Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Angel needs help naming her blog! (a contest)

One of the blogs I follow is getting a name makeover. Angel is one of my favorite bloggers to follow, so I'm looking forward to see what awesomeness she comes up with. And she's also just plain cool: She's having a blog-naming contest! The winner will get a gift card to a retailer of their choice. Oh, and even better: She'll have second and third place winners too! How awesome is that?

Anyway, I highly suggest you give it a looksie and enter the contest here.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I'm an Olympics-watching slacker

If you've been wondering about my very blatant absence from blogging in the past few days, well here's the answer: I'm an Olympics addict. Seriously. I can't get enough of watching the Olympics! Summer or Winter games, it does not matter as long as I can sit there and watch people achieve huge things in their respective sports.

Because of this little addiction, I haven't been reading nearly as much as I usually do. So since I have no books to update you with, here are some of my favorite USA athletes in Vancouver. I won't list ALL of them, but as of right now these are the ones that stand out in my mind:

Apolo Ohno: How can you NOT like Apolo Anton Ohno? I mean, the guy is a world-class short track speed skater AND can dance like no one's business. He's got a great personality in his interviews, he has a heavy presence on Twitter, and he seems relatively accessible for a huge sports star. I hope he beats the pants off the darn Koreans!

Shaun White: This guy stole my hairstyle from about 5 years back. Goob. Nevertheless, have you SEEN what this guy can do on a snowboard? He's pretty much single-handedly changed his sport, and you have to respect that kind of awesome.

Evan Lysacek: Aside from being an incredible figure skater, I am predisposed to adore this guy simply because he grew up in the same town that I did. He graduated from a rival high school two years after I did, so I have to cheer on the hometown guy. I unfortunately have doubts that he can pass Plushenko in the long program tonight, but a girl can at least hope.

Lindsey Jacobellis: This girl is adorable, and I feel bad that she can't seem to get that gold medal despite being one of the best in her sport. But hey, at least she had a silver in Torino. Granted the gold was in her hands, but frankly I'd be personally darn happy with ANY medal. Heck, I'd be darn happy to just be able to compete in the Olympic games!

Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto: I'm the first person to admit that compared to the other figure skating competitions, ice dancing is just a tad bit boring. However, I thought these two were a blast to watch in Torino, and I'm looking forward to seeing them this year as well.

Johnny Weir: Tanith's Olympic roomie. Umm, picture says it all, don't you think?

Nate Holland: He seems like the kind of guy we'd all want to go have a beer with. And he probably thinks your pants are too tight.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Moloka'i by Alan Brennert

Check it out! This is first non-YA (or children's, in the case of City of Ember and Voyage on the Great Titanic) book I've read in 2010! I really enjoy reading Young Adult books, but sometimes it's fun to jump into a heavier book like Moloka'i.

Moloka'i is the story of Rachel Kalama, a six-year-old Hawaiian girl living in Honolulu in the late 1800's. When a leprous spot appears on Rachel's leg, her world is turned upside down and she is separated from her family and sent to live in the leper colony Kalaupapa on the island of Moloka'i. Despite her lifelong confinement to this island, Rachel's life is a full one, complete with all the ups and downs of human existence.

The only regret I have about this book is that I did not read it sooner. I've been meaning to read it for a long time now, and I even bought it a few months ago when I saw it on the shelf of a local Waldenbooks that was closing. I knew it would be something up my alley since I'm a big historical fiction fan, and yet other books just kept popping up between it and me. It's a real shame though because this is a wonderful book.

I do not know a lot about the history of Hawaii, and I also knew very little about leper colonies other than the fact that they did exist. I've also never visited Hawaii, so I was rather blind going into this novel. Honestly though, Brennert is such a wonderful storyteller that I didn't need photos or personal experience or anything to really feel as though I was immersed in the story and setting. He's just that good. Something else I loved was the intermingling of fictional characters with people who really existed. While I was reading this book I did end up doing some hunting on Wikipedia (a common practice when I read great historical fiction) and learned about some of the facts of the leper colony on Moloka'i. It amazed me how well integrated these facts were, and I have to applaud Brennert for making it so seamless that he was able to create a compelling tapestry from these threads of truth.

