Sunday, April 21, 2013

Book Review

What The Family Needed
by Steven Amsterdam

Disclaimer: I received a free advanced copy of this book from Riverhead Books through LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review.

I was intrigued by the synopsis for this one when I first saw it on LibraryThing, but, for some reason, I wasn't too excited to dive into it when it arrived.  I was pleasantly surprised because I REALLY enjoyed this book.  It's not too long, around 260 pages depending on how the final copy came out.  But I found it a fast read because I was so into the characters and their relationships with each other. 

The Cover
The copies I've seen at the library have this same cover, so it must be the final one they chose.  I get it.  It's like one of those cross-stitch thingies people have in their houses.  I'm sure it's supposed to represent suburban/"normal" families; a nice contrast to the increasingly abnormal family in the book.  There's an awful lot of yellow, though.  Could we not have made the frame plain wood instead of more yellow?

Back of the Book
"Okay, tell me which you want," Alek asks his cousin at the outset of What The Family Needed.  "To be able to fly or to be invisible?"  And soon Giordana, a teenager suffering the bitter fallout of her parents' divorce, finds that she can, at will, become as invisible as she feels.  Later, Alek's mother, newly adrift in the disturbing awareness that all is not well with her younger son, can suddenly swim with Olympic endurance.  Steven Amsterdam's incandescent novel follows each member of this gorgeously imagined extended family over the next three decades as each member discovers, at a moment of crisis, that he or she possesses a supernatural power.  But their extraordinary abilities prove not to be magic weapons so much as expressions of their fears and longings.  As the years pass, their lives intersect and overlap in surprising and poignant ways, and they discover that the real magic lies not in their superpowers but in the very human and miraculous way they are able to accept, protect, and love one another.

Things I Liked
  • The synopsis is accurate.  A couple of the family members gain "typical" superpowers, like invisibility and the ability to fly.  But most of their powers are a little more subtle.  Sasha has trouble keeping his partner interested in their relationship, so he compensates by attempting to set-up Giordana and keep his friends romantically happy.  This manifests into his own power of creating relationships or reactivating dwindling ones.
  • This family really loves and accepts each other, although in different ways.  They often see each other make mistakes, but they try not to judge.  
  • Nobody got really dramatic or weird when they noticed their powers.  They all made little excuses to themselves when it started happening; they weren't getting enough sleep or it was due to some kind of shocking life event.  But none of them started freaking out and and calling everybody.  They let themselves discover what was happening to them and play with it a little before deciding what to do next.
  • Each chapter is titled with a character's name, and there is one for each.   I liked being able to read from each of their perspectives because I learned a little more about the other characters this way. 
  • The writing is so beautifully done.  I finished this book quickly because I just couldn't bear to put it down.  And I had a hard time narrowing down my favorite quotes.

Things I Didn't Like
  • The pacing was difficult to follow at first.  I guess I didn't pay attention to the back summary when it said the novel took place over three decades.  In the first chapter it seemed like Alek was a little boy and then he was a teenager in the next one.  I wasn't sure how much time was passing at some points.  It did get easier to tell the longer I read, though.

Favorite Quotes
Think about it.  We haven't asked for what we want yet.  Right now, we're in the wrong version of our lives.  Too much security, too little freedom.  That was Ivan's problem and he found a way out.  So can we.  All we have to do is pick a different story, one where we get what we want.  That's where you and I will see each other next. 

Words don't do it justice, but it's familiar.  Deja vu, I suppose.  It's the same place I was before I was born, I think.  How do you like that?  All these decades of worrying and it's the same place you started.  Why don't we spend more time being scared of birth?

What the world needs now, is lunch sweet lunch.

Every tree and every cloud says yes, be.  We are not born onto this planet to judge each other, least of all our brothers.  Got that?

Why anything continues when all it should really do is fall in a heap is a mystery.  In the end you may be the one who stays or you may be the one who goes, but this is where you are and you have no choice but to try.  

