Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Best Books of 2015

The Top Ten Tuesday topic is Best Books of 2015, my favorite one of the year. This is my list, in no particular order.

Winter by Marissa Meyer
Is it ridiculously long? Absolutely. But the ending. The ending, you guys. It couldn't be better.

Mosquitoland by David Arnold
Quirky and funny and so unique. This is the weirdest book I loved this year.
A Thousands Pieces of You and Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray
Alternate dimensions + mystery + swoon + cliffhanger = awesomeness

Simon vs. the homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Alvertalli
Funny and cute

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
I can't decide if this book is really insightful or really problematic, but either way I think it raises a lot of great topics for discussion.

Kissing Ted Callahan by Amy Spalding
This book was so silly and fun.

Not in the Script by Amy Finnegan
Lots of cute banter and an inside look into TV shows. Adored this one, and it's the squeaky-cleanest book on my list.

Wonder by RJ Palacio
This MG book deserves all the hype. It was really touching.

A Couple of Boys have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee
This is a children's book and it's genius.

What were some of your favorites this year?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Hey It's A Post

its been quite awhile since I've done one of these so here's an update on all things Kathy. There's basically nothing bookish so skim as necessary.

Guys, life has been crazy. I get that everyone's life is busy and stressful and nuts, so I guess we're all in this together. Which is why I can say this past year has been extra hard as I've been fighting an anxiety disorder. Some days taking care of my kids and fighting that are all I can handle. I wish I had a nice little wrap up here, like: and then I started taking some medication and I'm all better now! Or: then I found a wonderful therapist and have reached enlightenment!

But those aren't true. I'm working with a really helpful therapist who is good with my occasional skepticsm and crotchety-ness. Medication made an impact but had too many crappy side effects for me to keep taking it. I know lots of people go through trial and error with that but for now it's not something I want to pursue.

So besides all that I try to keep up with my kids. My oldest is in first grade. It's been a transition to have full day school but that is getting easier for him. My middlest started preschool and really likes it. He has these two awesome grandma ladies for teachers and it's been a great fit. My baby is nearly 1, which is so crazy. She has some delays with motor skills and language so we're working with some early intervention programs on that. She does physical therapy every other week and it's made a big difference.

Occasionally I still read, although the recent stuff isn't the most blog-worthy. Right now I'm slowly making my way through two non-fiction books: Stop Walking on Eggshells, which talks a lot about setting boundaries in difficult relationships. And: Early Mormonism and the Magic Worldview, which appeals to the History major parts of me. I'm also trying to learn some basic computer programming because it's interesting and something I've never tried before.

So if you're still reading this, wow. And thanks. And that's what's been up with me. How are you all?

Monday, June 1, 2015

Review: 5 to 1 by Holly Bodger

5 to 1
by Holly Bodger

The Goodreads Summary Says:   
In the year 2054, after decades of gender selection, India now has a ratio of five boys for every girl, making women an incredibly valuable commodity. Tired of marrying off their daughters to the highest bidder and determined to finally make marriage fair, the women who form the country of Koyanagar have instituted a series of tests so that every boy has the chance to win a wife.

Sudasa doesn’t want to be a wife, and Kiran, a boy forced to compete in the test to become her husband, has other plans as well. Sudasa’s family wants nothing more than for their daughter to do the right thing and pick a husband who will keep her comfortable—and caged. Kiran’s family wants him to escape by failing the tests. As the tests advance, Sudasa and Kiran thwart each other at every turn until they slowly realize that they just might want the same thing.

This beautiful, unique novel is told from alternating points of view—Sudasa’s in verse and Kiran’s in prose—allowing readers to experience both characters’ pain and their brave struggle for hope.

I Say:
3 stars

5 to 1 is Holly Bodger's YA novel debut, and it was really interesting. Sort of a "Hunger Games" meets "The Selection." As the story opens, Sudasa is preparing to watch the "Trials," or the different rounds of competition that her suitors will go through to win her over. The story is told in alternating POVs between Sudasa and male "Contestant 5." Sudasa is written in beautiful verse. The text is laid out in a way that's supposed to reinforce the idea of the words (like "n#mber" instead of "number") I thought that was unique, if occasionally overused. Contestant 5 is written in prose, and had a distinct feel from Sudasa. I liked the writing, the setting was intriguing, and the tension between the characters was just right.

The only problem I had was that I wanted more of just about everything. The book is super short (I read it all in one sitting), and it almost felt like I'd read a short story instead of a novel. I liked Sudasa and Contestant 5, but I didn't really understand their motivations or their back stories. (How did they both end up so independent? Why wasn't Sudasa interested in milking her privileged female-ness for all she could?) I also wanted more from the world. The idea of a huge gender imbalance would be fun to play around with, but it wasn't explored much. And for a book set so soon in the future, it lacked influences from current Indian culture. I kept wondering why the specific tasks were part of the Trials, and what that said about the culture, and their view of what men were good for. In the end almost all of these aspects were left untouched. I enjoyed what I did get from the story, but overall would have liked more to flesh out the world and characters. The writing was good, though, and I'd definitely read another book by Holly Bodger.

