Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Why I {Am Learning To} Love Contemporary

...originally posted on Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing as part of  
November's Just Contemporary event...

shrugged off the YA Contemporary genre for years...
both young adult and adult fiction. Why? 
Because I have a mortgage. I have bills and children and friends that have 
 crumbling marriages

Also, I've been through high school and never cared to read about 
teen pregnancy
drug abuse
or any of those other awful things that I remember about my younger days. 
After all, who wants to revisit high school? Not me.

When I graduated, I wanted to try and walk away from that stuff forever. 
never imagined that I would want to voluntarily read about it. 

More importantly, 
When I think about some of the subject matter of the YA Contemps, 
I absolutely panic and freak out for their future. I don't want to go there. 
(But I need to get over that.) 

A few things have happened recently that have caused me to rethink my 
"No-Contemp" personal policy!

  • I realized that John Green writes contemporary. As I am one of his biggest fans, I stand in violation of my "no-contemp" rule!  
  • I traded recommendations with Ashley and read my first verse novel, which also happened to be contemporary: Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder. And I fell in love...beautiful, twirling, dancing-on-clouds love...
  • I started actually reading the blogposts/reviews of trusted bloggers who love the contemps and you know what? Some of their recommendations kinda-sorta interested me a little bit. 
  • I realized that as a reader of plenty of adult fiction, I already do read some contemporary. 
  • Not all contemporary is sad or hard-to-read, right? 

All of this being said, I've always read to escape
I use stories to go to faraway places, places that aren't real
I want to read about dragons or faeries, vampires or zombies
I want to read about mythology and fairy tales
I want to visit a crazy post-apocalyptic or dystopian society 
where civilization is on the brink of crumbling (or maybe it already has!) 
and only one person can save mankind
These are the books that make me 
hold my breath
turn the pages fast
nearly die freak out when something awesome happens.

So I don't see myself rearranging my favorite genres anytime soon. 
I am incorporating more contemporary into my already-eclectic mix
This way, I can truly be more eclectic
I am so happy about this! 

In the past few months, 
I've read some amazing adult fiction contemporary books 
that have changed me and opened dialogue in my heart and in my house
(Isn't that one of the great things about contemporary?)
More recently, I've started reading some YA contemporary books
and I am really proud of this
I haven't read that many yet, but I'm really thinking that 

2012 is my year for contemporary.

This is my official entry into the 
2012 just contemporary reading challenge.
I'm challenging myself to 
plain and simple.
I'm not type specific...not this year!
I'd like to try and read 
12 contemporary books in 2012
but maybe I'll read more. 
I've surprised myself before. 

Bring. It. 


*I would have never made the leap into this genre if it wasn't for Ashley, Jacinda, and some other incredible awesome wonderful bloggers. The recommendations are amazing for people like myself -- new to the genre -- and the conversations afterward on Twitter or via email or blog comments are meaningful and inspiring. From the bottom of my heart, Ashley, thank you so much for the push nudge, and not giving up on me! I really AM learning to love contemporary, and I never EVER would have thought that possible! 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My Thoughts On: Everneath by Brodi Ashton

Everneath by Brodi Ashton
Published by HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray
Publish Date:  January 24, 2012

370 Pages
My Source:  Borrowed
Everneath by Brodi Ashton
Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she's returned-to her old life, her family, her friends-before being banished back to the underworld...this time forever. 
She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can't find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists. 
Nikki longs to spend these months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than anything. But there's a problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he'll do whatever it takes to bring her back- this time as his queen. 
As Nikki's time grows short and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she's forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole's...   -(summary from
My Thoughts:   I loved this book so, so much. After I started reading, it took me a few minutes to get my bearings and figure out exactly the structure, but within a few pages I could not put the book down. 

Let's just get right down to the list because I'm DYING to tell you 
why you MUST add this book to your list IMMEDIATELY

1. Mythology. We all know it: I'm a sucker for mythology done well. Here we have a re-telling of the Persephone and Hades myth (with some other very important mythological names thrown in there). Folks, this is one heck of an amazing story. Beautiful, dark, and unique, the author not only took classic mythology and retold it, but she created her own mythology within the story as well. The Everneath is a unique, intriguing place and the Everliving are an interesting immortal group with a mythology of their own. All of these mythologies--the classic and the new--blended together so wonderfully to create something marvelous. When the story was over, I almost went into mourning because I needed MORE... To me, there is nothing like a story that has a unique mythology of its own, and this is one of the best I've read. Adding the classic mythology to it was like icing on that cake:  so yummy. (Bonus: Persephone's story is one of my favorites.)

