Saturday, August 27, 2016

Utah Book Week: Favorite & Five

Utah Book Week is nearly done! Even if I haven't read more, I've blogged some so I'm calling it a success.

For FAVORITE, this one's easy. My favorite thing about Utah is the friends I've made here. When I started this blog back in 2011 I didn't know any of the people that now I consider some of my best friends. 5 years, two moves, and two kids later I'm really happy to have you all in my life!

Here's a picture I stole from Suey from last night's Book Week social.
A photo posted by Suey (@sueysays) on

And for FIVE, five things I've done/gotten into thanks to the local book blogging community.

  • NANOWRIMO - I never would have put down my little Spanish Club story 
  • Storymakers Conference - I wouldn't have even heard about, let alone attended, a writing conference 
  • Kdramas/Kpop - another thing I never would have heard about if it weren't for these lovely ladies. 
  • Picture Collages - let's just say I learned how to create very pretty photo collages on twitter this week. Life lessons right there.
  • Books and Blogging - I usually don't like any one thing for very long, so five years of having this reading and book clubbing and (very rare) blogging thing is kind of uncommon. It really is the people that keep me coming back to it. Saranghae, friends!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Utah Book Week: People & Place

So the whole daily blogging thing didn't happen but I'll catch up!

For PEOPLE I wanted to list some Utah authors who write YA contemporary, my most favorite genre.

  • Sara Zarr - I think I mention her every year. I even interviewed her awhile back. Basically she's the queen of Utah contemporary YA. I will read everything she writes. Sweethearts is my favorite.
  • Natalie Whipple - Probably best known for her super hero series Transparent (which I really liked!) she also wrote Fish Out of Water.
  • Shannen Crane Camp - I met her at a book month social and have been meaning to read one of her books ever since. I think she only writes contemporary, like The Breakup Artist
  • Cassie Mae - I met her at the Storymakers conference last year (was it last year?) I felt like a dork because I thought she was just a regular participant. Not the author of a bunch of books, like How to Date a Nerd.
  • Ally Condie - of Matched fame has a MG contemporary out recently, but let's still count it because I want to read Summerlost. I actually got to meet her once, also, at a Costco where she was signing books but there was no one there at the time and I was carrying a plate of pizza. It was as awkward as it sounds. She was super nice though.

For PLACE, for me it's got to be twitter. That's where so many of the bookish people hang out, and you don't even have to live here to be in on the fun/silliness.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Kicking Off Utah Book Week: Stack

It's Utah Book Week! This year there's a handy theme for each day's posts. See, look:

Today's theme is stack. And if you're expecting a stack of books you've come to the wrong blog! I've been seriously out of the reading loop lately. So my stack is all the other things* I'm setting aside this week to make time for blogging.

*including but not limited to: watching Korean variety shows (like this Super Junior group blind date cringe-fest), entertaining all three kids all day (God bless school starting tomorrow), running (my 5k isn't for another two weeks so I've got time), and laying around doing nothing (as you do).

Happy Utah Book Week! How are you going to celebrate?

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Jumping on the Kdrama Bandwagon

A couple weeks ago I got together with Suey and Jenni to watch my first K-drama. Suey's become an expert on all things Korean, so she started us on the show She Was Pretty.

Verdict? It was really cute! It's a fun show about friendships, first loves, and some misunderstandings. By the end I liked all the characters so much I just wanted them all to be happy. You should love them, too.

**There's our main girl, Kim Hye Jin who is in a rough patch in her life.
When she gets the chance to meet up with an old friend, she ends up hiding out of embarrassment at who she is now. Not as pretty or popular as she used to be, she's living with her best friend and job hunting. She ends up taking a job as an intern at a fashion magazine. (Also, she's hilarious)

**Then there's the main guy, Ji Sung Joon.
He was a chubby kid who got bullied and his only friend/first love was Hye Jin. He goes to America but eventually finds his way back to Korea, all grown up and hot stuff. And as the boss at a fashion magazine. (The man loves scarves and turtlenecks. Seriously. Every scene.) He's kind of a jerk, though, especially to a certain intern.

