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text 2014-05-06 00:38
First Impression: The Retelling Commences... kind of slowly.
The Princess Curse - Merrie Haskell

After a long, methodical decision-making process (we wrote down four books each on index cards and then chose one), my BFF and I have chosen our next Mini Book Club book for this month.  (Though the decision-making process on my end ended up in 12 new books hoisted on my TBR Pile...)


The Princess Curse sounded cute, and I'm always up for Fairytale Retellings; this one, in particular, is based off of the Twelve Dancing Princesses... of which I really don't know much about that fairy tale except for the fact that it is about twelve princesses who are cursed to dance all night long, every night.  (Mental note to self: Look up the original story and details.)




So far it's interesting, but the book itself has not quite hooked me yet.  To be fair, I'm only two chapters in (and I've been on a Romantic Suspense kick, so everything else I've been reading hasn't felt as exciting).  The curse is introduced and our main player, Reveka, who narrates the story, is presented.  A small side history of the twelve princesses' origins as well as the inner conflict of the throne inheritance is brought up.


Most importantly, our main character's interest in helping to break the curse is fairly realistic.  Reveka comes off as judgmental, boastful, maybe a bit quick to jump to conclusions and make assessments without having all of her information.  She might be a little in over her head, out of her league.  She's a thirteen year old herbalist's apprentice and it amuses me that she believes she can save the day where other, more experienced adults have failed.


I haven't quite formed a like or dislike for her yet, but I'm of the hope that she's not just all talk.  The fact that she seems to speak condescendingly to royalty (and everyone else, for that matter) bugs me a little bit; you might be a smart cookie, but you don't have much common sense.  No matter how intelligent or useful you are to a kingdom, you are STILL just a lowly commoner... and expendable in the eyes of those sitting high above you.  Reveka might do well to get her respects straight, even if she doesn't feel respectful towards the royal family.


Because during monarchies, that is NOT a question.  I'm surprised that her first encounter with the Princess Consort didn't get her more of a punishment than simply apologizing to a woman she'd put into distress.


So I worry for her a little bit.


Otherwise, I'm employing a "wait-and-see" tact on how I'm reading this book.  It seems like there are a lot of high ratings for The Princess Curse and people are boasting about how intelligent and strong Reveka is, so I'm holding out hope that I'll come around to liking the book and the character.

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review 2014-04-11 08:04
Reread, Reminisce, Review: The Dollhouse Murders
The Dollhouse Murders - Betty Ren Wright

Hmm..... Nostalgia is wonderful, isn't it?

I remember reading this book when I was still in middle school. It was my first ghostly mystery story and it had every little part of exciting, spine-chilling thrill, as far as I can remember. I was young and I was easily startled and this book had the elements to make me afraid to sleep at night.

Here I am today as an adult, reminiscing and rereading an old childhood favorite, chosen by myself and my BFF as our next Mini Book Club read. It really DOES give off quite the nostalgic feels.


And I'm glad that this book is still as good as I vaguely remember it to be.

I'm not gonna lie -- this isn't the best book in the world and it reminds me of why I used to be such a drama queen when I was younger. Books like these typically highlight pretty well the personality and behaviors of young children when their worlds revolved around very few things. And then the slightest upset or excitement would merit the most dramatic responses.

It also highlighted that sense of loneliness that a lot of us felt growing up with siblings who seemed to garner more attention from Mom and Dad than we would have liked. You always feel like you're being picked on, or that Mom and Dad just don't love you as much as your brother or sister. In my case, it was three brothers I felt had stolen my mother and father's attentions from me. Whenever they would do or say anything that seemed unfair, I took it to an all new level of spoiled brat.  


I always told myself that my parents were never fair when it concern me and my brothers -- that whole Double Standards thing... or the fact that Asian families just tend to favor males more than females (which still holds true, but my state of drama-ness is a bit more indifferent now-a-days and less emo).

Looking back, even though The Dollhouse Murders may not have been the best book in the world (it had a lot of tacky prose and dialogue, though it was written in the 80s), it was one of the books during my childhood that had one of the biggest impacts on me. Aside from shaping my slightly Drama Queen-ish personality throughout middle school and high school, it also cemented my love for writing and for mysteries (specifically mysteries with a paranormal flare). I remember finishing this book and always thinking how awesome it would be if I could write my own ghostly mystery -- with a little girl just like me, with a made up family, a made up set of friends, a made up love interest, made up fun, and an awesomely creepy, ghost story.

I might have come up with several different story ideas, written drafts of the first few chapters of several different stories. I've never finished writing a story in my whole life, but the desire to write a ghost mystery for young adults and children has always been there. Eventually that desire to write a specific ghost story gave way to wanting to write altogether. Millions of story ideas and unfinished drafts later, I've still never succeeded.

