Thursday, March 26, 2015

Ten Books from My Childhood I'd Love to Revisit -A Top Ten Tuesday for Thursday

I've just discovered a wonderful book blog -The Broke and the Bookish- where they not only talk constantly of books, but have a weekly book meme for other bloggers to participate in.
Where have you been all my life?

I'm a little late to participate in this week's meme -but then I realized I don't really care. It's too fun to pass up! So here is a Top Ten Tuesday for your Thursday.

Ten Books from My Childhood/Teen Years I'd Like to Revisit
(In no particular order)

1. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
This series was the bait that finally hooked me onto reading when I was about seven or eight. My mom was almost at her wit's end trying to find something that I would read, and The Magician's Nephew is what finally sealed the deal. Narnia was also my first introduction to the fantasy genre.

2. Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry
(It really says something when my spell check insists 'Chincoteague' is not a word. Somebody needs to be edumacated about the important things in life.)
Very much a horse lover as a child, I've lost count of how many times I've listened to this on audio. I lived and breathed this story. And once I found out that Chincoteague was a real place and Pony Penning Day was an actual event? My parents never heard the end of it. I haven't hit that festival yet, but it's still on my Bucket List.
As a side note, the version narrated by John McDonough is the best, but Edward Hermann did a decent job too.

3. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede
The series has had a few redesigns, but don't be fooled. These are the TRUE covers.
Yet another series I strictly listened to, but I listened to them a lot. I discovered Princess Cimorene, the dragon Kazul, and the talkative magician Telemain around my tween years, and have only just introduced my parents to the first book. Family road trips for the world! Finally, they get to fall in love with the series my sister and I were (perhaps overly) obsessed with way back when.

4. Artemis Fowl series (and everything else) by Eoin Colfer
I discovered Eoin Colfer in my later teens, and I've been a huge fan since. Not only does he tell amazing stories, not only are his stories fun and creative, but he also happens to be a great writer, and has influenced my own writing far beyond any other author to date. I read through his collection every couple of years. And, and did I tell you about that time I met him?
 Me and Eoin Colfer. (Seriously, that never gets old.)

5. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
While I read the entire Time Quartet, this has and always will be my favorite. It was the first sci-fi book I ever read and it was new and different and intelligent and incredible. (For those of you interested in audiobooks, there is a version narrated by Madeleine L'Engle herself. In. Cred. I. Ble.)

6. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Narnia and Lewis may have introduced me to fantasy, but Tolkien showed me the epic end of the genre, bringing me into a world completely set apart from our own. This book taught me that imagination is an incredible gift. This was also one of the last books in my family's 'Dad Reads Out Loud' entertainment. After this, it was harder to find books both my sister and I liked, and I always wanted to keep reading when my dad wanted to stop. That's when I started reading to him, instead. For me, The Lord of the Rings quickly followed, but it was never quite the same without my dad trying to remember the different voices of thirteen dwarves, one wizard, and one burglar from one night to the next.

7. The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
I discovered this audiobook around the same time as Tolkien's books. It was charming and fun and different, and it had that 'classic' feel for me that I really loved. There was a sequel I read (The Princess and Curdie), but I never liked it as much. It always felt too moral-heavy, and I didn't like that Curdie went from being the perfect child to needing a lesson. Curdie was kind of a hero of mine.

8. Redwall by Brian Jacques
This series hit a couple of firsts with me. They were the first books over 200 pages that I ever read, Martin the Warrior was the first book to ever make me cry, and within the pages of Mossflower it finally hit me that all those words on the page were actually put there, in that order, by someone. Boom. I wanted to be a writer.

9. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
Barrie taught me that being a child was a good thing, and if you could hold on to that part of you when you grew up, even better.
This is also when I discovered that some of my favorite movies were based on books, which meant there was even more in them to explore. *gasp* 

10. The Princess Bride by William Goldman
This was a big deal for me in my teens. I grew up on this movie. I adored this movie. I quoted this movie with my family over breakfast, lunch, and anytime someone mentioned 'peanuts' or used the word 'inconceivable' (which, granted, didn't happen often unless we were setting ourselves up for it). When I found out it was a book, I was ecstatic. I did make my mom proof-read it, though. I was very impressionable and I didn't read adult fiction for reasons. So not only was this an added dimension to an old favorite, it was also the first adult fiction I ever read.

