Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year!


I've been thinking about this post for awhile.  Thinking about how I did a horrible job on my 2016 list of goals (which is always a rough blog post to go back and look at), and a horrible job of forcing myself to slow down and enjoy the year, day by day.  I kind of feel like it was a year that I let slip through my fingers.  It was a year of the occasional frustrations and the heartbreak of goodbyes.

But I don't want to focus on that, because that is sad and melancholy.  Instead I want to focus on the fact that, at the end of the day, it was a very good year filled with amazing friends and family (and books).

2016 brought Roy Hobbs into our lives and the anticipation of another little Ellis in March 2017 (Auntie Em can't wait to meet you, Cooper!)


 
It was a year of visiting places that live happily in my imagination

        

And using my imagination in a weird, yet fulfilling, way

    

And finally, it was a year of author visits and book awesomeness (cause this here blog is basically a book blog :) )





It was a really good year.  But here's to 2017 with new opportunities at work, new dreams and plans, and a renewed focus on making myself a priority in my own life, living each day feeling thankful for all the blessings that God has given me.  Here's to holding on to the year and not letting it slip away.

Happy New Year, dear readers.  Thanks for sticking around and being a part of this crazy blogging enterprise I'm surprised is still happening.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Talking As Fast As I Can

Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in BetweenAuthor: Lauren Graham
Info: Ballantine Books, copyright 2016, 224 pages

In this collection of personal essays, the beloved star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood reveals stories about life, love, and working as a woman in Hollywood—along with behind-the-scenes dispatches from the set of the new Gilmore Girls, where she plays the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore once again.

In Talking as Fast as I Can, Lauren Graham hits pause for a moment and looks back on her life, sharing laugh-out-loud stories about growing up, starting out as an actress, and, years later, sitting in her trailer on the Parenthood set and asking herself, “Did you, um, make it?” She opens up about the challenges of being single in Hollywood (“Strangers were worried about me; that’s how long I was single!”), the time she was asked to audition her butt for a role, and her experience being a judge on Project Runway (“It’s like I had a fashion-induced blackout”).

In “What It Was Like, Part One,” Graham sits down for an epic Gilmore Girls marathon and reflects on being cast as the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore. The essay “What It Was Like, Part Two” reveals how it felt to pick up the role again nine years later, and what doing so has meant to her.

Some more things you will learn about Lauren: She once tried to go vegan just to bond with Ellen DeGeneres, she’s aware that meeting guys at awards shows has its pitfalls (“If you’re meeting someone for the first time after three hours of hair, makeup, and styling, you’ve already set the bar too high”), and she’s a card-carrying REI shopper (“My bungee cords now earn points!”).

~Goodreads Description

I'm a Gilmore Girls fan.  I wouldn't necessarily refer to myself as a "super fan", but I've made my through the series twice, and I eagerly awaited the arrival of the reboot episodes.  I'm team Logan, then Jess, then Dean.  I became obsessed with audiobooks read by Edward Herrmann because I like the idea of Richard Gilmore reading me a story.  And I would move to Stars Hollow in a second if such a place really existed because I'm pretty sure, with my weirdness, I could fit right in.

That's why I picked this book up.  I knew, at the time, very little about Lauren Graham other than the few parts I had seen her play.  I didn't understand her nasty Santa fetish in Bad Santa, and I couldn't take the crying (mine, not hers) over Parenthood so I stopped watching about midway through the first season.

Now, knowing a little more about her, I kind of like her.  I like to believe she talks just as fast as Lorelei (and if you turn up the speed on the audiobook, she does!).  She's an excellent storyteller that brings across her heart for what she does and the people she has populated her life with.  She doesn't seem like a celebrity, which is refreshing, and she gets a little spazzy like the rest of us.

Her reminiscing (and commenting on hair and style choices) about the first seven years of Gilmore Girls makes you want to watch the show all over again, and while the section is brief, I fully brings across just how exciting it was for her to return to the role.  She doesn't do a lot of name-dropping (thank goodness) and seems genuinely excited to share how much she enjoys including the people she loves in everything she does.

