Sunday, January 31, 2010

Quote of the Week!

As well as dreaming of being a writer, I definitely plan on being a teacher, and so this quote is one of my favorites. Hey college kids - we may be "grown ups" but we are still artists too, as long as we never let go of the little kid inside us! I want to try and remember that as I trudge on this semester, and just thought I'd share it with all of you <3.
Have a good week!

A Quick Recap

Books Read
Ethan Frome
Mere Christianity
The Spook's Secret


My Posts:
Cinema Weekend - "The Tudors"

Friday, January 29, 2010

Cinema Weekend

Note: When I say "cinema," I mean either the big fancy movie theatre or your good'ol down-home theatre! Whichever...

Oh, the weather outside is frightful!
And we live in campus housing so there's no fire that's delightful
And since we've no place to go -
Let's have a Cinema Weekend!

The weather's bad outside, so what better way to spend an afternoon-evening than with a trip back in time? All the way back to the 1500s we go with "The Tudors" - Season 3!
Now I absolutely LOVE this show. It's so bad at times (haha) but I'm a sucker for history and period pieces, and I really have been pleasantly surprised by Showtime's storytelling. They're pretty accurate on most matters and they do an amazing job of exploring the complexities of Tudor England and all the mess that was going on! Best of all, we're all "allowed" to hate hate hate Henry 8 (fabulously played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers). He certainly isn't portrayed as a sensitive figure; everyone else around him is, but he isn't, and that's one of the things I like about the show - they're not afraid to make the main character the villain also.
And it's a fun show to watch just because of the awesome costumes and set designs!
Okay, so here's Season 3's setup:
Henry 8 has just gotten rid of that troublesome wife Anne Boleyn (Natalie Dormer - I miss her already!) by having her beheaded, and he's wasted no time in marrying Wife No. 3 Jane Seymour (Annabelle Wallis). There's this weird eyepatch dude named Sir Francis Bryan (Alan Van Spring) running around doing Henry's dirty work, and I'm not exactly sure what he's all about just yet. Henry's Secretary Thomas Cromwell (James Frain) wants nothing more than to launch a Reformation in England and rid the kingdom of all things Catholic, so he sets about burning heretics and shutting down abbeys and so forth. Meanwhile, Henry's eldest daughter Mary (a grown-up-but-still-cute-as-a-button Sarah Bolger), a devout Catholic, tries to reconcile with her father while maintaining loyalty to Rome. Cardinal Von Waldburg (Max Von Sydow) recuits the help of a rogue priest Reginald Pole (Mark Hildreth) to undermine the Reformation in England. A bunch of ticked-off Catholics in Yorkshire and the Northern Counties launch a rebellion against the shutting down of the monasteries, under the guidance of Henry's former lawyer Robert Aske (Gerard McSorley). Henry sends his oft-crapped upon best buddy Charles Brandon (Henry Cavill - the guy who was almost Edward Cullen) to crush the rebellion, and the traumatizing experience leaves Brandon psychologically scarred. Well, Henry finally gets his long-desired prince (Edward VI), but poor Jane dies shortly after the process. Henry actually shows some remorse at the loss and goes temporarily bonkers, only allowing his court fool (David Bradley - we know him better as Argus Filch from Hogwarts!) to keep him company.
What will happen next?!?! Who will Henry marry?!?! Who will live?!?! Who will die?!?!
My friends and I only have a few more eps to go, and we can't wait to see how frumped-down they make Joss Stone look!

So check out "The Tudors" - 3 seasons in all! Only be warned: there's a bit of language, some violent/disturbing scenes (like people getting beheaded, hanged, burned @ the stake, etc.) and really stupid and annoying and totally overrated sex scenes. I swear, I bet I've seen Jonathan Rhys Meyer's butt more times than his own mother! jk.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Little Review - ETHAN FROME

Wow, this week has been excrutiatingly busy! This is the 2nd book I've completed this week - and both of them have been for school. Ugh. I know, I can't believe I have to READ for SCHOOL! but while I'm "reading" for "school," my poor little blog and fun books are getting neglected. Oh well, I do what I can. Here's my review for Ethan Frome:
Okay, so once I got over my temper tatrum at my professor's effrontery to make me read for class, I actually liked this book! Now, that's saying something, because usually I grade classics just like I would any other book - none of this: "Ohhh, gee, Author Person! You're book is all kinds of wonderful just because IT'S OLD and lots of people have to write term papers over it!" Nope. The funny thing that I can't get over is that I absolutely HATE books like this one: not a whole lot of action, really indecisive characters, circumstances that are not overcome, etc. And yet Ethan Frome really got to me. I read the whole thing kicking and screaming, saying "No! I WILL NOT like this book! You can't make me!" but it was no use. Here's the scoop (and it's a pretty easy scoop): A poor farmer with an ultra-whiny hypochondriac wife (or at least that's my professor's interpretation) live with the ultra-whiny wife's pretty and vivacious cousin, and the poor downtrodden farmer falls in love with the enchanting cousin (Mattie) but can't seem to escape his circumstances. That's it. And yet, there's so much more. I don't like Ethan, I certainly don't like Zeena...Mattie's really the only character I truly liked...and yet I cared about them all and was rooting for Ethan even though he's such a dadgum loser! Maybe my parents were a little too into the whole "pull yourself up by your bootstraps, kids!!!" growing up but I really felt like circumstances weren't near as bleak as Ethan made them out to be. We talked about that a lot in class today: psychological realism novels are really big into the whole "appearances vs. reality" scenario, and I just found that so intriguing. I hate to admit it, but I found myself wishing Ethan and Mattie would just elope and get it over with, and a pox on that scurvy Zeena! Maybe that's why this book is a classic: it's so incredibly simple, and yet by the time you're finished, you feel emotionally exhausted. This book doesn't make you feel better about yourself or life (unless you thank God you're not operating a sawmill in Starkfield, MA in the winter!) and I'm still not entirely sure what message (if any) Edith Wharton was trying to send, but the story just captivated me. Now granted, this is NOT the type of thing I look for in outside fun-reading, but I'm glad I had the experience. It's like when you're in a bookstore or a library and you pass a classic, you can beam with pride and point and declare, "I READ THAT!" So thank you, Dr. Bruce, and thank you to my mom who is an English teacher/principal who let me use her teaching copy - the one with all the notes and unlined passages. :D - Definitely recommended to Classics Lovers. And if you're a student and you find Ethan Frome on your "Required Reading" syllabus, don't fret, for this is an easy read. It could be a heck of a lot worse.

