Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Top Ten Books with Characters who have Passion at a Young Age

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


This week is “Top ten books that feature characters who ________”.  The blank can be anything from “grew up poor” to “have lost someone”.  I’m choosing “have passion at a young age”.  Growing up I played violin and piano, was in several honor choirs, and took about 10 hours of dance class per week.  I loved all of it and really admired people who were super dedicated to their art.

1) The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay  - this is a heart breaker because Nastya has lost her dream.  After dedicating over a decade to piano and injury ends any chance of a future.  She has to deal with starting over around two other people who also have passion and I think that forces her to deal with her grief.

2) Did You Hear About Amber by Cherie Bennett – Another heart breaker.  Instead of piano it’s dance, and instead of an injury it’s an illness.  But the end result is that Amber has to deal with the grief of losing her dream and finding another.

3) This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales – Elise finds a passion for DJing when she is 16.  In this book you’re just seeing the beginning of it, but

4) Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez – Carmen has been studying the violin her entire life.  Now she’s in the competition of a lifetime, but she’s also possible falling in love with a competitor she can’t trust, and dealing with tons of parental pressure.

5) Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham – This is a funny story of Franny Banks who is doing everything in her power to “Make it” as an actress by the deadline she set up when she moved to New York.  Unfortunately three years is now six months so the clock is ticking.

6) Slammed by Colleen Hoover – I knew nothing about slam poetry before reading this book and found it really interesting.  Add in an addictive love story and I’m sold.

7) Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins – Lola has put so much energy into fashion and design.  Her passion for costume just bleeds through the page and briefly infects this reader (who lives in yoga pants).

8) Where She Went by Gayle Foreman – I didn’t really connect with If I Stay but adored Where She Went.  Both main characters are dedicated to music – Adam has his rock band, and Mia is a classical cellist.

9) Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – Cath loves to write.  Specifically she loves to write fan fiction.  It’s fun to read her struggles as she grows from writing in someone else’s world to building her own.

10) The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay – This is one of my top 3 books of all time and everything I know about boxing I learned in here.  Due to extreme bullying (understatement) as a small child, Peekay discovers boxing as a way to feel power -  a way for little to beat big.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Trouble with Ratings

I constantly struggle with rating books.  There are several reasons for my frustrations.

Genres Differences

First of all rating books across genres with the same scale is a challenge.  Yet no matter how many times I re-evaluate my rating system I haven’t found a system that satisfies me. 

Little Mermaid frustrated

I’m definitely looking for different things when I read different types of books.  When I’m looking for something that I can just disappear into, complete in one sitting I pickup a Contemporary YA or Chick lit (Stephanie Perkins, Miranda Kenneally, Liza Palmer).  Sometimes I want something that will take a little more thought – ie Poisonwood Bible by Kingsolver.  Both “Lola and the Boy Next Door” and “The Poisonwood Bible” received 4 star Goodreads ratings from me, but those books couldn’t be more different. 

Badly Behaving Author Horror Stories

Luckily I haven’t had this happen to me, but I have read some really nasty stories about author reactions to 3 star reviews.  THREE. STAR. REVIEWS! 

J Law Okay I don't get it

Three stars means the reviewer liked it.  For me that means I will probably read more of that authors work.  There has gotten to be this attitude that anything short of 4 stars is a slam.  I also think this is what leads to the strong desire for half stars.  Since anything less than 4 stars is unacceptable for a good book to establish a difference between books that we liked and books that we loved there’s only a one star range of acceptable options.  I think that’s why I initially chose a 10 star scale.  But I so rarely used anything less than 7 stars and it felt really random when I chose a number less that 6.  I think it’s because on a 10 point scale or a 5 point scale with halves we generally don’t use the bottom half of the scale. This is what these scales translate to for me.  Instead of thinking of 3 stars as an average review we should think of all the un-liked books being weeded out in 1 star reviews.


Ratings scale

My Goal as a Reviewer

My goal as a reviewer is to encourage people to read the book and a straight up number review system doesn’t really do much on that score. We all laugh that every YA contemporary at this point says “For Fans of John Green” or “Rainbow Rowell”, but generally my first question when someone wants a recommendation is “What are your favorite books?”  I think a lot of people are mood readers and this helps with the question “Am I in the mood for this book?”

When I’m asked for recommendations, depending on the person I’ll give them a recommendation to something SUPER close to what they like or maybe something with elements of their favorites, but that will also introduce a new genre or even author gender. 

My Scale

I’m sticking with the Goodreads five full star scale. 

1 star - I didn’t like a book and I don’t need to scale how much I didn’t like it.

2 Stars – I liked some elements of the book, but didn’t like others.  The Negatives outweighted the positives, but not by much.

