Monday, September 30, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday - Book Turnoffs

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

You know that moments when you are reading a book - and possibly loving it - and then something happens and you throw it across the room? 
Or continue reading hoping to move past whatever that something was only to be disappointed?  These are my top ten of those "somethings".
1.      Power grabs – I get exhausted just thinking of all the scheming that went on in The Other Boleyn Girl.  My own life tires me out enough – I use books to recharge.
2.      Too many misunderstandings – If every character is acting out of some misunderstanding, cough “The Kitchen House” cough, it feels contrived to me.
3.      Too be continued…  - In my opinion book 1 should never end in a cliffhanger. I don’t mind loose ends or not knowing all the details, but if book one ends with a major cliff hanger I feel like the author doesn’t trust their own writing to be compelling enough for me to continue reading.  As a result I don’t trust them to continue writing a story I care about. When I think of the most successful series, the first book can stand alone if it needs too: Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Divergent, Twilight.  Examples of books where a cliffhanger made me not want to read the sequel(s): Uglies/Pretties, Pure, Daughter of Smoke and Bone
4.      Multiple person narrative in first person – It’s just confusing.  I don’t notice when you put the chapter narrorator’s name at the top of the chapter, so I’ll start the chapter in the mindset of the previous narrator and get confused a couple pages in and have to go back.
5.      Language that tries too hard
    1. Overly flowery (Purple Prose)
    2. Attempts to create futuristic teen slang
6.      Wilting flower heroines / controlling male love interests – Twilight, the gift that keeps on giving.
7.      Absentee Parents/Demonizing parents –The YA trend of absentee parents is bad enough, but certain authors make a habit of demonizing parents. I’m aware that parents aren’t always right and teenagers are figuring out who they are separate from their parents. But I find it incredibly frustrating when books portray all the parents as selfish and uncaring.
8.      Wilting flower heroines / controlling male love interests – Twilight, the gift that keeps on giving.

  1. Under explained dystopia I am totally ok with leaving some elements of “how they got here” to sequels, but if the author leaves too many holes to be filled in during subsequent books I fear they won’t fill them all in and I’ll be left with questions once the series is over or that they’ll don’t know how to fill those holes and will haphazardly fill them in the final book in a way that doesn’t make sense.
  2. Lack of punctuation – I don’t care that they did it on purpose and that there’s a reason for it. “Evening” and “The Road” were just hard to read because of it. I won’t read another book that does this regardless of how well reviewed it is.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Mini Reviews - Abbi Glines

When my job title changed in February, I was feeling really overwhelmed by my new responsibilities.  I talked about it briefly in this post.  Reading is my escape from stress, but I didn’t have the mental space to read anything challenging (or review worthy).  I decided to do a few posts that highlight my overall thoughts on a few of the books I read between February and August.

I went through an Abbi Glines phase that in retrospect I find really embarrassing.  I stumbled into Just For Now on Kindle for a couple dollars and I thought it would be a light romance.  It was actually more explicit than I was expected, but total brain candy – no redeeming value, but easy to read. 

Turns out that “Just for Now” is part of the Sea Breeze series a collection of companion novels.  It was actually book 4.   I ended up reading books 1-3 in short succession without giving any of them much thought.

After I finished all of them I realized that they are pretty much all the same book.  Here’s the basic plot.
1)    Super attractive male lead who never has sex with the same girl twice.

2)    Super attractive female lead who has never had sex.

3)    Male lead falls head over heals for female lead and quits sleeping around.

4)    Male lead does something stupid and they get in a fight and break up.

5)    Male lead redeems himself and they live happily ever after.
You can obviously understand why I’m slightly embarrassed that I read FOUR of these books, but to be fair I’ll say they were exactly what I need to read at the time.  I have OD'd on this particular series and won't be diving into Sometimes it Lasts or Misbehaving anytime soon.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday - Best Sequels EVER!

