Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday - YA Edition

Waiting on Wednesday is a book blog meme hosted by Breaking the Spine, where we discuss the upcoming book releases we're anticipating.

Over the past few months I have started a few different YA series that are unfinished and I am patiently hanging out in book purgatory with cliffhangers and open endings until these books are released.

Allegiant - Veronica Roth
Book #3 in the Divergent trilogy.  Ok, this is the one and only "cheat" I have on this list.  I read Divergent in the beginning of 2012 and then waited until this summer to read Insurgent on a borrowed copy from the library.  The time between reading the first and second books in the series left me pretty confused about what was going on and I was kind of disappointed because Insurgent didn't seem very interesting or worth reading to me.  However, now that the third book has been released I want to read it to bring closure to the characters and story line of Divergent - but not enough to buy it.  I put a hold on this book at the library and I am only #26 on the list so I will hopefully get to read it by the end of the year.
Release Date: October 22, 2013

Cress by Marissa Meyer
Lunar Chronicles #3.  I mistakenly read the first chapter of this book after finishing Cinder and Scarlett this year and you guys? It's gonna be awesome.  I really enjoyed to innovative take on fairy tales that Meyer brought to the table and I am really excited to see what she does next.
Release Date: February 4, 2014

Dreams of Gods and Monsters - Laini Taylor
Book #3 in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy (can you sense a theme to these books I'm posting about yet?).  I loved the first book, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, until the last 100 pages or so but was compelled to pick up the second installment, Days of Blood and Starlight which ended on a really intense plot line that promises to make a great third book.  I have the first two books on Kindle and I will be pre ordering the third book so I can read it as soon as it is released.
Release Date: April 8, 2014

The One - Kiera Cass
Book #3 in The Selection series.  I devoured The Selection on audiobook in September thinking it was a stand alone - and incredibly disappointed when I learned that it was a trilogy and that I would have to wait almost an entire year until the third book is released.  I read The Elite immediately after reading The Selection and we were left on an unpleasant cliffhanger.  I will be acquiring this book as soon as it is released.
Release Date: May 6, 2014

City of Heavenly Fire - Cassandra Clare
The Mortal Instruments #6.  Cassandra Clare has been  pretty popular for a while but I never had any interest in her books (the series is so long! too much of an investment!) until I became aware of and fell in love with the Infernal Devices trilogy this year. The story, characters, and world building in that trilogy made me take the leap into the Mortal Instruments, and that leap took me over the edge.  I have read all of Clare's books in one sitting, sometimes two or three in a weekend.  There is something so indulgent and attractive about the characters that I stay up all night reading about them.  I consider them one of my ultimate guilty pleasures because I know when I pick up one of these books I am checking out of the world for a couple of hours with no thought other than what is happening in the book.  I have not read City of Lost Souls (#5) yet because I need a buffer between now and book six to keep me going.
Release Date: May 2014

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron - A Review

Image Credit: Goodreads
Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron is a short story collection edited by Jonathan Strahan.  I found out about this book through a few different YouTube videos and to be honest, I only purchased it because Neil Gaiman's name was attached to the book.  Lately it seems that anything with Gaiman's imprint ends up in a package at my door.  I read a majority of this book during Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon in October to break up the monotony of other books I was reading.  I also thought it would be a great, non-horrific way to read some additional material for RIPVIII.

(Disclaimer: Gaiman only contributed a poem to this book that is one page long.  If you are buying this book solely based on his work, I would suggest checking it out from the library).

All of the stories in this book have a common thread of witches (who and what they are, how to find them and how to kill them, among other things). As with most short story collections, you win some and you lose some.  Unfortunately I lost more with this book than I won and can't strongly recommend it to anyone else as a purchase.  This book is a great tool for discovering the writing styles of multiple authors and seeing their take on the same topic.

The most frustrating thing I experience with short stories is their lack of depth and their abrupt endings that are critical to their nature.  After all, if there was in depth character development and plot lines I would be reading a novel instead of a short story and wouldn't be able to dip in and out of so many writing styles within 400 pages.  I don't regret expanding my witch-lore with this book but I don't think I will be trying any short story collections in the near future.

Friday, October 25, 2013

#FridayReads 10.25.2013


The weekend is finally here!  I am fully recovered from Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon two weeks ago and back in the full swing of reading.  I finished two books this week, pulling me out of my reading slump.  The Selection and it's sequel, The Elite by Kiera Cass (reviews coming soon!)

