Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Why I Love (Or Seriously Hate)...Dolores Umbridge

Well hello, Wednesday.  We meet again.  Wednesday means it's time for another installation of "Why I Love", a meme hosted by Alexis at Reflections of a Bookaholic.

It's really difficult for me to choose a favorite villain, this week's topic for Why I Love Wednesday.  I haven't read much recently that has a really good villain, which is quite sad.  However, I have come across several villains in the past.  I've written about one, but have decided to go another route this time.  Instead of discussing a villain that I love, I'm going with one that I despise.

My choice for favorite villain is...Dolores Umbridge.  Not because I like her or because she's my favorite anything, but because she is so incredibly horrible.  Maybe more horrible than Voldemort.  Maybe.  I just reread the entire Harry Potter series and it reminded me of how much I hate Umbridge.  She's completely evil and takes so much pleasure in her lofty position and inflicting pain on those with less authority (or whoever she perceives to have a lesser authority).  If you want to see a true villain, look no further than Rowling's Dolores Umbridge.  Pure, sadistic evil and portrayed brilliantly by Imelda Staunton in the movie franchise.

I must not tell lies........

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Why I Love...The Babysitters Club

Midway through the week and it's time for an installation of Why I Love Wednesday, a meme hosted by Alexis from Reflections of a Bookaholic.  Today's topic is Favorite Childhood Series.  And, like many women my age, my favorite childhood series is, hands down, The Babysitters Club.

I loved, loved, loved The Babysitters Club.  I wanted to be a part of that club so badly.  I wanted to start my own Oregon chapter and conquer the needs of frazzled parents in a fun, timely, and enthusiastic manner.  Instead I contented myself with reading about the exploits of Stacey, Mary Anne, Claudia, Kristy, Dawn, Jessi, Mallory, and Logan and the town of Stoneybrook.  My favorite character was always Claudia because she was an artist.  I also really liked Dawn because she was earthy and crunchy (a very Northwest trait).  The issues that the series dealt with were spot on for me as a child/young teen and I really connected with these characters.

My love for this series even went so far as the movies.  I remember having a VHS episode of the BSC series, Claudia and the Secret Passage.  I watched that thing so much.  And when the movie version came out, I'll admit that I watched it and liked it quite a bit (despite the fact that I had "outgrown" the series).  In fact, I bought that same movie a couple years ago and watch it occasionally.  Not embarrassed to admit it :)

New mission:  Find ALL of the books in the series!!!

Other Notables
Sweet Valley Twins/High (though my sister enjoyed these more than I did)
Fear Street by RL Stine...need to get all of these, too!

Happy Wednesday everyone.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter

I swore I wouldn't read this book.  Alas...

Today's teaser comes from Seth Grahame-Smith's Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.  And now for your reading please:

"Abe couldn't help but smile.  Here was a strange little man with a strange way of seeing things.  Only the second living man he'd ever met who knew the truth of vampires.  He drank to excess and spoke in an irritating, high-pitched voice.  It was hard not to like him" (126)

Ah the overabundance of vampire novels lately...

A Long Absence

I realize that I have been virtually non-existent in my posting this past month.  Honestly, I have no excuses; I had plenty of downtime.  However, I chose to do something else (or nothing else) instead of catching my lovely readers up on my reviews, Why I Loves, and Teaser Tuesdays.  It's tragic and I apologize.  I feel like a failure in the blog-o-sphere, but I'm going to remedy this and soon!  Regardless of my tired excuses, here's a quick update on what's been going on with me in the PNW and what's going to be going on with the blog:

What's up with me:
  1.  Summer term came to an end with excellent results.  
  2. I reread the Harry Potter books and fell in love with Hogwarts all over again :)
  3.  I had an interview at my Alma Mater for a position in administration.
  4.  I was offered the position.
  5.  I informed the community college I work for that I would be unavailable to teach courses in the Fall because of the new position I had accepted.  I will really miss interacting with the students, but this is a career move in the right direction.  On the plus side, I am still able to teach online and evening courses at a satellite campus :)
  6. Started my new job.
  7. Moved to a new city...well, town, really...cutting my commute from one hour to ten minutes!
And in the PNW:
  1. We had a long, and surprisingly, glorious summer.  Much longer than normal with warm weather lasting well into October.
  2. The rain has finally started and will be here until, oh, June I'd say ;)  Please and thank you!
  3. College football season started and how 'bout them BEAVS!!!!  Props to Mike Riley, the coaching staff, and all the Oregon State players on a well-played season so far (5-0).  Keep the In 'n Out Burger stops coming :)
And for the blog:
  1. I WILL get caught up on my reviews...I think there are about 17 or so that I need to do.
  2. I WILL start posting regularly again.
  3. I WILL participate in Teaser Tuesdays and Why I Love Wednesdays again.
  4. I WILL be more consistent!
There you have it.  An update on me, the Pacific Northwest, and what I will be doing with the blog.  Happy Tuesday everyone :)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Why I Love...Favorite Chunkster

Yet again, another Wednesday of "Why I Love", a meme hosted by Alexis at Reflections of a Bookaholic.  This week's theme is Favorite Chunksters.  I'll be honest, I'd never heard this term in reference to books until I read Alexis' post for today.  Evidently, a "chunkster" is a hefty/thick/dense/long book.  Well, I've read a few of those and have several that I list among my favorite books; namely Gone with the Wind, the later books in the Harry Potter series (I wouldn't consider the first three "chunksters"), Les Miserables, Anna Karenina, and others.