Read more reviews about this book on  LibraryThing.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Blah Blah Book Reviews

I'm going to be playing with my book review formatting for a little while.  I'm not a fan of the standard review, and that means it's taking me longer to review stuff because I'm not looking forward to it.  And that's stupid; I should like what I'm writing.

Suggestions are welcome!  Feel free to leave a comment letting me know if you love/hate new formats, or even if just parts of it are working. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.  You should go there immediately.  After you read this.

Top Ten Tuesday REWIND
Top Ten Characters (And Literary Figures) That I'd Name My Children After
Children are not in my immediate future.  But, if I do have them, they are already named, because apparently I've thought about this a LOT.

1.  Mia - The Princess Diaries 

She's quirky and smart, and she's just trying to achieve self-actualization like all the rest of us.  Plus, she's a princess.

2.  Ender - Ender's Game

Of course, he'd probably officially be named Andrew, like in the book.  That way, he doesn't have to stick with this nickname if he doesn't want to try to live up to it.  It'd probably be pretty intimidating to be named after a character who's expected to save the world.

3. + 4.  Ramona and Beatrice - The Ramona Books

Both names have a lot of personality.  Although, I think this would probably be a situation where you'd have to wait at LEAST a couple days before naming the baby to decide whether or not she was going to be a Beezus or a Ramona.

5.  Matilda - Matilda

 A very appropriate name for a bookworm's daughter.

6.  Friday - The Thursday Next Series

Thursday's mother's name is Wednesday.  So, naturally, when Thursday had a son, she named him Friday.  Friday is pretty awesome, even when he only appears as a baby.  Plus, I really like the idea of a day of the week for a name.  

7.  Atticus - To Kill A Mockingbird

As I've mentioned before on here, I missed the boat on this one.  A friend of mine named her baby Atticus over a year ago, so I would just be copying if I did it.  Fortunately, her baby is really cool, so I don't mind.

8.  Harriet - Harriet the Spy

I want a kid with the goals and work ethic that Harriet has. Sure, she's invading privacy and probably breaking a few laws.  But she's going to be a writer, damn it!  I guess I better start a savings account for bail money.

9.  Jory - A Game of Thrones


10.  Albus Severus - Harry Potter

 Ha ha, no, not really.  But, good for you, Harry.

I'm dying to see what everyone picked for their Top Ten Tuesday Rewind!  Leave your link in the comments!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Weekly Update

The Tamagotchi App is live for your iPhone!  Unfortunately, it's only fun for about ten minutes before it becomes a hassle.  I don't remember getting bored with it so quickly back in the late 90's when we all had five of these things in our purses.  Maybe it's because we have way better games now?  I don't know, but my Tamagotchi won't leave me alone, and it's WAY to excited about pooping.

What I Watched
On Sunday we all got together again to watch Game of Thrones.  It was filled with some Sansa/Tyrell trash talking and creepy Joffrey archery scenes.  And also, a surprise appearance by the Hound!

I know a lot of people are complaining because this season is starting out slow.  But, I'm okay with all the slowness, only because I know the horrible action that is coming.  But how about Olenna Tyrell, Margaery's grandmother!  She wants her cheese platter and she wants it now, damn it!

On Thursday I got together with my friends, Justin and Aly, to watch The Sound of Music because Aly had NEVER SEEN IT.  I'm not sure how she's gotten through life so far without it.

I was in charge of the snacks for this movie night, so I settled on dark chocolate banana chips, vanilla mini Moon Pies, gummy bears and veggie crackers with spreadable wine/cheddar cheese.  We sang ALL the songs while stuffing our faces. 

And I'd never noticed how wonderful all the clothes are in this movie.  I would kill for some of the baroness' outfits.

She knew that bows were coming back.

I've also been watching a lot of Fringe and season three of Sex and the City.  I should really just start skipping season three when I do a re-watch.  I HATE when Carrie cheats on Aiden.

