Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Reading Statistics

I absolutely love Goodreads' My Year in Books feature. It made this post so much easier.

I set my reading goal at 75 books for 2015. I blew that away by reading 120 new books. Although I don't think 4 of them should count since they were short stories.

I was curious to see if I read more books per month once I started blogging or whether in stayed about the same. Here's what I found out.

January           5 books
February         8 books
March             7 books
April             14 books
May              11 books
June              12 books
July               11 books
August          11 books
September      7 books
October         11 books
November       9 books
December       9 books

I'm not sure that blogging really made me read more. This data isn't very conclusive. I also re-read about 10 books at least this year that aren't include in these numbers, since I only have a record of re-reads for the second half of the year.

I was also curious about my ratings beyond Goodreads average rating calculation. Am I more critical since I started blogging?  This post from May shows the percentage of each rating for the last few years. Here's how those ratings compared to this year.

                          Last 3 Years           This Year
5 Stars               18%                        11%
4 Stars               38%                        41.5%
3 Stars               28%                        31.5%
2 Stars               14%                        15%
1 Star                  2%                          1%

Hmm. I was maybe a little less generous with 5 star ratings, but the overall percentage of "good" books was still 84%. Interesting.

I was debating about setting a Goodreads goal for next year. I've decided to do it. I am setting my goal at 125 new books since Goodreads doesn't count re-reads, and as you know I'm planning to re-read at least 12 books this coming year.

I think that goal should be achievable, but hopefully not too easy. It's about 10-11 books per month, which is about my current rate of reading. That rate should be sustainable for the next year.

How many books did you read this year? What was your average rating? Are you setting a goal on Goodreads for next year?

Book Review: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

I received this book for free from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

Paperback to be published on January 1, 2016.

Goodreads Summary:
Warning: once you let books into your life, the most unexpected things can happen…

This is a book about books. All sorts of books, from Little Women and Harry Potter to Jodi Picoult and Jane Austen, from to Stieg Larsson to Joyce Carol Oates to Proust. It’s about the joy and pleasure of books, about learning from and escaping into them, and possibly even hiding behind them. It’s about whether or not books are better than real life. 

It’s also a book about a Swedish girl called Sara, her elderly American penfriend Amy and what happens when you land a very different kind of bookshop in the middle of a town so broken it’s almost beyond repair. 

Or is it? 

The Readers of Broken Wheel has touches of 84 Charing Cross Road, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Chocolat, but adds an off-beat originality and intelligence all its own.

My Review:
I really wanted to love this book. But sadly I did not. It had the makings of a perfect book for me. A bookish young woman travels from Sweden to rural Iowa to meet an old woman she's befriended due to their shared love of books. Upon arriving she discovers her dead. The town's eccentric council members convince her to stay in in the woman's house, and she decides to open a book store in the dying town.

The main character, Sara, was easy to relate to, and I enjoyed the small town antics. But some of the characters weren't fleshed out enough. The exchanges were rather confusing in the beginning. Bivald includes letters from Amy in between chapters throughout the book, but I think I would have preferred some more set up in the beginning. Sara seemed to know all of the people in town, but the reader comes to the knowledge late, which made the story a bit hard to follow.

The pacing was a little off for me as well. The plot was very slow to develop. I reached 30% in the ebook before the book store was even open. At about 60% the story did draw me in a little more, but it was still kind of a push to get through the book.

I enjoyed the literary references. And the book store aspect reminded me of Bookends by Jane Green, one of my favorite books. This book is often compared to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and I guess it had the similar small town, large cast feel, but I didn't enjoy it nearly as much. The story of the dying town being brought back to life by a visitor was similar to the movie Doc Hollywood, another favorite of mine, but it was not executed as well.

My Rating: 3 Stars
Understand my ratings.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday #5: Most Anticipated Releases for the First Half of 2016

This weekly meme is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. I am hoping to participate more frequently in 2016.

I am looking forward to the following release next year. They're ordered by my level of excitement, and not by release date.

The Crown (The Selection #5) by Kiera Cass

I love this series so much, and unlike most people, I liked Eadlyn a lot more than I liked America. I can't wait to read about the conclusion of her Selection.

Release Date: May 3, 2016

The Glass Sword (Red Queen #2) by Victoria Aveyard

I know Red Queen has gotten mixed reviews since it's so similar to many other dystopian YA books, but I loved it. I am early anticipating the second book in this series.

Release Date: February 9, 2016

The Long Game (The Fixer #2) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Clearing I am a series lover. Jennifer Lynn Barnes is so amazing. I really enjoyed The Fixer, so I am very much looking forward to reading the next book in the suspense/crime series.

Release Date: June 7, 2016

Stars Above (The Lunar Chronicles #0.5, 0.6, 1.5, 3.1, 3.6) by Marissa Meyer

The Lunar Chronicles is my second favorite series, after Harry Potter. I have read a few of these short stories already from Meyer's website, but I still need to get my hands on this book ASAP after it releases because I need to read about the wedding. I don't even care who's it is!

Release Date: February 2, 2016

OK that's it for series.

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

I honestly haven't even read what this book is about. I love Matson so much that it doesn't matter. Her other books have been so wonderful. I am sure this one will be too.

Release Date: May 3, 2016

In Real Life by Jessica Love

I have heard great things about this book, and I am approved to read it on NetGalley. I'm really looking forward to it. It's on my phone already, but I'm waiting until it's a little closer to the release date before I read it. I'm not far enough ahead on my blogging to read it early.

Release Date: March 1, 2016

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

This book is another one that I keep hearing about. And I love the cover! I really want to read it when it comes out next year.

Release Date: April 15, 2016

Just My Luck by Cammie McGovern

I love Cammie McGovern, so again I don't know what this book will be about, but I want to read it anyway. I really enjoy her writing and characters, so I know I'll love it.

Release Date: February 23, 2016

The Year We Fell Apart by Emily Martin

Another adorable cover! I've heard good things about this book.

Release Date: January 26, 2016

The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth

The only adult fiction book on my list is another that I've been approved for on NetGalley. This story sounds really interesting, and I love the cover. I am a sucker for good covers.

Release Date: January 19, 2016

Yikes! I need to get to this one soon.

What's on your list for 2016? Do you like to read new releases right away? Or do you read more back list books?