But for today's favorite "chunkster", I'm going with Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children, which I read as a senior in college.  It was the only book we read the entire term (three months), though we did read critical theory and other supplemental materials in addition to this book.  It's an incredibly dense book that requires many things to finish: concentration, comprehension, differentiation between characters, and frequent breaks for digestion.  Despite some of these factors, I absolutely fell in love with this book.

Midnight's Children follows the lives of several children in India who happened to be born at the stroke of midnight on the day India was declared an independent nation from Great Britain.  But these children aren't any ordinary children; they all possess some form of a special trait or power that makes each of them unique from each other and from their respective families.  What ensues is the struggle for these children to assert their individual identities and the identity of an entire nation, both of which are intertwined with each other.  There are definite struggles and it's beautifully written with rich characters and scenery.  Definitely worth the devotion that you have to give this book in order to finish it.  Plus, Salman Rushdie is a pretty interesting character...

Happy Wednesday All :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Why I Love...Gifted Books

Another Wednesday has fallen upon us and that means it's time for another edition of "Why I Love Wednesday", a meme hosted by Alexis at Reflections of a Bookaholic.  This week's topic is Gifted Books.  While I don't tend to get many books as gifts (I can be slightly difficult to buy books for) and am more apt to give them, there are a few that have been given to me and were great gifts.

First on this list would be Ingeborg Bachmann's Malina.  I received this book in the original German from my, much loved, German professor when I graduated from undergrad.  She wrote a beautiful inscription on the front page and it's definitely a book that I will keep for as long as I can.  I have yet to read the entire thing (it's in German, therefore a little more slow-going than an English version), but I am determined to one day finish it.

Secondly would be a Christmas present I received from my parents years ago.  I have always been a huge fan of Nirvana and when Kurt Cobain's Journals was published, my parents got it for me.  I was so incredibly ecstatic.  It's a fascinating glimpse into Cobain's mind.  A messed up, genius mind.  The book is filled with lyrics, drawings, musings, and so much of what made Cobain tick.

Last on the list is Billy Corgan's Blinking with Fists:  Poems.  Again, having been a huge fan of the Smashing Pumpkins for ages, Corgan's collection of poetry was a completely natural book to receive as a gift.  I received this from a friend in college.  He felt that I would love it just as much as he did (also a huge Pumpkins fan).  Corgan's poetry is beautifully written and intriguing, much like his music.  It was a fantastic gift.

I could come up with a lot more, I'm sure.  In fact, I know that I almost always get cookbooks as gifts during the holidays.  I love cookbooks, have a ton, and will continue to collect them.  But these three books were the top books that came to mind when I thought of books that had been given to me as gifts over the years.  What are yours?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The History of Love: A Review

I don't think I've been this disappointed in a book for a long time.  That's saying something...

Nicole Krauss' The History of Love follows the journey of a book written sixty years prior as it makes its way from Poland to South America to New York.  This book is a history--a history of the love one person has for another.  It's been hidden (or lost) for years, but manages to resurface in an unexpected way.  Told from the perspective of two people, the aging Leo and fourteen-year-old Alma, it is a testiment to just how far people will go to discover the truth in times of healing.  This book manages to bring these two characters together in a roundabout way that is both fitting and justifying. 

Pretencious...overreaching...angering...rough.  Have I said enough?  I had such high hopes for this book.  The plot sounded intriguing.  The synopsis sounded good.  The characters sounded interesting.  Instead, I was left completely underwhelmed by this novel.  I think what made me most angry was the fact that I was continually comparing Krauss' writing to her husband, Jonathan Safran Foer, whom I absolutely love.  Her writing is very similar, but lacks the magic that he is able to impart.  It's like she was trying too hard...way too be extraordinary.  Unfortunately, for me, she fell below ordinary and landed in a giant pile of hair-pulling, eyes-watering, mind-numbing boredom.  Ouch.  I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone.  Sad business.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: A Review

I finally got around to reading Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo after having it for a long, long time and hearing so much about it.  I have yet to see the movie--either version--but they are both in my Netflix queue and I will watch them eventually.  Regardless, here's what I thought.

Tattoo brings the reader into the lives of several people; namely Michael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander.  Blomkvist, watching while his career falls into shambles, has been asked to write a family history for a well-known, aging Swedish industry tycoon, Henrik Vanger.  However, things are not what they seem.  What Vanger really wants is for Blomkvist to spend a year investigating the disappearance of his neice some forty years prior.  Through this seemingly impossible investigation, Blomkvist comes into contact with Lisbeth and the two form a rather tenuous working relationship (with some interesting perks).  Lisbeth, an accomplished hacker and ward of the state, is socially awkward, highly suspicious, and incredibly standoffish.  Needless to say, the two make an interesting, though efficient, team.  As they continue their investigation, new clues are unearthed, new suspects come to the forefront, revelations are made, and secrets are revealed.

To be honest, I've been putting this series off for a long time.  I've never been much of a fan of thrillers/suspense/whodunits/etc, but I finally broke down and started this book.  While it was a rather slow start, once I was about 100 pages in I couldn't put the damn thing down.  Larsson really does pull you in with his writing style and quick prose.  It's engaging and shocking at times, but totally worth it.  Plus, I really liked Lisbeth's character.  She's one that you root for and encourage through the horrific things that happen to her.  Blomkvist, on the otherhand, while likeable, probably isn't one of my favorite people.  Good read overall.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Why I Love...Book Recommended by Another

