Fantasy · fiction · series

The Age of Legends Trilogy by Kelley Armstrong

Kelley Armstrong is a prolific writer and I was excited to experience her take on the young adult subgenera of the supernatural.  The Age of Legends trilogy tells the story of twin sisters Moria and Ashyn who are the Keeper and the Seeker of their village.  This trilogy was packed with an adventurous and constantly developing story and full of wonderful characters.  All three books are completely enjoyable!

In the first book, Sea of Shadows, we are introduced to Moria and Ashyn and their small village on the outskirts of their empire.  Ashyn the Seeker is tasked with quieting the lost and angered souls of the damned.  If peace cannot be found Moria, the Keeper, is ready to battle the souls into the second world. But the souls will not be quiet and tragedy ensues. At the opening of the story, Moria and Ashyn are entering their first year of performing their goddess-designated tasks without supervision.

The girls are great characters. While they are physically identical twins their personalities are as different as any sibling and their reactions to their changing world are unique. The story took me a little bit to become truly absorbed but it was worth the slow build when everything, as it seems to in books of this nature, came apart.

Furthermore, the supporting cast of characters are wonderful. Some make it through the book and some do not and since this is a never-ever-spoil website I will not name the characters I really enjoyed because some do not survive.  Suffice to say, these are well written characters who are enjoyable to follow through the story.

I did not think the second book, Empire of the Night, would be quite as fast paced or character driven as the first book. I was so wrong! The second book allows us to see the girls as they continue to thwart evil and we meet many new characters that help keep the second book interesting and engrossing.

I was so taken with the developing story in this series that I could not wait, nor could I figure out, how the series would end.  Book Three, Forest of Ruin, absolutely does not disappoint!  Right until the final page I was fully invested.

It is always difficult to review a whole trilogy without any spoilers. You want to really explain what made it a great story that needed three books to finish. But, unless I want to spoil it for you all (never!) I can’t really give details. All I can say is that this trilogy was engrossing and enjoyable through all three books. Check it out and enjoy The Age of Legends Trilogy!

Uncategorized

Spring Cleaning Book Tag

The first time I saw a the term “Tag” I erroneously thought the author was referring to a search word for a book. For example, “I want a book about England in the 1800’s and includes a nice battle scene.” My inner librarian / reference addict would then type (1) England, (2) 1800’s, (3) battle into the search box. But this is so much better! Tags are more like little threads and people can be “tagged” (like the game) or can voluntarily enter. So, the tag takes on a life of its own and becomes a delightful little conversation taking place in many different sites.

I found this tag over on the delightful Thrice Read and it really resonated with me, especially since I am still purging after reading The Complete Book of CleanSo, here I go with my first ever tag.

A little side note: this Tag becomes tricky for me because I do not bother with negative reviews. But, I am going to make it work.

(1) The Struggle of Getting Started: a book or series that you have struggled to begin because of its size.

Outlander1

This is a hunk of a book (pun totally intended) and I really wanted to read it but, to be honest, it hurt my puny little wrists to hold. I kept borrowing but not diving into it. I finally downloaded it on my e-reader and I have never looked back. Now, I am a huge fan and my puny wrists are safe and sound.

 

 

 

(2) Cleaning Out the Closet: a book or series that you want to offload.

bossypants

I will only part with this book because I have two copies. I saw this copy in a little free library and I took it in a panic. I don’t know what I thought was going to happen to it but it is safe now. Anyone want it?

 

 

 

 

(3) Opening the Window and Letting in Some Fresh Air: a book that was refreshing

Gertie

There are so many books out there that are written from the perspective of a child intended for children to read that are rife with peril. It is exhausting. It is almost like, as adults, we have forgotten how hard it is to be a kid and so we add things like death, divorce and large scale crisis to all the books (and movies) intended for this aged audience. Since I tutor and interact with students in elementary school I am always on the look out for books that are really about kid things.  Gertie’s Leap to Greatness hits the nail right on the head. Even though it includes parental abandonment (no spoiler – it’s right on the dust jacket) Gertie is more concerned with new kids at school, teacher favoritism and trying to be the best 5th grader ever. It was so refreshing.

(4) Washing Out Stained Sheets: a book where you wish you could re-write a certain scene 

divergent1insurgentallegiant

Mmmhhhmmm.  We all know why I put this here.

(5) Throwing Out Unnecessary Knick-Knacks: a book in a series you didn’t feel was necessary

jaguarknights

This book is as superbly written and enjoyable as anything else I have read by Dave Duncan. And, I can see how it is connected to the rest of the Chronicles’ of the King’s Blades series but it is so very different it almost felt like it should be on its own. Or there should be more books written that are similar to this story.  Hint, hint Mr. Duncan.