If I had to complain about anything about this book, I would probably say the ending. The last one-fourth of the book felt a bit rushed, but it wasn't anything crazy because quite frankly things were wrapping themselves up. Overall, I really loved it. This book is proof that despite great heartache people can find great happiness too.

Blog Award! Yay!

I can't believe how awesome it is that I got a blog award! Thanks to Leah over at My Life: Uncensored for thinking my blog and I are cool enough to be recognized. She's right: We do have great taste in books. ;)

So here are the rules:

1. Thank and link the person who gave you the award.
2. Pass the award on to 15 bloggers that you have recently discovered and think are fantastic!

And the recipients of my beautiful blogger awards (I'll try to make it to 15..):

Great Books and Fresh Coffee - This girl is awesome! I can't wait to meet her in person someday to discuss books, with a huge emphasis on our mutual Harry Potter love.

My Brain's Comfort Food - Umm, she's a Ghost Hunters fan, and a few blog posts from now I will be reviewing the latest literary creation of Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson.. thanks to her!

With a Cherry on Top
- I found this blog not long ago, and I tried one of the recipes: Garlic Parmesan Roasted Potatoes. All I can say is, YUM! I look forward to trying more recipes on this blog in the future!

Mrs. Messi's Musings
- Cute blog with some cute posts about pending motherhood!

My Overly Ambitious 101 in 1001
- I love this girl! I have the pleasure of knowing her in person (though I wish she lived closer!), and she's pretty much freaking awesome. I'm having a great time watching her as she goes through her 101 in 1001.

The Real Housewife of OKC - Another in real life person, and probably one of the funniest people I know. She always makes me laugh my butt off!

All I've Ever Wanted - Love the photos on this blog!

Eight Shades of Crazy - Another girl who makes me want to pee myself laughing whenever we get together.

C Times 3 - I'm almost tempted not to list this blog as retaliation for moving away from here, but.. I guess she's cool enough that she deserves it despite having left us all. ;)

A Light at the End of the Tunnel - I pray for her every single day. I wish there were more women like her in this world.

Okay, there's ten, and here are a few more that I love who already have this award, at least as far as I can tell:

Book Hooked
Crystal Clear Reading
The Simple Things
Forever Young
Because Perfection is Boring

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Hunger Games 3 cover and title revealed!

I think I'm pretty much the last person on the planet to blog about this, BUT...

I love it. It is perfect to me. Stunning, beautiful, perfect.

Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers

As promised, here is more Courtney Summers! After absolutely adoring Some Girls Are, I felt absolutely compelled to go pick up a copy of Summers' first book, Cracked Up to Be. While two very different books, both were similar in regards to the high school setting and troubled former-popular girl.

In Cracked Up To Be, Parker Fadley is our storyteller, struggling through her senior year of high school and desperately trying to exile herself from the rest of the world. This is proving a monumental task though because too many people still care about her: her ex-boyfriend still holds a flame, her parents still care about what happens to her, school administration is giving her a chance to graduate, the "new kid" in school can't seem to help but to fall for her, and even her plans to distract her parents by getting a dog ends up backfiring when that dog attaches itself lovingly to Parker.

But what happened that made Perfect Parker want to live a life alone and apart? Once a shoe-in for Valedictorian, now she's having to meet some strict requirements to even have a chance at graduating. She was the cheerleading captain, but then she ran away, attempted suicide, and now comes to school hung over. As the events of the novel unfold, Parker's own story slowly comes to light and we learn what made her life take such a drastically wrong turn.

I really loved this book. I wanted to hate Parker so much for how awful she acted and the things she did to both herself and others, but at the same time I could see and understand how hurt and confused and lost she really was behind her mask of indifference. To create such a complex character full of so many emotions in such a way takes some serious writing skill that I think Courtney Summers absolutely has. While reading this book I almost felt like a friend of Parker's who was watching this downward spiral and desperately trying to figure out exactly what happened to cause such a sudden change.

I will anxiously look forward to any other novels that Courtney Summers writes. So far she's a great two for two, and I can't wait to see what else she has in store for her readers.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Looking for Alaska by John Green

And now, onto book three of my gifts.

