YA Friday: The Goddess Legacy by Aimee Carter

Friday, August 31, 2012

Title: The Goddess Legacy
Author: Aimee Carter
Series: Goddess Test 2.5
Genre: Mythology, fantasy, YA
Publisher: Harlequin Teen, 2012
Source: NetGalley
Read for: Review

The Goddess Legacy gives a more in-depth acquaintance with five of the gods and goddesses we met in The Goddess Test and Goddess, Interrupted. Before Kate arrived on the scene, Hera, Aphrodite, Persephone, Hermes, and Henry had millennia of history and experiences, many of which explain some of their behavior in the Goddess Test books.

I had a mixed experience with The Goddess Legacy. On one hand, I really enjoyed the background of the characters that are only touched upon as an ensemble cast in the main books of the series. However, some of the motivations and actions of the characters seemed really immature and one-dimensional, which decreased the enjoyment I derived from reading about their experiences.

Hera's story focused on how she became married to Zeus, her relationship with Henry, and how she subsequently became bitter and crazy. It was probably my favorite of the collection despite the fact that I really don't like her as a character. I think it was more enjoyable to me because she was a complex character and her situation was terrible. It explained quite a bit about how she became the person she was and her motivations.

Aphrodite's story was about her complex love affairs with Ares and Hephaestus. I enjoyed the aspect of Aphrodite's relationship with Hephaestus, because their mythological marriage was always confusing to me. However, I was bothered by her selfish attitude toward relationships and her claim that she has to be constantly seducing different men and being in new relationships because it is her "nature." I know that is part of mythology and that the Greek gods and goddesses are not exactly moral pillars; however, I think that is an awful message to portray to the teenagers reading this book. I can just see someone saying, "Oh, I had to cheat on my boyfriend because that is just the way I am; I can't be happy with just one guy." I also was extremely bothered by Aphrodite's voice. I know why Aimee Carter chooses to portray her as a flippant and silly girl, but she still irked me.

Persephone's story was another so-so experience for me. It described her marriage to Henry and her subsequent affair with Adonis. I enjoyed her voice -- possibly in part because it was a change from Aphrodite's annoying tone. She is a character that is much-discussed in the other books in the series, but we don't get a great deal of face time with her, so it was interesting to be inside her head. However, I felt that many of her motivations were shallow and her actions unreasonable. Everything seemed very abrupt with Persephone -- something would happen and she would have no patience for it, immediately drawing conclusions that were drastic and affected those around her. The plot movements seemed a bit forced to me for that reason. There was something slightly plastic about her tale -- it just didn't quite seem believable. And of course it is fantasy -- I'm talking about the believability of an individual reacting to situations the way Persephone reacted.

Hermes' story was probably my favorite. It had a sort of Robin Hood feel to it -- in trouble with Zeus for his part in Persephone's problems with Henry, Hermes goes off to find the reason why the minor god and goddess Selene and Helios have disappeared to. He feels drawn to a young English girl who leads a band of boys in the woods hoping for survival. As Hermes becomes close to Tuck and her friends, he gains a sense of family that has been missing from his life on Olympus for a long time. In addition, he gains the insight needed to protect the gods on Mount Olympus from fading into oblivion. I enjoyed Hermes' voice -- it seemed realistic for a male voice, not fixating on the same problems and annoyances that a female narrator would probably notice. I also loved the change in setting and Tuck's character. I thought this story was a unique and refreshing addition to The Goddess Legacy.

Henry's story was so-so for me. There was nothing in particular that bothered me about it, but I wasn't particularly interested in it, either. He discusses his emotions about his failed marriage with Persephone, as well as how he feels about the girls who do not pass "The Goddess Test," but most of this is summarized in the previous books in the series, and as Henry's story is the only one not told in the first person, it doesn't seem particularly informational. One aspect of the story that was a bit more interesting was when Henry's feelings toward Kate before meeting her are discussed, giving us a better idea of where he stands despite the fact that he can be cold toward her.

Overall, while there were certainly stories I enjoyed more than others, I think The Goddess Legacy contributes to this series by giving more background into pivotal characters and their motivations. I think any fan of the series will find this book important to read in addition to the main trilogy. However, certain of the characters irritated me, leaving me not 100% satisfied with the book.

3 stars

Warnings: Descriptions of affairs, a few un-detailed scenes of sensuality, moderate violence

Poetry Corner: The Lanyard by Billy Collins

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.
No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.
I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.
She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light
and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.
Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth
that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

Les Miserables Book 5: Jean Valjean

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The last epic section in a book of epic sections, culminating with the pivotal character in the whole cast of dynamic characters. This write-up will have spoilers and will be an analysis and then next week I will write a final review. Book 5 begins where Book 4 leaves off, in the midst of the drama among the barricades. Jean Valjean joins the students as they pit their last defenses against the National Guard and go down in a blaze of glory and martyrdom. This occurs after discovering that Cosette is in love and, to his singularly loving mind, losing her. He decides to save the wounded Marius and transports him through a complicated web of sewers, saving Javert's life and running into Thernardier in the process. Marius is reunited with his grandfather, who, once Marius is healed, permits him to marry Cosette. Jean Valjean is also invited to live in the house, but shamed at his status as ex-convict, he confesses his past to Marius and visits Cosette each evening, slowly decreasing the visits. Near his death, Thenardier reveals the truth of Valjean's saintly actions to Marius. As a result, Cosette visits him, learns the truth of who he is, and Jean Valjean dies.

So, in effect, a very action-packed last section of the book. Jean Valjean is the only character that stays with us throughout the entire book, and is a metaphor for how the human spirit can rise above misery and triumph. He is a Christ-figure, despised by the man who owes him most, but never acting in selfishness after he is redeemed by the love of the bishop of Digne. Jean Valjean's final trials are the hardest to read about because his confessions lead Marius to believe the worst of him. True to his nature, Jean Valjean only reveals the dark parts of his past with none of the redeeming qualities. While Cosette knows nothing of her father's past and is puzzled by his growing distance from her, she is so blinded by her happiness at being married to Marius that she doesn't think much of it. Meanwhile, Marius is distrusting of Jean Valjean and makes him as unwelcome as possible, not lighting the fire and removing the armchairs from the room in which they sit. Once Marius finally learns the truth about Jean Valjean, he is absolutely mortified and crestfallen at how he treated his savior.

The other part of this section that was especially poignant for me was the wedding scene between Marius and Cosette. Their happiness was described as being the most transcendent possible because of the purity with which Marius and Cosette had treated their relationship and their absolute commitment to each other. The description of their joy was so gorgeously written and moving that it brought me to tears. I don't think their relationship was idealized because of the era -- I think it was just treated with care that we seldom see in modern-day relationships. It was inspiring and beautiful.