So there they are! Ten books that shaped me into who I am that I'd love to read again (and again and again and again).

What are some of your favorite childhood reads?

Monday, March 23, 2015

Guest Post: J.E. Thompson with a Cover Reveal

Today I'm happy to announce I have a guest blogger lined up. Author J.E. Thompson, everyone, with some exciting news!

Thanks Amanda K. Thompson for giving me the opportunity to guest blog. I am excited to let everyone know about the dazzling new cover by Mikey Brooks of for my book Revelation.

Revelation is the first in my Almost Human trilogy. The second book Retaliation is due out in August 2015.

The new cover just came available on March 20, 2015, and to celebrate, I am holding a Kindle Countdown deal starting April 12.

On April 12, at 8:00 am (PST) the Kindle edition of Revelation will be available for only $.99. That’s 81% off the regular price. The countdown will end on April 17, at 8:00 am. Take a peek below, at the scintillating cover Mikey dreamed up. 

Thanks again, Amanda K. Thompson. Thompson is the author of Revelation, the first book in the Almost Human series, and an anthology of the disturbing called Deliciously Dark Tales.

You can learn more about him on the Web
Blog | Facebook | Goodreads

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Book vs. Movie)

Book vs. movie comparisons for the world!

This time I'm taking a look at the three versions of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, so if you've ever wondered which is the best, or whether the movies are true to the story, you can stop wondering and find out!

Versions for comparison:

But enough about my thoughts. Which version is your favorite? Discuss!

Monday, March 16, 2015

My Thoughts on Frozen

This has been sitting in my draft box for ages, but with the recent announcement of a sequel, I figured it was a good time to polish it off.


The sister-based storyline was such a refreshing change. Don't get me wrong. I'm a hopeless romantic. I love all the Disney princess movies. I don't have issues with the traditional storyline, but seeing a story revolving around the relationship of two estranged sisters was a welcome breath of fresh air, much like Pixar's Brave, which so lovingly focused on a mother/daughter relationship.

My favorite Frozen song isn't actually from the film. It was cut during production due to an evolving storyline, but fortunately can still be found on the deluxe soundtrack (and YouTube). Here I have to mention how much I loved so many of the songs in the movie. Not just Let It Go, but Frozen Heart (goosebumps galore), Love Is An Open Door (SANDWICHES!), etc. The lyrics feel clever and original and unexpected. They're also full of humor and references for today, which we'll see in time whether they'll become dated or classics. Loads of kudos to husband/wife duo Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez for so many fun songs.

Life's Too Short is a duet between Elsa and Anna, just after Anna has come to her sister's ice palace. Starting off, it's all about the two of them reconnecting. Elsa gets to be her true self, and Anna finally gets to understand the distance between them for so long. It's a wonderful moment of bonding and sisterly devotion, and then...well, then things come to a boil. Anna and Elsa get to hash out all their issues and frustrations and it all rhymes and it's such a realistic fight between sisters. It's so human and so funny and so absolutely wonderful

The first guy isn't the right guy. I've seen and heard so many different complaints about Disney love stories -that they're too perfect or convenient- that it was a lot of fun to see Disney mess with their standard. It was also a great plot twist.

Plus, this: 

The Foreshadow Ninja has been here!

Olaf. Seriously. I hated this little snowman. Most of his jokes were terribly juvenile and I felt like it degraded the whole film. Every time my sister sees him she wants to rip him apart. She couldn't even make it through the movie a second time.

The film honestly would have been better if this character were eradicated. It didn't really need the extra comedic relief because, while the story line could get heavy, Anna's personality was always upbeat and chipper, Kristoff was eccentric enough to keep us laughing (or wincing), and when that didn't work Sven would slip on the ice or try to eat snow flakes.

Olaf's only good scene is the instant he says 'Some people are worth melting for.' Heartwarming, sure, but I could have lived without it if it meant I didn't have to put up with the annoying snowman.

Juvenile humor also seemed to populate a lot more of the jokes in Frozen than, say, Tangled or The Princess and the Frog. This was Olaf, but also the trolls added to it. (Fixer-Upper is probably the only song I don't like from the film).