*thinks of T.S. Eliot and shivers*

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

(Belated) Teaser Tuesday

Okay, I'm nearly done with Mere Christianity (AWESOME book by the way - I would recommend it to everyone!!) so here is my belated Teaser Tuesday:

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should be Reading.Here's how it works:- Grab the current book you're reading- Open up to a random page- share 2 "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page - just don't include spoilers!!!

**Note: I personally will probably fudge on the numbers and do more than just 2 sentences...!

Here is my teaser, from Book #3 of the Wardstone Chronicles - The Spook's Secret

"I remembered the smell in Dad's room, that stench of flowers, and how Mam had said it was a sign of the approach of death. I had her gift and I could smell it now because it was coming from the Spook and it was getting stronger and stronger by the minute..."
- The Spook's Secret, pg 172

By the way, this is an awesome series!! They're fairly well-known here in America (under the Last Apprentice series titles) but the Wardstone Chronicles are apparently very popular in Britain... If anyone really likes Harry Potter-esque fantasy books, definitely check these out!

Monday, January 25, 2010

My First Award!!

Thank you so much to Lucy @ Delightful Reviews for honoring my little infant blog with this award!!

What the award says:

Accept the award, and post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and his/her blog link. Pass the award to 5 other blogs that you've newly discovered.

Since I can count every blog I follow as “new,” I’m passing the love on to…

- Jess @ Tangled Up in Blue

- Natalie @ Mindful Musings

- Melissa @ I Swim for Oceans

- Stephanie @ StephtheBookworm

- Lilly @ Reading Extravaganza

Once again, thank you so much to Lucy! Now go check out these awesome sites! :))

Reading Recap!

Last week I read a grand total of 2 books - The Spook's Curse (part II in the Wardstone Chronicles) and Aurelia - a YA fiction debut novel

Here is for The Spook's Curse:
This book just took me a lot longer to get through. Now granted, it is longer than The Spook's Apprentice, but it wasn't as engaging. I guess second books rarely are as BA-BOOM! as their predecessor, but still, I was at times disappointed with the direction of the story. For one thing, I missed a lot of Delaney's descriptive style that he seemed to write so well in the first book. It's really complicated to explain, because he's still the same great storyteller, but for some reason his writing seems less magical here than in the first book. And the subject matter wasn't near as engaging to me. Maybe it's because I am a religious person, but the whole nature of the story (an evil "godlike" spirit and crazy/weird priests) was very off-putting. I much preferred the scary witch in the first book to overzealous religious fanatics. So I docked off a star for the constant "priests are BAD!" message. I don't have the patience for those kinds of stories. And yeeeeeeeeeet: I still like the series and will definitely progress to the next installment. For one thing, Delaney excels at what I would consider the #1 Storytelling Must: a lovable MC. Thomas Ward is such an awesome character/narrator and I love him to death - he's only slightly "less cool" than my all-time favorite MC: a Mr. Perseus Jackson. Oh and let's not forget Alice: she's easily my favorite character in the series. I found myself getting mad at the Spook for being so harsh (and hypocritical) with her...I easily forget that characters are, ultimately, not real!

Rating: 3.5-3.9... My final rating would be somewhere between 3.5-4 stars...maybe 3.8 or 3.9. It wasn't as engaging as the first book by any means, and sometimes I felt like plugging along through it was more out of duty than enjoyment...but it got better, and I like the characters too much to quit now!

