Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Book Wrap Up!










Books Read During 2012 But Reviewed in 2013
The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia

January
Guenevere, Queen of the Summer Country by Rosalind Miles
Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion



April
The Thirteenth Tale by
The Gold Dust Letters by
The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente
A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na
The Insomniacs by Karina Wolf
Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker
All the Awake Animals are Almost Asleep by Crescent Dragonwagon, David McPhail
A Million Little Pieces by James Frey






October
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

November
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
The Borgia Apocalypse by Neil Gaiman
Mermaids by Skye Alexander
Wake by Amanda Hocking

December
Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant
Women of the Otherworld: Bitten by Kelley Armstrong
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

Monday, December 30, 2013

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened

I'm so happy that I purchased this book and flew through it. As often as I complain about loud, odd, sometimes insane people on the DC Metro, I certainly became one of them each morning that I rode the metro on my way to work (but just while reading this; I haven't completely gone insane). Sitting on the metro I would be reduced to snorting and giggling over the stories Allie has cartoonized and shared with us. It is a rarity--A RARITY--for books to elicit literal emotional reactions from me but this book joins that small club.

Everything she shared I found myself going, "Oh my god, I do that too!" and laughing all the while. In some ways, I want to force my boyfriend to read this book so that he might better understand the internal debates and thoughts I have.

But on a more serious note, I was particularly impressed and thrilled to see that Allie included Depression Parts 1 & 2. I am always so grateful to people who have a platform in the world for taking a step forward and admitting that they are not perfect. Whether it be celebrity, singer, artist, or author; I appreciate when they admit that they have suffered from mental illness, addiction, or various other unfortunate events that happen to people in the world and are often ignored and not talked about. Allie was capable of taking depression, a subject that often is ignored and brushed under the carpet, and writing about it with a splash of her typical humor but in such an informative way that for people who have suffered from depression can identify, those who know people who have suffered from depression can relate, and those who may have never experienced depression (as someone who has suffered it themselves or has known someone who has suffered from it) and informs them of what it really is like.

So much of depression, I feel, is glossed over in our culture. It's ignored or joked about and people often don't take much time to try and grasp it or understand it. Family members or friends of someone who is depressed may try to help or get frustrated when their loved one can't just "snap out of it" but it's not that easy. Allie addresses this and she addresses it well.

So while this book is labeled as humor -- which is certainly IS humorous -- it also has a lot of truth bombs that are informative and helpful. I'm thankful that Allie chose to share that with us (on her blog and in her book).

Overall, after taking a reading hiatus for so long I'm happy that this was one was one of the books that reintroduced me to reading. I'd suggest this to anyone. Or maybe just force them to read it. Fabulous, fabulous, and I want to read it again.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Make or Break

When I first began Soon Remembered Tales it was just after college. I was yearning for the set schedule of my college years and the assignments that I once complained about. It was odd for me not to constantly be reading classics and writing essays. After all, I had been in school for 17 years, and suddenly that constant presence was gone from my life. Aside from that, I had a lot of free time where I was reading new and old books. During the rereads I discovered how much I had forgotten about books. I had forgotten moments I loved or reasons I hated others. I wanted to be able to take notes and see what I had thought about a book years beforehand. So this blog was born.

Slowly it morphed into an actual review blog where I was receiving copies from publishers and authors alike and reviewing the books for free. I wanted to keep readers happy and get a lot of views so I started to churn out more and more reviews plus filler posts. My quality, in many ways, stayed the same.

Then this year happened and as I mentioned in my last personal post I have been so busy I can barely keep track of everything that has been going on. It’s a good kind of busy, a happy kind of busy. My life is happy and full but there is little time for blogging and over the past three months I have been stressing over the status of this space.

I began to force myself to write reviews on books I didn’t particularly enjoy nor had much to say about. Then my reading slowed up—I haven’t read a full book since October—and I wondered how else I could fill up this blog. Should I put filler posts in? No, because I don’t find blogs that just have filler posts to be very entertaining and I didn’t want that to happen to this space. Should I just let the blog die? No, it may die in the future if I continue to be so overwhelmingly busy but for the moment I don’t want to take that step.

Then what?



The sad fact is that while I love writing reviews, I don’t have the time. I’m not paid for reviews, I don’t make any profit from this site, so I work a full time job outside of here. I’d love for my income to be from book reviews and running the social media aspect of all of this but that unfortunately is not my place in life. At least not right now. So with working a full time job and doing real-life things outside of here it’s been hard to read books. The holidays have taken a real hit for me as all of my spare time has been spent crocheting Christmas gifts. Still, reading is as much a part of me as my need to be near trees or my obsession with Christmas music. I was growing more and more stressed until my friend took me aside and commanded I go to a bookstore, be frivolous and buy a book I’ve had my eye on, then go home and read.

The book of choice for my night of reading.

I did just that and like magic, most of my stress dissipated. I was ok. I could breathe again. My body had gotten a taste of reading and I realized how much I not only needed it but missed it.

Still, I don’t have the time to read enough books to post reviews every week. Hell, I have had numerous post ideas floating around in my drafts for quite some time. Thoughtful, in depth posts, that have all been ignored because I haven’t had the time to sit down and do the ideas justice.

And with all of this slushing around in my mind over the past month I’ve finally come to a decision: the blog will drift. I’ll update it when I can and hopefully then the posts will be of better quality. Do not think that this blog is dead, it’s not, but I have other things outside of the blog world to focus on for the moment.