Monday, December 28, 2015

Book Review: All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Goodreads Summary:
From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

My Review:
I almost didn't read this book. I thought it would be just another WWII book. I am so glad I gave it a chance because it is anything but that. Unlike many books written about this era, it tells a much different tale. It alternates between the stories of Marie-Laure, a blind girl growing up in France, and Werner, a young German orphan who's trained by the Hitler Youth. And weaving throughout were the legend and search for a diamond and radios. Many, many radios.

The book spanned 10 years and focuses on German occupied France. It was similar to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society in that respect. It also reminded me of The Night Circus in the way it alternated between Marie-Laure and Werner as they were growing up. I knew inevitably their stories would come together in the end, but the book built up to that point by showcasing the two sides of a war that was not their own.

The writing was beautiful, but not overly descriptive, which I wouldn't have thought possible. I listened to the audiobook, and it was very captivating, although it dragged a little bit in the middle. Perhaps because it took me a long time to get through the book only listening for 40 minutes a day. I was impressed with the visual and olfactory descriptions that were given in Marie-Laure's chapters. It gave me an understanding of how her other senses would have developed to fill the void left by her lost sight.

I was fascinated by both Marie-Laure and Werner and the struggles they both faced. I admired Marie-Laure's bravery and curiosity, and I appreciated Werner's doubts and determination. All of the supporting characters added so much to the story as well. But Marie's father was my favorite. What an amazing person he was. All of the things he did to help her survive in the world after she went blind showed his immense love for her.

I definitely understand why everyone is raving about this book. The characters were great. The story was compelling. And the pacing was good for the most part. For me, it lived up to the hype.

My Rating: 4 Stars
Understand my ratings.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

My Bookish Christmas

My family and friends know me well. They know I love books! I don't usually buy books as you know, but I'm not opposed to getting books as gifts. I also love bookish things. I got many wonderful gifts this Christmas.

Christopher originally wanted to buy me The Infinite Sea (The 5th Wave #2), but Jim had already ordered it. So he selected If You Only Knew instead. Apparently I had this book on my Goodreads list, but I didn't remember adding it. Either way, it sounds interesting. (I just looked it up to add the link, and I see now that I added it after reading Jessica's post earlier this month about 10 unputdownable books. I added the ones I hadn't read to my Goodreads list without reading the descriptions. Now I'm really excited to read it.)

I'm also very excited that Jim bought me The Infinite Sea. I'd actually seen that Amazon receipt in my email, but I didn't remember the name of the book, so it wasn't spoiled. Yay! We bought our niece The 5th Wave for Christmas, so since I don't really like to keep books, I'll give it to her once I finish. She's pretty pumped about that, and she hasn't even read the first book yet.

My friend Sarah from my YA book club bought me this awesome "Banned Books" mug. I had tea in it yesterday afternoon, and it was the perfect size. It goes very well with my first lines book that Jim bought me last year.

I had a hunch that Jim was buying me a laptop, and I was right! I am typing on my new MacBook Pro right now. It worked out well that I was suspecting he had bought me a laptop because I may have thought it was too much if it was a surprise. I don't like to spend a lot of money on myself.

Jim made some comments right before Christmas that made me think he wasn't getting me a laptop, and then I was kind of disappointed. I was so happy when I really opened it. Although I didn't get to use it until the 26th because Christmas day was pretty busy with family stuff.

I also participated in The Broke and the Bookish Secret Santa this year. I mailed my presents to Candice @ The Grown-Up YA a few weeks ago, and I was beginning to worry that my present wasn't coming. Since it arrived only a few days before Christmas, I decided to save it for Christmas morning.

I didn't really know what to expect in my package. But I was so pleased with what I got! Maggie @ Just a Couple More Pages bought me Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, who you know is one of my favorite authors, and Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid, which I have really been wanting to read but didn't get to this year.

I love the Dr. Seuss card and the little journal. That will definitely come in handy for making notes for blogging and fiction writing. The Christmas socks, Skittles, and Peeps snowman were fun too. I really enjoyed this Secret Santa exchange.

What bookish gifts did you get this Christmas?

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Book Review: Career of Evil

Career of Evil (Comoran Strike #3) by Robert Galbraith

Goodreads Summary:
When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg.

Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible – and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.

With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands, and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them…

Career of Evil is the third in the highly acclaimed series featuring private detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott. A fiendishly clever mystery with unexpected twists around every corner, it is also a gripping story of a man and a woman at a crossroads in their personal and professional lives. 

Cormoran Strike is back, with his assistant Robin Ellacott, in a mystery based around soldiers returning from war.

My Review:
I delayed reading this book for a couple of weeks because I was intimidated by the length. I needn't have worried. I was sucked into the story immediately. I read the first two books as they were released, so it had been a while since I read about detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin. That didn't matter either. My love for them came back instantly along with the memories of the past two stories.

This third book revolved around an investigation into who delivery a severed woman's leg to Robin at the beginning of the story. I really enjoyed this plot because it reveals so much of Strike's past history, which he's been rather secretive about in previous books.

Galbraith (J.K. Rowling) also has a few chapters told from the killer's point of view which added to the story and allowed me to better attempt to guess the killer.

As always, Rowling's writing style is a bit overly descriptive for my taste. What worked well in the Harry Potter series because of the magical world building, bogged this book down a bit for me. I just wanted Strike and Robin to solve the mystery. I didn't much care about the scenery as they drove all over London and elsewhere in England.

Cormoran is as sharp as ever. I loved reading about the way his mind work and how he solves mysteries. I appreciated Robin's greater involvement in this investigation. And I welcomed the greater personal depth of both of their stories.

I really enjoy this series. And this book definitely did not disappoint.

My Rating: 4 Stars
Understand my ratings.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Fiction Friday #10: Playground Dad part 4

I started the Fiction Friday series in October to help improve my descriptive prose writing. Perhaps I'll write a book some day, most likely not, but I'm enjoying being creative each week. If you'd like to write along with me, I will have a link up for the series each week. Add a link to fiction on your blog.

Today's story is the last part in a series. Here are the earlier installments.

Playground Dad part 1

Playground Dad part 2

Playground Dad part 3


At 7:00 PM the next night I check my reflection in the mirror in my bedroom one more time. I am happy with how I look in my red floral sundress and strappy brown sandals. It’s still 75 degrees out, but I grab a jean jacket from my closet in case it cools down later. Then I walk downstairs. I select a bottle of red wine from the wine rack as a hostess gift and head into the garage.