The last section of Les Miserables is a beautiful ending to a stunning book. I'll post my full review next week.

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Confessions

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Are you all ready to know of my evil ways? This week's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is bookish confessions, and I have quite a few.

1. I dog-ear pages. If I want to remember where something is, I dog-ear the page. Guilty as charged. I will say, though, that I don't do it to books that do not belong to me.

2. I write in and highlight books. What better way to remember the quotes that I love? I love picking a book up off the shelf and turning to the highlighted pages in order to revisit some of my favorite passages.

3. I take the book jacket off hardcovers. I can't stand to have those extra loose pages flapping around -- they tend to get torn when I leave them on.

4. I don't mind watching the movie before I read the book. *GASP* I feel like this is my most shocking book confession. Honestly, reading the book first frequently makes me hate the movie, but watching the movie first usually makes me appreciate the book even more. I like being able to enjoy both adaptations instead of just one.

5. Sometimes, I like the movie more than the book. For the most part I like the detail and depth that is available in books. However, sometimes it is translated much better to movie form. Some examples I can think of right now are Slumdog Millionaire and Sarah's Key. I also really didn't like the fifth Harry Potter book, but the movie adaptation is my favorite.

6. I like having used books. I like seeing people's old highlights or their names written in the front covers. I've never found a book with a beautiful inscription but it is on my bucket list.

7. I don't mind having battered and bruised books. I like my books to look well-loved. My husband came home from boot camp having water-damaged one of my books, and I didn't even care (as long as it is still readable, of course). Now, whenever we see that book, we will remember that it went to boot camp with my husband and will bring that entire host of memories with it.

8. I sometimes read the last sentence on the last page. I never used to do that -- absolutely deplored the idea of it -- but for some unknown reason, lately I've found myself turning to the last page and doing that. I kind of like it, because while it gives away something, it is usually in a way that I am not realizing or expecting.

9. If a book has a lame plot, I might still like it. If it has lame characters, I won't be able to tolerate it. Characters are way more important to me than plot. I can take a slow plot any day.

10. I am notoriously awful at returning borrowed books. There is only one book I can think of that I never returned, because I fell out of touch with the person from whom I borrowed it. However, I just returned seven books to my sister-in-law that I borrowed almost two years ago. Shameful.

House of Serenades by Lina Simoni

Monday, August 27, 2012

Title: The House of Serenades
Author: Lina Simoni
Genre: Historical fiction, multicultural fiction
Publisher: Moonleaf Publishing, 2004
Source: NetGalley
Read for: Review

The Berilli family of Genoa, Italy are wealthy and respected, seeming on the surface to live happy lives. However, beneath the surface is the mystery behind the death of only daughter Caterina, good-for-nothing son Raimondo, lonely, cast-off aunt Eugenia, and the patriarch himself, who has retreated into his reading room for two days with no explanation. Soon a series of threats has the entire family in fear -- and wondering what the truth is.

I requested this book from NetGalley because my husband used to live in Northern Italy and I thought it would be fun to read a book about the region. While at times The House of Serenades was a bit dramatic and overwrought, it definitely had a strong Italian flavor and was a fun and enlightening read.

The House of Serenades is pure soap opera drama in print. Every character had a secret, and every character had done something scandalous. From forbidden love to hidden convents in the mountains to black cats hung on doorways with the word "death" scrawled above them in blood and illegal child trafficking, House of Serenades was certainly not short of twists and turns. For the most part, while the plot was over-the-top, I enjoyed the constant drama. However, toward the end of the book there was a segment of time where everyone was immersed in misery and punishment, and I became a little fed up with reading this book about people doing horrible things to each other with no redemption in sight. The book felt somewhat fluffy at first but towards the end became completely weighted down with woe.

Because the plot was so replete with action, the characters were somewhat flat. Their motivations are generally one-dimensional and motivated by money or lust. With the exception of Caterina and Ivano, none of the characters changed their ways or learned from their mistakes. Instead, the focus of the story was just the crazy things that happened to the characters. For me personally, a book with only minimal character development is somewhat unsatisfying.

I think my favorite aspect of the book was the Italian personality and learning more about the culture. It is a historical novel, so of course certain aspects, such as the extreme difference in class, are not as relevant today. However, the dramatic, gossipy relationships are, my husband informs me, still typical of Italian culture. In addition, it was fun to tell my husband the names of the characters as well as certain words that were presented in this book. I really enjoyed being immersed in an Italian story for a few hours.

House of Serenades is, for the most part, a fun read. Towards the end it does become a little weighty and tragic, but it was an interesting journey into turn of the century Italian life.

3.25 stars

Warnings: Violence, detailed description of sexual abuse, innuendo

Interview with Emily from Emily's Reading Room

Sunday, August 26, 2012

For Utah Book Month, I interviewed Emily of Emily's Reading Room, a fabulous blog primarily featuring YA with some other genres smattered in as well. Emily has a fabulous blog and writes insightful, honest reviews, and it was fun to get to know her a little better! Unfortunately I was unable to get to a computer yesterday due to some unforeseen circumstances, so I am posting this interview a day late. Sorry for any confusion!

1. You primarily read young adult fiction. What drew you to this genre? Do you like to read other genres as well?

I read young adult fiction because I like it, truthfully. I think the characters are at an age where there is a lot of freedom to do things that may not be possible in adult literature. I do read other genres occasionally. I have been known to read a biography by David McCullough from time to time or an adult novel.  

2. What lead you to begin writing a blog in the first place?
I started a blog as a way to recommend books that I was reading to my friends and family. It's grown since then to include my internet friends as well, but I still think my primary function is to recommend great books to everyone. 

3. Do you have a favorite book? What do you like about it?

I have so many. I love anything by Shannon Hale for it's beautiful writing and simple charm. Her heroines are some of my absolute favorite.
4. Do you have any "deal-breakers" with books that cause you to not like them? What about "deal-makers" -- certain elements that almost always mean you'll like a book?
Insta-love is definitely a deal-breaker for me (in most cases, but not always). I like my romances to have a lot of sacrifice and self-respect. It makes them all the more satisfying. So, I guess my deal-maker is a romance with characters that I WANT to beat all the odds or just work it out so that they can be together. 

5. How do you balance blogging and reading with the other aspects of your life?
I am not doing this very well right now, truthfully. I work full-time, have a family, and am starting school in January. I've learned to just let things go and not stress about it when I have to let blogging take a backseat. I always come back to it, and thankfully, it seems like no one misses me all that much. :) 

6. Do you have any advice for new bloggers?
Don't let your blog become a chore or a burden. If you need to step away for awhile, it's completely fine. It will always be here for you if you ever decide to come back. And, take things at your own pace. 

