Friday, September 29, 2017

Review: Lucky In Love by Kasie West

Lucky In Love by Kasie West

Info: Published July 25th 2017, 337 pages, (ISBN13: 9781338058017)

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Vonze's Review: Another adorable YA read from Kasie West!

Ever daydream you've won the lottery? Yes? No?? Experience the ups and downs of striking it "lucky" with Maddie, a girl who splits her time studying and working at a zoo. After taking a chance on her birthday, she wins bigs. Suddenly her problems seem to vanish. No more worrying about college, her brother's degree, her family's money issues, parents fighting, etc. Until she realizes she's only replaced her old problems with new ones. Mainly who to trust? Can she depend on her old friends, family, her "sudden" new friends, distant relatives, or her co-worker "Zoo Seth" who she's been crushing on for a while?

For me, it was heavy on the be-careful-what-you-wish-for and seek-wise-counsel, and light on the romance. However, it has a perfectly sweet ending with Zoo Seth that is gush worthy.

Fav Quote: “Sometimes regardless of what we want, reality takes over.”

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Ten Books That Feature Orphan Characters

Ten Books That Feature Orphan Characters

Years ago, I noticed a strange pattern. A whole lot of literature's greatest characters are orphans or only have one parent living. Is it a device to invoke instant sympathy? Does it make the character's struggle harder? Or is it an easy way to get parents and rules out the way of the plot? Today, I'm going to focus on listing lit's famous orphans.

Harry Potter - For our generation, he's number one. Although sad, the fact that his parents' deaths are apart of the overarching plot adds to the story. He's not just an orphan for the sake of pulling on our heartstrings.

Jane Eyre - This one does pull on my heartstrings. Instead of a wicked stepmother, poor Jane has a wicked aunt and cousins. She grows up fast and tries to support herself.

Oliver Twist - Oh, heartstrings, "Please, sir, I want some more!" Poor little kid. Pip - Another Dickens example. David Copperfield - I feel like Dickens is the king of orphan writing. I'm told he has others that I haven't read.

Tom Sawyer - I guess, maybe, being an orphan explains his bad behavior? To quote Aladdin, the town could sing, "I'd blame parents except he hasn't got 'em." Huck Finn - Wow, a ditto by the same author! (Expect I believe I remember his dad is kinda alive, then kinda not.)

Dorothy (Wizard of Oz) - I dunno, for me, her aunt and uncle might has well been her parents. Her being an orphan didn't really effect the plot very much. Just kinda makes you feel poor Dorothy.

Mary (The Secret Garden) - Ditto. She couldn't just visited her rich family in England for the year? Or to be educated? Maybe the author thought the plot needed her parents out of the way so she could be noisy and have secrets.

Heidi - This one is slightly more believable, I guess. Not many parents would send their child to their super grumpy hermit dad's house in the middle of nowhere for a visit. The plot is more about changing others for the better.

Frodo (Lord of the Rings)- Again, did he really have to be an orphan? He was Bilbo's heir, but that was more about Bilbo not having children. I guess maybe it suggests the reason why there was little to hold Frodo back in the Shire and stop him from going on a journey.

Pollyanna - The sugar sweet happy orphan. At least Disney improved her in the movie and made her a bit of an adventurous tomboy. I guess the author thought, hey, if an orphan can be happy and play the glad game, people with fewer problems can, too.

Anne of Green Gables - The better happy orphan, IMO. To deal with life, Anne develops an overactive imagination. For me, creative escapism seemed more realistic way to deal.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Review: Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Info: Published October 20th 2015, 608 pages, (ISBN13: 9780553499117)

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Vonze's Review: Unforgettably different. I felt like I was reading the cut scenes of a video game. Both shocking and poetic at times. MTV meets Star Trek mixed with a dab of 2001 Space Odyssey and Aliens.

