Friday, August 29, 2014

Vacation Post and Mini-Reviews of Vacation Reads...and Manatees!

As mentioned, I just got back from a lovely vacation. My friend Corrie, my sister Quinn and I stayed at Moon Palace in Cancun. Just a short little 3.5 hour plane ride to get us from cornfields and beer to palm trees and margs. We sat on the beach, we ate, we drank, I scratched something huge off my bucket list, I embarrassed myself with my terrible high school Spanish skills, and a great time was had by all. The hotel was big, and almost at full capacity but it didn't diminish our experience at all. Service was always friendly and polite and full of smiles. 

I'm not always good about remembering to take pictures on vacation but here's a few:
Infinity pool

Happy Birthday!

So with all this time sitting on the beach (or in the airport, womp womp) what does one do? One reads. Or if you are Quinn, the nonreader in the group, you play on your phone.

Here's the books that I read:

"Divergent": I liked it. I had pretty tempered expectations of it so I wasn't super bought into the hype but I thought it was an entertaining read. A note for the people who have seen the book and read the movie: I like movie Four better than book Four. He's more of a badass in the movie and I like that (grrrr, haha). Due to pure coincidence, friend Corrie also brought Divergent to read, so we were having a little beach book club. 

Then, one morning Corrie looked in her suitcase and started laughing because she found the next book in the series "Insurgent" in her suitcase (she had forgotten that she has bought, and then packed it). And because Corrie is the sweetest she let me read it, even though it was brand new and a hardcover, while she was finishing up "Divergent". She started it on the plane ride home so we will have to do an over the phone beach book club when she is done, haha. I liked the second book a lot, I know some people were angry that it was more emotional than action packed but I think that's fine. The third one is waiting for me at the library, and I'm excited to finish it up! (Even though a few months ago when I had no intention of reading the series I looked at the spoilers so I know how it ends, still reading it).

Update: Finished.I feel like I want to talk these books some, so look for a stream of consciousness/discussion post about these coming up.

"The Long Walk": Read this on the airplane on the way down. Interesting, not as gory or violent as some of King's works. The concept is just so unusual I kept thinking "how did he even think this up in the first place?" (But I think that a lot with King). I liked that there was nothing supernaturally weird about it, which isn't to say it wasn't completely messed up.

"The Master and Margarita": Truth be told I hadn't finished it by the time I came back but have finished it since. It was funny, and kind of weird, and absurd and strange. Like, it's over and I still don't know what for sure I read and what it was entirely about. But it made me feel/look smart reading it, so that's nice!

"How to be a Heroine": The best thing about this book, is that the author mentions a bunch of books that sounded really interesting, so it made my feminist/women centered TBR list grow exponentially.

"Beyond the Pasta": I would never attempt the recipes in this book, but I loved the story about this Italian family who took him in so wholeheartedly.

"Without You There is No Us": A super fascinating look inside North Korea. If you have any inclination to learn about that part of the world at all I highly recommend it.

So 7 in book in 8 days! Which I think is a record for me, but I had to do something to fill the space between sipping drinks and eating tons of chips and guac :)

My "bucket list" item that I was able to accomplish was swimming with manatees. They are my favorite animal, and they are just the sweetest things ever. Except they are kind of huge. When you are in the water with them you kind of realize how big they are, and it's big. But they were sweetie pies and I enjoyed feeding them lettuce and giving them back scritches and fake kisses. Because even if you're very sweet and have no teeth I'm not putting my face that close to something that is essentially still a wild animal.

So I have to survive the harsh Wisconsin winter on these memories. It hopefully will be enough to get me through :)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Book Review: "The Duel for Consuelo" by Claudia H Long (HF Virtual Book Tours)

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Consuelo tries to be a dutiful daughter but her family makes it hard. Her dad is kind of a blowhard, always monopolizing important people and talking their ear off, and then her mother is slowly slipping into (what I assume is something like) dementia. While she slips in and out of lucidity Consuelo cares for her. The problem is that Consuelo's mom is a Jew. She doesn't practice in the open because the Inquisition is a strong force even in Mexico, and that would mean death for her and possibly the whole family. Sometimes she mutters about candles and prayers which puts Consuelo and her father on edge sometimes. When an invitation comes for a wedding of a local noble family there are old feelings stirred up and kind of sets the wheels in motion for most of the action in the book.