Just So You Know:
I received a free review copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest opinion. 5 to 1 is now available.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Read This: Not In The Script

Not In The Script
by Amy Finnegan

The Goodreads Summary Says:   
Millions of people witnessed Emma Taylor’s first kiss—a kiss that needed twelve takes and four camera angles to get right. After spending nearly all of her teen years performing on cue, Emma wonders if any part of her life is real anymore . . . particularly her relationships.

Jake Elliott’s face is on magazine ads around the world, but his lucrative modeling deals were a poor substitute for what he had to leave behind. Now acting is offering Jake everything he wants: close proximity to home; an opportunity to finally start school; and plenty of time with the smart and irresistible Emma Taylor . . . if she would just give him a chance.

When Jake takes Emma behind the scenes of his real life, she begins to see how genuine he is, but on-set relationships always end badly. Don’t they? Toss in Hollywood’s most notorious heartthrob and a resident diva who may or may not be as evil as she seems, and the production of Coyote Hills heats up in unexpected—and romantic—ways.

This novel in the deliciously fun If Only romance line proves that the best kinds of love stories don’t follow a script.

I Say:
5 stars

You know how sometimes you find a book that is the perfect fit for your reading mood? That's how reading Not in the Script was for me.  I just wanted something funny, cute, and swoony. And that's exactly what I got.

The book focuses on Emma, one of the biggest young stars in Hollywood, and Jake, a chaps-wearing model turned actor. Emma's had really bad luck in her past relationships and a lot of pressure to now keep her life simple. Jake has his own reasons for leaving modeling for the TV show he, Emma, and a couple other people star on. They have enough problems to give them depth, but not so many that it becomes a Serious or "issues" book. The characters and the plot stay incredibly lighthearted, and it makes everything very fun. Jake and Emma are interesting characters on their own, but they're adorable together. The book is full of banter and flirty moments. Finnegan does a great job writing the romantic aspect of the story. I was really invested in their relationship and wanted everything to work out for them.

The other thing I thought was cool was the look at what it's like filming a TV show. Reading about the long hours and hair/makeup and craft services were all fun and interesting. (And also made me hungry. There's a lot of food in this book). I liked that it showed some of the downsides too: having no privacy; tabloids twisting anything to make a good story; worrying that people are taking advantage of you for money or fame, even if they're family and friends. I felt for how normal the characters were, even though they were not in normal situations. My only complaint was that the book was a bit unrealistically G-rated. The characters are all 18-20, but live in a version of Hollywood where no one swears, smokes, drinks, has eating disorders/body image issues, does more than kiss, or does drugs. I would have been fine with a story where characters personally avoided those things, but it was more like they didn't exist at all. But it's a small quibble for an otherwise really cute, fun story. Not in the Script is a new favorite of mine.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Dune Readalong: First Discussion Post

Jenni has been trying to convince us all to read Dune, one of her favorite books, for the longest time. Thus, the Dune Readalong was born.

Truth be told, I didn't finish Book 1. I read about a quarter of it before I went for a plot summary on sparknotes. But here are my thoughts on Jenni's discussion questions. Link up at her blog if you want to play along.

Have you ever read a high sci-fi book before?
Nope. I didn't even realize that was a category. 

Is this your first time reading Dune?
Yes. I'd never heard of it before Jenni talked about it.

If this is your first time reading Dune, is the book anything like you expected it to be? If this isn’t your first time reading it, have you noticed anything different this time around?
Not at all. In my head sci-fi is about regular people with cool technology. This book feels more like high fantasy to me. (Anything with the word fief in it has to be fantasy, right?) I wasn't expecting it to be so big, either. 

Were you surprised that you knew who the traitor was before everything went down at the end of this book? Did it help prepare you? Or, were you bugged by it?
I always like when I know about something as a reader that the characters don't.  I was more surprised that the Duke knew he was going into a trap but ultimately couldn't do anything about it. I kind of liked him so that was a bummer.
I wish there were a little more mystery, though. I felt like I knew what every character thought about everything through all the internal monologues. It'd be nice to have to guess their motives or feelings more often.

What do you think of the idea of recycling the water from your body to survive in such an arid climate?
That's cool. (Is that the thing that makes this book sci-fi instead of fantasy?)

What was your favorite part of this section? Why?
From what I read it was the quote about "Parting with friends is a sadness. A place is only a place." It's an idea I like to think about. (I think I mostly agree, although I'm pretty sentimental about some places) I like feeling like I can connect with ideas from the story.

Which character(s) do you find the most interesting? Why?
I didn't connect with anyone. I know, that's terrible. Besides the super detailed writing, I think it's one of the reasons I'm having a hard time with the story. I guess Paul is the main guy, so I hope I'll get more of a feel for his personality as I go on.