I get that I'm essentially calling out a juvenile film for having too much juvenile humor. I also get that Disney's targeting of the juvenile crowd is probably another reason the movie was such a huge success. But since I'm sharing my opinion here, I'll go on the record saying I think it was a hindrance to the film's quality, not a help.

In the end:

Down to the big cheese. Overall, I really enjoyed 'Frozen'. It's a fun movie. It's a good movie.
On the other hand, it's not great or excellent. It's not the best Disney movie of all time, or even of the last 5 years. I do believe it's overrated, over-hyped and over-saturating, well, everything. Over all, I'd give it a 3 1/2 star rating.

As far as a sequel, I think Disney will do a good job with it, but I also think a lot of people would be just as happy without one.

But that's just me.

What do you think?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

REVIEW: Jackaby by William Ritter 

by William Ritter
4 stars

"Doctor Who meets Sherlock" proudly proclaims the cover flap blurb. That's not something a Whovian and Sherlockian can just ignore. At the very least, I had to make sure it lived up to its lofty expectations.

In the first chapter, with Jackaby's introduction, I groaned. Just another Sherlock imitation. I have enough of those in my life right now, thank you very much. By chapter two, I realized Ritter took Jackaby in a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT DIRECTION.

Doctor Who meets Sherlock? Try Doctor Who meets Sherlock meets a grown-up and frankly terrifying Spiderwick Chronicles, and you're a little closer to the mark.

Abigail Rook is newly arrived in New England and, looking for a life of adventure, answers an advertisement to become the assistant of one R. F. Jackaby, basically a private investigator specializing in Unexplained Phenomena, who is just about to wade knee-deep into a murder most foul.

Now it warns you right up front that this story has a dose of the macabre and it does. There's blood. The world and ambiance is a cross between Victorian and the Brothers Grimm, which totally worked for me. There's a slew of quirky and interesting characters, something I always love to see, and I especially loved Inspector Marlowe, perpetually grumpy chief of police, and justice hound Charlie Cane. The world has great potential, with dark folklore and a friendly ghost or two. Ritter seems to have drawn no specific line on what kind of fantasy to include, so all possibilities seem fair game at this point.

I found Jackaby to be a very interesting character. He has the unexplained ability to see many extraordinary things that no one else can, but he's very logical, scientifically inclined, and fact oriented. Those qualities should be at odds with each other, but they meshed wonderfully. He's also a bit absorbed in his own thoughts and absent-minded and has some kind of delicious secret back story yet to be revealed. By delicious, I mean obviously scarring and heart-wrenching and my inner fangirl demands to know the cause at all costs.

Which brings us to my pet peeve about this story. The one thing here that truly irked me was the fact that Jackaby made no effort to prepare Abigail for the danger they could potentially encounter. There was no training, or crash course Mythos 101, or even a heads-up of what to expect at any point of the book. Granted, she's thrust straight into the mystery, but they had downtime. Jackaby could have sent her off with a stack of books to research some of the things most people don't believe exist. This peeve might not have bothered me so much if Jackaby didn't become increasingly concerned about her safety, and his failure to prevent ...incidents with some potential assistants of the recent past. At one point he tries to demote her to an office clerk and keep her off the case (which doesn't work. at all.) but he never considers actually arming her with any skills or knowledge that might save her life.

This peeve of mine could turn out to be a character flaw of Jackaby's, an absent-minded and case-driven detective, in which case I'm all for it. Character development for the world! But I am a little concerned that none of his allies pointed it out to him as a bad idea, or decided to give Abigail some words of wisdom.

I'm probably exacerbating this peeve, and don't get me wrong. I really enjoyed this book. It was an interesting mix of murder mystery and folk lore and I can't wait to read the next one. I'm just crossing my fingers that Abigail will start learning things, rather than stumbling into them.

The reason this book didn't get 5 stars was three-fold. The aforementioned pet peeve, but also that I did find myself skimming through sections of description (read as, 'impatient reader') and I felt that some of the mystery elements took a little too long for the characters to get to.

On the whole, this was an entertaining and gripping read. I'm looking forward to the sequel due out this fall, diving deeper into Jackaby's world, and also getting that back story!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Mini March Book Haul + Giveaway Winners

They say you can't buy happiness, but you can buy books. Which is basically the same thing.

