Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Top Ten Books I've Read in 2011

I had to take part in this week's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted as always by The Broke and the Bookish. This week we're taking a look at the top ten books we've read in the past year. Here are mine:

1. Diamond Willow by Helen Frost. This is probably one of the best books I've read in the past few years. You can read my review here, but all I'll say is that this book was just so good on so many levels. It's a verse novel, but the formatting is incredible. And I had the good fortune to meet Helen Frost this summer, which was amazing.

2. Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine. Another one that really was incredible. It's a children's book, probably around middle-school level, but it goes so far beyond most children's books I've read. My review is here.

3. Dairy Queen, The Off-Season and Front and Center by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. I'm putting this trilogy down as one, despite the very different natures of all three books. I loved D.J. Schwenk and her family, and I loved the way she told her story. Plus I listened to this on audio, and Natalie Moore was perfect to narrate.

4. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia. I loved this book. I loved that it focused on the Black Panthers, and that the narrator was this no-nonsense girl who had to deal with a reluctant mother. I loved the summer setting. Pretty much everything. My review is here.

5. Paper Towns by John Green. Okay, so this might be cheating since this was a reread. But really, this book. Is. Just. Awesome. My review can be found here.

6. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. This one won the Newbery Award a couple of years ago, and it was very deserving of the honor. I love Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, and this book references it a lot. This is another children's book that transcends age. Again, here's my review.

7. The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex. A hilarious and incredibly rich story of the alien invasion of Earth. I listened to the Odyssey Award–winning audiobook, and I'm about to do so again for a middle school book club I'm helping to run at the library. Seriously, this book is fantastic. My review is here.

8. Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol. This graphic novel is just fantastic. The art coupled with the creepy story make this a quick but absorbing read. I started this one again immediately after finishing it. Here's my review.

9. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. This was one of the few nonfiction books for adults I read this year, but it was definitely a good one. I listened to the audio (it's easier for me to finish nonfiction that way). This is such an incredible story, and I recommend it to anyone interested in science, race relations, or the history of medicine. Or people who like good stories.

10. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson. This is one of the few books I actually raced through, and the only one I stayed up all night to finish. Johnson is a master at blending suspense and humor. Plus, it's a ghost story. So, that's awesome. My review, ladies and gentlemen. 

That's it for me! Lots of great audiobooks this year. Let's hope 2012 will be just as great!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Review: "Eve" by Anna Carey

Title: Eve
Author: Anna Carey
Publisher: HarperCollins, 2011

In the not-so-distant future, a plague has wiped out most of the world's population. Eve has grown up at School, where she has led a simple life filled with education—literature, math, science, and Dangers of Boys and Men. Her whole life she has been warned not to go beyond the wall that keeps the men out, and keeps the girls in. But the night before graduation, Eve learns a truth that shocks her to her core and forces her to flee a tortured future. But she doesn't know what the wild will bring, or what the men beyond the wall will do to her.

This is another post-apocalyptic novel with not much new material to offer the already saturated genre. Basically Eve is traveling a road to a place called Califia, where she believes she will be safe. Along the way she must avoid the government, since she's being hunted down by the king himself (yes, of America), while also trying not to get raped or killed. It's a rough road, but she meets a man near her own age who is willing to help her and her friend along the way. Of course there is a love story in there, and sacrifices and misunderstandings and tragedy. It's all fairly predictable, to be honest.

That's not to say it's not entertaining. It is, and I finished this very quickly. I wanted to know what happened to everyone and whether Eve would succeed.

Eve made me really angry, though. She made some really stupid decisions that had really bad consequences, and I wanted to shake her a lot while I was reading it. I didn't particularly like her, and so I never really connected with her or the other characters.

I don't think I'll be picking up the sequels that will be coming out down the road, despite the cliffhanger ending of the first one. This was really just a mix between Cormac McCarthy's The Road and all the other post-apocalyptic teen books out there right now.

Disclosure: I borrowed this book from the library.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Review: "The Tales of Beedle the Bard" by J.K. Rowling

Title: The Tales of Beedle the Bard
Author: J.K. Rowling
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2008

This collection of fairy tales from the wizarding world of Harry Potter were written by J.K. Rowling, creator of one of the most popular, widely read and well-loved series to ever exist. Here she brings together a handful of "favorite tales" from the world she created, beloved by wizards and witches for centuries. From "The Wizard and the Hopping Pot" to "The Tale of the Three Brothers" (the latter of which readers of the Harry Potter series will be very familiar), each story gives its own spark of magic, as fairy tales tend to do.

I can't believe I'm just getting around to reading this collection, but I'm honestly glad I waited until after my storytelling class to read this. It's clear to me that J.K. Rowling has studied folklore and fairy tales, both their history and their form. Notes from Dumbledore at the end of each story really show this, as he goes into theory and history of the tales, something which it would be impossible for Rowling to write about to such a degree without prior study.

The tales are delightful and clever, though one or two have a darkness that is more along the lines of the later Potter books—"The Warlock's Hairy Heart" being the first and foremost that springs to mind on that front. I loved how the heroines of the tales are rulers of their own fates, unlike the Grimm or Perrault tales we are so familiar with, as Rowling points out in her introduction.

These stories would be great to tell fans of the series, or even those who haven't read the Potter books yet, during a storytelling event or at bedtime (again, excluding the darker tales). The appeal is wide.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Winter holidays, crazytimes, and relaxing.

I am trudging through.

I have one more week of classes after this one that I'm sitting in (that I neer pay attention in, if you didn't know). I have about 5 1/2 months until I get married. I'm looking for a home with my fiance. It's December, and it's Christmastime. I am probably going back to Barnes & Noble to work during the holiday season in addition to working at the library.

I feel like I'm nuts.

But through it all, I go on. I am taking life one day at a time, sometimes one moment at a time, and it seems to be working. Unfortunately, my blogging is lagging a bit. But I know you all understand. That's why I like you guys. :)

So I will continue to take time for me, as well as do all the things I need to do. I will not disappear, but I my presence here will not be as great as my presence on Twitter (my handle is @Tahleen, if you would like to talk with me; I love conversation!). Feel free to drop me a line if you want to chat—I'll be happy to provide my email to anyone who wants to be friends. :)

My best wishes to you all this holiday season. Take care of yourselves, and enjoy each day you have!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Top Ten Authors I Want At My Thanksgiving Dinner

So yes, this week is my week over at The Broke and the Bookish for Top Ten Tuesday, but here is my list over on my own humble little blog anyway. It's word-for-word, but whatever. What if you don't follow both blogs??? :)

This week we're celebrating Turkey Day, Bookish style. Here are my top ten authors I would want to be at my table on Thanksgiving.

