Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Florida "Snow"

Taking a break from my regular bookish posts to show the "snow" (fine, it's sleet!) that we got here in Florida this morning. I know people up north are making fun of us Southerners (what else is new?) but we aren't prepared for icy roads and the like so school was cancelled today.

Ice on the car

A little pile

Another view of the little pile

You could see a bit of it on the ground

Ice on the vines

Frozen leaves

Another pile a little ways down our road

Wanted a picture of the boys in front of the little pile of ice because who knows if it will ever happen again. Cole was amused for about 1 minute and then he wanted to go inside where it is warm. Ian and I were in heaven. We need to move to where there is real snow.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Adding to the Stacks #14

Such a great selection of awesome sounding books have come to me recently. Big thanks to TLC Book Tours and Quirk Books for the new lovelies! I can't wait to get to all these.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (the Graphic Novel) by Ransom Riggs and Art By: Cassandra Jean - Quirk Books for review. Just finished reading this one and loved it. Have been wanting to try a graphic novel so this is a perfect one to start with, I think!

Hollow City (Miss Peregrine's #2) by Ransom Riggs - Quirk Books for review

Ripper by Isabel Allende - TLC blog tour (February)

The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld - TLC blog tour (March)

The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor - TLC blog tour (April)

The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice - purchased at thrift

Monday, January 20, 2014

Blog Tour for A Different Sun by Elaine Neil Orr

TitleA Different Sun
Author: Elaine Neil Orr (website)(Facebook)
Pages: 379
Publisher: Penguin
Source: review copy for blog tour
Rating: 4/5
Tour Schedule: click here

Summary from Goodreads:

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. When Emma Davis reads the words of Isaiah 6:8 in her room at a Georgia women’s college, she understands her true calling: to become a missionary. It is a leap of faith that sweeps her away to Africa in an odyssey of personal discovery, tremendous hardship, and profound transformation.

For the earnest, headstrong daughter of a prosperous slave owner, living among the Yoruba people is utterly unlike Emma’s sheltered childhood—as is her new husband, Henry Bowman. Twenty years her senior, the mercurial Henry is the object of Emma’s mad first love, intensifying the sensations of all they see and share together. Each day brings new tragedy and heartbreak, and each day, Emma somehow finds the hope, passion, and strength of will to press onward. Through it all, Henry’s first gift to Emma, a simple writing box—with its red leather-bound diary and space for a few cherished keepsakes—becomes her closest confidant, Emma’s last connection to a life that seems, in this strange new world, like a passing memory.

A tale of social and spiritual awakening; a dispatch from a difficult era at home and abroad; and a meditation on faith, freedom, and desire, A Different Sun is a captivating fiction debut.

The historical aspect of this novel was a huge selling point but what attracted me the most was the African setting. It is a character on its own. The landscape and the wildlife is so lushly described that I felt as if I were there.

After Henry speaks at Emma's church to raise money for his mission work, they begin a courtship. They eventually marry and Emma beings her dream of helping the Africans. Her father owns slaves and she feels that this is wrong. Her heart is in the right place, I think, but she comes across as quite self righteous at times. I never connect with her or with Henry. Henry was a difficult man. I think that he really wanted to be God's light in the world but was full of himself. The way they spoke of God's work made it sound as if it were a chore. That they were doing God a favor.

My favorite character was Uncle Eli. I could have read the entire book about just him. He was full of love despite being an often mistreated slave. He loved Emma and his teaching helped her when no one else could touch her. I loved the way things came full circle with him.

I have gotten quite used to the faster paced books in science fiction and dystopians and A Different Sun is a slow read. The language is dense and the font size and setting made it even slower for me. The times that I enjoyed the story the most were those times when I was able to read for long chunks of time. Being able to settle into the story instead of dipping in and out reading a chapter or two really helped me acclimate to the richer language. 

Orr has a way with words and I found myself rereading certain sentences again. Two of my favorite quotes are:

"Lessons went toward the color of fabric for lining one's bonnets and where to turn one's eyes in the company of young men one might wish to marry. The answers were pink and downward"


"Your language is poetic, but I stopped listening to you a while back. Leave me alone so I can sleep."

Although I didn't really like the two main characters, the setting, the interesting story and beautiful writing made this one a really good read. If you love literary fiction, stories of missionaries or African settings, give A Different Sun a try. I look forward to seeing what else Orr writes.

