Monday, October 28, 2013

I'm baaaaack

My old computer died and for some reason it took me a while to purchase a new one, but now I have one, super exciting, right?

I think Angel is just as excited as me...
Well I'm going to try to get back to blogging for a bit, but I'm going to attempt NaNoWriMo again (I've never won but attempted it the past two years).  I think I have a good direction with this one and have done more prep then I have in the past so we will see how it works out, maybe I'll even share some of it on here!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Summer Reading Challenge!

It's summer and that means it's time for another reading challenge!  Summer is just another season to me (I don't get time off) but with the hot weather, I plan to spend more time by the pool or river and will hopefully be taking a couple short weekend vacations.

The challenge is with the same blog I did the challenge with last summer, Semi-Charmed Kind of Life.  The rules and categories are below.  I've also included my thoughts for what I will read (in blue).  I would love input from any of you on my choices or if you have other recomendations for books I've overlooked for some of these categories.

  • The challenge will run from July 1, 2013, to September 30, 2013. No books that are started before 12 a.m. on July 1 or finished after 11:59 p.m. on September 30 will count.
  • No re-reads (unless specifically stated)! I want you to experience new books with this challenge.
  • Each book must be at least 200 pages long. Audiobooks are fine, as long as the print versions meet the page requirements.
  • A book can only be used for one category. If you want to switch the category later, that's fine, just be sure to account for that in your point total.
  • The highest possible total is 200 points, and the first five people who finish the challenge will win a featured/guest post on Semi-Charmed Kind of Life. Good luck!
The Challenge:

5 points: Freebie! Read any book you'd like, as long as it follows the above rules. :) —Veronica by Nicholas Christopher
5: Read a book that is less than 150 pages long. — Don't know yet, open to suggestions.
10: Read a book with a color in the title. — Someone recommended Red Azalea, by Anchee Min to me, I have no idea what it is about, but ill probably give it a try!
10: Read a book that is not the first in its series. — So many options, I'll have to decide between: Insurgent, Crossed, The Girl Who Played With Fire, Requiem, The Scorch Trails, or Shadow of Night (apparently I suck at following through with series)
15: Read a book it seems everyone but you has read! — The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling
15: Read a banned book.The Perks of Being a Wallflower or Tiger Eyes.
20: Read a book written by a celebrity. This can be a memoir or a fiction book published by someone who was already famous by another means. — My Life in France by Julia Child or something by Steve Martin
20: Read a non-fiction book that is not a memoir. It can be pure non-fiction or narrative non-fiction. — Again, a couple options: How to be a Woman, What I Wish I Knew When I was 20, The US Women's Soccer Team, an American Success Story, or Three and Out.
20: Read a book that takes place in a state you have never been in. If you have been to all 50 states, choose a book that takes place in a country you have never been in. Also do the latter option if you are not American. — My Losing Season by Pat Conroy (South Carolina)
25: Read a book that is at least 400 pages long. — I'm not sold yet, but thinking about Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
25: Read a book with a main character who shares your first name.** —  Misery by Stephen King or Then Came you by Jennifer Weiner 
30: Read a book written by an author who was born in the same year as you.* — At first I couldn't find anything but this website was recommended and I found exactly what I was looking for! I have options: Legend by Marie Lu, Purity by Jackson Pearce, or Wake by Amanda Hocking

If there are some others of you out there interested in participating head over to Semi-Charmed Kind of Life and join in! Time to get reading!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wine fun in Washington!

Since moving to Washington State I've learned that I live in the second largest wine making state in the country!  Those stats don't lie, there are wineries EVERYWHERE! It's amazing.  Even though I moved here before RoB, I checked out a few wineries on my own (which can be awkward, depending on the place, for example, Hamilton was great about it).  But I did get to try a LOT of local wineries during the spring barrel weekend. Some of my coworkers decided to get a limo for the occasion (for one day) and for other two days of the weekend a couple of us hard-core tasters checked out some others.

Spring Barrel is a special weekend in the spring when wineries let you try some of the samples straight form the barrels (as well as regular tasting, obviously).  Many of the wineries are on a passport that we bought.  These magical passes meant we didn't have to pay tasting fees for any wineries in the passport (not that it's a big deal since most wineries will refund a tasting fee if you buy a bottle) and if you get stamps from at least six wineries you get a commemorative glass!

For the best recap I will link to all of my yelp reviews for the wineries we went to!  We started at Airfield (even though it was bigger, still fun!), then went to Thurston Wolfe (great), and Gamache (meh).  These three were all walking distance from each other and there were a lot more within walking, but they weren't on our passports so we saved them for another time.  Next we headed north to Barrel Springs (a bit off the beaten path but beautiful and very friendly) and we ate lunch there because it was so nice!  Last stop in Prosser was Kestral (a bit snooty for my taste).  The limo made a final stop in Benton City at Chandler Reach before taking us back the starting point which was conveniently enough in the parking lot for our final winery of the day, Thomas O'Neil.

That was only day one of the weekend, the next day we went to Kitzke (a bit uppity), Goose Ridge (great wine, big estate), and Kiona (love!).  Then, on day three we went to JBell Cellars, Two Mountain, Wineglass Cellars, and had dinner out in Yakima.  We could decide which place to go since there were a couple listed in our wine passport so we just had appetizers at two places, 5 North and Second Street Grill.