What I Ate
Besides the delicious movie snacks on Thursday, I've been trying to cut down on snacking.  I've recently gained back several pounds that I worked hard to get off last summer, and it's been really disappointing.  I'm not the only person in this boat, so some of my coworkers organized a weight loss competition for a month.  We all gained except for three of us, so it didn't work.  It also didn't HELP that several of us brought in snacks to celebrate the end of our dieting.

For example, these chocolate chip cookie/muffins with cookie dough frosting.  They were so good, I wanted to cry.

My new goal is to start eating food that I really want for all three meals, then I won't feel such a need to snack.  Because that seems to be most of my problem.  I only have a lame sandwich for lunch, so I chow down on some cookies or chips as soon as I get home from work.

I'll let you know how it goes.

I did have a delicious pizza Friday night at Yardhouse.  It was mushroom and pepperoni and amazing.  I would recommend eating it immediately.

What I Read
I started the week with Books 7 and 8 of Fables.  I must have really talked them up, because now my husband is interested in them.  I've had to request the beginning of the series for him from the library, but now I'm thinking they might be worth purchasing.

I started and finished Daughter of Smoke and Bone.  You can read my review here. 

Now, I'm finishing up a review copy of What the Family Needed, which has turned out to be a lot better than I expected.  I'll try to review that one in the next couple of days.

In other news, I've gotten a bunch of free ebooks for my Nook, but a lot of them have come with crappy cover photos.  After a lot of Google searching, I found a program called Calibre, which lets you change them!  Now all my ebooks have beautiful covers, and I've been scrolling through my library, just to look at them.

Here's to another great week!

Book Review

Daughter of Smoke and Bone
by Laini Taylor

I'm completely fangirling all over this book.  It's the first book I've read this year that I've wanted to reread immediately.   I've put the sequel on hold at the library, but I'm already planning on buying copies of both books ASAP.

Back of the Book:

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

Meet Karou.  She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she speaks many languages - not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color.  Who is she?  That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

Let's go over the cover first.  I'm not too into the US cover.  I mean, that mask is alright and I love blue, but the mask is only mentioned briefly in the book.  And although the SCENE that mentions the mask is important, the actual mask isn't.  I would have much rather seen a picture of Karou running around with her blue hair. 

I think both of these are the British covers.  I feel like they're both better choices than the blue mask.  Maybe because the blue mask looks like about a million other YA novels that feature masquerade balls?  And WHAT is with all the masquerade balls lately?  I guess it's just the drama factor of everyone being in disguise, but I don't know anyone who has ever actually been to a masquerade ball.  Oh, wait, I tell a lie.  I've totally been to a party that was masquerade themed and it was a lot of fun, so I'll shut up now.

I'm really loving Karou as a character.  She's smart and funny and she's not going to put up with your crap.  Especially if you're a guy with a vanity problem.  She's smart enough to be afraid in certain situations, but she also doesn't let that fear stop her from doing what she has to do.  I imagined her as a blue-haired Sophie Turner.

She plays Sansa on Game of Thrones.

The more I read, the more I wanted to know about Karou's world and past.  She's spent almost her entire life living in the workshop of a chimaera named Brimstone, who has raised her alongside his assistants.  All Karou knows about Brimstone's work is that he exchanges wishes for the teeth of animals and humans.  Some people are brave enough to come to Brimstone's shop to trade, but others have to depend on Karou to be the go-between.  So, she travels through secret doorways to go back and forth between her home, Brimstone's and cities all over the world.  Karou manages to keep this job MOSTLY a secret from her best friend, while she leads a double life as Brimstone's pseudo-daughter and an art student in Prague.

Then, on one of Karou's errands, she comes across an angel named Akiva, who attacks her.  This sets into motion a whole series of events that lead up to Karou discovering the truth about her past and why Brimstone has kept her hidden away in his workshop all these years.

I pictured Akiva as Kit Harrington, also from Game of Thrones.  He's nothing if not angelic.