And for Aurelia:
"I'm going to start this book review off with a confession: **I am a very, very hard person to keep entertained/engaged. Kindergarteners can focus better than me - well okay, some can... Usually it takes me a few days at least to get throug...more I'm going to start this book review off with a confession: **I am a very, very hard person to keep entertained/engaged. Kindergarteners can focus better than me - well okay, some can... Usually it takes me a few days at least to get through a 200+ page book, either because I stumble over some pacing potholes or because I just flat can't concentrate... - THIS BOOK is...NOT one of those books! It only took me a few hours to read this - not in the least because it's short or anything, but because it was such an enjoyable reading experience. I wish all authors could pace their stories the way Ms. Osterlund does. Her sequences of events flow very effortlessly and never once does the story lag or excelerate too rapidly. - One thing in particular I really enjoyed about this book was the attention given to the setting. I love it when authors take the time to visualize for us the worlds they create, and I got such vivid descriptions of the places in the story that I felt like I could paint them. So bravo and thank you for that! - And let's not forget the characters: they all were relevant to the story. Now that may sound like the most basic assessment out there, but so many books have characters that are just really random and don't seem to serve much of a function other that background drapery. Here, every person we are introduced to matters and has a very special role to play in the story's development. I especially liked how she wrote Robert: he was strong and smart yet deeply caring. It was so refreshing to have a "love interest" character who was *not* a jerkface :) - The only thing I have with the book (and this is most definitely a "me thing" probably, and has nothing whatsoever to do with the writing) is the MC herself: Aurelia, a spunky, plucky, "princess who kicks butt". She was a little too spunky and plucky for my taste, and she got on my nerves sometimes in what I perceived as her constant need to be right: with her father, with Robert, etc. If I was reading this as a teen, I would probably not even notice it, but I'm 21 years old and so that kind of stood out to me. - Maybe it's because I'm still seething from last semester's teaching observations and all the "I know everything because I'm a TEENAGER!" attitudes I encountered from that experience, but teen characters who are written to be the bastion of knowledge and insight really grind my nerves. And I didn’t really get the feeling that Aurelia wasn’t supposed to be right all the time…it was as if the story was saying, “Because of her really bummer childhood and the fact that she can’t trust anyone, she is totally justified in making all the judgment calls.” In her encounters with Robert especially, her attitude bordered on arrogance (or at least, that was my perception). It always should be a warning sign when somebody presumes to tell you what your thoughts mean… And I never thought I’d be able to use the stuff I learned in Intro to Marriage and Family Therapy! Now I will admit to being biased towards a lot of these YA-age, “girls who do things” characters, because I personally like the “girls-who-don’t-think-guys-helping-them-makes-them-weak” characters better. Am I right, Annabeth Chase?!
- Anyway, this is a credit to the author and her storytelling ability, in that even though Aurelia got on my nerves, I still cared about her and wanted everything in the story to work out for her. And they did! For now, at least… I heard there’s going to be a sequel, and I will eagerly await its release!

Rating: 4/5.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Recapping the Week (1/17-24)

Books Reviewed
Once Upon a Marigold - Twice Upon a Marigold - The Spook's Apprentice

My Posts
Teaser Tuesday
The "Definitely...Maybe" Books - shopping around for new reads
3-4-5 Challenge
Explore Your World: Lancashire, England

Ohhh, those dystopians!!

I'm a sucker for quizzes, so even though I already posted my topic for the day, I've got to do another one :)

You are 55% likely to be caught in a dystopian society!

You are seen as a threat to unity and conformity. Make sure you keep your thoughts inside, otherwise you might die.

What are your chances of survival in a Dystopia?
Take More Quizzes

- I sure hope the Dystopian Society in question isn't The Handmaid's Tale... that would be a major bummer.
Could you survive?!

Quote of the Week!

I really like this image, not only for the personification of talent (which I see in the bass) but also in the man's actions of shielding and protecting his precious instrument. Like the man in the picture, we all have our own special talents and gifts, and I guess the challenge is how to nuture and protect our talents as we go out into "the real world."
Have a great week, everybody!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Shimmy Down the Shelf - Progress Update!

Like a lot of people in the world, I have a tendency to set unrealistic goals: not unrealistic as in trying to lasso the moon or anything, but unrealistic in a "lack of time" sort of way.

I had crassly decided that I was going to read 15 books in the 31-day month of January. A lot of the books on the itinerary are 300+ page books... for a fulltime college student with a part-time job, I now realize the unlikeliness of achieving that goal.


As of this writing, I have read 9/15 of books from the goal. I don't think that's too shabby, what with class and life and everything!

Here's my original picture:

- The Princess and the Hound (2/5)
- The Goose Girl (5/5)
- Enna Burning (4.5/5)
- River Secrets (4.5/5)
- Once Upon a Marigold (5/5)
- Twice Upon a Marigold (3.5/5)
- The Spook's Apprentice (4.5/5)
- The Spook's Curse (review pending)
- Aurelia (nearly finished - review pending)

Still Shimmying:
- Wildwood Dancing
- Heart's Blood
- The Spook's Secret, The Spook's Mistake, The Spook's Battle, and The Spook's Sacrifice
- The Warrior Heir (and the rest of the Heir Trilogy)

When February rolls around, I'll put up a new picture of my Shimmying books - and yes, there are some new ones too! I have this thing about buying books - it doesn't matter that I have like 10 TBRs, for some reason I manage to justify more books! 3 of my 4 bedroom walls have bookshelves, and in our living room area, we've got even more bookshelves. Between my equally-bookwormy roommate and myself, we're running out of room!

So that's it for my update. If I keep at the rate I'm going - and don't sink from school stuff - I should be good, I think :)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Explore Your World - Lancashire, England

Inspired by the setting of the current series I'm reading (The Wardstone Chronicles), my first Explore Your World will spotlight the county of Lancashire, England. Author Joseph Delaney modeled his "County" on the real-life places in the area, and the scenery, history, and customs of Lancashire can be glimpsed in the stories.

For example, I could imagine the Ward farm looking like this:

And the village of Chipenden (based on real-life Chipping, Lancashire) as something like this:

And sometimes, I don't need to let my mind wander too far, because Delaney describes a real-life place, like Pendle Hill, the abode of witches!

But let's return to Lancashire as it exists in reality. The county is a lively blend of bustling big cities and cultural hubs (like Blackpool or Blackburn - Go Rovers!) to rolling hills and quaint villages. From Blackpool, Britain's most popular seaside resort, to the haunting fells of the rural countryside, you'll discover all sorts of places to explore in Lancashire. Ancient Roman ruins, medieval monasteries, historic town centers, and scenic hikes await you!

