Thursday, February 28, 2013

February Wrap Up

February was a bit rough on me. As I've mentioned, I'm not a fan of the first two months of the year and by the first week of February I was desperate for spring. February typically has the grossest weather and that feeling of unending winter. It's also when I get my taxes done and really, who enjoys that? I was able to break up the dull days of February by way of spring preparation: buying some sundresses, plotting out what my herb garden is going to be and booking a room for New Orleans. I've also begun to slowly slink out of my winter hibernation and start doing stuff out and about in DC. A Doctor Who viewing party at a club, dinner, seeing movies, and hanging out with books.

There was also Valentine's Day, a holiday I've never been particularly fascinated with (even as a child) but it was made special while I was at work due to my lovely coworkers who gave out little treats. One lovely lady was quite crafty in her Valentine giving and she made an awesome tutorial on her blog which you can read about here. You should probably follow her too, she and her sister have a great blog.

To say that I am happy it is almost March would be too vague a word; being ecstatic and feeling the urge to do cartwheels is more accurate.

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl is extremely interesting and I am really excited for the film to come out. (it's not out already, is it?) The mix of supernatural and the Civil War had my heart a flutter and my literary tastes salivating. What's refreshing is that this book is narrated by a guy rather than the stereotypical female role!
Looking for Alaska by John Green was another book that knocked me down and left me in the dirt staring at the sky. John Green has a way of capturing those first time experiences as a teenager and putting them into eloquent words. I really adore this author and this book.
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey was a bit sad but still a lovely read. Long after I finished the book I still found myself thinking of the story and its characters and referencing them in conversation. I hope you find a similar experience when you read this book.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente carried me away to Fairyland and the only regret I had of this book was "Why couldn't this have been out when I was a kid!?" 

I've joined up with the 52 Lists project and after playing some catch up I've been sharing a weekly list about different things. I adore this project even still! Catch up with my lists by clicking the links:

As I mentioned up above, I booked my room for my New Orleans getaway and I have to share with you what site I used for booking. If you haven't heard of it, please direct your attention to Airbnb. You have your fair share of choices when looking for a place to stay in various cities around the world and you can cater your search to what you wish (like if you only want to stay in a castle). People rent out rooms, homes, or whatever else for your use while they are either not in the area or if they just so happen to have a spare room that they're willing to rent out. I found a really awesome (and lovely) room for my stay in New Orleans and it is nearly half the price of what I would be paying had I decided to get a hotel room. So, if you're traveling in the near future I suggest you check out Airbnb and see what deals you can find!

I also signed up for my first 5k! I'll be attending the Color Run in September for Washington DC. If you or someone you know will be a part of it, let me know!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

52 Lists - Week 8

I have heard whispers of the 52 Lists project from various bloggers and my curiosity got the best of me. Off I went to discover the 52 Lists by Moorea Seal which is a really fun and fantastic concept. A list for each week of the year and for this list maker, I fell in love with the idea instantly. 

I hope you enjoy and if you're interested, visit Morea Seal's 52 Lists page so you can partake in this as well!

True Fact: I don't listen to a lot of albums and those I do listen to are generally soundtracks. 
I love music and I listen to it nearly continuously but my issue is that I listen to mixes. I'll love a song by one artist but not have a clue as to what else they do or play. So, I went through my iTunes and looked for every artist I had where I had a list of songs from a CD rather than a scattering here or there. This is what I came up with and it's pretty accurate as I do listen to these artists a lot. Note that there is a lot of Christmas music on there. I probably own/listen to more Christmas albums than any other full albums.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of He Own Making

Catherynne Valente painted a world with Russian mythology which I slipped into and devoured when I read her novel Deathless. Her writing style, to me, is fiction-poetry. Her descriptions, phrases, and story telling captivated me in a way few books have and I walked away knowing one thing: I wanted more.

A book rule that I have for myself is that Christmas and my birthday are two points of the year where I can spoil myself. Be-gone rules of not buying books! During those two celebrations I do as I please and for this past Christmas I decided to spoil myself with a small book buying spree; it was then that I purchased The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.