It's Wednesday...evening.  Oops!'s installation of Why I Love concerns book recommendations.  While I seem to be the main book recommender (huh?) in my circle, I have had two books recommended to me by a friend, and I have to say that I fell in love with both.  I was surprised by this because I don't tend to like what everyone else likes or go with the mainstream.  Regardless, these were the books:
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski:  I absolutely loved, loved, loved this book...times a million.  I remember seeing a synopsis of this book (before it became part of Oprah's Book Club) and thinking to myself..."Self, that sounds really good."  Alas, I forgot about it.  Of course.  Then a year or so later, my friend says "Hey, I have this book you should read.  I think you'll like it."  And that's how Edgar and his amazing self came into my life.  The book is about Edgar Sawtelle (ironic, right?), his family, and their dog breeding farm.  But it's not any ordinary farm and Edgar is not your ordinary boy.  He's mute, speaks only in signs, and has an otherworldly connection with the dogs his family trains.  Events transpire, seasons turn harsh, and unexpected trials are placed upon the family.  It's excellent.  If you choose to read this, keep Shakespeare's Hamlet in the back of your mind ;)

And the second book in this spouting of love...
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini:  I recently finished this book, given to me by the same friend who gave me Edgar, and loved it as well.  Suns follows the turbulent thirty years of Afghanistan as the Soviet regime was overthrown and the Taliban took over.  Placed in this setting are two generations of women who must cope with the upheaval on the national level, as well as huge upheaval and heartbreaking circumstances in their personal lives.  It's a beautiful story about the strengths of women, love, and perseverance.  A great book.  My full review will be coming soon :)

And that concludes this week's edition of Why I Love.  I'm sure I could think of a few more books that people have recommended and I've loved, but these were the first that came to mind.  Happy Wednesday everyone!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Teaser Tuesday...The Witness

Another Tuesday has reared it's head in my world again and we all know what that means:  Teaser!  This week's teaser comes from Nora Roberts' The Witness.  Thank you Aunt Gayle for lending it to me over the weekend :)  And without further ado, the teaser...

"Add guns, he thought, and a to-do could go from a scene to a ruckus to a bloodbath in a heartbeat" (424).

Hmmm...wonder what this one's going to be about?  Happy Tuesday all :)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Teaser Tuesday...The World According to Bertie

Today's teaser comes from Alexander McCall Smith's The World According to Bertie:

"Some books, of course, were destined not to be read, largely because of their unintelligibility to all except a very small number of people" (171).

I think we can all come up with a few books that would fit this description.  Happy Tuesday!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Why I Love...Favorite Series

Getting back into the swing of things has taken a bit of effort on my part.  It seems that, with everything going on outside of the blogging world, my poor blog has taken a tragic hit.  I've been so neglectful of consistent posting...though I do have several (perhaps ten or so) drafts in the works to be edited.  Wow.  So, to help aid my way back into consistent blogging, I'm participating in this week's edition of "Why I Love".  I've been participating in this blogging meme for a while now, but have missed weeks recently.  However, here's my attempt at getting back in the groove!  This week's topic is Favorite Series.

There are so many series that I absolutely love.  The Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, Harry Potter by JK Rowling, Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan...and on and on.  But I'm not going to talk about any of those, mainly because I've written about every single one of them in some capacity; especially Harry Potter.  Instead I'm going to explain why I absolutely love Alexander McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street series.

First, the characters are eccentrically awesome!  There are a multitude of characters who force you to either love them, hate them, or feel ambivalent toward them.  These characters range from Bertie, the six year old saxophone and Italian prodigy who just wants to play with boys his age, to Bruce, the egotistical man-whore who thinks everyone (EVERYONE) worships the ground that he walks on and that he can do no wrong, from Domenica, the elderly world-traveler who is always looking for new adventures, to Angus, a portrait painter and friend of Domenica who wants their relationship to go a bit further, from Cyril, the overly-intelligent and human-like dog with a gold tooth owned by Angus, to Big Lou, the owner of a local coffee bar who is more sensitive than she lets on and who offers great advice to others.  Plus a ton of others who stand out and make an impact on these characters.

Second, the chapters are incredibly short.  Because this series was originally written as a serial column in The Scotsman newspaper (much like Dickens when he first started), the length of the chapters had to fit within a finite space.  This makes any book in 44 an ideal book to carry with you and read when you  have a little time to kill.

Third, because of the short chapters, these books are quick reads and always have fresh hijinks for the characters to partake in.  In addition, Smith is constantly bringing new characters in and phasing characters out...only to bring them back later in an unexpected way.  They're so much fun!

I'm so glad that my friend Mandy introduced me to this series.  Not only do they remind me of her, but they remind me of Edinburgh.  I can walk through the cobbled streets along with the many characters.  I can experience the feel of the city just as they are.  It's magical.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey: A Review

E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey has become quite the hot little ticket in the "literary" world (I use that term loosely); especially when it comes to the leanings of suburban housewives and whatnot.  While I did put off reading this book for a bit, I finally caved to the pressure and bought the whole damn trilogy.

Grey follows the developing relationship between recently graduated English major Anastasia Steele and Seattle business tycoon Christian Grey.  Anastasia soon becomes completely mesmerized by Christian, as does every single other woman who comes in contact with him, though she tries desperately to keep her distance from Christian and the intense feelings he has for her.  As the two get to know each other, revelations about Christian and his...preferences...are revealed to both Anastasia and the reader.  Soon the two embark on a rather erotic, passionate, and very physical affair.

I must be honest in my opinion; it was a quick, engaging, and jaw-dropping read!  At times I was really enjoying the storyline and at other times I would be asking myself "how is this relevant?  how did I get sucked into this?"  One major aspect that turned me off was the first person narrative that James uses to tell the story.  While I understand why this was the chosen mode of communication, I've never been a big fan of first person, present narratives.  Regardless, I was able to look past this and voraciously read the book.  It's quite good (though at times shockingly uncomfortable) and worth the read. 