Are there any revelations in this section that surprised you?
I actually accidentally spoiled myself on this. I read one of the appendices in the back of my book when Jenni mentioned them and saw who Jessica's dad was. I thought I'd just not caught it when she was introduced, but it turns out that's the big reveal at the end of book 1. Oops.

What do you think of Dune so far? Are you having a hard time following what’s going on? It is engaging? Boring?
I feel like it's very dense and detailed. I liked reading the summary for the part I did read because it helped me better understand the book. But I hated that it was nearly 80 pages of reading that got summarized in a few paragraphs. This is not an efficient book.  I think the writing will bother me throughout but I'm hoping I can get into the plot.

Do you have any predictions about what’s going to happen in the next section?
Action? Maybe a spice-induced trippy part? I hear there are worms that people ride on, so I'm looking forward to that.

Friday, March 27, 2015

A Day in My Life: Wednesday

Today anyone who wants to is linking up a day in their life at Trish's blog: Love, Laughter, & Insanity. I decided to document my Wednesday, which is only a little atypical because my oldest has a shorter school day.

Here's how it all went down:

5:45 – The baby woke up to eat. She’s stuffy so I had to suction her nose. She actually doesn’t mind that.

Somewhere in here I woke up for good but I didn't write it down. Probably closer to 7:45.

8:15 - try to bribe 2 year old to go potty. Change his diaper instead. He put his Halloween shirt on over the outfit I picked out for him.

wearing the Halloween shirt
8:30 – feed the baby. Listen to some Sam Tsui, who is my new favorite YouTube singer.

8:45 – dismantle the cushion fort the boys made and pick up the living room. Remind oldest to take care of the cereal he didn’t finish and have him get dressed. Pass the basket full of clean laundry and grab 5 things to fold up and put away. I don't like to fold laundry so this is the way I trick myself into doing it.

9:00 – 2 year old has a diaper blowout. This does not normally happen. Clean him up. Clean the carpet where he was sitting. Start some laundry. Grab a new pair of pants for him out of the clean clothes basket – one less thing to fold up today.

9:16 – sorting laundry. Boys get in a fight over some legos. Remember husband was out of work socks. Briefly wonder what he ended up wearing. Remember the toast I left in the toaster.

side-eyeing her brothers

9:21 My husband Rusty calls. Ask him what socks he wore. Top the baby off while we talk.

9:31 – put the baby down for a nap. Start oldest’s homework. It's a workbook where he practices writing a letter and finding pictures of 5 things that start with that letter. The letter this week is U. Try to find pictures of unicorns, or universities, or underwear…

9:33 – Rusty calls back with a question.

9:58 – Oldest gets upset that it’s too hard to find things that start with U. It really is. Finally finds a picture of an umbrella, bringing his total of pictures found to 1. Total pictures now found: 5.

10:05 – put pbs kids on for the kids so I can shower.

10:44 – regret the Doritos I ate yesterday. Have carrots for a snack. The boys have crackers

10:55 – decide to crockpot some chicken and potatoes so I don’t have to worry about making dinner tonight. Find science in the potato bag. Accidentally drop the bottle of bbq sauce into the crock pot.

11:13 – find 2 year old’s crackers all smashed. Get the vacuum. Have oldest look through the pictures on his reading book.


11:15 – lose patience with the kid and yell. Notice the vacuum smells like burning. It wakes the baby up. Have oldest read me his book.

11:27 – change the baby’s poopy bum. Make bologna sandwiches for the boys. Realize I missed the bloggiesta chat.

11:36 – 2 year old keeps putting his bologna on his face and saying he’s a pirate. I try not to laugh but it's funny.

11:42 - yell at the kids again for making a mess with their lunch.

11:45 – get everyone ready to take oldest to school. And 2 year old is poopy again. Normally this doesn’t happen. Possibly he has that stomach bug oldest had on Sunday. (ETA: he totally did)

11:50 – now oldest has to go potty. School starts in 10 minutes. Everyone get some shoes on, I say several times.

12:08 – back home and feeding the baby. Can’t remember which side I’m on but left’s as good a guess as any.

12:17 – go over a couple letters with 2 year old . Rock out to his favorite song, Eye of the Tiger.

12:24 – baby spits up on her clothes so I change her. No big deal because she was still in jammies anyway.

dressed for the day
12:30 – 2 year old went into his room and laid on his bed. Normally this doesn’t happen but I’m ok with it. It’s early out for school anyway so we have to pick up oldest by 2:15. If he can get a little nap in there, great. Time to make myself a sandwich.

12:42 – switched the laundry and totally forgot the sandwich. Eating and rocking the baby in my lap and watching a little of Monday’s episode of The Voice.

12:57 top the baby off again before a nap.

1:07 – both kids are asleep. Time to read for a little while.

2:05 - wake the kids up so we can get oldest.

2:31 - back home again. 2 year old throws a fit because he’s still tired. Oldest throws a fit because I won’t give him candy. I hit up my stash of Doritos.

2:42 – Rusty calls to hear about oldest’s day & tell us about his class.