Friday, January 17, 2014

ARC Envy #16 - Blood of My Blood by Barry Lyga

Every week several of my favorite bloggers post vlogs or whatever of all the great book hauls they've received for the week. Since I'm a tiny little fish in the huge book blogging pond, my mailbox isn't stuffed with all the great ARCs that they get. Dana's ARC Envy is my way of highlighting an ARC that I *wish* had been sent to me too. 

TitleBlood of My Blood (Jasper Dent #3)
Author:Barry Lyga (website)
Publisher: Little, Brown (website)(Twitter)
Expected Publication Date: September 23, 2014

Judging a book by its cover:  Oh my creepiness!

Know anything about the author?  Yes, have read 2 of his.

Why do I want it?  Have listened to / read the other two in the series. Though I wasn't as wowed by the 2nd one as the 1st, I can't wait to read the last one and learn what happens.

Summary from Goodreads:

Jazz Dent has been shot and left to die in New York City. His girlfriend Connie is in the clutches of Jazz's serial killer father, Billy. And his best friend Howie is bleeding to death on the floor of Jazz's own home in tiny Lobo's Nod. Somehow, these three must rise above the horrors their lives have become and find a way to come together in pursuit of Billy. But then Jazz crosses a line he's never crossed before, and soon the entire country is wondering: "Like father, like son?" Who is the true monster?

The chase is on, and this time Jazz is the hunted, not the hunter. And beyond Billy there lurks something much, much worse. Prepare to meet...the Crow King.

What ARC are you envying this week?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Bout of Books Read-a-Thon Wrap Up Post

Another Bout of Books has come and gone. I didn't reach my goal of 5 books but I finished 3 and worked on 2 more so that's not bad.

Things I'd like to do differently next time:

1) Schedule the Twitter chats on my phone so that I won't have anything else going on during them (hopefully).
2) Set goals in terms of pages (like Andi) instead of books. One of the books I read was almost 500 pages. Had a picked smaller books I probably could have come closer to my goal.
3) Make individual posts for each day the day AFTER instead of trying to post at night and keep just one post. In the past, I haven't wanted to overload any readers with individual posts but I'm not sure that I'm all that concerned about that now. They can be ignored if need be :-)
4) Set aside a certain amount of time each day to comment on blogs instead of trying to hit a certain number each day. I can't believe how many bloggers have word verification on their blogs. I hate spam as much as the next person but if you want some dang blasted comments turn the bleeping thing off. Rant over. :-)
5) Not feel guilty about not participating in challenges. I always feel guilty for not participating in challenges but they really aren't my thing. There are some super creative bloggers out there coming up with some super awesome challenges but I just want to read during a read-a-thon instead of trying to come up with spine poetry or whatever. I KNOW that it is totally ok not to participate but I still feel guilty because they word so hard on them.
6) Write reviews immediately after reading the book, like always, instead of rushing to next book and being behind, behind, so behind.

Bout of Books continues to be one of my most favorite bookish events and I can't wait for the next one!

Cover Reveal: Orenda by Ruth Silver

Title: Orenda
Author: Ruth Silver (website)(Twitter)(Facebook)
Expected Publication: Spring 2014
Publisher: Patchwork Press
Genre: YA, Fantasy
A sword wielding girl, an eternal suit and an alternate universe.
Lil has a gift, one she never thought possible as she finds herself awake after a strange dream with the tell-tale sign that what she dreamt was in fact real.  The dreamscape, was more than just a premonition it happened.  She’d been momentarily tossed into another dimension.  

Where most would consider her crazy, not her best friend Bray.

In another reality, one similar and yet slightly different Willow has been kidnapped by the sorceress turned demon, Eilith.  Rawlie, Willow’s friend and companion crosses to our universe for help and brings Lil into his world.  Filled with frightening creatures and magical elements, Lil demands to go home, until she discovers Bray has been taken by Eilith as well.  Unable to watch her best friend die, she joins forces with Rawlie, Jamie and the others to hunt down Eilith and rescue those they care about.