So let's get a basic Itinerary:
- Blackpool: Major, major tourist location here! This seaside resort peaked in the early 20th century as a resort town for the factory workers of northern England. Reputedly, the city still has more hotels than the entire country of Portugal! Though not as lively as it once was, Blackpool still remains the most popular seaside resort in Britain (hmm, my money would have been on Southampton).

- English towns at their most charming!
* I would visit Lancaster and Preston in particular because they feature prominently in the Wardstone world. In the series, Lancaster is named "Caster" and Preston is appropriately named "Priestown," probably on account of it being referred to as the "Most Catholic City in England." I personally love church architecture, so Preston would be a fun place to visit if for no other reason than to gape at all the spires and flying buttresses

Preston also has:
- 5 museums (including the National Football Museum - which houses, among other things, the winning ball from the 1966 World Cup Final! I find that in itself enough reason to pack up and trek up there straightaway!)

- an active nightlife... it's a university town with 35,000 students to keep entertained.

- Nearby Beacon Fell, a famous country park with a mix of woodland, moorland, and farmland. Yes, "moorland" - as in the famous English moors! Climb up to the top of the hills and scream out "Heathcliff!" to your heart's content!

- West Pennine Moors: Nature in all its splendor! The Moors feature 90+ miles of unspoiled wild, rolling countryside, and contrasts nicely with the larger urban areas we've already explored! If you're into walking/hikking, there are some awesome trails you can follow...or if you have a car, you can drive them.

Pendle Hill: The Salem (MA) of northern England! This historic site has a long and fascinating (but ominous) history, dating back to the Bronze Age, when it was used as an ancient burial mound. As my comparison to Salem suggests, Pendle Hill is also known to history for its association with witchcraft, which reached an apex in the 17th century. That story can be found here.
- You'll be able to walk the Pendle Witches Trail, a tour which takes you around some of the locations synonymous with the infamous Pendle Witches. Personal note: My cousin Julia and her family did the tour and they absolutely loved it!

- After you're finished, stop by the Witches Galore cafe in nearby Newchurch!

And now...let's not forget about the FOOD

No matter where you are, be sure to keep a lookout for Lancashire hotpot, a celebrated county dish traditionally made with lamb.

And also, you can't call your trip to Lancashire complete without sampling some Lancashire cheese - probably the most famous food item of the area.

So there you have it! Who knows when the travel bug may bite, and if it will at all. Thanks to the trusty internet, though, you can explore your world without all the mundane downers that go with actual traveling. And it all traces back to reading! This may sound cliche, but when you read, you really do go on a sort of expedition - to faraway lands or lands that only exist in the imagination. So thanks to Joseph Delaney and the Wardstone Chronicles for sparking my interest in beautiful, exquisit Lancashire, England. So when you finish reading this post, take a moment to think about the importance of a story's setting - how it becomes an image in your mind, how it seems to become real and accessible... Maybe there's a world waiting to be discovered in your current book, too!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Another Challenge!

This will be my second reading challenge and lucky for me, I can count these books with the books on my other challenge. Isn't it wonderful when things work out?
Okay, the reason why I think this is an above-and-beyond awesome challenge is because it applies exclusively to series books - and for some reason, those seem to be the only books I read nowadays...
Here's how it works:

- It will run from August 1, 2009 to August 1, 2010
- You may sign up at any point in this time period
- To complete the challenge, you must read THREE books from one series, FOUR books from another series, and FIVE books from another series
(For example: Song of Fire and Ice trilogy by George RR Martin, the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer, and five of the Chronicles of Narnia books)
- You do not have to choose your books ahead of time (but are more than welcome to)
- You do not have to 'complete' a series (i.e. you don't have to read a trilogy for your three book requirement - just 3 books from the same series)
- Only books that you read between August 1, 2009 and August 1, 2010 count
- The books you read may count for other challenges

To join the challenge, Click Here

5 Books from a Series (The Wardstone Chronicles - Joseph Delaney; hey I was already reading these to begin with!)
- The Spook's Apprentice
- The Spook's Curse
- The Spook's Secret
- The Spook's Mistake
4 Books in a Series (The Chronicles of Narnia - C.S. Lewis; I have to read these again for school, anyway...)
- The Magician's Nephew
- The Horse and His Boy
- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
- The Last Battle
3 Books in a Series (The Great Tree of Avalon - T.A. Barron)
- Child of the Dark Prophecy
- Shadows on the Stars
- The Eternal Flame

PS - does anybody know how to put one of those "chart my progress" boxes in the column? Any input would be greatly appreciated!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The "Definitely...Maybe" books...

Have you ever been interested in a book or series but wasn't quite sure enough to actually start reading it? I guess it's a bit like everybody's TBR shelf, but in this case, I find a difference between definitely going to read - at some point and maybe going to read...
Right now, I've got a couple that I'm dancing around. I wonder if anyone's heard of them?
* The Atherton Trilogy by Patrick Carman
* The Great Tree of Avalon series by T.A. Barron
(Child of the Dark Prophecy, Shadows on the Stars, The Eternal Flame)
* The Hourglass Trilogy by Lisa Magum (The Hourglass Door, The Golden Spiral - unreleased, Untitled Third - unreleased)
* Woves of Mercy Falls by Maggie Stiefvater (Shiver, Linger, and Forever- unreleased)
* Sea Change by Aimee Friedman
* Rampant by Diana Peterfreund
Who knows?! I'm usually a very picky reader... I like reading, and a good book is worth its weight in gold to me, but bad books are like a virus, and I try really hard to root out certain titles...but you never know. Reading has pretty much become my #1 pasttime :)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays!

