Monday, January 19, 2015

Top 10 Characters I Identify With

Every Tuesday the ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish host a book related Top 10.

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This week is a Freebie so I chose the top 10 characters I identify with.  After writing the post I decided that it’s largely about 2 factors – the author’s ability to develop characters and were I was at in my life when I read it.

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This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

On the surface I don’t have that much in common with Elise. I definitely did not suffer from the level of bullying and isolation in HS that she did, but I was definitely an outsider.  I really identified with how freeing it is to find your “tribe”.  Mine tribe isn’t the same as Elise’s, but the feelings are the same.






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Families and Other Nonreturnable Gifts by Claire Lazebnik

Lazebnik is one of two authors that gets multiple mentions on this list for me.  Keats is very smart, personable – everyone loves her.  Both her siblings are geniuses, in a family the values intellect above all.  I don’t have the family issues that Keats does, but I think everyone can identify with not fitting in somewhere they should.



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Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Identifying with this novel was inevitable.  It takes place on the same college campus I went to and I actually have quite a bit in common with Cath.  Love of the written word for sure. I’m uncomfortable in new situations so I understand Cath’s anxiety even though it’s much more severe than I’ve ever dealt with.  I’ve never gotten into fanfiction, but I felt similarities to my interaction with the book blogging world.



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We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

It’s almost embarrassing to admit how much I identified with Eva given that she is a totally unlikeable character.  Eva didn’t really want children and I totally do, but I could totally connect with her feels of lost identity once she got pregnant.  It does seem like our society is so baby centric that once a woman becomes pregnant she ceases to be a person and just a walking womb.


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If You Lived Here, You’d be Home Now by Claire LaZebnik

I really love Rickie even when she drives me crazy.  And I totally understood her relationship with her mother.  There were times when I’d know she wasn’t being fair, but I understood.  When I’m frustrated I totally take it out on my mom, because I know she’ll forgive me.  And my mom’s probably reading this so I’ll just say I’m sorry right now.

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Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin

I’m always the friend (like Rachel) who stays sober enough to make sure her friends don’t do anything TOO crazy.  It’s who I am, but sometimes you feel like it results in fading into the background.




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The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I mainly identify with Katniss’s relationship with her younger sibling.  My brother is 7 years younger than me and I have always been protective. 






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Seeing Me Naked by Liza Palmer

Due to a very intellectual family that tended to mock sentiment, Elisabeth struggled with emotional intimacy.  She was also having a bit of a quarter life crisis: her brother has just published a literary masterpiece and she hasn’t made any progress on her 5 years plan in 5 years.  Her life didn’t directly mirror mine, but when I read it I just really connected with her struggles.


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Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Lincoln is the only man on this list, but OMG there’s so much about Lincoln I identify with.  He’s addiction to degrees and ability to make friends with people outside his peer group are just two of the biggest.

Blog Design

Part of the reason my blog fell off last year was frustration with the behind the scenes technical stuff.  I was really struggling with formatting for the blog some things that were Blogger specific, but most of it was a general lack of knowledge that would have caught up with my on any platform.

I like things to look pretty and as much as I try not to compare the aesthetic of my blog to others, but sometimes it’s hard not to.  I spent some time creating graphics in MS Paint.  MS Paint was time consuming and frustrating, but still my best option since my attempt at Photoshop had me totally lost.  When I started my blog back up this year I promised myself that I wouldn’t get too worked up about graphics although I was taking another crack at Photoshop for photography reasons.

I was reorganizing my blog a couple weeks ago and searching for how to create dropdown menus and stumbled into How to Blow Design

She has tons of tutorials.  There are two that I’ve found super helpful so far – Tour of Photoshop Tools and Designing a Blog in Blogger.  I’m planning to go through the videos for HTML and CSS soon.

I’m still not as proficient as I’d like to be, but this site helped me take a huge step forward that made this more fun and less frustrating for me.

Any other tips for me?