The Books:
Beyonders: A World Without Heroes by Brandon Mull
A Crooked Kind of Perfect by LINDA URBAN
Torn by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Also, here are the giveaway winners! Woohoo!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congratulations, everyone! *throws confetti*

Thursday, March 5, 2015

REVIEW: Firefight by Brandon Sanderson
The Reckoners, bk 2
by Brandon Sanderson
5/5 stars

Warning: There are spoilers for Steelheart, the previous book, in this review.

The sequel to Steelheart does not disappoint. David has succeeded in killing the Epic who murdered his father, an Epic the world thought untouchable. Now that David is no longer blinded by revenge -and Megan is somewhere out there with Prof's target on her back- he's beginning to wonder whether killing Epics is really the right answer.

Don't get me wrong. David's not going soft. Some Epics have to die. But David's a nerd (no matter how he denies it). He's spent his entire life studying Epics -their habits, their powers, their weaknesses- and the more he learns, the less sense any of it makes. Epics defy all laws of nature. They shouldn't exist. But somehow they do. Ever since Calamity, this is something people have simply come to accept. There is no explanation for the Epics; they just are.

David isn't so sure.

The pulse-pounding action doesn't let up for a second, of course. The Reckoners are faced with a new Epic adversary, Regalia, and travel to Babylon Restored to take her on. But nothing about this story starts to feel repetitive. There's no lasting feel of 'so this is the norm', because Sanderson never gives us a minute of rest. It seems like this Epic might actually want the help of the Reckoners. Or she just wants to slaughter them. It's a really tough call. Either way, she's got something up her sleeve and Prof is determined they won't get caught in her trap.

When David realizes that Megan -ahem, Firefight- has entered Regalia's employ, he's faced with a tough choice. Megan or the Reckoners?

While trying to stop the homicidal maniacs from destroying Babylon Restored, David chases down his ever-increasing questions about the Epics. What are they? What turns them evil? Is there a pattern they're not seeing? And -most important- can any of them still be saved?

One of my favorite things about Steelheart was Sanderson's unbelievable ability to throw plot twists at me. Seriously. I usually see those things coming. But half the stuff in that book came at me out of the blue. And I remember thinking, about halfway through Firefight, Man, it's too bad he can't throw any more of those at me. But what else could possibly be left? I mean, you read Steelheart? What on earth could possibly top that as far as plot twists?!


Whereas Steelheart blew me away with its plot twists, Firefight really caught me with the science and mythology behind this universe. Through David, we're plunged even deeper into the Reckoners' world, and the incredible depth of Sanderson's imagination will never cease to amaze me. My mind is still reeling.

David is quickly becoming one of my favorite characters. His sincerity, his reckless heroism, his utter faith and conviction in the people he trusts, and so. Many. Bad. Metaphors.

“I mixed with ordinary people about the same way that a bucket of paint mixed with a bag of gerbils.”
Brandon Sanderson, Firefight 

I'm loving him more and more as his journey continues, because throughout it all, he's still David. He's just somebody who wants to do the right thing, no matter how hopeless or pointless it is. He refuses to back down, even if he's outnumbered or outgunned. I root for this guy every step of the way.

There's only one thing about this story I was disappointed about, and that's the fact that Abraham and Cody aren't around much. While David travels with Prof and Tia to Babylon Restored, the other Reckoners stay behind to keep an eye on Newcago. I'm suffering some serious Cody withdrawals. (Next time, more Cody. There better be so much more Cody!)

Pssst! Don't miss out on the giveaway...

Monday, March 2, 2015

Feb Wrap Up + GIVEAWAY!

The end of February already. 2015 is already flying by, isn't it?

Books I read this month
Firefight by Brandon Sanderson (5/5) -review to come
Mitosis by Brandon Sanderson (5/5)
Benny and Omar by Eoin Colfer (4/5)
The Trial of Jean Grey, gn (4/5)
New Avengers: Everything Dies, gn (4/5)
Jackaby by William Ritter (4/5) -review to come
Library Wars: Love and War, vol 1 (5/5)
Third Daughter, Dharian Affairs bk 1 by Susan Kaye Quinn (current read)

Other things that happened this month:
a Rafflecopter giveaway