My calling is really just to read brilliant works by other brilliant minds, I think.

The Dollhouse Murders, upon this second reading is still enjoyable and addictive. Even though you know what's going on, you still like the progression. Even though the ghostly occurrences don't seem as eerie as they did when I was twelve, there's still a feeling of dark shadows and quiet whispers lingering in the back of my mind.

I stopped reading nearing the end of the book to go out into the dark kitchen to find some snacks only to subconsciously shiver at the darkness and the shadows. It was kind of exhilarting, really. And amusing.  And I sometimes startle easy ever since the days of my brother standing in the dark of that space between the bathroom door and the hallway, saying the words "Do you need to pee?" in a low hum of a voice and scaring the crap out of me as I headed down the hall with my mind on other things.

This book has always been enjoyable and Betty Ren Wright (despite my most recent run in with a less than agreeable book) has admittedly excellent writing style and skill. The way she weaved the ghostly happenings around some of the other of Amy Treloar's pre-teen problems was done quite well. Although after reading both books in succession (Crandall's Castle as well as this book), I'm starting to wonder about the adults in Ms. Wright's written worlds. Are they purposely written with subtle hints of being just as stubborn and irrational as children are seen to be? Because even the adults will say or do things that make me wonder...

Then again, I guess those things could still be fairly legitimate as realistic behavior in adults, parents especially.

Just as a coworker of mine has told me before: Parents don't mean to be unfair. They love all their children in different way, is all. And if it turns out that one child happens to need a little more attention than another, said parents will act accordingly. In contrast, if one child seems to have it all together and seems strong enough to take care of him or herself, then that's one less issue that needs to be dealt with.

Something like that, I think, is what she meant.


Who'd have thought that a simple ghostly myster, reread a little over a decade later would bring so much insight to my life (not that I didn't already figure a lot of that stuff out, but whatevs).

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review 2014-01-31 04:15
Review: The Book Thief
The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

Initial Thoughts:

I’ve been big on the young adult genre lately.  Appropriately, The Book Thief is a book in the young adult target.  I’ve also been more drawn towards fantasy, science fiction, adventures, hidden worlds… with a side dish of romance.


The Book Thief isn’t a book I would normally take on nowadays.  This book seems to be a “made for deep analysis” type of book.  I’m of the “I’m tired of deep thinking” type, because I’d rather read something and simply express whether or not I liked it and why.  High school already took us through the analysis of books, dissecting and manipulating phrases, scenes, characters, etc… just to determine whether or not we really know what an author is truly trying to present.  


In the end, you're not even sure whether or not the author truly had deep meaning messages behind his or her writings.


That’s not for me anymore.


My BFF, however is interested in this book and was determined to choose it as part of our “Mini Book Club” selection.  I’m sure it fascinates her because she likes inspiration pieces and the like.  There’s no doubting that it fascinates me as well; the entire premise is interesting.


Those were my initial thoughts before reading The Book Thief.  For some, stubborn reason, I always feel the need to read these types of books as if I’m going to be graded on a college level essay.  It’s a point of pride that I don’t like sounding stupid doing one of few things I truly love to do: discussing books.  However, I know it can’t be helped.  Everyone takes something different away from a book and I'll admit that my take-aways aren't always well-informed or researched.


But these following thoughts came to me as I neared the ending of the book.


Who cares if I can’t analyze every symbolic detail presented in The Book Thief?  This book was enjoyable and memorable, all in itself.  It’s unique and entertaining, conveying a monotonously dank, dark mood that just hangs there without even trying.  It's a book about a tragic moment in history, told from a perspective different from what I'm familiar with.  It's a powerful book that details a simple fact in life that despite there being a bigger picture unfolding all around the world, life for the common everyday person still has to just keep moving forward.  Life goes on.


This is a story wherein a little girl goes through her own life with global events being the last thing on her mind; yet at the same time, the effects of those global events (Hitler's rise, the war, etc...) still sting on a personal level.


Most importantly, I DID enjoy reading this book very much.  In a simply put fashion, as I’d already mentioned.  I just really, really liked this book and the story of the book thief.


Now if only I could start off reading all of my books with this mindset; because, frankly, who cares what anyone else thinks?  My opinion is my opinion.  Right?

What I liked:

The writing style and format was different from what I’m used to (aside from the fact that the majority of YA fiction tends to be written in first person, a fact that irks me just a little bit).


This thought came to me at some point during my reading: The format reminds me of a graphic novel, told in words rather than pictures, but where the pictures are still rather vivid even without the illustrations.  In fact, it reminded me of Japanese manga, for some reason (though I’m not certain what that reason is).