I'm glad I got to taste so much over the weekend, but in general these special weekends aren't the best to go tasting.  For most people they are just out to drink, not out to try some good wine and learn about it. In general I wouldn't say the weekend passport is worth buying since almost all wineries refund your tasting fee with a purchase and I tend to purchase wine almost everywhere I taste.  I also prefer to go when the wineries can pay more attention to each individual person.  I have already checked out many other wineries and hope to share some of my favorites soon!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


First, lets check in with my monthly blog goals:
  • Reviewed 2 (here and here) of my unreviewed 12 books (I need to step up)
  • Sent 1 review to Jagged Edge (I need to contribute more)
  • Completed 1 link up with (Characters)
  • Still need to complete my personal posts (I have 3 of them)
And now onto some fun things.  This is a weekly link-up with siddathornton, and I thought it would add some fun to this post!  I am currently:

reading: The Maze Runner and loving it, I'm only about a quarter of the way through but I have a hard time putting it down every night.
writing: Lots of yelp reviews, those will be included in an upcoming post!
listening: To the upcoming soccer match, GO USA!!
thinking: About all the fun things I will do when my parents come to visit.
smelling: The dinner RoB is cooking, I come home to deliciousness every day (I don't know what I'll do when he gets a job)
wishing: I was better at volleyball (we played in a pick up game last night and I was one of the worst out there)
hoping: The weather will be perfect for the weekend...
wearing: Boots and a raincoat. I was told it didn't rain in the desert but someone lied to me.
loving: That I got to play volleyball last night and soccer tonight!
wanting: The USA to beat Honduras tonight.
needing: A library card
feeling: Cold, the rain plus the strong AC at work has kept me chilled all day :(
clicking: A new way to read my blogs, since google reader will be going away very soon, I haven't found one that I love yet...any suggestions?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Book Review - Hera, Queen of Gods by TD Thomas

Why did I read this book?
I was contacted by the author for a copy of this book if I would provide my review in return.   This was  another one I read on my kindle!  The topic sounded interesting and I thought a fantasy book involving Greek gods might be kinda cool.

First Lines:
"Life is about one thing and one thing only. Power." (Thomas 1)

What is it about?
A group of Gods has come to earth and taken over the bodies of some high schoolers to rescue the missing fates.  As soon as they come to earth they are under attack by many different dark creatures.  They also meet up with some witches and a couple mortals who become very helpful in their journey.

Why you should read it!
Well, I'm going to back pedal a bit here, I didn't really like this book.  I don't know a lot about mythology and that might've made me more interested (given me a back story) but most of the other reason I didn't like it don't have to do with the topic.  As soon as the story started they were under attack and it just kept coming, one bad creature after another.  I felt like this didn't give enough time for a story to develop, they were always running and fighting.  I also felt like there was no regard for the lives of anyone they were dealing with.  The human bodies they took over were disposable, everyone who helped them wanted nothing more than to die for them, I find this unbelievable and very unrelatable.  The love story was also very weak and half hearted I think part of the problem were that the characters had no depth.  This book didn't work for me and I can't honestly recommend it to anyone.

Reviews from around the blogosphere:
Zigzag Timeline
City of Books

Did you read this book and review it on your blog? Let me know in the comments and I'll add your link!

Sunday, June 16, 2013 Characters

One of my goals for this month was linking up more with sweet green tangerine and her weekly link up,

The topic for this week is one that I’m having a hard time relating to (ha!).  It’s about characters that you relate well to.  I was hoping something would come to me quickly and that instantly I would know the most recent character I read that I really related to, but nothing came to mind.  I do remember many characters I don’t relate to: Amy from Gone Girl, Tris from Divergent, Bella from Twilight, Katniss from the Hunger Games, Annajane from Spring Fever, just to name a few. 
So then I started thinking that maybe I seek out books where I don’t relate to the character.  Aren’t books suppose to give you an escape? Take you to others worlds?  Maybe that’s more just my taste.  I don’t think I’d want to read about book about something similar to my life, and I think that translates to not wanting to  read about characters that are similar to me or that I can relate to.  One other thought I had was that I actually find ways in my mind to not relate myself to characters.  Whatever it is, I can think of a character in recent memory that I really relate to and I don't see that as being a bad thing!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Audio book review - Queen of Babble by Meg Cabot

Why did I read this book?
I picked up the audio book at the library to help along my 45 minute commute while I was still in Kentucky.  Meg Cabot is usually associated with young adult books (she wrote the Princess Diaries!) so to see one by her in the "grown-up" section caught my attention, and the cover was cute so I grabbed it!

First Lines:
"I can't believe this. I can't believe I don't remember what he looks like!" (Cabot 2)

What is it about?
Lizzie is heading off to England to meet with her long distance boyfriend.  As soon as she shows up everything starts going wrong.  Her boyfriend lives with his parents, he isn't as cute as she remembers, and he's in some money trouble.  Realizing she's made a huge mistake traveling all the way to England and not wanting to spend the money to go home early she boards a train to France to meet up with a friends who is working at a french chateau for the summer.  But trouble seems to follow her there and she keeps opening her mouth at the wrong time.

Why you should read it!
This is serious chick-lit, and I loved every minute of it.  I listened to it on audio and the reader was great!  As a person, Lizzie got on my nerves but her adventurous spirit was very fun.  One thing I didn't expect from this book were the vivid settings.  When she gets to the french chateau and vineyard I really felt like I wanted to be there too!  It made for a nice change in your usual setting for a chick-lit novel.  This book was an easy listen and I would recommend it to anyone who likes this genre or just wants a fun summer read!