The weather in Pennsylvania has cooled down into the 40s and 50s every day.  I am anticipating a chilly weekend again where I can curl up on the couch with a blanket, my cats and some good reading.
I plan on working through the rest of Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor and then I have a few different options. I purchased Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice on my Kindle but I also want to dive into The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters.

 I am also working on a new series for Stacks & Shelves called Middle Grade Monday where I highlight some of my favorite middle grade fiction and authors, so I want to try some more of Neil Gaiman's books like Coraline or Richard Peck's Here Lies the Librarian.

I will be updating all weekend on my Goodreads page.  You can also find me on Twitter!

What do you have lined up for this weekend?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Selection - A Review

Over the weekend, on a whim, I downloaded the audiobook version of Kiera Cass's The Selection. I had a lot of chores to get done and I wanted something light yet engaging to listen to while working around the house and this seemed to fit the bill perfectly.  The Selection is a wonderfully predictable poor girl meets rich prince and falls in love story.  But wait! In typical YA fashion we throw a love triangle into the mix, along with familial obligation and an opportunity to earn money for your poor family and we have The Selection.

I highly recommend this book! I ate it up and even gave it 5/5 stars on Goodreads because I enjoyed it so much.

I listened to all 8 hours of the audiobook in a row because I could not get enough of America's story and what would happen next.  I found myself enraged at some of the decisions America made, the blindness to Maxon's affections towards her and the cruelty of the other girls involved in the hunt for Maxon's hand in marriage.  I haven't been emotionally connected to a book like this in a very long time, even though the premise is silly and conventional overdone in YA.

This is not the most well written, complex, or through provoking book that I had ever read.  But it was an all around good time and I already have the second book in the series, The Elite, waiting for me on my kindle.  I sometimes feel guilty about reading YA books because they aren't widely critically acclaimed or because my colleagues and friends would frown if I recommended them.  However. reading is my hobby and hobby should be fun.  I haven't had so much fun with a book in a long time.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Doctor Sleep - The Wrap Up!

I missed last week's check in for the Doctor Sleep readalong hosted by Tif Talks Books and Cheap Thrills so I am going to skip ahead for the final discussion questions below.  

Warning! If you have not read The Shining or Doctor Sleep you will probably be spoiled!

Discussion #3 - Chapters 14-end

Before we started reading, we asked if you had any expectations for Doctor Sleep.  Did you get what you were hoping for out of the book?

I got SO MUCH MORE out of this book than I was expecting! The Shining was lackluster for me, and I saw this book as representing a greater possibility for Danny's character and story line.  I read very few synopses and tried to limit my expectations as much as possible so I wouldn't be let down.  Stephen King delivered this time - I was so enraptured by this story that I blew threw the book in 2 days and put everything (eating, sleeping) aside until I was done.  Even after I was done reading I stayed up for a few hours to read what others thought about the book too.

Having finished the book, do you think having read The Shining is important for enjoying this one?

I think reading The Shining is essential for understanding the interpersonal connections between characters.  However, the True Knot brought so much to the story that didn't directly involve the Overlook Hotel that anyone could pick up Doctor Sleep without feeling lost.  The prologue to the book also did a great job of recapping what happened in Danny's childhood to provide a good knowledge base for Doctor Sleep.

In one word, one phrase, one sentence ... describe Doctor Sleep.

Wow - it's difficult to pick just one. I think closure is a good one.  Danny, Abra, Abra's grandmother, the Overlook - everything wraps up at the end of the book.  Bad feelings are put to rest and people are able to move on with their lives without fear of their shining.

Anything else you feel like discussing about the end of the book?  Or, about the book as a whole?

Yes - the True Knot! Who are they, where did they come from, how did they start.. I need to know! The True Knot could be a separate novella with an explanation to their history.  The mystery surrounding the group enhances to story but the fan in me needs to know whats going on!

As for the True Knot's hunt for Abra using "the grid" (basically the Internet), I think Stephen King was trying to make commentary on how much of our lives are spent, conducted or stored online or in electronic records that are vulnerable to groups or people trying to harm us (like the True Knot).  When the True Knot was trying to find Abra and able to so easily determine her location it felt like the internet was the enemy, and it was unsettling.  If the True Knot were coming after us, who is to say we couldn't be found just as easily?