To begin with I found it frustrating. I connected with the human emotional element: the main characters', Kady and Ezra's, break up. Why did these kids break up? What happened?? Instead of answers about that specific element, we get a ton of briefing notes. That said, to enjoy this book you have to be open to a story told through many unique perspectives, such as briefings (as mentioned), interview records, memos, personal messages, AIM-type chats, surveillance footage summaries, thoughts of a computer program, etc. With so many switches, I found it daunting at times, especially when the characters seemed to be squalling about their problems, break up, etc, and I still didn't have the whole picture to understand them.

About 75% through the book there was, for me, an unforeseen twist and then, literally, I couldn't read fast enough. The nail-biting, how-they-going-to-get-out-of-this-one-alive? Ending is great. Happy, until next time.

Fav Quote: “When the light that kisses the back of her eyes was birthed, her ancestors were not yet born. How many human lives have ended in the time it took that light to reach her?

How many people have loved only to have lost? How countless, the hopes that have died?

But not this one.”

Friday, September 8, 2017

Review: Leia, Princess of Alderaan

Leia, Princess of Alderaan (Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi)Leia, Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Being a longtime Star Wars fangirl, for years, I've wanted more information on the young Princess Leia. Finally, we now have that book. And, wow, does it ever deliver the feels! By the end I was nearly overcome by bittersweet tears.

As the book opens, we follow Leia as she faces her Day of Demand, the biggest ceremony and day of her life thus far. In front of her adoptive parents, Bail and Queen Breha, and the people of Alderaan she declares the tasks she will complete for her challenges of mind, heart, and body. Tasks to prove her worth as future Queen.

Course our adventurous heroine doesn't stay on Alderaan the entire time. She journeys to many planets, both old and new to Star Wars fans. She makes new friends along the way. Falling significantly in love for the first time. As well as, making enemies who will eventually destroy her homeworld. Leia grows and accepts the challenges in front of her before the reader's very eyes. Personally, I felt like I was on a trip with a childhood friend.

In short, everything a Princess Leia fan could dream of!

View all my reviews

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Dragon*Con and Decatur Book Festival

Well, this year I got lucky (cue Daft Punk song) and had the opportunity to return to Dragon*Con and the Decatur Book Festival.

Although it's known for drawing big name movie and tv actors, Dragon*Con actually hosts a lot of great author panels as well. Browsing their tracks, you could spend the whole weekend partaking in topics related to fantasy literature, sci-fi literature, writer's track, or young adult literature.

For my first Writer's Track adventure, I saw Magical Maven of Fantasy/SF which included: Laurell K. Hamilton, Nancy Knight, Mercedes Lackey, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and Jane Yolen, all speaking about the highs and lows, sad and humorous moments of their iconic careers. They were as fabulous as expected! Like listening to the godmother's of the writing craft.

Later that evening, I attended the Masculinity in Star Wars panel, a discussion of how our values have shaped how we view masculinity in our heroes. Speakers included: Matthew Rushing (Moderator), Kevin J. Anderson, Myke Cole, Claudia Gray, E.K. Johnston, Michael Stackpole, and Timothy Zahn. Of course, I was in awe of the SW authors who wrote the novels of my SW tween days, as well as, the now new SW canon. It was very interesting to hear the different prospectives of masculinity, especially relating to fatherhood, from each author. There was also a Feminism in Star Wars panel, but I was unable to attend that one. Maybe in the future, it'll return.

Immediately afterwards I returned for the Phasma & Leia Book Launch event. I have so much fangirl feels for the work of Delilah S. Dawson and Claudia Gray! Both have added and created shining examples of strong female characters for Star Wars readers everywhere. Although I was absolutely thrilled to be in the panel and hear them speak, anticipating the event for weeks, I unfortunately had to leave before the autograph session was over. After popping extra strength Tylenol, I still felt feverish with an extremely sore throat. Ultimately, it was best for me to go home and sleep, take more medicine, and spare everyone from contact.

 (AJC crossword)

After rest and Mucinex, I felt well enough to attend the Decatur Book Festival on Sunday. I was very, very interested in the Creating Jane Austen and Austen's Creations and Love Long Ago: Historical Romance but wasn't able to make it Saturday.

