What Do You Want To Be Known For?

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I came across this question on Delicious Reads.  It’s a good question to think about for life, the universe and everything but I kept thinking about it in terms of my blog.  What do I want my blog to be known for?  It’s different than asking myself what my focus is.  I would tell you my focus is reading Young Adult books and a few classics.  But I can’t really be KNOWN for that since many, many blogs read Young Adult books. The thing I have always thought was the most unique about my blog were my Google Diary posts.  I don’t know anyone else that googles every books, painting, poem and location mentioned in a book.  In fact, I wonder why I do it.  Oh. Because I can’t help it.  I’m always asking questions and I HAVE TO KNOW THE ANSWER.  Imagine how grateful my parents were when the internet was invented.

More than anything I want to talk about the details and spoilers of a book.  I want to think deeply about books and analyze them.  I’m fascinated by character motivations.  My writing group has nicknamed me the “motive Nazi” because I’m constantly questioning the motives of the characters in their manuscripts.  They get flustered a lot from my constant questions of “But why would they do that?”  Motive is important!  Ironically, I’ve been writing the kind of book reviews I want to read but not the kind I want to write.

So why haven’t I been writing the kind of reviews I want? I’m scared. I’m scared of getting hate mail for spoiling books.  I’m scared no one will want to read 1500+ words on a book they’ve never read.  I’m scared that I will cross the line of constructive criticism and enter the Internet Troll Zone.  I’m scared of ripping apart someone’s beloved book and getting comments like “Who do you think you are to poo poo on my book like that?” I don’t have a degree in book reviewing so they kind of have a point.  All I have is an abnormal amount of curiosity and the desire to write about it.  And you know what? I think that’s enough.

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I’m not going to write hate reviews (I hope).  I do have a sarcastic voice and I hope that it never comes across as a hate review.  I have a friend who is a writer and wants to be an author someday.  I think I’m going to pass my reviews by her and ask, “As an author, would this review rip out your heart and crush your soul? Check one – Yes No”

I found this awesome YouTube channel that reviews movies called Critical Hit.  When I watched their reviews, I was like, “This. THIS is how I want to review books!”  They ask tons of questions.  They think about specific reasons why they did or didn’t like a movie.  But I never felt like they crossed the line into movie bashing.  It’s easier to do reviews like that for movies since more people watch them, but I’m still going to give it a try for books.  Maybe I will still have a small, spoiler free recommendation of what I liked and didn’t like in case you want to read the book I’m reviewing and don’t want to be spoiled.  Would you like that? Check a box – Yes No. Just kidding :) But I would love to hear from you! Do you want a short, spoiler-free version of my reviews if I’m going to go into the details and spoilers of the book? What kind of reviews do you like reading? What kind of reviews do you like to write? I’m curious :)

I liked Ashley’s question on her blog Nose Graze: What do you enjoy?  I had fun reading her list so I wanted to share mine.

  • Reading young adult
  • Writing memories from my childhood
  • Watching movie adaptions of books and analyzing them
  • Watching TV shows that make you think or have witty dialogue
  • Organizing stuff in my house
  • Analyzing all the things – books, movies, music, my kids etc.
  • Playing board games
  • Traveling
  • Cooking
  • Blogging
  • Meeting authors
  • My Book Club
  • Spending time with my family
  • Writing in notebooks and planners
  • Figuring out how to run my house efficiently
  • Problem solving
  • Learning new things – Photoshop, CSS, PHP etc.
  • iPhone apps

So what can I actually blog about?  I can pretty much blog about all of them except my family life, which I want to keep personal.  And I have tried blogging about cooking.  I found it tedious and boring.  Definitely not for me.  I can post on Instagram the food I cook if anyone is interested, but that’s as far as I’ll go.  I also don’t want to blog about organizing my house.  As much as I like it, I don’t have anything to say about it other than, “Look what I finished! Gold star for me!”  Yeah, I’m not cut out to be a lifestyle blogger and I truly admire the people that can do it well.

Honestly, I want to be known for my book reviews.  I’m scared but excited to start writing more in depth reviews!