The story is told in an almost third person omniscient view where Death is the narrator, but most of the story rarely comes around to Death referring to himself too often.  And so it seems to present itself more in third person with a “tale telling” air about it.  I don’t know if any of that makes any sense, but to me, it gave off a rather whimsical feel… in spite of the dark, melancholic background of the story’s setting.


The writing conveyed vivid detail, as I already mentioned.  Even while seemingly detached from the book’s story and characters, you can still feel what the characters feel and see what the characters see.  The descriptions were excellent.


The “FEELS”....  Yea, they were there alright.

What I’m unsure of:

Everything about this book gives me serious conflicting feelings despite the feels.  The reason being: It’s just hard to put into words the strange feelings going through my mind when I’m reading this book.  I’m conflicted in that, I know this is a depressing setting, a depressing story, a depressing time frame…  There’s tragedy, tension, danger and so many other things going on.  I mean, this is a time of war and depression (for the lack of a better descriptor).  But I’m not as caught up in all the emotions my mind is telling me I should be feeling.


I am concerned with Liesel's everyday dealings and how, even though there's a war going on and people dying, Liesel's life seems fairly normal for a young child growing up.  I am concerned with Liesel's growth through her learning to read and write, becoming attached to the written word, as well as through her interactions with her foster parents and the Jewish man hidden in their basement.  I am also concerned with Liesel's interactions with her friends and the people around her.  I am concerned with how Liesel manages to slowly survive through her nightmares and the misery that left her orphaned.


This book truly is quite character driven.


There are small details and random scenes that manage to make me really feel what I believe I should be feeling.  Those moments are so strangely random and fleeting.


There’s a detachment from the story and the characters that gives me a feeling of “watching a story unfold as a story” rather than “living out the story with the story”... if that makes any sense.  I know that this book should be triggering some sort of melancholic feeling in me, but I don’t necessarily feel it until there’s mention of the death of a precious, main character you’ve gotten to know.  There is no element of surprise in this book (which works well for the way it's written), and so you know there's more death coming and it gives you a sense of dread.  But then the scene changes so abruptly, the subject moves on, and you’re stuck not quite able to gather what emotions were supposed to be there in the first place.

Final Thoughts:

So there it is.  This is why I have so many conflicted feelings about this book.  Yet at the same time, I’m truly in love with the way it was written, the dark, twisted humor, the melancholic atmosphere… and even the scattering of characters who grow on you, even if not entirely in an emotionally attached way.


I’ve written so many notes and copied down so many quotes from the book.  There were a lot of moments that touched on a rather beautiful image.  There were heartwarming moments that made you smile and finally feel like you're living the story.  And I will admit, there was actually a moment in which my stone, cold heart clenched at the sadness and I shed a few tears.  


In the end, I’m sure that there are no proper words to describe my true feelings for this book.


I liked it.  It may not be the best book I’ve ever read, but it certainly comes close to being wonderful.  So I really really liked it.  It’s as simple as that.





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text 2014-01-01 13:22
First Impression: Part 1... and then some.
The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

The Mini Book Club continues with myself and BFF!


January's selection is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, of which we had already decided upon at the beginning of December.



Here's an interesting exchange between me and BFF:


BFF:  I think it would be fun to finish this book and then go watch the movie and then discuss both.  What do you think?


Me:  (thoughtfully)  You know, when I first chose to put this book on my 'To Read' list and then officially bought it, I didn't really even know there was a movie.


BFF:  Even though the top of your paperback says, "Now a major motion picture"?


Me:  (pouts)


BFF:  Because I totally believe that.


Me:  I live under a rock.


BFF:  You really didn't choose this book for Book Club because it got made into a movie?  The trailers are really good!


Me:  I don't like doing that.  Rushing off to read a book just because it got made into a movie...  Even though I've done it before.  It feels like something my brother would do.  You know, following trends and hype.  Like, I got tired of everyone asking me whether I've seen The Hunger Games movie, and then a lot of people I know went to read the book after they saw the movie; like they wouldn't have paid attention to the book at all if a movie hadn't been made.


Like when my friend went to start reading the second book of Lord of the Rings after she saw the first movie...  Or something like that.


BFF:  There's nothing wrong with that.


Me:  It feels like over kill.


BFF:  You're a book snob, aren't you?


Me:  I might be a book snob.



But, yes.  It's true.  I have some snobby quirks about books that I will admit to.  For instance, I have a pet peeve about buying books with the movie cover on it...  And yet, I can't quite pinpoint why it is that I feel that it's wrong.


And I also admit that I live under a rock, because while I knew that the book was being made into a movie a while after I bought it, and while I actually saw the movie cover version of the paper back in the store when I bought my non-movie cover version... I never connected that The Book Thief was made into a movie recently.


