Monday, April 29, 2013

Life Before Legend - Book Review

BookLife Before Legend (Legend 0.5)
AuthorMarie Lu
Genre: Middle Grade, Mythological 
Publisher/Publish Date: Putnam Juvenile / January 15, 2013
Source: eBook
Pages: 38
Rating: 3/5
GoodReads  •  Amazon

A short review for a short book. This is a companion book to the Legend Series by Marie Lu and though technically is #0.5 in the series since it tells stories of things that take place before the first book in the series, it can be read at anytime though.

Told from both June and Day's points of view, it covers the events of one day, three years before the events in the book Legend. Day's story is about his first kiss and the events surrounding that, and June's is about her first day as a student at Drake University.

It was a nice addition to the other book in the series, and was worth it purchase as an inexpensive eBook. I'd recommend it to anyone who's read the other books in the Legend series.

Friday, April 26, 2013

shopping list

This is the first of a regular series, sharing some book related wish list items I've recently found online.

1: cute print from Parada Creations... 2: bookish iPhone case... 3: Alice in Wonderland collage print... 4: match box faux book covers... 5: book lover candles

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Nothing to Envy - Book Review

BookNothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
AuthorBarbara Demick
Genre: Nonfiction / Politics & Social Sciences 
Publisher/Publish Date: Spiegel & Grau / December, 2009
Source: Audio Book from SF Public Library
Pages: 314
Rating: 2/5
GoodReads  •  Amazon

I got this book from the library based on reviews I read (it has 358 5-star reviews on Amazon), but I wasn't that impressed with it. This book was a good look at North Korean lives and cultures through the lens of six citizens over 15 years, through the rough period surrounding Kim Il-sung's death, and the famine of the mid-90s. Demick mixes stories from the small villages with that of life in the capitol city of Pyongyang, providing a thorough over view of how life was different depending on your political and social standing.

I was surprised how many historical events I didn't really know, and this book was good with facts. I have read other books about North Korea in which I've felt connected with the people and more concerned with their welfare. Where I think it hit some bumps, was the quantities of lives it was following. Some of this may have been due to listening to it, since I don't think I can follow a book as well on tape as I can on paper. And though it says a person read it, at times it sounded like a computer reading the book. The one benefit of the audiobook, I know how to pronounce all the names of people and places.

For me this was a good addition to the other books I have read on this topic, but not that great as a stand alone.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

favorite places to read...

Tacolicious, with a margarita and chips.
(not shown in the photos as I had eaten them already!)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Clockwork Prince - Book Review

BookClockwork Prince (The Infernal Devices #2)
AuthorCassandra Clare
Genre: YA 
Publisher/Publish Date: Margaret K. McElderry Books / December 2011
Source: SF Public Library
Pages: 528
Rating: 4/5
GoodReads  •  Amazon

In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has at last found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when rogue forces in the Clave plot to see her protector, Charlotte, replaced as head of the Institute. If Charlotte loses her position, Tessa will be out on the street—and easy prey for the mysterious Magister, who wants to use Tessa’s powers for his own dark ends. (via GoodReads)
Clockwork Prince is the follow up to Clockwork Angel, and this series is a spin off of The Mortal Instruments Series, which also has other spin offs. Which is great, since I like the author, Cassandra Clare, and she's plenty to read. While the series take place in different time periods, they are in the same fantasy world, with some overlapping characters (vampires, hu?).

While I think the short summary above makes the book seem really dark, I think Clare takes a dark subject and intertwines humor and romance. Not sure what it says about me, but I like the mix of dark and romance, and in these books, romance is never the main plot line.

The novel takes place in history London, and you really get the feel of the cold, moist, and dirt that characterized the city at that time. Clare does include some historical references, as thought this is a true story. The under belly of London that was kept secret. The Mortal Instruments, which is set in current time, takes place in New York, and I actually like that series better, if maybe just for the more contemporary feel.

If you haven't before read any of Clare's books, reading this series or The Mortal Instruments first would work, I would just be sure to start with the first book in that series.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

other things I love: Quilting

While I do really, really love reading, I also love some other things. Ever few weeks I plan to share with you the other things that pull at my heart strings. The long process from the initial idea or a quilt to the last stitch of the binding appeals to me. Once I get going on a part of it, for example piecing the top together, I love that I have a project that can keep my focus for hours, providing the right backdrop to lose myself in many, many episodes of West Wing.
My foray into quilting came originally from this blog post on Posie Gets Cozy. The traditional quilt with squares scares me, since I figure I can never get all the squares to line up (might be silly but it's a real fear I tell ya.) This style of quilting, English Paper Piecing, using hexagons looked more my cup of tea.
Growing up I sewed pillowcases, scrunches, and curtains, but sewing by hand was new to me. I taught myself how to paper piece quilts by reading a few blog posts and while I've never checked my work with anyone else, I figure I'm going ok since the quilts haven't fallen apart.