Reviews from around the blogosphere:

The Book Lady's Blog
The Book Scoop
Quinn's Book Nook

Did you read this book and review it on your blog? Let me know in the comments and I'll add your link!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

When did June get here?

So I tried to do the blog everyday in May challenge and I think I blogged exactly two days...oops.  Well moving forward let's hope June will be better!  I have some good blog and personal goals for this month and I figure if I lay them out here maybe I can hold myself accountable for them.

Let's start with blog goals.  As of today I have 12 books that I've read that are yet to be reviewed, to deal with this back log all I need to do is three a week, I hope I can do that! I'm reviewing over at Jagged Edge again (and they are still looking for other reviewers if any book lovers aout there are interested in helping), so if I can get at least half of those over to them that would help out over there.  I would also like to do at least one link-up with the book chat (she does one a week, so I should be able to catch onto one of those).  Also, I have a couple personal posts I'd like to get up before June is over.  At least one on local wine and at least two on our road trip across the country.

This is what our apartment is looking like these days...

As for some personal goals, I want to be totally moved into our new apartment by the end of June.  I would like to start practicing my flute more (in hopes of a fall audition), I'll start with a goal of 2 times a week and move to 3 times a week halfway through the month.  Last personal goal is to be ready fo a 5k in July, so that means running more, ugh.  I have a 5k training plan (that I adapted to my schedule from Hal Higdon's) and realistically hope to stick to 5 out of the 7 days each week.

With all these goals I hope to do a weekly wrap up on the blog (and maybe take some other ideas from these sunday currently posts on siddathorton) to keep myself on track!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Book Review - Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Why did I read this book?
I had listened to Sharp Objects on audio and really enjoyed it (although it was much darker that I expected).  Everyone had been talking about Gone Girl and I was curious.  I found out my local library would lend out books for 7 days to my kindle.  It's a pretty tough task for me to read a book in 7 days and the waiting list for this book was pretty long. My first attempt I got about one third of the way though before my lending period expired, I then had to wait three weeks on the waiting list again.  When I got it again I made sure to spend all my free time finishing it

First Lines:
"When I think of my wife, I always think of her head." (Flynn 3)

What is it about?
The story begins with Nick realizing his wife, Amy, is missing.  A neighbor tips him off to the fact that the door has been left open for quite a while and he heads home from work to investigate.  Coming home to what appears to be a crime scene the police are called in to this strange disappearance.  The more and more we learn about Nick and Amy the weirder things get and more questions arise.

Why you should read it!
I will try really hard to not include any spoilers here but if you haven't read this book and don't want it ruined for you it might be a good idea to stop reading now.  I really liked how uncertain things were the whole time in this book.  The twists and turns kept coming but there weren't too many and they weren't too ridiculous that I wanted to stop reading.  For the whole first half of the book I just knew there had to be more to the story and I real liked finally hearing both sides.  Although as soon as I started feeling like I was identifying with one character they would do something to make me angry and I would feel sorry for their spouse.  I know there has been a lot of talk about the ending and I hated it.  I have no clue what I wanted but the ending left me feeling blah.  With that being said I still loved the book, which I guess says a lot about the majority of the book and the writing since I despised the ending (seriously I was thinking that my kindle version got cut off a few chapters early).  Luckily, this book wasn't as dark as Sharp Objects but there were still some very twisted parts, but again it wasn't overkill and I think almost anyone would enjoy this book!

Reviews from around the blogosphere:

S. Krishna's Books
Book Jingle Blog
Book Club Classics

Did you read this book and review it on your blog? Let me know in the comments and I'll add your link!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Blog Every Day in May Challenge: Day 1

This blog has been super quiet for the past couple months.  Part of that is because I moved, another part is that I've been working ridiculously long hours at my new job, and part of it is just because I'm lazy.  I figured a good blog challenge might help me get kickstarted and back up and writing again!

I found out about this challenge through a couple other blogs (which directed me to Jenni's blog, story of my life) and am super excited to join in!  I may or may not write to her prompt everyday, but I will try very very hard to get a blog post out everyday.  For today I will use her prompt, well kinda.  Her prompt is the story of your life in 250 words or less, mine will be heavily focused on recent events and how I ended up in Washington State. Here goes:

Born 12/21/84, grew up in Tahoe, love the outdoors. Somehow made my way to school in Michigan.  Decided to study Mechanical Engineering because everyone told me I'd be good at it.  Going there was one of the best choices I've made, not only did I meet RoB, become a huge fan of college football, but it set me up for a successful career.  I started my career in controls and instrumentation engineering in Oakland, CA with some awesome, very knowledgable, coworkers.  I loved living in the bay area, it was everything I wanted after college, but the big city started to wear me down.  With the sad closing of that office I packed my bags (and boyfriend and dog) to head to Kentucky for a year assignment.  Kentucky was awesome, I got some new work experiences, made some very fun friends, and took in all Kentucky had to offer: bourbon and horse racing.  As my time there came to an end I took my career into my own hands and pursued a job I was interested in in Washington state.  Next thing I knew, I was packing up all my stuff again to head back out west, this time to the pacific northwest.  This is my new adventure!  Work is more demanding than it ever has been, but I've already met so many awesome people and there is so much to explore here.  I have a feeing this place is going to be another on my list of great places to live.

