Thursday, June 30, 2011

My Thoughts On: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick


The Invention of  Hugo Cabret
by Brian Selznick 
Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, twelve-year-old Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks with an eccentric girl and the owner of a small toy booth in the train station, Hugo’s undercover life, and his most precious secret, are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message all come together...in The Invention of Hugo Cabret.  -(summary from book's website)
My Thoughts:  I have been sitting on this for a long time. I have no idea how to convey my thoughts about a book that is as beautiful and as grand as this one. And that does not even include the story, which is fantastic. I'll just have to do my best, and I'll start at the beginning...

I went to my library (Y'all, libraries rock. Visit them, and let's keep them open, okay?) and as per my routine, visited the Childrens Library. Immediately my awesome librarian came to me with a book. She had gotten it back when someone returned it and thought of me. That rocked my world. When my librarians think of me when they are ordering or holding a book, I read it. They know me. (I am so lucky to have the most ROCK STAR librarians here in my area.) Anyway, she handed me The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick and told me it was incredible and I would love it. I immediately thanked her and put it in my already heavy library bag.

The first thing I noticed about the book was how heavy it was. The thing weighed a ton. Why, you ask? I'll tell you why. It is 533 pages. That's why. The amazing thing, though, is that almost 300 of those pages are illustrations. Not just any illustrations, y'all. I mean some of the coolest illustrations ever. Before I walked away from the checkout desk, I was in love with the book just from glancing through the inside of it. Mr. Selznick had me at the pictures.

I wish I could describe the story to you a little bit, but it is really complex and I do not think I could do it adequately without messing it up. So I will just say that the story is quite good. Hugo is a very interesting kid. He is a very strong child, and very independent. He lives alone and does very well at it despite his young age. He is resourceful and a good manager of the few things he does have. He is still, however, a child and I love the way Mr. Selznick combined the innocence and desires of childhood with the way Hugo carried himself when he was acting as an adult.

The rest of the characters are as wonderful as Hugo. They all have things about them that they are hiding and it gives their characterization a depth that blends together to make the story wonderful for those of us 'older' children reading the book. It is not a separate story for us older folks, but there is an appreciation there that we can have as we understand the things that these characters are going through just a little differently and more thoroughly than a child would.

But back to the book...the story is told with a mixture of pictures and words. There may be page after page of illustration between pages of writing, but each is equally important. And each illustration was well-thought and has a place in the 500+ pages of the book. Mr. Selznick illustrated this book himself and his talent is ridiculously amazing. He actually used his drawings like a camera and you get the effects of lighting and zooming in and out. It's crazy-good. And the cover...just, wow. For somebody who is attracted to pretty covers, I'm sold on this one. The front cover is nice, but the back cover and the spine (yep, I said spine) artwork are amazing.

I guess I basically just do not have enough great things to say about this book. I owe my librarian a big one for walking this book over to me. She knows me well, because this recommendation was spot-on exactly what I love about literature for children. It is imaginative and fun with things to be learned on the inside. There are great illustrations to keep the younger readers enchanted with the story...

...and these same illustrations have kept adult readers enchanted as well. Brian Selznick received the 2008 Caldecott Medal for The Invention of Hugo Cabret. This award is given for excellence in illustration. This marks the first time a novel has received this award.

Oh my gracious, I would recommend The Invention of Hugo Cabret to anybody who is willing to read childrens books. I can't stop gushing about those pictures. Do me a favor...if you have not read the book yet (of if you just want to), check out this slideshow of the opening sequence of illustrations from the book's website. It's wonderful...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My Thoughts On: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman


The Graveyard Book
by Neil Gaiman

 
After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod's family . . .    -(summary from Goodreads.com)

My Thoughts:  I picked this book up from the library as part of the Award Winning Reads Challenge. The Graveyard Book is the 2009 Newbery Medal Winner. From reading elsewhere on the internet, I learned that this book has won several other awards, including the Carnegie Medal, the Hugo Award, and the Locus Award.

Nobody Owens comes to live in a graveyard as a toddler. He walks from his front door into the graveyard after the man Jack murders the rest of his family. He is 'adopted' by the inhabitants of the graveyard (ie, the people who are no longer alive) and raised by Mr. and Mrs. Owens with the help of the incredibly interesting Silas. Bod, as he is called, spends his days exploring every square inch of the graveyard and becoming familiar with the souls who live there. He is protected by these souls, and grows up into manhood while in their protection.

The characters that Mr. Gaiman places into this story are so, so great. The 'good' ones are so easy to become attached to and the 'bad' ones are just vile and despicable. The different vignettes within the story could each be a stand-alone story. The settings are vividly described and excellent, so much so that my mind almost played accompanying soundtrack music in my mind as I read the book.

I absolutely loved this book. It effortlessly and easily crept very high onto my all-time favorites list. While it was a bit darker than anything else I remember reading on the Newbery Award winners list, it is still worthy of the medal. I am in utter awe of the story and how somebody can just come up with something so incredibly imaginative.

When I read the Acknowledgements at the end of the book and thought on them some, I realized that I like this book even more. Mr. Gaiman tells us that this book was inspired by his then two-year-old son as he was riding his tricycle between gravestones one day. It took him over twenty years to write this story. This means that he didn't work against deadlines or big companies to finish it quickly for us. He took over twenty years to write it. It must be some of his best imagination, stories, and dreams for it to take that long to complete.