1. Bill Bryson. Duh. Number one, always. If you all know anything about me, you know that I want this man to be a member of my family/my best friend. I'm sure we would spend Thanksgiving listening to hilarious stories of Thanksgivings past, and learn a lot about the history of the holiday too, told in an entertaining manner of course.

2. Maureen Johnson. Another fun house guest I'd love to host. Things would not be boring, and my life would be richer for it.

3. John Green. If the Nerdfighter videos and his books are anything to go by, John Green would make another fun guest. Plus, he's already friends with Maureen Johnson, so they would know someone! :)

4. Libba Bray. Another one I've met in real life, and another lovely person who is also funny and a good conversationalist. Also, friends with John Green and Maureen Johnson. The banter would be never-ending and awesome. BTW, Libba, I would tell you if you had something in your teeth. ;)

5. Madeleine L'Engle. If she were still alive, I'd be honored to host her in my home. She and her books have made a huge impact on my life.

6. Jane Austen. Since I'm including authors who've passed on, what the hell. I love her books and she seemed like she'd be a real kick to have around, if her biographies are telling the truth. (I'm sensing a theme here—I like fun people.)

7. Sherman Alexie. I love his books, especially The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and he seems like a really nice guy from what I've read of his personal writing and Twitter. (Have I mentioned how much I love Twitter? I love Twitter.)

8. Laurie Halse Anderson. I've actually met her before and can attest to her awesomeness first hand. She is a wonderful lady and I would love to have her at my table. Plus her books are pretty fantastic.

9. Veronica Roth. She is just so adorable.

10. Rebecca Rasmussen. Such a sweetheart. She always has the nicest things to say and would bring warmth to any gathering she attends.

It's too bad that my authors either are dead or have families of their own to spend Thanksgiving with. I hope you all have a lovely holiday with your family and friends! Enjoy the time around the table and with your loved ones.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Review: "The Blood Lie" by Shirley Reva Vernick

Title: The Blood Lie
Author: Shirley Reva Vernick
Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press, 2011

It's 1928. Jack Pool is 16 and desperate to move away from his small town of Massena, New York, to attend a prestigious music school in Syracuse. He is an excellent cello player and stands a good chance at his audition in a few days. But all that changes when he is accused of a terrible crime, based solely on lies and his Jewish heritage and religion. Will a town's prejudice ruin the lives of the Jewish community?

I had the pleasure of meeting with Vernick at Barnes & Noble for my teen book club the other night. We talked about how this novel is based on actual events that took place in Massena in the 1920s. What occurs in this book is scary enough, illustrating what happens when mob mentality takes over, but what is really scary is Vernick's afterward. She reports on incidents that have happened very recently; one might think that events like this won't happen in today's day and age, but it's not true. People are susceptible to rumor and will believe what they want to.

This story is very short and simply written, but the ideas within it are not something to be glossed over. The hatred within the pages is frightening enough, but what I found more appalling was the indifference the instigators of the rumor showed toward their victims. They simply capitalized on the prejudice that already existed in the community, basically just lighting the fuse.

Everything is completely realistic, and as Vernick told me, there is no Hollywood ending. It's as close to the real story as she could make it, and the characters realize what horrors lie within our world.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Breaking Dawn is perhaps the greatest theater experience I've ever had and ever will have.

Please Google "Breaking Dawn" in images
to see the terrible fan art out there. This is
the official movie poster, believe it or not.
There is a good reason for midnight showings of movies, and tonight was one of them. I am not a huge fan of the Twilight book series. I think Bella is a terrible role model and abuse abounds throughout. BUT. This movie was just beyond words.

I have wondered since I read book four how they would go about THE SCENE. All of you who've read it know what I'm talking about. And let me tell you, the gag-inducing lovey-dovey-ness in the beginning was so worth sitting through for like the last half hour. THOSE MINUTES WERE GOLD. They left nearly NOTHING to the imagination and it was everything I could have possibly dreamed. I was so excited they didn't shy away from it that I was literally yelling in the theater, along with the rest of the audience. (Another great reason for midnight showings.)

One of my favorite things about this were the two ladies sitting to my right. They felt pretty much the same way I did, if I am to judge by their comments, and I honestly couldn't help but laugh and joke with them throughout the movie. My favorite was when Bella was arguing for keeping the baby, the woman next to me said "Bella, your body your choice!" and shook her fist at the screen.

Some parts were so ridiculous that I just had to giggle. I AM THE GRANDSON OF EPHRAIM BLACK. I AM THE GRANDSON OF A CHIEF.

I would also like to say that I TOTALLY called the exact moment of the ending. To the point where I feel a disproportionate amount of triumph.

All I can say is, I can't wait for the DVD so I can watch the unrated version. Next up: BREAKING DAWN PART II: NOT NEARLY AS AWESOME BUT TAHLEEN WILL WATCH IT JUST THE SAME.

P.S. In trying to find an appropriate image for this post, I discovered that there is a lot of really terrible fan art out there for this movie. Like, really really terrible. I decided on the not revealing but pretty image with no characters on it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wedding Wednesday: TONS of stuff goin' down

Wedding Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jamie at The Perpetual Page-Turner. She's planning her wedding, and so am I, so I'm taking part in this feature too!

Bah! I just got my invitation mock-up in the mail and it is AWESOME. It's purple with a silver backing behind the words, and it's so pretty! It's pretty much just what I wanted. (I'm not going to post a picture just because I don't want all my info to be out in plain view—not that I don't trust you all, but you never know what weirdos are lurking!)

It's a tri-fold with a pocket on the inside of the right-hand flap, where the inserts will go (you know, reception details, response cards, directions etc). We'll be ordering the save-the-dates soon too.

I also went to see a florist today to talk about my wedding flowers (obviously). I don't know if I'm going to use her, but it does help that she's right down the street from where I live. I'm going to meet another one on Friday to compare. Right now I'm really liking lisianthus and calla lilies, among others.

It's all starting to get real! So crazy. I'm almost 6 months away and have been engaged for longer than that already. People weren't kidding when they said the time would fly.

We're also in the process of booking our honeymoon in Hawaii, which is super exciting too. *squee!* We'll be there for just about two weeks! AND we get to stay in Marriotts for just about half the trip for free, since we'll be getting mucho points from the reception.

AND next week we're meeting with the officiant, my Der Hayr at my church (what we call the priest). Things are coming along!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Review: "The Name of the Star" by Maureen Johnson

Title: The Name of the Star
Author: Maureen Johnson
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2011

Rory is excited about spending her senior year at Wexford, a boarding school in London, instead of her hometown in Louisiana. It also happens to be right near where the Jack the Ripper murders occurred more than 120 years ago—and where they seem to be occurring again. Murders that are eerily similar to those committed by the Ripper are happening at the exact times and dates of the first murders, causing a morbid fascination and slight panic in the city. When Rory starts to see someone who no one else can, she thinks it's strange, but then he seems to be the prime suspect in the case—and she's his next target.

