Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

  • Release Date: July 10th 2012
  • Genre:  Essay Collection / Self Help
  • Hours: 9 hours and 41 minutes
  • Publisher: Random House Vintage
  • Triggers: Child abuse

Cheryl Strayed is probably best known for Wild, the story of her journey hiking the Pacific Crest  Trail, which kicked off Oprah's Book Club 2.0 and was recently released as a film with Reese Witherspoon. I feel like a couple years ago I heard her name sprinkled through every literary website and podcast I subscribed to, so when I saw this audio on Overdrive I checked it out.

The set up for this book takes some explaining. It's a collection of advice columns from when Strayed wrote an advice column on the culture website, The Rumpus under the pseudonym Dear Sugar. For each question he usually picks a story from her past to illuminate her advice. Strayed has had such an interesting and full life and her stories are captivating. She's brutally honest about herself  and doesn't hold anything back, she shows quite a bit of vulnerability with her readers and I think that's why the columns were so popular.

I'd heard so much praise for this collection, but I wasn't sure it would be for me. I didn't really know what I was getting into when I started, but I really enjoyed this audiobook overall. Strayed's mix of memoir through advice is fun. Strayed does the audio and I think hearing her voice gets across some of her intention in her responses to advice seekers. Like she calls her readers sweet pea and when you read it it can sound condescending, but the way she reads it it sounds more affectionate.

This is definitely a coffee table book to be picked up and read in pieces. You can skip around the essays because they weren't written in any specific order. I think this book showed up on a lot of lists every grad/women/person should read and I kind of agree. While I couldn't relate to everything there were always something I could grasp on to.

This book is great for a YA audience because while they may not be able to relate to her stories they can use her advise for later. It's perfect for maybe high school or college grads.

I have noticed that the original columns are still available on archives. If you want to get a flavor of the book a few I'd recommend are

How To Get Unstuck
- The Future Has An Ancient Heart
- The Baby Bird
- Beauty and The Beast

Dear Sugar is coming back as a podcast with Cheryl Strayed andwriter Steve Almond who was Dear Sugar before Strayed on 12/15 !

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater (The Raven Cycle #3)

  • Release Date: November 21st 2014
  • Pages: 400
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press
The dreaded third book in a series review. It can be hard to review books mid-series, so this one is going to be brief and spoiler free for the entire series.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue in a lot of ways is a test to see how closely you've been reading the other books. It pulls a lot from a deeply established mythology to keep the plot going which was hard for me because I hadn't re-read the previous books. I kind of had to catch myself up on what was going on.

My favorite parts of this series, that I noticed more so in the book,  is the dialogue between characters. They just have this great back and forth that is super entertaining. The characters in this series are some of the most solid and well developed characters I've read in YA. They all have so much agency that it's almost like you're getting four story arcs with each book.

I have started to notice how flowery the writing can be at times, particularly when a scene is from Gansey's perspective. When Stiefvater is writing from Adam's POV it tends to be more straightforward and I wish she would stick with it more. Sometimes that kind of writing would take me out of the book.

The magical elements in this book have been ramped Up To Eleven. With each new installment Stiefvater has been slowly luring the reader out of reality and into the occult and this book really explores those elements. I was always hesitant with calling this series fantasy, but this book has put it over the line for me.

I read this book for the 24in48 Readathon and it was the perfect choice, every chapter had me flipping to see what was going to happen next.  I'll be honest, I was a little confused about what was going on half the time, but I was along for the ride.

The most amazing part of this for me is that I'm not feeling any series fatigue setting in. Stiefvater is still keeping it imaginative, complex and fun. I can't wait to see how it all ends.

*Requested and received for review from Scholastic 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Feature & Follow Friday

Kat and I are excited to be featured bloggers for Feature & Follow Friday !  This hop is hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read. The objective ? To discover and follow new blogs. To participate create your own post with this week's question, sign up in the linky and then visit and follow all the awesome blogs also linked ! Don't forget to follow the host.