A fun, quick read with a fun, thoughtful woman.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies

Rocks Fall, Everyone DiesAuthor: Lindsay Ribar
Info: Kathy Dawson Books, copyright 2016, 336 pages

Twin Peaks meets Stars Hollow in this paranormal suspense novel about a boy who can reach inside people and steal their innermost things—fears, memories, scars, even love—and his family’s secret ritual that for centuries has kept the cliff above their small town from collapsing.

Aspen Quick has never really worried about how he’s affecting people when he steals from them. But this summer he’ll discover just how strong the Quick family magic is—and how far they’ll go to keep their secrets safe.

With a smart, arrogant protagonist, a sinister family tradition, and an ending you won’t see coming, this is a fast-paced, twisty story about power, addiction, and deciding what kind of person you want to be, in a family that has the ability to control everything you are. 


~Goodreads Description

This book had me by a fun cover and the ever intriguing "Twin Peaks meets Stars Hollow" comparison.  This book, however, lost me somewhere in the murky middle when I realized I wasn't going to get either of those things.

Aspen Quick is a thief.  He's a magical thief, but he's still a thief.  By touching something owned by an individual, he can steal a part of them - their fear, their sobriety, their feelings for their boyfriend.  He can steal these things and make them his.  This magical gift is a family trait and is used in a ritual that he believes is keeping the cliff above his hometown intact.  They steal to repair fissures in the mountain side that could potentially destroy the town.  But Aspen discovers his power isn't at all what it is cracked up to be and that secrets, secrets are no fun, secrets, secrets hurt someone.

To be completely honest, I don't have a lot to say about this one.  It didn't infuriate me like books have this year, but it also didn't leave me with any kind of feelings at all.  Aspen isn't really a likable character.  You feel, just a tiny bit, for him as he unravels all of the secrets he's wrapped up in, but he's selfish.  So selfish.  I think you're supposed to pity him, but I didn't.  I wanted to see him get his comeuppance, because his nonchalance about stealing from being made me twitchy.  He is a teenager though, and my experience with teenagers is that generally they believe the world revolves around them, so his behavior isn't a stretch.  That's where a teenagers brain is, and at that stage of development, that's where it's supposed to be...but STILL.  Ugh.  Consequences.

And not a whole lot happens in the book.  There are a lot of repeat conversations, teenage angst and anger, and finally, at the end, a revelation.  For a brief moment I thought it might feel more like a mystery as Aspen befriends a local teen who seems to be more aware of his family's abilities, but it never really got there.

Is it poorly written?  No.  The writing was fine.  Is it a bad concept?  Not really.  There is potential.  Was it oversold with the Twin Peaks / Stars Hollow references?  Yes.  Yes it was.  I think I was just a little disappointed cause that's what I wanted.


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Top 10 Reads of 2016


Top Ten Reads of 2016

I read some amazing books this year.  I also read some not as amazing books this year.  It always seems to work out that way.  But here are a few of my favorites.  Some are new all-time favorites which is kind of exciting.  In fact, this is the first time I can remember reading the same book twice in one year.  And that happened with two separate titles.

What's on your list?  Happy reading!
   
1) My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
Hands down my favorite book of the year.  In fact, one of my favorite books ever.  So good I read it twice.

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1)  Gemina (The Illuminae Files, #2)
2) Illuminae / Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
I read all things Amie Kaufman this year.  But this series - people, this series is amazing.

Heartless
3) Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Meyers is creeping toward the top of my favorite authors list.  Her origin story for the Queen of Hearts did not disappoint.

An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes, #1)  A Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes, #2)
4) An Ember in the Ashes / Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir
A debut series that knocks your socks off.  So creative, dark, and hopeful.

Front Lines (Soldier Girl, #1)
5) Front Lines by Michael Grant
My first foray into the storytelling of Michael Grant. A thoughtful, heartbreaking alternate history set during WWII.

