Friday, May 29, 2015

FF Friday: In Which I Tell You How Many Books I Need To Read

Feature & Follow is a weekly blog hop hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.

This week’s question: How many books have you got on your TBR list?

Answer: I have two different TBRs. One is a literal pile of unread books, and the other is a list of books I want to read someday. The pile currently has 10 books in it. The list has 147 books on it.


The follow part: If you are a book blogger and you leave a link to your blog in the comments below, I will follow you on Bloglovin’. I’d love it if you also followed me. If you want to be friends on Goodreads, TwitterBookLikes, or G+, that would be awesome, too. Click the links to go to my pages on those sites. I’m looking forward to “meeting” you.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Not-So-Beachy Reads

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is top ten books I plan to have in my beach bag this summer.

I live thousands of miles away from the beach, and I’m really not a “beach reads” type of person. It says so right in my review policy. When I think of “beach reads,” I think of books that are easy and only meant for entertainment purposes. I don’t usually read things like that. I prefer stories that have depth, challenge me, teach me something, or make me think. So, I’m changing the topic a little. Here are ten books from my TBR pile that I’d bring to the beach with me.

My Not-So-Beachy Reads

1. Song of Susannah (Dark Tower #6) – Stephen King
2. The Dark Tower (Dark Tower #7) – Stephen King
3. The Wind through the Keyhole (Dark Tower #8) – Stephen King

The Dark Tower series tells the story of Roland Deschain, Mid-World’s last gunslinger, who is traveling southeast across Mid-World’s post-apocalyptic landscape, searching for the powerful but elusive magical edifice known as The Dark Tower. Located in the fey region of End-World, amid a sea of singing red roses, the Dark Tower is the nexus point of the time-space continuum. It is the heart of all worlds, but it is also under threat. Someone, or something, is using the evil technology of the Great Old Ones to destroy it.  
In Roland’s where and when, the world has already begun to move on. Time and direction are in drift, and the fabric of reality is fraying. However, things are about to get much worse. The six invisible magnetic Beams, which maintain the alignment of time, space, size, and dimension, are weakening. Because of this, the Tower itself is foundering. Unless Roland can find a way to save the Beams and stabilize the Tower, all of reality will blink out of existence.  
Inspired in equal parts by Robert Browning’s poem, “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came,” J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Western classics, The Dark Tower series is an epic of Arthurian proportions. It is Stephen King’s magnum opus, and is the center of his amazing creative universe.

4. Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) – Brandon Sanderson
5. The Well of Ascension (Mistborn #2) – Brandon Sanderson
6. The Hero of Ages (Mistborn #3) – Brandon Sanderson

Mistborn is an epic fantasy trilogy and a heist story of political intrigue, surprises and magical martial-arts action. The saga dares to turn a genre on its head by asking a simple question: What if the hero of prophecy fails? What kind of world results when the Dark Lord is in charge?

7. Aristotle And Dante Discover The Secrets Of The Universe – Benjamin Alire Sáenz

A lyrical novel about family and friendship from critically acclaimed author Benjamin Alire Sáenz.  
Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

8. Ready Player One – Ernest Cline

It's the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.  
Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. 
And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them. 
For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday's riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday's icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes's oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig. 
And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle. 
Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt—among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life—and love—in the real world he's always been so desperate to escape. 
A world at stake. A quest for the ultimate prize. Are you ready?

9. The Narrow Road To The Deep North – Richard Flanagan

A novel of the cruelty of war, and tenuousness of life and the impossibility of love. 
Richard Flanagan's story—of Dorrigo Evans, an Australian doctor haunted by a love affair with his uncle's wife—journeys from the caves of Tasmanian trappers in the early twentieth century to a crumbling pre-war beachside hotel, from a Thai jungle prison to a Japanese snow festival, from the Changi gallows to a chance meeting of lovers on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  
Taking its title from 17th-century haiku poet Basho's travel journal, The Narrow Road To The Deep North is about the impossibility of love. At its heart is one day in a Japanese slave labour camp in August 1943. As the day builds to its horrific climax, Dorrigo Evans battles and fails in his quest to save the lives of his fellow POWs, a man is killed for no reason, and a love story unfolds.