Let it be known: this is a chapter book aimed towards kids but it's incredibly enjoyable. I've found, as I've gotten old enough to appreciate the childhood I was so eager to leave behind, that books which remind me of classic story telling thrill me. I can easily picture myself curled up in a chair while being read to; or the more probable fantasy now being that I am the one reading to a couple of kids.

The story has a typical beginning: September is offered the chance to go to fairyland and like any curious child she quickly agrees to go. She is swept away by the Green Wind (who is a gentleman in a green coat which takes an instant liking to September) and the Leopard of Little Breezes to Fairyland. She goes through different experiences all before entering the land but the fun doesn't stop there. Once within she befriends creatures she has never heard of (nor, likely, have you) and shows her true determination and compassion.

The story is as quick paced and wild as the wind which took September to Fairyland. There are scary moments (a storm, turning into a tree) and moments of happiness (a wedding and reunions). But staying true to the writing style I fell in love with while reading Deathless, Valente continued to create a world that was easy to believe and many points of the book had me reaching for pen and paper so I could write down quotes. 

September is a determined and clever young girl. She faces her own death and hungry big cats; while she will often feel she is weak and second guesses her actions she is much stronger than she realizes -- something that many people young and old have a tendency not to recognize within themselves. 

There are more adventures from September which I am eager to get my hands on. Valente is a queen when it comes to fantasy and imagination. She owns this type of writing in ways that other author's wish they could have this level of talent.

If you have enjoyed other Valente books, Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, or His Dark Materials you will likely enjoy this book as well and no matter your age, you should check it out.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Booking Through Thursday - February 21st

Brought to you by the site Booking Through Thursday, each Thursday readers are asked a question (mainly book related) and answers are shared.

This weeks questions are: 
How often do you visit a library? Do you go to borrow books? Do research? Check out the multi-media center? Hang out with the friendly and knowledgeable staff? Are you there out of love or out of need?

My Answer:
I used to visit the Daniel Pierce Library weekly when I was a little girl. Then, as a teenager, I regularly volunteered at my High School library and my town's library so I visited one nearly every day. As an adult my library time has dropped significantly. Lack of time, a job to pay for the books I want to read, and currently -- lack of car -- have all contributed to this. Lucky for me that a new library is opening THIS SATURDAY a mere two miles from my house. I walk those two miles quite often and I can't wait to visit this beautiful two floor library! I already submitted my information for my library card so I really can't wait to go. While I was close with the staff of the previous libraries, never checked out the multi-media center, and I used to borrow books at this new library I hope to use it as a place to do work, writing, and research when I need it. It'll be a place to slip off to when I want to get out of the house but I still need to get things done. Really, I've been looking forward to the opening of this library since January. I can't wait!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

52 Lists - Week 7

I have heard whispers of the 52 Lists project from various bloggers and my curiosity got the best of me. Off I went to discover the 52 Lists by Moorea Seal which is a really fun and fantastic concept. A list for each week of the year and for this list maker, I fell in love with the idea instantly. 

I hope you enjoy and if you're interested, visit Morea Seal's 52 Lists page so you can partake in this as well!

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Snow Child

Despite my best intentions of not purchasing any books for the past year I ended up walking out of a bookstore with this tightly in my grasp. Awaiting winter, this book caught my interest, and a winter story it certainly is. So, if you are a reader who escapes into the pages of a book and you don't particularly want to escape into an Alaskan winter while you're in the middle of a snowstorm at home, maybe hold off until July to read this. 

Mabel and Jack, an older couple who have just settled in the Alaskan wilderness in the 1920's, have more than the hard winters and tough land to worry about. Mabel, right away, is a woman on edge and very depressed. It's quickly revealed how lonely and sad she is, that she wanted to escape their home in Pennsylvania and while they may have escaped the land she has not been able to escape her lack of children aside from one tiny babe that was stillborn. Jack is struggling to make ends meet and his wife is a constant worry. He feels that he has failed her in more than one way. Together, they are lost in the darkness of the Alaskan winter in their little home and seeming to lose the spark that makes people alive. 