I have finish two small quilts, one each for my niece and nephew (the top two photos) and used up some scraps of fabric I had to make the pink, blue, green and brown one above (still waiting for batting, backing, and quilting.)
Currently I am working on a twin size triangle quilt for myself, with much larger pieces than the hexagons (photos above and below). It took some time to decide on the design and fabric, in the end it should look like rows of hanging banners, similar to this quilt. I have so many ideas for color and shape combinations I would love to try, just wish I had unlimited time and resources to make it happen. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Bitterblue - Book Review

BookBitterblue (Graceling Realm #3)
AuthorKristin CashoreIan Schoenherr (Illustrator)
Genre: Teen, Young Adult
Publisher/Publish Date: Dial / May 2012
Source: SF Public Library
Pages: 576
Rating: 4/5
GoodReads  •  Amazon

Set in a fantastical world where some people are born with special skills, known as a Grace, some people use this skills for good, others for evil. Bitterblue, the third book in the Graceling Realm series, takes place eight years after the first book. Eight years after the terrible reign of her dad ended, and she became queen of Mosea. While the kingdom is still recovering from the influence of her father, Leck, Bitterblue is trying to sort out how he terrorized the citizens and find a way to bring healing.

Leck was a violent psychopath, and his grace was an ability to make people believe and do what he wanted them to. Bitterblue was left with advisors who had worked for her father, and were focused on a forward-thinking plan, ignoring the past. Her curiosity leads her to sneak out the castle in disguise, to explore the streets of her city, and discover the true story of what her father did and the impact it still has on her kingdom.

I really enjoyed the first two books in this series (the second is a companion book with different characters), and was looking forward to reading this one for awhile. Although it's set in a mythological realm, I like how believable the characters are, making the plot more true to life then a lot of YA books. While there is romance, it's complicated, and doesn't wrap up cleanly in the end. There is mystery, surprises, but it's never over the top. Not to give too much away, but things turn out really great in the end, and I hope Cashore writes many more books about these kingdoms.

Included at the end of the book, an almost too easy to miss, are breathtaking illustrations of the three bridges that are central to the novel, as well as a map of the seven kingdoms. [Purple illustration above is from the inside cover.]

Friday, April 12, 2013

ARC Teaser

I have gotten some great ARC's in the last few weeks and looking forward to sharing them with you in the next few months. Here's what you can look forward to...

Last Summer of the Camperdowns, by Elizabeth Kelly

Screwed, by Laurie Plissner

Queen of the Air: A True Story of Love and Tragedy at the Circus, by Dean N. Jensen

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

best books for a rainy day

I grew up in Oregon, and one of my favorite things to do on a rainy day was to curl up on the couch with a good book. A book that I could get lost in and would take me away from the crummy weather outside. It's been pretty crummy here the last couple weeks, and if it's crummy where you are, here are some books to check out.

The Mitford Years Series, by Jan Karon
This series of nine books follows the  day to day life of a small town rector. Father Tim lives in Mitford; a charming village with lots of fresh air and green hills and full of interesting characters. These books take you back to a time that was simple and you knew all your neighbors by name. I might not be the normal demographic for these books but I enjoy them.

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, by Judi Barrett
This children's book has some of my favorite illustrations. What's not to love about the idea of meatballs falling from the sky, pancakes so large they cover houses, and no need to go grocery shopping. Like Mitford, this book is also set in a small town.

The Chronicles of Narnia Series, by C.S. Lewis
I have a vivid memory of watching the PBS version of this book as a kid, while it was snowing out doors. Since then I have read the whole series, and love this fantastical story of a magical wardrobe and the Great Lion Aslan. Over the years there have been an assortment of beautiful covers for this book, my favorite being and illustration of "a faun carrying parcels and an umbrella in a snowy wood," which was Lewis' initial idea behind the book, which came to him at age 16 (according to

About a Boy, by Nick Hornby
Though more people may be familiar with the movie, I read and fell in love with the book first. Will, a 36 year old confirmed bachelor, befriends a young boy when we tries to con a women into dating in. The awkward friendship leads life changing events that improves the lives of the man, boy and those around them. I think this story can teach all of us some valuable lessons and how to be a better friend.