**The best friend is Min Ha Ri.
She's a very pretty girl from a well-off family, and she'll do anything for Hye Jin. Like pretend to be Hye Jin when Ji Sung Joon unexpectedly comes back to Korea.  It's only supposed to be a one time act, but of course grows into more. Can you say love triangle?

**Except it's totally a love square!
Kim Shin Hyuk works at the fashion magazine, too. He becomes friends with our main girl, and really takes a liking to her. He manages to be both very cute and very funny. And very cute.
Did I mention he was good looking?

There's wackiness and a lot of laughs. Even watching with subtitles and a different language/culture, it was a good show. Basically, everyone should go watch it and then we can laugh and swoon together. Deal?

PS - if for nothing else, watch it for this guy. Look at the dimples!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Read This: The Raven King *no spoilers*

I know, it's been forever. But I had to review the final book in one of my most favorite series!

The Raven Kingby Maggie Stiefvater

The Goodreads Summary Says:
For years, Gansey has been on a quest to find a lost king. One by one, he’s drawn others into this quest: Ronan, who steals from dreams; Adam, whose life is no longer his own; Noah, whose life is no longer a lie; and Blue, who loves Gansey…and is certain she is destined to kill him.

Now the endgame has begun. Dreams and nightmares are converging. Love and loss are inseparable. And the quest refuses to be pinned to a path.

I Say:

4 stars
On the whole I liked this one a lot.

The plot is more complicated and the twists somehow manage to be completely unexpected. Maggie Stiefvater is the queen of words. Her writing had me laughing in parts, crying in others, swooning when I hadn't expected to. This has never been the kind of series to line up all my questions in a row and answer them neatly, and The Raven King is no exception. The biggest questions get answered. (will they find Glendower? Will Gansey die?) But there are some things that simply don't get explained, not that I think that was a bad thing. The heart of the series - Blue, the boys, their friendships - is still there and just as enjoyable as earlier books.

If I had to criticize anything in The Raven King, it's that some things weren't as developed as previous books. Some plot points and details got lost in how big this last book is. There's a lot of ground to cover with Blue and her boys, the secondary characters, and then some characters who are introduced in TRK. I could have done without the new characters if it had meant more time hashing things out with Blue and her boys. I could have done with a bit more in the romance department too. But ymmv. It wasn't the strongest book in the series (for me) but I still really enjoyed The Raven King. I think the series is one of the best in YA.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Little Women Read Along: Final Discussion Post

And just like that, it's over! I enjoyed the read along. Little Women is a book I wouldn't have picked up on my own, and I'm glad I could read it with friends.
  1. What do you think about the girls now? Has your opinion of them changed since the beginning or even the middle of the story?
I still like them. I liked seeing how Amy especially grew up. She seemed so little and immature at the beginning of the story. And there were still shades of that at the end, but I think she grows up the most.
  1. At the end of the book, which character do you relate to most? Is it a different character than at the beginning?
I was a big fan of Jo at the beginning. She was so spunky and really a force at the beginning of the story. I think one of the biggest disappointments for me was seeing her lose a lot of that at the end. The Jo that ends up with Professor Bhear almost seemed defeated, compared to how she began.
On the other hand, I could relate to the mom version of Meg more than I could the older sister version, so that was fun.
  1. Do you think Beth should’ve died when and in the way she did?
That's hard to answer. I thought the chapter with her death was some of the best writing in the book. It was emotional and tender. Honestly, it was the part I connected with most in this last section.
  1. How do you feel about Laurie’s romantic decisions? Did his relationship with Amy seem developed enough to be sincere?
I think there was a lot of summarizing and telling that Amy and Laurie had fallen in love. I would have liked to see more of it, but this book is just not a romance. I liked their friendship, though, so I'll say I think his feelings were sincere.
  1. How do you feel about Jo’s romantic decisions? Do you think they were consistent with her character?
Oh, Jo. Her story was just sad to me. I think this was a case where the author laid the groundwork for something (meaning, a relationship with Laurie), and then didn't deliver. I thought Jo and Laurie had the most developed female/male relationship in the entire book, so I felt let down. Maybe I'm seeing it with modern eyes, but Jo and Laurie felt like equals. And it seemed like LMA was determined to marry off all her girls to guys who were older/smarter/condescending to them. That drove me nuts.