Once I’m in the car, I pull up Melissa’s email with the party details and click on the address to bring up a map. I turn on the GPS and back out of the driveway. The invite said the party started at 6:00 PM, so I figure that by showing up around 7:15, I’ll be fashionably late. Since I didn’t commit to coming, I don't want to arrive too early. I don’t want Melissa to know I’ve been going crazy all day. Without Jack to attend to, I didn’t really know what to do with myself. I read a little, watched TV, and took a walk, but after that I was at a loss.

When I pull up to Melissa and Nick’s house, there are a lot of cars in the driveway and on the street already. They’ve got a good turnout. I circle back around and park about half a block away. I stow my keys and phone in my purse, a casual red clutch that matches my dress, retrieve the bottle of wine from the passenger seat, and climb out of the car. As I walk towards the house, I pull up a mental image of Nick. I’ve only met him once, at the company picnic in May, but I want to make sure I can spot him in the crowd that’s clearly already assembled in their backyard.

I debate whether I should ring the front bell or just walk around to the backyard. I can hear music and laughter emanating from the back of the house, so I decide to head around there. I assume everyone is outside. As I round the corner, I take in the scene. Christmas lights hang from tree to tree almost as if they were Japanese lanterns. There are indeed 5 plastic snowmen set up throughout the yard. It doesn’t look corny as I expected. It looks fun and festive. I see about 40 people scattered around the yard and on the deck. No kids, so I don’t feel out of place without Jack.

I don’t see Melissa, but I spot Nick on the deck talking to a woman about my age, so I decide to head up there. Luckily, Nick notices me coming, so there is no awkward moment when I approach him. He smiles and says, “Teresa, right? Melissa mentioned you might be coming.”

“Hi, Nick,” I say as I hand over the bottle of wine. “I brought this as a gift for you and Melissa.” Way to state the obvious, Teresa. Nice going.

Nick seems un-phased. He introduces the woman he’s been speaking to as their neighbor, Gwen. I say hello and attempt to make small talk while Nick heads inside with my wine. He said he’d find Melissa and let her know that I’m here.

A few minutes later Melissa comes out and interrupts Gwen’s story about her dog. Thank God. I am not an animal person.

“Teresa!” Melissa squeals. “I’m so happy you came. There’s someone I want you to meet.”

I panic. Now it makes sense why Melissa invited me to the party yesterday afternoon. She’s trying to fix me up with someone. I should have known.

“Oh no,” I start. “I don’t know if I’m ready for that,” I protest. Not to mention I’m kind of obsessed with someone already.

“Nonsense,” she says and grabs my arm. Before I can stop her, she’s leading me off the porch towards a maple tree in the far corner of the yard. Standing right next to one of the snowmen is Playground Dad. I do a double take. Am I imagining this? Could he really be here?

As we get closer I confirm that it is in fact him. I take note of his slightly messy brown hair and his muscular arms. I can’t breathe. I glance down at my sandals to keep myself from staring. Pull yourself together, Teresa.

When we stop in front of Playground Dad and the other man he’s been talking to, they look at us a little strangely. Or maybe that’s my imagination.

“Aaron, can you go inside and help Nick with the coolers?” Melissa asks the other man by way of dismissing him. Then she turns to Playground Dad and smiles.

“Ben, I want you to meet someone,” she says as she gives my arm one last tug. “This is Teresa from my work. The one I’ve been telling you about.”

“Teresa, this is Ben,” she says to me now. “He has twins who must be around Jack’s age.”

“I know,” I say completely shocking myself. Ben and Melissa both look a little startled. “I mean, I think I’ve seen you at the playground,” I mutter quickly. How could I be so stupid?

Ben gives me a sly smile and winks as if we’re in on a joke. Melissa doesn’t notice. Someone calls her name from across the yard.

“Well, I’ll leave you to it,” she says and walks away.

“So, you're recently divorced too, huh?” Ben asks rather boldly.

“I thought you might be,” I blurt out. I’m really not doing well here. Why didn’t Melissa tell me yesterday that she was trying to set me up? And how is that Playground Dad is actually here at the party?

 Ben laughs. “Are you stalking me?”

“No. It’s just, there aren’t a lot of dads at the playground.” I say, attempting to explain myself. I need a drink!

Luckily, Ben is kind. He changes the subject.

“You have a son. Jack. How old is he?”

“4. And what about your twins?”

“3 and a half,” he answers. “They won’t be 4 until December, so they miss the cutoff for preschool.”

Our conversation flows quite naturally after that. It’s easy to talk about Jack. And I’m genuinely curious about his kids. I learn that the twins names are Josh and Sophie. They live with their mother most of the time and only visit with Ben every other weekend, as I guessed. Ben is a web developer. That's a little surprising considering how outgoing he is.

He asks questions about me as well. I tell him more about Jack and his obsession with trucks. He already knows where I work because of Melissa, but I explain what I actually do there. And before I know it, half an hour has passed, and I'm feeling much less awkward.

"Do you want a drink?" Ben finally asks.

"Sure," I answer.

He leads the way as we walk to the deck.


I think I'm going to take a break from my Fiction Fridays for a while. I need to find regular time to write fiction, so I can really improve. I have enjoyed this endeavor, and I definitely feel like I could write more with more time. I have been surprised how the words flow when I really get to focus on this task.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Kid Lit: Here Comes Santa Cat

Here Comes Santa Cat by Deborah Underwood

Goodreads Summary:
Cat took on a bunny in Here Comes the Easter Cat, but now Christmas is coming, and Cat has a hunch he's not on Santa's "nice" list. Which means? No presents for Cat. So he tries to be good, but children, it seems, aren't wild for his brand of gift-giving. Still, Cat might surprise himself, and best of all, he may just get to meet the man in the red suit himself—and receive a holiday surprise of his own. Fans of Pete the Cat, Splat the Cat, and Bad Kitty will delight in this holiday treat.

After reading and loving Deborah Underwood's Here Comes the Tooth Fairy Cat, I had to reserve this book for Christmas. I ended up including it in our book advent calendar, but, unfortunately, Christopher opened it on a night that Jim put him to bed, so I missed his original reaction. I convinced him to read it again a few days later.

My Thoughts:
This book is cute and funny. Like Underwood's Tooth Fair Cat book, it is written as the narrator talking to Cat. I really like her writing style.

Cat is worried that he won't get any presents from Santa Claus because he's been too naughty this year. The narrator tells him it's not too late to do something nice. Cat tries many things that keep going badly until he finally gets it right.