So tell me - what are your thoughts?? Did you love it, hate it, couldn't get enough of it? 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Wuthering Heights - A RIPVIII Review

I finished reading Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte during Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon this past weekend.  I originally selected the book because it's a classic that I feel everyone else but me had read.  I had also never read any Victorian literature, or anything by the Bronte sisters.

In case you didn't know, Wuthering Heights is a multi-generational tale of a love-square involving Cathy, Heathcliffe, Edgar and Isabella who do not get what they want while they are alive.  They pass this terrible lifestyle on to their children who are also miserable for 95% of the book.  It is not until the final chapter that we see a couple genuinely happy together without extenuating circumstances that pull them apart.

The story is told partially through the perspective of Mr. Lockwood, who is renting Thrushcross Grange a few miles from Wuthering Heights.  The first few chapters of this book are the hilarious encounters of mis-manners between Mr. Lockwood and Heathcliffe, his landlord.  The rest of the story is told through stories that Nelly, Thrushcross Grange's caretaker, relates to Mr. Lockwood.  She grew up at Wuthering Heights with Cathy and Heathcliffe and had first hand experience at all of the horrible events that took place over their lifetimes.

The characters in this book are terrible for the most part.  It's not really their fault - they have a lot circumstances they are unable to overcome in the very beginning of their lives - but I think that's what makes the book work so well.  You feel terrible for the characters because they were molded into unpleasant people but at the same time they are so unpleasant you love to hate them.  The writing was difficult to read because I was not acclimated to the Victorian writing style, but once I was able to focus and sink into the rhythm of the words it made much more sense.  However, I think this is a book that needs to be read more than once to be fully understood.  I struggled through the book for a while so I don't think I will be reading it again any time soon, but I am willing to look into other people's reviews and discussions to learn more about it.

While reading I highlighted two passages from the book:

Cathy to Nelly regarding Heathcliffe - "It would degrade me to marry Heathcliffe now; so he shall never know how I love him: and that, not because he's handsome, Nelly, but because he's more myself than I am.  Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same;" (Chapter 9)

Heathcliffe to Nelly regarding Cathy - "If he loved with all the powers of his puny being, he couldn't love as much in eighty years as I could in a day.  And Catherine has a heart as deep as I have: the sea could be as readily contained in that horse-trough as her whole affection be monopolised by him!" (Chatper 14)

Have you read Wuthering Heights? I've heard from some people that absolutely love it and others that hate it.  I would love to know what you think!

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Historian - Final Check In & Discussion

Hello readers! It's been quite a month so far.. I finished both The Historian and Doctor Sleep within the past few weeks and I've got so many discussion questions to catch up on.  Today I will be posting my answers to the final discussion questions for The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.  This readalong event was hosted by The Estella Society for RIPVIII, which ends on October 31. 

If you're just catching up you can read my answers to the mid-way discussion here, and I posted my full review on The Historian here

Just in case you didn't realize - this is a discussion post so if you have not read or finished the book you may be spoiled by my answers!

1. What did you think of the way everything unfolded at the end? Any surprises?
The ending to the book did not shock or surprise me - I think it ended up being pretty predictable once Paul and Helen got to the final church site, and the overall ending of the book tied all of the story ends up quite nicely. I didn't think the additional perspective of Paul and Helen's daughter was completely unnecesary for the ending that Kostova wrote because it only added an additional emotional layer rather than enhancing the plot.  Reading everything through her perspective made the story confusing and I would have preferred a narrative rather than epistolary format for the overall book.
2. What did you think of Dracula?
I didn't think Dracula was all that impressive.  Is it just me or did anyone else feel that way? The build up to finding him was so great that I didn't even know what to expect and I think that is what led me to being let down. I think it would have been better if they didn't find his tomb or his "presence" and left it as a mystery.
3. In Chapter 73, Dracula states his credo: “History has taught us that the nature of man is evil, sublimely so.” Do the characters and events in the novel seem to agree or disagree with this?
I may have skimmed over this section .. so I will have to pass on this question!
4. Helen’s history is deeply intertwined with Dracula. In what ways are the two characters connected? Does she win out over his legacy?
Dracula and Helen are connected by their culture's history, language and customers on a very basic level, but ultimately their connection morphs into something else over the story.  Helen is initially motivated to find more information about Dracula because she is searching for her father and a way to connect with him on a scholarly level - the only way she has to reach out to him.  What she discovers when she meets up with Paul is someone who had Rossi as a paternal figure in their life, something she has always wanted.  I think this is where Helen's love for Paul comes from, apart from the incredible experience Paul and Helen had together searching for Dracula.  
Looking at the surface of the novel I think it is very easy to say that Helen won out over Dracula's legacy because she was able to escape him for years without being turned into a vampire and she was reunited with her family at the end of the story.  However, she had to give up so much of herself to searching through history and travelling all over the world to find his tomb to destroy him that she was never able to live her own life. She had to hide in the shadows the same way that he did so I don't think you can definitely say that she won out over his legacy
Overall I think this was a good book worth reading, but it exhausted the novelty of vampires for me this year. I won't be reading any bloodsucking books in the near future!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon Final Update + What I Learned