7. If you could trade places with any book character for a day, who would it be and why?
Elizabeth Bennet I suppose. I'd love to live at Pemberly. And, because I'm watching the movie right now.

8. Other than blogging and reading, what do you like to do?
I have a dozen chickens, and I like tending to them, playing with my daughter, and building computers. 

9. Because this is Utah Book Month, what is your favorite thing about living in Utah?
I love being by my family, and the gorgeous mountains. I didn't appreciate them fully until I was an adult, but they are beautiful. 

10. Anything else you'd like people to know about you and/or your blog?
I have 3 other bloggers besides myself that work on Emily's Reading Room. They are Andy, Anna Rose, and Kylie. We have such a great time reading and writing about books!

YA Friday: Struck by Jennifer Bosworth

Friday, August 24, 2012

Title: Struck
Author: Jennifer Bosworth
Genre: YA, post-apocalyptic, science fiction
Publisher: Farrar, Strous, and Giraux, 2012
Source: Library
Read for: Fun

Mia Price is a lightning addict -- the more she is struck, the more she craves the feeling. However, when strange events begin to happen around her, her family moves to Los Angeles, a place where lightning only rarely strikes. Unfortunately, this leads them straight into the path of a devastating earthquake. Now, two different cults are vying for Mia's attention and the power they believe she holds, a mysterious (and cute) stranger is following her around, and her body is sensing that there is a storm in the air.

I had high hopes for Struck. I'd heard great things about the book. I was also excited to read a book set in Los Angeles, where I will be moving in a few days (eep!). Meeting Jennifer Bosworth at Fierce Reads further made me excited to read this book. However, Struck did not pull together for me, and I was disappointed in the novel.

The one thing that is done superbly in this novel is the atmosphere. From the opening pages, there is a sense of anticipation and stress. Food is scarce after the earthquake. Violence is rampant. Mia's mother is experiencing some kind of post-traumatic stress experience that needs to be medically treated, meaning that Mia has to find medication for her on the black market. All the tension and anticipation was present at the beginning of the book, and I felt that my expectations were going to be delivered.

However, shortly after this, Mia meets a boy named Jeremy -- a boy that seems strangely familiar and that seems to be popping up everywhere. Cue the insta-love. Mia and Jeremy have a number of bizarre experiences that seem to link them together, and she describes his physical attractiveness, but the suddenness of their relationship seemed forced and shallow to me. By the end of the book, it seemed to take center-stage in the story. This seemed out of place because so much of the book focused on the apocalyptic events and the different forces pulling on Mia -- and those elements were much more interesting and believable. Basically, the romance left me unconvinced and lukewarm.

I was also disappointed in the interplay between the two cults. The two religions are essentially direct counterpoints of each other -- one dresses all in white, the other all in black; one professes to follow the will of God while the other uses more occult practices such as Tarot cards. For much of the book, they both seem evil, or at the very least not having pure intentions to work with Mia. The fact that these two groups were in opposition and fighting over Mia was believable. However, at the very end (this could be seen as a vague SPOILER so read with caution), one of the groups was suddenly shown to be "the good guys." This didn't seem believable to me because it was added onto the end almost like an afterthought. The "good" group wasn't gradually shown as more than what they seemed; they were just suddenly proven to not be evil.

I also struggled with the pacing. At the beginning, as I mentioned before, everything was tight and tense. However, portions of the middle of the book were loose and slow moving, meandering through plot points that seemed insignificant or drawn out. I think if plot events had been more tightly connected, the story would have played out more smoothly, despite the other flaws.

The book just didn't feel cohesive to me. The premise was interesting and the beginning was promising, but for me, Struck did not deliver.

2 stars

Warnings: some violence, thematic situations, language, mild sexuality

Short Story Spotlight: The Throne of Glass novellas by Sarah Maas

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Throne of Glass by Sarah Maas recently came out, and I will be posting about it on September 11th as part of a blog tour. However, I had heard that it was best to read the novellas in the series first, so I decided to dig into those early, and I am so glad that I did. They were entertaining and exciting, and I absolutely love Celaena. For this Short Story Spotlight, I will give you a brief synopsis of each of the four novellas, and then I will just give an overall review of the set of four.

In The Assassin and the Pirate Lord, Celaena Sardothien is assigned by her Assassin Lord, Arobynn, to visit a pirate lord and supposedly extract a payment for having killed members of the Assassin's Keep. However, the mission is not what it seemed to be initially, and soon Celaena has to decide if she will follow her gut or follow orders.

In The Assassin and the Desert, Celaena has been sent to train with the Mute Master, leader of the Silent Assassins in the hot, barren desert. Initially she is furious about this responsibility, but as she learns new tactics -- and makes new friends -- she realizes that her "punishment" is not as severe as she previously thought it. However, an unexpected betrayal and worries about a man she left behind in the Assassin's Keep keep Celaena guessing about whether or not people are what they seem.

In The Assassin and the Underworld, Celaena's master, Arobynn, seems to be redeeming himself when he gives her the opportunity to right a moral wrong. However, the task is dangerous, and further complicated by the fact that the assassin working with her is extremely distracting.

In The Assassin and the Empire, Celaena is finally free from her duties and ready to start her own life. She thinks she has found love and independence. However, Arobynn has other ideas.

I had my doubts about this series. While I'd heard mostly love for Throne of Glass, the idea of someone being an assassin was not especially appealing to me. I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I've seen plenty of tough, fighting heroines in the last couple of years (Katniss, Katsa, and Tris just to name a few) and I wasn't sure how I felt about another character from the same mold. Fortunately, Celaena was completely different from what I was expecting. Yes, she is lethal and can take good care of herself. However, she also has an extremely girly, vain aspect to her personality. I think this has annoyed several people in reviews I have read, but I absolutely loved it. I enjoyed this girl that is irritated when she can't buy pretty underwear and go to her dance lessons, the girl who was kind of a brat to the man she loved because she didn't want to be too vulnerable. Yes, I think in some ways Celaena is annoying, but for some reason it was refreshing to me. She was completely herself and much more realistic than someone who would be totally self-sacrificing and heroic all the time. I also love that contrast of someone who wants to do what is right and has this powerful skill, but who is still subject to some weaknesses (especially jewelry).

I also loved the setting. While the novellas don't go into specific details or explanations about the state of Adarlan and the rest of the world, it is easy to glean information from the exchanges and the windows that we are shown. I am excited for more development in Throne of Glass and the following books (I hear there are six? Kind of excited for that many, to be honest).

And finally, the plot was awesome. I read all these novellas on the treadmill, and my workouts were finished before I had even realized I worked up a sweat (and for a pregnant woman walking four miles, that is significant). I was completely invested and completely swept up. I also loved the pacing. Each of these novellas is about ninety pages long, making the stories long enough to be complete but short enough to keep my interest.