Friday, January 16, 2015

If You Lived Here You’d be Home Now by Claire LaZebnik

Home by now LazebnikIf You Lived Here, You’d be Home Now

Claire LaZebnik

5 Spot, 2010, 352 pgs

 

 

 

 

Summary

When Rickie headed off to Berkeley she had done everything right.  Good in school, motivated.  Fast forward 7 years and she’s a tattooed, pierced, single mother back living with her parents. Rickie knows she’s really lucky to have her parents who are supportive financially.  In addition to letting her live there, they pay for her son’s private school education.  But Rickie is really struggling.  She takes one online college class at a time (mostly just to say she’s still going), but she doesn’t know how to get out of her rut.

Rickie’s son Noah is 6 and he’s a little different.  He’s undersized and suffers from Celiac disease resulting in his being an outsider at school, dealing with bullies.  Rickie knows that it’s also partly her fault – she’s about a decade younger than the other mothers so she hasn’t joined the school social network either.

After one particularly bad PE experience, Rickie meets with the principal to talk about what can be done to improve Noah’s situation at school.  She’s surprised when she meets the new PE teacher that he’s young – just a year older than she is, but she leaves the meeting unimpressed and like nothing is going to change.

That’s when Rickie’s half sister Mel steps in.  Mel is also living back at home.  In her case it’s because her husband cheated but instead of fighting over the house, the kids stay at the house and Mel and Gabriel move in and out.  Mel is probably the best older sister she could be and is genuinely kind to everyone, but especially Rickie.  So when Mel signs them both up for the Event Hospitality Committee at the school, Rickie reluctantly tags along.

 

My Thoughts

I’ve read this book countless times and I can’t quite put my finger on why I connect with it so much.  I really enjoy reading books about people who are growing into themselves and changing – I think that’s why I read so much YA.  But when I find the adult books that do that well it’s a treat.  Because I think the coming-of-age process continues throughout our lives.  Rickie tried to grow up too fast and it bit her in the ass so she stopped. I really enjoyed the journey of her starting to move on again and in doing so help her son face some of his fears.

The romance is perfect and it’s not the focal point of the book.  I don’t quite think it’s a back story, more like a parallel.  The relationship develops naturally.

The most frustrating parts of the book are Rickie’s interactions with her Mom. And I like Rickie’s mom – she clearly wants the best for Rickie and is just trying to help her get moving again, but the effort just results in Rickie feeling pressured and defensive and she lashes out.  I understood that feeling because my mom can bear the brunt of my frustrations at times, but it can be hard to read.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Top Ten 2014 Releases I Missed

Every Tuesday the ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish host a book related Top 10.

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I wasn’t quite as engaged in new releases last year, but these are the books I REALLY with I’d heard about earlier (although when I would have read them I have no idea).

Top 10 2014 I missed

A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

Takes place in 1909 London and the MC participates in the suffragette movement.  Sounds like an easy read, but a little different.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Another blogger who’s taste I trust and a woman I work with have recommended Liane Moriarty.  The setup of her books reminds me of how the TV show Reverge is structured.  I own Big Little Lies and Three Wishes, but still haven’t read either.

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

I feel like I’ve been hearing about Love Letters to the Dead for longer than a year. Interesting premise, gorgeous cover, and highly reviewed.

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

I don’t think I need to say anymore than Laurie Halse Anderson.  She’s a great author and I picked up a SIGNED copy of this at the half price book store. 

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

I love the cover of this book which is sadly enough of a reason for me, but I’ll Give You the Sun has also been positively reviewed by several bloggers I read.  Plus it’s right in my reading comfort zone – I’m frequently in the mood for this type of book.

Pointe by Brandy Colbert

I’ve developed a fascinated with ballet over the last few years.  I took dance growing up, but I also had a ton of other activities.  The level of dedication ballet dancers display amazes me.  I loved the show Bunheads – the choreography was phenomenal.  Breaking Pointe was 90% reality soap opera, but the 10% ballet was enough to keep me hooked.  I’ve read a few ballet books, but I can’t believe I didn’t read this the second it came out.

No Place to Fall by Jaye Robin Brown

The MC sounds like someone I’ll identify with (although I’ve identified with characters I NEVER would have expected to).

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Just reading the synopsis of Lies We Tell Ourselves makes me tear up. I like stories in any format (books, tv, movie) that have characters with diverse characters coming together.

The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu

I read a lot of books about slut shaming and high school.  I think it’s because if I have kids I think the more I read about it the better I’d be able to help them deal with it.  Or prevent them from participating.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Parents living vicariously through their daughter who’s body ends up found in the local lake. 