This book is rich in detail and mystery.  The descriptions of the snowy weather in Prague make me think that this would be a good winter read; all snug on your couch with some hot chocolate, while Karou is battling sexy angels in the sky.

I can't say I was surprised with all of the twists towards the end, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.  Of course, it helped that those were the outcomes I was hoping for anyway.  I can't wait to get my hands on the next in the series, and I can't wait for the final volume to come out next year!

Favorite Quotes

She raised her teacup in a toast.  "To a new generation of butterflies, hopefully less stupid than the last."

"They know, child.  They already know.  And they aren't ashamed of you, either."

Read more reviews about this book on LibraryThing.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Book Review

The Kingdom of Gods
by N.K. Jemisin

Let me just start out by saying that this is the final volume in N.K. Jemisin's Inheritance Trilogy, all of which are full of fantastic imagery and amazing characters.

Back of the Book:

For two thousand years the Arameri family has ruled the world by enslaving the very gods that created mortalkind.  Now the gods are free, and the Arameri's ruthless grip is slipping.  But they are all that stands between peace and world-spanning, unending war.

Shahar, last scion of the family, must choose her loyalties.  She yearns to trust Sieh, the godling she loves.  Yet her duty as the Arameri heir is to uphold the family's interests, even if that means using and destroying everyone she cares for.

Each book in this series is told through a different character's POV, something that kind of threw me off when I got to book two.  I became very attached to the characters, so I was naturally disappointed to see them become "recurring characters" rather than main ones in later books.  DO NOT LET THIS DETER YOU.  I fell just as much in love with the new main characters as the series went on.

This novel is narrated by the godling, Sieh.  Sieh is the god of Childhood and Trickery.  He is the oldest child of The Three (the main gods, basically).  His parents love him and many of his younger siblings respect him, but he is desperately lonely.  It's not until he accepts the friendship of a pair of mortal twins (Shahar and her brother, Dekarta) that he realizes why he is so lonely.

What I like most about this series is its constant reassurance that real love can be forever.  Throughout the course of the trilogy we see love defy gender, family feuds, betrayal, accidental murder, all-out god wars and even mortality.  Sieh often describes how pointless it is to love humans, because their lives are but a moment in a god's existence.  But they do it anyway, because it's worth it.  Sieh is willing to change his entire existence to be with someone he loves, even if it is only temporary.

Jemisin does some fantastic world building.  A lot of the problems the mortals face deal with political issues; which I imagine would get very boring if their world wasn't so beautiful.  I'd love to live in a city built around a giant tree, although I imagine there is bird poop everywhere.

I'm so sad that this series is over.  There's a fun short story at the end of the book to tie up a couple loose ends, but I want MORE!  I would read a whole other trilogy, because the lady characters in this series kick ass.

The first two books in the series are The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and The Broken Kingdoms.

Read more reviews for this book on LibraryThing.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Weekly Update

Surprise, surprise!  I already failed my 365 Project.  I lasted eleven days, which is sad.  But, I'm back with full force!  I'm going to finish this 365, even if it KILLS US ALL.

I've been really good since my birthday about not buying books.  So, of course, I ruined it this week by buying a few ebooks and ransacking the library.  Plus, I went to my library branch book sale this morning. 

Here's a day by day breakdown of my week:

Day before Easter.  Not much fun, because I had to work.  And the day was DRAGGING, too.  I did a little bit of book searching before we opened.  I was mostly looking for a copy of The Kingdom of Gods by N.K. Jemisin, but I accidentally looked on a few of the other shelves too and came home with a pile. 

The Kingdom of Gods is the last novel in N.K. Jemisin's Inheritance Trilogy, and I'm ashamed to say it's taken me forever to read it even after I loved the first two.  I just finished it and loved it just as much, so that will probably be my next review.

