Friday, November 29, 2013

Feature & Follow #2

How does this work? First you leave your name here on this post, (using the linky tools -- keep scrolling!) then you create a post on your own blog that links back to this post (easiest way is to just grab the code under the #FF picture and put it in your post) and then you visit as many blogs as you can and tell them "hi" in their comments (on the post that has the #FF image). You follow them, they follow you. Win. Win. Just make sure to follow back if someone follows you!

What sets this Hop apart from others, is our Feature. Each week we will showcase a Featured Blogger, from all different genres and areas. Who is our Feature today? Find out below. Just remember it is required, if you participate, to follow our Features and you must follow the hosts (Parajunkee & Alison Can Read) as a courtesy. How do you follow someone? Well, if you have a preference, state it in your #FF post. A lot of blogs are transitioning to Wordpress in which they do not have the luxury of GFC, so an RSS subscription is appreciated or if you choose an email subscription. If you don't have GFC please state in your post how you would like to be followed.

Q: What’s your favorite Thanksgiving Day food? If you’re not American or Canadian, what is your favorite holiday food?

A: I love Thanksgiving! It's an all day event in my house. First my Mom and I watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, then we start cooking, the whole family comes over and we eat, then everyone leaves and we play a family game. I love it.

As far as the food goes, my favorite Thanksgiving dish is Dutch Apple Pie! My grandma makes the most delicious pie!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Things I Am Most Thankful For

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Let's be honest, it's a holiday that revolves around food and family. I know, I know, it's to celebrate the harvest and the fact that the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Tribe were getting along, however briefly. (I won't go on a diatribe about how they were actually celebrating that a lot of Pilgrims hadn't died that past year and that they two cultures never really got along they were just manipulating one another, but that's beside the point.

It's about food, family, and recognizing that we have a lot of good things going for us. So here is a list of the things I am most thankful for.

1.) Family - I don't really appreciate them enough. My parents are incredibly supportive and kind. This past year I moved 500 miles away from where I was living and they helped me pay for a car, made sure I wasn't financial strapped, and helped me move. They have been wonderful. This past year we also welcomed my first niece into the family and I'm thankful for her as well as my brother, sister, brother-in-law for being amazing siblings.

This picture is from the Wampanoag Village in Plymouth

2.) Friends (New and Old) - When I made the big move I left behind a lot of friends. I'm thankful to the ones that stayed in touch. I'm also thankful to the new friends I made here in Pittsburgh. They have been so welcoming. It's scary to move to a new city but they have been really great!

3.) Skype - On that note... I'm thankful that there is a platform where I can stay in touch with the people I love. I miss my best friend dearly and I miss our weekly dinner dates. Skype lets us see each other, vent, and watch our favorite shows together.

4.) My Cat - One of the best decisions I ever made was agreeing to adopt this feral cat that my friends
had taken off the streets and couldn't care for anymore. She is the sweetest most affectionate little cat and I love having her in my life. I'm a little obsessed with her but she's so wonderful!

5.) My Car - This is the first year I've had a vehicle all to myself since I was a senior in high school. I know it sounds self-centered but it's so nice not to be at the mercy of other people or public transportation. I am so thankful that if I want to go somewhere I can do it in a heartbeat. It has allowed me to go visit my friends and family on a whim and I'm so glad for that. I am hours away from getting in it to drive home for Thanksgiving.

6.) That I Have a Job I Can Wear Jeans To - This one is super self-indulgent, I recognize that, but it's really nice that I don't have to get really dressed up every day. Mostly because it means that I also didn't have to buy new clothes when I got this job. It's nice to be able to dress comfortable every day and I really appreciate that about my job.

7.) The Library - One of my friends asked me recently what my favorite places in my neighborhood are and I answered, "the library." I love going there on weekends, using their wifi to download stuff, finding new books, borrow books, sample books, be around books. The library here in Pittsburgh is wonderful. I can get books from any library delivered to the one I haunt, I can borrow ebooks with  the swipe of a mouse, I even get three free music downloads a week. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, you are phenomenal.

8.) Amazon Prime - Best $70 I ever spent! I love the fact that I can get free two day shipping, it keeps my book buying costs down a little bit. The other best thing about Amazon Prime is the streaming videos. I can find something to watch here so much easier than with Netflix or Hulu. They have tons of old 90's kids shows that make me feel super nostalgic. Sometimes when you're having a bad day the only cure is Clarissa Explains it All.