2. Nikki Beckett. Nikki has been stuck in the Everneath for a hundred years with Cole during the Feed but now she is allowed six months back on the surface of the earth before she returns below forever. Nikki is still in love with Jack, but has a difficult time explaining to him why she was gone for so long (one hundred years in the Everneath equates to only a few months on earth-try explaining that to your friends and family). She also has a tough time healing old wounds in her immediate family that were left when she vanished without a trace. Nikki handles her time on earth the best way she can--she is conflicted about her otherworldly problems while simultaneously going through the regular stuff of teenage life--and she is a great protagonist. I love the way Nikki is written and I especially love her character development throughout the story.  

3. The Boys: Jack and Cole. Jack is Nikki's true love, the one she left on earth. Nikki misinterpreted a situation involving Jack and made a very rash decision--a poor decision that involved her eternity. She left with Cole because he made her promises to take away all of her pain and make life better. When Nikki left so suddenly, Jack became a broken shell of who he used to be and he never fully recovered. When Cole took Nikki into the Everneath for the Feed, he made a deep connection with her and ended up falling in love. This certainly constitutes a love triangle, but it is done well. While I never wavered in my personal choice for Nikki (I'm looking at you, Jack!), I DID feel an emotional connection to both of these guys. The fact that they both realize that they each have a pure and real love for Nikki makes for interesting interaction between the three at several points throughout the story.  

4. Supporting Cast. There are some very interesting secondary characters. Bright and colorful, to say the least. Some are human, some are not. I love them all. So very well written. I adore a great supporting cast. 

5. Story Structure. Everneath skips around in setting with regard to both time and place, but this was never a problem for me, and I do not think it will be confusing for readers. Each time the setting (time OR place) changes, it is made very clear to the reader with a paragraph breaks and headers. Again, I was not confused by this structure at all. In fact, I think that it added depth to the story and I loved that. It worked in this instance because the story was written so well, and I attribute that to the author and great editing. This structure really set up the timeline for the story's conflict and resolution very well, and in a very detailed way. Very, very nicely done. 

6. The End. I barely know what to say about the ending. I can't say much without spoiling. So I'll just say this:  I am/was familiar with all of the classic mythology used in this book and I had an inkling or two of what was ahead and...I'm very eager--VERY EAGER--to read the next book. The ending was wonderful. 

Everneath is a story that I fully expected to enjoy; I just didn't realize how much I would fall in love with it. Immediately when I finished it, I wanted to read it again. My heart was swollen with love for the characters that I felt so connected to, and I cannot wait until the next installment in this series is made available. I do apologize if I seem overly gushy about this book, but a wonderfully done mythology re-telling tends to do that to me. This is a wonderful time in YA literature for this particular subgenre, and I just can't contain my excitement!

Even if you are not very familiar with the story of Persephone and Hades, I know you will love Everneath. You don't even need to be aware of the rest of the mythology involved to enjoy this book. It has its own mythology that unfolds within the story, and that is enough to have you hooked. If you are a fan of mythology re-tellings, it is a given that Everneath needs to be on your to-be-read list. If you are a fan of paranormal romance, you will love this one. It is beautiful and dark and heartbreaking and just plain lovely. 

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions. I received no compensation for my review. Thank you HarperCollins! 

Monday, November 28, 2011

My Thoughts On: Awful, Ohio by Jeff Neal & GIVEAWAY!

Awful, Ohio by Jeff Neal
Published 2011 by Createspace
My Source:  review copy from the author
Awful, Ohio by Jeff Neal 
Every morning the sun rises, waking Awful, Ohio, overlooking all of its residents, guiding them towards another productive and profitable working day. The economy is strong and the money is abundant, all of which are offered to whomever produces and profits the most product. The masses rejoice daily over the informed opportunity, with the exception of Troy Slushy. 
Troy Slushy wakes every morning to the intrusion of the sun abruptly charging into his home, removing him from his enchanting dreams. The sun exposes his collection of worthless possessions, his depressed wife seeking salvation, his withering home struggling for support, and the life-decimating job that is undesirably forced upon him daily. This is Troy Slushy's existence in Awful, Ohio, and because of this exposure to this monotonous misery, Troy's enemy is the sun. 
Heavily sedated by a dream-enriched epiphany, Troy removes his concerns for the demands and priorities of Awful, Ohio, replacing them with the objective of permanently removing the sun from his existence. He gathers his wife and begins a quest to save them both from their sun-exposed lives of suffering in Awful, Ohio, concocting plans and blueprints of various sun-destroying methods. Unfortunately for Troy, this proves to be easier said than done. But luckily, Troy discovers that perseverance is much more eminent in accomplishing a goal than feasibility, as he is able to assemble a massive scheme to achieve perpetual darkness, but not without affecting Awful, Ohio and all of its production, profits, and population.   -(summary from
My Thoughts:   I became interested in Jeff Neal's Awful, Ohio after reading a review on Bound & Determined to Find a Good Read. The synopsis was intriguing and had such a dry humor about it--I felt like this story would fit my personality and sense of humor well. 

