Monday, June 27, 2011

Children Book Picks

Two books I've read on my Kindle (which I got for free!) are perfect for parents to read to their children before bedtime.

Charlotte Bronte Herr's children's book The Wise Mamma Goose and Fairy Tales Every Child Should Know were entertainment for me while we were without internet after some severe storms. Fairy Tales Every Child Should Know (which you can get for free on your Kindle and I am assuming for other ereaders) is a nice compact book that really does have all of the classic fairy tales. Many I've read before but some were new to me and enjoyable to pick up. Our culture has fairy tale references sprinkled all over the place so why not have your child be a part of it?

The Wise Mamma Goose is pretty adorable as well. I mean, when I was a kid I got a kick out of any barn yard stories. I don't know why but the idea of chickens and geese being able to talk was exciting to me. I lived for that stuff. This book features some problem solving and a cute pooch to boot.

Then, after work one day, I stopped into a book store and discovered.... Instructions by Neil Gaiman... I can't get enough of Neil Gaiman. Who could? He's a fantastic author and when he reads his books aloud, oh my goodness, he has the perfect reader voice. I won't deny that I was incredibly excited to see he had a new children's book out and even more excited when I discovered it was a guide of sorts for fairy tale adventures. Apparently this was taken from another book? But I don't really care, this is a new publication with beautiful illustrations. It's sort of like the mystical version of Oh! The Places You'll Go but even better because this would have hit home for me as a child. I grew up in some place that was between reality and imagination, everything and anything was possible and I would have devoured a book that essentially helps you along on your magical quests. Tips of where to turn, what to look out for, who to trust and how to defeat the bad things. And you know what is the best thing about it? Many of the stories you'll read in Fairy Tales Every Child Should Know are referred to in this book! It's wonderful, magical, and made me return to my childhood for a brief moment.

Don't believe me? Check out the book trailer and beautiful illustrations.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Green Living

This is old news for some, new for others, but I’m gluten and dairy free due to allergies that I discovered a few years ago. When I decided to stop eating gluten I entered a world that I knew very little about. I started to learn what organic living was about and take a little more care of how I treated myself and the environment around me.

I am by no means completely knowledgeable of green living although I’m happy to say I know a little bit more about the effect we have on the environment now than I did a few years ago and I’m taking active steps towards a better way of life.

I came across Green Living at my favorite used bookstore and figured… why not? A nice concise book discussing all of the different ways you can start to live green. What is living green? I think the best way to describe it is that when you’re living green you make the smallest mark on the environment as you can. You also are essentially not putting anything on or in your body that shouldn’t be there. It’s like the ultimate version of being healthy.

Each topic is broken down into easy chapters- how to have your children live green, how to have a house that is green, what you should and shouldn’t do for bodily cleanser products. The list goes on and to my joy each chapter was easy to read. You just have to keep it simple when I’m a newbie with something. Catch my interest, explain the pros and cons and I’ll likely stick with it.

This book is slightly outdated having been published in 2005. I didn’t become gluten free until 2009 and at that time there was so few organic options in the grocery stores of my area that I had always assumed that ‘green living’ hadn’t really started to get a hold on society until a few years ago. Little did I know that it’s been a pretty strong way of life for many years.

What I read was all generally eye opening. I know the positives to eating healthy but when it comes to all of the other factors in life I’m kind of in the dark. Well, this book certainly helped shed some light on the situations we are living in and adding to.

Despite it being out of date I think it would be a book people should read if they want a quick go-to guide about living green. It also includes helpful companies and websites that can help you on your adventure to having a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. Then take more steps towards a better living and read other books, there are a tong on the subject out there and they’re all worth a chance to check over.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Blood and Chocolate

As a teen I read The Silver Kiss and remember being ecstatic and surprised to read a book about vampires that were different than the vampires I was used to (Anne Rice’s and Amelia Atwater Rhodes). I loved her characters and devoured the book, being left wanting more. When I discovered the author had another book out, Blood and Chocolate, I jumped all over it.

Werewolves aren’t my cup of tea. They aren’t a supernatural creature that I was ever a huge fan of but since I loved The Silver Kiss so much I couldn’t help but give this werewolf story a try.

Vivian is a teenager but incredibly mature. That might scare some teens away from the book because the novel isn’t fluffy and fake. The teenagers are realistic, at least in this day and age, with interests in partying, drinking, and sex. The plot spans over the course of the summer months so right now is the perfect time to read it.

Most teenagers find themselves feeling as if they don’t belong. The awkward teenage years where you are changing too fast to keep track, as are the people around you, but this book takes all of these teenage issues to a whole other level. Vivian is a werewolf who can change nearly any time she feels like it but has no other choice during full moons. Her pack is in need of a new leader since her father had died and Vivian is disgusted by the politics of the pack she is a part of. Feeling like an outsider within her pack and also feeling rebellious enough that she wanted to befriend humans.