My blog is relatively new, and so I'm always looking for new things to add to my posts. I found this on a friend of mine's blog and thought it would be fun to incorporate here, as well!
Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should be Reading.
Here's how it works:

- Grab the current book you're reading
- Open up to a random page
- share 2 "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page - just don't include spoilers!!!
**Note: I personally will probably fudge on the numbers and do more than just 2 sentences...!

Here's my teaser, from Joseph Delaney's The Spook's Curse (The Wardstone Chronicles, #2)

"No, Alice had just been brought up in bad company. I couldn't let her be burned as a witch. Somehow I had to find a way to rescue her, but at that moment I didn't have the slightest clue how it could be done..."
- The Spook's Curse, pg 80


Monday, January 18, 2010

Reading Recap!

How many books did you read last week?

I read 2 1/2 - I know, "whoop!" right? I wish I could bump the number up to 3 - but I finished The Spook's Apprentice last night, which technically counts as this week. Oh well.

I also want to develop some kind of accurate rating system - it's one thing to say "I give this book 4 stars!" but what exactly does that mean?! So hopefully I'll have that hashed out sometime this week.

For now, the three books I read from Monday-Saturday were:

Cold indeed is the heart not made warm by this bubbly fairy-rale romance...Kirkus Reviews
Well said, Kirkus! I never thought I'd find "over-the-top" so funny and refreshing! Take all the things considered necessary for a good book nowadays - complex, complicated and ultra-flawed characters, excessive backstories, social commentaries, and sad, morbid endings - and flip them over like a flapjack, and you'll have a good idea of what Once Upon a Marigold is! Yes, the characters are lovably simple, yes the story is a bit on the predictable side (that's the nature of fairytales, after all!) and yes, there is a (da-da-dum) HAPPY ENDING! And I loved it all, and so will you! Here's the setup: a commoner raised by a troll who falls in love with a princess and must rescue said princess when the evil queen plots to take over the throne! Exciting! No, I'm not being sarcastic, it's truly exciting! Somehow, the fact that Jean Ferris wrote this book specifically as a good'ol fairytale story makes everything so much easier to digest. You know going in that this is going to be a fun and uplifting read. This story is like Lean Cuisine: it tastes good and it's good for you! In fact, while reading this book I was reminded of the "Comedy Tonight" song from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: "Something familiar, Something peculiar, Something for everyone - a comedy tonight!" This is a book that definitely wants to be read! I was in Borders about a month ago, minding my own business, when my eyes fell on this title and its sequel (which I will be starting straight away), and I just had to buy it. It's like it wanted me to find it (kind of like the Ring, only not as evil and creepy). So I would recommend this book to anyone who likes being happy! It's a simple read (less than 300 pages) and only took me 2 nights... "No royal curse, No Trojan horse, and a happy ending, of course!" (Actually, there is a royal curse in this story, but whatever, you get the point!) This book has just made me giddy-happy, can you tell? Too much realism is bad for the soul! And the stomach! Read Once Upon a Marigold!

Rating: 5/5. This book has all the ingredients for an awesome, near-perfect read! A very fun experience!

I finished the book late last night, and I still haven't entirely gathered my thoughts about it. While I really liked Jean Ferris' writing style, and while I found a lot of the things she had to say cute and uplifting, this book just really didn't measure up to the first. Both books are supposed to be light and fluffy and over-the-top, but somehow this one seemed (at times) almost shallow. I liked the idea of having a sequel (the cutie-patootie ending of Once Upon a Marigold certainly allowed for a second installment) so it's not like I was against the idea of continuing the story. The story that she crafted, however, didnt quite work for me. For example, the two main characters - Christian and Marigold - are practically in the background until about the second half of the book, and the perspective follows the main villain, Olympia, almost exclusively in the beginning. That got real old, real fast. And also: her characterizations seem a bit wackier in, these are the same characters from her original story and yet they're not quite the same. Christian and Marigold have suddenly become crabby, and Olympia goes from being a cold-and-calculating kind of evil villain to a spazzy, hyperactive banshee evil villain in the second novel - stuff like that. It just made me frown. And a lot of her conversations seemed really forced - like she was poking her characters with a stick in order to get a reaction out of them! And above all, this book was not NEAR as readable as the first one. Ironically, there's a quote on pg 111 that reads "The next few days passed very, very s-l-o-w-l-y..." and that about sums up my reading experience for the most part. I literally had to *force* myself to keep chugging along, and that annoyed me. I've got to force myself as it is to read class assignments, and I don't particularly like having to do it in my spare reading. The first book flowed so simply; this book was a much rockier ride. - So why am I still giving this 4 stars instead of 3? It has to do with Jean Ferris' quality of writing. There were several flecks of gold in the rocky boulders of this story and some really cute messages to be learned as well. Often nowadays, books are really superficial: there's no lesson to be learned and nothing to be gained once the story ends, but in keeping with fairytale fashion, there are lessons in Twice Upon a Marigold and you just have to admire that. Her characters grew on me - the old ones and the new ones - and by the end of the book, I had my warm, fuzzy feeling again. I would NOT discourage ANYONE from reading Twice Upon a Marigold, but rather I would caution not to expect the same level of superb storytelling found in the first book.

Final Rating: 3.5 Stars. This book will still be likable to fans of the original - just so long as they're aware that it's not as good as the first.