You can read my review of her first published book, Aberrant, here

About the Author:
Ruth Silver attended Northern Illinois University and graduated with a Bachelor's in Communication in the spring of 2005. While in college, she spent much of her free time writing with friends she met online and penning her first novel, Deuces are Wild, which she self-published in 2004.  Her favorite class was Creative Writing senior year where she often handed in assignments longer than the professor required because she loved to write and always wanted to finish her stories.  Her love of writing led her on an adventure in 2007 to Melbourne, Australia.  Silver enjoys reading, photography, traveling and most of all writing.  She loves dystopian and fantasy young adult stories.  Her debut novel published by Lazy Day Publishing and Patchwork Press, ABERRANT, was released April 2013.  The second novel in the series, MOIRAI, continues the saga. ISAURA, is the final installment in the ABERRANT trilogy. Ruth has been actively writing since she was a teenager.  Her current writing projects include a YA science-fiction fantasy series, ORENDA, and a YA/NA paranormal series, DEAD GIRL WALKING. Both novels are due for release in 2014. She currently resides in Plainfield, Illinois.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Green Valley Blog Tour, Guest Post and Giveaway

Green Valley Blog Tour

Title: Green Valley
Author: Israel J. Parker (website)(Twitter)
Pages: 352
Publisher: IJP Press
Source: review copy for blog tour
Rating: 4/5
Find itGoodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Summary from Goodreads:

A serial killer is on the loose in Green Valley, but what if he's the good guy?

The year is 2036 and the United States is pulling out of an economic crisis, thanks to new industries and technologies that thrive in Green Valley, Ohio. Regarded as "America's Hope," the city also boasts being named the safest city in America for five years running. But now Green Valley, one of only a handful of cities protected by the still-experimental Unified Enforcement Police, struggles to catch a new-era murderer who continues to kill and elude capture. As the elite federal police close in on the killer, they discover that something darker has infiltrated their perfect city.

Happily bumbling through his predictable life, Milton Simon comes face-to-face with murderer Clarence Jasper and is surprised to find that the killer has a message for him: JOIN ME. Milton soon learns that not only is Green Valley not the safe haven everyone perceives it to be; it’s Hell on Earth.

When I first read the description of this book, it had me from the term "serial killer". Add in a dystopian slant and I'm really excited. Add that it is set in the near future too and you've got me. Green Valley  is a fast paced book with not stop action. Milton Simon is your average Joe living in Green Valley, Ohio. But when he has a run in with a supposed serial killer, everything he thought he knew is put into question.

I had trouble with the PDF version of the book so the author was kind enough to send me a Kindle copy through Amazon. His message was to enjoy the book and don't be scared. I think that's a great way to start off on this creep fest. Because boy is there a bunch of creepiness.

One of my personal buzz words NOT to every read by choice is cheating. There is an affair that is mentioned early but it ends quickly so I was able to carry on. Had it continued I would have scrapped it - review book or not. The emotions that he was able to create were too intense.

I was extremely impressed with the writing ability that Parker showed. The story was even throughout and, as mentioned before, full of non-stop action. That's difficult to pull off but he did. While I enjoyed the book, it was a bit too much horror for my personal tastes. There are quite a few scenes that were just over my comfort level. That's a testament to his writing style though because scary.

The only thing that I didn't like was the portrayal of God and religion. Not in the sense that you can't be pro-God or be anti-God but that the book seemed to waffle back and forth. At points I thought that it was very God is our enemy and yet at other points I felt like it was very God is our savior. Had it been less confused on that point, I think that I could have settled into the story a bit more.

The alleged serial killer, Clarence is quite likable even while he's being "bad"...I loved that Parker pulled no punches on him and his characterization. There is so much going on in the background that we learn in bits and pieces. 

My very favorite character was Phoenix, a Unified Enforcement Police officer. Her character was so strong and kick-ass that I'd love a book just about her! She was a secondary character but was still so well developed.

Overall I really enjoyed Green Valley and think that fans of dystopians that don't mind a bit of horror will really love. This is the first of a series and it leaves on a strong note.

About the author:

Israel Parker is a former Coast Guard Helicopter Rescue Swimmer, Coast Guard Officer, and author of widely successful YA book, The Anne Marie.
In 2004, Israel was stationed at Air Station New Orleans, one of the Coast Guard’s busiest air, search and rescue units. One year later, Hurricane Katrina nearly destroyed the Crescent City. He participated in countless daring rescues. These experiences fueled his desire to tell his stories.

Israel currently is stationed in Barboursville, West Virginia with his wife Melanie, their two children and their faithful Basset Hound, Roxanne. He remains on active duty, serving his country as a Coast Guard Officer.

Israel was kind enough to join me today with a special guest post so take it away Israel....

A day in the life.