Befriend humans she did, also acquiring a boyfriend who didn’t know who Vivian really was. Would she be willing to keep from her boyfriend who she really is? Or would she put herself and her pack in danger by revealing herself to him?

The book twists and turns in so many dark ways and I really enjoyed all of the characters. No matter how little they appeared in the books pages you still knew the characters well. You were able to judge the majority of their reactions to different situations and while at times this made it easy to guess what would happen- it still was exciting as the plot weaved about all of its surprises. And they remained that- surprises, because even though you might guess the result you didn’t know how it would happen and you certainly were not ‘sure’ if you were right.

The first time I read this book I was in high school and loved it, flew through it, and wanted more when the book was complete. This time around I found myself without electric due to a tornado and not allowed to do anything because of doctors orders. I have a ton of books to read and yet my eyes landed on this one. Once more I flew through its pages and despite the book being written a number of years ago I felt it was still very much relevant to the present day. Nothing that was in it was outdated and you could easily enough picture it happening today or ten years ago. I like that in a book.

Check back in September to hear about why Blood and Chocolate has been one of the most banned books in the US. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Blood Canticle

The final book in Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles- the very series that I grew up with and loved so much. The series that helped me step away from childish books and immerse myself into more serious adult material. And... I hated this book. Oh my goodness did I hate this book.

Lestat is back and not better than ever. He had a few quotes here or there that I snickered at but he seems to be running on too much coffee through most of the book. Yes, I had wondered where my self obsessed drama queen was in Blackwood Farm but he really came back with too much of a vengeance in this novel. He's all over the place and obsessing over one then and then the other.

Quinn Blackwood, who is still in this tale, is still relatively the same character that he was in Blackwood Farm which I'm ok with. He's also stopped his rambling of true love and stuff and just seems to be happy to be with Mona so that's an improvement.

Mona Mayfair who is part of this new trio drives me nuts. I actually applaud Lestat for the multiple times he nearly snaps her neck. She was a great character in Blackwood Farm but in this book she cries nearly every time she is in a scene and has the temperament of a two year old. She's insanely annoying and the only time I really enjoyed her being present was when she was quiet. Every time she would open her mouth I'd groan.

Really, this book was all over the place and threw in the Mayfair stories (The Witching Hour, etc are all about the Mayfairs and a separate series until this book where they combine) so that I, a person who had never read the books about the Mayfairs, was totally lost and overwhelmed. Not only that but I found myself not really caring. I'm here for vampires! I'm here to find out what happened to all of my beloved characters! Where is my Louis? Where is David? Where are the rest of the vampires that I have loved over the past ten books?

This book, like I said, is the final book in the series so I expected some type of wrap up since I wouldn't be receiving 'updates' in further novels and I never received that. When I first started to read this book I was taking my time, moving very slow, simply because I wasn't really enjoying it. Then, after the book sat on my desk for two weeks without being touched I became determined to just finish it and get it over with. So I spent a Sunday speeding through the rest of the book and literally sighed when it came to a close.

If a reader of The Vampire Chronicles wasn't to read this book they really wouldn't be missing out on much. So... it's up to you if you want to sit through this book. I love Anne Rice, I love her Vampire Chronicles, but this book just kills me. I've read it twice now. The first time while I was in High School and it had just published and now during this year. I don't plan on reading it again.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Blackwood Farm

The second to last book in The Vampire Chronicles which introduces the vampire Quinn. Let me just say... I find him adorable. The first time I read the book I recall being a little bored here or there while Quinn tells his entire life story but I still really liked him as a character. He's sweet, polite, and just... so adorable. He's probably the least threatening vampire that has ever shown up in the Chronicles.

Of course, he tells all of this to Lestat who is moving about again after he was awoken during the end of the book Merrick, and I find Lestat to almost seem like himself in this tale. Although, maybe he's a little too quiet. Because Lestat certainly just sits back and lets Quinn tell his story without trying to draw attention to himself. I mean, come now, this is The Brat Prince we're talking about. He's such a drama queen and needs to be center stage. Maybe after his trip to Heaven and Hell he's grown some patience?

Quinn is not associated with any of the vampire's previously mentioned in the Chronicles so his story is completely separate from the rest. A brand new vampire who is only in his early twenties, his tale is much more modern day then the ones in the past, but in many ways I found I could relate to him more in that way because I understood the time period he lived in.

Quinn has a bit of a problem though- a creature, similar to a ghost, has followed him since childhood. This creature, named Goblin, has always been protective of Quinn and somewhat sweet but upon Quinn becoming a vampire Goblin took on darker characteristics. He needed the blood Quinn took and he became violent to even the people Quinn cared for- something he had not done previously.