Up until one night when a playfulness takes over the couple and together they end up outdoors in the swirling winter snows. They make a snowchild and decorate it with a hat and mittens and that is when the snow child is born. 

Faina is seemingly a child of the wild. With white-blonde hair, ice blue eyes, pale skin and a tendency to get overheated quickly -- she is certainly a part of the snowy land. With a fox that follows closely by and her ease with the winter landscape you are torn between feeling she is a spirit of nature or an actual child. Jack and Mabel are also unsure what to think of her. 

The entire book I was unsure if it would become something of fantasy or just a coincidence of events. Mabel and Jack befriend a couple in the area that claim their "seeing" a little girl who visits them only in winter is the result of cabin fever -- that they are going stir crazy (emphasis on the crazy) -- and as a reader I wasn't entirely sure what to believe either. Reading what Mabel and Jack experienced: Faina growing and the little home that she apparently lived in, one would assume she was a living child. But the fact remained that it is hard enough for a grown person to live in Alaska let alone a child. 

The story progresses and is placed into three parts. The introduction of Faina, the growth of her, and the ultimate conclusion. I won't go into detail of the conclusion but with only the fact that it does seem to follow along the lines of the Russian fairytale Mabel clings to from her life before Alaska. 

The story was beautifully written and while I have never been to Alaska (and haven't much interest in visiting) I did find myself able to perfectly picture the wilderness without any struggle. The book left me somewhat sad but content. It had a clear beginning, middle and end and the continuation and possibilities of the future despite that the pages (and a life) have ended. It held onto me when I was done with the book and I still, often enough, find myself thinking of it. In some ways it has a sad ending, in others, the ending is beautiful. I suppose it's all dependent on your opinion.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Booking Through Thursday - February 14th

Brought to you by the site Booking Through Thursday, each Thursday readers are asked a question (mainly book related) and answers are shared.

This weeks questions are: 
Not the kind of “love” question you’re expecting for Valentine’s Day. No, what I want to know is: What do you love most about reading?

My Answer:
I love that when I have a really stressful day at work I can open up my book on my lunch break, while still stuck at my desk, and completely escape the office. I love that a book can manage to say all that I want to say about a situation and simply get the emotions I cannot put into words. I love that despite not having the money to travel the world I can still do it through different stories -- fiction or nonfiction. I love that I can continue learning by the different things I read. I love the sense of accomplishment I feel when I finish a book. I love that sometimes I don't feel accomplished at all but slightly lost as a book is no longer a part of my life and no longer can I experience that first read. I love that books can create such powerful emotions.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

52 Lists - Week 6

This week's list. It's chicken scratch written after a long day of work so I'll type it up below:
  • I give really good hugs!
  • If someone wants a listening ear, I can give it
  • If someone wants advice, I can provide it
  • I am capable of saying please and thank you
  • I do not shy away from saying I love you
  • I can send a simple not of love, hope and support
  • I can forgive
  • I can smile for no reason at all
  • I can send care packages to troops
  • I can spend time to do more than just sign Christmas cards (with just my name)
  • I can say "I love you" (I said this twice)
  • I won't judge your tears but I will do what I can to make it better
  • I can send gifts to my friends or...
  • Pick out books I imagine my friends will enjoy
  • I can accept the instructions of others
  • I am open to change
  • I can care for people I do not know
  • I can accept the opinions and decisions of others even if I do not agree

Monday, February 11, 2013

Looking for Alaska

John Green did it again. He managed to write something that seemed to reflect real life so much that, upon finishing the book, I couldn't think of anything but the characters I had thought of. I felt nothing but an ache in my heart for them and I found myself reflecting back upon my own life experiences and going, "Well done, John Green, well done."

I had worried upon finishing The Fault in Our Stars that I wouldn't find Green's other books as well written and hypnotizing as that first experience and while I still feel that book is my favorite of the two Green books I've read... he certainly did not leave me disappointed with Looking for Alaska.

