Month: January 2015

Jan 31st

Welcome to the last day of the month of the new year!

What have you accomplished so far? What are you planning to do better? What hasn’t turned out like you expected?

As for me, I have officially begun the second semester of my first year of grad school and it has so far been rather uneventful. Sure, I have lots of things to read and I got to see my friends (although I sadly do not have any classes with many of them), but since I changed my courses to taking mostly online classes, I have more free time than I would like. Not that I’m complaining exactly, but I find it harder to concentrate with more open areas than I do with tight spaces of hours.

But that could just be the procrastination talking.

EXIF_JPEG_T422The first week of classes is behind me and I’m already looking ahead to all the projects I need to do and figuring out the best way to complete them. I have more time to do that now which is nice but it also means more hours stuck in my bedrooms, trying to avoid technology for fear that it will consume me and I won’t get the necessary work done.

But other than that, I’ve started working out on a more regular basis now that I have time to do that, and the alone time in the house to sweat in private. My energy is up, my sleep levels are good, and I’ve been able to invent new recipes to try out for lunches at work.

I also have a few books that I’ve managed to read so far and a couple of others that I am currently wading through. Lately, I think I’ve been reading too much heavy materials so I’m making the decision to switch to some lighter reading while I’m in classes. After all, my hours between homework are precious and books should be an escape, not a chore. Well, the ones I’m reading for pleasure at least.

Overall, it’s been a quiet, and slightly boring, first month, but things are about to pick up pace so I can really get back into the groove of schoolwork and planning out every minute of the day for maximum efficiency!

Okay, maybe not that extreme, but you get the idea.


Book Recommendations

alphabooksI need to take a minute to gush over something very important to me and that is book recommendations!

I love them. I love them so much. Giving them. Receiving them. All of it. But the best part is the shared interest and conversations that arise once said recommended book has been read. Whether you are the recommender or recommendee, both sides have much to gain.

I, for example, am constantly suggesting books to my best friend…often badgering her into moving them up her TBR list in fact and for the most part, it has turned out quite well. I love being able to discuss books with someone who has similar interest and will actually read the books.

So far we have been able to compare notes on The Tiger Saga, Divergent series, The Lunar Chronicles, Throne of Glass series, The Mortal Instruments, The Infernal Devices, Twilight, and Daughter of the Blood. Some of them took more convincing than others and some she was already going to read anyway.

I love when she finishes a book or I do and our excitement bleeds into the conversation, or we can’t wait to share the new plot points with each other! Being able to talk about all of what I liked or didn’t, the characters that I hate, or the places I wish I could visit is amazing and I’m so glad I am able to do this.

What books have you shared? What recommendations have turned out positively or negatively for you?

Book Review: Red Rising

red risingI’ve been on quite the sci-fi binge what with the “Dr. Who is being taken off Netflix” scare and other books that I’ve recently picked up so I guess it’s no coincidence that this book fits in with that theme and really takes it to a new level.

Darrow is a simple kind of guy. He has a job, a wife, a family, and a community…and all the age of 16. He also happens to live underneath the surface of Mars, slaving away in a huge drill to collect the precious helium that will help power the known universe and enable the planet to be made livable for everyone else. Or at least that’s what he thinks he is doing.

But when a serious of dark circumstances lead him to an even darker place, he finds out truths about the world he thought he knew and even more, the truth about his wife, his life, and himself. It begins a journey that leads him to the surface where he discovers that the planet has been sustaining life for some time and it is all balancing on the backs of his people, the Reds.

The society is divided into colors, each with different strengths that allow them to be a cohesive member of the whole. Each person has a value add but those at the top benefit the most. Darrow is offered the opportunity to get into the system and change that but if he does, he will have to give up everything he knows and become someone new entirely.

I feel a little misled by the brief description I had been given before reading the book but I understand now that they had to keep a lot out of it in order to maintain the element of surprise. And there are a lot of twisted little things that happen in this book, some are pretty unexpected. There are heart-pounding moments where you feel sure you will be able to guess what happens and then something else will come out at you.

Very well written and descriptive, if a little graphic at times. It reads almost like an epic novel such as The Hobbit, except without the difficult names. There is a quest and a mission and Darrow is setting himself up to both succeed and fail in different ways. There is no doubt that he is a strong character despite all the difficulties he has to face and his humanity is not lost along the way, nor does he lose his mind, admirable traits.

The supporting cast at the beginning of the book is different from the end but the consistent themes of betrayal versus loyalty and self versus group are prominent throughout. He is a conventional hero masquerading as something less…or maybe it’s something more, I can’t quite tell.

Regardless, I really enjoyed this story, the tie in of mythology and family, history and future. Darrow thinks in logical straits although his emotions, especially anger, can get the better of him. Parts of it read like The Hunger Games and others more like a survival story. It truly is a remarkable blend of themes and genres.

Red Rising is intense at times and a little slower at others, pushing towards the inexorable end and shocking you along the way, pick it up for a distracting read that is both entertaining and a little disturbing.

Goodreads rating: 4 stars

My personal rating: 89

  • Writing style – 10
  • Plot – 9
  • Dialogue – 9
  • Personality of Main Character(s) – 9
  • Love story – 8
  • Invokes emotion – 10
  • Synopsis accuracy – 7
  • Consistent level of interest – 8
  • Stays on topic – 9
  • Accuracy of genre/genre blending – 10

Book Review: The Calling

endgameThe end of the world. The literal apocalypse is coming. And no one but 12 kids knows about it or can stop it.

