Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday- Best Books for Halloween

 Hosted by Broke and Bookish

I'm not generally a fan of horror. I don't like being scared and experiencing things jumping out at me, ghosts, or stories of serial killers is not my idea of a good time. But I have no problem with gore (that's a whole different conversation though) and I love a good thriller. Especially one that has supernatural elements. Give me a supernatural thriller any day. Something mysterious that makes you ask a bunch of questions like "what's going on here?" and "what is that mysterious thing for?" I also really really love Gothic literature. With all that in mind, these are my top ten Halloween reads broken into three categories...

Gothic Classics

1.) Dracula by Bram Stoker- No explanation required. The original vampire novel and my personal pick for Halloween. 

2.) Frankenstein by Mary Shelley- Another classic monster tale. Very creepy and mysterious but also a bit of a satire and critique on society (I had to read it for a class in college).

3.) Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte- One of my favorite books. Ghosts, murder, intrigue, creepy old houses, failed romance. If this doesn't scream Halloween, I don't know what does!

4.) The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde. A guy sells his soul to the devil to stay beautiful forever but his portrait turns old and ugly with every bad deed. A gothic masterpiece!

Supernatural (and Gory) Take on Classics

5.) Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Graham-Smith (and Jane Austen). What if the Bennett sisters were not only searching for husbands but also zombies. There's lots of monsters, fight scenes, and gore. Plus a twist ending! I also love that they take the original text and modify it to include the supernatural elements.

6.) Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Ben H. Winters (and Jane Austen)- The Dashwood sisters are exiled to a mysterious island where sea monsters are killing everyone. Sense and Sensibility is my favorite Austen novel and I wish they had kept more of the original text but it's really creepy and creative (spoiler alert: Colonel Brandon is a sea monster).

7.) Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith- I know it's not a reimagined classic but it feels that way. This is a "true story" of why Lincoln wanted to free the slaves and fight the Civil War. It also totally makes him a badass even though he was arguably kind of a wuss (though a great

And just so everyone knows there are SO MANY of these types of books. Pick your favorite romantic classic and there is probably a supernatural version. Wuthering Bites, Android Karenina, Jane Slayre to name a few. Next on my list is Little Women and Werewolves because I love me some March girls.

Young Adult Supernatural Novels (In case you're looking for something slightly lighter)

8.) Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl: A young adult Southern Gothic novel that has magic, doomed romances, and a creepy town shut-in that's basically a vampire. I was actually pleasantly surprised by how well it is written and really liked the story.

9.) A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray- Another young adult gothic novel. This one involving girls mixed up with magic they don't understand, a creepy mysterious school, supernatural visions, and a scary villain who always remains on the periphery. Also extremely well-written and fully of surprises.

10.) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling. Not particularly scary but full of mystery,thrills, and classic supernatural elements like witches, magic, ghosts, and people dying. It had to be on the list!

Many of these books are actually on my list of October "spooky" reads. By Friday I will have a full wrap up post with my thoughts on them. So stay tuned, and of course HAPPY READING!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Book Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

I wanted to make a review of this book independent from my October wrap-up because I have a lot of things to say about it. But first, the deets.


 Title: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Author: Ransom Riggs
Target Audience: Young Adult
Publisher: Quirk, 2011
goodreads synopsis: A horrific family tragedy sends Jacob 16 to a remote island off Wales, to the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, where he finds unusual old photographs. The children, one his grandfather, were more than peculiar, perhaps dangerous, quarantined for good reason - and maybe still alive.

I picked this book to be part of my October Horror reading. I was looking for something that was a little spooky with supernatural elements. I don't particularly like horror in the classic sense like ghost stories but I do like books about monsters and I love a good thriller. The premise of Miss Peregrine's caught my eye because it told the story of odd and potentially dangerous children. It seemed to fit what I was looking for for the month.

I continued reading it even though I had seen some mixed reviews on the story, may people saying that the book suffers from a bit of split personality disorder (spoilers ahead) because halfway through it switches tone completely and goes from a Gothic Mystery to a Time Traveling Fantasy. Many people found this a bit of a shock and it took them out of the story. And while I will agree that the synopsis is a bit misleading, the change made total sense to me, but maybe that's because I was prepared for it.