I hope to have more varied posts in the future—traveling with books, reviews, and random things such as that—and hopefully it will happen. For now I bid you all a brief adieu. This blog will be back, not as frequently as it has been in the past, but it will have reviews scattered here and there when I have the chance to sit down and write so please don’t run away just yet.

Happy Holidays, guys.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Eleanor & Park

I approached this book with some apprehension. I saw some rave reviews about it and it seemed to gain a quick following, that intrigued me, however I still made no effort to get the book and read it. It was super popular and I tend to step away from such things because I'm strange. Then I saw a few people give the book negative reviews and it intrigued me more. What was it about this book that was getting everyone's attention?

Well, their attention got mine and I picked up the book and flew through it.

It was easy enough to fly through this book, the chapters are short, everything's broken up, and it's all internal dialogue of Eleanor and Park's obsession with one another. There's little description of what goes on around them, instead, I felt like I was reading the diary of each character. Description, detail, beautiful prose was severely lacking in this book. I couldn't very well picture where the characters' lived, other than their bedrooms, because they often left out those details.

That would be the negative side, if there were to be one, that this reads like a diary. Description and deep thoughts are not a plenty with this book and I feel it greatly sums up YA literature of this day: It's about falling in love and whether or not its true love, etc etc. 

I often hear complaints about YA books being all the same and by same, I mean they're all about love and that finding your true love is way important. I suppose as a teen that was a major plot point of my own life: I wanted to fall in love. Now as an adult I look back and think it was time wasted and often forget that "finding love" was such a prominent thing in my life. Instead I think of what I did with friends and my past times.

For Eleanor and Park it is the center of the world. Well, for Park more so than for Eleanor in my own opinions. They come from opposite worlds. Park's family is middle class. His mother is Asian, his father is Irish, and besides his father being hard on him for "being a pansy" he has never been without. 

Eleanor's family is extremely large and extremely poor. Her mother is married to an alcoholic who regularly abuses her mother and has already kicked Eleanor out once. She lives in fear at her home and is tormented at school for the unusual clothing she wears.

This, this right here I found interesting. The blend of different cultures was great. The fact that the main characters was an Asian teen boy and a heavy red headed girl from a poor family was a nice touch because it's rare. Again, most often with YA books the characters are white, perfect, and gorgeous. There's more to the teenage world than that! 

I also appreciate seeing real life problems. Mainly what Eleanor was dealing with: her family struggling, not having much money, and the problem of her stepfather. For Eleanor, this was a major piece or her life and it often, understandably, overshadowed the importance of Park. For Park it seemed that his real life issues were often second to his feelings for Eleanor. (He struck me as a bit obsessed at times)

So this book definitely had its good and bad sides to it. I find that when it comes to YA fiction it either needs to completely remove me from this world (huzzah, scifi and fantasy!) and do a good job of removing me from this world as well, or it has to be engaging and deal with real life difficulties that I often feel are shied away from. This book had what I dislike about the current theme of YA fiction but it also had what I appreciate. 

Would I read the book again? Eh... probably not. Would I suggest it to others to read? Yes, if they are interested in a quick read that's engaging enough but nothing that really pulls on the heart strings.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Women of the Otherworld: Bitten

I wanted to read Bitten for quite awhile but it wasn't until I heard that the series was being made into a TV show that I really got on top of reading the book. I feel, in some way, that I am scarred from supernatural series because of Laurell K Hamilton. As a side note, Laurell K Hamilton, in some ways, made the adult supernatural side of things relevant. She held her own in a world infused by Twilight lovers (although I'm pretty sure her books came out before Twilight...). But her books had a lot of dislikable characters and quickly devolved into smut with little plot. I was figuring that Bitten would be much of the same. I mean, it's about werewolves! Aren't werewolves known for being happy to have lots of sex? I wasn't so sure I was ready to read another place-yourself-here smut book as I was still recovering from my multiple-Anita-Blake-read-through from the year before. 

I can't speak for the rest of this series, as this is only the first book in it, and I've learned they can always go downhill, but I immediately enjoyed Bitten much more than I enjoyed the first Anita Blake book. In comparison the characters were more likable and the plot much more interesting and not as gritty. So let's now move away from the comparison of both authors and focus solely on Armstrong's series.

Elena, our resident werewolf, is the only female werewolf in the world. Women becoming werewolves is unheard of and Elena certainly didn't ask to become one. We get snippets of the life she lived beforehand but some of the information is slow coming, left to surprise you further into the book, or maybe I'm just not that observant. Elena certainly hasn't accepted being a werewolf with grace and when we meet her it's as she has, for the past year, been attempting to appear as human as possible and live a normal life.

Further in we meet her werewolf "family" who I quickly grew to adore. The only let down with this is that Elena discusses, rather randomly, one particular werewolf whom she stayed close to while blocking out the rest of the pack from her life. This werewolf is brought up a few times and then, in my opinion, quickly forgotten. I feel as if the author might have last minute decided to add this character to the story and didn't take the time to put much emphasis into who he was or his relationship with Elena. The rest of the family who is present in the book I really enjoyed reading about. They were all different in their own ways and definitely stood out in their actions (except for Antonio and Nick, whom often had the same "voice" to me, but then again they are father and son so I suppose that makes sense). 

The attention to detail when Elena was a wolf really thrilled me. Often, I feel, when authors write about werewolves in their wolf form it's vague and not all that thrilling. But with Armstrong she made the reader be a wolf, see through the eyes of a wolf, and understand the disconnect Elena felt from the human world when she became a wolf. Good, very good.