This story has all the universal themes that are so popular for a reason: love, misunderstandings that lead to a huge feud, loyalty to family, loyalty to oneself, and of course really bad guys to root against. This story isn't exactly reinventing the wheel, though I had never thought about the Inquisition makes it's way all the way over to the new world.

I'm never not going to not think of this when I hear about the Inquisition so here it is.

At first I had trouble with the super short chapters, especially the first few. It's like you barely knew these people and their story and then you get bounced around kind of quickly between them. It got easier the farther along in the book I went, maybe it just took some getting used to!

Praise for Novels of Claudia H. Long

The Duel for Consuelo: “A fascinating, terrifying window into early 18th–century Mexico and the final throes of the Inquisition. Courage and daring fill every page. The conclusion of The Duel for Consuelo is as heart rending as it is pulse pounding.” -David Perlstein, author of Slick! and The Boy Walker

Josefina’s Sin: “Superb debut. A moving tale of women seeking to balance competing passions of the heart, body, and mind in the lavish setting of a seventeenth-century Mexican court.” -Publishers Weekly

The Harlot’s Pen: “I was in awe of Claudia’s skill with threading such a compelling and captivating story through such a troubled time. She is beyond talented. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this inspiring book. You won’t regret it!” -Kristen @ Pretty Little Pages

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Book Review: "Ordinary Grace" by William Kent Kreuger

It's the Monday after vacation, and I'm bumming. Ill have a wrap up, a few pictures, and some mini book reviews later this week.

I don't remember how this book got on my TBR but I'm glad that it did!

Our narrator is Frank Drum, 13 years old. He lives in New Bremen Minnesota with his father (Nathan) a pastor, his mom (Ruth) who apparently had quite the wild streak as a teen living in New Bremen but is still struggling to fit into the "pastor's wife" mould, older sister (Ariel) who is musically gifted and going to Juilliard, and younger brother Jake, who is quiet and serious, sometimes due to his stutter.

It's summer of 1961 and livin is mostly easy. Then there is an unexpected death...and then another...and then another, this one the most shocking, the body of a young woman is found in a river. This lends an air of suspicion to the residents of this small Minnesota town. The suspects are numerous. Is it the girls boyfriend? Is it the town's resident hot head teenage idiot who was a drinker with a temper? Is it the older Native American man who was found with the dead girl's jewelry? And then there there's a big unexpected twist!

I liked this book because it had good passing, relatable characters, and wasn't a really intense murder mystery. I don't generally read big complicated murder mysteries (or spy novels) because I generally can't keep all the characters and intrigue straight and then I get annoyed. This book was not like that. It was very readable.My one qualm with this book is that I guessed the "whodunnit" kind of early so I was waiting for the characters to catch up. But that's ok. I gave it a 3.5 out of 5 stars!


Friday, August 22, 2014

Great Ray Bradbury Quotes in Celebration of his Birthday!

Ray Bradbury is an infinitely quotable guy. Here are a few of my favorites all done up fancy on picmonkey for you!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A-Z Bookish Questions