I haven't yet read Throne of Glass, but these novellas were definitely an intriguing introduction. I'm looking forward to getting to the meat of the novel itself.

4 stars

Warnings: Talk of prostitution, violence, some language, some innuendo

The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy by Vicki Iovine

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Title: The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy
Author: Vicki Iovine
Genre: Nonfiction
Publisher: Pocket, 1995
Source: Borrowed from my sister-in-law
Read for: Fun

Vicki Iovine, the author of The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy, doesn't have any medical qualifications or special education. She has simply experienced four pregnancies. This means that while her book is not full of authorized medical advice, it is full of plenty of practical information and commiseration, which can be more valuable in the long run.

I loved Iovine's snarky writing. She is sharp and amusing, self-deprecating and honest. At times she gets slightly cheesy, referring constantly to her Girlfriends with a capital G and saying that there are Girlfriend codes of conduct, etc. However, for the most part, the writing was awesome, readable, and comforting.

For the most part, the information in The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy was not new for me. I took a maternity nursing class in my first trimester (not something I recommend, by the way -- you learn way too much about all of the issues that can arise and spend the rest of your pregnancy thinking that your child is not going to make it). I knew the basic biology of pregnancy and the expected symptoms and why they occur. However, The Girlfriend's Guide was full of commiseration and anecdotes and "I've-been-there-too" stories that, at times, I really needed. It's nice to know that you aren't the only one, especially when you've just had a sobbing meltdown in public and everyone is staring at me with fear.

So, in my case at least, The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy was more a humorous read about an experience I am currently immersed in rather than a source of reliable information. However, it was hilarious and full of excellent commiseration and I would recommend it to any other pregnant woman.

4 stars

Warnings: Language, some sexual jokes (it's a book about pregnancy...), some vivid descriptions of bodily functions

Top Ten Favorite Books in the Lifespan of this Blog

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

This week's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, asks which books are the top ten favorites read during the lifespan of one's blog. I've read so many awesome books since I started writing The Story Girl on August 8, 2010, I think many of my favorites were discovered in the lifespan of this blog.

1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

2. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

3. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

4. Chime by Franny Billingsley

5. The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck

6. Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

7. Born Confused by Tanujah Desai Hidier

8. The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

9. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

10. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Honestly, there are so many more books I could add to this list. These ten are some of the first that popped into my mind as books that stand out as books that I just loved since I started this blog. Blogging really gives the opportunity to discover new books -- I love it!

Les Miserables Book 4: The Idyll of the Rue Plumet and the Epic of the Rue Saint-Denis

Monday, August 20, 2012

Book 4 of Les Miserables, The Idyll of the Rue Plumet and the Epic of the Rue Saint-Denis, is the only book that is not named after a main character. Instead of exploring one particular character, everything comes together. First, Marius and Cosette, after weeks and months of batting their eyes at each other, finally meet and fall in love, and second, the barricades rise and the epic battle that is the climax of Les Miserables begins.

Being more familiar with the musical rather than the novel, I was always fairly annoyed with Marius and Cosette's relationship -- they simply bump into each other on a crowded street and fall into insta-love. The story is infinitely better in the book. I had forgotten how lovely Hugo can make a romance. So much of the book is history, and no matter how well that history is written, it can get a little dry after a few hundred pages. The romance is the perfect dessert after a vigorously healthy, multi-course meal. While Marius and Cosette are attracted to each other from a distance for a long time, once they get to know each other, their relationship is sweet and endearing. I loved the description of their first long talk --
"These two hearts poured themselves out to each other and into each other, so that at the end of an hour, the young man had the soul of the young girl and the young girl had the soul of the young man. They entered each other, enchanted each other, dazzled each other."
I also absolutely melted at the letter that Marius wrote to Cosette before their first meeting. If you love a good romantic story, it is worth wading through the history just for this moment alone.

So much for the Idyll of the Rue Plumet. The Epic of the Rue Saint-Denis brings us to the death of General Lamarque and the riots that erupt across Paris as a result. Heading it off, of course, is Enjolras, the man whose only love is France herself. I absolutely love the Friends of the ABC and their various personalities and different ways of relating to the cause. Book 4 generally just builds the tension to a head, bringing in all the main characters -- Eponine, Javert, Jean Valjean, Gavroche, Marius. For the most part the heroic sacrifices are saved for the final book, but we do see Father Mabeuf, old friend of Marius' father, give up his life on the barricade. This second part of Book 4 pales in comparison with the beginning of Book 5, but of course, to have a Book 5 we need a set up.

I've finished the book so I am excited to wrap up my thoughts with my review of book 5 next week and the complete review the week after that. Reading Les Miserables has been an amazing experience!

Classics Club August Meme: Question #1

Saturday, August 18, 2012

This month's question for the Classics Club meme is:

What is your favorite classic? Why?

To be honest, there are several different books that come to mind when I am asked this question. Because I read so many different genres, there are many different classics that appeal to me for different reasons and in different moods. However, if I were to truly just pick one that meant the most to me the most consistently, I would have to pick the Anne of Green Gables books by L.M. Montgomery (Okay, okay, there are eight of them. But at least they all go together, right?). 

I'm not sure exactly when those books developed from just really good stories to books that were formative and meaningful to me. I read most of them in elementary school. I had a good friend that also loved the books, and we would give them to each other on birthdays, while also maintaining kind of a silly competition as to who had more of them. For over a year, whenever I would take a trip to the bookstore, an Anne of Green Gables book was what I would choose. I also remember my mom bringing home books 3-5 from a used bookstore and being absolutely thrilled. 

After reading all of the books for the first time, I went through a phase where I reread all of them every summer. They never grew old or repetitive to me -- I just felt warmer and more at home with every reading. I stopped those marathon rereads in high school, but in college I found myself reading the books that were most relevant to the phase of life I was experiencing -- I read Anne of the Island at the beginning of college, and Anne of Windy Poplars while I was serious with my husband. I suppose now I need to read Anne's House of Dreams and Anne of Ingleside now that I am expecting my first child. In every book I found lessons that were relevant to life, little gems of wisdom that helped me get through difficult experiences. In addition, I just love Anne. I love her curiosity and imagination, her fervor for life, her slow-burning but passionate love for Gilbert. I love the way having children is a priority for her, but that she still pursued her academic goals. Of all the literary "friends" I've met through books, Anne is the best, and I am so grateful that I get to go through the many phases of my life with her. 