Anyway, back to the question. I didn't think it was consistent with the Jo described at the beginning of the book. But it is what it is.
  1. What do you think about the names the girls and their husbands gave to their children?
I liked Amy naming her daughter Beth. That was really sweet. Jo naming her son Teddy was just weird. Let it go, Jo.
  1. If this was your first time reading Little Women, what do you think? Did it meet your expectations? Would you read it again? If this was a reread, do you feel the same as you did when you read it the first time? Or, has your opinion changed?
I loved the relationship with the sisters. I don't know that I had many expectations, but Part 1 was better than I thought it would be. I enjoyed it a lot. Outside of Beth's final chapter, I probably could have done without Part 2. 
  1. Do you have a favorite quote or passage from Little Women?
There were a lot of good ones, but I enjoyed when Amy chewed out Laurie:
"It's wicked to throw away so many good gifts because you can't have the one you want.”  
  1. Would you change anything about the story if you could? If so, what?
So much less summarizing. (I wish I could have seen more of Professor Bhear in action, instead of being told how so many people liked him. Let me see him and decide if I like him for myself!)
Also, maybe a hint of what Jo's wedding was like? Or more details about Amy's fabulous, but tasteful, European wedding? Apparently I just really wanted to make this a romance.
  1. Even though the setting for Little Women is quite different from today’s world, do you think we can learn anything from this story? If so, what?
I think there are a lot of morals throughout the story (which occasionally felt heavy-handed). But I loved how important family was in the book, and how the girls all loved each other. Sisters are the best.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Little Women Read Along - Discussion Post #2

I really enjoyed this middle section of the book. Still not much in the way of plot, but lots of interesting little situations.

1.    What would be your dream cast for the March sisters (Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy), Marmee, Laurie, and whoever else you'd like to cast.

I'm the worst at these kinds of things. I keep seeing Winona Rider as Jo, but I refuse to imagine Christian Bale as Laurie. He just doesn't do it for me. Maybe that guy who played Gilbert in the Anne of Green Gables movies? He had that dark, curly/floppy hair.

2.    How do you feel about Meg and Mr. Brooke's relationship? 

I kept expecting this book to be a romance and it's not. So I wanted more from the relationship before they got married. I felt like I mostly got to see their relationship through Jo's eyes, so there aren't many cute, swoony  moments. I did like the chapter after they were married, and all the pressure Meg felt to be the perfect wife. I totally felt that way when I was first married.

3.    How do you feel about Jo's reaction to Meg getting married?

It made me laugh. And this is why:
I have an older sister (named Meg, even!) who is absolutely one of my most favorite people in the world. We're pretty close in age. She was 21 when she got married and I was 19. And I may have reacted in a Jo-like way. I just remember the night before she got married. It was late, we were in a hotel, and she was trying to put on fake acrylic nails. And I was just like "hey, are you really sure you want to marry this guy? If you change your mind it's ok. I'll deal with everyone in the family. You just say the word and I'll take care of it."

This June they'll be married 14 years. Clearly my sister could take care of herself. And I survived the change in our relationship.

4.    The girls are growing up and changing, do you feel differently towards them now than you did at the beginning?

No, I feel like they're just even more of what they were before. Their good qualities are even stronger, and they just have more grown up situations to display some of their weaknesses.

5.    Two important men were introduced in these chapters. What are your impressions of Mr. March and Professor Bhaer?

The dad seems fine? Not that important of a character, though.
All I have to say about Professor Bhaer is "nearly 40."

6.    Do you think it was fair that Amy got to go to Europe instead of Jo?

Sure. Neither one of them was owed a trip to Europe and the people paying thought Amy would be a better fit for their trip. Plus Amy is so into trying to be a sophisticated lady, and Europe seems like the place where she could do that.

7.    What are your thoughts on the time period and setting of the book? Do you like it? Why do you think a very important historical event like the Civil War is hardly mentioned in the story?

I used to think this book was set in England (before I read it, obviously). But I imagine people didn't have news of the War or Reconstruction in the South at the time. Definitely not like we have access to news and information now. So maybe it's realistic that people didn't think about current events much, outside of how it affected the people immediately in their lives.

