Friday, August 30, 2013

Mini Reviews: Utah Books Edition

Utah Book Month is just about over, but I wanted to squeeze in just a few more reviews!



Princess of the Midnight Ball
 by Jessica Day George

This is a cute story. It's my first exposure to the story of the twelve dancing princesses, and it has pretty writing and likeable main characters. It definitely has a middle grade, fairy tale type feel, with some heavy foreshadowing and a conveniently wrapped up story line. I wished the pacing had been a bit different, though. The beginning moved slower than I expected it to, and the most interesting part of the book (the midnight ball, and twelve princes) didn't get as much time as I wanted. This particular book probably won't stick out to me for very long, but it's a nice middle grade story. And I liked the plot enough that I wouldn't mind reading another retelling of the dancing princesses.



Wolves, Boys, & Other Things that might Kill Me
 by Kristen Chandler

This was an interesting book. It definitely has some roughness about it, but I liked it. KJ finds herself in the middle of a wildlife rights battle in her small town, and it has far bigger repercussions than she ever expected. I don't really know anything about wildlife, or ranching, or life in a rural town, but I appreciated the way Chandler wrote that aspect of the story. It could have been very easy for her to resolve things simplisticly, or make the ranchers out to be bad guys. But the book is more complex than that. It took a bit, but I enjoyed watching KJ eventually try to see things from a different perspective. And I liked that there weren't easy answers.

That said, this seems very much like a first novel. Everything just felt a little loose, and not quite developed, and occasionally sloppy. But there's humor and complexity, and that was enough for me to mostly enjoy the book. I would definitely give another of Chandler's books a look. I think she's got a lot of potential. 




And my husband, Rusty, stops in to review The Wheel of Time series, which was finished up by Utah author Brandon Sanderson.


source
The Wheel of Time series
 by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson

The Wheel of Time keeps turning, and the wheel weaves as the wheel wills. This story is one of the best character development series…because there are 14 books! Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson does a great job of getting you to love or hate each character intimately. I love how the three main characters grow in their complicated lives while still retaining a lighter side to make you laugh. Every good book has treachery. One of my favorite mysteries to solve with each volume is who is the traitor. Some villains are clearly marked but the best ones will surprise you. I am sad to say that many series of books have a clunk for an ending… well this is not one of them.

If you are looking for adventure, treachery, love, intrigue, warriors, monsters, inner demons, more warriors, crazy names and amazing character development then this series is for you. Certainly the enormous time investment may look daunting but you will not be disappointed. I am sad that the adventures to laugh, gasp in disbelief, marvel in, and maybe once… almost tear up, are now over.


Have you read any of these?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Read This: The Bitter Kingdom

The Bitter Kingdom
by Rae Carson

The Short Story
Elisa and friends are back for a final time to fight for her country, unite the people, and save someone very important to her. Along the way she learns more about the Inviernos, her godstone, and the prophecy that has been overshadowing her life. Also, adventures, travel (of course), and resolution.
This is the way to end a YA trilogy; authors take note.
5/5

Come for the....
example of how a series should end. I was in awe of how Rae Carson managed to include character growth, a complex world, perfect pacing, and believable resolution for everything that has built up over the course of the series. Elisa just gets better and better here. I loved that she became comfortable in her own skin, as a ruler, as the bearer of the Godstone, and as an individual. It was so rewarding to see how far she's come in the series. She's a great role model and a very interesting heroine. And the other characters grow right along with her. There's also a great balance between action and breathers, serious and silly, romance and scheming. There were new characters, and big reveals, and all the kissing you could hope for. But never too much of any one thing at a time.

And, there's actual resolution! I don't mind an open ending, but so many series lately have ended with basically nothing sorted out. That's not the case here, as people and problems from all three books come together and are dealt with. No one from the series is forgotten, and it was nice to see some familiar characters again. While there are a few threads that could easily turn into novellas (I would read a whole book about Red Sparkle Stone), there are no gaping plot holes from the story. I just enjoyed the whole thing from start to finish

 Don't Think About This Too Hard

  • Honestly, I've got nothing. This is how you write a book.

The Big Three:
Language: not an issue
Sex and Stuff: some kissing and more than kissing
Violence: people, magic, and creature violence, at a slightly higher level than the first two books
Just So You Know:
I received an advanced copy of The Bitter Kingdom from the publisher via Edelweiss. The Bitter Kingdom is available today!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Follow Friday: Selfie!

I am so excited to be a featured blogger this week! Thanks for coming to visit. I would love it if you'd follow the blog through the Bloglovin' button on the right. Or Twitter works, too.


Feature & Follow Friday is hosted by Alison from Alison Can Read and Rachel from Parajunkee. Come play along by signing up on their blogs, or the linky below.