What's your favorite book to read on a rainy day?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Book Review: No Shortcuts to the Top by Ed Viesturs

I have a little obsession with books, movies, and TV shows about mountain climbing, and specifically Everest. I have literally watched every documentary on Netflix about the mountain, and wish there was more. When I heard about this book, which is Ed Viesturs retelling of his treks to Mount Everest, as well as the other 13 8000'ers (ie. mountains higher than 8,000 meters), it sounded right up my ally.

One thing I found really interesting about this book, is that it deals with one person's journey from never having set foot on a mountain, to becoming a world class mountain climber. The highs and lows of finding love and losing close friends resonate with all of us, but his ease and success at mountain climbing set him apart physically from most of us. Since climbing mountains that are so high it can cause liquid to build up in your lungs, create avalanches that can kill you in a split second, can be dangerous, it adds up to a lot of danger and excitement. And even though we know the outcome (no surprise, he does reach the summit of the 14 highest peaks), each times he heads up, we the reader, doesn't know if he will be successful.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Loki's Wolves: The Blackwell Pages

Loki's Wolves
BookLoki's Wolves (The Blackwell Pages Series)
AuthorK.L. Armstrong & M.A. Marr
Genre: Middle Grade, Mythological 
Publisher/Publish Date: Little, Brown / May 7, 2013
Source: ARC curtesy of publisher
Pages: 358
Rating: 4/5
GoodReads  •  Amazon

The son of the local sheriff, Matt, knew he was a descendent of the Norse God Thor, but until he was chosen as the living representative of Thor it was never a big deal. Being chosen as the champion means he must fight in Ragnarök, the final battle, and he over hears his family saying they don't expect him to survive.

Matt decided to go off on his own, and find the other characters from the myths who were also foretold to fight in the final battle. He wants to prove his family wrong, and return a true champion.

When I got this book in the mail and saw the cover, I wasn't sure what to think about it. But once I got to reading I found I really enjoyed it. In many ways it reminds me of Harry Potter: kids having an adventure without their parents, serpent attacks, friends banding together to battle mythological creatures. While the writing isn't quite on par with J.K. Rowling, I could see this series really taking off, especially with grade school and middle school kids—much like the first Harry Potter book.

It ends on a cliffhanger, and I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series. If you have any young kids on your christmas shopping list, this would be a great gift for them.

Thank you Little, Brown and GoodReads for the ARC! I received it by entering a contest on GoodReads, First Reads. It's open to anyone so head on over and see what other books you can enter to win; they have some really great giveaways.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Off Balance: A Memoir - Book Review

Book: Off Balance: A Memoir
Author: Dominique Moceanu (with Paul & Teri Williams)
Genre: Memoir
Publisher/Publish Date: Touchstone / June 2012
Source: SF Public Library
Pages: 256
Rating: 2/5
Other books from author: She's written a series of children's novels that revolve around gymnastics
GoodReads  •  Amazon

This was a book I added to my library request list around the time of the London Olympics. I wasn't sure what to expect and was actually pleasantly surprised. It was nice having a shorter book I could finish in 2 days.

Dominique Moceanu shot to fame at a 14 years old as the youngest gymnast on the US Olympic team, and brought home a gold medal. Behind the smile was a young girl who had tough coaches, parents who pushed her hard, but even then, she loved the sport. The following years lead to emancipation from her family, experimenting with drugs, and the discover of a sister who was put up for adoption.

I appreciated that the book didn't wind up becoming a pity party for her, but she writes of her ups and downs in a straight forward way, focusing on the positive. She still loves gymnastics, coaches and writes children's books about gymnasts.

Monday, April 1, 2013

March - What I Read

Welcome to April everyone. The rain here in SF has arrived right on schedule, but I hope it leaves soon. March was a busy month for me, so I'm happy to have made it through 6 books. None of them were audio books and two of them were pretty large books.

What are your thoughts on the recent announcement of GoodReads being bought by Amazon? I really love everything about GoodReads, so I hope none of that goes away. Crossing my fingers.

Red Carpet Burns, by Georgia Cassimatis
I blogged about it here.

The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, by Trenton Lee Stewart
Enjoyed this book and love the world that Stewart has created in these books. I blogged about it here.

Off Balance, by Dominique Moceanu
It was nice to have a shorter book I could finish in a couple days. I have a review of this book coming out in a couple days.

Insurgent, by Veronica Roth
I blogged about it here.

Legacy of Rescueby 
Blogged about it here.

Loki's Wolvesby