8.    Louisa May Alcott supposedly patterned the March sisters after herself and her own sisters. How accurate do you think she portrayed her family? Do you think a lot of the book is an idealized version of her and her sisters?

I'm curious about her life now. I read a thing online that made it sound like her heart wasn't really in this story, but that she wrote it because her publisher wanted it. There's a part in the book where Jo gets complimented on one of her stories and ends up saying something like "only silly people like that kind of garbage." And I wonder if LMA was poking fun at her own story a bit.

9.    Why do you think Louisa May Alcott later added Part 2 to the book?

As Jo says, "Some make fun of it, some over-praise, and nearly all insist that I had a deep theory to expound, when I only wrote it for the pleasure and the money."

10.    What is your favorite adaptation of Little Women and why?
I've only seen parts of the 90's movie, so I'm not the best judge here.

Upward and onward to the end of the book!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Little Women Discussion Questions Part 1

I'm so behind in posting my answers to the Little Women Read Along questions, but better late than never, right? I'm mostly on track to finish the next section by Friday. Mostly.

But here are my answers!

  1. What's your opinions so far about each of the girls? Do you identify more with one or the other of them? Do you like them, or do they get on your nerves in a way? Which one do you think would be your friend?
I like them all, for the most part. They feel a bit like stereotypes at times, but I like when they interact with each other. I like Jo the best, probably because I feel like I can relate to her the most. I was the second growing up and I feel like I have a lot of her outspoken-ness, without any of the worry of blazing the trail. (If that makes any sense). Beth feels very much like a stereotypical, too-good-to-live-long type, which is kind of unfortunate.
  1. What do you think of Mrs. March aka. Marmee? What's one of your favorite pieces of advice or lessons she's taught the girls so far?
She's kind and loves her girls. But holy cow she is boring to read about. She's a little too good and moralizing for me. I did like the lazy week, though, and her advice that no work is just as bad as too much work. That's some good CBT there, Mrs. March.
  1. Do you think that the characterization of these girls and this family is realistic? Explain.
Some things feel very realistic. I love when the sisters interact together, whether they're committing to being the best girls ever, or fighting, or doing hair, etc. I love the relationships. But they do feel a little too neat at other times, like they're there to demonstrate some kind of point or be an example of a specific personality type.
  1. What's your favorite scene or incident so far? And why?
Both of mine involve hair. First, when Jo cuts all hers off to donate money for her dad. Because it's impulsive and dramatic but good intentioned. The second when Jo burns Meg's hair before the big party because you know stuff like that had to happen in the olden days.
  1. If this is your first time reading this story, is it meeting your expectations? Or is it different than expected? Explain.
It's very different than I expected, but I like it. I think I was expecting more of a Jane Austen style social commentary/love story. And it's really not. The girls are all a little too good, with only superficial flaws so I would like a little more complexity. But I love the dynamic between the four of them. I'm enjoying the sisterly aspects a lot more than I expected.
  1. How do you feel about Jo cutting off her hair? Was this incident surprising to you? Do you think it's symbolic of anything?
I remembered it from the movie, so I wasn't surprised. It seemed very in line with Jo's character of big, impossible-to-be-missed gestures. I think she would have cut off all her hair for less, but I thought it was sweet that she did that for her dad/family.
  1. What's your feeling about the inclusion of poems, letters, stories, plays and etc. into the story? 
Umm, I've been skipping over a lot of them. I don't like being pulled from the story and having the girls pretend to be actors or whatever that secret society was. Although I did read the ones when they're writing letters to the mom while she was away. I liked those.
  1. Any thoughts in particular on the male characters in this story?
I like Laurie because he's funny. I know who he ends up with and I still can't believe that. Like, seriously. What is that.
I really like the grandpa, too. I loved that he gave the little piano to Beth.
I wish we saw more of the dad, but this is a very female-centric story and I'm ok with that.
  1. Are you liking this reading experience? If yes, why? If not, why?
Yes, I really am. The read alongs are always fun and I like seeing what people have to say on Twitter. I don't think I would have gone out of my way to read this on my own. But I'm glad I'm reading it with everyone. It makes me think about my older sister a lot, too, and it's fun to reminisce.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Review: How to Mend a Heart

How to Mend a Heart
by Sara Gillingham

The Goodreads Summary Says:
A charming arts-and-crafts approach to dealing with first moments of heartbreak. Be it caused by a lost pet, a friend’s moving away, or even simple childhood injustice, Sara Gillingham (How to Grow a Friend) understands the gentle touch needed to soothe a sore heart. Her fresh and whimsical design makes an enticing vehicle for her advice.

