moved and their bodies reacted to physical contact, and also how he described the act of fighting.

The Eighth Scroll itself is a novel that travels through time, following the Dead Sea Scrolls and depicting how dangerous such important religious documents can be. Quickly you are brought into the Hansen family and get a detailed portrait of how the father and son team interact with one another. They go to help one of Gerald Hansen’s colleagues on an archeological find but are shocked to find the colleague mysteriously dead before their first full day at the location. Little do they realize they’ve been sucked into a world where the CIA, the Vatican, and so many others are after the Dead Sea Scrolls and willing to kill whomever they can before anyone learns of their existence.

This turns into a life long chase for the Hansens, if only they were to leave the mysterious ‘find’ from the dig alone, they would be safe, but it’s all too tempting and they’re drawn in. Years later Hansen’s son Michael decides to get to the bottom of the mystery of the scrolls. He travels through the world and meets an assortment of different characters, some nice, some not so much, and eventually obtains the scrolls for himself. Seeing what they have written suddenly makes it all clear- this is a reason why so many people have invested such security on whether or not these are found. But now it’s too late and Michael’s life (and many others) is at stake.

The Eighth Scroll is fast moving and filled with twists and turns. It hops from location to location, character to character, but all of the plots are easily interwoven and complete in a nice way. There were many moments where I wanted to know what was going to happen next and was eager to get to the next page. Mystery thrillers are not a genre that I go after. I’m very unfamiliar with their layout and generally become lost in even televisions that cater to such a topic. But I happily stuck with this story and followed it through, I understood what was going on but it was still written in a way that not everything was given away to the reader. You had to keep going to figure out what was around the next turn.

You can check out a copy of this book at Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Blood and Flowers

As a preteen I went through a faery phase. Any book about faeries I could get my hands on I would devour. And at that time, during the early 2000's, there weren't many faery books available. In fact, I feel there wasn't so much of a prominent YA market as there is today. Granted this is based on personal opinion but it is what I remember.

Now I don't particularly like to admit this and it's a rare occasion when I do, but I'm an adult. I am no longer the preteen with sparkling fantasies. Faeries, other than those directly related to Shakespeare or folktales, don't hold the same fascination for me as they once did.

So it is with that I begin a less than stellar review... This YA novel didn't engage me. I couldn't find myself getting connected with any of the characters, and I was left looking for more plot, more description, more... everything. A lot goes on in this book and there is potential for some big plots. However, each plot is quickly taken care of.

The story follows the Outlaws, a theatrical troupe who end up in the land of Faery. I felt somewhat unprepared for this journey and feel it was rushed. I, as the reader, should have been knowledgable of everything in this story. Ok, maybe saying 'everything' is unfair. Of course a writer should have certain elements hidden but I was lost when I began this book. Where were the characters? How did they know of faeries? Even the backstories of many of the characters is not mentioned- only hinted at. I feel there was more potential for these characters to be characters I adore and cheer on but that simply was not possible with the information given.

In general, there was more time spent talking about the productions they were going to be putting on and the work they did leading up to the shows then anything about characteristics and plot. Now, I'm a supporter of the arts. I love theater and all it involves. I've worked with stage crews and I've performed on a stage. I know that there is a lot that goes into a production and it was nice to have a YA book highlight all the work that is involved. But it left me wanting more for the story itself.

I enjoy most YA books because they're quick reads that don't overwhelm me. Generally I am easy to please when it comes to these books but every once in awhile, I feel my age. I read a YA book that I can't follow and do not join due to it's simplicity. This, unfortunately, was one of those books.

The book may very well be more appropriate for a young teen but for this 24 year old the entertainment was lost on me.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Life of Cesare Borgia

Continuing with my new obsession of the Borgia family I happily grabbed Rafael Sabatini's biography of one of my favorite Borgia family members and devoured it over the course of a Friday night (a glass of wine was included in this adventure).

I had just finished reading The Family when I dove into a more factual telling of Cesare's life. However, I was pleasantly surprised that when Mario Puzo wrote The Family he really did stick to the facts of what happened to Cesare as he grew up and conquered so many lands. Sabantini is straight to the point with each important event that occurred during Cesare's life however he makes sure to also include all of the rumors that surrounded the family.

Now, if you do not know of the Borgia family, allow me to mention once more that this family was forever being followed by tales that completely conflict one another. Many times the supposive 'crimes' that the Borgia's committed were never true or at the very least suspected not to be. This family was powerful and this family, much like anyone with power, had a lot of enemies. If you were to have an enemy would you not suspect them to try and destroy you in any way possible? So why not use what you can against that whom you want to destroy?

So much of the more terrible things that Cesare Borgia and his family 'did' are suspected to be nasty rumors derived by their enemies and Sabatini makes it pretty clear that all negative talk about the family was just that- rumors. Sabatini does a great job knocking down every single rumor that was mentioned with a list of arguments that left me, as the reader, thinking "How could people believe these rumors in the first place?"

I'm partial to any information about Cesare and his relationship with Lucrezia. I am an only child and have fantasized that if I had a sibling we would be incredibly close to one another and I feel that these two siblings embodied that love. (No, not incest, head out of the gutter, please). However, there was very little mention about Lucrezia other than when something in her life directly affected Cesare himself. But, this is the life of Cesare so I guess it makes sense and if I want to learn more about their friendship I'll have to look elsewhere.