In addition, there's speculation that they're adapting this book into a screenplay.  Universal has the rights.  The only rating this movie could ever walk away with would be an NC-17 or XXX.  Whoa.  Check it out!

Teaser Tuesday...PS, I Love You

I always swore that I would never, Never, NEVER read Cecilia Ahern's novel PS, I Love You.  Why so adamant, you might ask.  Well, let me tell you in two simple words:  Hilary Swank.  I haven't picked this book up because of the movie (which I've yet to see) because I can't stand Hilary Swank for some odd reason.  It's strange.  I don't mind her in Freedom Writers or even in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the original), but for some inexplicable reason there is something about her that grates on my nerves.  It's the same way my friend Margaret feels about Julia Roberts, whom I like a lot.  And another aspect of the film that grates...she's NOT American!!!  Ugh.  Screw you, Hollywood!

Anyway...while wandering through a bookstore in Portland, I came across a copy of PS that was not a movie promotion copy (I prefer the non-movie cover ones) and it was only two dollars.  And, being me, I caved and bought the damn thing.  I've loved everything by Cecilia Ahern, with the exception of The Book of Tomorrow (more on that later).  Why should this be any different...honestly?  So I've started it, am liking it (damn), and here's a teaser:

"Holly paused as she entered the door and took a deep breath.  She loved airports.  She loved the smell, she loved the noise, and she loved the whole atmosphere as people walked around happily tugging their luggage, looking forward to going on their holidays or heading back home.  She loved to see people arriving and being greeted with a big cheer by their families and she loved to watch them giving each other emotional hugs.  It was a perfect place for people-spotting.  The airport always gave her a feeling of anticipation in the pit of her stomach as though she were about to do something special and amazing" (224-225).

I know it's a rather long teaser, but I love it because it sums up exactly how I feel about airports.  The adventure they present.  The transitory nature of them.  It's fantastic!  Well done, Ms. Ahern, well done :)  Happy Tuesday everyone!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Why I Love...Guest Post

I'm a guest poster for Alexis over at Reflections of a Bookaholic today.  Today's topic for Why I Love Wednesday is Favorite Book Worlds.  Check it out!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Teaser Tuesday...The Promised World

Today's teaser comes from one of my many Dollar Tree finds:  Lisa Tucker's The Promised World.  I'm nearly 150 pages into it and it's been  good so far.  Verdict's still out on overall opinion.  Regardless, here's a teaser:

"She paused.  'I suppose I sound too excited.  I'm a great believer in stories.  I used to tell Billy I was afraid we loved stories more than real life, but he said, 'What is life but a story we don't know the meaning of yet?'"" (10).

This excerpt is pretty spot on with my approach to stories and books; they are like real life (kind of...sort of).  I mean, who doesn't want to be a student at Hogwart's or roam the halls of Tara or befriend Boo Radley?  Happy Tuesday!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Teaser Tuesday...A Thousand Splendid Suns

I borrowed Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns over a year ago from a dear friend and am finally getting around to reading (it was in storage for about a year due to a house fire...yeah).  I've yet to read The Kite Runner, or see the movie, but it's on my list; my ever growing list.  Regardless, so far I'm loving this's a teaser:

"Maybe it was senseless to want to be near a person so badly here in a country where bullets had shredded her own brothers to pieces.  But all Laila had to do was picture Tariq going at Khadim with his leg and then nothing in the world seemed more sensible to her" (153).

Definitely worth the read...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Teaser Tuesday...Repetitive Boyfriends

I'm halfway through with the dreaded week of finals; I still have a stack of final essays to grade and one department grading session to complete this week before I can sign off for a much needed week long break, but it's finally starting to wind down.  Added to the chaos that is final's week, the Euro Cup started a few days ago and I have watched every game (even if I had to DVR it and watch it later).  Naturally this takes time away from grading essays (whoops) and posting reviews.  However, this is a necessary evil because I LOVE the Euro Cup and football/soccer in general, as I stated in a previous post

But that's beside the point.  It's Tuesday and that means one thing: teaser time!  I've picked up a quick read because I'm behind on my GoodReads 2012 Challenge quota and I'm trying desperately to get caught back up.  So today's teaser comes from Nora Roberts' The Last Boyfriend.  It's the second in the Inn BoonsBoro series and just came out. 

"He did his best to keep it light, but something had shifted between them with her words.  And he understood she felt it, too" (311).

Ah man, I love Nora...even though she's predictable and formulaic.  What a nice way to end final's week!  And here's to my team in the Cup...DEUTSCHLAND!!!!! 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Teaser T uesday...Hornets are Nasty Little Buggers

I've still not written a review for Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo...or The Girl who Played with Fire, both of which I've finished.  I promise I'll get to it.  Despite that, here's a teaser from the third and final book in the series, The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest:

"Then he cut away the bandage that the emergency team had wrapped around her skull.  He froze when he saw another entry wound.  The woman had been shot in the head, and there was no exit wound there either" (6)

I'm only about 100 pages into this book, but I'm enjoying it so far :)  Happy Tuesday all!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Between Shades of Gray

Sometimes a book comes along that has something special to it.  That spark or element that makes you fall in love with it and hope that it never ends.  Ruta Sepetys' Between Shades of Gray was one of those books for me.  I randomly picked this book up at Wal-Mart (it was cheap and sounded good) and I'm so glad that I did because I don't know if I'd have picked it up anywhere else...or even remembered that I read the back of it. 