Good morning!! How did everyone do? Are you still awake & reading or did you crash after 24 hours? Hubby made me celebratory french toast for breakfast since I was still up & reading when he woke up today.

This first readathon was quite an experience.  I read 210 pages to finish Wuthering Heights and 242 pages from Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron, a short story anthology edited by Jonathan Strahan for a total of 452 pages in 24 hours.  I also only participating in 17 of 24 hours for the readathon - I took 2 longer naps and 1 short nap this morning.  This was underwhelming - I thought I was going to power through the end of Wuthering Heights and then knock down 3-4 shorter novels in the read of the time for the readathon.  That did not happen for a couple of reasons that I will explain below.  Hopefully this will help me read more for April's readathon. 

What I Learned:

1. Do not read Wuthering Heights!
I was able to finish Wuthering Heights after about 16 hours of reading - 210 pages in 16 hours! Abysmally slow reading, mostly due to the complexity of the character relationships and the Victorian language/writing style I had difficulty comprehending.  Overall, Wuthering Heights was a great book that I would recommend others to read but not with time constraints.  Powering through this book resulted in fatigue and disinterest in reading anything else for a little while which hindered my overall reading for this event.

2. Shower early.
The readathon start time on the East Coast was 8:00 AM, so I set my alarm for 7:00 AM to get up and have breakfast and settle in for the day.  I was going to use my shower as a mid morning pick up to wash away any restlesness or tiredness I was feeling.  This was a big mistake - because I stayed in my pajamas for the first part of the morning, I also stayed in the mentally sleepy state and fell asleep at 11:00 AM, only three hours in! I couldn't resist napping and that wiped out 2 hours of reading time for me.  After I finally decided to shower around 5:00 PM I was wide awake and ready to go.  So next time, I will shower before the readathon starts.

3. Plan social media time wisely.
I think this is a warning mostly for first-timers, who are new to the scene for the readathon. I was so distracted by blogging, twitter and instagram on the iPhone that it distracted me from actually reading.  I think it's why Wuthering Heights took as long as it did to finish - if I was at a boring part I would just stop reading and check twitter to see what everyone else was up to. 

One more point for Twitter-- make sure your tweets aren't private! I was tweeting other readers and hashtagging my heart out for more than half of the event with no response and I was feeling a little isolated from the community until I figured out that my security setting were set to private and no one could see what I was tweeting to them! 

4. Plan your reading area.
I planned my reading area for the loveseat and side table in my 1 bedroom apartment that I shared with my husband and 2 cats.  This was great while my husband was out of the house - plenty of room to spread out, no distractions, quiet background.  But as soon as he came home he turned the Walking Dead marathon on and I kept glancing up from my book to see what was happening on the TV show, or asking him questions about the series plot line.  I should have taken my reading into the bedroom or dining room while the show was on but I stayed in the living room and inhibited my reading.

24th Hour Mini Challenge Survey

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
Probably the fourth or fifth hour.. After the initial excitement wore off and my adrenaline calmed down I needed a nap to refresh myself. 

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
Both of the books I read were not very high interest so I don't have any experience this year, but hopefully reading everyone else's responses will give me a better idea of what my TBR pile should be for April.

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
Since this was my first readathon I'm going to hold off on critiquing anything that happened simply because I was such a novice myself.