I also have to be honest:  When I started the book, and even well into it, I was not sure how it came to be on a major award winning streak with childrens literature. While the writing is without a doubt award-worthy, it is quite dark and at times, I can imagine the story could be scary to a young person. On the other hand, it is (in it's own dark way) a coming-of-age story and when you look at it from that perspective, it totally fits. It is definitely different than the majority of the award winners, but I kind of like that. Thinking further, I decided that it was not really any more graphic or dark or macabre than some other great books in its genre.

All-in-all, I'm enamored. I'll be thinking on this book for a long time, and I certainly hope that one day I can own a copy of it. It is amazing, wonderful, and brilliant. It is a perfect example of why I love books. I read this book, and while I was reading it, I was totally somewhere else. Wherever Bod was, I was there too. For that reason, I recommend this book to everybody. I would caution parents, however...they might want to read it themselves first, or research it a little bit before allowing their younger readers loose with it. I do not see problems with it, but I have read in several places where parents have challenged this book being on reading lists. In fact, I will probably either read this book aloud to my children or we will listen to the audiobook together. I know my children, and they will love it too.

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*I am not one to generally post trailers, but I have a reason for posting this one. This book was illustrated by Dave McKean, and I thought the style of his drawings married with the mood of the story so eloquently. Because the trailer is short and consists of the brilliant Neil Gaiman narrating while Mr. McKean's illustrations are shown, I decided to share this.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Teaser Tuesday {7} & Tune In Tuesday {7}


Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Anybody can play along! Here's how:
  • Grab what you are reading...
  • Open to a random page.
  • Share two "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page.
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
  • Share the title of the book and the author so other readers can add the book to their TBR pile if they like your teasers.
This Week's Teasers:

"The night-gaunt crouched beside him, its leathery wings
folded on its back. Bod had grown up in a graveyard and
was used to images of winged people, but the angels on the headstones looked nothing like this."

~ page 93, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman



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Tune In Tuesday

Tune In Tuesday is a weekly event hosted by Ginger at GReads! 

My pick today is a song called "Smarter" from a band called Eisley. They're just awesome. When it comes to music, I tend to favor rock music. I also tend to favor male singers/bands. I'm not sure why, I just do. However, Eisley is a band made up of both guys and gals, and the gals are butt-kickin' awesome. They can sing and they are really cute. Their music is great to sing along with turned up loud in the house, on the ipod, or in the car. (This is one of those bands that leaves me with no voice after I listen to their album. Admit it...we love those bands, right?) It was just a great choice for today. If you don't know them, please take some time and search out their music. They have a ton of great songs (Brightly Wound, Ambulance, and Marvelous Things are just a few.) And if you've heard of them before, leave me a comment and let me know...I don't talk to very many people who know them around here.


Sunday, June 26, 2011

In My Mailbox


In My Mailbox is a weekly event hosted by Kristi over at The Story Siren. She uses this time to tell about the books she receives each week either to review, from the library, or from a purchase. Kristi is kind enough to let us all in on her fun and here is my little piece of that!

I need to be much better about doing these IMM's. I fully intend to, starting right now. This IMM is from probably about the past month.

Received:


I won several great books from Stephanie at Steph Su Reads:
ARC of Blood Red Road by Moira Young (I squealed when I got this!)
ARC of Pretty Bad Things by CJ Skuse
ARC of Fury by Elizabeth Miles
ARC of Fairest of Them All by Jan Blazanin
Thank you so much Stephanie!

I received Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Kleaton
from Amber at Down the Rabbit Hole.
Thank you so much Amber!

From Goodreads.com, I won Don't Breathe A Word by Jennifer McMahon and
The Inconvenient Marriage of Charlotte Beck by Kathleen Y'Barbo.
(A while back, I won Wrecker by Summer Wood and The Ninth Wife by Amy Stolls from Goodreads.com as well. They were in a previous IMM post, and I am not sure why I included them in this one.)


Bought:


A Lineage of Grace by Francine Rivers.
I have been a fan of Francine Rivers for a very long time, and I have been invited to be a part of a book club that will be meeting about this book. Yay! Who doesn't love a book club, right? This is a bindup of five short books Ms. Rivers has previously released, and I'm so excited that I own it.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

My Thoughts On: Not Dead & Not For Sale: A Memoir by Scott Weiland


Not Dead & Not For Sale
The Earthling Papers:  A Memoir
by Scott Weiland

As the lead singer of the Stone Temple Pilots (1986-2003,  2008-), Scott Weiland won two Grammys and fronted a grunge band that has sold over 18 million records. During that tumultuous period, however, his record also included several arrests for drugs and DUI. Since breaking his addiction to heroin in 2002, the California-born musician has performed with the multiplatinum group Velvet Revolver and reunited with the group he helped make famous. Not Dead & Not for Sale is Weiland's starkly honest memoir of the highs and lows of his bipolar life. This book is timely, arriving on the heels of Stone Temple Pilots tour and the release of their first album since 2001. The memoir was written with the assistance of David Ritz, the only four-time winner of the Gleason Music Book Award.  (summary from Goodreads.com)

My ThoughtsI read this book because I am a huge fan of Scott Weiland and Stone Temple Pilots. I also love reading. So it only made sense to me that I might enjoy reading about this musician that I love.

I got this book from my library as soon as it was released. I have no qualms at all about reading a memoir. I think they can be great. For me, choosing one is simple as long as I stick with what I'm interested in...and I love music. That being said, I got exactly what I expected:  Scott Weiland telling a story of his life. That is all.