Let me just start this review by saying, every positive thing about this book you've read is dead on. This is one of the best books I've read in a while. I couldn't put it down once it started going and ended up going to bed at 4 in the morning. I don't remember the last time I actually stayed up to read a book, let alone finish one.

Setting is fantastic. I spent time in London when I was in school, so I was familiar with the places Johnson mentioned. And I really enjoyed the characters, especially Boo. She was so much fun.

Maureen Johnson writes excellent suspense, mystery and humor. I just love how great this whole thing was. I can't wait until the next Shades of London book comes out—I read the last sentence, going on to the next page for more only to be confronted with the acknowledgments. Which I did read, anyway, but MAN what a great way to end it. I'm so excited!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Top Ten Books Over Which I Had Strong Emotions

Hi everyone! I'm doing a Top Ten Tuesday again, yay! It's been a while. But today I have time (and wi-fi, no thanks to the stupid storm that shut off my power for 72 hours). For those of you knew to this meme, it was created by The Broke and the Bookish, another blog I write for. If you have your top ten, hop on over and join in!

Here are the top ten books I cried over/got pissed at/laughed myself silly over/etc.

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling: No spoilers here, but really. SUPER sad but so satisfying to have it all wrapped up.

2. The Crown of Dalemark by Diana Wynne Jones: I have no idea why I cried so much near the end of this one, probably something about being separated from a loved one. But all I remember is while reading this, I was sobbing my little heart out. I rarely do this.

3. New Moon by Stephenie Meyer: I got SO ANGRY reading this. I wanted to throttle Bella and smack her until she woke up out of her stupid coma she put herself in. REALLY. JUST STOP.

4. Anything by Bill Bryson. As most of you know I have a deep and abiding love for this man and his work. Everything I read by him is full of humor and incredible insight. I laugh and I think a lot about the way we live our lives. Favorites include A Walk in the Woods, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, and I'm a Stranger Here Myself.

5. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle: This book means a great deal to me. Love, loyalty and faith have never been better portrayed in a children's book, as far as I'm concerned. To this day I get goosebumps when reading it.

6. Linger by Maggie Stiefvater: I will never know why all the adults in this book are so despicable. I felt my anger and hatred overcome me a few times while listening to this audiobook.

7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: A favorite of mine. Just everything about this book made me feel.

8. Appetites: Why Women Want by Caroline Knapp: It's probably because I identified so much with this woman and her struggles, but this book made me realize I needed to change the way I was living my life. I'll be forever grateful to my professor for having us read this.

9. The Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness: Okay, so I haven't read the final book yet, but the first two had me glued to my seat. I can't remember the last time I was so captivated by a story before this. I raced through these pages like it was my job, and Todd's problems became mine.

10. The Bible: I know it's cliche, but this book holds all of my beliefs. It's got every emotion in here.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Late Wedding Wednesday: Bridesmaid Dresses!

Wedding Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jamie at The Perpetual Page-Turner. She's planning her wedding, and so am I, so I'm taking part in this feature too!

Sorry I'm a day late; I completely forgot to post yesterday, since I was scrambling to get ready for my very first program (that I designed and led!) at the library. :)

Sooooo great news! We have our bridesmaid dresses!! After three shopping trips (first the one with everyone except my MOH, then just me and my MOH, then the first group again), we found it. Let me just say, the best thing I did was go just with Rachel when she came to visit me Columbus Day weekend. It was SO MUCH EASIER to find options with one person, let me tell you. What we did was pick three dresses, and then the rest of my BMs went on another trip with me to pick out of the three.

Here's what we picked, but not in this orange color (we got plum):

I am told it is also very comfortable. They won't be strapless either, we're going to put on spaghetti straps. I'm debating on whether they should have a shawl too—I'm afraid it's too much skin for a church. At least they will have the straps.

In other news, I need to call the guy I was going to use as my florist. Unfortunately he will be selling the business and might not be able to do the flowers for my wedding anymore; luckily I haven't given a deposit or anything, but I have to talk to him to see what's going on. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Storytime! La Llorona: The Weeping Woman

Hi all. As you might glean from my quick intro in the following video, I'm taking a storytelling class, and a big part of that class is telling stories. I've already told one, but I'm a bit more nervous about my second story. So I decided to practice in front of the camera and ask you guys what you think. It's the story of La Llorona, a well-known folktale told throughout Latin America.

Thanks for listening! I know it's not perfect, and please excuse my disheveled appearance. Yes, I am in my pjs, and yes I am on my bed.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Review: "The Monstrumologist" by Rick Yancey

Title: The Monstrumologist
Author: Rick Yancey
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2009

This is what you should be reading this October 31st.

The diary of Will Henry chronicles his apprenticeship with the eminent, albeit known only within certain circles, Dr. Pellinore Warthrop, monstrumologist and scholar. Will's tale begins in 1888, when he is 12 years old. Dr. Warthrop has been told, secretly and in the middle of the night, of a strange and horrific creature found during a grave robbing. This monster, which he quickly identifies as an adult male Anthropophagus, is only one of a pod of the enormous, man-eating predators in the New Jerusalem area. Certain questions arise: Why are they in New England, when their natural habitat is in Africa? Why are they so many? And why have they suddenly emerged from hiding to feast on human flesh once again? Warthrop and Will must find out these answers, but they also must end this infestation before it is too late for the people of New Jerusalem.

There is a blurb on the front of this book from VOYA, which calls this novel "A cross between Mary Shelley and Stephen King." I really can't think of a better description. The horror and gore in here is so intense and ever-present,  yet philosophy is threaded throughout all of this in Will's musings as he writes down his experiences years later. Morality, loyalty, duty, and inheritance are at the heart of the novel, interspersed with the action and horror.

I love that this is a framed narrative. The book begins with a modern-day author who is given the notebooks found in Will Henry's room after his death—the proprietor of the home he was staying is interested in looking for clues within the writing to the identity of the man who called himself Will and claimed to be 131 years old, born in 1876. The first narrator then shows us this first part of Will's diary, and when he is finished with that, tells us about his often fruitless research about finding more information or ways to corroborate the story within Will's notebooks. This hearkens back to Mary Shelley and Frankenstein, for sure, a nice tip of the hat to early horror literature. It also provides us with a mystery and second storyline to follow in the subsequent books of the series.

The setting of the late 1800s makes this book seem much more like the classics we read in school, giving it an authentic taste of the Gothic that used to be so prevalent. The language is sublime and eloquent, yet still accessible for teens today. Not to mention the often breakneck pace of the story.

This is a perfect book to read around Halloween. Scary and creepy, full of suspense, plenty of blood and guts, and exquisite writing. I'll definitely be getting to The Curse of the Wendigo soon!