4.What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
The twitter interaction was amazing! I loved being able to see everyone's real time status and photo updates.

5. How many books did you read?
I finished 1 book and read 1/2 of another.

6. What were the names of the books you read?
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (finish) and Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron, edited by Jonathan Strahan (1/2).

7. Which book did you enjoy most?
Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron.  It is a short story anthology all about witches - perfect for October and the length of the stories broke up the monotony of Wuthering Heights.

8. Which did you enjoy least?
By process of elimination I would have to say Wuthering Heights since it's the only other book I read although I didn't not enjoy it, it just wasn't as enjoyable.

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
I was not a cheerleader this year but it made me so happy to see everyone else's encouragement on my updates that I am definiately signing up to to be a cheerleader in April.  Go Team Otter!!

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
100% will participate next time as a reader and a cheerleader.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon Update Post 10/13

Hello fellow readathon-ers! I am going to update every few hours with my reading progress for Dewey's. I am SO EXCITED to be participating in the event this October and can't wait to see what it brings!

I've got my set up ready to go with comfy blankets on my couch.  I've also got an Amazon gift card at the ready just in case any of the books I've lined up aren't satisfying what I am looking for and I need a new e-book.
Introductory Meme:

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? Just outside of South Philadelphia, PA!

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? FINALLY finishing Wuthering Heights! It's been months. 

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? White pizza with broccoli.. yum! Small enough to eat with one hand and hold with the other.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself! This is the first time I'm participating in Dewey's Readathon, or 24 hour readathon at all!

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? I'm looking forward to a full 24 hours - I've never stayed up that long so I'm really excited for the challenge to try it!

Update #1
Time: 10:08 AM
Pages read: 52 pages from Wuthering Heights
Books finished: 0
Thoughts: Twitter is so distracting! 

***Mid Event Survey***
1. How are you doing? Sleepy? Eyes tired?
I am experiencing some fatigue - I haven't gotten up to do anything other than shower all day.  My eyes are a little tired but nothing switching out of my contacts to my glasses can't fix. 

2. What have you finished reading so far?
NOTHING! I have been powering through Wuthering Heights - only sixty pages left - and once it's done I'm having a dance party celebration. 

3. What has been your favorite read so far?
In between bouts of Wuthering Heights I've been reading Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron which is a short story anthology all about Witches.  It's been really enjoyable so far to break up the desperation of Wuthering Heights. 

4. What about your favorite snacks?
Delicious sprinkle Italian cookies I got especially for today.

5. Have you found any new blogs? Give them some love!
I have! Connecting with the larger community is the best part of this event. I haven't been on the computer too much but two blogs I've really enjoyed so far are River City Reading, Ciska's Book Chest and The Relentless Reader.

Now-- I think I'm going to stretch my legs and head over to Starbucks for a little late night caffeine and then finish up Wuthering Heights.  Happy reading!

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making - A Review

I purchased The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente  when it was on the Kindle Daily Deal earlier this year.  I previously read Valente's Deathless, which is a Russian fairy tale retelling and the language, characters and depth of her stories made me an instant fan.
Image Credit: Goodreads

Fairyland is the story of 12 year old September who is plucked out of her life in Omaha, Nebraska and whisked away to Fairyland by the Green Wind to confront and defeat the current Marquess. Along the way she meets a rich variety of whimsical characters and learns how to depend on herself physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I found September to be a great role model for younger audiences because she is a strong female lead who is successful because she relies on herself.  There are many times when she has to decide what is right and what is easy, and she questions her values often while in Fairyland.

Overall, this was a highly engaging novel that I would recommend to anyone who likes fantasy or coming of age stories.  It was heartwarming, adventurous, and nostalgic.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is the first in a series of Fairyland books.  The a prequel, second & third books are also available.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon TBR