I've read some great reviews, but these tend to be from fans of his music. I've read some pretty not-so-great reviews, and these seem to be from more intense reader-types. This book is probably not going to read any literary awards. But I do not think that was Scott's intention in writing it. I liked it; I think the mixture of past experiences and pictures is charming. I particularly love seeing how the music and lyrics were directly influenced by the situations he was going through in his life.

I think it is good to read outside of one particular genre. For me, staying within the confines of only one genre makes me feel like I'm suffocating a little bit, and eventually I get a bit bored. I know that there are many of us that do not ever take the chance to read any non-fiction titles, but I wish that was not the case. They can be loads of fun and just like with fiction, there is something for everyone within the non-fiction world. I've read some great memoirs; some were better literary works than others.

This book is exactly what I thought it would be, and I loved reading it. I breezed through it in about two hours, but I spent time looking at all of the pictures and re-reading a few parts, so I might have been able to finish even sooner. Would I recommend this book to other people? If you are a fan of Scott Weiland, Stone Temple Pilots, or Velvet Revolver...then absolutely, yes. I'm an even bigger fan now, if that is even possible. (I think it is charming that this book is written exactly like Scott would talk.) If you are a fan of music in general or more specifically, rock and roll...then sure, I'd recommend this to you. It is a quick read and really gives great insight at the difficulties of life on the road. If you are looking for award-winning stories with great imagination and wonderful imagery...then nope, just choose something else. You need to have a willingness to accept this book for what it is before you start reading it. Otherwise, you will not be able to appreciate it. It's a rock star telling his story. Period. 

This cover is stunning, don't you think? The look on Scott Weiland's face shows the overall mood of the book. The use of color, everything. It is brilliantly designed.  

Friday, June 24, 2011

Book Blogger Hop 6/24-6/27, Follow Friday {4}, TGIF {5}

Click HERE for the Midsummer's Eve Giveaway Hop form!


Book Blogger Hop

The Book Blogger Hop is a weekly event hosted by Crazy For Books in which a question is asked and an answer is given! This week's question/topic is:

"When did you realize
reading was your passion and a
truly important part of your life?”

My Answer:  This is a really intense question. I have no idea, really! I think I was born with a book in my hand. No, that isn't true. My parents are not readers so that is not where I got it from. In fact, I couldn't pay my parents to read a book. I've bought my mom books a time or two and I know she has never opened them. But one of my grandmothers...that's where it came from.

My sweet Grandma, Helen. She is the one who introduced me to the word "bookworm." I spent every-other-weekend with her as a child, and we spent those days reading. She would read in her chair, and I would sit on the floor beside her chair with my own books. Once, for Christmas, she bought me the Anne of Green Gables books. I immediately let her borrow these same books to read and I checked them out of the library, and we read the books together. Because it was her passion, it became my passion and the most important part of my life as a young person. This is something that has carried through into my adulthood.

I can't really say that reading is THE most important thing anymore, because I have a lovely family of my own that needs my attention and efforts, but reading ranks way, way up there at the top of most important things. My family knows it is a passion of mine and they support it fully. And they are all bookish people too, like me.

Thanks for a great question! 

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Follow Friday is a weekly event hosted at Parajunkee's View where a question is asked and answered. All the blogs that participate are linked together in one place. It's really cool.

This week, the question is:

In light of the Summer Solstice,
also known as Midsummer...let's talk about fairies.
What is your favorite fairy tale or story that revolves around the fae?

My Answer:   This is easy for me. Last week I read Julie Kagawa's The Iron King and I am smitten. I mean, I am in love. I devoured that book and made the large mistake of not having the rest of the series at-the-ready so I could keep going once I finished. I'm in total withdrawal from all of those wonderful characters. Hooray for the Iron Fey series... (I don't feel very original with this post, but I think these books are just that good. I'll be more original next week, I promise.)

Sidenote:  I really want to read Karen Marie Moning's Fever series, but I just have not gotten to it yet. I have heard excellent things about it and feel quite certain that I will love that series too. As soon as I can get my hands on a copy of Darkfever, I'm gonna get all up into that series.

Great question!

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Ginger at GReads! created this fun weekly event called TGIF at GReads! to re-cap the week and ask us fun questions. This week she asked us this:




Summer Love: Where is your ideal place to take a 
summer vacation & get lost in a book?


Who doesn't love a summer vacation? I know I do! But really I have two different answers to this question, and I fully intend to share them both with you all...

Living in North Carolina is excellent in terms of vacationing because we are perfectly situated between the beaches and the mountains. I love them both and love to vacation on either end of my beautiful state. I can be just as happy with my books in the mountains as I can on a blanket on the beach. When given the choice, however, I do most often choose to sit by the beach because more than anything I like the sound of the waves while I read. (Plus, it is much less snake-y.) So my "regular" answer is probably like most other people's...by the beach on a blanket with a great book and a cold, tasty beverage.

Now, I will be a realist for a second. I have three children and stay at home with them. So, most of the time when I go to the beach, they are with me. I don't typically get a lot of reading done when I take them to the beach because they are still quite young. So my "real" answer to this question is this:  I consider this a vacation:  any chance I get to have my kids stay with their grandparents (thank God for them) for any length of time so I can have a little getaway with my man. I don't care where we go. I don't care if there is an ocean involved or not. If we are in a big city, the mountains, by the beach, or even if we stay home...if the kids are having fun with the grandparents for a few days, it is a vacation for me. Which means I have a book in one hand and something cold to drink in the other. I take it where I can get it. 

(While I typed up just the TGIF portion of this post, I have been interrupted by my three sweet little angels a total of eight times. I love them dearly. But I am an equal-opportunity vacationer.  Y'all understand what I'm sayin'?)