Disclosure: I won this book in some giveaway I never remembered entering. Seriously, this and the next book in the series just showed up at my house one day with a note telling me I won them but not what  I won them for. Whatever. I'll take it.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hocus Pocus is the greatest Halloween movie in existence.

Title: Hocus Pocus
Release year: 1993
Production company: Walt Disney Pictures

That is not an exaggeration, folks. I mean it. At least it is my very favorite movie for the season, along with the Halloweenie episode of Pete & Pete (which I also own on DVD). I may have blogged about this last year, but I don't remember and honestly I don't care.

There is nothing like some good old-fashioned nostalgia in the form of classic movies from my childhood. Bette Midler is priceless, what with her fabulous rendition of "I Put a Spell On You," backup vocals provided by Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy, and her overall wackiness.

Honorable mention goes to SJP, by the way, for being the most sexy she's ever been and ever will be in this movie. It never happened again. Then again, she was next to Better Midler and Kathy Najimy, and had the best hair.

I'm also going to take a few lines to say Salem is not like that AT ALL. It's not nearly so cute and New England-y, since there are SO MANY college students around. It's got a more urban feel. The police cars do all have witches on the sides of them, though. I'm not kidding.

Some say this movie is not good if you didn't see it when you were little. I highly disagree. And I hope you do too.

There are so many great '90s references too. If anyone is interested, check out my tweets from watching this tonight. My twitter handle is @Tahleen.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wedding Wednesday: House? Dresses?

Wedding Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jamie at The Perpetual Page-Turner. She's planning her wedding, and so am I, so I'm taking part in this feature too!

I've been super busy lately. We've been seriously considering one of the houses we looked at a week ago, which is great, but there are a few things about it. First, they want more than we want to offer. Second, oh hey, they moved next door. So I'm just worried that they might not be happy with us if we do move in and don't give them the amount they want. I don't want it to lead to bad feelings. We would just have some work to do if we took the house, like replace all the windows and appliances.

We're also going to pick out bridesmaid dresses this Saturday, hooray. Finally. You might remember my maid of honor and I picked out three during Columbus Day weekend, so it should be much faster than the last shopping trip!

Anyway, that's about it. We had to reschedule our engagement photo shoot for next Friday, so I'll let you all know how that goes.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Audiobook Review: "Glow" by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Title: Glow
Author: Amy Kathleen Ryan
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Narrators: Matthew Brown and Ilyana Kadushin

On the Empyrean, life is routine in deep space. Grow the crops, raise the livestock, and prep yourself for the life you are supposed to lead—repopulating the human race on a new planet, which you'll reach in about 40 years. Waverly and Kieran have known this their whole lives, as they were the first two successful births in deep space. When Kieran proposes, Waverly knows she should be happy to accept, but a part of her is hesitant.

But all this changes in an instant.

The New Horizon, the Empyrean's sister ship, has somehow managed to rendez-vous with them, something that should never have happened. A vicious attack and a traumatic separation force the children, especially Waverly and Kieran, to grow up a lot faster than they have had to thus far. Now, their main concern is survival.

This book was really intense. I listened to the audio version, and I found that I got too stressed out listening to it at night, so I would turn it off and put on Bedtime Magic instead. The situations in Glow were truly awful to think about. True manipulation, sabotage, violence, sinister motives, all of them were in here. And yet, ethics are always at the root of each issue. At what point does a person become an accomplice if they do nothing while watching atrocities? To what extent should someone go to do what they think is right? I was always eager yet afraid to find out where the action was going, and how one character would triumph over another. And that's what it came down to at the end. There was no compromise, only a winner and a loser.

The book is split between Waverly's and Kieran's perspectives, in the third person. Kieran, still on the Empyrean, is caught in a really bad situation. As the captain's protege, he tries to assume control, but finds that not all the boys are willing to let him. What ends up happening is a Lord-of-the-Flies-like breakdown, which was really terrifying to hear about for me.

Waverly, on the other hand, is stuck on the New Horizon, where there are no children. Fertility disappeared among the women on this ship, and that is the reason the girls from the Empyrean are brought aboard. For a woman, listening to how the pastor Anne Mather manipulates her congregation/ship and the girls is downright despicable. That said, she has this humanness that is startling at points—you're not sure when to trust her, if you can at all. She was very complex, and I really liked that.

One problem was with Kieran and Waverly, though more so with the former. I never really connected with Kieran, only because he is pretty dull. Waverly seemed a bit distant to me as well, though I could understand her better since she's a girl. It was really nice to see her stick to her guns, too.

What I didn't like much was the how anti-Christian a lot of the book seemed. I understand what Ryan was trying to do, but I think she missed the mark. She made it seem like all Christians are manipulative and controlling. Some are, sure, but not all, and I personally would have liked to see a positive instance in there.

As for the narrators, Ilyana Kadushin again did a great job. She is just a delight to listen to. Matthew Brown was all right. I wasn't crazy about his voice, but it did the job, and I got to listen to Kadushin for half of the book anyway.

I'm interested to see where this series goes. It wasn't my very favorite, but it certainly got my attention and I enjoyed listening to it.

Disclosure: The publisher sent me a copy of this audiobook in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wedding Wednesday: MOH Visit!

Wedding Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jamie at The Perpetual Page-Turner. She's planning her wedding, and so am I, so I'm taking part in this feature too!

This weekend my maid of honor, my cousin Rachel who lives in Chicago, came for a visit to meet my fiance and go gown shopping with me! It was a lot of fun, not only because we did fun things like to to the Samuel Adams brewery (free keychain, glasses and beer!), but because it's just nice to see her. I don't get to see her that often, since she grew up in Michigan and now lives in Illinois, so this was a treat.

We went to La Reine again for bridesmaids dresses, and it was just the two of us and my mom. It's just so much easier to go with a few people—not quite so many opinions to worry about. We picked out three dresses for my other maids to choose from, so hopefully I'll have my bridesmaids' dresses finished with on October 22.

In other news, Steve and I looked at a house today that we liked very much. Stay tuned to see how that turns out!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Review: "Latte Daze" by Erynn Mangum

Title: Latte Daze
Author: Erynn Mangum
Publisher: NavPress, 2010

This post is a review of a Christian fiction book, and is also slightly personal; just a warning!

Maya Davis is back in this second book in her trilogy, this time as maid of honor for her good friend and roommate, Jen. And now that Maya is dating Jack, her best friend in the world, she's got much more on her mind than just what coffee roast to serve at Cool Beans, the coffee shop where she works. Jack's left the shop to work in a zoo, Jen is getting married, and on the heels of all this, her brother and sister-in-law announce their pregnancy. Maya's life is changing rapidly, and she doesn't like change. Can she trust God to get her through this, and trust He knows what He's doing?