It's a sweet story with a good moral. The humor kept my son interested, and the second time through he was anticipating the really funny parts.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Best Books of 2015

I keep seeing this type of post, so I decided I should do one myself. I rated 12 books as 5 stars in 2015. I thought I'd share them with you in case you're looking for your next good read.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (Adult Fiction)

Very Good Lives by J.K. Rowling (Non-Fiction)

Wanderlove by Kristen Hubbard (YA Contemporary Fiction)

The Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman (Adult Fiction)

Emmy & Oliver
by Robin Benway (YA Contemporary Fiction)

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone (YA Contemporary Fiction)

A Little in Love by Susan Fletcher (YA Historical Fiction, Re-telling)

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson (YA Contemporary Fiction)

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell (YA Fantasy)

Love Anthony by Lisa Genova (Adult Fiction)

Winter (Lunar Chronicles #4) by Marissa Meyer (YA Fantasy, Re-telling)

All In (The Naturals #3) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (YA Contemporary Fiction)

These books are listed chronologically by when I read them, but if I had to pick an absolute favorite, it would be Big Little Lies. It was the right book for me at the right time.

What was your best read of 2015?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Unpopular Opinions Book Tag

No one tagged me for this post, but I really liked it when I saw it on Hopeless Book Addict back in October. I couldn't resist!

1. A Popular Book or series that you didn’t like.

Everyone seems to love the Finishing School series. I read Etiquette and Espionage last December, and I hated it. I had to force myself to finish it because it was a book club book. I found it to be way too slow and too young, even for YA. I haven't read any of the other books in the series.

For series, I could also say Anna and the French Kiss, The Program, Beautiful Disaster, Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, and The Darkest Minds. I have tried many series that just didn't work for me.

For stand alone books it would have to be Gone Girl.

2. A Popular Book or series that every one else seems to hate but you love.

This category was kind of tricky. I couldn't think of anything, so I looked at my Goodreads books. These two books are ones where I rated them 5 stars, but the average ratings were near 3. Does this count?

Irises by Francisco X. Stork
Songs of the Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult

3. A Love Triangle where the main character ended up with the person you did NOT want them to end up with (warn people for spoilers) OR an OTP that you don’t like.

I gotta say it. The Hunger Games. Katniss and Peeta. Ugh! Gale is so much better. I will say that after seeing the last movie, her decision made a little more sense to me. The movies sold it better than the books. I'll still be Team Gale all the way though.

4. A popular book Genre that you hardly reach for.

Horror and true romance books are the two categories I never read. I also haven't read any hard core fantasy books.

5. A popular or beloved character that you do not like.

Rosie in The Rosie Effect. I loved her in The Rosie Project. She and Don were so great for each other. Then Graeme Simsion ruined her character in the second book. I was so disappointed. Why did she have to act so strangely once they were married?

6. A popular author that you can’t seem to get into.

Jenny Han. I read To All the Boys I've Loved Before last May, and I really didn't like it. I'll be honest, I haven't tried any of her other books. I should probably give her another chance, but I haven't been able to do it yet. I just really hated that book.

7. A popular book trope that you’re tired of seeing. (examples “lost princess”, corrupt ruler, love triangles, etc.)

I don't mind tropes I guess. I like any book if it has good characters, enough action, and decent writing. I enjoy a good love triangle, a chosen one, or instalove.

8. A popular series that you have no interest in reading.

I love series. I usually want to read them all except for heavy fantasy series. The Mortal Instruments is one that doesn't really appeal to me.

I know there are more. I just can't think of them.

9. The saying goes “The book is always better than the movie”, but what movie or T.V. show adaptation do you prefer more than the book?

When I read If I Stay last year, I didn't really like it (2 stars). Because I couldn't resist, I went to see the movie. And I LOVED it! I think it had something to do with the strong musical elements. I couldn't hear it in my head when I was reading it, but when they added it to the movie it really make the whole experience so much better.

I won't tag anyone since I wasn't tagged, but if you haven't done this one yet, give it a try. If you already done it, feel free to add your link in the comments. I'd love to read more of these responses.

Monday, December 21, 2015

New Holiday Traditions

I love traditions. I've said it before. For me, traditions are what make holidays special. I am a creature of routine, so performing special activities once a year is really important to me. And I am always happy to start new traditions.

Gingerbread House

This year we finally made a gingerbread house. It something I've been wanting to do for a long time, and since Christopher finally seemed old enough, we gave it a try. 

The mess of making a gingerbread house

I went the easy route and bought a kit from Michael's. Last Friday night Christopher wanted to skip a birthday party to stay home and make the gingerbread house. That's how excited he was about it. He wanted to do it every year going forward even before we had done it this year.

We promised we could do it right away Saturday morning, so at 7:00 AM Christopher and I were pulling out all of the pieces and reading the instructions. Unfortunately, I didn't read the directions completely the night before, so we discovered that we would have to wait an hour in between building the walls of the house and applying the roof. Oops. We watched two Christmas specials, so it was all good.

I had already discovered the day before that we'd need to wait 3 hours before decorating, so we were prepared for that. The timing worked out pretty well because I was able to squeeze in a visit to the gym before the decorating was scheduled to begin. Christopher was incredibly impatient though.

I love his tongue sticking out when opening the candy bags.

Promptly at 11:30 AM, we began the decorating. Christopher wanted to match the design on our house with the design on the box. Of course! So he and I got to work. He was so cute cheering me on as I attempted to match the front door. It was hard! I am not very artistic, and I've never iced anything with an icing bag before. Let alone something vertical. But he didn't seem to mind. And he was happy to cut the marzipan and outline my pathetic door.

Me cutting the candy for the window.

I did my best rolling out the gumdrops and making a window. Our decorating continued rather poorly, but full of fun for the window on the front and the candy shutters. Then Jim joined us.

He is very artistic, so he was able to make an excellent flourish on the front that matched the picture perfectly. Christopher was very careful with the colors and the ordering of things to match, so it was really coming together.

Christopher icing the side of the gingerbread house.

Since the sides weren't pictured, he got a little more creative there. And I even let him do the icing. That was a fun little break for all of us because Christopher was kind of doing things on his own and having a lot of fun.

Christopher and Jim working on the roof.

Then came the one side of the roof. Jim can be a bit of a perfectionist. He did a great job, but he wasn't moving fast enough for me. And he re-did some of Christopher's work. Things got a little tense. By this point we'd been working on it for over an hour. Way longer than I anticipated. And we hadn't had lunch.

The front of the house. How'd we do compared to the box?

Christopher took some more creative liberties with the other side of the roof (again not pictured). And even after we promised that he could eat the remaining candy, he decorated in front of the house and added little bits here and there.