This week's theme is:

Activity! Book Selfie! Take a pic with your current read.
AKA don't mind my bathroom...



I'm reading Wolves, Boys, and Other Things That Might Kill Me by Kristen Chandler, for Utah Book Month. I'm not too far into it, but it's interesting so far!

After that I'll start The Book Thief, as part of a read along that starts in September. Come read with us!

What are you reading?


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Utah Author Spotlight: Ken Baker

I'm so pleased to spotlight Utah children's author Ken Baker today on the blog! 

Ken's written three books, Old MacDonald Had a Dragon, Cow Can't Sleep, and Brave Little Monster.
I've read the first two, and they are hilarious.

About Ken, from his website:


 I live in Utah, but I grew up in the California Bay Area. When I'm not reading and writing books, I spend my time with my family boating, wakeboarding, snowboarding, swimming, camping, and watching my children play sports. I also enjoy playing basketball, windsurfing, scuba diving, exercising at the gym, and coaching my children in the different sports they play. 

Ken's website is full of great information: tips on getting kids to read, tips for writers, lesson plans(!!!), and trailers for each of his books. Here's the trailer for my kids' favorite, Cow Can't Sleep.



You can find Ken on his website, Twitter, Facebook, or blog.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The 4 Year Old Reviews: Cow Can't Sleep

Tomorrow I'll be spotlighting Utah children's author Ken Baker. I read a couple of his books to my little reviewers, and this is what my oldest had to say about Cow Can't Sleep.



"writing" his review

What were your favorite parts?
All the sneezing. And making all the animal sounds.

Which was your favorite animal?
The snoring ones. And moo, moo, moo, moo. Do you know what animal that is?

Which was your favorite bed?
The mud bed! Then it would stink and I'd plug my nose like this. (plugs nose)
Or, if I was the farmer husband, I'd like to sleep in my own bed. Where it's nice and warm and fuzzy.

Did you like the book?
Yeah.

There you have it, folks. Fun for the parents, fun for the kids.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Book Thief Read Along Sign Ups

So,  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I've been meaning to read this one forever. But it's sad, and intimidating, and long, and intimidating, and... I've just felt really intimidated by it. I mean, look at it:


Maybe he has bad breath. Look how far away she's standing.

But it's time. With the help of the lovely Suey and Kami, we're co-hosting a Book Thief read along for the month of September. And we'd love for you to join! Whether you're like me, and have never read it, or like Suey, and rereading it for the third time, this is the read along for you. :)


We'll be splitting the book up into sections and hosting three discussion posts throughout the month of September. You can do one, or all, or just read along with us.  Sound interesting? You can sign up using the linky below. It's the same list on Suey's, Kami's, and my blog, so you only need to sign up once.

We hope you'll join us!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Read This: The Dream Thieves

The Dream Thieves
by Maggie Stiefvater

The Short Story
Blue and her boys are back on the hunt for Glendower. But there are a lot of magical things going down in Henrietta, and the raven boys are not the only ones who have noticed. Set backs, secrets, and strangers all make life complicated for the five teens. Also, car races, the dollar store, and kissing.
A darker, more sinister sequel to The Raven Boys.
 4/5

Come for the....
characters. Who didn't come off reading The Raven Boys absolutely in love with everyone? I couldn't wait to see what lay in store for my favorite five. Unlike the first book, which was more of an ensemble, The Dream Thieves focuses primarily on Ronan. And it's clear early on that he is the perfect narrator for a story where the characters are dealing with magic being a reality in their lives. So this story is less about finding Glendower, and more about what finding him might mean for everyone. No one gets off easy here, Adam especially, and this book is more anger, and arguing, and angst than the first. Ronan is a difficult character to see the world through, and your enjoyment of the book may depend on how sympathetic you find him, and how interested you can be in his back story. 

But it's not all doom and gloom and things that go bump in the night. Maggie Stiefvater continues to successfully mix the troubling and the hilarious. And the supporting psychics and friends do a great job of lightening the mood. There's not much for Gansey to do in this one, and less for Blue and Noah, but they manage to bring the funny and tender (and heartbreaking) to temper the street racing and explosions and smashing of things. The myth and magic grow as complicated as the characters, and I thought that everything was more than the first book - the good is even better, but the bad is much worse. The writing is incredibly vivid and witty, and I am continually impressed with Stiefvater's way with words. (though frustrated that so many are four-lettered)

Don't Think About This Too Hard

  • The way the book's focus was divided didn't always work for me. There are a lot of characters in this book; the 5 main ones, the psychic friends, Ronan's family, and two new characters who have major impacts on the plot. There wasn't enough time to develop everyone, and Gansey, Blue, and Noah jerk in their progress instead of gradually transitioning. There was also a lot of detail on other characters that left me scratching my head as to how it all fit in/why it mattered.
  • A word on content: bleh. This is a good book but I'm afraid the language and substance abuse will be a turn off for some readers. Ronan makes a friend in a new character, Kavinsky, and between the two of them they easily double the profanity and crudeness level of the first book. There is also regular underage drinking and drug use. I would not recommend this for younger teens.