Thanks Ginger! This post makes me look forward to our beach vacation, scheduled in August, and hopeful for a getaway of some sort between now and then. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

My Thoughts On: Spellbound by Cara Lynn Shultz

Click HERE for the Midsummer's Eve Giveaway Hop form!


Spellbound by Cara Lynn Shultz
Publisher:  Harlequin Teen
Publish Date:  June 21, 2011
384 Pages
My Source:  NetGalley/Publisher
Spellbound
by Cara Lynn Shultz
Life hasn't been easy on sixteen-year-old Emma Conner, so a new start in New York may be just the change she needs. But the posh Upper East Side prep school she has to attend? Not so much. Friendly faces are few and far between, except for one that she's irresistibly drawn to—Brendan Salinger, the guy with the rock-star good looks and the richest kid in school, who might just be her very own white knight.
 
But even when Brendan inexplicably turns cold, Emma can't stop staring. Ever since she laid eyes on him, strange things have been happening. Streetlamps go out wherever she walks, and Emma's been having the oddest dreams: visions of herself in past lives—visions that warn her to stay away from Brendan. Or else.  -(summary from amazon.com)
My Thoughts: This book was a lot of fun to read. In fact, I stayed up really, really late reading it. I got sucked into the romance between Emma and Brendan in a big way. While I thought it started a little bit slow for me, it quickly picked up the pace and I found myself really wanted to see what was going to happen with this girl!

At first, I really thought this book was going to be very witch-y. That made me a little bit nervous because of all of the types of paranormal books, I tend to like the witch ones the least. But this book was really about much more than witches.

The author spends a lot of time on the story of the romance between Emma and  Brendan and how intensely and quickly it develops. It is important to lay this as a foundation because if you understand this, you will completely "get it" when the author brings in the backstory about the legend/curse of these two lovers. And then you will find yourself cheering for them out loud. And squealing at times. And maybe giggling too.

I love the way Ms. Shultz allowed us to see what Emma was thinking. It really gave us insight into her character, and it was really quite funny. She felt like a bit of an outcast at her new, upscale school and it is through these thoughts (in addition to what she is saying) that let us really understand what it must have felt like for her. The same applies with her relationship with Brendan. She spoke...and also thought...her feelings, and so we were able to see just how her feelings developed. Allowing us to peer into Emma's thoughts gave us, as readers, an extra sense of the depth of who she was. I loved it.

I also really loved the dreams that Emma had. As you read this book, you will understand that Emma begins to have bizarre dreams that usually end...well, badly. In these dreams, Emma is always dying or something bad is happening to her. I loved these dreams almost as much as I loved the story because they were so vividly described and the imagery was wonderful. It was almost like I was dreaming them myself.

I highly recommend this book to YA readers and to adult readers who enjoy YA books. The romance part of it will appeal to those who love a good love story, and the paranormal aspect of it will appeal to those who love a good paranormal story. If you love both, you're in for a real treat.

*You can click here to follow Cara Lynn Shultz on Twitter or Facebook.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My Thoughts On: Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary

Click HERE for the Midsummer's Eve Giveaway Hop form!

      

                                  

Ramona Quimby, Age 8
by Beverly Cleary

Now that Ramona is eight years old, she's doing all kinds of things she's never done before. She's in a new school with a new teacher, and best of all, she takes the school bus-all by herself! But since her mother works and her daddy's in art school, Ramona has to stay with old Mrs. Kemp every day until Beezus comes for her. And as if all that isn't bad enough, she has to be nice to four-year-old Willa Jean.

Ramona knows the family is depending on her to be brave with all these changes, but sometimes it's hard. Can Ramona really handle a new school, help out a home, put up with Willa Jean, and still keep smiling?   -(summary from book cover)
My Thoughts:  I chose Ramona Quimby, Age 8 as one of my reads for the Award Winning Reads Challenge for a couple of reasons:  Not only is it a 1982 Newbery Honor Award Winner, but Ramona Geraldine Quimby is my all-time favorite girl children's book character. (I wrote about that here.) She's in fantastic company, but she is a girl after my own heart. So when I saw that she had a couple of books that qualified for this challenge, I had to pick up one.

The wonderful Beverly Cleary has written several books about sweet Ramona. I love every one of them, but this is my favorite. Ramona feels like she is always being compared to her sister and like nobody really likes her that much. She wishes life were easier. Isn't this how we all feel when we are young? Ms. Cleary identified a feeling that I felt when I was a young child. As a child, I latched onto Ramona because she went through some of the same things that I went through. Now, as a mother, Ramona is going through the things that my eight-year-old twin girls are going through, and I am lucky enough to be living it all over again. How wonderful and how lucky I am!