I think he ended up with only about 15 pieces of candy (the small balls), and he ate them even after professing that they didn't even taste that good.

All in all it was about as fun as I was hoping. I'm pretty happy with how our house turned out. I think we'll do it again next year.

Christopher's more creative sides since they weren't pictured.

Gingerbread House Destruction

Because we couldn't just admire the gingerbread house like a normal family, we had to get a little crazy. Christopher had seen a video on YouTube of some kids doing "Gingerbread House Destruction" with various weapons in their backyard. I watched it with him once, and I have to admit, it looked like fun.

So when Christopher asked if we could do it, I immediately said yes. Although I was hoping we'd do it after Christmas when we were finished using the house as a festive decoration. He couldn't wait. And I caved, so on Tuesday night, I left work a little early, so we could destroy the gingerbread house before it got dark.

Christopher decided to try all of the Ninja Turtle weapons in order of increasing potential for destruction. We did it on the back deck, so it wouldn't make a mess in the house, but so we could still pick up the large pieces.

I'll let the videos speak for themselves. We had to make two because there were some tears in the middle when the house fell off the table and broke without being hit by a weapon. Oh the drama of being a 5 year old.

Video 1: Minimal Destruction and then Catastrophe

Video 2: Karate Chopping with Various Weapons

Did you add any new traditions this year? Do you make gingerbread houses? Will you consider destroying them now after reading this post?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

2016 Reading Challenges

I've been thinking a lot about reading goals and challenges for next year, and rather than joining in someone else's challenge, like I did this year, I've decided to create two challenges for myself.

1. Re-Read Challenge

I've mentioned before that I don't really buy a lot of books. I don't like the clutter, and I mostly buy Kindle books now because they're cheaper. But I do have some books that I've collected over the years. Most of them are from before I had a Kindle.

So for 2016 I've selected 12 books that I'd like to re-read from my collection because what's the point of having these physical books if I don't read them? I thought I'd make it sort of like Lauren's Nostalgia Project. I'm curious whether I'll still like these books after all this time. They're ones that I would have rated at least 4 stars when I first read them if I'd been using Goodreads back then (otherwise I wouldn't have kept them).

I'm also thinking I'll get rid of them after reading unless I really think I'll read them again soon, which may be true of Bookends because I've read it at least 3 times although not in the last 3 years.

Do you collect books? Is it with the intention of reading them again? Do you re-read books?

2. New Author Challenge

Since starting my blog in May there are many YA authors that I keep hearing about that I haven't ever read. I thought I'd make a challenge for 2016 to read a book written by the following authors:

  • Leigh Bardugo
  • Sarah Dessen
  • Colleen Hoover
  • Emery Lord
  • Marie Lu
  • Sarah J Maas
  • Brandon Sanderson
  • Jennifer E Smith
  • Maggie Stiefvater
  • KA Tucker
  • Kasie West
  • Kate Forsyth (Oops! I forgot her in the original post. Updated 1/11.)

I haven't assigned authors to specific months or anything that formal, but I'll try to read a book by one of these authors each month, so I hit all 12 within the year.

Have you read books by these authors? Who should I start with? Are there other authors I'm missing that I really must read? Maybe I'll have time for more than 12.

I'll probably also create a goal on Goodreads, but I don't plan on doing any other challenges.

What challenges are you doing in 2016?

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Announcement for 2016: Family Book Club Co-Host

Jessica from Quirky Bookworm and Sheila from The Deliberate Reader asked me to be a co-host for their Reading Together: A Family Explorations Book Club next year. I am so honored to have been asked, and I am very much looking forward to this club.

It will be a fun way to read more books with my son and to read some more Middle Grade and YA books on my own. I'm not co-hosting until the fall, so I will have the luxury of seeing how the other posts go before it's my turn. Yay!

Anyone can participate in the club via a Facebook group that Jessica has set up. There will be reading 1 picture book, 1 middle grade book, and 1 YA book per topic, but you can read as much or as little as you like. The topics span 2 months, so there's plenty of time to get the reading in.

Jessica, Sheila, and the topic's co-host will be posting throughout the topic's months. There will also be opportunities to link up your own posts if you're participating. I'll probably post at least once per topic, and then multiple times during my own topic: Modern U.S.

Link over to Jessica's post introducing the club to get additional details on the topics and the Facebook group.

I hope you'll consider joining us for this club.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Fiction Friday #9: Playground Dad part 3

I started the Fiction Friday series in October to help improve my descriptive prose writing. Perhaps I'll write a book some day, most likely not, but I'm enjoying being creative each week. If you'd like to write along with me, I will have a link up for the series each week. Add a link to fiction on your blog.

Today's story is the third part in a series. Here are the earlier installments.

Playground Dad part 1

Playground Dad part 2

I'm going to drag this out into a 4th part, you'll probably be able to guess why. I ran out of time to write the scene I really wanted to write this week, so this will have to suffice for now. Sorry!


I’ve just been going through the motions the last month. It’s now the end of July, and Brad is taking Jack on vacation for a full week. With Angela of course. But I try not to think about that part. I focus on the fact that Brad is making an effort. He’s trying to still be a decent father to Jack even if he turned out to be a horrible husband.

It’s Friday morning. I’m walking into work and running through the evening in my head. Brad is picking Jack up from daycare early this afternoon to drive to his parents’ house in Chicago. It’s not much of a vacation, but he’ll get to see his grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. They can go to the lake and maybe the children’s museum. Jack will love that.

I have nothing to do all weekend. I’m really looking forward to some quiet time. I need to relax and catch up some sleep. Being a single parent is really taking its toll on me. Brad only has Jack every other weekend usually, so I rarely have time without him. I typically use those weekends to catch up on cleaning and shopping, so I don’t have to squeeze those chores in when I’m alone with Jack. Now I’m facing the whole weekend alone and 5 evenings next week as well. It feels like a luxury and an eternity at the same time.

I reach the entrance to my office and head to the stairs. I switch gears and focus on my workday. I have only a couple of morning meetings and then the afternoon free to work on my budget proposal. I need to finish it before Monday morning’s pitch with the executives.

A few hours later I’ve finished my meetings and am heating up my lunch in the break room when Melissa approaches me. She’s another financial analyst on my team. We’re friendly, but I wouldn’t really call us friends.

“Hi, Teresa,” she says. “Do you have any big plans for this weekend?”

“Actually, my ex is taking my son on vacation for the week, so I really haven’t planned anything,” I say. “It’ll be my first week without him since the divorce.” Why am I telling her all of this? It’s like I can’t stop myself. I must be lonelier than I thought. “I’m looking forward to just relaxing and enjoying the time alone,” I finish.