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

I split this into 2 categories – sequels that were not series enders and those that did complete the story.  I was actually surprised by how many middle books I really enjoy – the sophomore slump is not as prevalent as I feel it is.
Sequels that did not conclude the series
Harry Potters 2-6 by J.K. Rowling – If I have to pick a favorite it would be Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Everbound by Brodi Ashton
Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi
The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
Prized by Caragh M. O’Brien
Scarlett by Marissa Meyer
Best sequels that end a series
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Something Blue by Emily Giffin
The Lost World by Michael Crichton
Confession time - I'm feeling way to lazy to add pictures to this post.  Does anyone else find getting pictures into their blog posts exhausting?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

DIY: Placemat or Pillowcover

With my new job I haven't tackled much in the DIY/Home D├ęcor arena lately.  My house tends to be messy enough without projects.  But I did recently do a small update copied almost entirely from my Mom.  Mom is changing up the color scheme in her living room.  She's had two pillows that look like this for almost a decade and while she still likes them - they just don't "go" anymore.


Enter a couple clearance placemats from Target.  That's right PLACEMATS!  Total cost $8.

 So being the big ol' copycat that I am, I immediately get on the Target website cause I have these two pillows that I settled for and have never loved:

Obviously I can't get the exact same thing as Mom cause those don't go in my space (and would be WAY to matchy for me), but I did find these placemats on the Target website (one is shown from the front, the other from the back).

 I got really excited and ordered immediately.   Online they came in sets of 4/$16 so I'm out a little more money than Mom, plus my old pillows were too big to reuse so I had to buy inserts ($5.99 at Tuesday Morning) for a total per pillow cost of $14.  Not bad for something I love.

I'm terrible at taking process pictures - essentially Mom and I just ripped out three fourths of the bottom seam, folded the new pillow up and pushed it in, arranged the new pillow correctly, and then re-sewed the seam (Mom did the re-sewing).  If you were going to put them somewhere with high traffic and a lot of use I think it would be pretty easy to add a zipper when you rip out the seam.   That way you could wash the cover.  Anyway here's the final product in my house.

And here's the view from the couch.

Has anyone else tackled any super easy, very satisfying projects lately?  Seen any genius pillow ideas on Pinterest?


Monday, September 16, 2013

Top 10 Tuesday - Fall TBR List

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

This week’s theme is Top 10 Books on my Fall TBR list.  I've done several of these post and don't think I've ever come close to reading the books listed....but here's another try.  Basically I'm trying to catch up on the challenges I committed to at the beginning of the year.  Yeah I have more than 10 here.

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetsy
Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
1984 by George Orwell 

Beloved by Toni Morrison
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Love in Excess by Eliza Haywood
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain 



New Releases that will for sure get read 

Storm Front by John Sandford

                    Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi


Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell


Rainbow Rowell
433 pgs, St. Martin’s Press 2013
Kindle Purchase
Summary from Goodreads

A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love.

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.
Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .
But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.
Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere. Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.
Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.
For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?
Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?
And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

My Summary / Thoughts

Starting college can be exciting, but it can also be scary and overwhelming.  Especially for Cather (known as Cath); describing her as shy would be an understatement.  Discovering that her twin sister Wren didn’t want to room together was a major blow – Wren is the outgoing/fun one while Cath suffers from social anxiety.  Cath also worries about how her father will cope with an empty nest – with pretty good reason.
Moving into the dorms, Cath meets her new roommate Reagan and Reagan’s boyfriend Levi.  With a smile and conversation for everyone, Levi might be the friendliest character I’ve ever read about. 
“…you’re nice to everybody.  You give away nice like it doesn’t cost you anything.”
Levi laughed.  “It doesn’t cost me anything.  It’s not like smiling at strangers exhausts my overall supply.”
“Well, it does mine.”  
“I’m not you.  Making people happy makes me feel good.  If anything, it gives me more energy for the people I care about.”
In contrast, Reagan is abrupt, almost rude.  Over the first month or two they interact very little until Reagan questions Cath about whether she’s eating – Cath’s social anxiety has prevented her from using the dining hall – she doesn't know how it works, where to sit, and is just overwhelmed by the thought of trying it.  At this point Reagan takes Cath under her wing just a bit.
“I feel sorry for you, and I’m going to be your friend.” 
“I don’t want to be your friend,” Cath said as sternly as she could. “I like that we’re not friends.” 
“Me, too,” Reagan said.  “I’m sorry you ruined it by being so pathetic.”
Having Reagan as an ally helps, but Cath still really misses the relationship with her sister.  Cath and Wren used to write fan fiction for the Simon Snow series, but Wren quit writing it a few years ago, and lately has been trying to distance herself from this aspect of Cath’s life.  And it’s a major aspect – Cath is writing her own ending to the series – essentially a final book, and she has fans.  Tens of thousands of people wait anxiously for each chapter she publishes.  Instead Wren is embracing what she believes is “typical” college life – which you can imagine isn’t very healthy and gives Cath one more thing to worry about.

