Mistborn: The Beginning of a Great Obsession

Well after what feels like a forever long hiatus, I’m back! My life went all sorts of crazy all at once and sadly put a damper on my reading. My husband and I made the mistake (except not) of watching Supernatural one time a couple weeks ago on Netflix and then never stopped… that I’m not mad about. I would even recommend it as long as you don’t have anything else in your life that you need to be concerned. Also, I’m bad and sometimes sneak in a couple (or five or ten) chapters at work on my kindle, but we had a huge, tedious, and mostly frustrating deadline that ended on Friday. I therefore would never recommend working for the government for any reason. And we also found out we’re moving… so lots of exciting life research is happening.. I mean, you have to know exactly where all the farmers markets and kayaking spots, etc. are before you get there.

But I did manage to read one book during the time I normally would have read 4. So on to the review…

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5 of 5 stars! Bumped up to 10!!!

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson is the beginning of The Final Empire series. And this series has by far the most interesting and inventive fantasy premise that I have ever read. (And I’m a Tolkien fangirl, so I do not say this lightly.) The story centers around Allomancers, people who gain powers by ingesting and burning metals – pretty stinking cool, right? When burning tin, senses are enhanced so you can see farther, in the dark, hear better, etc. With iron/steel you can push/pull metals objects (like telepathy). Brass and zinc give the power to control emotions… and the list goes on. There are 10 metals that can be burned, all with different effects. The Allomancers are people who only have the power to burn one metal. A Mistborn has the power to burn all 10 metals and is extremely rare.

Society in this story is highly factioned with a ruler who may or may not also be God and who has oppressed the skaa as slaves for the nobility and uses Allomancy to keep them depressed. But then there’s Kelsier, who is the most successful thief in Luthadel, the capital city and seat of the Lord Ruler, and has also become a profound symbol of hope. He was imprisoned where people are sent to die and also happens to be the only one to have ever escaped. So obviously he has a crazy side and almost gets himself killed quiet frequently. But he now knows the Lord Ruler’s secret, and he’s on a mission to overthrow the Lord Ruler. Kelsier also is a Mistborn… he’s basically the hero of all heroes. Then enters Vin, a young girl who does not know she has Allomantic powers, who Kelsier saves and trains in the midst of trying to pull off this scheme of rebellion. Vin is shy and untrusting but brave and loyal. She is clever and a force to be reckoned with. Vin is awesome!!

And that’s just the beginning.. there’s so much going on in this book. Members of the thieving ring pose as imposters in different areas of the city using their different Allomantic powers, each having a personality all their own. The depth of all of the characters is phenomenal. Every single character is awesome! There is so much EMOTION. The plot is steadily moving and had me engrossed from the beginning until the very end. Even within 60 pages of the end, it seemed like there was no way the story would wrap up. But it did!! And it actually didn’t leave too many plot lines hanging like some fantasy books do. It left just enough open to set up for a great series.

I love this book with my whole heart, and Brandon Sanderson is automatically on my list of favorites. I dare say this is the definition of a perfect book.

It’s long, but oh so good, and worth every minute it takes to read. So if you’re a fantasy lover, please go read this so we can be fangirls together!!

Night Film: Creep on!

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5 of 5 stars

SO MANY FEELS… It took me a few days to process this one.

You know those books where you figure out that the blurb on the back of the book is completely wrong/misleading after you finish? Yeah… that’s one of my biggest pet peeves. It IS possible to actually tell what the book is about on the cover without giving away anything. Case in point: NIGHT FILM - It’s vague. But it’s right. It tells you just enough to make you interested but doesn’t lie to you. Go editor!! Thank you!

You go into Night Film knowing that Ashley Cordova, daughter of a reclusive cult horror film director has died, and journalist Scott McGrath investigates her death based on a vendetta with Stanislas Cordova. And that’s really all you need… it sounds like it might get creepy and it does.

The first couple of nights after I started reading this I had the most deliciously creepy dreams. The plot builds somewhat ominously and slowly to create the perfect mood of curiosity with slight dread. The actual events… sorry I just can’t tell you because you will enjoy the book immensely if you only know what’s on the cover and go read it for yourself.