She looks a little shocked with my gushing. We hardly ever talk about anything besides work. She takes a moment to think, and then she smiles quickly.

“I’m having a party on Saturday evening,” she starts. “You should come. It’s kind of a backyard barbeque sort of thing. Nick and I have invited everyone we know. It’s informal. An open house so to speak.”

“I don’t know,” I say without really thinking.

“No. No,” she continues. “It’ll be fun. It’s supposed to be beautiful weather. And since tomorrow is the 25th, we’re decorating the yard with lights and plastic snowmen. A Christmas in July theme.”

I resist the temptation to roll my eyes. Christmas in July. Really? But what will I be doing otherwise tomorrow night. Watching a chick flick and eating ice cream out of the carton? Making myself even more depressed? It might be good to get out and do something.

“OK. Maybe,” I say noncommittally. I don’t want to seem over-eager. “I’ll see how I feel tomorrow. Email me the details.”

“Great!” She exclaims. “I hope you come,” she adds before abruptly leaving the lunch room.

Strange. I grab my leftover lasagna from the microwave and head to one of the tables. I read email on my phone while I eat, but I’m distracted. I’m thinking about Melissa and her party, wondering whether I should go. I suppose I need to do something while Jack is away. I should take this opportunity to enjoy myself. Maybe meet a few people.

I finish my lunch, resolving to go to the party. Then I head back to my desk to knock out my proposal before the end of the work day.

To be continued…


I tried to work on dialogue again this week. I am struggling with that a little bit. I also didn't know how much detail to add about her work. I didn't want it to be boring, but I wanted it to paint a picture as well. 

Again, I welcome any feedback. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Book Review: Let It Snow (YA)

Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances by John Green, Maureen Johnson, Lauren Myracle

Goodreads Summary:
Sparkling white snowdrifts, beautiful presents wrapped in ribbons, and multicolored lights glittering in the night through the falling snow. A Christmas Eve snowstorm transforms one small town into a romantic haven, the kind you see only in movies. Well, kinda. After all, a cold and wet hike from a stranded train through the middle of nowhere would not normally end with a delicious kiss from a charming stranger. And no one would think that a trip to the Waffle House through four feet of snow would lead to love with an old friend. Or that the way back to true love begins with a painfully early morning shift at Starbucks. Thanks to three of today’s bestselling teen authors—John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle—the magic of the holidays shines on these hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love, romance, and breathtaking kisses.

My Review:
I did not expect this book to be so funny. I loved it! I also didn't realize that the three stories would be connected. That made it even more fun to read. I enjoyed how each additional story filled in the gaps. Here are some thoughts on each one.

The Jubilee Express by Maureen Johnson

This story was hilarious! The tone was so Maureen. It sounded just like she did at NerdCon. It tells of Jubilee (Julie), whose parents get arrested on Christmas Eve morning trying to buy the next building of the Flobie Christmas Village. She has to take a train to her grandparents in FL because they're in jail. The plot gets more and more ridiculous as the story goes on. I absolutely loved it. It has a undertone of sarcasm that per so perfect.

Julie ends up celebrating Christmas with a Jewish family, who celebrate Christmas anyway because it's everywhere. I really liked that part since as an atheist, I often wonder why we still celebrate Christmas. The love story wasn't what I was anticipating, but it was super cute.

4 stars

A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle by John Green

I liked this story a little bit less because of the cheerleader stereotypes and because it's a little more boyish. It's about three friends: two guys and a girl who embark on an adventure in a snow storm. They try to get to the local Waffle House to hang out with a whole squad of cheerleaders who've been stranded there. It's also very funny and classic John Green with some great lines.

I loved the title and I enjoyed the tomboy character, the Duke. The romance was adorable. I love it when friends fall in love. It was crazy and fun. And the characters were great.

4 stars

The Patron Saint of Pigs by Lauren Myracle

This story fills in the back story of one of the minor characters in the first story. I was happy to gets some closure there. Addie is heartbroken over her recent breakup. She kissed another guy at a party, but she regrets it immediately and she wants to get back together. She thinks her ex doesn't want the same thing, when he really just gets stuck in the snow storm and can't get to Starbucks to meet her.

Meanwhile her closest friend tests her because she thinks she's self-centered. It seemed a little harsh. This story didn't work as well for me. It was still funny and cute, but I wanted the interaction between the characters of the love story to come earlier in the story.

3 stars

My Rating: 4 Stars
Understand my ratings.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

What I want to be when I grow up

When I was little, I wanted to be a doctor. I grew up in an upper middle class family, so the message I got from my parents (my dad primarily) was that if you were into math and science, you became a doctor. And if you were into history and English, you became a lawyer. I was much more of a math/science person, as was my sister, so we planned to be doctors. My brother loved history, so he took the lawyer route. And he actually became a lawyer, like my father. I did not become a doctor. Neither did my sister.

I was pre-med in college. I started with a major in Biochemistry. Chemistry was my favorite subject in high school, but I added in the biology, so that it fit with the pre-med track. I switched to Molecular Biology mid-way through because I didn’t want to take any more math. After calculus 3, I’d had enough. Differential equations didn’t appeal to me, so I took more science instead.

The summer after my junior year of college, I went on a medical mission trip to Costa Rica with my anatomy & physiology professor. I hated it. Partly because I really didn’t like him, partly because I left my first summer as a camp counselor to go on the trip and I hated feeling like the child again instead of the adult, but mostly because I found the role of the doctor to be too impersonal. Some of it was likely the language barrier. I don’t speak Spanish. But mostly I just didn’t like how we spent 5 minutes with a patient, found out their symptoms, made a diagnosis and gave them some medication. I know that’s not how all doctors are. But suddenly I knew I didn’t want to spend the next X years in school for that.

I had planned to be a pediatric oncologist. I’m not sure I would have been able to handle it. I’m not a very emotional person, but one week at a cancer camp the year before had me crying as the kids boarded the bus at the end of the week. I knew many of them wouldn’t make it to the next summer, and that seemed way too unfair. So maybe it was for the best that I didn’t become a doctor.

I continued with my short term plans after that summer. I completed my major because it was too late to switch without needing more than 1 final year. I always knew I’d go to grad school, so it didn’t seem that important to get the right undergrad degree. I still joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps after college as I planned, but I took a job at an after school program instead of a medical clinic. That’s how I ended up in Milwaukee.