And then there’s Cath’s fiction writing class – a junior level class she received permission to take as a freshman.  This class adds a professor who believes fan-fiction is plagiarism and a male classmate who sends mixed messages, confusing and disorienting Cath.
Okay so that’s a basic outline of the major characters and the challenges that Cath faces in this novel while also not giving anything away.  Here are some general thoughts.
No one writes love stories like Rainbow.  No one writes coming of age stories like Rainbow.  There’s a level of realism that as a reader I don’t even realize I’m missing until I read one of Rainbow’s books.

Quite a few young adult novels are criticized for “Insta-Love” – so much so that when I read a book where the relationship developed somewhat naturally, I’m always thrilled and make a point to note it in my review.  The development of Cath and Levi’s relationship builds so gradually and with such detail that everything else I’ve read seems shallow.  I’m at a loss for words to describe Levi.  He’s a swoon-worthy romantic lead, but not because he’s so hot (from context I’d guess he’s attractive) or brooding (he’s pretty much the opposite of brooding).  Reading about Levi is like having a light turn on that you didn’t realize was off – man that sounds cheesy – but he really does just light up the page. 
The coming-of-age aspect I mentioned a bit ago is also handled elegantly.  Cath grows throughout the novel in her writing, in how she deals with new situations and people, and also in how she views herself.  What’s truly amazing is how natural the growth feels – I felt as if I was watching someone grow up and cheering her on as she did it.  Avoiding confrontation comes naturally to Cath, but I really admired that when she was forced to express her feelings she was honest.  She never diminished her own feelings because someone else might think she was being overly dramatic.  Cath instinctively understands that even if something is a bigger deal to her than others, it doesn’t mean that she’s wrong.
Every major character - Cath, Levi, Wren, Reagan, and Cath’s dad - mature in this novel.  It happens organically as events in their lives change their perspectives or make them more confident of what they already believed.  None of them were two-dimensional – I felt like I knew and wanted to be friends with all of them. 

My Rating
Enjoyability (5 out of 5 stars)

Characters (5 out of 5 stars)
Writing (5 out of 5 stars)

I’ve read Fangirl twice in the last five days.  At this point I think I’ll have it memorized by the end of the year so I think it’s safe to say…

This book will stay with me forever.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Life As We Knew It
Susan Beth Pfeffer
337 pgs, 10/1/06
Purchased Book 

Miranda’s disbelief turns to fear in a split second when a meteor knocks the moon closer to the earth. How should her family prepare for the future when worldwide tsunamis wipe out the coasts, earthquakes rock the continents, and volcanic ash blocks out the sun? As summer turns to Arctic winter, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother retreat to the unexpected safe haven of their sunroom, where they subsist on stockpiled food and limited water in the warmth of a wood-burning stove.

Told in journal entries, this is the heart-pounding story of Miranda’s struggle to hold on to the most important resource of all--hope--in an increasingly desperate and unfamiliar world.  

My Thoughts/Summary

I cannot believe this book came out SEVEN years ago and I never heard of it until I saw it on display at Barnes and Noble a few weekends ago.  This is the kind of book that is totally up my alley.

Life As We Knew It is told from Miranda’s perspective as journal entries.  The beginning of the novel shows Miranda’s reactions to typical high school girl issues: crushes on boys, Dad’s new wife is pregnant, missing her brother who left for college.  All of that comes crashing down when a meteor hits the moon and knocks it closer to the earth.  Instead of worrying about whether she’ll have a boyfriend, Miranda has to worry about food scarcity, clean water, and heat for the winter. 