10. Stone Mattress: Nine Tales – Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood turns to short fiction for the first time since her 2006 collection, Moral Disorder, with nine tales of acute psychological insight and turbulent relationships bringing to mind her award-winning 1996 novel, Alias Grace. A recently widowed fantasy writer is guided through a stormy winter evening by the voice of her late husband in "Alphinland," the first of three loosely linked stories about the romantic geometries of a group of writers and artists. In "The Freeze-Dried Bridegroom," a man who bids on an auctioned storage space has a surprise. In "Lusus Naturae," a woman born with a genetic abnormality is mistaken for a vampire. In "Torching the Dusties," an elderly lady with Charles Bonnet syndrome comes to terms with the little people she keeps seeing, while a newly formed populist group gathers to burn down her retirement residence. And in "Stone Mattress," a long-ago crime is avenged in the Arctic via a 1.9 billion-year-old stromatolite. In these nine tales, Margaret Atwood is at the top of her darkly humorous and seriously playful game.

Friday, May 22, 2015

FF Friday: In Which I Reveal My Secrets (Of Book Reviewing)

Feature & Follow is a weekly blog hop hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.

This week’s question: How do you write your reviews?

Answer: Not very well.

Better answer: I usually wait 2-4 days after finishing the book so that I have time to think about it and let everything sink in. Then I start by writing my own synopsis because the ones that come with books often suck. Seriously, I sometimes wonder if the summary-writers even bothered to read the book before writing the synopsis.

Next, I write down all of my thoughts about the characters, plot, dialogue, pacing, world-building, structure, theme, tone, and writing style. No spoilers. I think about how this book compares to the author’s other books and to similar books in the genre. Then I try my hardest to organize my thoughts into something that people can actually read. My first drafts of reviews are usually hot messes.

I point out the positive and negative aspects of every book. I never want my reviews to sound like I’m bashing a book, so I attempt to write two positive comments for every negative comment. I also try to start and end the review with something positive. An exception to this is my DNF reviews. For me to DNF a book, I have to really, really not like it. Those reviews always come out more negative than positive.

Finally, I keep my reviews between 200 and 600 words. Short reviews don’t look legitimate, and I have a suspicion that nobody actually reads long reviews.

That’s it. You now know all of my reviewing secrets. Go forth and review books.


The follow part: If you are a book blogger and you leave a link to your blog in the comments below, I will follow you on Bloglovin’. I’d love it if you also followed me. If you want to be friends on Goodreads, TwitterBookLikes, or G+, that would be awesome, too. Click the links to go to my pages on those sites. I’m looking forward to “meeting” you.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Very, Very Dead Authors

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is whatever I want. I listed my top ten favorite living authors a few weeks ago, so here are some of my favorite dead ones. Once again, I had a hard time narrowing down the list. I decided to pick authors who have been dead for 50 years or longer. Then I broke my “dead for a long time” rule with #3. So, here’s an unruly list of wonderful dead writers.

My Top Ten Favorite Very, Very Dead Authors

10. Thomas Hardy: I had to take a ton of Brit Lit classes in college, and I was always relieved when I saw Thomas Hardy on the syllabus. Unlike a lot of dead British authors, his books are only slightly tedious to read. I actually liked Tess of the d’Urbervilles, The Woodlanders, and Jude the Obscure.

9. The Brontë Sisters: This is probably cheating, but I can’t pick one, so I lumped them all together. I like the complex characters they created.

8. Aldous Huxley: Brave New World is one of my favorite dystopias. His essays are pretty interesting, too. And, (this is kind of off-topic) the mall near my house has a piece of granite artwork with quotes engraved on it, and I totally geeked out when I found a Huxley quote on there.

