Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Return!

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: Dates from BBC. It's fantastic and I'm so glad to see Katie McGrath doing something that's modern day! I really love BBC shows, so much more than the majority that are shown in America. I'm also still catching up on Supernatural. I have only a season and a half to go before I've watched every episode! Plus, I watch Teen Wolf which is laughably bad but that's the point of watching it. My friend and I will get on Skype and watch it together (she's in California and I, well, am not).

Listening to: 8tracks again, finally, as I have the internets once more. I also have been jamming to my "Autumn" playlist. I've been putting it together bit by bit so that I may make an 8tracks mix for it but these things come along when they want to.

Thinking about: This is very vaguebook but I've been thinking about future prospects. I can only say that much for the time being.

Loving: My new apartment! It's really wonderful and so quiet. The only noise I ever hear from my neighbors is the baby who lives beneath me and that's rare and very muffled. Oh, and the trains; there are trains outside my apartment which are somewhat noisy but I've already become used to the rumble. It's right along really beautiful running and biking trails plus a river so I have no excuse to not go running. In addition to this I am extremely close to a shopping center -- it's only a five minute walk away! I'm so glad to be living in a place where I do not need to depend on a car and can use my feet or public transportation instead.

Reading: Any Neil Gaiman I can get my hands on. Or, at least, that's the plan. I am currently reading The Lost Reflection which I picked up in New Orleans. It's a good reminder of that beautiful city which I miss so much. I can't believe it's been a month since I was there already! Time, please stop flying by.

Making Me Happy: Two very big things: One being that one of my best friends will be visiting for the fourth of July and my birthday. I haven't seen her in about five years so this is certainly long overdue! And there's no better way I could spend my birthday than with her. Another very exciting big thing that is making me happy is that I was able to meet Neil Gaiman this past Friday! And he held my hand! And he was lovely! and he signed my book! There will be more to come of that in the near future.

Point is: I am back from my hiatus, I have internet, and I hope to be around more regularly in the future. I still have to iron out my schedule and I have copyediting classes that started yesterday but I'm back!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Beautiful Darkness

To read my review of Beautiful Creatures, the first book in the Caster Chronicles, please go here.
Warning: this review will likely contain spoilers for those who have not already read the first book.

While this is being posted at the end of June, I read this at the beginning of April. My book reviews, generally, are pushed a month or two ahead of when I originally write them so that I can work in any moments where I may fall behind on my reading. With that, let's envision the beginning of spring. Easter just passed: a cold, snowy period of time, and we in the DC area just received our first hints of spring. One moment is was chilly, enough to wear a winter hat and gloves, and the next it was glorious and in the 70's. Despite that pollen was high and destroying my nose and throat, all the windows were open and I could only be found in one of two places: meandering outside in the sunshine or laying in my bed (also in the sunshine) like a content cat while reading this book.

I was so sick of winter by this point and overjoyed that it was warmer that I wanted to read something that also reminded me of summer. It's times like these that I turn to "southern fiction" and by that I mean any book that happens to take place in the south. For whatever reason, most books that take place in the southern US always seem to take place during the summer which is exactly what I was looking for. In addition to this, I really enjoyed Beautiful Creatures and I had been itching to move on to the next book since December. Having just finished reading a number of books for publishers I felt it was time I picked a book of my own choosing.

To my pleasure, the book doesn't take long to jump into the thick of things. Starting where Beautiful Creatures left off, I would say it is best to read the second book quickly following the first so that everything that happened is still fresh in your mind. Even still, with waiting four months before reading the second book, there were enough facts to remind you who was who so that you weren't lost (in case you forgot) but not so much detail that it's overwhelming and you're spending the first half of the book playing catch up.

I really appreciate how the authors handle the experience of loss in these two books. Death is something we all have to face but for teenagers it can be particularly jarring. Teenagers, often enough, think themselves invincible and that death is very far from them and when it comes too close it can be shocking. Both Lena and Ethan are in mourning for different people. This can either bring people together or, at times, rip them apart and it seems to be doing just that. Almost right away Lena seems different in the book and for the first half of the book, maybe more, I kind of wanted to smack her and shake her by the shoulders demanding her to snap out of it. 

After using the Book of Moons in the previous book and claiming herself she is now facing the fact that she still may go dark or light. She has to make the choice, ultimately, and with large consequences. But it seems that right away Lena is leaning more towards being dark than anything light. 