Quinn approaches Lestat with hope that Lestat would provide help in getting rid of Goblin. Lestat agrees to help and affectionately calls Quinn Little Brother. I can't help but feel that maybe Lestat will do better at being friends with Quinn because he isn't one of Lestat's fledglings. None the less, Lestat tries his best to provide help in the form of Merrick Mayfair. She's only there very briefly and the decision of what to do with Goblin is quickly made and acted out with surprising results. I'm somewhat disappointed in how little we see of vampire Merrick without her being a panicked mess as she was at the end of Merrick. She seemed a little bit more like she was as a mortal which I enjoyed but... then she was out of the picture. So I never had the chance to enjoy her.

Also enter Mona Mayfair- the soul mate to Quinn. She seemed interesting enough during this book and I enjoyed her character although the 'love at first sight' that she and Quinn experience kind of drives me up a wall. It was just too much and too dramatic. I kept telling Quinn to shut up as he ranted and raved about how much he loved and needed Mona despite that he had literally only just met her. That was a little overkill, I won't lie.

In comparison to the earlier books of The Vampire Chronicles this wasn't a strong but like I said, I really did enjoy Quinn as a character and I appreciated how he fought to keep some form of normalcy with his mortal family despite now being a vampire. He almost makes it appear easy while characters in the earlier books didn't quite find it so easy.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Blog Hop June 3rd!

Blog Hop:
Book Blogger Hop

This Weeks Question:
“Share your favorite post from the last month and tell us why it’s close to your heart!”

Answer:
This past week has had a lot of ups and downs. It's been incredibly stressful and is now, hopefully, starting to calm down. So this question was a little hard for me because so many of my entries were written through a general stressed haze.

I flipped through the past months posts and I came upon my post about The Family by Mario Puzo. Even though it's been awhile since I finished reading that book I still think of it regularly. I really loved every page of it and the love between Lucrezia and Cesare. My obsession has also been bumped up due to the Showtime series, I'm sure. I can't wait until the second season comes out! I think if a book sticks with me for weeks after I read it, it's a pretty good book. The same goes for the tv show!

Update:

A lot of people are graduating from High School this weekend. It's making me nostalgic of when I graduated (Class of 2004!) and of course my more recent college graduation.

So with that, if you happen to be graduating from High School or getting your degree:
Congratulations!
You've reached a fantastic achievement in life. Live it up and enjoy every moment!



Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay

This post is going to possibly be riddled with spoilers so proceed with caution. 

When Catching Fire ended I was in an uproar of "Where is Peeta!?!?! DID SOMEONE SAVE PEETA!?!?!" as was Katniss. For a long while, like... the first four chapters... I kept telling myself that surely they were fooling me and Peeta was in District 13 and completely safe. But... well we all know about that (if you've read the book, I mean).

Peeta is finally 'saved' and completely nuts and... ugh. It broke my heart. The golden boy with the bread reduced to this cruel thing. But it gives you more depth to his character and you become even more attached to him as he struggles to overcome his obstacles while so often he was seen to be liked by everyone.

I thought Collins made really strong characters in all of her other books but in Mockingjay she seemed to really twist them around and make you know every fiber of their beings. You thought you knew the characters beforehand, but you didn't, not really. Characters I once disliked I liked by the end of this book, others that I had liked I grew cautious of, and many I was heartbroken over.

Collins really doesn't hold back. You think she's willing to go to any great heights in the first two books but this one, wow. She really is ruthless. But how could she not be? The very series is about the revolution of a land. Revolutions are generally not happy or clean or bloodless. The very subject matter calls for destruction and death and Collins is sure to bring it. No one is safe and I was near tears through out an assortment of scenes.

Katniss sort of falls apart but... I try not to judge too harshly because looking at the broad spectrum these characters have gone through a lot. Post-traumatic stress disorder, anyone? I expect the characters to kind of fall from grace after everything that's occurred and that certainly happens. Maybe I didn't like it so much, the falls from grace and this final book combined, but I think it was really necessary for the author to write in this way.

I won't say who died... but allow me to say that it pulled at my heart strings and the damn Hanging Tree song was stuck in my head for days after I finished the book. The ending wrapped everything up as nicely as it could despite what had happened during the course of the past three books and I was glad that Katniss had her final stand, so to speak.

While this was certainly my least favorite of the books it was still well written and I found it so hard to put it down. This series finally makes YA literature something worth reading again. The genre was destroyed by fangirling of many poorly written books but this series really gives hope for the future of the YA genre. A movie is being made based off of the books and while I have a mixture of feelings about Hollywood having to turn every book into a movie... I am sort of excited to see it develop.

This series is worth the read whether you're a teenager or an adult, male or female, and I promise you that. Go out to the store and pick up all three now, not just the first book. but all three. Because you will fly through each book and crave the next until you have it in your possession.