A-Z of Bookish Question

The awesome and delightful Jamie posted her answers to these questions and I was like, that looks like fun, I'm going to steal it. So I did.
Author you've read the most books from: I have to think it's Ray Bradbury,CS Lewis and Neil Gaiman. So there's quite a threesome.
Best sequel ever: Does "Rose Under Fire" count as a sequel? If it does, definitely that one.
Currently reading: At time of writing: "The Pilgrim's Regress" by CS Lewis and "Sophie Scholl and the White Rose" by Annette Dumbach.
Drink of choice while reading: I don't really drink while I'm reading, I guess.
E-reader or physical book: Almost always a physical book. I appreciate what an e-reader brings to the table and sometimes it's just convenient but I will almost always take a tree book.
Fictional character you probably would have dated in high school: Not the guy from Catcher in the Rye.
Glad you gave this book a chance: "The String Diaries". Holy crap. That book was awesome. It sounded a little confusing but I was like whatever I'll try it. It was such a great read and I chatted with the author on Twitter some.
Hidden gem book: "Bone Church" by Victoria Dougherty. It was on a HFVB tour and I got contacted to review it and I'm so glad I did. Great setting, wonderful characters. Worth the read for suuuuure. Highly recommended.
Irritated by: Instalove. You have a whole book to develop a relationship between people, why do things need to be instant? It makes it feel not real. Or books that are not really about a love triangle but people make it so, a la Hunger Games.
Just finished: "A Year in the Merde". About a man living in Paris and his struggles to get stuff done and not get ripped off. Review forthcoming.

Kind of books you won’t read: Ridiculous bodice ripper romance novels. Though I jokingly started writing one in high school just to show how easy it would be to write one. Spoiler alert: not hard at all. (Phrasing.)
Longest book you’ve read: I honestly don't remember. Though with all of the talk about Outlander I was like oh I should read that and then it's like 800 pages. Not happening. At least not this year. Or anytime while I'm running the blog.
Major book hangover because of: The Daughters of Smoke and Bone trilogy. I gobbled up all three in like a week and a half and I want mooooooore.I was surprised by how much I loved that one.
Number of bookcases you own: Only 1! Being a big library user I'm not overwhelmed by books.
One book you read multiple times: "Mere Christianity" by CS Lewis. Something new every time I read it.
Preferred place to read: One of the recliners. Or really any chair with fluffy arms that I can toss my legs over without them losing feeling and then giving me tingly toes so I fall down when I have to get up for something.
Quote you like from a book you read: "Obedience isn't a lack of fear, it's just doing it scared". Jen Hatmaker's "7".
Reading regret: My only reading regret is that I can't just read for 10 hours everyday, that I must be a productive member of society,and the spouse who provides health insurance.
Series you started and need to finish: The Monument 14 series. If I'm completely honest, I found the writing a little subpar and the plot kind of meh but I read the first two so I need to finish it off.
Three of your all time favorite books: Really? Really? Fine. "Gargoyle" by Andrew Davidson, "Something Wicked This Way Comes" by Ray Bradbury, "Mere Christianity" by CS Lewis
Unapologetic fangirl for: Ray Bradbury. That freak flag flies with no shame.He's the man. 
Very excited for this release more than all the others: Hmmmm, all the books I was really gunning for this year have already came out. I'm sure there's something I'm forgetting. How about the Giver movie, that kind of counts, yes?
Worst bookish habit: Being a little bit psychotic about pacing my books that I order from the library so that I'm never without a book when I need it. Like it stresses me out like a crazy person sometimes.
X marks the spot: I have a set of free Frontier Airlines that have smiling animals on them, and also a set of bookmarks that were a birthday present that I like. I even left one in a library book and the librarians knew it was mine and made sure I got it back. Love those librarians.
Your latest book purchase: "World of Trouble" by Ben Winters, which I talked about in my author signing post here. I'm not a big book buyer so this was kind of a rarity.
Zzzz snatcher book: If a book is really boring me I just set it free.

Friday, August 15, 2014

"A Rainy Day at the Beach is Better Than a Sunny Day at the Office".

On Saturday, I'm off on vacation this week to celebrate my dear sister Quinn's 30th birthday! A week of sun and fun and food and drinks with Quinn and our dear friend Corrie sounds like a little slice of heaven, and I couldn't be more pumped.

So a beach vacation means lots of books right? Right. Here's the lowdown...