I also checked out Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, because I've only seen about a million blog posts praising it.  I also got Fables Book 8: Wolves.  I tend to get distracted by books that people turn in if they look interesting, which is how I ended up with The House of Velvet and Glass by Katherine Howe and Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern by Joshua Zeitz.  We'll see how they turn out.

On Easter we slept in and started watching Season Two of Fringe.  You guys, this show is amazing.  I don't know why we didn't stick with it while it was still on TV.  I remember thinking it sounded cool when the previews for the first season came out, but the first episode I saw had that lady who had a baby in five minutes and then the baby grew up into an old man immediately and died in a closet.  I guess I was just not into that at the time.  But now we're hooked on this show.  I'm pretty sure I have what it takes to be an FBI agent. 

We spent the afternoon at my Mom's, having sandwiches and gambling.  You know, because nothing says Easter like gambling with your grandparents.  We played this dice game called Left Center Right or something.  My grandmother won the first round and then spent the rest of the day trying to give our money back to us.  It started raining like Crazy Town in the evening, so we went home and watched more Fringe!

Eh, typical Monday.  It was made better by the fact that we all went over to our friends' house to watch the season premiere of Game of Thrones (a day late).  It was so nice to see everybody again!  And by that I mean the characters of the show, of course, not my friends. 

Margaery is already working it and making all these poor kids love her.  Cersei is practically peeing her pants and I'm loving it!

And we got some Podrick action!  Hey, Pod!

One episode in and Melisandre is already weirding me out.  I may not like her character, but this actress is doing a great job.  She's managed to make Melisandre creepy and sexy at the same time.

Dany's looking fabulous, as usual.  But, if I were her, I would be on Jorah like bark on a tree.  Wake up, Kahleesi!

Nothing of importance; it was my late work day.  Just some more Fringe.

Had a belated Easter ham with my in-laws.  With bacon wrapped asparagus and red potatoes.  Now I'm hungry.  My niece, Darla, was there and astounded us all with her genius.  She's three and a half and can already write her name!  I'm so proud!

Accidentally checked out MORE library books.

Fables Book 7: Arabian Nights (and Days) came in for me.  As I was wandering the shelves I found a copy of A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway, which I've been meaning to read for awhile.  I also found Sleep Demons: An Insomniac's Memoir by Bill Hayes and Marc Summers' book Everything In Its Place.  For those of you who didn't grow up with Nickelodeon in the 90's, Marc Summers was the host of a show called Family Double Dare.  More recently he's hosted the show Unwrapped on the Food Network.  His book is about living with severe OCD, so I'm excited to read that one.  Then, someone turned in a copy of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan and I was trapped.

Edward and I are trying to exercise more, so we went walking in the evening.  It filled me with so much extra energy that I managed to scrub the bathroom and get three loads of laundry done before heading to bed!

Yesterday was spent clothes shopping with Edward.  He needed new shirts and pants for work, so we stopped by J.C. Penney, Kohls and Target.  I managed to snag a couple of things for myself, as well.

We joined some friends in the evening to eat at Hofbrau.  I wouldn't recommend it.  The long wait was annoying, but pretty normal for a Friday night.  But the food was too pricey for the taste.  It wasn't BAD food.  Just not really worth what they were charging.  Then we watched Fight Club at our friends' house.  I'd never seen it before, and I'm not sure why, because it was a great movie.  I always forget how much I like Edward Norton.

Today has been pretty relaxed.  I went to the book sale first.  I was a little disappointed by the choices this time around.  I usually find tons of stuff I want, not so much this time.  I still left with a few cool things, though.

I found a Storage Solutions Workbench magazine with a bunch of how-to instructions for custom storage cabinets, which should come in handy when we get a house.  I snagged copies of Wolf Hall AND Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel.  I've been in a mood for the Tudors lately, so that was pretty exciting.  I found a copy of Smut by Alan Bennett, which I've been meaning to read.  Also, it has pictures of teacups having sex on the cover!  I also found Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran.  I cannot for the life of me remember what that's about now, but oh well!  I also found The Final Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and something called Futurelove: A Science Fiction Triad for Edward.  All this for $8.50!