7. Sylvia Plath: Brilliant poet, and The Bell Jar is the most realistic book about depression I’ve ever read.

6. Oscar Wilde: He had an interesting life and spent two years in jail for “gross indecency.” I read The Picture of Dorian Gray when I was a pre-teen and thought it was a cool story. When I reread it for a college class, I discovered that there is a lot of stuff in that book that I missed when I was a kid. A LOT of stuff.

5. Jules Verne: A childhood favorite. I read Around the World in Eighty Days a bunch of times because I had an obsession with adventure books.

4. Ernest Hemingway: I love his short stories. In Our Time is as close to perfect as a short story collection can get.

3. J.D. Salinger: His novels are great and his short stories are better. Nine Stories is one of my favorite short story collections ever. Technically, he’s not dead enough to be on this list (he died in 2010, I think), but it would feel wrong to leave him off.

2. Jack London: I grew up reading his books, so they have the nostalgia factor. At one point, I owned three copies of The Call of the Wild.

1. Edgar Allan Poe: He helped start/further the horror genre that I love. He also did a lot for the mystery and science fiction genres. On top of that, he wrote many of my favorite poems. I think I’ve read nearly all of his published work.

This was hard. There are so many more dead authors who I love: William Faulkner, George Orwell, John Kennedy Toole, Jane Austen . . . Don’t even get me started on the recently dead authors. I’d be listing them forever. I guess I have more favorite dead authors than favorite living ones.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Review: Wolves of the Calla – Stephen King

Wolves of the Calla – Stephen King

Roland Deschain and his ka-tet are bearing southeast through the forests of Mid-World on their quest for the Dark Tower. Their path takes them to the outskirts of Calla Bryn Sturgis. But beyond the tranquil farm town, the ground rises to the hulking darkness of Thunderclap, the source of a terrible affliction that is stealing the town's soul. The Wolves of Thunderclap and their unspeakable depredation are coming. To resist them is to risk all, but these are odds the gunslingers are used to. Their guns, however, will not be enough . . . .

This is a review of book #5 in the Dark Tower series. The review is spoiler-free, but you might want to check out my thoughts on book #1 (The Gunslinger), book #2 (The Drawing of the Three), book #3 (The Waste Lands), and book #4 (Wizard and Glass).

Review: On their way to the Dark Tower, Roland and his band of gunslingers find themselves in a town where almost everyone is a twin. Once every 20 years, creatures called Wolves come out of the east and kidnap one child from every set of twins. No one knows why this happens, but the townspeople need Roland’s help to make it stop.

I don’t want to admit that I was bored by a Stephen King book, but . . . I was bored by this one. Wolves of the Calla is over 700 pages, and it’s very bloated. It seems like a bridge book that connects the first half of the series to the second half. Nothing new or surprising is revealed about the main characters. They feel stagnant. They’re just going through the same gunslinger routine that they’ve gone through in previous books. I understand that this novel is setting up the events that happen later, but it was still difficult for me to get through.

There are some elements of the story that I love. As always with Stephen King books, the world-building is phenomenal. King always blows my mind with his ability to create creepy places. The southwestern-type landscape is vivid. The towns in the Calla are weird, believable, and inhabited by a strange set of characters. I really like the terrifying descriptions of the “Roont” twins and the mystery surrounding the Wolves. Those things kept me reading through the slow parts.

My biggest complaint is the excruciating slowness. I often found my attention wandering. The Wolves don’t show up until the last 70ish pages, and the battle is over so quickly that it isn’t really satisfying. The rest of the book is mostly world-building, dialogue, and setup for events that haven’t happened yet. It’s interesting, but plowing through 600+ pages of it is a slog.

Even though Wolves of the Calla isn’t my favorite book in the series, I’m still enjoying the Dark Tower books overall. I’m excited to find out what happens next.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Sunday Post #6 – Hiatus

The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to recap the past week, talk about next week, and share news.