She is confused, sad, and feels very alone -- a feeling not unfamiliar to teenagers -- but she is so all over the place with her emotions that it began to grate on my nerves. It got to a point where I was reading as quickly as I could simply because I wanted to find out how they could fix Lena and get her back to normal. Simply put: she is acting nothing like herself. 

Characters from the first book return to this installment and we get to see a little bit more of their formerly hidden lives which I really enjoyed. From Ethan's housekeeper to the town librarian, their own gifts seem to be more visible since Ethan has fully entered the Caster world. You also get to know a little bit more about Ethan's mother who died before the start of the first book. 

With that, there were portions of this book that really reminded me of Harry Potter. The two boys and a girl going off to fight the big bad guy who has a bunch of devoted followers. They end up in a different world where there are dark shadow-like beings that can suck the life out of you and a number of characters who you think you can't trust but then you realize you can. But, I loved that about Harry Potter and while it made me sort of frown to see that type of story show up in another piece of work I realize that there are so many stories and books in the world that they'll all, surely, have similarities from one to the next and these books certainly are more different than Harry Potter than similar. 

Another qualm I had with this book was that there needed to be some additional fine-tuned editing. It wasn't horrible like some other books I've read (cough-Mortal Instruments-cough) but there were little bits of inaccuracy  For instance, at one point a cat is picked up but within the next paragraph it's rolling on the floor and playing with another cat. Ethan at another point doesn't know something particular about how blood Incubi work but shortly after he knows clearly how it works... yet there is no bridge to how he found out that knowledge. I'm sure if you are reading this book strictly for pleasure and/or flying through it and not looking for things to pick apart these little holes will be easily avoided but I was not that reader. I loved this book, I read it during the course of our warm weekend, but I still have an eye out for these things. Sometimes I miss them, other times I don't, and with many of these small mistakes I ended up going back and rereading the passage because I wasn't completely sure if I had read it right.

But, I can say with absolute certainty that upon finishing this book I quickly went to Goodreads and added the third installment to my TBR list and hopefully, if you read this book, you will too. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Carmilla

Carmilla is another original when it comes to vampire literature and crowd pleaser in Gothic literature. I enjoyed this book much more than the short story: The Vampyre. While The Vampyre took on a medical journal type of feel, Carmilla reminded me of a journal written by a girl as she recorded an event recently passed. This book is also something of focus due to the lesbionic nature of the main characters. I, personally, feel that this isn't a book displaying a lesbian romance but I suppose from that time period it could have been seen as much. How one views a vampire and how they feed can often alter the opinions of what occurs in a book.

Our main character and narrator is female and is also one who is fed on by a vampire -- who is female as well. In fact, our darling vampire feeds on, it seems, only women. Young girls in particular who end up falling ill and eventually die. 

Carmilla appears at the home of our narrator after she had received word of a girl dying from the similar illness shared by others. Carmilla is a damsel in distress, all but abandoned by her mother to the care of the narrator and her father. She is sweet, charming, and a quick friend but still has oddities of sorts. Still, our narrator and her family take little notice of this until the narrator begins to fall ill as well.

The twist of the story is that since childhood the narrator has had a long standing terror from one solid memory: a woman coming into her room (who coincidentally looked exactly like Carmilla) and bit her breast. All the same seems to be happening again but for the life of her, the narrator can't prove that these things are truly happening. 

This story seems a little more traditional by way of vampire tales in that we are given a romantic notion of a vampire, there is the intended hunt, the injury of a character (or near death), followed by the destruction of the demonic force. I enjoyed this much more than The Vampyre likely because it had more of a story-like writing style and wasn't as factual. Of course I was left wondering about Carmilla and wishing to know more about the lady vampire but, I suppose, that's what fan fictions are for. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit

Peter Rabbit has long been a staple in nursery bookshelves. Along with Winnie the Pooh, I loved these books as a child and they were often read to me by my mother. As an adult, I adore seeing the Peter Rabbit artwork being added to teacups or picture frames -- even if they are mainly focused for the market of pregnant women and nurseries. It reminds me of my own childhood and how special that little rabbit was. So it comes as no surprise that I was introduced to The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit because it was a gift to my cousin's two year old. That didn't stop me from eagerly reading the book by myself. 