9.) People Who Write Books - I know they're called authors. But I am participating in NaNoWriMo right now and I can truly say that it is hard to write a novel. Particularly one that is concise, interesting, and thought -provoking. I tip my hat to you all and thank you for entertaining me this year and well every year.

10.) Everyone reading this - I love that there is a community out there that feels the same way I do about books and wants to be a part of a larger collective. Thanks for stopping by, subscribing, and commenting.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Feauture and Follow #1

To join the fun and make new book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules: 
(Taken straight from the hosts) 
-  (Required) Follow the Follow My Book Blog Friday Hosts 
-  (Required) Follow our Featured Bloggers 
-  Put your Blog name & URL in the Linky thing. You can also grab the code if you would like to insert it into your posts. 
-  Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say “hi” in your comments and that they are now following you. 
-  If you are using WordPress or another CMS that doesn’t have GFC (Google Friends Connect) state in your posts how you would like to be followed 
-  Follow Follow Follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don’t just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don’t say “HI” If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the Love…and the followers. 
- If you’re new to the follow Friday hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog! 

This is my first time doing this so I'm going to answer their five questions to start out with.

1.) When did you start blogging?
Originally four years ago but very irregularly. I would stop back maybe once a year and update and tell myself I would keep it up I never did. This most recent foray happened about two months ago and it seems to be sticking.

2.) What's your favorite part about book blogging?
I think the best part so far has just been learning about amazing new books and being able to join in on the conversation with like-minded people about books that I enjoyed.

3.) What types of books do you mainly blog about?
I have pretty eclectic taste in books. I try to mix in Classics with recent fiction and YA. In terms of genre mostly fantasy, historical fiction, and paranormal. 

4.) What are your favorite books?
There are so many to list. My current five favorite standalone books are The Historian, The Alchemist, Wuthering Heights, The Tao of Pooh, and The Heart is A Lonely Hunter. My three favorite series are Harry Potter, The Wicked Years, and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

5.) What has been the best thing that happened to you because of book blogging? 
The best and most tangible thing that has happened to me since blogging is probably that my reading has become much more critical, and it has has become much more frequent. I feel like I'm reading a lot more and I'm pushing myself to read a lot more. Maybe it's just my competitive nature and the need to keep up with everyone else in the community.

This weeks question 
Q: You Are It! We are playing #FF tag this week. Comment on as many blogs as you can, even if they aren’t participating in #FF. Just say Happy #FF! At the end of your comment. Keep a running total if you want and update your post with it. The bigger the number the more impressed we will be! 

So have fun and get busy hopping!

******** UPDATE: I stopped by a bunch of blogs and followed a dozen of them. Thanks to anyone who stopped by here!******

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Book Review: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

Title: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
Author: Michael Chabon
Publisher: Random House, 2000 

Synopsis: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a triumph of originality, imagination, and storytelling, an exuberant, irresistible novel that begins in New York City in 1939. A young escape artist and budding magician named Joe Kavalier arrives on the doorstep of his cousin, Sammy Clay. While the long shadow of Hitler falls across Europe, America is happily in thrall to the Golden Age of comic books, and in a distant corner of Brooklyn, Sammy is looking for a way to cash in on the craze. He finds the ideal partner in the aloof, artistically gifted Joe, and together they embark on an adventure that takes them deep into the heart of Manhattan, and the heart of old-fashioned American ambition. From the shared fears, dreams, and desires of two teenage boys, they spin comic book tales of the heroic, fascist-fighting Escapist and the beautiful, mysterious Luna Moth, otherworldly mistress of the night. Climbing from the streets of Brooklyn to the top of the Empire State Building, Joe and Sammy carve out lives, and careers, as vivid as cyan and magenta ink. Spanning continents and eras, this superb book by one of America’s finest writers remains one of the defining novels of our modern American age. 

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is a phenomenal story in the vein of Forrest Gump. It spans across three decades in the mid 20th century. The book is written in a unique style that alternates chapters between what's happen in the life of the characters Sammy and Joe, pieces from the comic book, and what reads like a non-fiction story of the characters and the comic book. While this can often get confusing, it kept the story more interesting, and moved the narrative along particularly in the beginning where things tend to get a little slow and dull. Most of the book took place during the Holocaust and World War II and while it affected the characters actions it wasn't really a book about the war or the Holocaust. The writing walked the fine line between historical fiction and pop culture, and by that I mean comic book culture There were tons of subtle bits and jokes about comic books and superhero characters. It's a fun look at the creation and development of superheroes during the Golden Age of comic books.