Talk about a bang to open a book. It starts with meteors falling out of the sky and ends with 12 people under the age of 20 running (and flying) around the world to try and keep their line alive. Only one can survive. It has been decreed by the gods who originally created them, and the earth.

It is a game. The Endgame to be exact. And boy, do the players know how to come to win. There are guns and knives and kidnapping. There is torture and the killing of innocents. Not to mention the one heartsick boy who follows the girl who just broke his heart and almost gets his neck broken in the process.

This book wasn’t quite what I imagined and it was a little slow to get into but once you get (and keep) all the characters straight, it becomes a fascinating ride that grips you and won’t let go, even when you wish you could look away. Not to mention that the book is also one big giant puzzle (kind of like Ready Player One or The Eye of Minds had in their plots) with the possibility for a real payout. Complete with pictures and pictographs and coordinates.

The 12 players set out on a journey around the world to save the lives of their line and on the way meet up with obstacles, not just including each other. Plus the guy who wasn’t even supposed to be involved but ends up wreaking havoc all the same. There is a dangerous mute and a dressed up panther masquerading as a man. There are throwing knives and kids who’ve never been outside their own country.

It is an exceedingly well written if intensely complicated book, some of the scenes were a bit hard to stomach or not get emotional about. But then again, I haven’t been blessed with the training that these players have. I expected something like The Hunger Games and ended up with something more like a Stephen King novel. If you want a book to make you think while also being gripping and sometimes entertaining, give the end of the world a try.

Goodreads rating: 4 stars

My personal rating: 89

  • Writing style – 9
  • Plot – 10
  • Dialogue – 9
  • Personality of Main Character(s) – 9
  • Love story – 7
  • Invokes emotion – 10
  • Synopsis accuracy – 7
  • Consistent level of interest – 8
  • Stays on topic – 9
  • Accuracy of genre/genre blending – 10

Book Review: The Jewel

the jewelAn isolated society where the royals needs the poor in order to conceive children leads to one girl being selected and auctioned off, only to find herself in a very unique situation.

There is dystopia and then there is dystopia. The auction feels a bit like The Selection with a similar writing style but the overall book is more like The Hunger Games or The Scorch Trials. There is technology plus glitz and glamour. Prestigious families rules in an old world sort of way and the divisive rings of society keep each unit contained within its walls, never moving up or down, simply being.

The only other option available is the blood test which determines which girls are able to carry a child of the royal bloodline and are taken to a special facility to become surrogates where they are taught to use particular abilities and grow until they are auctioned off to the highest bidder. Literally.

Violet is special and nearly everyone knows it. At least everyone who is interested in her does. She catches the eye of several people but ends up in a home where she is given many privileges in exchange for good behavior. However, few things are what they appear to be, including an ending that nearly made me keel over.

The characters are intense extremes, somewhere between hating themselves and hating everyone around them equally. Violet becomes embroiled in a romance, which is extremely forbidden for surrogates. Not to mention the relationships she maintains with the other members of the house plus a surprise friend that somehow keeps finding her.

The world is colorful yet sad at times. It is simplistic yet roiling beneath the surface. An overall interesting read that managed to entertain and keep me guessing. It was somewhat melancholy and felt unsafe the entire time I lived in it but it was well written and distracting.

Goodreads rating: 4 stars

My personal rating: 82

  • Writing style – 9
  • Plot – 7
  • Dialogue – 8
  • Personality of Main Character(s) – 8
  • Love story – 8
  • Invokes emotion – 7
  • Synopsis accuracy – 10
  • Consistent level of interest – 8
  • Stays on topic – 9
  • Accuracy of genre/genre blending – 8

Is it just me…

…or is this Monday taking longer than usual to get back into the groove?cup of tea

Maybe it was the ice delay that I experienced, causing me to get up at 6am and then go back to bed for another couple of hours of fitful sleep or the fact that I ripped one of my favorite pairs of jeans within ten minutes of being at works or that doing basically nothing all weekend by myself doesn’t agree with me.

I’m not sure what it is but what I want is a nice cup of tea and to be sitting in front of a big picture window watching the snow fall…which I could be doing if I was in my home state at the moment. *sigh*

Why I Love Middle Grade Books (and you could too!)

A lot of Middle Grade books have really rocked my world, i.e. Capture the Flag by Kate Messner and definitely anything by Riordan.

The Book Wars

Middle Grade books rock. Plain and simple.

But, when I was a Middle Grader I didn’t know it – or maybe there just weren’t as many books written for me, nor were they as well marketed as they are now. As I see it, there is a weird sort of gap in children’s literature that’s brushed over between Early Chapter Books and Middle Grade Fiction. Early Chapter Books – those easy chapter books that feature horses and dogs, or even the more sophisticated titles like Captain Underpants and The Princess in Black or Franny K. Stein (and by more sophisticated I mean a little higher language and delving into various genres and themes) are aimed at readers up to age 8 or so. Middle Grade books, the scope for which is incredibly broad covering all genres from science fiction to realistic fiction to horror are generally written for…

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