Tuesday, January 27, 2015

10 Books I Want to Read With my Book Club

Some of you may know, back in August (I think) I started a book club on Facebook. It's been a lot of fun so far. It started with people I knew and was friends with on Facebook, but then some people invited their friends and it's so awesome! Once, I was at a trivia night with a few friends and one of the girls at our table was all "Oh! I thought I recognized you! You're the girl in those book club videos!" I love it!

The way our book club works is we all request books we want to read. Then I either film myself pulling book names out of a hat or film myself putting them into an online randomizer and we pick books two at a time. One book for the upcoming month and one book for the following month. Usually we do this either in the middle or the end of the month. Then, we divide the book in half and have two discussions. The first one on the 15th for the first half of the book, and the second one on the 30th or 31st of the month for the rest. Both of these discussions I film my thoughts with questions and comments to get conversation going.

Here's an example with our January book:

January 1: Start reading The Curious Incident of the Dog at Nightime.
January 15: Read up to chapter 163 and have discussion one.
January 31: Discussion for the remainder of the book and start requesting books for March and April
February 1: Start reading Attachments
First week of February: Draw names for the next two books

I could just assign books for each month myself, but there is such a big variety of people who are in the club and we all have different tastes and we all want to expand our horizons, and I don't just want to be "the girl in charge", I wanted to be sure people could request what they wanted to read and this was the most fair way I could think of. In fact, the October book (Warm Bodies) and the February book (Attachments) were both my pick, so the following months I didn't put in my own requests.

However... if I were to pick all of the books myself. Here are 10 of the books I would want us to read:

The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick

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Elizabeth Chadwick is one of the greatest (if not the greatest) medieval historical fiction writers ever. She's so fantastic and puts so much detail into her stories. The Greatest Knight is the book which got me into her books and it's still my favorite. I love the stories about William Marshal and I want everyone else to fall in love with him the way I have.

Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without A Date by Kate Heaveny

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This is one of my favorite memoirs. I laughed my head off through the whole thing and I felt like she had found all of my thoughts about guys and dating and experiences and put them into a book. She and I are kindred spirits. Even if you have more dating experience than either of us have, you'll still love this funny and relateable book.

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

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The His Fair Assassin trilogy has become one of my favorites. Technically it's YA, but I feel like you can make an argument that it's not. It's historical fiction with a touch of fantasy where these girls are nuns to the god of death. They aren't just nuns though - they're assassins! It's an awesome concept, but it also has some interesting views on faith and politics and history as well which I think would bring some good discussion.

Code Name Verity  by Elizabeth Wein

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I've always had a soft spot for stories set during WWII. Maybe it's because Molly was my favorite American Girl. I don't know! This one is one of my favorites set during that time period. It focuses on two young women, one who is a pilot, the other is her passenger, and they're best friends. One of them gets caught by the Gastapo. It's so intense! This is another one where technically it's YA - BUT IT IS SO NOT YA.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

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It's a dystopian version of Cinderella where she's part cyborg. How awesome is that? If you're not into the whole dystopian thing - think more along the lines of Firefly vs. Hunger Games or Divergent. The Lunar Chronicles series is fantastic and I love how they're fairy tale retellings but are still entirely their own story. I also might be plugging this because the newest book, Fairest, comes out TODAY! (Yes, I'll be going to the book store after work. Why do you ask?)

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice


If you've been around here for awhile, you know I love me some fantasy/supernatural/vampires. I am completely in love with Anne Rice's writing and if you want to know more about contemporary vampire fiction and pop culture, you HAVE to read this book. Any of the books in The Vampire Chronicles are wonderful. But might as well begin with the one that started it all. Also, I saw they have been given new covers and they're so pretty!

My True Love Gave to Me edited by Stephanie Perkins

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Obviously, this would be a December pick. I think it would be fun to read for a book club because it's a bunch of short stories, so it's easy to get through. Because I know people don't have a lot of time during the holiday season, and I think people would want something fun and light to read. This is a perfect holiday book because it really is a HOLIDAY book and not just a Christmas book with the word "holiday" in there to be politically correct. It's diverse, fun, sweet, and I think with all of the stories there would be a lot to talk about in discussions.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

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I had to do a scene from the play adaptation of this book back in college and to prepare I read the book. (It's pretty short.) I loved this play and I loved this book. The characters are fascinating and the story is delightfully creepy.