The main characters take traumatic and memorable experiences from their childhood to create The Escapist: Master of Illusion, Breaker of Chains, Rescuer of the Helpless. As the name may imply the characters use their creation as a way of escaping from their problems at a time when things are not easy in the world at large. But reality has a way of catching up to them eventually. Even though the character is taking off they are not receiving much of the benefits from their creation and have to fight to get what little they have. Then about two thirds of the way through the book things took a dramatic turn. At this point I was completely invested in the characters and their happiness. They were flawed and reckless but I couldn't help feeling for them and wanting them to succeed. They were such underdogs, I wanted them to win in the end. I spent the last part of the book incredibly worried about them and how their stories were going to resolve.  When it did finally resolve it felt a little bittersweet.

My only criticism is that the story as a whole was a little unbalanced. There was a lot of buildup in the beginning, then just as things are starting to look up it took a dramatic turn. The story shifts completely to ten years in the future and attempts to resolve the story. Symbolic elements from the beginning are brought back into our understanding to bring home this point but it felt a little forced. I understand the need to bring it full circle but everything had changed so much it would have been better to move the story forward and not backwards. When everything was finally wrapped up I was left still wondering what would happen to these characters I had built such a connection with in their 636 page story. This is probably the only time I have ever wished a standalone book had a sequel.

The best part is the storytelling. Chabon does a great job of setting the scene and getting you in the head of the characters. His explanations are incredibly detailed and poetic but it does not at all feel overdone. Most of the chapters are relatively short and it's easy to tell yourself "one more chapter" or "I can finish this before you do something else." Before you know it you've wasted three hours and totally forgot to eat dinner. The story is so engrossing it took over parts of my life. (My writing for NaNoWriMo definitely suffered during particularly interesting parts of the book). But that's a testament to the story and how good it is.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

I recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, comic books/superheroes, or stories where you can root for the underdogs. It's a great book, check it out!

If you have read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, let me know what your thoughts are in the comments section and... HAPPY READING!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Top Ten Books I Would Recommend to Someone who is "Not a Big Reader"

Your weekly top ten list hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This weeks topic is "Books You'd Recommend to X Person." It's a very broad topic. When I think of people I want to recommend books to it's those people who say "I don't read much" or "I'm not a big reader." I hate that kind of statement. It's like you're saying I read but I don't really enjoy it much. So why do you read? I always want to find a book that a person like this will really enjoy. So here is my list in no particular order.

1.) The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
I answer this for everything. It's my all time favorite book but it has something for everyone. Action, adventure, mystery, romance, and it's just complicated enough for someone who doesn't read often. It is a little complex and a little long though for someone who's not a big reader. But I would recommend this to someone who enjoys scary movies and/or mysteries.

2.) The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo
Again, one of my all time favorite books. This is the book that inspired me to start this blog. I would recommend this to someone who doesn't read often because it's relatively short but it is and interesting and engaging book that most people who read have a deep emotional connection to.
My Review

3.) Divergent by Veronica Roth
Maybe it's because it's a recent read for me but I found this book an incredible page turner. It had complex characters you can relate to, interesting themes of humanity, and lots of action. Plus because it is a Young Adult book the writing style is easy enough for a "non-reader" to get into.
My Review of the Series 

4.) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
My favorite series. I probably have this on every one of my top ten lists. But I really do recommend this to a lot of people. Especially people who have watched and enjoyed the series. It's also a good recommendation to anyone who likes fantasy but doesn't want anything with too much out there world building. 

5.) The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein
I think the Lord of the Rings series is a great recommendation for people who want a classic high fantasy. The only problem as Tolkein tends to get a little wordy. I would recommend The Hobbit because it's a stand alone and it was originally written to be a children's book so it's lighter than the "we have to save the world" epic that The Lord of the Rings trilogy is.  It is however an interesting and engaging series. I mean come on, there's a dragon!

6.) The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Another one of my favorite series. It is also another book that has something for everyone. Action, adventure, humor, romance (though not really). I would recommend this to someone who enjoys Sci-Fi TV shows in the vein of Joss Whedon. It is pretty short and is just so whimsical so it's good for someone who doesn't read often. I would also recommend this because while it is part of a series it can be enjoyed as a stand alone so there's not much pressure to go on with the series (though I can't see why you wouldn't).

7.) When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
I'm not a huge fan of David Sedaris but he has a very specific voice that a lot of non-readers enjoy. This book is a collection of short stories where Sedaris finds humor in every day occurrences like waiting at the doctor's office or dressing up for Halloween. Plus the short story format makes it less pressure for someone who doesn't read a lot.