3 – take some medicine because I’m starting to feel bleh. Feed the baby.

3:30 – more laundry. The boys put their clothes away and play with toys.

3:53 – snack break

4:05 - realize my eyebrows are looking a little scary and try to shape them.

4:12 – top the baby off then put her down for another nap.

4:24 – 2 year old was coloring a picture, then his face.

washable markers
4:36 – had to stop a fight between the boys.

4:49 – so tired. This is the longest/hardest part of the day. I give up and put on a movie.

5:15 – unload the dishwasher, switch the laundry, change the towels in the boys’ bathroom

5:37 – husband is home!

5:45 – the boys set the table. Oldest announces he won’t eat anything I’ve made. I let Rusty deal with that.

5:56 – change 2 year old’s diaper

6:15 – dinner: bbq crockpot chicken and potatoes, cous cous, raw carrots, and peaches. It was so good.

We're really into couscous lately

6:25– We send the boys outside to play. Oldest starts hitting. Normally he doesn't do that. Gets time out.

6:47 – the baby wakes up from her nap. I change her bum.

7:05 – I put dinner away. Rusty gets 2 year old to go potty.

7:15 – suction the baby’s nose while 2 year old cleans up toys. Oldest throws fit. Weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth. Earns one way ticket to early bed time. He just did not have a good day on Wednesday.

7:25 – feed the baby

7:45 – put 2 year old to bed and wash the dinner dishes.

8:15 – veg with Rusty

8:40 – feed the baby one last time.

8:50 – put baby down for the night.

9 – writing group chat

11 – go to bed

Exciting, right? :) Not every day is quite that crazy, but I'm sure anyone with little kids can relate.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Bloggiesta - It's Not Too Late!

Bloggiesta's been going all week and I have a little time today to work on it. So here I am, signing up!

My goals are:
Update my review archive. Probably letters Q through Z.
Visit 5 new blogs.
Write up a review of Wonder by RJ Palacio

Small goals are better than none, right? Happy Bloggiesta everyone!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Read This: The Winner's Crime

The Winner's Crime
by Marie Rutkoski

The Goodreads Summary Says:   
The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement…if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.

As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.

I Say:
4 stars
Oh, The Winner's Crime, you've broken my heart.

The Winner's Crime opens up the world that's created in The Winner's Curse, adding new villains, allies and dangers. Kestrel lives in the imperial city, engaged to the prince, and she's in way over her head. The court is made for gossip and spies. And being stabbed in the back. There's so much intrigue and intensity, it all makes for a very fast-paced read. I also liked the views of "the east," the enemies of Valoria that Kestrel's general dad is fighting. I'm sure there will be more of that in the final book. The writing is just as beautiful as the first book, too.

But the characters are everything in this series. They're well rounded and full of flaws. And their flaws cause major problems. Kestrel continues to think she knows what's best for everyone, including Arin. She's afraid of his rashness and lies to keep him from doing anything stupid. But her keeping him in the dark basically guarantees him doing stupid things. Lies, misunderstandings, and hurt feelings mar their relationship throughout the book. There were a few moments where I wanted to shake them and have them (finally) come clean to each other. It's a little frustrating when a simple conversation would fix some of the main problems in a story. But not all their problems are easily solved, especially as they both begin to trust people they shouldn't. Their relationship gets knotted up in all the deceit going on in the rest of the story.

Usually the second book in a series is my favorite (I know, I'm weird). I love watching everything go to pot and seeing characters gear up for the big show down that inevitably comes in the last book of a trilogy. And if The Winner's Crime does anything, it's make everything go to pot. It was such a heart crusher I just kind of wanted it to end. I don't think there's enough hope/possibility that things could get better. So I'm left with some doubts about whether the series will wrap up in a way that's satisfying for me, but I guess we'll see.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: All Time Favorites

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic is all time favorite books. Link up here!

I've been blogging for 4 years (this month!) and these are favorites I've read during that time.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
To paraphrase Kanye, this is the best lighthearted contemporary romance of all time. All time.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Issues plus contemporary romance plus college = love

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr
Issues but not really romance but still so good.

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Some issues, some hopping through history, a whole lot of swoon.

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
This is also some really good issues plus romance. Apparently these are things I really like.

Everything else... way more fantasy than I expected.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns series by Rae Carson
Spanish-influenced world with a chubby protagonist and multiple love interests without a love triangle. Basically all the good things.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Some people say this book is slow. I say, Sean Kendrick.

The Raven Boys series by Maggie Stiefvater
The characters and friendships are the most developed of any series I've read.

Matched by Ally Condie
I stayed up all night reading this and was a zombie the next day. But it was totally worth it. Also this the first/only book where I liked the love triangle loser the best.

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Yeah, I looked up a bunch of spoilers for the sequel (finally out today!) because I love pretty much everything about this book.

Have you read any of these? What are some of your favorites?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Read This: A Thousand Pieces of You

A Thousand Pieces of You
by Claudia Gray

The Goodreads Summary Says:   
I feel like the GR summary is spoilery so I wrote my own.