On My Blog Last Week

On My Blog This Week

  • On Monday I review Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King.
  • On Tuesday I list my favorite dead authors.
  • On Friday I explain how I write my reviews.

In My Reading Life

Considering how busy I am, I got a surprising amount of reading done last week. I read two wolfish books. First, I finally finished Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King. Then I read a short story collection called St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell. Then I read Rumble by Ellen Hopkins (no wolves in that one). Next I’m going to be reading Song of Susannah by Stephen King. I don’t think I’ll be able to finish it before I have to go to Kentucky, and it’s too big to come with me, so who knows when I’ll be able to review it.

In The Rest Of My Life

I’m going to take a hiatus from blogging. I have a few posts scheduled, but I probably won’t be looking at comments on this blog or reading other blogs. I’m going to be spending the next few weeks in Kentucky for school-related stuff. I’ve done this before, and I know that I won’t have time for blogging, reading, eating, sleeping, or any of that important stuff. I’ll just be working and running around like crazy. So, I’ll see you guys again in early June.

I hope everybody is having a wonderful spring. Peace out, Interwebs.

Friday, May 15, 2015

FF Friday: In Which I Confess My Lack Of Organization

Feature & Follow is a weekly blog hop hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.

This week’s question: How do you organize your books? Either at home on your bookshelves or on your reading-device, or on your bookish platform like Goodreads, Leafmarks or Booklikes?

Answer: I don’t really organize them. Finding a book on my Kindle usually requires some scrolling and angry muttering about how I need to be better organized. My ‘bookish platforms’ are organized by broad categories. I tag all of my books with one of these labels: genre fiction, literary fiction, young adult, middle grade, nonfiction, classic, short story collection, poetry, or play. The tags make them slightly easier to find. It also allows me to see how many books in each category I’m reading.

My physical bookshelves are actually a little bit organized. The books are currently sorted by size, subject, or color. Here’s what I have:

  • One shelf for my trade paperbacks. (No other books will fit on it.)
  • One shelf for my TBR.
  • Four shelves for my series books.
  • Three shelves for my books about cults.
  • One shelf for my writing reference books.
  • Tons of shelves for miscellaneous books, standalones, and books that don’t fit on other shelves.

Some quick pictures of the shelves near my computer. These are mostly standalones, classics, and cult books (also a dog who wouldn't get out of the way).


The follow part: If you are a book blogger and you leave a link to your blog in the comments below, I will follow you on Bloglovin’. I’d love it if you also followed me. If you want to be friends on Goodreads, TwitterBookLikes, or G+, that would be awesome, too. Click the links to go to my pages on those sites. I’m looking forward to “meeting” you.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Discussion: What I Learned From Internet Stalking My Favorite Authors


Last month, I posted a discussion about auto-buy authors and never-buy authors. A few of the commenters on that discussion said that they won’t read books by certain authors because the author is mean to reviewers, rude to fans, or a jerk in other ways. The comments made me realize how little I actually knew about my favorite writers. I knew that I liked their work, but I didn’t know much about them as people.

To remedy this, I decided to spend a month Internet stalking my favorite authors*. I read their websites and Wikipedia pages. I followed them on social media and skimmed through months of their old updates. I watched interviews with them on YouTube. I read blog posts written by fans who had met them in real life. I did everything I could to learn about the people behind the books I love.

You know what I discovered? My favorite authors are really awesome. I didn’t find any signs of jerkiness. They all seemed very friendly.

One thing did stand out to me: some authors post a lot of their political opinions on social media. Personally, this didn’t bother me, even when I disagreed with the author. I did wonder about other people, though. Have you ever been bothered enough by an author’s opinion about something that you stopped buying that author’s books?