Hop over to Parajunkee to check out our interview.

This week's question :

Describe your favorite book character death scene. Why is it your favorite? Was it a villain or a hero? What made it so good? (Another prompt from book club ;) )  - Suggested by Eternity Through Pages

 Spoilers Ahoy ! For Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

 Daughter of Smoke and Bone series and when it comes to character deaths nothing compares to the death of Akiva’s brother, Hazael, in Days of Blood and Starlight. It was an emotional roller coaster because in the previous chapter his half sister Liraz has this in depth monologue about how she only knows where she belongs when she is between her two brothers.
We both enjoy Laini Taylor’s

So when Hazael dies in the next scene protecting her, she feels off balance and it affects her deeply. Taylor then dials the emotion to 11 because Akiva and Liraz carry their brother’s body (to the point of exhaustion) to another world so they can to try and get him resurrected but they can’t save him. AND THEN AND THEN they realize they can’t carry him back, but instead of leaving him they place his ashes in a water jug so he can be with them when they return to their world.  THE FEELS !

Thanks Alison and Rachel for letting us join the fun ! Don't forget to visit other blogs below and find someone new to follow !

If These Books Were Judged By Their Cover . . . Redesigns

I love a good book cover design, so when a book gets a brand new cover I suddenly turn into a reality show judge. Check out the three YA cover redesigns I recently spotted.

The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

I'm just not a fan of the hardcover. The silhouettes remind me of  90's clip-art  and the stars look like someone overdid a Photoshop brush. The  paperback cover has the same theme and feel of the original cover and I can see the new cover looking great in print.  The paperback also matches better with Smith's other photographic covers.

Landry Park by Bethany Hagen


At first glance the hardcover fits the synopsis of the book; a dystopian with tones of English gentry. The Girl in A Pretty Dress cover has an interesting new dynamic when put into the strong dystopian font. The paperback cover looks like your average circa-2011 Girl in A Pretty Dress and could really get lost in the YA shuffle.  I do like the font contrast and the addition of a tagline.

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

Original Reveal
New Cover Reveal

The cover for debut author Jasmine Warga's My Heart And Other Black Holes, was switched up before the novel even debuted. I like both covers, but I'm glad they changed this one. The original looked like it was on the TFIOS  look alike bandwagon. I like that this new one had more texture to it and the title font placement is more dynamic. Also no more dreaded "&" sign to screw up search engines.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand

  • Release Date: November 16th, 2010
  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Pages: 473
  • Publisher: Random House

Recently at work, I had to work on a project that involved repetitive data entry. There were times where that, mixed with the usual quiet of Friday was killing me and I needed something to listen to. I went into my library's Overdrive and downloaded the first nonfiction audiobook under most popular. The book was  Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand, which tells the story of Louis Zamperini. I'd heard the name Louis Zamperini mentioned on a podcast I like, so I figured it must be good. What I thought would be just something to listen to for a couple hours turned into one of those audiobooks I cleaned my apartment just to finish.

This book chronicles is the life of Louis Zamperini, a celebrated  Olympic athlete, who was drafted into the US Air Force as a bomber during World War II. During a routine flight to Australia,  he plane crashes and he and two of his crewmates are stranded  in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on a 7 foot raft for 47 days, only to become POWs in a camp with some of Japan's most notorious war criminals.

No event in the 20th century has inspired American culture and media more than World War II. It’s a
constant source for stories of survival, brotherhood and victory. It’s remembered as time when America threw its weight into a war and won. WWII narratives have spawned novels, memoirs plays, movies, video games and not one but two HBO miniseries. None have ever peaked my interest as much as the story behind Unbroken.