8.) Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
It is a very specific person I would recommend this to. This is the kind of book I would recommend to a person who only reads "academically." It is non-fiction but still interesting enough to engage someone who is not a big reader.  The Tipping Point is also a good one for all the reasons above,

9.) Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Again this is a specific person I would recommend this too. I would recommend this to someone who hasn't read much since they were younger, probably a woman, and I would especially recommend this to someone who I know liked Harry Potter. It's full of diverse and likeable characters and is a pretty light and fluffy read especially in the beginning but it gets more complex. I have not met a person who read this book that didn't like it. 
My Review

10.) One for the Money by Janet Evanovich
Again I would recommend this to a pretty specific person, a woman who likes mysteries, or anyone who enjoys shows like Bones and NCIS. The Stephanie Plum series is light and fun chick-lit that will make you laugh out loud but it is a mystery series about an inexperienced bounty hunter so there's always the fun of trying to figure out the mystery.

There you have it, my ten recommendations for people who "are not big readers." There is a lot of variety so hopefully our non-reader friends can find something they like. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday - Book Covers I'd Like to Redesign


It was extremely hard for me to pick ten different books that I have read or want to read with covers I wish I could redesign for the simple reason that I judge a book by it's cover. I know, I know, you're not supposed to do that but it works. Very rarely have I seen a book with a cover I loved and the actual book was awful (I'm looking at you A Discovery of Witches). Mostly I just won't pick it up. If I'm walking through a book store or browsing online I will be drawn to a book with an interesting cover and I'll check it out. Let that be a lesson to you book publishers... Make your covers eye-catching.

So here it is my very hard fought list of ten, in no particular order.

1.) The Magician King by Lev Grossman - I loved the cover of The Magicians with a simple and ominous tree design. This cover is equally ominous but too complicated.

2.) Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay - A beautiful cover and very eye catching but it's always bothered me that there is no key... Where is the key? It's in the title! It's important to the story!

3.) Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding - This cover is just weird and creppy and makes me not want to keep a journal!

4.) Sisterhood Everlasting - I own (and love) the entire Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series and yes, they could probably use an update (their very early 2000s) which they got, but I am forever bothered by the fact that it doesn't match my collection.

5.) Rebel Angels  by Libba Bray - The other two books in the Gemma Doyle Trilogy have sweet corset designs and this one doesn't also even the title for this seems unrelated to the other two books.

6.) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling - I generally love the Harry Potter cover designs. This one however has always bothered me because it is not a single scene in the book and the scene depicted is a very minor one. I do however love the unicorn.

7.) A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle - I adore this book and the original design is better but this is the cover of the version I read and this is the cover I see most often. It's weird, it's confusing, and I hate that creature thing that Mrs. Whatsit turns into!

8.) A Storm of Swords by George R.R, Martin - this book is utterly insane. This is cover is completely dull! I've always been bothered by the fact that there's no sword. And I don't at all remember a helmet having any significance in the story at all.

9.) The Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer - Now don't get me wrong these covers are well designed they just have nothing to do with the story. What am I supposed to deduce by these covers? Breaking Dawn made a little bit of sense but if the other three were trying to be metaphors they failed!

 10.) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - This last one was the most difficult. My feeling against these designs aren't very strong. I just find them a little boring. I dig the first one but by Mockingjay I was getting a little board with the bird motif. We get it, she's a symbol for freedom. Put the stick down. The horse is dead!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Series Review: Divergent Trilogy

Title: Divergent 
Author: Veronica Roth 
Publisher: Kathrine Tegan Books, 2012 

Synopsis: In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself. 

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

 Thoughts: I literally devoured this book. I read it in a single day. I couldn't put it down. From the very beginning it was filled with action and mystery. It was full of surprises and I spent a lot of the last hundred pages reading with my mouth agape. It is by definition a page-turner. I was almost instantly invested in Tris and her story. She is such a relatable and compelling protagonist and narrator. Her feeling about how society is forcing her to be placed in this box that she doesn't quite fit into are something that I think everyone can relate to, especially if you are a teenager. I also like the world that Veronica Roth has created. It's your typical dystopia, we have destroyed the world so now we need to rebuild society. This society is based on certain personality traits that you value most and which trait you think makes the best possible person (I didn't like the fact that the villainous faction is the one that I would choose but we'll explore this more later). Veronica Roth's writing moved the story along in such a rapid pace but it never felt confusing or rushed, everything developed in the appropriate amount of time. One of the things I liked most about this book is it could have been a stand alone. Even though it had a "cliff-hanger" it felt like the story was resolved. Divergent is probably the best start to a series that I have read in a long time. It was brilliant!