The most interesting aspect of the novel is discovering how the catastrophe affects the world outlook of the characters around Miranda, especially her mother.  There’s one scene in particular between Miranda and her mother that just gutted me. 

I spent the whole scene in Miranda’s head (it’s a journal entry for goodness sakes) and totally understood her reasoning for a decision she made.  Then her mother discovers it and just goes off.  After taking a step back I could totally understand her mother’s reaction, but while reading it just felt grossly unfair.

Anyway, if you like books about end of the world type situations and the what if questions you will LOVE this book.  I know I did. 

My Rating

Enjoyability (4 out of 5 stars)

Characters (5 out of 5 stars)

Writing (4 out of 5 stars)

This book will stay with me forever.  I just love thinking about the what ifs. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Top 10 Tuesday - Books I'd like to see as a TV show or Movie

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

This week’s theme is Book that I would like to see as TV shows / movies.  All of these assume that they'd be done well - not a great assumption, but I'm going with it.

1.    Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham – Evidently a TV show is in development and I think that is a perfect format.  The most challenging thing will be finding the right Franny because I think most who have read it see Lauren and she can’t quite pass for mid twenties anymore.


2.    Attachments by Rainbow Rowell – I’m not sure it’s possible to do this one well as a movie, but I’d love it if they could.

3.    Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell – I don’t really trust Hollywood with this book, but I’d love to see it on the big screen (Rainbow would have to approve casting for me to get outboard though).

4.    The Lunar Chronicles  (Cinder, Scarlett) by Marissa Meyer – These have a lot of action and would be fun to see translated to the big screen.

5.    Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi – Again a lot of action and a romance with depth and no triangle. 

6.    Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – Some action, great friendship, and intrigue.

7.    Bossypants by Tina Fey – Tina’s life story would make a great TV show.


8.    The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly (the sequel to the Lincoln Lawyer)

9.    The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – Currently filming.  Please, Please, Please, do it well!

10. Exile by Richard North Patterson – This would be a great mini-series for HBO.  Way too much info for a movie, but not a continuing story like a TV show. 

Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber

Nadia Bolz-Weber
224 pgs, Jericho Books 2013


Summary from Goodreads
Foul-mouthed and heavily tattooed, former standup comic-turned-Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber weaves hilarious rants and stunning theological insight into her personal narrative of a flawed, beautiful, and unlikely life of faith.

Bizarre, rich, and remarkable, PASTRIX turns spiritual memoir on its ear in a sardonically irreverent and beautifully honest page-turner that readers will never forget. Nadia Bolz-Weber takes no prisoners as she reclaims the term pastrix (a negative term used by some Christians who refuse to recognize women as pastors) in this wildly entertaining and deeply resonant memoir about an outrageous, unlikely life of faith. From a commune of haggard-but-hopeful slackers to the wobbly chairs and war stories of Alcoholic Anonymous, from a funeral in a smoky downtown comedy club to an unexpected revelation during the Haitian stations of the cross, PASTRIX is a journey of cranky spirituality that intersects religion with real life, weaving incredible narrative, hilarious rants, and poignant honesty to portray a life deeply flawed and deeply faithful-giving hope to the rest of us.
My Thoughts/Summary
Full disclosure, I would have been shocked not to love this book.  I started reading Nadia’s blog shortly after stumbling across a video of her speaking at the 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering that I mentioned in this post.  When I got the email that I was approved to read Pastrix on Netgalley I literally jumped up and down on the sidewalk in my work uniform.
Pastrix did not disappoint  It’s the story of Nadia’s spiritual life, but instead of telling it chronologically it’s told in chapters that show how moments early in life can fold into what happens later and what she learned from the whole experience.   Nadia doesn’t try to fit into our expectations of what a pastor should be: the picture on the cover shows off her tattoos and the first word of the book is “shit”.  But she really illustrates that God is everywhere – not just a church. 

“We want to go to God for answers, but sometimes what we get is God’s presence.”
But I think the strength of this book is that Nadia admits she doesn’t know all the answers.  That God is meant to be unknowable and instead of faking anything she’s just very honest about her experiences and feelings.  Nadia voices hard questions that believers and non-believers ask of God and of the church, addressing the disappointments and abuse many people have suffered at the hands of the church.  Some chapters end with very clear messages of what she believes about God, while others like “Hurricanes and Humiliations” aren’t quite as clear cut. 