Here are some of the best things about this book:
  1. There's always that one kid in the class that makes fun of you. In this instance, Ramona's class has Danny. Ramona calls him Yard Ape. He's so mean. He steals her shiny new pink eraser on the first day of school and won't give it back. He makes fun of her big feet. He always irritates her.
  2. Learning to write cursive is hard, and not everyone can do it well. Poor Ramona's last name starts with a Q. She has issues with making that Q and comes a some decision about that.
  3. There's always a new trend. In Ramona's case, the new trend of cracking a hard-boiled egg on your head turns out to be a disaster.
  4. People are always going to talk about you. Ramona hears someone important talking about her, and it devastates her. Until she learns to resolve the issue....much later, after lots of suffering. (ahem, VERY BIG issue with this age group, speaking from experience with my girls.)
  5. Nobody likes to be sick, but NOBODY wants or needs to throw up in front of other people, especially your third grade class. But guess what? Ramona pukes in front of her entire class and is so embarrassed! So she learns how to deal with the embarrassment.
Ramona goes through a million, bazillion things in this little book (really, in the entire series) but it is the way Ms. Cleary presents each event and the way that Ramona deals with it that is so incredible. As a child, I laughed at Ramona while I learned from her. As a mother, I watch my children do the same thing. They are listening to Ramona and Ms. Cleary in some instances where a mother's words just aren't enough. Because mother's are supposed to say nice, encouraging, and great things to their child. Ms. Cleary, Ramona's family, and Ramona's teachers are saying the same things that I am, and my children are listening to them.

I'm not going to get on a big soapbox about childrens literature or middle-grade literature or YA literature and how important it is (because I could, but now is not the time)...but it is very possibly to enjoy the heck out of a book that means something big. This is one of those for me. I love Ramona Geraldine Quimby to pieces. That little kid has done things for me that she will never know, and now she is doing the same things for my two girls. AND, even better, we are all enjoying Ramona together. My kids are all excellent readers, but just to spend time together, I've been reading this book out loud to them, little by little, a few pages at the time. It started with a couple of minutes before I would drop them off at school in the mornings, and now that it is summertime, we are almost finished with it. It is one of the best things ever.

I chose this book for this challenge because it is one of my all-time favorites, and it is has been a big part of my life for more than two decades. Now, it is even more present in my life as I am enjoying it again with my children and with this challenge. I would LOVE it if somebody else, some other *adult* person like me, would pick it up and re-read it.


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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My Thoughts On: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

Click HERE for the Midsummer's Eve Giveaway Hop form!



The Iron King
by Julie Kagawa


Meghan Chase has a secret destiny - one she could never have imagined...

Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan's life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school...or at home.

When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becmes strangely protective of her, Meghan seses that everything she's known is about to change.

But she could never have guessed the truth - that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she'll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil no faery creature dare face...and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.   -(summary from book cover)
My Thoughts:  Poor Meghan has the worst 16th birthday ever. Her little brother Ethan is kidnapped and a changeling is left in his place. Her pal Robbie is not who she has always said he was - he is actually Puck, her guardian. Puck leads Meghan into the faery world to find Ethan. Once there, Meghan finds out she is actually a faery princess. She falls in love with Ash, the dark and mysterious Winter Prince. Along with Puck, Ash, and a cait sith named Grimalkin, Meghan sets off on a journey to find Ethan and bring him home. What she discovers is a world that is both beautiful and deadly...and dangerously close to falling at hands that are more powerful than any in all of the fey world.

This book is like a shiny, sparkly jewel up on my shelf. Or like a beautiful rainbow. It is such a classic way to build a story...a girl with no friends ends up becoming a fairy princess. But it works so well, yet again.

Meghan Chase is very likeable as a character. She is very brave and adjusts well to the news that she is a princess. Still, she is a teenager, and teenagers fall in love. She falls hard for Ash, and I can't say I blame her. After all, he is a dark and mysterious prince that rides a beautiful horse! Their romance seems doomed in the beginning, as their two respective kingdoms do not seem to get along very well. But despite this, they cannot seem to keep from falling in love, and I absolutely loved it.

Of course, there's always a Puck-like character, isn't there? The best friend, the one who is always there, the one that doesn't get the girl...poor guy!! He risks everything over and over and over for Meghan, and by the end of the book, she is head-over-heels in love with Ash. I have no idea where this series is going to take this triangle, but for now, I am loving it.

I love the Nevernever...how it is so beautiful and so deadly at the same time. That is what I love about faery books. Not the Tinkerbell stuff, but the 'real' faery stuff...the ones who are manipulative and cunning and evil and stunningly beautiful. There are several times where Meghan finds herself in some beautiful place only to nearly get killed or eaten or bitten. The characters are awesome. The main characters are so rich and complex, yet real...and the secondary characters are such fun, whether it is what they are made of or what kind of creature they are. I think it must be so cool to have an imagination so vivid and wild, like the author's, and it makes the story so entertaining for us as readers.  (Grimalkin reminded me a bit of the Cheshire Cat from Alice In Wonderland. Anybody else?)

Ms. Kagawa did such an excellent job of making this book thrilling and engaging from the absolute start to the very last word. I love the way the end had some resolution, but also left wide open spaces for the next books in the series. There were no cliffhangers, which was wonderful for me. I do not like cliffhangers, but I loved the end of this book.

This book is wonderfully appropriate for the YA audience and also brilliantly entertaining for the older audience that enjoys YA books. When I finished it (in just a few hours), I was very sad that I didn't have The Iron Daughter ready to start right away. I recommend this book to everybody everywhere and you should read it immediately. And then let me know how much you loved it! Cause you will.

Tune In Tuesday {6}

Click HERE for the Midsummer's Eve Giveaway Hop form!




Tune In Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Ginger at GReads! It is so much fun to share some of my favorite music with my blogging friends and followers! This week, I've been listening to some of my all time favorites, including The David Mayfield Parade. If you are a fan of The Avett Brothers, chances are you might like this band too. I've had the opportunity to see The Avett Brothers quite a few times, and I have had the pleasure of seeing The David Mayfield Parade open for them. I have to tell you, they are *amazing* live. Here is one of my favorite songs from DMP...it is fun and catchy, and I hope you like it!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Midsummer's Eve Giveaway Hop 6/21 - 6/24

Welcome to the Midsummer's Eve Giveaway Hop! 