- Divergent  by Veronica Roth (been saving it since March to read on this trip!)
-The Long Walk by Stephen King (Killing kids before the Hunger Games made it cool)
-The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (It's a classic I've never read, and you know how much I love those silly Russians and their shenanigans).

And at least 4 books to be read on my Kindle. It's my first vacation with said Kindle, so we will see how it goes.

It seems like a lot but when you factor in waiting time in the airport and time on the plane...honestly I might grab another one on the way out the door, just because I hate being without. Since I don't have to pack a hairdryer (unfortunately a travel must for me) that means I have room for one more book, I think.

I'm not going to promise any real reviews on these but when I do a vacation wrap up post I'll make sure to include a few thoughts on the books.

There will be some blog shenanigans during the week, but I'm not going to divulge any details so it's a surprise!

If you're looking for me, maybe try here first?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Wisconsin in 5 Books

Shannon over at River City Reading did a great post recently, summing up her adopted city of Richmond Virginia in 5 books. I know that it set mine and many other people's brain wheels turning. How would you describe your city? Your state? I thought long and hard about summing up Milwaukee, but I thought that expanding it out to the whole state would be more fun (and frankly be easier for me).

Wisconsin winters are no joke. Almost all the crazy things you have heard are true. Can your tongue really get frozen to a flag pole? Hell yeah it can. I've seen that with my own two eyes. Can you throw a pot of boiling water in the air and it freezes on the way down? Yup. (But be careful you don't burn yourself doing it). -30 degree temperatures with a whipping wind that makes you wonder why you live in a place where it hurts to breathe? Yeah, that was me basically all December and January. Long cold days and nights can drive you to the brink. Relationships can suffer, moods darken, the whole works. These feelings made me think of  A Reliable Wife. Intrigue, snow, and secrets!

A Reliable Wife

Drunk driving is a serious problem in all of Wisconsin. Everyone knows someone who has either a) been arrested for drunk driving or b) had a run in (God willing not seriously) with one. It is a plague on this state, made worse by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle refusing to make punishments harsher for repeat offenders so there's people driving around (usually on suspended licenses) with 4 OWIs under their belt.It's a freaking embarrassment. So the book I chose has nothing to do with Wisconsin but all about someone who has to slowly put their life back together after a horrifying drunk driving accident. It also happens to be one of my favorites. It's Gargoyle. Don't drink and drive. It's the law.

So a couple of different states can lay claim to Neil Gaiman's awesome American Gods but I think Wisconsin has a strong claim because of all the action that happens at The House on the Rock, especially the scenes at the carousel and the ice cream shop. I've never been to House on the Rock, but my friend Anna has and she said that it's basically a hoarders dream. (She's not joking, he has rooms stuffed with things all around a theme, it's crazy.) Here's a few of her pictures she let me use. Boob out angels, "the mouth to hell" and a prosthetic leg gun. So obviously this place is like a fever dream on E.

The books of Laura Ingalls and her family's adventures were staples in a lot of childhood reading. The first book Little House in the Big Woods is set in Wisconsin and helps to illustrate people who made this state what it is! People who came from all over the world and settled and worked themselves to the bones on farms and in the mines, on our lakes, and helped shape the future of our state. Also this book is where I learned to be scared of panthers, because the noise they make sounds like a woman screaming. That is the fuel for nightmares for me. If I was ever in the woods by myself at night and heard that I don't know if I would be able to run because I would be pooping my pants. Ahhhh!


And finally we end with another childhood staple (of mine at least, and Courtney from Courtney Reads a Lot), Underwear. I included this because the headquarters of Jockey is in Wisconsin...and because I ran out of ideas.


So Wisconsin is not without it's problems, but sometimes it's pretty lovely and fun:

Big picture: Racing sausages at the Brewers game; top right: downtown Milwaukee; middle: Black River Falls at sunset; Bottom corner: Lovely deck on Green Lake; middle bottom: food on a spigot at Oktoberfest; lastly: me and the husband enjoying adult beverages at a Kenosha Kingfish game. Yes, there's a reason these are all summer and fall pictures.