Jacob's been told stories from his grandfather about this wonderful and mysterious island, where he grew up, which was full of "peculiar children" and when Jacob's grandfather offers some very confusing last words to him right after he was gored to death by a crazy monster that Jacob sees, he convinces his parents to let him go visit the island where his grandfather lived as a teenager. Unfortunately the island is practically deserted and the house was destroyed by a bomb during World War II... or was it? He follows a mysterious young girl and finds that the house has existed in a time loop for the past seventy years, reliving the day before it was bombed, and keeping it protected from not only the bomb but from the crazy monsters who are up to no good. When Jacob learns the truth about the home the shift in tone and genre occur. It was as if we as the readers were understanding things differently at the same time that Jacob was. I didn't have too much of a problem with the shift and would actually say that the contrast deepened the storytelling.

Speaking of storytelling, that was probably my favorite part of this book. Ransom Riggs is a phenomenal writer. The world that he was able to build is interesting and unique and his descriptions were deep and poetic. Riggs punctuated the story with the use of old photographs of mysterious children and historic events. These pictures were so interesting and added a really unique element to the story. I also really liked the world-within-a-world concept of the time loop where you have a modern island that seems to have lost much of it's former glory and then you travel back in time to different time period where it was doing well. There was only one brief moment of explaining what they future is like and it didn't devolve into a "times sure have changed" vignette that a lot of these stories tend to do just to hit home this "fish out of water" point (I'm looking at you Sleepy Hollow).

And while I liked that the story developed around what happened during World War II, the holocaust allegory sort of made me cringe (especially calling something similar a hollowgast!!) and made everything take on an X-Men quality. Children with superpowers fighting people who are trying to kill them because they're different? YAWN! But my biggest problem was Jacob's character development. He was just so quick to believe. He went from thinking that his grandfather was making it up, to thinking that he might have been serious, to thinking he was crazy, to believing it all in the blink of an eye. Even when he is told some really surprising and extremely hard to believe information (like time travel) he's all "that makes total sense." And while as the reader, I'm freaking out he could really care less. Although my annoyance with main characters' lack of analysis when they're told something unbelievable is something I usually feel about most YA books. It's good to know I'm back to normal, I've been liking way to many main characters lately.

In general I would say that I liked the story and found it interesting. I did have many problems with it but I'm glad I read it. I just wish I had picked something a little darker for my Halloween reads.

I would give Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children a 7 out of 10

If you've read Miss Peregrine's let me know your thoughts in the comments below and as always, HAPPY READING!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday- Unique Names


Top Ten Unique/Obscure/Hard to Pronounce Character Names That I Have Encountered

This is my first top Ten Tuesday... How exciting! I like the idea of this list. I read a lot of fantasy and sci fi and the characters in these genres always have very interesting and hard to pronounce names. Sometimes I will even slur them in my mind or call them by a portion of their name if their that hard to pronounce.

10.) Kartik from A Great and Terrible Beauty
 In a series set in England where most people have very British names, this Indian name stands out as interesting and obscure. Plus he only has one name, like Cher or Madonna. 
9.) Kostas Dounas from The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Series
I love Kostas. He and Lena with their on-again off-again romance full of misunderstandings. Being that the character is Greek, I found his name to be very unique the first time I saw it.

8.) Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter Series
You know a name is difficult to pronounce when the author has to put a pronunciation guide with in the book. My sister and I would discuss how the names of all the characters in Harry Potter should be pronounced and this one came under much debate until Goblet of Fire.

7.) Eponine from Les Miserables.
I LOVE Eponine. She is my favorite character in the musical and in the book we learn so much more about her. I feel so much empathy for her. I love her so much I even named my cat Eponine, but that was partially so I can sing On My Own to her.

6.) Professor Turgut Bora from The Historian
Professor Bora is Turkish and has quite an interesting name. This story takes place throughout much of Eastern Europe and many characters have unique names. Professor Bora stands out to me mostly because he's also an enigmatic and layered character and I like him a lot more than some of the others.

5.) Pretty Much Everyone from The Hunger Games Series
Apparently in the near future when we destroy the world we will start naming our children obscure things. I blame celebrities. Some of my favorites include Katniss Everdeen, Peeta Mellark, Finnick Odair, Rue, Thresh, Glimmer, Cashmere, Gloss, Beetee. The list goes on and on.

 4.) Pretty Much Everyone from The Wicked Years
The one that first came to mind was Fiyero Tigelaar, cause I like the ring of that, but there are more. Elphaba, Boq, Nessarose, Brrr, Liir,  Candle, Nor, Trisim bon Cavalish, Rain, and Little Daffy just to name a few.

