Thursday, September 25, 2014

Random Post: I Finished Two Audiobooks Because I Was Decorating A Cake For A Cake Contest

So a couple of days ago, I was able to finish two books in one day.  Some might think, "oh that's nothing!" but for me that rarely happens, so it's kind of a "whoo-hoo!" moment for me.

How did I manage it?  Audiobooks, and a whole lot of time to listen to them.  I entered the cake decorating contest at a local fair, and spent about 10-12 hours making a cake.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Book Review: Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine

Ella EnchantedElla Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine

Synopsis: How can a fairy's blessing be such a curse? At her birth, Ella of Frell was the unfortunate recipient of a foolish fairy's gift — the "gift" of obedience. Ella must obey any order given to her, whether it's hopping on one foot for a day and a half, or chopping off her own head! But strong-willed Ella does not tamely accept her fate. Against a bold backdrop of princes, ogres, giants, wicked stepsisters and fairy godmothers, Ella goes on a quest to break the curse — once and for all. In this incredible debut novel comes the richly entertaining story of Ella of Frell, who at birth was given the gift of obedience by a fairy. As sharply funny as Catherine, Called Birdy and as richly poignant as Beauty, and with all the marks of a classic in the making.... Ella Enchanted is a Newbery Honor book written by Gail Carson Levine and published in 1997. The story is a retelling of Cinderella featuring various mythical creatures including fairies, elves, ogres, gnomes, and giants.
In A Sentence: A fun read that I might have enjoyed more if I read this 15 years ago.

Book Review: A River In The Sky (Amelia Peabody #19), by Elizabeth Peters

A River in the Sky (Amelia Peabody, #19)A River in the Sky by Elizabeth Peters
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A River In The Sky, by Elizabeth Peters
★★★ ½

Synopsis: August 1910. Banned from the Valley of the Kings by the Antiquities Service, Amelia Peabody and her husband, Emerson, are relaxing at home in Kent, enjoying the tranquil beauty of summer. But adventure soon beckons when they are persuaded to follow would-be archaeologist Major George Morley on an expedition to Palestine, a province of the crumbling, corrupt Ottoman Empire and the Holy Land of three religions. Searching for the vanished treasures of the Temple in Jerusalem, Morley is determined to unearth the legendary Ark of the Covenant.
The skeptical Emerson wants no part of the scheme until a request from the War Office and Buckingham Palace persuades him to reconsider. The Germans are increasing their influence in Palestine and British intelligence insists that Morley is an agent of the Kaiser, sent to stir up trouble in this politically volatile land. Emerson can't believe that the seemingly inept Morley is a German spy, but could he be mistaken?
Determined to prevent a catastrophically unprofessional excavation that could destroy priceless historical finds as well as cause an armed protest by infuriated Christians, Jews, and Muslims who view the Temple Mount, also known as the Dome of the Rock, as sacred, Amelia, Emerson, and company head to Palestine. Though it is not to her beloved Egypt, the trip to Jerusalem will also reunite her with her handsome and headstrong son, Ramses, working on a dig at Samaria, north of the holy city.
Before Ramses can meet his parents, however, he is distracted by an unusual party of travelers who have arrived in Samaria, including a German woman archaeologist and a mysterious man of unknown nationality and past. Unfortunately, Ramses's insatiable curiosity and his knack for trouble lead him to a startling discovery: information he must pass on to his parents in Jerusalem—if he can get there alive.
Once again the Peabody-Emerson clan must use all their skills and wiles to find the truth, prevent a bloody holy war, and save their son from the clutches of a nefarious enemy in this wonderfully engaging tale chock-full of thrills, mystery, and daring from the inimitable Elizabeth Peters.
In A Sentence: A decent read, an interesting installment, but no “wow” factor

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Book Review: The Magician King, by Lev Grossman