Marguerite's parents are all-star physicists who have invented a way to travel between different dimensions. But her father is betrayed and killed by Paul, one of his grad students, who also steals a dimension-traveling device. Now Marguerite and another grad student, Theo, are going to chase Paul through different dimensions and avenge her dad.

I Say:
5 stars
You know those books you read and enjoy so much that you can't stop thinking about them? This is one of those.

It's not perfect but I just loved A Thousand Pieces of You. The idea of seeing all the different possible lives that Marguerite could have had was so cool. (future!London, old-timey Russia, under the sea!) It was a mix of Quantum Leap and all the things I'd hoped David Levithan's Everyday would be. But while Everyday let me down, this did not. I love a story where a character has to fit into a totally different life and act like they know what's going on. And I really liked seeing all the different iterations of Marguerite, her family, and friends. There was danger and cool technology, and some swoony romance. (And dancing. It's brief but awesome.) The book uses flashback well and the mystery of what really happened with her dad was pretty good. This is more romance than mystery, but I was completely fine with that.

There are some elements of the mystery that are obvious, but while I was patting myself on the back for figuring it out I managed to miss a lot of details/clues. Some of the twists were completely unexpected, while others I only figured out partially. The romance got pretty intense pretty fast, but I enjoyed what I was reading so much that the little flaws were easy for me to overlook.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Read This: My True Love Gave to Me

My True Love Gave to Me
edited by Stephanie Perkins

The Goodreads Summary Says:
If you love holiday stories, holiday movies, made-for-TV-holiday specials, holiday episodes of your favorite sitcoms and, especially, if you love holiday anthologies, you’re going to fall in love with My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by twelve bestselling young adult writers, edited by international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins. Whether you enjoy celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah, Winter Solstice or New Year's there's something here for everyone. So curl up by the fireplace and get cozy. You have twelve reasons this season to stay indoors and fall in love.

I Say:
4 stars

Winter-themed love stories are good until at least Valentine's Day, right?

This is the first short story anthology I've read and it was really cute. It might seem like reading a dozen holiday-themed love stories would get repetitive but there was a nice mix of holidays, characters, and situations in My True Love Gave to Me. I was familiar with all of the book's authors except for Kelly Link and Myra McEntire so I had high expectations. And really, nearly every story is strong. The only one that was a bit of a miss for me was Jenny Han's Polaris Is Where You'll Find Me (not much of a romance). I also skipped David Levithan's story because he's just not a favorite of mine. But that's the beauty of an anthology - read what you want, skip what you don't. I also really liked reading the stories and then guessing which of the couples on the cover went with that story. The illustrations are all great.

Some favorites:
Best overall: Laini Taylor's The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer (although it was the least holiday-themed) The writing is beautiful and I was so invested in things working out for the characters.

Cutest Romance: Rainbow Rowell's Midnights and Stephanie Perkins' It's a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown (and really, no surprise that these two were best in romance) Both have fun, quirky characters.

Most "Hallmark holiday special" like: Kiersten White's Welcome to Christmas, CA (which was just right in it's holiday cheesiness) and Ally Carter's Star of Bethlehem (which was a little over the top for me)

Totally different but still cool: Holly Black's Krampuslauf

If you're a fan of any of these writers the short stories in here won't let you down.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Top 10 Tuesday: Likes/Dislikes in Romance

Today's Top 10 Tuesday topic is: Likes/Dislikes in Love Stories. I love a good romance so I have some pretty strong opinions on this! 

Link up at The Broke and The Bookish if you want to play along.

These are the best:

Flawed characters
People who struggle and have to work on their issues in order to get together make for some of the most rewarding love stories.

Nice people
I just like reading about characters who treat people well, especially people they're interested in. It's fun to read about cute things they do for each other. And then I totally steal their ideas and use them in real life.

Friends first
I love the added tension of two characters who know each other really well and get along great, and then try to navigate how to turn it into something more.

Slow Build up
The best example of this? the kiss at the end of the North and South miniseries

Star crossed lovers
Kestrel and Arin, anyone? It adds so much more conflict to the story when there are real things getting in the way of the characters getting together, but I really want them to anyway.

Less of this, please:

He's cute and rich and smart and plays all the instruments and is good at everything, and there is no one who is actually like this.

I hate you! Oh wait, no, I love you.
I never buy these. If they start out with misunderstandings, that's different. But if they legitimately know and dislike the person (and aren't like 10 years old) it's hard to believe they'd get together.

Bad boys
Guys who are cocky and full of themselves and treat people badly are not my favorite characters to read about.

Love Triangles
You always know who's going to be picked. There's no tension.

I'm all for instant attraction and people wanting to get to know someone cute. But when they're willing to drop everything for someone they just met because it's love? I shake my head at them.

What do you love in a love story? What are some of your favorite books that get it right?

Saturday, January 31, 2015

North & South Read Along Final Discussion Post

Time to wrap up my thoughts on North and South. Suey's hosting the questions this time around.