Don’t be scared of the length. I enjoyed the slow but not too slow building plot. It created a lot of time for character development all around and several climaxes that keep it moving. And a lot of foreboding.

The best thing about this book are all of the case files and reports included. You feel like you are actually watching an old cult horror film yourself – the ones where the newspaper clippings, pictures, etc. spin out and almost slap you in the face. It’s just delicious. (For this reason, I would recommend reading a real live in-person copy of this book.)

There are so many details in the story that I’m sure I could read it again and pick up on even more little nuances (which I will definitely be doing). And this book definitely does not settle for your cookie cutter ending. The whole thing is just perfect in my opinion.

I would recommend this for umm… EVERYONE.. especially if you love a suspenseful mystery that makes you think with a genius madman? thrown in.

Pre-Release Review: The Opposite of Maybe by Maddie Dawson

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3 of 5 stars

I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

The Opposite of Maybe is your basic chick lit… Rosie’s long time relationship is falling apart because she and her boyfriend just aren’t the same anymore. Meanwhile, her grandmother who raised her is dying, her boyfriend moves away for his job leaving her with the handsome Tony, her grandmother’s caretaker, oh, and to top it off she finds out she’s pregnant. And yes… what you’re thinking happens is what happens. But that’s why I picked this one to read – I’ve been in a book rut for the entire month. I was getting frustrated with books not being what I thought they would be and taking me forever to get through. This one I knew what to expect, and I figured it would be a quick feel good read. For those reasons, I was not disappointed.

I really loved the characters in this story. they are all very relatable with their own very unique personality. They make you mad at times, but I always appreciate when an author can do that - tells me the characters have some depth. The plot is mostly cliché, but sometimes you just need something you can trust. I’m one who loves character-driven books over plot-driven anyway.

Overall, I don’t have super strong feelings about this book either way. It doesn’t leave any major imprint, but I would recommend it if you are looking for a quick pick-me-up read like I was, or if you need a lighthearted poolside/beach read.

So pick this up if you’re looking for that on April 8th when it’s released!

2013 Top Five Countdown #1: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

After much contemplation, I picked my favorite five books that I read in 2013 (not necessarily published in 2013) and posted one review per week until we got to the top. So far, I have posted…

And now it’s time… my favorite book that I read last year is Wild by Cheryl Stayed. I loved it because I’m an adventurer at heart and it was more than inspiring. It put me back on a memoir streak, too.

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5 of 5 stars!

My original review:

We are in the mountains and the mountains are in us. -John Muir

Tell me, what it is you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life. -Mary Oliver

This book is phenomenal.. I mean freaking AMAZING. Everyone should read it. Even if you aren’t super outdoorsy and could never see yourself backpacking across 3 states, it still has a great message.

As for me, I’ve always loved to explore the outdoors. I’ve actually never gone full on backpacking though. This book really made me long to get away from life and just be in nature for at least a week – or at least go camping in some cold weather… although, that’s not so easy in Hawaii.

The story starts off with the explanation of Cheryl Strayed’s whole downward spiral after her mother died and how it led her to the Pacific Crest Trail. I’m not going to lie, the first chapter is extremely depressing, especially for anyone close to their mom. It honestly did not give me high hopes for the rest of the book. But the story picks up in the next chapter once she is on the PCT, and the adventure begins.

There are stories of all the awesome people she meets and all the miles she walked alone. There are stories of kindness from strangers. There are stories of beautiful nature experienced in the most serene places. Can you imagine walking thousands of miles by yourself, not knowing what you will run into? Talk about flying by the seat of your pants. Sounds like the ultimate adventure to me. Cheryl Strayed really made me feel like I could if I wanted to.

Mostly, this book is a discovery of self. The author believed that she would leave her life and just be alone in the woods for 3 months to contemplate her life, cry, and get over it. She actually was only able to think about her aching feet and body at first, then was just quiet with nature. What she found instead was the strength within herself that she didn’t know she had – to remember her hard times and still be able to live.

This is a strength that we all have if we only know how to find it. This was truly an inspiring and entertaining story that I could definitely go read again right now.

