Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Freckled Pearl's Original Book Page Art | Bookish Things

I'm going to admit it.  When I first came across The Freckled Pearl at a local boutique, I was taken aback.  I thought, "She's desecrated the books!"  I even said something like that to her face.  Yeah,  I did.  I'm awkward like that.

Then I took a picture of some of her pages (with permission; above) and took them home with me.  I was confused.  I couldn't decide if I absolutely adored them or if I absolutely abhorred the thought of them.  After a few weeks (no joke), I landed on adore.

She has taken upcycling to an art form.  Quite literally.  Books that are falling apart get a one-of-a-kind hand-drawn and watercolored illustration, that relates to their pages.  They're beautiful.  And they're probably a perfect piece of art for that bookish person on your list.  Not to mention, you're shopping small, supporting an American artisan.

My Ariel page is already framed up and beautiful in her new home. I'm having a hard time not buying all. the. pages. and putting them everywhere!  But I'm so in love with my little pin-up Ariel and so in love with the fact that she isn't anywhere else in the world!  (Forgive the messy shelves - 'tis the season, you know?)

Head over to her shop at Big Cartel and see if she has anything left for that super-hard-to-buy-for bookish person on your list!  You can also check-out her work on Instagram

Monday, December 14, 2015

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum | Review

Jessie's whole life has fallen apart.  In the last two years, she's lost her mother, found out her dad has eloped with a woman she's never met, and then moved to California to be with her dad and his new wife.  Everything changes - she starts attending a prep school that she's not equipped to navigate, she gets lost in the nuances of her new world with no guidance from the adults in her life, and she watches the only parental relationship she had disintegrate into the ether.  The pieces haven't even all fallen for her to start picking up.

Enter Somebody Nobody, (SN for short), who first contacts her via email, the only way that this secret person can remain secret and contact her.  SN starts handing out advice to Jessie about how her new world works.  They forge a friendship as SN guides her through some of the ups and downs she encounters in her new life, but the nagging feeling that SN is just an elaborate set-up from some mean girl never escapes Jessie. It's a great mystery until the end.

Tell Me Three Things is a delightful departure from the current contemporary young adult climate.  Julie Buxbaum wowed me!  I couldn't put Jessie's story down.  And though I knew how I wanted it to go, I never knew exactly how it would happen until it did.  The story is never forced.  It flows well and pulls you into Jessie's world, making you care enough about her to care about the mystery that is SN.  It's funny. It's fun. It's heart-wrenching. It's got enough romance to satisfy without dominating.  It's well-written.  It's a 100% must for preorder right this second.  Tell Me Three Things at Amazon.

It comes out this coming April, and a preorder would be an ah-mazing stocking stuffer for any YA fan on your list this season.  Just wrap up the receipt and give the gift of an amazing book and all of the anticipation and fun that goes with a preorder.  It's sure to satisfy even the most jaded of young adult readers!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Shackled by Tom Leveen | Review


Sixteen-year-old Pelly has a master plan. After years of therapy, medication, and even a stint in a mental hospital, she’s finally ready to re-enter the world of the living. Pelly has been suffering from severe panic attacks ever since her best friend, Tara, disappeared from a mall six years ago.

And her plan seems to be working, until an unkempt girl accompanied by an older man walks into the coffee shop where she works. Pelly thinks she’s seen a ghost, until the girl mouths “help me” on the way out, and Pelly knows she’s just seen Tara.

Too shocked to do anything, Pelly helplessly watches Tara slip away again as she steels herself against a renewed spiral of crippling anxiety. But rather than being overcome by anxiety, Pelly feels more energized than she has in years. Determined to track down enough evidence to force the police to reopen Tara’s file, Pelly’s master plan takes a turn for the dangerous.

Pelly decides she cannot be shackled by her past—and the anxiety, fear, and grief that comes with it—any longer if she wants to save Tara. But in seeking answers through whatever means necessary, she’ll come face-to-face with true evil. And not all the shackles are in her head…


Full disclosure?  I'm a hard core Tom Leveen fan.  Just about everything he writes, I. Just. Get.  It clicks.  I understand it.  But Shackled was different for me.  I didn't put it down and immediately scream, "Omigosh, SUCH an amazing read!"

That's not because it isn't impeccably written with true-to-life dialogue and characters I can relate to.  Nope, it has all that.  It was because of the content.  I needed time to process what I read.  I needed time to wrap my head around what my heart was feeling.  This book made me have the feels so much, you guys.  So much.  So this review is heavy on the emotional side, and lighter on the technical one.  I mean, it follows, right?

I was convinced I had it figured out from the first chapter.  I knew what was going to happen.  I knew what Pelly was going to experience.  I knew where her journey would take her.  I knew how it would all end up.  And for the most part, I was right.  But the thing I didn't count on was the total whammy she did on my heart.  I got attached to this girl.  This girl who I shouldn't feel this attached to over the course of two hundred pages.  Tom was able to make me feel proud, scared, terrified, sad, giggly happy, melancholy, angry, frustrated, and content all over the course of this skinny little book.  

Oh and just because it's a skinny little book, you shouldn't discount the amount of time needed to finish this one.  While it is a skinny little book, it's so jam-packed that I sometimes needed to put it down for a few minutes to process what was going on.  Not that it was difficult to read - duh, no, it's a Tom Leveen book - but that I needed to think about choices Pelly made and what motivated her to make them.  She and I?  We're very not the same.  We handle things so differently that I could have very easily written her off as a headcase and not enjoyed the book at all.  But, these connections take time.  And I'm really glad I invested it in Pelly because she taught me a few things.  

Overall, I think you'll enjoy Shackled.  It uplifted me and enriched me, and what more can you ask from a book?