 

 

 

(6) Polishing the Doorknobs: a book that had a clean finish.

Echo

Hug it, kiss it and love it forever. Echo is the book that you recommend. Then, when your friend is halfway though, they give you the side-eye and frown. You can tell they are wondering, “Why would you give me this?!?” With your encouragement they read until the end and join you in the bliss that is this book. You can read my more complete (spoiler-free, of course) review here.

 

 

(7) Reaching to Dust the Ceiling Fan: a book that tried to hard to relay a certain message

These were good books but the theme was a little over done – you do not have to have external beauty to validate your existence.  They have compelling characters and a building storyline but this is the only series I could think of that fits into this question.

(8) The Tiring but Satisfying Finish of Spring Cleaning: the book or series that was hard to get through but completely worth it.

Darn, I should have kept Outlander for here!  Ah well, here is my other pick.

Zero complaints here. These books were amazing. For me, the most difficult thing was that I became a fan when the first book was published. By the time the second book came out, I had to go back and catch myself up on the who, what, when, where and why. Repeat for the third book. It was totally and completely worth it. These books are amazing.

And there it is, my first tag! Thanks again to Thrice Read for inspiring me and putting out a general tag to be shared. For anyone that has yet to do some Spring Cleaning – tag, you are it!

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Beauty by Robin McKinley

I am back in the book saddle!!! After a long two weeks not finding anything that sparked my interest I have read three books in the last two days. Sometimes you just have to take a step back. I took a little friend of mine to see the new Disney remake of Beauty and the Beast. I am not a huge Disney fan but this was an enjoyable remake. And it spurned me to look into the story that started it all.

There are dozens of retellings of the tale as old as time. In fact, while researching for this post I found multiple blogs ranking the retellings as well as a Goodreads list of 122 of the top retellings of Beauty and the Beast. My favorite list however has to be from book riot.com.

I was surprised by the number and variety of this story.  Truthfully, I have never been a fan. Beautiful girl is kept captive by a cruel hideous man-beast but since she is now living in the lap of luxury she….sigh…..feels bad for him and grudgingly comes to love him. Then he is pretty too! Barf.

beautyBut, Robin McKinley’s Beauty is the retelling that makes me believe in the fairy tale. Here, Beauty is a nickname given to the least pretty of a trio of sisters. She is dedicated to her family and her education above anything else. Their merchant father is rich, due to his vast shipping empire, and the older two daughters have fallen in love and life looks grand. Then, the shipping empire crumbles and the the family is forced to move to the country and live a much more simple life.

In the country their new home is on the edge of the forest. They must scrub their own floors and make their own food and work and work. But, because they love each other it is all working out and they are happy. Until dear old Dad wanders into the forest and we meet the Beast and his demands.

From here the storyline becomes more familiar but still contains elements unique enough to be interesting. I won’t spoil it but I really enjoyed the Beast and the cast of (limited) characters that live in the castle. If Beauty is not so pretty, the Beast is, likewise, not so awful. He is kind and gentle from the start. Still hideous though.

I think that if you enjoyed Disney’s original or new live action Beauty and the Beast you will, likewise find Beauty to be a good story.  But, if you just really can’t see the appeal of Belle this story might be right up your alley.  And, don’t worry, the author didn’t neglect the amazing library.

Audible

The Spiderwick Cronicles: Book 1-5

I remember a time when I believed – no, I absolutely knew – that fairies lived in the world around me. I couldn’t see them but they were there. spiderwickToni DiTerlizzi and Holly Black’s book The Spiderwick Chronicles transported me back to this wonderful state of mind. The illustrations and the narrative are whimsical, innocent and fantastical. I adored these books.

Right before a long car trip I grabbed the audiobook at the library. As I have mentioned, I have a really hard time absorbing auditory information so sometimes I listen to the audio version of books I have already read. But this audiobook is narrated by Mark Hamill. Mark Hamill people. I adore him as an actor but as a voice actor he is unparalleled in his talent.

Hamill really breathes life into all the different characters of the Chronicles alive. You do not need to see the illustrations, they become three dimensional through his voice. I actually listened to this story on the way to my destination and on the way back home again. To this day, if you say “hobgoblin,” I hear it in his voice.

This is a fantastic story brought almost completely to life by the talents of Mark Hamill. Reading it is fun but listening to it is as close to living it as you can get.

 

nonfiction · not a review

What Should I Read Next?