In hindsight:

I have read a lot of reviews of this book that talk about how Cheryl’s selfishness in her marriage after losing her mother or her stupidity with lack of planning for her backpacking trip really annoyed them. I did find myself judging her a little while reading, but I think they add to the lessons that she learned and provide an honesty to the story. After all, it is a true story, an amazing true story of redemption and adventure. I recently purchased this book for a re-read before the movie comes out in September? (I think). I can’t wait to see if Reese Witherspoon does the story justice.

 

A Natural History of Dragons: Just a little tiny way bit overhyped

My ability to make smart book decisions this month is really suffering. Both books I have read so far, including A Natural History of Dragons, I chose because of reviews from people that I follow who liked them. Something must be wrong with me. Or maybe I’m just figuring out the other readers that I know I have similar tastes with. Either way.. on to the review:

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2 of 5 stars

A Natural History of Dragons is Isabella Camherst’s story of trying to fulfill her dream of studying dragons in a Victorian-type era where women are expected to do socially acceptable woman things like host parties, gossip, wear frilly dresses, etc.. you get the picture. Studying anything scholarly is completely unacceptable for a woman, and from a young age Isabella steals books from her father’s library as her guilty pleasure. She finds ways to secretly study dragons, creates excuses to visit museums, etc. so that no one ever knows her true passion.. or so she thinks… but her father knew the whole time.

This book really had a lot going for it:

  1. FANTASY is always a winner for me.. and this one has a unique take on the genre.
  2. It’s about a stubborn woman trying to make her place in a man’s profession. Always interesting.
  3. Dragons. Duh.
  4. It’s on NPR’s book list… and NPR supports Chris Thile of Nickel Creek pretty hard, so how can they not be right about every other thing ever?!! I basically trust all of their decisions.

The first half of this story had a few intriguing tales of how Isabella got herself in trouble growing up, how she met and married her husband, and then how she manipulated a situation to be included on an excursion to actually publicly study dragons. She’s charming and gutsy, and I mostly liked her. I was entertained but still couldn’t tell where everything was really going.

And then it just fell flat. For someone who is trying not to be defined by the social boundaries for women, Isabella was way too concerned with not getting dirty and being “proper” during their excursion to Vystrana. It was really quite annoying. She also turned really prudish all of the sudden. Her attitude toward the servants that were housing them during their visit was uppity. And she started thinking that she was right about everything having to do with dragons – every comment that a man made contradicting  her, she had some smart ass remark and got mad. I mean… I know she wants to be treated like a man.. but she’s still new to what they’ve been doing for much longer than she has. I just did not like her anymore by the end of the book.

It seemed that the author was overly concerned with being on a feminism soap box by the end of the book. Don’t get me wrong… I’m not against feminist books but subtlety is more my thing. Soap boxes should be handled delicately. You can’t forget to still tell a good story, ya know?

Honestly, I’m not mad I read this book. I did like the beginning, but the last half just really turned me off. I’m a little torn if I’m going to continue the series once the next book is released or not.

Pre-release review: The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh

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1 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Weight of Blood is the story of Lucy, a girl from Henbane, Missouri (sounds like the most creepy town ever.. right?). Lucy is feels guilty for not trying harder to figure out what happened to her friend Cheri whose remains were found a year after she went missing. She starts working for her uncle and stumbles upon some evidence of Cheri’s disappearance. Thus, ensues a search for the truth that Lucy discovers is connected to her own mother’s disappearance and also very strongly incriminates her uncle.

I requested this book from NetGalley because the description sounded really thrilling and the setting of Henbane seemed like it would lead to a great edge-of-your-seat scare-the-crap-out-of-you read. Sadly, I was able to guess the ending in detail from the third chapter, and I only kept reading to see if I was right. And there was not really any suspense or thrill – this was not for lack of trying, but the author was just unable to create the mood she was going for.