I will be watching this soon! Also I stole this pic from Suey's blog

1.  There's much talk about all the deaths in this book. What are your feelings on that? Do you think they were necessary? Or too much?

They were pretty sad but I probably accurate for the time. People didn't live as long back then, especially people who lived in industrial areas.

2. Was there anything that happened during this last part that you found surprising or unexpected? Or was everything very predictable?

I wasn't expecting Mr. Thornton to disappear from the story so much near the end. And I wasn't expecting so much Henry Lennox, either. I had a few moments where I wondered if Mr. Thornton was going to die and she was going to end up with Henry instead.

3. What are your feelings on the about face Margaret and Mr. Thornton have with regard to their financial status?

That was interesting. I'm so used to women being in tough financial positions in these kinds of stories (like Sense & Sensibility) that it was cool to see it reversed. I did wonder if she and Mr. Thornton would have ever sorted things out if she hadn't become his landlady, but I was cool with it.

4. Do you think Margaret is justified in being so anguished over the lie that she told? Does it mostly have to do with her feelings for Mr. Thornton? Or something else?

I thought it was about Mr. Thornton thinking badly of her, especially because she wanted Mr. Bell to fix that for her. I don't know why she didn't just try to fix it herself. Maybe she was afraid he wouldn't believe her.

5. At what moment exactly do you think her feelings for Mr. Thornton completely changed?

I don't think I can pinpoint a specific moment, but it was especially clear after she'd moved from Milton and was still so caught up in having told that lie and the fact that Mr. Thornton would always think badly of her because of it.

6. Discuss the character of Nicholas Higgins. What do you think about the relationship he has with Mr. Thornton? Did he change Mr. Thornton? Did Mr. Thornton change him?

I really liked him. One of my favorite parts was when he took in all those orphan kids and when he and the other workers had their lunch/meal/whatever with Mr. Thornton. It was fun to see how they changed each other - with Higgins realizing that Thornton didn't act the way he did out of malice, and Thornton realizing that Higgins wasn't a bad guy either.

7. How does Mr. Thornton's views on the master/worker relationship change? Or. . .did it change? Did your view on this issue change as you experienced this book?

I think he learned to see workers as people who might have some decent ideas, and not just as a means to an end. It's kind of sad that his business fails after his change in views. But I don't think those two things are supposed to be connected.

8. Do you have a favorite quote from this book? If so, share and let us know why it's your favorite.

There are a lot of good quotes. Since I was so (unnecessarily) suspicious of Fredrick I'll pick one from him:

Thinking has, many a time, made me sad, darling; but doing never did in all my life....My precept is, do something, my sister, do good if you can; but at any rate, do something

9. The ending! Are you happy with how things turned out? (Try not to compare with the movie here... that's for a later question!)

I think it was pretty abrupt and didn't give me much chance to enjoy seeing the characters happy together. But, I wouldn't classify this as a romance. There's a relationship, for sure, but I think the book's much more effective as a look at different ways of living life and understanding who you are in relation to others/society/etc. I think that kind of stuff is interesting and I'm glad it was there. But, unpopular opinion time: the romance was a little disappointing for me.

10. What aspect of this book would you like to address that we haven't yet talked about? Is there something we've skipped over in our discussions that makes you want to say... "Yeah, but what about....?"  And if you've got nothing there, answer this: Did you like the book? Why or why not?

How about that cat roasting? What was up with that? 
Also, I did like the book. I don't think I'd read it again but I'm very excited to see the movie. I hear it really does a nice job with the ending and makes it more romantic. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Review: One of the Guys

One of the Guys
by Lisa Aldin

The Goodreads Summary Says:
Tomboy to the core, Toni Valentine understands guys. She'll take horror movies, monster hunts and burping contests over manicures. So Toni is horrified when she's sent to the Winston Academy for Girls, where she has to wear a skirt and learn to be a lady while the guys move on without her.

Then Toni meets Emma Elizabeth, a girl at school with boy troubles, and she volunteers one of her friends as a pretend date. Word spreads of Toni’s connections with boys, and she discovers that her new wealthy female classmates will pay big money for fake dates. Looking for a way to connect her old best friends with her new life at school, Toni and Emma start up Toni Valentine’s Rent-A-Gent Service.

But the business meets a scandal when Toni falls for one of her friends--the same guy who happens to be the most sought-after date. With everything she's built on the line, Toni has to decide if she wants to save the business and her old life, or let go of being one of the guys for a chance at love.

I Say:
3 stars
A cute debut from Lisa Aldin. I'll be looking for her books in the future.

This is a cute, fun story. Toni is a tomboy who's done everything with her three best guy friends since they were little. But the summer before senior year she feels like they're growing apart. After a prank goes wrong, her parents send her to an all girls' school and her relationship with the guys hits a new low. Toni feels lost until she comes up with a way to combine her new school and her old friends: Rent-a-Gent (loved that name), a service where the girls from her school can rent one of her guy friends for various occasions. The guys make a little extra money, the girls get the perfect poster boy, and Toni gets to hold on to a part of her life she's not willing to let go of yet. At least, that's the plan. There are fun twists and all the hijinks and problems you'd expect with that kind of set up.