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galibrath (JK Rowling)

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A big part of this pick is because I still have to read it. But come on, I have to stick the queen in there somewhere, right?

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

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The last year or so I've gotten into the writing of Neil Gaiman and he's so brilliant. This was the first book I picked up by him and I think it's a great introduction into his writing style.

If you have a book club, or if you are/want to be in one, which books would you want to read?

Linking up with the Broke and Bookish for Top 10 Tuesday.

Monday, January 26, 2015

I Got A Box!

Happy Monday everyone!

I feel like the weekend flew by. I'm not ready for Monday!

But, on the bright-side, I got something awesome in the mail on Saturday and I did an unboxing video on my new YouTube collab channel with my friend Laura. Check it out!


If you would like to try out GeekFuel, click this link! (I also get $5 off if you sign up via this link.) https://www.geekfuel.com/ecPf2C


Also, I'm linking up with Mingle Monday today!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Doctor Who Tag

A week or so ago I saw someone on YouTube had done a "Doctor Who" tag, and well... I just couldn't resist! Here's my video answering the questions.


I tag all of my friends who are Whovians! Feel free to do the tag as a video or as a blog post.

Here's the questions:

- Who is your favorite Doctor?
- What is your favorite Doctor Who story?
- Who is your favorite companion?
- What was the first Doctor Who story you ever watched?
- What is your favorite series or era?
- What is your favorite pre or post regeneration story?
- What is your favorite Tardis desktop theme?
- What is your favorite Doctor Who monster or villain?


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

10 Books That Have Been Sitting on my Shelf for too Long

I have this problem where I buy brand new shiny books that are just oh so pretty and seem wonderful, or I re-read the Harry Potter series again.

Which... really don't seem like problems. At first.

Until you see all of the other books sitting on my bookshelf/my iPad which haven't even been touched.

Do you see the problem now? I keep getting new books or re-reading Harry Potter when there are A TON of books I haven't started yet which are begging to be read.

These are the top 10 books on my bookshelves/iPad which have gone un-read for far too long:

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

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I've seen one of the movie versions on Netflix and it's an interesting story and a classic. I should read it already! But nope, it's just sitting there sadly on my Kindle app untouched.

Let the Sky Fall by Shannon Messenger

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I don't even remember when I downloaded this book. It had to been at least two years ago. I can't even remember what it's about, which I guess is a sign maybe I shouldn't read it. But I paid the money for it and there was a reason I thought I wanted to read it- so surely I have to get to this one eventually.

Order of Darkness by Philippa Gregory

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Apparently, the series is called Order of Darkness and the first book is Changeling. Whoops. That's not what it says on my Kindle app. Unless the edition I have has multiple books in the series. But I wouldn't know that because I haven't read it yet. I bought it because I really loved The Other Boylen Girl and I wanted to see what she did with YA fantasy.

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Gailbrath (JK Rowling)

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This one makes me feel so ashamed. It's JK ROWLING! I read The Casual Vacancy and I did enjoy it. Surely I'd like this one too - and I've heard it's awesome! I have this book both on Kindle AND in hardcover. I don't know why I haven't read it. I'm sorry Queen Rowling. I will read this book - I PROMISE.

The Thornbirds by Colleeen McCullough

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This one is an all time favorite of one of my closest friends. In college we watched the mini-series together and she told me how much better the book is an I can't tell you how many "sexy man of God" jokes we made over the years because of this story. I found it at a bargain book store awhile ago and picked it up because I was like "I owe it to my friend to read her favorite book!" Have I read it yet? Nope.

The Once and Future King by TH White

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This book was recommended to me for my Favorite Books Project (which I need to pick back up again) and I bought a copy awhile ago because I love me a good King Arthur story. Now it's just collecting dust.


The Passing Bells by Phillip Rock

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I was browsing around Barnes and Noble one day (as I tend to do pretty often.. especially when I lived in Missouri because the one there was attached to the mall and just so GOSH DARN CONVENIENT!) and saw this book. It was recommended to people who liked Downton Abby - and I love me some Downton Abby! Have I started it yet? Nope.