There were a few things I didn’t like that I think really led to the lack of development:

  1. The chapters switched between two main characters, Lucy and her mother (Lila), and they were both in first person with the same voice. Therefore, difficult to distinguish and make into their own character. Also, because you are hearing the story from Lila’s point of view the entire time, there’s no suspense created besides the ultimate question of why she disappeared.
  2. The love interest between Lucy and the guy who is helping her investigate is extremely young-adultish and detracts from the rest of the story.
  3. The dialogue goes tries to sound hick… but it ends up being annoying. Mostly because of the phrase “fixing to”. No one says “cheer up darlin’ ” and “fixing to”. It’s “fixin’ to”. And it was all over the place.
  4. There was no resolution of what really happened to Lila’s mother. Just a vague answer to knowing whether she ran away or not. Extremely annoying!

Bottom line: This story looked intriguing and the idea behind it I still think could have been great. However, it just didn’t work. There isn’t much depth to the characters or plot. I honestly would not recommend this book.

The Weight of Blood will be released on March 11th, for anyone who dares to try it.

2013 Top Five Countdown #2: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

After much contemplation, I picked my favorite five books that I read in 2013 (not necessarily published in 2013) and will post one review per week until we get to the top. So far, I have posted…

My number two pick is The Rosie Project because of its delightful take on the romantic comedy and its superb characters. I couldn’t put it down.

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5 of 5 stars!!

My original review:

Naturally, the books and research papers described the symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome, and I formed a provisional conclusion that most of these were simply variations in human brain function that had been inappropriately medicalized because they did not fit social norms – constructed social norms – that reflected the most common human configurations rather than the full range.

I was hooked after I read this… Don is researching Asperger’s and comes to the above conclusion. YES!! I am a wholehearted believer that Asperger’s and autism are extremely over-diagnosed simply because a child is different and not considered the social norm… I believe their difference should be celebrated.

Ok.. back to the book.

The Rosie Project is about Don Tillman, professor of genetics at a prestigious university, who is very socially awkward but still actually very charismatic. He starts the Wife Project, and in the middle happens to meet Rosie who breaks every rule he has for his “suitable mate”. Rosie teaches him to give up some of his OCD-ness and learn how to have fun. This story about their adventures is pretty stinking hilarious and just cute.

I read some reviews that said the main character reminded them of Sheldon from Big Bang Theory. It’s true… in the greatest way possible. I also read some reviews that harped on the fact that the book is full of stereotypes, but I felt that it really aimed at breaking the stereotypes that people believe about Asperger’s. They’re just people too.

If you like quirky books and have a slightly nerdy side, or if you just like sweet love stories, then this book is for you. The only negative thing I have to say about the book is that the ending was a little emotionally lacking. I wish it had been expanded on and a tad more emotional – but then again, he does have “Asperger’s” and it still wrapped everything up nicely, so I can’t complain.

Plus, there’s going to be a SEQUEL!!!! I’m sure it will complete the story and hopefully add some emotion to the current ending. I’m going to be waiting on the edge of my seat.

Sidenote: I just found out that Graeme Simsion is also a playwright, which makes complete sense. The Rosie Project would make a great play, if you ask me.

In hindsight:

I realized how much I truly completely loved this book because I think about it all the time, and I freak out and start raving when someone tells me they’re thinking about reading it… Then of course I ask them a million times if they’re done reading it yet. The Rosie Project is such a fresh take on the romantic comedy genre. It’s light but also has an important message and manages not to be cheesy. I definitely think I’ll be reading this one again as a poolside read this summer.

My Gentle Barn: Inspiration on a whole new level

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5 of 5 stars!

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

I’m not sure what I was expecting when I started reading My Gentle Barn - I guess I thought it would be something that only farm animal lovers would identify with… just a Yay Animals!! happy story about saving the world. But I definitely got waaayyy more and was surprised with the first chapter starting off really heavy – the story of a childhood that you thought only existed in bad movies. I literally had to stop and take a few breaths before I continued.

In these pages is one of the most inspiring and beautiful stories that I have ever read. This is a vivid story of how Ellie Lak’s life comes full circle – she had a lonely childhood, she had a dream to save the animals who had saved her as a child, she chased her dream, and she found herself along the way. There is story after story of individual animals – their situation and their healing – and of individual children that the animals in turn come to heal.

But the most remarkable change took place inside of me… I was not alone after all; I was just a tiny current in the large, gorgeous flow of life.