Again, this is a Christian fiction book, which I'm finding I'm really enjoying at this point of my life. I love that Maya is 24, my own age; it's hard to find books with characters in their early to mid-20s. It's nice to read about someone going through the same points in their life as I am.

This book not only is really fun to read, and a story on the lighter side, it also challenged me in my own life. I'm going to be completely honest in this review, and I know not many of my readers are Christian, but I'm finding myself becoming a stronger Christian when I read about other Christian's journeys and their quests to better serve God. It makes me want to work harder, and realize I should be working harder to be a better person and a better Christian.

I do want to call foul on a couple of things, though. Jen's wedding planning happened WAY too easily. I know what it's like to plan a wedding, and it seems way too lucky for Jen to be able to find her wedding dress on the first day after being engaged. Everything fell into place surreally easily and felt fake. But whatever! Maybe it is that easy for some people. They are lucky.

I also felt it was really weird how Jack and Maya never really kissed in this book, despite the fact they've been dating for months. MONTHS.

I'm also annoyed that this is pitched as a book for teens. Teens are not in the place in life Maya and Jen are in, and I'm not sure they'll be able to easily connect to the story or characters as a whole. I'm sure a few would, but I think it's hard to bill this as an adult title since the characters are so young and the story is so tame.

I'm really enjoying Maya's story and am invested in her and her family and friends at this point, so I will most certainly be finishing up this trilogy when I get the chance.

Disclosure: I bought this from bn.com as an e-book.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Review: "A Monster Calls" by Patrick Ness, based on an idea from Siobhan Dowd

Title: A Monster Calls
Author: Patrick Ness, from a story idea from Siobhan Dowd
Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2011

Conor's mother is not dying. At least, that's what he tells himself, and what she tells him as well, despite her cancer that is making her waste away. Nothing is going right; he's being bullied at school, his extremely proper grandmother is starting to spend more and more time at his house, and he is having trouble coming to terms with all of this. But one night, at seven minutes past midnight, an ancient monster pays Conor a visit. What he wants is the truth.

This is a story about stories and truth—their power, and how they can be twisted, unexpected, or denied and hidden from view. The yew tree in Conor's back yard, one his mother always comments on, is actually a very ancient being who has seen much in its life. When he visits Conor, he asks for the truth, but also tells him a story each time. And each time, the story varies wildly from what Conor expects.

The stories help lead Conor to his own realizations, but it's much more than a coming-of-age story or the finding of oneself. Conor has to look deep within himself and admit a truth that he wants to bury under guilt and pain.

I love the stories, and the value the monster puts on them. I'm taking a storytelling class right now, and I know they have been a part of culture since humans could speak—yet, Ness veers off from the normal motifs and shows a side to human nature that I wasn't expecting, and one Conor definitely was not.

The illustrations by Jim Kay are absolutely brilliant. Haunting, richly textured black-and-white images creep up toward the words on the page until they completely take over in stunning double-page spreads. They perfectly complement the prose.

If you're a Patrick Ness fan, don't expect this to be an edge-of-your-seat thriller like his Chaos Walking trilogy. This is a much gentler and more subtle book, despite it's darkness and occasional violent emotions. It's a short book, but very rich and worth reading, especially if you're a story lover, which I think most of my readers are.

Siobhan Dowd's premature death made her unable to write this story herself, but we are lucky that Patrick Ness, an incredibly talented writer and someone I think is a gift to young adult literature, was able and willing to pick up the pen and write it for her.

By the way, as a coincidence (?) I started writing this review at seven minutes past midnight. Or maybe there are no accidents.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this from the publisher. Thanks!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Review: "Millie's Fling" by Jill Mansell

Title: Millie's Fling
Author: Jill Mansell
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark, 2009

Millie has not had the best of luck in the man department, especially lately. But when she stops bestselling romance novelist Orla Hart from hurling herself off a cliff, things are gonig to change. But Millie isn't sure it's for the better. Orla decides she wants to make a departure from her normal writing, namely about glitzy celebrities and high living, in favor of normal, everyday people. And she's willing to pay big money to Millie to tell her ALL about her love life. Trouble is, Orla isn't going to let Millie go on her own, and tries to set her up with any number of men.

This British chick-lit is great fun. It is full of what I can only describe and crazy shenanigans. Millie's trying to keep her attraction to Hugh, a young widower, secret, especially from Orla, since the novelist already told her he was off limits. Millie's flatmate, Hester, is super annoying and can be a total slut when she wants to be, since she's got the hots for Lucas Kemp, a guy they both knew in high school who is now back in Newquay and sexier than ever--despite her boyfriend Nat, who is miles away in Glasgow working as a chef in a restaurant.

Seriously, the things that happened in this book were fantastic. One twist after another, and misadventures galore. One of my favorite scenes had to do with a kitchen fire, a mud wrap, and some missing clothing. There were so many delicious misunderstandings, and the humor was rife with British slang, which is funny to me regardless.

Just to let you know, this is an adult title, but I think older teens would really enjoy it. Millie is only 25, after all.

If you're just looking for a feel-good romantic comedy type book, I'd definitely check out Jill Mansell's stuff. I'm sure her other books are just as good and funny, and I am looking forward to reading them.

Disclosure: I got this as a free nookbook from bn.com.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wedding Wednesday: I found my gown!

Wedding Wednesday is a creation by Jamie at The Perpetual Page-Turner, who is getting married next August. She decided she wanted to share her wedding excitement on her blog, and I really liked that idea so I'm copying her. :)

This post is exciting for me. I finally found my gown! After a couple of months of searching, I went with my mom to a place called La Reine Bridal in Waltham. The girl who helped me was fantastic; she asked me what I wanted and went and found so many gowns that could have worked for me. I couldn't believe it. I've been having so much trouble finding what I want, but not here. Hooray!

Next up: Bridesmaid gowns. I hope this will be as easy to figure out at La Reine as my gown was. I'm super excited!

A special thanks to my friend Nina, who suggested the place to me. She got married in June and told me where she got hers. Fate!

For those of you who are interested, by the way, I started a tumblr for all things wedding and house hunting. It's at tahleen.tumblr.com.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Top Ten Books I Feel As Though Everyone Has Read But Me

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish, a blog I contribute to. This week's topic is:

Top Ten Books I Feel As Though Everyone Has Read But Me

1. Macbeth. For some reason this one was never required reading for me, even in my Shakespeare class. I guess the prof figured everyone had read it already.

2. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. Yeah, I have read pages and pages of praise for this one, but I never find the time to read it/obtain it.

3. Anything by Jonathan Safran Foer. I do own Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, though. Sitting on my shelf. Surprise.

4. A History of Love by Nicole Krauss. Another one I grabbed at a library book sale but haven't got around to reading yet. Heard it's great, though!

5. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. I'm ashamed I haven't gotten to this one yet, seeing as how it's one of the very first young adult novels written for young adults. (Yes, I own this one too.)

6. Most things by Sarah Dessen. I almost finished Lock and Key on audio, but the discs were defective. Booo. I also read This Lullaby years ago. But I feel woefully behind on the works of an author considered to be YA canon.

7. If I Stay by Gayle Forman. I bought this a little while back, brand spanking new, because of how wonderful everyone (EVERYONE) says it is. Having no time to read stuff is no fun.

8. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I really like her poetry, and I feel like this is considered required reading for women, since pretty much everyone has read it.

9. Ellen Hopkins. Another author considered YA canon who I haven't gotten around to reading. Shameful on my part.

10. Anything by Marlina Marchetta. Read so many wonderful things about her. But as you can see, my backlog is immense.

What's your list? Hop over to The Broke and the Bookish to post your link.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Review: "All These Things I've Done" by Gabrielle Zevin

Title: All These Things I've Done
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Publisher: Macmillan Young Listeners, 2011
Narrator: Ilyana Kadushin

In 2083, chocolate and coffee are illegal substances. Manhattan is rife with crime, and speakeasies and black market trade are rampant. Sixteen-year-old Anya Balanchine is caught up right in the middle of everything, not because she happens to be alive in this time, but because her family owns the famous Balanchine Chocolate company, and because her father, now dead, was one of the most notorious crime bosses in the city.

Still, Anya tries her best to keep a low profile, since she doesn't want to bring attention to the fact that her bedridden elderly grandmother is their sole guardian, and her brother Leo is a bit mentally handicapped due to an accident when he was a boy. Unfortunately, when her ex-boyfriend is poisoned by chocolate that she gave him, she's all over the news and in a lot of trouble. It doesn't help that she starts a relationship with the district attorney's son. And all the while, she needs to maintain some sort of control of her brother and younger sister, Nattie, and keep them away from the influence of her mafia family.

The feel of this book is a mixture of dystopia and old-school gangster, what with the prohibition on chocolate and coffee. I never really read anything about organized crime, but I found the way Anya handles things and the way her family operates fascinating. She is incredibly cool-headed, and mostly seems completely in control, even when she's going crazy inside. I truly admired her character, and I loved how she took all of her father's words to heart. She was always recounting some piece of wisdom her father imparted when he was alive, and I actually found them to be truthful and/or valuable.

All of the characters are well-written, and I found myself caring for even the most dangerous characters. Except Gable; he's a jerkface.

The dystopian society itself is not too far off from where we could be headed. There is a water problem, but one not large enough to have water rationed—yet. It's just very expensive, sort of like gasoline today. And the illegal substances of our time parallel very well with the illegal substances of this world. Organized crime developed around the chocolate and coffee industries because of their illegality, and people get a "high" off both of them, much like drugs and alcohol today. Interestingly, alcohol is widely available for all ages here.

Zevin's language is, for lack of a better word, delicious. Something I want to sip slowly. I loved the atmosphere of her world.

As far as the audio version goes, Ilyana Kadushin does an excellent job. She sounds spot-on for Anya, not too old or young. Her voice is soothing with no annoying quirks that I find happens often in audiobooks. And, she does a great Russian accent for Anya's older family members. It's very easy to tell the difference between each character's dialogue.

I highly recommend the audio version of All These Things I've Done, and certainly recommend the book itself. I fully plan on reading the rest of the Birthright series when they are released.

Disclosure: Macmillan sent me a copy of this audiobook in exchange for an honest review.

Here are some worthy causes that need some help.

Hi all.

As some of you know, I like to run on occasion. I am happy to say I've been able to sign up for a few races in the coming weeks, and I'm actually on a team for one of them (which is exciting; I've never done anything like this on a team before). The team one is called the Samaritans' 5K, taking place Oct. 1 this year. This is organized by the Samaritans, a group that works to prevent suicide in the Greater Boston area. Our team leader lost her mother to suicide 25 years ago, and every year she runs this race to raise money for the cause. I'm joining this year, and I'm hoping to raise a little bit of money as well.

If anyone would like to donate, please click here to get to our team page.

Since we're talking about fundraising, a church group I belong to is also trying to raise money, but for a different cause. We're trying to raise enough money to build a well somewhere that one is needed, a place where people have to travel miles to find any kind of water at all, let alone clean water. We need to raise $2,500 to build it, and we've got about $600 more to go. If you would like to donate to this cause, click here for that page. (By the way, I'm the one in the orange in that picture in case you were wondering.)

I know it's a lot to ask during such a tough economic time, and I don't expect anyone to donate, but I figured I would ask you all just in case someone is able and willing to give a little something to either or both of these causes. Thanks for reading! I'll be back to reviewing and bookish things soon.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wedding Wednesday: The House Hunt

Jamie of The Perpetual Page-Turner started this once-a-week feature on her blog, since she's getting married next summer, and as I'm also getting married in the near future (May), I'm piggy-backing off of her idea!

Sorry for the long absence folks. It's been a busy couple of weeks. Would you like to know why?

Steve and I are looking for a house.

Yes, that's right, we're on the house hunt. It's been very educational too, I might add. I never knew how many things could be wrong with a house. Like a tree being on top of one, for example. That actually happened; we went to see a house in Westford and when we got there, surprise! A tree must have come down in the hurricane. I don't think there was much if any damage, but still, not a great way to sell a house. Also, the house itself was a hideous shade of mint green and there were eight (eight!) computer monitors in the garage.

We saw some nice ones, but we haven't found "the one" yet. But we continue to look. For the record, we're looking in Westford and Chelmsford, MA, if any of you are familiar with that area. There are beaches in Westford! Who knew? Not me, but I'll take it.

Our realtor is very nice, too. She doesn't try to sugarcoat anything or diminish flaws, and we really like that about her.

I'm also learning a lot about what heating systems are most efficient, architectural types of houses, and measurements. I'm especially keen on getting a nice kitchen, but we'll see what happens.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Winner of "All These Things I've Done"

Congrats to Kayla, who has won a copy of Gabrielle Zevin's All These Things I've Done! I hope you enjoy it. I certainly did—watch out for my review later this week.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"All These Things I've Done" Trailer and Giveaway

Hi everyone! I've been given the great opportunity by Zeitghost Media to bring to you the trailer for Gabrielle Zevin's latest book, All These Things I've Done. See if this dystopian story is something that could intrigue you by checking out the video below. Long story short, chocolate and coffee are illegal, New York is rife with crime, and our main lady Anya Balanchine is the daughter of a notorious (and dead) crime boss, though she is not involved in that part of her family's business herself.

