Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

Wishing you a year of happiness, prosperity, and good reading!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (131)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

 Books read:

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

I've been wanting to read this book for awhile so I finally got around to it over my Christmas vacation.  I liked it more than Garden Spells. Now I just need to read The Sugar Queen.

Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson

I've had Suite Scarlett on my TBR pile for a few years so I was happy to finally make time to read it this past week. I liked the quirky characters, especially the Martin family. Not sure if I will read the sequel yet.

Cinders and Sapphires by Leila Rasheed

This book won't be published till January but I was fortunate enough to get an e-ARC. I was worried that I wouldn't like it but it was pretty good and I liked the Downton Abbey vibe. 

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

I am so glad I was able to finish this book before the end of the year. I loved Divergent and thought Insurgent was a good sequel. There were definitely some surprises I didn't see coming. Can't wait for book 3!

Books reviewed:

The Fire Chronicle by John Stephens
Reached by Ally Condie

Currently reading:

Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson

After reading a suspenseful and dark book like Insurgent I decided I wanted something lighter like this Regency romance to finish out the year. 

What I plan to read next:

Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger

So far, this is the book I plan to read first in 2013. I loved the Parasol Protectorate series and look forward to seeing what Gail Carriger does with her YA debut.

Scent of Magic by Maria V. Snyder

I am debating rereading Touch of Power before I tackle this book as I don't remember some of the details that might be important.

Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst

After seeing this on a number of "Best of 2012" lists, I was reminded that I still need to read Vessel. I hope to read it sometime in January.

Star Wars: Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn

I think this sounds like a fun book with some favorite Star Wars characters. I don't want to get to the heavier reading I have planned till February maybe...

What book do you plan to start the new year with?
Happy New Year and Happy Reading!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Review: Reached

By Ally Condie
Published: November 13, 2012

My review:

Cassia has received her final work assignment that sends her back to the heart of The Society to help bring it down from within. Ky has joined the resistance and is working as a ship pilot with Indie and Xander is an Official involved with vaccinations. Even as the Rising seeks to overthrow The Society, a deadly plague begins to spread...

Reached is the long awaited finale to the Matched trilogy. I loved the first book and liked Crossed but though I enjoyed the writing style of Reached, I was disappointed with how the story concluded. I expected something with more impact. Rather than a more explosive finale, it is a quiet and thoughtful book. I suppose I should not have expected anything else given the tone of the first two books. 

What did work was the symbolism, the writing style, and the addition of Xander as a narrator. Each book focuses on a different color and a different pill (the Society makes the citizens carry pills in green, blue, and red). This book as suggested by the cover, focuses on the red pill and the things that have been forgotten. Art and poetry and the act of creating art are also themes that have been prevalent across the series. I liked how Cassia finds a way to share art and its importance with others in the midst of their pain and fear.  Something else that I appreciated was the discussion of what would happen if a coup took place. How would things change and what would stay the same? What would life be like without the Society in charge? I liked that these ideas were explored even if not to my satisfaction.

It was interesting to read parts of the story from Xander's perspective and to see how he fit into the picture. Just like Ky and Cassia, Xander can be poetic too which didn't really fit his characterization from the other books. I expected him to be more matter-of-fact.

There are some surprises in the story but nothing earth-shattering. I think the missing ingredient in this book is passion. Not necessarily romantic passion between Cassia and Ky (though that would have been nice to see) but passionate emotions from the characters reacting to what happens or showing some excitement or rage. I almost wish Indie had been a narrator because then we might have seen more of that deeper feeling or action even. In the end though I liked the book I felt a little let down because I was expecting more. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

2012 Downton Abbey Reading Challenge Wrap Up

If you completed the 2012 Downton Abbey Reading Challenge, please leave a link to your wrap up post in the Linky below to be entered to win your choice of book worth up to $10.

(Also don't forget to link up your reviews here to enter the prize drawing for a book worth up to $15)

The deadline is January 31st, 2012 at 11:59 PM EST! 