When asked to do a day in the life of “me” as I writer, I have to admit I chuckled a bit. You see, I’m a father of a four and one year old, a husband to my wonderful wife, an active duty military officer, and of course I write books too.  With the entire aforementioned going on with me everyday, my writing exists mostly in a darkened place in the wee hours of the morning or the late hours of the night.

I guess I have to tell a little why I write to explain why in the hell I would put myself through my daily routine of writing.  First, I write because I have to.  My writing is part compulsion, part passion, with a dash of insanity.  My method begins with an idea floating around in my head.  Then when the idea grows into a burning sensation, I have to let it out or I become on edge or irritable.  I have to get it out or it will build up and make me physically ill.  As I have discussed with other writers or artists, when folks say that art of any kind is 95% hard work and 5% talent I want to correct them and say, for me anyway, writing is 95% obsessive compulsion and 4% talent…also I’m not very good at math.

So on to my typical day.

0300 or 0400, depends on the day, I get up; this is very typical when I’m a few months into a project or in my rhythm.  My rhythm is when the flow of the story is coming quick and my fingers have trouble keeping up with everything coming out. Anyway, I get up early during this time and write until 0600 when I have to stop so I can get ready to go to my job as a United States Coast Guard Officer.  For those who are interested, I am a Lieutenant and proudly serve in the field of Marine Safety.

I usually work until 1600, I say usually because I’m in the USCG and often we get called out and I have to work either beyond those hours or am called back in to work additional hours, all part of serving in the USCG. (Side note: I am very proud to serve my country and to serve with those who put on a uniform everyday.)

1630-1645. I pick up my son from his babysitter and go home.  Once home, since my wife works as a speech pathologist from home and usually works later than me, I start dinner for our daughter, who has since come home from school, and my son. Once done with that, I play with the kids, my favorite part of my day.

1700-ish. I hand the kids off to my wife for baths and then head downstairs to write. There I write for a few hours, depending how the mood and flow strike me, and then head back up to read to my daughter.  Currently we are reading James and the Giant Peach together.

After the kids are in bed, I sit with my wife for a bit to talk over the day or I go back down to write some more; and usually if I’m in the middle of a good flow, I will head back downstairs and spend the rest of the evening writing.

In a nutshell, I wake up early and go to bed late to follow my dream.  I have a supportive and understanding wife who believes in me so the long hours everyday don’t make me feel tired (well sometimes they do) but make me feel fortunate that I have the love and support to do what I love and chase after my dream.

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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Bout of Books 9.0 Updates Post

It's here! It's here! Bout of Books is finally here. This will be my official update post for the week. I'll update each night.

My general Bout of Books post is here.
My goals post is here.

1. I'd like to read 5 books
2. I'd like to visit every blogger who links up on the Official Sign up Linky. As of the time I'm posting this, there are 187 signed up!
3. I'd like to participate in at least 2 challenges
4. I'd like to participate in at least 1 Twitter chat
5. I'd like to participate at an Expert (done!)

Want to finish The Lair by Emily McKay. I read about half of it yesterday.
Sort of participated in the Twitter chat today. Fun, as always!
Started reading The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Still reading The Lair but am almost finished. 

Finished The Lair by Emily McKay
Continued reading The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (up to 10% now, yippee!)
Started reading The Outcasts by Kathleen Kent

Continued reading The Outcasts

Finished The Outcasts

Started reading The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

Bad headache for most of the day so I didn't get any read. Bummer.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (Thoughts On)

TitleThe Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking #1)
Author: Patrick Ness
Pages: 496
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Source: library
Rating: 4/5

Summary from Goodreads:

A dystopian thriller follows a boy and girl on the run from a town where all thoughts can be heard — and the passage to manhood embodies a horrible secret.

Todd Hewitt is the only boy in a town of men. Ever since the settlers were infected with the Noise germ, Todd can hear everything the men think, and they hear everything he thinks. Todd is just a month away from becoming a man, but in the midst of the cacophony, he knows that the town is hiding something from him — something so awful Todd is forced to flee with only his dog, whose simple, loyal voice he hears too. With hostile men from the town in pursuit, the two stumble upon a strange and eerily silent creature: a girl. Who is she? Why wasn't she killed by the germ like all the females on New World? Propelled by Todd's gritty narration, readers are in for a white-knuckle journey in which a boy on the cusp of manhood must unlearn everything he knows in order to figure out who he truly is.