The fact is that I felt I got as much information about Cesare Borgia and his history as I could within this book. It did what it was made to do: Inform me on this man who was said to be incredibly handsome and filled with determination. If you are interested in the Borgia family and would like to know more about my favorite Borgia guy, I suggest you get thee to a bookstore or amazon and get this book.

Friday, May 6, 2011

RIP Oliver

I had to put my cat to sleep on Wednesday. 

I was there the day Oliver was born. He looked like a sausage with ears. It had been two years since we lost the first cat we ever had during my life time and I wanted another cat badly. Oliver was the kitten of my best friends cat. We watched him go from sausage to energetic kitten then took him home. He was so tiny, so cute, and immediately my buddy.

I recall the first night we had him I didn't sleep. He insisted on sleeping beside me and I was terrified I'd crush this tiny black and white kitten in my sleep. 

He's always been my buddy, my best friend, and my go-to guy when I've needed to be comforted. 

He was sick and hid it well. The visit to the vets office was horrible and the wait for him to leave us was torturous. I'm left feeling very empty. 

There are other things going on in my life right now that have me upset and distracted but Oliver's departure takes the cake. With that... I have book reviews scheduled however it might be awhile before I add to those that are on the wait list. I just need some time... 

11. 1. 1999 - 5. 4. 2011

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Family

I am a complete Borgia family novice. I knew very little about them and only began to research the family for the most brief of knowledge after I heard of the Showtime series.

I watched the show and I fell in love with Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia.

I wanted to devour as much information as I could get my hands on. I wanted to know about these historical figures and compare all the information so that maybe, somehow, I could grow to understand this brother and sister who lived 500 years ago.

And so I began by reading the historic fiction by Mario Puzo (best known for The Godfather). Puzo was fascinated by the Borgia's and thought them to be 'the original crime family'. Now, I don't know much about other families in the broad spectrum of history so I can't exactly compare and say, "Wow, Mr. Puzo was entirely correct. The Borgias were the original crime family." However, from the way Puzo wrote this book I can totally see how his opinion influenced the historical facts.

The story, very simply, tells the tale of the Borgia family. Their rise to fame and their fall from it. Puzo doesn't spend much time going into wordy details about the scenery or descriptions of battles. he spends even less time on the dialogue between characters and yet he paints a picture where I grew attached to the Borgia's and the relationships they had with one another.

Despite their sins that range (in the book) from incest to murder I grew to feel for these characters. The Pope, Rodrigo, does what he needs to keep control over the papal lands and seems willing to do anything. And yet... he seems to still love his children, even if he makes poor decisions pertaining to them along the way.

Lucrezia, the daughter and 'good girl' seems to try hard in keeping all happy. Her incestuous love for her brother I find... lovely. I know! I know it's wrong! But I love the two of them and how they seem to complete one another. If they were not brother and sister they would surely be considered a perfect couple. Neil Jordan, the creator of the Showtime series, takes a different approach to the siblings. In the show they aren't incestuous (yet) but he was quoted to say:
I kind of want them to be almost the ideal lovers if they were not brother and sister. In other words, they will never find a bride or a groom that would live up to their expectations having grown up with each other. [link]
I feel this describes them well historically and fictionally. Mind you, historically the two likely did not have an incestuous relationship but it was a rumor spread by their enemies. It's just Puzo's take on it and I feel it was written well.

Cesare is fiercely protective, something I can understand, and he is a force to be reckoned with. He might have not been the nicest guy but he certainly loved his family.

If you are unfamiliar with the Borgia family the book certainly could still be read and enjoyed. You won't be lost or confused, I assure you. If you know of their history, well, Puzo follows it pretty well although takes some creative license in filling out the plot. If you know of the family then you know how the Borgia power ended but that's another story and I won't give it away on here. I really enjoyed the book and didn't want to put it down. I would suggest it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction or crime.

Check out the book with the link below and to check out the show go here.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Of Love and Evil

Ah, Anne Rice. I'm still so happy to have the opportunity to read new books by you. A fan since I read The Vampire Chronicles for the first time nearly 13 years ago and still a fan to this day. When I read Angel Time I enjoyed the character Toby O'Dare. This novel picks up where the first left off. Toby is trying to be a better person and his interaction with his son, whom he met for the first time, is adorable.

There are new angels in this novel: particularly Toby's guardian angel who takes form and a demonic angel who appears further along in the novel. Toby, as in the first book, is asked to complete a mission for the angels. He is sent back to Italy to help a Jewish man and does it with great ease. I was slightly disappointed in this. It's as if he walked into the house, spotted the problem, and all was taken care of. Too easy and far too quick.

It isn't until after that Toby is tempted by the devilish angel and I found it possibly the most interesting thing in the book. Then again, I always find this stuff interesting. Give me a book where a devil is tempting someone and the person is fighting the temptation and I'm set. I love that type of stuff.

After this scene Toby attempts to rid a home of a ghost and even this I find more interesting than Toby's initial mission. The storyline pertaining to who is haunting the residence is interesting and tugged at my heart. The book moved quickly although I feel that I wasn't as attached to it as the first. I suspect that is because there is very little time in which we are dealing with Toby's real life compared to the first novel. It dove right into "Angel Time". However, I'm still interested in reading more about Toby no matter my disappointment with this book. I will also happily continue to read whatever else Anne Rice might surprise us with (still, I beg that she writes another Vampire Chronicle story).