Gray follows the story of Lina and her family as they try to survive the terrible effects of WWII; including deportation, harrowing traveling experiences, Soviet labor camps, Siberia and the Arctic Cirlce, cruel winters, and even crueler captors.  What ensues is one girl's struggle to survive despite all odds.  Through all of this, she is able to take solace in her art; the one thing that her captors cannot take from her.  With her art, Lina is able to document the atrocities that befall her and her fellow captives at the hands of the Soviets, the passing of time, and other milestones that happen to her and her makeshift family.  Despite the dangers and possible punishments that her continued drawing might provoke, Lina remains steadfast in her documentation in hopes that some of her work will find its way to the prisoners of war camp where her father is being held.

Gray covers several thousand miles and a multiple number of years in Lina's life.  Each is important and each strenthens Lina's resolve to survive.  Yes, there are heartbreaking losses that she suffers; it wouldn't have been as believable if these losses didn't occur.  Sepetys does a beautiful job of portraying how this often overlooked portion of captives (Lithuanians) suffered at the hands of the Soviets.  She delves into the psyche and completely fleshes out her characters.  It's a wonderful book that I could not recommend more.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Peculiar Children = Peculiar Story

I know I finished Ransom Riggs' Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children quite a while ago, but I just haven't had the time (or inclination) to write a review, or any review for that matter.  So, instead of grading the ever growing pile of essays on my desk, I figured I'd at least get one review, this one, out of the way!

Peregrine follows the adventures of Jacob and his search into his grandfather's past.  After the untimely death (murder?!) of his grandfather, Jacob sets off to discover who his grandfather really was.  This leads him to a small island off the coast of Great Britain.  While there, he discovers that the orphanage his grandfather lived in during the war had been partially destroyed in 1943.  However, he soon stumbles upon a vortex of sorts that takes him back to the island during WWII and the home his grandfather resided in with other "displaced" children.  This vortex allows Jacob, and those he encounters, to inhabit both the present and the past.  Unfortunately there are a select few who wish to wreak havoc for those who live in the vortex.  Jacob has, unwittingly, led those creatures right to the vortex and this causes catastrophic damage for the children of the past.  Through all of this, Jacob discovers who his grandfather really was and some pretty interesting things about himself, too.

This was a combination of Percy Jackson meets time travel meets sci-fi meets historical fiction meets photography fiction.  It's a big mash-up that, sadly, falls short of its goal.  While I did find it entertaining at times, I felt that it was trying too hard to be something bigger than it was and trying to accomplish something that others have done better; WG Sebald's Austerlitz comes to mind in terms of history/photographic fiction.  The photographs, though a nice touch, were almost distracting in a way.  Also, I found that Jacob's dialogue was incompatible to his age.  At the beginning it was very lofty, but it deteriorated the further the book progressed.  It was strange.  Rigg's did leave the ending open for a sequel...we'll see if it happens.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Why I Love...Katniss Everdeen

Today's topic for "Why I Love Wednesday" is one that I can write about forever...Favorite Character.  There are so many characters that I've fallen in love with in all of my reading adventures.  Of course the majority of them come from Harry Potter (naturally), but I have loved others:  Liesel Meminger from The Book Thief, Charlotte Doyle from The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Bertie from 44 Scotland Street, Joe Morelli from the Stephanie Plum series, Minnie from The Help, Edgar Sawtelle from The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, Fitzwilliam Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, John Thornton from North and South, and on and on and on...honestly.

But for this post, I'm going with Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games trilogy.  Katniss is, for lack of a better word, a badass!  She shows what a true heroine should be.  While she starts in a place that some might consider a little selfish and contained, her character develops in such a beautiful way that she becomes something to be admired.  She loses a lot of her tough, though warranted, exterior and learns to adapt in unexpected situations.  Something that people should strive to emulate.  Without adaption, there is a lack of evolution (both personal and societal) and Katniss' character shows how change is possible.
Especially in a market of YA books that revolves around and relies heavily on vampires, werewolves, and other supernatural loves/aspects, Katniss presents teen girls, specifically, with a character they can look up to and learn something from.  Instead of presenting readers with a girl whose life soon revolves around her often controlling love interest, Collins has given the world a true female heroine.  Someone who knows about sacrifice and perserverance.  Someone who alters her approach to life as the story progresses.  Someone who is brave, independent, admirable, courageous, and incredibly resourceful.  This is the type of character that young people should rally around.  Not a weak girl who is mesmerized by amber eyes and cold skin.*  Bravo and thank you, Suzanne Collins, for giving the world this character. 

*Though I must admit that I do enjoy the Twilight series and the like :)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Awards and Random Creativity

Thanks to Nick from Scattergun Scribblings for this Kreativ Blogger Award (my first blogging award)!  I encourage everyone to check out his blog.

And now for the rules to the Kreativ Blogger:
1.  Thank and link back to the person who presented you with the award.
2.  Answer the ten questions below.
3.  Share ten random facts/thoughts about yourself.
4.  Nominate seven worthy blogs for the Kreativ Blogger Award!

It's that simple! goes...

What is your favorite song?--It's incredibly difficult for me to choose one specific favorite song because I have such an eclectic taste in music (seriously).  But if I had to choose one (and someone was holding a gun to my head), I would probably"The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot" by Brand New...or..."Who's Cryin' Now" by Journey.  See, I can't even choose one with a gun pointed at me!  Pathetic.

What is your favorite dessert?--Mmmmm dessert!  I love love love love love pumpkin pie and cheesecake.  So, when you put them together, what do you get?  Pumpkin Cheesecake!  The greatest invention on the planet.  If you've never had pumpkin cheesecake, I highly recommend getting a slice...or an entire pie.  Yeah, it's that good.  Yum.