What about you? What do you want to be known for? It can be in your life, in your hobbies, or your blog.  I’d love to hear your ideas!

Banner image photo credit: Aristocrats-hat

Book Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

Book Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh BardugoRuin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha #3
Published: June 17, 2014
Format: Hardcover (417 pages)
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Source: Purchased

 
The capital has fallen.

The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation's fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova's amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling's secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.
4 Stars

Spoiler free even if you haven’t read the first book in this series. 

I’m once again left with the task of writing a book review that I took no notes on whatsoever.  That’s usually a good sign since it means I got sucked into the story and I forgot to take notes.  So I’m going to do my best.

The theme I loved the most in Ruin and Rising was that life doesn’t always go the way you think it should.  No matter how grand your designs, you can almost always count on them going wrong.  It’s a quest that doesn’t go the way it should because that’s life.

After reading a few of Leigh Bardugo’s short stories, I really enjoyed how she tied mythology and legend into the plot.

Ruin and Rising made me ask some great questions.  Can you do the right thing no matter how hard? What are you willing to give up? Power? Love?

I came across this quote as I was skimming it, trying to write this review.

“I would never know if it was greed or selflessness that moved my hand.”

– Leigh Bardugo, Ruin and Rising pg 377

Now THAT’S a question I had never asked myself.  Are greed and selflessness so similar that they are hard to tell apart?

Mal became unexpectedly important.  I liked Mal, but he always felt like just a love interest until this book.  If you love Mal, this book will make you love him even more.

What a beautiful, happy but also bittersweet ending.  Just enough of the bitter to keep me from gagging on the adorably sweet stuff.  Like I said, nothing in life ever works out perfectly and there were still consequences that the characters had to deal with.  But man I loved that ending.

Overall, it was a great ending to one of my favorite YA fantasy series.

Content Rating: Medium, for some violence and a few make-out scenes.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links.  

About Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Los Angeles, and graduated from Yale University. These days, she lives in Hollywood, where she indulges her fondness for glamour, ghouls, and costuming in her other life as makeup artist L.B. Benson. Occasionally, she can be heard singing with her band, Captain Automatic.

Her debut novel, Shadow & Bone (Holt Children’s/ Macmillan), is a New York Times Best Seller and the first book in the Grisha Trilogy. Book 2, Siege and Storm, will be published in 2013. She is represented by Joanna Stampfel-Volpe of New Leaf.

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Book Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Book Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick NessA Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Published: September 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover (215 pages)
Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Middle Grade
Source: Library

 
The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.

But it isn't the monster Conor's been expecting. He's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming...

This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.
5 Stars

The beautiful first line of A Monster Calls drew me into the story.

The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.

– Patrcik Ness, A Monster Calls

But the best part is that what comes next is not what I expected.  It’s a bittersweet story about a boy facing something that is scarier than monsters.  The monster is scary, yet endearing.  A Monster Calls is kind of like A Christmas Carol since the monster comes to teach him something – and it’s not lessons in kindness.  Instead of showing him his past, present, and future he tells him stories that have very unconventional endings.

Stories are wild creatures, the monster said. When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?

– Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls

I would call this book mild horror.  It has a Princess Bride vibe since the kid gives sassy commentary about the monster’s story while he’s telling it.  I guess even ancient monsters can get impatient with boys who ask too many questions.

Some people might call the ending “open-ended.”  I would not.  I think it ended perfectly.  If you think about the conflict of the story, it does resolve it but leaves the rest up to your imagination.  Kind of.  You know what happens next.

I loved this book.  Beautiful illustrations. Beautiful symbolism.  Get it in print to appreciate the art inside.

Overall – beautiful, bittersweet, moving.  You need to read this book.  

Content Rating: Mild for mild horror with monsters and mild spoiler View Spoiler »

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links. 

About Patrick Ness

Patrick Ness

Patrick Ness, an award-winning novelist, has written for England’s Radio 4 and Sunday Telegraph and is a literary critic for The Guardian. He has written many books, including the Chaos Walking Trilogy, The Crash of Hennington, Topics About Which I Know Nothing, and A Monster Calls.