          
  

This hop is organized and hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer. There are over 200 blogs offering books and other book-related prizes. We're all linked up together so all you have to do is hop from one blog to another to enter each giveaway. The Midsummer's Eve Giveaway Hop will run from Tuesday, June 21st until Friday, June 24th.

You're at Into the Hall of Books, and my name is Asheley! Welcome! My stop is #176 on the hop! Thanks so much for visiting! I love comments, so be sure to leave me one and let me know you stopped by.
Then visit the next stop on the Midsummer's Eve Giveaway Hop by clicking here!

Giveaway
I am excited to be giving away a $10 giftcard to Amazon.com. I have an actual giftcard to mail to one lucky winner! This contest is open to anyone, anywhere, as long as Amazon.com will ship to you. (This includes you, International readers!)

Giveaway Details
To enter the giveaway, please enter the form below. You MUST be a follower of this blog to enter. 

The last day to enter is Friday, June 24th.

Extra or Optional Entries:
+1 Follow me on Twitter here.
+1 'Like' this blog's Facebook Page here.
+1 Follow me on NetworkedBlogs here.

To enter the giveaway, please fill out this form:



I will use random.org to generate a winner. The winner will be announced shortly after the giveaway ends on June 24th! Good luck everyone! Thanks for stopping by. Don't forget to leave me a comment to say Hi!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Thoughts On: Across The Universe by Beth Revis


Across The Universe
by Beth Revis
Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.
Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.
Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.  -(summary from Goodreads.com)

My Thoughts:  I read this book immediately after Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigaupi, which I absolutely loved. This is one of the best bookish moves I have made in a long time. It made for a really super great stretch of reading. I devoured Across The Universe in about 24 hours, and it wasn't exactly a small book. I *almost* wish I had not read it yet so I could read it again.

Amy is a teenager who allows herself to be cryogenically frozen and placed on the Godspeed, a gigantic spaceship that is heading to another planet to establish life and residency there. She is on board with her parents and a large group of other 'essential' people. They are to remain in their frozen state for 300 years and will be thawed upon arrival to the new planet. Elder is a young man who is second-in-command on the Godspeed. All he knows is life on the ship. He is preparing and studying to soon take command from the aging Eldest.

After being frozen for about 250 years, Amy is thawed...and her world is turned upside down when she discovers she is thawed fifty years early! Not only is Amy thawed, but others are being thawed as well...one by one...and some die in the process. Amy and Elder work together to figure out who is behind all of the chaos and to save the rest of the 'frozens' before it is too late.

The book is written in alternating points-of-view between Amy and Elder. This typically has the potential to be a bit annoying to me, but in this book I did not think that the case at all. In fact, I think it actually worked to the advantage of the story. I was able to keep up with what was going on with seamless transition between the two narrators without having to backtrack and re-experience the same situations, which can sometimes happen if an author is not careful. Ms. Revis made sure that the flow of the story was never broken as we switched from Amy to Elder and back, and that meant so much to me as a reader.

I love Sci-Fi stuff - movies, stories, books, whatever. This book did not disappoint me. In fact, as I was reading it reminded me of two of my favorite Sci-Fi things:
  1. The movie Sunshine, which was directed by Danny Boyle and starred Cillian Murphy (two of my all-time favorites in the movie industry).
  2. The short story "All Summer in a Day" by Ray Bradbury.
In the movie Sunshine, there is a crew living on ship where murder is being committed. Nobody knows who it is, and at times, everyone suspects everyone else. Tension is high and emotions are volatile. And in the end, the person committing the crimes admits that he/she was only doing so for the greater good of mankind. I got the same vibes from Across The Universe. When they finally figured out who was thawing the frozens, he/she made a big speech about how it was for the best and all that. I was reading Across The Universe with my eyes, but re-living Sunshine in my head. (It was actually a very cool time for me, seriously.)

In Ray Bradbury's beautiful "All Summer in a Day," Margot is a child who moved to Venus from Earth a few years previously. She has a very difficult time coping in her new home because the sun only shines for two hours every seven years. Of all of her classmates, she is the only one who knows and remembers the experience of sunshine. Her classmates, however, do not believe her memories of the sun and of Earth, and ridicule her. This is eerily similar to Amy's predicament, as she is the only thawed frozen at the time of the story, and therefore the only one on the entire ship who has first-hand memories of the planet Earth. As a result, she is made fun of and even physically attacked for this difference.

If you have read my thoughts on Ship Breaker (see the link above), you may remember that I talked a bit about feeling claustrophic while I was reading it. Do you remember that? Well, this book did it as well. How could I now feel at least a little bit claustrophobic after spending so much time with Amy and Elder on a ship where even the passengers have never seen the stars outside of it? They do not have windows for their use, so they are not aware of the beauty and vastness of space, the stars, or the Earth. Reading about the dimensions of the ship and the very sight of the metal on all sides of them, including under their feet at times, made me feel almost as confined as Elder and Amy were feeling. I do not like that feeling in real life, but I love it in a book...because it takes great writing to bring on the claustrophobia. Awesome job, Ms. Revis...

Would I recommend this book to other people? I would definitely recommend it to older YA readers and adult-age readers of YA fiction...and to anyone who loves dystopian literature. I think it is a good YA science-fiction novel, so I might would even recommend it to a Sci-Fi fan, even if they did not necessarily read YA stuff. I would caution younger readers, however. There are some themes and scenes that parents should definitely consider before letting their younger YA reader loose with this one.