Rating: 10 out of 10

Title: Insurgent 
Author Veronica Roth 
Publisher: Kathrine Tegan Books, 2012 
Synopsis: One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love. Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. 

Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

Thoughts: I had relatively low expectations for this book. Divergent was so good and I couldn't see how it could get any better. Insurgent exceeded those expectations. The world-building in this book was incredible. In the first one we understandably only learn about two factions (Abnegation where Tris came from and Dauntless where she transferred) but in this one we get to learn so much more and get to explore all the other factions, even the Factionless! I loved learning about all the other factions, they were all so interesting and unique in their rituals and beliefs. It made the world seem more deep and complete. There wasn't as much action in this book, and the action that it did have was very different. It was more about fighting to stay alive. My main criticism was probably that the surprises were not all that surprising. Not to toot my own horn but I figured three of the four major surprises out pretty quickly. The characters would think about something or someone and then there would be a big reveal about them, it was liked forced foreshadowing. But I will say, that was one hell of a surprise ending.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Title: Allegiant 
Author: Veronica Roth 
Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books, 2013 

Synopsis: The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories. But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love. 

Thoughts: I am still reeling from the conclusion of the series. Prepare yourself... this is not at all a happy ending! That being said I'm going to go out on a limb here and say I agree with Veronica Roth in that it is a fitting ending of the story. In Allegiant Roth continued to build an incredible and interesting world. In this book we go outside of the city and learn much more about why and how this society was created. It made everything seem huge! In every book of the series things got bigger and bigger as Tris' experiences and world views began to expand. The world also grew by the addition of Four as a narrator. I was glad of his perspective at times as he went off and did things independent of Trib but it also made him less likeable. Every time I learned more about him and his motivations, I liked him less. He spent most of the first two book lecturing Tris about not risking her life and being reckless and that's exactly what he did in this book. My main problem was that the beginning felt a little slow as she was creating this corner of the world we had previously learned nothing about and introducing a whole host of new characters that honestly I was not at all invested in. It had a bit of a Mockingjay vibe with the character being in a previously unknown about world wishing they could fight against oppression. It felt dull. Though I did like that she tipped everything on its head and completely changed how we viewed the world and the idea of the factions. As I said this is not a happy ending. I cried a total of five times during the last 50 pages including one bout of ugly sobbing that I previously only experienced watching movies. It honestly felt like I had just been dumped! I spent all this time rooting for and identifying with a character and then POW... they're dead! All I wanted to do was lie in the fetal position eating ice cream and sobbing! But it felt like everything had been building to this moment. Tris had been spending most of the series trying to decide where she belonged and how she could protect the ones she loved and her world and she found it. Did I want it to happen? No! Was I happy it happened? No! Did it make sense? Yes! I also really like the fact that this book had better twists and surprises. There were still a few moments of the forced foreshadowing but in general I was much more shocked by many reveals. As I sit back and reflect on the book (and experience the stages of grief) I do feel like it was a good ending.

Rating : 8 out of 10 (only because of the sadness factor)

General thoughts of the series: 

First off, it's a fantastic Young Adult dystopian novel. It was an interesting and unique exploration of the future. The world was full of action, excitement, compelling characters, and moving themes about society and humanity.

Let's start with the world. I have said throughout this post how I loved the world-building. I felt like I was there seeing, experiencing, and learning with Tris. It's often hard in dystopian fiction to create something that is both creative and realistic. I think Veronica Roth did an amazing job of walking that line. I loved the faction concept. It was like Hogwarts houses taken a step further. Not only were you told which faction you had an aptitude for but then you had to choose between them. Each faction was basically its own culture. It had specific clothing, holidays, beliefs, and rituals. It was so interesting. As the series grew the world grew. We got to learn about the Factionless who had been kicked out or chose not to fit into societies box and were exiled and we also got to explore the world beyond.

