Friday, March 31, 2017

MINI REVIEW: Rise of the Evening Star by Branon Mull (Fablehaven #2)

Rise of the Evening Star
Fablehaven #2
Author: Brandon Mull

Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Genre: Fantasy

4/5 stars
PG: Mild fantasy action/violence; monsters, demons, ghosties, and other frightening mythical creatures.

Recommend to fans of The Spiderwick Chronicles, The Ever Afters, Artemis Fowl, and their ilk. Good middle grade read, but still enough plot and character development for older readers -like me!

At the end of the school year, Kendra and her brother, Seth, find themselves racing back to Fablehaven, a refuge for mythical and magical creatures. Grandpa Sorenson, the caretaker, invites three specialists- a potion master, a magical relics collector, and a mystical creature trapper- to help protect the property from the Society of the Evening Star, an ancient organization determined to infiltrate the preserve and steal a hidden artifact of great power. Time is running out. The Evening Star is storming the gates. If the artifact falls into the wrong hands, it could mean the downfall of other preserves and possibly the world. Will Kendra learn to use her fairy gifts in time? Will Seth stay out of trouble? Can they overcome paralyzing fear? Find out in book two of this bestselling series (via Goodreads)

The Mini Review:

In the second book, the magic doesn't remain in Fablehaven; instead, I love seeing the effects of the magical preserve and its mission leeching into the normal lives of Kendra and Seth Sorenson.

Comparatively, the plot of its predecessor moved at a slower pace while ushering the Sorenson siblings -and readers- into the world, but Rise starts off at a race and continues in exciting bursts. This is where the overarching plot of the whole series starts to take permanent root, expounding on several hints and expert foreshadowing tricks dropped in Fablehaven. While the Society of the Evening Star lurked in the background of the first book, it is here that we officially get to meet them face to face. And my are they dastardly and devious!

There were so many fantastic twists in this story, and a good many of them I had forgotten. Of all of these, my favorite probably has to do with Warren, because I somehow managed to forgot this character entirely and I kind of adore him now.

But honestly, this book for me was all about Seth. He absolutely takes the cake! I love his constant struggle between courage and stupidity, between recklessness and brilliance. How many boys do you know who do the stupidest things just for fun? That's who Seth is. But he's got this underlying courage and heroic nature beneath all that stupidity and I love when it gets to shine through.

Seth, for the time being, is definitely his own worst enemy. His heart is in the right place, but he's also got selfish tendencies. It puts him into a bit of a 'boy who cried wolf' position because his family isn't sure when or if they can trust him with really important issues or tasks. Look back at Fablehaven. What did they say to ABSOLUTELY NOT DO on Midsummer's Eve?

And what did Seth ABSOLUTELY do?

But he really gets his moment here and what I love most is that his most courageous and glorious moment to date was also probably the stupidest thing he's ever done. Seth is this roiling ball of recklessness, bravery, bravado, and good intentions, packed into an infuriating, stubborn, and hotheaded adrenaline junky who, in all honesty, doesn't always deserve the trust or benefit of the doubt he so longs for.

So, yeah. I kind of love Seth. I don't think I truly appreciated in entirety on my first reading of the series, but I definitely recognize the wonderful depth and development of his character now, step by step, and book by book.

Rise of the Evening Star has the same great upbeat tone, moral fiber, and new creatures, plus it continues to expound on the fascinating mythical side of this world.

What's your favorite part about rereading books?

Friday, March 24, 2017

Rapid Fire Book Tag

How fun is this tag?! I found this over at raincitylibrarian -you should check out her version. I've tracked down what I'm pretty sure is the original incarnation of this tag as well, from booktuber GirlReading.

1. eBooks or physical books?
Physical books, no contest. There's nothing like having an actual books in your hands, no smell like that of ink and paper, no sensation like cradling a book and turning its pages.
The only reason I have an e-reader device is for ARCs and comic books.

2. Paperback or hardback?

Oooh, tough call. I prefer hardbacks -I like that I can lay out while I read instead of holding them- but my wallet doesn't, so I mostly buy paperbacks.

3. Online or in-store book shopping?

If I'm actually *shopping*, I'll usually go to B&, unless I know for a fact they have it in stock; then I'll go in person.
If I'm book *browsing* however... In-store. Every. Time.

4. Trilogies or series?

So long as the story is put together well I don't have a real preference. Series face the danger of not having an end goal, kind of like a lot of TV shows, where they just don't know when to stop and wrap it up. But then again, some trilogies don't have a satisfactory amount of content either. depends.