While I was Internet stalking YA author John Green, I found a guy on Facebook who said he won’t buy Green’s books because the author is “Too liberal.” I guess that guy was bothered by the author’s opinions. Similarly, I saw some Twitter users criticizing J.K. Rowling for her politics-related comments. I don’t know much about British politics, but the Twitter users seemed pretty irritated.

I’ve followed Stephen King’s career more closely than I’ve followed any other writer. I remember when he wrote an essay that argued for stricter gun-control laws in the US. A lot of gun enthusiasts on social media were outraged and swore to “Never buy another Stephen King book.”

I also remember when Stephen King criticized Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight. Twilight enthusiasts on social media were outraged and swore to “Never buy another Stephen King book.”

I wonder if King’s comments actually impacted the sales of his books. His opinions didn’t stop me from buying them**. I prefer literature that is filled with carnage and gore, and he’s pretty talented at cranking that stuff out, so I own a whole shelf of his work. I have no plans to ever stop buying it.

Maybe it would be different if one of my favorite authors said something racist or prejudiced. If an author behaved hatefully toward a group of people, I’d definitely be reluctant to buy any more of that author’s work. I’d also be reluctant to buy books by an author who is disrespectful toward fans or book bloggers.

Luckily, my favorite authors seem to be awesome, so this isn’t an issue I’ve had to deal with.

What about you? Has an author’s public comments (political or otherwise) ever stopped you from buying that author’s books?

*Technically, what I did doesn’t meet the legal definition of stalking. It just felt like stalking because I usually don’t pay that much attention to anyone on the Internet. Seriously, I often scroll past my own mother’s Facebook updates without slowing down. (Sorry, mom.)

**Actually, I completely agree with King about gun-control laws and Twilight. However, I’m not fanatical enough about either subject to let his comments influence my opinion of his work.


I’m linking back to Feed Your Fiction Addiction and It Starts At Midnight. They host the 2015 Discussion Challenge.  

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Review: Vicious – V.E. Schwab

Vicious – V.E. Schwab

A masterful, twisted tale of ambition, jealousy, betrayal, and superpowers, set in a near-future world.

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong. Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end? 

In Vicious, V. E. Schwab brings to life a gritty comic-book-style world in vivid prose: a world where gaining superpowers doesn’t automatically lead to heroism, and a time when allegiances are called into question.

Review: This book is insane. It takes almost everything that I love about fiction and crams it into 400 pages. It’s not a happy book, but I was so happy while reading it.

In Vicious, college roommates—Victor and Eli—discover how to turn regular humans into comic-book-style superheroes. Unfortunately, their research goes horribly wrong. Ten years later, Victor is out of prison and on a mission to murder Eli.

I enjoyed everything about this book: the wicked characters, the nonlinear structure, the fast pacing, the crazy plot, the way that the dead people didn’t always stay dead . . .

Victor and Eli are both so twisted. The reader can never be sure which character is more evil. Their motives are complex, and they are both very passionate about the murders they commit. Neither of them could ever be called “good” people, but I loved watching them become less human as their obsessions consumed their lives.

For me, the best part of this book is the nonlinear structure. Much of the story is told in short flashbacks. The little flashbacks prevent the pace from lagging while still giving the reader enough backstory to understand what is happening. It does take a while to figure out how all of the flashbacks relate to each other, but the story snaps together like a puzzle in the end. It’s brilliant. It takes a very talented author to make this type of structure work.

The plot is nuts. It reminds me of a comic book: fast-paced, totally unpredictable, and very violent. It’s easy to speed through this novel in a few hours.

Even though I love Vicious, I don’t think it’s quite as good as V.E. Schwab’s other well-known book, A Darker Shade of Magic. Vicious is more original than ADSOM, but the writing in ADSOM is much better, and the world building is more detailed. I also thought that the secondary characters in Vicious could have used more development. I didn’t feel like I got to know very much about them.

Vicious isn’t a work of literary genius, but it’s a thrilling read. V.E. Schwab is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I Want To Meet

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is top ten authors I really want to meet.