Audio Book Review - Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Why did I read this book?
I got this on audiobook from the Lexington public library.  I had heard of the author because of her most recent book, Gone Girl, which was receiving a lot of praise.  I figured another book by her would be a good listen, so I borrowed it!

What is it about?
Camille is a crime reporter, and some recent disappearances and murders in her very small hometown have given her current employer reason to send her back there and investigate.  She is thrown back into her life there with a strained relationship with her mom and her half sister.  Seeing old friends who have gotten married and started families, and trying to piece together these weird crimes.

Why you should read it!
This is a great book.  The mystery surrounding the plot keeps you very interested.  While discovering little bits here and there about Camille's past keep adding twists and turns.  This was a very dark book, so be ready for that.  I did think it kept getting darker as you learned more about each and every character.  But somehow you just had to know what was happening in this messed up town, and who was behind the murders.  Although I couldn't personally relate to any of the characters, I still found most of them fascinating. I would highly recommend this book!

Reviews from around the blogosphere:
The Readventurer
The Book Geek
Book Hooked Blog
An Unexpected Book Blog
Literate Housewife

Did you read this book and review it on your blog? Let me know in the comments and I'll add your link!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Hey guess what? I moved!

I knew my time in Kentucky was temporary and it was only a matter of time before I moved, well that happened last weekend.  I am now in Washington State, the southeastern part (the Tri-cities to be exact).  I've only been here a few days but already miss Lexington a bit.  That could be because I miss my friends, RoB, and Angel.  RoB and Angel will be joining me out here in May (it will be our 3rd road trip across the country), but until then I'm on my own.

I try to find thins to keep me busy anytime I move somewhere new.  I like to try an find some sports teams to play with, a community band or orchestra, good places to take my dog, and more recently a good gym.  I've also tried to start finding good restaurants and wineries to check out.  For those of you that move a lot, what re the first things you look for when you move somewhere new? What makes you feel settled in in a new city?

I really just like to try and get a good feel for an area, and I don't want to miss out on anything!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Review of 2012 reading (finally!)

I finally am getting around to taking a look at my previous year in reading.  I started to make more of a commitment to reading and reviewing books on my blog at the beginning of 2012 so let's see how I did!

I wanted to read 50 books over the course of the year, well that didn't happen.  I read 38, which isn't too bad!  I also used my blog a lot more for reviews and other things relating to reading.  Most of my posts had to do with reading, which I'm excited about.  I also got involved with the blog Jagged Edge to help review books there.  And even more exciting I started getting contacted by authors directly and have been reviewing books that way as well.

My favorite book I read last year was probably The Night Circus, followed by State of Wonder. My least favorite had to have been 50 Shades of Gray (which I haven't reviewed, not sure if its worth it) probably followed by Playing with Matches.

New for this year, I finally got into the ebook fun with the gift of a kindle from RoB!  I love love LOVE it.  I will still read, buy, collect, give away real books but some of the conveniences of the kindle are great.  He got me the paperwhite so I could read at night without the light on (which always bothered him since he wanted to go to sleep before me).

I don't have any specific number goals for this next year, but I do need to be better about getting my reviews up.  So my new goal is to get reviews up within a week of finishing a book, and not skipping ahead to a book I want review, but really taking the time to review each and everyone.  I'm also considering changing my review style.  I'd love some suggestions on what y'all like in a book review and what you don't.  Do you like it broken up into different sections? Do you want a long summary? How can I make them more interesting?

Thursday, January 31, 2013 link-up, short stroies

The link-up this week for is about short stories.  I don't read many short stories (although I would like to write one!), but when I do read them I enjoy them.  And I recently read a phenomenal one called The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu.  I heard about it from the Books on the Nightstand podcast (if you listen to podcasts, check this one out!). This story is available for free online through Suvudu, from when it appeared in Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine.  Even if you don't like Fantasy/SciFi, you should read this short story, it's only about 12 pages long but it is very touching and you might want to keep some tissues nearby!  I'm always amazed at how much an author can get through in such a short story, and this one has it all.  In keeping the theme with short stories, I'll keep this post short!


Head over to this link-up and join in!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Compose Yourself writing link-up!

We're back again with another creative writing link-up, Compose Yourself.  Nikki over and Travels with Pen and Paper started this link up and I hope some of you out there will join in!

This week's prompt was a bit harder for me to get into and I wasn't sure where my composition was going at times, but I feel like it all wraped up ok.  Now I think maybe I could've gone a different way with it, but too late for that now.  Maybe I'll change it up in the future to see if I could take it in a different direction, that could be fun, right?  Anyway, here is the prompt:

This has to do with writing from different senses. Have a sound, smell, or taste lead the way.

And now, for my submission:

Silence.  Pure white silence.  The feeling of nothing as soon as you step out into the falling snow.  Big flakes everywhere to mask all the sounds around you, you can’t even hear the traffic on the road just down the hill.  The peacefulness of a heavy snowfall is like no other.  The impact of the silence hits you immediately and wholly consumes you.  All thoughts leave your head.  No more worry or concern, just pure emptiness in the white landscape.  You soon forget why you even stepped outside and what your next step was going to be.  The silence takes over and the snow is mesmerizing.  Taking one more breath to enjoy the new found clarity in your mind, you look down and see the trash bag in your hand, and remember that you stepped outside for this purpose.  As you are brought back to reality you look around to observe all the things that were silenced by the snow storm.  The dog happily jumping in and out of the snow bank, and the snow falling off of a weighted down tree branch.  Taking just one more moment to recognize how silent it is and allowing your mind to be cleared one more time.