White Oleander by Janet Finch

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This is another book which one of my close friends LOVES and is one of her all time favorites. The copy I have is actually an old one of hers. It's old and beaten down and taped up (which I love) and she thought she had lost it so she bought a new copy. Then, one day as I was helping her move to a new place, she found her old one and gave it to me with the hopes I would read it someday too. 

I'm an awful friend.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

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What feels like FOREVER ago I picked this one up at Barnes and Noble, probably with a Christmas gift card or something, and it's only been touched when I rearrange my bookshelves. So many people have read it and said it was good and I'm sure I'd love it. Why I haven't started to read it, who knows?

The Outlaw Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick

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If you've been around here for awhile you know I LOVE Elizabeth Chadwick. She's the best medieval fiction writer I've ever read. (I can't even look at World Without End by Ken Follett now. I tried to read it and just... UGH so many inaccuracies!) This book is a follow up to one of her previous novels and for some reason I just never got around to reading it. This is the only Chadwick book I own which I haven't read and I don't know why. I'm hoping to read it while I impatiently wait for the next installment in her Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine trilogy. 

There are way more unread books sitting on my shelves and my iPad, but these are the biggies.

What books do you own which you've been meaning to read but haven't gotten to yet?

Or...

Which one of these do you think I should pick up first?

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Wicked Awakening of Anne Merchant - Book Reivew


It's been a little while since I've done a book review. I was having a rough time reviewing books because I felt as though I kept finding books to review I just didn't like - and writing a negative review is rough. Luckily, though, NetGalley approached me to read The Wicked Awakening of Anne Merchant by Joanna Wiebe. 

Last year, The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant by the same author was the very first review I posed from NetGalley and when they saw I had enjoyed it, I was given a copy of the second book in the V trilogy to review. 

Hooray!

If you would like to see my review of the first book, click here

I will warn you, I am going to try my best to not put in many spoilers in this review. However, since it is the second in a trilogy, if you haven't read The Unseemly Awakening of Anne Merchant yet, and you think you might be interested, please read that first before you read this review. I don't want to ruin any of the crazy plot twists for you!

If you have read the first book in the V trilogy and wanted to see where the story goes - read on! Again, I'll try to not have too many spoilers but it could be difficult! There's a lot to unpack for this book!


The Wicked Awakening of Anne Merchant
Joanna Wiebe
BenBella Books
YA/Paranormal/Fantasy
Release Date: January 20, 2015 (Tomorrow)

Basic Summary Without Spoilers

After finding out she has been in a comma for 3 years, Anne "wakes up" and goes with her former mentor Teddy back to Cania Christy to fight for "the big V." (Does that sound dirty to anyone else, or am I just an immature twelve year old?) While it has only been an hour since the crazy end of the lat book, when she gets back it seems as though everything has changed. Pilot is now her mentor, there is a new sexy headmaster named Dia, she's roommates with Harper, and Ben now is a senior at Cania Christy and has to fight for the big V as well. 

From the NetGalley site:

"...she faces the reality of life in a world ruled by wickedness: she must embrace her inner demons to help those she loves. Hoping the ends will justify the means, Anne starts down a slippery slope that, if she lets temptation guide her, could lead her straight to the underworld."

My Thoughts

The Premise

I'll tell you this straight out - there are a million plot twists and turns in this second installment of the V Trilogy. We learn a lot more about Cania Christy and the underworld and demons and the like and also about Anne's history. Which is awesome - there were a lot of unanswered questions in the last book. 

As the story went on though, I wasn't sure how I felt about the direction the story was going. I'm all for paranormal and the different spins on demons and such. I think it's really interesting and makes for great plot twists. I do think it could have been more fleshed out in this story though, and it went in a very sexual direction. I'm also for having honest conversations and plot lines when it comes to sexuality and relationships in young adult novels, but this book almost seemed to try and cross some lines for this genre where it was more about "let's have a lot of talk about sex because it's edgy and cool!" vs. being honest.

I also feel as though Cania Christy is a lot more intense in this book. It was in the first as well, but I felt it more this time around. Although all of their classes seem to be out of place and too "ordinary" at times. I still say Paris Gellar from Gilmore Girls would have loved this school. Nothing brings out the competitiveness in people like fighting for the big V.


I was also a bit confused on where the story was going and what the point of all of the twists and turns were. There were times it simply seemed as though everything was just for shock value and to keep it interesting and not for the sake of the plot and story.