My favorite part of the story was probably the characters. The main protagonist was Breatrice Prior or Tris. She was a very compelling and relatable protagonist and narrator for this story. As I said before I can identify with her feelings of not being able to fit into this neat and tidy box that society is trying to fit her into. These are feelings that most teenagers and young adults face at some point in their life and it made Tris all the more easy to relate with. I also really like the male lead and love interest, Four/Tobias. He may now be my new literary crush. He was mysterious and nurturing at the same time. They didn't have instalove which I liked but when they got together I was pretty excited. He was a bit over-protective but you could tell it was out of love for Tris not because he is a misogynist. But my favorite characters were as usual the secondary characters. This is probably going to come as a shock but I really loved Peter. He was a bit a villain throughout the series but he had a real transformation which I always like. In the second book he redeems himself a little bit and we learn why he acts the way he acts. He has a clearly defined moral code that may not seem right to a lot of people but essentially it's karma. I loved his snarkiness and I felt like he was a great foil for Tris. At the end of the series he comes out with this crazy revelation about his inner psyche after Four lambastes him for his behaviour and I couldn't help with empathize with. I really like how his story arc concluded. I also liked Christina. She was a good sidekick for Tris. She seemed to balance her out a lot. What Tris was lacking Christina had. Finally, I have to mention Caleb. His character was so interesting and well-written. The things he did and the way he acting were so compelling. He is the most villainous non-villain I have ever read. I would love to read a book where the story is told from his perspective. Especially his Erudite initiate training (but that's mostly because I would be an Erudite).

The series other best quality is its exploration of themes about humanity and society. It explores the incredibly complicated ideas of right and wrong, belonging, and what makes a just and thriving society. First, and probably my favorite theme, is the exploration of good and evil. In this series there is not really a clear villain. Nobody is completely good and nobody is completely evil. When you think that someone is doing something evil and that their motivations are malicious you find out later that maybe they weren't. This is best exemplifies by learning that Edward may have provoked Peter to stab in the eye, that Jeanine Matthews didn't create the attack serum, and basically everything about the character Marcus Eaton. Even Tris realizes that maybe her feelings about people and factions were based on prejudices and they are not truly one thing or another.

Another main theme throughout the series is the idea of belonging. When we first meet Tris we learn that she was born into Abnegation, a faction where selflessness is valued over all else. She feels like she doesn't belong there because she can't follow their rules and beliefs. When she takes her aptitude test which is supposed to tell her where she belongs she finds out that she is "divergent" which means she has aptitude for multiple factions. Which is just great, because now she has to decide for herself. The whole first book she's wondering if she made the right choice in picking Dauntless where they value bravery over all else. In the second book after both these factions are destroyed Tris and her band of refugees explore the other factions to try and find somewhere else to call home, including the Factionless who believe that the factions are actually bad for society. This brings up this whole new thought about where she belongs (we'll explore the Factionless later). Eventually she decides she doesn't belong there and ends up going out of the city to find the government agency that created her world and tries to decide if she belongs there. Nowhere really feels like home because there is no real utopia which is what she seems to be searching for.

Which lead me into my final point about the exploration of a just and thriving society. This is a driving theme in all dystopian novels. After all that is the idea isn't it. In Divergent the factions seem like the best idea. They are what has created peace in this world but then war strikes. It seems that seperating people into the factions has bred hate and prejudice that leads to war and makes you believe that maybe they aren't the best idea. In Insurgent we explore the idea that maybe it's better to not have factions. Enter the Factionless. These are people who couldn't make it in their chosen factions or decided that they didn't really fit. In Insurgent they rise up and overthrow the factions making them illegal. While this seemed like a good idea at the time what has gone wrong is what always goes wrong when trying to create the perfect society, human nature. This world without factions is just as oppression and rigid as before. It explores the idea of power. When power was decentralized one group who had all the information tried to claim all the power with force they were overthrown by another group who took control of the weapons and then refused to disseminate any information. In Allegiant this is taken even further when we learn that this was all just a government created and controlled experiment to create people who were "genetically pure." Tris seems to feel like they have a good thing going until she learns that their fixation with genetics has bred the same type of discrimination and power struggle.

The moral of the story seems to be that there is no perfect society or place where you can belong but there are people that you belong with and that we can make choices as to how to best live. The tagline of the series is "One choice will define you." I think that's a great message. Your future is up to you, all you have to do is make good choices.

This is one of the best series to come along in a long time. If you like Young Adult fiction, distopia, stories with strong female leads, or all three check this story out. It is very much worth the time! A+

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St Martin's Griffin, 2013
Target Audience: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary
Synopsis: Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath, being a fan is her life--and she's really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it's what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath's sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can't let go. She doesn't want to.
Now that they're going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn't want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She's got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can't stop worrying about her dad, who's loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday- The Top Ten Sequels I Can't Wait to Get My Hands On


This was actually pretty hard for me. I'm generally the type of person who likes to marathon a series. I have a tendencies to wait until they're all out before I start them. But let's give it a try.