It is a remarkable book and I want to read a sequel as soon as possible!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

On My Wishlist {2}



On My Wishlist is a fun weekly event hosted by Book Chick City and runs every Saturday. It's where I list all the books I desperately want but haven't bought yet. They can be old, new or forthcoming. 

Today's Pick:


The Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer. I realize that the bookish world is split when it comes to Bella, Edward, and the rest of the gang from Forks. People either love them or hate them. I really liked these books. I never went became a crazy fangirl about them or anything, but I really liked them a lot. And I don't own them. But I would like to.

In fact, I'm participating in a Twilight Re-Read Along over at GReads! and I actually had to go check out the book at the library because I haven't bought it yet. I chuckled at myself when I took my book to the librarian because I'm probably the only person doing the read along that does not have her own copy!




Friday, June 17, 2011

Spring Into Summer Read-a-thon: Report #1

                                        
The end of Day One has arrived and I need to say a big thank-you to Squeaky Books for hosting this event. This is my first read-a-thon and I am happy with my progress so far. Here's a brief report of my day:

First of all, give us an end-of-day status update. Books read, pages read, you know the drill!
  • Total Books Read: 2
  • Total Pages Read:  553 
  • Books Read Since Last Update: 1
  • Pages Read since last update: 190
  • Total time read:  6.5 hours 
  • What I'm currently reading: I'm actually between books right now...
  • How I'm currently feeling: I'm pretty happy right now. The house is quiet. I've read two books so far, and I can read a little more before my eyes close automatically. Things are good right now.

What is the favorite thing you have read today? 
Out of the two books I read, one was an absolute childhood favorite that I re-read because I'm participating in the Award Winning Reads Challenge. It was a great short and easy pick that was easy to read with several distractions. I've read it several times in my life, and loved it every time. The other book I read was absolutely thrilling from page one until the end, and had me holding my breath at times throughout the day. I suppose if I had to choose, I'd say Julie Kagawa's The Iron King was the favorite of the two. (But saying so makes me almost feel like I'm betraying sweet little Ramona Quimby!)

Which mini-challenge was your favorite?
I only participated in one of the mini-challenges, so I suppose it would be my favorite by default. I participated in the favorite/least favorite movie adaptation mini-challenge from the first update. I really wanted to do the wordle, but I couldn't figure out how to shrink the wordle down into a size that would fit on my blog. It was huge! But it was neat and I enjoyed at least learning how to make one.

What has been your favorite thing about the read-a-thon?
I have completely *loved* all of the cheering the book bloggers have done for each other. It is so much fun to be excited about something when there are other people that can be excited with me. The #SiSRead Twitter feed has been fun.

What has been your LEAST favorite thing about the read-a-thon?
Aaahhh, distractions! I'm a mother with three young children, so my distractions are many.

Are you on track to meet your goals?
Yep. And it feels pretty good.

Will you be participating tomorrow? Do you have any new goals?
I am participating tomorrow despite having some things to do away from my house. I'll be carrying books with me everywhere I go, and I'll be updating as much as I can. My goals remains at completing at least three books. We'll see how it goes...

Spring Into Summer Readathon Updates & Challenges - Friday

                   
Update #1:
  • Total Books Read: 0
  • Total Pages Read:  149 
  • Books Read Since Last Update: 0
  • Pages Read since last update: 149
  • Total time read:  1.5 hours 
  • How I'm currently feeling: A little frustrated to stop and have to cook dinner for the family (sounds horrible, I know) but excited that my family is participating with me a little bit!  
Mini ChallengeName your favorite and least favorite movie adaptation of a book.
  • Favorite book-movie adaptation: I'm sure there are a couple of good ones out there, but most are never as good as the books. I do have a particular fondness for the Ramona and Beezus adaptation from Beverly Cleary's book Beezus and Ramona. I adored it because I thought the casting was superb. That cute young actress portrayed a great Ramona Quimby.
  • Least favorite book-movie adaptation: Off the top of my head, Beastly by Alex Flinn is what I think of first. There were some major characters in the movie that did not match the descriptions of the characters in the book...particularly the two main characters. I was also very, very turned-off by the movie tie-in cover to the paperback, which showed a non-hairy beast. The movie was entertaining, but as an avid reader, I cringed at several scenes and characters throughout.
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Update #2:
  • Total Books Read: 0
  • Total Pages Read:  194 
  • Books Read Since Last Update: 0
  • Pages Read since last update: 45
  • Total time read:  2.5 hours 
  • How I'm currently feeling: Now that lunch is over, a few chores are done, and I've cheered some bloggers on...I'm ready to finish this book!
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Update #3:
  • Total Books Read: 0
  • Total Pages Read:  233 
  • Books Read Since Last Update: 0
  • Pages Read since last update: 39
  • Total time read:  3.0 hours 
  • How I'm currently feeling: Hoping to dive back into some regular reading by this evening. Things are kind of busy around here right now...I'm really loving The Iron King by Julie Kagawa!
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Update #4:
  • Total Books Read: 0
  • Total Pages Read: 
  • Books Read Since Last Update: 0
  • Pages Read since last update: 0
  • Total time read:  3.0 hours 
  • How I'm currently feeling: Life happens, you guys. And this time it was the hubby coming home, cooking dinner, and cleaning my kitchen. Back to it!
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Update #5
  • Total Books Read: 1
  • Total Pages Read:  363 
  • Books Read Since Last Update: 1
  • Pages Read since last update: 130
  • Total time read:  5.5 hours 
  • How I'm currently feeling: Great! Finally finished my first book. Time to do some cheerleading before starting my next one. 
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Update #6
  • Total Books Read: 2
  • Total Pages Read:  553 
  • Books Read Since Last Update: 1
  • Pages Read since last update: 190
  • Total time read:  6.5 hours 
  • How I'm currently feeling: Sleepy! Not from reading necessarily, but I am usually seeing double hours before this from playing Mommy all day. I've read two books, so I am happy with that and won't complain a bit. My kiddos were good to me today and let me read as much as I possibly could. I'd say Day 1 of my first Readathon was a success.  :)

My First Readathon Starting Line!