I found the start of the book a bit sluggish but once I got into the werewolf territory it became more fast paced and it pained me that I had to put it down when I got to work. Towards the end of the book it was horrendous. I was sitting at work, trying to concentrate on my job, but the entire time I knew my kindle was sitting in my bag. Waiting. It was like the torture of a wrapped present left to sit under a Christmas tree with the words "Don't open until December 25th." I wanted to know what happened in the end but I was stuck doing work, silly real world where you have to make money so you can afford these books, and couldn't just read to my heart's content. 

I added the next book to my read list but the description doesn't sit well with me. It looks sort of boring, to be honest, but maybe I'm just gun-shy because I've experienced this before: where the first book is great and I love it and I want more only to be disappointed by the future books. I'm going to give it a go when I have the chance, read the next book and see how it works, but I'm not holding high hopes for it. If I dislike the second book at least I have the first that I can return to and reread in the future. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Blood and Beauty

Hey guys, I'm revisiting my love of the Borgias. Shocking, I know.

Recently I ranted about The Borgia Apocalypse by Neil Jordan so you can review that for my fangirling of the family. For this, let's hop into the book, shall we?

I waited for this book for what seemed to be ages. I don't know if goodreads was just mucking up or if there was actual indecisive planning on the publisher's part but the release date kept changing. I wanted this book and I wanted it as soon as possible and yet when I thought the book was finally out I would be told by a friendly book seller that nope, it wasn't released yet.

When I went to my local Barnes and Noble and spotted this book on a display I gasped and lunged for it, causing a middle-aged gentleman to stop and stare, and bounced about when I had it in my hands. I put all books aside and began reading this book immediately.

In some ways, this book seems to be more historically accurate than what I've read before and certainly more so than the show. The little known details I have found about the Borgias seemed to all be hit on in this novel and while the author made this a fictional retelling of history, I feel that she did so with a gentleness and respect for details. It wasn't wild or something you would find in the depths of a fan fiction database.

I find non-fiction books to often be dry. I'm a fiction-loving girl, what can I say? I like to have emotions and creative language put into my books. So maybe that's why I enjoy fictional historic books more than a non-fiction piece. Really, it's hard for me to spot non-fiction that I enjoy. 

The only thing I disliked about this book is that Dunant made Lucrezia's hair much darker than it was. Hell, there are pieces of Lucrezia's hair on display and it is blonde, not a light brown or auburn or any of that. She seemed to put emphasis on Rodrigo Borgia's lover's hair and not as much on Lucrezia's. 

Lucrezia begins the novel at the young age of 12 and grows into a woman that is used as a pawn in political strategies of her brother and father. Cesare is as cold as ever, but still loving to his younger sister, as is Rodrigo who at times seems to be the typical oblivious father many readers will be familiar with from their own lives.

Dunant portrays these characters wonderfully. It's clear how they behave in addition to their strength and weaknesses. When I would sit the book down due to real life getting in the way I often found myself thinking of them and wondering what would happen next within the book. 

If you are familiar with the Borgia history, you know how this book will go, but if you aren't it is within my opinion that this would be a fabulous way to be introduced to the saucy history of this historic family. While the author took creative liberties with some of the details it is an interesting story and, to my knowledge, pretty close to the facts that historians have been able to provide.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Wake

Amanda Hocking, an author that I've heard about for years, is one of the authors that I've somehow missed despite all the talk. While on my mermaid kick (see last week's review) I found that I had, at some point in time, gotten Hocking's book Wake on my Kindle. I often do this, I get books and then they get lost in the hundreds of other books I have laying about waiting to be read. Anyway, I dove (ha!) right into this tale of sirens and quickly read through it with much pleasure.

Wake is a typical YA book where true love exists, there's hardship, and tough decision making with a splash of danger. The writing isn't anything you haven't seen before and I know mermaids have (had?) become popular recently but haven't read any of the other mermaid/siren YA books so I have nothing to compare it to. 

Gemma, our main character and future siren, is the best swimmer in all the land (okay, not really but close), beautiful, and now has a fully realized love interest in her neighbor Alex. What the synopsis doesn't tell you is that her older sister, Harper, is also a main character of the book. With the chapters flip flopping between the point of views of each sister I think this is a detail that the publishers shouldn't have left out. Not that there's anything wrong with it, I personally liked Harper's character more than Gemma, but I feel it should be mentioned because the book otherwise looks too much like another YA love story when it sort of ends up not being the type of love most YA books think of but a love between sisters.

Okay, I'm getting off track. There are three girls in the town who seem to attract all kinds of attention. They seem kind of ruthless and rude, beautiful, but jerks and while Gemma and Harper stay away from them they seem to focus in on Gemma. 

Things happen, bad things, and Gemma finds herself in a world of trouble. Gemma's character, to me, was a little flat. I felt somewhat indifferent to her but whenever I read of a character more or less being doomed to a supernatural life without making The Choice I always manage to feel a little bad, and I did, I felt bad for Gemma. 

The strong suits of the book, I felt, were the subplots. Gemma and Harper's mother was in a car accident and now has a strong enough disability that she's placed in a home while their father refuses to see his wife. It's a moving point and I felt for that. I was more interested in all of that than I was about the sirens!