PARENTS: If you're looking for a book to share with your teen, this would be a great one.  GREAT one.  It will help them with emotional intelligence, and will give you content for very meaningful conversations.  There is strong language and strong themes including sexual abuse, rape, kidnapping, violence, and cutting.  There is teen smoking.  Be prepared to discuss these things and their motivations.  I actually really can't wait to tackle this with my girl, but it'll be at least ten years until she's old enough.  As always, you know your child the best.  Go with your gut!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Being An Awesome Fan | How To

I came across an article on MTV that Maggie Steifvater shared with her fans on Facebook.  It's a discussion between Cassandra Clare and Maggie Steifvater, discussing and sometimes debating the pros and cons of being accessible to their fans/readers online, appropriate responses to fans based on the gender of the creator/author, social media quirks, and more.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the article that kind of highlight some of the things that maybe we, as sometimes fans, and sometimes readers, can be more awesome at in regards to the content creators we are interacting with.

On negativity in social media: 

"I get told all the time by fans that they hate me — but they mean it as a compliment. I suppose it can be argued that both of these constructs come from a good place, a place of affection. But as someone who loves words, I see a culture shift to a place where being enthusiastic and positive is no longer cool." --Maggie Steifvater

On interacting with fans and readers going forward:

"I think that women authors in particular are asked to be nice online. Always nice, always nurturing, never aggressive. It seems like this should spare them the slings and arrows of online misfortune. But in reality, it just takes away our weapons. I looked around at authors like Chuck Wendig and John Scalzi and I thought — they get to say what they want. When something’s bullsh-t, they’re allowed to call bullsh-t. That. That’s what I’m going to do. If you hate me, you can hate me because I called it as I saw it, not because of some imagined slight. I’m going to stand up for what I believe in." --Maggie Steifvater

On cruel fans:

"I mean we, Maggie and I, are women whose fans are often young girls and women, and they’ve grown up in this world that tells them that successful women are monsters, and that any woman who acknowledges her hard work or success is to be deplored and dehumanized. You often see people talking about female writers and creators saying, “She thinks she’s so great,” “She thinks she’s a Queen!,” “She thinks people should bow down to her,” etc; there’s usually no evidence of that beyond the fact that they’re successful and not self-loathing. I wish that wasn’t a problem for women — I wish these young girls were growing up in a world where it was okay for them to think they were so great." --Cassandra Clare

"She is generally seen as a creator, and I am seen as an author. Those things seem like they should be the same, but I think someone who self-identifies as a fan is far more likely to press physical boundaries than someone who self-identifies as a reader." --Maggie Steifvater

On how to be an awesome fan:

"Engaging passionately and critically with my work, buying the books legally, regarding me as an individual, not making assumptions about my motivations or my politics, buying me an F12 Ferrari in charcoal with black wheels. You said awesome, not just great." --Maggie Steifvater

"Obviously my books mean an enormous amount to me and are so close to my heart, so when I see people loving them, living inside them, it means the world to me. I think being an awesome fan also means being kind to other fans, and kind to yourself. Know that loving a book doesn’t make you a nerd or a geek, it makes you special and amazing." --Cassandra Clare

I'm hoping that's enough to inspire you to head over and read the whole article in all its insightful glory, but just in case, here are the things I gleaned from it as guidelines on how to be an awesome fan:

Treat others the way you want to be treated.  

Oh, wait.  It's as simple as that?  Yep.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Jamieson Brothers Novels by Angie Stanton | Review

If you're old like me, and remember Hanson in high school?  No?  Oh c'mon.  Admit it.  The Jamieson brothers - Garrett, Peter, and Adam - make me think of the Hanson brothers - what were their names again? Oh, right.  Lost in the everspace.

Rock And A Hard Place

The first book in the series follows the middle brother, Peter, who is the songwriter and lead singer of the group.  The boys' mom tries to make touring and traveling a family affair to keep the boys grounded and to keep them bonded as a family (which is a delightful touch), so they all ride together in a bus.  Peter lucks into love, loses it, and spends the rest of the novel trying to find the girl he loves again.

What I liked about this story, and what drove me to want to pick up the next book in the series, was the innocence.  The teens were so innocent, even though they hadn't been sheltered from reality, they had such high expectations of humanity, even after hardship, and that kept the story grounded.  I loved that it wasn't a typical love story and that its heroine, Libby,  was someone you can be proud of, someone you can point out as a conqueror of her situation, and that made me happy.


The second book picks up with the youngest brother, Adam.  He's determined to spend his week-long break, unheard of in his world of successful music-making, at a photography arts camp as a regular teenager.  So, he heads off, shaving his head to try to fool his fans.  He, too, finds love, just not as easily as Peter did.

The thing I realized at the end of this one is that these books, unlike many summer-romance trilogies, aren't overtly formulaic.  While Peter & Libby's story was pretty squeaky clean, Adam & Marti's deals with heavier teen issues such as unprotected sex and the possibility of teen pregnancy, underage drinking, and rebelliousness you rarely see in the baby of the brood.

The difference in the two was so striking, it led me to the third, even though Garrett was probably my most hated character throughout the first two books and I knew he'd take the main stage on this one.

Under The Spotlight

Garrett is really a douche of an older brother.  This book picks up after the band hits some major issues, and Garrett loses his way a little.  It's the story of him trying out a new profession, and chasing a girl who wants more than anything to make her own way in the world, without her mother finding out, and teaching him some much needed life lessons along the way.

Character crossover between the three novels is very well-done.  And it seems more plausible than convenient.  Under the Spotlight sheds light on previously unexplained behavior and brings a great close to the three-book series.  Really, it does.

So, if you're looking for a trilogy that's already out, that you can binge at the beach, poolside, or under a massive forest canopy, put this one on the list.  It'll keep you guessing, keep you interested with its unique characters, and most of all, keep you entertained, page-flipping as fast as your little eyes can bear.

Angie Stanton also wrote the recently reviewed Royally Lost, so if you want another to add to your vacay queue, it's a safe bet.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Monsters: Daughter of Smoke & Bone | Quote of The Week

(the Kindle edition is currently on sale for $2.99, click the pic to take you there)

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Distance Between Us by Kasie West | Review

The Distance Between Us playfully explores judgmentalism, acceptance, and self-worth in a complicated coming-of-age romance.