Thankfully, though, everything got ironed out in the end and even the over-sexualization made sense as the story went on. 

I also would like to note, it would be a good idea to brush up on the story of A Picture of Dorian Gray for reading this book. It is referenced a lot and I wish I was more familiar with the story so it would have made more sense to me. 

The Characters

Anne took some very dark turns in this second installment. She is no longer the girl we met in the first book and she makes a lot of tough, and even wrong, choices in this book. I was able to keep rooting for her through the whole book, but there were moments where I just wasn't sure anymore if I wanted her to succeed because of the choices she was making. 

Ben I feel could have been fleshed out more. He's very dreamy and swoony in the first book, and he still is in the second book, but I feel like there's not a whole lot else to his character. I'll go more into this when I talk about the love story. 

The big new character was Dia, the new headmaster, who was... interesting. I'm still not sure if I should like him or not, which from what I took was the point of his character. He's supposed to be sexy, tempting, a little deranged, and passionate. 

Harper plays a much bigger role in this book than she did in the first. (No dance offs this time though. Bummer!) Especially by the end we learn more about who is she and who she used to be which I really enjoyed. You have to love three dimensional characters! I felt as though there weren't many in this story so it was nice to have more to one of them.

I would comment on the other characters as well, but that would include spoilers!



Love Story

It appears as though at the beginning of the book Anne and Ben finally get to be together. Hooray! But as all trilogies go... this isn't going to happen. They start their "official" relationship but, for spoiler reasons I can't say, their relationship has to end. It is then that a possible love triangle pops up in the story - which I have very mixed feelings about. 

My first doubt about the love story/triangle is I'm not 100% convinced of Ben. I feel as though, while he's very sweet and swoony and dreamy and all, he doesn't completely grab me. This could be very subjective and I'm sure some girls adore Ben. Which is awesome! He just doesn't do it for me.

The other love interest for this possible love triangle (which, it never is a full on love triangle in this installment, but you never know for the third book!) I can't mention who it is because of spoilers. (Although, you might figure it out.) However, I will say, this one doesn't 100% convince me either and it's very borderline inappropriate - if not full on inappropriate. The only reason this book can get away with is is because the reader already knows everything at this school is completely messed up and these things would never (or rarely) happen in "the real world" without consequences.

The concept of this possible love triangle I like (and you could argue a love square... kinda), but I think if character building had been a bit more it would have been more convincing. 

Overall

The beginning of this book was rough. Mainly, because I had to remember everything from the previous book. I remembered the basics of what happened and the general premise, but I had to recall the details and who was still alive and who was dead and why, etc. Once I got all of that figured out, it was much better.

I did struggle with the middle too. While I enjoyed it more than the beginning because I had everything straight in my head, but the plot twists and the over-sexualization were almost overwhelming. It didn't make sense and Anne made some choices which made it very difficult to keep rooting for her. 

Then, everything seemed to come together in the last third of the book and I couldn't put it down! Once pieces fell into place and I could see a bit more of where it was going but still have questions to keep me reading and interesting, I loved it. The final book in this trilogy is definitely going to be a roller coaster and I can't wait!

I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads, but it's really more like 3 1/2 stars because the beginning and the middle were rough, but the final third was fantastic.

I received this book as a free eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Also - a little plug:  my friend Laura and I started a YouTube channel! We only have two videos up so far and it's basically just a thing where we send each other videos. Kind of like the Vlog brothers but not as cool. Haha. Anyways, if you are interested click here!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Call Me Elsa

Winter has officially arrived in Chicago.

It's been chilly and cold on and off for the last few months, but as always Chicago weather is never predictable. We had snow at Thanksgiving and there were moments around Christmas where I dared to venture out of my house with a sweatshirt instead of a big winter coat. Without a white Christmas, it was hard to imagine winter was actually coming.

Then came the deep freeze. The kind of cold where your face hurts the moment you crack open the door, schools start closing, and you start letting your dog out in the garage instead of the backyard because the idea of frostbitten paws is close to reality. The harsh cold of Chicago winters is always a shock no matter how many times you've experienced it.

What was even more shocking the last few weeks was how little I minded.