5. Heroes or villains?

I prefer well-crafted characters. Be they hero or villain, if they've got good depth, good development, and a good arc, I'll probably love them. (Or love to hate them.)
I do have a soft spot for the conflicted hero and the villains with redemption potential. ^_^

6. A book you want everyone to read?

The Committed Life: Principles for Good Living From Our Timeless Past by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis. This might seem like an unusual book, but this is one that really stayed with me. Through different stories, anecdotes, and parables, Jungreis demonstrates the benefits of acting with decency and kindness. If nothing else, this book pushes me to be a better and kinder person.
"You become gently by acting gently, righteous by acting righteously, good by acting with goodness."

7. Recommend an underrated book.

I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells. Not a book for everyone, which is the only reason it didn't get put in #6.

8. The last book you finished?

Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague by Brandon Mull

9. Weirdest thing you used as a bookmark?

The corner of my quilt. It's the darnedest thing when you're reading through a book so fast you don't even bother grabbing a bookmark.

10. Used books, yes or no?

YES. Holy book bargains, Batman! My book collection wouldn't be nearly as extravagant as it is without the help of .25 cent paperbacks and $1 hardcovers.

11. Top three favorite genres?

Fantasy, space opera/light sci-fi (not sure where the cutoff is exactly), folklore & mythology.
Wow, my tastes are narrow. Probably 90% of what I read is fantasy of some kind or another.

12. Borrow or buy?

Borrow. The library is a life- and money-saver. I don't buy books before I've read them. Wasted too much money that way.

13. Characters or plot?

BOTH. This really shouldn't be an 'either/or' question. The best books have great plot AND great characters.

14. Long or short book?

If I'm enjoying it, long.

15. Long or short chapters?

I do prefer short chapters. I tend to read more that way, because if it's just another five pages or so, I'll say "I've got time for that!" But if it's 20-60 pages, that book is closed for the night.

16. Name the first three books you think of.

I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells
Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston
Kon Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl

Wow, that's quite an eclectic assortment there!

17. Books that make you laugh or cry?

9 times out of 10 I will go with laugh. I don't mind good books that make me cry, but I don't tend to seek them out.

18. Our world or fictional worlds?

Is it terrible that I say fictional? On the upside, there's a lot we can learn from fiction to make our world better.

19. Audiobooks: yes or no?

YES. About half the books I read I actually listen to.

20. Do you ever judge a book by its cover?

Yes. I'm pretty sure even people who say 'don't judge a book by its cover' judges books by their covers. I won't, however, allow a cover to dissuade me if the book has been recommended or if it sounds intriguing.
Covers are first impressions. Sometimes they're terrible, but sometimes -just maybe- there's a Mr. Darcy hiding inside.

21. Book to movie or book to TV adaptations?

Ooooh! Another tough one. I'd probably go with TV adaptations, simply because some of the books I most want to see on screen are series, not standalones. Seeing these turned into series of movies are pretty hit or miss, whereas a lot of the mystery shows I really love are based off books series.
Miniseries, too, are fantastic; they allow for more time to explore the story but enjoy an absolute End like movies.
Standalones = Movies
Series = TV or Miniseries

22.  A movie or TV adaptation you preferred to the book?

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Chocolat -seriously conflicted feelings with this one. >_< I'm posting a book to movie comparison for this one next week, so don't miss it!
Longmire -Admittedly, I didn't make it through all of The Cold Dish and it was only the swearing that put me off.

23. Series or standalone?

Generally, series. Mostly because fantasy standalones are hard to come by.

Bonus Question! {in the original tag, but not the one I initially discovered}

24. The last book you bought?

I honestly don't remember if it was World Mythology or The Blacklist: The Beekeeper (No. 159) by Steven Piziks.

Now EVERYONE do the tag!
Feel free to link your edition of the Rapid Fire Book Tag and I'll check it out. ^_^

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

MINI REVIEW: Fablehaven by Brandon Mull (Fablehaven #1)

Author: Brandon Mull
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Genre: Fantasy

4/5 stars
PG: Mild fantasy action/violence; monsters and other frightening mythical creatures
Recommend to fans of The Spiderwick Chronicles, The Ever Afters, Artemis Fowl, and their ilk. Good middle grade read, but still enough plot and character development for older readers -like me!

For centuries mystical creatures of all description were gathered into a hidden refuge called Fablehaven to prevent their extinction. The sanctuary survives today as one of the last strongholds of true magic. Enchanting? Absolutely. Exciting? You bet. Safe? Well, actually, quite the opposite.

Kendra and her brother, Seth, have no idea that their grandfather is the current caretaker of Fablehaven. Inside the gated woods, ancient laws keep relative order among greedy trolls, mischievous satyrs, plotting witches, spiteful imps, and jealous fairies. However, when the rules get broken -- Seth is a bit too curious and reckless for his own good -- powerful forces of evil are unleashed, and Kendra and her brother face the greatest challenge of their lives. To save their family, Fablehaven, and perhaps even the world, Kendra and Seth must find the courage to do what they fear most. via Goodreads

The Mini Review:
There is so much to love about the Fablehaven series! Like the beloved Spiderwick Chronicles, it takes modern readers back into the beauty and majesty of folk lore, when so much of it has become rebranded as 'fairy tales'. Unlike the Spiderwick Chronicles, however, Mull's series is an epic journey fit for growing voracious readers to devour.