I'm glad that Hocking went the route she did with the sirens: they are not nice girls and they certainly aren't very pretty in one of their forms. It's great to take a step away from Disney's Little Mermaid concept that mermaids are fun and cute and lovely and moving closer to the mythology that mermaids and sirens are kind of bad asses. 

Will I continue reading the series though? Probably not. No offense, Amanda Hocking; certainly keep doing what you're doing because you're good at it. But the characters didn't grab hold of me enough. They didn't linger in my mind after I finished the book. I need characters to stay with me, I need to wonder what happens next to continue reading, and I didn't get that from Wake.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Mermaids

Oh, mermaids! You have held my attention since I was a tiny little thing. There is an album buried in the many bookshelves of my house with me, ages 3-7, in various bathing suits sitting in my kiddie pool with my legs crossed because I was a self proclaimed mermaid and I forced my legs to be a tail.

Mermaids have always held a soft, warm place in my heart and my friends know this well. For my birthday I received Mermaids by Skye Alexander in the mail from one of my friends.

First, the book is beautiful. Varying shades of blue with artwork within depicting different mermaids and blue print ink. It's absolutely pretty and small in size which makes it an ease to carry around. You can say not to judge a book by its cover but this is a book I'd leave out on a coffee table, if only for show, because it's nice to look at.

The book itself is informative -- this isn't a fictional story! Skye Alexander neatly describes the mythology behind mermaids and goes from continent to continent with brief histories of these finned creatures for different cultures. Much like other mythologies of the world, it's always interesting to see that what the beliefs are in, say, China are similar to something believed in England. Mermaids are a widespread idea and the book raises some good points. My favorite being that if mermaids are supposedly manatees mistaken for women (how you could mistake them for a woman I don't know...) then why were they spotted so far north where manatees don't live? Questions like that are raised but overall, the book gives you more information than you ever thought existed on these creatures.

I certainly came away knowing more about mermaids than I had before and was able to take what information I was given and supply it to further research which I did on my own which is great! This has helped to provide great fodder for creative writing that I do in my free time.

The only downside I found to the book was that at times I felt like Skye Alexander was making a sales pitch for various mermaid creations. Fake tails and the likes. She also had a tendency to be repetitive in some parts. Granted, many of the mermaid stories across the world are very similar but I am sure there are a few parts where she literally repeats the same information over again. 

All in all, I have a feeling I'll be going back to this book while writing if mermaids somehow pop up in my stories. It was fun to read, especially in the summer (I know, I'm posting this in November but I definitely read it in the summer... sorry!). A wonderful gift, something to leave out for people to look at, and enjoyable to reference.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Borgia Apocalypse, or rather, how Neil Jordan tried to destroy a fandom

I've read a few scripts in my life for drama club (back when I was a wee little teen) to helping edits of a film friend. Hell, I even wrote a few back in High School for our class skits at the end of the year (which we won). They're simple and pretty much to the point, at least in my opinion.

The Borgias, if you haven't caught on yet, was a TV show I absolutely loved. Every week that it was in season I'd eagerly await the new episode and devour it as if it was the only sustenance I had in seven days. Much like with The White Queen and The Tudors, historical shows often catch my interest and then I become obsessed with the subject manner. I read all the books I can about that particular time and the famous people involved in it (See: The Family and coming soon, Blood and Beauty). 

The TV show was based on Mario Puzo's book, The Family, and centers around Lucrezia, Rodrigo, and Cesare Borgia. In The Family Puzo takes the rumored romance of siblings Lucrezia and Cesare and runs with it and seeing that this show was based on the book, I expected that to happen. Neil Jordan, the director of the TV show, right away expressed his distaste for the union of the sibling characters but, it seems, the fans and Showtime had a different idea. 

The actors who played these siblings had great chemistry and eventually, to the joy of the fans (myself included), the siblings made their sinful love for one another an open and consummated thing. I know, anyone who is reading this and hasn't seen the show is totally disgusted. But you need to see the show to understand, I swear. If you've seen it and you still find it gross then you're welcome to your opinion.

Anyway, historically there was a rumor of the siblings being romantically involved but there is no hard evidence stating as much. What probably happened was that people who hated the family began to circulate the rumor and it's stuck with the family history through all of these hundred years. 

Back to the TV show. The relationship was official and the fans rejoiced! Then it was announced that the show would be ending after three seasons rather than continuing with a final fourth season. The fans mourned. Myself included. But hold on, don't worry, Neil Jordan to the rescue! He submitted the final screenplay for the movie that was also axed for all of us to comfort ourselves with!

I bought it. I bought that thing so fast that my bank account didn't know what happened to it. Hindsight, I should've just waited for an illegal download of it, it wasn't worth my money. 

I read the screenplay in a matter of hours (and by hours, I'm pretty sure it was only two) and had fully expected that when I settled down to read the screenplay I would've come away from it feeling satisfied. Like getting a final hug from something before it goes. Like I could have properly said my goodbyes to my beloved Cesare and Lucrezia.

Nope. Wrong.

The only thing this screenplay did was make me remove my hatred for Showtime (I blamed them for canceling the show) and instead thank them. I think they were trying to save the fandom from what dastardly things Neil Jordan had planned. It seemed that a lot of other people agreed with me and the fandom, from my point of view, was in an uproar.

This is a little learning exercise for me as I realized that something can go very wrong, very fast when it comes to writing. I had expected a lot out of the screenplay but ended up wanting to throw my beloved Kindle across the room. Reading a conclusion to something, or maybe a sequel, in no way means you will be satisfied or find closure--at least not in the way you expected. I found myself relieved that this had not been produced and much more preferring my own daydreams of how the show ended rather than ever considering what Neil Jordan wrote as possibility.