Okay, confession time: There are no authors who I really want to meet. I rarely go to book signings or other author events because I’m more interested in the book than in the person who wrote it. I also might have a heart attack if I had to speak to an author whose work I love. So if I had to meet some authors, these are the ones I’d risk a heart attack for:

1. J.K. Rowling: She’s going to be on everybody’s list, right? Harry Potter changed the bookish world. Who wouldn’t want to meet one of the most successful authors ever?

2. Stephen King: I’d want to thank him for existing. His books gave me my love of reading. You probably wouldn’t be looking at this blog right now if Stephen King didn’t exist.

3. Gary Paulsen: He was my favorite author when I was a kid. I still have a bunch of his books that I got in elementary school.

4. Margaret Atwood: If you read this blog regularly, you know about my love for her work. I only talk about it in every single post.

5. John Green: He does so many things in addition to writing books. I want to know how he does everything without going crazy.

6. V.E. Schwab: She’s very young to be such a successful author. I’m curious about how she got started.

7. Maureen Johnson: I follow her on Twitter. She’s . . . um . . . unusual.

8. Rainbow Rowell: I love the characters she creates. She’s one of my favorite authors.

9. Lois Lowry: She’s been writing amazing YA lit for so long that I could learn a lot from her.

10. Edgar Allan Poe: Okay, I understand that he’s dead, but I couldn’t come up with a tenth one, and how awesome would it be to meet Edgar Allan Poe? (Even if he’s a zombie who rose from the dead.)

Monday, May 11, 2015

Review: The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank

The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank

Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank's remarkable diary has since become a world classic—a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit.

In 1942, with Nazis occupying Holland, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family fled their home in Amsterdam and went into hiding. For the next two years, until their whereabouts were betrayed to the Gestapo, they and another family lived cloistered in the "Secret Annexe" of an old office building. Cut off from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death.

In her diary Anne Frank recorded vivid impressions of her experiences during this period. By turns thoughtful, moving, and amusing, her account offers a fascinating commentary on human courage and frailty and a compelling self-portrait of a sensitive and spirited young woman whose promise was tragically cut short.

Review: I don’t know how to review this book. I don’t think it’s even possible.

The Diary of a Young Girl is the real-life diary of a 13-15 year-old girl who spent two years in hiding during World War II. This diary is probably one of the world’s most valuable historical documents. Anne Frank faithfully recorded the events of the war and how they impacted her life.

The author’s maturity and honesty are astounding. I definitely wasn’t that introspective as a teenager. She really seemed to understand herself and what she wanted in life. That makes the ending so much more tragic.

I like that this edition of the book has a foreword and afterword. They both provide historical information, and I found them to be more interesting than the diary itself. They put the diary in historical context so that the reader can fully understand it. I appreciated the extra information.

I’m very happy that I finally got around to reading this book. It should be required reading for the entire planet.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Sunday Post #5

The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to recap the past week, talk about next week, and share news.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!

On My Blog Last Week

On My Blog This Week

  • On Monday I fail at reviewing The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank.
  • On Tuesday I list the authors I’d risk a heart attack in order to meet.
  • On Wednesday I review Vicious by V.E. Schwab.
  • On Thursday I discuss what I learned from Internet stalking my favorite authors.
  • On Friday I explain how I organize my bookshelves.

In My Reading Life

I spent the whole week reading Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King. I’m still not finished with it. I don’t want to admit that I’m bored with a Stephen King book, but . . . I’m bored. I’m about 500 pages into it, and it’s so slow. I still have over 200 pages left to read. I’m hopeful that something super-awesome happens at the end. The most entertaining thing about the book so far has been trying to hold it without giving myself hand cramps. This thing is a beast.

In My Blogging Life

I hit 100 Twitter followers last week. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but I never thought I’d have that many.