It’s that time of year again! I have heard about Dewey’s readathon for about 2 years now, but this is the first time I will be participating and I can’t wait!  There is still time to sign up at if you want to participate.
This is my first readathon and I have been reading all of the guest posts as the official blog to make sure I am prepared for anything that might come my way.  I’m going to shower and head to bed early on Friday night so I am fully prepared for an early wake up call and kick off reading event around 8 AM the next morning.
I don’t have high aspirations for this challenge, but I would like to read through at least one book (even if it’s a children’s book!).   I plan on taking mini breaks throughout the day for naps, kitty play time and to watch a few episodes of The Real Housewives of Vancouver on Youtube (I am loving this show!).
I have quite the list of books on deck for this readathon so I’ve written down all of their names and have created a “Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon” book jar to randomly pull the books I’m going to read.  Here are the books going into the book jar:
  • Yayas in Bloom by Rebecca Wells
  • Forever Amber Brown by Paula Danziger
  • Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver
  • City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare
  • How to Talk to Girls at Parties (short story) by Neil Gaiman
  • Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
  • The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe
  • Here Lies the Librarian by Richard Peck
  • The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
  • Maggie Now by Betty Smith
  • The Little Stranger  by Sarah Waters
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  • Stardust by Neil Gaiman (I’m sensing a theme now..)
  • The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent
  • Discworld by Terry Pratchett
I also have Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron which is an anthology of Halloween short stories to break up any monotony I experience in the books.
I will pull the first book on Friday night while I’m preparing for the readathon and update bright and early on Saturday morning with a kickoff post.   I also would love to post mini reviews of the books as I finish them throughout the day but I can’t guarantee there will be time for all of that.  I will definitely be following up with a first timer’s reaction post and wrap up on Sunday afternoon.

So everyone – start resting up now for the readathon!! You can follow me on twitter and instagram @keepingheather for more frequent updates.  Happy reading!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Historian - A RIPVIII Review

The Historian is a trip down the rabbit hole of Dracula lore.  Told in epistolary format, it is a story within a story within a story to find the tomb of Dracula to determine whether or not he is still alive. Sound confusing? It is.  At the end of the book I wasn't sure who's perspective we were reading from or who was writing the letters telling the story.  It is also very, very long, weighing in at over 700 pages.  It's well written, but often dry and there were portions of the book where I had to completely skip a 200 page primary document (that was made up!).  I read this book as part of a readalong hosted by the Estella Society for RIPVIII.  I will have the second round of discussion questions posted on October 14th, but I wanted to jot down my thoughts on the book before then.  You can read my answers to the first set of discussion questions here.

I really appreciate the depth of information that Kostova embedded in this novel.  I don't know anything about the Ottoman or Byzantine empires, so the knowledge included in the story line flowed well even if I didn't always know what they were talking about.  Being unaware of the specifics of the history also prevented any inaccuracies from marring the story for me.  I really enjoyed the main characters Paul and Helena and their developing relationship. However, the side characters fell short.  They were introduced into the story line too conveniently, and without any speculation as to why they were willing to help or believe the main characters in their quest.  They were lovely as individuals, and I especially enjoyed the hospitality of Turgut and his wife - but aligning their immediate kindness with the political turmoil in the middle east and eastern European countries at the time did not match up, making the novel fall short.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Autumn Book Tag

This tag has been circulating throughout the Booktube and Blogging communities for a few weeks now so I had to jump on the bandwagon.  I love Autumn!

1. What is your favorite thing about autumn?
The leaves! I love the smell, sound, touch and look of falling leaves, especially when they get crunchy on the sidewalk.

2. What book reminds you of school?
Well, the Harry Potter books always remind me of returning to school because they primarily are set at Hogwarts (not a September 1 goes by that I don't wish I was on the Hogwarts Express...). Otherwise I would have to say Hatchet and Dogsong by Gary Paulsen.  I have very distinct memories of reading these books in the 5th grade and I always go back to that time period when I think of them.

3. What is one of your favorite autumn-related book covers?
Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson.  Admittedly it is a children's book specifically for the Halloween season BUT I still love it.

4. What is your favorite horror or Halloween story?
HOCUS POCUS! (The movie). I know it's not a classic tale, but 90s kids have a special bond to this movie.  It terrified me until I was about 16.. and then I got over it.  I watch it every Halloween for nostalgia, and because it's hilarious.

5. What are some of your favorite horror films?
Horror films? No thank you. I have watched the classics over the years (Rosemary's Baby, The Shining, Carrie, The Exorcist just to name a few) but straight horror movies are not my thing. My favorite psychological thriller is Identity, with John Cusack.

6. What is a book release you're looking forward to this autumn?
The main book I was looking forward to was Doctor Sleep, which released on September 24 and I finished yesterday. It was amazing! Apart from that, I am really looking forward to The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame.