Highly Illogical Behavior
6) Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley
My favorite Whaley story with interesting characters and an emotional story.

Love & Gelato
7) Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
A light, fun romp through Tuscany, and the perfect summer read.

8) Dumplin' by Julie Murphy
This one surprised me.  I 'd heard a lot of positive press, but the humorous voice and genuine friendships sucked me in.

Unhooked
9) Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell
One of the first books I read this year, and one of the books that stuck with me.  A dark, gritty, kind of terrifying retelling of the Peter Pan fairytale.

10) The Raven King by Maggie Steifvater
Steifvater.  Always.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Diplomatic Immunity

Author: Brodi Ashton
Info: Balzer + Bray, copyright 2016, 368 pages

Raucous parties, privileged attitudes, underage drinking, and diplomatic immunity...it’s all part of student life on Embassy Row.

Piper Baird has always dreamed of becoming a journalist. So when she scores a scholarship to exclusive Chiswick Academy in Washington, DC, she knows it’s her big opportunity. Chiswick offers the country’s most competitive prize for teen journalists—the Bennington scholarship—and winning will ensure her acceptance to one of the best schools in the country.

Piper isn’t at Chiswick for two days before she witnesses the intense competition in the journalism program—and the extreme privilege of the young and wealthy elite who attend her school. And Piper knows access to these untouchable students just might give her the edge she’ll need to blow the lid off life at the school in a scathing and unforgettable exposé worthy of the Bennington.

The key to the whole story lies with Rafael Amador, the son of the Spanish ambassador—and the boy at the center of the most explosive secrets and scandals on Embassy Row. Rafael is big trouble—and when he drops into her bedroom window one night, asking for help, it’s Piper’s chance to get the full scoop. But as they spend time together, Piper discovers that despite his dark streak, Rafael is smart, kind, funny, and gorgeous—and she might have real feelings for him. How can she break the story of a lifetime if it could destroy the boy she just might love?


~Goodreads Description

Brodi Ashton was a part of the writing force that gave me My Lady Jane this year.  And I do mean "me", because for just a moment while reading that beloved text, I truly believed it was written specifically for me.  It had my favorite kind of humor, it broke the fourth wall, and it was chalked full of familiar history turned on its head in the most magical of ways.  I had hoped that everything written by the three authors would be equally as magical.  I fear I was wrong.

Piper Baird is an ambitious teen set on getting a prestigious scholarship to study journalism in college.   In order to be eligible for the award, she must attend Chiswick Academy, an exclusive school filled with the rich and "famous" in Washington D.C.  Looking for a way to get the attention of the scholarship panelists, Piper decides to write an expose on the students who have diplomatic immunity (the children of ambassadors and diplomats who get away with anything and everything just because of their wealth and the importance of their parents.)  It is all going according to plan until Piper's new friendship with Rafael, the son of the Spanish ambassador, becomes something she doesn't want to lose.

I've read this story before.  I've watched this story before.  I think we've all probably read or watched this story before.  I knew from the first chapter exactly what was going to happen, and for the type of reader who is often oblivious, that is very telling.  Poor communication skills, misunderstood rich kids, and everything turns out fine in the end.  Very formulaic in delivery.  Sometimes this can be overlooked if you like the characters.  I didn't not like the characters, but I also didn't love them.  I had ambivalent affection for them.  The resolution also seemed very abrupt.  Piper has managed to turn her whole world upside down, but the fallout is minimal and areas that could be explored, especially when it came to her home life, could have been given more attention.

Not a bad book, but not a great one either.  I preferred E. Lockhart's The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks and Stephanie Perkins's Anna and the French Kiss.  Still, I'll probably give Brodie Ashton another try.  Because, well, My Lady Jane.


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Library GrabBag: #GPLtalk Podcast Episode 5 & 6

We're back with two new episodes of the #GPLtalk podcast!

Episode #5 - Maggie Stiefvater! and a fun discussion on meeting authors.