1.) The Winds of Winter by George R.R. Martin
(A Song of Ice and Fire Book 6)
While I haven't yet read A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons (which arguably could be on this list to totally pad it) but I'm choosing this book because Martin is taking FOR-E-VER to write it. As of yet it has no release date and the show will probably catch up to it making me fear that he will nit even bother writing the seventh book.

2.) The Magician's Land by Lev Grossman
(The Magicians Book 3)
Again, I haven't read The Magician King yet but I own it and have plans to read it very shortly. I actually may read it this month if I finish The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Most people are not fans of this series but I loved The Magicians and I hear that Q has a real transformation in book 2, which I love. When I do finish The Magician King I will want to read the third book which I will be unable to do!

3.) Rebel Angels by Libba Bray
(Gemma Doyle Trilogy Book 2)
I read A Great and Terrible Beauty last month and totally loved it. My plan was to keep reading the series but then I read the synopsis and realized that it takes place during Christmas so I decided to wait until December. What's one month... Am I right?

4.) Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stol
(Caster Chronicles Book 2)
Again I read Beautiful Creatures last month and was pleasantly surprised by how good it was. I was also pleasantly unsurprised that there was no real ending or resolution to the story. I really want Lena to make a decision. She's supposed to claim herself, right?

5.) Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After by Steve Hockensmith
I really liked Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, it was one of my Road Trip Reads audiobooks (the first driving one). I didn't particularly like the ending but I'd be interested to see where this book takes the story, especially considering that it's not based on the actual Jane Austen novel anymore. 

That's really all I can come up with. So instead of sequels I will now shift to series that I can't wait to get my hands on.

6.) The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo 
Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, Ruin and Rising
This was one of those series that Amazon recommended for me and then I saw it everywhere... and I mean everywhere! People in the book reviewing community love this series (well some of them hate it). I love a good high fantasy novel. And then I heard it is set in a fictionalized version of Russia, which I love! I bought the first book online and got a super sweet deal on the second book. So I'll start this soon. Maybe I'll do a high fantasy month in January.

7.) The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken 
The Darkest Minds, Never Fade, and Untitled Book 3 
 Another series Amazon recommended to me and everyone raves about. I got a sweet deal on the Kindle version of the first book in the series before the second book came out. It'll be a little bit before I start the series. I'm finishing the Divergent trilogy currently and it makes me want to take a break from dystopia. I'll do a whole month on dystopia soon.
8.) Ruby Red Trilogy by Kristin Gier  Ruby Red, Sapphire Blue, and Emerald Green
I heard about this series within the book reviewing community and it totally sounds like something I would love. It's like a young adult version of my favorite subgenre of literature, metahistoric romances. Plus there's time travel and the covers are super pretty. Again I bought the first book in the series to give it a try but it'll more than likely be quite some time before I actually start it. Too many books, too little time!

 9.) Dublin Murder Squad by Tana French 
In the Woods, The Likeness, Faithful Place, and Broken Harbor
These books have been on my radar for quite some time. The first book in the series was one I considered buying a million times when it was a buy one get one book in Borders (yeah it's been that long). Then I saw the second one for $2 at a library book sale so I snatched it up (the main character in this one and I have the same name).  But I can't start the series till I get the first book.

10.) Abandon Trilogy by Meg Cabot  
Abandon, Underworld, and Awaken
I saw on Goodreads that one my best friend is reading the last book in the series. I love Meg Cabot (Princess Diaries WHAT WHAT!) and the concept sounds really great! I love Greek Mythology and the reimagining of the myth of Persephone into a Gothicesque romance sounds like a concept that I would love.

There you have it... the sequels and series that I can't wait to get my hands on. If you've read any of these and have thought tell me about it below in the comments. And as always... HAPPY READING!

Monday, November 4, 2013

November TBR: Geek Books and NaNoWriMo

Hey Everyone, before I get started in sharing what I plan to read this month I want to explain why it is a little less extensive than my usual or planned readings.

For those of you who did not know November is National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. The goal of this month being that aspiring writers can take the opportunity to pen (key?) a 50,000 word novel during these 30 days. There are published writers who serve as mentors and coaches, writing challenges, forums, and a prize at the end. I've never actually considered myself an aspiring writer. I've never really wanted to write a book. I'm not a very good writer. I am however an idea person. I have always had an overactive imagination. I come up with a loads of ideas for things I would think would make great books, movies, songs, etc. I never however want to write them myself so that's where it always stays... an idea. So about a year ago I had this million dollar idea for a book. I'm not sure where or how the idea came to me it was just there in my head, fully-formed. Every time I tell anyone about my idea they tell me how great it sounds. And I mean everyone. Even those people who are notoriously doubters and spoilsports tell me it's a good idea.