This, to me, is similar to a modern day Catcher in the Rye in that we are faced with teens who are at a boarding school who experiment with various things that are frowned upon. We deal with real life issues, much like that classic, but this book to me was much more real and the main character much more like any normal teen who happens to be sort of out of the social loop in High School and is generally very inexperienced with all aspects of life.

Miles (aka "Pudge") is your typical inexperienced High School teen who doesn't have many friends and goes to Culver Creek Boarding School with the hope of realizing the Great Perhaps. What does life have to offer and more specifically what does it have to offer him? At Culver Creek, much to his amazement, he gains a cluster of friends whom he grows close to very quickly. Through them he begins to experience parts of life he had previously looked past. Drinking, smoking, sex all is integrated into his day to day routine but there is one person, specifically, who is introduced to his life that endlessly leaves him guessing and feeling a list of emotions that no other person makes him feel.

Alaska Young: the girl who keeps him guessing, the girl who enters his thoughts, the girl that leaves him searching. Everything during Pudge's first year at Culver is categories as Before and After. Before what? Well, you'll have to read to see. But I feel that once again Green penned genuine emotion into all that happens during this book.

For those who do not mind spoilers or who have read the book already, my thoughts on the plot and what happens to the characters are as follows. For others who do not want to be spoiled, I suggest to you to stop reading:

My graduating class was a class of 80 students. That's a small class and to make it more intimate 85% of us had gone to that school since Kindergarten. We all remembered our embarrassing childhood haircuts and fights and those awkward teen years. The other 15% of the class had, for the main part, been with us since Middle School or the beginning of High School. This made us all quite close, even if we didn't consider each other all "friends" because we had quite literally grown up together. We knew each other's parents and siblings, we knew when someone would lose a relative or planned to move, we just knew each other's lives. 

By the time we had our graduation ceremony we were at 79 students. In January one of our classmates whom we had that familiarity with (some more than others) died. It was the first experience we had of losing someone our age. We thought we were unstoppable, immortal, and to have one of our own so quickly snuffed out left us baffled, hurt, and struggling to cope. For many of my classmates it was the first death they had ever experienced, for me, I was used to death by that point because of various family members having died from illness. But it was still confusing for me because, in my 17 year old mind, that was the way things were meant to go: you got sick and you died. You didn't just die suddenly out of the blue when you were perfectly fine and cheerful the previous day at school. Death only happened to those who were sick. It didn't happen to children or teens who were healthy. That type of death only happened in movies. It only happened to other people. Not to you.

My classmate died in a car crash and I found myself wondering of her final moments and thinking many of the same thoughts Miles thought after Alaska died. I was confused, hurt, and I didn't know what was the right way to think and what was the wrong way. I felt horrible when I caught myself enjoying life. How could I enjoy life when my classmate was dead? I had so many questions and it was painful to watch my fellow classmates suffer - especially the close friends of my classmate who had passed. 

Green was able to articulate so many of the reactions and feelings that seem to circle through a group of teens when they lose a fellow classmate that I wonder if he is just that damn smart and understanding of the world or if he himself had experienced such a loss. It's a topic that can be hard to explain and understand for people who had never experienced that before but Green hits the nail on the head. This book, I feel, would have been a great help for myself and my 78 other classmates during those cold winter days following my classmate's death.

I applaud authors who are willing to step out of the current mold of fantasy romantic fiction and write about real life issues. Many parents find this to be an issue and therefore challenge the books because they do not want their precious children to have to face such topics or to be inspired to do Bad Things. These books are what teens need to realize that what they are experiencing isn't something that makes them alone. So many others have experienced similar issues and events and it is okay to feel that way or cry or rage. Teens look for a way to be unique but they also want to feel normal and Green provides that comfort through literary skill.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

52 Lists - Week 5

Apologies, I didn't feel like hooking up my printer so this is what we have for today!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Teaser Tuesday - February 5th

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!
“Do you know the feeling when you start reading a new book before the membrane of the last one has had time to close behind you? You leave the previous book with ideas and themes -- characters even -- caught in the fibers of your clothes, and when you open the new book, they are still with you.” 
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Beautiful Creatures