Episode #6 - we discussed the new Nicholas Sparks book Two by Two.  Afterwards we discussed the awesomeness that we're "Geeking Out" over.


Monday, December 19, 2016

Heartless

HeartlessAuthor: Marissa Meyer
Info: Feiwel & Friends, copyright 2016, 449 pages

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship.

Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

~Goodreads Description

I have decided that I will read anything written by Marissa Meyer.  I like her style, her voice, and her characters.  They are complicated and imperfect yet likeable.  And I absolutely adore the fact that she reimagines fairy tales - one of my favorite types of fiction.

Catherine wants to be a baker.  Catherine's mother wants her to be a  queen.  The King of Hearts can't think for himself (and because he enjoys her baking) so he has decided that he wants Catherine to be a queen too. But this is Wonderland, and things can be complicated, and strange, and very, very curious.

Meyer tacked a retelling of Cinderella in her Lunar Chronicles series with Eastern influences, space ships, and a scary queen.  This time we get an origin story for the Queen of Hearts, the "off with her head" happy monarch who, according to Meyer, has a very sad story.

Sometimes you just connect to an author's take on storytelling.  Sometimes you don't.  I feel like I've come across the latter far to much lately.  I also feel that this has something to do with a saturation of the YA book market and publishers trying to cash in quickly instead of putting effort into editing...but that conversation is for another day.

Anywho, while the "complicated"ness of Wonderland includes a love triangle (of sorts), I liked Catherine.  I cannot relate to her love of baking, but I appreciate her ambition and desire to pave her own way in life.  Her fella of choice, the Jester, is whimsical and mysterious.  Gotta love that.   My one complaint is that their "romance" is a little rushed.  The whole plot is a little rushed, to be honest. But it's a standalone, a fact I only discovered after finishing.  A fact that broke my reading heart just a little.  I wanted more.  I wanted more understanding of the world and its oddness, the Hatter and his madness, and the Jester and his mysteriousness.

Most of the characters you are familiar with from the original tale or Disney offerings is there.  There is croquet and flamingos.  There are tarts and hyper white rabbits.  It's familiar yet new.  And I adored it.  If you are a fan of The Lunar Chronicles, you won't be disappointed in Meyer's new retelling.  If you're a fan of retellings, you won't be disappointed in her version of Wonderland.  And if you're just looking for something fun to read, this would be an excellent choice.


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Friday, December 16, 2016

Looking for Lovely

Looking for Lovely: Collecting the Moments that MatterAuthor: Annie F. Downs
Info: B&H Books, copyright 2016, 208 pages

“I want you to take every step of your life with excitement for where you are headed. And I want you to feel beautiful and confident as you do.” But how? When the enemy whispers lies that you are not smart enough, pretty enough, or rich enough? Or you are too dumb, too loud, too quiet, too thin, too fat, too much or not enough? What if you don’t have what it takes to be who you really want to be? 

In Looking for Lovely, Annie F. Downs shares personal stories, biblical truth, and examples of how others have courageously walked the path God paved for their lives by remembering all God had done, loving what was right in front of them, and seeing God in the everyday—whether that be nature, friends, or the face they see in the mirror. Intensely personal, yet incredibly powerful, Looking for Lovely will spark transformative conversations and life changing patterns. No matter who we are and what path God has us on, we all need to look for lovely, fight to finish, and find beautiful in our every day!

~Goodreads Description

This was the right book for me at the right time.  Annie Downs was a down-to-earth voice of reason and compassion.  She recognizes that life isn't always easy, but that in every moment we have the opportunity to look for lovely - to find happiness and beauty all around us.  Every so often I need to hear the message that God has plans for me.  Bigger plans than I could ever imagine for myself.  And he made for that purpose.

Downs details her discovery of the beauty around her and her determination to find that beauty in the life she's living instead of the one she's waiting for.  And she reads the audiobook, which is fabulous. I have decided that I would like to be her friend.  She has an infectious laugh and her voice exudes kindness.  And I maybe totally scoured the interwebs for more "life lessons from Annie".  Some of her speaking engagements are on YouTube, and there is blog/podcast that I will be visiting regularly.