7. What is a film release you're looking forward to this autumn?
Catching Fire! I will not be swarming the theater for the midnight release but I cannot wait to watch the second installment of the Hunger Games trilogy.

8. What are three books you want to read this autumn?
My full fall TBR post was put up at the beginning of September (read it here!).  I am still only half way through Wuthering Heights and I really want to finish it soon.  I also can't wait to read The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters and Night Film by Marisha Pessl.

I hope you enjoyed that. I tag Sam at Ellipsis Comma Dash to do this tag - and YOU, if you are reading this and haven't done it yet. Please leave a comment with a link to your post if you do the tag. I would love to read your answers!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Doctor Sleep - Check In #1

Here are my responses to the Doctor Sleep check in #1 for the prologue and first section of the book.  There is still time to join! You can sign up at TifTalksBooks and Cheap Thrills.

WARNING: There may be spoilers if you have not finished Part 1 of Doctor Sleep or read The Shining.

Doctor Sleep picks up not long after the closing of The Shining.  For those who have recently read The Shining, do you think it proves to be helpful in diving into the sequel?  If you have not recently read The Shining, do you feel you are missing out on some of the details?

I think King did a good job at recapping some of the major points of The Shining in the prologue of Doctor Sleep for any new readers, but having the previous experience of diving into Jack and Danny's psyche adds an additional layer of depth and understanding to the book.  Has anyone noticed the similarities to Jack wiping his lips before going off the deep end and Abra wiping her mouth when she is nervous? I am sure that King wrote the two behavior tics intentionally and I am excited to see how deep the connection between the two characters goes.

Danny has now become Dan.  In Part One, we watch his transformations from learning to live with the horrors of The Overlook to succumbing to the drink (like his father) to his road to sobriety and earning the title of Doctor Sleep.  What do you think about the journey King has taken Dan on thus far?

I think there are parallels between Dan and King's life; I am not very well read on his background but I do know that he was using drugs and alcohol during the time frame that he wrote The Shining, and now with Doctor Sleep he has the chance to revisit the same characters in his sobriety much the same way that Dan is. 

For character development, I much prefer Dan as an adult to a child.  I had a hard time relating to a five year old boy with extraordinary abilities, but now that Dan's talent has been limited with his age he is easier to relate to than he was before.

We are also introduced to the True Knot in this first section.  What do you think about this group?

The True Knot is a fantastic villain, in my opinion.  The way King has written the characters individually and as a whole make me sympathetic toward their situation (doesn't everyone want to thrive and survive?) while being horrific at the same time.  I can enjoy the thought of Abra and Dan defeating them because of their actions while at the same time mourning the deaths of their members. Their origins and true identity are full of mystery and I hope there is more exposition on their history. 

Overall, what do you think so far?  Have you completely fallen into the story?  Or, has it taken a bit longer to get back into the life of little Danny Torrance?

I am all in, head over heels in for this book! It will easily be in my top 10 books of the year. It's been a really pleasurable read so far with just enough creeping horror to keep me on the edge of my seat.  

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Doctor Sleep Readalong

After being pretty indecisive in my latest #FridayReads post, I decided to pick up Stephen King's latest (and highly anticipated) release, Doctor Sleep.  This follows the story of Danny Torrence after life at The Overlook hotel in The Shining.  Most King books start out very slow for me and I anticipate reading very slowly for the first part of the book, but I was really surprised at how invested I was in the story line from the beginning.  All of the POVs flowed very smoothly from one chapter to the next so I didn't experience the initial stalling of interest with Doctor Sleep like I do with his other books.

I read the first 200 pages in just over a day which was perfect timing to join in on the Doctor Sleep #Sleepalong hosted by Charlene at Cheap Thrills and Tif at TifTalksBooks.  This book will also go toward the RIPVIII reading event that ends on October 31.  Here are a few pre-reading questions:

Have you read The Shining?  Was it recently or ages ago?  Or, is your knowledge of The Shining from the movie and mainstream pop culture?
I read The Shining a few months ago and only after finding out that Doctor Sleep was being released.  I have been reading King for about 10 years now and always had The Shining on my list to read but it wasn't a priority until I found out about Doctor Sleep.  I also saw the movie when I was in middle school and that experience was much different than reading the book.