“Jesus calls us to welcome the stranger and serve our neighbor.  And the images on our television during the Katrina event begged the question:  Who is that neighbor?  Being Christian is much harder that I wish it was.  We’re called to take care of the poor.  But should we open our homes to those in need if it entails danger to our children?  We’re called to love our enemies and forgive those who trespass against us.  Does that mean we should allow people who have hurt and betrayed us back into our lives?  Or does it mean that simply don’t wish them ill?”
Every single chapter elicited genuine emotion from me.  I cried a lot – happy and sad tears.  I laughed out loud.  But mostly I felt hope at the message of a loving God that I’ve always felt, but have had a hard time expressing to other people. 
I believe that this is my most highlighted book ever.  I thought about adding more quotes, but they work so much better in context so please READ THIS BOOK!

My Rating
Enjoyability (5 out of 5 stars)
Relationships (4 out of 5 stars)
Writing (5 out of 5 stars)
This book will stay with me forever.  I’ll buy a physical copy as soon as it comes out on Tuesday. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

So Tough to Tame by Victoria Dahl

So Tough to Tame
Victoria Dahl
384pgs, Harlequin HQN
Release date – 9/24/13

Goodreads Summary

Tough to tame, but not too tough to love... Charlie Allington is supposed to be on the fast track to the top-a small-town girl who was making it big in her career. Instead, she's reeling from a scandal that's pretty much burned all her bridges. Now, out of options, she needs a place to lick her wounds and figure out her future. True, working at a ski resort in rugged Jackson Hole, Wyoming, isn't her dream job. But if there's one perk to coming back, it's a certain sexy hometown boy who knows how to make a girl feel welcome.

Cowboy Walker Pearce never expected a grown-up Charlie to be temptation in tight jeans. She's smart and successful-way out of league for a man like him. But he's not about to let that, or his secrets, get in the way of their blazing-hot attraction. Yet when passion turns to something more, will the truth-about both of them-send her out of his life for good...or into his arms forever?

My Summary
This is the third and I believe final novel in Dahl’s Jackson Series.  Charlie Allington returns to her hometown of Jackson, WY to recover from a scandal that rocked both her professional and personal confidence.  She was able to find a job in her field back home with the help of some old “friends”, but they seem to be enjoying her fall from grace.  She manages to land an apartment at the “Stud Farm” with the help of Walker Pearce – a high school crush she tutored junior year. 
Walker is still tall and gorgeous, with an extra dose of manly that he’s acquired since high school.  He’s also still the ladies man she remembers, but now Charlie is much more confident and flirts back.  Walker has struggles of his own.  He’s a cowboy, but after a mistake that got him fired at his last job, he hasn’t been able to find consistent work or and the work he can find isn’t the kind he enjoys.
Walker never believes he isn’t smart enough for Charlie in an actual relationship, and based on Walker’s lack of relationship history Charlie doesn’t know he would be open to one.  Since they are both trying to keep the relationship casual and keep their pride Walker and Charlie keep their pasts secret from each other pretty much until everything blows up.
I really enjoyed this book, although I enjoyed the previous two more.  I spent a large portion of “So Tough to Tame” with my stomach in knots because I knew shit was gonna hit the fan and just wanted to be prepared for it to happen.  I also spent a lot of time internally begging Charlie to trust her instincts (although she has reason not to).
Either way I love both Charlie and Walker.  I love that Charlie is totally confident sexually, while struggling at work (cause we all have area’s where we are more confident than others).  I enjoyed seeing Walker’s fun side when dealing with the kids as well as his frustration having to face his father with dementia.  I’ve read at least ten Victoria Dahl romances and she manages to make every character unique – a rare find in the genre.

My Rating
Enjoyability (4 out of 5 stars)
Relationships (4 out of 5 stars)
Writing (4 out of 5 stars)

This book will stay with me until I have read it so many times I can practically quote verbatim. 

Disclosure:  I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.