Excellent! Excellent! Excellent! I have a very, very good feeling about the rest of the books in the Wardstone Chronicles after completing this book (it's called Revenge of the Witch in the US)... - First of all, a very, very engaging and rather original plot! It's similar to HARRY POTTER in this: both take place in England, and both have a lot to do with folkoric creatures and legends: witches, boggarts, and the like. But there's where the similarities end. You can read the synopsis up at the top and know that this will be the story of Thomas J. Ward, the seventh son of a seventh son (hey Angie Sage--that's like your story!) who becomes the apprentice of the County's Spook (hold your horses - fellow Americans! That's the dude's title) and through all sorts of adventures learns the lessons of the trade. - Second, I am a new, big fan of Joseph Delaney's writing style. His prose is simple (not highfalutin' like some other authors out there!) and yet incredibly descriptive; he draws you fully into the world of his story. Every word is engaging, every word flows with ease to create an image in your mind. - With that in mind, I do want to make a declaration: I READ THIS BOOK AFTER DARK! The book warns readers specifically not to do that. And I huffed and I puffed and I said, "this book won't be scary! I'm 21 years old now!" and within a few minutes I was opening up my rommmate's door just to make sure I wasn't alone. So this book isn't really *scary* so much as it's incredibly eerie in some sections. There are parts that read like a good'ol fashion ghost story. In my opinion, Delaney doesnt overdo himself and really hammer home what's going on - rather he paces everything so that you are drawn in to the suspicion and the intensity of the story and you can't put the book down! - Now here's my fine-print: I think this book would be enjoyed best by the +13 crowd. I got the number 13 just because that's the age of the main character and I personally think that anyone lower than maybe 7th-8th grade might potentially have a hard time with some details of the story. However, I didnt find anything "inappropriate" per see, and if there are any fellow religious people out there, this info is for you: there are a couple parts where characters speak critically of priests. Not God, priests. It all seems reasonable within the story, and if it didnt bother an ultra-sensitive person like me, it probably won't bother you, either. :) So CHECK OUT this book!!!! Again, in America, it's called Revenge of the Witch and it's part of the Last Apprentice series.

Rating: 4.5 Stars Nearly every aspect was perfect! The mature content prevents a perfect rating, though. Definitely recommended to the 13+ crowd!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Quote of the Week!

It's the beginning of a new week, and time for an Uplifting Quote!

I especially picked this out with all the teachers and students in mind who have had to trek back to school...

Note: This looked a lot cooler on the website when I made it, and now it's kind of hard to read - apologies!
The quote is from the movie Big Fish:
"There are some fish that can't be caught. It's not that they're bigger or faster than the other fish, they're just touched by something extra."
Have a great week, everybody!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Upcoming Books!

A lot of blogs have those "Mailbox Monday" things, and this is going to be kind of similar to that... I usually don't get have that many books routinely delivered to my house, and since I'm away at school in another state, I really don't get that many books delivered. However, I always have several titles waiting in the wings to be read next, and so I think I will showcase those titles with my Shimmy Down the Shelf section.

Shimmying Down the Shelf for the rest of this month 7 eager titles, most of them Christmas or early birthday presents and a few of them the result of random "judge a book by its cover" shopping!

- The Warrior Heir (The Heir Trilogy, 1), Cinda Williams Chima
- The Spook's Apprentice (Wardstone Chronicles, 1), Joseph Delaney
- The Hunger Games (Hunger Games, 1), Suzanne Collins
- Wildwood Dancing, Juliet Marillier
- Heart's Blood, Juliet Marillier
- Daughter of the Forest, Juliet Marillier
- Aurelia, Anne Osterlund

I most definitely will not get to all 7 (these titles don't include required reading for school), and the ones that are left over will be shimmied for February. I will try and showcase the two most likely books to be read in the current timespan, and will include the basic information (title, author, pub year, type of edition, number of pages) along with a brief summary and a preview (I'll flip open to a random section and type 3-5 lines...ideally without stumbling across a spoiler...


I have been dancing around this series for a few months now, trying to get enough basic information about it to know if I would want to read it. Then I went home for break a few months ago and my youngest brother (17) raved and raved about. I snatched the first few books out of his room, and they've been hanging out on my shelves ever since!

The Wardstone Chronicles: Joseph Delaney
The Spook's Apprentice is the first in a 7-series by English author Joseph Delaney, and was originally published in 2004. In the United States, The Wardstone Chronicles have been renamed The Last Apprentice, so if you are in a bookstore, the book will look like the

<---THIS (for some reason, we own the original British editions, which is featured next to the American one) Of The Last Apprentice, Goodreads says: "A wonderful and terrifying series by a new writer (Joseph Delaney) about a young boy training to be an exorcist. Thomas Ward is the seventh son of a seventh son and has been apprenticed to the local Spook. The job is hard, and the Spook is distant and many apprentices have failed before Thomas. Somehow Thomas must learn how to exorcise ghosts, contain witches, and bind boggarts. But when he is tricked into freeing Mother Malkin, the most evil witch in the County, the horror begins..."

Seventh son of a seventh son? Hey Angie Sage, isnt that YOUR concept? Oh well. This series sounds awesome, and according to my brother (who is pickier than I am), this book sets the stage nicely for a series that delivers on originality, quality writing, lovable characters, and ultimate excitement.