If you'd like the chance to win a copy of your own, please fill in the form below the trailer. Enjoy!

Interested? Fill it out, but only if you're over 13, live in the US or Canada, and do it before Friday, September 9 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Review: "Ashes, Ashes" by Jo Treggiari

TitleAshes, Ashes
Author: Jo Treggiari
Publisher: Scholastic, 2011

In a world that doesn't seem to be too far into the future, global warming has melted the ice caps and most of the coastal world is now underwater. This wasn't such a big deal for Lucy at first, since she was fine in her New Jersey town, but three years later an even deadlier enemy claimed 99% of the population of the planet: the plague. Lucy somehow managed to survive without contracting the disease at all, but her family was not so lucky. After a year of wilderness survival on her own in the Wilds of what used to be Central Park, Lucy finally finds a group of people who she might be able to live with. But she could spell the end for them all; there is something about her that makes her very valuable to those who are barely holding on to power.

While reading Ashes, Ashes, I often found myself thinking how awful the lives these people led sounded. I was very creeped out during the beginning of the book, when Lucy was still on her own, but I kept flipping the pages, eager to discover Lucy's past and what would happen next.

I didn't find out much as far as back story, unfortunately. We learn that Lucy is largely unremarkable (this is repeated many times), with no special talents other than survival. I can tell there is more to her, but I never found her history besides brief flashes of memory, which was disappointing for me. The same is true for the secondary characters in this book—we get clues, but no real stories.

What didn't disappoint was the action. There was a lot of it, and Lucy was nearly always at the center of it. I was compelled to find out the mysteries behind the Sweepers, what I'm assuming are government officials, who kidnap survivors of the plague. Those kidnapped are never seen again. And when Lucy becomes their target, I wanted to know what made her special.

The next part might be a bit spoilery, just a warning. We never really get the answers to the burning questions in the book, kind of a letdown, especially when much of the book focuses on this aspect of Lucy and how the Sweepers are after her for some reason. I'm guessing there will be a sequel to answer some of these questions.

Overall, I don't feel strongly about this book one way or the other. It provided entertainment while I was reading and did give me something to think about as far as how the way we are treating our planet might turn out, but I don't think the story or the characters will stay with me too long afterward. If a sequel does come out, I will most likely pick it up to find out the secrets behind the characters and the government that were left unrevealed in Ashes, Ashes.

Disclosure: I received an ARC from the publisher at one of their events.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wedding Wednesday: My Wedding Weekend in Pittsburgh

Jamie of The Perpetual Page-Turner has decided to chronicle her wedding planning and stuff about weddings in weekly blog posts, and since I'm also planning a wedding I thought I'd join in on her idea!

This week I'm going to take a break talking about my own wedding and share my wedding experience from this past weekend. Last Thursday Steve and I went to Pittsburgh for a wedding, as one of Steve's good friends from college was getting married. It was a much different kind of wedding than any I had ever been to, but it was really nice.

The ceremony and party were in the couple's back yard, which had just been finished that week. Their house was still not finished yet, we and many other people worked on it the week or so before the wedding, but they did a great job at cleaning it up for the roughly 80-90 people who came.

All eight (yes, eight) of their parents gave them marital advice (they were surprised and skeptical when their children asked them to do this, since all but one have been divorced), and following this the couple exchanged their own vows. Then they exchanged rings and all of their families pronounced them husband and wife, and their siblings all said a toast. And that was the ceremony! Short, simple, sweet. (They did get officially married at the justice of the peace beforehand, but no one is sure exactly when this happened.)

We all mingled in their beautiful backyard, looking at a photography project the groom completed that ended up chronicling his first year with his new wife, eating delicious food and drinking wine and beer. Steve got to spend a lot of time with people he hasn't seen in years, which was great, and I got to meet all his friends from college, which was fantastic.

For us, Irene was a blessing in disguise. Our flight on Sunday was canceled, and though it seemed like a huge pain at first, we got to spend more time in the city with his friends and more time away from home and the pressures that go with it.

We were talking about how we were a little jealous of the newly married couple; we can't have a small, simple wedding because of how large our families are and our parents' expectations. I don't think I would want to get married in my backyard without an officiant, but part of me wishes it all didn't have to be such a production. (Another part of me is excited by that, but it is exhausting.)

We're going to be spending a lot more time planning, and we're going to spend money on things we probably wouldn't have spent as much on 15 years ago, but I know in the end I will remember my wedding day with only happiness and joy, and that's what counts.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wedding Wednesday: Magazines

Jamie over at The Perpetual Page-Turner started this little feature for her own wedding, and since I'm planning mine at the same time (we're getting married three months apart almost to the day!), I figured I'd piggy-back on the idea. :)

No news on the wedding front yet, except I've set up all the hotel room blocks for our guests. (Hooray!) What I'm going to talk about today is the number of magazines out there for brides and wedding stuff.

The one that may come to mind first is The Knot, which not only has a national issue that comes out quarterly, but a regional issue as well. I'm really digging all things The Knot so far, especially their website—it's super helpful to have a timeline of things that need to get done, even if you don't necessarily do all the things on the list. Plus it's nice to just get the ideas in the magazine! I started to plan out the bouquets after this past Boston issue because there was so much in there about them and I got excited.

Then there's Real Simple Weddings, which isn't so much a magazine as a special issue of their magazine that costs around the price of a book. BUT my favorite part about this one is that I got a FREE subscription to Real Simple Magazine with the purchase! And I've discovered I'm a little bit in love with Real Simple Magazine. Oh, and there are great ideas in the wedding issue too.

And finally, Bride's magazine rounds out my mag experience. This is a monthly publication, which is great because there are so many more ideas and articles I can look at on a monthly basis. And I can get them out of the library! Well, not my library, but one nearby. Lots of fantastic little ideas for the details are in this one, as well as TONS of pictures of wedding gowns, which is great for inspiration. (Side note—having lots of trouble finding one of those for me. Been to three places with no dice.)

Anyway, that's my Wedding Wednesday! Check out Jamie's too! She's talking about her venue today.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Review: "Cool Beans" by Erynn Mangum

Title: Cool Beans
Author: Erynn Mangum
Publisher: NavPress, 2010

This is a Christian fiction book, just letting you all know that up front because I know not everyone likes that kind of thing.

Maya Davis loves her job at Cool Beans, a coffee shop in Hudson, California, which is perfect since she's absolutely addicted to caffeine and coffee. She works with one of her best friends, Jack, and lives with her other best friend, Jen. Throw in Calvin the beagle and her life seems pretty perfect. Until her ex-boyfriend from high school/first year of college shows up. The one that she went ring shopping with. The one that Jen is now dating and who doesn't recognize her. When she lets it go a little too long without telling Jen, she feels stuck. Throw into that the fact her perfect, hard-to-live-up-to doctor brother is moving back with his wife. God has thrown her some curveballs. Where is He when she needs Him?