Another book read before the movie was released; that was my goal with picking up this book and after the flop that was Mortal Instruments I was a little apprehensive about reading another YA book. I was in the mood for some Dickens or historical fiction and I figured YA wouldn't appeal to me and yet this book did. Now, I find myself to be a little more judgmental of YA books. I think of multiple factors: the story line  inevitable love story, originality or lack there of, and the writing skill. Many people snub their noses at YA books because of the near obsessive reaction many teens have to it. There's nothing to get a lot of snobby book readers to dislike more than people freaking out over really poorly written books. Still, there are a lot of poorly written adult books and I feel many times people brush those aside or let the poorly written books be overlooked because they're adult fiction. If it's teen, then it's obviously a book of Satan. 

Moving past my mini rant: I enjoyed Beautiful Creatures. It was exceedingly better than Mortal Instruments could ever hope to be. My opinion, however, could be swayed because I had such a foul taste from Mortal Instruments in my life that anything remotely better than that book would gather my interest. But... enough about that and let's get to the review. 

Something that seems to catch nearly everyone's eye is that Beautiful Creatures is narrated by a teenage boy. If you are a YA reader you'll know the significance of this: most teen books are not narrated by teen boys. It's always a girl and being in her head. But here we are in a tiny town where everyone knows everyone else's business (truth to this: I lived in a small towns all my life up until April 2012. Everyone will know your business) and you are somewhat shoved into a category, a clique  and expected to behave accordingly (again, accurate). 

Ethan Wate, our lovely male narrator, is a basketball player and kind of a popular kid in the social structure of High School. Secretly however he reads and is a lover of daydreaming about the days he'll travel to locations in his literary works. His father has sunk into a deep depression after his mother died in an accident and now he is more or less raised by a housekeeper named Amma. With basketball, the social intricacies of High School, and his best friend Link, Ethan manages to get by despite his grief and current family life. 

Then Lena Duchannes appears. Mysterious and certainly "dangerous" in the town's eyes, Ethan is (of course) instantly drawn to her. But it's not just love at first sight or any of that -- he's been dreaming about her for quite some time leading up to it.

Lena is very standoffish and quick to be offended at first but as the story progresses it's obvious that she uses this as a way to protect herself from further harm. She's a girl who would like to be a normal teen but the dislike of her classmates makes that kind of hard.

Of course, there is much more to the story than just this. Lena is a Caster, kind of like a witch but that's an offensive term, and her family is cursed to be Chosen upon their sixteenth birthday and Taken to either be light or dark. Being light, you seem to remain the same. Being dark, you seem to change completely. You forget who you loved, who you cared for, and your personality twists into something less favorable. 

And now you begin your descent with Ethan into Lena's world where magic is real and terror is often felt. The town he thought he knew so well -- as most people feel when they live in a small town their entire life -- becomes something much more with many secrets that have been kept from them all. Is Lena going to go dark or light? You can guess but you won't quite know up until the very end of the book.

Some people commented that Ethan is an unbelievable teenage boy and maybe he is; I don't know, I never was one. But I enjoyed reading the book from his point of view rather than being in Lena's mind. I enjoyed that the Civil War was thrown in and family history was something of importance.Yes there is the typical love story but I enjoyed that there was a lot more going on than just that relationship.

A portion of scenes or plot ideas were rushed, which was disappointing, but overall the book was detailed. It's a long book, but I was able to easily make my way through it and I have to say that sitting the book down I was interested in the next book. Not just curious but by way of wanting to read it and I suppose I will be once I have the opportunity. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

January Wrap Up

Wow, has it really been three months since I've done a monthly wrap up? Hopefully I won't fail to do this in the future and will keep up with these posts. 

January came and went and I'm glad for it as I'm not a fan of the month. We had some unseasonably warm temperatures (mid 70's) and some horrible winter weather (hello, single digit temperatures). I know one thing -- I'm ready for spring! 