One of my favorite things about Fablehaven has always been the relationship between main characters Seth and Kendra Sorenson. The brother and sister ACT EXACTLY like the best and worst of siblings. They're there for each other when it's needed, but they also don't want the other to find out about anything stupid they've done, because they know they'll never live it down. They're sometimes petty with each other and sometimes each other's greatest defenders and that is a sibling relationship in a nutshell. Mull does a fantastic job writing it.

Seth and Kendra are polar opposites. Kendra is cautious and careful and the goody two-shoes I was at that age, while Seth is mischievous and adventurous and a serial rule breaker. Each one sits at either end of the scale, so everyone who reads this is going to relate to one or the other.

The story is fun and exciting, but it has substance, too. This first book is a great romp, but most of the adventure is a great illustration of cause and effect. Decisions and consequences. While Mull doesn't beat you over the head with the underlying moral fiber here, the characters definitely learn a good lesson about accepting responsibility and consequences for their actions -the hard way, because where's the fun in learning the easy way?

Plus, MAGIC! FAIRIES! GOBLINS! OGRES, TROLLS, NAIADS, GOLEMS, WITCHES, BROWNIES, SATYRS, AND CENTAURS! OH MY! Every mythical creature you've ever heard -plus a few that you haven't- show up in this series and Mull has wrought an interesting and complex world on the grounds of this magical preserve, held together by the laws and bargains of old magic. Creatures of both the light and the dark inhabit the preserve and never fail to make life interesting. A great call back to classic folklore is Mull's insistence that, just because a creature is of light or dark, doesn't necessarily mean they're 'good' or 'evil' -and humans are still a favorite plaything.

With an upbeat tone and fantastic new creatures around every corner, Fablehaven is a downright fun story and I'm finding it even more enjoyable on this reread.

Have you read Fablehaven?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Sunday Post 006 | IMWAYR

Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news~ A post to recap the past week on your blog and showcase books and things we have received. Share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme

 Corny Joke Monday 

How does a squid go into battle?
Well armed

 Last Week on the Blog 

 This Week on the Blog 

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull Mini Review
Rapid Fire Book Tag

 What I'm Reading: 

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and
share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. 

Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague by Brandon Mull page 165/473
So much fun! I've forgotten just how much I enjoy this series. I've also forgotten a lot of details, so that adds to the fun. I've totally forgotten when Patton Burgess plays a major role and that's one of my favorite parts, so I'm eagerly awaiting that. ^_^

Heartless by Marissa Meyer disc 11/12
Almost finished with it. Going back and forth on this one, since the main focus of the story is a love triangle and I really dislike love triangles. :P

The Horizontal Man by Michael Dahl page 52/182
Took a break from this when I realized I had a deadline for the Fablehavens, but next week.

 What I Read: 

Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star by Brandon Mull
Again, forgot so many details! So far, this one has been the most fun to reread, but I've got a feeling each successive one will be better than the last.

I'm now 3/19 on my Take Control Control of Your TBR Challenge.
What? That's more books total than last update? Yeah. Yeah, that's because I miscounted. And also forgot about my book club read for April, The Lake House by Kate Morton. I should at least start that this month, or I'll never finish it in time.

The good news is, I now have a deadline to finish all the Fablehaven books by and I'm breezing through those faster now at 12.5 chapters a day, so I should wrap those up soon. Then I can move on to the rest of the list.

I'm still doomed, but at least now I have the semblance of a plan.

 Internet Shenanigans 

Other than putting together a pretty epic Spotify list for motivation -I'm super obsessed with Disney and other movies covers right now- I've been too busy writing and reading for any Internet Shenanigans. Sorry, dudes.

EDIT: Totally lied! The new Postmodern Jukebox song is AMAZING, you guys! Sara Niemietz is fantastic, once again.

 New Additions 

Thanks to a fantastic sale a while back, I now own two Postmodern Jukebox albums. W00t!

  What's new with you? 

Friday, March 17, 2017

My Favorite Irish Song and Authors for Your St. Patrick's Day Festivities

I don't know if you're celebrating St. Patrick's Day, but my family usually gets together for some form of Irish meal (corned beef and cabbage mostly, but I think we're actually trying something new this year!), our annual watching of The Luck of the Irish, traditional green ware, plenty of beer, and of course, my awesomely festive headband:

But let's talk Irish authors, shall we?

My all-time favorite Irish author -surprising no one- is Eoin Colfer, my favorite author period. If you're looking for a good Irish read today, I'd recommend Iron Man: The Gauntlet, which he wrote for Marvel last fall. Tony Stark finds himself on the Emerald Isle and teams up with a few fantastic Irish characters to defeat a classic comic villain. Muahaha! It is THE BEST. EVER.