This is my second Ness novel after reading A Monster Calls late last year. There is something about his writing that I just adore. I'm not the biggest fan of misspellings and dialect but by the end, I was reading it pretty quickly and not feeling as slowed down. Todd is quite a likable character and I was rooting for him throughout.

The basic premise - that all men's thoughts can be heard - is an interesting one to think about. I sure wouldn't want to hear all men's thoughts all.the.time. Can you imagine? The writing style used really captured that never ending Noise. It really was chaotic.

I love excellent world building and felt that was a bit lacking. Whatever was lacking in world building was made up in character development though. I felt like I actually knew Todd by the end. The one issue I had with his character was that he seemed way more grown up that the almost 13 years old he actually was. This could be because of his tough life and the way things were in Prentisstown but there were times when it really distracted me from the story.

My favorite character, by far, was Todd's dog, Manchee. Ness did such an excellent job imagining how a dog would speak, if he could. I enjoyed all of the scenes with him. For those who don't enjoy animals getting hurt, I hate to spoil anything but...he is. It was difficult to read but still heartwarming too because he WAS a dog and he loved Todd so very much.

This is a chunkster at almost 500 pages but it really did fly by. There were a few scenes in the end that had me scratching my head and going "huh?" but overall I really enjoyed it. And the ending killed me. I needed the next one right.that.minute.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Wilkie in Winter - The Frozen Deep

The Estella Society is hosting a #WilkieWinter in which we read both The Frozen Deep and The Woman in White. And today begins the discussion for The Frozen Deep. I didn't know about this novella that was actually a play that was written by Collins but a lot by Charles Dickens. Get all that? Yep, it is as confusing as it sounds.

This will serve as my mini-review of it. Although I don't read many classics, I am unsure why because I always enjoy them. Once I get past the fancy language that is.

The Frozen Deep was just 100 pages and I enjoyed the writing so much that I didn't mind the story itself which I found odd. I got to the end and just shook my head while thinking that it doesn't really happen that way.

The Estella Society posted a few questions for us to answer so here we go...

1. How do you feel about the narrative structure? The obvious rewrite of stage direction?

The rewrite of stage direction didn't bother me all that much because I was interested in seeing what happened. I called it pretty well but I was still curious.

 2. How do you think this play looked performed? Do you think it would make more sense in that medium that in this small novella?

I'm not sure I would have liked the play at all actually. It worked better as a novella in my opinion because I was able to read it as I wanted instead of watching actors interpret it for me.

 3. What did you think of the “love triangle?” Did it feel forced? Which man would you have picked?

In a word odd. Very forced. I think I would have chosen Aldersley but I don't think that she was fair to Wardour in the slightest.

 4. Impressions of Clara and her characterization?

Weak but I guess all women were viewed that way then. 

 5. Supposedly Dickens had a hand in helping write this script. Can you feel his hand in the writing? How much was Dickens and how much was Collins?

I am embarrassed to say that I've never read a Dickens but if it was heavily influenced by him, I need to give him a try. I'm currently reading The Woman in White and am enjoying Collins' writing style quite a bit.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Trying again...Worth the Read?

Last year I had the idea stole the idea from Renae and Christina to let someone else choose my books for me. Sometimes I have trouble picking. Sometimes I just want to read something that I wouldn't normally try. Sometimes I just like new features on the blog...let's be honest. I haz issues. Anyway, I put it out there and then sort of forgot about it.

I want to try this again though so these are the books that were suggested and that I'll be reading:

Blood Red Road (Dust Lands #1) by Moira Young - suggested by Krista
The Girl of Fire and Thorn (Fire and Thorns #1) by Rae Carson - suggested by Mel
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (a re-read) - suggested by Libby
The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe - suggested by Ana

Have one you think I have to read? Submit your idea here and I'll add it to the list!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Bout of Books Goals Post

This is my official goals post for the upcoming Bout of Books 9.0. I love how laid back this bookish event is so I'm keeping things simple:

1. I'd like to read 5 books
2. I'd like to visit every blogger who links up on the Official Sign up Linky. As of the time I'm posting this, there are 187 signed up!
3. I'd like to participate in at least 2 challenges
4. I'd like to participate in at least 1 Twitter chat
5. I'd like to participate at an Expert (done!)

I might actually do a list of possible books to read but I'm still deciding on that. I don't follow lists very well so why add stress? :-)