YA Friday: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Friday, August 17, 2012

Title: Shadow and Bone
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: Grisha Trilogy #1
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co., 2012
Source: Library
Read for: Fun

Alina Starkov lives an unextraordinary life. Orphaned at a young age in the border wars that ravage her Russia-like fantasy country of Ravka, she was raised in an orphanage in a duke's home and now serves in Ravka's army as a mediocre mapmaker. In fact, the only extraordinary thing in Alina's life is Mal, her childhood best friend who has lately become very attractive (but unfortunately not attracted). However, when the army attempts to cross the Shadow Fold, a dark, dangerous, magically created stretch of land filled with vicious creatures called volcra, Alina accidentally reveals a talent that means she could be either the salvation or the downfall of all Ravka.

I heard nothing but raves about Shadow and Bone, and I was even more excited to read it when I met its fabulous author, Leigh Bardugo, at the Fierce Reads tour (seriously, if you get a chance to attend a signing or something by this author, take advantage, because she is extremely cool). I was not disappointed.

One of the most notable things about Shadow and Bone is the world-building. Ravka is reminiscent of Russia, with an oppressive government and a similar sounding language (bear in mind I know little about Russia). However, it also has many fantastical elements -- the dark and deadly Shadow Fold, of course, and the Grisha, a caste of magically talented individuals with complicated gradations of ability and ranking. To be honest, at times I felt that Shadow and Bone was short, I think because most of the fantasy books I have read have been 500+ pages, but despite the shorter length, the world felt complete and rich. There is definitely more to discover, but I am confident these mysteries will be delineated more in the future books of the trilogy.

The world-building couldn't have been accomplished without Bardugo's beautiful prose. The images in Shadow and Bone are dark and dazzling -- there are stunning descriptions of the scenery, the clothes of the Grisha, the lifestyle in the army. While at times I felt that I wasn't getting as much information as I am used to with fantasy novels, the descriptions Bardugo gives count. They are vivid and lyrical, and left me wanting more while feeling completely wrapped up in Alina's world.

I also loved Alina. She is down-to-earth, not becoming overly swayed by her new-found status and life of luxury. While there are moments in the book that she is confused by the appearances of her new life, for the most part she hangs onto her own identity and values, trusting herself when everything else in her life seems cloudy and confusing. I think that frequently YA literature leaves something to be desired as far as good role models for teens go -- Alina presents someone who is believable and not too much of a goody-goody while still acting as an individual that can be respected and admired. We need more of that in the YA genre and I was thrilled to find it in Shadow and Bone.

I think my favorite part of this story is the love story. I don't want to give anything away, because it was an aspect of the book I was guessing about through much of the beginning. But just be aware that the love story is sweet and epic and satisfying, with several heart-stopping moments. And read it so you can experience it for yourself.

If you haven't gathered that I adored Shadow and Bone, let me lay it out plainly for you -- it is a fantastic novel. I am looking forward to the next volume in the Grisha Trilogy.

4.5 stars

Warnings: Innuendo, violence

Literary Lyrics: "Monster" by Meg and Dia

Thursday, August 16, 2012

So, I don't actually know this song, but I was at a loss for what to use for this month's Literary Lyrics. I found this list on Wikipedia that references songs about or referencing literature, and I saw that the song "Monster" by Meg and Dia was inspired by Cathy Ames in East of Eden -- also known as the most evil character ever created (in my opinion). I couldn't resist learning about this song. 

His little whispers.
Love Me. Love Me.
That's all I ask for.
Love Me. Love Me.
He battered his tiny fists to feel something.
Wondered what it's like to touch and feel something.
How should I feel?
Creatures lie here.
Looking through the window...
That night he caged her.
Bruised and broke her.
He struggled closer.
Then he stole her.
Violet wrists and then her ankles.
Silent Pain.
Then he slowly saw their nightmares were his dreams.
How should I feel?
Creatures lie here.
Looking through the windows.
I will.
Hear their voices.
I'm a glass child.
I am Hannah's regrets.
How should I feel?
Turn the sheets down.
Murder ears with pillow lace.
There's bath tubs.
Full of glow flies.
Bathe in kerosene.
Their words tattoed in his veins, yeah.

Pretty bleak, but so is the character in the book. Not my usual musical choice, but it was interesting to learn something new. 

The Cranes Dance by Meg Howrey

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Title: The Cranes Dance
Author: Meg Howrey
Genre: Contemporary fiction, literary fiction
Publisher: Vintage Books, 2012
Source: NetGalley
Read for: Review, New Adult Challenge

Kate Crane is a solo dancer on a premier dance company in New York. Until a few months ago, her sister Gwen was a principal, surpassing her older sister -- until she had a nervous breakdown and intentionally injured her knee. In the aftermath, Kate has to recenter herself now that she doesn't have her sister to hold her in balance. As she examines what she has lost because of Gwen, her own sanity threatens to fray.

When I requested The Cranes Dance from NetGalley, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I'm drawn to books about mental health issues due to my first degree, and the ballet/perfectionism element also intrigued me, but I wasn't sure if the book would be enjoyable. While The Cranes Dance was certainly not an easy book to read, I was very impressed with the powerful way the story enveloped me in Kate's stressful world.

Initially, I had some issues with Kate's voice. While she is presumably in her mid to late twenties in The Cranes Dance, at times her voice is very superficial and young-sounding, peppered with profanity and at times immature images. However, as the story progressed, her voice became very real. As she described the way living with Gwen in the throes of her mental illness affected her and the continued stress of having to evaluate her life in ballet after Gwen left it, I felt compassion and empathy for her character, despite the fact that she was at times irritating.

I also felt that Kate's personal journey was compelling and believable. Kate hits some very low points in The Cranes Dance, abusing pain medications due to a neck injury, fascinating about taking comfort in some of Gwen's bizarre rituals in order to cope with life, entering into negative relationships for something to distract her from her life. However, she also experiences growth. While we journey with Kate into the lowest parts of her life, we also explore her thought processes. We see her act with compassion despite the fact that she is contemplating horrible things. I think The Cranes Dance was able to convey a message of hope to those struggling with mental health issues without sugarcoating the issue.

I think The Cranes Dance presents some compelling themes for the modern young woman, whether or not that woman has an interest in ballet. While my interest in dance has always been casual and amateur, in other arenas of my life I have felt the intense expectations, whether real or imagined, of peers and family, to excel and attain perfection. I think modern-day America has some high expectations for women -- we are supposed to have strong careers in spite of gender discrimination, as well as raising healthy, well-adjusted children, and being good friends, and maintaining spotless homes, and cooking well-balanced vegan meals for our families. Oh, and if we aren't thin and beautiful, all of that other success is negated. Does anyone else ever feel like this? Ballet is the perfect microcosm to display this more global issue -- the dancers are expected to execute difficult physical feats with exactness, learn multiple roles, and maintain tiny, beautiful bodies. I think these issues are relevant to all women, even if we don't execute them in the world of ballet. I think many women will find something to relate to in the overwhelming stress that affects Kate in The Cranes Dance.