Please link directly to your wrap up post or list of books read for the challenge  

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Review: The Fire Chronicle

The Fire Chronicle
By John Stephens
Published: October 9, 2012

My review:

In this sequel to The Emerald Atlas, siblings Kate, Michael, and Emma are once again in danger from the evil Dire Magnus. Kate ends up accidentally traveling back in time to 19th Century New York and Michael and Emma head to Antarctica on their quest to find the second of the Books of Beginning before the Dire Magnus can reach them. 

The Fire Chronicle more than lives up to The Emerald Atlas as an adventure/fantasy. We are introduced to some intriguing new characters and get to know Kate, Michael, and Emma better. I liked Michael much more in this book as he has a chance to become more of a leader and make up for his mistakes in the first book. We also find out more about the magical world, the Books, and the prophecy. 

There is plenty of action and some humor as well, mostly from Michael and Emma and their sibling rivalry. There is even a slight hint of possible romance for Kate this time around though it is definitely not a focus. What I really enjoyed was the closeness of the family and the bravery they showed in some frightening and sad circumstances. The book ends with something of a cliffhanger and I can't wait to find out what happens in book 3.

At times the story reminds me of something familiar like an Indiana Jones film which is no surprise considering the author's background as a screenwriter. I would love to see this series adapted for film though I'd worry that Hollywood would screw it up and dilute the positive messages about family, loyalty, and courage that pervade the story.  The series may be aimed at tweens and young teens but I think adults who like The Chronicles of Narnia, Inkheart, or other similar juvenile fantasy might like it too.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I'm taking a break from blogging while I'm visiting family for the holidays. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and I will be back soon!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Homemade Gift Ideas, Part 3

Last week I posted homemade gift ideas like the ruffled T-shirt scarf and tile coasters and yesterday I shared how to make homemade hot cocoa and chocolate covered spoons.

If you still need some last minute gift ideas for friends and family, here are some more gifts from the kitchen that you can make with things you may already have on hand in the pantry.

The first video shows how to make an all-purpose spice rub which might be a great gift for those who enjoy cooking. The second video shows how to make Reindeer Feed Chex Mix, which in addition to being a nice gift would also be fantastic to have at parties (it is very addictive!). The third video shows you how to make graham cracker bark (just graham crackers, melted chocolate, and crushed up candy cane!) a nice alternative for the traditional cookie plate.

You can also find some more homemade gift ideas on my Pinterest board

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Homemade Gift Ideas, Part 2

I can't believe there is less than a week till Christmas! This holiday season has just flown by.

Last week, I posted some ideas for homemade gifts and today I am going to share some more ideas for homemade gifts-from the kitchen. If (unlike me) you have your holiday shopping all wrapped up, these are also great ideas for parties, or just to feed your family for fun :)

The first video shows you how to make homemade hot cocoa mix. I love this mix and when I make it for others, I like to make a jar for myself too :)

The second video will show you how to make some chocolate dipped spoons that would go perfectly with the hot cocoa mix (or with coffee).

You can find more gift ideas on my Pinterest board, Gift Basket and Gift Ideas

Happy Holidays! Be sure to check back for my final homemade gift ideas later today! 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Top Ten Books Read in 2012

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. There is a new subject each week and this week's topic is "Top Ten Books I Read in 2012"

My lists are in no particular order and the links go to my reviews.

Top Ten YA Books (so far-still have almost two weeks to read Insurgent!):

1. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
2. Cinder by Marissa Meyer
3. How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr
4. Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
5. The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson
6. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
7. Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter
8. The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan
9. Smart Girls Get What They Want by Sarah Strohmeyer
10. For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

Top Juvenile/MG books (I've only read two but they were both excellent):

1. The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy
2. The Fire Chronicle by John Stephens

Top Ten Books for Adults (so far):

1. The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani
2. Little Princes by Conor Grennan
3. Home Front by Kristin Hannah
4. Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron
5. The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman
6. Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder
7. Spring Fever by Mary Kay Andrews
8. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
9. The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley
10. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Sunday, December 16, 2012

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (130)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

I can't believe how quickly this month is flying by! I'm so behind in Christmas preparations. I still have to get some gifts and I've only sent out two Christmas cards. Earlier this week, I shared some homemade gift ideas if you are in need of inspiration.