Also, did anyone else find the responses to last week’s Top Ten Tuesday surprising? The topic was top ten books I’ll probably never read. I didn’t have an issue with the topic, but the way that some people approached it made me a little sad. A few bloggers have a lot of hate toward books that they haven’t even attempted to read. I guess I wasn’t expecting that level of passion. It was certainly interesting.

I’m still thinking a lot about blog design. I feel like mine looks very unprofessional, but I don’t know what to do about it. If anyone knows where I can get a better blog design without spending a ton of money, I’d love some suggestions.

In My Personal Life

It's still snowing! I keep seeing all this summer-time stuff on TV and the Internet, but someone forgot to tell Colorado. Here's what I woke up to this morning.

As always, thank you for reading my blog. I hope to “see” you later this week!

Friday, May 8, 2015

FF Friday: In Which I Make Important Decisions

Feature & Follow is a weekly blog hop hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.

This week’s question: How do you decide what books to read?

Answer: It’s surprisingly complicated. First, I look at the synopsis and reviews. If the synopsis is intriguing and the reviews are mostly positive, the book gets written down on my TBR list. Usually it stays on the list for a few months, but some books have been on there for years. It’s a big list. I think there are about 140 books on there right now.

Next, when it’s time for me to buy more books (approximately once a month), I go through the list and remove the books that no longer appeal to me. Then I go comparison shopping. I check a bunch of different websites and stores to see if I can find cheap copies of my list books. If I can find a list book on sale or used, I buy it. I usually also buy a few full-priced books that I really want to read. If school is forcing me to read something, I have to get that, too.

Once I have the physical books, they go on my TBR shelf. There’s no method to how I read books from the shelf. I just grab one whenever I want.

So, that’s my process of deciding what to read.


The follow part: If you are a book blogger and you leave a link to your blog in the comments below, I will follow you on Bloglovin’. I’d love it if you also followed me. If you want to be friends on Goodreads, TwitterBookLikes, or G+, that would be awesome, too. Click the links to go to my pages on those sites. I’m looking forward to “meeting” you.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Best Books Of April

In April 2015, I read 10 books. Here’s a recap of my favorites.

Not A Drop To Drink – Mindy McGinnis

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn't leave at all. 
Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand. 
But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it . . . . 
With evocative, spare language and incredible drama, danger, and romance, debut author Mindy McGinnis depicts one girl’s journey in a barren world not so different than our own.

Review: First, I need to point out the cover of this book. I think it’s stunning. It definitely got my attention right away. Whoever designed it deserves a serious pay raise.

I’ve lost count of how many young adult dystopias I’ve read over the past few years. They’ve all started to blur together in my mind, but once in a while, one stands out. Not A Drop To Drink is a standout. It isn’t about a war, a plague, or a sadistic government that needs overthrowing. It’s just about people doing their best to survive. That’s a refreshing addition to the genre.

Lynn and her mother own a pond in a world where water is scarce. They spend every day defending their water from the people who need it. Lynn has no trouble shooting anyone who gets near her pond . . . until she climbs down from her rooftop sniper perch and starts talking to her thirsty neighbors.

The writing is sparse, gritty, and powerful. I love the subtle differences in the way that the country characters and the city characters speak. This is a beautiful debut novel, and Mindy McGinnis may become one of my new favorite authors.

The characters are the second-best part of the book (after the writing). Lynn is so tough. She reminds me a lot of Katniss from The Hunger Games, but Lynn is a more-willing participant in the deaths of her neighbors. She’s strong minded. She knows exactly what she wants and how to get it. I enjoyed seeing her change as she learns to trust the people around her.

I’m having a hard time coming up with something that I didn’t like about this book. The romance probably could have used more development. Lynn is very inexperienced with physical affection. At the beginning of the book, she doesn’t understand what “Flirt” means, and she doesn’t know anything about sex. She doesn’t even know how to kiss Eli, her love interest. Lynn and Eli’s relationship becomes physical very quickly. It’s not unrealistic, and they don’t have sex, but it still creeps me out because she’s so much less experienced than him.