The Cranes Dance is not always a pleasant book to read, but it presents many interesting truths for our modern society in the theater of ballet. I think many women will be able to relate to the stress and struggles Kate experiences.

4 stars

Warnings: Smattering of f-bombs, drug abuse, scene of sensuality, strong thematic material

Top Ten Book Romances That Would Make it in the Real World

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Today's Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) is in honor of their founder, Jamie, getting married on August 17th. Congrats to Jamie! I'm also excited because my anniversary happens to be on the 17th as well, so I'm in the mood for a romantic post myself. :)

1. Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen -- I know this is a cliche, but I really think they would work out, because they had to overcome some obstacles to be together. They had to get over their preconceived notions of what they wanted in relationships and what they thought about each other initially, so now that they have already battled those illusions, I think they are ready for a good life together.
2. Anne Elliott and Frederick Wentworth from Persuasion by Jane Austen -- I promise these won't all be Jane Austen characters, but I think these two would also be happy together due to the reasons listed for Elizabeth and Darcy. They haven't had it easy, they've had to overcome some obstacles, but now that they have I think they will be able to enjoy their lives together.
3. Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe from the Anne of Green Gables books by L.M. Montgomery -- Again -- Anne and Gilbert don't just experience insta-love. They go through some things and several near misses before they are able to be together. I also love that we get to follow them into middle age and see some of the obstacles they go through in their marriage and the way it brings them closer together.
4. Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling -- If I'm being perfectly honest, I seriously wish that Harry and Hermione had ended up together (dodges tomatoes). But I do think that the opposites-attract theory for Ron and Hermione works out. I also think there is something to learning how to fight with each other -- I don't think bickering means a relationship is failed, as long as you know how to make your arguments productive. I think the hardest thing for my husband and I when we first got married was learning to understand how each other dealt with conflict. Once we had that figured out, we certainly still have plenty of disagreements, but now we know how to work with each other through them. I think Ron and Hermione most likely figured that out very early on in their relationship. :)
5. Liesel and Rudy from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak -- I can't say much about this one without spoiling the ending, so I won't. But I think they were so perfect together and so sweet. I'm a sucker for childhood sweethearts stories.
6. Father Tim and Cynthia Coppersmith in the Mitford books by Jan Karon -- I love these books -- they epitomize comfort reads for me. Their quirky, mismatched relationship is why I think they are both so satisfied in it -- they are different enough from each other to keep each other interested, but have the same values, which keeps them compatible.
7. Anna and Etienne from Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins -- They had a rocky start, but seeing the glimpses of them in Lola and the Boy Next Door makes me sure that this is a couple that will spend their lives together. I freaking love it.
8. Peeta and Katniss from The Hunger Games books by Suzanne Collins -- Okay, so their relationship is kind of messed up and slightly darkened from all the memory wipe-age and post-traumatic stress disorder. But after everything they went through together, I think they would last forever. I guess in the real world, they wouldn't go through everything they had, so maybe my premise is all messed up. But I'm having trouble thinking of people at this point, so they stay.
9. Seth Moreno and Julia from The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker -- Guys, have you read this book? While it ends sadly, I think this couple is the most adorable one I've ever read about. Again, the childhood sweethearts theme. And again, I think they would last forever, given the chance.
10. Lyra and Will from His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman -- These two are perfectly matched soulmates. No arguments, guys. If they were just two normal people meeting in this normal world, even if they didn't go through any of the crazy adventures they go through, they would still end up together, in my opinion.

Chicken Soup for the Expectant Mother's Soul

Monday, August 13, 2012

Title: Chicken Soup for the Expectant Mother's Soul
Authors: Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Patty Aubery, & Nancy Mitchell
Series: Chicken Soup #28,398 (joking) (mostly)
Genre: Inspirational
Publisher: HCI, 2000
Source: Personal Copy
Read for: Fun

Guys, I have a confession to make. I absolutely love the Chicken Soup books. The first one I ever read was Chicken Soup for the Woman's Soul, when I was about ten. When I was younger I read absolutely everything in the house, regardless of how appropriate it was for me, and my mom had a copy of this book. For reasons I no longer recall, I absolutely devoured it and read it multiple times. I actually did that a lot with self-help books when I was a little kid. Hmmm, what does that say about me...? Haha. Anyway, in future years I acquired many other Chicken Soup books, including and especially the Teen Soul ones when I was in high school. After high school, I more or less forgot about them. But one day, I saw that the Kindle Daily Deal was over 100 Chicken Soup books for under $2.00 each and I decided I wanted some. I had just found out that I was pregnant, and was also in nursing school, so I ended up buying this one and Chicken Soup for the Nurse's Soul.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the Chicken Soup series (what rock did you grow up under? Just kidding) they are compiled from inspirational stories that readers send in. They are meant to comfort and soothe the soul, like chicken soup when you are feeling sick. They are, in a word, the essential comfort read. Now, I know that these stories are cheesy and mockable. I mock myself for loving them so much. But, romantic, idealistic person that I am, they still strike a chord. And when you add pregnancy to a romantic, idealistic person, you get much weepage and loving of books like this.

I mostly enjoyed this book. There were several stories that struck a chord with me, that mirrored the experiences I have been having as an "Expectant Mother." I've spent a decent portion of my pregnancy alone because my husband was at boot camp and I was extremely busy with school, so it was nice to read some things that I could relate to. There were also some stories that, while touching, didn't move me as much because they were a different situation. Probably about a third of the stories involved adoption. I think this is really, really cool -- there were some absolutely amazing stories -- but I still would have liked more about actually being pregnant, because that is the experience I have been having. And I would imagine adoptive mothers probably wouldn't think to turn to this book, themselves, because the majority of the stories are about pregnancy. So I would think maybe a better way to have dealt with this book would have been to write a Chicken Soup for the Pregnant Woman's Soul and Chicken Soup for the Adoptive Mother's Soul or something like that. But it still worked.

The other slight quibble I have with the book is that there were several stories and poems along the lines of, "You have no idea how hard motherhood is going to be and what you are getting yourself into." I feel like this is something people feel compelled to say to pregnant women, and I think it is not the best message to send. My pregnancy was expected and planned, but it is still pretty terrifying to face the prospect of being responsible for a human life. And I feel like I am fully aware that it will be difficult, although the exact ways in which it will be difficult are not something I have yet experienced (although taking care of the 18 month old to 3 year old kids at church has given me a few scary glimpses, haha). I don't need to be further freaked out by being reminded, "You have no idea how hard this is going to be." So I didn't love that section of the book.