If you enjoyed the tv show, if you had any ounce of caring for Lucrezia and Cesare, don't read this.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Thirteen Reasons Why

Clay Jensen, a good guy, smart kid, and known for nothing bad, comes home one day to discover a box with seven cassette tapes waiting for him. That's odd enough; in this day and age who uses cassette tapes, anyway? And who has recorders to make them? Actually, who has a music system in their house that isn't only usable by iPod and can play a cassette?

It doesn't end there. 

Clay finds an old portable stereo of his father's in the garage and pops the first tape in. What he hears crackle to life is something he least expects: the voice of his classmate who had recently committed suicide.

Straight away you're plunged into the tale of Hannah Baker and the various events in her life that aided her in sinking so far into a dark hole that she decided it wasn't worth living anymore. That's a tough subject, teen suicide, and it's even tougher to be hear a voice from the grave number off the various reasons that she felt her life was unlivable.

This book held some special interest for me as a few years ago a woman I know messaged me about it. Her son's teacher was assigning the book in class and her husband felt it was wrong, he wanted to demand that their child not read it, but she wasn't so sure. I hadn't read the book yet myself but knew the subject manner, "He should read it!" I told the woman, "It's a tough subject and maybe he'll have some questions due to it but it's a subject that shouldn't be ignored."

I felt a little guilty telling her that with such confidence when I had not actually read the book myself but I am a firm believer in people reading books if they want to and certainly not trying to ban them from the classroom. I have my own experience with suicide or near suicide, not personally, but through people I knew--well or otherwise. Why would someone want to kill themselves? It was something that I couldn't quite comprehend as a middle schooler when a kid on my school bus had committed suicide. Why would they do that? It was the first death I experienced of someone who was young. Mind blowing.

But suicide is often a hushed subject just as various other issues in the world are. Bullying, victimizing girls, slut shaming, it's all common knowledge if you pay an ounce of attention but in mixed company, in schools, it doesn't seem to be greatly highlighted. At least in recent years there seems to be a greater attempt to end the issues I listed above, which is great, but sometimes you need to be reminded of the affect it can have on people.

While Hannah records the tapes and recounts her story she often sounds bitter and I found it hard to be sympathetic with the character. I feel, in some ways, the author did a disservice to the subject manner by making it so hard to like Hannah. At times I wanted to tell Hannah, "Get over it," but who am I to say that? The reasons Hannah lists often sound like common experiences for teenagers. It's that kind of stuff a lot of people experience day to day or, if they're lucky, only once or twice in their miserable teen years. But sometimes it doesn't take much for someone who is already exhibiting signs of depression to fall further under. For Hannah, the varying instances are enough to push her over the edge. 

The book also has Hannah recounting the number of times that no one helped her or tried to save her. All the while, Clay listens to the tapes and goes through a myriad of emotions that are completely understandable if you were to be in his shoes. His reactions, to me, were honest and I felt for him as a character. With surprise, shock, and anger he kept thinking, "But I could have helped you. I didn't know you needed help. You didn't say anything." Again, this is something (at least in my experience) can happen. Outsiders may not catch the signs of someone spiraling down and the person who is drowning in the pressures of the world may think they're making it quite obvious when it's not. 

I'm going to say this, the book wasn't an enjoyable read. Not to say that it wasn't written well or any of that. The book was emotional and it was hard to swallow because of what it dealt with. This book isn't meant to be happy. There is no happy ending. It's tough as suicide is and to make it fluffy would be a disservice to the illness of depression and suicide.

When I finished the book I thought of the woman asking me if she should let her son read that book. I never found out if she let him read it or not but I wonder, if he read the book, how did he react? How did his class react? Maybe I'm too removed from High School now in my great old age of late 20's to grasp how teens would handle this book but based on that, I still think it's readable for teens. I'm sure even as a teenager, when my emotions were all over the place and I was still experiencing the horrors of life for the first time, the book would have upset me but I think it could have gotten me to think a little more and reconsider the spreading of rumors, whispered "secrets," and other various things that teens innocently do without the mind that they are really harming anyone.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Five Years and a Bit of Change

Pictured above from left to right: Flight to New Orleans; location of the Battle of New Orleans; my signed copy of Neil Gaiman's book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane; my friend and I outside the Capitol Building during the Fourth of July; my roommate and I further away from the Capitol; myself on a boat off the coast of Virginia Beach; Poseidan statue, Virginia Beach; and the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington while President Obama spoke.

Busy. That is the simplest term I can use to describe the past several months -- busy. Somehow, since I went off to college, my busiest seasons are late spring, summer, and fall. Every year spring rolls around and I think, "Wow, I really have nothing planned," and every year I am proven wrong. What's crazier is that it seems every year I'm becoming more and more busy with those seasons. Last year I experienced "the August that never was" which is literally that. August flew by and I know I was horrendously busy but I still can't for the life of me tell you what I was doing that entire month unless I go digging through journals or stalk Facebook posts. By autumn of last year I thought, next year will be easier, next year I'll actually remember what I did from month to month.

Well, it was easier in that I can easily recall all the things I did this summer. But it was also much more busy. I packed a lot into my day-to-day schedule and this summer has been a blast, as has this fall.