As Awful, Ohio begins, we get to know Troy Slushy and his utter disdain for how his life has become: he hates where he lives, he hates getting up for work in the morning, he hates his job, and he hates coming home in the evenings--only to have to go to bed and wake up in the morning and start his daily routine over again. Life, to Troy, is a series of all-work-and-no-play. Troy blames the sun for all of this. He blames the sun for the thriving economy in his town - for the health and well-being of the city, for growth of the market in the area, for awakening him from his dreams every morning and making him go to work. 

Troy decides that his life could be better if he could just get rid of the sun. If he can accomplish this goal, he can spend long days with his beloved wife, Lacy. They can lay around talking and daydreaming and being in love. If there were no sun then there would be no reason to go to work, and Troy could just his life in peace and harmony. The problem is coming up with a plan to get rid of the sun...

Troy goes through several different plans and ideas for ridding himself of this nuisance. When one plan doesn't work, he simply formulates another. But he doesn't give up. Troy is relentless in his quest and won't stop until he reaches his goal. Through all of this Lacy sort of listens to Troy, nods a little bit, and even entertains his conversations - but when he leaves the house to either go to work or set about his plans, she goes on about her day. After all, one can't really rid the world of the sun, can they? It's impossible, right? 

One day, Troy comes home with actual blue prints and written plans, and this catches Lacy a little off-guard. She has no desire to be unsupportive or condescending to her husband, but at the same time she doesn't really want to support his apparent lunacy. Eventually, Lacy gives into Troy's plans and ideas. From that point--with Lacy's support--Troy's plans to escape the sun become bigger and bigger and BIGGER. Troy managed to enlist a helper and unknowingly incorporate the entire town into his plans. And the end result was quite unexpected and astonishing. 

Here are a few of my favorite things about Awful, Ohio

1. The story. The author has quite an imagination, and he has used it to make a really imaginative story. Humorous and satirical, Awful, Ohio is fun when taken tongue-in-cheek. I enjoyed reading it and smiled many times throughout the story. I felt like I was watching a movie in my head while I was reading, and it was funny and marvelous. It fit my personality and sense of humor very well, just as I suspected. 

2. The names. The characters had some of the best names of any book, ever. The main character is Troy Slushy, which is a very cool name. Some of the other characters are:  Sammy Ammo, Wilsie McHickoryboob, Doink McTriggers, and Baltazar Garcia...just fun, fun names. (I think my personal favorite name is Sammy Ammo, and his supporting character is incredibly interesting.)

3.  The plan. The plan that Troy ends up using to rid himself of the sun uses the entire town and does so without the townspeople even realizing it. It is wildly entertaining and there is, of course, a chain of events that follow, which lead up to...

4.  The ending. I liked it. A lot. 

Jeff Neal has written a great story. He does, in fact, use a redundancy--a repetitiveness--to the story that I found really appealing to the underlying theme. There is a theme of repetition in Troy's life, which is one of the things he hates about his life--that everything is the same and it happens over and over again (almost like the movie Groundhog Day, but not quite)--so I think Jeff was really smart in his use of his choice of language structure. With the repetition, the story almost has a very soft rhythm and beat to it at times, which I find very charming. 

Awful, Ohio is a book that will almost certainly appeal to those who work full-time jobs and don't necessarily love their jobs. It will also appeal to those who love an Office Space-like humor, those who enjoy satire, or those with a sense of humor themselves. It is really smartly written and I can imagine that this author is one funny guy in real life. 

**I received a review copy from the author, Jeff Neal, in exchange for an honest opinion and review. I received no compensation for my thoughts. Thank you, Jeff! 