I'm pretty excited for the prompt next week and will happily do some "research" on a subject this week.  Maybe even I can get RoB in on the action! The prompt for next week is the appropriately named stalker prompt :) I love this because I feel like I do it in my head all the time:
Go to a coffee shop, park, anywhere you can people watch for a while. Craft a story around your observations. I.e. you see someone, why are they there? What do they look like? Are they happy, sad, mad? Are they alone, meeting someone? What’s their back story?  Or where are they going from there?
I hope some more of you will join in, and remember to link up over at Nikki's blog!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Les Mis Week 2, JVJ and Fantine

We are still cruising through Les Mis (the book) and we have completed and discussed the next two books. 

(See here for why we're reading Les Mis, and here for Week 1, The Bishop)

Volume 1 Book 2 - The Fall

The part we've been waiting for, Jean Valjean has made an appearance!  It seems to be the typical story we know from the musical he comes to a town and no one will let him work or stay at their inn because he is on parole.  The only place the will open it's door to him is the the Bishop (who we met in the first book).  You know the rest, while everyone is sleeping he steals the silver and when confronted with the law he says the Bishop gave it to him as a gift and the Bishop agrees and tells JVJ he must use the silver to become an honest man (The whole time I was singing all these parts in my head, like a crazy person!).

In between all the action in the book, you learn the history of JVJ and how he got to prison and why he spent so many years there.  A few points I found interesting were that his family (his sister and her children) didn't seem to really care for him but he went to prison because he couldn't provide for them anymore and stole some bread.   I thought maybe he would care about his family more or they would care about him, but apparently not.  The other thing I thought was interesting was how RoB and I disagreed on when he went to steal the silver if he also thought about killing the bishop.  I got the feeling that's what he was planning to do, but RoB says no, what do you think?

The very end of this book was depressing, with Gervitas and his stolen coin.  I realize that is JVJ's turning point and from then on he realizes he needs to become a good person.  But it was heartbreaking that he was stealing from a child.

Volume 1 Book 3 - In The Year 1817

Now we meet Fantine, and her baby daddy! But before we get there, there is a whole chapter about what is going in in France that year, I couldn't follow any of it and I skipped a large chunk of it.  Back to Fantine and her story. I didn't expect Fantine's lover to be a well off scholar (of sorts), and he seemed to fawn over her.  I thought he would be a worker or passerby that she had a short fling with, but this was more serious.  Until, of course, we realize he is leaving her.  The other part I thought was interesting was that he didn't even know about the baby when he left her.  Him and his buddies decided they were just going to string along these 4 ladies for a while and then tell them it wouldn't work because their families expect more of them, sigh.  This depressed me quite a bit, and I felt really bad for Fantine.

Next up we find out what happens to Fantine's child, and what has become of JVJ since he decided to become an honest man with the silver from the bishop.  If there is anyone else out there reading or has read this please chime in and let me know your thoughts!

I'm also tying this in with a link-up this week with over at sweet green tangerine and semi-charmed kind of life.  The topic this week is what are you currently reading, and I thought this fit it perfectly.  I do have to say that I enjoy reading something so well known and respected so when anyone asks me what I'm reading I don't have to explain what it is or explain myself for why I'm reading yet another YA book :)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Compose Yourself, Writing Link-Up

Nikki over at Travels with Pen and Paper has started a weekly creative writing link-up.  I helped her come up with a fun name for it and I'm finally getting involved and writing from the first prompt she had!  Read mine and let me know what you think (I'll happily take constructive criticism, as long as you're nice :), then head over and check out hers.  When you're ready, join in the fun! I can't wait to read everyone elses' submissions.
The prompt this week is (I guess it was last week at this point):

Make something conventionally beautiful seem ugly, or something ugly seen beautiful.

Here is my submission:

As I skidded out on my bicycle cursing the turd looking slug in the middle of the path, I thought to myself “Why the heck did I just avoid that?”  I could’ve easily run over the slug in the middle of the trail, avoided my now skinned up left leg, and continued with my ride.   From my place on the soft damp dirt I noticed the thing still moving, not realizing the chaos it just caused.  When I first saw it I didn’t realize quite how brightly colored it was.  It suddenly looked a radiant yellow not just a dull brown.  Slowly creating a slime trail behind it, the closer I got the more fascinated I was.  It had two perfect looking antennae on top of its head and two just below, nearby where a mouth might be.  The symmetry of these four were perfect.  The calmness the little guy showed in his slow trek across the trail was poised, without a care in the world.  Suddenly, I felt relieved that I hadn’t run over this creature.  He was magnificent, like only a banana slug could be.

Since I pretty much missed this week, here is the prompt for next Monday:

This has to do with writing from different senses. Have a sound, smell, or taste lead the way.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Book/Reading pet peeves, link-up

I've started following the blog sweet green tangerine and she does a great link up called which (obviously) pertains to books.  This week the topic is pet peeves relating to books and reading I don't have many but here are mine:

1. Too long or no chapters at all.  I like to sometimes read in really short spurts, like waiting to make coffee or comercial breaks of a sporting event, so breaking things up really allows me to read for short periods of time.