3.) Bonanza Jellybean from Even Cowgirls Get the Blues
Just to throw you off the rhythm of everyone in a series. Bonanza is the perfect name for a cowgirl but the Jellybean part is just confusing.This has to be one of the oddest names I have ever seen in literature, and the best part is she chose it herself! You're a weird lady Bonanza Jellybean!

 2.) Pretty Much Everyone from the Song of Ice and Fire Series
Seriously people in Westeros have weird names. Even the ones with seemingly normal names spell or pronounce them differently (except John Snow and Robert Baratheon) My personal favorite and the most obscure is Daenerys Targaryen. But many other characters have crazy names like Jaqen H'ghar, Sansa Stark, Margaery Tyrell, Tyrion Lannister, and Ygritte. And those are just the people I like!

1.) Pretty Much Everyone from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Series
This series being a space opera is full of people with obscure and difficult to pronounce names. Some of the best include Trillian, Ford Prefect, Zaphod Beeblebrox, Zarniwoop, Agrajag, and of course Slartibartfast. This is number one just for Slartibartfast!

What do you think? Pretty weird names, right! Tell me your thoughts in the comments section and of course HAPPY READING!

Friday, October 18, 2013

To Reread or not to Read...

... That is the question.

So I just finished rereading one of my favorite books, and I thought I would share my opinion on that often debated idea of rereads. Rereading books seems to be a pretty hot button issue in the book reviewing community. Some people love it, other people hate it. In my opinion it's a good idea for a person to reread their favorite book from time to time, and here's why.

The first time you read a book you generally read it much quicker. You are enthralled by the plot and you tend to focus more on the superficial elements of the story. When you reread a book you tend to pick up on more of the subtleties of the story. Things like foreshadowing and symbolism that you never noticed the first time take the story to a deeper level. This is particularly true if a story is very action-packed. If you're like me when the action picks up in a story then you have a tendency to start reading faster. Your heart may be racing, the adrenaline starts kicking in, and you just want to get to the next page to find out what happens. When I do this I often miss portions of the story in my eagerness to turn the page. So when I reread I am able to understand the story much better. My best example of this was in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (spoilers to follow). The first time I read it, I had no idea what was happening in the "vision" Harry had in the forest after Voldemort killed him. Was he dead or not? It was all very confusing. But after taking the time to reread the story and really digest it, the scene made so much more sense. I was also able to pick up on something that I never even noticed the first, like how Snape's patronus lead Harry to the sword of Gryffindor. I got even more out of the book when I reread it because I was able to take the time I needed and read it at a more relaxed pace.

Now I understand the argument from people that there are too many books in the world to reread ones you have already experienced. That is a very true statement, there are many books in the world and many people in the book reviewing community have shelves full of books to be read. I will admit that I am guilty of this. I get it, you should try and experience new things all the time, but there is no reason not to go back and enjoy an old favorite. If you are suffering from what is known in the biz as a "reading slump" then it's probably because you're not really enjoying the current book your reading, and more than likely the last few books you read. This is understandable, you're not going to enjoy every book that you read. But when this affliction befalls you then why not try rereading a book that you loved? More than likely you will also fall back in love with reading and get inspired to start reading something new.

The argument I don't understand is when people say that the book is ruined for them if they reread it, and it takes all of the magic away. Now, I'm not really the kind of person who gets mad about spoilers. I'm actually more like the kind of person who prefers spoilers and will read ahead to make sure things are going to end in a way that I want them too (don't judge me!). To me it's like solving a maze. I know where I'm going to end up, but what I don't know is how I am going to end up there. It's all about the journey isn't it?

Admittedly, the real reason that I reread this book is because I felt like I couldn't truly say that this was my favorite book until I experienced it again. Our opinions often change over time. Have you have watched a movie or television show and really enjoyed it and then watched it again and thought, "What was I thinking? This is terrible!" I know you have, everyone's done that! Or the opposite can happen. When I first saw Mean Girls I hated it. But then I watched it over and over again, and now I absolutely love it! I don't think you can really call something a favorite until you've experienced it multiple times.