Now for the Giveaway! 
Author Jeff Neal has graciously offered one copy of Awful, Ohio for giveaway!

Giveaway Information 
  • You must be at least 13 years old to enter. 
  • Deadline for entry is Friday, December 2, 2011.
  • This contest is open to Everyone. 
  • Following this blog is not required, but appreciated!
  • Winner will be determined using
  • Winner will have 48 hours to respond. 
  • To enter, please fill out this form

Form removed...Contest has ended! 

Thank you so much! 
Leave a comment & say hello! 
And....Good luck!! 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Reading Out Loud {3}

At our house, I read out loud to my children before I take them to school in the morning. In my opinion, sitting together for a few minutes before rushing off to start the day gives them a chance to chill out after the hustle and bustle of getting up, getting dressed, and having breakfast. I realize that this does not work for everyone, but at our just does. It is my favorite part of the day and I think my kiddos like it too. My children love talking about the books we read together, and so began our little collaborative effort:  Reading Out Loud. 

The third book of our Reading Out Loud series was Little House in the Big Woods by the amazing Laura Ingalls Wilder. When I started this book, I had no idea it would take as long as it did. Layla, Greta, and Jack were absolutely uninformed about the era in which this story is set - so they wanted to ask questions or have discussions after about every two or three sentences. (This is not an exaggeration.) We muddled through it, though, and I'm glad we did. 

by Laura Ingalls Wilder 
Illustrated by Garth Williams 
Started September 23, 2011
Finished October 27, 2011 

I recently finished reading Little House in the Big Woods out loud to the kiddos before school. Here's the interview, exactly: 

Tell me about Little House in the Big Woods

  • Layla:  A little girl named Laura lived in the prairie with Ma, Pa, Mary, and Carrie. It goes through a whole year of their life in the Big Woods.  
  • Greta:  There's a girl named Laura who lives in a big forest, miles apart from the nearest neighbors. Laura goes through all sorts of stuff and has strict rules on Sundays. One day, Laura has her first visit to town and they get candy. Also, Pa tells stories. 
  • Jack:  Laura, Mary, Pa, Ma, and Carrie lived in the woods and there was no town where they lived, so they had to kill and grow their food. Once they went into town and they liked it.  

Who was your favorite character and why?

  • Layla:  Laura. She's just like me - cute, smart, and funny. I'm guessing she loves animals, too. 
  • Greta:  Mary. She's most like me because she always obeys. She's also nice, quiet, and calm.  
  • Jack:  Pa. He has guns, he hunts, and he tells good stories to the children. 

How would you feel if you had no electricity, like Laura and Mary? 

  • Layla:  It would be the worst thing in the world! I can't believe they survived without TV!
  • Greta:  I'd feel 50/50. I'd play more outside but I wouldn't be able to watch TV, play Nintendo DS, or use the microwave. And we'd have no night light!  
  • Jack:  I can't imagine that! No Nintendo DS, no TV, nothing! Aaahhh!  

(Clearly I need to have more of a discussion about materialism with my children. 
We've had this talk numerous times, but apparently we need to have it again.)

How would you feel if you had to grow and hunt for all of your own food?  

  • Layla:  Growing a garden is fine...but hunting is too mean to speak about! me: How do you think we get all of the meat you eat every day? Layla: You go to town and buy it in loads! 
  • Greta:  Weird! I think hunting is dangerous. But I wouldn't mind growing my food except for being in the hot sun for way too long. 
  • Jack:   Sweaty! It would be doing really hard work. 

How would you feel if you had only one toy, like Laura and Mary? 

  • Layla:  I'd feel so-so. If it was a stuffed animal, I'd be okay with it. 
  • Greta:  Sad because it probably wouldn't be a stuffed animal. 
  • Jack:   Horrible!  me: they probably had really great imaginations and played with rocks and sticks and stuff outside all the time. Jack: Oh, okay! I could totally handle that! 
illustration by
Garth Williams
How did you feel the first time Laura and Mary went to town?

  • Layla:  Wow! They only went once and Laura was like 6-years-old or something. I go to town every day and have since the day I was born! 
  • Greta:  It was very interesting. Laura felt bad because she gathered too many of the pretty smooth rocks and her pocket fell off of her dress. Also we go to town all the time, you know! 
  • Jack:   It was nice! I wish they would have had bathing suits so they could have gone swimming in the lake. 
What was your favorite part of the book? 