2. Someone trying not to spoil a book for me but still talking about it and spoiling it in a different way.  For example not telling me the ending but saying "That had the biggest plot twist I've ever read" then the whole time I'm reading I'm trying to guess the plot twist and it's not as exciting when I get to read it.

3. Christian Fiction, don't even get me started...

4. Weak, uninteresting female characters who rely on a man.

5. Hardcover books, I hate having to hold onto them and read these big bulky things, but I also hate waiting until they come out in paperback.

6. This is something I do that might be a pet peeve of others: if you are reading in public (transit, airplane, park, coffeshop) I will try to see what book you are reading and judge you for it (good and bad judgement :)

Check out the others in the link up!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Les Mis Week 1, The Bishop of Digne

For those of you who missed it, RoB and I have finally decided to start reading Les Miserables.  This will probably take us all year, but since we are both reading we are hoping that we can keep each other motivated throughout the book.  And I'll have to admit that I might've given up in the first book of the first volume, so it's a good thing we're in it together.  The book is split up into 5 volumes, each of those with 8-15 books, and each of those with 5-20 chapters. Here are my thoughts on Volume 1: Fantine, Book 1: A Just Man.

This first 50 pages or so of the book was all about the Bishop of Digne (although in the kindle edition it just says Bishop of D---, anyone know why?).  It is a compilation of his history and all the good things he has done over the course of his life.  There are a couple small events that are explained and some chapters just talk about how he thinks or feels.  These chapters were the ones that made it hard to keep going and I'm pretty sure I skimmed though some of them.  Luckily, Rob finished this part before me and started reading ahead to the next book and informed me that things actually happen!

The Bishop of Digne as depicted by Gustave Brion in the first edition of the novel

So, I continued on through and kept reading about why the Bishop of Digne was A Just Man.  I was not a huge fan of this book, it was slow moving and what I was worried would happen when trying to read a classic like Les Mis. The one thing I do have to say is that you see a bit more charter and almost humor in the bishop and all that he does, the musically never really portrayed him this way, but I feel like in the movie Colm Wilkinson does a great job of showing more of how he is represented in the book (For those of you that don't know, Colm Wilkinson was the original Jean Valjean in the West End and on Broadway).

On the right is Colm Wilkinson as the Bishop

The next part is all about Jean Valjean (or as we've been calling him JVJ), finally!  I hope it starts to read faster because this pace might be tough for over 1000 pages.

How does everyone else out there feel about the start of the book? Anyone else out there reading it now? Eh, probably not and I'm probably talking to no one, but I thought I'd try!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Book Review - A Merry Requiem Part 1: The Gathering Storm by Margaret Pritchard Houston

How did I come into possession of this book?
I was contacted by the author in the form of a very nice and personal email.  I was very interested in the topic of the book since she mentioned it was loosely based on Victor Hugo’s life and since I’ve never read Les Mis (until now!) but always wanted to know more about that time period, I thought it would be a good book to read.  The only thing that was holding me back was that it was an ebook, and up until Christmas I was slowly reading those on my computer.  But since I got a fantastic present of a kindle, I was finally able to easily read it and it was the first book I read on my new kindle!

First Lines:
“The little girl with black ringlets shrieks with laughter as they push her into the center of the circle.”  (Houston Loc 58)

What is it about?
It follows a writer during the 1820s in France through his marriage (to a women his mother didn’t approve) and into his young writing career.  He struggles to find something worth writing while still being able to make a living for his child and wife.  This is the first book in a series and it follows a lot of the politics of that time from an artist’s point of view.

What did I think?
I really enjoyed this book.  I have never read anything set in this time period and I do enjoy historical fiction as long as it doesn’t get too boring, and this one didn’t!  I loved how I was getting a look at a totally different time but it was written in a more modern voice.  I always want to read classics but get so bogged down by the writing style that I have a hard time enjoying them.  This was a great balance of modern voice still set in an older more classical setting.  I also really enjoyed the internal struggle Phillippe was having, when he had to decide if it was worth the King’s pension to not write exactly what he wanted.  I think many people (including me!) can relate to a similar situation.  Do I take a good sum of money to do something I don’t exactly want to do or believe in?  Or do I do what I want at the risk that I won’t be able to support myself financially anymore?  The other part of this book I really enjoyed was learning more about what was happening in France during this time period, I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book.  I do have one thing I didn’t enjoy and that was the wife, I hope she plays more into the story in the future books, but she just seemed to disappear into nothingness.  Her character seemed great and independent at the beginning and now she is so dependent on everything Phillippe does.

Who would I recommend it to?
If you are interested in another book set during revolutionary France (besides Les Mis) this is one for you.  Or if you’re just interested in historical fiction, this would be a book for you as well.  Also, if you are looking for a change of genre this is a well written book and will keep you interested the whole time.  It is only in ebook form, and you can get it here through smashwords!
Did you read this book and review it on your blog? Let me know in the comments and I'll add your link!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Les Miserables: The Musical, The Movie, The Book, and The 25th Anniversary Concert

I love Les Mis.  It is definitely in the running for my favorite musical of all time (which is tough because I've seen so many musicals).  I went to see the movie over the holidays and would like to quickly share my thoughts:

One of the biggest surprises for me was Eddie Redmayne as Marius.  He was fantastic, RoB even went so far as to say he made the movie.  Marius is a weird role and I've never really liked him, maybe it was because I've never seem someone play the role well, but he did and I suddenly really liked the character.  I had heard lots of talk about Anne Hathaway being great, and she lived up to all of those expectations.