Books read:

Reached by Ally Condie

I still liked this book but it was not as good as it should have been for a series finale. I think Matched is the best book in the series.

The Fire Chronicle by John Stephens

Now this is a good sequel! I really enjoyed this book and didn't think it fell victim to the second book in a series curse. There was plenty of action and twists. 

Books reviewed:

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

What I might read next:

Edenbrooke by Julie Donaldson

This regency romance kind of slipped under the radar for me and I first noticed it when it was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award for romance. It looks like a lighthearted story which is exactly what I need right now.

Star Wars: Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn

I don't think this is going to have the same feel that the Thrawn trilogy had but it sounds like a fun heist caper instead.

Scent of Magic by Maria V. Snyder

I loved Touch of Power and hope this sequel will live up to it. I usually enjoy Maria Snyder's blend of fantasy and romance.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Review: The Hobbit

The Hobbit
by J.R.R. Tolkien
Published: September 21, 1937 (first edition)

My review:

Bilbo Baggins is a Hobbit who enjoys his creature comforts and a quiet respectable life in the Shire. This all ends when he is payed a visit by the wizard Gandalf the Grey. Soon Bilbo's home is overflowing with dwarves and he finds himself agreeing to join them on their quest to reclaim their kingdom from an evil dragon. Along the way, Bilbo stumbles into all kinds of adventures and meets Gollum, a nasty creature who changes the course of Bilbo's life with a game of riddles...

The Hobbit is now considered a prequel to The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien later changed the story to match the events in The Lord of the Rings and how Bilbo came to find the ring in Gollum's cave. I loved The Lord of the Rings when I read it in 2001-2002 and I read it before I read The Hobbit. I think that is the reason that my expectations were not met the first time I read it in 2002. I was expecting a story more similar to The Lord of the Rings in tone, with an epic feel. Instead it is more lighthearted. I felt disappointed and decided that I didn't like the book. Well with the upcoming film adaptation by Peter Jackson, I thought it would be a good time to reread the story. This time, my reaction was quite different!

Ten years after my first reading, I was able to appreciate the story as it was. I loved the character of Bilbo Baggins and could relate to him perhaps better than I could relate to Frodo. Like Bilbo, I am a person who likes a quiet life and dreams of adventure from the safety of my home! I liked how Bilbo grew over the course of his adventure and became this unwitting hero. I also loved how Gandalf believed in him and saw what he was capable of. 

It was interesting to learn more about the dwarves of Middle Earth and their history. Thorin is something of a complex character. At times I admired him and at times I was annoyed with him, particularly his decisions that nearly led to war. 

I enjoyed the humor particularly from the scene with the trolls and I loved the scenes where Bilbo meets Gollum and they have the riddle contest. The story may not have the epic good vs. evil themes of The Lord of the Rings but there is still adventure to be found and some deeper meaning. The book explores the themes of greed, revenge, and holding onto the past as well as having courage and wisdom and stepping out of your comfort zone.

I look forward to rereading The Hobbit and getting more from the story with each reread and I look forward to rereading The Lord of the Rings and having a deeper appreciation for Bilbo Baggins and the dwarves.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Homemade Gift Ideas

At my library, I am in charge of creating programming for adults and one of our new initiatives is creating craft videos to post on YouTube and the library website. Along with my friend and coworker Kim, I started up DIY Crafts for the Uncrafty. Our December videos all feature homemade holiday gift ideas and I thought I'd share some with you. 

Neither of us are particularly crafty (we can't sew!) and these projects are easy to make. The first video shows you how to make the popular ruffled t-shirt scarf, the second one shows tile coasters, and the third one shows how to make sugared nuts in the crock pot. I hope you don't mind that this isn't a bookish post but it is related to libraries...