Looking for Alaska is one of the more profound books I've read in a while, and I really was not sure what all to make of it at times. The book takes place at a boarding school in Alabama, where new student Miles Halter (nicknamed "Pudge" by his roommate Chip, a.k.a. "The Colonel") quickly assimilates into hos roommate The Colonel's group of friends. In this group is Alaska Young, the "that girl" of every book with an adolescent male protagonist. Alaska is beautiful, quirky, rebellious, slightly crazy, and all in all it's no wonder that Pudge falls in love with her nearly instantaneously.

The book's setup was fascinating in that it was divided into two sections: "Before" and "After." The event that separates these sections throws a huge wrench into the dynamic of this group of friends. I am sorry to say that I accidentally read a discussion question at the end of the book when looking for a little blurb on the author, and this one question ended up being a bit of a spoiler. So DON'T READ the discussion questions, whether purposely or accidentally! I really, truly wish that I could go back and not have known because I think this would have been a completely different book had I not figured out what was in between before and after.

Otherwise, the book was really good. It will probably never be a favorite of mine, but it's another one of those that educators really should read. It dealt with a number of heavy topics that many teenagers face at some point in their high school careers. Some of these topics felt very mature for the audience this book likely mainly gets as it's a Young Adult book, and I would have to say that I would probably be hesitant to recommend it to a teenager for this reason. But at the same time, it's probably nothing they haven't already encountered, right? And for that reason I'm terrified at the thought of being a parent. :)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Voyage on the Great Titanic by Ellen Emerson White

For those who know me, it should be no surprise that I felt compelled to pick up a book that centers around the Titanic. I'm a complete ocean liner buff, and I know way too many little facts about these behemoth ships. Anyway, I heard about this book not long ago and decided it sounded interesting and worth a read.

First off, this is definitely more of a children's book, and maybe you could argue a case for a Young Adult. Regardless, the book is in diary format about a young orphan named Margaret who by an immense stroke of luck gets to accompany a first class woman on a trans-Atlantic voyage on the Titanic. I hate to spoil it for you, but I have to tell this to you because it's huge: the ship sinks.

Despite this being a fictional diary, the author really did a wonderful job of incorporating various facts, including but not limited to real-life people who were present for Titanic's maiden voyage, facts about the sinking, descriptions of the ship, and more. I really loved the way these real people and events were interwoven with the story. And it is a great story! It was really refreshing to see this familiar tale told through the eyes of a 13-year-old who was in first class and not necessarily supposed to be in first class. My heart broke right along with Margaret's as the events unfolded and she watched the great Titanic sink, taking with it so many lives.

As this book is geared more towards the younger crowd, I think it's an excellent fictional account of the tragedy and will help young audiences appreciate the full scale of this historical disaster. For me, it didn't give me any historical information that I didn't already know, but either way it was quick, entertaining, and worth the read.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

It's been a while since I've posted a new blog, so my apologies. There have been a lot of other distractions, for lack of a better word, great books included! Now I've fallen behind, and so I'll work my patootie off (what is a patootie?) to get things back on track over here.

Anyway, a little over a week ago I picked up the second of my three gifted books, Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers. The giver had said so many wonderful things about this book, and I couldn't wait to dig in. The verdict? Uh. May. Zing. Amazing!

Regina Afton is the best friend of Anna, the most popular girl (bitch) in school. As I'm sure we all remember, high school and that climb up and down the popularity ladder can be nothing short of cruel. So when untrue rumors are spread that Regina hooked up with Anna's boyfriend, the results are absolutely brutal.

This book reminded me of the movie Mean Girls (and yes, I know this is based on a book, but I haven't read that book so I can't compare), except meaner. Regina's voice is so perfect for the telling of this tale, and I love how not perfect she is. This less-than-perfect protagonist seems to be an interesting theme with Courtney Summers' two books, the other which I will get to a few posts from now. It's refreshing to watch a character struggle with morals and make all the wrong decisions in an attempt at self-preservation. We were ALL like that in high school. No one knew all the answers, and no one was absolutely perfect. We made mistakes because we didn't know better and didn't have the insight or life lessons to back up our decisions. Summers really captures this beautifully.

The supporting characters are all equally dynamic, and the high school setting of this book really helps the plot along and builds to a wonderful crescendo. Despite the harshness of the events in the book, I hate to say that there is probably a good deal of truth in these pages. Big thumbs up for this book and author.