"I snatched up the candle and shrank into the furthest corner. Thump, thump, nearer and nearer, came the sound of heavy boots. Who could have been digging down there in the darkness? Who could be climbing the stairs now?
But maybe it wasn't a question of who was climbing the stairs. Maybe it was a question of what..."
- The Spook's Apprentice, pg 42

The Spook's Apprentice (The Wardstone Chronicles, Book 1)
- Joseph Delaney
- (my edition) published June 30, 2005 by Red Fox (first published in 2004)
- paperback, 336 pages
* Goodreads reviews: 532 (5 stars), 598 (4 stars), 326 (3 stars), 63 (2 stars), 15 (1 star)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

how do the bloggers DO IT?!?!

How do they maintain their blogs and sites so faithfully? I've only been in school for 3 days now and I'm already neglecting my poor blog... :(
I'm so sorry, my lovely blog! But I still have such big plans for you!
...Occasionally I will talk to inanimate objects, it seems therapeutic...

So as of now, I've finished one book already this week. Not bad! I predict, though, that my spare reading time will greatly suffer this semester - a pox on those literature classes!

My review for Once Upon a Marigold can be found here. This book was a genuine pleasure to read - why can't all books be this happy?! I'm moving on to the sequel next, and I hope the author doesn't mess around with the plot too much...

PS: I labeled this "fantasy" because I really didn't know where else to put it. It didn't seem angsty and morbid enough to be YA (haha) and I suppose the fairytale elements would categorize it as "fantasy"... so whatever.

A quick note on Twice Upon a Marigold: This book is for some reason taking me longer to read. I was so proud of myself for finishing Once Upon a Marigold in just two days, and now I'm losing some of that pride. As of right now, I'm not as impressed with the plot. The two main characters have somehow been demoted to "co-characters" and chief villain from the previous book now all of the sudden has the main point-of-view. **I want Christian and Marigold back!!** It's not that I don't like the idea of a sequel. Lots of books really should be left alone after they're completed, but the ending of the first book allows enough room for a continued arc. I just don't happen to like the direction this story is going in. The concept seems a lot more shallow... and I'm discovering that there is indeed a difference between the cutesy, over-the-top feel of the first book and the so-far shallowness of this one.

But of course, I'm not done yet! And interestingly, there have been quite a few times in the last two days where I've really, really liked specific quotes in the book - in other words, I like the message that the author is trying to send. The story just doesnt seem as invigorating as its predecessor. But it's not over yet!

Sunday, January 10, 2010


So if you're a college student like me, you may be going back to school on Monday. If you are also like me, you are kicking and screaming and punching your pillow...
With that in mind, I present the first ever Quote-of-the-Week!

Saturday, January 9, 2010


One of my resolutions for this year is to actually keep up with this blog and make it fun! What I plan to do each weekend is showcase a film, give an overview, maybe even a review, but basically give a recommendation for a fun weekend film. Hopefully I'll have them out on Friday, but maybe Saturday too... we'll see.

"Are you boys some kind of...posse? I hate posses."
For my first Cinema Weekend, I thought I'd showcase one of my all-time favorite films:
3:10 to Yuma, 2007, Directed by James Mangold; "R" for violence and language
Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Ben Foster, Peter Fonda, Logan Lerman, Dallas Roberts, Gretchen Mol, Alan Tudyk, Luke Wilson

I'm not going to rate it, because the fact that I'm featuring it means it's one of my favorites!

We don't really see westerns as a major genre any more, and yet this fairly recent film is one of my absolute favorites. We grew up watching westerns in our family, and in my yeehaw-loving opinion, this remake of the 1950s 3:10 isn't far behind The Searchers and The Magnificent Seven in terms of quality. Despite excellence in its genre, this film is highly recommended to all movie lovers.

- Excellent performances from two leading men Christian Bale (made in between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight) and Russell Crowe
- A superb ensemble cast (Ben Foster is brilliant as a loveable sociopathic outlaw and 14-year-old Logan Lerman holds his own between Bale and Crowe, not to mention being in practically every scene)
- Beautiful cinematography (the film was shot nearly entirely on location in New Mexico)
- And last but not least, a true-grit Western story: simple and compelling.

This is the last movie my family and I watched together before I had to come back to school, it's a family favorite and obviously highly recommended!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Random Quiz...Not much happened today

So I'm getting ready to go back to purgatory, also known as school...I flew home last night, read a crappy book, my roommate's horse went into labor today and I found out that I am...

I am Marianne Dashwood!

Take the Quiz here!

never actually read Sense and Sensibility...but I have seen the movie!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Final Farewell to 09

I'm going to read 100 books this year!
I'm going to read 50 books this year!
I'm going to read something other than my textbooks this year!

Definitely #3 became my "actual" goal as 2009 began. I'm probably not near as prolific a reader as I used to be, what with the limitations of both my time and my patience. First of all, I am a disciple of the principle "Not every book is for everyone." I am pretty choosy about what I read, and I see my reading goals as ones of quality, not quantity.

That being said, I want to try and tally up the books I read last year--Amelia's books, and hey--I've decided to include all the "lovely, tasteful, and completely meaningful" books my professors subjected me to! My brain, my time, my list!