What ticks you off?--People who don't close doors or cupboards or closets.  When people don't put the caps back on shampoo/conditioner bottles or toothpaste.  When the lid to the toilet is left up (not the seat...the lid).  Bad drivers.  Inconsiderate people.  I'm going to stop now :)

When you're upset what do you do?
--I read or listen to music or drink coffee.  Ideally, I go to a coffee shop and get a coffee while listening to some music and reading.

Which is/was your favorite pet?
--My favorite pet was definitely my cat, Callie.  She was a beautiful calico (not a tortouise calico) and was nuts.  She liked to lay in the bathtub after someone took a shower.  She liked to lick lotion off your legs.  She had crazy eyes at night and would tear through the house like her tail was on fire.  She was a great cat.

Which do you prefer to wear, black or white?
--Black, hands down.  I tend to wear it all the time.

What is your biggest fear?
--Losing family members too soon.  My dearest and longest friendship (going on 20 years so far) just lost her dad at the end of April.  It was unexpected and it's been really rough.

What is your attitude mostly?
--Done.  I am ready for the week to be over and I'm ready to go home for the day.  Luckily it pretty much is and I can :)

What is perfection?
--A warm gun.  No, wait.  That's happiness.  Perfection is being with family and friends, laughter, good food, good drinks, exploration, travel, books, and an amazing cup of coffee!

What is your guilty pleasure?
--Romance novels.  They're predicatable and they're always going to end happily.  Sometimes you need something like that.  I also have an irrational love for shoes.

And now on to ten random things...hmm...
1.  I am convinced that ghosts exist.  Aliens, too, for that matter.  I've never been abducted by aliens (that I know of) and I've never actually seen a ghost, but that doesn't mean they're not there!!!
2.  Clowns are the most terrifying thing in the world.  Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, smiles all the time like that.  Plus, have you ever seen Killer Klowns from Outer Space?  Well, I have and I was way too young.  Fear instilled.
3.  I have every intention of exercising regularly, but I rarely capitalize on it.
4.  When I was eleven and going into the sixth grade, I decided to shave the bottom half of my head.  Haha.  Yeah, I had long hair on the top half and a buzz cut underneath (about 4 inches all the way around).  I thought I was so cool.  Also, I think I wore shorts every single day that year.  I live in Oregon.  It rains a lot.  It's cold 8-10 months out of the year.  How I didn't die of hypothermia is beyond me.
5.  I dislike large dogs, but if I ever got a dog it would be a large one.  Explain that!
6.  I still listen to and love New Kids on the Block.  I cherished my NKOTB sheets and lunch box when I was younger.  They were uh-mazing :)
7.  I love the rain.  The smell.  The taste.  The feel.  The sound.  Everything about it.  I would prefer it to be raining than sunny.
8.  If I could afford to be a student for the rest of my life, I would go back to college in a heartbeat.  I love that atmosphere and, honestly, I really enjoy writing research papers.  I'm strange like that.
9.  I had every intention of starting a neighborhood library in my playroom when I was younger.  I was convinced that the kids in my neighborhood (mainly boys, mind you) would love to read my Babysitters Club  and Sweet Valley High collections.
10.  I used to play school with my sister when we were kids (I'm two years older) and make her do the same things I was doing for my grade level.  I think that's why she did so well in school.  You're welcome, Sarah!

And now I will pass this award on to:
1.  Bianca
2.  Kelly
3.  Daft Lass
4.  Mandy
5.  Alexis
6.  Pish Posh
7.  Kori

Have a lovely weekend everyone and thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Teaser Tuesday...Fifty Shades of a Little More Whoa!

So last week I posted a teaser for E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey and I quickly plowed through that book.  I'm nearly 300 pages into the second one, but here's a teaser anyway!

"He smirks.  He's trying to put me off my game, the bastard.  He pulls his cream sweater over his head, tosses it onto the back of a chair, and grins at me, as he saunters over to take his first shot" (238).

Hot damn...that's probably the sexiest game of pool I've ever read.  I'd play a game of pool with this guy!  Happy Tuesday everyone :)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Teaser Tuesday...Fifty Shades of Whoa!

Needless to say, I have been a big time slacker in posting my reviews and whatnot.  I have three books that I've finished and need to write reviews for and I'm about finished with another book.  It's that time of the term (damn you midterms and essays that have to be graded in a "timely" manner), and it's been a busy one.  However, despite those necessary distractions, I've still been able to keep up on my reading.  Because of that, I give you today's teaser from E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey:

"'Ana, there's something about him.'  Her tone is full of warning.  'He's gorgeous, I agree, but I think he's dangerous.  Especially for someone like you.'
'What do you mean, someone like me?' I demand, affronted.
'An innocent like you, Ana.  You know what I mean,' she says a little irritated.  I flush" (39).

Oh man oh man, I've been hearing a lot about this book.  A lot of racy stuff and a lot of good stuff!  In fact, one of my dearest friends, who has never been a huge reader, called me last week and asked if I had read it yet...then proceeded to DEMAND that I read it immediately so she could talk to someone closer to her age about it (her co-worker is in her 40s and is the only other person who's read it in her circle).  I've got about fifty pages left of the book I'm working on and then it's time to dive in to another trilogy.  Happy Tuesday everyone :)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Why I Love...the Anti-Hero

Today's topic for Why I Love Wednesday is Favorite Heroes...well, I'm taking this in a different way and declaring my love for the Anti-Hero.  Anti-Heroes are generally the underdog of the story or the "hero-in-hiding" and seeing them triumph in one way or another is always one of my favorite aspects in a story.  So, here's to the Anti-Heroes!