There's something lovely about being able to layer up into my fleece leggings, a sweater, leg warmers, and thick socks for the day. I'd rather throw on my winter clothes than my things for the summer any day. I love feeling cozy and warm and knowing if all else fails I can just find a soft blanket to keep out the chill.

Or knowing I don't have to go outside if I don't want to and getting to sit by the window and watch the snow fall. Even as I work my seasonal answering phone jobs I watch the snow and let myself enjoy it.

And curling up in the living room with the fire going and a good book and a big mug in my hand is a perfect day in my book.

Even today when I went to work at the preschool and we went outside with the kids for recess I didn't mind it all that much. Yes, it was freezing and I had to keep walking around to keep myself warm, but it wasn't so bad.

I think winter gets a bad rap. It's harsh and cold and dangerous and people drive like they've never been in a car before. All of these things are true.

But there's also a calm beauty about it.

Maybe I am becoming more like Elsa.


Friday, January 9, 2015

#AllLivesMatter

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has noticed certain hashtags floating around the Internet. At least here in America.

#blacklivesmatter

#policelivesmatter

#translivesmatter

It probably doesn't take a genius to figure out what these are all about. Two of them relate to each other, the last one stands alone... but both issues have been all over the news. Racism, the injustice in our police system, bullying, parents not supporting their children, suicide... I can barely watch TV anymore because it's everywhere and it's heartbreaking.

What truly blows my mind though is that we have to point out that certain people's lives matter.

What?

Really?

We have to point out that lives matter?

Call me naive, but this seriously boggles my mind. We have to remind people that other people's lives matter.

Do you want to know what I wish we would see trending?

#AllLivesMatter

Black. White. Police. Transgender. Gay. Straight. Asian. Polynesian. Hispanic.

The list goes on and on and I can't list them all. But I don't want to list them all. Do you know why?

BECAUSE THEY ALL MATTER.

Whether you agree with their lifestyle, religion, life choices, whatever - THEY ALL MATTER.

The reason we shouldn't hurt, bully, or kill other people is simple. It's because they're people too and it breaks my heart that we need to point out specific groups of people saying whose lives matter and then other groups put out their own and then it almost becomes a competition of whose death is more tragic and makes a bigger difference.

Guys... all death is tragic. It's the biggest tragedy of our world. Because even if someone "deserves" it (whatever that means), it's tragic because they didn't get to live longer so they could make a change in their lives and choices.

Also because they're people too.

We need to make changes in our society and political and economic and police system. I understand this. People are outraged and exhausted of how it's been and are taking a stand. I understand this and support it.

But while all of this is happening, we need to remember the other side are people too. On both sides there are guilty and innocent people and situations. I think about stories like Game of Thrones and one of the reasons why I love the series so much. It's because George RR Martin shows that people aren't one dimensional and everyone has their own side to the story. Characters you LOVE and you think are the "good guys" make big mistakes. Characters you HATE suddenly have a plot line or a moment where you actually like them and feel bad for them. The villain always thinks they are the hero of their own story, right?

It reminds me of the musical Into the Woods. (So appropriate since the movie is out and everyone is seeing!) There's this song "No One Is Alone" and it's so perfect. It's in the part of the story where everything has gone wrong and it looks like there's no hope and the characters have to make some choices where they aren't sure if there is a right or wrong way to go.


People make mistakes. Fathers, Mothers,
People make mistakes, holding to their own,
Thinking they're alone.
Honor their mistakes, fight for their mistakes, everybody makes
one another's terrible mistakes.

Witches can be right, giants can be good.
you decide what's right you decide what's good
Just remember: someone is on your side
Someone else is not, while we're seeing our side, maybe we forgot: they are not alone.
No one is alone.


Can we just remember this during this time of unrest and anger and tragedy?

#AllLivesMatter



*additinal note: I want to be sure you all know that I understand why pointing out specific lives matter, particularly on some of these issues. I support that! What bothers me is that now people are adding these other ones and almost making it a competition and people not seeing here are two sides to every situation. Each side has mistakes and each side has innocence too. I hope that came across.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

January Reading Goals

So.... you could say that I'm not out of my Vlogging craze yet. I've seen a ton of people do videos about their to be read piles for January and their reading goals for 2015. I just couldn't resist joining in!


Let me know in the comments what you want to read/are currently reading/if you have any reading goals too. Also, I do have a real blog post coming. I have it scheduled for Friday!