I loved Maya and her friends. I loved reading about her exploits, and I loved that she would say "yay" all the time. I want to be friends with her, and I'm really looking forward to the other two books in the series!

There was nothing major plot-wise, besides the whole omgmyexisdatingmybestfriendwhatdoidoooo!!!! thing. I just really enjoyed Maya's personal journey, her getting over the ex (years later), and her relationship with God. I also loved her relationship with Jack! Jack is pretty fantastic, I must say. He is studying to be a zookeeper! And is funny and supportive and just an overall great guy. I loved their banter and his little nicknames for Maya.

Also, love Calvin. He does pilates and loves ice cream. (Side note: One thing that really bothered me was that it sounded like Maya fed Calvin chocolate, which is a big no no. It annoyed me each time I read it.) Anytime there is an adorable doggie it makes me happy.

And the descriptions of coffee? It made me crave mochas and lattes to no end. Cinnamon mochas sound delicious.

Totally looking forward to reading more from Erynn Mangum, especially the continued adventures of Maya! The next book, p.s., is all about a wedding (not going to say whose so I don't spoil it!), but this is going to be great for me since I'm getting married soon too.

Disclosure: I got this e-book for my nook from bn.com.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wedding Wednesday: "The Bride's Survival Guide" and looking for a stationer

Over at The Perpetual Page-Turner, Jamie has started to write posts every Wednesday about her upcoming wedding one year from tomorrow (!). As luck would have it, I'm also planning my wedding at this time! I'll be getting married May 19, 2012, right here in the Boston area, so I'm going to take this opportunity to talk about wedding stuff with Jamie. Sorry for all of you who are not interested about my personal life, but I just can't pass this up!

The Bride's Survival Guide: 150 Mistakes You Should Avoid for the Perfect WeddingFor this first Wedding Wednesday, I'm going to highlight a book that has proven to be pretty helpful to me. It's called The Bride's Survival Guide, written by Sharon Naylor, and it's got a ton of information and helpful hints about planning your big day. I was really glad to get something like this, since I had absolutely no clue what I was doing to begin with. Who'd have thought to ask about renovations your possible reception venue might be undergoing at the time of your wedding? I need to go back to it for a refresher soon.

As far as other plans so far, I've got my venues (both church and reception), I've got a band, a photographer, and working on finding a stationer for invitations. I've been talking to two people and I think the end result will be based on cost. But look at their websites!

Today I went for a consultation at Smudge Ink, a stationer in Charlestown, MA. Deb there is super nice, and I love their designs and the letter-press printing they do. It can be formal, but with a little bit of funk.

My other choice is Phillips Street Stationers out of Wayland, MA. Their invitations are very elegant and formal, and I love the pocket invite idea. Shirra there has been very helpful and has created a few PDFs for me to take a look at what she would be able to do! I hope to go see her in person soon.

That's all for now, folks! Hope I haven't bored you too much!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Review: "Ruby Red" by Kerstin Gier

Title: Ruby Red
Author: Kerstin Gier
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co., 2011
Translator: Anthea Bell

Gwyneth is in a fine mess. Her perfect, know-it-all cousin Charlotte was supposed to have the time travel gene in her family and has been preparing for time travel since childhood. But as luck would have it, turns out some secrets are revealed when Gwyneth is the one to jump back in time, completely unexpectedly, instead. Sure, she could talk to ghosts, but time travel? So with no training whatsoever and only a quick run-down of what's going on and what their mission is, Gwyneth is thrust into the role of the ruby, last of the time travelers and the one to complete the circle. But is everything what the Guardians say true? Why did her cousin Lucy and Paul de Villiers run off 16 years earlier? Who can she trust?

To be honest, I was not expecting much from Ruby Red when I picked it up. I thought it would be a fun, light read, but I underestimated it. Not only is the text funny, engaging and full of British slang (win), it is a fast-paced adventure bundled up in mysteries. I loved Gwyneth's reactions to pretty much everything. She's funny, and she has a backbone, willing to listen to others when no one else will. She doesn't really take anything lying down, which is good since everyone around her is trying to control what she does.

Anthea Bell, the translator, does a wonderful job. I couldn't tell it was translated at all—it's like it was written in English by a Brit, the language is so spot-on.

Unfortunately I'm not a huge fan of the cover. It's pretty boring, and doesn't really reflect the spunkiness of the main character or the plot very well. It's very plain.

I'm very intrigued by where this is going. I certainly will want to read the sequels, the next of which is Sapphire Blue, out next spring.

Disclosure: This book was sent to me by Zeitghost Media in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Review: "Saving CeeCee Honeycutt" by Beth Hoffman

Title: Saving CeeCee Honeycutt
Author: Beth Hoffman
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books, 2010

Cecelia Rose Honeycutt, or CeeCee as her Momma calls her, has been stuck as the caretaker of her psychotic mother whose mind is stuck in her days of being crowned the 1951 Vidalia Onion Queen back in Georgia. Her father is mostly absent, always traveling for "business" and refusing to acknowledge that her mother needs help that he hasn't already gotten for her. But tragedy strikes, and CeeCee finds herself in Savannah, Georgia with her Aunt Tootie, someone she had never known even existed. But in Savannah, she finds a home and a family of women she never even dreamed of in Willoughby, Ohio.

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is a lovely little novel full of maxims and life philosophy, all from the mouths of wise women in this new world into which CeeCee is thrust. She is so used to being alone, to being an outcast and a laughingstock because of her mother, that she doesn't know what to make of her new home at first. But CeeCee eventually makes friends with the ladies of the neighborhood, including Oletta, the woman who runs Aunt Tootie's household, Miz Goodpepper, her eccentric and exotic next-door neighbor, and of course, Aunt Tootie herself, a warm and welcoming relative that I would love to find out was my long-lost aunt.

This is certainly a character-driven novel. The setting plays an incredibly important role as a character too; Savannah makes its residents who they are, even CeeCee's mother who was stuck up in Ohio and pined for her home down South. The lushness of the setting comes through on nearly every page, opening CeeCee's eyes to the natural world.

CeeCee was okay as a narrator. Hoffman got the dialogue for her right, but something felt just slightly off about her narration. I'm assuming she is telling the story years after the events of the novel, which take place in the late 1960s, but I still felt unsure about where CeeCee was coming from.

Overall this book was enjoyable, but I think I was expecting too much. There was less plot than I expected, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but I sometimes wished more things would happen. I think I was expected something more along the lines of something by Fannie Flagg, who by the way is fantastic and I wholeheartedly recommend Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. I would also recommend this book if you're looking for something strictly character-driven and you enjoy a Southern setting.

Disclosure: I bought this book at a library book sale.
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