The Magician King (The Magicians #2)The Magician King by Lev Grossman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Magician King, by Lev Grossman
★★★ ½ (rounding up to 4)
Synopsis: (from the book flap) Quentin Coldwater should be blissfully happy. He escaped a miserable Brooklyn childhood for Brakebills, a secret and exclusive college for magic in upstate New York. When he graduated he discovered that Fillory, the magical utopia described in a series of children’s fantasy novels he never quite outgrew, was real.
Fillory was a far more dangerous place than Quentin could have imagined, and he faced unspeakable tragedies there. But now Quentin and his friends have become the kings and queens of Fillory and, under their reign, Fillory is a peaceful kingdom. But Quentin is restless. He hasn’t escaped the scars of his past, and the peace and luxury of his life in Fillory will prove more fragile than anyone expects. After a royal morning hunt takes a sinister turn. Quentin’s doubts get the better of him. With Julia, a queen of Fillory and Quentin’s high school friend, in tow, he charters a magical sailing ship and heads off to the farthest reaches of Fillory. He is in search of adventure—the thrill and sense of purpose only a heroic quest can bestow. Instead his journey takes them to the last place Quentin wants to be: his parents’ house in Chersterton, Massachusetts.
Quentin is a magician and a king, but even he can’t rescue them from suburban America. Only the dark, twisted sorcery Julia learned in the seedy back alleys of the Brooklyn underground magic scene can put them on the road back to Fillory. But when Julia takes center stage, so too does her story, and with it the secret of the terrible price she paid for her power. As Quentin and Julia follow a trail of clues from Brakebills to Venice to the home of the real-life children who appeared in the Fillory novels, they gradually discover a more sinister, more powerful threat than any they’ve faced. And they must fight death and despair in a world that is very far from the bright, simple fantasy novels they read as children.
In The Magicians, Lev Grossman shattered the limits of conventional fantasy writing by imagining magic as practiced in the real world by fallible and capricious people, without the clear absolutes of good and evil most fantasy heroes steer by. The Magician King sets these young magicians on a n epic quest deep into the dark, glittering heart of magic to reveal the unexpected paradox behind being a hero. It also introduces a powerful new voice, that of Julia, whose angry genius is thrilling and terrifying. The juxtaposition of her rage and Quentin’s yearning creates a novel of resonant psychological complexity and reckoning. The Magician King; once again proves that Grossman is a modern heir to C.S. Lewis and the cutting edge of literary fantasy.
In A Sentence: a decent sequel, but overall an amazing series that is seriously earning more and more of my respect.

Monday, September 22, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This is a weekly meme that is hosted by Book Journey.

The past few weeks have been so busy that I can't blog as much as I want to, much less read as much as I would like.  It doesn't help that I also created a job-related blog (Dance Away!  A Blog For Ballroom Dancers) so my limited blogging time is split between two sites.

So unfortunately I only have a few posts to list here:

 Book Review: Into The Land Of The Unicorns

Tuesday's Opinion: My Top Pet Peeves When Reading

Book Review: Tomb Of The Golden Bird

Feature And Follow Friday

Friday, September 19, 2014

Feature & Follow Friday!

It's Friday!  Time for the Feature&Follow blog hop!

Feature Follow Friday is hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  The goal of this blog hop is to get as many followers as possible and return the favor by following them.  The more you follow, the better!

Every week there's a question to answer.  This week's question:

Blogger Pet Peeves.  What are yours?

I'm still a relatively new blogger, but already I have a few pet peeves.  First, there's the issue of how easy it is to delete your posts.  And once they're gone, they're gone!  I just recently discovered that I deleted one of my favorites spotlight post, and I was really proud of that one!  Lesson learned, keep backup drafts!
Second, I hate how you make a draft of a post or a page, and it looks awesome, but then you publish it, it comes out all weird and funky.  Pictures aren't showing, paragraphs are weirdly space, and for some reason, there's a few sentences that came out looking different from everything else, so you have to go back to the draft and fix everything.  *sigh*, I love blogging, but sometimes it can be unnecessarily time-consuming!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Book Review: Tomb Of The Golden Bird (Amelia Peabody #18), by Elizabeth Peters

Tomb of the Golden Bird (Amelia Peabody, #18)Tomb of the Golden Bird by Elizabeth Peters
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Tomb Of The Golden Bird (Amelia Peabody #18), by Elizabeth Peters
★★★★ (rounding up to 4½, with a ♥ for the whole series)

Synopsis: Banned forever from the eastern end of the Valley of the Kings, eminent Egyptologist Radcliffe Emerson's desperate attempt to regain digging rights backfires—and his dream of unearthing the tomb of the little-known king Tutankhamon is dashed. Now Emerson, his archaeologist wife, Amelia Peabody, and their family must watch from the sidelines as Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter "discover" the greatest Egyptian treasure of all time. But the Emersons' own less impressive excavations are interrupted when father and son Ramses are lured into a trap by a strange group of villains ominously demanding answers to a question neither man comprehends. And it will fall to the ever-intrepid Amelia to protect her endangered family—and perhaps her nemesis as well—from a devastating truth hidden uncomfortably close to home . . . and from a nefarious plot that threatens the peace of the entire region.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tuesday's Opinions: My Top Ten Peeves When Reading

Well, it’s Tuesday, and I haven’t done this in a while, so I figured it’s about time I do this again.
This week’s opinion: My top ten pet peeves when reading

We all have opinions on what constitutes a good book and what constitutes a bad book.  And we know these things based on our experiences with reading.
About once a month, I come across a book that really bugs me.  And I mean, I really, really don’t like it.  Basically there are things about the book that seriously annoy me when I’m trying to enjoy the story.