The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter is something I was quite happy to see on the shelves as I knew Aimee way back in the day when we were both High School students looking into the same college. While the book certainly was not a great highlight of my reading experiences, I am happy for Aimee and wish her the best with her publishing adventures.
Guenevere, Queen of the Summer Country by Rosalind Miles - I really and truly disliked the book and have little to say other than go and read the review.

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger is something I read in 2012 but kept putting off the review. This is another book I really disliked for varying reasons.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare - I am just beginning to realize how many book reviews I had in January which were discontent reviews. This is another book that I'd rather pass in the future.
Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion was probably the book I enjoyed best for the month. It's now a movie and currently in theatres so go check it out!
With the new year I set up a list of goals pertaining to this blog and reading in general. I discussed my exhaustion from various real-life events that have been going on and a way I've learned to handle this exhaustion and try to take away my stress. The 52 Lists project caught my attention and I'm happily partaking in it, but first I had to play catch up with this four week post.

I moved some things around my blog and cleaned it up a bit. To the right you should see some social media icons which will hopefully take you to Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and  my LinkedIn. There is also a link to my Wordpress blog, Abscond to Wander, in which I write about travel experiences. 

Also, a note for authors, I am currently not accepting books of any form unless from publishing companies whom I already work with. I simply have not the time but hopefully in the future I'll be able to open myself up to possible reviews. Sorry but thank you for understanding!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Currently - 2/1/2013

Often times book bloggers either over share (and stray from reviewing books) or share too little about their lives. I want to share a little bit about myself so that you, the reader, will know who I, the writer, am. I have no intention of turning this into a personal blog but after seeing Currently posts from Sometimes Sweet I felt that it would be a nice break every once in awhile. 

Watching: My regular TV shows plus a new one: Shameless (the American version) which I've really fallen in love with. The show both humors and angers me and I enjoy the varying emotions it makes me feel. It isn't a show for those who dislike seeing nudity, sex scenes, and addictions -- since it features all three -- but it's also unafraid to hold back the punches, so to speak. I eagerly await this week's episode!

Listening to: Of Monsters and Men; I've enjoyed a few of their songs for quite some time and for whatever reason have not considered listening to all of their music. Finally, I did, and I was unsurprised when I discovered I enjoy the rest of their music as well. My favorite songs by them certainly are (for the moment) Little Talks and Six Weeks. I also have been on a Metric kick.

Thinking about: My family. This past year has been tough and we haven't surpassed the rough stuff yet. It's sad that we've all become closer due to tragedy but at the same time, I'm thankful, because we're also learning how important our family is and enjoying the precious moments we get to spend with one another. I love my family with all my heart and can't wait to spend time with everyone again (in more favorable circumstances). 

Loving: That it's finally February. I generally hate winter and with it January and February are my two least favored months. The cold, unpredictable weather gets on my very last nerve and this year it's especially annoying as people in Virginia and Washington, DC really don't seem capable of driving in any form of winter weather, no matter how light or heavy. The start of February means a month close to warmer weather. Granted, I'll hate the triple digit weather come July, but the cold winter months always leave me in a bad mood.

Reading: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. I've had this book since 2010, according to the price sticker on the back from Borders, and I'm finally getting around to reading it. I've mentioned numerous times that I've been trying to get through the massive to-read pile I have. With moving, I only took one bookshelf with me and filled it, for the main part, with books I had yet to read. While I was between jobs and now that I am saving every nickel and dime I have for various trips I am really preventing myself from book shopping and all that I have left are the numerous books in my room that I have yet to read. Finally I've been making progress and making my way, slowly but surely, through my to-read pile.

Making me happy: My wanderlust possibly being satisfied. Although, I say that only half seriously. My wanderlust is something strong which I believe will always be a part of me. I have far too many places I want to see and not enough money or time to see such places so it will be a very long time before I can say I've done it all. Still, I'm finally in a position where I will be able to travel and knock some of the destinations off of my very long list. I'm really excited for what the next 16 months have in store and I can't wait to take my first trip in May to New Orleans!