That year was great. The community and experiences were much more important that my actual career path for a time. I enjoyed the kids I worked with, but I didn’t really think I had a future working with children, even after loving being a camp counselor for the two summers before. I was kind of lost. I knew I wanted to stay in Milwaukee, but I didn’t know what type of job to get. I didn’t want to use my degree and work in a lab. And I wanted more life experience before deciding on a grad school path.

Luckily one of my JVC support people told me about a job at a company that built software for after school programs run through the Milwaukee Public Schools. Her husband was an MPS employee, so he knew the owner of the company. I had a lot of computer experience with all my labs in college, but I was still unsure. I called anyway and got an interview. The position was for customer support, which I now know isn’t that difficult of a job to get if you have a college education and have used a computer before. I got the job. And I kind of hated it. I don't have the patience for customer support. And I hate public speaking, so the training aspects were terrifying.

But I was fascinated with the technology and the development of the application. I started hanging around the developers, trying to learn more about what they were doing. And I started helping my boss better communicate new features and needs for the software. In short, I started doing the role of an IT Business Analyst without really knowing what that meant. I also started managing projects at the company and testing the software. Eventually I came to be the manager of the entire development department and all of the company’s applications. I got my MBA. It was great, but super stressful.

(Oh yeah, and somewhere in the middle of all of that I met and married my husband, Jim. But that’s another story.)

When I got pregnant I decided to leave the company and find a less stressful job. I was worried about being a mother and working full time. I thought I might not be able to handle it. I was working 60 hours a week at the time, so it was probably a good decision. I discovered that my job was really about 5 different jobs at other IT companies, so I picked Business Analyst as the part I liked best, and I got a job doing that at another company.

Since then I have been a BA at 2 other companies. And while I enjoy helping people solve problems with technology. I just don’t know if that’s what I want to be doing long term. Which brings me to the point of this post. Thanks for hanging in there with me.

When I grow up, I want to be a literary agent.

For a while I thought I might want to be a book editor, but I don’t know that I’m a good enough writer and story teller to do that. But I can recognize a good book when I read one. I would LOVE to help new authors sell their books to publishing companies.

Last week I finished reading a friend’s manuscript, and it was such an amazing experience. For one, I was blown away by how talented she is. Her story was so much better than I was expected when I agreed to read it. I wasn’t sure how complete it would be. But it was great! And two, I really loved sharing my thoughts on the book with her and helping her compare it to other books in its genre.

So, now I know what I want. But I don’t know how to get there. What now?

Have you made an industry or career change? Do you have any tips for me? Do you know anyone who’s a literary agent who might want to mentor me?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Book Review: Happily Ever After (YA)

Happily Ever After (The Selection #0.4, #0.5, #2.5, #2.6) by Kiera Cass

Goodreads Summary:
The contents of Happily Ever After are as follows:

-The Prince (with the two bonus chapters), Maxon’s novella
-The Guard, Aspen’s novella
-The Queen, Amberly’s novella
-The Favorite, Marlee’s novella
-Three scenes from Celeste’s POV
-Lucy’s scene (bonus scene from The One)
-The bonus epilogue
-Where are they now?
-A map

-Various illustrations

My Review:
I really enjoyed this compilation. I wish I could have remembered more details about The Selection, The Elite, and The One though. That would have helped connect the dots when reading. I loved the pictures throughout this book. Here are some impressions of the individual novellas.

The Queen (The Selection #0.4)
It's another selection with Maxon's father as the prince, and Queen Amberly as one of the candidates. I loved this story. Amberly is so sweet and selfless, and she's been in love with the prince her whole life practically. She witnesses an event that helps her understand Clarkson more. He is rough and kind of mean, but she's good for him. Clarkson is so different than Maxon during the Selection, so cold and non physical. That was interesting to read. After also reading The Heir, I was impressed with Kiera Cass' ability to write three very different Selections.

5 stars

The Prince (The Selection #0.5)
I loved being inside Maxon's head before the Selection. He's so nervous. It was so cute. Reading his reaction to America yelling at him in the garden was so fun. There's some sad back story on Maxon as well. He was so isolated. There isn't really anything new in this story since it follows the beginning of The Selection, but it's an enjoyable read.

4 stars

The Guard (The Selection #2.5)
I never really liked Aspen. I'm not exactly sure why. He loves America. Why do I fault him for trying to hold on to that? I don't know. I enjoyed seeing the servant perspective on the Marlee and Woodwork scandal. And I gained some insight into the king and Maxon as well. Mostly though this story didn't make me feel any differently toward Aspen. I still felt kind of sorry for him for holding out hope for America to choose him.

3 stars

The Favorite (The Selection #2.6)
I love Marlee. She was always my favorite, even more than America. This story is so sweet. I really enjoyed the flash backs to Marlee and Carter's early romance. I loved seeing the kindness Maxon showed them. It was especially nice to read after knowing what happens with them all in The Heir.

4 stars

Scenes from Celeste
There are three scenes from Celeste's POV at the beginning, the middle, and the end of the Selection. It was fun to read about her transformation from her POV. She was so miserable in the beginning, and she ends up so sure of herself and so happy in the end. Once again this story showed how wonderful Maxon is.

3 stars (only because it's not really a complete story)

The Maid
This story tells of an encounter between Lucy and Aspen which would have happened during The One. I am so happy that Aspen gets to find love again and that that Lucy found someone to love. This is a sweet little addition to the series.

3 stars

After the One
This short story takes place 2 years after their marriage. America has planned a birthday party for Maxon. Everyone is there. It's so fun to see Maxon and Aspen as friends. I knew that happened since I read The Heir, but it was nice to read an exchange of friendship earlier on in their lives. America's birthday gift for Maxon is perfect. This story was great!

4 stars

Where They Are Now
Kiera Cass has given a quick update on Kriss, Natalie, and Elise and where they ended up. I didn't remember enough about them to care very much. I could have done without this addition. I would have liked to know more of what happened to Celeste though. Am I forgetting something? Was she mentioned in The Heir?

3 stars

My Rating: 4 Stars
Understand my ratings.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Family Game Night

Christopher playing Jenga (with me).

Every Monday night we've been trying to have Family Game Night. Just the three of us. Sometimes our family of three doesn't really feel like enough of a family. But creating our own traditions and activities like this one helps.

We started this routine a couple of months ago, although we don't always remember to have game night, because Jim and I hadn't been spending enough quality time with Christopher. We were letting him watch WAY too much YouTube on the iPad. And we were doing our parallel activities.