Below are pet peeves I have regarding some of the books I end up reading. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Book Review: Into The Land Of The Unicorns, by Bruce Coville

Into the Land of the Unicorns (Unicorn Chronicles, #1)Into the Land of the Unicorns by Bruce Coville
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Unicorn Chronicles Book I: Into The Land Of The Unicorns, by Bruce Coville
★★★★ ½ and a ♥

Synopsis: As each chime sounds, Cara climbs faster up the steep bell tower. Eleven! She must be on the roof when the next bell tolls. Twelve! With a deep breath, and only half believing she will survive, Cara jumps off the church roof and into Luster, land of the unicorns.
In Luster, Cara meets many wonderful creatures, but the most magnificent of all is Lightfoot, a rebellious young unicorn. Cara’s band of friends comes to include a hairy creature named the Dimblethum and the monkey-like Squijim. Together, they set out to reach the Unicorn Queen before the mysterious man who is following them does—to prevent the destruction of all unicorns forever.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Book Review: Beastly, by Alex Flinn

BeastlyBeastly by Alex Flinn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Beastly, by Alex Flinn

Synopsis: I am a beast. A beast. Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright—a creature with fangs and claws and hair springing from every pore. I am a monster.
You think I’m talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It’s no deformity, no disease. And I’ll stay this way forever—ruined—unless I can break the spell.
Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I’ll tell you how I became perfectly…beastly.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Book Review: Serpent On The Crown (Amelia Peabody #17), by Elizabeth Peters

The Serpent on the Crown (Amelia Peabody, #17)Yay! I finished a book for this month!

The Serpent on the Crown by Elizabeth Peters
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Serpent On The Crown, by Elizabeth Peters
★★★★ (★★★★★ and a ♥)

Synopsis: A priceless relic has been delivered to the Emerson home overlooking the Nile. But more than history surrounds this golden likeness of a forgotten king, for it is said early death will befall anyone who possesses it. The woman who implores the renowned family of archaeologists and adventurers to accept the cursed statue insists the ill-gotten treasure has already killed her husband. Further, she warns, unless it is returned to the tomb from which it was stolen, more will surely die. With the world finally at peace—and with Egypt's ancient mysteries opened to them once more—Amelia Peabody and her loved ones are plunged into a storm of secrets, treachery, and murder by a widow's strange story and even stranger request. Each step toward the truth reveals a new peril, suggesting this curse is no mere superstition. And the next victim of the small golden king could be any member of the close-knit clan—perhaps even Amelia herself.

Friday's F&F Blog Hop!

It's Friday!!!!!
It's time for Feature And Follow Friday, hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read!  An excellent opportunity for bloggers to get some new followers.

Here are the rules, posted by the hosts:
1. (Required) Follow the Follow My Book Blog Friday Hosts {Parajunkee & Alison Can Read}
2. (Required) Follow our Featured Bloggers
3. Put your Blog name & URL in the Linky thing. You can also grab the code if you would like to insert it into your posts.
4. Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say “hi” in your comments and that they are now following you.
5. If you are using WordPress or another CMS that doesn’t have GFC (Google Friends Connect) state in your posts how you would like to be followed
6. Follow Follow Follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don’t just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don’t say “HI”
7. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the Love…and the followers
8. If you’re new to the follow Friday hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!

This week's question:
 Are you also a writer and what genre or did you ever consider writing?