He has won numerous awards, including the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, the Booktrust Teenage Prize, and the Costa Children’s Book Award. Born in Virginia, he currently lives in London.

Win a Signed Copy of Rump by Liesl Shurtliff

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Rump by Liesl Shurtliff PBLast year, the day before I had my baby, we had an awesome book club where the author came and visited. Today I’m finally writing about it! We got to chat over Skype with Liesl Shurtliff, the author of Rump: The True Story of Rumplestiltskin.
Jack by Liesl ShurtliffOur group loved Rump and we were excited to hear that she has two sequels coming out – Jack and Red.  Red is still in rough draft but we were excited that our favorite, spunky side character would get her own book.

We love the TV show Once Upon A Time, so we had to know – did she write this after watching Once Upon A Time?  Actually, Liesl wrote this book before it came out.  But I will say – if you like OUaT and are a fan of Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin then I think you’ll love this retelling of that fairy tale.  Liesl takes a humorous spin on a dark tale and makes the “bad guy” more relatable.  Liesl was drawn to this fairy tale because it’s one of the few that is named after the villain instead of the main characters.  There also aren’t many retellings of this fairy tale.

Liesl was kind enough to sign all the books for the members in our club and I got an extra one for you! Use the rafflecopter below to enter.

A few rules: You must be 13 and older to enter.  I will email the winner and ask for their mailing address.  They have 72 hours to respond before the prize goes to someone else.  I will only use your mailing address to send you the prize and then that email will be deleted and not shared with anyone.  Thanks for entering and good luck!

 

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Tips for Running a Book Club

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I love our book club.   But running a book club is something this introverted girl had never done and I ran into a few challenges that I didn’t expect.  I wanted to talk about how our book club changed and evolved into the amazing and fun group it is now and share with you the things I learned.

Yay! We Have A Book Club! What Are We Going to Read?

At first, we drew book selections from a hat.  The goal of this was to avoid the pressure of trying to pick something everyone will like.  If you come with one book and no one seems excited about it but they liked everyone else’s books, it kinda sucks.

But then it was too much of a hassle and we ran into the problem of not everyone getting their book picked since it was random.  It was a little unfair.  So we went to the style where the host for that month just picked the book.  That worked for a while but it came to the point where the hosts were picking things the majority of the group had read or didn’t want to read.  It led to a few book bashing sessions which hurt some of the hosts feelings.  That also sucked.

The best way to pick books is a combination of the first two sucky methods.  At our Christmas Party, we have everyone bring three book choices and present them to the group.  Then we vote as a group which to read.  Each person has the freedom of picking something to read and the group doesn’t get stuck reading something that most of us have read.

Picking books can make or break your book club.  If, for example, you have a genre based book club, people will agree on the selections but you have to be very picky about who you let in.  No one will have fun in a YA book club if one person really hates YA. You’d basically have to kick them out and that really sucks.  I made the mistake of assuming that because I like reading YA everyone else would, too.  I was surprised at how diverse my friends reading tastes really were. So our book club evolved into a more eclectic, try-new-things type book club which is fun.  It’s just not the YA only book club I had thought it would be.  To me, though, it was more important to have a group that functioned for my friends and it didn’t matter that much to me what we read.  Make the book selections fit your members or find members that fit the kind of book selections you want.

Can I Be In Your Book Club?

One of the biggest things I should have established at the beginning of my book club was how big it was going to be and who we would let in.  I didn’t think about this because 1) I thought no one would come so it never occurred to me that we would get TOO big and 2) if no one is coming then we can just let anyone in.  Our book club was quite small at first but since I hadn’t established any rules the group quickly grew exponentially.  I didn’t want to be a snobby book club with trials for new members and stuff like that, but if our club got too big we literally wouldn’t be able to function.  We reached 12 active, participating members with about 5 that came occasionally.  If everyone did decide to come, we wouldn’t fit in some of the hosts living rooms and we’d be shouting at each other to be heard.  So we established the rules of who to let in and the max number of members about a year after we started.  We settled on 12 members max so each person could have a turn to host and we decided that only people in our neighborhood could come.  I’ll be honest, it was really hard to establish rules after the fact without hurting some of the members feelings.  I even got emails asking if they were still allowed to come.  It broke my heart!  Learn from me – set up the max size and who is allowed in very very first even if you think your book club will never grow.