Both of the young actors did a great job. Young Cosette was great, very cute and everything you'd expect out of an innocent girl.  Gavroche was also great, and I really enjoyed how they gave him a longer part in "Look Down", a little more history about the uprising.

Worst singer goes to Amanda Seyfried as Cosette.  Another character I've never really liked, but the vocal part seemed beyond her capabilities and it was obvious when she was singing with two great singers that played Eponine and Marius.  Russell Crowe's singing wasn't great either, he wasn't terrible but his voice just wasn't powerful enough for the officer Javert, I never really felt like I would be scared of him.

I really liked how the did the song "Do You hear the People Sing", it was in a different place than the musical and I had a panicked moment when I though that they left it out.  Just as I leaned over to RoB to whisper "they skipped a song" the first chords of that song started, whew!  It was great and not just because the love of my life (Aaron Tveit playing Enjolras) was leading the song.  I liked how you actually felt like the people were going to rise and take over.

One very small thing I was sad that they left out.  A the very end when Jean Valjean is dying, Fantine comes to him as a ghost.  However in the musical both Fantine and Eponine come to him and sing "Come to Me" with one of my favorite harmonies of all time, it is beautiful.  I was sad to see this left out but then I realized that Valjean never really had any interaction with Eponine in the movie like he did in the musical so it might not have made sense.  But it is one of my favorite parts of the musical so of course I was sad to see it left out.

One other issue I had was with the cinematography (I think) basically some of the weird camera angles and close ups.  They were very artsy and I'm sure lots of people liked that, but I just felt like it was weird.

(I also just read a great review on the movie over at Semi-Charmed Kind of Life.)

For Christmas RoB got me the 25th Anniversary Concert, which is AMAZING if you haven't seen it.  We put it in on Christmas while we were cleaning up the mess of wrapping paper and starting breakfast and my whole family would be transfixed and basically stop what they were doing to watch and listen.  If you want to hear quite possibly the best vocal performances for every part (except Marius, nick jonas sucks) you should watch this.  I would love if they would've had someone good play Marius (like Eddie Redmayne!) because that would've made this performance perfect.

(This is just a taste of how good it is, go rent or buy the whole thing!)

About once every two years I get an urge to actually read Les Mis.  I tried once when I was in either middle or high school and it was way too overwhelming, but now I want to try again.  I've never read it and think I might have a hard time following through with it, so RoB and I are going to try and read it at the same time.  I will read it on my new Kindle (!!) and I think he bought the last copy available in Lexington.  I would like to come up with a better name than the Les Mis Challenge (there's got to be something witty I can come up with), but that's what it will be for now.  We are going to try and read the First Book: A Just Man from the First Part: Fantine (~50 pages) by Sunday and try and discuss it.  I will keep updates on my blog here as well.  If you have read it or want to read it now I'd love for you to chime in on the discussions, maybe I could even do a link-up or something fun like that!

Lastly, I was sent a review book called A Merry Requiem: The Gathering Storm that is loosely based on Victor Hugo's life.  I recently finished it so watch for that review soon!

Audio Book Review - State Of Wonder by Ann Patchett

How did I come into possession of this book?
My mom gave me this audio book since she knows I listen to audio books on my way to and from work.  I had never read anything by Ann Patchett, but I’m happy I finally did.

First Lines:
“The news of Anders Eckman's death came by way of Aerogram, a piece of bright blue airmail paper that served as both stationary and, when folded over and sealed along the edges, the envelope”  (Patchett 1)

What is it about?
This book follows a research scientist as she travels to South America to find another researcher who has lost touch with the company they both work for and find out about the mysterious death of another of their co-workers.  Marina, or Dr. Singh as she is called through most of the book, is sent on a whirlwind adventure trying to figure out what exactly is going on with the research and why there aren’t any details about the death of their other co-worker.

What did I think?
I now know why Ann Patchett is such a popular author, her writing was fantastic.  This a bit of an odd story with some really weird twists and turns, but I was thoroughly interested the whole time.  Some of this credit should be to the narrator since I listened to it on audio, but I think it is also very well written.  I had no clue how to feel about the main character Marina, she just seemed to always try too hard to be everything everyone wanted her to be.  Yes, she was driven but really had no direction.  I’m not sure I could pin point any of the characters that I actually liked expect maybe the little boy, but somehow I was very involved with the story the whole time.

Who would I recommend it to?
I can’t think of many people who I wouldn’t recommend this to, especially the audio version.  I guess if you don’t like stories about women or traveling this might not be for you.  Also, like I said it takes some weird turns, so its not exactly straight forward but I think that’s one of the things that makes it so great!