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

This is a bonus because it wasn’t released until November so it really hasn’t been that long to not have read it.   A Thousand Pieces of You is high concept and sounds fascinating.  MC’s father invented something that allows people to jump into other dimensions.  Her father is murdered and the killer escapes into another dimension before he can be caught.

These posts tend to overwhelm me – there are just SO many books I want to read!  What books did you miss last year?

On the Road Again

After a couple years spent largely at home, I’m going to spend 2015 traveling for work and not to especially exciting areas. Small towns can be charming, but I’m not excited about spending 75% of the year in hotels with extremely limited dining and entertainment options.

As a reader there’s an added challenge – How many books do I pack?  And which books? 

The travel should afford me the opportunity to read quite a bit this year, but I already have an over-packing problem and books are heavy.

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I’ll be home each weekend so I can restock, but I’m a mood reader so I need to have options.  And I do have a lot of ebooks, but there are times when I want a physical book.  Especially when I’m traveling because books are comforting to me in a way that my phone/ipad aren’t.

Now smell itnothing smells like that

I’m actually started 2 ebooks before leaving for this trip, but I haven’t felt like reading them (and I was enjoying both). 

So for week one – I brought

  • Keep Calm and Carry a Big Drink by Kim Gruenenfelder
  • The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
  • Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

I’m happy with my choices for this week.  I was in the mood for something light and decided on Keep Calm and Carry a Big Drink.  Hopefully I’m as happy with my choices going forward.

Anyone have any tips for books/travel?  Hopefully at the end of the year I’ll have some tips to share.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas

Throne of Glass

Throne of Glass

Sarah J. Maas

Bloomsbury USA

404 pgs, 2012

Purchased Hardback

 

 

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Summary from Goodreads

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she's bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it's the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another.

Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

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My Thoughts

In the past two weeks I’ve read Throne of Glass, Crown of Midnight, and Heir of Fire.  I also read the prequel book The Assassin’s Blade. I’m going to try to separate my thoughts down to just Throne of Glass, but beware of spoilers – I’m going to try my best not to spoil anything, but it’s difficult when I read them all together.

I obviously loved this book considering I read all four in a couple weeks – it doesn’t break my Harry Potter record of 7 in two weeks, but still notable. 

Celaena is a bad ass – which isn’t really that noteable in current YA, but what was refreshing was that she knew it.  I actually enjoyed reading a female protagonist who was a little full of herself.  At the beginning of the book this is 100% her defining characteristic, but as the book progresses you start to see other facets of her personality.  She’s a bookworm (so pretty much anyone reading can relate), she’s surprisingly compassionate and very loyal.

As Prince Dorian’s Champion she spend quite a bit of time training with Chaol Westfall. 

Prince Dorian originally picked Celaena as his Champion as an act of rebellion against his father the King, who is pretty much the embodiment of evil.  It doesn’t take long before Dorian admires Celaena for more than her ability to piss off his father.  He finds himself drawn to spend more and more time with her to the frustration of his longtime friend Chaol

Chaol Westfall takes his responsibilities as Captain of the Guard very seriously, as well as his long time friendship with Prince Dorian.  Neither of these line up with having a convicted assassin around.  Especially one in such close proximity to Dorian.  But since Celaena is representing the Prince in the competition, Chaol must spent time training with her.  Chaol thaws towards Celaena, begrudgingly admiring her determination…and other things he doesn’t really want to admit to himself much less anyone else. 

Honestly my biggest knock on Throne of Glass is that there are very clearly defined good guys and bad guys and I LOVED all the good guys all the time and HATED all the bad guys all the time.  Prince Dorian and Chaol are both amazing men, but with different personalities.  Nehemia is an amazing representative for her people and a good friend to Celaena.  The King, the Duke, Cain, and Kaltain are all manipulative and power hungry.  Simple but I generally like my characters a little more varied than that.

I don’t think this is a spoiler but this small complaint changes in the next books.  I started to have a little empathy for some previously 100% evil characters and the “good guys” displayed some imperfections.

My summary in a nutshell – love the characters, the world building is amazing and I can’t wait for the next book!