Second up, Derek Landy, for his fun and fast-paced Skulduggery Pleasant series, involving the magic underground of Dublin and the snappy-dressing, snappy-talking, walking, talking, flame-throwing skeleton sorcerer/detective.

And my favorite Irish song?
Of the bevy of songs my da used to sing to my sister and I at bedtime, one of my favorites was The Unicorn. It was only a few years ago that I ever heard the actual song by the Irish Rovers and it's amazing.

But even more amazing was discovering the song was written by my favorite poet -Shel Silverstein. Talk about happy coincidences!
Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone!

Who are your favorite Irish authors?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

TTT: Books on My Spring TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly blog meme put on by The Broke and the Bookish

Aside from the books on my Take Control of Your TBR Challenge, this is what I'm looking forward to reading!

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
I've wanted to read this for ages, but the page count has been putting me off. After rereading Airman for my book club last month, however, I'm not going to let it intimidate me!

Traitor to the Throne by Alywn Hamilton

Hearts and Other Body Parts by Ira Bloom
I won a Goodreads givaway for this and, instead of tossing it onto my bookshelf like all the other books I win and promise to someday read, and I'm going to start on it as soon as it arrives.

Heartstone by Elle Katherine White
This is described as a fantasy retelling of Pride & Prejdice.
With dragons.

Star Wars: Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston
About 8 episodes from finishing Star Wars: Clone Wars, all I want to know is what happens to Ahsoka?! What's next for her? Where does she go from here? What happens when she finds out about Darth Vader?!?

Star Wars: Thrawn by Timothy Zahn
Timothy Zahn is my favorite writer of Star Wars fiction and I'm so excited that he's writing a new book! And a Thrawn book, no less!

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

(I'm trying to actually stay on top of the series I start. :P)

The Blacklist: The Dead Ring (No. 166) by Jon McGoran
I've got this one on pre-order (March 28th!!!). The first one was so good I can't wait to get my hands on this. I'm just hoping it loves up to expectations.

The Blacklist: The Arsonist by Nicole Dawn Phillips
I know. I know. Why haven't I read this yet if the first one was so amazing?
I'M PACING MYSELF. I'm so used to binge-watching The Blacklist on Netflix that I completely forgot they have midseason finales and now I'm going through withdrawals. Between rewatching season 3, The Dead Ring coming out next month, and this comic, hopefully I've got enough to tide me over until April 20.

Rebels by David Liss
This is basically THE SEQUEL OF ALL SEQUELS. I don't know how I missed its publication date, but this is the sequel to fantastic geek fest known as Randoms, and you can watch my geek fest review of it down below, which you totally should. It's one of the funnest ones I've ever done. XD

What's on your Spring TBR?

Monday, March 13, 2017

Sunday Post 005 | IMWAYR

Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news~ A post to recap the past week on your blog and showcase books and things we have received. Share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme

 Corny Joke Monday 

 Last Week on the Blog 

 This Week on the Blog 

TTT: Top Ten on My Spring TBR Meme

 What I'm Reading: 

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and
share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. 

Rise of the Evening Star by Brandon Mull
My rereading of Fablehaven needs to speed up because a copy of Dragonwatch is already waiting for me at the library...

Heartless by Marissa Meyer (audio)
I'm having a little trouble with this one because the main character is starting to get on my nerves. I'm so close to finishing, though, I just need to suck it up and get it done.

The Death and Afterlife Book by James R. Lewis
So I admit, this one looks really random. Well it is. This is research for a WIP that I'm...not actually...working on...right now...

 What I Read: 

I'm currently 2/17 for the books on my Take Control of Your TBR! Challenge.
Obviously I need to kick my reading up a notch.

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull (reread)

Airman by Eoin Colfer (reread)
Still love this book. <3 The book club discussion on this one has me wanting to read (and watch) The Count of Monte Cristo.

 Internet Shenanigans 

I've been listening to a lot more YouTube artists recently -namely Jonathan Young and Peter Hollens- and I can't get enough of them.

The Plagues (Prince of Egypt) -Cover by Caleb Hyles and Jonathan Young
With Passover coming up soon, this has got me excited to rewatch Prince of Egypt. ^_^

But Peter Hollens new cover of 'The Sound of Silence' is AMAZING. If you liked Disturbed's cover of this a while back, you will likely love this one too.

 In Real Life 

I took my sister to see SING for the second time. I adore that movie; it's fun, but it's an inspiring, 'feel good' flick too. When I got out, I bought myself a nice-ish set of headphones to practice piano like I've been telling myself I'll get around to eventually. And I discovered my keyboard has a metronome! That's going to come in handy. ^_^


I just started on season 6 of Star Wars: Clone Wars and, I've got to admit, much as I love Tim Curry, his voicing Emperor Palpatine is...random.