I enjoyed the whole idea of Toni's date rental service. There are funny, awkward moments and the book is written in a very readable style. If I had any complaints it would be that the characters and their relationships weren't as developed as I wanted. The girls at Toni's school especially don't stray very far from stereotypes. Even some of the guy BFFs were a little flat for me. They seemed like very different types of people and a little old to be honestly out hunting lake monsters. I would have liked to see more of Toni and the guys during their good times to give the relationship more depth. But otherwise One of the Guys is a quick, light read with a sweet ending that did just what I hoped.

Just So You Know:
I received a free review copy from Spencer Hill via NetGalley in exchange for an honest opinion. One of the Guys will be available Tuesday, February 10th.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

North and South Readalong Discussion Post #2

Today Kami has some great discussion questions for the second section of North and South.

I've got to say, people act a little rash here, and violent! and die! And still ignore Margaret's feelings. Even Mr. Thornton thinks he knows Margaret's feelings but is totally wrong. And get it together, Mr. Thornton. That was her brother.

Also, is there a gif anywhere of Mrs. Thornton making a face that says "I do not approve" ? Because I need that in my reading life.

Anywho, on to the questions!

1.    Have your feelings changed towards Mr. Thornton during this section of the book?
Not really? I thought his proposal was really impulsive and jumping the gun there. He seems like a very calculated, think-it-through type of guy so I was surprised he didn't take a little more time to see if his assumption about her feelings was right. 

He's really good to her family, but he's been pretty considerate of them from the beginning.

2.    Have your feelings towards Margaret changed?
I think I'm more sympathetic toward her. She's in a hard spot in her family - essentially she gets stuck trying to take care of everyone else and no one gives much thought to her feelings. And then she lost her friend and her mom fairly close together. I'd imagine she's pretty lonely.

3.    What do you think about the riot and how Margaret and Mr. Thornton reacted?
She totally goaded him to go down there! I think it showed that she didn't know much about that type of situation and didn't assume that it could turn violent. On the other hand it didn't seem like Mr. Thornton even tried to reason with the people or explain himself. They were kind of opposite ends of the spectrum there.

4.    Do you think Boucher's anger and actions were justified?
Actions? No. Anger, possibly. If you think people are holding out on giving you something you think you deserve, I could understand being upset about it.

5.    Did Bess's or Mrs. Hale's deaths affect you in any way?
They were sad. I felt a little cheated that Bess died off the page, and mostly alone. It was sad when Mrs. Hale died but at least all her family was there for it. 

6.    Were you surprised to learn that it wasn't common for women to attend funerals? What are your feelings on that tidbit?
I thought that was so bizarre. But I guess back then they probably didn't preserve bodies in quite the same way that we do today for funerals. Funerals are probably much more sanitized now than they were back then, so maybe they thought it wasn't the kind of thing delicate, fainting-prone ladies could handle. 

7.    Now that we've met Frederick, do you like him? Are you sympathetic to his predicament?
I don't like or dislike him. He has this whole other life in Spain and seems pretty distanced from his family and their day to day problems. It sounds like he has his own problems with the whole mutiny, but I'm still not convinced he's 100% innocent there. And I think involving Henry Lennox could lead to trouble, but maybe that's just me.

8.    What are your feelings on Mr. Thornton's proposal?
Besides that it was impulsive? I thought it was interesting that he didn't talk to her parents first. (Although I don't remember Henry Lennox doing that either). I thought talking to the parents first was a big deal back then, at least if Jane Austen movies are to be believed.

9.    If you were in Mr. Thornton's place, having seen the person you love with a stranger late at night, then finding out that person was questioned by the police and lied, would you do the same thing Mr. Thornton did? Would you protect that person even though you think they have done questionable things?
I don't know. I think Mr. Thornton thought he was doing the best thing for her. I don't really get what all the social consequences would be for her, but it reminded me of wacky sitcoms where big lies and misunderstandings come about because people don't give one crucial piece of information. I wonder if Mr. Thornton would have done anything differently if he'd known Margaret was out with her mutinous brother.

10.  Do you think Margaret's feelings towards Mr. Thornton have changed? Why?
Yeah, I do, especially at the part where her brother describes him much like she did earlier in the book and Margaret doesn't feel like that's quite right any more. I think she respects him more and is getting past the whole idea that he's beneath her just because he's a merchant. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Top 10 Tuesday: 2014 Books I Missed

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Link up here.
Today's topic is 2014 book releases I didn't get a chance to read. And since I had a baby last year that was basically all of them...

Books I have checked out from the library right now:
Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Wish You Were Italian by Kristin Rae

My True Love Gave to Me by lots of people

Checked out from the library and didn't read:

Love Letters to the Dead

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

On the hold list at the library:

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

On the Fence by Kasie West

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

What's that? It's mostly contemporary romance? You know me so well, blog.