Caymen Meyers works at her mom's doll shop.  Her hometown is small, but it's rife with the have- and have-not- types.  Raised by her single mother who used hush money from her rich father's parents to start the doll shop after being a teenage mom disowned by her own family, Caymen has grown up mistrusting the rich because of her mom's experiences.

She takes on more than she should, planning to put her future on hold until she can get the doll shop in better financial shape for her mother before she embarks on her own life.  And, she is delectably sarcastic, making it a sheer pleasure to read the dialogue in this book.

The story proceeds down a path of her love life - an angle she's yet to explore.  Does she choose the hot, tattooed lead singer of the Crusty Toads (of whom her mom approves) or the adorable, playful heir to a hotel fortune (about whom she lies consistently to her mother)?

It's just quirky enough to keep you on your toes, with enough twists and dips to make you doubt Caymen's every move.  I found Caymen to be quite relatable, even though I've never lived in a tiny apartment above a doll store with my mother.  She was real, refreshing, and made decisions using both her brain and her heart, which I think is a good way to make decisions, personally.  The boys could have been stereotypical, but West gave them just enough quirks and faults to make them deeper-than-average for a book of this genre.

Parents: There is a bit of language.  Not a ton.  Nothing beyond kissing, albeit passionate most of the time.  As mentioned above, a lot of haves vs. have-nots, and there is a lot of familial drama.  Her mom is sick throughout most of the book, but she doesn't pick up on it until someone spells it out for her, but she does handle it well.  

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan | Review

Daughter of Deep Silence held onto me and still hasn't let me go.

Libby O'Martin isn't who anyone thinks she is, not even who she thinks she is.  When the Persephone goes down, and she is rescued by her father after the Coast Guard stopped looking, she's thrown into a life she never wanted.  A life she never planned.  A life that left her empty and cold and seeking revenge.

Now, months after her father - the last of her living relatives -  has passed, she returns home to put her calculated plan into motion.  To exact revenge on those responsible for her mother's and friend's deaths.  But the story is twisty and fluid and reactionary, taking you down paths you've never considered.

The way Ryan weaves the story together, with dreams and flashbacks that seem inconveniently timed for the story, kept me reading far into the night, taking it upon myself to try to solve the mystery when I wasn't even close to having enough information to solve it.  I judged the characters and their motivations completely inaccurately, and was pleased to be wrong.  There are so many angles that you don't even get the chance to consider until Ryan wants you to consider them that it's nearly impossible to figure out why the Persephone fell before she reveals it to you.

The main character is such a piece of work that she can't even figure herself out, so you have no idea what she's going to choose or act on until she does.  Ryan did a fantastic job of laying the psychological ground work for this mystery/thriller of hers that I'm almost sad it's a stand alone.  Sad it's resolution was so complete and perfect.

The only thing I have to criticize is the repetition of phrases throughout the book.  "Distance between us" was used at least three times that I noticed to describe romantic tension in the book.  Sure, it's a nitpicky thing to point out, but it is the only thing that stood out to me as annoying.

Parents: Libby has no parental figures in her life.  Either murdered or died of natural causes, she really has no one to guide her.  Make sure you discuss that with your teen.  Otherwise, the book is fairly clean.  No bad language that I can recall and nothing beyond kissing scenes, though they were pretty intense kisses. *wink*  She does resolve the fact that she has nothing to live for, and put her life at stake as a means to an end at one point, but she snaps out of it, and ends up fighting to live.  It's definitely something to chat about, but not really something I can see pushing a teen one direction or the other if their fragile.  But you're the expert on your teen.  Not me.  Use your discretion as always.

Today I start my last treatment of chemotherapy.  Do a little dance with me?  Thursday I'll be disconnected and we can totally party down in a few weeks once I'm recovered. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Phoenix Comicon Starts Today!



3:00-4:00pm  DRAGONS AND RARE CREATURES Room North 125

I love local authors and there are two on this dragon panel, and then the kickoff is all AZ all the time, baby!  If you haven't been to a kickoff yet, you will not be disappointed.  They are wild, crazy, and super fun.


10:30-11:30am DEL REY SPOTLIGHT Room North 124
12;00-1:00pm ATTACKING THE 9 SENSES Room North 126A
3:00-4:00pm DIALOGUE: SPEECH VS. PROSE Room North 126A

Publisher spotlights are always a great way to see what's coming out soon and to interact with editors, authors, and decision makers.  Tom Leveen's writing workshops are ah.mazing, and if you haven't been to one, you need to go.  If you have been, they're always worth hearing again because it's always sage advice.  And any time you see Ryan Dalton's name as a moderator?  Safe bet it'll be an awesome panel.  He's a writer too and he's a fantastic mod. 



Drawing out the Dragons is a hands-on workshop and life lesson all wrapped into one. I'm a fan.  If you haven't been to one, you should totally go.  Kelley Armstrong and Melissa Marr are modern-pioneers of Young Adult Lit.  I had the pleasure of interviewing Melissa once, and she is just so great.  You won't be disappointed by either of these women, so head over and hear what they have to say. 


10:30-11:30am UNASHAMED FULL FRONTAL NERDITY Room North 124

This one just sounds like fun, and if you're there on Sunday, it looks like a safe bet for some writerly mischief.

Exhibition Floor

Kids Need To Read (Booth 5078):  You guys, KNTR is a local and amazing charity that works tirelessly to get books in the hands of kids that don't have access to books in their homes.  Don't miss their Charity Art Auction booth - pick up something totally rad there! (Booth 5074)
Looking Glass Wars (Booth 6075):  Frank Beddor has the BEST imagination and I love his take on Alice, I mean, Alyss.  Be sure to stop by and chat with him and pick up a signed book or poster while you're there. Hatter M is a great graphic novel to dive into.  Imma fan :)
DelRey Books (Booth 16066):  Publishers are always a great way to get fun bookish swag and exclusives on what's coming up next from their lineup.
Author Row (Tables 14133-14142): Stop by and catch the authors when they aren't on a panel to chat and pick up a copy of their latest works.  It's my favorite part.