So I've decided to make it happen. The book is called Murder House for Sale and it is about a bad real estate agent who is evicted from his apartment the same day he is told by his boss that if he doesn't sell a house he is going to be fired. Having nowhere to go he decides to move into the house he's trying to sell so he can devote his full attention to selling it. When he arrives there in the dead of night he is met with quite a shock, a freshly dead body. He can't tell the police because then he'll never be able to sell the house and he'll lose his job. In a moment of impulsive thought he decides to try and solve the murder himself and sell the house at the same time. As you can imagine.. hi-jinx ensue.

It's day four and I'm about 10,000 words in. I can't describe how fun and easy it has been so far. The words are just flowing out of me. Like I said, the idea just popped into my head fully formed. I did have a few people ask me probing question to be able to understand some of the minute details of the story but I'm really excited. I hope it turns out well. I'm not really expecting much of anything to come out of it but it's just fun to get it all written down.

If you are interested in getting involved in NaNoWriMo it's not too late, check out the site for more information! NaNoWriMo


For the month of November I have plans to read four books, two of them will be audiobooks though.

The first is the one I am most excited about...

Title: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell.
Published:St Martin's Griffin, 2013
Target Audience: Young Adult
Goodreads               Amazon

The synopis is to too long to post but it's about Cath, a girl who is deep into the fandom of Simon Snow, writing one of it's most popular fanfiction. It got her through some really tough times. But now that she is starting her freshman year of college is she ready to leave Simon Snow behind or does she still need the fandom?

This book popped up on my recommendations from Amazon shortly after it came out. The premise sounded amazing and like my freshman year of college. I added it to my wishlist and moved on from there (I hate hardcovers and wanted to wait for it to be in paperback). But the book has been exploding in the book reviewing internet community. Not to mention I heard that Rainbow Rowell actually wrote most of it during NaNoWriMo. It seems sufficiently engaging and light enough that I can read it while I write. I am about halfway through the book and I already love it!

Title: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
Author: Michael Chabon
Published: Random House, 2000
Target Audience: Adult
Goodreads                Amazon

Synopsis:  Joe Kavalier, a young Jewish artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdini-esque escape, has just smuggled himself out of Nazi-invaded Prague and landed in New York City. His Brooklyn cousin Sammy Clay is looking for a partner to create heroes, stories, and art for the latest novelty to hit America - the comic book. Drawing on their own fears and dreams, Kavalier and Clay create the Escapist, the Monitor, and Luna Moth, inspired by the beautiful Rosa Saks, who will become linked by powerful ties to both men. With exhilarating style and grace, Michael Chabon tells an unforgettable story about American romance and possibility.

I heard about this book a few years ago from a channel I subscribe to on YouTube (shout out to Will and RJ at Shep689) who no longer makes book review videos. It sounded really interesting and like something I would really enjoy. I'm pretty excited about reading about the creation of comic books during their golden age when it was basically propaganda. Also it won the Pulitzer Prize so it must be well-written.

This month I will be reading two audiobooks. Because for one thing, I need to read Allegiant and I don't want to buy the hardcover. I would listen to it when I drive to my parent's house for Thanksgiving but I can't wait that long!

Title: Allegiant (Divergent Trilogy Book 3)
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books, 2013
Target Audience: Young Adult
Goodreads                Amazon

Synopsis: The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories. But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.

This series has been incredible so far and I really hope this final book doesn't let me down. I've heard there are some pretty seriously unexpected twists and a death that even the author regrets. I'm pretty excited to experience it. 

 Title: Ready Player One 
Author: Ernest Cline
Publisher: Broadway Books, 2012
Target Audience: Young Adult?
Goodreads               Amazon

Synopsis:  In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.

This is another book that has exploded in the book reviewing community. Everyone seems to have read and reviewed it. It is another one that I added to my wishlist and then moved one. But then when I heard that the audiobook was read by Wil Wheaton I was sold. So this is my Road Trip Read.

As I'm presenting all of these together I just realized there is kind of a trend or theme again this month, they're very nerdtastic! So apparently this month I'm reading Geek Books!

If you've read any of these books please leave me a comment, stay tuned for my reviews, and as always... HAPPY READING!