I also have a ton of gift ideas (homemade and store bought) on my Pinterest board: Gift Basket and Gift Ideas

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (113)

"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly meme to discuss upcoming books we can't wait to get our hands on. Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine  

This week, I'm waiting on:

Double Crossed by Ally Carter
Release date: January 22, 2013

Description from Goodreads:

Macey McHenry—Glamorous society girl or spy-in-training?

W.W. Hale V—Heir to an American dynasty or master thief?

There are two sides to every coin. Whether these two can work together is a tossup.

Born into privilege, Macey and Hale are experts at mingling with the upper class. But even if they’ve never raised an eyebrow at the glitz, neither teenager has ever felt at home with the glamour.

When Macey and Hale meet at a society gala, the party takes a dangerous turn. Suddenly they’re at the center of a hostage situation, and it’s up to them to stop the thugs from becoming hostile. Will Macey’s spy skills and Hale’s con-man ways be enough to outsmart a ruthless gang? Or will they have to seek out the ultimate inside girl to help?

The worlds of Heist Society and the Gallagher Girls collide in Ally Carter’s fast-paced, high-stakes and tantalizing new story. Get a behind the scenes glimpse as Ally delivers an irresistible thriller that is full of her signature style and savvy twists.

Hmm, a novella with both the Gallagher Girls and the Heist Society characters-sounds like a must read! Ally Carter is one of my favorite YA authors and I enjoy both of these series. Even better is that the novella is free! Sadly for those without e-readers who don't like to read on their computers, it is only available in e-book format but the story is probably worth reading on your computer anyway!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (129)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

I had a busy week and weekend so I only finished one book. I did have fun visiting my sister this weekend. I was there for a Christmas party and then on Sunday afternoon we went to see Breaking Dawn Part 2. She hadn't seen it yet and her verdict was that it was better than the book and she thought the twist really added to the movie. We are both reading the same book at the moment and I look forward to discussing Reached with her when we've both finished it.

This week I am really excited about watching The Hobbit. Are you planning to see it this week? 

Books read:

Crossed by Ally Condie (reread)

I think I liked this book more after rereading it. It still isn't as good as Matched but I think I got more out of it the second time around.

Books reviewed:

Princess Elizabeth's Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal

Currently reading:

Reached by Ally Condie

I am more than halfway through Reached and I like it so far. It reminds me of Mockingay a little bit.

What I plan to read next:

The Fire Chronicle by John Stephens

This sequel to The Emerald Atlas involves more adventure and magic with Kate time traveling 100 years in the past to New York City and Michael and Emma facing off against monsters and polar storms. Should be exciting!

The Walnut Tree by Charles Todd

I think this historical romance/mystery will be a nice break from the YA dystopian fiction and fantasy I've been reading lately. Plus it is subtitled as a "holiday tale" so it should be perfect for this time of year.

Star Wars: Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn

I loved Zahn's Thrawn Trilogy series which was set after The Return of the Jedi. This book is set in between Star Wars: A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. It is being described as an "Ocean's Eleven" heist adventure so it sounds like fun. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Review: Princess Elizabeth's Spy

Princess Elizabeth's Spy
By Susan Elia MacNeal
Published: October 16, 2012

My review:

In this sequel to Mr. Churchill's Secretary, Maggie Hope hopes to join MI-5 but unfortunately she is deemed unsuitable to be an operative in the field and instead she is assigned to find out who is involved in a plot against the Royal Family while posing as a math tutor to Princess Elizabeth.

While I liked Princess Elizabeth's Spy, it was primarily because I like the protagonist Maggie Hope and the historical time period. The ending also introduced some promising plot developments for the next book which I appreciated. Unfortunately the mystery in this book just did not live up to book one. It was easy to predict and I didn't find much to surprise me. I also thought the feel of the historical time period worked better in the first book with the start up of the air raids and the effects of that and rationing on the characters. I did find it interesting to learn about the young Princess Elizabeth and what her life in that time would have been like. I don't know how accurate the portrayal was of the Princesses or the King and Queen but I liked getting a behind the scenes look at their lives. I just wish the mystery was less predictable.