I'm unable to attend this year.  Big conventions and compromised immune systems don't really go that well together #cancersucks.  So, take a lot of pictures and tweet and instagram me, wontcha? I wanna see!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Codex Gigas: The Devil's Bibile | This Old Book

Old books with a history are kind of becoming a fascination of mine.  So, I've started a new feature: welcome to the first installment of This Old Book. 
Photo credit: Kungl. biblioteket
Was it really written in one night? Was the Devil himself responsible?

The Codex Gigas is huge.  It's 36 inches tall, 20 inches wide, and over 8 inches thick.  It weighs 165
pounds (~75 kg). It's the largest medieval manuscript known to man, and is dubbed "The Devil's Bible."  Why?  Well, it has a full-page depiction of the devil himself, you see.  And, legend has is that the Bohemian Benedictine monk who scribed it made a deal with the devil for his soul so he could finish it in one night to avoid being walled-up as a death sentence the next day. Not only that, but the pages around the devil's portrait are darker than all of the others, and the book itself has a pretty sordid history.

So, what started as penance for an unspeakable sin (so bad, whatever it was was never even recorded), ultimately became the life's work of a single monk.  A few decades after it was finished, the black-cloaked Bohemian Benedictine monastery near Podlažice fell into financial trouble.  In order to settle some of that trouble, they decided to sell the book to the white-cloaked Cistercians Sedlec Monastery (that's the one with all the bones!).  After the black death hit Sedlec, the Cistercians sold the Codex back to the Benedictine monks near Broumov.  There it stayed, until Holy Roman Emporer, Rudolph II, obsessed with the occult and mystical arts, showered favors upon the Broumov monks until they happily sent the Codex to Rudolph II as a gift.  He had it housed in his collections in Prague.  He was so engulfed with his religious education that he completely failed as Holy Roman Emprorer, and at the end of the Thirty Years' War, the Swedes took the Codex Gigas home to their King, Kristina.  (Yes, you read that right, their KING, who was a WOMAN.  Swedish girl power is so stinking awesome!)  She listed it first on her account of all of the spoils the Swedes seized as part of their war.  It was housed in Sweden, even after Kristina abdicated, where it was saved from a blaze by a servant who threw it out a window.

The National Geographic special, "The Truth Behind the Devil's Bible", (embedded below), shows the complex processes a team of scientists went through to determine if the book was written by one person.  It seemed impossible given that it was eerily perfect, and that it would have likely taken one man nearly 30 years to complete.  Twenty at minimum.  And since these compilations were usually done as penance at the end of a monk's day, it seems supernatural that one man could have done it. They determined that it was though, written by Hermann Inclusus. Based on the insect-derived ink used from beginning to end, the graphology (specifically its lowercase g), its amateur quality when compared to other works done by groups of monks in the same period, and what appears to be a posthumous credit for Hermann.  Inclusus translates as recluse, giving the scholars a glint into how he was able to complete it.  It was his life's work.  It's what he did as a solitary monk.

What's inside is the complete Old and New Testaments of the bible, followed by conjurations and excorcisms, advice to care for one's body and mind and eternal soul, and cures for dangerous illnesses.  There is nothing like it in all of history, which of course, scares a lot of people.  It's seemingly supernatural ability to be completed, survive, and age well.

The pages around the devil (which is opposite a page depicting the kingdom of heaven) are darker because they are made of vellum, which is animal skin, which tans in UV light, and that means, that it isn't just modern-day people that are obsessed with the picture of the devil inside, it's been an obsession from the start.

I think it's a beautiful book.  And I loved learning its history.  If you have 45 minutes to spare and want to learn more, watch the special below.

1. Tilstra, Elizabeth. "The Dark Legend Of The Devil's Bible".  The Lineup. Web. 23 May 2015. <http://www.the-line-up.com/devils-bible/>.

2. The Truth Behind the Devil's Bible. Dir. Robert MIchaels. By Amanda Gronich. Perf. Dominic Monaghan. National Geographic, 2008. Web. YouTube/The Truth Behind - The Truth Behind the Devil's Bible. National Geographic, 14 Dec. 2008. Web. 25 May 2015.

3. "Codex Gigas." Wikipedia. Ed. Worldcat. Wikimedia Foundation, 23 May 2015. Web. 25 May 2015.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella | Review

Finding Audrey is a unique and fascinating account of mending, love, and evolution within a family unit that will keep you reading and interested the entire way through.

Audrey addresses you, the reader, to tell her story, in a clever use of second-person narrative by Kinsella.  She just happens to leave out the inciting incident, which is okay, because even though you as the reader desperately want to know what happened to make her the way she is?  Knowing would be poison to her story.  It's not about what happened to make Audrey stay in her room, unable to make eye-contact with even her closest family members.  It's a story about growth, for an entire family, and it's told beautifully.

Most YA tales eliminate the need for a parent by making them absent or impotent.  This usually allows for the main character to step-in and become the decision maker and adult in whatever situation the character finds him- or herself.  Finding Audrey isn't just a tale about Audrey though.  It's a story about her family, and how they circle around and protect each other, even when they come off as outright crazy in the process.

Audrey's mom does read as nuts.  Her dad is happier to not make waves and focus on his dream car.  Her littlest brother, Felix, is clueless as to what's going on (and really, acts more like my two-year-old than any four-year-old I've met, but that stays in line with the family crisis, I suppose).  And her just-barely younger brother, Frank, is somehow still very aware of and supportive of Audrey's anti-sociality than you want to give him credit for.

Ultimately, the story is constructed in such a clever way that the technical mishaps didn't seem to matter to me at all.  They were a way to achieve an end, an end that I didn't see coming, but is totally believable, and an end that satisfied me completely.  It would be a fantastic beach read, and an even more amazing mother/daughter team read.  So go ahead, preoder it.  It drops June 9th.

Also, and very happy to me, was the pure Britishness of this book.  It's always fun to experience other cultures through literature, and this book is no exception.  I got to google products like Lemsip, Shreddies, Ribena, and Nurofen. It was delightful.  It is also full of British slang, some of which I had to google to figure out.  To me, that's fun.  I hope it is for you too.