  • Layla:  I had two favorite parts. One was the Christmas part because Christmas is my favorite holiday and they seemed really happy. The other part is the sugar snow and learning about making the maple syrup - I'd like to try that one day!  
  • Greta:  I had two favorite parts too. One was Pa's story about the mean boy and the hornets. The other favorite part was Pa's other story about thinking that the tree stump was a bear and beating it with a club. (Greta laughs hysterically)
  • illustration by
    Garth Williams
  • Jack:   The Dance! I liked how they made their own candy too. 
illustration by
Garth Williams
What would you tell other parents to convince them 
to read Little House in the Big Woods to their kids?  

  • Layla:  It is a great book! You can compare life now to life back then. It's historical, I guess.  
  • Greta:  It's a great book because it tells you about life in the prairie during the pioneer days. I'd give it 5/5 stars. 
  • Jack:   It was awesome! 

How do  you feel about people really living that way a long time ago? 

  • Layla:  It's kinda cool, but that's easy for me to say. 
  • Greta:  It's kinda sad but I was also jealous because they got to see things different than me, live in the Big Woods, and they knew how to sew.  
  • Jack:  I didn't know people lived like that a long time ago. No electricity! How horrible! 

This was Book One of a series by the book's character, Laura. 
Shall we read more of these books? 

  • Layla:  Yes yes yes yes yes! (fist pumps) It's SUCH a good book...
  • Greta:  Of course! The books seem so great! 
  • Jack:  Totally! 

Layla & Greta, age 8
Jack, age 6
Excellent, guys! Thank you for another great interview! 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday {5}

Click HERE to check out Top Ten Tuesday 
at The Broke and the Bookish.

Ten Authors I'd Love To Have
Sharing My Table at Thanksgiving

1The One, The Only

Come on, people!
Let's not act like we didn't already know this. 
Nerdfighter for life, right here
(Probably the oldest one.)
**John, it doesn't have to be Thanksgiving,
you're invited to any meal, any time.
hank green vlogbrothers
2.  Hank Green
brother to John & fellow Nerdfighter
While Hank Green might not be an author in the sense we are used to, 
he is an avid reader and very bookish. He is the creator of
this awesome little gem of a movement, which I love:
Simply put: Read it first before you see the movie! 
Welcome to the Diary page
3. Patrick Ness, of course. 
Chaos Walking trilogy
Chaos Walking Trilogy.
No other comment necessary. 
Justin Torres
4. Justin Torres 
I have so many questions and comments about 
Torres' book We The Animals
Mostly, I have a big, huge question about the end. 
No better person to ask than the person who wrote it. 
And no better place than the Thanksgiving table, right?  
photo by the lovely & talented kelly davidson -
5. Erin Morgenstern
Erin Morgenstern wrote what is probably one of my 
top three books this year. 
The Night Circus
I think I'd love to talk to her about 
the process of writing a first book, the cover art, everything. 
and...MAGIC! Because she wrote it SO WELL. 
6. Ellen Hopkins
Wouldn't it be lovely to have a Poet at the table? 
I have never grown such an immense respect for an author 
in such a short amount of time. 
In just a couple of weeks, I have DEVOURED 
three of Hopkins' books 
(Triangles, Crank, & Glass
and am eager to devour the rest of them. 
I would give so much to talk about her process, her history, 
the thoughts behind her stories, 
and where she summons her strength when she writes. 
 I'd also LOVE to talk about her status as a challenged author
Ellen Hopkins is amazing and her work is unlike any other
7. Tahereh Mafi
Author of Shatter Me (SOOO excellent!)
Mafi is very interactive with her fans, particularly 
on Twitter - which is basically where I live. 
She'd be a DELIGHT at my Thanksgiving table because
almost all of her tweets make me laugh. 
She's just really, really funny and I really love that!
Rick Riordan
8. Rick Riordan 
I love Percy Jackson. So, so much. 
Also, I love Mythology. 
It seems natural that Rick should be at my holiday dinner.

8. John Connolly 
Author of this AMAZING book: 
The Book of Lost Things
If you've read the book, you understand why
Connolly needs a place at the table. 
He MUST be an interesting dude if he can write a story like this. 
Plus, he has other great books. 
9. Cormac McCarthy
I'd totally set a place and cross my fingers. 
A gal can dream, right?
10. Anne Rice
I have tons of questions for Anne Rice...
that should only be answered by Anne Rice.
Once again, what better place than at Thanksgiving??