  What's new with you? 

Friday, March 10, 2017

DISCUSSION: Writing in Books -Yea or Nay?

If someone had asked me a year ago whether I mark up my own books, I would have replied something like: "There is a special hell reserved for those who DEFACE books and DOGEAR pages. So, no."

However, two things have occurred within the last year that may change my stance on this. Maybe. You have to understand, I have always considered books almost sacred; I hate finger smudges on covers and curled edges and sticker residue that won't come off and those fat black marker lines discount book stores slash over the top of the pages. Monsters.

I've been debating this question of 'yea or nay' for a while and finally had the genius idea to write a discussion post about it. So bring me your biases! Bring me your book-marking habits and your philosophical rants! Let's talk about this and after a good discussion maybe I can make up my mind as to whether book-marking is a sin to the literary gods or an irreplaceable gift to the readers who will come after.

The first event that set me asking this question was a visit from my sister and her family. She is a voracious reader and, though they're just younglings, all her kids are well on their way to becoming so as well.

So what does the best aunt ever hand over for the trip home? That's right. A stack of books.

I slid them over to my sister one by one, making little piles of which books I bought for which kid, and she slid them right back to me. "Write their names in," she said; "They love it."

As a library clerk, writing in books bleeding ink, ruined pages, and library fines. It's been instilled in me from my earliest days that you DO NOT WRITE IN BOOKS.
My sister reminded me of a picture book I'd sent as a birthday gift to one of her boys, Don't Let The Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems. In the front of the book, I'd written a happy birthday message and a little note. "That's part of the book for my kids. They don't realize it's not part of the story. Every time I read it to them, they make me start with that, and every time they read it to each other they read that first. Whatever you write in the book becomes part of the book. It's part of the gift you're giving. It's going to be with them forever."

This blew me away. I'd never thought of it like that before. So I grabbed the nearest pen and wrote notes in every. single. book. I told them how much I loved them, why these books were special to me, why I wanted to give them a copy, and how much I hoped they'd enjoy it. Then I went a little crazy with the copies of Austenland and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society I gave my sister, underlining some of my favorite sections, because I realized that if I did -even if I was hundreds of miles away- it would sort of be like we were reading it together. I love that idea.

Now I love the idea of writing notes on the blank pages in books I'm gifting. But I still can't bring myself to write in my own books. Outside of maybe a self-help guide, adding to a book feels sacrilegious. My books are pristine. To the point that, any time I'm browsing through secondhand books, I seriously reconsider purchasing if there are any highlighted sections or chicken scratches.

Which brings us to even number two, which was my reading of 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (which I reviewed earlier this week). Her philosophy of reading and books and book ownership and book loving has kind of blown my mind.
I wish you hadn't been so over-courteous about putting the inscription on a card instead of on the flyleaf. It's the bookseller coming out in you all, you were afraid you'd decrease it's value. You would have increased it for the present owner. (And possibly for the future owner. I love inscriptions on flyleaves and notes in margins, I like the comradely sense of turning pages someone else turned, and reading passages some one long gone has called my attention to.) (pg 27)
I'll have mine til the day I die -and die happy in the knowledge that I'm leaving it behind for someone else to love. I shall sprinkle pale pencil marks through it pointing out the best passages to some booklover yet unborn. (pg 56)
I want to be this person. I want to be this person so bad. This is such a romantic notion and I adore everything about it. Expect the reality of writing in a book.
I've found a way around this for awhile, at least. The last few books I've loaned out, I've gone through them and stuck Post-It notes at random intervals, like this one in Sanderson's Firefight when I made my Dad read it. Sure, he thought I was crazy, but I thought it was hilarious. (I call them Ninja Notes in my head. Part of me wants to get an entire set of my favorite books just to litter with these Post-Its and then redistribute you them through thrift stores and book sales.) When these books are returned to me, I keep the Post-Its in there, because now it's a memory. But how long will those sticky notes really last in there? There going to start falling out at some point or -worse- mess up the pages with residue. >_<

Past the Post-It idea, I've got a friend who buys two copies of her favorite books, one for marking up and one for reading. This nicely skirts around that dilemma -expect the issue of space. Do I really have enough room for multiple copies of the same book? Is it just silly?

While I debate what I want to do, I'm dying to know how other Book Dragons feel. Do you write in books? Do you think it's a sin? Do you have a system or -like Helene- do you think it adds to the flavor and history of a book?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

REVIEW: 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

84, Charing Cross Road
Author: Helene Hanff
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Genre: Nonfiction/Memoir

5/5 stars
PG: Mild language
Recommend to: Readers; book lovers; bookshop lovers; fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

It all began with a letter inquiring about second-hand books, written by Helene Hanff in New York, and posted to a bookshop at 84, Charing Cross Road in London. As Helene's sarcastic and witty letters are responded to by the stodgy and proper Frank Doel of 84, Charing Cross Road, a relationship blossoms into a warm and charming long-distance friendship lasting many years. 