It’s memoirs like these that keep me coming back for more and usually get me on a memoir train for a few months. There is so much emotion and so much honesty in this story of The Gentle Barn.. it’s overwhelming at times… but in such a good way – my soul feels cleansed. And I believe there is hope for humanity after all.

When I finished reading, I immediately found The Gentle Barn’s website and read more about Jay and Ellie and what they are doing now… I guess you could say I’m an instafan. I’m pretty sure I’m going to make a special trip to California just to visit  and see this place for myself one day – to be a part of the magic for just a moment.

My husband and I have a dream to build a successful farm and produce meat in harmony… to  be a small part of taking back the food industry from factory farms and to take care of the animals who in turn take care of us… so obviously I could be biased about this book. However, I don’t think you have to be an animal activist/hippy farmer to enjoy this story about a life that comes full circle and enriches other lives in return.

My Gentle Barn releases March 25th… prepare yourself.

Glitter and Glue: Hold on to your heartstrings

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4 of 5 stars

I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Your father may be the glitter, but I’m the glue.

Whoa…when I say hold on to your heartstrings, I mean… really tight! This book is an emotional roller coaster - but a great read for anyone who has a mom… so EVERYONE. I found myself tearing up often with memories of my own mom. Glitter and Glue is a beautiful tribute to the mother-daughter relationship.

Kelly Corrigan is a really great writer. I’ve never read anything by her, and I picked this one up solely because I love memoirs about mother-daughter relationships. She writes the story in first person, so it reads like fiction and is very entertaining. Also, Kelly Corrigan must have (1) been keeping insanely detailed journals her entire life, or (2) exaggerated some details in this story, or (3) have superhuman abilities for remembering details. I’m going to guess it’s number one. So notes to self: KEEP JOURNALS, WRITE IN FIRST PERSON – if I ever decide to write a book. Although I think I’ll just stick with blogging.

The first 85% of the book is about her experience with nannying in Austrailia and how it made her appreciate her mother. It’s vividly written with details of the Tanner family’s loss and Kelly’s emotional responses. I LOVED this part. She struggles with winning the love of Milly who just lost her mother to cancer, and she realizes that she hears her mother’s voice with everything that happens and finds herself becoming her mother – like a lot of us do.

I thought she was going to have some splendid reunion with her mom… but she didn’t. The end goes into hyper speed mode and does not give much detail about how Austrailia actually changes her relationship with her mother. It was kind of a let down, but did not ruin the beginning of the story that was so beautifully told – It reminded me somewhat of the writing style of Cheryl Strayed in Wild.

Overall, a great read that I would recommend to someone who wants to reminisce about their childhood and have lots of memories pulled out that they forgot existed

Classics Challenge #1: Mary Poppins

I LOVE classics more than the average person. I am the girl who loved most of my forced reading in high school and college and finished them way before I was supposed to (I also loved writing all of my literary analysis papers on them.. I know book nerd extraordinaire- that’s me!!). And for some reason I haven’t read one in way too long. So this year I decided it’s time to get back to business. I miss the depth of characters and plots that you find in classics that is harder to find in newer books. My goal is to read one classic per month.. except I already missed January.. oops.

I decided to start out with Mary Poppins after I watched the movie recently and realized I’d never read the book.

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3 of 5 stars

Mary Poppins is a really fun children’s book. I grew up loving the movie and decided to read the book after I recently watched Mary Poppins again. After reading, I was very impressed with Disney’s ability to capture Mary Poppins’ character – her loftiness but sweet quirk.

The story reads like each chapter is it’s own short story, with each chapter containing a stand alone adventure where some bit of magic with Mary Poppins or due to Mary Poppins occurs. The stories are cleveryly written and provide an alternative to other “fairytale” children’s books.

I wish I had read Mary Poppins as a child. I think I would have been enthralled. But I did not.. and my adult brain appreciates the magic and the wonder of the mystery that is Mary Poppins – she’s very strict but “stumbles into” magic situations quite frequently with the children and won’t quite let anyone really know her – but I do not think I will continue the series. I guess it is just a little too simple for my stupid adult brain.

It’s still wonderfully written and I would recommend for anyone who wants a whimsical walk down memory lane.

On to the next classic… Stay tuned.