I called this The Year of Travel but I hope there are many more and to bigger destinations. For the first time in my life I could really afford to go from place to place and that's exactly what I did. New Orleans, Virginia Beach, Tampa, Boston with various other adventures sprinkled through out. I realized with my most recent trip (to Boston) that I've finally become familiar enough with airports and flying that I am no longer over thinking every step in the process. I also flew home for the first time without feeling an ounce of panic during the flight. Beforehand, flights home always had a moment where I'd get nervous. I think it only happened on the way home because my excitement for the vacation ahead was diminished.

Besides travel I've been busy working my full time job, running, and taking a copyediting course at home (which I am taking a break from this fall with hopes to continue it in December/January). And most recently, enter Bruce, my adorable boyfriend who is capturing my attention and time too.

Pictured from left to right: In-flight to Tampa; the clouds from my cousins back yard in Tampa; a picture of myself with a pickle at the Maryland Renaissance Faire; the jousting field at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire; Paul Revere Square, with the church behind his statue that is a part of his history; myself with the statues of Make Way for Ducklings; the Witch House in Salem, Massachusetts; the Boston Public Library Reading Room; and my boyfriend and I while attending a bonfire (roasted marshmallows!) at a Field of Screams attraction.
All in all, I've been trying to better my life with this year. It started out rather terrible with a lot of pain and misery in my family. It taught me a lot about love and loss and the impression you can have. This year has been a year of growth for me. I'm proud of the person I'm becoming and I hope that I can continue on this path and become a better person and live a better life. Not that my life was horrible before, but I feel I didn't see quite as clearly and if I had to answer the above questions a year ago I would have had to say that I wasn't satisfied with the life I had lived. I want to change that, I want to be excited and proud and live a life worth talking about.

Well, within reason, because I've also discovered that doing what you want costs. But that's neither here nor there.

This year I've tried my best to better my life and I am progressing along quite splendidly. I've learned more about myself in this past year than I have in the majority of my 20's. I've learned that I really like some aspects of life and... not so much others.

For one, I love to travel.

When I graduated from college it was the start of the economy downturn. There weren't any jobs, I had thousands of dollars in student loans to pay off, and I was feeling rather helpless. There went my dreams of traveling and doing so much more.

I began to write book reviews because I liked to look back at my thoughts on books later on and see how my opinion had changed but also because it was an escape. Through books I could travel while I wasn't doing much in real life.

Jump forward five years and my book review blog has taken on something else for me. It's a job but an enjoyable one. In the past year I've realized that the void that this blog filled was slowly being replaced by something I had always wanted to do: travel. I still read like a fiend but I was finding I had less time to write reviews. That's not a problem though, I still find the time, even if it means writing off a few weekends at a time and focusing solely on writing my backlog of reviews. But finally I was achieving some of my dreams, I was traveling.

Then came classwork and a boyfriend and I'm finding that while I love to travel and most certainly do, I don't have to go far to find enjoyment. I'm quite happy at home as well but my free time is still shortening.

Where will this next year take me? I haven't a clue. But I'm excited to have been here chatting about books for the past five years. Will I do another five years? I don't know. Will I travel more? Surely. Will I still read? Of course! I obviously haven't had as much time to devote to this blog in the past number of months but I hope those of you who still read this understand. I'm just finding my place in this great big world and settling in.

So happy five year birthday, my dear little blog. You've been my constant companion through thick and thin since I've entered this "adult" world. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Me Talk Pretty One Day

I have a secret: I'm sort of a nervous flier. Here's the thing, I love take off and landing while in a plane. I love the concept of getting in a plane and ending up somewhere different in so short a period of time. However, after working for the FAA my opinion of flying has changed slightly. I've also taken many more trips in a short period of time than before so I notice the tendencies I have while going places. One in particular is that the moment the plane so much as quivers while flying I begin to feel anxious.

So whenever I fly I make sure to take a book with me. Usually I can pass the flight with my headphones plugged in and sleeping away while music plays but it's the start of the flight, right after take off where the fun ends and you can't turn on electronics yet, that I sit there white knuckling the seat. That's when I take out a book to read so that I have a way to distract myself and, if I'm lucky, it's a book that I'll really enjoy and will sweep me away. During my first flight I read I Capture the Castle and it made the flight much easier despite the horrendous turbulence. 

In August, when I flew to Florida, I was midway through Me Talk Pretty One Day and had already laughed my way through metro stops to and from work so I thought it'd be a good distraction.

I was right.

Do you know how awkward it is when you're sitting amongst a lot of very quiet people on a flight and then you burst out laughing? I do, because I did it. I laughed my way from Washington, DC to Tampa, Florida and into the evening when I finished the book.

I've read David Sedaris' Holidays on Ice before and I really enjoyed it. It was twisted and funny so I was more than willing to give another one of his books a try. Me Talk Pretty One Day was another book I had on my to read list for a long while so I was happy to finally get around to it.

I didn't realize that it was a collection of essays but loved each one individually. Together they created a nice, amusing tale of David Sedaris' life. Real or not, I don't know, and I find I don't particularly care. I was laughing along with this book and it's so rare that I'll actually react to a book. I'll have great waves of emotions but they'll all be internal. To actually get me to react outwardly is rare but this book achieved that. I laughed my way to the end and was happy to do so.