Peter Rabbit is back and written by actress Emma Thompson. Usually, I shy away from actress-turned-authors but I'm glad I dove into this despite my usual apprehension. Eleanor Taylor, the illustrator of the book, keeps the same style in her work as the original Peter Rabbits which, for me, is something that is necessary and completely unforgivable if it's messed up. That's part of the wonder and adoration I have for Peter Rabbit -- the artwork -- and I'm happy that it was not lost when given to a different illustrator.

Thompson, who created the story, keeps Peter getting into his typical antics. He's such a curious little bunny and it doesn't always work out in his favor! That remains true, of course, as the curiosity of Peter gets the best of him and he ends up in Scotland.

I have to say, my first comment about the book was that I pointed out to my cousin that the large rabbit he bumps into is wearing a kilt -- I couldn't get over it! It was just too darling.

Peter continues on his merry way and is welcomed in by the Scottish rabbits. He finds a large radish that would be used for a rabbit version of the Highland games and -- oops! -- eats it hollow! The story line continues and is, as mentioned, a typical Peter Rabbit "tail" (pun intended). The artwork was wonderful to pour myself over and truly brought back memories of my mother reading the tiny Peter Rabbit books to me as a child. It made me feel comforted as I had back then and for any book to have the power to create the feeling of comfort and nostalgia is great in my opinion. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Traveling with Books - New Orleans, LA

When I was in Middle School I was introduced to Anne Rice. Not literally, unfortunately, but at a friends house she chose to put in Interview with the Vampire for us to watch during a rainy Saturday afternoon. I fell in love instantly and when I discovered that the movie was actually based on a book series I rushed to my school library (which was a Middle School and High School library) and took out the first book by the same name. I read the book that very day. I remember laying on my couch sort of upside down; flat on my back with my legs kicked up over the top of the couch I recall my mother coming into the living room and turning on a light as it grew dark because I was "going to go blind" from reading in the dimness. "Take a break and watch some TV" she told me but I sat on that couch until bedtime and then laid amongst my sheets until I finished the book a few hours later. 

This started a great love affair with The Vampire Chronicles series and I've raved about these books numerous times on this blog. I promise you, this post isn't entirely about the series. It's about how powerful a love for books can be and where books can literally take you.

In High School I often discussed with friends that I wanted to visit New Orleans. This continued through college and even after graduation. I developed great friends thanks to this book series. A group of us, all around the same age, found each other through journaling communities when we were in High School because of our love of the series and well after college graduation I still talked to this group of friends. There was one thing we always desired: to go to New Orleans. The very location of the books that brought us together. 

When a friend of this group approached me and suggested we stop talking about going to New Orleans and actually do it I jumped at the chance. By February, the tickets were purchased and the room was booked. We were doing it. We were going to New Orleans.

But how do you prepare for a trip you've talked about for half of your life? How do you prepare to visit a place that has such substance in books that you grew up reading and rereading? 


I made a game of it, so to speak, and had a theme for the month of May. Spooky movies with magic and mystery (which seems to be the norm for New Orleans) and, of course, the books that originally drew my interest to the city. 

The internet, of course, is a wonderful tool and it was a great help with planning my trip. Seeing that I was going to New Orleans with the goal of being near as many Anne Rice related locations and there (shockingly) isn't a tour for such excitement I had to depend on the good old google. My friend made a layout of all that we had planned while I compiled a list of locations to visit which had significance to Anne Rice. By the end of May we were off to New Orleans.

Another thing I enjoy about traveling and books is that every location has its own stories and if you linger in enough tourist shops you'll find them. New Orleans is rich in culture and history, much of it being supernatural, so of course there are plenty of books pertaining to the topic. I picked up a book on ghost hunting within the city, not because I wanted to hunt ghosts, but because I wanted the stories and history that the locals knew and shared.

Once there, we had nothing but time (okay, not really, we ran out of time to do all we wanted!) but we were able to see the locations we had wanted. 





We were in New Orleans for a week and saw so many beautiful sights. Some of my favorites, of course, were tied to The Vampire Chronicles but there were other literary influenced places. Such as William Faulkner's house near Jackson Square (which I unfortunately don't have a picture of). 

So what if there wasn't an actual tour for Anne Rice and her books? My friend and I made one for ourselves and we think it went pretty well. With the assistance of tourism books and the help of the internet we certainly were able to see a lot and learn much.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Currently: June

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: Supernatural and trying to finish all of the seasons. This is an endeavor I took on in April and have been slowly conquering. I'm up to Season 5 right now so at least I've passed the halfway point!