I also managed to buy some ebooks this week.  Barnes and Noble has very deviously decided to have a $2.99 and under section that I have already fallen victim to.  PLUS they are having a 50% off sale this weekend on over 1000 ebooks, so I'm sure I'll end up getting at least a couple of those, too.  So far I've wound up with Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi, which I had only checked out from the library before.  Also, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi.  Then, I found Anthropology of an American Girl by Hilary Thayer Hamann for $.99!  What?!  Since Edward's birthday is coming up, I also got The Complete Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht.  He loves survival guides.

After a nice evening walk, we're going to enjoy some pizza (which should completely negate all the calories we burned off walking) and watch more Fringe

Here's to another great week!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  You should go there immediately.  After you read this.

Top Ten Characters I Would Crush On If I Were Also A Fictional Character
Disclaimer:  I don't care that I am not a fictional character.  I crush on all these characters anyway and nothing can stop me.

10.  Perry - Under the Never Sky/Through the Ever Night

"'That was my first kiss,' she said.  'My first real one.' 
He brought his head close, resting his forehead on hers.  Blond waves fell around her face, soft against her cheeks.  His chest rose and fell as he drew in a breath.  
'Felt like the first one to me, too.'"

9.  John Hayden - Abandon Series

"He let his mouth linger on mine, neither possessively nor his mouth just belonged there on mine.  And he was right.  It did.  It always had."

 8.  Edmund Pevensie - The Chronicles of Narnia

"But even a traitor may mend.  I have known one that did."

 7.  Fred and George Weasley - Harry Potter

"'Harry!' said Fred, elbowing Percy out of the way and bowing deeply.  'Simply splendid to see you, old boy-'
'Marvelous,' said George, pushing Fred aside and seizing Harry's hand in turn.  'Absolutely spiffing.'
Percy scowled.
 'That's enough now,' said Mrs. Weasley
'Mum!' said Fred, as though he'd only just spotted her and seizing her hand too.  'How really corking to see you-'" 

 6.  Howl - Howl's Moving Castle

"More about Howl?  Sophie thought desperately.  I have to blacken his name!  Her mind was such a blank that for a second it actually seemed to her that Howl had no faults at all.  How stupid!
'Well, he's fickle, careless, selfish and hysterical,' she said.  'Half the time I think he doesn't care what happens to anyone as long as he's alright--but then I find out how awfully kind he's been to someone.  Then I think he's kind just when it suits him--only then I find out he undercharges poor people.  I don't know, Your Majesty.  He's a mess.'" 

5.  Calvin O'Keefe - A Wrinkle In Time

"'Well, you know what, you've got dreamboat eyes,' Calvin said.  'Listen, you go right on wearing your glasses.  I don't think I want anybody else to see what gorgeous eyes you have.'" 

 4.  Dave the Laugh - Confessions of Georgia Nicolson

"I always want to tell him everything.  But instead I said, 'What's your advice, Horn-meister?'
And he started doing pretend beard stroking and said, ' Well, luuurve  is a many trousered thing...'"

3.  Sandor Clegane (The Hound) - A Song of Ice and Fire

"'I could keep you safe,' he rasped.  'They're all afraid of me.  No one would hurt you again, or I'd kill them.'  He yanked her closer, and for a moment she thought he meant to kiss her."

 2.  Mr. Rochester - Jane Eyre

"'And there is an enchantment in the very hour I am now spending with you.  Who can tell what a dark, dreary, hopeless life I have dragged on for months past?  Doing nothing, expecting nothing; merging night in day; feeling but the sensation of cold when I let the fire go out, of hunger when I forgot to eat: and then a ceaseless sorrow, and, at times, a very delirium of desire to behold my Jane again.'"

And, last but DEFINITELY not least...

1.  Severus Snape - Harry Potter


Who are your book boyfriends/girlfriends?