My answer:
Nope!  I've never been much of a writer, which is somewhat ironic, since I now have a blog!
Every once in a while I'd be inspired to write; I would suddenly get this story idea in my head, and then I would go into a writing frenzy!  I'd create a quick synopses, I'd make a bullet-point list of important plot points.....but then when I would actually try to write the darn thing, I'd lose my momentum and the inspiration simply fizzles out.  I'm a good organizer, just not a good writer.
It would be so much fun to write a novel, though!  Imagine seeing your story get published, and then read and appreciated by numerous readers!  Being a writer would be such a fun profession!  It's so unfortunate that writing actually requires talent and perseverance.
Now if I was a writer, I would probably write some thing involving the elements I like to read about: essentially, it would be a fantasy, thriller, or YA novel, and it would have characters that overcome the odds.  At the very least, it would be about independent women (I'm a feminist, so of course I'd write about independent women!)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Thursday's Favorites Spotlight: The Millenium Trilogy, by Stieg Larsson

It's Thursday! (Where did the week go?!!)  And it's time for a Favorites Spotlight!

This week: The Millenium Trilogy.

The Millenium Trilogy,
by Stieg Larsson

# Of Books: 3
Genre: Mystery, Psychological Thriller
Words To Describe This Book: dark, intriguing, feminist, excellent

This is the only series I have read along with my husband, so it holds a special place in my heart.

Funny story, actually.
So, back in the day when we were just dating, Dave and I were vacationing in England, visiting friends and seeing the sites.  In Oxford we went to Blackwell's (an awesome, 4-floor bookstore) and purchased a few books.  I picked up Harry Potter (surprise, surprise), and Dave picked up The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.
Now, I knew Dave was going to propose to me at Stonehenge; it was a gut feeling that turned out to be right so there was no surprise there.  What surprised me was the trip to Stonehenge.  We were on the train, both of us reading our respective books, and I looked up from mine, confused.  I had finished a chapter without interruption!  Usually Dave gets bored with reading and wants to discuss what he's read so far.  I look over at him.  He's still reading!  Tentatively, I reached out and touched him on the shoulder.
"Honey," I asked. "Do you want to go get something to eat?"
"In a minute," He responded, without looking up.  "I want to finish this chapter first."
My husband is reading!
My boyfriend....the man who never reads.....wants to finish...a chapter!  I must say that I was flabbergasted.  I didn't know how to respond, especially since he stole my line.  Suffice it to say that if this book was able to grab the attention of a non-reader, then I must read it too.  So when we got home, the newly-engaged me got the story on audiobook and started listening.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was amazing!  I could see why Dave fell in love with the series.  The premise was dark but very well done.  A girl from one of Sweden's wealthiest families, named Harriet Vanger, has disappeared.  Forty years later, her uncle, who still wants answers, seeks out the help of journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, who was recently trapped in a libel conviction.  Aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy, Lisbeth Salander, Blomkvist finds out that there is more to this mystery than he bargained for.  It's a tale of twists, dark turns, intrigue and corruption.  The story more than makes up for the dryness of the writing, and the protagonists are ones that you could like.  Lisbeth Salander is a strange, strange character, but you can't help but love her.  And the twist ending threw me through a loop.  No wonder my husband loved it!

After that I went and got the audiobook versions for the next two installments; I ended up finishing the trilogy before Dave did, although I checked in on his progress frequently.  The story started revolving around Lisbeth Salander more and more, as you get to learn about her past, and how it's affecting her present.  You also get introduced to some very independent, and very awesome women.
Lisbeth Salander

I really loved the feminist aspect of this series; the women in these books can kick some serious butt, and it's the men who need rescuing, not the ladies.  I really loved that.  This series really shows how much has changed in the perception of women.  I've said it before, I am a feminist, and proud of it.  I am all for equal rights and opportunities for everyone, including women and minority groups.  So when I read about strong women who are able to overcome the odds, I can't help but respect it. And this trilogy has more than earned my respect, it has earned a spot on my favorites shelf.
Stieg Larsson
Would I recommend this trilogy to everybody?  No, probably not.  The books are frequently graphic and violent, and there are some disturbing scenes that make you cringe a little when you read them.  Also, like I said earlier, the writing isn't a work of art.  It's dry and a little monotone, and I don't think it's because of the translation.  So if you only go for books that are well-written, you might not like this one so much, although I have to admit, I enjoyed it more on audiobook.
The readers who would enjoy this series are mystery lovers, particularly of dark mystery or psychological thrillers.  To give you a better idea, my husband loved the Hannibal Lector series back in college, and he also really enjoyed Gone Girl.  So if you like books that go along these lines, then you'll probably enjoy The Millenium Trilogy.

For more book details, click on the links below:
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
The Girl Who Played With Fire
The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest

Happy reading everyone!
-Lisa the Dancing Bookworm

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Tuesday's Opinions: Writer's Block

It's Tuesday!  And this week's opinion: Writer's Block.