Although I'm not a GA football fan, I have read A Civil War Courtship: The Letters of Edwin Weller from Antietam to Atlanta (Yankee solider's letters to his crush back in New York), so I knew I'd probably enjoy Civil War Love Letters featuring Stephen Berry, Samuel Thomas, and Vince Dooley (football coach). Stephen Berry provided some very eloquent examples of how couples wrote to each other way back in the way back.

Afterwards, as a huge cat person, I was curious about Adventure Cats featuring Laura J. Moss (—the first and only online resource for information on safely exploring the great outdoors with your feline friend), Catlanta (aka artist Rory Hawkins) & Taylor Bennington (manager at Java Cats Cafe). Each had very unique and fun ideas about cats. If you love the furry lil babies as much as I do, I recommend visiting their individual sites.

After some t-shirt and book shopping, we popped in to the Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America featuring Michael Ruhlman tent. A subject that, as a former farmgirl, is dear to my heart, is constantly in the news, and everyone can relate. Having personally lost over 100 pounds, I went on a journey of being more mindful about what I eat, where it comes from, and what it consists of. During the Q&A, one festival goer made a very good point: home ec and nutrition classes should really return to school programs. My high school health class was mostly about psychology. While that subject was helpful, I would have also benefitted from more nutrition lessons. Mind and body.

Next we had intended to see Deep Undercover: My Secret Life and Tangled Allegiances as a KGB Spy in America with Jack Barsky, however, the panel was full by the time we got there. First time we ever experienced that situation at the DBF. I really hope next year the festival does a better job anticipating the crowd. I dunno if it was the nice weather or logistics. Maybe have an online poll asking which event people are most excited about and place those panels in a bigger space? We might have missed Civil War Love Letters, too, if it hadn't been moved from the Decatur First Baptist Carreker Hall to the chapel. We live about an hour away from Decatur and can't afford to give up our time and gas if it becomes a big issue at future DB festivals.

However, luckily, I always have a backup plan, I make my personal DBF schedule out with alternatives we'll enjoy. So, we made the long trek to see To Boldly Go with author Jonathan Maberry. Although I read a lot of YA, this year, with neuroma scar tissue from foot surgery, I was originally put off attending events way off in the Decatur gym. But, after we made it, Maberry's talk as a scif/horror author was inspiring and insightful. I have swiftly added his new novel, Mars One, Mars Oneto my TBR pile.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Top Books We Struggled With

Ten Books We Struggled With

Dark Tower - I've enjoyed other work by Stephen King and I greatly respect his career, however, try as I might, this book just wasn't for me. I tried reading it and listening to the audio book, just couldn't do it.

The Book Thief - Well written, creative, and covers an important historical topic... just too dark for me. Each time I read it, I felt very depressed and had to set it aside.

Breakfast At Tiffany's - The movie is a wonderful classic, but the book had a lot of racial and gender slurs. I tried to remember the timeframe it was published...but still shocking and disrespectful.

Wicked - I love the old school fantasy glam of 'The Wizard of Oz' movie. The original book is a cute, classic read. I normally like parodies, but I just couldn't get into this, even though I have family members who loved it. I'll just watch the play someday instead.

Artemis Fowl - Ditto, I know people who very, very much enjoyed the entire series.

Gregor the Overlander - I was super excited to read more work by Suzanne Collins, author of my beloved Hunger Games, but it didn't capture my imagination quite the same.


Gravity's Rainbow - This came highly recommended by his alumni association, but it's a tome that takes some work getting through.

She's Come Undone - Required reading in one of Oshie's college classes. Not typical subjects every teen guy can relate with.

War & Peace - If I had a dime for every time he complains about Nikolai's character...

The Great Gatsby - Oshie and I disagree on this one...goes to show that one reader's struggle is another reader's thought provoking entertainment.

Moby Dick - Argh, great theme, but slow pace. Is it any wonder our English teachers played the audiobook during class?

Ulysses - Stream of consciousness...not always easy to follow.


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