But all in all, there were plenty of feel-good stories and tear-jerkers. I also love the comics that are always mixed into the Chicken Soup books -- sometimes I go through the books and just look at all the comics. While Chicken Soup for the Expectant Mother's Soul had some elements that I probably would have left out or changed had I been the editor, it was a decent read and I will probably revisit it the next time I am pregnant.

3 stars

Warnings: You may be compelled to weep, especially with pregnancy hormones raging in your body. If you are a cynical type of person, you may be more compelled to vomit. You may also be compelled to feel stress when they reiterate for the ten billionth time that you have no idea how hard motherhood is going to be and that there is no way to prepare for it.

Bout of Books 5.0

Sunday, August 12, 2012

On a whim, I am going to join the Bout of Books readathon. While I do have some big events this week (my sister's wedding open house and my anniversary) I am also going to be spending some time in the car and at my father-in-law's house. He doesn't have internet or TV, so there is little opportunity to waste time. Which is FANTASTIC. I'll update on this post by the end of everything, but, of course, due to the limited internet, it won't be daily. I'll post daily updates at the end of the day via Twitter. 

Here's what the Bout of Books is all about, via the Bout of Books team:
The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal.  It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 13th and runs through Sunday, August 19th in whatever time zone you are in.  Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week.  There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional.  For all Bout of Books 5.0 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. -From the Bout of Books 5.0 team

My goals for Bout of Books are to finish these books:
Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier
Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran
Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett
Goddess Legacy by Aimee Carter
The Assassin and the Empire by Sarah Maas (novella)

If I finish all these, I will be thrilled. It is a bit overly ambitious, but we will see what happens. :)

Monday, August 13
Books finished today: Daughter of the Forest and The Assassin and the Empire
Books started today: North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (I know, not on the list) and Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran
Pages read: 267
Books read overall: 2. Granted, one is a novella and one I was almost finished with. Still, pretty good day!

Tuesday, August 14
Books finished today: None.
Books started today: None. But the books that I read from today were Cleopatra's Daughter and North and South.
Pages read: 96. Not the most productive day, but not bad.
Books read overall: Still 2.

Wednesday, August 15

Books finished today: None.
Books started today: None. But I read Cleopatra's Daughter.
Pages read: 42 pages. *wince*
Books read overall: 2.

Thursday, August 16

Books finished today: None.
Books started today: None -- read Cleopatra's Daughter.
Pages read: 65 pages
Books read overall: 2

Friday, August 17:

Books finished today: Cleopatra's Daughter
Books started today: Reading Lolita in Tehran
Pages read: 82
Books read overall: 3

Saturday, August 18

Books finished today:
Books started today:
Pages read:
Books read overall:

Sunday, August 19

Books finished today:
Books started today:
Pages read:
Books read overall:

YA Friday: 3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows by Ann Brashares

Friday, August 10, 2012

Title: 3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows
Author: Ann Brashares
Genre: YA, middle grade, contemporary
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2009
Source: Borrowed from my sister-in-law
Read for: Fun

Polly, Jo, and Ama were the best of friends, supporting each other through every hiccup and struggle. They once planted three willow trees and cared for them diligently every day. However, lately things have changed -- they have different interests, different friends. However, as their lives change, they realize that maybe the people most able to support them are still each other.

3 Willows is supposed to be a continuation of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Books. While the three main characters are unique and new, they all have ties to the members of the original Sisterhood -- Polly babysits Tibby's younger siblings, Jo works with Effie Kaligaris at a restaurant, and, apparently, everyone knows about the Sisterhood and wants to be just like them. I really enjoyed getting sneak peeks of the original characters, but I found the idea that all the girls in their high school looked up to and sought to emulate the older girls a little far-fetched. First of all, why would they know about the pants? And second of all... why would they know about the pants? I also found the willow metaphor to be a bit odd. While Brashares did a good job at incorporating the willow with the story, it also seemed too far-fetched.

However, aside from the premise of the book being unbelievable for me, I actually enjoyed the story quite a bit. Something about Ann Brashares' writing always pulls me in. Her style is personable and conversational, describing emotions and experiences that I can relate to in phrasing that is creative and vivid. She squeezes little gems of life wisdom into the everyday experiences of her characters, and the way the characters experience and discover those gems is realistic and raw. I remember feeling a strong connection with the characters in the original books when I was in high school, and it was good to see that I can still relate to Ann Brashares' characters several years later.

In short, I enjoyed the characters created by Brashares and the story; however, I think she tried a little too hard to relate them to the characters she created in the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Once I was able to suspend my disbelief a little bit, I really loved 3 Willows, but it did take me a few moments to get over the all-too-convenient coincidences.

3.5 stars

Warnings: Some drug/alcohol use, making out, moderate language

A Classic's Challenge -- August Post

Thursday, August 09, 2012

The prompt for this month's classics challenge, hosted by November's Autumn, is to share a quote from the classic you are currently reading, which is -- guess! -- still Les Miserables. I have been highlighting this book to death (yes, I'm one of those) so I am excited for the opportunity to share a quote (or three) from this beautiful novel with you.

Algebra applies to the clouds;
the radiance of the star benefits the rose. 
No thinker worth his salt would dare claim that the scent of the hawthorn is useless
to the constellations.
Who can calculate the trajectory of a molecule?
How do we know the creation of worlds
is not determined
by the falling of grains of sand?
Who, after all, knows the reciprocal ebb and flow
of the infinitely small,
the reverberation of causes in the chasms of a being,
the avalanches of creation?

And also...

I met in the street
a very poor young man
who loved.
His hat was old,
his coat was worn; 
there were holes at his elbows;
the water got into his shoes
and the stars
got into his soul.

And finally...

When you learn finally to know
and when you learn finally to love
you will suffer still.
The day begins in tears.
Those filled with light weep,
if only over those
filled with darkness.

See why I love this book!?

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Title: The Name of the Wind
Author: Patrick Rothfuss
Series: The Kingkiller Chronicle #1
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: DAW Hardcover, 2007
Source: Library
Read for: Alex Awards Challenge, Chunkster Challenge

When Chronicler finds himself in an isolated tavern one night on the way to a scribe assignment, he doesn't expect to meet one of the most legendary people in the land. He also doesn't expect to be offered the opportunity to hear the man's story from his own mouth. Kvothe tells Chronicler that it will take him three days to tell his story. The Name of the Wind is the first day, taking us from Kvothe's beginning as a member of a traveling performance troupe to his experiences in the famed and at times mysterious University in Imre.

I'm a sucker for a good fantasy novel, especially this summer, but I was absolutely blown away by The Name of the Wind. The world-building, characters, and small details made this not only a book but an experience.