 The book that I just reread was The Historian. It is a supernatural thriller and therefore very action-packed. I read it five years ago so, I have to admit, I did not remember much of the intricacies of the plot. I knew it was about Dracula and the search for his tomb by a teenage girl and her father, but that was about it. There were still plenty of surprises throughout the story and I even figured out a connection that I never put together the first time (it happened during the big climax so I was otherwise engaged). I remembered many of the main characters but not a lot of the secondary characters and I was able to appreciate those unique and interesting characters a lot more the second time around. I was also less curious as to how it was going to end and I was able to focus more on the characters journey through Eastern Europe. The descriptions of locations which I often find annoying and needless, I now found poetic. It even rekindled my desire to visit some of these places. I enjoyed the story just as much, if not more the second time I read it.

If you have never reread a book I say to you is "SERIOUSLY? You have to be kidding!" But what I really say is, give it a try. Experience an old favorite anew. You never know, you may enjoy it.

Now these are of course just my opinions. If you agree, leave me a comment. If you disagree, leave me a comment. And as always, HAPPY READING!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Mini Book Haul

Check out this sweet version of Dracula I just got to match my version of The Historian. It's even kitty approved!

I can't wait to start reading it this weekend!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

October TBR

I know we're halfway through the month so this seems a little weird (I've actually finished one of the books on the list and am halfway through two of them) but my plan for this month is to read around the theme of...

October is the month of Halloween after all.

Now before I get harassed for this I do not really mean Horror in the classic sense. I do not like scary movies. My brief experience with Stephen King led to many nightmares. I still can't use a bathroom if the shower curtain is drawn thanks to The Shining. When I refer to Horror I'm more referring to a subgenre which is actually one of my favorites, Gothic or Supernatural fiction. That is what I have decided to read this month.

For my contemporary novel I will be reading... The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova 

This is actually a reread for me. I read this book five years ago when vampires were the height of popularity. It is a metahistorical supernatural thriller (talk about subgenres) about a girl who finds a mysterious book in her father's study with a connection to Dracula, the real Dracula. She is immediatetly thrown into the deep and complicated past of her father and his search for the tomb of Vlad the Impaler and the truth about vampires. I used to refer to it as Dracula meets The Da Vinci Code. I'm actually really excited to reread it to see if the book actually holds up. To see if it's as good the second time or the fact that the surprise is gone takes away from its appeal.

And on that same token, for my Classic I will be reading... Dracula by Bram Stoker

As much as I love Gothic literature and Supernatural Thrillers I have never read Dracula, the seminal Horror classic. So after deciding to reread The Historian I've decided to finally bite the silver bullet (get it?) and read Dracula. I assume we all know the story but in case you've been living under a rock, it is the story of an Englishman who encounters the enigmatic and mysterious Count from Transylvania who is an undead vampire that survives by consuming human blood. I'm actually pretty excited to read Dracula and to experience a good old-fashioned vampire tale that is dark and dramatic.

My Young Adult novels this month are a little all over the place. I have a few series that I have been meaning to start and a few outstanding books that I've borrowed from the library. I hope to read at least 2-3 books but it may not be an entire series. Here are the books, in no particular order....

Miss Peregrine's School for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs 

This book I've been putting off borrowing from the library (even though I've put three separate holds on it because I wanted to read it in October). It is the story of Jacob, a sixteen year old boy who is told by his grandfather that when he was a child he lived on an island off the coast of Wales where peculiar children were kept for their own safety. When his grandfather dies in a horrific accident his last words convince Jacob that he most visit and investigate the island where he finds out that after all these years some of the kids are still alive and they may be dangerous. I'm pretty excited about this book. Mystery, Thriller, and Supernatural all rolled into one. The best part of it though is that the author Ransom Riggs incorporates old creepy photographs throughout the story. The photographs are as much a part of the book as the words. I've heard some mixed reviews about the story though. A lot people really like it but other people found the mystery a little predictable. Let's see what I think.

I also plan to start the following two series which may result in reading one or more of the books in the series, I will only list the first book in the series.

The Caster Chronicles by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Book 1: Beautiful Creatures
This book has been categorized by the authors as a Supernatural Gothic Romance. Sign me up! These are all genres that I love and putting them all together makes it all the better. This is the story of Ethan Wate who can't wait to leave the small town of Gatlin, South Carolina. But when a mysterious girl moves to town who is related to the town recluse he becomes instantly entranced by her. But, of course, she has a dark secret. She and her entire family are magical Casters, and thanks to a family curse on her 16th birthday she will be claimed for either Light or Dark. I'm not generally really into young adult romances but the supernatural and gothic elements are intriguing me and I figure I'll give it a try. They also made a movie based on this book that I've been wanting to see. I figure I should read the book first.

The Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray

Book 1: A Great and Terrible Beauty
This is the story of Gemma Doyle, a girl who is forced to move from India to England after her mother's death on her 16th birthday (notice a theme with 16th birthdays and mysterious deaths yet?) that Gemma witnessed through a mysterious vision. She is shipped off to Spence Academy, a school for girls, where she gets involved with a group of popular girls on their exploration into the dark and supernatural past of the school. It's Mean Girls meets a dark version The Chronicles of Narnia. It has very Gothic undertones and sounds really interesting. I've heard really good things about the author Libba Bray and I am really excited to read it and explore an intriguing new series.

For my audiobook I will be reading... Insurgent by Veronica Roth

It doesn't fit the Horror/Gothic/Supernatural theme for the month but I don't really care! I read Divergent last month and I know I'm late to the game but at least I showed up at all. The final book in the trilogy comes out this month so I can actually finish the series, which I like. I have a trip coming up (I like to listen to audiobooks during long car rides) so I figured I would get the audiobook and listen to it during my drive. If you are unaware of the Divergent series it is the story of Tris who lives in a dystopian future where her society is divided into five factions based on the cultivation of a virtue that they think is the most important to the success of the race. During your sixteenth year you take a test which tells you which faction you are meant to be in and then you have to choose which faction you will live the rest of your life with. When Tris takes her test however she finds out that she doesn't quite fit into one faction, she is Divergent, and being Divergent is dangerous. This is the second book in the series and takes off where the last book left off, with society in unrest. The first book was action-packed and full of surprises and I expect much of the same from Insurgent.

There you have it. The books that I plan to read in October. Stay tuned for my reviews and as always HAPPY READING!

Further Attempt and Reading Challenge

Before I get started let's get one thing straight, I'm a really bad blogger. I never post! I'll decide I want to update, do maybe one or two updates, and then nothing for a year, or more! I just never really figured that anyone cared too much. But I've realized something in my old age (I'm not really that old), this is less for other people and more for me. So I've decided to try it again. Let's see if I can be better about updating. Let's see if people actually read it. In January I may even try posting videos on YouTube. I'll use this blog as a prototype for the videos. What I post here will sort of be like my script for what will eventually become videos.

I've also decided that starting in January I will be participating in the 50 book challenge. This is exactly what it sounds like, I am challenging myself to read 50 books in 2014. This means, based completely on the math of the situation, I would have to read 4-5 books a month. It sounds easier than it actually is. I do read on a regular basis but I'm not a very fast reader. Depending on the skill level of the book and how good it is, there has been months where I read only one book. There has also been months where I have not completed a book. This could have been because the book was too long or I just didn't enjoy it. But lately I've been doing really well, I've been reading a lot of books and I think I can do this. I've even developed a plan. A system.

I've heard that the best way to hold yourself to something is to make it public, so what is more public than the internet? Answer: Nothing! So here you go internet, my strategic plan to ensure that I read 50 books in 2014.

Once a month I will read the following:
 -One classic novel (by this I mean something written before 1940 but they will more than likely all be from the 19th century)
 -One piece contemporary fiction (by this I mean something written after 1940, more than likely something from the 21st century)
 -One audiobook (I looked it up audiobooks count towards the challenge) 
-A young adult series consisting of 2-3 novels 

There you have it, my plan. This would mean that each month I would be reading a total of 5-6 books. I think this plan will work because I'm giving myself a buffer. If I don't finish one or two of these books each month I will still be in a good position to complete the challenge. If I do read all these books each month than I will have completed the challenge by October... and the rest is gravy (that's a weird expression).

Some months will have a theme to them like Horror, Fantasy, or Sci Fi while other months will be all over the place. At the start of each month I will post about what the book To Be Read (TBR) are, and at the end of each month I will post a wrap up which will list all the books that I finished and my thoughts on them. On the blog I may post a review immediately but if I eventually start posting videos I will wait till the end of the month for a wrap up. I will supplement this by posting book tags and book hauls so that I have at least one video a week.

I think this will be good. I love a good challenge and lately it feels like all I am motivated to do is read. So let's test my motivation. For the rest of the year I will be testing my system to see how I do with completing the five to six books I plan to read.

So let's do this thing! If you are interested in reading my reviews and tracking my progress follow me. And don't forget to comment, that's how I know you're paying attention.