We have the regular host rules.  Whoever’s book is that month is where the meeting will be and the host will have treats.  This is more of an unwritten rule.  We just like eating and talking :).   The host also gets to run the discussion of their book.  Each member can bring something they want to discuss, but the host usually has discussion questions.  Without a discussion leader, our group would often break off into smaller groups and the book that the host lovingly picked and lots of people spent time reading barely got discussed.

Facebook, Email or Letter by Owl?

I’m lazy.  I wanted the fastest, easiest way to communicate with the book club.  We started with email but I didn’t feel like the group communicated with each other.  Email is very one way.  I didn’t realize getting books for members was even a problem until a few months in!  Good communication in a book club is so important!  Long story short – here’s why Facebook Groups kicks email’s butt for communication.

  • I can make events with dates, times and locations on Facebook that people can join and Facebook will remind them for me.  I got many, many texts and emails asking what the next’s month book is and when the next meeting is and where is the next meeting.  It’s a lot of work to answer all those individually.  Facebook makes a one place stop for everyone to find that information easily.
  • It’s easy for me to communicate to the group from my phone.  I could never figure out how to send a group email from my phone.  Even if such a thing is possible, it doesn’t compare to how easy it is to post in our Facebook Group and everyone immediately sees it.  I would often procrastinate sending out reminders for book club because that meant I had to boot up my laptop (ugh so long!).  Sometimes people would forget to come because of it.  Totally my fault.
  • Only people in our group will get updates.  Facebook Groups can be closed meaning only members see what is posted in there.  I also like how Facebook will tell me how many people saw a post on there.  I always wondered if anyone was even getting my emails….
  • The group can communicate to each other! I think this is the best feature.  Now anyone can get on there and ask to be next in line for the book, or for the recipe from the meeting last night, or ask questions about the book as we are reading.

Where Did You Get That?

Like I said earlier, I found out a few months in that members were having a hard time finding the books we were reading.  Our local library usually has one copy of any book (if they even have it).  Since our library system isn’t county wide like the rest of the libraries in the whole entire state, if our local library didn’t have it there wasn’t any other way to get it other than buying it. So we all pitched to pay for the library system in the neighboring county because they have better selection (they have 60 copies! Of one book!).  I would often be able to bring a stack of next month’s book to each meeting.  My library allows me to check out 8 books at once so I can bring enough for everyone to read and pass around.  Having the library account just for book club makes it so I can still use my own account for myself and my kids.  If you don’t have an awesome library (my condolences) then I would establish the precedent of people having to buy the book every month in order to join.  I didn’t think it would be very nice to just spring that on the members after they had been coming for a few months.  I didn’t want money to keep members away that wanted to come, so a book club library account worked out really well for us.  When our book club didn’t have it’s own library account, our members sometimes wanted to read the book but couldn’t and so the discussion would move away from the book quickly because a lot of people in the group hadn’t read it.

In case you are wondering, the book club library account is actually under my name.  I am personally responsible for all the books that are checked out.  We have such a great group that I have never had to hunt down a book.  They appreciate the favor of my getting the books for them and they return that favor by making sure to always get the books back on time.

What We Are Reading This Year

  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  • Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman
  • In The Heart Of The Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick
  • Heaven is Here by Stephanie Nielson
  • Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
  • Think Like a Freak by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
  • These is My Words by Nancy E. Turner
  • I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
  • Wonder by R. J. Palacio
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  • The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

One of the girls in the book club made these great bookmarks! She did the design herself and got them printed at OvernightPrints.  They are great quality and our club LOVES them.

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Do you have a book club? What are some of the things you do in your book club?  What were some of your favorite books you’ve read in your book club?