The Review:
This is one of the most beautiful, engaging, fun, and heartbreaking things I have ever read. Everyone should read this.

Solely comprised of letters between the author, Helene Hanff, and the employees of an English bookstore, mainly Frank Doel, 84, Charing Cross Road is bursting with one of the most important qualities I look for in books -PERSONALITY.
he has a first edition of Newman's University for six bucks, do i want it, he asks innocently.
Dear Frank: 
Yes, I want it. I won't be fit to live with myself. I've never cared about first editions, per se, but a first edition of THAT book -!
oh my.
i can just see it. (pg 15)

As you can see...

you leave me sitting here writing long margin notes in library books that don't belong to me, some day they'll find out I did it and take my library card away. (pg 10)
...Helene Hanff is an absolute pistol. Every inquiry, letter, request, and complaint is rife with her larger-than-life personality. I was in stitches. Her wit and sarcasm is perfectly balanced by Frank Doel's oh-so-Britishly-proper responses. What starts as a book inquiry quickly grows into an almost twenty year correspondence the most funny and heartfelt friendship, all blossoming from a shared love of books.

She is insane about books! The way she talks about them -especially high tier nonfiction that I wouldn't dream of ever touching- makes me want to grab a copy and fall into the past inside. She makes them sound like magic, like time capsules just waiting to be uncovered. Hanff is a reader and only readers will truly appreciate how every page here is merely another step into that obsessive love affair we all share with books.

And Frank Doel understands. In fact, Helene even tells him in one of her many letters:
you see how it is, frankie, you're the only soul alive who truly understands me. (pg. 83)
Today, we book lovers can generally find someone to share our passion with. With countless blogs, booktubers, and Goodreads, we don't have to look very far to find a kindred spirit. Helene Hanff had Frank Doel; he was always on the lookout for books he thought she would like and they got to know each other so well through their expressive and captivating letters that he eventually sent her books she didn't ask for, because he knew she would like them, and she always did.

And the letters. Oh the letters! What a beautiful art; what a masterful form of communication. Why don't we write letters anymore? All the world should write letters as personal and effervescent as these. This entire book is a testament to pen pals, books, and readers, the letters within the kind of ordinary magic people can cast with just a little time and effort.

84, Charing Cross Road is a quick read at 97 pages -but it's so breathtakingly beautiful I guarantee you won't read it quickly. You will savor every letter, every discussion of books, every spitfire comment from Helene, every genteel reply from Frank, until you feel as much a part of their friendship as surely any book lover could.

This is the first nonfiction I have ever truly, completely enjoyed, let alone awarded five stars and immediately added to my private collection. I have no reservations when I say 84, Charing Cross Road is one of the greatest books of the 20th century.

What is your favorite
book about books?

Monday, March 6, 2017

Sunday Post 004 | IMWAYR

Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news~ A post to recap the past week on your blog and showcase books and things we have received. Share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme

 Corny Joke Monday 


 Last Week on the Blog 

 This Week on the Blog 

Sunday Post 003 Meme
84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff Review
Writing in Books -Yea or Nay? Discussion

 It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and
share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. 
I'm in the midst of the 'Take Control of Your TBR!' challenge, but I haven't finished any of the books yet. I'm making dents in a lot of them, though.

My current reads are:

Airman by Eoin Colfer
Book club, reread (p 170/412)
Fablehaven by Branon Mull
Reread for Dragonwatch release (p 182/351)
Beauty by Robin McKinley
Recommended read(p 59/247)

My next reads:

The Horizontal Man by Michael Dahl
PWNED by Shannen Crane Camp
(and also Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child, because I wanted something violent to read after watching Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. But this is an impulse read.)

 Internet Shenanigans 

Three words for you:

You're welcome.

Among the most amazing discoveries of the year, this tops the list right now. I've picked out some of my favorite songs so far, so enjoy!

 In Real Life is offering a free script-writing software called Amazon Storywriter. It auto-formats your work into script style so you don't have to keep hitting that 'tab' button. More writing, less work.

Then there's that handy feature where you can submit your finished script directly to Amazon Studios for consideration on their development slate.

I'm in the middle of a major project and even I'm trying to figure out how to work 'write a TV show' into my schedule.

Any of you ever wanted a story on the small screen? Now might be your chance.

 New Additions 

Thanks to my local thrift store:

  • World Mythology -a desk reference on one of my favorite topics. Hello, book research!

 Random Stuff 

  What's new with you? 

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Blacklist Mid-Season Thoughts

The Blacklist certainly has a way with explosive finales. I've barely recovered from their rather brilliantly pulled off Liz is dead/not dead finale (remind me to tell you about that some time) and now I'm left reeling from the traitor in Red's organization.