Parents:  While Audrey's parents are involved, and protective, and whatnot, they do come off as silly and weird sometimes.  There are about twelve instances of the "F" word, and a lot of British swearing that may not count as swearing in the US.  Audrey deals with extreme anxiety and depression, so be involved if your child/teen also has these tendencies.  Some of her self-talk may validate others' suicidal thoughts.  It's not, "I should kill myself."  More like, "Why do I even exist?" It may not be harmful, but I want to point out that it's there, so that you can talk about it if need be.


If you want to keep up with what's going on behind the scenes here at Literologie, make sure to follow me on Instagram.  I post pictures of our books, bookish life, and adventures from the rest of life that doesn't show up on the blog.  You'll see the books we're reading, (sometimes the books we're hating), our quotes of the week, and pictures from bookish events we go to, and other fun bookish memes that we participate in... Like an giveaway on June 9th for a fun pair of shades, Audrey-style.  You're not gonna want to miss that!

Disclaimer: I was provided with an advance copy of this book at no charge.  My review is based on this copy, and the finished product may differ from the book I read, but all opinions are my own and are not influenced by any outside source.  All purchase links are affiliate links from which I get a smidgen of commission.   

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Heir by Kiera Cass | Review

"Mark me down as skeptical."  That's what I said when I heard there was a FOURTH Selection novel coming out.  I preordered it, of course.  If nothing else, I knew it would look fabulous on my bookshelf. I mean, the whole reason I preordered read The Selection in the first place was that stinking gorgeous amazing dress on the cover!

About a week before THE HEIR launched, I had a conversation with my sister-in-law about how I really still didn't have my hopes up.

This smashed my hopes.  I mean, really.  They were low.  But, what Kiera Cass did was take a new generation, in the same world, and made me care just as much about future Queen Eadlyn (even though I hated her at first) as I did America Singer, five.  And then, as you would expect from the series, the ending left me wanting more. Right now.  It actually left me in tears, but that's gonna get chalked up to hormones.

Of course, I did have issues with the book.  The name of the main character.  I hate the name Eadlyn.  Hate.  I didn't like that after all of the progress Maxson had made, he and America still didn't have a grasp on how to work with the people of Illea.  I felt like that was unrealistic.  Like after several years why woulnd't they have set up some sort of self-government system that was subject to them?  I mean, the name America and its forbidden history have to come into play somewhere, why would it take more than 20 years?

The things I did like, though?  Eady is most definitely her own character.  This Selection is nothing like the last.  And though the major surprise romance is not a surprise to anyone who has ever read a book, it's more interesting than I anticipated it would be after Chapter One.

Will I read the next?  Certainly.  Should you keep reading the series?  Depends.  Did you like the first one?  Did you want a spunkier character?  Eady is super fierce.  Go with your gut, you probably won't be disappointed either way.

Parents:  I can't really think of anything that I should warn you about.  I will update if I come across any notes I missed while reading.  

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Quote of the Week: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Yes, that's a picture of THE Notre Dame Cathedral.  Yes, that's a popular and significant place in Isla and the Happily Ever After (the third companion in Stephanie Perkins' series that starts with Anna and the French Kiss).  Many thanks to my bestie, Tawnya Hansen, for letting me use her photo.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Love And Other Unknown Variables by Shannon Lee Alexander

Charlie is a nerd.  He goes to a special STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) school called Brighton and is the second-best student in his class.  The only person brighter than him?  His best friend, Greta.  He hangs out mostly with her and her boyfriend James.  Until this year, that is.  When he is in line for a coffee before school and sees a girl with a confuddling tattoo on her neck.  It's an infiniti sign with the word "hope" worked into it.  He reaches out, brushes her hair aside, and touches it.  See, I told you.  Nerd.

What ensues, is a crazy love story with a quirky protagonist with whom you will just fall in love.  There's an equally quirky girl for him to fall for, a lot of tension and conflict, and a plot that while predictable, is still enjoyable.  I have seen this compared to The Fault In Our Stars so many times.  It's not that.  It's a different animal altogether, which explores different themes and different nuances of relationships.  But, there is a character that is terminally sick with cancer, so some people lump all cancer fiction together, I guess.

This book though?  It's about life after cancer.  Life after it claims someone you love.  Being brave enough to fall in love even though you know it will end badly.  Learning how to move on from someone once they've lost their battle.  And while I found this exploration valiant and very real, I had a very hard time with it.  You all know by now that I'm going through chemotherapy myself after having some cancer removed from my body.  I was devouring this book until I found out that the illness was cancer.  In the end though,  I loved these characters, these rare gems of characters, and that's what took me through to the end.  Also?  The parallels between this and To Kill A Mockinbird?  Not subtle.  You'll be hard pressed to miss them.

Lastly, a little tip.  Pay attention to the way the chapters are numbered.  It is probably my favorite part.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Five (+) Books For Mom This Mothers' Day From My Personal Wishlist

Yeah, you've still got time to shop for mom.  And since I'm a bookish mom, I thought I'd share some of the books I have on my wishlist... maybe they'll sound good to your mom too?  I've inlcuded five (+) non-fiction books with their jacket descriptions and the reasons I want them, and a word of caution or two if applicable about getting them for your mom.

At the very least, you'll learn a little bit more about me, right?  At best, you'll find the perfect book for your mom this Mother's Day.  You still have time to ring up your local Indie to see if they have what you want in stock, and you probably still have time to order from BN or Amazon if you have 2-day shipping if your Indie is a no-go.  Good luck and happy shopping!

1.  The Life-Changing Art of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

This #1 New York Times best-selling guide to decluttering your home from Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes readers step-by-step through her revolutionary KonMari Method for simplifying, organizing, and storing. 
Despite constant efforts to declutter your home, do papers still accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles? 
Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo’s clients have lapsed (and she still has a three-month waiting list). 
With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house “spark joy” (and which don’t), this international bestseller featuring Tokyo’s newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home—and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.