Zamperini ran for USC in the 1930's

One of the interesting experiences I had with this book is that even though I knew Zamperini was still alive when this book came out, I was so nervous he wasn't going to make it through all of the trials. I found myself looking up dates so I would know when he would get out of certain situations. It also doesn't help that there isn't a lot about his crewmates, so I had to go Googling for their fates before I could finish reading.

Needless to say this has to be one of the most brutal reads I've ever read. And it's not all from horrible treatment of the Americans at the POW camps and descriptions of their days lost at sea. When Louis is stationed in Hawaii he witnesses a lot of his fellow Airmen go out on missions and just never come back. The Air Force was making these planes so fast and really had no idea what they were doing and they would crash all the time. And this is the Pacific Ocean, so there are a lot of sharks.

I learned a lot about World War II from Unbroken. I feel like in school we learn a lot about the European side of the war and less about what was going on in the Pacific. I would be interested in reading more. (I started Hiroshima by John Hersey) This is an American  book so it may have its own biases. Hillenbrand not only tells Zamperini's story, but gives the entire context of the war so you begin to understand things like why exactly they dropped the atomic bomb.

 Zamperini and Jolie who is directing the film version
The narrator, Edward Herrmann was great, he kind of sounded like someone on the History Channel which worked for this book. Also, in the POW camp there are prisoners from different countries and he does the accents really well. I think Unbroken works especially well on audio because then you can hear all the Japanese pronunciations.

This book really had everything; reality,  inspiration, romance and even humor which I always appreciate. Some of the shenanigans and pranks Zamperini and his crew members get into when they are stationed in Hawaii are hilarious. Hillenbrand weaves everything to create a fully formed and honest narrative, I can see why this book has  been a New York Times Bestseller for four years !

I think this book might get a little more of a media boost with Angelina Jolie directing the film which is set  coming out this holiday season. I feel like this movie is going to be so good (Oscar ??), so I'm totally going to see it in theaters.  I feel weird saying this about a true story, but this trailer gave me the feels. Watch it !

I see there is a YA version of this book...I'm curious how this differs from the original.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Attending VCU Cabell First Novelist Award Night

While I was on my cruise this summer, I saw quite a few people stretched out on the deck reading The Golem and The Jinni. And All I could think was "oh, pretty cover." So, on in the airport I grabbed The Golem and The Jinni from the Overdrive and was blown away within the first twenty pages. It's the story of the year in the life of two immigrant to America at the turn of the century, one is an ancient Jinni and the other is a woman made of clay abandoned after her creation.

So, when Shannon from River City Reading left a comment telling me Helene Wecker is the 13th winner of the VCU Cabell First Novel Award, I had to attend. It was a packed house with students, professors, residents and even a book club.  The award is presented in  conjunction with The VCU English Department, James Branch Cabell Associates Board and The College of Humanities and Sciences (Alum shout out !)

Wecker was a down to earth and wonderful speaker. She started workshopping The Golem and The Jinni while she was in Columbia's MFA program, so it seemed more than fitting that she was being presented with an award that is chosen in part by MFA students

I'll admit I don't delve into the writing or academic side of writing and publishing very often, but hearing Wecker talk  about the process and craft of writing was a great listen.

If you haven't checked out this debut novel it is a must. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Kat Joins #24in48 Readathon

I've been in a general reading/reviewing/blogging lull and a readathon is just what I needed. For the 24in48 readathon all you have to do is read for 24 hours in a 48 hour period. This readathon is being organized by Rachel Manwill a blogger and contributor to one of my favorite bookish websites, Book Riot.

There are still a few hours to sign up here.

I've decided I'm going to read all the books I've started by haven't finished. Here's my stack, now off to buy some snacks....

Undeniably Yours by Shannon Stacey (on page 57)
The Truth About Forever by Sarah Deseen  (on page 127)
Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater (on page 112)
Reality Boy by A.S. King (on page 140)
How To Tell Toledo From The Night Sky by Lydia Netzer
Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

On Kindle:
Earls Just Want To Have Fun by Shana Galen


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