3 Stars – I liked more than I disliked.  Overall I enjoyed the book and am open to other books by the author.

4 Stars – I liked/loved the book.

5 Stars – An all time favorite. 

Other Decisions

This doesn’t solve the differences in genre and I’m still thinking of a way to work with that.

I also decided I’m going to refrain from giving a star ratings until at least a month has past since I read the book. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Top 10 Favorite Authors

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


This week’s top 10…Favorite Authors.  It actually isn’t that hard for me to narrow this list down to 10.  There are quite a few authors I like a lot, but only a few who I auto buy.  I’ve also included my favorite books from each author.


Author - Rainbow

Author - Dahl

Author - Sandford

Author - Coben

Author - PerkinsAuthor - Rowling

Almost Autobuy

Author - ManningAuthor - Lazebnik

Love the Writing but…

Author - KingAuthor - Courtenay

So what authors do you automatically dig out your wallet for?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

Daughter of the forestDaughter of the Forest

Juliet Marillier

400 pgs, Tor Books, May 2000






Sorcha is the youngest of seven and the only daughter of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters.  Her mother died right after she was born so she has been raised mostly by her older brothers – wonderful brothers who do everything in their power to protect her and make sure she is content. Pretty much the only unhappiness in Sorcha’s young life is that her father barely acknowledges her.  He seems to only have a use for the sons who are interested in fighting the battles to maintain their land.

When Sorcha is 12 her father brings home a new wife – who immediately puts Sorcha and most of her brother’s ill at ease. Their unease is justified when the step mother casts a terrible spell that transforms Sorcha’s brothers into swans. The Queen of the Forest gives Sorcha a task she can complete to reverse the spell on her brothers, but it will be emotionally and physically painful. She much complete this task in silence and never communicate in any way WHY she is doing this task that seems mad.

At first Sorcha works to complete her task in isolation only seeing people during the 2 nights a year her brothers return in human form. After a personal tragedy, Sorcha finds herself kidnapped/under the protection of her father’s enemies and taken far from home.  For the first time she struggles between love and desire to save her brothers.

My Thoughts

Daughter of the Forest takes a little while to really get into. The author take her time making sure the reader not only knows Sorcha well, but also have a very good understanding of each of her brothers. Time is also spent world building so the reader feels the magic of the forest and the sea.

Her brothers are all interesting in their own right – the payoff for the slow buildup at the beginning of the book. I love how protective they are of their sister and how hard it is for them to watch her struggle for their benefit during the curse.  They also drive me a little crazy when they make decisions for her after she has proven herself more than capable.

I did enjoy reading the first slower section of the book, but once the spell is cast the story does speed up. Sorcha’s an amazing heroine. Steadfast and strong, while also showing vulnerability.  She’s smart, caring, patient and talented. She immediately tackles the daunting task given to her by the Fair Folk and stays determinedly on it with one small exception. 

Even when kidnapped and taken far from home she immediately starts planning how to complete her task in unfamiliar territory. Adding to the challenge are confusing feeling for her kidnapper, Red.  Kidnapper is really a fair term for Red.  When Sorcha first met Red he was pulling her from water to save her from drowning.  She was undernourished and refused to speak. By the time they returned to his home she was following willingly.

Feelings develop between Red and Sorcha, but these are confused by the many obstacles between them.  Red’s brother disappeared near Sorcha’s lands, and Red’s people don’t like or trust Sorcha.  Her main priority is her brothers, but despite all this they grow closer. 

My biggest complaint is not a failure of the book – it’s a personal reading quirk. I struggle with foreshadowing.  My reaction to foreshadowing is to want to skip ahead any miss the sad/scary/bad stuff.  I’d rather just be surprised.

Overall I loved this book and I’m so happy Elizabeth recommended it!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Top 10 Quotes in books

Every Tuesday the ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish host a book related Top 10.
This week is top 10 inspiring, moving or thought provoking quotes in books.
Devil's Mixtape Quotecode name verity - quoteafterworlds - quoteKevin QuotesAnne of Green Gables QuoteMy heart black holes quotePastrix - QuotePoisonwood Bible quote

Thursday, April 9, 2015

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

Heart and other black holesI found this on a list of the best books coming out this year and recently my hold came up at the library.  I don’t want to give away too much plot but Aysel has an infamous father and is a social pariah at school.  She struggles to relate to her mother and has decided she wants to end her life.  Her biggest concern is that she’s attempt suicide and be unsuccessful.  Enter FrozenRobot (Roman), a boy she meets on a website for suicide partners.

The Good

Physics/Math – I’m a math nerd. So I loved that physics and math are important to Aysel.  It’s how she sorts through her life and what causes her the most questions about her suicidal intentions.