In the Chronological Order of Random Taste:
1. Battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #4)
2. Strike Up the Band: A New History of Musical Theatre
3. Doomed Queens: Royal Women Who Met Bad Ends, from Cleopatra to Princess Di
4. How Fat was Henry VIII? And 101 Other Questions on Royal History
5. The Composers: A Hystery of Music
6. Bach, Beethoven, and the Boys: Music History as it Ought to be Taught
7. Cupid: A Tale of Love and Desire
8. Aphrodite's Blessings
9. The Salem Witchcraft Trials: A Legal History
10. A Delusion of Satan: The Full Story of the Salem Witch Trials
11. How Did American Slavery Begin?
12. Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson
13. Red, White, and Black: The Peoples of Early North America
14. A Break with Charity
15. Gods Behaving Badly
16. A Treasury of Royal Scandals: The Shocking True Stories of History's Wickedest, Weirdest, Most Wanton Kings, Queens, Tsars, Popes, and Emperors
17. Edith Hamilton's Mythology
18. The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #5)
19. The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1)
20. The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #2)
21. The Titan's Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #3)
22. God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It
23. The Dictionary of Imaginary Places
24. Skellig
25. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
26. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
27. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
28. The Secret Garden
29. Hoot
30. City of Bones (Mortal Instruments, #1)
31. City of Ashes (Mortal Instruments, #2)
32. City of Glass (Mortal Instruments, #3)
33. Fool: A Novel
34. Howl's Moving Castle
35. The Missing Piece
36. The Missing Piece Meets the Big O
37. The Hollow Kingdom (The Hollow Kingdom Trilogy, #1)
38. Faerie Wars (Faerie Wars Chronicles, Book 1)
39. The Purple Emperor (Faerie Wars Chronicles, Book 2)
40. Ruler of the Realm (Faerie Wars Chronicles, Book 3)
41. Faerie Lord (Faerie Wars Chronicles, Book 4)
42. A Company of Swans
43. The Looking Glass Wars
44. Seeing Redd (Looking Glass Wars, #2)
45. ArchEnemy (Looking Glass Wars, #3)
46. All Quiet on the Western Front
47. Night
48, Hush, Hush
49. The Dark Queen
50. The Hunter's Moon
51. The Silver Rose
52. Hobbits, Elves, and Wizards: Exploring the Wonders and Worlds J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings
53. The Red Necklace
54. The Silver Blade
55. Wolfskin
56. Nicholas and Alexandra
57. Tsar: The Lost World of Nicholas and Alexandra
58. The Dark Mirror (The Bridei Chronicles, #1)
59. The Blade of Fortriu (The Bridei Chronicles, #2)
60. The Well of Shades (The Bridei Chronicles, #3)
61. The Goose Girl (Books of Bayern, #1)
62. Enna Burning (Books of Bayern, #2)
63. River Secrets (Books of Bayern, #3)

Woot! 63!!! I made it past 50!
Goal for 2010: 50-100. The goal is to read as many books as I did last year, and maybe even more, but certainly no less.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

New Year, New Post, New Thoughts, New Doubts, New Plan?

Over the weekend I've been perusing different websites, dabbled in research, etc... and I'm at the point where doubt begins to creep into the wonderful, brilliant, orderly realm that is My Future. Apparently I'm one of 81% of the population who believes that I will one day publish a novel. Now, I have drafts of about 20 or so stories locked up in my trunk under the bed, and 2 "finished" stories, so that puts me ahead of the oridinary odds. Will I become one of the 2% to get published? Now I'm not so sure I want to find out.

I've always been writing--maybe that's what separates me from the wishful, hopeful majority. I've always been scribbling down ideas as fast as I can before a new one pops into my mind. In 5th grade, I had a 2nd backpack that I carried everywhere - and I mean everywhere: when I went to the bathroom and to lunch I would pluck it from the rack and clutch it to me as like one of those weirdo bombers you see on TV. This second backpack was full of about 5 or 6 spirals; well, to the average eye they were spirals, but to me they were books, and my 11-year-old self could juggle 5 or 6 stories all at once. Good thing nothing came of those stories or else I might have run into some trouble with a certain Brian Jacques--you see, I enthusiastically embraced his idea of a fantasy world with a medieval-setting and an all-animal ensemble...perhaps a bit too ardently.
So yes, writing. Now, my brain is constantly under a flash-flood warning from all the ideas and scenarios that seem to creep into my mind. I've grown older, my life has become busier, but the ideas are still there--and they're not exactly considerate or empathetic of everything else my life entails. "When will you write me down, Amelia?! I'm ready *now*!" Well sorry, stories.
The reality of 2% published authors and only 10-15% royalties seems less than appealing.
It's not exactly that I want to be famous or weathly or whatever, but I do want to be successful. My way of thinking is: if I put in the effort to write, revise, send off, and open up to rejection, there should be some sort of gain. That's not too much of a stretch, is it? The reason I'm in college right now is to get something beneficial in return, namely: a higher-paying job and a career that only a B.A/B.S. can bring. You don't get something for nothing; if you put something in, you should expect to get something out of it. Ultimately, my goal of writing is to be published. Yes, I love the process and I love creating worlds and characters that are not real, but why send anything off for publication if writing is just a hobby?
So far, I think the most valuable thing I've learned is how to wait and how to accept the reality of time. I'm not in a hurry. I'd rather take 20 or 30 years to develop well-rounded, layered, thematic story than turn something fun--but unsubstantial--out right now, as a 20something.
But will I ever? There's something in the back of my mind that tells me writing is a definite: at some point, I will be published, *if* I can bring myself to write something publishable. My book may sit on the shelf and make a mediocre amount of money and go unnoticed by the general population, but there is this part of me that knows it will happen. That's not supposed to sound arrogant or pretentious, it's just something I can't explain. What nags at me are the things I don't know: will I be able to actually finish? Will I find the resolve to even begin?
Ah, 2010 is going to be *quite* a year...
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