It is Friday night. It has been a long week and you just want to relax. So, you turn on Netflix and you flip through the options, maybe start one or two, and find nothing that captures your interest? The frustration begins to build. So, you head over to Amazon Prime or maybe even shows you have saved for just this occasion and again, nothing feels right. Meanwhile, you have spend two hours looking and zero minutes. This is me for the last 10 days with my books.

Sometimes after reading a really great series or a new author I come out of the book’s world in a daze. Nothing seems as good as the book I have just finished. Usually this malaise or withdrawal lasts a day or two and I am back in my book-packed saddle. Occasionally, I sink into a true funk and I cannot find anything to suit my mood. I write you now from this dark place. I need a good book!

So, how do we figure out what to read next? I have a whole bookshelf of books yet to be read. I have an enormous stack of library books (photo below) that I requested and wanted but none feel quite right.  What do I do!?! Well, I actually own two great books designed to help me answer the question, “What should I read next?”

top10Books, Over 100 Top 10 Lists by Fid and Sue Backhouse is a compilation of lists broken into six major categories.  World of Books, Compelling Characters, Out of this World (Sci-Fi), Relativity (humans and their relationships), Imagine That (kids and teens) and Page Turners are the major categories. As a list lover this book is soothing in its organization. As a book lover I appreciate the breadth of choices. There are over 1000 books and the authors acknowledge the subjectivity of their lists. I would love to have a book club meeting about this book just to discuss some of the inclusions and exclusions. I would also like to break one of my cardinal rules and write in this book – just check away at all the ones I have read.

1001BooksHallie Ephron, Ph.D is a prolific writer from a writing family and her book 1001 Books for Every Mood is my go-to when I cannot seem to find something to read. Do you want a book that will make you laugh? She has solid suggestions. What about a book to celebrate friends or one to celebrate the seasons? Covered! This book really does have something for whatever mood you are in and I really appreciate the ranking system that includes twelve different bits of information ranging from the literary merit to whether the book was family friendly or made into a movie. This book is out of print but if you see it, grab it.

After thumbing through these books and finding nothing to sate my literary thirst I turn to the internet for answers. Can the Book Seer help me? This website is hilarious and sometimes I just like to plug in books to see what I will get back. Book Seer will give you recommendations from Amazon and it used to give you recommendations from LibraryThing.

I enjoy Book Seer mostly as a little game to see if I agree with the website’s answers. Book Seer is brought to the world by Apt Studio and their blog post about the Book Seer’s analytics is a fascinating look into the mind of a person in need of a book. It is a fun place to start and I have found books this way.

If not, maybe Whichbook can help me! Whichbook is another wonderful website that allows you to use toggles to limit the searches so that you can get a (1) really happy book that is also (2) unexpected and (3) short.  Or, you can have an (1) easy (2) optimistic (3) scary book.  You can also change the toggles to search by character, plot or setting. Whichbooks has what they call “W” lists as well and you can read through their lists or guests lists and create your own.

I have found that Whichbook gives me a much more varied result to my queries than other websites. You can also read a little excerpt from the book, get parallels or books that are very similar or even use a book as a jumping off point to find more books. The toggles take some getting used to but I enjoy them and this is a website I turn to frequently for ideas.

And, of course, there is Goodreads. Goodreads was my first book-based website crush.  “It’s like Facebook for people that like to read!” I cried. I can see what my friends are reading and give and take suggestions! Authors on Goodreads will talk to me through the magic of the internet! This is amazing!!

But, then my crush talked to me and ruined it. Goodreads is great but it can be overwhelming. I never remember to plug in the books I have read. I am just not great at consistently using it. It is not hard to use, it is just my fault for not following through. The real deathblow for our relationship came when I got a smartphone and found out that I could scan books into my list. Then I was a woman on a mission. That mission seems to be: Make as long a to-be-read list as possible.

And here is my actual problem. I have loads of things to read. I am rich in books. I just need to suck it up and take my Mother’s advice. “Give it three chapters,” she would tell me. If I wasn’t immersed after that I could put the book down.

Like skimming through titles on Netflix I just keep reading the first 10 pages of a book and then tossing it aside. I need to jump into the story with both feet and take my hand off the remote (or, in this case, the next book).  Only then do I stand a chance of really entering into the world the author was trying to create. When I have finished reading this stack of books and the ones on my bookshelves then I can ask, “What Should I Read Next?”

IMG_1512

funny · nonfiction

Cleanliness and Clutter

Happy First of May! On New Years Eve I make resolutions. Lots of them. On my birthday I set goals for my year. And, on May 1st I begin my spring cleaning.  This is mainly so I can free up my summer hours for fun, sun, and reading.