The Big Three:
Language: strong profanity throughout, including about two dozen instances of the f-word, and all other 4 and 5-letter swears.
Sex and Stuff: some innuendo, some kissing
Violence: fist fighting, weapons, and injuries, but all described in a very detached, dispassionate way

Just So You Know:
I won an advanced copy of The Dream Thieves from the lovely Jennifer Malone. The Dream Thieves will be available September 17.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Mini-Reviews, Book Club Edition

I'm joining another book club tomorrow, which has me all kinds of excited. Here's what both book clubs I'm a part of read this month.

Eleanor & Park
by Rainbow Rowell
4.5/5

This book was really sweet, and managed to completely tug on my heart strings. I'd recommend anyone going into know that it is not a light, fluffy romance, though. There's romance, and it is adorable, but there are a lot of other really dark things, too. Eleanor comes from a difficult background and a lot of people in her life aren't very nice to her. Starting out, she assumes Park will be exactly the same. They're initially awkward bus seat-mates, and sort of quickly and inexplicably go from not talking to being crazy for each other.

The love story came about quicker than I expected, but it was also nice to have happy things going on in the book. Rainbow Rowell did such a great job capturing the craziness of crushes and affection and self-consciousness, and everything that goes into loving someone. I would have liked a little more from the ending, and a bit more obvious character growth for Eleanor. But overall I enjoyed this one.



Between Shades of Gray
by Ruta Sepetys
4.5/5

This was a very interesting read. It's crazy to think that such horrible things were going on in Russian and the Baltic States during World War II, and that most people have no idea. It's something so terrible and horrendous that everyone should know about it. The author's note was just as interesting as the book. I couldn't believe that even after people came back from those kinds of labor camps that they weren't allowed to talk about what happened.

So I think this is an important book. Obviously, it's not a happy read. Lina and her family go through so much, along with all the other deportees. At times it was so hard to read that I had to put the book down. But there were moments of hope and happiness and strength throughout the book. As far as story-telling goes, I would have liked a bit more from the end (again). The epilogue has a huge jump in time, and I would have liked more about what happened in between. But from a historical perspective, it was a really informative, engrossing read. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Food-tah

I was impressed by this guest post for Utah Book Month, which was written by a food blogger. I like me some food. And it's Utah Book Month. Which has nothing to do with food, but why not try to combine the two?

So, my dear blog readers, I bring you Food-tah. (Food + Utah = Food-tah. Just groan to yourself and continue reading) Here are all the tasty things you should eat, should you find yourself in the Beehive State.

J Dawgs
This started out as a college kid's "what if" idea, and has turned into one of the most popular hotdog places in Utah County.


Cafe Rio/Costa Vida/Bajio
"Mexican" food that you can find in other states, but that people commonly eat around here. It is ridiculously tasty.


Frozen Custard
Again, not unique to Utah. But Coney's in Orem, and Nielsen's Frozen Custard in Bountiful are amazing.

source

BYU food
The chocolate milk. And the mint brownies. There is nothing like them.


So, local friends, what else am I missing? And don't say fry sauce. We've been over this. :)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Book Blogger Spotlight: Jen from My Life With Books

One of my favorite things about Utah Book Month is getting to know some of the amazing local book bloggers! Today I get to interview Jen from My Life With Books. She's pretty awesome, as you can read for yourself:

My Life With Books Button by Parajunkee

Why did you decide to start a book blog?

It mostly started as a way to journal everything I had read and what I thought about each book. It also helped me keep track of which books I liked most so I could refer them to my friends. 


What's the hardest part about blogging? The best?

Well recently, the hardest thing about blogging is finding time. I started My Life With Books three years ago. My kids are now five and six years old,  so its becoming increasingly more difficult to find the time to blog. 

The best thing about blogging is a tie. I love, love, love meeting new people and learning about them, their favorite books and the bookish adventures they go on. I also really have enjoyed having something all mine. My life as a housewife/mom is one of constant service for others - My Life With Books has become a creative outlet for those hectic days that I don't have to share with with anyone else. Sounds really selfish now that I say it out loud, but I am sure there are MANY people who can understand what I am saying. :) 

Also, meeting authors is fantastic!



What do you like about being a Utah blogger?