Which books should I get to ASAP? What did you miss out on last year?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

North and South Read Along Discussion 1

I'm all caught up for the North and South read along. Here were my thoughts on the first 18 chapters. Link up at Jenni's blog.

1. Is this your first time reading this? If so, what do you think so far? If not, are you liking this reread so far?
This is my first time reading the story. It always takes me awhile to get into this style of book - so, so much description and internal thoughts and not quite as much action. But I like it. I like the social commentary especially.

2. Have you seen the BBC mini-series? Is the book anything like you expected it to be?
Nope, I'm completely unfamiliar with the story. I originally thought it would be a Civil War book. I was way off.
Also, I knew Richard Armitage was Mr. Thornton (Kami made sure of that!) and so I thought Mr. Thornton was much older than he seems to be in the story. I have no idea how old RA is but he has an older looking face, so there you go.

3. Why do you think Margaret refused Henry? He seems like such a nice chap.
He did seem nice. I just don't think she thought of him in that way, and didn't want to start. 

4. What are your first impressions of Mr. Thornton?
He's interesting. He seems like an honest person, but I don't really get why he's so interested in Margaret's opinions. (I think I need to suspend my disbelief there.) He talks about the people who work for him like they're kind of dumb and that's just who they are. I like that less about him. 

He's good to his family, though. I really like his mom.

5. Why is Margaret so indifferent to Mr. Thornton, but she can make friends with the Higgins? They are both northern people and have different customs.
I think the Higgins don't challenge her views of people or how she should interact with them - they know their place with her. I think Margaret looks at Mr. Thornton as beneath her and he picks up on it and tries to challenge it. (Also I think she's been a bit of a snot in that regard. Maybe that's why I like Mrs. Thornton so much. She calls out Margaret's attitude)

6. Compare the two moms we've seen in the story.
At first I thought Mrs. Hale was one of those overly delicate, complainy ladies that pop up in these kinds of stories (like Mrs. Bennet from Pride and Prejudice) but around chapter 16 I changed my mind. Mrs. Thornton is a tough lady, and funny. But I think she's also prone to being judgmental. They're both flawed but I like them both.

7. What differences are you seeing so far between the north and the south?
The south seems more slow and laidback, the north more industrial and bustling. But they both think they're the best.

8. Do you think Mr. Hale was justified in leaving the church and his position?
I wasn't really sure why he left. He seemed not to believe anymore, and if that was the case I think he made the most honest choice.

9. What are your feelings on Frederick’s situation?
That's tough. Is it bad that I don't totally believe the mom's version of events? (Maybe I've been reading too many books with treachery!) I feel bad for how hurt the mom is about it. I hope we find out more as the book goes on.

10. What are your thoughts on the master and worker relationship?
They both think so badly of each other, which I suppose still goes on today. It really bothers me that Mr. Thornton seems to think workers are so far beneath him, like they could never become the type of person that he is. Maybe I'm misunderstanding him, though. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Read This: All the Truth That's In Me

All the Truth That's In Me
by Julie Berry

The Goodreads Summary Says:
Four years ago, Judith and her best friend disappeared from their small town of Roswell Station. Two years ago, only Judith returned, permanently mutilated, reviled and ignored by those who were once her friends and family. Unable to speak, Judith lives like a ghost in her own home, silently pouring out her thoughts to the boy who’s owned her heart as long as she can remember—even if he doesn’t know it—her childhood friend, Lucas. But when Roswell Station is attacked, long-buried secrets come to light, and Judith is forced to choose: continue to live in silence, or recover her voice, even if it means changing her world, and the lives around her, forever. This startlingly original novel will shock and disturb you; it will fill you with Judith’s passion and longing; and its mysteries will keep you feverishly turning the pages until the very last.

I Say:
4 stars
This is a great book that hasn't gotten nearly enough attention in the blogging world.

This book is so dark but it's really gripping. It focuses on Judith, a girl living in a Puritanical society who goes missing within days of her good friend, Lottie. Lottie's body is found in the river but Judith returns to the town two years later with her tongue cut out. Instead of being welcomed back she's shunned by everyone. Even her family. Her story is written in second person - Judith's thoughts to Lucas, the neighbor boy she's been in love with her whole life.

I felt bad for Judith! She's treated so terribly throughout the book that any time someone was nice to her I was waiting for a catch. The story is told in fragments and flashbacks, and Judith's voice is really compelling. I had to know what happened to her and Lottie, and that kept me turning pages. But then I would see more pieces of the puzzle and they were really disturbing.

What I enjoyed most was watching Judith learn to reject the terrible treatment and start to go after what she wanted. I thought she had an almost uncomfortable focus on Lucas, though, and her relationship with him was probably the weakest part of the story for me. I would have liked more of it, to make it a little more believable. But the ending was everything I could have wanted, and I liked that the mystery was solved without tying everything up in a neat bow