                                        

This is my first ReadAThon, you guys! I'm all excited and a little bit nervous because I'm doing this while my three kiddos are with me, and kids make everything take longer. Still, I'm hoping to make good progress.

What I'm Currently Reading:  I have a ton of books here to choose from, but I'm starting by finishing The Iron King by Julie Kagawa. I had only read a portion of the first chapter, so I'm just starting it over.

My Goal for Pages Read:  As many as I can! I have the kids with me today, all three of them, and there will be some places I have to go here and there throughout the day...but it is better to participate as much as I can rather than not at all!

I'm a few minutes late, but it's time too get started!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"Waiting On" Wednesday {4}


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine that gives us a chance to highlight upcoming releases that we are drooling over...

My choice for this week is:


The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern
release date: September 13, 2011



 
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des RĂªves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.
        
-(summary from Goodreads.com)
I am absolutely in love with the cover of this book. It is stunning. And the story looks so thrilling. I haven't been able to get my hands on an advanced copy and I'm having a really hard time being patient for this book...it is way high at the top of my TBR list.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Teaser Tuesday {6} & Tune In Tuesday {5}


Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Anybody can play along! Here's how:
  • Grab what you are reading...
  • Open to a random page.
  • Share two "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page.
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
  • Share the title of the book and the author so other readers can add the book to their TBR pile if they like your teasers.
This Week's Teasers:

"Dear Ms. Finalist, How'd you like it if I told your secret RIGHT NOW?
I can, you know. And if you don't watch it, maybe I will.  -A"

~ page 124, Perfect: A Pretty Little Liars Novel by Sara Shepard


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Tune In Tuesday


Tune In Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Ginger at GReads! I love music as much as I love reading and sometimes the two can go together. Sometimes when I read a book, a certain song pops into my mind. In this case, the opposite happened:  I was listening to a song, and a book popped into my mind. Or rather, the characters of the book popped into my mind. And wouldn't you know it...I just happened to tie it into my Tune In Tuesday. Because occasionally I rawk like that.

If you follow my blog (and I hope you do), you may have noticed lately that I have taken quite a liking to the Pretty Little Liars series. Okay, correction...I have become hooked on it after being a little late on the PLL scene. I'm currently reading the third book and I'm still holding on for dear life, trying to make some sense out of these crazy text messages from A.

Have any of you guys read these books? These girls are so...stupid! I mean, I like them and all. They're easy to like (in an "I'm-glad-I-don't-know-them-in-real-life" kinda way) but I just want to jerk a knot in them! And so, here we have it, one of my favorite bands from a while back singing a song that completely represents Spencer, Emily, Aria, and Hanna very, very well. These girls need an attitude adjustment and some schooling in the ways of real life.

Without further delay, my friends, here is Garbage with "Stupid Girl."



Okay, now that we've heard that very appropriate song, I just had to include one more from Garbage. A bonus, if you will. Immediately after hearing "Stupid Girl" the other day, this song came on. It also made me think of the girls of Rosewood Day. They are absolutely and completely paranoid all the time since these texts and notes from A have been popping up everywhere. So, just because I want to, and because it made me chuckle while I was driving my car...one last time, here's Garbage with "I Think I'm Paranoid." If you're wondering why they are paranoid, it's because they keep getting threatening texts and notes very similar to the one in my teaser at the top of this post.



Side Note:  Today on ABC Family (here in the US, at least), they are running a marathon of Season One of the television show that is based on these books, to be followed later tonight by the season premiere of Season Two. I'm so excited because I've never seen it before! I have my TV and DVR set to record every single episode. Yayyyy!!!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Mondays Bite: Twilight Re-Read Along







Oh my gracious, y'all! How much fun is this?
It's a Twilight re-read hosted by some fabulous book bloggers:




Like a lot of Twilight fans, I have wanted to re-read the series but do not really have the time with all of the other books on my incredibly long TBR list. And my TBR list grows every day! These great gals and fellow bloggers came up with a perfect solution:  a group re-read! Now everyone can read it together, in small bits, and can do fun discussions and questions and stuff. Brilliant!!!

According to GReads: "The read along will officially kick off on June 27th & continue through August 1st. The read along will be broken down to 5 chapters per week. Each Monday we will propose questions to be answered for those particular chapters being read that week. Then the following Monday, the answers will be posted on the coordinating blog along with new questions for the next chapters. We encourage those who are participating to post your discussion answers on your own blogs that week as well! A link-up will be provided each week so that everyone can participate & view others responses."
Sounds like a plan, ladies. And fun as well. The first stop in this read along will be at GReads on June 27th, and will consist of Chapters 1-5. I can't wait to get re-acquainted with Bella and Edward! (Because he sparkles.)

(Just in case somebody out there doesn't know, Twilight is an amazing book by Stephanie Meyer.
It's the first book in the Twilight Series. And it's delicious.)
 
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