My most loved anti-hero is, hands down, Severus Snape.  Many would argue that he is not worthy of being considered a hero, but I would beg to differ...heatedly.  He's loyal to a fault and completely constant in his treatment toward others.  These aspects alone garner him hero status in my book.  But if someone needs more convicing, simply look at how he sacrifices himself on countless occassions: with Draco, with Harry, with Dumbledore, and, ultimately, with his own life.  Here's your medal, Professor!
Another hero who falls under the anti status would be Death from The Book Thief.  Death being considered a hero?  Huh?!  That's right people.  Death's role in this book is, fittingly, to bear souls to the next realm.  But what makes him a hero is the way in which he does that.  He's a champion of order and progression, a direct reverse to the action of the story and its WWII setting.  He's caring and concerned.  Ultimately, Death is the gentlest "soul" in the entire story.
Two other heroes in my world would be Minny and Aibileen from The Help.  While they may be a more typical hero, they are subtle about their triumph and that makes it even more gorgeous.  In addition, their triumph comes at a significant price.  Beautiful.
Whatever way you define the term hero, there are always deviations from the rule.  These are a few of my takes on what it means to be a hero.  It's a fitting topic for my week, that's for sure.  Enjoy this Wednesday everyone :-)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Teaser Tuesday...Love's Got a Back Story

It's Tuesday...and that means it's teaser time.  This week's excerpt comes from Nicole Krauss' The History of Love.  This book was the one I received to distribute as a book giver for World Book Night US, a great organization to promote literacy and a love of reading.  I thought it sounded like a wonderful story, so I picked up a copy for myself.

"The moment had passed, the door between the lives we could have led and the lives we led had shut in our faces.  Or better to say, in my face.  Grammar of my life:  as a rule of thumb, wherever there appears to be a plural, correct for singular.  Should I ever let slip a royal We, put me out of my misery with a swift blow to the head" (86).
This book sounds promising and I'm looking forward to reading it.  Hopefully it will be the light at the end of an otherwise dark and incredibly sad week...

Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for Zoos

Well, we've done it fellow A-Zers; completed the A-Z Blogging Challenge and done so with style.  I stumbled upon so many wonderful blogs throughout this month and want to thank everyone who checked mine out.  Thank you for sharing your insights and thoughts with me and for allowing me to do the same.  And now for the last letter in this wonderful challenge....Z...
There is something magical about zoos.  No matter how old you are, a zoo brings you right back to your childhood and fills you with this incredible sense of wonder.  Perhaps it has to do with the fact that you're looking at animals that you normally don't see walking down the street.  Whatever it is, I think that going to zoos should become more of a regular activity in our lives.  This can be accomplished relatively inexpensively in some places.  For instance, the Oregon Zoo is free for every visitor on Tuesday.  Granted, Tuesdays are not the most convenient, but it's a start.  They also put on concerts in the zoo during the summer and have a month-long event in December called "Zoo Lights" where they decorate the entire zoo with Christmas lights.
The last time I went to a zoo was in 2007 in Vienna.  The Vienna Zoo, located at the Schoenbrunn Palace, is a pretty amazing zoo.  Voted the best European zoo in 2010, the Vienna Zoo is incorporated in a corner of the vast gardens at the palace.  It's such an amazing place.  The funniest part to me, being from the Northwest, was that the very first exhibit was an enclosure of Northwest Nutria.  What!?!  I laughed so hard when I saw that because you can walk anywhere in the Willamette Valley and find a nutria along the creeks and rivers.  It was funny to see that they warranted an exhibit in a zoo.  Regardless, there is such an amazing collection of animals at the Vienna Zoo and wandering through the grounds with a delicious cone of eis is the perfect way to cap off a tour of the Palace and extensive gardens.  Visit if you can!
Happy Monday :-)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y is for "You are Calm and Reposed"

You are calm and reposed...

"You are calm and reposed / Let your beauty unfold / Pale white, like the skin stretched over your bones / Spring keeps you ever close / You are second-hand smoke / You are so fragile and thin, standing trial for your sins / Holding on to yourself the best you can / You are the smell before rain / You are the blood in my veins"

These are my all-time favorite lyrics from Brand New's "The Boy who Blocked his Own Shot" off of their second album, Deja Entendu.  Soooooo good.  Definitely one of my most loved songs as well.  Check it out.
 Have a lovely Saturday everyone!

Friday, April 27, 2012

X is for "The X in My Name"

We're coming in to the homestrech of the A-Z Blogging Challenge and it's time for one of the most difficult letters of the alphabet...that pesky X.  Here's my solution:

The X in My Name (1993)
the poor
of my illiterate
and peasant
giving away
all rights
in a deceiving
contract for life

Francisco X. Alarcon...brilliant.
An interview with Fransisco X. Alarcon for Colorin Colorado where he discusses
his cultural heritage and how it shaped his poetry.  It's long, but good.