Check out other reviews on this book from fellow bloggers:
Did you read this book and review it on your blog? Let me know in the comments and I'll add your link!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Football Monday: End of the Season

So tonight is the National Championship game between Notre Dame and Alabama, two teams that sadly beat my Michigan Wolverines.  It is very hard to pick one of these teams to root for since I really don’t like either one.  So I’ve reasoned out who I should root for and why.
I will be rooting for Alabama to win.  And not just win, but absolutely dismantle the irish.  I think I have a good outlook on this game since my team played both of these teams.  First, the scores of both games: Michigan vs Alabama 14-41, Michigan vs ND 6-13.  One of those games was obviously much closer than the other.   Also, when we played Alabama things got out of hand quickly and we were obviously outmatched early on, this was not true for any part of the notre dame game.  To make matters swing even more in Alabama’s favor they had 2 interceptions on us and racked up 41 points, but notre dame had 5 interceptions and one recovered fumble on us and were only able to score 13 points.  Everything from those two games seems to point to Alabama winning easily.
I will also be rooting against notre dame because I don’t feel like they deserve to be there, join a conference already!  I hope by them getting destroyed everyone else will realize they don’t deserve a free pass anymore.  When all this conference re-alignment settles and there is a new playoff plan in place there should be no special case written in for notre dame, they need to play just as tough and unpredictable of a schedule as any other major conference.  Also, I’m sick of Lou Hotlz and hate how every season notre dame is “returing to glory”, well you aren’t and won’t ever be!
“To Hell with Notre Dame” – Bo Schembechler
It is sad that the season will be ending with the game tonight since college football season is one of my favorites.  But with a disappointing ending to Michigan's season I'm looking forward to a much MUCH better 2013, there are many things I'm excited about with the team next year and can't wait for September, GO BLUE!

Book Review - Playing with Matches by Carolyn Wall

How did I come into possession of this book?
I received this book through Library Thing’s Early Reviews program.  I think their review program is one of the best around since they put out a list every month and then evaluate which reviewers would be best for which books.  I feel like I get a book about every other month, which is perfect for me!

First Lines:
“If there is help for the little guy–for my Harry, who won’t talk-it’ll be north on a green elbow of the slow-moving Pearl River”  (Wall 3)

What is it about?
Clea is given up by her mother and raised by a foster mom, while her birth mother lives just down the street entertaining men.  It starts with her childhood and eventually takes you to her adulthood.  A lot revolves around the small Mississippi town where she grew up.  She is forced to endure a tragedy when she is young scaring her from ever returning.  However, when her and her husband split up she has nowhere else to go but back to Mississippi and endures yet another disaster.

What did I think?
I enjoyed this book while I reading it, but looking back on it I’m not sure how much I really liked it.  There were some things that really bugged me, the jump of approximately 20 years in between two of the chapters; it just skips forward in time unexpectedly and without much detail about what happened during those missing years.  I also didn’t really like the story line with the boy who lived in the tree; I really wanted more out of him.  I really liked the beginning when Clea was a girl, I didn’t really like her as an adult and maybe that’s a point of the story.  But even after everything she went through as an adult back in Mississippi I still didn’t really like her, I didn’t feel like she had changed, and I wanted young Clea back.  The ending wasn’t my favorite either, I’m not sure if the big storm coming was necessary, it just all got really dramatic and I didn’t enjoy it.

Who would I recommend it to?
One thing I did like about this book was the southern setting.  You really got a good feel for the town and the locals.  But I really felt like this book should’ve either focused on the younger years of Clea or the adulthood, trying to do both didn’t work for me.  The book is well written and I can see it appealing to some readers, just be aware of that split.

Check out other reviews on this book from fellow bloggers:
That's What She Read

Did you read this book and review it on your blog? Let me know in the comments and I'll add your link!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Book Review - Feed by M.T. Anderson

How did I come into possession of this book?
I bought this book at a Lexington Public Library book sale.  It was a good thing I attended the sale just before they closed, otherwise I might’ve come away with many more than just four books (it was held in a huge warehouse).  The title of this book sounded familiar and it had won many awards as a young adult book so I thought it might be a nice read.

First Line:
“We went to the moon to have fun but the moon turned out to completely suck” (Anderson 3)

What is it about?
This book takes place in a very futuristic society.  A time when traveling to the moon is like traveling to Cancun for spring break, and most houses are built underground or in domes.  Everyone is tied into a computer, and the computer becomes part of them so anything they could want to know at any point is at their fingertips as part of their feed.  A group of more privileged youth head to the moon on spring break and meet someone who comes from a different walk of life.

What did I think?
I think many of the ideas in this book were great, and I could see many of them possibly happening in our future, especially the overload of technology.  I think I would’ve loved seeing some of these ideas put into an adult book because there are many ways it can be taken and this book felt particularly young.  This is one of my frustrations with young adult (YA) books, there are so many YA books out there that can be enjoyed by adults without giving up some of the ideas, but books like this one bring the writing down a level.  I really wanted to know more about the world they lived in and everything Violet always talked about.  I was very frustrated with most of the characters and that they didn’t seem to know anything about their world, and it is a scary possibility that this could actually happen in our future. 

Who would I recommend it to?
You have to enjoy YA novels written with a young feeling voice.  If that sort of thing bothers you, I’d steer clear.  However, it makes for a very quick read.  If you are looking for another futuristic YA novel, this is one of those.  This book focuses more on a futuristic society than a dystopian society, which is what a lot of YA books out there tend to focus on.  I’ve heard this book classified as a cyberpunk novel which is basically a different look on the dystopian genre, but worth a read if you are hooked on the genre and looking for something a bit different.

Check out other reviews on this book from fellow bloggers:

Did you read this book and review it on your blog? Let me know in the comments and I'll add your link!