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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Three Dark Crowns

Three Dark Crowns (Three Dark Crowns, #1)Author: Kendare Blake
Info: HarperTeen, copyright 2016, 416 pages

Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

If only it was that simple. Katharine is unable to tolerate the weakest poison, and Arsinoe, no matter how hard she tries, can’t make even a weed grow. The two queens have been shamefully faking their powers, taking care to keep each other, the island, and their powerful sister Mirabella none the wiser. But with alliances being formed, betrayals taking shape, and ruthless revenge haunting the queens’ every move, one thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest…but she may be the darkest.

~Goodreads Description

There's this world, you see.  And in this world there are queens.  Three queens.  Or potential queens.  Or something, I was a little confused.  And these three queens are actually triplets...sisters, who, at a young age, were separated to be cared for by power hungry individuals tasked with helping each develop a set of skills - one would become a poisoner, one a naturalist, and one an elemental.  From there we hop between each girl for some character development before they come of age and must battle to the death, because we all know there can only be one queen.

I'm lukewarm about this one.  Blake's first series, Anna Dressed in Blood, was full of action and mystery.  She started running with the plot almost immediately in Anna, and I had hoped for the same with Three Dark Crowns, but I felt like I slogged through 95% of this book.  I commented a few times to my reading buddy over at Book Plots & Polka Dots that I was bored to tears.  And then, by-golly, the story went and got interesting in the last chapter.  Typical.  Kind of made me mad, to be honest.  I had every intention of leaving the story behind, but now I might have to read the sequel to find out what happens.

There was a need for immense world building which sets the slow pace almost immediately.  Coupled with the continual bouncing back and forth between characters, and it's easy to get lost.  It also struggles with character development because there are SO many people to keep track of, and those people have strange names.  Sometimes all of that is easier to keep organized in your noggin when you have the book in hand, but I was listening to the audiobook where every name started to sound the same, leading to the aforementioned confusion.  I was never able to connect with any of the "heroines" or even begin to take sides.  I'm not sure Blake wants you to take sides, but that seems to be an important part of my reading personality.  I need someone to really like and cheer for and preferably someone to kind of hate (and sometimes secretly cheer for).

It is different.  And if you an stick around until the last fourth of the book, there's a good chance you'll get hooked.  Now here's hoping I remember enough when the sequel comes around so that I don't have to re-read!


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Top 10 Books I'm Looking Forward to in 2017


Top 10 Books I'm Looking Forward to in 2017

I went and read myself into a sequel hole this year.  I tried not to do it.  I know people who have the willpower to resist reading series until they have all been released, but I am not that kind of a girl.  I gravitate toward shiny, pretty, awesome sounding books.  And then I read them.  And then I get mad that I have to wait for the next installment.  So some of my most anticipated reads of 2017 are continuations, others are, once again, series starters because I am a glutton for punishment.  And apparently there are A LOT of space fiction titles which just makes me happy.

What's on your list?
RoseBlood
1) RoseBlood by A.G. Howard
Release date: January 10, 2017

Silver Stars (Soldier Girl #2)
2) Silver Stars by Michael Grant
Release date: January 31, 2017

Starfall (Starflight #2)
3) Starfall by Melissa Landers
Release date: February 7, 2017

Daughter of the Pirate King
4) Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller
Release date: February 28, 2017

Spaceman of Bohemia
5) Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar
Release date: March 7, 2017

Hunted (Hunted, #1)
6) Hunted by Meagan Spooner
Release date: March 14, 2017

Defy the Stars
7) Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray
Release date: April 4, 2017

Once and for All
8) Once and For All by Sarah Dessen
Release date: June 6, 2017

Empress of a Thousand Skies
9) Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza
Release Date: February 7, 2017

Duels and Deception
10) Duels and Deception by Cindy Anstey
Release date: April 11, 2017
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