Not A Drop To Drink is a quick read with a lot of action. I read it in a few hours and loved every second of it. I’m looking forward to the sequel.

Wizard and Glass – Stephen King

Roland and his band of followers have narrowly escaped one world and slipped into the next. There Roland tells them a tale of long-ago love and adventure involving a beautiful and quixotic woman named Susan Delgado. And there they will be drawn into an ancient mystery of spellbinding magic and supreme menace.

Wizard and Glass is book #4 of The Dark Tower series. This review is free of major spoilers, but you might want to check out my thoughts on book #1 (The Gunslinger), book #2 (The Drawing of the Three), and book #3 (The Waste Lands).

Review: Every time I review another book in The Dark Tower series, I say, “This book is my favorite in the series.” This review is no exception. Book #4 is now my new favorite.

In Wizard and Glass, we finally get to see some of Roland’s backstory. I’ve been waiting so long for this, and I was not disappointed. I loved seeing Roland as an overconfident fourteen-year-old. Both his character and the world become more developed in this book. I didn’t think it was possible, but I like Roland even more after learning some of his history. He’s a complicated character. His relationships with Susan and his teenage companions—Cuthbert and Alain—are very believable. I hope the rest of the series includes more stories from Roland’s past.

The world is so well-developed and creepy that I felt a sense of dread the whole time I was reading. Based on the hints given in the previous books, I knew that not everybody in this book would survive. I cared about all of these characters, but I knew that some of them were going to die, so the suspense was incredible.

I also like how this book overlaps with some of King’s other works. I’ve read an embarrassing number of Stephen King books, and I enjoyed seeing the references to stories that I read years ago.

This book does have some of the same issues as the previous books in the series. For me, there is a fine line between scary and silly. This book crosses that line a few times, especially at the beginning and the end. Blaine the Mono and The Wizard of Oz castle made me roll my eyes. They’re just a little too ridiculous for my tastes.

I’m still having fun with this series. I can’t wait to start the next book.

A Darker Shade Of Magic – V.E. Schwab

Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.  
Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London—but no one speaks of that now. 
Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her 'proper adventure.' 
But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive—trickier than they hoped.

Review: It took me a long time to write this review because I’m slightly conflicted. The logical part of my brain is saying, “I have some issues with this book.” The other part of my brain is completely fangirling over wonderful adventures and Kell’s fabulous coat. Seriously, I want that coat.

A Darker Shade of Magic is about a magician, Kell, who has the ability to travel between parallel Londons. When he comes in to possession of a dangerous magical stone from Black London, he teams up with a thief named Lila to destroy it.

The characters have so much personality, and it’s easy to fall in love with them. The dialogue is sharp, smart, and funny. The humor feels very organic and true to the characters. It’s not just forced into the story in a lame attempt to lighten the mood.

I was happy for the mood-lightening dialogue because a few of the Londons are depressing places. The world-building is impressive. The Londons are so vivid. They each have their own unique culture, language, history, and architecture. It’s fascinating to read about. I think White London is my favorite because it’s so creepy and different from the other Londons.

The plot is slow in the beginning, but the characters and world were more than enough to keep me interested in the story. The action picks up a lot toward the end. I read the majority of this book in one day.

I was too busy enjoying the story to come up with too many criticisms, but I do have a few. First, this book doesn’t feel very original. It’s just the latest blend of thieves, rare magicians, royalty, and evil magic that I’ve seen dozens of times before. Parts of it strongly reminded me of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and His Dark Materials.

Next, I wish that the magic system had been explained better and earlier in the story. It took me a long time to figure out how the magic system works, and I’m still not sure if I totally get it.

So, is A Darker Shade of Magic a timeless work of literary genius? No. Is it thoroughly entertaining? YES! I’m eagerly awaiting the next book in the series. 

All The Things = 15 books.

I’m currently reading Wolves Of The Calla by Stephen King.