 There are a lot of us. You can go to any event and spot someone from the book blogger community. 


 

You have a good mix of adult/young adult books that you feature. Do you have a favorite genre? Have you always read a variety of books?

I have always loved reading. It started when I was a small child and my mother read me to sleep every night. My fondest moments of elementary school was when the teachers read to us The Indian in the Cupboard and Super Fudge. 

My  passion for reading grew as I discovered The Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley High. 

Once I was able to tackle larger literature in high school I discovered that I loved the stories on a deeper level. I remember reading To Kill A Mockingbird and being able to talk about it for an entire class period - satisfying my English teacher and irritating my cohorts.  Les Miserables made me cry. In class

What a wonderful thing the written word is! It has the ability to inspire, comfort, educate and transport us to different worlds and places. 

So the answer is yes, I have always read a variety of books. :) 

I think my favorite genre is either YA or Paranormal / urban fantasy (Or a combo of both). I don't like to read about real life monsters, just watch the news and you get your fill. Give me some good old fashioned vampires, ghost or witches and I am happy. 

 

Is there a book or series you like that you wish more people knew about?

Yes and no. I think there is a perfect book for everyone. What I enjoy most about reading and book recommending is helping someone discover a book that they have never heard of and knowing they will like it. (As well as hearing their book recommendations.)



What book character do you think is most like you? 

This is a difficult question. I think I am a combination of characters. I identify with Mercy Thompson well, she is fiercely loyal, sincere, takes care of herself, is a private person and takes crap from no one. 

Katniss Everdeen was also a character I felt connected too. My father was a coal miner and would rather be outside in nature than in a crowd. She is also very nurturing (Although she would probably deny it) and can use weapons. I like weapons. :) 


If you could have any author write a story based on your life, who would you choose?

Oooo, I would choose Rick Riordan or Brandon Mull to do it. They could embellish it with fantasy and magic - make me more interesting than I really am! ;)



I love that her blog is a creative outlet. I can definitely relate to that! And both those authors would write an amazing life story. :)

You can find Jen online:
blog & favorite post
Goodreads
Twitter

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Read This: Transparent

Transparent
by Natalie Whipple

The Short Story
Fiona is one of several genetically altered people with a special ability - she's completely invisible - which makes her invaluable to her crime-boss dad. When she and her mom make a break from the "family business" all she hopes for is a normal life. But her dad isn't so willing to let her go, and she may have found more than she bargained for.
A really fun read.
 4.5/5

Come for the....
fun! Natalie Whipple created such an interesting world. I loved reading about all the different mutations people had (flying! telekinesis! not needing to shave your legs because you're invisible!) And I appreciated that there was a logical reason for people to magically sprout powers. I loved the idea that the enhanced people were recruited into crime (because of course bad people would want to use that to their advantage), and basically distrusted by everyone else (because of course they're afraid they're being taken advantage of).

And then there were the characters. Fiona goes from distrusting everyone and feeling like she doesn't know herself, to learning to trust a few proven people and growing into who she wants to be. Fiona's friends are hilarious. I loved Bea, who befriends Fiona right away, and all of her goofy brothers (who also want to befriend Bea, with differing results). There's even a bit of a love interest, which was just cute. It was interesting to read about all these really super-powered characters doing very normal things, from burrito eating to trying to pass math. It made for the perfect easy, fun read. And, yay, sequel!

Don't Think About This Too Hard

  • There were a couple things that felt a bit illogical about Fiona's escape. If I were trying to flee someone in Vegas, I'd probably go farther away than Arizona. And, for someone who'd been invisible her whole life, Fiona didn't seem to know how to work that to her advantage in trying to hide from her dad.

The Big Three:
Language: some moderate swearing throughout
Sex and Stuff: not really an issue; an invisible girl occasionally goes around naked, but she is invisible.
Violence: some fist fighting, choking, punching, and shooting
 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Utah Book Month - Help Me Pick!

It's August, and that means UTAH BOOK MONTH! I had so much fun last year, and I know this year is going to be just as good.



I'll be featuring the lovely Jennifer from My Life With Books, and local children's author Ken Baker. (you guys, his books are so cute.) My 4 year old will be reviewing those. And my husband will be reviewing The Wheel of Time series (since Brandon Sanderson co-wrote the last few of those)

I may or may not be working on a food tour of Utah. Because, you know, food.

But, the books! Here's where I need your input. What should I read?

The choices are:

Transparent by Natalie Whipple


The False Prince by Jennifer A Nielson


The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale


The World's Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne


A Mutiny in Time by James Dashner


Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George


Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George


Tris & Izzie by Mette Ivie Harrison

Recommend ones you like/are curious about! Happy Utah Book Month!