Here's the thing, despite having read a Sedaris book before, I always seem to forget that I enjoy his books and find them funny. They're often not on the top of my to-read list but I think that's more so because the subject manner, humor, is something that I don't often go to when looking for something to read. I need to keep this mind in the future. He's a good author to visit when I'm interested in finding something light-hearted and humorous. Maybe, even, he should be my go-to author when I'm flying.

Sometimes the books border a little ridiculous, cruel, or down right wrong but I still find them funny and entertaining and sometimes that's all you need in a book, no?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Sisters Red

In August I went on a trip to Florida. I had a number of books sitting on my bookshelf but didn't want to bog down my luggage with them so I opted to take my Kindle. My Kindle is packed with unread books as well. It's possibly worse than my bookshelf. So when it came down to finding a book to read I browsed through my "to-read" shelf until I spotted something that seemed like an appropriate vacation read: Sisters Red.

How silly of me to have forgotten this book! When I had gotten it, I was so excited to have it as I had seen it repeatedly in stores and found it really intriguing. But, as often happens, I probably ended up putting it aside to finish another book and therefore forgot about it completely. I'm scatterbrained sometimes.

Well, scatterbrained no more! I started to read this book and devoured it within a day. It was one of those enjoyable books that when finished I wanted more. I wanted it to continue. I stalked the poor author with hopes of finding out that she had continued the tale. I didn't see a continuation (unfortunately) but she does have other books along the same line as this. So, without further rambling, let's hop into what the book is about!

Think of Little Red Riding Hood then put it in a bottle, throw a dash of spice to it, and shake. That's basically what you come up with when you're reading this book. 

Scarlett and Rosie March; two sisters; two orphans; two hunters. Both girls survived a werewolf attack that took the life of their grandmother when they were young and now devote their lives to keeping other girls from suffering as they have. 

Scarlett, the protective, older sister to Rosie, became a fighter through and through when the wolf attacked their home when they were children. In order to protect her little sister, Scarlett killed a wolf and lost an eye in the process. Now, as an adult, she's even more lethal. Rosie, however, isn't quite made of the same stuff. 

Enter the long time family friend, Silas, who happens to be a Woodsman (sound like Little Red Riding Hood yet?) who has been off finding himself for the past year and has just returned. When it becomes apparent that there is something big happening in the werewolf world, that a potential new werewolf could join the ranks of the various packs, it seems Silas came back just in time.

The girls and Silas travel to the big city where they set up camp to stalk out the different werewolf packs. It's there that things really begin to spin into hyper drive. Sparks fly between Rosie and Silas, Rosie begins to truly embrace that being a wolf hunter isn't something she wants to be, and Scarlett feels like she is losing her better half. All of this and the potential werewolf needs to be saved without the cost of losing their own lives. 

There were a few portions of the book that didn't sit well with me. Particularly a part that came across as victim shaming (check this article out for a really good write up of the issue with this). When I finished the book I felt that I still wanted to know more about the characters and I realized, after some time, that part of that desire was stirred up because the character development wasn't perfect. There is a lot that could be done to make this book better than it is but that's sort of a moot point, isn't it? It's published already and doubtful to ever be rewritten. Still, any issues aside this job served the purpose that I hoped it would. It entertained me and I had fun reading it. It was the perfect read on a vacation get away and I'm glad I read it!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Ender's Game

The film Ender's Game has been making a lot of buzz but it was before I even knew a film was being created that I had heard of this book. It's been around longer than I have been alive and yet I never read it. Sci-fi is not of my interest, not really, and as a kid I avoided books with a male protagonist like the plague. Being older now and seeing how many people read this book and enjoyed it, I wanted to give it a try. But, as is often the case, it kept getting pushed aside until recently.

I can see how this book would attract space-loving tweens but it certainly was not a book of my interests. I dragged through it and I felt much of the book could have been shortened up.

We're introduced to the world of the future, where we fought an alien race and won but have to always prepare for another battle. Not only that, but we have the ability to inhabit other planets, or at least that's the hope.

Ender, the youngest of three children in a world where it appears two is the preferred number, is "chosen" and taken away to train for this possible battle. The book follows Ender as he grows older, trains, and succeeds. For me, this was boring. Ender is generally off on his own, he makes few friends, and those whom he does become friends with he keeps at a distance. Most of the book follows Ender, as he's the main character, but there are breaks where the reader is brought back to earth and given the opportunity to follow someone else -- Ender's sister, Valentine.

Valentine and Ender had a strange relationship. They were extremely close to one another up until Ender left but even then, Ender thinks of Valentine often and she seems to be what pulls him back from developing too much of blood lust. Valentine, along with a power hungry older brother, have begun to post opposing political opinions that the world seems to be gobbling up.

For me, Valentine was much more interesting a character and had much more depth. Ender was... lacking emotion. He did what he did and maybe he felt so much that it wasn't coming across, I'm not sure, but I just found that I didn't feel for him.

Another aspect of the book that bothered me was that the children, which are literally children (under 10!), spoke with more eloquence than most adults do. Children can be articulate but I felt that it was harder to believe that small children were creating concepts and political strategies at such a young age.

In general, the book bored me and frustrated me. I felt that it often dragged and I found I had no emotional attachment to any of the characters in its pages. I like to feel emotion for the characters I read about, otherwise I feel it's a bit of a wasted effort. This won't be a book I'll be reading again, I just didn't enjoy it.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Little House in the Big Woods

Little House in the Big Woods was a novel that I adored as a child. Accompanied with simple black and white sketches and a little girl growing up in the woods, it completely attracted me and my wild imagination. I read the book repeatedly in my childhood; at first it was read to me by my mother, later on we read it together, and further along than that I read it on my own. Once, just after my college graduation, I read it on my own but it has otherwise been years and I found myself desiring a trip to the big woods.