In a few sentences, describe your feelings on The Shining.  Did you like it?  What thoughts or images stand out for you?
I thought The Shining was a little underwhelming, but I think that is because I was heavily influenced by the altered story line of the movie and iconic images/scare tactics that it used.  The book is more of a slow creeping horror rather than a shock and awe horror that the movie was.  The main scene from the book that stands out is when the elevator starts moving by itself.  I was reading that part at night in bed and I honestly had trouble sleeping afterwards.

What do you expect from Doctor Sleep?
I am going in with zero expectations, and I haven't even read a plot summary of the book. I always find this to be the best way to experience any book because there is no hype surrounding the plot or characters for me to compare them to while reading.

So tell me, have you read The Shining and will you also read Doctor Sleep? Check back tomorrow for the first check in for #sleepalong!

Friday, October 4, 2013


Image Source: Boardwalks and Boulevards

Happy Friday everyone!!

Today is an especially happy day because I finally finished The Historian after work for the Estella Society readalong, part of RIPVIII. Huzzah! At about page 500 or so, the plot seemed to drag and I didn't think I would ever get to the end. I am going to postpone my full review until the second part of the discussion questions are released, but I did give it 3/5 stars on Goodreads.

The Historian took me two weeks to finish, and I am still half way through Wuthering Heights so I'm not sure what I'm going to read next.  Perhaps Doctor Sleep or Night Film to throw a fast pasted book into the mix? I am still unsure but excited to dive into my TBR.

What are you reading this weekend?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Historian Readalong - Discussion and Midway Check In

Hello friends! Are you reading The Historian along with me and The Estella Society? This readalong is also a part of RIPVIII.

I am currently 60% through with the book and I a few days late with the discussion questions but I wanted to check in anyway.

1. What do you think of the structure of the novel? 

I am loving the story within a story, down the rabbit hole structure of this story. It switches between stories/perspectives enough to maintain suspense and interest without being confusing.

2. What are your thoughts on Helen's characterization? Have you warmed to her?

Actually, it did not occur to me to dislike Helen until I read this question.  I never received the overall impression that she was dislikeable, just aloof or stand off-ish. After Kostova developed Helen's character and background more I have grown quite fond of her.  I do think she is quite forward for the time period (1950s) and her history of being a women scholar in a communist county doesn't seem very realistic.

3. What do you think of the peripheral characters? Are their motivations pure? (Turget, Helen's family, etc).

I've just started to indulge in the chapters of Helen's family so I haven't fully formed my opinion on them, with the exception of her mother.  I do believe her intentions are pure based on the history between her and Rossi.  As for the other characters such as Turgut and Professor Hugh came into the story line too easily and offered their backgrounds too readily for me to fully believe they do not have an ulterior motive.  Even in the historic academic world I find it hard to believe that anyone will accept the theory that Dracula is still alive.  I think their eagerness to assist (monetarily, personally) on this investigation for Dracula is for their benefit rather than Paul's.

4. Other thoughts on this book?

Loving it! I originally read the first 20% or so and set it down for no reason. I picked it back up for this reading challenge and I am so glad I did.  I am enthralled in the stories and settings and can't wait to find out.  I think it's a great compliment to Kostova that I can fall deeply into her writing (on a topic that seems boring on the surface) for a few hours at a time without losing interest or falling asleep.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

September Wrap Up & Update

Well hello! It's been a few weeks - oops! I got married last Saturday (9/21) so the weeks leading up to the wedding were full of last minute appointments followed by my honeymoon to Disney World & Universal Studios.

I was only able to finish four books this month (I think that's my yearly low):

  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (review)
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (review)
  • The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente (review forthcoming!)
  • The Witches by Roald Dahl (review)

I am currently 60% through The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova and I plan on finishing prior to October 14, as part of the read along with The Estella Society.  I am also still powering through Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte and I have about 1/2 of the book left.

For my yearly Goodreads Challenge, I have read 64 of 80 books (original goal 60 books) and I am 5 books ahead of schedule.  With four months left of the year I am sure I can read four books per month to meet that goal.

I also happened to purchase, ahem, TWENTY ONE books this month! Which is insane and too many to list here, but I am looking forward to reading them.  They should provide excellent material for Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon taking place on October 12!

So tell me, what have you read this month?