Well built story - There’s no info dump.  The author does a beautiful job of alluding to Aysel’s past and what happened with her father, giving pieces so it’s always on your mind.  I really wanted to know what happened in the past but was interested enough in the present to continue reading without skimming to find out what happened.

Opposites Attract – Aysel might be a little stereotypical of what we think a depressed teenager looks/acts like, but Roman isn’t.  Until a year ago, he was a popular athlete.  Even though he’s not participating anymore the people around him still care and are concerned.

The Bad
I got nothing – I’m not saying it’s a perfect book, but there are no clear flaws for me.  It took me three weeks to complete this review trying to find something to criticize and decided to throw in the towel.

The Results
Really, really good, possibly excellent.  It’s on my list of books to purchase for reread.
For those who like star ratings – 4 out of 5 stars

Monday, April 6, 2015

Top Ten Characters I Want to Check Back in With.

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


This week is characters/stories I want to peak back in on years later.

Rainbows books

1. I want to read more of all of Rainbow’s characters.  I want to check in with Beth and Lincoln, and Jennifer and Mitch.  Eleanor & Park need a sequel and while the hidden cameo by Cath and Levi in Landline was awesome I still want more.  Reagan could honestly use her own book.  Rainbow just writes characters I care about and want to be friends with.

books 2-4 yellow

2.  A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier

I fell in love with Cleo and Edmund during this story, but at the end they were still pretty young.  I’d love to know how their lives played out.

3.  Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

The ending of this book fit the story, but it left me craving a story 3-5 years down the line when Callie and Alex might be at the same place in their lives.

4.  My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Wanga

I just finished this book and loved it.  The ending was a little quicker than I would like (but not terribly abrupt) and even if I’d gotten more I’d still want to know Aysel and Roman do in college and as adults.

Books 5-7 navy

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

Rickie had just gotten her life more on track at the end of the book and I’d love to see how she and Noah and Andrew are doing in the future. 

6.  Seeing Me Naked by Liza Palmer

I loved the progression in Elisabeth that occurred over the course of this book and I’d love to see where her 5 year plan actually ended up.

7.  Unsticky by Sarra Manning

It’s no secret that I love Grace and Vaughn.  I don’t really need much plot here – just more Grace and Vaughn.

books 8-10 pink

8.  Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

I loved the brief appearance by Lola and Cricket in Isla, but I want to see college stories from Lola and Cricket, and adult stories with Lola the fashion designer and Cricket the engineer.

9. Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr

I hope Deanna gets out of that town and goes to college.  I liked where the story was going as the book ended, but I just want to be sure she ended up happy.

10. This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

I want to see Elise as a college DJ.  Or really just as a college student – she’s one of those characters that I think will really flourish outside of the homogeny of high school.

Friday, April 3, 2015

March Recap

I have officially rediscovered the library. I love that I can put books on hold, they transfer them to the branch of my choosing and I can go in once a week to return/pickup.  I also finally figured out how to use the ebook application – it’s really nice as a mood reader to be able to look for what I’m in the mood for RIGHT NOW. 

I read 13 books this month (that surprised me) but I still haven’t gotten the hang of reviewing them in a timely manner.  Once again I logged to 2 reviews for the month. I do have two reviews in progress for books I LOVED – why are those so much harder to write?

Books Read

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Mariller

Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan

Something Real by Heather Demetrios

A Mad Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller 

Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

How to Love by Katie Cotugno

Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally

The Journal of Best Practices by David Finch

Moonglass by Jessi Kirby

The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury 

The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne

The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley

Challenge Update

I continued to make progress on the Read Harder Challenge from Book Riot.  I completed the Indie book category by reading The Carnival at Bray and I was concerned about the category when I started the challenge.  In total I knocked 5 more categories in March bringing my total to 13 complete out of 24.  Halfway done but I’m completely done with the easy for me categories so I’ll slow down going forward.

In Other News

I’m making progress listening to all the Harry Potter books.  I’m currently on book 4 – it’s fun as a reread, but would have driven me batty if I hadn’t read them already.  Snape is even harder to take in audio than in print.  I’m also listening to Yes Please by Amy Poehler (it’s my workout book) and I want to be her friend so bad.

I attempted to watch The Walking Dead and I’ve made it through 2.25 episodes so far. Evidently one of the actresses on the show in the second season is from my state – a small town my dad went to college in – so I’d like to make it until I see her in a few episodes, but man zombies are creepy. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix is adorable. I binge watched the first 8 episodes at the beginning of the month and now I’m hoarding the last six for a day I need cheering up.

And finally, I signed up to attend NerdCon Stories in Minneapolis October 9-10.  It has a fun guest list and it’s driving distance.  If anyone else is planning to go let me know.