I confess I was totally stumped on what to write about today.  My brain feels officially fried.  I spent the past two weeks creating a new blog for my dance students (Dance Away! A Blog For Ballroom Dancers, in case you were wondering), and the amount of research and decision-making put into the blog was mentally exhausting.  This morning, I've just been sitting and staring blankly at this post's draft page, wondering what the hell I was going to write about.  So I figured I'd just write about my current problem: the dreaded writer's block.

I hate writer's block.  There's this feeling you get when you have it, like you know there's a room full of writing inspiration and creativity in the back of your brain, but the door to it is currently shut and locked, and you've misplaced the key.  And while you are desperately searching under the metaphoric couch cushions and deep inside the metaphoric black hole of a purse, there's your writing deadline; you must finish writing by the end of the day, or else your day is a total failure.

They say when you have writer's block should go for a walk, or just write about anything and everything.  I find that rarely works for me.  If I go for walk, then my mind just goes off somewhere else and thinks about random things that makes me wonder whether I have ADD or something.  I start daydreaming about what I would do if I won a million dollars, or of being a famous dancer on TV, and by the time I've come back to my desk, I discover I've still got nothing.  And if I just randomly start writing, I might get something really cool....just not for the thing I'm supposed to write about.

I've pulled all-nighters in the past because I can't figure out what to write for school papers.  Many times I thought I could be an author, but then my creativity would fizzle out by the time I figured out the first paragraph.  Apparently I have a creativity block when it comes to writing (kind of ironic considering I have blog now, right?).

Do I have my solution to writer's block?  Not really.  My best results usually come from have a good night's rest or from reading a book or article that relates somewhat to what I'm supposed to write about.  That frequently seems to help.  Motivation is a huge factor as well.  If I really don't want to write about a topic, my room of inspiration becomes deadbolted and barricaded with heaps of furniture and walls of cement, that even the world's biggest metaphorical battering ram can't break down (hence the all-nighters in college).  Sometimes, just finding the motivation to write is all I need to overcome the block.

In the end, writer's block can be dealt with, it's just a matter of when and how.  Such as today.  This morning I had no idea what to write about, but it seems that I've managed to wring something out of my tired brain.  Now I can shut my eyes and yawn, and then maybe take a nap. 

Note to self for the future: jot down some writing ideas for Tuesday's Opinions before Tuesday!

This has been a (short) posting from your local dancing bookworm.

Monthly Recap And This Month's Goals

Helllooo readers!

Last month was a terrible month for me.  I've been busy, stressed, and unable to read to my heart's content.  I think it was also a bad idea for me to obstinately try to re-read an entire series that I enjoyed as a teenager, because I've reached a point where I'm sick and tired of reading them.

So my list of books read is rather short, unfortunately.  Here it is:
1. The Golden One, by Elizabeth Peters.  Finished August 8 ★  ★  ★  ★  ★ My Review
2. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn.  Finished August 10 ★  ★  ★  ★  My Review
3. Lost Lake, by Sarah Addison Allen.  Finished August 15 ★  ★  ★  1/2 My Review
4. Children Of The Storm, by Elizabeth Peters.  Finished August 20 ★  ★  ★  ★  My Review
5. City Of The Beast, by Isabel Allende.  Finished August 31 ★  ★  ★  ★  My Review
6. The Magicians, by Lev Grossman.  Finished August 31 ★  ★  ★  ★  ★  My Review

Compared to July, last month was pathetic!  Especially since my goal was to read 15 books (bows head in shame).

Well, if at first you don't succeed, try try again!  So my goal will once more be 15 books.

September's Reading List:
1. An Abundance Of Katherines, by John Green
2. The Invention Of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd
3. Serpent On The Crown, by Elizabeth Peters
4. Tomb Of The Golden Bird, by Elizabeth Peters
5. River In The Sky, by Elizabeth Peters
6. Lord Of The Silent, by Elizabeth Peters
7. The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern
8. Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine
9. Beastly, by Alix Flinn
10. Garden Spells, by Sarah Addison Allen
11. The Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale
12. Farenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
13. The Magician King, by Lev Grossman
14. The Magician's Land, by Lev Grossman
15. Into The Land Of The Unicorns, by Bruce Coville

Let's do this!  Onwards and Upwards!
-Lisa The Dancing Bookworm

Currently Reading:

Serpent On The Crown, by Elizabeth Peters

The Magician King, by Lev Grossman