With that in mind I started where I always do with things, at my library. I picked up two books. The first, The Complete Book of Clean, Tips and Techniques for Your Home is by Toni Hammersley from A Bowl Full of Lemons. The second was The Joy of Leaving Your Sh*t all Over the Place by Jennifer McCartney. Obviously, I’m torn.

Toni Hammersley’s website is gorgeous. I have been reading A Bowl Full of Lemons for years. Two years ago I purchased her budget worksheets and they were wonderful. They really laid out where I was going wrong in my spending. She is great at coming up with plans, explaining them, and sharing them with people.

Her last book, The Complete Book of Home Organization was beautiful and I loved paging through it but I knew that my home would never look like hers. I just don’t care enough to get my rooms that beautifully organized and de-cluttered. But still, I was excited to get a peek at her Complete Book of Clean because even if I don’t care if my rooms to look Pinterest-ready I absolutely want a clean home.

I got Complete Book of Clean home and I immediately flipped to the middle. This is a bad habit of mine with non-fiction books. Years ago I made a New Year’s resolution to always read the introduction and view the table of contents before leaping into the book (see? I make them!). This resolution was made for books like this. When you open Toni’s book to the middle your eyes are smacked (with no warning at all) with a photo of her gorgeous, immaculate refrigerator. It is full of organized fresh fruits and veggies. And right there next to that image is tip #63. This is a reminder and instructions on how to dust the condenser. Ummmm, what? I’m still ogling her fresh out-of-the-shell coconut and wondering how she accomplished that feat without a hammer and tears and she wants me to dust a part of my fridge that no one can see?!?

This is why you start with the introduction. Toni and A Bowl Full of Lemons has never been the idea of perfection.  It is all a process.  So, I flipped back to the introduction.  Sure enough there she is letting me know,

“Every day, I find myself sweeping the floors, wiping up spills, picking up glitter and straightening pillows on the sofa. An hour later, I do it all overt again. Messes are a part of life, and cleaning them up is essential to our well-being. Whether you live in a 4,000-square-foot home or a small one-bedroom apartment, implementing a cleaning routine is the key to success.”

With this in mind, I went tip by tip through the book. There are an alarming number of things that Toni believes needs to be done once a week that I, frankly, never do. I DO wash the toothbrushes once a week. However, I DO NOT dust the window treatments once a week. She absolutely has higher standards than I.

While the routine may not be completely for me, this book is a veritable bible of how to clean your home. And Toni really emphasizes natural make-it-yourself cleaners. I had a unbelievably good time flushing my drains with salt, baking soda, vinegar and boiling water. It was like a happy little science experiment! And, I made toilet bombs. They are like bath bombs but they make cleaning your toilet a breeze and your bathroom smells minty fresh. Toni also recommends de-cluttering as you clean which makes the job easier every time. She has a 31-day purge that is supposed get things going….in the direction of the donation center.

And here is where The Joy of Leaving Your Sh*t All Over the Place comes into play.  There are a LOT of books out there that will tell you that your life will be less stressful and more peaceful if you just let go of stuff (ahem, Konmari method).  As a book lover and full blown Nerd – I took the quiz – I have a huge collection of books and all the cool quirky adorable Nerd-like things you can collect.  This includes a burgeoning collection of Funko Pops.  (I tried to resist but damn you baby Groot, you are irresistible!).

I am also a crafter.  Which is why I already had the silicone molds, mason jars and ample baking soda required to make and store the natural cleaners and toilet bombs. I play several musical instruments.  I have a dog and two cats.  I have stuff that is important to me that belonged to members of my family or were given to me by people special to me.  This is not clutter. These are my things. They are the difference between my house and my home.

According to The Joy of Leaving Your Sh*t All Over the Place I am winning at life. Jennifer McCartney’s book is hilarious and validating for people who love things. Some minimalist methods allege that books are clutter and direct you to rip out pages and throw away the rest. NO! Books are friends! If you don’t love them you don’t kill them. And I would certainly rather practice my music, play with family and friends, or sew something than unpack my purse.

However, as enjoyable as this book is, it did make me aware that I do not feel comfortable with all of my clutter. I cannot stand piles of papers or clothes all over everywhere. And, I really hate picking up things I was too lazy to put away just so I can vacuum.

It seems that am somewhere in between. So, what to do? I have decided to try A Bowl Full of Lemons decluttering.  I have things I could donate and I could certainly get rid of stacks of papers and magazines. That way, the light will be shown on the items in my house that really make it a home. And, when people come over to visit those things will all be dusted.