My mother owned the full set of Laura Ingalls Wilder books but they are yellowed and old; I was tempted to ask her to bring them down to Virginia but I held off because I was frightened of ruining the books. They're antiques, older than me, and I want them to last as long as they can. Having them shift about from one state to another might have been too much for them. 

When my parents visited during the summer they gave me a couple of belated birthday gifts, one such gift being the Barnes and Noble edition of the first five books. I was ecstatic, it worked perfectly, and I quickly devoured the first book.

I lugged the huge book to and from work, reading it on the train and bus, and while it was sitting at my desk nearly everyone from my job commented on the book or discussed their own memories of it. I, like a content cat, smiled smuggly and continued reading my lovely copy.

Now that I'm inching towards thirty I have an entirely new appreciation of this book. The language is simple and specifically for story telling and yet, with our modern day so different than how it was during the childhood of this book's author, you are easily taken away to a different time. The day to day activities of the family and how life was living in a tiny cabin in the woods seems simple yet hard. The children had never been to a town, they didn't know what was beyond the woods, and now in today's day and age no one bats an eye at a child who takes trips across the country. The children received candy and mittens for Christmas and were overjoyed; in the current day that would be utter blasphemy for any child. But besides this, children were expected to obey their parents and do quite a bit of manual labor while the mother of the household did quite a bit of work and the father would rarely leave home without a gun because so many wild animals lived in the woods. 

It seems that the entire year is devoted to preparation for winter and I feel that's certainly an aspect most of America takes for granted (amongst so much more in this book!) Preparing for winter usually consists of checking your chimney or raking leaves but not much else. 

When I was little and still living in New York (Sullivan County, represent!) we would often get horrendous snowstorms that would take away our water or electric. From this book, I found it fun, and I'm sure my mother used it as leverage to keep me happy and calm. It was one huge game of playing Little House in the Big Woods as my mother would melt snow and pour it into the toilets so that we could still use it, or she would cook dinner over the large wood stove we had in the basement by candle light. 

The book covers one year, every season, and you're welcomed into Laura's home and expect to see the table set up for you. You see the excitement of living in the wild woods and also the world of a little girl and her childish innocence.

After all of these years, those snowy nights are still something magical and memorable to me, made even more so due to these books. It's a quick read and certainly family friendly. Whether you are 27, like myself, or you are reading this to your child it is certainly worth the read. Now that I own the first five books I can't wait to read the rest of them--something I've never done before.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Graveyard Book

About half the time that I start a Neil Gaiman book it starts, for me, very slowly. I begin bright eyed and excited to read and then I find I'm dragging along, not making much progress, but I don't want to put the book down. I often will wonder, am I just sticking with this because I adore Neil Gaiman as a writer and person? But usually my answer is, "Well I like this book. I'm enjoying this book and no, I don't want to put it down." Then why does it start so slow for me?

The Graveyard Book was one such book. It started very slow but I had no intention of putting the book down. I found it confusing at first, as many of the characters live in a graveyard and some can do things others cannot and yet it's not very descriptive of what these characters are. But then I got past that and I returned to enjoying the book for simply what it was: magical. Inquisitive. Sometimes a little scary and all together captivating.

After the first few chapters I was hooked and that sluggish reading speed I had was surpassed by my need to read the book as quickly as I could. I wanted to know what happened and I enjoyed reading about the characters. More, more, more, give me more, and I got more with every "flip" of the page (I read it on my Kindle...).

Nobody Owens (Bod for short) is a child that has grown up in a cemetery. After his family was killed, he was taken in by two ghosts (the Owens', respectively) and accepted by a community of ghosts. Plus Silas, his guardian, who is neither alive nor dead (I suspect he's a vampire). The story knits together different short stories about Bod as he is growing up and the type of ghosts he meets within the graveyard. We see him age and understand more with each year and gradually witness the slight rebelliousness of any child. He wants to see the world, wants to get out of the graveyard, and yet he is forbidden of doing so. 

Remember, his family had been killed and certainly not on accident. The killer is still out there... possibly looking for Bod. It's within the graveyard that Bod is protected and in that graveyard that he is accepted. He isn't quite human, not really, because he can do things that most humans can't but in the end he is still a living breathing boy who is aging and changing. 

I was left wishing for more details such as where his bed was exactly, how did he shower, did he ever get sick, how did he stay warm in the winter and could you please make it a little clearer who the Jacks are and why they are going after Bod? But otherwise, I was swept away. Each chapter was a different tale of Bod's, a different adventure, and I grew to love his odd little life and the ghosts which made up his family. Silas found a special place in my heart. Maybe it's because he may have been a vampire (and I generally love my vampires) but I really think it was because of his nature. Cold and untouchable in ways, Silas was very much the guardian who cared for Bod and made sure he was safe. He was the delivery man for food and seemed always patient with Bod.

We witness Bod grow older and his past come back to haunt him. I cheered him on, hoped he would "win", and was sad to see him go. In the end, I found myself craving more details from the book, more information, but I enjoyed it and I thought of it often. Weeks after I had finished the book I still thought of it fondly, even in conversation when a friend was looking to live in a house next to a graveyard, and never were my thoughts of it ones of dislike or disappointment. That's the sign of a good book, at least to me it is.