Listening to: A playlist I made called "Adventure" with all the songs that remind me of vacations and the south. Typically when I prepare for a vacation I make a playlist of my favorite songs and one song specifically reminds me of that trip. The lyrics may have nothing to do with where I went but for some reason when I hear it I'm overwhelmed by the nostalgia of the trip.

Swamp Tour!
Thinking about: New Orleans! The week in the Crescent City was wonderful and I want to go back as soon as possible! I've been hit hard by the post-vacation blues really hard and I'm such a little sad sack. I've never been able to go on many vacations in my life so this was kind of a big deal and it certainly fed into my wanderlust. There are two things I know for sure: I will go back to New Orleans and I can't wait to take my next trip. My next destination is either Tampa or Boston!

Cafe du Monde in the French Quarter
Loving: That DC has similar temperatures as New Orleans did while I was there. When my plane touched down I was chilly -- 70 degrees was much too cold! -- but now it's booted up into the low 90's and that's more like what I was experiencing on vacation. I also love that the honeysuckle is in full bloom up here and it just smells delicious.

Battle of New Orleans location.
Reading: Ghost Hunter's Guide to New Orleans, which is a book I purchased for my mother but wanted to read for myself (highlighting all the locations I visited for her) before I can give out my gifts to my mom and dad. I don't typically read books that tell ghost stories but I'm really enjoying this one! After that I have another book, one I purchased in the Big Easy, about vampire nuns. We'll see how that reads!

A home in the Garden District.
Making Me Happy: I'm moving at the end of the week and very happy that my commuting time will soon be 10 hours less per week! I'm also happy that I'll be starting some classes in the near future. How exciting!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Vampires in the Lemon Grove

Typically I am not one for a collection of short stories. Such books seem to avoid my eyes or maybe my interest turns me elsewhere. Simply put: it's a rare occurrence for me to pick up such a book hut I am so glad that I picked this one up. 

To say I devoured the book would be a slight understatement. I gobbled it up in record time considering that I was obnoxiously busy when I began the book. The Easter holiday (yes, I read it that long ago) crept up upon me and I went away on holiday to my Aunt's. Wedding dress shopping (not my own), playing with kids, a lot of eating, and general merry making was a priority while I was away and yet, somehow, I managed to dive into this book swiftly and with pleasure. 

I have to be honest though; I had never heard of Karen Russell. She was a nominee for the Pulitzer Prize and has been featured in countless big-to-do publications and received many literary awards. I guess all of that flew right over my head. But I can see why she has received such accolades as soon as I began to read this book and believe me, I plan on reading more of her published material.

This book is certainly spooky in its own right. Not scary, not a horror story, but it gets your brain working and will leave a bit of a tickle on the back of your neck which is very close to hairs rising. I certainly came out of the book with favorite short stories and others that sort of didn't capture my attention but overall I truly enjoyed this from cover to cover. 

"Reeling for the Empire" was by far my favorite short story and gave me the biggest quiver. Young women, seeking to help their families or for other various reasons, agree to work in a silk factory. Little do they know that their new occupation will turn them into living silk worms. The very idea, and the story that followed, still lingers in my mind. 

"Vampires in the Lemon Grove" was another story I enjoyed as the featured vampires was described to be similar to an old Italian grandpa. The vampires sucking on lemons was a curious twist and I found I wanted to know more about the mythology behind these particular vampires. 

"The Barn at the End of Our Term" had me laughing and talking to coworkers about it. Presidents, from the distant past and more recent past -- all dead -- wake up alive and in the bodies of horses knowing very well that they are 1) presidents and 2) in horses bodies. You can only imagine (until you read it for yourself) the antics that go on.

"The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis" was something that left me thinking and slightly uncomfortable -- in the best of ways. Eric Mutis is a tormented child at his school and when his tormentors stumble upon a scarecrow that looks just like him it turns a little spooky. Bullying has been something of a big topic for the past few years and now is no different. This story, much like the others, could make for a good plot in a film.

The other short stories are all interesting as well and have their elements of spookiness and excitement. But I'll leave you to discover them. This author has proven, quite obviously by her list of awards, that she can write and she earned a fan in me through this collection. I'm excited for the opportunity to read more of her books in the future.