One of the first things I noticed at the beginning of The Name of the Wind was that as readers we are thrust instantly into the world Patrick Rothfuss has created. While it was confusing for a few pages, Rothfuss is expert at weaving in the necessary details to make the world make sense without being overly didactic or obvious. The reader is slowly woven into the fabric of Kvothe's world, integrated into the experience without it being too jarring.

And the world itself is fascinating. There are different languages and groups of people, different types of professions. My favorite part, and one that dominates most of the novel, is that of the University, where Kvothe learns the intricacies of sympathy, manipulation of small particles in a way that seems very like magic, fabrication, which is engineering with sympathy, and medicine. As I have been in college for the last six years (and went through seven majors and two degrees), I could appreciate Kvothe's penchant for taking on more than he could handle and not wanting to be tied down to only one subject.

I also fell in love with the characters. Kvothe himself was very relatable to me. I loved how quickly he learned, how passionate he was about the universe around him, how desperate he was to avenge the deaths of his parents. I could relate to his absorption with music (the first of my seven majors was music), the way immersing himself in it was the only thing that could calm him down. I loved getting to know this character and can't wait to learn more about him.

While I'm talking about characters I could relate to in this book, I also have to mention that for the first time in my life, I saw someone else with the same first name and spelling as I do. Lorren the Archivist, protector of the massive library that blossoms from the University, made me do a double take every time his name was on the page. I appreciated that he was an intense book lover as well.

The secondary characters of The Name of the Wind were also vivid and fully developed, something that to me is a deal-maker with an author. If they are willing to devote time and space to create fully realized secondary characters, they are probably creating a story that is rich and satisfying to me. I loved Kvothe's close friends, his first teacher, his love, Denna. I couldn't wait to get to know these characters better, eating up every page.

The Name of the Wind was one of the richest, most satisfying books I've read in a long time. I can't wait to devour The Wise Man's Fear, although I don't want to read it too soon because I have no idea when the third book will be released. I can't wait to see what Kvothe does next.

5 stars

Warnings: Some language, violence, innuendo

Why I Will Miss the Provo Library

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

You guys, I have to tell you -- one of the things I am most sad about in moving from my six-year home of Provo, Utah is leaving the Provo City Library. I've always had good libraries to go to, but the Provo library is a cut above the rest. I want to make a list of why I will miss it in tribute to the fantastic place where I spent so many hours over the last few years.

1. It is absolutely gorgeous. I remember the first time I ever saw the Provo City Library. I had been living in Provo for a year but had just gotten a car, so I was driving in a part of Provo I'd never been to before, having been forced to basically restrict my life to the area immediately around BYU before having a car. I noticed this stunning building on the side of the road and realized it was a library. I immediately knew I wanted to go there as soon as possible. I couldn't believe there was a building that beautiful in Provo and that it housed my favorite thing.

2. Author events. The Provo library is notorious for having fantastic author events. I met Markus Zusak, Leif Enger, Marissa Meyer, Leigh Bardugo, Jennifer Bosworth, Anna Banks, and Emmy Laybourne here. I also missed multiple other author events that I really wanted to attend but couldn't due to school obligations, etc.

3. Book request system. There were several occasions when I looked in the catalog and saw that the book I wanted wasn't available. Every time, I requested the book, and every time, the library purchased the book and put it on hold for me. That, my friends, is service. I've also noticed that if the holds list on a book is 2093 patrons long, the library is very good about purchasing additional copies to meet the demands.

4. Used book sales. The library has quarterly used book sales, and every time I have gone I've found great, inexpensive books.

5. Excellent study areas. As a student at BYU, I usually used the Harold B. Lee library to study. However, once I had graduated and was attending the University of Utah, I realized that the Provo Library is a much better study area. It has comfortable lighted desks with plenty of power outlets. It also has fewer giggling freshman and muttered cell phone conversations.

6. Sheer nostalgia. Part of the appeal is just a je-ne-sais-quoi that cannot be explained. The Provo Library is a magical place. And while I am excited for the huge collection of the Los Angeles Public Library, I know it isn't going to quite live up to its predecessor.

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

Monday, August 06, 2012

Title: Death Comes to Pemberley
Author: P.D. James
Genre: Historical fiction, mystery, spin-off
Publisher: Knopf, 2011
Source: Library
Read for: Fun

It is the evening before the Darcy's annual ball in honor of Mr. Darcy's mother, Anne. Everything is going well, with the Bingleys in the house for a visit and a potential romance in the air for Georgiana -- until someone rides into the estate shouting about gunshots and a wounded man. The main suspect is none other than Darcy's enemy and brother-in-law, Wickham. As the case goes to trial, the question is raised -- who is the murderer, and will the Darcys' reputations forever be besmirched?

I was pretty excited to read Death Comes to Pemberley. Regular readers of this blog know that I really enjoy spin-offs (to an extent -- you won't see a review of 50 Shades of Grey here), as well as Jane Austen. I've actually never read anything that goes beyond the story of Pride and Prejudice -- I've read books with the plot in other settings and time periods, but never any sequels or prequels. I was excited to see what P.D. James would do with the beloved characters created by Jane Austen. However, I found Death Comes to Pemberley to be a weak and slow-paced novel.

The first issue I had was the pacing. The descriptions were interminable and plodding. I enjoy many books that are slowly paced -- I like Jane Austen and the subtleties that exist in the books that she has written. However, the mimicry of her style did not work when not paired with her genius. I think P.D. James did well in imitating the style of Jane Austen, but the content was not up to par, which resulted in a pace that was far too slow.

I also took issue with the characterization. I didn't want to fall into the trap of disliking the story just because the characters were not exactly how I would picture Jane Austen's beloved cast of Pride and Prejudice -- but I must say I didn't think the way they were portrayed was how Jane Austen would have cast them. Elizabeth was mainly in the background, and frankly discusses the fact that Darcy's money was a primary motivation in her marriage to Darcy. She also bemoans the fact that they didn't have a romantic courtship. Really? I appreciate that perhaps P.D. James was trying to do something unique, but I thought these deviations were not in character with the original characters.

I did think the mystery was interesting, although somewhat predictable. I don't read many mysteries, because I think it is hard to find a good balance between a solution that is completely obscure and one that is too predictable, but I think Death Comes to Pemberley did fairly well with this. I also thought that, while some of the characters were not consistent with their inspirations from Pride and Prejudice, Wickham's future was very believable and consistent with his original character. I thought James was insightful into his personality. I also enjoyed the little connections to Jane Austen's other works. I'd never before considered the idea that Austen's characters were contemporaries in different parts of England and that they could have had acquaintances in common.

Overall, while Death Comes to Pemberley had an intriguing premise, the execution was lacking for me. It is clear that P.D. James is a talented writer, but this novel was a miss for me.

2 stars

Warnings: Some violence, talk of affairs
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