Why Is This On My List?  Because I am horrible at tidying up.  It's true.  I can organize the crud out of an event or a bunch of people, but when it comes to my stuff?  I'm kinda hopeless.  So, I take inspiration where I can get it.  And this method kinda intrigues me.  So, I wanna learn.
The Caution:  You might not want to get this for her if she's sensitive about her housekeeping methods.  You don't want to make her feel bad.  But, if she's on a clutter cleanse or is moving soon, or something of the sort, this could totally be thoughtful.

2. How To Write Awesome Dialogue!  by Tom Leveen

Outstanding dialogue is often the difference between a good book and a great book. How does yours stack up? With seven books published with imprints of Random House, Abrams, and Simon & Schuster, and more than twenty years of experience as an actor and director, author and writing teacher Tom Leveen guides you through everything you need to make your dialogue shine! ~ Learn how to start with a solid plot and conflict to form the foundation of awesome dialogue ~ Discover actors’ techniques to give your characters strength and purpose ~ Improve on setting scenes and building relationships between characters ~ and more!
Why Is This On My List?  I sat through Tom's dialogue seminar that he gave at Phoenix Comicon last year.  It. Was. Amazing.  Plus, have you read any of his books?  Sometimes I get it in my head that I'd like to write a novel before I die.  I think this will probably sit on my shelf so that I can reference it when I need some help with a character's direction.  And at $8.95, it's a steal.
The Caution: I don't really see any drawbacks to this one.  If your mom is an aspiring writer of any type, be it theater or screen or novels, I'm sure she could use some of Tom's advice.  And if she already knows what's going on in this?  It'd be a great reminder.

3.  The Library: A World History  by James W.P. Campbell

A library is not just a collection of books, but also the buildings that house them. As varied and inventive as the volumes they hold, such buildings can be much more than the dusty, dark wooden shelves found in mystery stories or the catacombs of stacks in the basements of academia. From the great dome of the Library of Congress, to the white façade of the Seinäjoki Library in Finland, to the ancient ruins of the library of Pergamum in modern Turkey, the architecture of a library is a symbol of its time as well as of its builders’ wealth, culture, and learning.

Architectural historian James Campbell and photographer Will Pryce traveled the globe together, visiting and documenting over eighty libraries that exemplify the many different approaches to thinking about and designing libraries. The result of their travels, The Library: A World History is one of the first books to tell the story of library architecture around the world and through time in a single volume, from ancient Mesopotamia to modern China and from the beginnings of writing to the present day. As these beautiful and striking photos reveal, each age and culture has reinvented the library, molding it to reflect their priorities and preoccupations—and in turn mirroring the history of civilization itself. Campbell’s authoritative yet readable text recounts the history of these libraries, while Pryce’s stunning photographs vividly capture each building’s structure and atmosphere.

Together, Campbell and Pryce have produced a landmark book—the definitive photographic history of the library and one that will be essential for the home libraries of book lovers and architecture devotees alike.

Why Is This On My List?  I can't think of a better way to de-stress than to sit down with a collection of beautiful libraries and drool.  Just the thought of curling up with this baby summons a calm I can't really articulate and an excitement that I can't really contain.
The Caution:  This is expensive.  Like Amazon's price on it is nearly $50.  But, I'd rather have this book than go to five movies, so if your mom is like me that way?  This is a sure win.

4. Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curing by Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn

Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn inspired a revival of artisanal sausage making and bacon curing with their surprise hit, Charcuterie. Now they delve deep into the Italian side of the craft with Salumi, a book that explores and simplifies the recipes and techniques of dry curing meats. As the sources and methods of making our food have become a national discussion, an increasing number of cooks and professional chefs long to learn fundamental methods of preparing meats in the traditional way. Ruhlman and Polcyn give recipes for the eight basic products in Italy’s pork salumi repertoire: guanciale, coppa, spalla, lardo, lonza, pancetta, prosciutto, and salami, and they even show us how to butcher a hog in the Italian and American ways. This book provides a thorough understanding of salumi, with 100 recipes and illustrations of the art of ancient methods made modern and new. 100 illustrations; 16 pages of color photographs

Why Is This On My List?  I have this crazy goal of learning charcuterie.  I want to learn how to make meats into other meats and preserve them.  It's a long-term goal, sure.  But, I need to start somewhere.  And when I was looking for books to help teach me how?  This one got excellent reviews.  So, it's parked on my wishlist until someone gifts it to me.
The Caution:  Obviously not for your vegan or vegetarian mom.  Also, not for the mom who buys books to learn how to do something but never does?  I've successfully learned how to do a lot of home preservation from books, so this is just like a step up for me.

5. The Book of Barely Imagined Beings: A 21st Century Bestiary by Caspar Henderson

From medieval bestiaries to Borges’s Book of Imaginary Beings, we’ve long been enchanted by extraordinary animals, be they terrifying three-headed dogs or asps impervious to a snake charmer’s song. But bestiaries are more than just zany zoology—they are artful attempts to convey broader beliefs about human beings and the natural order. Today, we no longer fear sea monsters or banshees. But from the infamous honey badger to the giant squid, animals continue to captivate us with the things they can do and the things they cannot, what we know about them and what we don’t. 
With The Book of Barely Imagined Beings, Caspar Henderson offers readers a fascinating, beautifully produced modern-day menagerie. But whereas medieval bestiaries were often based on folklore and myth, the creatures that abound in Henderson’s book—from the axolotl to the zebrafish—are, with one exception, very much with us, albeit sometimes in depleted numbers. The Book of Barely Imagined Beings transports readers to a world of real creatures that seem as if they should be made up—that are somehow more astonishing than anything we might have imagined. The yeti crab, for example, uses its furry claws to farm the bacteria on which it feeds. The waterbear, meanwhile, is among nature’s “extreme survivors,” able to withstand a week unprotected in outer space. These and other strange and surprising species invite readers to reflect on what we value—or fail to value—and what we might change. 
A powerful combination of wit, cutting-edge natural history, and philosophical meditation, The Book of Barely Imagined Beings is an infectious and inspiring celebration of the sheer ingenuity and variety of life in a time of crisis and change. 