I Say:

4 stars

How to Mend a Heart is an adorable children's book. The illustrations are simple and sweet, and the idea of mending a heart in the same way you'd sew or patch up a beloved toy was cute. The book is pretty light on text, and written on a very accessible level. My first grader was able to read this without any difficulty. He and my preschooler both really enjoyed the story and the pictures. It's the kind of book kids will want to read over and over again.

A cute, fun Valentine's childrens book that my 6 and 3 year olds both liked.

Just So You Know:
I received a free review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. How to Mend a Heart is now available.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Review: Burning Midnight

Burning Midnight
by Will McIntosh

The Goodreads Summary Says:   
Sully is a sphere dealer at a flea market. It doesn’t pay much—Alex Holliday’s stores have muscled out most of the independent sellers—but it helps him and his mom make the rent. No one knows where the brilliant-colored spheres came from. One day they were just there, hidden all over the earth like huge gemstones. Burn a pair and they make you a little better: an inch taller, skilled at math, better-looking. The rarer the sphere, the greater the improvement—and the more expensive the sphere.

When Sully meets Hunter, a girl with a natural talent for finding spheres, the two start searching together. One day they find a Gold—a color no one has ever seen. And when Alex Holliday learns what they have, he will go to any lengths, will use all of his wealth and power, to take it from them.

There’s no question the Gold is priceless, but what does it actually do? None of them is aware of it yet, but the fate of the world rests on this little golden orb. Because all the world fights over the spheres, but no one knows where they come from, what their powers are, or why they’re here.

I Say:
3 stars

Burning Midnight by Will McIntosh was a unique read. It's set in an alternate present where people buy and sell mysterious spheres to get an extra boost - better memory, straighter teeth, increased height, etc. The world falls into three camps when it comes to the spheres: take advantage of all you can; ain't nobody got money for that; and apprehension that the spheres are too good to be true. Sully, the main character, falls into the second camp. He's 17, selling spheres to get by, and trying to best the young, rich business mogul who's duped him in the past. When Sully and a (bit stereotypical) friend named Hunter find a previously undiscovered type of sphere, the story really begins.

I'll say up front that I had difficulty with the first half of the book. The pacing felt off, and the characters were a bit simplistic and naive in a way that reminded me more of Middle Grade than YA. The pop culture references occasionally felt like an attempt to mention what "the kids" are into these days. I would almost recommend reading the book's synopsis and then picking it up right around the halfway point, as the first half doesn't give the best impression of the potential the second half has.

But I enjoyed the second half quite a bit more. McIntosh does a great job writing suspense and action, and it was hard to put the book down once the plot really got going. The story took some very unexpected turns, reminding me of a cross between an M Night Shyamalan movie and Rob Wells' Variant/Feedback duology. It was just really different. Although the ending was very tidy, I enjoyed the way the story took me by surprise.

Just So You Know:
I received a free review copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Burning Midnight will be available February 2.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Little Women Read Along

I've never read Little Women, but I had a roommate in college who loved the book. I think I fell asleep through the movie once? Also in college.

But some of my favorite bloggers, Suey, Jenni, and Kami are hosting a Little Women read along beginning in February. Time for me to give it a go!

Here's the schedule:

Chapters 1-17 from February 1-10: Discussion post Feb. 10 on Suey's blog
(Twitter chat Feb. 10 at 7:00 pm Mountain.)
Chapters 18-33 from February 11-19: Discussion post Feb. 19 on Kami's blog
(Twitter Chat: Feb. 19 at 7:00 pm Mountain.)
Chapters 34-49 from February 20-29: Discussion post on Feb. 29 on Jenni's blog
(Twitter Chat: Feb. 29 at 7:00 pm Mountain.)

Want to join? Sign up here.