Even as a die-hard Blacklist fan, I'll admit this season hasn't been all highs. It started very strong on the back of Liz's return and subsequent kidnapping, all wrapped up in a lovely bow with Mr. Kaplan's well-intentioned betrayal -but betrayal nonetheless. I loved this entire arc -even if Mr. Kaplan's fate broke my heart.

I'm going to break this down into a couple of sections and talk about what I loved and what I'm having trouble with.

Red and Liz

I loved, loved, loved the entire Who's Your Daddy? arc with Kirk. It put Red and Liz at either ends of their most interesting conflict so far. Twofold. Because on the back of deciding that she doesn't trust Red to be involved in Agnes' life, she is forced to decide if she can trust him to save her life. Even when she is convinced that Kirk really is her father -and that Reddington lied about- she still chooses to trust Reddington over him. I love this. Especially when it turns out that Red was right all along. Their relationship is so convoluted and complicated and frustrating and beautiful. For the first part of this season, the interaction between these two was strong and fraught with complicated emotions -the first two episodes without their direct interaction even more emotional and intense.

I'm also not that upset that we still don't know who Liz's father is for the very simple reason that I care more about who Red is to Liz than who her dad is. This is just the more interesting question to me.

What I see in this arc are more clues to their connection, specifically these two:

1) Reddington tried to convince Katarina to take Masha/Liz and leave Kirk.
Why?, of course, is the next question. As I see it, there are two probable answers. Red was in love with Katarina and wanted to run away with her. But there's also the possibility that he hoped to protect her and Masha from someone or something. Possibly the fallout over the Fulcrum or from Liz's actual father, who was abusive.

2) "It doesn't matter."
Under torture, Kirk repeatedly asks Red 'Are you Masha's father?' and Red's comeback is "It doesn't matter." He basically tells Kirk -and I'm paraphrasing- 'She lived in your house as your daughter on and off for four years. You thought she was your daughter; you treated her and loved her like your daughter. So what does it matter who her biological father is?'

I can't help but think, did Red want that? Did Red want to think Liz was his daughter; to treat her and love her like his daughter? Does he think of himself as Liz's father? Is that why it doesn't matter, because maybe it's his truth, even if it isn't THE truth?

For the first part of this season, the interaction between these two was strong and fraught with complicated emotions -the first two episodes without their direct interaction even more emotional and intense. Throughout the Kirk arc, I felt their relationship was handled very well, especially when Liz decides to trust Red instead of Kirk despite believing Kirk is her father, but the moment Kirk left the scene, something fizzled out.

Initially, I thought Red was trying to respect Liz's space and, while I think it was a factor, this wasn't addressed very well and quickly became simply a lack of interaction between them. Past The Harem, they're not interacting very much at all and they're connecting even less. This was especially disconcerting in The Apothecary, because Liz has little emotional reaction to Red's impending death. There's no desperation or worry or frustration and, considering she's shown all of this in spades before, I feel like this was poor handling on the writers' part. I wished there'd been just one moment between them, even if it was silence, just letting the realization sink in. (This would have been perfect in the elevator ride up the Post Office, I'm just saying.) There was just that emotional connection missing here, and miss it I did.

In that same vein, I feel like Red and Liz still haven't dealt with the fact that she faked her death. They've maybe moved on, but they haven't come to terms with it. I know I'm still reeling from that twist, so there's no way Red can be over it that fast. There's still some unresolved issues here that need to be dealt with and I hope they're dealt with soon.  Even when they're in conflict or on different footing, there's a lot going on between them, but those last four episodes seemed to be missing that in the wake of everything else going onI want to get back the complicated and beautiful interaction between them with the mid-season premiere.


I loved him as a blacklister because he wasn't evil; he wasn't even necessarily a bad guy. He was just an increasingly desperate and broken man trying to put his family back together. He went a little bat crazy, granted, and did a lot of terrible things, but it's just like he said: It was all born of love.

And you know what? Alexander Kirk was basically a shadow of Red himself.

Kirk wasn't the only fantastic blacklister this season; as always, we had a great lineup of borderline plausibly genius villains and entrepreneurs. One of my other favorites was probably Natalie Luca; another villain driven by love and such a heartbreaking and haunting one at that.

Ressler -Coming to a Crossroads?

Ressler has a couple of really great moments this season and then, in my opinion, an unfortunately crummy subplot

Right off the bat, in the season premiere Esteban, our favorite by-the-book boy scout goes a little rouge and takes advice from Reddington to cut through the red tape and arranging the blacklister's arrest -against not only the CIA's wishes, but that of Cooper and Panabaker.

A few episodes later, Liz and Tom are desperate for any information they can get on Kirk in their search for Agnes. Ressler pulls a box of evidence out of their reach, takes one look at their faces, and hands it right back. Again, the rule-happy agent breaks the rules when they get in the way of righting a wrong.
And now it looks like he's not taking orders to close up Reven Wright's disappearance investigation. Oh no, he's taking matters into his own hands and this is going to be absolutely fantastic.