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Monday, January 5, 2015

Top 10 Debut Novels I’m excited for in 2015

Every Tuesday the ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish host a book related Top 10.
I barely read any debut novels in 2014 and I’d like to do better in 2015.  Here are 10 I’m excited about, but I’ll be happy if I get to 5.  I’m really focusing this year on reading books I already own.

These all sound AMAZING!  Brief synopses from Goodreads.

Between the notesBetween the Notes by Sharon Huss Roat
When Ivy Emerson’s family loses their house—complete with her beloved piano—the fear of what’s to come seizes her like a bad case of stage fright. Only this isn’t one of her single, terrifying performances. It’s her life.









Everything that makes you
Everything that Makes You by Moriah McStay
One girl. Two stories. Meet Fiona Doyle. The thick ridges of scar tissue on her face are from an accident twelve years ago. Fiona has notebooks full of songs she’s written about her frustrations, her dreams, and about her massive crush on beautiful uber-jock Trent McKinnon.

Meet Fi Doyle. Fi is the top-rated female high school lacrosse player in the state, heading straight to Northwestern on a full ride. She’s got more important things to deal with than her best friend Trent McKinnon, who’s been different ever since the kiss.



My heart and other black holes
My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. With a mother who can barely look at her without wincing, classmates who whisper behind her back, and a father whose violent crime rocked her small town, Aysel is ready to turn her potential energy into nothingness.

There’s only one problem: she’s not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers a website with a section called Suicide Partners, Aysel’s convinced she’s found her solution: a teen boy with the username FrozenRobot (aka Roman) who’s haunted by a family tragedy is looking for a partner.


Everything Everything
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I'm allergic to the world.I don't leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He's tall, lean and wearing all black--black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly. Maybe we can't predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It's almost certainly going to be a disaster.


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The Night We Said Yes by Lauren Gibaldi
Before Matt, Ella had a plan. Get over a no-good ex-boyfriend. Graduate from high school without any more distractions. Move away from Orlando, Florida, where she’s lived her entire life.
But Matt—the cute, shy, bespectacled bass player who just moved to town—was never part of that plan.

In alternating then and now chapters, debut author Lauren Gibaldi crafts a charming, romantic story of first loves, lifelong friendships, uncovered secrets, and, ultimately, finding out how to be brave.




The wrong side of right
The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne
Kate Quinn’s mom died last year, leaving Kate parentless and reeling. So when the unexpected shows up in her living room, Kate must confront another reality she never thought possible—or thought of at all. Kate does have a father. He’s a powerful politician. And he’s running for U.S. President.

Set against a backdrop of politics, family, and first love, this is a story of personal responsibility, complicated romance, and trying to discover who you are even as everyone tells you who you should be.




Under painted sky
Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush.  Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.


Way we bared our souls
The Way We Bared Our Souls by Willa Strayhorn
If you could trade your biggest burden for someone else’s, would you do it?
Five teenagers sit around a bonfire in the middle of the New Mexico desert. They don’t know it yet, but they are about to make the biggest sacrifice of their lives.


When they trade totems as a symbol of shedding and adopting one another’s sorrows, they think it’s only an exercise.

But in the morning, they wake to find their burdens gone…and replaced with someone else’s.


We all looked up
We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach
Peter, the star basketball player at his school, is worried “they” might actually be right. Meanwhile Eliza can’t wait to escape Seattle—and her reputation—and perfect-on-paper Anita wonders if admission to Princeton is worth the price of abandoning her real dreams. Andy, for his part, doesn’t understand all the fuss about college and career—the future can wait.

Or can it? Because it turns out the future is hurtling through space with the potential to wipe out life on Earth. As these four seniors—along with the rest of the planet—wait to see what damage an asteroid will cause, they must abandon all thoughts of the future and decide how they’re going to spend what remains of the present.


Where the staircase ends
Where the Staircase Ends by Stacy Stokes
After her best friend orchestrates the lie that destroys her reputation, Taylor wants more than anything to disappear from her life. But when an accident turns this unspoken wish into reality, instead of an angel-filled afterlife, Taylor must climb a seemingly endless staircase into the sky.

Instead of going up, the journey plunges her into the past. As she unravels the mystery behind her friend’s betrayal, she must face the truth about life and find the strength to forgive the unforgivable -- unless the staircase breaks her first.