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!