But that crummy subplot?

In Isabella Stone, Ressler's brother is going in for surgery but Ressler can't be there for him because the task force is at Red's beck and call. While I get Ressler's point and I agree with his side, I found myself mostly just annoyed with Ressler this episode for the simple reason that he didn't ask Cooper for leave to be with his brother. Cooper even point-blank asked him, rhetorical or not, if there was someplace else he needed to be, and Ressler brushed him off. I couldn't sympathize with him because, if it was really that important, he could have at least asked Cooper. And if the answer had been 'wait until after this job', then I could sympathized with him. But he didn't, and he spent the rest of the episode blaming Red for it.

That aside, I'm hoping this is another step toward a Ressler turning point. Every significant moment of Ressler's this season so far has been another step back from his faith in the justice system. Not in justice, mind you -remember Esteban- but in the system itself.

Despite really not liking how Ressler was handled in this episode, I do think they're setting him up for a crossroads. The first few episodes laid the groundwork for his losing faith, not in justice, but in the justice system, and Isabella Stone pushed again the idea that the system is being twisted.

When The Blacklist returns, will we see Ressler faced with a crossroads? How far will he bend the rules to skirt around red tape? And how much longer is he going to endure working with Reddington?

Mr. Kaplan -Is it a Test?

So I've got this crazy theory. I'm unconvinced as yet that Reddington doesn't know Kaplan is alive. Stay with me.

Reddington is a good shot. This is established, in the show and specifically stated in The Gambler comic. He is an excellent shot.

He's killed a lot of people.

He also shot Kaplan at fairly close range.

All of this makes it improbable that he could miss killing her and not know it.

I'm wondering, come April, if we won't find out the shooting in the woods and the squatter who 'rescues' her aren't some elaborate test to see whether she intends to further betray him or if she can still be trusted in the long run.

Now I go back and forth on this theory all the time. On the one hand, it's elaborate and convoluted. On the other, isn't this entire fantastic show?

On the one hand, I admit it's the fangirl in me wanting to redeem a piece of Red's soul. On the other, Red really struggled with what to do with Kaplan and the idea that she truly thought she was protecting Red from himself must have moved him a little, right?

On the one hand, Red maintains a very strict moral code.
On the other, think of this reveal at the inevitable confrontation with Dembe. Doesn't it sound just like something they'd pull?


One of the first things I noticed about Dembe this season was a slight difference in his interaction with Red. Specifically -their funny moments. While the 'Highlights' scene is the most memorable, there was also a moment in Miles McGrath when the blacklister refers to Red as 'the spy who came in from the cold'; Red comments to Dembe they should get it on cassette to listen to in the car and Dembe plays a perfect 'straight man'. Their interaction this season seemed much more easy, companionable, and friendly than in the past, and I adored it!

Curse them.
This twist is full of gut-wrenching emotion and game-changing consequences. For this reason, I love it. It's just what I expect from this show. But I also love Dembe and I don't want to see his great relationship with Red come to such a terrible ending, so I also kind of hate it. Which actually makes me love it more.

Where do they go from here? Only just last season, Hisham Tawfiq was upgraded from recurring character to main cast -is Dembe's role in the story going to remain prominent? Or was this a last hurrah?

And Red? Mr. Kaplan's betrayal shook him and, in some ways, broke him. How will Dembe's betrayal change him? Is he going to stop trusting all of his closest allies? Or is he going to place more trust in Keen and the task force?

What I want to see when The Blacklist returns:

  • Mr. Kaplan's Fate
  • Where in the World is Alexander Kirk? And what on earth did Red tell him?
  • Dom -I would love to see Liz's maternal grandfather make another appearance
  • What did Red need the ships for? He seemed pretty desperate to get them, and I'm wondering if this is another one of those 'bigger picture' things.
  • A Ressler-central episode; better yet, another Ressler & Red team up. Taking down Reven Wright's killer. While Ressler faces his misgivings about the justice system. Yeah, give me that.
  • Navabi and Liz to hash out their differences. I've been waiting all season to see these two patch things up but I'm starting to despair of its ever happening. They seem pretty content ignoring each other.
  • More Tom and Ressler interaction. They play off each other so well and they also still kind of hate each other. I love it. This could develop into such a fantastic and complicated relationship if the writers just build it up. Please please pleasepleaseplease.
  • More on Katarina. Don't tell me Liz finished that diary already.
And, of course, obviously
  • The confrontation with Dembe. But, gosh, it better be amazing and worth it because it's already breaking my heart.


One thing's for show: The Blacklist hasn't lost it's touch for explosive finales and, despite some weak spots, they can still tell a darn good story. I will certainly be tuned in for the return on April 20.