I totally live under a boulder in a cave or something...



But back to the book.


I'm enjoying what I've read so far.  Mainly, I'm loving the natural, effortless wittiness of the narration, despite the dark and serious nature of the story itself.  There's a sardonic, dark humor quality to the writing that makes the story stand out really well.  Because otherwise, I'm not sure if I would find Liesel's back-story so compelling.  I mean, her life thus far has been sad and full of tragedy, and it really makes you think, but that time period was a terrible one known in history -- in a text book, you don't feel the pain and the sufferings, and you don't really see the problems.


But The Book Thief doing a great job so far of bringing the story, the time period, the characters, the melancholy... all of it alive rather vividly.


And, of course, there have been some moments already where I've felt some "FEELS".  I can't wait to finish it so that I can have a discussion with my BFF about it.  This will definitely be a winner as part of my 2014 Reading Challenge (and the first book I read this year as well)!

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text 2013-12-25 13:19
2013 to 2014 Random Thoughts
Anna and the French Kiss - Stephanie Perkins
Heart's Blood (Roc Fantasy) - Juliet Marillier
The Cuckoo's Calling - Robert Galbraith
The Diviners - Libba Bray
The Book Thief - Trudy White,Markus Zusak
Allegiant - Veronica Roth
Kinslayer - Jay Kristoff
Unhinged - A.G. Howard
The Scorpio Races - Maggie Stiefvater
The Dream Thieves - Maggie Stiefvater

So the time around holidays tends to be chaotically busy... and I tend to get frustratingly lazy.  Also, my attention has been drawn away from reading this month.


On that note, Merry Christmas to everyone!  Hopefully everyone is enjoying the holidays, a good book, a nice cup of something yummy, and keeping warm in your own little reading nook haven.



Anyway...  As the end of the year approaches, I had wanted to write a piece detailing all the books I've read this year as well as all the books published in 2013 that I managed to get my hands on this year.  I love writing and blogging, even if sometimes I have no idea what to blog about.  And I'm not the best writer, but I try to perfect if I can.


Simply put, I just really like sharing my thoughts, and since there are very few friends in my actual real life I can discuss books with, I chose to blog my book thoughts.  Thus far, it's been pretty satisfying.


2013 has been quite the year for me as a book worm.  Ever since the days of elementary school when I first started reading for leisure regularly, and then into my middle school years where I proclaimed to anyone who would listen that I wanted to read "every book in the library", I'd pretty much given myself the mission of becoming a Master Level Bookworm with "uber fantastic reading skillz!"


That dream is still a work in progress.


Starting in high school, I began making my reading lists, compiling titles such as Lord of the Rings, everything Michael Crichton and Dean Koontz, what was out for the Harry Potter series... and so on and so forth.  I always enjoyed English class reading assignments and I spent a lot of time allowing friends to randomly choose books for me to check out from the library.


But then college started and leisurely reading had to be put on hold in place of required reading of text books, essays, journal articles, research papers... the works.


And then college ended and now I have all the time in the world to read whatever I want to read.


And now I may begin to continue satisfying my Master Level Bookworm goals.


In 2011, I had just begun the task of going through my book shelf and reading all the books I owned.  In 2011, I also discovered The Hunger Games and a little book cataloging site called Goodreads where I then went to discover a way to find all sorts of books I would be interested in reading.  And also in 2011, I picked up my first e-reader, thus making it so much easier for me to find and purchase books with the simple click of a button.


2012 was a good year in fiction land for me, but still not quite as satisfying as it could have been.  After the discovery of online book communities and social networking dedicated to books as well as several different book cataloging websites and the convenience of e-books, however... I've managed to go from reading 27 books in 2012 to having completed more than 100 books in 2013 -- 101 to date.


Sure... some of those books might have been short stories.  But at least one of them was a two book volume and three of them were extremely long length novels totaling up to 700 pages and more.  Nonetheless, setting aside the short stories, I still feel extremely accomplished in the number of books I've read, the number of reviews I've written, and the many number of books I will be planning to read soon.


Since this blog post would be immensely longer (than it already is), and I know I have a tendency to ramble on in a nonstop fashion, I'm not going to mention every book I've read this year (especially since I've read upwards of 100 books, and yes, I'm proud of myself for that).


Instead, I'm just going to talk about the end of the year and how I'm going to wrap things up for 2013, including the most recent books I've finished and the current books I'm reading.  If I feel like it later, maybe I will write a post about the books I've read this year, emphasizing the ones I especially liked the most and the books that were the biggest disappointments.


But until then, here's the end of year wrap up and random thoughts.



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