Why Is This On My List? It seems like another book to get lost in, but this time in an imagination capacity.  I feel like this could inspire me, move me, intrigue me, entertain me, and take over me, all at the same time.  I feel like it would be a wonderful thing to look at with my toddler - something that could keep both of us engaged and inspire all kinds of play.
The Caution: It's probably not for the mom who tells you that art is a waste of time.  Other than that, I can't really see why she wouldn't want it, unless she already has it.

5 more books on my wishlist: 

(click to view on Amazon)

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Quote of the Week: Lies I Told by Michelle Zink

One of my favorite lines from Zink's LIES I TOLD: 

If my review didn't tempt you, perhaps this did?  Pick it up today

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Independent Bookstore Day is also May 2nd!

Check to see if your local Indie bookstore is participating in Independent Bookstore Day this Saturday!  (why they chose the same day as Free Comic Book Day is beyond me, but still... this is fun!)

Each store will have limited edition swag for sale starting May 2nd to celebrate.  My local Indie, Changing Hands, looks to have some really fun stuff that I wouldn't be able to procure via preorder (like a really fun set of literary tea towels) and a 15% off storewide coupon.  Which, can be combined with a full rewards card, per Facebook questions, so it's a steal of a day all around.

A little history:  Independent Bookstore day has grown from California Bookstore Day to stores from California to Maine, Washington to Florida.  It's a national movement that was started in California only last year.  It's quickly expanded.  Now, let's just hope they can get their dates sorted out with Free Comic Book Day for next year!

Tell us, will you be heading to your local Indie this Saturday?  If so, which one, and what are you going to grab?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Sick by Tom Leveen

So, the thing you need to know about this book is that it's not a zombie book.  The characters that are infected are not dead/undead.  They're sick.  So, depending on your breed of zombie-aversion, you might want to give this a chance.  This review is based off of both the print version and the audio version as I switched back and forth several times using my Kindle and Audible apps via the Whispersync capability of which, but the way, I'm a TOTAL fan.

It's set in Phoenix.  At a fenced-in high school.  And the main character, Brian, has a sister named Kenzie, and a mom who is a doctor and works for the health department.  Weird things start happening to kids at school, and pretty soon, the stage crew for the drama department (including Brian) have barricaded themselves inside the innards of the auditorium to keep away from the sick kids who are eating people.

The story takes place over the course of less than 24-hours.  It's almost real-time.  As always with Tom Leveen, the dialogue is genius.  This may also very well be the most raunchy of all of the dialogues he's ever written too.  That's actually why it took me so long to finish the book... not because it was bad or I wasn't interested... but because it made me want to google things that are for sure NSFW* and for sure not appropriate around my toddler.  It's colorful, to say the least.

But, if you aren't turned-off by color, you're in for a treat.  SICK is probably Leveen's best plot arc yet, but it adds in the character motivation and depth that you find in ZERO.  You get to know these characters.  And when you lose one, you feel it.  You get that pang in your heart, you feel the adrenaline running in your veins, even though you're perfectly safe inside your home.

The thing I liked best about SICK was that you knew what was causing the sickness.  You knew what characteristics the disease had, the symptoms, and what you could and couldn't do to slow it down.  You got a feel for what it would be like to have to creatively solve your problems just to stay alive, amongst a zillion temptations that would likely end in your infection.  And the other thing I like is that even the characters you get attached to fall.  Loads of suspense, loads of action, I wish so hard someone would pick this up and make a TV series with it.  It'd be fascinating and new and twisty and just plain awesome.  Give it a try, whydontcha?  (Tom narrates the audiobook himself, which is such a treat, because you know exactly how it was supposed to be read and exactly the inflections that were supposed to be accentuated.)

Parents:  Language.  Strong language, bordering on crude (think high school dudes... it's legit).  Allusions to sex, sex drive, etc, but nothing graphic.  Lots of blood and gore and violence.  Not for the weak-stomached!

NSFW = not safe for work

Friday, April 24, 2015

Mark Your Calendars: Free Comic Book Day May 2nd

A week from tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day 2015!  Mark your calendars for May 2nd and don't forget to hit up your local comic book store or library for a free comic or two.

What is it?  And why is it that people give away free comics?  Watch this video to find out:

So basically, the movement is to introduce new comics and new series to established fans AND to introduce comics to people who haven't found a love for them yet or may not have found the comic for them yet.

It took a long time for me to find a comic that clicked with me.  A LONG TIME.  I was actually already blogging about books as an adult when someone from Titan Comics sent me a note to see if I would review a collection of Roman Dirge's LENORE.  I took the plunge (because dude, who doesn't love a cute little dead girl?) and have been a huge fangirl of his work ever since.  It was also a segway for me to check out THE WALKING DEAD and to start collecting some of my favorite classics in different languages when I travel.  So, someone sent me a free comic, and now I'm a fan.  I guess the method works!

My city's library system is having a TON of fun events to correlate with the day.  If you're in or around Mesa, Arizona, check these out:  (my fave is that James A. Owen will be at the closest branch to me!)