TGIF fellow A-Zers...remember whe that was good television?! 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is for World Competitions

World Competitions

I like big sporting competitions, especially those that bring together multiple nations and cultures.  There is something magical about them.  Some of my favorites are:

The World Cup (both men's and women's)
Oh man, oh man, oh man...the World Cup is a party in my world.  As I stated in a previous post, I am a huge, huge, huge soccer fan and this competition is one of my all-time favorites.  Everything from the qualifiers to the championship game, I'm down with.  I'm able to cheer on the good ole USA (though the men's team hardly make it as far as I want them to) and my favorite team, Germany.  Good deal!  When it comes to the Women's World Cup...USA all the way!  Next one...Brazil 2014!
The Euro Cup
Definitely along the same lines as the above, but this competition is awesome all on its own.  It fuses my love of Europe with soccer.  Word.  Again, my lovely German national team is always in it for the win...and Spain.  I do like Spain.  Next one...Poland/Ukraine 2012...say what!
Six Nations Rugby
I was first introduced to Six Nations in 2008 and I fell hard.  Rugby is crazy!  It's insane how that game is played.  I think what made me really love it was the fact that the tournament was being held in Edinburgh when I was living there.  The visiting team's fans were EVERYWHERE and extremely vocal.  While I did cheer on Scotland with a vengeance, I must say that I am a Wales fan...
The Olympics (both Summer and Winter)
I'm an avid fan of the Olympics in general, but the Summer Olympics is where it's at.  While I do enjoy several of the Winter events (ice skating, snowboarding, skiing, etc.), there is so much more to offer in the Summer Olympics.  I love the opening ceremonies!  I love gymnastics!  I love swimming!  I love diving!  I love track!  And there's soccer!!  I guess you could say I love it all.  Ha.  Needless to say I'm super excited for this summer and London 2012!
It's nearly Friday, fellow A-Zers!!  Rejoice!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for Vienna

Vienna, Austria
Oh Vienna, land of Mozart, Sachertorte, Kaesekraeners, and delicious Eis.  I spent an amazing year living in Vienna in 2006/2007 teaching English just north of the city in Klosterneuburg.  The school I taught in specialized in wine production and vineyards...sweet deal!  Needless to say I learned a lot about wine and was even able to sample some of the bottles my students helped to cultivate.  Pretty awesome.  While living in the city (right near the Suedbahnhof), I had the opportunity to explore a lot of things.  Here are just a few:
Schoenbrunn Palace from the Gloriette with a view of the city center behind.

The Reisenrad at the Prater (boardwalk).  Those are railway cars that rock.

The Gloriette behind Schoenbrunn Palace.

Belvedere Palace, now a museum, where Gustav Klimt's The Kiss is displayed.

The entrance of the school where I worked.
Courtney and I cooling down our gluewein at a Christkindlmarkt.

St. Marx Cemetery where Mozart is buried.

Hundertwasser paint job.

Life Ball 2007...beware of the nudity!

Wine tasting with friends and students.

Jewish section of the Zentralfriedhof.
 Blog on fellow A-Zers.  We're nearing the end :)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Teaser Tuesday...In the Between

Though I'm still reading Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I have picked up a read to break the heftiness of it up.  Something that can be plowed through quickly and that I can easily read between spurts of Tattoo.  That book is Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys.  I found this, randomly, at Wal-Mart (I know, I know) on the cheap.  It sounded good, so I picked it up and here you go:

"Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth?  That morning, my brother's was worth a pocket watch" (27).
This looks like a pretty good read to me and it's been decent so far.  Fingers crossed that it continues to be so.  Happy Tuesday everyone!

U is for Utopia


I've always meant to read Thomas More's Utopia...pretty much since I watch Ever After starring Drew Barrymore and Anjelica Huston (I love that movie despite Barrymore's atrocious British accent and the fact that everyone has a British accent yet it's set in France).  Recently I found an extremely inexpensive copy of the book and am bound and determined to start is soon.  Here's hoping it's sooner rather than later.
Take a peak at the trailer for the movie...good stuff.  Have a terrific day everyone!

Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for Traveling

Holy moly do I love
I've always liked the idea of discovering new places, but have hated the actual means of getting there.  It could have been due to the fact that I had a tendency to get car sick if I wasn't sitting in the front seat.  This was true when I was a child because we ALWAYS drove whenever we went on vacation;  Disneyland...Vegas...Seattle...anyplace within pseudo driving distance.  Once I entered college I decided to branch out in my traveling repertoire.  I had been on a plane once when I was fourteen.  It was a two hour flight to Vegas.  Who goes to Vegas when they're fourteen?!?  For spring break of 2003, my friend Dani and I decided that we were going to go somewhere crazy.  Cue Japan.  That's right...Japan.  Going from a two hour flight to a seventeen hour flight...BIG DIFFERENCE!  It's a long, exhausting flight from Portland, Oregon to Okinawa, Japan, but it was one of the best vacations ever.  Seeing such a different culture was amazing and it only fueled my desire to experience more.
The following year Dani and I decided to keep it a little more local, so we headed south on a road trip to the Redwood National Forest, San Fransisco, San Jose, Monterey, and Carmel, California along the Pacific Coast Highway.  The weather was beautiful and it was great to get out on the road and away from campus for a week.  We took another road trip the following year (our last in college) and headed north.  This time hitting up Seattle, Washington and Victoria, British Colombia.  Yet another great trip.
Once I graduated from college I headed over to Vienna, Austria for a teaching job.  That's when I got a lot of traveling under my belt.  It's so cheap to get around in Europe!  Honestly, I feel like I left a huge portion of my heart in several places there and would move back in a heartbeat if the opportunity arose.  Here's a few pictures from those trips.  Enjoy!
Nationalbibliothek...Vienna, Austria.  Oh the books!

Bratislava, square

Krakow, square and Easter Market

Oswiecm, Poland...Auschwitz Concentration Camp

Prague, Czech Republic...Castle on the hill.

Venice, Italy during Carnival

Salzburg, Austria...fortress

London, England...Parliament

Dublin, Ireland...O'Connell Street

Munich, Germany...Hofbrauhaus...delicious liters of beer!
 Thus concludes an extremely brief trip to the major cities I've visited.  Now I can honestly say that I don't get travel sick and I actually love flying on airplanes...despite the cramped space.  Thank goodness I'm short and don't tend to have problems with leg room.  Have a lovely evening fellow A-Zers and everyone else :)