Still, in spite of its flaws, I liked the book. Maggie is an admirable character and in this book she is dealing with some difficult emotional circumstances in her personal life on top of career disappointment and trying to figure out who the spy is at Windsor Castle. While the main mystery disappointed me, I liked the twists in Maggie's personal life and the introduction of  some new characters. I am hopeful that book three, His Majesty's Hope will be a much better effort because this author is capable of writing a great historical mystery. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (112)

"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly meme to discuss upcoming books we can't wait to get our hands on. Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine  

This week, I'm waiting on:

Towering by Alex Flinn
Release date: May 14, 2013

Description from Goodreads:

At first, I merely saw his face, his hands on the window ledge. Then, his whole body as he swung himself through the window. Only I could not see what he swung on.
Until, one day, I told my dream self to look down. And it was then that I saw. He had climbed on a rope. I knew without asking that the rope had been one of my own tying.

Rachel is trapped in a tower, held hostage by a woman she’s always called Mama. Her golden hair is growing rapidly, and to pass the time, she watches the snow fall and sings songs from her childhood, hoping someone, anyone, will hear her. 

Wyatt needs time to reflect or, better yet, forget about what happened to his best friend, Tyler. That’s why he’s been shipped off to the Adirondacks in the dead of winter to live with the oldest lady in town. Either that, or no one he knows ever wants to see him again.

Dani disappeared seventeen years ago without a trace, but she left behind a journal that’s never been read, not even by her overbearing mother…until now. 

A #1 New York Times bestselling author, Alex Flinn knows her fairy tales, and Towering is her most mind-bending interpretation yet. Dark and mysterious, this reimagining of Rapunzel will have readers on the edge of their seats wondering where Alex will take them next!

I loved fairy tales retold and I enjoyed Beastly so I am looking forward to this modern retelling of Rapunzel.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. There is a new subject each week and this week's topic is "Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me".

Since I prefer reading my books on my Kindle, here are the books I'd buy if Santa brings me an Amazon gift card (yes I know I'm cheating by listing books that won't be published by Christmas but it is my list!):

The Indigo Spell by Richelle Mead

I own the other two books and would like to add this to my virtual shelf. Richelle Mead's books are fun to reread and I definitely want my own copy.

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

I loved Cinder and having read the 5 chapter sampler of Scarlet, I can tell that I will love this futuristic retelling of Little Red Riding Hood

A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin

I am looking forward to starting the second book in the Song of Ice and Fire saga but I know it is one I'll need to own. It will take me awhile to finish reading and I definitely need to read it as an e-book as it is over 700 pages!

Shades of Earth by Beth Revis

I haven't read book two yet (though it sits on my bookshelf) but I'll want to add book three to my collection.

Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter

I love Ally Carter's books and since I already own the first two books, I simply must have Perfect Scoundrels too!

The Chronicles of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes

This is a coffee table kind of book for fans of the show. I liked the first one (The World of Downton Abbey) and wouldn't mind having this one either.

Reached by Ally Condie

I currently have this book checked out from my library but I want a copy for my Kindle too. I like the author's writing style and the Kindle lets me underline my favorite passages without defacing a library book :)

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

I know this book will be on many people's lists for favorite books of 2012. I liked Daughter of Smoke and Bone enough to buy my own copy so I want to own this too.

Scent of Magic by Maria V. Snyder

I bough Touch of Power last year and read it earlier this year. I currently have a review copy of Scent of Magic but I'm pretty sure I'll want to own a finished copy also. 

Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson

I've heard really good things about this Regency romance novel. It even made it to the finals in the Goodreads Choice Awards for 2012 (it lost to Fifty Shades Freed-go figure).