Free Comic Book Day comic books (one per person while supplies last): 
• Courtesy of Gotham City Comics at Main Library at 10 a.m.
• Courtesy of Samurai Comics and Mesa Comics at Dobson Ranch Library at 10 a.m.
• Courtesy of Mesa Comics at Red Mountain Library at 1 p.m.
• Courtesy of Mesa Comics at Mesa Express Library at 10 a.m.
Build-A-Lair Craft at Main Library from 10 a.m. to noon 
Superhero Cuffs for Kids Craft at Main Library from 11 a.m. to noon 
Superhero Fridge Magnets for Teens & Adults Craft at Main Library from 11 a.m. to noon. 
Superhero Costume Contest at Main Library from noon to 1 p.m. 
Create Your Own Comic Book Page at Dobson Ranch Library from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. 
Comic Book Swaps: bring one to exchange for another someone else brought: 
• 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.- 2 p.m. at Dobson Ranch Library
• 1 p.m.- 2 p.m. at THINKspot at Red Mountain Library
• 2:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. at Main Library
Cosplay Photo Workshop at THINKspot at Red Mountain Library from 2 p.m.- 4 p.m. Put yourself as a superhero into a cool background! Registration is required online at www.mesalibrary.org or call (480) 644-3100.
Meet comic book artist and novelist James A. Owen all day at Main Library
“All Things Comics” talk with a pro from Mesa Comics at THINKspot at Red Mountain Library 1 p.m. – 2 p.m. 
Take a selfie with a Character Cut-Out at Dobson Ranch, Red Mountain or life-size Deadpool at Red Mountain Library. 
Match the Superhero to their Superstrength - all day at Mesa Express Library

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Lies I Told by Michelle Zink

I. Am a sucker. For any story involving covert ops.  Period.  I don't care if it's Jennifer-Garner-in-Alias spycraft, Veronica-Mars-scoping private eye work, or a Grace-(Fontaine)-pretending-to-be-someone-you're-not con.  I love the mystery and suspense of it all and the feeling like if you put down the book, it's going to keep going on without you.  And that's the exact feeling I got from LIES I TOLD, the first of Michelle Zink's duology starring said Grace (Fontaine).

She's adopted into this family of con artists/grifters.  Previous to that, she was stuck in a myriad of foster care placements from not-so-horrible to pretty-darn-bad.  So, she's thrilled to be a part of a real family, and goes on about her business as a junior grifter because it means that she has a FAMILY! And people who love her!  And this story starts when that family, including her mom, dad, and adopted older (and kinda hawt) brother move to the exclusive Playa Hermosa community in California to start a brand new job.  Her assignment?  Get on the in with Logan Fairchild and/or Rachel Mercer.  It's high school, she's done it dozens of times, and her mark seems easy... until her conscience starts to get in the way.

LIES I TOLD is a fantastic specimen of young adult mystery with a side of romance in there too. Remember how I told you I start my summer reading in April?  Well, this is prime summer reading, spring reading, you name it reading.  I'm a Zink fan, and I believe it's her best work yet.  The teen characters are more complex than they need to be - in a good way.  You understand their motivations, the reasons they make the decisions they do, choose to trust who they trust, break the rules they break on purpose.  Zink masterfully crafts the tale with just the right amount of detail and clever dialogue.  Pick it up, you won't be disappointed.

If you're an Arizona girl like me, you might pick up on a couple of teensy mistakes like the fact that Chandler High School is actually in Chandler and not Phoenix, and is kinda ghetto these days, and wouldn't be a spot for the prepster community.  You might pick up on the fact that Grace seems thrown by a new encounter in Playa Hermosa with palo verde trees when, in reality, they are everywhere in Chandler, Arizona.  But aside from those few details that you wouldn't really fight if you weren't an Arizona native like me?  It's as nitpicky as I get, so there it is for you!  I found no flaws in structure, flow, pacing, narrative, dialogue, character development...  just a few of the details.

Parents: There is a bit of language, but not a lot.  There's an allusion to sex, but not a graphic depiction.  There's graffiti, and the inner workings of a complex con and all of the lying and deceit that goes into that.  But overall, it's pretty squeaky.  I actually think it would be a great book to team read because of all of the choices that Grace is faced with.  It'd be a great opportunity to chat with your pre-teen or teen about them.  

Friday, April 17, 2015

Quote of the Week: Lola & The Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

This quote might be a bit of a spoiler, but it's so great, I had to share.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Royally Lost by Angie Stanton

It gets warm here in Arizona a little faster than it does in other parts of the US and world. It's tax day, but we've already seen temperatures of 98°F. This heat thing makes me like to start my summer reading a little bit earlier than most. Anything over 90°F makes me think escapism, air conditioning, and getting my brain to a place where I can fantasize about better weather, travel, and fun yet clean romance.

Angie Stanton's ROYALLY LOST fit the bill perfectly for my first summer read of the year.  Sure, it's old news.  It came out last May.  But it's a new adult* filled with European history (which I was off experiencing for myself when this launched last year!), bits of family drama, but best of all, summer romance, between two very unlikely characters.

This was unputdownable.  I'm sure it was a perfect storm of my longing for Prague (Budapest, I'm kind of with Becca on Budapest - it kinda sucked), royal romance, and something I could escape into while I was debilitated by the mumps (no, true story), but I found the characters unique and deeper than your typical summer book characters.  The main ones, anyway.  I found the family dynamic very believable and even though I couldn't connect with Becca (I'm a history fan for sure), I could connect with her plight, especially the lack of direction she felt after high school.  And I cared.  As always, I'm not a fan of incessant details, and this doesn't disappoint.  The picture is painted adequately for you to figure out where she is and what is happening with her and around her, but not painfully drawn out to describe the detail on every door she passes (which, really, having just visited, could have been a HUGE temptation for Stanton).

A bit ironically, the only things I found lacking in this wispy, whirlwind romance were some of the details.  They didn't mesh with my experiences during our trip to Budapest and Prague.  I'll not expound on them so that it doesn't ruin it for you if you don't know any better, but if you have been to either city recently, or any of them along the Danube in between, be prepared to use your imagination, not your memory.  

If you're planning a summer reading stint, add this to your list. I'm confident it won't disappoint.

*New Adult.  This category has emerged over the last couple of years.  It's post-high school, pre-real life.  Think college or college aged, with the characters making choices that address that awkward stage in adulthood. 

**I'm sorry for the lack of posts this year and the last part of 2014.  I was diagnosed with cancer in August 2014, and despite my most earnest efforts, reading during chemotherapy didn't work, much to my disappointment.  I couldn't focus my eyes or manage my nausea.  I'm 75% of the way through now  and have found some drugs that sure do help (feeling better than I have in over six months!).  So, hopefully, I'm at least back a little.  Thanks for sticking around through the drought.  I really appreciate it.  ♥