Christopher and Jim (and me) playing Robot Turtles.

Jim actually hid the iPad on 12/4. Christopher hasn't used it since then. And after asking for it for a couple of days, he's actually stopped. We let him know after the initial weekend that we were taking a break. That it wasn't lost. We'd intentionally put it away.

It's meaning more time playing together. And hopefully it will lead to better behavior. At home. And at school. We still watch movies on the TV - together or him alone. But that's different than watching inappropriate or "commercials" (essentially) on YouTube.

Christopher and Jim (and me) playing Hero Quest.

Our favorite games right now are Hero Quest (from Jim's childhood), Castle Panic, Tsuro of the Seas, and King of Tokyo. Sometimes we mix in some video games as well: Wii Sports, Mario Kart, etc.

Games aren't always played on Monday nights. But we're at least trying to make that a routine as long as Christopher is in a good mood. If he's over-tired, then games can be hard. He's so competitive. As are Jim and I. Some weeks it ends in tears, but hopefully there will be more fun moments than frustrating moments.

Christopher and Jim playing something on the PlayStation. 
Lego Star Wars maybe? I don't usually play video games.

What games do you play with your kids? We're always looking for new ideas.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Book Review: The Rule of Thoughts (YA)

The Rule of Thoughts (The Mortality Doctrine #2) by James Dashner

Goodreads Summary:
From the New York Times bestselling author of the Maze Runner series comes The Rule of Thoughts, the exciting sequel to The Eye of Minds. Fans of the Divergent series by Veronica Roth and The Hunger Games will love the new Mortality Doctrine series. 

Michael completed the Path. What he found at the end turned everything he’d ever known about his life—and the world—completely upside down.

He barely survived. But it was the only way VirtNet Security knew to find the cyber-terrorist Kaine—and to make the Sleep safe for gamers once again. And, the truth Michael discovered about Kaine is more complex than they anticipated, and more terrifying than even the worst of their fears.

Kaine is a tangent, a computer program that has become sentient. And Michael’s completing the Path was the first stage in turning Kaine’s master plan, the Mortality Doctrine, into a reality.

The Mortality Doctrine will populate Earth entirely with human bodies harboring tangent minds. Any gamer who sinks into the VirtNet risks coming out with a tangent intelligence in control of their body. 

And the takeover has already begun.

I read The Eye of Minds in June 2014, and I didn't re-read it before reading this book. I didn't love the first book, but it held my interest (3 stars). When I was working on my A to Z survey and remembered that I hadn't finished this series, I got the second book from the library right away because I needed an audiobook for my car.

I had recommended The Eye of Minds to Jim last year because it's kind of similar to Ready Player One although not nearly as good. I thought if he was going to read the series, then I should finish it as well, so we could discuss. He has the first book, but he hasn't started it yet.

My Review:
I almost stopped listening to this book many times. I probably should have. It begins with a big reveal, but after that there isn't much plot. Michael, Sarah, and Brycen, three teenage gamer friends, do a lot of running around in the real world and inside the VirtNet (virtual reality type Internet). They're trying to save the world from Kaine, a computer program "tangent" that's become sentient and is trying to escape the code via The Mortality Doctrine.

The premise is pretty cool, but the execution falls seriously short for me. The book is overly description and full of obvious or cheesy statements that literally made me groan. There is almost no progression of the overall plot of the series in this book.

I found that I just didn't care about the characters. There's not a lot of interpersonal relationships in this story and zero romance. Maybe I really do need some romance to truly enjoy a book? Or maybe just less melodrama.

I will not be finishing this series. And I think I'm finished with James Dashner. His Maze Runner series also left me wanting more.

My Rating: 2 Stars
Understand my ratings.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

YA Book Club: December Recap

B-Dubs and Christmas gifts for our December book club meeting.

Wednesday night was YA book club night. Since it's December we exchanged a few Christmas presents this time. I bought copies of My True Love Gave to Me for Annie and Sarah. I thought it would be a fun read, and it could introduce us to new authors for book club next year. I will be borrowing a copy from the library, so I can read it too.

Sarah & Annie opening their books. I love Sarah's smile in this pic.

Annie got us "Smacks, Snacks, & Socks". My gift was a candycane lip gloss, a bunch of nuts (my favorite snack), and cute Christmas socks. Sarah got the same only chocolate instead of nuts.

My gifts from Annie. Yum!

The Book
I picked this month's book. I'd had The 5th Wave on my TBR list since August 2014. With the movie coming out in January, I thought I should finally read it. And by making it a book club book, then Sarah, Annie, and I could go see the movie together - maybe with our boys too.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

The Venue
We went to Buffalo Wild Wings, which you may remember is one of my favorite restaurants. I got my usual: the crispy chicken wrap with medium Buffalo sauce, chips (no salsa), and Redd's apple ale.

Annie got her usual too: boneless wings and carrots (no celery).

And Sarah had a chicken bacon sandwich with chips and salsa.

The Book Discussion
I really enjoyed the book, as did Sarah. We loved the readers of the Audible version of the audiobook. Unfortunately, the readers of the CD version that Annie listened too were really annoying (the girl) and painful (the guy), so she didn't enjoy it as much.

Sarah and I both thought the book was too similar to The Host by Stephanie Meyer to deserve 5 stars. Sarah loved that Cassie and Ben both go back for Sammy in the end. I had my mind blown when I found out that Ben in the book is Ben Parish who Cassie was crushing on at school. I'm not why I didn't put that together initially...most likely because I was listening while working. Oops. Some confusion ensued when I messaged that to Annie on Facebook because her husband is also named Ben, and she thought I meant her Ben was like Ben Parish. All kinds of shenanigans there.

I'm trying to get Jim to read the book. Annie's Ben listened to some of it with her and enjoyed the story. We're scheming to all go see the movie perhaps the weekend after it comes out.

Annie - 2 stars
Sarah - 4 stars
Me - 4 stars

The Non-Book Discussion
In addition to book talk and gift exchanging, we talked about...

- Christmas plans and family drama
- Co-workers: a certain over-sharing man at my work, Sarah's work bestie being on maternity leave
- Our boys
- How rude it is to play on one's phone while in the company of others (i.e. out to dinner)
- Favorite movies & comedians
- How British accents and certain older/period movies make Annie HOT
- Annie's class ring, it's missing stone, and the extremely long wait to get it fixed

Did you read the book along with us this month?

Do you want to join us next month?

We'll be reading The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett for our next meeting on Wednesday, January 20th.